These days, when the Gunches get together at my mother-in-law’s, we watch her like a hawk. If she steps out the room, we skulk around, and whisper bad words to every lamp and potted plant and throw pillow.
I got to explain.
It took Ms. Larda a long time to accept that she needs hearing aids. Everybody in the Gunch family speaks in a screech, so when they’re in the same room, she hears them just fine. It’s other noises she has problems with.
A couple months ago, I pass by her house and see a fire truck outside. I rush in, and sure enough, there’s a fire crew in full gear. But they ain’t fighting a fire. They are prowling around with their noses wrinkled, sniffing.
“I smelt something burning,” Ms. Larda explains, “but I can’t find no fire.” Finally, she calls 911 and out comes the fire crew.
One of them asks what’s that clanking noise they hear. Ms. Larda says. “What noise?” I explain it’s the dishwasher on the other side of the double. It’s pretty noisy whenever my brothers-in-law, Lurch and Leech, decide to turn it on.
Ms. Larda leads everybody to their side. Nobody’s home, but the firefighters sniff their way to the dishwasher. They open it, and smoke pours out.
The thing is, Leech and Lurch generally eat what Ms. Larda cooks, and politely return the dirty dishes for her to take care of.
They use their dishwasher for other purposes. Right now it holds a size 13 tennis shoe, a lot of plastic go-cups, some Carnival doubloons in the silverware holder, and a pack of hot dogs still in the plastic wrapper. (Hot dogs are the one thing the boys cook themselves, and they use the dishwasher to do it. I guess they wanted to have lunch ready when they got back.) The tennis shoe is touching the heating element and throwing off smoke.
The firefighters put it out, and that solves that. But afterwards, Ms. Larda starts thinking. She didn’t hear that dishwasher and everybody else did. Maybe it really is time to get hearing aids.
First, she goes to the Sloth Lounge to get the lowdown from my gentleman friend Lust, who has been wearing them for years.
He advises her to get the kind of hearing aids that hook up to her cell phone, so she can turn the volume up and down real easy. And THEN he tells her a secret that opens up a whole Pandora’s basket of trouble.
I notice she is suddenly very cheerful about getting hearing aids. I wonder about that.
Also suddenly, the family can’t keep no secrets from her.
We’ll be talking in low voices about Mardi Gras costumes while she’s in the kitchen and she’ll pop in and say, “You wear something like that, Gloriosa, and God will give you pneumonia!”
Or, “ He’s doing WHAT with Mrs. Lobello? I thought you said he was SUING her.”
Or “If you’re going to rip one off, you could at least step outside.”
You get the gist. The Gunches say it’s just like when they were kids. Mama knows everything.
My grandson Go-Cup says maybe she’s got “extendable ears” like Harry Potter. And come to find out, he’s almost right.
Lust finally clues us in. He had told her how to put her phone on speaker, but direct the sound to her hearing aids, leave her phone in a room, and hear anything that is said in that room.
He says he was trying to get her to feel better about the hearing aids.
Well, she is obviously feeling just fine about them. Walking around with a little smirk on her face.
Great. Are we going to have to sweep the room like the KGB every time she steps out?
Finally, the boys threaten to put her phone in their dishwasher, and the next thing she hears will be “slosh, clatter, silence.” So she says she’ll quit.
Not that we believe her. So we try to flush her out by talking nasty to whatever she might have hid the phone under.
That’s what it’s come to. Thanks, technology.