Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Misdemeanor Assault, Cheeseburger

Harried Mother of Teens Reaches Her Limit

Mom was clutching the steering wheel in a white-knuckled grip, feeling her fury rising. Friday five o'clock traffic was moving at a glacial pace, the ten year old Astro Van was laying down its typical smoke screen worthy of a mosquito-fogger, and the four children in the back were engaged in trying to outdo one another in decibel output, squabbling, teen drama, and attitude.

Matt, the oldest was sitting in the foremost bench seat, directly behind Mom. This bench seat was known as "No Man's Land" since it was easily reached by Mom or Dad from the front Captain's chairs for a well placed thump on the noggin. Beside Matt sat his buddy Brian who was spending the week-end. As was their custom, the two boys were being loud, obnoxious, and unruly, well, Boys.  

His two younger sisters, Lynn and Georgia sat in the rear seat, dubbed "The Way-Back". The Way-Back was also a Free Fire Zone by virtue of its being sufficiently out of reach of the same noggin thumps. Misbehavior in The Way-Back was always deferred until "when we get home" and so stood a better than even chance of being overlooked altogether. So these two were engaged in alternately singing the latest hits from their pre-teen, heart-throb Boy Bands, and screaming hysterically while attempting to scratch out each other's eyes. Both were operating equally at full volume.
The dull throbbing of an impending migraine pulsed a contrapuntal rhythm to the cacophony from behind her as Mom mentally juggled concerns about her job, worries about overdue bills, and the prospect of having to feed these beasts. As if in answer to an unspoken prayer, the carnival colors of a local hamburger shack, "The Short Stop" materialized in the windshield.

The marquee heralded a Friday Special: "Bag-O-Burgers. Two Burgers. Two Fries. Two Bucks."

Seeing a reprieve from having to cook supper and hoping the Debit Card would not experience a meltdown when the clerk ran it, she eased the Astro, and its trailing smokescreen into the line for the drive-through.  Predictably, the prospect of this surprise treat pumped the volume from the rear up several notches and Mom's migraine made its presence known in response as she eased the vehicle forward to the service window.

Threats of great bodily harm temporarily muted the caterwauling from the rear long enough for Mom to place the order and then breathe a sigh of relief as her debit card squeaked through cyberspace. 

"Dodged the bullet again," Mom thought as she received the warm, grease-stained bags through her window and marshaled them to their resting place on the vacant passenger seat. "When we get home maybe the smell of meat and grease will persuade Dad to take his nose out of his book long enough to ride herd on the Band of Monsters while I take a long, hot bath."

This thought, however, was shunted aside rudely as she waited her turn to insinuate the smoking van back into traffic. In fact, it was more than shunted aside, it was drowned in its infancy and overshadowed by the now infamous, to our family at least, "Great Cheeseburger Assault".

Family Archives do not record the details of exactly what prompted The Assault. For reasons that only exist in the mind of an early teen, Matt chose that precise moment to ask, no, to demand that he be given permission for something that he and Brian just HAD to have, or HAD to do that week-end.

Finding Mom's vague "We'll see," insufficient, Matt pressed his case more volubly and more petulantly until Mom responded with an affirmative "No".

His response to this is similarly lost to the mists of time but it was apparently disrespectful enough for Mom to play the "You are grounded, Young Man!" card.

"Fine!" Matt shot back, quite unwisely as it turned out, "Ground me." Then he added, equally unwisely, "For how long?"

"For the week-end. And we are taking Brian home right now," Mom answered calmly.

Now Matt ought to have been experienced enough to recognize Mom's calm tone. He had seen it many times before. He ought to have realized that it signalled a coming Holocaust as surely as the rumbling of distant thunder and lightning on the horizon presage a deluge.  

But it is believed by The Family that he felt emboldened by the presence of his friend Brian, or that he felt safe by Mom's preoccupation with the task of driving the Astro in the heavy traffic, or perhaps he just simply forgot that he sat right smack in the middle of No Man's Land.

Whatever the flaws in his reasoning, Matt was not going to let his friend Brian see him pushed around by his Mom so he threw caution to the winds and spat back in a nasty tone, "Fine! Why don't we make it a week?"

"O-o-oh K-a-a-y," came calmly, almost inaudibly from the driver's seat, "A week it is."

"Fine!" Matt shot back, going far beyond unwise and into the realm of suicidal, "Let's make it two weeks!"

There are invisible lines in life and Matt had just stepped blithely across one.

Mom kept a simulacrum of control of the steering wheel with her left hand while her right hand reached for the closest object to wield as a weapon. This object happened to be one of the still warm Bag-O-Burgers.

The rest, as they say, is Family History.

It is not known whether any passing motorists or nearby pedestrians witnessed The Great Cheeseburger Assault or not; no accounts of it ever appeared in local media. Regardless, it remains deeply etched in the memories of our Family.

The Assault also predates the current existence of the ubiquitous SmartPhone with video capabilities, which is a shame.  The vision of a battered white van trailing a voluminous cumulus mass of toxicity, weaving erratically through traffic would have been interesting enough. The details of the driver alternately turning halfway around to deliver several blows with a Bag-O-Burgers to a cowering victim in the rear seat, before returning to face forward for a quick glance at the road, and then repeating the sequence, however, would surely have caused such a video to go viral on YouTube.

It ought to go without saying that the sodden, torn Bag-O-Burgers that now contained a soggy amalgam of meat, bread, vegetables, ketchup, and French Fry paste, was Matt's dinner that night.

Nor should it go without saying that not being a drinker of alcohol is often proven to be a good thing because that bag could just as easily have contained a six-pack of Long Necks or a fifth of Jack Black.





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