Anything We Want
Dana looked at Dad as if there would be more to the question, and when he realized he’d heard the whole thing he gulped. “It’s stupid. My mom was mad at me, so she locked me out. Then this fat idiot next door starts raggin’ on me because I’m outside banging on my own door.” He frowned, “Louis is a pain in my ass. I socked him in the head, and that’s like punching pudding. He starts pushin’ me, and I go down, then again. I’m like all frozen, and he calls my mother a whore. Well, she heard that and opened the door, so I left Louis to her and went inside. I felt like an ice cube, and started putting clothes on because I knew I’d get locked out again.”
I asked warily, “Your mother locks you out?”
Dana’s eyes shone. “She’s got a temper. Anyhow, when she came in, I went back out, and fat Louis was still there, and he knocked me down again and shoved my face in the snow about five times. I’m screamin’ for my mom to help, but she don’t. I finally got loose and kicked Louis in the nuts and ran.”
He stopped, and after a full minute I asked, “Ran where?”
Dana looked down. “Nowhere, I guess. I was just so pissed. It was freezin’ and I had all this snow stuck to my head, and I didn’t pay attention. I think I was runnin’ off a rage maybe, but I kept it up all day. I just wandered. I didn’t have a dime on me, and I didn’t have no food, then it started to snow again. I kind of don’t remember after it got dark. Then I was here.” He shrugged, “Some day, huh? Maybe the worst one yet.”
I was just astounded, and it looked like my father was, too. I eyed Dad and he was looking at me, so I turned back to Dana. I said softly, “I don’t even know your last name, Dana.”
He looked at me and said clearly, “Morasutti. That’s Italian, and it’s my mom’s name. She won’t say who my father was, and he never put a name on me.”
I blinked big time, then went into non-blinking mode. I looked at Dana and said, “It’s a good name. I like it.” I smiled, “I think your father’s name … nay, your sire’s name is probably Frankenstein, or maybe Dracula, or something like Horseshit anyhow. I’d pick Morasutti any day.”
I looked at Dana, wondering if I’d pushed some limit. He stared at me, then reddened and started to laugh. “You’re funny, man! Jesus; Dana Dracula!” He laughed merrily, then seemed to choke on it, and he turned somber. “Dana Dud is more like it. A flop; a misfire.”
My father asked gently, “Why do you say that?”
Dana mumbled. “I can’t kid anybody. I’m a loser from the word go.”
I looked at Dana for a long time. Then I said quietly, “You’re not a loser, Dana.” I didn’t know what else to say, so I waited, and he finally looked at me. “I think you just won the lottery or something. If it wasn’t snowing like Alaska outside, there’d be a bunch of reporters on the lawn wanting your thoughts. I can see it now.” I feigned a microphone in my hand and said in a fake voice, “Dana, I’m Dredge Dreck from the Times. I know my readers would like to hear your thoughts on spitting into the wind, eating yellow snow, and messing with junkyard dogs.”
I changed my voice and looked the other way, like I was Dana talking. “Well, Dredge … may I call you Dredge? I would say don’t. That’s all. Don’t do it. Don’t do any of it. Instead, stay indoors and count your pennies.”
My father was laughing out loud, and Dana had a decent grin, so I went on. “There you are, people, you’ve heard it from Dana Dracula Frankenstein Horseshit himself. Don’t do it! That’s some sound advice from a sound advisor.”
I could only keep that up for so long, and I found myself giggling and snickering with Dana and my father. I know my future isn’t in standup, but I manage to amuse myself, and it was good to see Dana enjoying himself.
The phone rang right beside me, and I answered it. “Dreck residence.”
“Who?” a woman’s voice asked. “I’m looking for the Dunns”
I said politely, “Dreck is an alternate pronunciation. How can I help you?”
Her voice was nervous, and I probably shouldn’t have messed with her. “I’m looking for my son. The constable said he was there at this number. My name is Elenora Morasutti, and my son is Dana.”
“Can you describe him?” I asked, then thought better of it and said quickly, “Sorry, I’m in jerk mode. He’s here, hold on.”
I held the phone
out to Dana and said, “Your mother.” He
took the phone and I pointed to the other room so he’d have privacy, and he
walked off that way. All I heard was,
Dad looked at me and said, “You should take up comedy. You’re a natural.”
I said, “No, I need lessons in serious.” I raised my eyebrows, “I get mean when I’m funny, and even I don’t like that.”
Dad said, “I wouldn’t call it mean.”
“I would,” I replied, and just then Dana raised his voice in the other room, so I got up and looked out the window, trying hard not to listen. There was snow for sure, and it was still piling up. The wind had picked up too, and it was drifting. One ell of the house was up on poles to form a covered patio underneath, and the snow would drift right up to the second floor windows when the wind was right, and it was doing just that while I watched. That patio only had a dusting of snow, because the rest blew through and around like a wind tunnel, and got all caught up in a corner.
Just then, my cell phone went off in a blare of noise, and I quickly answered it. “Hello?”
It was my mother, calling from Boston. “Hi Paul. Are you snowed in there? We’ve been hearing about the storm.”
I smiled, “Mom! Yeah, it’s snowing big time!”
“You’re well, then?” she asked. “How deep is it?”
I said, “We’re fine, and it’s hard to say how much snow. There was maybe two feet before the wind started, but now it’s all drifted. It’s not snowing there?”
“Ocean snow,” she said, and that meant white stuff was coming down and accumulating beside curbs and in alleys, but it was really only sent to piss off people who wear glasses. Big, flat flakes that mostly melted when they touched down, but they’d blind anyone who relied on corrective lenses.
We talked for several minutes, and I asked to say hi to Ally, then I turned them over to my father, and they were still going at it when Dana came back, looking somber.
“Problem?” I asked.
He sneered, “Get serious. Everything’s a problem. At least she called to find me.”
“She’s your mother,” I said. “Why wouldn’t she?”
Naïve me. Dana stared at me, then sat on the floor. “I don’t want to talk bad about my mother. She does care, but I’m the problem.” He looked up at me, and I sat beside him on the floor. He looked past me instead of at me and said, “You don’t get it, Paul. We’re not like you. My mother is young, and she’s not all that smart. We don’t have anything. Mom’s best job ever was at the Laundromat, and it closed up. Now she does a lot of things, but it’s never enough. I try to help, but what can I do? I can make a few bucks choppin’ wood or something, but there’s no real jobs around here. Not ones that aren’t taken, anyhow.”
I said, “Dana, I don’t want you to talk bad about anybody. But people live around here. What do they do to earn a living?”
He still didn’t look at me, except a quick glance. “Mostly work at the resorts, I guess, or restaurants. There’s still some farmers, and the people with stores and the like. I think most do more than one thing. My mom makes beeswax candles that she sells, but that’s in the summer and fall for the flea market.” He took a deep breath and looked me in the eye. “There’s not a lot here, really.” He looked around the room for a second and added, “Well, you rich people come for your pleasure, but you don’t leave much behind, except maybe another scar on the land.”
I think Dana meant that to hurt, but it didn’t because it was my feeling exactly. My father and I had bought this huge house for just the two of us, and in the process we’d taken seventy acres of land to accommodate us, and it was this huge, humongous, waste of resources. The house was already here, and we honestly didn’t have to buy it, nor did we need anything remotely as big. But the land had already been butchered before we ever saw it.
If we hadn’t bought it, if we’d protested its existence instead, who knows what would have happened. Seventy acres is a speck in the scheme of things, but it’s a waste when it only supports two people: two people who don’t need supporting anyhow.
I looked at Dana. “They need jobs around here?”
He wasn’t looking at me anymore, but he grumbled, “I’ll say.”
I decided to change the subject. “So, what’s the deal? Do you have to get home?”
Dana looked at me
in surprise. “Be serious! When it snows like this, you stay where you
are.” He smirked, “When you can get
somewhere, you go skiing!”
I gaped. “You ski?”
His eyebrows went up. “Of course I ski. Everybody skis!” He smiled, “I’ll tell you, all the best skiing is right around here, too. If you drew a circle around the best areas in the East, and if you put a point right in the center, it would be right there between you and me,” he said, pointing at the carpet between us.
I grinned, “Bull.”
“Well, maybe it would come right down through the middle of my head. That’d be my luck, but I’m serious.”
“You really ski?” I asked.
“Downhill racer,” he stated, “and on crap for equipment. I’m fast, too. Scary fast!”
I eyed him, wanting to believe what he said, but I had that liar word in my head so I didn’t know what to think. “What’s crap equipment?” I asked.
He said, “My skis are old Stratos, but I take care of ‘em. He looked at me, “Ever even hear of them?”
I said, “Yeh. My father has a pair from whenever, and they’re his favorites, but they’re cruisers, not racing skis.”
Dana smiled, “I cruise the downhill tracks, and I can kill the clock.” He yawned, and it made me yawn, and we both giggled after.
“Tired?” I asked.
“I don’t know. Not really sleepy, but it’s awful warm in here.”
It was warm, because I’d turned the heat up when Dana was an icicle and never turned it back down, so I was wasting the planet’s resources too. “I’m such a sinner,” I said when I got up to turn the temperature down. There wasn’t even a number where I’d cranked it to; the needle was pointing straight up. I was in a hurry then, and just turned it all the way. That thermostat only controlled a small part of the house, so it was a modified, limited sin on my part.
When I turned around, Dana was standing as well, and he said, “I’m going outside.”
My father appeared suddenly and said, “Wait.” He looked at Dana and said, “You should put something on your skin. It’s all cracked.”
Dana just looked, so I added, “Dad’s right. Your face is kinda scary.”
He held a hand up to his cheek and asked, “It’s scary?”
Dad said, “Paul has a sense of drama in him. Your face is a mess is what he meant to say.” He looked at Dana and said, “Let’s go in the bathroom and see what we have.” He held his hand out to indicate Dana should follow him, and I stayed there. I went to the window and looked out on the white world, and I got caught up as usual. Most of the trees near the house are evergreens, and they were all holding heroic amounts of snow. If the snow was heavier, the trees would be sagging under it, but it was still fluff, and every once in awhile I’d see an entire swath of branches suddenly lose their load.
With the breeze, it was hard to tell what was still coming from the sky and what was just blowing around, but it seemed like the storm was weakening.
I put my boots on, then my coat and gloves, and pulled a knit cap down over my ears and went outside. Our experimental measuring cup was there on the railing, and it was ten inches more than full while the railing itself had shed its snow cover. I left it, and picked up my shovel, and proceeded to clear the deck and steps. Then I went back through the house to the front deck and did the same. The house had a lot of other little decks, like the one off my bedroom, but I didn’t bother with them. Our walk to the driveway was actually a narrow wooden path, so I cleared that, and I could hear the town plow out on the road. I figured it wouldn’t be too long before Heinrich came to plow us out, and I was getting cold so I went back inside.
Dana was talking to my father in the kitchen, and I wasn’t invited to join them, so I went up to my room and relaxed to some music. I’m not really into loud, modern music, nor do I have anything special that I follow, but I do like the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, and I’d seen them twice at the Boston Wang Center. That’s what I put on. I had one disc of theirs and I loved it.
My door was open, and it wasn’t long before I noticed Dana standing there, so I pulled off my earphones. “What’s up?” I asked.
He smiled nervously, and I saw that his face was shiny with whatever treatment they found for it. “Nothing,” he said. “What you listening to?”
“Just weird,” I said. “TSO.”
Dana’s expression changed, and he said, “Trans-Siberian?” When I nodded, he sat on the corner of my bed and said, “I don’t believe it. I love that music!”
“No shit?” I asked. “I thought I was the only one.”
“Guess not,” Dana said. His look changed, “I, um … I want to say thanks.” His eyebrows went up, and he changed the subject without warning. “Tell me about yourself?”
I was surprised. “Me? I …” then I realized that he knew as little as I did, and he asked first. “Okay,” I said. “I’m Paul, and I grew up in Boston.”
I caught Dana’s expression, and he seemed almost eager to hear me. “I … um, I don’t know what to say here, Dana. I think I’m kind of regular.”
Dana said, “You’re not regular, you’re rich.”
I corrected, “My dad is rich. I’m just his kid, and we’re trying to adjust that anyhow.”
Dana’s confusion showed, and he asked, “Adjust what? Being your father’s kid, or being rich?”
I said, “The rich part, but that’s all I’ll say. I get along fine with my father.”
Dana looked at me, and I added, “Listen. I’m sorry that you have problems, and I want to help. Dad does, too, but I can’t change how I was born any more than you can.” I thought I sounded harsh, so I said quietly, “I’m not like you, but I am like you. You say you’re poor. Poor isn’t a crime, but I don’t know what it’s like. I see it places, but I still don’t know.” Dana was looking at me, and he seemed bored.
“I’m sorry. I’m trying not to sound like some rich brat, but maybe I do.”
Dana smiled, then his smile widened. “You’re rich maybe, but I wouldn’t say brat.” He looked down, then at me again. “Some people have money around here, and some are real snots about it, like they’re better than everyone. Other people have money and they ain’t like that at all … like you’re just as good as they are. And you know what?”
“What?” I asked.
“The snots don’t have near the money the nice people do” He started nodding his head, “There are plenty of shitheads around; rich and poor, and their money ain’t what makes the difference.”
I snickered, “Shit-headedness is the difference?” Dana laughed a cheerful laugh, and I liked him better because of it.
I love to goof on people, and I like people who understand that I’m just goofing and can laugh at it, so my estimation of Dana rose right up with his laugh.
“Yeah, that’s a good word,” he said. “I don’t know, some people just think their shit don’t stink.”
I feigned mock horror, with a hand on each cheek. “You’re serious? Is it possible? I mean, have you smelled their shit? What if it smells like a garden of roses in the month of July?”
“Yeh, right,” Dana said, snickering. “There are outhouses around here, you know. Put one of them in your rose garden and let me know what you think.”
I laughed, and I was impressed. Whatever else he was or wasn’t, Dana was no dummy. He was a quick thinker and generally well-spoken, and he wasn’t all full of himself. I don’t hold a test for new friends, nor do I have a given criteria, but even if I did, Dana would have just passed them all. I was smiling out of nowhere, and when Dana noticed, he returned the smile.
We’d get along, and maybe become friends. That was a good enough deal in exchange for missing out on skiing that day, and maybe he could teach me some downhill tricks when we did go.
I could see that
Dana was tired, and I was too, so I asked, “Want to watch television and just
take it easy?”
I liked it his response! He looked grateful, and I wasn’t used to that. “Yeah,” he said. “I’d like that.”
We walked to the TV room and I turned the television on, then found the DirecTV menu and started paging through it. “What?” I asked Dana. “Adventure, Drama, Comedy, what” Reception could be iffy in a snowstorm, and we had a few DVDs if it was non-existent.
He said, “I don’t care. Action would be good. Or funny.”
I scanned the choices, and didn’t get any help from Dana, so I settled on “Revenge of the Nerds,” which was the stupidest movie I ever saw, but it was still funny. I don’t know who snored first, but we both slept through it.
It was later when my father’s voice woke me up. “Boys?”
I opened my eyes and looked. Dad was standing there with a young woman who looked like an angel. I’d just been asleep and didn’t know what was going on, and I gave no thought to Dana until I heard his groggy voice from the other sofa. “Mom?”
I looked at him, then back at the lady beside my father, and I thought it couldn’t be so. She didn’t look old enough, but she smiled at Dana and said, “Hi, Baby.”
I looked at Dana, who was looking at his mother, so I turned to my father. “Come on, Paul,” he said. “Let’s make something to eat.”
I looked back at Dana, who had heavy eye contact with his mother by then, and sat up, then stood. I followed my dad toward the kitchen, and stopped at the bathroom along the way.
When we met up in the kitchen, Dad asked, “What do you think?”
“I don’t know,” I said. “She’s not old enough. How’d she get here?”
Dad smiled meekly, “I picked her up. I got her number after Dana spoke with her, and I called after Heinrich dug us out.”
I turned to the window, and the snow that was blowing around out there sparkled in the now-blue sky. “How deep is it?” I asked.
“Over two feet on top of what was there. Tomorrow should be a great day.” He opened the refrigerator and looked in, and said, “We have this nice hamburger meat. Want to try your meatloaf again?”
“I love meatloaf, Dad.” He smiled, and I said, “I like yours better, though. Why don’t I peel the potatoes and you loaf the meat?”
We started working, me at the sink and my father at the butcher block. Dad asked, kind of randomly, “Ever give any thought to owning a Laundromat, Paul?”
I almost cut myself with the potato peeler, but I didn’t look up. “Honestly, no.” I said. “Are you talking about an Internet washeteria? I’m not sure how that would work, but I bet you have it figured out.”
Dad snickered. “That’s not what I had in mind, but it’s an interesting concept, and I’ll give it some thought. There’s a real Laundromat, right here in Stockton, that’s up for sale.”
I finally looked at him, only to find him looking back at me. “You want to wash clothes for a living?” I stared, and saw no reaction. “Do you need to lay down, Dad? I can fluff up the hamburger if you need some rest.”
We both grinned at the same moment, then we laughed, and I asked, “What the Hell are you thinking?“
Dad said, “I’m thinking that we could reinvent the old-fashioned do-it-yourself laundry, and turn a dowdy concept into something fun … something preferable to washing your nasties at home.”
I coughed, “My nasties? Dad, I think you’re the one who should give comedy a go.”
My father went back to breaking the hamburger up into a big bowl. “Think about it, Paulie. Add a big-screen television, a pool table, a little coffee bar, maybe sell fresh muffins and bagels. Put in some comfortable seats, keep the place nice … who wouldn’t prefer to wash their underwear in public? Maybe we could put in a couple of Internet computers with instructions how to Google the remedy to your particular stain.”
I stared at the man. I smiled at him. I said, “You’re nuts, you know that?”
Dad nodded, and pressed on. “You’re not good with the conceptual things, so let me spell this out for you, son.”
He never called me son, so I knew the punch line was coming. He said, “Right now, right in this house, is the person who can pull this off. Just down by Ellef’s Hardware, there’s a coin-laundry that’s idle and for sale.” He faced me and added, indicating the small distance between us with his hand, “Right here, between you and me, is an idea of helping people that we talked about only hours ago.” He smiled like only he can. “Remember now?”
I did, and I dropped my peeler into the sink and hugged Dad, even with my wet hands. I had rare tears in my eyes, because we would get to help Dana, but we’d do it by helping his mother earn a decent living, not by writing them a check. “Thanks,” I mumbled. “You really are smart.”
Dad patted my shoulder and I let go. “I know I’m smart. I think this will work, too. Local people probably have their own means to do washing, but about a quarter-million vacationers come through here every year, and if they see a laundry that’s more than just a laundry, and if it’s a third of the cost of having the hotel do your wash, a good number of them will give it a try.” He stroked my hair and asked, “Should we give it a try?”
I looked down and said, “No,” then I looked up and smiled. “We should do it.”