The Visit

It was a warm Saturday morning. The sun streamed in through the thin sheet I used to cover my bedroom window so it was less than useless for keeping out light. When it was bright outside the white linen served only to diffuse the rays and spread light all over instead of in a concentrated beam. My bed was in a corner on the same side as the window, which should have put me in shadow, but the light expanded making it impossible to sleep in, even with a hangover.
College was proving to be a challenge. At home I was always under the scrutiny of my mother. Frankly, she was a bit disturbed, and always had to be in control, to orchestrate everything in her life- her husband, her children, her household. No one was allowed to get even a snack without asking her first. The toilets could not be flushed after 9:30 at night because it would disturb her sleep, but if she woke up in the morning and found waste in one, she would fly into a rage. Everyone at home tiptoed around her for fear of an explosion of emotion out of proportion to whatever infraction she decided was committed. Even her own mother who lived with us would sigh after an outburst and say, “Why is Betty June so mean?”
Mothra. That’s what my older sister and I called her, you know, after a monster that Godzilla fought in the movies. Although my sibling had married and moved out of the house, Mothra’s iron fist of control extended across town to Betsy’s own household with daily phone calls and surprised drop-ins. My mother frequently took Sarah, Betsy’s one year old daughter for days at a time without announcing it first. “A grandmother gets certain privileges,” she declared. “I can do what I want.”
Dad was the classic hen-pecked husband, the mousy yes-dear nebbish of a twenty-six year union with a female Attila the Hun of domesticity. He was a mid-level clerk at a local bank, working from eight in the morning until six at night, five days a week. When he arrived home after work he would eat dinner while my mother pretended that he was the boss of the house, which of course we all knew he wasn’t. After he ate, he’d disappear into his garage workshop and pretend to be working on his hobby, carpentry. The workshop was always locked when he wasn’t there. But I once walked out there to ask him if he had a couple of dollars I could borrow and pushed on the door which swung open. He was sitting in a chair watching an ancient black and white portable television while drinking a beer. Then I knew he was just avoiding the strife inside.
Thus my family life was very structured even if headed by a chaotic, manipulative mother. Every day was under totalitarian control so that even my own thoughts rarely strayed from what my mother wished.
So how is this a comedy? Have you ever watched a dictator? I mean, besides the horrors and the authoritarian commands, the constant need to be right even when wrong is really the stuff of comedy. Now that I have my family set up for you, and shown you the front of the curtain, let me show you what is going on behind it.
Like I said, college was proving to be a lot for me, and it was mostly because I couldn’t get used to being unsupervised. The first Friday night I was on campus, giddy with my new freedom, I drank a six pack of beer and ate an entire jar of peanuts. The ensuing spew-fest not only drew the derision and disgust of my entire dormitory floor, but also got me thrown out so that I had to find off-campus housing. I found a ramshackle trailer on the edge of town, next to a deep ravine. Dad gave me the money for my dorm room which was refunded to him because of my banishment. I used it for rent on the trailer, and had to rely on sneaking into the school cafeterias to get food.
The trailer was tippy and rocked precariously on the edge of the cliff behind it. Squirrels nested on top of it, and the chemical toilet was befouled so that I had to use the woods for a latrine. Normally I did all of my personal business at the college in the gymnasium, showering and toilet usage. It was sort of like camping out, but I was happy if somewhat disoriented without Mothra’s wrath moving me about. I drank a lot, took up smoking marijuana, and merrily skipped classes. My freedom was a hard thing to manage, therefore college and an independent life was difficult for me, but not entirely unpleasant.
Mother, um Mothra was far enough away so that she didn’t know of the new squalor in my life. The only time she came to the school was on Saturdays for the football games. She was a rabid fan of the school team, the Tigers, and dressed from head to toe in orange and white, the school colors even though she hadn’t even graduated from high school, dropping out her senior year to marry my father. Times were different back in the 1940s when she got married, and girls often quit school to marry and begin their families. I couldn’t fathom why she was such a fan of a team from a school she never attended, but I guessed that somewhere deep in her upset mind, if she rooted for the Tigers, it somehow made her a Tiger, and she got something she lacked, belonged somewhere she had never belonged.
Hey, it’s still not funny you say. This sounds like another hard story about a dysfunctional family, and not even a fun one.
Well, it’s comical to me looking back on it years later, so here’s your “funny” stuff.
That Saturday I awoke to a blazingly lit room and a pounding hangover, and I rushed to look presentable in two hours. Yes, that’s how bad I was hung over. It was already eleven o’clock and I had to meet my parents over by the one fast food restaurant in town. It was a Hardee’s near the First Methodist Church, within walking distance of the stadium. My father, being a bean-counting banker, refused to pay the high prices to park near the game, so he parked at the church, reasoning that we were Methodists. And my mother didn’t like making a picnic lunch for “tailgating” with others in a parking lot, even though it was a college tradition. There were some things she didn’t root for, and cooking when she didn’t have to was one of them.
I always met my parents at that Hardee’s, and we would eat lunch. It was always fairly deserted, surprising considering the influx of parents and fans on game days. I guess everyone but my family like the camaraderie of the tailgating tradition. Anyway, there were plenty of booths open. The same sun that lit my room also heated the orange fiberglass seats in the booths, so normally everyone who ate there in the afternoon ate on the east side of the store. But not my mother. “You can’t see the stadium on the shady side,” she declared and dragged me and my father to an empty booth with a clear view and baking benches.
Did I mention Mothra liked to wear shorts? Matronly short sets to be sure, but she liked wearing shorts on warm days, and that day it was warm.
As soon as she sat down Betty June knew she had made a mistake. It was written all over her face. Her eyes got round and her mouth formed an “O.” Her breath came fast and her cheeks flushed.
“Oh. That’s hot on my twat!” She shouted and jumped up, rubbing her burning butt.
“Mom! That’s nasty!” I said. “You’d wash my mouth out with soap if I said it.”
“Said what? My twat is burning! I think it’s got blisters!”
“Mom! Stop it!”
“Stop what?” She hollered and howled, rubbing her rear.
“Stop saying ‘twat’ where everyone can hear you!”
“What are you saying? ‘Twat’ isn’t a bad word. It means ‘heinie’ or ‘tookus’ and isn’t a bad word.”
“Yes it is bad, Mom. Tell her, Dad.”
“Twat! Twat! Twat!” Her voice got louder every time she said it.
I gathered my wits and calmly told her the truth. “Mother, twat means vagina. It’s a nasty term like dick or pussy. It’s not a polite word.”
“It does not. It means butt. Twat! Twat! Twat!”
“Dad!” I tried pleading with him to tell her to shut up, knowing in the back of my mind that Mr. Milquetoast wouldn’t tell her a thing. He had to live in the same house as her.
“Son, your mother says it doesn’t mean what you say it does.”
“But Dad! You know it does!”
“Twat! Twat! Twat!” Now she was at top volume, and everyone in the Hardee’s was staring at us.
I turned to Betty June. My hangover headache was pulsing, making my eyeballs nearly pop out of my head. She was squawking like a chicken now. I couldn’t stand it another second. “Betty June! Twat means cunt! Slice! Hole! Hairy Taco! Love tunnel! Pussy! Pudenda! V! A! G! I! N! A! VAGINA! It does not mean ‘butt’ you TWAT!”
A strong hand took me by the shoulder and turned me around. It was the manager of Hardee’s. He looked like he worked out. A lot. “I’m going to have to ask you and your family to leave, son. You’re creating a disturbance.”
“Yo, tell HER that! Tell her twat means pussy! It’s another word for cunt! It’s not a cute term for ass!”
“Son, I’m only going to ask this once, then I am going to have to throw y’all out, okay?” His massive shoulders told me he’d be better on the football field rather than flipping burgers.
Mothra looked like she was about to explode. Her face was red and I couldn’t tell whether or not it was from embarrassment or from anger. “Let’s go. I don’t want to stay here any more.”
“And you’re banned from coming back in here, son. We don’t need y’all’s kind of language in a family restaurant.”
“My language?” Betty June stood, still massaging her backside. “What have I said?”
“Ma’am, your son, though loud, is right.”
“You mean twat means a vagina?”
“Yes ma’am. It does.”
“Well, not like I use it. It’s a funny word for rear end.”
That was it. I exploded again. My hangover was too much. The heat from the sun was too much. The manager was too much. My mother was too much. “Mom! Does that mean if I say fuck means love then it does? Is that how it works? Cock means eyelid? Shit means kiss? Jesus Christ do you even listen to yourself?”
“Don’t take the Lord’s name in vain.”
“Oh my god, you’re just a twat!” I stormed out of the building and walked all the way back to my dilapidated trailer. Later on my dad stopped by and gave me fifty dollars while my mother sat in the car.
And that’s the reason I have not been inside a Hardee’s since 1978.

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