“I don’t get Fire and Ice,” he said.
We were riding in my car on the way to school. My son, Ajax, was starting sixth grade and did not have a lot of time to talk to me in the car. There were more important things to do. Play on my iPhone. Text the girl who was not his girlfriend. But today there was a little time left before we reached his school and Ajax was actually talking.
“What about fire and ice?” I said.
“I don’t get why they have Fire and Ice commercials on shows watched by kids.”
“What’s fire and ice?”
“Dad, you really don’t know? They say three things about Fire and Ice. One, it tingles; two, it grows back your hair; and three, you can’t wait to put it on.”
“I don’t get it. Grows back your hair? Is it something for baldness?”
“Wow, Dad,” he said, shaking his head at my hopelessness, ‘it blows back your hair.’” He paused and gave me a look of utter incredulity, “Do you really mean you have never heard of Fire and Ice?”
“No. What is it?”
“Dad, it is a condom, everybody knows that.”
“Well how does it blow back your hair?”
“Dad I said it grows back your hair.”
“Trust me Ajax, if a condom grew back your hair, people would have condoms hanging off them like they were a Christmas tree.”
“Dad, do you remember that time when I was in fourth grade and all the kids were standing outside after our service learning and we were talking with our teacher and right on the ground in front of us there was a used condom lying on the ground and the teachers were really grossed out?”
“No, somehow that didn’t make the class newsletter.”
“Yeah. The teachers were really freaked out.”
“I am not surprised.”
“So dad”, he paused for a moment, “what kind of condom do you use?”
“Ajax I think you are asking a little too much information there.”
“Do you use an orthopedic condom?”
“You know like an old dentist.”
“‘Orthopedic’ doesn’t have anything to do with dentists, it has to do with your bones.”
“Oh, I know, I was just looking for a long word. What kind of condom would an orthopedic dentist use?”
“I really don’t know. Ajax, you are one your own on this one.”
He continued along happily, composing a jingle: “Yeah, it tingles, it blows back your hair, you can’t wait to put one on. It’s the condom of an orthopedic dentist.”
The large man across the counter took my form without looking at me. He was sitting in a small chair with rollers and he had it scooched to the side for more legroom, bringing him very close to a red headed co-worker sitting in an identical chair and serving a customer at the counter next to me.
The red haired DMV worker’s customer stood to my right shoulder. She was an extremely attractive young woman wearing a see-through chiffony type skirt. I had noticed her before. Many of the men waiting in line had been looking intently at the see-through skirt to determine if by seeing through they could see anything they wouldn’t otherwise see.
My DMV guy’s chair was below the counter and from his angle he could not tell that the red haired co-worker’s customer was wearing a see-through skirt. He had a different issue on his mind.
“Jeesus,” he said. “Half the damn year is already gone. It just flew by.”
I was waiting at the counter to get my license and living in fear that I would be found to lack the necessary paperwork and be shunted into some vast holding pen to wait for hours while my records were retrieved from Sacramento or Harrisburg or Washington DC. I could not tell if the DMV guy’s observation was directed at me but since my prime strategy for the DMV was to be hyper agreeable, I responded as if it were.
“Sure has,” I said, “flown by.”
“Half the stinking year, already gone.” He shook his head.
Before I could say anything further, the red-haired co-worker intervened.
“Well not really. It is only May 28,” he said.
My DMV guy leaned back in his chair and raised his arms. “Jesus. It’s just a couple of days til June. Don’t split hairs.”
“July, not June. July is half way.”
“No. It’s July. July is half way. Not June.
“Jeesus, why are you always splitting hairs on me?”
“I am just going by the mathematics of it. Twelve months. Halfway is … July. Just do the math.”
My DMV guy looked up at me for the first time. “Tell him” he said, and jerked his chin in the direction of the red haired DMV guy.
“Yes,” I said, “that’s right. The year just feels like it is rocketing by. Can’t believe it is going so quickly.
The red-haired DMV guy had no interest whatsoever in my take. He had now noticed the woman across the counter from him. He couldn’t see the see-through dress but she had slightly hunched forward to fill in one part of the form and in doing do had pressed her breasts forward on the countertop, a situation that made the red haired guy rise slightly from his chair to better inspect.
I wanted to divert my DMV guy from the question of whether June 1 was actually the midpoint of the year, so I volunteered that we were near to Tax Freedom Day.
“What the hell is that?” my DMV guy asked.
“You know. It’s the date before which all your work goes to pay taxes. Keeps getting later and later every year, it seems. I think it’s about now, isn’t it?”
“Really? Half way through the year then?”
“Yeah, I said, “just about”.
My DMV guy considered the matter for a minute, weighing whether Tax Freedom Day was an interesting subject. For a moment he was going to go with it but then he shook his head and began to complain to me about the red haired co-worker. He spoke loudly enough for the red haired guy to hear him – maybe that was the point – but the red haired guy was more interested in his customer with the breasts perched the counter. “I work with the guy all day and I can’t even have a conversation with him and look here I end up talking with you.”
“My pleasure.” I said.
“And you just walked in from the street.”
“To get my license.”
“Yeah, just goes to show. What’d you call it? Tax Day?”
“Tax Freedom Day. Depends what state you live in how late in the year it is. You know, state taxes too.”
“Yeah. Califormya. HaHa.”
“Its definitely later here. Sometime around now, I think.”
“Jesus. You gotta work half a year just to pay taxes.”
At the counter next to me, the red haired guy was working his computer. The attractive young woman had begun to read a book.
“That’ll be 33 dollars,” my DMV guy said.
I reached for my wallet but before I could get any money, the woman next to me, her face still in her book, tendered two twenties.
“I think he meant me…” I said.
My DMV guy had now noticed how attractive the young woman was. She was wearing a white straw Panama hat with a pink band and she had tipped it back from her forehead.
…but you are welcome to pay,” I added.
She looked up at me from her book, blankly at first but she quickly worked out the confusion. She gave me a flashing white smile full of generous intensity. She laughed at her mistake, “no, no, you better pay your own freight.”
My DMV guy saw an opening and jumped in. “You could make it a gift. To the great state of Califormya! HaHa. You could!” He smiled brightly as if he had come up with a way to solve the deficit.
The red haired DMV guy looked up from his computer when he heard my DMV guy poaching his customer. This was a clear injustice – the young woman was giving my DMV guy more attention than she had been paying him! And doing so while he labored over her paperwork! He looked at me for the first time and snarled slightly, “its a matter of mathematics, anyone knows that. Half of twelve is July. Always was, always will be. But then you have to be able to understand math and science.” He slightly lowered his voice and confided, “You have to be able to actually count.”
My DMV guy flung both arms, palms up, to the sky. He looked right at me. “You see? You see what sort of asshole I am dealing with?” He looked to the woman, “Whoops. Excuse my French.”
The red-haired guy muttered: “Ha! Like you could speak French…”
I picked up the paperwork I had brought to the counter. “Say, how does this work? Will I be able to actually get a license today?”
My DMV guy was not focusing on me. “Like you can speak English…”
“Good one, Einstein. How much is half of twelve? Eleven? Thirteen?”
The woman snapped her book closed and leaned forward onto the counter. Her blouse gapped wide open, her breasts made globes on the counter. The red haired guy’s face snapped to her. She said, “excuse me. How is it going? Do you have everything you need?” She smiled that brilliant smile in the red-haired guy’s direction. He was quickly yessing and allrighting and printing out her documents. In no time at all, she was on her way.
My DMV guy was involved in a slow paced effort to staple two forms together. Something had gone wrong with the stapler and he had to give it a good smack on the countertop to get it to perform to his satisfaction. “They give us these damn things and they are constantly getting jammed.”
“Must be a pain in the ass,” I ventured.
“Helps,” said the red haired guy, “if you know how to operate them. Just saying.”
My DMV guy stood, kicked back his chair and turned to face the red haired guy. He had a bigger belly than I had observed before and when he balled his fists he looked as if he had been inflated with an air hose. One corner of his shirt had come untucked from his pants and it flopped over his belt in the front.
The red haired DMV guy kicked back his stool and stood up as well. He was thin and wore heavy winter yellow corduroy pants and hiking boots. “You gonna hit me cause you can’t work a stapler?”
An extremely large woman appeared behind the two men. She was one of those unfortunate souls whose shoulders and breasts form the top of a cube that drops in straight lines to the knees. Her clothing framed her body like a tarp covering a couch standing on end.
Her voice was as big as she was. “I don’t think so!” she bellowed. “I do not think so! You, round potato,” she gestured to my DMV guy, “Sit Down! I said, sit down! And you, Mr. Wiggly, you hear me? Get your skinny ass in that chair. Now!”
I saw my chance, “Excuse me, Mam. Any chance you can help me? My license application seems to be stalled while these gentlemen insult each other.” Ah ha! I had done it. I had taken it up a level. Take that! KaBoom!
My comment stopped time itself. For several long moments, no one moved. Then the large woman looked over at me. She peered forward and looked down her nose. “Excuse me.” She said. “Did you not hear that we were talking?”
“Yes,” I said, “that’s just why I spoke up.”
“Did you hear anyone ask you to speak?” She went right on. “No, you did not. So I will ask you to please let us finish our discussion.”
And then, without another word to me or either of the two DMV guys, she turned and glided away, a freighter in still waters.
The DMV guys, both my guy and the red haired guy, retrieved their chairs and sat back down. My guy handed me a white piece of paper and said flatly, “hold this over your left eye then please read the letters on Chart A line 3. “ He pointed to a group of optician’s charts on the wall. “Now read Chart C line 1.”
Without looking up at me he handed a slip that served as a receipt for the 33 dollars I had paid. With equal detachment he handed me a form to take to Photo Booth A.
I waited to see if anything else was needed. “Is that it?”
He mouthed something I could not hear, but I took it to mean I was free to leave. I grabbed the papers and started down for the photo line. I looked back at the red haired DMV guy and he was already in the midst of another customer’s issues. He had scooched his chair to the side for more legroom, bringing him very close to my DMV guy. They had their heads together and were laughing.
Sweetie. Sweetie. Turn over. You are snoring.
You are snoring again. Turn over.
You woke me up.
You were snoring. Just turn over and go back to sleep.
Why’d you have to wake me up.
I didn’t wake you. I just gave you a little shake.
You woke me up.
Cause you were snoring.
Trust me. You were.
You didn’t have to wake me.
I did. You were doing that snorting thing.
Snorting? You said snoring.
It’s snoring all right; it’s the aggressive kind. Like you kind of gurgle for a while and then you wheeze and then you pull up short and you let out a little honk.
You are so full of shit. I don’t snort.
You do. That’s why I had to give you a shake.
You fucking woke me up. Just say it. Don’t say you gave me a “little shake”. You woke me up. Admit it.
Well I tried giving you a little shake but you kept snorting.
And so you decided to wake me up? At 3:00 in the morning?
You didn’t have to wake up; you could have just turned over.
I wasn’t even snoring. You just woke me up.
Trust me. You were snoring.
You can’t just wake me up in the middle of the night. I have got to get a good sleep.
You were snoring.
So what! It isn’t like you go all silent when we go to bed.
That doesn’t have anything to do with … anything.
How many times have you woke me up with one of your farts?
Oh right. You never fart.
Everybody farts. I didn’t say I didn’t fart. I said I didn’t ever wake you up farting.
Like hell. Sometimes its like there is a gunshot in here. Ka-Pow.
I am serious. I have had to go sleep in the other room.
Yeah-yeah, you are just changing the subject.
I am totally serious. I can’t believe you’d even try to deny it. You are famous for it.
Ask the kids. Ask Delia. You have woken her up in the other room. I remember her coming in asking if there was a gunfight in the street.
You are just pissed cause you were snoring.
I am pissed because its 3 in the morning and you decided to wake me up.
I just gave you …
Don’t give me that ‘little shake’ crap.
I wasn’t …
If I woke you up every time you farted, you wouldn’t get up until 10 in the morning.
Sweetie. Why don’t you just turn over and go back to sleep. Just don’t sleep on your back. That’s when you snort. Just go back to sleep.
How can I go back to sleep? You woke me up. And now I am up.
Just go back to sleep.
And its gross. Really gross.
No, just turn on your side…
You fart under the covers.
Sweetie, you are going off on a tangent here.
I don’t think so.
Everybody farts when they sleep. I saw a PBS program on it.
You watched a PBS program on farting?
I happened to see part of it.
The part on farting?
Part of the part on farting. They said every person has to fart 35 times a day. It’s a fact.
You are delusional.
It is a fact. You can look it up.
I don’t think I will look up statistics on farting.
And it isn’t like you don’t.
Oh yes. You have had some spectacular farts.
Once there was a huge explosion and I woke up and there were no covers on the bed. I felt all around. I couldn’t figure out what had happened. And then all of a sudden the covers were back.
What are you talking about?
And I thought I was losing my mind but then I figured out what had happened.
You are so full of…
Your fart was so huge that the covers blew up all the way to the ceiling and then they came slowly drifting down.
Like snow falling on cedars…
Just like snow falling on cedars.
I am going back to bed.
Just turn over. You don’t snore when you sleep on your side.
I love you.
Love you, too… Just don’t fart.
Just don’t snore.