As Easter approaches, I’m reminded of a day, many years ago, when a weary undergrad arrived at her parents’ house for a week of much needed rest, cable, and laundry facilities, only to wind up “¦ DUH DUH DUHHHHN “¦ poisoned.
Our story begins with our heroine boarding a train about three hundred miles from home. The journey was long(ish) and bumpy(ish) and ended with our heroine getting poked in the ass by a broken train seat armrest which punctured not just her best Citizens for Humanity jeans, but her left buttock as well, leaving the area around the puncture wound bruised to the hilt and vaguely resembling William H. Macy (red, blotchy, and puckered in places).
If you’re now thinking, “I would not like to get poked in the ass by a broken train seat armrest! I wonder how I can avoid such a fate,” my response to you is this: don’t stand on your seat to try to grab your suitcase and laundry bag from the overhead compartment before the train has come to a full and complete stop, lest that train should lurch, sending your feet flying out from underneath you and sending your ass crashing onto what was once an armrest but is now an exposed stainless steel support. If you avoid these steps, you’ll be well on your way to avoiding a broken train seat armrest ass poke incident.
But our heroine’s broken train seat armrest ass poke incident is not the point of this tale; it’s merely intended to demonstrate how weary she was upon arriving at the train platform.
A weariness that was only compounded when she realized that no one in her family had remembered to pick her up at the train station. Sniff.
After calling home and getting the answering machine (which featured her own teen angst-infused voice, a message that had been recorded years prior), and trying her grandparents’ house and getting their answering machine (which featured Grandpa’s “Hello? … Uh “¦ [at which point the caller always started talking, “Grandpa, hi, it’s “¦” only to be cut off.] We’re not here now, but if you’ll leave your name, phone number, and a detailed message, we’ll be sure to call you back!”) our heroine grabbed a bus schedule and began mapping out a contingency.
Next, aggravating the train seat armrest ass poke wound, a bumpy(ish) twenty-minute city bus ride followed. Then a short walk through the bedroom community she’d grown up in, dragging her laundry bag behind her. Our weary heroine was all but kicking a sad tin can down the street by the time she finally arrived at the home of her youth. But when she saw the front door, adorned with some sort of seasonal floral and blown egg wreath, her only thought was: sweet relief.
Relief lasted for the length of time it took our heroine to reach her hand to the doorknob. She wasn’t really mad, exactly, but still planned to lay into her folks, “You left me waiting at the train station! And look what happened to me on the train!” She’d then shock her mother by pulling down the back of her pants and making her look at the gruesome train seat armrest ass poke wound, that would yield excellent sympathy results for the remainder of the weekend. Our heroine envisioned not helping with potato peeling for Easter dinner, table setting, or dishes. Yes. This will be brilliant.
But when our heroine tried to open the door, it was locked. She dug around in her backpack for the key she’d had since she was twelve or so. Put the lock in the deadbolt and laid into the door with her shoulder, the front door was always sticky.
She stepped into a dark house.
“Great. They forgot to pick me up at the train and now they’re not even home.”
She dragged her bag of dirty clothes to the laundry room at the back of the house and started to walk toward the kitchen “¦ not knowing what awaited her there.
With the TV now on in the background (ahh, home), our heroine began digging around in the fridge for something to eat. Sure, our heroine missed her parents, and her siblings, and her cat, Spunky (a stoic and totally inappropriately named cat, but this is what happens when six-year-olds name animals), but what she so often thought about when she longed for home (which was not really far away, but just far enough to miss) was the well-stocked fridge, cupboards, and pantry. Cheeses, bagels, English muffins, cereal of every variety, slightly speckled bananas, CHIPS, Diet Coke, Pepperidge Farm samplers, Wheat Thins, ohhh, the Wheat Thins. Everything a college girl working on the early stages of a pooch could imagine!
A quick search of the fridge revealed a surprisingly shabby set of options. Leftover meatloaf “¦ nah. Cabbage salad “¦ uh, no. Lowfat yogurt, meh.
A ha! A lone hotdog. Yes, this will come to pass.
Our heroine took the last dog out of the package, poked a few holes in it, tossed it on a plate and put it in the microwave for exactly 45 seconds. 45 seconds is exactly how long it takes to cook a hotdog in a microwave so that it is heated entirely through, but not shriveled on either end. Our heroine knew these kinds of things about junk food.
While the dog sizzled, our heroine began preparing her bun. Spreading mustard on the hotdog bun reminded her that her own punctured bun might need some salving, but that would have to wait, it was hotdog time.
The microwave cheerfully called, “Ding!” and our heroine laid that wiener out. She threw it into the bun and went at that thing like one who’d recently been trapped on a lurching train whose only aim was to attack her in the ass with a broken seat armrest. Weary, sort of angry, starving(ish), our heroine delighted in her snack while standing in the kitchen she’d stood in countless times before.
But this time was different. This time”¦
Uhghl. Our heroine’s stomach began to ripple.
And then the stomach acid began to rise.
She ran to the bathroom, bumping her already sore ass on the corner of a hallway table while taking a corner too tightly, making it, but just barely, to the bowl in time to chuck every last bit of dog into the toilet. Heaving, crying (she always cried when she vomited, she hated throwing up more than just about anything, she hated it so much that after a Thirsty Thursday gone bad she’d lay in bed with one eye open and one foot on the floor to avoid the spins so that she’d NEVER. EVER. HAVE TO PUKE. NEVER!), and here, at her parents’ house, her house, the safest place imaginable, she knelt, face in the terlit, freeing her guts of spoilt hot dog.
As she flushed the toilet and wiped her tear-streaked face she heard the garage door opener. And then, the door to the kitchen.
“Honey? Are you here?” Her mother’s voice carried down the hall. “We must have just missed you at the train station. There’s been construction on the freeway, I told Dad we should just take side streets, but “¦ Are you sick?” Her mother appeared in the bathroom doorway.
“Mommy,” our heroine sniffled.
“Oh, no. No. Please tell me you didn’t eat that HOT DOG! That thing’s been in there for months!“
“MO-OOOM! If you knew it was BAD why didn’t you throw it out?!” our heroine wailed. “I can’t believe you left a knowingly rancid wiener in the fridge!”
“Honey, milk goes rancid. I’m not sure “˜rancid’ is the word you use when describing a spoiled hot d–”
“NOT the time, Mother! This is not the time. You’ve poisoned me. I just ate a rancid wiener. I’ve been poisoned. By my own parents.” Our heroine had always been a touch melodramatic.
Her father chimed in, “Wasn’t it slimy? That wiener’s probably been kicking around since Christmas. I’m surprised it wasn’t green.”
“No. It wasn’t slimy,” our heroine’s eyes narrowed. “I wouldn’t have EATEN IT, if it was SLIMY!”
And just when she reeeeally wanted to give it to them, but good, she couldn’t. Because, well, she was home. And she figured, if she was going to be poisoned by a rancid wiener, there was really no place she’d rather be to ride it out.
“I’m sorry, hon.” Her mother put a soft, warm arm around her shoulders. “We’re still getting used to not having kids around. I buy milk, it goes bad. I buy hot dogs “¦ well, you know. Anyway, I’m very sorry.”
“Sit down, I’ll make you something to eat,” her dad was already in the kitchen moving things around in the very fridge that had tried to kill her just moments earlier. “What do you want, grilled cheese? Cheese never really goes bad. I mean, even when it’s good, it’s rancid.”
“Thanks, Dad.” She couldn’t help but smile.
Our heroine’s mom sat with her on the couch and started asking her about the trip “¦ she’d save the unveiling of the train seat armrest ass poke wound for later.
For now, she’d enjoy the feeling of being home. Of feeling like she was exactly where she belonged. Not yet knowing that as the years went on that feeling would be harder to achieve. Who knew a rancid wiener could result in such a feeling of contentment?
So. Parents, as you begin preparing for the arrival of your college kids for the Easter holiday, please, for the love, clean out your refrigerators. Your children will realize they appreciate you and love being home even if you don’t first try to kill them with badly expired food.
This has been a public service announcement.
Image source: Natalie Dee.