Pockets
by MorrisoN





     I guarantee if you chase them down...

     (which shouldn’t be too hard to do - A&P carts full-up with old newspapers and discarded left-foot shoes... and only three really working wheels... are not that easy to run the sidewalks with, believe me)

     ...and offer up enough loose change and, if you’re smart, a bagged 40-ouncer (if it’s all you have, a can of Sterno will, also, do)

     ...you will STILL not get the God’s-honest truth about it out of them.

     Because, really - it doesn’t matter how many CIA transmissions their back-teeth fillings accidentally intercept...

     nor that, after sharing secret recipes for Hungarian goulash (“...take one cleaned Hungarian...”)

     and reciting memorized soliloquies from garage door opener manuals...

     the King himself - Elvis - croons them to sleep about it from where he’s been hiding these past twenty-five years (that little balding spot right behind their left ear).

     Regardless all that - the straight skinny on this kind of thing is: just because a person happens to be a blood relation doesn’t mean they have the actual dope on the inner workings of anyone else.

     Not even if one of the side effects of the new meds DOES turn out to be visitations from angels and/or X-ray vision.

     So, take it from ME, the “horse’s mouth” herself:  the actual reason I say host of television’s “The Price Is Right” game-show, Mr. Bob Barker, himself - will be my husband some day, is NOT that if he had thirty less teeth...

     and a three-day growth...

     and a ten-strand comb-over...

     and a beer-keg gut...

     ...he’d be the spitting image of my Third Grand-Poppy.

     I mean, I liked Third Grand-Poppy and all - that I cannot deny.  During the seven weeks and two days he was Third Grand-Poppy he was always very nice to me.  In fact, I don’t think I’ll ever forget the “good old days” stories about his youth: 

     the exciting adventures he’d had (of which he could never recall the details, right this second)...

     in colorful, exotic places (the locations of which were just on the tip of his tongue)...

     with very best friends in the whole world, better pals a man never had (whose names escaped him for the moment)...

     with which he would, nightly (once the after-dinner dessert six-pack was polished, of course) regale me.  The purpose of which endeavor being to silence the Bogie Man muttering under my bed. 

     (I’m afraid I never got over him as “Queeg” in “The Caine Mutiny.”  Such was his exquisite attention to presenting the details of power-madness and, perhaps, even clinical insanity.  To the extent that, even now, on particularly “Queeg-ish” nights, if I press my ear tightly to the atmosphere I can hear him gloating:

     “Ahh, but the strawberries that's... that's where I had them.”)

     Third Grand-Poppy, bless him, understood my night-time terrors (he had, after all, his own silver-screen nemeses.  Only his ran amok on the twenty-four/seven plan, so it was not at all unusual to find Third Grand-Poppy suddenly running wild-eyed and shrieking through the apartment, calling to arms both family and neighbors against the “giant tentacled eyes” which were creeping up - courtesy of 1958 Forrest Tucker big-screen vehicle, “The Crawling Eye” - just on the (don’t it figure, though?) New Jersey horizon.

     So he’d come to me every night as I cowered there, red-eyed and sniffling in fear, and sit next to me on the cot, and I’d smile and he’d chuckle and we’d touch jelly-glassed toasts to Under-Bed Bogie in Third Grand-Poppy’s special-for-me strawberry Kool-Aid flavoured Budweiser “toddies”...

     and then I’d snurfle and he’d laugh and we’d clink jelly-glassed toasts to Under-Bed Bogie and strawberry Kool-Aid in Third Grand-Poppy’s special-for-me Budweiser with a touch of strawberry Kool-Aid flavouring “toddies”...

     and then I’d giggle uncontrollably and he’d guffaw and we’d smash our jelly-glassed Budweiser toasts to all flavours of Kool-Aid, God bless ‘em, and Bogie’s second wife, Mayo Methot, God bless her, too, whomever she was...

     and then I’d pee the bed and, what the heck, he’d pee the bed, too, and we’d solemnly wave our empties in as close proximity to each other’s general direction as we could manage (not easy, being that neither of us would just stay still, stop moving around so much, for chrissakes, you’re making me dizzy) and then try to suck out their non-existent last drops in toast to the departed souls of jelly glasses and hops and malt and blueberries and breweries and, for some reason we never could figure, but it seemed appropriate at the time, so what the heck - mentholated mayonnaise.

     And then everything would go black and I’d be awakened by Third Grand-Poppy’s shrieks as he bolted from the room to warn the next-door neighbors about the giant, tentacled  eyes creeping toward us this very three a.m. second from, (of course, where else?) New Jersey.

     But...

     (as Mama told the divorce judge when - eleven months, three weeks, and five days later - she was making Third Grand-Poppy into Fourth Ex-Poppy)

     ...that kind of thing was awfully sweet and all, but it really wasn’t anything to MARRY a man over.

     (To which point the judge noted - quite correctly, I recall thinking at the time, despite my tender, sluggish, hung-over, years - Mama really should have considered THAT before she bumped Third Poppy down to Third Ex-Poppy so she could turn around and make his Poppy - Third Grand-Poppy - into my Fourth Poppy.

     Mama, of course, just shrugged and grinned.  Like always.  And the judge just sighed and shook his head and banged his gavel.

     Like always.)

     So, no - the reason I say Bob Barker will, some day, make me his blushing bride has nothing at all to do with any affection I may feel for Third Grand-Poppy.

     What it HAS to do with, however, is...

     ...Bob Barker’s pockets.

     Yes, his pockets. 

     Bob Barker’s pockets.  I am absolutely fascinated by them.  And not just any pockets - I am fascinated, in particular, by his suit jacket pockets.   Those suit jacket pockets and how, during taping of “The Price Is Right,” every now-and-again Bob’ll make one of the heavy-set, hot-pink spandexed, lady contestants quit jumping around, screaming like Banshees, long enough to shove their hand into one of his suit jacket pockets and dig around.

     For something.

     And it is that point which fascinates me.  Dig around for WHAT, exactly?

     Yes, yes, I know - they always SAY it’s keys.  Keys to a dirt bike...

     or a mid-size car...

     or a riding mower...

     or some other type low-end vehicular gizmo.

     And, invariably, the heavy-set, hot-pink spandexed lady contestant quits jumping around, screaming like a Banshee and shoves her hand into his suit jacket pocket and digs around and comes out with a set of keys to a dirt bike...

     or a mid-sized car...

     or a riding mower...

     or some other type low-end vehicular gizmo...

     and starts jumping around even more, screaming, now, like a Banshee being run through a wood-chipper.

     And, apparent evidence notwithstanding, I just don’t buy that.  That the thing in Bob Barker’s suit jacket pockets which causes heavy-set, hot-pink spandexed lady contestants to whirl around the “The Price Is Right” sound stage in jumping, screaming, dervishes is simply a set of low-end vehicular gizmo keys.

     No sir.  I think there’s more in there, in those suit jacket pockets, than just keys.

     After all, Mickey Rats had more in HIS pocket than just keys.

     Yes, Mickey Rats.  Basement apartment in the Hell’s Kitchen pre-war Mama and I lived in with Fifth Poppy.

     I never knew for sure Mickey’s real last name, but something tells me it was either Rochefoucauld-Eisenstadt, III...

     or Finklestein. 

     It could also have been Finklestein.

     Either way -  Rochefoucauld-Eisenstadt, III or Finklestein - no one in the neighborhood called him anything but “Mickey Rats.” 

     Because he carried a rat around with him.  In his pocket.

     Not in his suit jacket pocket, like my Bob, though,   like my Bobby.  My baby Bobby.  My Snookums.  My Snooky-Ooky-Wookums....

     ...

     ...

     Um... no, Mickey Rats never wore suits.  During the three years, nine months, six weeks and one day Mama and I lived there, four floors above him, before Sixth Poppy U-hauled us up to his lime-green double-wide with flamingoes, black-face lawn jockey (out front) and neon-blue inflatable pool (out back) half a mile down-wind of Dannamora, I don’t recall Mickey Rats ever wearing anything but short-sleeved white Post Office-issue drip-dry shirts and high-water, navy blue Post Office-issue wash-‘n’-wear trousers.

     And it was in the right-hand pocket of those high-water, navy blue Post Office-issue wash-‘n’-wear trousers where he kept his rat - his “trouser rat,” as they, for some reason that always eluded me, sniggeringly called it.

     But “they” didn’t, actually, know anything about it, really.  Those stories about Mickey Rats and his “trouser rat” were just idle, back-fence, gossiping.  Only whispered in front of lobby mailboxes and hollered across airshafts.

     I wasn’t gossiping, though.  I actually DID know.  I knew because we were pals, Mickey Rats/Rochefoucauld-Eisenstadt, III/Finklestein and I.  Whenever Fifth Poppy would come home early from work with a headache and stomp into Mama’s and his bedroom, yelling to Mama over his shoulder how all he wanted was to just lay down for a while...

     and Mama would drop everything and rush into the bedroom after him and start yelling in there about how that morning she’d come into the kitchen to find “conga-lines of cockroaches dancing on the table with last night’s leftovers”...

     (the thought of which always made me giggle, even though I could never recall seeing more than one or two cockroaches at a time milling about Mama’s leftovers, and when I saw them they never appeared to be dancing as much as staggering.  Staggering and gagging and retching and, once, when I looked real close, actually dictating and notarizing each other’s “Last Will and Testaments.”

     Such was the nature of Mama’s cooking.)

     and then come out of the bedroom in just her brassiere and underpants, with her pocketbook on her arm, and open it up and dig around in it while she told me to go outside and find something to do and don’t come back in for a few hours, Mama and Fifth Poppy are going to fumigate the apartment and it’s too dangerous for little girls to be hanging around while they do it, here’s a quarter, go to the bodega and buy yourself a soda while you’re at it, strawberry, you like strawberry, right?  well, go get yourself a strawberry soda and don’t come back for a few hours, Mama and Fifth Poppy are going to be getting rid of these nasty bugs...

     ...and the moment Mama clicked the lock behind me I’d run right down to the basement and back under the stairs across from the boiler-room and knock on Mickey’s door.

     And he’d open it and his eyes behind those thick, thick, glasses would get even bigger and rounder than they already were, and he’d smile his toothy, Mama called it “Post-lobotomy Mr. Ed” smile real big and whisper, “Well, Henrietta Louise, isn’t this a nice surprise” and stick his head out into the hall and look around quick and pull me in and shut the door and take the sweaty strawberry soda quarter out of my hand and put it in the top drawer of his dresser...

     so I wouldn’t lose it...

     and, then, turn the television sound control up, because the neighbors got mad when they heard him having too much fun - which he always did when I came to visit, he said, he always knew how to make me smile - and then we’d sit on his old, brown, leatherette couch and call each other “Old Maid” and tell each other to “Go Fish” until we got cross-eyed bored and then Mickey would slouch back into the old, brown, leatherette couch and I knew exactly what was coming, but I pretended I didn’t (because that was part of the game), and Mickey would peer at me through his thick, thick, glasses and say, well, Henrietta Louise, what do you want to do now? and I’d laugh and jump up off the old, brown, leatherette couch and dance around on his worn, green-speckled linoleum and scream: “Stroke the Rat!  Stroke the Rat!  Stroke the Rat!” (I really loved screaming that) - and Mickey would slouch even farther back into the old, brown, leatherette couch and kind of drawl: Oh, well... OK, Henrietta Louise, if that’s what you really want, then I don’t want to stop you, so go ahead...

     “STROKE... THE... RAT!”

     And I’d shriek with delight and dive back down next to Mickey Rats/Rochefoucauld-Eisenstadt, III/Finklestein on his old, brown, leatherette couch and reach my sweaty hand deep into the right-hand pocket of his high-water navy blue Post Office-issue trousers and...

     ...stroke Mitzi.

     Mitzi.

     Mitzi the Rat.  Not a “trouser rat,” like the neighbors were always sniggering, but an African Sand Rat.

     The rat Mickey always kept in his right-hand trouser pocket.  Because - long and thin and used to living underground in the hot African deserts - almost blind and completely hairless, Mitzi needed to be kept warm and away from light.

     And, so, I’d spend the next half hour or so (till it seemed Mama and Fifth Poppy had had enough time to kill every cockroach on the block and it would be, finally, safe for Mickey to give me my now un-sweaty strawberry soda quarter and shoo me back upstairs) - with my hand stuck deep in Mickey’s right-hand trouser pocket, petting long, thin, hairless, squeaking, squirming, Mitzi Rat.

     Which brings me full-circle back to my future husband - my Bobby-Wobby - and his suit jacket pockets.

     For, if there is ONE drawback to keeping a rat in your right-hand trouser pocket (though I’ve never had opportunity to properly test this theory - left-hand, too, I imagine) - it is that rats, like every other of God’s creatures... poo.

     (Well, every other of God’s creatures except, perhaps, Grand-Poppy Two.  Who I recall Grand-Mama Two frequently characterized as “full of poo.”

     Though “poo” wasn’t, exactly, the word she used.

     But, then again, Grand-Mama Two would also characterize Grand-Poppy Two as a “God-less heathen”...

     so, maybe that explains it all.)

     In any case, Mickey’s right-hand trouser pocket was always a bit of a... mess. 

     Sometimes enough of a mess that...

     (I guess depending upon what Mickey was feeding Mitzi; she seemed to live - and do fine - on M&M Peanuts from which Mickey had sucked the colour, but he would, occasionally, decide she needed to expand her epicurean horizons a bit and, so, shove little rips of his daily “brown-bagger”: headcheese and Swiss on Wonder Bread with Miracle Whip into his right-hand pocket with Mitzi...)

     I would find myself having to pull my hand out of his right-hand navy blue Post Office-issue trouser pocket and jump around a lot and yell “yuk” real loud a lot (sometimes in English, sometimes in Banshee - whichever seemed most expressive of my position on the care and feeding and, consequent, intestinal vicissitudes of right-hand trouser pocket-boarded African Sand Rats.

     Which, of course, reminds me of my Bobby. 

     My Snookums.

     Or, more to the point, reminds me, once again, of his heavy-set, hot-pink spandexed, lady contestants.  And how - after shoving their hands into his suit jacket pockets they, also, jump around and yell, sometimes in English, sometimes in Banshee.

     Which, of course, once again, makes me wonder...

     What, exactly, DOES my baby, Bobby Barker, have in those suit jacket pockets?  I mean, outside of “the official story” keys?

     And the only way for me to find that out is to, as I said, make him a husband.  There really is no other way for me to get close enough to him to shove my hand in ANY of his pockets.  I’ve actually tried to get on “The Price Is Right,” but it seems - while, physically (in terms of breadth and height and heft), I very much more than fit the role of “lady contestant”...

     and there are any number of shady underground storefront operations where, for a price, I can get ahold of enough hot-pink spandex to choke a giant, tentacled, crawling eyeball...

     my inability to quickly figure numbers past thirteen (twenty-one and a half if I am allowed to remove my shoes) is, apparently, a deal-breaker with the producers.

     (Though I’m sure it will not be with my Bobby.  In fact, I’m quite sure he’d find that little... quirk of nature... as endearing a quality of mine as any of the other husbands, in their time, did.)

     So, unless I can get Hubby Albert...

     (wait... is it Hubby Albert, now?  Or Hubby Samarjit?  OK, yes, Hubby Albert.  Hubby Samarjit was the foreigner.  I don’t think this one is a foreigner, at least, right off the top of my head I don’t recall him having an accent...)

     to float me enough cash to get me to Hollywood, where Bobby lives...

     I guess I’m going to just have to figure a way to get the money to go there myself.

     Hm.

     Which reminds me. 

     I wonder how Mickey Rats is doing?  I mean, since Mama divorced him.

     HMMM.

     “Mrs. Henrietta Louise Blodgett-Tidewater-Zarosum-Simms-Rouchefoucauld-Eisendstadt/Finklestein”...

     I think that definitely has a certain “ring” to it.
 

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