FER CRACKIN’ ICE
By John Thomas Tuft
So, I’m sitting here on day one of no money, no electricity, no food…until October 1. I have seven days to go. Might as well be down on the border trying to get into the United States. But would they let me in? Except I have the luxury of being able to walk down to the rental office and plug in my computer and recharge my phone. Am I being heroically humble? No, I’m living with the consequences of doing something stupid. I thought I had paid the electric bill. Apparently, I did not. The utility got a little upset. This morning it was lights out. Television off. Refrigerator off. Hot water tank, air conditioner, computer…off, off, and off. Used my phone to check my bank account. Whoops! Three dollars. Cupboards bare, except for some yogurt that won’t last without…you guessed it, a refrigerator. Phone rang. Could I do an interview for a nationally syndicated radio talk show? Um, maybe next week? As my grandma Vernie, from West Virginia, would say, “Oh, Johnny, fer crackin’ ice on a tin fiddle! How in heaven’s name did you manage to do that?”
Recently I was sitting in the dentist’s chair. Not my favorite place to be. I had just come from where I used to live and someone had purchased and read my new novel. She shyly asked me if I would sign her copy. I obliged, but not before asking what she thought. “Well,” she said, “I’d be reading along and I’d get to a certain part and I’d think, ‘Yep, that’s John.’” “Do you have a favorite character?” I prodded. She thought about it for a moment. “Yes, I do. Eli. I figured if he can go through all that then so can I.”
Anyways, the dentist examines the progress to date on the teeth extractions and chiseling of the bone. Clucks his tongue and shakes his head. “Mr. Tuft, I’m sorry but we’re going to have to take more bone out. That means it will be another eight weeks without teeth after one more surgery. I’m sorry to give you the bad news.” I literally stopped him in his tracks with my response. “Okay,” I said, “not a problem. I’m the one who put off getting this work done for so long. And I’m the one who came in here and asked you to take on the difficult challenge. Why should I complain that you want to do it well and do it right?”
He stopped what he was doing and set down his instruments; looked across me at the dental assistant. “Well, that’s unusual. You’re only the second American I’ve heard say that.” (his words, not mine!) She laughed. “What?” I asked. He pulled down his mask. “I’ve been doing this twenty years and you are only the second person I can recall who took responsibility for himself.” I looked from him to the assistant and back again. “You’re serious?” He nodded. “It’s that unusual. People come in here with all kinds of stories, all kinds of excuses. Nobody says, yeah, it’s on me.” What was I thinking, you may wonder? “Oh, fer crackin’ ice on a tin fiddle! You’ve got to be kidding me.”
I strongly identify with Rip Van Winkle. You remember him, don’t you? Under a mysterious spell he sleeps through the Revolutionary War and then has to try and reclaim his life. My reintroduction to our society was the Parkland shootings and subsequent march on Washington, the Royal wedding, family separations at the border, the Singapore Summit, Kavanaugh hearings, deaths of McCain and Bush, and the 2018 election and all points in between. When did cars get so boring? Who thought it was a good idea to put commercials on for prescription drugs, and for the strangest or most rare of disorders like narcolepsy? What on earth is helicopter parenting? Who told men that they looked better with beards? Ugly, untrimmed, deer season’s come and gone, beards? Oh, fer crackin’ ice on a tin fiddle, don’t get me started!
The omnipresence of social media was staggering to me, and confusing. It seems to feed that all too real desire we draw on in high school to feel like we belong…somewhere, with some group. While, at the same time, makes it ever harder to find the adult realm of intimacy. So that’s what social media looks like to me; we’ve traded adult relationships for high school level oriented thinking. Belonging in place of intimacy. And to that I say, Oh, fer crackin’ ice on a tin fiddle!
Yet, here am I. No money, no lights, no food. Talking to you about it…on social media. Yeah, go ahead and say it… And then I remember. There are kids in cages. In concentration camps. In this country. Oh, fer crackin’ ice, where is the compassion? Where is the Church? No, I’m not willing to live with the consequences of that stupidity.
Words are magic, and writers are wizards.