I had no sooner walked out of the grocery store at 10:00 AM, toting a couple of bags, when I heard someone shout out my name. "Carz!" It was my fourteen year old goddaughter, Kelly, walking up with open arms, hugging me and giving me a quick kiss on the lips. "Long time, no see." She joked.
Right behind her was her mom and dad."Hey," Pam started off, "what are you up to?"
I lifted my arms to display. "Just grabbing something for breakfast."
Suddenly, Kelly went loco. "Oh, my god!" She scouted the contents of both bags. "He's got pancakes and eggs in here!" She shouted with glee. "Butter and syrup, too!" She took the bags from me and began walking towards my car. "I'm staying with Carroll." She informed her parents.
"Hold on." I called her back. "These might help." I handed her my car keys, and then she picked up where she left off.
"You have got to be kidding me." My friend Joe expelled. "Seriously?" He concluded. I was at a lost. "What?" I half stammered.
"You came to the store to get pancakes and eggs?"
"Well, yeah." I replied, still confused about what was going on. "I had a hankering. I get those hankerings about two times a year." Joe and Pam soon brought me up to date. "Your little princess woke up in a mood today. She has been moaning and groaning constantly for pancakes and eggs." Joe told me. Pam followed up right behind him. "Apparently, cereal, toast, and pop-tarts aren't good enough for her for breakfast."
"So you brought her to the store to get her pancakes and eggs?" I mused with a smile. "And you guys get on me for spoiling her."
"You do spoil her." Joe snapped back. "But let's face it, dude, she gets those hankerings about twice a year also. I mean, what are the odds that you both wake up the same morning craving pancakes and eggs? I swear, you two are like kindred spirits or something. It's freaking me out."
I was wondering about something else, though. "So why is she nesting in my car? Does she want to eat breakfast with me?"
"Actually," Joe began, "we just dropped Boomer (his younger son) off at his friend's house to stay for a few nights. We were in the process of taking Kell to her grandparents house in Jasper. We were swinging by here to get her pancakes so she wouldn't drive her grandpa and grandma too crazy."
"Where you guys going?" I asked. Pam was quick to respond. "We are celebrating our 20th anniversary. Going to a B and B in Kentucky."
"Let me guess," I reasoned, "she wants to stay with me instead of her grandparents?"
"Well, she did but, we didn't want to bother you with it. She just got done staying there last weekend and she really doesn't like it out there in Jasper. She says she feels so isolated."
"I don't blame her." I said, then getting to the meat and potatoes of the issue. "But bother me? You guys know that none of you ever bother me, least of all, my Kell-bell."
"I know." Pam replied. "But she's spent a weekend with you already this summer and that's after you took her down the East coast looking at lighthouses for a week. We thought you could use a break too."
"That and the fact that you spoil her rotten." Joe threw in for good measure.
Suddenly, Kelly yelled over at me from the car, standing up through the window. "Hurry up you old coot, I'm starving here. You gots to feed me, Seymour. Then you're taking me to Scioto Trails to take some pictures. And then you're buying me a banana split. And you're buying me a pizza tonight while we're watching the Austin Powers trilogy!"
I turned to look at her parents. They looked back at me. I sighed. "Yes, she can stay with me."
Joe smiled as I began to follow him to the back of the SUV. "She will plan your whole life if you let her."
"Honestly," Pam chimed in, "don't let her boss you around. You can tell her no once in a while, Carroll, her dad and I do it all the time and she still loves us. Guess what? She will still love you, too."
"I tell her no sometimes." I went to defend myself. They both stopped in their tracks and stared at me. "What?" I kept trying to defend. Joe broke the silence. "You try to tell her no but when she gives you that puppy-dog face, you cave every time."
"Well," I squirmed, "it's a cute puppy-dog face. She's got kind of that Rowan Blanchard thing going on, and who doesn't think she's adorable? I haven't built up an immunity from it yet like you two have." Joe opened the back of the SUV as I continued talking. "Look, if she wants me to take her to go rob a bank, I will say no, okay? Otherwise, she's a good kid, and as long as she wants to do teenage girl stuff, I won't tell her no."
"Ha!" Joe let out, "You would still take her to rob that bank."
I thought for a moment. "Yeah, you're probably right. I am so screwed."
Joe turned around and handed me a big sports bag. "Here, this is her change of clothes, socks and such." Then he reached back in and pulled out another one, only a little smaller. "This is her toiletries and such." I placed the strap over my shoulder like I did with the first one. He leaned in and pulled out another bag. "This is her electronics stuff. Her computer, E-reader, camera and so on." I placed it over my shoulder too when he pulled out another. "This has her books, diary and poetry and stuff." This ordeal was still not over. "And this is her sleeping bag and favorite pillow."
"Good Lord!" I gasped. "How many days is she staying?"
Joe smiled as he closed the SUV door. He turned to me. "I get to tell you what the doctor told me some fourteen years ago. Congratulations! It's a girl. You have a daughter."
We shook hands as he went to make his way to the drivers side door. "I am going to give Boomer's friends mom your contact info in case of an emergency. Is that okay with you?"
"That's fine." I answered. Pam turned me around. "We're also adding you to their school emergency contact info this year, if that's okay, too."
"Of course it's okay." I assured her. She reached out and pulled me into her for a short little kiss on the lips and a hug. "Thank you for caring about my family." She whispered. All I could do was smile and say, "Thank you for making me a part of your family."
"See you in three or four days." She offered, heading to the passenger side of the SUV. "If you don't hear from us in a couple of weeks, she's all yours. Boomer too." She joked.
I waved them off as I walked to my car and started loading the luggage into the back seat. "Ha ha." Kelly joked. "You got stuck with me."
"I think it's the other way around." I countered.
"How you figure?" She asked. "I chose you."
I settled into the driver seat. "Let's think about what your options were." I volunteered, turning the engine over. "Grandparents A in Jasper, or grandparents B in Portsmouth, or creepy uncle in Waverly? Meanwhile, Boomer is staying with his friend."
She reflected for a moment. "Oh yeah. But I didn't have any friends who could let me stay with them for that long." Then she reflected some more. "Oh, yeah, now I see it. Oh, my god, I got stuck with you." I began to pull out of the parking lot when she began to sing. "I guess it's true, I'm so happy to be stuck with you ...."
"No!" I demanded. "No Huey Lewis and The News."
Suddenly, I had to slam on the brakes. I placed my right arm out in front of Kelly to protect her from hitting the dash or the windshield. "Damn it!" I shouted at the car coming out of the bank parking lot. "Don't people even look for oncoming traffic anymore?" I asked rhetorically. I looked over at my Pooh Bear. "You okay?"
"Nice going, Seinfeld." She remarked. And then I broke out laughing. "That's funny."
"You don't even know what I'm talking about." She figured. (She figured wrong.)
"I knew Seinfeld trivia before you were even a glimmer in your daddy's eye, sweetheart." I fired back.
"Fine." She articulated. "What was I talking about then?"
"You were talking about 'stopping short'. The Seinfeld episode where Kramer stopped short with George's mother when he was driving her home from her plastic surgery. George's father found out and he said, 'Stop short? That's my move'. "
She stuck her tongue out at me. "Yeah, well, yadda, yadda, yadda, and I went to sleep."
"But you yadda, yadda, yadda'd over the best part." I played along.
She grinned. "No I didn't. I mentioned the lobster bisque."
Gary: "My sister and I was talking the other day and I discovered that she watches The View."
Me: "My condolences."
Gary: "She says that's where she gets her political news."
Me: "She would be better off getting a lobotomy, she'd be a lot smarter. Why would anyone watch that show unless they love to hate? I would rather watch a show with ISIS sitting around and talking about all the ways they would kill Americans, Christians, and Jews, it would be less hateful. All those girls combined have an I.Q. of negative fifty. None of them has had sex for over 20 years, which would explain all of that pent up frustration. And the last time Whoopi Goldberg had sex was 1985 when she drugged Bill Cosby."
Gregg: "Tell us how you really feel."
Me: "I thought I did."
Joe: "That's the kind of comedy we need in this country, and not that Samantha Bee bull-shit."
Me: "I hear ya. That bitch couldn't be funny if you stuck a laugh track up her ass."
Gary: "You should get your own stand-up show on Comedy Central."
Me: "Comedy Central? The Discovery Channel is funnier than Comedy Central. Ever since Jon Stewart left, Comedy Central has become CNN2, and nobody even watches the original CNN. The last time Comedy Central had a funny person on their network was Amy Schumer, back before she made it big and we found out what a douche' she is."
Joe: "Plus, you would have to go to New York, and we all know how you hate New York."
Gregg: "Is that where Comedy Central is located? I thought it was in California?"
Me: "New York, California, what does it matter? I plan to never go to those states ever again because I don't support socialism, communism, or terrorism in any shape, form or fashion. I only support states that are pro-America and Americans. I can't wait until Nevada becomes ocean-front property."
Joe: "What if you're going somewhere and you have to drive through a socialist state?"
Me: "I make sure I have plenty of food and water and a full tank of gas, and I drive straight through without stopping. I will avoid spending any money in a socialist state, if I can."
Gregg: "Is that your new motto?"
Me: "That's my new creed." (Laughter) "Walk Hard."
At fifteen years old, living in Georgia, I got my drivers license. Not a permit. An actual license! And then, a few weeks later, we moved back to Ohio.
Prior to that, we were in Ohio for six months and prior to that, we hopscotched around the Tampa, Florida area for a year or so. My mother and stepfather jumped around a lot.
But now, I was back in Ohio and carrying a full blown drivers license that I quickly learned was useless to me. Ohio was not going to honor my Georgia license. Ohio sucks. (No, really, Ohio sucks.) Stupid Ohio.
I turned sixteen just weeks after we moved back to the buckeye state. I was told that I had to take Drivers Ed in high school if I wanted to turn my learners permit into a drivers license, so I did. But before the new school season started, my August 5th birthday was going to be one to remember for the rest of my life.
It was a Saturday when I asked my mother for a little favor. "Drop me off in town so I could go and buy a couple of record albums." This really sucked because I had my own truck. I just couldn't drive it. Yet.
We lived out on Charleston Pike in Chillicothe, Ohio. About five miles back into the woods. Our backyard ended at the railroad tracks.
My mother gave me a ride, and informed me to give her a call if I needed a ride home. I hated the thought but it wasn't her fault. (Stupid Ohio.)
After buying two albums, both being Dr. Hook albums, I began to head towards a payphone to drop my dime when suddenly, I heard the whistle of the train. It said, "Carroll, hello. How are you?"
I took a peek. It had stopped on the tracks. It wasn't moving. It was about 300 yards away across a field. I got myself a good idea. Well, it was good at the time.
"Carroll, come ride me." It beckoned.
If I could get to that train before it starts rolling again, I whispered to myself, I bet I could hop on and ride it right past our house, and I could get off there. Everyone would wonder how I got home so fast.
Like I said, it sounded like a good idea at the time.
So I bypassed the payphone and scampered across the field, toting a bag with two record albums in it, and I headed to the stalled train.
By the time I got up on it, it had started to roll a little bit. I grabbed a step bar on one of the cars and stood up on it. The train was rolling at about 3-5 miles an hour.
I rode it for about two or three miles before I realized it was picking up speed. I kept asking myself, should I try and get off now or wait? Maybe it will slow down again. I was still about five miles away before it would roll past my backyard. Maybe it would slow down again by then, I thought.
I thought wrong.
There was nothing I could do. My backyard and house was nothing but a blur when the train went zooming by. I had climed up a few more steps on the ladder I was clinging to and sat down on the edge of the front end of the train car and sighed. "This is bad." I quipped. "This is real bad."
Oh well, nothing I could now. I was in this thing for the long haul.
As night began to creep in, the train rolled into a town. I had no idea where I was at. It slowed down enough at one point that I could jump off, and so I did.
I walked around for a half dozen blocks before coming to a diner. I walked in and ordered a platter and then went to their payphone and made the dreadful call. My mother was freaking out. Angry? That's an understatement, but still freaking out. "Where are you?" She asked me.
I had to ask the waitress. "You're in Richmond, honey." She told me. "Richmond, Virginia."
Yeah, and I had to repeat that to my mother. I could hear my stepfather cussing up a storm in the background.
Lucky for me this diner was a 24 hour diner and so I just waited there for about six hours - or so, before my parents showed up.
My mother stood there with her arms crossed and giving me that look. "Of all the the messes you have gotten yourself into growing up, this one takes the cake."
Blah, blah, blah. That's what I heard. We ate breakfast before heading back home. Most of the questions on the ride back was about how it felt riding a train like that for such a long distance. I had to be honest with them. "It was kind of cool." I said. "I'm really looking forward to listening to my new albums." (They were both pretty good, as I would find out later, then again, I was a Dr. Hook fan.)
"Then maybe this will be cool, too," my mother announced, "you're grounded."