Christmas is coming; so are the cards and the letters bragging about the past year. My brother, god bless him, sent this one.
Hopefully this letter reaches you safe and sound at your armed compound. I write you for the holidays in order to renew the bonds of brotherhood and salute your health.
As you no doubt remember, we are coming up on our one year anniversary of moving to Charleston, the heart of the old Confederacy, and the very site of where the Civil War began, and cradle of the deepest, widest and most recalcitrant concentration of assholes this side of the Mayo Proctology Clinic. In short, we have had trouble fitting in, despite all of our efforts to make friends and bond with the community.
The local men and women of Charleston pride themselves on their hospitality, which is a bit of a bad joke given their poor reception of us. They are standoffish and rude, too stuck-up to talk to us or let their kids play with Frank. Although I can’t imagine allowing him to play with such unimaginative and boorish cretins! When I compare the designs that Frank draws (for free I might add) on the neighbors’ car windows with wax to the poor chalk scribblings THEIR children do on the sidewalk, it makes me scoff. No wonder he has had such rages with the other children, and has been forced to get their attention by throwing bricks with notes attached through their windows. If they just wouldn’t reject him, he wouldn’t have to go through such extreme means to engage in play.
Frank doesn’t usually let it get to him though, and he makes an effort to keep everyone amused at school. For example, he brought some chocolate pudding in and surreptitiously put it on the underside of a toilet paper dispenser. When another boy had to use the loo, he got a little of the chocolate on his hands. This boy was a bit babyish and he screamed out in surprise and created a bit of a scene. As a school administrator responded to the yells, Frank rushed in, yelled “Oooh, diarrhea!!”, wiped the pudding off the bottom of the dispenser and ate it. I can only imagine the general hilarity that must have been greeted with!! Although of course on a matter of principle he had to be serve a bit of a punishment.
Rebecca also had some trouble getting involved in the community. She was able to join a ladies’ group called the Juggalettes, which I understand is basically a female version of the Shriners. They are based out of Detroit rather than Charleston, which is a bit far, but then it’s hard to imagine making friends here. This band of ladies will get together with this group of clowns and go place to place, spreading cheer. You should see the excitement on Becky’s face as she packs for another trip! They sure keep her busy though. It’s hard to reach her on her cell phone, since they go to remote places where there isn’t cell phone coverage, much less entertainment. So we have to hope we are home when she calls us from a pay phone or her hotel. And when she comes back, she is so tired she has to sleep a few days to unwind. It’s hard on the rest of us, but we want to support such a worthy cause.
Work is going well for me. The local people have obviously never seen an engineer as skilled as me, and, like at most other jobs I’ve had, express amazement and bafflement at the designs I produce. And like most other places, they can only express their disbelief through disparaging remarks and official letters admonishing me to do things THEIR way. It is sad that no one really recognizes my genius. Although lately I have been assigned to a special project that is so special and secret, they can’t even tell ME what it is!!! They have given me my own office in the basement, and a rather impressive title. I am the Special Non-Investigative Project Executive. When they give me more to do, I’ll let you know (that’s IF I am allowed to talk about it!!)
To help overcome our loneliness, we have in fact gotten a pet. It is a rather exotic-looking cat that we found had slipped into our garbage can one day and couldn’t get out. It is all black except for a pure white stripe down his back. He’s a male, and we do need to get him fixed. He has been “marking” around the house, and he has the worst-smelling urine imaginable!! Unless you’ve smelled the urine of an un-fixed male, you really have no idea!
We have an exchange student living with us now. Frank came home with him late from school one day about a month ago. The poor guy was so jet-lagged and tired, he was stumbling and leaning on Frank as he brought him in. We were a bit surprised that we didn’t have more warning of his impending arrival, but Frank reminded us that we had signed the paperwork one night when we had, yet again, had too much to drink. We’ve asked and asked Frank not to have us sign stuff when we are trying to relax like that, but that little bit of discipline is going slow. Ah, the joys of parenting!
But back to the exchange student. He’s from Guatemala and he graduated from school last year. He’s just trying to immerse himself in American culture. We are sure glad that Frank has been studying Latin American culture at school so he can explain it all to us! Guatemalans are very shy, and they sleep a lot. They also hate direct sunlight and quiet, and are somewhat frightened of their elders. So Frank set him up in a little apartment down in the basement, and let us know that we could be introduced when our little guest had built up his courage. He’s been staying down there with the TV blaring pretty much the whole time, which, after all, is the best way to learn about our culture. Frank will bring him down his medicines and supper (Guatemalans only eat once a day), and Frank will get Spanish tutoring in exchange. And what a loud and emotional language it is! Nearly always shouting and crying.
Now, don’t tell Frank, but one day we couldn’t resist, and we went down to meet little Ayudeme. There he was, lying in bed, with a cover thrown over him. As we came downstairs, you could hear the fear in his voice, even though you couldn’t understand his gibberish. When he saw it was us elders, and not Frank, he quit struggling under his covers. His eyes were wide and he was silent. We had written down some words to say to him and gave him a little speech of welcome in Spanish. And then I asked, “Como te llamas?” He was so excited, he practically screamed his name, “Ayudeme! Ayudeme! Ayudeme!”. Well, we knew he wasn’t prone to receiving guests, so we just said, “Mucho gusto en conocerle, Ayudeme. Somos llamados Alex y Rebecca. Adios!” And then we went upstairs. He was so excited and grateful that he kept yelling out his name the whole time, and didn’t stop for an hour. Then he cried in relief and was praying out loud. We are just so thankful that our family can be blessed with a multi-cultural experience like this.
It’s taken me a bit longer to become part of the social life here. The men in the neighborhood sure were stand-offish for the majority of the time here. But I think we’ve broken the ice. I was in the backyard shooting at blue birds and squirrels with my BB gun the other day when I looked and saw a group of men having a barbecue maybe 8 houses down. It looked like the whole neighborhood was there, except us. So I grabbed Frank (Becky was gone with the Juggalettes), and marched through the back yards to go introduce ourselves.
They noticed us before too long, and all stopped to stare as we impressively marched over. I introduced us, and one said, “Yeah, we know who you are.” Taking him for the ringleader, I struck up a conversation with him. It turns out he is a sheriff’s deputy, certainly a useful person to know. Well, it was awkward at first as no one offered us anything and we had to help ourselves to the food and drinks, but Frank started getting along, playing push-tag with the younger kids and dodge-rock with the older ones.
So a group of men that had been huddled by the keg came over and invited me to join their secret club. Now don’t tell anyone, but this Friday (the night of the new moon), I am going to be initiated in their club. It is so elaborate! What I do is go to the thrift store and buy some used clothes that fit, to include a hat with a big brim. I am supposed to change in the bathroom of a truck stop and throw out my regular clothes right there. Then I buy a rope, shovel and tarp with cash at a particular old-time store out in the country. The group supports the owner because he is old and doesn’t see too well. I’m to turn off my cellphone there. Then I drive to an abandoned grain silo and park behind it, and leave my phone and any other “modern” thing (like my wallet) in the glove-box. Then I wait behind a tree at the front of the driveway until the men meet me there. Then we are going to a secret location for the initiation. They won’t give me the details, but they did assure me it was going to be exciting!!
I promise to write another letter soon, and let you know all the details of what the club is like, and other developments.
Until next time, much love!