Holly cannot cook. She is capable of the process of cooking, but Holly cannot cook in the same way that an octopus cannot ride a bike; it has enough arms to reach the pedals and handlebars but the result will rarely be a successful journey from A to B.
I once looked over Holly's shoulder to discover her crumbling Alka-Seltzer tablets into a meal she was preparing because "they are salty and we ran out of salt."
Friday night, Holly stated that she was making nachos for dinner so I was surprised to be presented with a bowl and spoon an hour later. "What's this? I asked.
"The nachos were a bit runny so I added a few cups of water. It's nacho soup," she replied.
"Is there even such a thing?" I asked. "And what are these bits in it?"
"They're the chips," Holly replied defensively as she sipped a spoon of Nachos and made a long "mmmmmm" noise. "I put it all in the blender so there shouldn't be any big bits."
"I'm ringing for pizza," I said.
"Typical," replied Holly, "you never appreciate anything I do."
"That's not true" I responded, "I appreciate everything you do but if I ordered a hamburger at McDonald's and they handed it to me in a cup with a straw saying 'Sorry, it was a bit runny so we threw it in the blender and added two cups of water, it's Big Mac soup', I would assume the restaurant was entirely staffed through some kind of special needs employment initiative. If they asked me, "Do you want fries with that?" I sure as fuck wouldn't reply, 'Yes, mix them in.'"
"It would probably be quite good," responded Holly, "but you would never know because you are too much of an asshole to taste it. Even if the guy at McDonalds spent an hour in the kitchen making it for you and burnt his thumb on a saucepan."
"Fine," I relented, taking a scoop and raising it to my mouth, "I'll taste it." Sipping at the brown and yellow puree, I felt an intense burning sensation not unlike having a mouth full of red ants. I swallowed with effort as my eyes began to water and said, "It's a bit spicy."
"Yes," said Holly, "We were out of Cumin so I used Curry instead. It's like an Indian version of Nacho soup."
On Saturday, Holly and I argued about gardening despite neither of us being in our late seventies. Earlier that morning, she had announced that she was going to build a rock garden on the bare patch of lawn in our backyard.
When Holly is bored and has nothing to do, it usually affects me in horrific ways such as being forced to play Trivial Pursuit or taking the dog for a walk so, as I had a lot of work to do that day, I replied "That sounds like a good idea." Within twenty minutes I was consigned to carrying rocks and piling them a few metres from where Holly planned to build her rock garden.
"Wouldn't it make more sense for me to place them where you want in the rock garden?" I asked. "No," Holly replied, "then when someone visits and says, 'I like your rock garden' I wouldn't be able to say I built it myself."
"You're not building it yourself," I countered, "I'm the one digging up rocks and carrying them, you are just pointing at which rocks you want."
"If I had some kind of machine that could lift the rocks for me then I wouldn't need you," she argued, "you're not contributing to the design, you're just a tool. Like a shovel or a wheelbarrow."
Slightly annoyed at this, I left Holly to it. A few hours later, she declared her rock garden complete and that I should come marvel at it and shower her with praise.
In the middle of the lawn stood a small pile of rocks. I saw a documentary once about Vikings and it showed them burying their dead by piling rocks on top of the body. The rock garden looked like a Viking grave for a cat or possibly a small dog.
"Wow," I said and meant it. "So, no ferns then?"
"It doesn't need ferns," Holly replied looking annoyed. "It's a rock garden, not a rock and fern garden."
"I'm no gardening expert," I ventured, "but I'm fairly certain rock gardens are allowed to include plants. Perhaps just one or two to counter the whole 'Viking baby grave' thing..."
"The whole what?" asked Holly. "Don't take this the wrong way" I went on, "It looks great, but don't you think it maybe, just a little bit, looks like a Viking grave?"
"What do Vikings have to do with gardening?" Holly spat. "It's not a fucking boat."
A few days later, Holly's parents visited and as they walked into the backyard, her father asked, "Why is there a pile of rocks on your lawn? Are you going to make a rock garden?" And her mother added, "You should be careful when you move them, snakes like living in places like that."
When I wake up before Holly, usually to let the dog out so it doesn't take a dump on the kitchen floor, I make her a coffee and take it to her in bed whispering, "Time to wake up, you have to get ready for work," or "Time to wake up, the dog took a dump on the kitchen floor and it isn't going to clean itself up."
On one occasion, I whispered, "The police are here. If they ask, I was home last night and you don't know anything about Mr O'Brian's cows."
Sunday morning, Holly woke me up by punching me in the neck.
Thinking that someone was attacking me, perhaps a burglar or an evil doll that had come to life, I rolled away from the blow and out of bed yelling, "What? What's happening?" Holly, staring at me from in bed, said, "I had a dream you had sex with Vanna White."
Groggy and still puzzled as to what was happening, I asked, "Who the fuck is Vanna White?"
"She's the lady that turns the letters around on Wheel of Fortune," Holly replied, "I dreamt you were having an affair with her and I came home and she was wearing my clothes."
"What the fuck?" I asked, "She's in her eighties."
"So if it had been someone younger that would be ok would it?" Holly demanded. "No," I replied as I dressed, "but if I am going to get punched in the neck because you have a dream about me having an affair, I would rather it be with someone born after the Civil War."
"Like Kate Beckinsale? You love her don't you," Holly accused. "What?" I responded, "I've never even met her."
"Yes, well," continued Holly, "You've never met Vanna White either and that didn't stop you."
Making my way out of the bedroom as quickly as possible, I walked downstairs to make a much-needed cup of coffee and discovered the dog had taken a dump on the kitchen floor.
I recently bought a dirt bike. A YZ250F for those interested in such things. To justify buying the motorbike, I told Holly that it was for her. "If you learn to ride," I said, "I will buy a second bigger one for myself and we can go riding together on trails." On Sunday afternoon, we drove to a secluded area in the forest and unloaded the bike.
"What's this button do? asked Holly
as she hopped on, "Is that to start it?"
"That's a bolt. You have to kick start it," I replied, showing her how to put it in neutral and start the engine.
"Where's the accelerator?" asked Holly.
"You twist the right-hand grip," I answered, "And it's not called an accelerator on a motorbike, it's called a throttle."
"Well that's just stupid, I'm going to call it an accelerator," responded Holly.
"If you are not going to take this seriously you probably shouldn't..."
"I am taking it seriously," Holly cut in, "You're not the boss of names. Just show me how to make it go. If you can ride a motorbike it can't be rocket science."
"Ok, fine," I said, "Squeeze the clutch and put it in gear. No, you press down for first..."
"So the clutch is called a clutch and the accelerator is called something stupid?" Holly interrupted, "Why didn't they just call the clutch a squeezer?"
"What?" I replied, "It doesn't matter what it's called, you have to squeeze the clutch and release it slowly as you increase the thro... the accelerator. It's exactly the same process as driving a manual car."
"I'm going to call it a squeezer from now on," stated Holly, "So I just twist the whatsit and let go of the squeezer?"
"Well, yes," I answered, "But you have to release the squeezer slowly and twist the accelerator at the same time otherwise the bike will stall. And if you give it too much accelerator and let go of the squeezer too quickly, it will take off and you will probably crash."
"Ok," said Holly as she twisted the throttle to maximum and let go of the clutch to give me a 'thumbs up'.
The bike tore forward and Holly, now horizontal and screaming, travelled about twenty metres with the throttle in a death grip before developing speed wobble and being thrown off. The bike flipped a few times before coming to a halt.
Running towards her, I saw Holly climb unsteadily to her feet, hold out her arms as if doing an impression of a plane caught in turbulence, then fall over again. Kneeling at her side and asking if she was ok, Holly turned to me, focused, and said, "You are a terrible fucking teacher."
Last year, while I was doing a live radio interview to promote my book, the presenter asked if Holly found me annoying or amusing. Answering that it was the latter, Holly yelled from the living room, clearly audible to the presenter and listeners, “Don’t fucking lie.” The presenter asked me “Was that Holly?” to which I replied, “No, it was the television” and Holly yelled out again “No it wasn’t.”
On occasion, I have to work late due to the time difference between the US and Australia. On Sunday evening, Holly was watching a program called Breaking Bad in bed while I was working in the next room. Not realising I was on the phone with a client, she yelled "We should build a Meth-lab in the garage."
Four years ago, Holly asked me to laminate a news clipping of a cat that had adopted a mouse. Inserting the clipping, which featured a photo of a cat and mouse sleeping in a basket with the caption 'Purrfect Parenting' as Holly watched on excitedly, it came out the other end with a dead fly between the layers. Apparently I had done this on purpose.
On Monday morning I walked into the kitchen to find Holly making toast. I generally feel safe eating toast that Holly has made because it requires minimal ingredients to forget, replace or experiment with, but this toast was a bit thin and soggy.
"It's a bit thin and soggy," I said, "what bread is this?"
"It's the same bread we always have," Holly replied, pointing to the bag.
"I didn't even know we had any brea...oh my god," I exclaimed, "it has a best-before date of January 2009."
"It was in the freezer," Holly said defensively, "The best before date doesn't count if the product is frozen."
"I'm fairly sure there is a limit," I responded holding up a slice of bread consisting almost entirely of permafrost.
"No there isn't," Holly replied, "I saw a show once where scientists found a Mammoth frozen in ice for millions of years. They thawed it out, cooked it and ate it. "
"That didn't happen," I replied, "You told me once that you saw a show about a man who ate his own head and it turned out to be an animated gif. Why would scientists eat a mammoth?"
"Because they are scientists," said Holly, "and they know a lot more about science and how long things can be frozen for and still be eaten than you do. You don't even know how to use a laminating machine."
Staring as Holly raised a thin soggy piece of toast to her mouth and took a bite, she chewed and added thoughtfully, "I like mammoths. I wish we had one. A small one, for the dog to play with."
More than three years ago, I wore a pair of Holly's underpants because I had run out of clean pairs of my own. I will admit to wearing them the next day as well because they were all spandexy, but that is twice only once a long time ago.
While having dinner with Holly's parents on Monday night, her mother stated, "I was watching a program about Hitler last night and apparently he liked dressing up in women's clothing."
"Really?" Holly replied, "David likes wearing women's underpants."
The Milk Carton
On Tuesday morning, Holly and I argued about where the milk carton should be kept in the fridge. I often work from home and while I don't need a desk or filing cabinet (as I work from a laptop), I do have one working requirement: Coffee. I drink around twenty cups of coffee per day and I have milk in my coffee.
My valid suggestion that the milk should live in the door, where it is readily accessible to the person who uses it most, was countered by Holly's anarchic opinion that "the milk doesn't have a special milk spot in the fridge. Its special spot is wherever I put it."
The fact that I drink a lot of coffee was also quickly hijacked. As we own a Keurig, which uses little plastic coffee buckets that work out to around a dollar-fifty per coffee, Holly calculated that my daily consumption of twenty cups amounted to forty-five dollars. She then used an actual calculator and admitted it was closer to thirty dollars but that it was still "a ridiculous waste of money."
Ignoring my justification of coffee being a 'tool of my trade', Holly began pounding keys on the calculator and spouting numbers such as "That's two-hundred and ten dollars per week... eight-hundred and forty dollars per month... ten-thousand and eighty dollars per year... We could buy a car with that money."
"Yes, to live in," I responded, "because without coffee I wouldn't get any work done and I wouldn't get paid; we should probably buy a station-wagon or perhaps a camper-van. Even then it might be cramped, what with the dog and..."
"I work as well," Holly interrupted, "It would only be you living in the car, the dog would stay here with me. You can take the Keurig."
"Fine," I replied, "I will live in a car by myself and within a day you will call and say, '''Im bored and want to play Trivial Pursuit. I was going to watch television but the garage door keeps opening when I try to change channels. Come home.' and I will reply, 'No, sorry, I like living in the Waffle House carpark.'"
"That won't happen," Holly responded, "I will be way too busy putting the milk wherever the fuck I want."
Also, while on the subject of Keurigs, when it is out of water, I take the reservoir out, fill it, and replace it. This way there is enough water for the next person and several more coffees. On the rare occasion Holly finds the Keurig empty, she fills a cup with water, takes the lid off the Keurig machine, pours the cup in, and makes a single coffee. When I was at school, I was taught that 'good manners are contagious' but this is clearly bullshit.
I arrived home Tuesday afternoon to discover a framed photo of our dog on our living room wall. I like our dog but when I am home, so is the dog. I don't need to see photos of it. Especially if the photo shows the dog sitting on the couch that is immediately below the framed photo and the dog is actually sitting on that couch at the time.
Sitting down next to the dog, I grabbed a magazine from the coffee table and flicked through until I came to an interview with actor Liam Neeson. The facing page featured a photo of Mr Neeson in a suit, sitting on a chair with one leg crossed over the other, holding a glass of red wine. Ripping out the page, I replaced the photo of the dog in the frame with it.
Arriving home a short time later, it took Holly less than fifteen seconds to storm into the kitchen brandishing the frame and demanding, "What the fuck is this?"
"It's Golden Globe award winning actor Liam Neeson," I replied.
"Yes, I know who Liam Neeson is," Holly responded, "Where's the dog?"
"It's sitting on the couch," I replied, "It's always sitting on the couch. And having a photo above the couch of it doing so is weird. We may as well put a photo on the wall of all three of us sitting on the couch and then sit on the couch and look at it. Or put up a mirror."
As she stormed back out in search of the missing photo, Holly said over her shoulder, "It's not as weird as having a photo of Liam Neeson on the wall."
"I like Liam Neeson," I replied.
"Well I like the fucking dog," Holly yelled back, "If you love Liam Neeson so much why don't you marry him instead. Then you can put up hundreds of photos of him."
Which is a ridiculous statement because if I was married to Liam Neeson and saw him everyday, I obviously wouldn't need photos of him on the wall to look at. Also, if I was married to Liam Neeson and we had a bare wall, we could probably afford a professional interior designer who knew what they were doing.
On Tuesday night, Holly and I watched a program on American television called House Hunters in which couples look at three houses and then buy one. You are probably thinking, "that sounds pretty entertaining," but you are wrong and much better off watching How It's Made or Storage Wars. Even American Pickers is a better show, you just have to keep your finger primed on the remote to change channels in case their bush-pig female assistant makes an appearance.
"Can we watch How It's Made or Storage Wars instead?" I asked.
"No," Holly replied, "You will like this one, it's the International version and the couple are buying a house in Australia."
"I've been there," I replied, "I've never been to a storage auction."
"Well I've never been to a factory that makes springs," Holly declared, "but that doesn't mean I want to watch a fucking show about it."
Our shower cubicle contains around three hundred items. Two of these items, a can of shaving cream and a razor, are mine. The other items are bottles and tubes of various shape, colour and size containing moisturisers, gels, scrubs, masks, body wash, face wash, and things with mysterious names such as Pro-X. Even though the shower cubicle is fairly large, there is actually only about one square foot of space in which to stand and spin.
While I was shaving in the shower Wednesday morning, Holly walked into the bathroom and stared at me with a shocked look on her face. "What?" I asked.
"Just how much shaving cream do you use?" She demanded, "I could hear the 'pshhhhhhhhhh' noise going on for about ten seconds. Even people with normal sized heads don't use that much."
Halloween is not celebrated In Australia. While dressing up is common, it has nothing to do with pumpkins and often involves changing quickly in panic as your partner pulls up unexpectedly in the driveway. Decorating your front yard is another thing that isn't done in Australia because if it isn't bolted down, it won't be there in the morning. Once, while living in Adelaide, I woke up to find someone had taken my lawn.
For my first Halloween party in America last year, I went to some lengths to make what I thought was a reasonable Ron Burgundy
outfit but was asked several times, "Are you meant to be Borat?" This year I will probably just wear a hat or something.
On Wednesday afternoon, Holly reminded me that Halloween is only a week away and that we still hadn't decorated. It was quickly decided that my suggestion of "sticking the plastic skeleton we bought last year on the porch again" was a "piss poor" one and that I should drive to the supermarket and buy three pumpkins instead.
Returning and carrying the pumpkins inside, Holly stared at them in horror and asked "Is this a joke?"
"What's wrong with them?" I asked.
"Look at them," declared Holly, throwing out her hands towards the pumpkins like an angry Price is Right model, "That one is all bendy, that one is a squash, and that one looks like a bird has been pecking at it. What am I supposed to do with them? We can't put them out the front of our house, people will drive past and say, 'they obviously don't give a fuck.'"
"You could make soup out of them," I suggested.
A few hours later, I stepped outside to have a cigarette and discovered the plastic skeleton sitting in a chair on our front lawn. It was wearing my only suit, had one leg crossed over the other, and was holding a glass of red wine.
This morning, Holly woke me up yelling that someone had stolen our plastic skeleton. There was no coffee or whispering involved.
"We should call the police," Holly declared.
"Yes, probably," I replied climbing out of bed, "I've no doubt they have a special task force dedicated to tracking down missing Halloween decorations. Make sure you give them a detailed description of the plastic skeleton and tell them you want the front lawn dusted for fingerprints."
"We could drive around and look for it," suggested Holly.
"Ok," I agreed, "I'll check the bus station while you post missing plastic skeleton posters on poles."
"Did you know that whenever you say something sarcastic, you do this little thing with your mouth as if you are repeating what you said silently?" asked Holly, "It's as if you think what you said was so fucking hilarious, you want to run through it again."
"It's in the fucking shed." I replied.