Eels on Wheels
I try hard to be an example to others. And sometimes, despite the fact that my library fines exceed the national debt and I re-gifted my best friend’s Christmas carrot cake last year, I’m even a good one. This is why I decided to invite my mother to go with me when I signed up to take meals to the elderly. I thought I might show her the great and marvelous things I do to help and lift people in need, and I also hoped it would erase the memory of the last time I tried to be an example by fixing her expensive venetian blinds so they no longer went up and down.
“Don’t worry,” I told my mother as I loaded all the meals in the car. “It won’t take more than a half an hour. I’ve done this hundreds of times. I’m a pro by now.”
“Yeah. And she’s not going to send any old ladies into diabetic comas either, by mixing up the desserts like she did last time,” said my teenage daughter, who had been recruited along with the other kids to help out.
My mother’s eyebrows shot up.
“She’s exaggerating,” I said. “It wasn’t a coma, just a little bit of insulin shock that’s all, nothing that couldn’t be remedied with a piece of hard candy.”
My mother cleared her throat nervously.
“Relax,” I said, shooting my daughter a warning look. “Really…things are going to be just fine. I know what I’m doing.”
My mother nodded but sat stiffly in her chair. She didn’t believe a word I said. She had raised me and knew what kind of trouble I could be to society at large when I decided to be helpful.
I set out to prove her wrong.
The first four deliveries went smoothly. The kids fought over who got to carry what as we all stampeded toward the homes of the elderly.
“Just leave it on the porch,” said one lady, who took one look at the pandemonium coming toward her house with bowls of spaghetti and refused to open the door.
“Mind the flowers,” snapped another, fending my son away from her perennial beds with her cane.
My mother chose to watch from the car. She said she didn’t want to add to the confusion.
I tried to explain that there was no confusion when suddenly I got confused. We were ready to deliver to the fifth house when I noticed we were out of wheat bread.
“Oh no,” I moaned. “This always happens. I gave the last lady wheat when I was supposed to give her white.”
“Can white bread trigger diabetic comas?” my daughter asked my mother, tapping her on the shoulder.
“Hush,” I snapped, “I need to think for a minute.”
“Last time you just had the little kids take it to the door, so she would be distracted by their cuteness and not look at the color of the bread,” said my son.
“Oh, I did not,” I said. “I’m sure I just explained the situation to her.”
“Yeah,” said my eight-year-old, explaining to her grandma. “That’s because we believe in being honest, true, and chased by an elephant.”
My mother gave me a bewildered stare.
“She means chaste and benevolent, not chased by an elephant," I huffed. Okay, look,” I continued, chewing my nails, “Maybe she won’t care about the bread. Let’s just take it to the door.” I loaded everything but the bowl of spaghetti into the hands of my two youngest children.
“Try to look as sweet and adorable as you can,” I whispered, shoving them down the sidewalk.
My mother rolled her eyes and put her hand to her forehead.
“It can’t hurt,” I said, shrugging. Unfortunately my shrug was a little too enthusiastic, and I shrugged the bowl of spaghetti right into the juniper bushes.
I heard a groan from where my mother was sitting.
“No worries,” I called reaching down to grab it, “It’s still covered. Oo. Ouch. These bushes are prickly.”
I smiled at my mother. She sank lower into her seat.
“Aha! I’ve got it!” I cried lifting it from the place where it had become wedged. But as I pulled it free it was knocked from my hand by another prickly branch. It flew toward the street in what seemed like slow motion, and then landing on its side, it began rolling down the hill.
“Noooooooooo,” I yelled, running after it.
“On top of spaghetti…,” my children sang at the top of their voices, “all covered with cheese.” They collapsed into giggles.
“A little help, please…” I hollered, scrambling after the wayward bowI. No one came. They were too incapacitated by laughter. I saw someone peering out of the curtains of the front window of the house we were supposed to deliver to as I sprinted past.
“Tell her I’ll be right there with the spaghetti,” I yelled at my youngest children who were still edging toward the door.
I madly chased the bowl, yelling insults at it, as it tumbled down the steep hill until finally, it collided with the tire of a confused motorist who had slammed on his brakes to avoid running over the crazy lady who was hollering and chasing a bowl of spaghetti .
“Doesn’t look much like spaghetti anymore,” said my son, eyeing the remaining contents of the bowl, when I returned to the car. “Looks like a pile of eels.”
“Eels,” I said, between wheezes, clutching my stomach. “We could try to pass it off as Japanese cuisine.”
“Oh honestly,” snorted my mother.
“Yeah, except she might break her teeth on the rocks,” yelled my teenager from the back seat. “And you can’t fix that with hard candy.”
I looked at the sweet elderly lady, giving me puzzled looks as she tried to keep my youngest son from playing with the rocks in her Zen garden with her cane.
“You like turkey and swiss?” I called to the woman, showing my mother that if honesty doesn’t work, at least I could be benevolent. “I know a great sandwich shop just down the street.”
“That’d be fine, dear” she said, “As long as it’s on wheat bread.”
“Wheat bread,” I muttered to myself as I stumbled back into the car, “I’ll give you wheat bread.” I looked over toward my mother who was chuckling to herself.
“What?” I said. “She says she likes turkey.”
My mother continued laughing as she maneuvered the rear view mirror in my direction. “It’s not that.” Then she pointed to my head. “It’s just…you might want to comb your hair before you come back,” she said. “You look like you’ve been chased by an elephant.”