Not far beyond the gate, I pulled into the driveway of a simple brick ranch with a sadly neglected yard that was by far the nicest home in which I’d ever lived. There was room for my new wife, “Chic,” her thirteen-year-old daughter, “Ellie,” and my five-year-old son, “Laughing Boy,” one dog and all of the furniture from both houses. Paradise. Moving on up. Getting our piece of the pie.
I give nicknames to all characters in my stories to allow the real subjects to deny their status. It just seems right to include family since they are often the first to deny any relation to me anyway. I call my wife “Chic” because she is half Mexican and half Korean. But don’t tell her I said that because she is both a nurse and a Tae Kwon Do instructor. My fear is that she could keep putting me down and bringing me back from the light as long as she wants. (Think yoyo dieting is bad? Try zipping in and out of Heaven as if you’re on a bungee cord.) I call my stepdaughter Ellie, because, like Jethro’s cousin on the show, she’s a tomboy with a bunch of blonde hair who loves animals. My son is called Laughing boy because his initials are L.A.F. and he had the temerity to laugh during a spanking once. Once.
Getting out of the truck, I barely resisted the urge to do little soft-shoe number in the driveway. Before the dopey grin had faded from my face, a well-waxed SUV slowed, then stopped at the bottom of the driveway. The window rolled down silently on the passenger side revealing an older lady with perfectly coiffed hair and carefully planned make-up behind the wheel. She seemed entirely removed from the August afternoon heat that had already sapped my strength and nearly my wit. Nearly. “Excuse me,” she said, “Are you moving in the new family?” I looked down at my threadbare and paint-spotted shorts, my sweaty cut-off tee shirt that was a size too big, felt the stubble on my swarthy face and realized that she thought I was with the moving company.
In retrospect, I should have ignored the gaffe and made the proper greetings but I was a bit too giddy for that, (and maybe a bit too “me” for that.) I loped down to her car, peered in the window at her and said, “Howdy, neighbor,” while reaching through the window to shake hands. She was taken aback a bit, but breeding took over and she said, “Oh, so you’re Mr. Feraca. Well, welcome to the neighborhood.” I was flattered she knew my name. (Note to self: these folks have GOOD intel!) I grinned while still shaking her hand and said, “Thank’y ma’am, and thank God for that gov’mint program that makes it so people like us can live among people like you.” Miss Daisy’s eyes widened a little like she was maybe buying my story a little when my wife pulled up, got out of her pocket SUV, and eased up behind me. She saw the look on Miss Daisy’s face and the way my jaw clenched to stifle a giggle and suspected trouble. “Good afternoon,” said Chic as she smiled and offered her hand.
We had just gotten married so she was still in that early hopeful stage where women believe that their man can and will change with the proper effort. It’s really cute. She sent Miss Daisy on her way with a smile and wave, then walked me rather quickly back to the pile of furniture.
I can’t wait until a possum gets whacked in the street outside the house. I’ll head out with a saucepot in one hand and tongs in the other and watch the “For Sale” signs sprout like weeds.
Louis Feraca is a local businessman and an irrepressible spirit who has recently resumed documenting his life’s adventures.