Memoir – Chapter 6 – If You Need a Kidney, Don’t Call Me

I’ve never met a guy who didn’t like chicken wings. Maybe it’s evolutionary biology where a primitive brain center is triggered. Like when Oog the Caveman felt a pleasure response after he clubbed a wild bird and tossed it in a fire pit. Zaps was no exception. He scarfed the wings half a dozen at a time.

I served them with Ruddy Ducks—a cocktail I invented. [Recipe: Tall glass; lots of ice; two ounces Domain de Canton (a French ginger/cognac liqueur); splash of organic lime juice; fill with sparkling water or club soda. Delectable and refreshing.]

That was Zaps’ assessment after he drank one.

I couldn’t take credit for the equally delectable wings—which was Zap’s assessment after he ate one. I told him they were not homemade. I ordered an assortment from a sports bar in Ashland, Oregon. There are many flavors–like Carolina honey bar-b-que; charred sweet chili; Asian zing; blazin’ hot; parmesan garlic. I keep my freezer stocked with them—ready for the microwave. Added bonus: they come with celery sticks and fried green beans.

(Time spent in the kitchen is time spent not writing. And time’s a-wastin’.)

“You order them on-line?” Zaps asked.

“No, I drive to Ashland.”

“For take-out? That’s like four hundred miles from here.”

“Besides the wings, I go for the ambiance. I like the downtown, Lithia Park, the Shakespeare Festival. And The Red Zone is a great place to watch baseball.”

Zaps wiped his mouth—as I noticed he did after every wing and stacked the bones neatly on the side of his plate—and reached for another wing. “What’s the deal with Frankie?”

“He loves Ruddy Ducks and chicken wings, too!” I relayed The Origin of Frankie story to Zaps.

“Frankie lives in my gut. He is my appetite; my reality-check; my intuition. Some people follow their cardiac region. I follow my stomach region. Frankie’s a tough guy, a fighter. The butterflies that sometime pop into my stomach (before unnerving situations like public speaking)—they exit the scene PDQ because Frankie socks them in the nose.”

“Frankie sounds like a bad ass,” Zaps said.

“Yeah. He’s intestinal fortitude. Gives me strength. He can handle a multitude of crap and not barf,” I said. (Except for one time recently. More on that later.)

“What did you mean by ‘Frankie runs the show’?” Zaps asked.

“Frankie is the boss of my brain and my heart. The guy in my head is Buster—the seat of my thoughts and creativity. He is my imagination; my encourager; my fun center. He’s curious, like Alice. And he’s like a playful little kid. Loves to tap dance, play music, and sing.”

Amazingly Zaps did not find this conversation looney—as most people do when I try to explain myself.

(Not to Girls: Don’t bother to explain yourself. You are who you are. Period. And that’s way good enough.)

“My heart is a whole other ball of wax,” I said.

(Eww—my mother used to use that expression. Funny how odd sayings you barely remember pop into your head. Could Buster be messing with me?)

“What’s his name—your heart?” Zaps asked. “Or should I say her name?”

“It has no name. It’s a nascent blob. It never matured. It’s stuck in childhood. It never toughened up. It gets its ass kicked. Which is why I let Frankie run the show. I value Buster’s opinion, but if he ran the show I’d either be playing hopscotch all day or writing comic books. When you add the three areas together you get my collective being—the foundation of who I am.”

“Kinda like your ‘bone’ of ‘know your own bone,'” Zaps said.

“Exactly! and just so you know, Zaps, I’ve decided to use that phrase for the title of my memoir. Thanks for that.”

“Glad I could be helpful.”

Zaps was certainly that.

“You should name your heart blob. Will help her evolve more.”

Again, Zaps was probably right.

“Any suggestions?” I asked,  enjoyed Zap’s literary penchant.)

“How about Matilda? Except right now she’s Tillie.”

“And that rhymes with willy-nilly.” (Said Dr. Seuss.) “Love it.”

“Plus it has the word “Ma” in it—with a capital M. She’s probably the spot that mothers your writing.”

Did I have too many Ruddy Ducks or was this an Ah-Ha moment?

***

I finished eating after one too many wings, pushed away the vintage TV tray (the kind with a Currier-and-Ives scene painted on it). I relaxed. Since Frankie was fed, he did, too. Zaps continued to feast. I like a dinner guest who appreciates my cooking (even though it wasn’t technically my cooking).

Stars dotted the inky-colored sky. Nebulous clouds drifted overhead in a white haze. The flashlight in the geranium pot shone like a lighthouse in the fog. The air chilled. Boy, could I use a cup of coffee. (Where’s a waiter when you need one?)

Zaps finally said he had enough to eat and thanked me profusely  for the “delicious meal.” I offered to wrap up the remaining wings and green beans for him to take home. He took me up on the offer. I like people who aren’t shy to express what they want. He also said he was going to google .

While inside brewing the coffee, I dashed to the bathroom. I figured Zaps had to use it, too. Now what? A quick call to Merry Maids? (Housekeeping Rule: Time spent doing it is time spent not writing. Hence my high tolerance for messiness.)

I served the coffee with coconut milk and dark chocolate mints. I used my special Alice in Wonderland coffee mugs from Disneyland. (I wanted to re-emphasize my connection to that story, but most likely I didn’t need to.)

“The coffee is my favorite blend,” I said. “It has mocha overtones.”

“I like anything that even resembles coffee–industrial sludge, road tar, I’m not picky.”

“I get the coffee from a small roasting company in Jacksonville, Oregon.”

“I suppose you drive there just for coffee?” Zaps asked.

“Sometimes. Lately I’ve been thinking about moving to the Rogue Valley. It’s my idea of paradise because I would be getting even farther away from the BuckWeasels and the DoucheBucks.”

“And closer to wings.”

“Good point.

“The BuckWeasels and the DoucheBucks are the perpetrators of the dagger in the back?”

“Among other crimes.”

“Is that their stuff in the box by the side of your house?”

“What are you, a detective?”

“Used to be.”

“That’s a conglomeration of ex-family memorabilia I collected over the decades–photos, letters, cards, announcements, school work–that sort of thing. I don’t want it in my house. I plan to throw it all away as soon as I peruse it one last time to determine if there’s anything I need for my memoir. It’s been out there for months—too painful to look at right now. There was a time when if you asked any of those perps who in the family would be most likely to give them a kidney, they would have said me. Now I wouldn’t give them a toenail clipping.”

“I startled a raccoon that was rummaging through the box,” Zaps said.

“I hate that raccoon! Ever since I left a pizza on my deck and it crawled up the railing like Spiderman and devoured it, it won’t go away.”

“Must have been a tasty pizza,” Zaps said.

“Hardly. I accidentally baked it with the cardboard platter attached–which caught on fire and melted the cheese into the paper. It was a greasy charcoal mess. Now Rocky Raccoon breaks into my trash bins at night looking for dinner. I don’t suppose you could shoot it for me?”

“I’m off-duty. No firearms. But Rocky might not return. It took off after I urinated on it.”

Interesting weapon choice, I thought. And very happy not to have to mention to Zaps about using the bathroom inside my house.

“If it does come back, I’ll arrest it for trespassing,” Zaps said.

***

The overdose of caffeine had kicked in. Result: I blabbed on. Zaps poured himself another cup of coffee, sat back, and listened.

I told him I had been stabbed without knowing it—many times over the years—by the perps (or should I shorten that word the other way: to ‘trators’?) They twisted the dagger in even more the day I bled on the freeway.

“Actually, we determined the origin was on the steps of the L.A. County Superior Courthouse,” Zaps said. “Everyone in my department was hoping an asshole lawyer had been stabbed. In the throat. Or the nuts.”

“I really get that.”

Blab blab blab continued. “I wish Dick the Butcher in Shakespeare’s Henry VI got his wish when he said, ‘But first, let’s kill all the lawyers.’ My life would be so much better now. How ironic that the people society entrusts to ensure justice are the very ones that screw it up. And charge a ton of money to do so. From honest hard-working people. Unlike themselves.”

Blab blab blab. (Yeesh.)

“And even more ironic and twisted is that ‘family’ as the center of society is supposed to ensure the propagation of ‘good values’. Yet it can be most corrupting and damaging influence out there. I wish I had never known anyone in my ex-family. My life would be so much better. I’m thinking now I should get a t-shirt made: I survived my family and all I got is this bloody wound.”

Zaps laughed. “That must have been one nasty courtroom battle,” Zaps said.

“The perps came to rob and they got away with it. Frankie and Buster figured it out before me. The Heart Blob didn’t. Too naive. I knew something awful was happening during the court procedure, but I couldn’t stop it.”

“Why not?”

“Because I was in the middle of a perfect storm. My mind was tormented. My emotions were whimpering. My body was ill. Frankie, Buster, and the Heart Blob—I mean Tillie—vied to call the shots. They were agitated; all three saying, ‘Let me handle it.’ I had never experienced that kind of conflict within myself before. It terrified me. I wondered if that’s what it felt like when someone finally flips out. Goes bananas. Loses his mind. Like my parental units did.”

I waited for Zaps to ask what happened. But he didn’t. So I continued with my tale of woe.

“I couldn’t take the warring going on inside me. I kept saying over and over to myself, ‘Do the right thing’ and ‘Maintain your dignity.’ That was my mantra. But what I really wanted to do was follow Frankie’s pleading and jump on those ratscallions and pound their faces in with my fist. But I just sat there driving myself crazy over what to do. Should I settle? Should I fight on? Should I spit in their eyes? Should I vomit on their shoes? Should I throw a handful of dollar bills on the floor and watch them scramble for them? Should I punch my bozo lawyer in the head? Should I give the opposing lawyer a bottle of Head-and-Shoulders and tell her to use it?”

“All Buster wanted to do was end the squabbling so he could get me back to writing. He didn’t care if there was madness or dignity at stake. He had a bunch of story ideas that he wanted me to write down. He threw a tantrum and started to tap dance so loudly I could barely think. Frankie was so upset I had to bolt for the women’s restroom. Where he barfed—for the first time in thirty years.”

“Then what happened?” Zaps asked.

“For some inexplicable reason I let the Heart Blob take over.”

“Oooh.”

“Oooh is right. What a big mistake. And you called it. My DNA tested positive for Stockholm Syndrome. It reared its ugly head. Launched me back into childhood. Again, I let myself get bossed around. And that is really puke-worthy. But I’m glad that I at least have a diagnosis. Because now I can cure myself: time and distance. Even if it takes the rest of my life.”

Whew. I worn myself out after that exposition.

“So the opposing counsel hadn’t billed enough hours to afford shampoo?” Zaps asked.

I laughed.

(Badly needed.)

###

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