A Story From When Dr. Sam I. Am and I Were Still Married (an excerpt from the book written years ago.)

(Reprinted with the expressed written permission of Shit Happens, Nettie House, Editor, the monthly newsletter for the Central Texas Association of Composters)

To Spell Idiot, You Start With I (or Me)

By Mooner Einstein Johnson, President, Mooner’s Compost Plant

Let me start by saying that all of you already know that I have ADHD and that you think I am an idiot, already. And you know that I attend three-times-a-week sessions with my famous psycho therapist wife, Dr. Sam I. Am-Johnson. But don’t read this with any silly preconceived notions that I am digressing your asses to distraction.

Instead, feel my pain and empathize. Or, if you’re a Republican, you can maybe sympathize.

If you ask me, the true idiots of the world are people who think that they can dictate how you should live your life based upon their religious beliefs. Like the Republicans and their puppeteers, the Baptists. You can substitute the Taliban and the fundamentalist fuckball Islamics or any other political/religious pairings you choose.

But if you want my definition of idiocy, it’s, “Anytime religious shitwads determine public policy.”

Like Governor Perry telling me I can’t play poker because he thinks it’s “wrong.” Republican idiot Baptist.

Vote Kinky. He’ll save our Republic!

Sorry, I digressed.

Whenever a holiday rolls around, I’m talking any holiday, whether religious or not, I do an evaluation of my closet space allocations. I perform these periodic evaluations not because my home out to the ranch has small closets, as I have many and they are large. Nope, I’m required to reevaluate so often because my allotted space in those many closets is a paltry sum and allocated from only one of them.

In fact, the master bedroom closet my wife and I use was the original ranch house built by the first of my family to populate our ranch-land.

Since I have so little space, I periodically need to evaluate everything I have to see what might be purged to make room for new purchases. So, what I am looking for is something I haven’t worn in more than a year, like my Nero suit from 1967. It’s army green with big brass buttons and epaulets, and the pants have huge bell-bottoms. With my pink ruffled shirt with the French cuffs and my turquoise paisley cravat, I look just like the actor Peter Sellers in that movie The Party. I like Peter Sellers.

He’s a good actor, and handsome, like me.

I first wore my Nero suit in 1968 to a date with a girl who broke my heart. She said I dressed too conservative for her tastes. I last wore the suit the end of March 1986 when I evaluated it during my Easter closet perusal. See, the Nero suit is exempt from my periodic purging of cloth, leather, and plastic as I feel it has at least one more wearing in it before I die.

Or maybe at my funeral. I can change my will and be burned in a funeral pyre instead of getting cremated, and I’ll need something spiffy to wear.

I always think of Indian funerals when I think about a pyre. Like from that movie Lord Jim, except without the floating candles and added fire. And not on the Ganges River in India, and not with Sitting Bull Indians. I don’t know. I’ll worry that over later.

When I am doing this cleaning, I’m looking for stuff I don’t wear or use. I give everything I outgrow or don’t use to the Paralyzed Veterans here to Austin, and I want them to get some real wear from my offerings. That thought helps motivate me to purge better. And sooner. Or is it to better purge? Sooner, better purging, maybe. Like closet bulimia.

OK, try this: Sooner, better purging through closet bulimia.

Anyway, so, I’m going through my meager closet space because it’s a holiday, Memorial Day, and I’m bitching at my wife while I do because she is the cause of my cramped allocation. Look, we have a very large master bedroom closet. Not Liberace the Piano Player large, but my first college apartment would spin like a top in this thing.

Sam I. Am did the partitions of “His and Her” allocations. I let her do that because I thought it would make her happy to feel like she has the power role in our relationship. See, she’s a psycho therapist, and she constantly examines me about everything. But I’ve been secretly reading her brain doctor periodicals behind her back to fight back. The week before we moved into the new master suite I’m sitting in the waiting room before a therapy session, and I read an article in Sam’s O Magazine that said women needed to feel that they had some control in their lives.

Mistakenly, I thought I was giving nothing away by giving her the power of closet allocation. I now also think the article was wrong to advise giving a woman any power at all. My particular woman took that little bit of power and expanded it to the point where she gained control of my entire life. She’s like a Nazi dictator, what with all the “Mooner this and Mooner that.”

Anyway, Dr. Sam I. Am allocated me 11 inches of closet rod, 11 inches of shoe storage above, and the same amount of floor space below. When I asked her how she calculated the dimensions of my space, Sam I. Am said, “Well, Mooner, my plan was to place all of my stuff in appropriate spots and then just let you have all the rest. But all my stuff wouldn’t fit. So I decided to put more of my things into the cedar closet.

“I made room for you by removing some of my mauve-colored hand-stitched buffalo leather jackets. I wear those jackets often, so I moved only the ones with mink lining. That leaves you plenty of room.”

Then she added, “And don’t you put that moth-eaten Nero suit in my closet.”

Anyway, I decided this was a good chance to give something back to the vets and weeded out my stuff from the allotted 11 inches each of shoes (three pairs stacked left shoe upon the right), cloth clothes (three pants, three shirts, one Nero suit), and accessories. The accessories shelf feels almost extravagant, as it starts at eye level and reaches to the ceiling above.

The rest of my stuff is in the trunk of my car.

But I am digressing from the story. Every time I perform my closet evaluation, I look for ways to de-allocate some of Sam’s space and make it mine. I have tried every space-stealing tactic I can think of, but she always catches me. I swear that woman’s got extra closet sensory reception, or whatever. And I almost always think I’m catching her at taking my space but am always proven wrong.

It doesn’t matter what I do to attempt a theft of her closet space, and it doesn’t matter how small the theft might be. One time I hid five one-hundred-dollar bills in the lining of an off-season ball gown that was zipped tight in one of the 37 plastic clothes storage bag thingies that hang in the back corner of the closet. I only thought my C notes were safe. I mean, how could she notice something so compact and lightweight?

I went back for my cash a short time later, and she caught me fumbling through the garment bag, cursing and sputtering, looking for my stash.

“I was dressing the other day,” she said matter-of-factly, “and when I walked into the closet, I noticed that the gap between a black garment bag and the blue one beside it had shrunk by one 32nd of an inch, and things looked fishy. You know, it is very important to keep the plastic from touching so the bags can breathe.

“When I examined the bags, I saw your thumb print in the plastic where you pinched the top of the zipper to close it back. I used the money at Petite Professionals to buy a blouse and the rest to take my mom to lunch. Mom said to tell you ‘Thanks.’”

One of these days I’m going to build my own closet if I don’t slit my wrists first. But until then, I’ll try to make the maximum use of the 11 inches of hanger space, one shoe-box width of shelf, and a tie rack mounted from the ceiling.

It was when I was checking my shelf space for unworn shirts this holiday that I just knew I had caught her red-handed. Sam was using my pitiful space allocation! I discovered a canvas bag emblazoned with the logo from Petite Professionals, her favorite clothing store. I started screaming, storming through the house looking for her.

“Now I’ve got you!” I yelled while waving the offending bag in the air. “You’ve finally gone too far—you’re way past reason on this one. Get your ass in here right this instant and look at what I’ve caught you doing!” I had her this time, and she was going to pay.

After about an hour she came sauntering into the bedroom and woke me from my nap to take her punishment. I never take naps, but when she didn’t come right away I thought I’d act cool for when she did arrive. I’d put the bag back on the shelf where I found it and then stretched out on the bed with my hand under my chin to affect the cool part. And promptly fell sound asleep. And if I hadn’t been groggy from the stupid nap, I’d have never fallen into her trap.

She awakened me from my slumber and sweetly asked, “How may I be of service?”

I stumbled out of bed and dragged her into the closet, pointed at the bag, and said, “Aha, look at that bag, you closet allocation obfuscater!” I thought obfuscater was most appropriate.

I should have known something was wrong by the angelic smile on my wife’s face, but I barged on like a Billy goat in a pansy patch. “Just for that, I’m taking that whole wall of your closet for my stuff. I’m gonna go unload my car right now.”

“Mooner Einstein Johnson, are you talking about that bag?” she asked as she waved at the shelf. “Is that bag what this little tantrum is all about? Don’t you remember what that is?” she asked calmly. And then she said, “Are you sure you want to make an issue of this?”

“Yes, darling, this is that important, and it’s about time I hold you accountable for your indiscretions,” this said with the pious authority of a righteous man standing up for his rights.

Then, in a voice that was almost still because it was so quiet, she told me, “Look inside that bag, Mooner, and then you find me if you have anything else to say to me.”

And when she spun from the closet, leaving it ten degrees colder, she added, “Einstein, my ass!”

“You got it,” I sniped at her back. “And don’t go far.”

I climbed my ladder and grabbed the bag from the shelf and jumped down. I jammed my hand down into the bag and gripped its contents like a hammer to whack-out my point to Sam I. Am, and off I stormed. I was halfway out of the bedroom before I realized what I was holding, and it stopped me dead in my tracks.

There, in my hand, was the carefully folded American flag that had draped my father’s casket at his funeral. Sam I. Am had packed it lovingly and placed it on my shelf for safekeeping. I now remember telling her how grateful I was that she had handled that for me.

The last time I had seen the flag was when Mother had given it to me at Daddy’s graveside, her telling me he wished me to have it, me honored at his wish. In the fresh spring breeze, the draped flag had fluttered like the mainsail of a ghost ship in a desperate effort to steer my father’s casket free from the grave hole beneath. I felt my connection to Daddy fluttering as well, as if it were to be forever lost at the landing of that wooden vessel and the laying of sod.

When I was feeling a misery as deep as I can ever imagine, the pair of WWII vets who had stood at attention for the graveside service began their duty. As best as their eighty-year-old bodies could, in their fresh-pressed, faded uniforms, these brave men carried out the final goodbye to one of their own.

The preacher preached his last words on my father’s grave, and a bugler started playing Taps. When that terrible, sweet music started, the men performed the ritual and prepared the flag with a precision at which I marveled. As their gnarled and shaky arthritic hands creased each three-cornered fold, I could only know that their grief was just as strong as mine.

Two old soldiers struggling to stand straight and not cry as they buried yet another of their fallen brethren. One mostly ungrateful son missing past and future.

I have touched this flag only two times, and each time it has left me stunned. In the first instant I was stunned by the power of a symbolism so simple as a flag as it left my father’s casket. I wondered just how many sons like me were clutching flags as the end of our fathers’ generation approaches.

But at this second touching of the flag, it was my own idiocy that numbed me.

My flag faux pas occurred during the holiday honoring the men and women like my dad, people who made important sacrifices so that I can be free. And stupid. I screwed this up a week before Mother’s birthday, June 6th, the anniversary of the D-Day Invasion, the action that marked the beginning of the end of WWII. In one fitful moment of asinine dumbness, I had managed to underline and highlight my tendency to do dumb things.

Sam I. Am has yet to speak to me, but that’s OK. I’m very busy trying to shake off the effects from this latest stupid stunt of mine. To take my mind off my idiocy, I’ve been inventing stuff, like my reusable in-home sewer sludge composting kit. I got the idea when a neighbor showed me her colostomy bag.

But every time I take a break from inventing, I get blue. I need to make an appointment with my psycho therapist.

I’m such an idiot.

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