Of Mice and Molecules...
Where the Cats Pee (and Other Adventures with Jarl and Myrtle)
Read Part Five
I’ve run out of money. Out. Checking account has $3.22 in it. The last time I was this broke I was single-digits old. Still no progress on unemployment benefits – things are dragging along verrrrrry slowly there. Government (in)efficiency plus seemingly everyone in America being unemployed does not make for rapid conflict resolution. I have never felt so close to being a bum.
So what to do? Asking for handouts from family is not an option. It’s a pride thing - I will be farming my own vegetables in the backyard before I ask anyone for anything.
It’s time to dig into the emergency reserves. When times were good, I managed to save up a rainy day fund that I placed in an investment account. When it became apparent that it would be necessary, I logged in to check the balance and discovered my nest egg had been withered away by the recession to the tune of 40% or so. Nevertheless, I have a couple grand in an investment fund. With no other option I promptly sell everything (buy high, sell low, that’s the saying, right?).
Jarl and Myrtle have been active this week. Documenting the hilarious shit they say to one another is rapidly becoming a part-time job. It’s draining. It’s not just being subjected to the strain of their 0-to-60 psychological battles, the real problem is that it’s like drinking from a hose – there's simply too much material being thrown out there; the sheer volume of it is numbing. To illustrate this, I will share only the incidents of a SINGLE EVENING in the house. Six hours, listed chronologically. To make sense of this, one must only bear in mind that Jarl grows steadily drunker as each incident occurs, with Myrtle growing accordingly more irritated.
There was a significant dust-up over how to raise money after it came out that the family needs $2,100 by the end of the month to prevent the next stage of their (probably inevitable) foreclosure. The idea of selling Jarl's piece of shit car came up. [It may have been my suggestion. That's right - I'm now scripting policy for these people.] This is a non-working 1991 Mitsubishi – originally a showpiece for a sound system – that has three flat tires and hasn't been driven in five years. At the prospect of losing his driveway stalwart, Jarl goes on a defensive tantrum. The highlight of this was him threatening to tear out all the audio components (minus the stereo, which was apparently already ripped out by thieves) so as to not get ripped off "for a nickel on every dollar" by prospective buyers. According to Jarl, he would then box up said components and put them in a box in the garage labeled, "my hopes and dreams." Seriously puerile stuff in the face of the car's obvious neglect and the family's financial situation; it was difficult to even look at Jarl for a while.
Jarl pronounces the word "phlebotomist" as "pie-bottomist". Shortly thereafter, he forgets the word ‘beak’ and refers to the birds’ ‘peckers’.
Myrtle: (really pissed and really shrill) Jarl! You're saying shit like you don't know how to think!
Jarl: So I don't then! Let's drop it!
Jarl tells me he likes to listen to Enya. He finds it "Calming. Peaceful. Serene." He struggled to even name a second group he enjoys, eventually coming up with "Peter, Paul, and Mary, and all that old stuff." I begin asking Jarl about the piece-of-crap car, to which he would provide long, rambling answers. After one question, I forgot he was talking, worked on a program for about five minutes, then realized he was still going like a broken Teddy Ruxpin doll.
I ask Jarl what remaining dreams he wishes to accomplish. His answer: 18 second (timed by me) pause. Then, "Keeping the house. And I was thinking of designing my own audio equipment." When pressed to elaborate, Jarl wasted the next 11 minutes of our lives babbling about creating special rooms to reduce the static fields a speaker produces using the "golden rule" [which he may be confusing with a golden rectangle]. No solid advances were appreciated in my opinion. I make a note to no longer ask Jarl questions unless absolutely necessary.
Myrtle threatens to piss all over herself if Jarl doesn't get the fuck out of the bathroom.
[A news program comes. The lead story is on a woman who called paramedics to her home after supposedly giving birth. Turned out she'd prematurely delivered a fetus at the doctor’s office, then freaked out, took the kid home and called paramedics to "save" her dead fetus. Jarl, however, believes this was a deliberate abortion attempt. Myrtle initially disagrees.]
Jarl: She did it on purpose! There are chemicals you can take to do it. Drugs.
Myrtle: You're crazy!
Jarl: Herbs, then.
Myrtle: (somehow placated by the addendum) Oh. OK, then.
6:16 PM (the following commercial break)
Jarl attempts to slander a lawyer advertising bankruptcy services. He goes with, "What's the difference between a flounder a lawyer?"
Standard answer: One's a bottom-dwelling scum sucker and the other's a fish.
HOWEVER, both Myrtle and I yell out deliberately incorrect guesses like "One is a mammal and the other isn't" and "One has lungs, the other has gills!" This makes Jarl lose focus. One glass of wine later, he has lapsed into boozy silence. Then, approximately twenty minutes later, OUT OF NOWHERE, Jarl blurts out something approximating the punch line and launches into a protracted series of creepy giggles.
Myrtle farts loudly, blames it on the heat.
Jarl attempts to make a science-themed joke about pressure and flatulence, but botched it by calling Boyle's law ‘Boylee's Law’ (Boyardee’s law, possibly). Acting on a hunch, I ask Jarl to explain the science behind Boylee’s Law. Jarl bluffs, but falters when I call him on it.
Jarl cries. But I warn you, you're not going to like the story that caused it: apparently Myrtle and Jarl owned a little dog that they hadn't neutered. One night, they let it out and it picked a fight with a German Shepherd. The dog (named Pee-Wee) comes home with (per Jarl) "two-thirds of its head severed." Dog goes to the emergency room and the vet saved his life. I look over and Jarl is tearing up badly and hiccup-sobbing over Pee-Wee. Jarl was also (wait for it) piss drunk.
Setup: We're all sitting around and Jarl suddenly makes the following claim after drinking a TON:
Jarl: I just blacked out.
Jarl: Just a minute ago. It's my diabetes.
Myrtle: That's not the diabetes, that’s the alcohol!
Jarl: You're right. I'll get some more. [Gets up over Myrtle's protestations, then simultaneously belch/farts and sits down heavily. Looks like Blackout: Round 2.]
Myrtle: Take your blood pressure! Right! Now!
Jarl: [Takes his blood pressure – they have this equipment; with their heavy usage, perhaps it’s cheaper to buy than rent. The reading is 82 over 54] I should be dead! [Giggles wildly] I know how to play dead! I know how to play dead!
Myrtle: (irritated) You're an ass!!!
Jarl: So... that Viagra's taking effect on me, huh?
Then we all measured our blood pressure. Myrtle attempts to diagnose Jarl's ailment, when this gem comes out:
Myrtle: Jarl, maybe you're taking too much blood pressure medication – remember that day you told me you couldn't pee?
Jarl and Myrtle run out of gas (literally and figuratively) and head to bed.
I’ve gotten sick. Could be the flu. Maybe Dengue Fever. Without health insurance, there’s no choice but to try and ride it out.
I am sitting miserably in the living room while the family eats hot dogs. It occurs to me that food poisoning may be the culprit here; a few weeks ago, Jarl managed to fix the meat grinder he’d destroyed and had been hard at work grinding out new creations. I search my memory banks for instances where I may have eaten ground meat that wasn’t readily identifiable as being from the supermarket. When I fish on this, Myrtle assures me that the chili on their hot dogs comes from a can.
As I shiver and sweat, Myrtle and Jarl attempt to diagnose my condition. Myrtle favors the flu, while Jarl leans towards SARS before switching to tuberculosis after I cough a single time. I close my eyes and take a long, calming breath. When I open them, Jarl is standing over me, less than a foot away. His hand is poised over my forehead, ready to assess its temperature. “May I?” he says creepily.
“No way,” I say. At the exact same time Myrtle bellows, “Jarl, sit the fuck down!”
I toddle off to bed. An hour later, I wake up in a cold sweat from a dream in which Doctor Jarl’s clammy hand lovingly brushed against my skin.
Just brace yourself for this one:
Jarl and Myrtle begin to argue about Jarl's blood pressure and his upcoming doctor's appointment. Myrtle says, "I'd rather spend fifteen bucks now than have you have a stroke and pay for the rest of my life." Amazingly, Jarl decides to fight this by taking the con position on the issue, namely that everyone would be better off with him dead or permanently disabled. This devolves into a conversation into Jarl's financial value to the family. Without irony, the pair begin to analyze the financial repercussions of Jarl's impending death, with Myrtle criticizing him for his failure to buy life insurance. This leads into another protracted argument over Myrtle's benefits as a widow. Jarl whips out a calculator and a pad of paper and, thirty minutes later, triumphantly announces that the best-case financial scenario for Myrtle is one where he suddenly dies from his current malady.
I've never heard anyone argue that they were financially and personally worthless so vigorously.
Some minor notes from the day:
- A minor misspeak by Myrtle (directed towards me): "You can't operate in a vacuum cleaner." Not normally worth mentioning; HOWEVER, as I was jotting it down, Jarl mistook the word 'aesthetics' for 'ergonomics'. Then he tried to play it off by suggesting the ergonomics had been forsaken for the aesthetics. Didn't work.
- As an update on his alcoholism, Jarl broke the 9 AM barrier for drinking on September 22nd with a glass of red wine at 8:52 AM.
And now a little dialogue:
Jarl: [Attempting to discourage Myrtle from applying to a job that is, admittedly, probably a scam] With that deal, you might as well work for the mafia!
Myrtle: (pissy and irate all of a sudden) If they paid me, I'd go there!!!
After a reset: Myrtle and Jarl are fighting about the proper preparation of (wait for it) egg foo young. We enter the exchange shortly after Jarl makes a ridiculous claim regarding the dish's preparation.
Myrtle: Jarl, just shut the hell up! Didn't your mother ever make your lunch when you were a kid?
Myrtle: Did she give you money for school lunch?
Myrtle: (losing steam) Well, what did you eat then?
Jarl: Hamburgers. And I didn't get home until one or two in the morning.
Jarl provided no further elaboration on the last bit.
Next time: Jarl's sweatpants throw the house into chaos and we finally learn where the cats pee.
Read Part Seven
Where The Cats Pee
A multi-part story covering my time as a houseguest of the least stable family in America.