Trying to distract myself from hockey hell by looking through old pictures. Found this one from June of 2007 and now I want to re-share the story behind it, so you will just deal with that, OK? I’M A LITTLE OUT OF SORTS. I wish you could see my eye twitching. (Yes, I realize how pathetic this makes me. But I’m used to it. I will be OK once I go skating tonight.)
Uncle Otis was a spry nine year old lad when Annie and her family moved to the neighborhood, on account of her daddy losing his job at the paper mill and forced into the trade of candlestick making, naturally. Uncle Otis’ town was known all around, far and wide, as a thriving candle hub. So this made sense, you see?
Annie was in the grade below Uncle Otis and he would flick daisies at her during recess. She never noticed him, mainly because he was poor, but also because she liked black boys and Otis was, well, very pale. And had a small peepee.
Uncle Otis continued to pine for Annie, all the way through high school. Even after Johnny Maplebitch gave her genital warts, his heart still pitter-pattered down Lovelorn Lane. Even after, at age sixteen, Annie was impregnated by a salesman shilling Swiss Army knives and gained fifty pounds that she couldn’t shake, Uncle Otis would still feel a horde of butterflies molesting his insides at the mere mention of her name. Even after Annie joined a religious mountain top cult and was brainwashed into sewing up her vagina, Otis yearned to be the one to rip out the stitches.
At age eighteen, Uncle Otis was offered the job of a lifetime, joining a carnival caravan as a gum-wrapper sweeper. In his mind, he would let himself be engulfed in this job, saving each and every penny and dime, until he had a nest egg large enough to return to town, scoop up Annie, and deposit her into their new house, which even would have its very own colored television, and a pinwheel near the front stoop.
But you know how these love sagas pan out: Some shit always has to go down. Someone dies, someone cheats, someone gets caught masturbating with a candlestick, because Lord knows there’s more than the candle pourers can keep up with so what else are you going to do with it? Give it a wig and call it daughter?
I’m not too clear on the details, as I’m sure pertinent facts have gotten lost in translation through generations, but from what I’m told, the salesman caught wind of Uncle Otis’ great American dream and sent an anonymous telegraph stating that Annie had been murdered by the town meat cutter, after being confused for a bovine.
Uncle Otis snapped, just completely went ape shit all around the camp site. He ripped suckers straight from the mouths of conjoined twins, urinated in the cotton candy maker, fucked a chicken or two; he was destroyed, sanity annihilated. The carnival director was forced to serve him his walking papers, because the dwarves were starting to cry.
Otis binged on moonshine while trying in vain to fight off chimeras of Annie, frolicking through the junkyard next to the campsite. He’d squint and rub his eyes, probably give his face a few sharp slaps, as you would too if you thought you were seeing the ghost of your one true love. She would eventually fade away just as fast as she had appeared.
It didn’t stop, though, no matter how much booze Otis would gulp. He couldn’t take it anymore; it was too torturous. So late one night, after all the lanterns had been snuffed around the camp, Otis sneaked back in and rummaged through the prop chest, tossing bowling pins and barbed hula hoops over his shoulder, until he finally unearthed what he was seeking.
Making a hasty sign of the cross, Otis closed his eyes tight and swallowed the sword. This was tragic because Annie had not actually been murdered, contrary to Otis’ belief. Salesman lied to keep Otis at bay!
So my friend God was like Aw, hell nah and made Otis into a vampire, because if he hadn’t, then all the other suicide-by-sword-swallowing vampires would cry foul and God would have another revolt on his hands, like the time when that big-chested broad had half of her back flesh torn off by a zombie and God was all, “Aw, she’s too pretty to be a zombie” and instead turned her into a fairy princess. Shit like this doesn’t sit well with some residents of the afterlife. But you probably know that.
You can imagine how thrilled I was, now that I’ve regaled you with Uncle Otis’s rich history, when I happened upon his portrait bright and early yesterday at the flea market. Henry, after six years of meticulous note-taking and observation for his forth-coming case study, knew immediately what I desired when I abruptly stopped in the middle of the hustle and bustle and shouted, “Oh-ho, hold the phone!”
“Aw, come on. No. No, no, no. Keep walking. Please keep walking.”
The portrait was propped up at the foot of a table holding less savory items, like books and costume jewelry, a few tools and glassware. My hunger for this tasteful portrait was hearty enough to make me forget about my current hunt for owl-related merchandise and postpone my challenge of forced unicorn affection, which originated after I stumbled upon a display of unicorn figurines, of which Henry reminded me of my dislike for such nonsense.
Manning the table was an older gentleman. He seemed approachable enough but after a few seconds scrutinizing the situation, Henry deemed that it was the same person in the portrait, but you and I know that’s false, because the boy in that picture was Uncle Otis. “I am not buying that. No way, that’s embarrassing.”
There was really no good reason for a person to desire such an item if it wasn’t that of their vampiric ancestor. We couldn’t even really say it was for the frame, because it was battered cardboard. But there was something fantastically compelling about this child and I really needed to have it at that moment or I really think I could have died. What was the use in continuing to breathe if that picture wasn’t going to be on my mantle, I reasoned.
I could only imagine the scene that would ensue if I tried to inquire about the portrait because I really just couldn’t shake the giggles. I’d undoubtedly end up embarrassing myself and that poor man. Plus, it would have really pleased me like a good back-scratchin’ to see Henry muddle through the awkward transaction.
And if you know anything about our past flea market expeditions, you know that there was a moment or twenty of tense deliberating, negotiating, bribing, threatening, whining, crying, until Henry’s endurance was whittled away by my expertise in the subject of spoiled brat.
“Fine, I’ll ask. But you’re coming with me!” I pretended to follow him and Riley over to the table, but then I ducked behind a rack of clothes and feigned admiration over a velvet blazer decorated with gold flecks. I peeked over top of the fourth-hand clothes and nearly ODd on riotous laughter when I saw the seller holding my son while Henry handed him a dollar.
On his way back over to me, Henry hissed, “Take the picture. Take it. Take the fucking picture.” I snatched it up greedily and returned the seller’s happy wave. Then I laughed my fucking ass off.
“You owe me ten dollars,” Henry mumbled.
“But I saw you hand him one dollar.”
“You owe me ten dollars,” he repeated.
Henry was carrying Riley, allowing for an empty stroller in which I could prop my cherished artifact of some stranger’s past. I mean, the eyes weren’t as Borden-ish as I’d generally like my old-fashioned photos of strangers to feature, but it was still one for the brag books. I wanted everyone to see it, to kick themselves for not acting fast enough the first time they wiggled past his table.
“Turn it around. TURN IT AROUND!” Our neighbors were at the flea market and god forbid they should see us with our impressive acquisition. Henry probably didn’t want them to be jealous.
Uncle Otis will be so pleased that I recovered his old school picture. Hopefully it won’t dredge up too many painful memories. I guess I’ll show him the next time he comes over to play Boggle. He’s a real challenging opponent.