On one of my last visits to WV, Mama and Kenny gave me a new shop vac as a late Christmas gift. As gifts from her go, it was a great one. Normally, it’s clothes that are two sizes too large and two decades out of fashion. But let me back up, because while it is technically correct that they gave it to me, they first tried to SELL it to me. I’m not sure how they came to possess a new shop vac–maybe it was a gift they didn’t need. But at any rate, Mama mentioned that Kenny would give someone a “good deal” on it. I asked how much, Kenny had no idea, but after some discussion, they said $75. I had googled this particular model and knew it sold for almost $200 at the Home Depot, so $75 was a good deal.
When I said I didn’t have that much cash on me, mama said I could just mail a check. I said, “Well you still owe me $62 from Thanksgiving, why don’t you just take that off the $75 and I can give you the other $13 right now.”
“No!” she giggled.
“Well it’s Kenny’s shop vac, and I caint afford to give him $62 right now.”
I’m not counting on getting my $62 back.
“Well, let me see if it will even fit in my car.” I said. I was, by now, annoyed over the whole money issue because she had used every excuse known to man to avoid paying me the $62 she had extorted from me at the Kohl’s cash register a few months prior. (She and I had been shopping, and when we got to the checkout, she just looked blankly at me as the clerk gave her the total for the tank tops and sweat pants she bought.)
So I carried the shop vac out to my little brown bus and made sure it would fit. When I came back in to say my goodbyes, Kenny said that I wouldn’t owe him anything for it, that I could consider it a late Christmas gift. I thought it was very nice of him. But no gift from mama (even though this was technically from Kenny) comes without dramatic strings.
“Didya put that shop vac together yet?” she asked at least a dozen times over the next few weeks. Once I was finally able to answer “YES” every other call included queries regarding the damn shop vac. “Handy aint it?” “Bet you’ve liked havin’ that in the garage!” “What did Darling think of that shop vac?” Yes, it’s great to have, but I don’t run a woodworking shop, so it’s not like I have a daily use for it. I’ve used it to vacuum out the cars once, and another time to vacuum up some dirt out of the garage. It is not a life changing device.
Earlier this week, she was wandering into the TMI category by telling me that she and Kenny had yet to consumate their union.
“He’s a real gentleman!”
“I don’t think that’s why mom.” (Had she forgotten that she had forced me to listen to her drone on and on about how his “pecker won’t work“?)
“It’s about to drive me damn crazy. Did I tellya I answered an ad in the paper?”
“I saw an ad in the trading times, a guy was looking for another man, and I forget the word he used but it meant ‘straight’, to go on a cruise with him. You know, no hanky panky, he’s just lookin’ for a travel buddy.”
“If he was looking for a man, why did you answer it?”
“I didn’t know if this guy was gay or what. But to tell you the truth, I was intrigued. And, boy, Kenny got mad as a hornet!”
“Well, yeah. I can see that…”
“I told him he wuddent the only fish in the sea! But he’s been so good to me. Ain’t many that would stick by ya when you’ve been sick like I have.” So she repays his kindness by answering a personal ad?
“And he knows people in high-up places! He’s worked for the school board twenty some years ya know.”
“As a maintenance man. Yes, I know.”
“He’s generous too! Like that shop vac, there’s more where that come from!”
“I don’t need more than one.”
“I just mean he gives nice gifts. He told me to sell that for $100. But he said, unless your son wants it, and then it’s a gift., but for anyone else, it’s $100. That’s what he told me.”
“Really? Because he didn’t mention GIVING it to me until I already had it in my car. And neither of you had any idea what price to ask for it five minutes earlier.”
“Oh yeah, he thinks real high of you!” Mom’s quite prone to giving people such revisionist histories of events. I, for one, will call her out on it, but I think most people just nod and let her tell whatever story she wants.
“With summer comin’ you’ll have all kindsa use for that shop vac! What did Darlin’ say about that shop vac?” The truth was, Darling asked “What are we going to do with that?”
“Said it was really nice of you all.” I lied.
“You can reverse it and use it as a leaf blower. It’s a real good one.” Jesus Mary and Joseph. I don’t think she will be content until I ask the damn shop vac to stand up as best man at my wedding.
“It’s very nice.”
“I told your Granny how we gave that to you and she said that was an awfully nice gift.”
For fuck’s sake.
“OK, I need to go. I’ll talk to you soon.”
“Alright honey. What’s the weather like down there?”
“Warm and cloudy.”
“Same here! Pollen is awful I’m in agony today cause I was outside too long yesterday.”
“I’ve heard this part of South Carolina has one of the worst pollen counts in the country.”
“I need to come down there a while, I’d be immune to the pollen we got up this way if I’s down there in that a while.”
“Mmm hmmm. I gotta go.”
“Alright then. I might brave this pollen and walk down to see Crystal.”
Oh, you courageous saint! I’m sure the three-trailer walk to Crystal’s will give her reason to lay in bed the rest of the week.
“I’ll call ya back later tonight!”