It’s come to my attention that SB has hired a new siterunner, not a regular here (although some did apply). Who’s of a religious persuasion that often disapproves of naughty language, booze, and premarital sex. This story involves all three, and Rich’s Pitches asked me to share it. As my creative hero, Steve Goodman, once said, “folks, I know I’ll never have the chance to sing it again. So I’ll beg your indulgence.” I’ve told the fish part before; this is the extended version. It’s very possible the new fellow doesn’t like extended articles, either. SB has never been too fond of those; 500 words is their ideal. 500 words to me is “just getting started.”
Who knows? Maybe the siterunner is an open-minded sort, who enjoys writing of any length, and isn’t easily offended by mild naughtiness. I can work with that; I usually like people who think that way.* But, you never know. And that’s part of the story, too!
As is baseball. Very barely.
Invitation To A “Resort”
I’d been dating Mrs. James — then, my girlfriend — for several years, so I’d met her parents. The dad seemed a bit grumpy I was having sex with his daughter, minus a ring, yet was resigned to “she’s gonna go her own way.” (He warmed up to me, eventually). The mom was so far gone in organ-failure dementia, she barely noticed my existence.
I’d also met her aunt & uncle, the Dad’s sister and her husband. I’d been warned about them. Very proper, very pristine Minnesota people. Make sure you shave and don’t wear a hat indoors in the restaurant. I shaved, and took off my hat. Turned out not to matter, at all: they liked my well-spoken white-trash Oregon ass just fine, we got along immediately.
The following summer, not-yet-Mrs. James asked, “can you go to our family vacation with me? I’m always stuck watching all the kids by myself. But two of my friends from Denmark will be there, I think you’ll like them.”
Odd. Explain, please?
A few things. When Mrs. James left home for college, her dad got empty-nest syndrome, and had a Danish exchange student. Mrs. James hadn’t gone far (from Prior Lake to the U of M), so she met this young man, and liked him. Her dad did this for three years, Mrs. James made three lifelong friends. (The fourth year, that Danish student was a stunning bore, and Dad got over empty-nest syndrome. But the others all eventually came to visit him when he was dying.)
Additionally, Mrs. James’s dad and his sister (the aunt I’d met) had grown up in a very unstable household. Their mother suffered from severe mental illness, and they’d suvived it, so every year they pooled their resources to buy a lake resort cabin vacation for their children & spouses, grandkids, etc. What family is supposed to be; what their childhood was not.
I didn’t like the sound of “lake resort cabin” and was assured, “it’s not what it sounds like. It’s a bunch of flimsy little houses, half don’t even have a TV.”
OK. But why do you have to watch the kids?
“Because their parents think, I’m not married, I can watch their kids.”
These people sound like assholes.
“They are! But I really do think you’ll like the Danes.”
Torturing A Dumber Than Usual Fish
These parents were, indeed, assholes. They went off to play golf and/or fish. “You two, watch our kids.” Because we don’t have any, we’re supposed to watch yours? On a f***ing vacation? I took time off from work for this ****!
Alright, fine, there’s a lake, somebody’s gotta make sure the younglings aren’t drowning in it. We grabbed some vinegar and baking soda from one of the lightly-stocked “cabin” cupboards to do a basic lesson in the sand about volcanoes.
“Oh, wow!” “We don’t have any volcanoes in Minnesota, do we?” “Volcanoes are scary!” “Have you ever seen a real volcano?”
I have. When I was seven. It was super scary. But we were far away from it, it couldn’t hurt us.
“Was it cool?” Yes, it really was.
Then one of the parents came back, gave those kids a fishing pole and container of worms. “Here, this’ll keep them busy.” And left.
(The Danes had entirely decided to have nothing to do with any of this, and were in their cabin on vacation.)
So, kids, worms, fishing pole. I have no idea what to do with a fishing pole. The kids, being gleeful little monsters, would enthusiastically stick a new worm on the hook. “Ooh, it squirms!” “Here, let me do it!”
But they didn’t catch more than one fish. It was the saddest little fish imaginable, maybe four inches long.** It kept swimming around by the dock and nibbling chunks of the worm, which would eventually fall off, then the kids would put a new worm on the hook.
Eventually, the fish, which had been poked in the face and body multiple times by trying to eat, died, and it floated to the surface.
All the kids were horrified. “Eww! It’s floating!”
(Because you killed it, you little...)
They started to scamper. And, like it or not, we’d been dumped with watching after these sadistic little weirdos. You can’t have a bunch of them running off. (Similar to a teacher on a museum field trip; at the end, you’ll see them counting heads. Uh-oh, we’re one short. Or, worse — one over...)
So I said “fine, I’ll take it,” and Mrs. James took over supervising them stabbing fresh worms on the dock, while I took the dead fish up to the “resort”’s “fish cleaning station.” A basic basement-style laundry sink with a garbage disposal-button. I put the fish in the drain, and hit the button.
And promptly got my face & shirt sprayed with fish glop. Like running a blender with no top on.
This amused the kids to no end. It amused their parents, when they finally showed back up. “Haha, you don’t know how a fish cleaning station works!” No, I don’t, but you left me in charge of your children? One of two things is true, here. Either I’m not an idiot just because I know little about fishing... or you entrusted your children’s safety to an idiot you’ve barely met! In which case you are a terrible parent! Pick one!
After those parents came back, and their kids were all safe, I showered and met the Danes.
I hadn’t really had a chance to meet them before, I was too concerned with children that might poke their eyes out or drown. The Danes wanted to play Scrabble. This was a thing they did as high-school exchange students, play Scrabble, it was a fun vocabulary exercise.
They were now adults, who spoke English very well, yet Scrabble was kind of a sentimental favorite for them, and I’d never met them, so it was a good icebreaker. Everyone had a good time. Adult beverages were imbibed. Danes, in general, like their booze. I’ve always been fond of mine; I sometimes make my own.
And, let me add — these people were incredibly Hot. The husband was a pure ball of energy. The wife, a dark-haired Czech-born lady who looked like something from a Bond movie. “My secrets are my own, Mr. Bond. Not even you can uncover them.” “Uncover, you said?” Except if a Bond movie took place in a chintzy little Minnesota fishing “resort” instead of a five-star hotel on MI-6’s seemingly endless expense account.
Which, now that I come to think of it, would be a hilarious Bond short movie. “So, M, I’ll be going to a lake resort? With the nearest drinking establishment an exclusive club named, the Eagles, you say? 007, ready for duty!” CUT TO: Bond, bored out of his mind, watching kids stab worms. CUT TO:
INT — OFFICE IN LONDON, DAY
MONEYPENNY: And that’s what you get for sexually harassing me all these years. Have fun, James!
We now return to the sexy Danes and Scrabble.
As the game continued, and the adult beverages were consumed, we lost track of the score, and started spelling out nothing but sex words, laughing hysterically. So, at one point, the Danes asked, “do you have any extra condoms?” Danes tend to not be shy about such things.
I didn’t. I had two, a spare if I put the first one on wrong. I liked these Danes, but I wasn’t going to spare a condom when I wanted to have sex with my girlfriend. Also, I’d showered (because, fish guts). You never want to waste a good shower.
“We saw a grocery store a few miles back on our way here. Can anyone drive there?”
Alright, sure, I can. I generally smoke when I drink (see, I told you this story had Vices in it), and you couldn’t smoke in these cabins, so I’d basically been nursing one beer every few hours. The others were hammered.
Small Town Prudery
We get to the store, and we’re searching the aisles, can’t find condoms. They’re usually by the tampons, but not this time. Mrs. James finally asked the lone cashier, a very bored teenager who’d probably enjoyed watching these drunks stagger all over the place cursing and laughing in a garbled mix of Danish and English.
“Um, we don’t have them. The owner’s against birth control.”
The Danish/Czech lady stared down the cashier but hard, and said “if he doesn’t believe in birth control, he should not be selling diapers or baby food.”
The cashier shrugged.
On our way back, the Danes were amazed and mad. “This is America! The land of freedom!
Yeah, but we’ve also got a lot of prudes who are really hung up about sex.
“Don’t you even use baseball terms for sex? First base, second base?”
Yes, although I’ve never been entirely clear which was which.
“First base is the boobies! Hooray for boobies! They’re the best!”
(Indeed, they are. And that’s the baseball part of this story.)
We got back to the lake resort, and retired to our separate rooms. And, nine months later, presto! A new Danish baby was born! It was this couple’s second child, and they’d talked about having another. They just hadn’t intended to do so quite yet.
I have, since, met this youngling, and had to think, “your parents weren’t planning on having you. But me & my wife got them drunk, one night, and in rural Minnesota, it can be hard to find condoms at 2AM.” So, rather than say that, I simply said, “hi.” To which the child responded by running inside and asking her parents who that strange man saying the indicepherable word “hi” was.
Mrs. James, though, always puts together a Christmas mailing package of sparkly wearables for the kids, sugar-bomb American cereals for the parents. Apparently, in Denmark, you can’t get the equivalent of Captain Crunch. They eat it like you or I would pistachios, dump it in a bowl and gobble down, no spoon, no milk. Merry Christmas, our Danish friends.
Didn’t think you’d also be getting a Christmas story, did ya? What does Christmas have to do with an unplanned pregnancy and travelers from distant lands?
And if the new siterunner fires me, I’ve really enjoyed all the great, attentive readers (sometimes, perceptive critics!) at TwinkieTown. It’s been a privilege and a pleasure. See ya around the Cities, sometime. Or in a few weeks with a book review! I’m no good at predicting stuff!
*Postcript — another of Mrs. James’s Danish friends, whom I’d meet later, is a Jehovah’s Witness. They are, technically, not supposed to have booze. This man has a fantastic collection of finely-aged whiskey, and is an absolute blast to drink with. As stated... you never know. Strange things happen in this world.
**Attentive readers will note that in the previous version of this story, the fish was three inches long. I honestly don’t remember. But it’s a fish story! They get bigger every time!