April 1, 2011
You just can’t make this stuff up.
It was a dark and bitter cold night actively being strangled by the frozen fingers of February. I had spent most of the week packing and re-packing all my clothes, instruments and gear in preparation for my annual Caribbean music tour that was scheduled to begin way too early the next day. Delightful images of blue skies, lovely beaches with tall coconut palms swaying gently in the warm breezes, plenty of sun and playing music almost every evening had carried me through this brutal winter of horrific snowstorms and meager income. On this last night at home, I had planned to kick back, relax, have an early dinner and even earlier bedtime so that I would awaken at 2:45 AM, refreshed and ready to endure the full day I’d be spending in cars, airports, planes and boats before I arrived at my Virgin Islands destination.
The best prescription for disappointment is expectation. Fate had other plans.
Dr. Easy had been hovering over my shoulder for a good part of the week offering his unsolicited opinions. “Why ya bringin’ dat shirt? It ugly on you. How many sets of git-tar strings ya really be needin’? Ya plannin’ on bustin’ ‘em all? Mi-son, who show ya how to pack a bag, some rag-picker mon?” On and on.
I’d thought I'd learned over time that the best response to the doctor’s incessant jabbering and interrogations is to make no response at all – perceive it simply as background noise, which it mostly was. He would eventually run out of wind, get bored and disappear. But tonight, perhaps due to my exhaustion and anticipation of long travels, he was wearing me thin. I snapped.
“Why can’t you can’t just zip your pie-hole and stay outta my way?” I said, my exasperation boldly showing. “Just back off, sit down and shut your yap!”
“Yah, mi-son, don’ you go puttin’ yer grouch on me!” Dr. Easy haughtily retorted. “You gon’ be lookin’ maga foolish walkin’ to de airport wit’ all dem bags on yer back like some ol’ bow-leg island donkey!”
"Wasted no time playing your ace", I muttered to myself under my breath. The truth was that our plan - made weeks ago - was that he was going to spend the night on my fold-out couch and then drive me to the airport. It had been I who had reluctantly arranged this dependency on him to get the tour started, so it was I who needed to back off.
“OK, doc, I’m sorry for snapping,” I acquiesced. “I’ll make us some supper and then we can turn-in. 2:30 is going to come pretty fast.”
“Ya got a nice steak?”
“No, I’ve cleaned out the‘fridge before going away for over a month. How ‘bout something simple like soup and grilled cheese? Or oatmeal?”
“Hummmmph! A mon need sustenance, not some kiddie lunch or breffus' stuff!”
“I’ll order us a pizza then. What do you want on it?”
“Ya got some nice fish?”
“I told you, I cleaned out the fridge!” I could feel myself getting heated again. “Look, I’m making soup ‘n sandwiches, you’ll either eat it or you won’t”
“Why ya still tryin’ to put yer grouch on me? Long walk to dat airport, mi-son! Wha’ dat stink?”
“What stink, I don’t smell anything.”
“Dat prolly ‘cause you inna stinkin’ mood. But I know stink, and dere’s some stink inna room here.” The doctor wrinkled his nose dramatically.
“Look, we don’t have time for this nonsense. Let’s eat, get some sleep and get on our way,” I attempted to reason.
“Sure t’ing, Boss,” Dr. Easy snidely retorted and went off to the corner to sulk as I prepared our supper. “I know I smellin’ stink…” he grumbled sotto voce to himself.
After finishing our simple repast in silence, I reminded him that 2:45 was going to “soon come”, a poorly chosen bit of island vernacular that roughly translated means: It-hasn’t-happened-yet-probably-won’t-happen-later-maybe-tomorrow-but-definitely-not-today. Still feeling insulted, Dr. Easy got up and went over to the couch. “Ya wan’ me t’ bed down on dis here divan?”
“That’s fine,” I replied, smiling at his archaic use of the word ‘divan’ to refer to my aging sofa-bed. “I can pull it out into a full-sized bed for you if you’d like? Plenty of room to stretch out.”
“Somet’ing be stinkin’.”
“Will you get off that stink thing!” I said tersely as I got up and approached the couch.
Dr. Easy was pacing up and down in front of the couch, more fervently wrinkling his nose. “I don’ know if I wan’ stay here. Somet’ing surely be stinkin’!”
“Look,” I said, straining to contain my consternation, “you’ll sleep fine, right here, on this couch. You’ll get up at 2:45, just like me. We’ll load up the car and off to the airport we go!”
I leaned over and removed the couch cushions in preparation to unfold the sofa-bed and – WHAM! – it hit me! A nasty odor punched me right in the nose.
“Cheese ‘n bread!” Dr. Easy shrieked, leaping back. “I tol’ ya dere was maga stink in here fer real!”
I examined the cushions. They did smell a bit funky, but there was nothing visibly evident on them to explain the foul smell permeating my living room. I reached down to pull out the frame of the sofa-bed. It would not move. I tugged again. Nothing. I put both hands on the frame and yanked. Still nothing.
“What the hell is going on here?” I exclaimed. “Give me a hand here, doc.”
“I ain’t touchin’ dat. I goin’ home, sleep in me own bed!”
After a few minutes wrangling, I bribed him to help me pull out the bed-frame by promising to bring him back a new Lashing Dogs CD from Tortola and a new t-shirt from the Donkey Diner. We each grabbed an end of the frame.
“One, two, three!!!” I counted and we gave the bed-frame a mighty tug. Nothing.
“Lawd, ya got some serious stink goin’ on in dat divan now! Worse dan goat!”
“One more time…here we go…” I counted to three, pretending to ignore his comment, and we heaved-ho again. Nothing.
“Dat’s it. Ya can keep yer stinkin’ divan if’n ya wan’, but I leavin’. Ya jus’ call yaself a cab in de mornin’.”
“Come on, man, don't be such a quitter! Remember the new CD…”
“No CD or lousy t-shirt wort’ dis botherment!” Dr. Easy spat, but he reached down and grabbed the stuck frame again.
'Tis said “The third time's the charm”. Not so sure about that one. At least in this case. On the count of three, we once again put our backs into it and . . .
KA-BLAM!!!!!! The metal bed frame exploded open with an ominous crash, tearing a gaping hole in the back of the couch and spraying nearly fifteen pounds of cat food, laced with mouse turds and saturated with mouse urine into every corner of the living room. The sodden sofa-bed mattress lay open, exposed, like a brackish grey swamp. I stood, dumbfounded, with damp cat food and mouse turds in my hair and down my shirt, staring in shock at the sudden devastation surrounding me.
Ms. Chevy - my elderly, mildly psychotic cat - had been quietly lying under the kitchen table until the detonated sofa awakened her. She rocketed, wild-eyed, from her slumber to the top the refrigerator, back arched and grey fur puffed up in alarm as urine-saturated cat food and mouse turds flew EVERYWHERE: onto the window sills, fireplace mantle, counter tops, covering the floor and rugs with mushy, foul-smelling detritus. Doctor Easy was not in sight.
“Holy crap!” I whispered to no one, still stunned by the wreckage before me. “That is one industrious mouse!”
I looked up in disgust at the cat. “So, I can see you’ve been doing your job well!” Ms. Chevy looked away, seemingly embarrassed, but didn't come down from the refrigerator.
And then things began to fall into place - For the past several months, I’d noticed that we’d been going through an inordinate amount of cat food - bags of it! - but the Chevster was not gaining any weight. I could find no evidence of alien animal intruders. I’d not seen any vermin droppings. My sense of smell has always been rather keen, but I’d not olfactored any of this!
Doctor Easy peeked from around the door of my office. “Now so, Mister Man, do ya believe dat dere’s stink in here?!”
He sauntered out, glancing over the mess. “I be goin’ now. I ain’t sleepin’ here wid all dis mouse poop and pee aroun’. Dat nasty stuff mek ya sick! Relly sick! Dat stuff can put ya right in de hostipal, an’ I ain’t goin’ dere! I be sleepin’ in me own bed dis night.” He pulled his beret over his eyes and reached for his coat.
By this time, any notion of an early bedtime had dissolved and I could see that there was now an awful lot to be done before my head was going to hit the pillow. Suddenly, a second after-shock: I remembered that my vacuum cleaner had self-destructed beyond repair earlier in the week and I’d taken it to the dump. I’d not yet replaced it. I had no effective way to clean up this disaster! Panic began to envelope me . . .
“Wait a minute! You’re not going to abandon ship now, are you?!” I asked Dr. Easy incredulously. “Please, help me clean this up. You can stay in my office…I’ll make you a nice bed in there,” I pleaded.
Dr. Easy, perhaps feeling a twinge of compassion, slowly pushed his beret back on his head and looked me straight in the eye for several seconds before responding. “Awright, mi-son. Ya mek me a good pallet in yer office, I stay. But, I ain’ goin’ near dis stuff,” he waved his arm around the destroyed living room and disappeared back into the office.
Outside, as if adding insult to injury, Mother Nature had begun to hurl her famous February “wintry mix” at my windows. As freezing rain, snow and sleet pelted the frozen panes, I cursed her latest meteorological foil, fearful that it would make our drive, and perhaps the Caribbean flight itself, impossible. But then I realized that this storm was exactly why the good doctor decided that he’d rather stay put than go out into that frozen fray: He dislikes winter even more than I do!
“OK, doc, you win. Again!” I conceded, as I searched for some incense and dug out my broom, dust-pan and scrub brush to begin the arduous on-hands-and-knees task of cleaning up the damage from my Improvised Exploding Divan. It was well after midnight before I went to bed, exhausted, but could not sleep. I could hear snoring in my office.
When the 2:30 AM alarm went off, so began my “2011 Not All There Tour”.
PS: So what happened to the exploding 'divan' you ask? Well, I deemed it unsalvageable and arranged for it to be taken to the dump. The guy who trucked it out of my place said that before he could unload it, someone came up to him and asked if they could have it. To them I say, "Good luck!"