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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

FEEN A MINT

We had to leave Germany earlier than we’d expected because we received a telegram from the Red Cross that my maternal grandfather was dying of colon cancer and wasn’t expected to live more than three months. In the rush to pack what few belongings we had besides our collection of thirty three German clocks our furniture was Quarter Master Army supplied, I found three things my mother had thrown in the trash. They were three little plaques that had hung in out kitchen for as long as I could remember. One said “God Bless Our Cozy Apartment” the other two were a pair and one said “God Bless Our Mortgaged Home” the other “99 More Years And It’s Ours”. I was shocked that she’d thrown them away and asked, “Why didn’t you pack these?” “Oh they’re just junk.” She said. The movers had already gone and I was furious that she was throwing away one of the few things that we’d had all my life. She used to hold me up and read them to me when I was two and wanted so desperately to be able to read.

When the bus came to take us from our hotel in Bad Tolz to the hotel in Frankfort I carried them in a brown paper bag along with some items of clothing. It fell over and one of them spilled out, I remember her giving me a dirty look because she was embarrassed that people had seen it. I don’t remember exactly, but somehow we were able to pack them in a suitcase and they made it home without getting broken. I still have them in my kitchen this very day.
At the hotel after they’d already picked up our bags and our dog Jocko, my parents sent my brother and me down to the cafeteria to get four cups of coffee for them to drink while they finished getting ready. They were small cups with no lids and we had to walk very carefully to make sure they didn’t spill hot steaming coffee on us. Danny as usual was traipsing along in no hurry whatsoever. I pushed the button for the elevator and when it came I walked in and he still wasn’t there. I turned and said, “Danny, hurry up!” He was just at the door of the elevator when the doors began closing and hit him in his skinny butt. He pitched forward and doused me from head to toe in hot black coffee. I chewed his ass all the way up to our room. When I got there my mother helped me clean up as best we could. I had to wear those coffee smelling clothes on the flight across the Atlantic and from New York City to Charleston, South Carolina. I was miserable the whole trip and I just knew everyone was looking at me with coffee all over my gold and brown sweater and my gold corduroys. I wanted to kill my little brother.

When we got to Charleston my parents decided to rent a car, pick up our dog, and start the long drive to Texas. We’d been gone for two and half years, so we were really looking forward to seeing the country and getting some good old American food again. I remember after my mother and father drove long into the night they couldn’t sleep due to jet lag, we finally stopped at a motel in Georgia and slept a few hours. We got up, showered, dressed, and I was finally able to get out of those coffee smelling clothes. We went to a diner for breakfast and when we walked in my father made sure to say “How ya’ll doin?” because our rental car had Illinois license plates on it and he was afraid we’d be treated badly if they thought we were “Yankees”. As the waitress poured their coffee she asked, “Have ya’ll heard the news?” “What news?” they asked. “Bobby Kennedy was killed last night.” We listened to the news on the car radio all that day.

After we arrived in Texas we really didn’t have a home for the first month or so. My grandfather was in a hospital in Odessa, so we were lucky to have several family members in the area. We lived with various relatives and out of suitcases. While we were staying with some cousins on my father’s side of the family I got in an argument with one of the girls a couple of years older than I. She slapped my face and I called her a bitch, then they all went into one of the bedrooms to ignore me. My brother Danny went with them. After a few minutes I called him into the bathroom and asked, “What are they saying about me?” “They’re not sayin nothin bout you!” I knew he was lying and I began trying to figure out what to do to him. I realized my mother’s overnight kit was in the bathroom and along with her makeup was the ever present package of “Feen a Mint” laxative she always had with her. I always remembered her having it and just figured old people needed it to go to the bathroom, she was thirty two at the time. It looked exactly like “Chiclets” chewing gum once you took it out of its foil blister pack. I read the back of the package and it said children under twelve should chew one piece for thirty minutes, he was eleven, so I took two pieces and put them in my shirt pocket, then called him into the bathroom again. “If you tell me what they’re saying about me I’ll give you a piece of gum.” I said. “OK.” he said. So I gave him one piece and placed the other piece in my mouth, but I immediately turned and spit it out, putting it in my shirt pocket. “I’m not gonna tell you till you give another piece of gum.” He said. I thought OK, when he tells me I’ll tell him what he’s chewing and he’ll spit it out and that will be the end of it. Once I gave it to him and he had it in his mouth he said, “They’re not sayin nothin bout you!” I knew he was lying so I just said, “OK.” and went into the living room by myself, Feen a Mint package in hand, to watch TV.
I have to tell you that was the longest thirty minutes of my life. I watched the minutes slowly tick by on the wall clock and when the thirty minutes were up I called, “Dannnny, Dannnny”. “What?” he asked. “Come here.” I said. He walked into the living room vigorously chewing the gum. I simply held up the package and smiled. He stopped mid chew and stood there with a shocked look on his face, then looked at me defiantly and said, “So!” He’d experienced Feen a Mint just as I had and we knew its “Strap your self to the toilet” effects.

Later that afternoon we’d gone over to another cousin’s house on my mother’s side of the family who I liked and we were outside playing. When I went into the house to get something my grandmother was standing at the kitchen sink with the water running she said, “Sammy I ought to whip
you.” I looked over and she was scrubbing out my brother’s underwear. I went down the hall and stood outside the bathroom door and softly sang, “Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha!” “Shut up!” he whined.

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