S.Imp.R.O.S. (simp′rös´) a self-imposed regulator of speed. A person who feels compelled to slow down traffic.
* * *
The late afternoon rays of the August sun cooked the hilltops of Gig Harbor, Washington—for the fifth straight day—on its way to a small brown and gray rambler near the end of the cul de sac. The sunlight streamed between the cedars onto the driveway. It formed a backgammon board on the pavement.
Richard Cranium, with his hands in his pockets, stood at the end of the driveway talking to George and Bunny Gutierrez. Richard’s devilish grin spread across his face when I flopped like a rag doll out of The Love Wagon, a red Ford F150 with queen futon and disco ball.
“Fannie, I hear you had a good time with your dad this afternoon,” Richard said, laughing.
“Let me guess,” I said, looking at George, “that was you three cars back?”
“Darlin’, I’ve never seen anything quite like it,” George said, with his soft spoken Texas accent, a contrast to the bass voice emanating from his lineman’s frame. The grin on his face stretching the pencil-thin, black mustache and goatee framing his mouth. “Although, I’ve heard rumors of it happening around here with the same regularity of Big Foot sightings. You may make a Big Foot believer out of me yet.”
“Fannie honey, what exactly happened?” Bunny asked, with her refined Texas accent. Her long blond hair swept back into a pony tail behind her head, crowning her statuesque figure. Her pony tail bobbed up and down with amusement.
* * *
The phone rang. The clock next to it read 8:58 a.m..
Richard sat at the breakfast bar sipping on a cup of steaming, black coffee. The phone rang again. He picked up the newspaper.
“Richard, aren’t you gonna get that?” I asked, walking around the counter toward the telephone.
He glanced at the clock. “Nope. It’s Saturday morning, it’s before nine o’clock, it’s your family, it’s your get,” he said, with a smile.
I picked up the phone on the fourth ring.
“Fannie what took you so long to answer?” my father asked.
“Good morning, Dad. I’m fine,” I said, laughing, “how are you?”
“Sorry,” he said, “but it shouldn’t take four rings to answer the phone in a house that size.”
“Unless you’re having a Jubilee moment with your kitchen appliances,” I said, winking at Richard.
Coffee jettisoned from Richard’s mouth with the scatter pattern of buck shot, taking out the Living section.
“Jubilee? Do you want me to call back after you’ve finished?” he asked, his voice filled with appreciation and regret.
“Naw,” I said, “what’s up?”
“Your mom has a touch of food poisoning,” he said.
“Is she all right?” I asked, the pitch of my voice riding the scales to a high C.
“She’ll be fine,” he said, with a forget about it tone. “She left the potato salad on her plate a little too long yesterday afternoon when we were rating the car accidents on Olympic Drive.” Laughing, he said, “Otherwise, it was a humdinger of a day.” Clearing his throat, he said, “The reason I called, your mom wants me to bring the wrought iron bench back from the storage unit. No one else is available to help me. I’ll buy you lunch.”
Laughing, I asked, “How can I resist?”
“Good, you can be here in about fifteen minutes,” my father said.
“I’ll see you in an hour,” I said before hanging up.
Richard studied me over the top of the newspaper. “Have fun,” he said with his I’m-glad-it’s-you-and-not-me smile, “say hi to Conrad for me”.
* * *
The sky blue Mobile Land Yacht sat in the driveway of my parents’ home in University Place. The matching house reflected in its luminescent wax job. I pulled into the open space next to the land yacht. The Love Wagon glowed from the polish like the hair of a mole in a mirror.
My father, wearing his signature blue Polo shirt and khaki pants, leaned against the garage door. He glanced at his watch, “You made good time. Shall we go?”
“How’s mom?” I asked.
“She’s spending a little quality time with the porcelain throne,” he said, polishing the bald spot of his horseshoe hairdo, “let’s just agree she is a little less than thrill by the experience.” My father opened the passenger door of the land yacht. “Shall we go?”
Ten minutes later the land yacht parked in front of a bright orange door marked, 43. My father rolled up the door.
My heart belly flopped into my gut. Tightly stacked boxes reminiscent of a Rubik’s cube towered over us.
“Let’s get started,” my father said, handing me a pair of gloves.
One hour later—sweat soaked through our shirts—we removed the fifth and final row of the Rubik’s cube. Dust floated in a curious sunbeam, which snuck into the back of the unit for the first time in years.
The wrought iron bench leaned on one arm in the corner, held in place by an ancient exercise bicycle, a fake, potted palm tree, and some dumb bells. The pale blue, striped cushions teetered on top.
Using my sleeve to wipe the sweat from my face, I asked, “Can I call some charity to haul all this away?”
Laughing, my dad said, “Dream on. You wanna roll the dice like that with your mother?”
We squeezed through the maze of boxes. The cow-about-to-give-birth-weight bench slipped from my hands two feet from the Mobile Land Yacht—my arms shaking like Bond’s vodka martini. The subsequent crash and ringing metal caused my father to drop his end. The echo bounced down the row of storage units.
“You okay,” my father asked, rubbing his hands.
“I will be in a few minutes,” I said, rubbing my quivering arms. “You?”
He opened the trunk, pulled out a red flag with a yellow cord, and tied it to my end of the bench. He laid a furniture blanket over the lip of the trunk. We lifted one end of the bench and lined it up with the opening.
With the judicious use of maternity grunts, we heaved the bench into a space large enough to fit my mom, two sisters, and me. The bench extended beyond the lip of the trunk, and rested on the furniture blanket. My dad tied the lid of the trunk down.
Two water bottles, two Gator Aids, and two hours later, the Rubik’s cube regained its original upright position. My body felt like overcooked vermicelli.
“How about that lunch now?” my father asked, “drive thru okay?”
We drove to the gate. Seven cars sped towards the intersection in front of us. The light turned green.
My father threw the Mobile Land Yacht into first gear. He plunged the gas pedal into the floor board like Van Helsing would drive a stake into a vampire’s heart. The tires smoked.
Rubber tracks traced the route of the Mobile Land Yacht when it roared out in front of a 1980’s Chevy Silverado. My body left an impression on the seat. And if I hadn’t sweat so much, it might have been more than an impression.
The G-force let go about the time he stepped on the brakes. We sloooooowed down to six-miles-per-hour.
The driver of the Silverado laid on his horn with the fury of Hurricane Katrina.
“Dad, what’re you thinking?” I said, gripping the dashboard. “This is a 35, you’re gonna get us killed.”
“No, Fannie,” my dad said, with his father knows best voice, “what gets people killed is excessive speed and not paying attention behind the wheel. It’s my sworn duty as a father to make sure that doesn’t happen here. These people will thank me later because I just saved their lives.”
“You’re giving me a heart attack,” I said. My right foot searching for the gas pedal.
The Mobile Land Yacht coasted down the center line between Mildred Street’s two north bound lanes. Cars packed the turn lanes like checkers stuck on the backgammon bar, which prevented people from passing. The horns ratcheted up to to the level of a heavy metal concert. Five minutes and one-half mile later we moseyed up to the drive thru window at McDonald’s.
* * *
Laughter filled the driveway. George and Bunny leaned against each other gasping for breath. Tears flooded down their cheeks when Richard snorted. They shook like Jell-O gigglers.
“So Fannie,” Richard asked, holding his sides, “I know the road to hell is paved with good intentions, does that mean the road to McDonald’s is block by a S.Imp.R.O.S.?”
If I could have raised my arm, I would have saluted him with the family sign. . . .