Tag Archives: long reads

Open Mic and Mr. Dynamite

29 Apr

I have good – no, great news. I have now rocked TWO open mic sessions of South Side Story Club [http://www.storyclubchicago.com/]

Last week, Tues the 21st, I told my favorite personal story of all time – the Demon of Seduction. And I didn’t expect to tell another story for a while. But I got a notification that there was going to be an extra South Side Story Club this month. With little time to prepare, this is what I said. It’s all true.

I got short notice that there was going to be an extra South Side Story Club this month. I wasn’t sure if I should sign up for one of the open mic slots, since I didn’t have a story ready. But the universe must have heard my deliberation and said, “Ah, I’ll fix that problem. I’ll give her a story to tell.” And so here I am [Story Club South Side, 4/28/15], ready to talk about Mr. Dynamite, Butters, and the single greatest expression of passive aggressiveness I have ever been privileged to witness.

Of course, today started out normal, as most days do, with no hints of the insanity to come. I never do get advance warnings of impending crazy times until it’s too late. I had the day off work, my friend Kristi had a washer and dryer she wanted to get rid of. She offered to sell them to me, and sweetened the deal by offering to find a mover for me. Done! Sold! The mover, Chuck, called me Monday night and we arranged to meet at Kristi’s old apartment at 9:30 the next morning. Kristi said she had agreed on a fee of $75 when she talked to Chuck. However, Chuck was now complaining that it was too low, given the mileage and gas involved. “Oh,” I said, “I was planning on giving you a tip too.” Chuck then demanded a fee of $100 in cash. I quickly texted the update to Kristi. She said it was fine, and gave me the cash and the key.

I never know how much time to allot myself for traffic, and I’m always either horrendously early or embarrassingly late. I left my home in Oak Lawn at 8:00 a.m. and was already at Belmont Harbot by 9. I parked and walked along the lakefront to kill time. As you hopefully know, it was gorgeous this morning – not a cloud in the clear blue sky. I watched the glassy green water slap up against the rocks on the shore. It was just me, and some fishermen, and some… fish. Dying. Flopping around in their death throes there on the concrete. No omen necessary – crazy times are clearly here. I fled to my car, disturbed but undaunted.

At least I got a few good photos before I left.

At least I got a few good photos before I left.

Dying fish not pictured.

Dying fish not pictured.

I arrived at Kristi’s apartment in plenty of time. One of the other residents in the building has a free-range cat named Butters, which is really the perfect name for this cat. He is fat, very orange, and both affectionate and very stubborn. Attempts to turn Butters into an indoor cat failed miserably as he chewed through the window screens. He meowed hello to me, happy for company.

No sign of Chuck, so I sat on the back deck, enjoying the sunshine. Butters approached me and started rubbing against my leg. Maybe he smelled the fish? No, hang on, no, he’s…. he’s definitely humping my leg. I thought only dogs did that, but no, Butters was actively proving me wrong. I picked him up and off my leg – no easy feat given his claws – and let him settle in my lap as I called Chuck. It was now well past 10 and I had places to be.

Butters purred loudly in my ear, now trying to hump my face as I patiently explained to Chuck that HOLLYWOOD and HOWARD are completely different streets. [This makes more sense to Chicago/Evanston residents.] As I sat in Edgewater, getting violated by Butters, Chuck was tootling around Evanston, possibly even Skokie.

The wonder that is Butters.

The wonder that is Butters.

I got Chuck turned around and on the right path. I waited a bit, then went down to the corner to flag down Chuck.

He almost drove past me, and it was with dread that I realized that no, that was his van. The green, beat up Aerostar that looked like it was being held together with duct tape, chicken wire, and prayers. The van with a large number of decals on the back, including Calvin pissing on union “scabs”, and, in huge letters, “Mr. Dynamite.”

I took Chuck to the laundry area, showed him the washer and dryer. He promptly declared that this was a 2 man job. Silently cursing, I did my best to make it a 1 man, 1 woman job, but it quickly became clear that I was going to be useless in getting the appliances into the van. Chuck then recruited a rather stunned and nervous alley picker to help. I slipped the random alley guy the $10 I had initially set aside as Chuck’s tip, and he scuttled off like a nervous crab.

I then gave Chuck explicit instructions on where to go. I found a scrap of paper and wrote down the insanely easy instructions – 55 to Cicero, to State, to Central. Super easy, right?

As I started driving home, I called my husband Ken from the car (Bluetooth enabled car, ease off CPD). I asked Ken to meet me at home – Chuck was raising all kinds of red flags for me. Ken sighed heavily, clearly a martyr to his wife’s paranoia.

I got home in time to crate the dog, face down the glowering Kenny, and to sit on the back porch and wait. And wait. And wait some more. I called Chuck again. Despite the ridiculously easy, handwritten instructions, he was lost. Again, unaware that CENTRAL is a completely different street from CENTRAL PARK. [Side note: I can’t figure out how on earth he got on Central Park from my directions.]

Ken now understood that my concerns were legitimate. He declared that Chuck could leave the washer and dryer in our garage, but would not be setting foot in our house. Chuck finally arrived, and with Ken’s help, unloaded the appliances into our garage, where I can’t wait to do my laundry!

I got a Gatorade from our kitchen and went to pay Chuck with the cash Kristi gave me. Chuck asked how much I was giving him. I told him – $100. He got angry and asked where his promised tip was. I told him – with the rando from the alley. Chuck got really angry now and started complaining that the job was worth way more than that and should have taken two people and I should have had the money for two people and so on. I didn’t engage – especially since the ‘two people’ ended up being Ken and I wasn’t about to pay my husband. I told Chuck to talk to Ken. “I’d rather deal with your husband,” Chuck sneered as I brushed past him into the house.

A few minutes later, Ken slammed into the house. Apparently Chuck was refusing to leave without an additional 20 dollars. [I found out later that he initially refused to leave without $200 in cash but Ken shot that down pretty quick.] Ken asked if I had cash, but I had none. Chuck refused to take a check.

I was about to call the police but it was time for the greatest act of passive-aggressiveness ever. Ken went upstairs and returned grimly clutching two Tootsie Roll banks. “Do you have any cash?” he confirmed with me, and I silently handed over two singles. I then watched my husband sloooowly count out eighteen dollars. In CHANGE. He asked for a Ziploc bag and the Gatorade, steeled his shoulders, and, supplies in hand, marched out to battle Chuck.

I don’t know what was said, only that Ken returned from battle with the Gatorade and no Ziploc bag. I commented on the Gatorade’s presence. Ken sat it down and solemnly informed me, “Chuck said, ‘Fuck your Gatorade.’”

“Well that’s just…” I didn’t get to finish my sentence. Ken was already gathering up his briefcase, ready to return to work.

And suddenly, I got it. The images from the day then coalesced into a final, larger picture. The dying fish, horny Butters, the decals on the van, the Tootsie Roll banks, the rejected Gatorade – all combined to make a portrait of a noble, brave husband slaying the dragon that was Mr. Dynamite.

Edited to Add:


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