Life is Heald: Slurpees, the pier and the day I caught the atomic mushroom cloud fish

So, me and Momma Heald are sitting around the house last Saturday night. She's rocking a hot, all-white terrycloth number that ties in the front with an equally hot, all-white terrycloth belt. It has her initials embroidered on it as a matter of necessity because when you own something this hot, theft is a concern 24/7/365.

Being a Saturday night, she's going all wild child again, letting her hair dry au naturel while wrapped in a happening headpiece from the "Holiday Inn" collection. Seriously, if come this May, there's not at least three of these bonnets bobbing about at the Kentucky Derby come post time, the FedEx truck is in a ditch somewhere.

Meanwhile, there I am on the other couch, and yes, I do have my groove on. Understandably, a novice fashionista might see a matching pajama top and bottom, but look closer. Dancing shoes. Know this in your soul, my friend: when I don the dancing shoes, I will Ginsu the rug, it's a given. To perform at the highest level, a lightweight suit is a must.

The oldest boy is off at college and one of the twins is working, but the other one is laying on the carpet in front of us, keeping the party boat that is Momma Heald and her man, from leaving the dock. Finally, he looks up and says, "I thought we were going to do something; this is boring." Kids say the darndest things. Sometimes you just want to pick them up and squeeze them until a tiny bit of their spleen runs out of their nose.

The problem wasn't that he was bored. The problem was that, from where Ma and Pa Heald sat, we were doing something. We were doing what we do. Granted, we weren't doing much, but it was enough. Me and Ma have been together since we were 16. It's not a matter of "been there, done that." It's a matter of how many times. So we keep it simple and we're happy. And honestly, ever since I put the bumper sticker on my car that says "50 is the new dead," I feel obligated to walk the walk.

Still, the fact that the boy is 16 and he was even willing to do something with us was enough to make me call the coroner's office and request a permit to exhume the socialite buried inside me. I dispatched Momma to find a hair dryer and I hung my suit back in the drawer with my socks. Then I asked the boy what he wanted to do and he said, "I don't know." And don't you know he said it in that teenager tone that makes you want to drag him behind a truck. Through broken glass. Naked. On a salted road.

I already had the truck keys and was looking for a bottle to break when I remembered a bumper sticker I saw recently that said simply, "More Wag, Less Bark." I am a sucker for a wagging tail. I put back the truck keys, swept up the broken glass and then asked the boy if he'd like to go get a Slurpee and take a walk on the pier. Since "Plan B" involved sending him to his room after a scathing rant in which I likened him to an ungrateful parasite who has mistaken his parents for hired help, I was really hoping he'd say "Yes."

We'd come up with the "Slurpee and pier" move years ago. The kids always wanted a Slurpee. They never wanted to walk on the pier. To get them to walk on the pier in exchange for Slurpees, I twisted one of Aesop's Fables into a balloon animal and told them "Ain't nothing free in this world." (This came on the heels of an unfortunate experience in which I used "tit for tat" as a reference, one that then brought me dangerously close to explaining intercourse to three pre-schoolers. And even then, the damage had been done. The part of the explanation about getting to second base led to the great Heald Boys T-ball strike of '97.)

Truth is, they don't hear anything after "Slurpees." Once, I bet the wife on this and I asked the boys if they wanted to get Slurpees and then go gut ourselves with grappling hooks and shark fish with one another off the pier. They were in the van honking the horn before Jaws could find his floss.

Momma, me and the boy climbed into the Jeep, picked up some Slurpees and went to the pier. We walked the block or so from the parking lot and had gone about 100 yards onto the pier when I suddenly stopped. I had hoped we wouldn't see one, but there he was, a fisherman. My pulse quickened, my shoulders slumped, I began to sweat. The wife asked what was wrong, but she should have known. Clear as day, it was post-traumatic stress disorder from the day I caught the atomic mushroom cloud fish.

- - -

We asked Kevin why all the two-part columns lately and he said it was his way of rewarding his loyal readers. We asked him why he put an "s" on the end of "reader." Then he put that "s" and another one on the end of "a" and hung up. He can be reached at LIFEisHEALD.blogspot.com or LIFEisHEALD@yahoo.com.

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