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Star Spangled Stories

Oh so loudly we wail at the twilight’s last gleaming.

Editor's Note: The author, Fort Lee native Ann Piccirillo, is currently the editor of New Milford Patch.

For most people, the 4th of July conjures images of fireworks exploding from the ground, showering the night sky with a stunning array of sparkling colors. For this editor, the Fourth conjures up explosive images of a different sort. The kind that pushes both your children, and your marriage, into therapy. 

The particular Fourth that I have in mind included a spectacular pyrotechnical display of emotional catharsis. Allegedly. It did result in the neighbors wanting little to do with me, but for some closet introverts, that might fall under the category of unintended benefits.  

It all began a week before the Fourth of July when my mother’s cable box kicked. For argument sake, let’s call this cable company Time Warner. This wasn’t the first time that her cable box broke, but this time she was told that a repairman could not get to her house for five days. 

Do you know the hell life becomes when one's septuagenarian Italian mother with little patience is without cable for one hour, let alone five days? I told the customer service rep that I was deducting one month from my cable bill for each day that my mother went without cable so that I could pay for the therapy that my brother and I needed after having to deal with a Lifetime Movie Network-less Italian mother for five days! 

I wanted to “out” the cable of every Time Warner executive’s mother and then lock them together into a room for five days. With that stench lingering in the air, my son asked if some of his friends and their parents could come over for a Fourth of July party at our house. I’m going on record to say that when eight-year olds gather they multiply and morph into an uncontrollable mob. Fast forward to the third time someone left the door open and Bad Dog escaped. Strings of spit spewed from my mouth as threats were hurled at children causing them to scatter in search of beloved Bad Dog. 

Retreating with a full bottle of wine to the sanctuary of the guest bathroom (read: converted pantry that makes an airplane bathroom palatial) I heard the muffled voices of the miniature mob victoriously declaring the capture of Bad Dog followed by my husband’s proclamation, “Ann! The kids got sprayed by a skunk!” followed by my desire to nail myself shut inside the coffin of the guest bathroom. But it’s a funny thing about spouses--there’s no hiding from them. 

Reluctantly, I walked to the back yard. After nasally examining each child like a bomb-sniffing K-9, I determined they had not been sprayed. However, Bad Dog was. Immediately, I became a trained Shakespearean actor practicing vocal exercises and enthralling my audience with a series of perfectly pitched scales of nuclear F-Bombs. 

Before undertaking the de-skunking task, my husband and I decided to change our clothes. After all, you don’t want to ruin your Target best. I commandeered a pair of size 6x leggings from my daughter’s “old clothes pile” while my husband put on a pair of old sweats that had a huge hole in a spot no hole, huge or otherwise, should ever be. 

“What?” he said as I stared at him from across the expanse of our bed. 

“You’re wearing them?”

“Think of the mileage you'll get out of writing about this," he said. "You'll have all of south Bergen in stitches!" 

“Don’t talk to me about writing about this," I seethed. "There’s nothing funny about this!”  

This is where you need a recorder (or, maybe not) because the conversation went from disbelief that we had to de-skunk the dog to me questioning our entire marriage. Why not put wings on a bad situation and just let it fly. At that point, what’s there to lose?

Outside we trudged, my husband confidently walking the catwalk of our deck in his torn sweats and me sashaying like Morticia Adams in my size 6x leggings. While his left hand held the unsightly tear of his crotch together, my right hand was tugging at the waistband that seemed to have disappeared into the remote nether-regions of my abdomen.

As I crouched holding the dog, our neighbor expertly snapped my petite yellow rubber dishwashing gloves onto my husband’s massive hands causing him to wince as the rubber ripped patches of hair from his arms. He swallowed his cries of pain to avoid shattering his manly appearance in front of the assembled crowd of eight-year olds and a stinky dog. 

Bad Dog, feeling sorry for us, actually complied as we massaged a mixture of Arm & Hammer, hydrogen peroxide, and Dawn dishwashing detergent into her skunked fur as expertly as any environmentalist cleansing the oil-stained animals down at the Gulf. As I knelt holding the dog, face-to-face with the tear in my husband’s sweats, I thought, “If I quickly lunge and bite him, he’ll think it’s the dog.” But there were too many witnesses, so I refrained and decided to save my biting for sarcasm and not genitalia.

That’s when my mother came strolling into the backyard announcing that she was moving in with us until the her cable was restored. "At least another three days," she declared. 

Standing there, holding a bucket of skunk stink in my hand, husband glaring, children snaring, Bad Dog staring, mother swearing...all I could think on our nation's birthday was,

"GO FIOS YOURSELF TIME WARNER!"

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