Michael Phillips, The Airstream Chronicles - "Ma Bell" stops by the Airstream

"Ma Bell" stops by the Airstream

I was hanging around outside the Airstream the other night chipping golf balls and talking on the cell phone, when Mrs. Bell snuck up behind me and whacked me across the back of the head with a cold sausage. I spun around prepared to fracture my attacker's skull, but when I saw "Ma Bell," I lowered the nine-iron and forced a smile.

"Evening Mrs. Bell. How are you enjoying your stay in the god-forsaken high desert?"

"Ah, there's nothing but spoilsports and losers on this damned patch of dirt. Tre passed out an hour ago halfway through his after dinner Harvey Wallbanger, and that wife of his has been locked in the bedroom ever since I got here. I'd have more fun at a friggin' nursing home!"

"Well Mrs. Bell, you have to take Arty's eccentricities into account when you're looking for action here at the ranch."

"His 'lectricities? What the hell are you talking about, boy?"

"'Eccentricities' Mrs. Bell. It means his unusual ideas or behaviors."

"Well, god knows he's got enough of them!"

"Indeed. Your son is one odd motherfucker."

"Ma" smiled at my colorful language and took my arm. "I like you boy! I still don't know why Tre keeps you around here, but I like the cut of your jib! Say, you have any hootch in that trailer of yours?"

She knew I did, since I'd caught her dipping into my stash earlier in the day. "Sure do Mrs. Bell. Come on in." We settled into the Airstream's comfy vinyl kitchen benches and I cracked a fresh fifth of Chivas.

"Did you hear me on the radio the other night?" Ma asked, "I had to carry Tre's show for almost two hours. I don't know how anyone can stand to listen to that god-awful program of his."

"No, I missed the show, but I heard you were pretty damn entertaining Mrs. Bell."

"Oh hell boy, call me 'Ma.' 'Mrs. Bell' sounds like one of Tre's ex-wives or something!" We talked for a while, and worked on the whiskey. The longer we drank, the looser her tongue became. "You know, when Tre was little, he got his 'boy' stuck in a Coke bottle!"

"His 'boy'?"

She let out a throaty laugh and said, "You know, his...uh...pecker!"

"You're kidding? Arty tried to hump a Coke bottle?"

"Shit, that's the least of the trouble that little monkey found his way into! Did he ever tell you about the time he waited outside a girl's house for twelve hours with a bouquet of flowers? She came out in the morning to go to school, and walked right by Tre without even looking at him!"

"Jesus, that's awful..."

"Oh hell boy, he carried a torch for a lot of girls, stalked most of 'em pretty damn good too! But none of them ever paid him a lick of attention. I think that had a lot to do with the Coke bottle incident...and the panties."

"Panties? What do you mean?"

"Well, Tre had a pair of panties that he'd snatched off a clothesline somewhere, and he used to..."

"Ma! Ma...I don't think I want to hear this story."

She laughed again, her cackle growing more phlegmy by the minute. "There I go again, spilling the family secrets! Hey, do you have any Mary Jane around here? Y'know, a little pinch of bush to make an old woman feel nice?"

I told her I didn't have any herb, but there was more whiskey, a few cases of beer and half a gallon or so of vodka. She figured that would last us until sunrise, then we could go on a road trip to Vegas to score more booze and maybe find a little action. I wondered out loud whether Arty would miss her, but she just laughed and spit out the window.

We were in Vegas for about 36 hours, but Ma swore me to secrecy regarding the events that transpired while we were there. Maybe when she leaves town I can write about it, but for now, suffice it to say that we owe a debt of gratitude to the Las Vegas police department, and the department of Parks and Recreation, who let us go without pressing any charges or detaining us longer than necessary.

Gotta go. If I don't get some sleep soon, I'll never be able to wake up in time to fill all the Natron's Healthy Trinity capsules with corn starch in time for the UPS pickup...

mjp
2/7/96

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