The dryer is broken, we’re all sick, and the little girl is going back to college.
Anyway, I’ve got the dryer apart. It’s a decent dryer, a Sputnik — one of the finest appliances ever produced by a breakaway Soviet republic. Latvians assembled it on a Friday, I suspect, after three days of fistfights and heavy drinking. If you ever buy a Latvian appliance, play it safe and buy one made earlier in the week.
Lord, it’s been such a great year so far. We’re broke and we’re sick; otherwise no complaints, except that our appliances seem to be baking themselves internally. Suddenly, none of our cars work either. Here’s how it usually happens: When our credit cards are maxed out, they send out some sort of signal to the electronic components of our cars, ordering them to immediately shut down. I’m not bitter. That’s just the way modern electronics operate.
In other glum news, we shed another child the other day, the little girl heading back to college. It was like sending Cleopatra back to Rome.
It took two days for her to pack. At one point, her baby brother climbed in her suitcase. His thinking: I have taught them all I can here. I have nothing more to offer.
That may be true. In the meantime, with his sister gone, there will be more gas in the car and food in the fridge. It’s amazing the impact one Cleopatra can have on a household. Everybody cried when she left, including me (though mostly because of the clothes dryer).
I’ve got it all apart on a Sunday afternoon, dust everywhere, hanging in the air like a fine Maine snow. Yep, it’s been a great year so far.
"What’s that?" asks Posh, shining the flashlight at something odd in the back of the dryer.
"My elbow," I say.
"Ewwwww," she says.
With our simple Amish lifestyle, you might not think we’d be as affected by the recession as much as others.
But we seem to have accumulated many of the luxuries of the modern age: appliances, cars, cellphones, children.
Everybody complains about having children — not me. I love kids, especially that first week you have them home from the hospital and they mostly sleep. After that, it gets increasingly less rewarding.
But Posh, whose values seem of another time, insists we live up to our commitments.
In even more glum news, two of us have been blessed with the flu this winter. It seems an especially memorable batch — H1N1M1Z-HUT1-HUT2 with a swine chaser — a fully evolved virus, containing thoughts, feelings and dreams for a better future.
"I’m not weak anymore!" the little guy announces, springing from the couch after three long days.
It was a medical miracle, like when Tiny Tim threw away the crutch, or Willard Scott threw away the floppy hair piece.
The flu would’ve been bad enough, but our health plan these days relies basically on the restorative powers of our 300-pound beagle, Cujo, who has devoted his life to medicine. He’s like Lassie, except he has a medical degree.
Cujo actually seems to enjoy it when people come down with the flu. Cujo thinks sick people are in the midst of turning into dogs, for all they do is lie around the house emitting odd intestinal sounds.
With that in mind, Cujo nurtures them along, like some sort of midwife. At such times, he is blissfully and divinely content. He thinks he is hatching other dogs.
I can tell this from his actions and his expressive Sally Field eyes. A dog’s eyes have always told me more about the vagaries of life than, say, Frost or Fitzgerald.
And though he cares deeply, Cujo is always a little disappointed when the patient eventually recovers. "YOU COULD’VE BEEN A DOG!" he thinks. "YOU WERE SOOOOO CLOSE!"
So, that’s the kind of year we’re having. On the same day, we lost both Cleopatra and the Sputnik. When I got the big machine back together, I discovered it was actually supposed to be a food processor, not a dryer. Ten years, who knew? Posh hopes to use it now to produce 50-gallon batches of what she calls "mommy juice." You would probably just call them "margaritas."
"A little something to take the edge off," she explains.
Cleopatra, meanwhile, was carried through LAX on the shoulders of slaves. A little excessive, perhaps, but it seemed the best way to see her off again after a magnificent four-week siege. It was an emotional farewell. You know the Romans: If they’re not laughing, they’re crying.
"Sobbing, table for 1," came the text message as the little girl boarded the plane.
As with all things, she blamed it on her mom.