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Friday, July 29, 2005
Footleing and thrumming
It seems like it's been a month of Sundays (or Fridays) since we checked in on America's Worst Mother and her kids: Manichea Sue, Spindle, Ponce De Leann, and Hud. Well this week we have familial tension, a catfight, and seafood and who can pass those three up? Not us. Let's get started:
It is a beautiful July evening on the coast of Maine. The sky over the small, largely deserted harbor is tinged a deep pink when we finish ordering our supper from a teenaged girl behind a mosquito-netted window and find a picnic table on the dock. My father, his wife, and I slide into our seats, and our combined six children (it's a long story) race happily down to the beach to footle about until the food comes.
Stop right there. It's not "my mom" or "Mummy Sr.". It's "his wife". Is Meghan on the outs with her mother, possibly over the prospect of adding another Gurdling to brood forcing her mother to spend even more time playing "Grammy" when she rather be pounding down martinis and chain-smoking Camels? When Meghan wants something at dinner, does she ask her dad to ask the "fat drunken cow" to "please pass the salt"? We'll be generous and assume that Meghan parents broke up somewhere down the line (possibly over the stress of raising a twit) and now he's remarried and the pain of it all has made Meghan overcompensate by thrusting her own married life in our faces and going "See! See! I'm not damaged! I have children who love me and don't sit in their rooms listening to At Seventeen over and over again really really loud to cover the sound of their parents marriage breaking apart like a ship upon the rocks!".
But I digress...
"Ugh, girlies, take those off and put them together neatly under the table," I tell them, thinking how unpleasant it would be for anyone to have one of these nasty objects rubbed along their trouser leg as they sat eating supper. The girls take off their shoes, put them under the table, and curl their clean pink toes beneath themselves on the picnic table seat.
"Hurrah, food!" Paris crows, arriving at the same time as a waitress carrying two giant trays of steaming clams, lobsters, and fish and chips. The other children have just joined us at the table when seven-year-old Tommy sits down, looks ruefully at his sodden shoes, and asks, "May I take these off?"
"Sure," says his mother. "Fine with me," I agree.
It is at this point that I become aware of a presence behind me.
"Why is he taking his shoes off?" comes a tense female voice.
Oh oh. Trouble in River City.
I turn to see sitting at the table behind us a middle-aged, dark-haired tourist dressed in "nautical" clothes (blue capris, blue-and-white-striped bateau-necked top, brand-new navy raincoat with white topstitching knotted around her waist). It crosses my mind to explain about the seawater and the green ooze, but as our food has arrived I merely shrug in a friendly manner and say something along the lines of, "Oh, his shoes are wet."
The woman makes no reply to me, but snorts and mutters something to herself.
I am, at this point, genuinely puzzled. "Why, is that a problem?"
She turns to face me and there is a tinge of outrage in her voice. "The kids will get splinters, walking around barefoot on these planks."
Even apart from the fact that the children are all quiet, well-dressed, and not walking around anywhere, or that the planks in question are soft and weathered and no menace to anyone's soles, it is obvious that this seething individual is not thinking of the children's well-being. Nevertheless, I decide to take her at her word. "Well," I say, with a little gesture towards the other adults, "we're their parents. I guess
we'll take that risk."
"Fine. Good," she fumes. "Let them get splinters. I don't care."
I turn back to her, amazed. "Obviously you do care."
"Well, I've just never seen anything like it."
"You've never seen children take their shoes off before? Outdoors? In the summer?"
At this moment, another tourist, bless her, walks past with her son and says lightly to my assailant, "Yep, it's one of the best things about this place. We come every year. Kids can play barefoot, you can eat your lunch in your bathing suit. You can even bring your dog."
Our entire table throws the woman a grateful look, but she has already gone. Still, it is enough to break the moment, and I turn away at last. Before me is a row of stricken faces.
"Unbelievable," murmurs my father's wife.
My father winces. "I'm all churned up," he says quietly, and I know it is from the effort of keeping his temper.
Now Dad...watch your blood pressure. Fuck you Mom. I hate you, you drunken harpy.
Behind us, in a furious sotto voc, the shoe fetishist is ranting about us to her newly arrived husband. She hisses on and on and on. The husband doesn't say anything.
"Mummy," Molly says in a frightened whisper, "she just called us animals."
I squeeze Molly's arm reassuringly, but my blood is surging.
Normally, in a fair fight, I wouldn't hesitate to take on a dame like this one and trounce her. But we've driven for two days to get to Maine, another hour to get to this picturesque spot, it's still a lovely evening, our food is cooling — and six pairs of young eyes are on me.
"Yum yum," I say in a bright voice that shakes only a little. "Now, children, who would like to try a bit of lobster?"
"She called us animals," Molly says, still horrified. "I bet if Daddy had been there she wouldn't have called us that."
She is right. "That reminds me," I tell them. "Only three more days until Daddy comes to Maine."
"Yay!" rejoices everyone. Including me.
Because, as usual, Mr. Meghan has stayed behind to
get some work done bang his administrative assistant on the Chippendale dining table.
Next week, Meghan and her drunken cow bitch-mom go at it, Anejo and knives a-slashin'.