It didn't even occur to me how funny the entire thing could seem to someone else until after it happened, which goes to show you how fucking miserable I was.
I bought french fries for Ever and M. in their carseats, which they were not allowed to eat until we arrived at our destination: the bent over hovel of H^R Block in the dusty town next to my own, where I was to fall in the hands of a woman named Liz. We drove through the hot dust and horse shit encrusted winds in 96 degree heat, Ever and M. turning the Mickey Mouse ClubHouse song into a long ode to farts, when after a half hour we arrived at the way in the back of the crooked old road store and parked. I unloaded both kids, the diaper bag, brown bag of food, the water cups, my paperwork and trash and headed inside. Liz greeted me at the door. The left side of her face drooped precariously and her mouth worked, quivering, to form the slurred words, " Are you my eleven o'clock? "
" Yes I am! " I responded cheerfully. This was going to be GREAT. I was going to get important, procrastinated paperwork done and turned in to the state and IRS. Liz walked with a slight limp and shaking hands, from the same stroke that caused her drooping mouth and slurred speech, I assumed. I sat the kids down on the floor next to me with their french fries and water and placed, facing Liz, all my required paperwork dutifully down on the table. I had finished setting up both kids and ten pieces of paper before Liz was seated and had her computer turned all the way on. I shifted uncomfortably in my seat and smiled encouragingly at Liz. We were partners! We were going to get shit done!
Five minutes later the girls had thrown their french fries at each other, spilled their water and snuck over to Liz's other desk, beginning to rearrange her six stacks of identical business cards, when Liz glanced over my shoulder as I bent in concentration over some paper I was signing and took off with such a look in her eye and twist to her mouth that I was certain I knew exactly what kind of grandmother she was- if she had grandkids- and it wasn't the kind with cookies, milk and a welcoming bosom. In fact, Liz was rather shrunken down, like the nickname for her full name- Elizabeth- with a wiry body and balding grey hair, and the glint in her eye was also grey, and shrunken. Shrinky dink eye. I stumbled over to the kids and apologized, rearranged the girls with papers and pen for artwork, and sat to sign more paperwork. I watched- tried not to watch- as Liz used her pointer finger to slowly and firmly press the desired button on the keyboard, look at the result and decide it was incorrect, hit delete delete delete slowly-firmly-and even more slowly, even more carefully, hit the hoped for correct button. The girls shrieked. Liz hit a button. Ever cried. Liz hit a button. M. took out four packets of paper on how to successfully arrange your assets and I threatened time-out. Liz hit a button. Ever stood and smiled. " Momma! I am wet. I am wet dis a yittle bit. And! And I have a big poop! "
I leaned in toward Liz, waiting patiently as she carefully tapped a button before asking her if she had a bathroom we could use. I scooped up two year old Ever and began the incredibly stinky and laborious process of changing her almost diarrhea like poo-filled Spiderman underwear and wiping her down carefully, foot to butt.
Ten minutes later, we emerged, cleaner and calmer. I settled Ever and M. in again, this time with new books and larger paper and pens. I turned my attentions toward Liz and she paused, holding her long quivering finger over the keyboard as she met my eye. I leaned in, sweating, to better understand her. " How do you like Poway? "she asked. I felt familiar childish anger begin bubbling in my legs and arms. I turned to shhh the girls and redirect them to their artwork. " I like it a lot, " I replied with what was, I hoped, a friendly smile, and then turned my head to the girls to give them a stink eye as their voices rose again from shy giggles to pterodactyl shrieks. A large drop of sweat rolled from my forehead into my right eyelashes. My underarms were damp, my neck cramped, my feet were hot and sweaty, my lap was warm. Liz smiled at me and turned back toward her computer.
Five minutes later, the girls were running in shapes around the room: " I am a triangle!!! " ( cue ridiculous laughter ) " I am a hexagon!!! " I smiled at Liz in an inclusive way: oh look at those crazy kids. Liz looked back at me, smile less, that one long finger in a perfect, shaky arch suspended over a key. I excused myself and corralled the children, nastily. Hissing under my breath, I warned them of time outs that would last for ever, a world without Sponge Bob, and no cake. NO CAKE. They sat quietly, subdued. I readjusted myself into my seat, extremely concerned with the timeliness of Liz. As far as I could account for, we had been in the H^R Block office for almost an hour, and Liz had not finished even half of the first assignment in her care. The math was making me sweat harder, and I bent my head to rub my hairline, which was exactly when I noticed that my entire crotch was bright red.
I had bled through my entire pad and soaked up all that extra blood with the handily absorbent material of my jean shorts. I closed my eyes for a nice long blank denial. A pleasant, warm rushing pulsed against my thighs. A large bang and I jerked my head to where the girls were, just in time to see Ever pull off an entire branch of Liz's H^R Block fake green tree. I stood and yelled " Ever! Let go right now! That is a NO! " I turned to Liz, who looked at me, then down to my crimson crotch, then back up to my face. She smiled. It was so pleasant to be Liz who worked at H^R Block with one finger for every letter of the alphabet.
Fighting back tears, I held my head up and informed Liz that I would be using her bathroom again. Taking one token child with me, I cleaned the offending shorts with water and paper towel, which gave the blood a red watercolor effect, spreading like butterfly wings across my thighs.
Ten minutes later, I sat with my legs crossed as the girls sat next to me in their spot on the floor. Time passed. Liz pecked, and finally, the first form was done. I smiled at the girls. It would be fine! We were going to get shit done! One down, one to go. Liz smiled, and took out the scissors. My other tax person never used scissors. Liz slowly and carefully cut off the edges of one paper, then turned the paper, first tamping the crinkles down with the blade of the scissors, she cut the off the other edges. I was beginning to see that slowly and carefully were cherished, live and die principles to Liz. I wondered if H^R Block was aware of these values. The wad of toilet paper in my crotch was beginning to sag. As Liz took out another piece of paper and began her ritual of cutting, I contemplating faking angina* and making a run for it. On the fourth form, the sight of Liz's shaking hand carefully turning the scissor to press the paper before ( needlessly, pointlessly, ruinously, evilly ) cutting each corner free of its excess paper was making me erupt into spontaneous hives along my upper arms. I felt, as the younger peoples say, stabby.
It was about this time when things really got rough. Liz was cutting the sixth piece of paper, each time stopping to turn the scissors and tamp down the crinkles in the paper, when the girls erupted into loud shrieking. Ever had taken M.'s paper and made 'little crumplies' on it, and M began crying in loud,wailing, self pitying honks. Ever responded to my admonishment by taking the before mentioned stolen tree branch out of the trash and throwing it at me, to which I responded by rising with a seriously pissed off look on my face, to which Ever responded by taking off running. I walked after her and back to the glass doors of the company, I leaned over and grabbed her from underneath the chair where she was hiding. As I hauled her up, I turned around and saw the three construction workers who had parked directly in front of the store standing like hard hat mannequins and staring at me. Apparently they had found a face full of crimson ass astonishing to the point of becoming temporarily stunned still. Blinking back humiliated tears, I walked back to my seat and stood, holding Ever in a firm grip. Ever did not like this. She began making a loud, repetitive noise I can only describe as Tarzan-yodel meets Chewbacca-soprano. Shhh, I begged. Shhhhh.
I stared at Liz. I admitted to myself that I was beginning to hate Liz and her slow and careful pointer finger. " Liz? " She stopped, mid finger, and looked sideways at me. " You have a collection of cookie packets in your bathroom- small ones on top of a little fridge? Can I have one for the girls? I brought them french-" She interrupted me- " yes, but just one. " Liz used her firm voice with me. I smiled at her. I hate you Liz, I really do.
I dispensed the magic chocolate chip cookies and for five minutes, the girls were quiet, and I sat, a bloody sweaty mess, watching Liz begin the second packet. The ceiling fan whirred. A small round cookie flew by my head. Ever!! The girls were both crying, Liz was clearing her throat, and as I walked both girls to the bathroom, my homemade pad of wadded toilet paper dropped from it's warm nest in my crotch and fell on the floor. It lay there, clumpy and bloody, and just as I was going to cry, Ever opened her eyes wide and exclaimed " I got enormous poop!!! "
I returned from the bathroom, meek and defeated. Liz, the Careful and Slow, was arranging papers on her desk with such care and meticulous detail to the angle of edges that only a half hour before would have driven me mad. Instead, I adjusted clumpy crotch, stood holding Ever and let M. take every piece of sticky tape off of Liz's secret under the desk roll.
Three hours from arrival, I was holding the diaper bag, trash, empty water cup, paperwork and two new folders with twenty pages of carefully cut out corners and a receipt as I left the H^R Office of Liz the Careful and Slow. I decided to keep this humiliating day to myself, until I remember the advice of the late, great Nora Ephron:
"My mother (taught) me a very fundamental lesson of humor, which is that if you slip on a banana peel, people laugh at you, but if you tell people you slipped on a banana peel, it's your joke," explains Ephron. "And you're the hero of the joke because you're telling the story."
So I'm the hero of the clumpy bloody period stained day of shrieking, crying children and three hours in an H^R Block on a 95 degree day in a little dusty town with an accountant who types one key at at time. I'll get back to you when that works out for me.