Today I have a little story to tell you about something that happened over the summer.
You see, I have this cousin, Rita, who is most definitely the queen of malapropisms, non sequiturs and tangled truths. You know, one of those people who slaughters the use of words and never has a clue she’s said anything wrong. A person who takes a set of facts and draws conclusions that have no connection to reality whatsoever.
I mean, we’re talking about someone who believes everything she reads on the internet or in the National Enquirer. If somebody at work tells her something, it must be true. Taken all together, this means conversations with her are always interesting in one way or another.
Consider a day this past summer, when we were both attending our family reunion. Sitting there at a picnic table, she started telling me her recent troubles. It seems that it was a downright bad week for the pets in her household.
“You wouldn’t believe it,” says she, “but we lost almost half our pets this week in one fall swoop.”
I’m thinking that’s probably one “fell” swoop, but I just asked her what happened.
“First off, my koi drowned.”
“What do you mean your koi drowned? It’s a goldfish, so how could it drown?”
“Well,” says Rita, “it got stuck down in some rocks and couldn’t get up to the surface to breathe, and it drowned.”
I told her, “Rita, fish breathe through their gills. Whatever happened it didn’t drown. Dolphins and whales come to the surface to breathe, but they’re mammals, not fish. Your fish did NOT drown.”
By then she’s getting exasperated with me, and not to be confused with facts. She says huffily, “I’m telling you, Billy Bob at work said those koi have to come to the surface now and then to breathe, and the fish was dead, so that HAS to be what happened.”
I give up. I know that fish was in a well-oxygenated pond, so there was oxygen in the water. It didn’t suffocate; it didn’t drown. But better change the subject before she gets thoroughly upset with me. I inquire what else happened to make it such a bad week.
“The dog ate my wristwatch and got really sick.”
You’re kidding, right?
“No, really! Butch ate my watch and threw up, but it didn’t help. The watch never came up, and he was really sick.”
So, did you take him to the vet?
“No, about the time I decided I’d better take him, he went to the bathroom and the watch came out. Time passed and he got better.”
I look at her thinking she’s joking, but she’s sitting there with a completely straight face and entirely unaware of what she just said.
Suppressing a grin, I decide that for us, too, it was time to move on.
Was that all that happened?
“No, the worst was Albert. He died.”
Albert was her pet tarantula. Rita had him since high school, so this was bad. I prepared to sympathize.
“Yeah, he was molting,” she continued, “and he couldn’t get that final leg out of the old skin and he couldn’t move, so he couldn’t get anything to drink and finally he was all desecrated and died.”
At this point, I’m absolutely positive she’s putting me on, but once again she sits there totally oblivious to what she just said. No way am I going to point out I’m sure she means “desiccated,” not desecrated.
By this time I’m choking down laughter, and no matter how hard I tried to disguise it, it must have somehow shown through.
“I don’t see what’s so amusing.” Rita was clearly upset with me. “Here half my pets get sick or die, and you think it’s funny!”
I rushed to reassure her that I was indeed sorry she’d had so many problems with her pets that week. Once I finally mollified her, I decided it was time to head for the recreation center to find something to drink.
After all, it was mighty hot out there, and I didn’t want to get desecrated.