If you had been with me you wouldn’t have let me do it.
My sister Polly and I have driven down the mountains and are now parked by the cold ocean.
Before we get to the ocean however, we first go into the heart of the city to an “antiques pre-road show” to have some of Polly’s valuables looked at. She is enthused about the nine foot long Chinese painting in particular.
While waiting in the hotel for the Asian Experts to see us while Polly tells me about this particular kind of Chinese art.
“An artist” she tells me, “would work on these types of paintings for a year. Look at how tiny and intricate everything is. It was such small work on these types of paintings that artists would go blind from the effort.”
I raise what’s left of my eyebrows.
“Now, if that’s the case,” Polly is saying, “this painting could be worth a fortune.”
Polly and I wait and sit for an hour, with the marvelous painting leaning against some chairs as we fondly gaze at it.
Maybe this means Polly and her husband can retire. Travel. Eat lobster. Buy diamond collars for the cats and little ruby shoes for the granddaughters.
But as we know, most things don’t reach our expectations. So many things disappoint. We sigh.
“It’s a factory reproduction,” the dandy Antiques men in silk suits eventually tell Polly. “It was made in the late forties in Taiwan. It wasn’t done by hand. It’s a photograph.”
“Oh,” I say. “An artist didn’t go blind making this one?”
Polly twitches. “Many years ago I paid $35.00 for it,” she whispers.
“Umm,” says one of the men. “In two generations you could possibly double your money.”
“Oh gee,” Polly says. “About $70.00.”
Polly is very quick with numbers.
Feeling a bit droopy, we leave the hotel, and are now parked by the sea. We have just picked up some fish and chips at a stand. We are trying to settle in some plastic chairs at a table overlooking the deep harbor water.
This is difficult. An icy wind is blowing the food off the tables and it’s raining big round rain drops that splat in our faces. We think this eating outside thing is a bad idea.
“Let’s eat in your car,” Polly says.
If you had been with me, you wouldn’t have let me do it.
In fact, I think it’s a dumb idea to sit in my new Jaguar, but even dumber to sit in this bad weather and play with getting a raspy, snotty cold.
“Good idea,” I say.
We scoop up our plastic plates full of battered fish and oily french fries. I put the paper cups of white, pickled tarter sauce and red catsup and other sauces on our plates. I balance a bowl of sloppy black beans and cups and spoons and napkins.
We crab walk in the billowing wind to my car.
You would have said right then, ‘This is a really, really dumb idea, Venus.”
“But, it’s so cold,” I would have answered. “It’s better to take a chance. It’s just like gambling you know. I might win big by staying warm and cozy. The best I can hope for is not to lose.”
Polly and I open the car doors and we both roll in. I’m in the driver’s seat; Polly is in the passenger’s.
Immediately Polly screeches, “Oh no! Oh no!”
The bowl of black bean soup, which I have set on the compartment between us, has leaped off and is throwing beans and black juice between and on my pant legs. Eeeg gads.
I’m trying to clean my legs and my plate flies in the air.
I scream and look quickly to my right and see massive globs of creamy tarter sauce on one of my legs and on the floor of my car. Alarmingly, most of a cup of the greasy stuff is upside down in the partitioned console area between the two front seats.
“The plate broke,” Polly is wailing. She’s grabbing napkins and wiping frantically at the air and the car parts.
The tarter sauce with teensy pickle parts is slowly seeping through the compartments in the console.
I notice the mess has even hit the dashboard.
Why did I get four cups of the saucy stuff?
OK, OK, so basically we have pretty much thrown skyward, then dumped, two moist and runny meals upside down in the car.
I know you knew this was going to happen.
Stoically, we begin to eat and wipe, eat and wipe. I am staring out at the roiling sea.
Polly is chattering without pause. She has been talking for hours now. She is very nervous. She is not getting enough sleep. She has various big life problems, her life-boat fortune has dropped to a future $70.00, she has taken lots of pills for the pain in her neck, and now she is complaining of searing pains in her butt.
“I’m hot,” she says. “Can you open a window?”
I look at the waving sea and the slanted mad rain hitting the glass and metal house we are in. The rain is pounding its fingers and the wind is pulling at the car doors trying to reach us.
“Sure,” I say. “But, I hafta’ turn the car on to make the windows go down.”
I push the button to turn on the car, because this car doesn’t use keys.
Polly is screaming.
“No! No! Venus no! It’s rising up, it’s rising up,” she yells. “Grab it, grab it! What is it?”
I see and feel my bean bowl jump into the air again and explode its contents. I have set the juicy beans on the very knob that raises up when I push the button to start the car.
“Oh my gosh!”
Polly is wailing about her husband.
“Oh Ron would be so upset if I did this in his car!”
“I’m upset,” I say.
Eventually and once again we are eating and wiping up the car.
“Oh, my guts hurt,” Polly says. She takes a metal toothpick out of her purse and scrapes away at the sauce that has drained into the various compartments in the console. “I know what to do,” she announces. She takes her full water bottle and pours half of it into the various boxes in the console.
It disappears. Where did it go?
Deeper into the bowels of the car, Polly thinks. Or, ever optimistic, she says, “I bet it just drained out the bottom of the car. Venus, it just all drained right through into the road.”
I put my head in my left hand and stare out the driver’s side window. I don’t think Jaguars are built to bleed liquids onto the ground below from inside the car. It wouldn’t be right.
“Eeeek!” I suddenly yell. “There’s more tarter sauce over here! It’s all the way over here Polly! It’s all the way over here!” I have put my hand in it.
I turn and look at my sister.
“It’s another fine mess you’ve gotten us into, Ollie!” I shout.
We look at each other and start laughing.
Our father loved the comedy team, Laurel and Hardy. He’d watch their movies from the thirties and laugh so hard he cried and cried.
Oliver Hardy specialized in getting himself and Laurel into messes.
Our father would sometimes take us six kids and our mother to the movie house to see their films. Throughout the entire show he’d scream with laughter, double over, slap his legs and cry. He’d cry out loud like he was being beaten with twigs. He’d sob enthusiastically and hoot like an owl.
Nobody watched the movie. The audience watched my father.
Polly says it’s time to go home. She doesn’t feel so good.
On the way up the mountains, we have to stop at several fast food places. You can sneak into their bathrooms for free.
But, we are still laughing and singing about Another Fine Mess You’ve Gotten Us Into, Ollie!
Because ‘what’s a day without sunshine?’
It’s a day down the mountain in the driving rain, learning you have art that will take two generations to ‘mature’, throwing your lunch all over your sister’s only extravagance, her Jag, and then having sudden ‘gut runs’ all the way home.
I hope my sister and I can have another Great Adventure together again, very soon.
As The Lotus Sutra says “Living in this world is like living in a house on fire.”
But, no matter what happens to us in this crazy life, things could always be worse.
Looking on the happy side of this particular ‘burning house’ day, I am grateful for the time with my sister…And I am grateful that food was the only thing that messed the car!
I bet you’re lucky, too. If you look for your luck… you will see it.
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