Jan 22 2006

Future Shock

Ro-Tel a-leaping

Yesterday evening as I was preparing my dinner (a chef’s salad of somewhat fridgeworn ingredients too ugly to photograph) the phone rang. After a protracted search during which I accidentally stepped on the dog’s tail and let my roasting pine nuts burn on the stove, I located the handset. It had become trapped —like so many household objects and small mammals before it—beneath the day’s avalanche of unsolicited junk mail catalogs.

I perceived my sister’s name on the caller ID, pressed the “talk” button, and said “Whorehouse. How may I direct your call?”

Remember when the phone was always in the same place, and you answered it by merely picking it up, and your standard greeting was “Who the hell is it and why the hell are you calling my house?” Those were the days.

Largely because I detected my brother-in-law’s voice in the distance urging “Go on, say something!” I deduced almost instantly that the caller was not my sister, but my 2-year-old niece, Ro-Tel.

Ro-Tel has been an avid telephone enthusiast for over a year. She’s made it her business to know where I am on the speed-dial, but until now has declined to actually speak into the receiver. Instead, she has preferred to push the buttons while I plead “Hey, Ro-Tel, where’s Mommy? Can you put Mommy on the phone?” So I was surprised when on this occasion she immediately began making brisk inquiries.

“Bertie there?” (Bertie is my 7-month-old golden retriever).

“Yeah, Bertie’s here. Do ya wanna to talk to him? He’s kinda busy, but—”

“Ippy there?” (Ippy is Zippy, my 13-year-old chow-doberman and owner of the tail upon which I had just trodden).

“Yeah, Zippy’s here. Say, Ro-Tel, what’s this all about, anyway?”

“I’m wearin my Crocs!”

“Well, no surprises there; your hippy-dippy proclivities are hardly a secret. I hate to say it, but it’s all over town.”

“I’m eatin a cheeseburger!”

“A sound decision.”

“I give you a cheeseburger! Put it on a table!”

“Well that sounds dandy, but unfortunately I’m way across town, and the laws governing the space-time continuum have conspired such that—”

“I give you a cheeseburger, Juh!” (she thinks my name is “Juh”).

It was at this moment that my chemically-induced menopause went critical. It became not just a concept I’d joked about with my oncologist a couple of months ago, but a sudden internal loosing of a vast maudlin torrent. I choked up. Liquid leaked from my eyes. Why? Because my pine nuts were burned and phones are wireless and junk mail can bury things and my favorite dog is really old and my immensely young relative who only last week was an insensible little gurgling pink lump wanted to give me a goddam cheeseburger.

I immediately perceived that allowing this unnatural episode to proceed to its natural conclusion—i.e. an unfocused crying jag of indefinite duration leaving me puffed up, clogged up, with an Excedrin headache and no will to live—would suck really hard, so I lit one of the banned cigarettes I’ve been hiding, stiffened the upper lip, and pulled it together toute de suite.

“Excellent,” I said, “I accept.”

“OK, bye.”


And I ate my salad while watching “King Of The Hill,” the episode where Hank buys a timeshare in Meh-hee-co to give his horrible old father something to live for.


Skip to comment form

  1. blue girl

    I am an expert lurker over here at your place, but am forcing myself to drop you a note. I love your blog and your writing. You do have a way with words.

    I can understand how this episode produced that flowing liquid. Little R-Tel rocks.

  2. ehj2

    dear twisty poet,

    i so totally love you and the music you bring to the world.

    just saying.


  3. ehj2

    dear twisty poet,

    i read it again and i love you more.


  4. Hattie

    Would you believe it if I said I envy you?

  5. B. Dagger Lee

    Oh shoot, Twisty– claps and tears and poems.

    “I Know a Man”

    As I sd to my
    friend, because I am
    always talking,–John, I

    sd, which was not his
    name, the darkness sur-
    rounds us, what

    can we do against
    it, or else, shall we &
    why not, buy a goddamn big car,

    drive, he sd, for
    christ’s sake, look
    out where yr going.
    –Robert Creeley

  6. Liz

    Oh man. Now I don’t know whether to laugh or cry or go fix myself a cheeseburger with a can of the original diced tomatoes & green chilies on top. Ro-tel for President!

  7. MzNicky

    Twisty darling: What a lucky little future patriarchy-blamer Ro-Tel is to have you for an actual aunt, spinster or otherwise. As she grows up she will look to you for guidance and and spirited humor when she needs it the most, and you will be there to provide it for her. She will offer you many cheeseburgers in the years to come. Much joy and a fulfilling new role in life—that of an adored aunt—are in your future.

    So fuck the chemopause, cry a river, and light up. I know I would, because that’s what I did.

  8. tammy

    Thank you for giving us that, it was beautiful.

  9. Ykcir

    Splendor in the fawkin’ pinenuts. You are the ninja of prose.

  10. miscellanneous

    sneaky persiflage, that.

  11. nobody

    Aw, Twisty, that’s precious. If she had offered a taco you probably would’ve lost it.

  12. Violet Socks

    Gotta say, Twisty, when I read this earlier today I was too moved to comment.

    And like Hattie, I kind of envy you too. Not the boob cancer, of course, but the niece. No little crumb-crushers in my family and no prospects of any.

  13. CafeSiren

    I get this, big time. I am childfree, but with a three year-old niece with a clever mind and opinions on everything (and yeah, she likes the phone, too — her problem is that, if you ask her a yes-no question, she will simply nod or shake her head, which loses a bit in telephonic translation). I want to steal her from my brother and his girlfriend (1000 miles away) and spirit her home with me, at least for a weekend, and bask in company without artifice. Not to mention cuteness.

  14. Steph

    I don’t know if it’s social or biological (and don’t care) but this is why I’m happy I had kids.

    Even on the days like today when they’re throwing up.

  15. Hissy Cat

    I like you, Twisty. I like your style.

  16. amb

    I like storytime. I will definitely be back for more.

  17. Mister Nice Guy

    May R-Tel’s blog be titled, “Too Young to Remember the Patriarchy”.

  18. kactus

    Awwwww. Since emoticons are forbidden, I want you to just imagine about a zillion of them smiling right here.

  19. jenofiniquity

    I give you a cheeseburger, Juh!

    I love the emphasis on “cheeseburger” the second time around – it’s such perfect, meaningful kidspeak.

  20. bitchphd

    Nieces are the best.

    No wait, scratch that. Aunts who don’t get irritated by the inability of 2-year olds to understand that the telephone allows you to communicate with people who are not there and can’t see what you’re doing are the best.

    I give you a cheeseburger, Juh.

  21. Liz

    I forgot to say: that PICTURE!!!!! Damn. I love so much that Ro-Tel is still too short for her feet to quite reach the floor. And what is that, a Lance Armstrong ankle bracelet? Or is she already a toruble-maker out on probation, strapped to a bright yellow ankle tracking device so The Man can monitor her defiant anti-patriarchal insurrections? Either way: tear it UP, Ro-Tel!

    (Speaking of appetizing baby names, the other day my barely-legal checker at the Wal-Mart had on a name tag that said McKenzie. I asked her whether she was named after McKenzie Philps or Giselle McKinzie, and she said neither, her parents (who are probably too young themselves to have ever heard of either of those) had named her after the Mckenzie line of frozen foods!! Sadly, she says she doesn’t have a brother named Bird’s Eye. I really wanted her to.)

  22. Twisty

    Liz, you correctly identify the Lance Armstrong anklewear. Here in Austin the guy is worshiped as a deity.

    That picture is several months old. Ro-Tel’s feet now reach the floor, I am sorry to say.

  23. Teenagecatgirl

    My nephew used to ring people via speed dial and heavy breathe at them.

    I blame the patriarchy.

  24. Tony Patti

    All that love. I started to tear up, too.

    What chemicals?

    Sometimes I get so choked up with love at the mere sight of Tess Patti that I fear my heart will pop. Sometimes like 51 times a day sometimes. She’s just now 2.

  25. virgotex


  26. caroline

    I don’t know if this will offer you any consolation, but my aunt is my favourite. I am one of seven kids, and hell.. I love my mother in an abstract sense. It’s just the practical that doesn’t work so well..
    But if there is something I want to talk about- it’s not the mother, who looks at me blankly when I try and explain anything, but to the little bit older, spinster, lesbian, puppeteer, overcame-the-family aunt. She means the world to me. She’s far more of a mother than my own mother will ever be. Ro-Tel is going to grow up adoring you. And hell- you get to do the good things, like feed her pizza and tacos when she’s feeling down, and explain how your sister was really annoying when she was a teenager too… Very, very, very important role to fill. And she’ll love you for it.

  27. Kaka Mak

    What a great way to wake up–nice story and written even nicer in the Twisty style I’m coming to know so well.

    I’ve beaten this rather to death on my blog and with friends, but little humans can be so amazing. When I overheard my daughter at age 3 say “Abracadabrica PENISES! (Yes, plural), with nary more than a clue what a ‘penis’ (or ‘penises’) is (are), it became an instant classic.

    Of course, it’s obvious to all, that she was banishing the patriarchy with her limited 3-year old vocabulary, thanks to my strong, empowering, mother skills, yes?

  28. laughingmuse

    Strong, loving aunts rock the world.

    We (sis and I) are very lucky to have good parents – and even more lucky to have several strong, kind, bullshit-free aunts.

    I love this post. And I think Ro-Tel already knows that you are just fab.

  29. ae

    Twisty, I positively fucking love you.

  30. WookieMonster

    Aunties of the world unite!!!

    Nieces (and nephews I suppose, but I don’t have any of them) are the best. You get to have all of the fun, but you can give them back to mom or dad when they start to get on your nerves. The best of both worlds.

  31. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    Aw, dammit, now you made *me* cry too.

Comments have been disabled.