Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Three Sizes, My Ass



I’ve decided to have some people over for the first time since I moved to Maine.

Well, not the first first time. I mean, it’s not like I’ve been sitting here in this little cabin in the woods all by myself for three and a half years, staring at the dog. Except I kind of have. For three and a half years – whenever I wasn’t working, shooting pool, or entertaining the Other Dog (on which enough already) – I kind of have been sitting here, staring. Because a. I was licking wounds and going a little feral, and b. he really is a damn fine-looking dog.


Not that fine-looking. Not like I ever considered doing anything to him besides stare. The odd walk, maybe. A pat on the head every so often. But you know, I’m not a weirdo. Besides, I had the Other Dog for that business, remember?

Anyway so yeah, I have had the occasional odd guest once in a while, but I have not had People Over. At first because I didn’t know any People and then because I didn’t think they’d come, and then because, well, having People Over means cracking a can of worms I haven’t taken off the shelf since I was married. The recipes; the cutting board; the everything that goes in hand with entertaining. All the stuff I used to do when I was a Different Person, living a Different Life, and I wasn’t sure if That Girl was still in me anymore – or if she should be. 

Plus, you know, people are like mice: let ‘em in, and they leave holes…

But I’m getting a Christmas tree this year. And if that ain’t a great big bowl of Different Life then I don’t know what is. Because see, there was a time I used to be Miss Christmas – or at least first runner-up. I played the music and jingled the bells and wished the merry and spread the cheer and wassailed the figgy pudding and all that happy reindeer-shit, until any reasonable person would want to haul off and sock me in the sugarplums. My tree was a goddamn liturgy. Plus there were Santas in every corner, special throw pillows for the couch, china settings for the dining table we never even used and—

Hell, honeys, what I’m trying to say is: I’d’ve crapped a fucking Yule log, if I could.

But on December 3, 2009, my mother died. I came back from the funeral to find that my boss of eleven years had gone off her antipsychotics and the voices in her head said I was fired. Not too long after that, my second boss, from my second job, died in her sleep. And, well, being the Great Big Grown Up Girl I was and strive to be, I dealt with all of this by running away from home, developing an eating disorder, and, eventually, getting my Great Big Grown Up Self arrested.

I didn’t so much notice when it happened, but somewhere in the midst of all of that, my Yule Log Dispensing System went on strike.


Moving on…

It took a while, but all that’s behind me now. As behind me as it ever can be, anyway. The divorce was final in 2011. The house sold, finally, in 2012. All that remains of my unfortunate incarceration is a tiny little skid mark in St. Peter’s book and a lifetime ban from Canada (re. which: who cares? It’s fucking Canada. And it ain’t like this girl’s getting into heaven if there is one, anyway). I have a new home, I have my mom’s fine-looking dog, and I’m three years in to a halfway-decent job I’m really good at and I abso-freakin’-lutely goddamn love. So, maybe, just possibly, perhaps… now might be the  time to cop a merry squat and see if I can’t pinch something off.


Bear with me…

Except, you see, if you were paying attention in that last paragraph (which if you weren’t, can’t blame you. I do have a tendency to ramble on. But if you were…) you might be thinking to yourself “Yo, turd-girl, all of those moving-on things were true last year, as well!” And you’d be right. They were. And in fact I came to this same conclusion at this same time last year. And I never did anything about it then because I wasn’t Turd Girl last year: I was Pussy Galore.

Because, you see, the only way I managed to survive the last three years was by cramming my heart – except for the little piece of it kept alive by the aforementioned Other Dog – into that box in the basement, too. And when it came time to let it out, I balked. There are things in those boxes I am more afraid of than anything I’ve ever had to face before – and you’re talking to a girl whose job it is to disarm six-foot, beer-bellied, bald and toothless biker guys named Gus. Things that make me cry right now just thinking about them. Things my mother made or gave me, things my husband and I brought home from all over the world. And that home is gone and that husband is gone and that mother is gone and that world is gone – and all I have in this little log cabin left to comfort me is my dead mother’s dog. And no dog – not even the Other One – is fine-looking enough to make up for all of that.

So last year I moaned about the expense and the effort and the who’s-even-gonna-see-the-damn-thing-anyway, and pussied out. I knitted Christmas sweaters for the nieces and I baked the Christmas pies, but I left all the ghosts in the basement where they belong. And when shit started rolling around again this year like it always goddamn does, I resolved to not even pretend. I don’t do Christmas anymore, I told myself. I’ll put the face on for the family. I won’t snap at folks who wish me well. But in my black, dead, lonely heart, it’s over. Finished. Done.

And then, when I was at Dad’s for Thanksgiving a few weeks ago, he asked me to root around the boxes in his basement and see if I couldn’t find where Mom had stashed her Christmas Village. And I did. And I found them. And I tried but he wouldn’t let me help him set them up. And when I left, all by his 70-year-old, a-fibrillating, half-bionic self, my dad did this:


 Well.

If that man – who was married to her for 42 years and has been lost without her; who raised us all through recessions and runaways; who’s been in the hospital four or five times since she died, for myriad adversities, and who keeps coming out each time a little more discouraged but never giving up; who just keeps getting better, standing up, and going back to work; who put me on his weak, elderly back and goddamn carried me through my arrest and the ensuing eighteen months of costs and consequences – if that man can open those carefully packed boxes, lift out the porcelain, and plug in the lights, then this girl can sack the fuck up and quit shitting herself at the idea of coming face to face with a slightly-moldy salt-and-flour Jesus.

So I’m getting a tree. And I’m having People Over. Because it’s not true that burying my heart is the only way I managed to survive the last three years.

It turns out that, no matter what, the mice find their way in.






And if there are any Maine mice reading this whom I forgot to invite, please come. You'll find the details under my facebook events. You just have to swear not to do this...


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

A Neighborly Day For A Beauty



I’m finding it damn near impossible to spend time by myself these days.

I’m never like that. Usually, I’m Little Miss Don’t Need Anybody: the girl who sometimes catches herself wishing she didn’t have a dog because he loves her too damn much. The girl who – if she’s being completely honest (and if she isn’t, what’s the point?) – was at least 1% relieved to have to put the cat down last Wednesday, because it’s one less living thing depending on her.

But I was unemployed all winter, and sort of gradually and accidentally wound up spending nearly every single day of it with one person – One Person, whom I suddenly and accidentally picked a fight with and haven’t heard from since. (That’s a lie. The phone rang once but I ignored it and vice versa. Guess I showed One Person, didn’t I?). So now, even though I’m back to work and everything, it feels like there are all these hours in each day I don’t know what to do with. A girl can only work out for so long, after all. I don’t watch television (except with One Person, who never shuts it off, so there’s my 1% relief at having put him down, right there). And sleep is something I tend to fight off, not indulge in. So even after a long day at work and a 45-minute drive home, I feed the damn dog who loves me too much, I let him out to pee, and I get back in the car and go shoot pool.

My game’s thanking me for it – I actually ran the table Saturday night for only the second time in my whole life (which wouldn’t’ve happened if One Person had been there, because in front of him I always choke the 8. So there’s another 1%, I guess). And last night I beat someone I’ve never been able to beat in the three years since I moved here. Didn’t just beat him, either. Smoked his ass. Left him with five balls on the table. And last night they didn’t even have my M&Ms.

Eventually, though, the bar closes, and I take the long way home. Or I drive up the other way to get gas that I don’t really need. Or I stop at the little store for candy. Anything, so I don’t have to go home and fight off sleep alone.

Sigh.

But today is Tuesday and I have to go to work, so last night I did not stay till closing. I was going to, when I thought they closed at ten, but then remembered that on Monday nights they stay open till 1:00 am for washers, and even I knew that was a bad idea. So I left at 9:30, took the direct route, and even – because I’d scarfed an entire order of fried pickles in lieu of my lamented M&Ms – drove right by the store where they sell candy. I even made it all the way up and over Laskey Hill before deciding I had to turn around.

Now, for my whole Massachusetts-life I was the sort who, if you post “No turning” in your driveway, would pull in to it just to piss you off. You have no right, you selfish prick, and you can’t catch me anyhow. But I like the people up here – even the ones I haven’t met yet – and it is backwoods country, and I know what it’s like to have someone pull in your driveway and make you think you have a visitor but you don’t. 

Sigh. 

So up here I always find a road or a wide spot to launch my three-points from. This is a tough order on Laskey Hill, though, and last night I damn near broke my rule. But it was dark and it was fairly late on Monday night, and everyone has dogs that will go crazy – so at the last second I thought about those people in that house and straightened the wheel just enough to miss the driveway and pull off the road right after it instead…

…and right into the ditch on the side.

They dig these ditches up here! I’ve never understood it. Road shoulders that are perfectly flat and safe and soft are intentionally ditched out and filled with rocks. Not gravel. Rocks. Like loaf-of-bread-sized rocks. I knew it, and I’ve wondered about it, but last night there was snow in it and I forgot. And what looked like a wide spot turned out to be quicksand, and when I threw it in reverse I spun and smoked. And when I got out of the car and looked at the lights on in that house I couldn’t bear the thought of knocking on their door to tell them that, since I hadn’t wanted to trouble them with my headlights for three seconds, I now needed a half an hour’s worth of actual, honest-to-god help.

So I flagged down a passing car.

She turned out to be about as useful as I would have been in her shoes, but at least she stopped. And since she did, the next guy who drove by stopped, as well. And the next guy had a big old fucking truck.

I lied to him. A little. I mean, I told him about the turning around and the not-wanting to use the driveway, but I said I was going back to the store for cigarettes. Seemed a bit more – I don’t know   genuinely necessary than going back for candy. Or just not really wanting to go home. And as soon as I said that, he took out his pack, gave me a smoke and lit it for me, then said he’d assumed I’d swerved to miss a deer.

Deer. That’s the lie I should have told. Gawdang.

Anyway, Truck Guy said he couldn’t push me out ‘cause of the snow, and if he tried to shove me with his truck he’d break my headlights. He said what I needed was a tow, but he didn’t have anything to pull with. And then looked over at that house I’d gone so far out of my psychotic way to not-bother and said “Their lights are on. You smoke your smoke. I’ll be right back.”

I heard the House Guy, when he answered the door, say “Why didn’t she just use the driveway?” and I stopped myself from hollering “’Cuz she’s a moron!” just in time. And then Truck Guy came back alone, said “Help is on the way,” and crawled under my car in the snow to see what he could hitch to.

“I don’t want to hitch to the axel,” he said, “because there’s all these brake lines under there. I’ll hitch to the bumper. It might break a little, but the car’s a piece of shit anyway, right? So who cares?”

I would’ve hugged him for that one if he hadn’t been on the ground.

House Guy came out with the hitch just then and introduced himself. “Oh!,” he said. “I’ve seen you up at the bar, shooting pool. My name’s Dave.” He shook my hand. “Neighbor Dave.”

Nice to meet you, Neighbor Dave. I’m sorry I don’t recognize you, but I don’t tend to notice anything else when I shoot pool.

So they hitched me up and pulled me out and nothing broke except my ego (that’s a lie; my ego is bionic, man)*. I thanked them both, and hugged them, and then I turned around and drove back up and over Laskey Hill. I’d lied to Truck Guy, after all, and he’d given me a smoke for it, so I felt I had to at least head off in the direction of store. I turned around, this time, in the high school parking lot.

When I finally got home, I posted a love letter to Vacationland on facebook. I sent a text to One Person, apologizing. And then, without further ado – or candy – fell asleep.

Woke up to realize I’d read the schedule wrong and I don’t have to work today at all. But it's a beautiful day in the neighborhood, so I’m taking my dog for a walk.

That oughta kill a couple hours, anyhow.



*also a lie


 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Hole, Part Final-Final: Really

Okay, I gotta get this candy machine story outta me already, ‘cause I finally have another one – about a pool table, of all things – that y’all ain’t never gonna be able to believe. I mean, I may exaggerate for dramatic purposes and everything sometimes, but I could not make shit like this up on my best day, swear to god...

So. When I left you last Thursday (and I had an … interesting weekend in the meantime, thanks for asking), Bootgirl and The Other Lady had placed the candy machine on the Hole’s front step, it had gone missing from there, and a shitstorm had begun brewing on the internet in a very “double, double, toil and trouble” kind of way. People who knew perfectly well what had really happened – or ought to have known, if they really checked security tapes like they said they had, or if they so much as bothered to ask the bouncer who really held the door open for the alleged stealers (and who also, not to mention, should’ve been keeping an eye on the front step from his post) – had turned the Great Candy Machine Caper into the Case of the Missing Baby Killers, and the entire Greater Waterboro Area (or the 75 of them that are friends with the Hole on facebook, anyway) had its knickers in a twist. There hasn't been any snow this winter to entertain the townsfolk, after all, and even the Ice Fishing Derby's been called off. So they were circling the wagons, lighting torches, and gearing up for a good old-fashioned lynching on the shores of Little Ossippee...

Just as soon as they could figure out who “Bootgirl” was.

Poor Bootgirl. She only did it ‘cause she was drunk and she loves me and I love candy. And have I mentioned that the guy they paid to make sure shit like that didn’t happen held the door? Now her pretend-name was being dragged through the mud around the Hole on my behalf – and if you’ve ever caught a whiff of the septic system outside that place on a muggy night, you know that ain’t the sort of mud you want to get crammed up all in your (mostly-)innocent drawers.

So what I did is, I tried to step up. I wasn’t going to give away her real name – I figured if the Hole proprietors were the only ones in town who read this blog and couldn’t figure out her secret identity, then I wasn’t going to help them pass the reading-comprehension portion of their Private Dick exam. But I said I’d talk to her, we’d try to find it, and if it didn’t turn up we’d make good.

Wanna know what I heard back from them when I said that?

Crickets.

But that was just the eye of the shitstorm, as it turned out.

Which, if you stare at that sentence too hard, turns into kind of a nasty thought. But hey, assholes are assholes, man. I calls ‘em like I sees ‘em.

Now, Bootgirl had suspected all along that The Other Lady – the one who helped her boost it – actually still had the machine. She said she didn’t, but The Other Lady sometimes has a little problem with… embellishment, let’s call it. Not just in a “girl gets the sense she could get raped in the parking lot” kind of dramatically-licensed way, but in real life. Even as it’s coming out of her mouth. So when she said she really didn’t have it, all we really knew for sure was that she’d really been asked.

But when they started calling Bootgirl a cold-hearted baby-killer on the internet (dramatically-speaking, naturally), she decided she had had enough. She didn’t go so far as to accuse The Other Lady – she knew better than to corner a wild ferret, if you know what I’m saying – she just called her up and said “No shitting around, honey, I need that goddamn candy machine back.”

Well.

The Other Lady said she really didn’t have it. She said yes, she really put it in her truck that night, but when she got out to her truck later somebody had replaced it with a bag of trash. Not the whole truck. Just the candy machine portion of it. Because, you know, if you're going to steal something out of the back of someone’s truck, you obviously want to put something there instead so they don't notice. And a bag of trash looks practically exactly like a candy machine, if you squint hard, drop acid first, and look the other way. Which The Other Lady must've done, because she said she didn't cotton on till she got home. Said she’d check around the pawnshops in the area, though, and see if maybe anyone had tried to fence the Magical, Mysteriously-Missing, Baby-Cancer-Curing Candy Machine.

And wouldn’t you know it? They did

At the very first pawnshop she walked into, the man behind the counter said yes, in fact, two guys had come in trying to sell a Magical, Mysteriously-Missing, Baby-Cancer-Curing Candy Machine that very morning, but they chickened out and ran away with it before he could go through with the transaction. Fortunately, however, they’d started filling out their paperwork before they left, and although he couldn’t legally show The Other Lady what it said, he could accidentally leave it on the counter in front of her and walk away...


Well, the address turned out to be right down the road from the Hole. Not too far from Bootgirl’s house, apparently. But because there are so many hardened criminals and crack addicts in that neighborhood, just waiting for Other Ladies to turn up so they can throw bags of criminal crack trash in the backs of their trucks, she decided to hire a private investigator for $75 an hour instead of going there and knocking on the door herself. No one answered the door when the PI knocked on it (those wily criminal crack addicts were probably hiding in the bathroom, killing babies), so he left a note saying “You have 24 hours to return the Magical, Mysteriously-Missing, Baby-Cancer-Curing Candy Machine, or I am calling the police.” 

And wouldn't you know it? Those criminal crack-addict baby-killers fucking did.

Who’d’a thunk it? Warms the cockles of my very heart, that shit right there. Restores my faith in the inherent goodness of humanity. And teaches me to never, ever, exaggerate for dramatic purposes again.

Really.



Postscript:   

Bootgirl and The Other Lady returned the candy machine to its rightful owners. 

Well, to the Hole Propietors, at least. Presumably they returned it to the cancer-baby rightful-owners. But I don’t know. Because when I ran into them on Tuesday night they wouldn’t speak to me, and on their facebook page it still says they’re going to pay for it. They’ve had it back since February 3rd, though. So maybe they did pay for it. Maybe they kept the candy. And if they did, that’s just not right. I mean, the money in there was for cancer-babies, sure, but those Peanut M&Ms were fucking mine. I’d’ve bought ‘em all eventually if the bar stayed open, anyway. I’d’ve bought ‘em from my ownself in one night if I’d managed to get the infernal machine back to my secret lair. Hell, if I’d gone with Bootgirl and The Other Lady to return it like they said I could (ahem), I’d’ve brought two rolls of quarters with me and emptied the goddamn thing in the back of the pickup truck on the way there. That’s all this whole incident was about in the first place, after all. Gettin’ me a little sugar, ‘cuz I’m sweet. 

What kind of person steals candy from a She-Hulk, anyway? I mean, I’ve been controlling myself pretty well through this whole interlude, I think. There are plenty of beans I could have spilled, fingers I could have pointed, rumors true and false I could have spread. Yet I saw this through to the bitter end without doing any of those things. Not really. But if it turns out some eye-of-the-shitstorm stole my candy?

 That Blue Fairy had better watch her ass.



Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Hole, Part VIII: 007


Oh my holy shitstorm, have I got a Last Word to get in.

I thought I was done writing about the Hole. I thought I’d squeezed every last drop of vaguely-interesting out of it and was ready to move on. The posts I wrote in the weeks leading up to its closing were 90% about me, anyway. Then for its final 72 hours I soaked up what was left of its welcome, and wrote about the Very Best Thing that happened over the course of that long weekend—

Actually, that’s not 100% true. Sometimes, you see, I exaggerate or simplify for the sake of the blog. So as to, you know, keep the story moving. It’s called poetic license. Or dramatic license. Artistic license, narrative license – hell, call it licentia poetica if you want to get all Latinate about it. Whatevs. The point is, just because I write stories about my life (yeah, that’s right, my life) doesn’t mean every word in here is completely, totally, 100% true. I’m not really She-Hulk, after all. You know?

Like, for example, I wasn’t really there for all 72 of the Hole’s final hours, either. And really The Very Best Thing that happened over the course of that long weekend was not the Boosting of the Candy Machine on my behalf. Really the Very Best Thing went down on Friday night, when I came thisclose to finally seeing my very first intra-Hole boy-boy throwdown. Which may not sound very Very Best to you, especially since it never really happened. But when that goddamn Kid flew off his stool and across the room to defend me against some shit nobody else even heard that scumbag say, and four people had to step between to stop him, I will admit I blushed a little for the first time since – well, since I was a goddamn Kid myself. Really. And when I say I blushed “a little,” I really mean I blushed  a lot. Didn’t stop shooting, but blushed like a Girl (and shot like one) until the freakin’ fracas settled down. So, yeah. That was the really Very Best Thing. Not that I approve of intended-violence or anything. But when, after 18 months of off-and-on, certain words are still really Against the Rules, a little redneck-style action leaves a resounding ringing in a woman’s ears. You know?

So anyway, let’s just say I wrote about the Very Best Thing That Happened Over The Course Of That Long Weekend That Anyone Besides Me Cares About. Whatever. The point is: I thought I was done. The place was dead (not really, because it was never really alive, you see?), I’d eulogized it in the most loving way this antique, jaded bitch knows how (not really, because a bitch is a female dog, you see?), and I’d gone blog-dark again while waiting to get hit by inspiration (not really, because inspiration hurts when it hits you, see?).  I went down to Boston to work the bike show on behalf of my gainful employer, hoping I might find a story there. Which I didn’t. Not really. Not unless you count the guy I was working with telling me I ought to dye my hair because the gray on my temples (which some think is just platinum, thanks very much) makes me look old. I don’t count that as a story, though, because fuck him. Has he been sleeping with a 23, 24, 25-year-old for 18 months? No. I don’t think so. So I krav-maga’d his ass and threw him in the Harbor.

Not really.

I threw his fat, gray, 53-year-old belly in the Charles.

Are you starting to see where I’m going with this yet? Yeah? Okay. So I’ll back off. I’ll trust you to understand that when I say I went to New Haven from Boston, I really did, but when I say the missing (and lovingly eulogized) candy machine popped up down there and punched me in the neck – well, that’s whatchacall a "metaphor." At least, I think it is. It might be called a "something else." I’ve no idea. I majored in Biology, remember? But whatever you wanna call it, though, I got the license for that shit right here.

So anyway (again), I was in New Haven, visiting Dr. One Friend for the first time since November, when in my absentia the goddamn dispenser got turned into a great-big-honking, small-town-gossip, Thing.

Really.

But I gotta back up a little before I go full Doppler on the shitstorm.

First of all, it turns out I’d gotten the story a little bit wrong when I wrote about it the first time. Not by lie or license, just mistake. It turns out that Bootgirl did not, in fact, believe she’d put the infernal machine inside my truck. She was drunk, and laughing hysterically, and I couldn’t really understand what she was saying. So I connected a buncha dots inside my head and dramatic-licentiously made up some dialogue in the interest of O. Henry. But it turns out that what really what happened was – after the bouncer held the door for them (really) – she and The Other Lady put the infernal machine on the front step and left it there. It seemed to have picked itself up and taken itself off somewhere else from there.

Not – well, obviously, not you know.

Second, it turns out to have been a charity candy machine. With all those quarters I’d been feeding into it for all those months, I, myself, single-handedly, cured baby cancer! Or, well, I would’ve. I would’ve been a finalist for the goddamn Nobel Prize, probably. If only that infernal machine hadn’t gone walkabouts with my $12.25. Not that any of us were even thinking about the fact that there was money involved. All we ever cared about was M&Ms. Well. All I ever cared about was M&Ms. Bootgirl and The Other Lady probably sometimes give a hoo about, like, world peace and gay marriage and saving whales and other boring crap like that, but for the fleeting moment it took them to shift the infernal machine those crucial 22.7 feet, they knew how the world looks from where I’m sitting.

There. You got it? Okay, good.

So what happened while I was in Connecticut was that the Hole proprietors re-posted a link to my blog on their facebook page, not only threatening arrest to the perpetrators and turning it into a “What sort of person wants babies to die of cancer?” kind of thing, but also blaming me and my blog for shutting the place down.

Really?

No, okay, not really. Really, they said it was the fault of “blogs like this and people like me.” But honey, if you can find another blog like this I’ll blow you. And we all know there ain’t no one else out there like me. Besides, they never even thought to make a single “stealing candy from a baby” joke. Which, I mean, der.

I didn’t care what they were saying about me. First off, I’m used to being the subject of stories that aren't true. I mean, at last count I’d supposedly fucked at least four different people in their parking lot, and considering my antics over those last few weeks, that number’s probably gone up. Secondly, the accusation’s nuts. I didn’t even start writing about the Hole till after they announced the closing date, and I never even said anything bad (well, except the cow-moose-in-breach-labor thing; but that can't be considered libel 'cuz it's true). And thirdly: although my pen may be mighty-mighty...

You can’t arrest a girl for carrying a concealed weapon when she’s got a Latinate license for that shit right here.


Tune in next time, when I step in front of the green screen, wave my arms around, and make the infernal machine re-appear!

No. Not really

But The Other Lady magically does...




Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Hole, Part VII: Mixin' It With Love


Whenever I was in there for the week between when I heard the Hole was closing and when it actually did, I looked around to see what I might swipe for a souvenir. Every time I went to the bathroom, or the candy machine (I go to the candy machine at least as often as I do the bathroom; it's a problem), I'd let my eyes roam over the walls and shelves and ceiling, waiting for something to cry out "Take me home!" 

But nothing did. 

I’m not the type to form emotional attachments to things, anyway. (The candy's not an emotional attachment; it's just an Urge.) People, yes. Places, stories, memories, of course. I'm a All-Day Sucker for that kind of sappy shit. But not for things. When I left my husband, I left everything I ever owned back in that house, and I don't care. 

Well, that's not true. Not everything. I have the astronaut doll they gave me at the hospital when I was born, the tractor my mom bought me in kindergarten when the teacher said the school's trucks were just for boys, and my collection of animal-shaped bottle-openers because -- well, just because. A girl doesn't amass a collection like that and then just throw it away. I have one shaped like a cockroach, for god's sake. I mean, der.

Now, if the Hole had pig-shaped bottle-openers, I would've swiped one the first day I walked in. But they didn't. They didn't have logoed anything. And the more I looked around, the more I realized the only thing that meant anything to me in that place was the pool table, and although on a good day the She-Hulk could probably lift it, I didn't think it would fit it in my bag (especially not with the supply of Emergency Tootsie Pops I keep on hand). There was plenty of smaller stuff just begging to be stolen, and other people did good and plenty of that, but I just didn't see myself holding on to a pig doll or a beer sign for the rest of my life just because it was excavated from the Hole. I got what I needed out of that place already, I decided. My home, my friends, my stories, my memories and my Kid (or my memories of my Kid, at least; on which topic I'll write more some other day). The rest is just a bunch of dust-collecting crap. 

Except for the candy, of course. 

The Hole didn't always have the machine, and I was so grateful when they got it, because candy is one of my own personal Food Groups. I have six, and they go like this, in descending pyramidal scheme: 
eggs
oatmeal
chicken breasts
candy
apples
COFFEE
DIET COKE

I'll take anything when the Urge hits, except for gummies. (Gummies suck. They’re not candy, they’re bouncy little toys disguised as food. If I wanted to suck down rubber on a regular basis, I’d be a real whore, thanks very much. And I haven’t quite hit that rock-bottom yet.) But my go-to default is M&Ms. Peanut, precisely, because if I get the plain ones I just dump them in my mouth all at once. The big ones at least force me to slow down. And I’m lucky, because most bars these days have candy machines in the corner that dispense a perfect handful for a quarter.

   Okay, two quarters for the perfect handful, but whatevs…

Like I say, every bar has one, and wherever I am, I know which corner to find it in. Because the Urge hits me hardest when I haven’t had a bite of real food in a couple hours, so if I’ve been shooting for a while I can get a quick fix without having to actually eat. Everyone I know knows this about me, and they also know better than to ask to share. After all, a perfect handful minus three is not a perfect handful anymore, so if you know what’s good for you, you’ll get your own. And if I set ‘em down on a napkin on the bar while I'm shooting, you'd best leave those fucking things alone.

But anyway, you can't take candy with you -- or, well, you can, but you can't exactly swipe it like a coaster or a glass. Not out of the machine, at least. Or if there is a way, I don't know how to do it without smashing the glass and making a big Emergency-PiƱata scene.

But Bootgirl does.

I know because, on Saturday night, at the closing party, when I'd been there for three hours and was just starting to feel the sweetest Urge, I suddenly saw the whole machine go tearing right past me and out the door. 

Bootgirl was at one end of it, this other woman I sort of know was at the other, both of them stumbling a little bit and giggling so bad I thought they’d choke. The bouncer opened the door for them and whoosh. I felt like Dorothy watching the Wizard go up in his balloon, until my fairy godmother came back a minute later, laughing her drunken ass off.

“What did you do!?” I wailed. “Where did it go?”

I was ready to climb up on the roof with a fistful of quarters if that's where it ended up, I swear to god.

“Hee hee hee!” 

Bootgirl was so squinty-eyed and tickled with herself, I could barely understand her. 

“I wus gunna bring you a whole bag uh MinMses! I wus gunna gettum at the store thish affernoon! But I fergut! So me an’ her – hee hee – me an’ her got you all those!”

“What? What do you mean you got me those? Where is it?”

Bootgirl dissolved into a red-faced fit of choking laughter.

“Uh-huh! Uh-huh! Uh-huh! Iss in yer car! Hee hee!”

Oh, man, that’s hysterical.

Because not only did Bootgirl figure out the one thing (besides the pool table, I mean) that was actually me inside that bar: she stole it for me and gave me one hell of a story in the process. Which -- if you know me, you know -- is 99% of the point of doing almost anything at all. That's why I didn't want any of the rest of the dust-collecting crap. What yarn was I going to spin around it? "This hung on the wall at the Hole. The End"? But now I had me a gen-u-ine Conversation Piece. Plus, I mean, not to mention... candy! Not a hunk of dust-collecting crap at all!

I laughed and thanked her and hugged her hard around the neck. And then -- because I was still jonesing, after all -- I didn't even grab my coat before going to my car to see if that machine would still work lying down.

But it wasn’t out there.

The car was, I mean. But not the candy. Or the machine. Not in my car or anywhere outside.

“Bootgirl!” I hollered in her ear when I went back in and found her dancing by the jukebox. “Where, again, did you say you put the candy?”

“Uh-huh!” she snorted. “We puddit in yer truck!”

“I don’t have a truck, Bootgirl! I’m driving my mom’s Cruiser these days, remember?”

“Uh-huh! I know! That’s where we puddit!”

Well, I went back out and looked. This being winter in rural Maine and all, there wasn’t another PT Cruiser in the parking lot. And it wasn't in the back of anybody's truck. The next afternoon, when I saw her at the Hole's Honest To God Last Day Open, all Bootgirl remembered was that they definitely put it in somebody's car. And she brought me a bag of peanut M&Ms, because she knew there wouldn't be any for me at the bar.

So I don't have a souvenir of the Hole after all. Except for my friends, of course. My home. The Kid. The memories. And, now, one more wait-for-it punchline of a tale to tell for the rest of my life. Not to get too saccharine or anything, but I do believe that if you mix all that with love it makes the world taste good.

But if by any chance the person whose backseat that candy machine wound up reclining in is reading this...

If you know what's good for you, you'll get your own.