I fished my Evil Hello Kitty bejeweled phone out of my purse, saw my sister’s face on the display, and answered, “Yo, we’re standing outside of Long Island Mike’s waiting for Dad, what are you up to?”
“What? My meeting finished early, I’m right by there! I wanna eat at Mike’s too,” Jane whined.
“I’m too hungry to wait for you, and Dad just pulled up,” I said. I held the phone up at my father, who had gotten out of his car and was in the process of greeting David. “It’s Jane,” I said. “She wants to crash our lunch.” I could hear Jane’s voice calling out from the phone in my hand -- something about how to get to where we were from the 163 -- and handed her to Dad. “Just tell her I’m not going to wait to order. She can come, and we’ll hang out while she eats, but I’m going to start without her – we’re starving.” Dad nodded, kissed me on the cheek, then took my phone and gave Jane directions to the pizza joint she’d lunched at dozens of times before.
Seven minutes later, I was half-a-slice into my lunch when Jane burst through the door in her bright, red-orange blazer over a black pencil skirt. Once she was settled at the table with a slice of Italian Flag (a white pie with roasted red peppers and spinach), she reached into her giant handbag and pulled out a sparkly, fancy-looking lanyard.
“I just bought this, isn’t it great? I’m going to wear it at the convention next week and tell everyone it was given to me because I’m a special trainer.”
“So you’re going to lie?” I raised a judgmental brow.
“I’m just being funny,” Jane said.
“No, you’re lying, and if anyone catches you in your lie, you’ll play it off like a joke and pretend like you were only trying to be funny,” I countered.
“I think it’s funny,” Dad offered. “I’m proud of you, baby.” David coughed, as if he’d inhaled a bite of food while trying to gasp at his father-in-law.
Encouraged, Jane shared her last mindfuck triumph. At one of her big drug company conferences, she put one of those peel-n-stick gold stars – the kind you got on your school papers in first grade -- on her name badge. When anyone asked what it was for, Jane would say, “Oh, I’m not sure, it just came that way – I must have won something at the national level,” and then she would watch as her colleagues silently flipped out over why they hadn’t received stars on their badges.
This reminded my father of one of his own recent ruses. While Jane chewed on her slice, Dad regaled us with a story about one of the many ways he messed with his fellow wargamers while in Korea. “When you check out of the hotel, the guy there gives you a gift – he’s always sure to grab your arm, like this, and look you in the eye because he wants to personally give it to you. So, after checking out, we’re all getting on the elevator, and I said, casually, ‘Oh, did everybody get their gift? Three pairs of socks?’” He took time to laugh at the memory. “See, everyone only got two pairs of socks. When I said I got three, they went berserk!”
“You bought a third pair for yourself so it would look like the guy gave you more?” I asked.
Through his laughter – a booming roar that had tapered to a series of high pitched giggles – Dad said, “No! Just to say it is enough to make these people crazy.”
“Why do you do it?” David asked.
“Just to jerk ‘em around,” Dad said with a self-satisfied smile. “People are so gullible, and they get so worked up – usually I say the most outrageous thing I can think of, just to see if they’ll buy it.”
“Like what?” I was suddenly intrigued, and David’s mock (or was it?) horrified reaction to my family’s sadistic glee only made the rest of our smiles wider.
“Maritime warfare has gone from blue water operations – major warships fighting major warships at sea – to brown water, which is closer to shore,” Dad explained. “In the past 10 to 15 years, the Navy has been focusing on what they call littoral warfare. I know the word means ‘on or near the shore.’ But when it came up in a meeting, I told Pat that the word ‘littoral’ comes from the word ‘clitoral,’ because clitoral means close to the bone. I just made that up, because I’m sick. We were just talking in a regular conversation, and he believed me, because he doesn’t think anybody would make something like that up.”
This time, I was the one roaring with laughter. “Did you ever say you were kidding?”
“No,” Dad said. “I waited for that aha realization on his face, but I never saw it. I do that all the time – I’ll make up definitions for words, and because I have a large vocabulary, and very often I’m right, people normally defer to my etymological prowess."
“What other words do you make up?” David asked.
“I do it so often I can’t even remember,” Dad said. “It’s like breathing -- it gets me through the day.”
I turned to Jane, who had been softly caterwauling ever since the spotlight had been diverted from her. “Where did you buy that thing, anyway?”
She sat up straighter and smiled. “A corporate person at the meeting I was just at was wearing one, and I asked her where she got it, and she said the Sharp psychiatric gift shop, so I ran right over there after our meeting and got one.”
“The psychiatric gift shop?” I smirked. “Well, that kind of brings it all home, don’t you think?”
This time, all four of us laughed, although David paused between guffaws to say to my father, “You created this, you know,” to which Dad nodded and smiled with pride.