lunch w/ Mom

when my mom, The Colonel, invites me to lunch @ the army navy country club between her meetings at the pentagon, i naturally jump at the opportunity for a free meal amongst an exclusive network of senior washington types. it’s also a lovely chance to decompress and escape from my halogen-lit cube to the good life; i look forward to enjoying air conditioned sunshine with a view of manicured greens in one direction and shiny uniform stars to the other. (i don’t remind myself that the safest thing to order is a turkey sandwich).i arrive a tad late and one of the first things Mom mentions is my “missing” belt between the pants loops. there might be more than one reason i couldn’t hang in The Corps. we sit down at her favorite table- with just the view i had imagined. pre-order conversation is light and flits over back pain and pedicures. i give a de-detailed update on my love life and focus on my market-driven research into a down payment on a two-bedroom condo inside the beltway. one room could be an office for an online consulting LLC. i mix Equal into my iced tea, displaying also my knowledge of sweeteners that may cause anal leakage.

over a bowl of gazpacho, we get down to business. we begin to talk shop framed by our impetus to overcome ubiquitous bureaucracy and “slimy” contractors. we speak with the optimism and do-good, duteous sense of …what is that sound? a nearby geriatric vet sitting at the next table over was letting a long, rumbly one out in our general direction. i hold down a howl, my face scrunching up, eyes reddening and hands almost immediately fly up to keep the rebel tears from running down my cheeks with my mascara. i gasp for propriety and try to parlay my movements into communicative body language. so i pick up my bowl and clench it about four inches above the table, shaking it with a barely controlled facial expression. Mom recognizes my favorite scene from the movie about ‘Drop Dead, Fred’: an inbred-looking, British ‘invisible’ friend who sabotages a girl while she’s on a date by getting her to act bizarrely. Fred forces her hands to fling her plate above her head and across the restaurant.

by the time i throw my (empty) hands in the air, my mom and i are rolling with laughter and we’re blasted back to the days when the only place she could take me out in public was Shoney’s. the next logical re-inactment is the scene from ‘Beetlejuice’ when a young, elegantly dressed Geena Davis inexplicably transmits the banana boat song, DAY! you say DAY ay ay YOHHH!!! i shimmy my shoulders while biting the insides of my cheeks to get the last of the convulsions of laughter out of my system.

*insert non sequitur here





Ratso – Written April 10, 2008

i have a pet rat named Ratso. she is 2.58 years old and brown with white feet. i chose her out of a litter @ Petco because she had a torn ear – i thought it would be pretty sweet to invest in a fighter rat for only $4.50. her demeanor has always been tactical: she will find a way to take anything she damn well wants and will fight you for it, even if you have a whole box to share.

she started out really small and light enough to walk over my keyboard without pressing the keys. afieknbvls344ffFFATSO RATSO, GET THE HELL OFF!!! she always wants to hang out with people when it seems they’re up to something. she thinks if i’m using my hands, it must be interesting! she talks a lot but i have no clue what about. it sounds like she’s grinding her teeth and clucking in syncopation. i suspect she has a stutter. maybe that’s what she was defending herself for when she was at petco.

Ratso has grown both physically and value-wise; i’d say the appraisal value of items she’s destroyed is around $300 + damages to veneer. she gnaws on the most random things; my sneakers, speakers, receipts, makeup pencils, etc. she is the reason i have to buy new clothes all the time. nothing says “easy access” like crotchless panties – but again, i’m not sure she ever said that. she is also a thief. when i moved out of my parents’ house last year for the third time, i found 17 dollar bills in my mattress’ boxspring – along with sundries like cotton balls i’d used to take off nail polish and a piece of paper that had my passwords written on it. speaking of nail polish, she attacks my toenails while red paint is drying on them and i figure it would be cruel to use polish remover on her face. so sometimes she’s a red rat. i have her work in my kitchen as dishwasher to pay off her debts.

she is very interested in flames and has gotten singed whiskers from checking out my candles while drunk. just like you, her decision-making is greatly impaired by alcohol. i gave her booze for the first time when a former boyfriend accidentally stepped on her tail with the heel of his shoe. she screeched and spun and there was blood and every time she licked the wound, she would start screeching and spinning again. i poured some red wine on the floor in a manner as you would “spill some for homies that can’t be here.” she freakin loved it! she lapped it up until she had calmed down, then a little more then she took a nap. since she liked it so much that i let her have up to two capfuls of wine or beer while sharing dinner with her. her tolerance to alcohol rose and she was otherwise dining like a queen. i didn’t think that was healthy. i cut her off for quite a while, including switching her back to rat mix primarily. i finally let her have some wine again one night a few months later but didn’t monitor her in-take. she crawled up on the bed and passed out on her side. she looked like roadkill but without tire tracks. i think she learned her lesson because she wouldn’t lap wine again for several months.

in december, i noticed her chest getting bigger between her front legs. my immediate thought was she had better not be using my webcam at night. i searched google and realized the growth was a tumor, not implants. unfortunately, i found out she had lived past the stage when female rats usually get tumors and die. i set up a pool to see who could guess when she will pass. as the days pass, the little rat wins me back some of the damages i have incurred from her destruction. one friend has dubbed her “the Keith Richards of rats.”

Ratso has slowed down greatly in the time since december and may have lost all her eyesight. i assume this because her whiskers are always singed. also, i saw her run straight into the door frame, which was funny in a slapstick way, but sad and i don’t think pointing and laughing was the best reaction i could have had. she still knows when i am home and comes out be picked up and chat when i open her cage. last friday morning i had a scare because her usual morning routine of hanging out with me while i get ready for work was interrupted because her muscles spasming and her collapsing on the floor. i sat with her and fed her some port wine with some dissolving sleeping pill powder. she got drunk and i cried. i heated up a piece of a sweater in the microwave, laid it on top of her, and left for work thinking she would pass peacefully.

when i got home that night she was up, and although slow-moving, hungry and wanted to hang out. we’ve been taking it easy since then and i mixed some wine in her water bottle so she can keep a good buzz going and dull whatever pain and anxiety she is experiencing. i figure it’s like old people with the morphine drip- it’s a good thing she learned how to pace herself when she was in her ratteens. we still spend our evenings together but she mostly moves around to find another sleeping spot instead of running around wrecking the place. she’s not as good at climbing now and although it used to annoy me, i kind of like having her hang around right next to me.

i didn’t ever think i would grow so attached to her; i originally bought her because my college landlord wouldn’t let me get a dachshund and i thought a rat would be a good passively-aggressive substitute. but last week i realized just how much i will miss her companionship when she goes to that big dirty hamper in the sky.


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