Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Guest Writer: Bolton Carley

Crazy Is As Crazy Does

Seriously, everybody’s got one. No matter how hard you try to hide it, people find out. Accept it. There’s a whack-job in your family, and you better consider yourself lucky if it’s not you. The only thing worse than dealing with crazy is realizing that you exist in a whole family of fruitcakes. Oh, how little my husband and I knew when we united two sets of freak-shows. But wow! We got more than we bargained for! All I can tell you is that there’s been plenty of praying in our house since our families collided. Sometimes we thank Him for seeing us through and sometimes we wonder how He created us from the same loins.

“Normal” is not a term fit for our household. There are only “typical” days in our world. Quite frankly, I think Tony and I agree that we’d jump at “normal” anytime. But alas, our days are one giant cluster after another. Like today, I made the mistake of answering the phone. Why’d I do it? Yeah, I’m still asking myself that same question. I guess I was feeling guilt from the last five calls I conveniently “missed”. After all, I’m not a rude person by nature, and it is his mother. Or as he prefers to refer to her: my mother-in-law. (he quit claiming her the day he could start passing her off on to me.) Anyway, I picked up the phone to the sound of a cuckoo-cachoo, and I ain’t talkin’ about no bird, unless you guessed a loon. She was already blathering before I could get hello out of my mouth. Boy, sometimes I wonder if the crazy fairies just actively swarm around her with the brilliant ideas she bestows upon us. Discussions with her leave me wondering if Tony was mixed up at birth. Sometimes, I bemoan my interactions with her, but I know it doesn’t hold a candle to the way Tone reacts when I share the conversations with him. I think he cringes when he hears her name.

I figured I’d better break the news ASAP. “Hey Tone, your mom called today.”

As my poor husband rolled his eyes, he said, “You handled it, didn’t you?”

“No, I told her you’d be home by eight. She’s all yours.”

“Thanks a lot. I see how it is. No loyalty. She is your mother-in-law, you know. You could take one for the team.”

I didn’t have the heart to make him think he’d have to chat with her tonight so I coughed up the dirt. “Yeah, yeah, yeah. I did take care of it, even though I should have left you hung out to dry. She was in rare form.”

“Dare I ask?” came with a “I’d-rather-be-hit-by-a-herd-of-wild-buffalo” look.

“You know your mother. She’s decided to sell her house because she can buy a big fancy-shmancy house for practically nothing in this economy. Never mind that she has to sell her house first.”

Tony’s cheeks puffed like a squirrel, his fists clinched involuntarily, and a raised voice responded, “She’s selling our house?”

“That’s what she said. But, don’t worry honey, it gets better!”

“What?” his exasperation exploding like a balloon pop. I’m pretty sure he didn’t want to ask, but it was scarier to not know the rest.

“She’s decided that to sell her house, it needs to look different than everybody else’s. In her infinite wisdom, she thinks that painting the house lavender and having an artist paint flowers all over it like a work of art will make her house the best one on the block.”

I got a blank stare, followed by, “You’re kidding, right?”

“This is your mother. Do you really think I’m kidding? Do you think I’d come up with that on my own?” Okay, so maybe I shouldn’t have been quite so harsh. But seriously, what mother would think to do that????

“Okay, but you said you handled it. What exactly did you say?” Calm seemed to be restored again on my husband’s face. I like to think it was his false sense of confidence in me.

“I told her it would probably cost a lot of time and money to get somebody to paint all those flowers and that maybe she could just have one really special painting done that we could frame and put on the porch, next to the door.”

My husband looked at me funny. “And she agreed to that?”

“Well, it took some convincing, but when I agreed to get the house paint picked up and find a painter, she bit on it like a pit bull. You know her – if she can get us to take care of the real work, she’ll agree to almost anything.” Again, I might have been a little mean, but obviously, it was the truth.

“Did you really agree to paint the house lavender?” Skepticism oozed from Tony.

“Well, that’s what I agreed to. But you and I both know that she’s half color-blind. I figure I’ll find a shade of gray that looks lavender in the right light and make sure the painter refers to it as lavender, and we’re all good.” It seemed the best plan of attack to me.

There was almost a half-smile when he sucked up with, “I knew I was smart to marry you.”

“Yeah, you married me so that your family would look sane!” We have to laugh in our house about these things even though if we really thought about it, we’d be more likely to cry and drink heavily.

“Speaking of your family…” Tony gave me “the look” reserved for the supremely outlandish family faux pas.

Apparently, it was my turn. “Uh-oh. What else happened today?” I already had thousands of scenarios popping into my head. None of them good.

“Your brother stopped by. His company is sending him to Arizona to work for a month.”

“Woo-hoo! That’s something to be excited about! Can you even imagine how nice it will be without all of Peter’s drama for a month?” I can see it now. We might actually be able to visit my dad without one of my brother’s many lady-callers moaning in the basement.

“Don’t get ahead of yourself.” Believe me, I know that expression of doom.

“Why? What’s the problem?” horror, anticipation, and panic were setting in on me like vultures to a dead animal.

“There’s a little matter of the boys.”

“What do you mean ‘little matter’? He isn’t taking them with him?” Now my voice was sky-rocketing upward.

“They’re in school, honey. It’s not like he can take them out for a month without anybody noticing.” Oh, they’d notice. They’d probably be thrilled, but this can only mean one thing…

“So let me guess: we’re taking care of the boys while Peter’s gone, huh?”

“Winner, winner, chicken dinner. Give the lady a prize!” Sarcasm might be one of husband’s strongest assets, but also his most annoying quality in a situation like this. I glared at him.

“When does he leave?” I asked, not really wanting to know the answer.

“Oh, baby. When did you think? He’s leaving tomorrow, of course.”

Shrieking, I replied, “WHAT?” My husband had the good sense to just not respond at this point. I wasn’t kidding. There’s an insane one in every group, except in our family where every single one is half-cocked. I’d like to tell you that it hasn’t always been that way, but I can’t. The funny part is, well, there isn’t really a funny part.

Luckily, my husband and I have come to the logical conclusion that we will do our best to survive in any given family catastrophe, make fun of them at nauseam, and then hide in our own house until the crisis is over. We’d also like to figure out how to bucket up sanity, but that’s one of those things on the to-do list that just never quite gets done. And there was no use discussing this any further, I simply sighed and said, “So, I better get the guest bedrooms ready, huh? Did you buy some extra cereal?”

A teddy bear grin shown my way, as Tony held up a box and a bottle. “Fruit Loops and Jack Daniels. I think we’re all set.” Boy, do I love my husband.

It takes a brave man to walk into the face of disaster every day, day in and day out, and that’s why at times like these, I can only bow down to my knees on a cold tile kitchen floor and pray,
“Dear Lord, thank you for giving us this house 15 miles away, our marriage of sound minds (although I’m not sure how long that will last at this rate), and the ability to find humor in freight-train wrecks. Please look after our families. Help us to have good health, safety, and happiness. Grant us the strength to survive our family dilemmas, the money to afford all their debacles, and the patience to not kill them. Amen.”

© Bolton Carley 2010

Bolton Carley mostly writes young adult books like her verse novel, Hello, Summer Vacay! which can be purchased on Amazon, but she has branched out to flash fiction and blogging at


  1. Mmmm Bolton - having read your ... dissatisfaction? ... at none of your family reading your posts I'm now thinking you should be thanking your lucky stars they don't. This is a typically Bolton & spouse conversation, full of wit and shared knowledge and acceptance of the inevitable - and thoroughly enjoyable for the rest of us to read.

  2. What a ride! And I see that it's nonfiction, thus I ditto Sandra. I gotta wonder ... Does Mr. Boxers read your stuff?

  3. I feel so much better about things. Great adaptation of the Serenity Prayer.

  4. I think you might have a problem with CarleyGate before it's over with. I love the addition of the prayer. Good stuff.

  5. thanks, guys! it's actually not completely non-fiction if it's full disclosure. the events and characters have been changed to protect the "non-innocent" parties!

  6. OMG. Are the nephews really descending on you with one day's notice? That's not enough time to go to a doc and get Xanax. I think you should drop them off at your mother-in-law's place and let her babysit while you go out and look at paint palettes. Great tale!

  7. inside an inter-personal realionship. That was quick thinking with paint.... no one wants to buy a house with flowers all over it. Her whole plan was funny!!!!

  8. Bravo Bolton, you just out-Bombecked Irma!
    Luv'd the descriptors.
    I'm still laughin'!

  9. This piece is quite amusing in the big picture, but what appealed to me even more was its feeling of observing close up a couple that believe in each other not to take offense at what each says about the other's family and to roll with the punches together. Some zingy barbs are traded and the reader still feels the love behind the words. This is what I like to describe as a comfortable story, not comforting in what it offers, but comfortable to inhabit.


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