A Naked Sunfish Holiday Tradition
Cheer from Aunt Edith
late Uncle Wes lived with my Aunt Edith for most of his adult
life...although I’m sure it seemed like an eternity to him.
He worked for the Bethlehem Steel Company in Baltimore for thirty
years until he retired. He worked the night shift getting off
around 7 a.m. when he would come home for dinner. In the summer
when it was warm...and Baltimore can get very, very humid...he
would go to a movie matinee in an air conditioned theater and
sleep. If you knew my Aunt Edith you would assume what I did...even
as a child...and that was that Uncle Wes worked nights and went
to matinees to get away from his wife. He never said much. He
was a slight, wiry man of few words. And the few words he almost
always uttered were, “For Chrissakes Edith! SHUDD UPP!!”
man was almost incidental by nature. One time...after he retired
and he and Aunt Edith moved back to the Cleveland area...my brothers
and I were helping him put a refrigerator in a backyard shed because
there was no room for it in the trailer they were moving into.
After much jostling my brothers and I closed the shed door and
thought we were finished. From her perch (as supervisor of course)
Aunt Edith looked at the three of us with bewilderment and asked,
“Where the HELL is Wes?” And after exchanging confused
glances we heard muffled sounds coming from behind the fridge
in the shed. “MMMPPPHH!!! Hey!! HHMMPPHHFFF!!!” We
quickly opened the shed door, moved aside the refrigerator and
liberated Uncle Wes. My brothers and I were all embarrassed and
each, in turn, apologized profusely for our insensitive behavior.
Aunt Edith broke into the humility with a shriek of, “What
the HELL were you doing in there?” Which prompted Uncle
Wes to ... once again ... chant his mantra. “For Chrissakes
Edith!! SHUDD UPP!!” They were quite the loving couple.
Their last name was Crabtree. I am not making this up.
soon was diagnosed with lung cancer. Thirty years in the steel
mills and 2 packs a day of Chesterfield non-filters caught up
with him. The last time I saw him he was lying on the couch in
their trailer smoking the aforementioned brand of cigarettes,
quite literally coughing his lungs out ... or what was left of
them. “I TOLD him to quit those goddamned things years ago.
“ Aunt Edith offered for my contemplation. To which Uncle
Wes replied sarcastically (yep, you guessed it) “Cough cough
... For Chrissakes HACK! HACK! Edith!!! SHUDD UPPP!!!” These
were the final words I heard my uncle ever say and we all joked
at the funeral that these very words were more than likely chiseled
into his headstone.
few years after Wes passed, my brother and his new wife were having
their very first Christmas and invited everyone over...including
Aunt Edith. My parents were there along with my siblings and their
families. This included my brother Jim’s 9 year old adopted
son Matt. Matt the Brat was what my father called him. I thought
this surprisingly subtle for my Dad. If I knew where Matt is today...and
thank God I do not ... I would have to guess some one killed him
or he’s in jail convicted of several murders. I honestly
don’t care so long as he’s nowhere near me. So Matt
the Brat is playing with one of the toys some one so graciously
gave him and he broke it. This kid could break anything he got
his hands on. But in a moment of diplomacy my father (affectionately
known as Snook) said, “They don’t make anything any
good any more!!” To which...in the spirit of the season
Aunt Edith quipped, “You’re right Snook!! Everything
IS SHIT!!!” Wel l... happy holidays to you too Aunt Edith.
Inside my head I distinctly heard a voice from my past reply,
“For Chrissakes Edith!! SHUDD UPPP!”
know...there are lots of reasons to go through life believing
that “everything is shit.” There are days when it
certainly seems true to me. I have my days when Sartre’s
“Hell is other people” could easily be the thought
of the day. But...unlike Aunt Edith...I don’t want to spend
a big chunk of my life living alone in a trailer. And when I think
of this particular Christmas it strikes me how most of them blur
into each other...with the exception of a few. And this is one
of them I distinctly remember. As much as family...and sometimes
even friends ... can annoy a person ... especially at this time
of year ... I have come to realize that even some one like Aunt
Edith helped make me who I have become. I mean that in a positive
way. Imagine ... Aunt Edith’s negativity was so over the
top it MADE me consider the positive. I have no idea how she became
so bitter. My father did shortly before he died also. Yet they
both, particularly Snook, had a positive influence. They were
there. Unlike today when some people are not.
holiday season...regardless of which one you celebrate...take
the time to savor those around you...even if they drive you nuts.
They may not...for whatever reason...be there next year. And in
some strange way, which will surprise you, their absence will
make you miss them. I guarantee it. (a possible exception to this
uplifting message might be Matt the Brat) And you might consider
that next year YOU might not be here. So I suppose my holiday
message may seem bittersweet to most...but that’s how I
see it. And if anyone feels the need to take issue with my views
then I encourage you to speak up LOUDLY...’cause I’ve
got one thing and one thing only to say to you.
note: Aunt Edith died a few years ago. She was 90 years old. Her
neighbor called my Uncle Bruce and told him she had passed out
in her trailer. He went and got her up…asked if she was
alright and she said she was. He suggested she go to the hospital
to make sure everything was okay. She told him to go to hell and
get out of her house. He did just that…returning an hour
later and she was gone. Sad…surely. But she lived her last
day the way she lived every previous one. And despite her surliness
I will miss my Aunt Edith this Christmas. And I will remember
the one long ago when she informed us “Everything is shit!”
Rest in peace Aunt Edith. I can picture Jesus turning to her and
proclaiming, “Truly, truly I say unto you…For Wes’s
sake Edith…SHUDD UPPP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
Bans Best Bites
by Rick Brown
not a real university but a store that sells “University
of Siesta Key” paraphernalia. Shelves are brimming with
t-shirts, sweatshirts, baby clothes. Fraternity paddles emblazoned
with the school logo hang from the wall. (Does one get “pretend
paddled” at a fake university?) And my Siesta Key buddy
Russ thought it would be a good place to sell my book, Naked
Sunfish – Best Bites.
he stopped in one day and chatted the book up with someone working
the register. The two agreed that Russ would leave a copy of the
book, the proprietor could take a look at it at her leisure and
get back to him about either selling it or not.
was last spring.
I dropped into the … uh …”university”
… a few times since. So did Russ. We were assured the book
was still under consideration and that the owner would read it
soon. Weeks turned into months with no reply. And as time went
on … since I spent almost 35 years of my life working for
libraries … out of frustration … I began thinking
about how much these folks owed me in overdue fines.
You know … if a pretend university in fact HAD a pretend
library … and given the typical 3-week circulating period
at a dime a day, the place owed me (said pretend library)
over 20 bucks PLUS the cost of the book.
Russ was kind enough to remind the University staff of this and
it was agreed that the author (myself) would get a free University
of Siesta Key t-shirt in exchange and that the owner would read
the book on her upcoming vacation.
So she (the pretend university president?) opened the book on
the plane … to page 142. And on page 142 the word “fuck”
happens to appear about 50 times. But when some people open to
this page by coincidence, it apparently seems to them like the
word “fuck” appears … oh say … 5000 times.
And when this happens, and invariably it does, I tell them there
are “adult themes” in the text. I also remind them
that if I had written a children’s book, one that they could
read aloud to their grandchildren, I probably would NOT be selling
it to them in a BAR IN FLORIDA!!
The chapter in question is about language, context, translation
et al. (You can find it here
on page one of issue #25) Yvonne and I were visiting our friends
Heike and Claus in Germany years ago and Claus dressed for a night
out in a t-shirt that had the “offensive” word all
over the front. But he patiently explained to me that in Germany
the English translation “fuck” is acceptable, but
most certainly NOT the German “ficken”. See! Context!
Long story short … the owner (pretend president?) of Siesta
Key University never read my book. She simply wrote, “page
142 – NO!” on a post-it and slapped it on the front
cover. And she finally gave the copy of Naked Sunfish –
Best Bites back to Russ …after almost 7 months …
along with an official university shirt. (At least she didn’t
have a public book burning) So I suppose I can’t complain
too much. After all, controversy can be very good publicity. So
now my first book has been banned at a pretend university in the
Village of Siesta Key!
But what to do with the official Siesta Key University shirt?
I certainly do not feel it belongs in my wardrobe.
Wait! I just had a great idea! I’ll give the official Siesta
Key University t-shirt to CLAUS for Christmas!! I can picture
him now trying to figure out what to wear to a restaurant …
then pulling it out of his dresser drawer and proclaiming loudly
(so Heike can hear him in the next room) in English." What
the FUCK! I’ll wear this shirt Rick gave me!!! "
Such delicious irony.
And at least Claus won’t say “Ficken”.