BE NICE TO TURTLES
As they entered The Big Red Rooster Discount Nest Carl and Andy Overstreet reminded themselves to behave. Just behave. Christmas was coming, be good. Their wives had both given them yelling headaches for spending almost everything they had the last time they were in there. Their friends called Andy “Overdrive” and Carl was called, “Over-easy”. They were twins in everything but temperament. Andy was the fairly reasonable one with a lot of energy. Carl on the other hand was slow in several ways. “Over-easy” just seemed to fit him. They vowed to just stay out of the hardware department, to be on the safe side. Andy led the way to the toy area. He had three cigar boxes of different kinds of marbles and he needed more. They went up to a clerk who was arranging stuffed animals. Andy asked her if they had marbles and she said, “No.” Andy then said, “Have you got anything that sounds like a duck?” Carl left. The clerk placed her hand over her breast and said, “I beg your pardon?”
Carl went past the candy and stationary and headed for the sporting goods. The duck calls were too expensive. Then he drifted into electronics. They had a new dirt bike game that you could test. He played it for fifteen minutes. Andy came up to him with a large stuffed penguin. He squeezed it. The thing sounded exactly like a duck. He said, “She had to squeeze about forty of those animals. You have to have the ear for it. I needed this because I like to hear ducks but we don’t have any around here.” It was true, no ducks. On the way home they were both silent. They thought about that huge building and all those fluorescent lights. In perfect unison they said, “I wouldn’t want to pay their light bill.” They always said this when they went by a big house they were jealous of or when they got the creepy feeling they bought something at the Discount Nest that was a pure waste of money. It was if all of a sudden, now they were being economical.
Their wives were twins as well, Flora and Cora. They had met at the Daytona Beach boardwalk. Carl and Andy worked the Dunking Booth. Andy was full of energy, sarcasm and wit, and he used it in the booth. He watched people as they approached. He was an expert at insulting them. If someone was wearing glasses he would say, “Hey Four Eyes, get on down the walk and find your Seeing Eye dog.” Nine times out of ten the guy would wheel about and look. Then he would pick out the clothes, ears, nose, anything personal that was a little different. He would hammer away on the guy. Soon he was buying hard balls from the booth to try to hit the target and dunk Andy. Every time the guy missed Andy would shoot a verbal arrow right at a sensitive spot. Passersby would laugh because they agreed, the guy did have a big nose or lousy shoes or whatever. Really, Andy was mentally dunking them. The madder they got, the worse their aim became. Many people emptied their wallets buying more balls. Once a motorcycle gang member strolled by and Andy yelled out, “Hey freak, got pictures for tattoos cause you can’t spell mom?” The man froze. He turned around, shaking with rage. Then Andy started pouring it on. “What is the matter? Mommy needs you home by six tonight? Afraid to stay out after dark? Boy, you stink, back up, take off!” A small crowd began to form, they all chuckled. Of course the guy bought the balls and threw hard, so hard he had no chance of hitting the target. Six members of the guy’s gang had been playing Skee-ball at the adjoining booth. When it was time for Carl to take over, Andy would slip off the collapsible bench and Carl would slip on. Since they were twins it just looked like the man was readjusting his seat or something. The mild mannered Carl took his seat and blinked at the motorcycle man. He waved a friendly wave. The six other gang members moved in on the booth. Andy had gone off to get a hot dog. Carl was dragged out and beaten within an inch of his life. The biker who had been stopped by Andy’s acid tongue had lost his mother in a car accident two days before. When Andy finally returned, the booth was closed, permanently. Carl was in Emergency and they were both out of a job. That is when they met the two nurses, Flora and Cora. It was love at first comment. When Carl was able to open his swollen eyes he looked at Cora’s attractive face. He said, “If they catch a guy who intentionally drives his car over a turtle, they should take him home and make him burn all of his underwear.”
Cora agreed, totally.
Andy and Flora hit it off as well. Flora was in the waiting room so she could go home when her sister’s shift ended. For two weeks, Andy was there as well. When Flora came in and sat down she gave him a big smile. “That is your twin brother in 210, right?” He said, “Yes, that was my room number when I was in first grade. I remember I was doing this big scary drawing in art. I got in trouble because I asked them how to spell, Hut of Doom for the Art Teacher. They thought I was trying to be funny, but I wasn’t. I really did hate the art teacher.”
Flora smiled again, “I hated mine, too.” They went to the cafeteria together and ate a healthy lunch.
Andy dropped off Carl at his house. He looked at the large stuffed penguin that sounded like a duck. He had an inspiration. He would sneak it upstairs and wrap up as a Christmas present for Flora. That way he could get the duck sound and the good points or a present without any of the questions like, “What did you pay for that thing?”
Carl walked into the house and Cora was in the kitchen washing dishes. The radio was playing “Rudolph the red nosed reindeer.” She wiped her hands and said, “Come in here on the couch there is something I need to talk to you about.” He did. Cora said, “This has troubled me all my life as I am a fair person.”
Carl held up his hand, “Before you say another thing, that song you had on the radio is a perfect example of unfairness.”
Cora was stunned. She threw out her hands, “Exactly!”
Carl said, “They gave Rudolph all kinds of static about his looks, wouldn’t let him socialize with them and–”
Cora blurted, “And then when they needed that bright shiny nose, all of a sudden Santa steps in and uses him. Those other reindeer were just bullies is all.”
Carl held her hand, “Did Santa punish them for it? No. After Rudolph saved the day everybody was friends. But what about a little justice?”
Cora nodded, “What kind of example is this? Donner and Blitzen and those others were total jerks. Boys and girls are supposed to be good to get rewards, but Santa’s own reindeer are bullies and he lets them get away with it. This has always bothered me as well.”
Andy got the penguin wrapped and stowed. He went down to the basement to bring the laundry up, more good points with Flora. He could use all he could get. He sniffed, something smelled funny. Hey, now that was an idea, why not have a spray can with something that would smell awful? Wouldn’t that be funny? You could call it “Something smells really bad or funny”. You could put different bad smells in it. People could squirt it on somebody else’s’ clothes to make them laugh and smell horrible. By God this was a hot money idea. Then he thought how it would sound to Flora. He could hear himself explaining it. Oh well. He sorted the laundry. More points.
Cora and Flora got together for “tea talks” on Mondays that gave the boys a chance to get together and waste time with whatever foolishness they had on their minds. But more importantly the two twin sisters could share what had been going on in their week.
They rarely drank tea without a little pick-me-up in it. Sometimes they just skipped the tea altogether. Who would tell?
Flora poured just a nip of the honey colored whiskey into two cups. She brought it into the living room. She said, “I just have to tell you this dream I had last night. I wrote it down as soon as I got up. I am doing that now, I started a dream journal.”
Cora raised her eyebrows, “Every dream? My lands, some of mine would burn a hole right through the paper.” The both laughed.
Cora said, “Now, I dreamed that my glasses were almost broken, this little side arm on the ear, one of them was about to fall off. This man said, ‘Bring ‘em in here, I can fix ‘em real good.’ It was some kind of antique shop. He had a big rack with all these teeny tiny screw drivers and pliers. He jimmied around there and fixed them perfect. I put them on, good as new. I said, ‘Well what do I owe you?’ He just grinned and said, ‘Not a thing.’ ”
Flora clapped her hands, “You dreamed that?”
Cora waved her hands, “That isn’t all, he asked me if there were any antiques I collected. I said I didn’t collect that stuff but I did collect those little whiskey shot glasses with the different state names on them. I told him I needed Missouri, Washington and Oregon to complete my collection. He said, ‘I can fix you right up, I have extras of all the states in the basement, I’ll sell them to you for a dollar apiece.’ I was beside myself,only a buck apiece! He led me down into the basement and picked up a broom and started sweeping. I looked down and there were hundreds of roaches. He was sweeping them away. They were crawling up on my shoes. I said, ‘I have got to go.’ ”
Flora said, “What about the whiskey glasses?’
Cora said, “He lied about that, there wasn’t anything in the basement. But I guess it doesn’t matter, I couldn’t have brought them home because it was a dream….still he did lie.”
Flora said slowly, “Yes, that wasn’t a very nice person.”
They sipped their tea silently and thought about that.
Carl drove the car, Andy chattered on about his invention ideas. He usually ended with, “But somebody will probably steal that idea from me.” Andy said, “You know if a guy pulls a bad move in traffic and you honk your horn, he might not get it, and another guy right next to him might think, ‘Why is that shrimp honking his horn at me? I ought to pull him out of the car a pound him.’ ” Carl shuddered. and said, “What about a red or green beam of light you could aim at the offender?” Andy said, “Now you are stealing my ideas before I can even say them. My point is that you can’t aim a honk. I think on my own. I am not a part of a herd like some people. I am like a turtle, you can’t domesticate me. I am a quiet rebel.”
Carl whispered, “Not all that quiet.”
They pulled into the big parking lot.
Carl and Andy were back at The Big Red Rooster Discount Nest. Andy needed paint for the bedroom.
He said, “You know if we lived in the city we could select from a lot of stores, not just always end up here. That’s the trouble with the country.”
Carl agreed, “But we have all the pretty hills and creeks and stuff here. Why do they always put all the pretty stuff so far away from everything?’
Andy didn’t know. “I do know one thing, if you get one can of paint it won’t be enough for a room, doesn’t hatter how small the room is, but if you get more than one can you will end up with too much extra. They’ve got that figured out.” Carl knew he was right.
On the way home the car fell silent. Andy was caught in an interior worry loop about too much paint or too little paint and would it be better to have too much because it wouldn’t be that much wasted money versus too little paint and the bother involved in getting another can? If he did have to get another can, would that mean he would still have a lot left over? He then started thinking about how many times an extension cord was two inches too short, same thing with a water hose. How did they do that? Then he went back to worrying about the paint. Finally he spoke, “Carl, say something so I can ignore you, I’m going nuts here.”
Carl had been re-living a past teen trauma. He had a deep well from which to draw.
“I was thinking about that time I got invited to a birthday party. I was never invited to anything. Some kid on the bus gave me an invitation. It had directions to the house. It was somebody I saw on the bus but I didn’t really know them. They didn’t live anywhere around us. You were sick and not in school. I went to the party. I didn’t have any money but mom bought this cool puzzle for a present and I wrapped it. When I got there I didn’t know anybody. They played all kinds of games. They played’ post office.’ When it was my turn to go out in the hallway and the girl was sent out she just looked at me and said, “Yuck.” I went back in and pretended I was kissed. I was wrecked up inside. I started figuring out I was not in my element. They had a big deal of opening all the presents in the basement. When the girl picked up mine she read my name off and everybody looked around and some kids started noticing me. I was hanging back. She had opened a lot of them by now and they were all really fancy expensive things. She shook my package and said, “God, I hope it isn’t a puzzle.” Then she unwrapped it and everybody laughed.
When I got home I cried because my heart was broken. It really was.”
Andy nodded, “If I have too much paint here I am not going to be a happy guy, I can tell you that much.”
Flora said, “Well, shall I tell you about my dream?”
Cora nodded, “Sure, when did you have it?”
Flora set her cup down, “Two evenings ago, when you called me to ask if Carl had told me if Andy had bought anything when they went out. Remember I gave you that report, he bought a penguin that sounds like a duck when you squeeze it. Did he show it to you?”
Flora frowned, “No, he did not. What about your dream?”
Cora sighed, “Well I was walking down a street in Chicago, I think it was Michigan Avenue. I had two pillows under my arm. There was a nice breeze blowing off the lake, very pleasant. Who should walk up to me but the Beatles! They were smiling and Paul McCartney came up and took my pillows. He did it gently. Then John held my hand and put his mouth to my ear to whisper something.”
Cora bounced on the couch, “Oh my God! What did he say?”
Flora picked up her cup. “I don’t know, that is when your phone call came and woke me up. Maybe he would have said, ‘Be nice to turtles’, who knows?”