Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Bouncy House

It's two years since I originally posted this and tomorrow... I'm going back. I can't wait to see if Ricky is still there.
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As I promised in yesterday's post, the best part of the kids' birthday party extravaganza was...The Bouncy House. It starts with Ellen. She is the queen of internet bargains. I am the queen of waiting until the last minute then spending too much and having Cap’n Coupon get mad at me. So she researched where we should rent the bouncy house, what kind it should be, what price was reasonable, etc. She made all the arrangements and got us a great deal. I volunteered to pick it up and drop it off as that would save us $150. It seemed perfect – the place was only 20 minutes away, the bouncy house was perfect and affordable, and they even had cool stuff like snow cone (!) and cotton candy (!!) machines that we could rent if we wanted.

The bouncy house place was in a pretty suburban neighborhood with big houses on large, landscaped yards. I thought this is really nice. We should think about buying a house in this neighborhood. I drifted into an imaginary future world when I lived there happily with the Cap'n and kids.  But wait a minute.  How weird is it that there’s a bouncy house place on this street? Maybe it’s a cut-through to another neighborhood? Mature trees shaded the narrow, newly paved street that eventually ended in a cul-de-sac. At the very end of this suburban paradise sat a large house and a pair of gates over a gravel drive. Behind the gates I could see several brown, cement block out-buildings.

The closer I got to the house at the bottom of the cul-de-sac the more I started to think I was having an out of body experience. It looked fine until I got closer. It did not look fine. It looked creepy. Like don’t-get-out-of-the-van-creepy. The house was at once run down (overgrown grass, peeling paint, sagging roof) and fancy (pillars, a fountain). It was like a little nightmare setting peeled from Truman Capote's imagination. You could see there were very elaborate Gone with the Wind-style window treatments. Then one of the curtains twitched.

Oh dear Lord. Someone was watching us.

I swear the house looked like it was inhabited by Boo Radley’s once-wealthy cousins. Or worse. Like they had rooms in there where you didn’t want to look. Like a room full of one-eyed dolls. And this place was definitely attached to the bouncy house business, because just then I saw the sign on the gates.

My phone made a weird beep and then went dead. Then came flickering back on. Oh no…

The gates slowly opened and I caught my first glance of Ricky. He was a wiry, little man in a Miller Lite t-shirt and a pair of cut-offs, both in size extra tight. He was smiling beatifically and waving us in. My last thought as we pulled past the gates was: Please don’t let this end with a manhunt and Ellen having to come out here and kill this little man. Because she is tiny, but she is hardcore. Plus stupid Kate was in stupid Texas so she wasn't available for a rescue mission.

I pulled the van in between two of the cement block buildings and got the chills. This place looked like the backlot of the Island of Misfit Toys. Or maybe the Island of Angry, Ax-Wielding Clowns. Broken carnival rides, a snow cone machine filled with spider webs, and ancient three-legged carousel horses were interspersed between the buildings and a series of jacked-up flat beds covered in tarps. A faded sign proclaiming “Pony Rides” triggered the knowledge that this had once been a stable. Now the pony stalls looked exactly like where a serial killer in a Dora mask might stash his victims and yell: “It puts on the lotion or it gets the hose!”

I was terrified. I slowly turned around to look at my three children. They were ecstatic. And hollering: “Mom! Mommy! Mom! MOOOOOOOM! Can we get out now? Can we? Look at that! Look at that! And that! And THAT! And can we pet the dogs?!”

It was then I noticed three albino pit bulls with clipped ears and glowing pink eyes in a large cage. Pacing. Staring. Waiting.

Ricky then tapped on my window and scared the schmidt out of me.

Lydia: “GAAAAHHHH!”
Ricky: “Hey beautiful. Are you Ellen?”
Lydia: (Getting out of the car) “Ummm… Yes, yes I am.” (Kids start screaming: “NO YOU’RE NOT, MOMMY! YOU’RE NAME IS--” so I slammed the door closed to silence them.) “I’m here to pick up the medium castle slide bouncy house.”
Ricky: “You betcha! Let’s do some paperwork. It says here you might want to also rent a snow cone machine. Well, we got one right here!” (points to the one filled with spiders and brown crud).
Lydia: “Umm… No thank you.”
Ricky: “I could give you some some extra flavoring for free. Cuz you see here, we got some that’s already open.” (Points to a shelf inside the building, full of half-empty gallon jugs with peeling, yellowed labels that say "SNO-CONE JUICE." They bore Chinese writing on the bottom that I think said: "if you can read this, then know the contents of this jug is poison for capitalist swine" and beneath that it said in English: "Ingredients – candy, syrup.")
Lydia: “NO! I mean, no thank you.”
Ricky: “You betcha, Ellen. Sign here and here. You gonna need a mat to go with that?”
(Kids are pounding on the windows of the van hollering: "LET US OUT! LET US OUT! YOU’RE NOT ELLEN! LET US OUT!")
Lydia: “Yes.”
Ricky: “Large or small?”
Lydia: “Large?”
(Ricky winks and tosses a moldy square of astro-turf carpet into the back of the van. Loads an enormous, round, smelly, tarp-y thing on top of it using a fork-lift. Then ties the door shut because it won’t close. And if you were wondering if my big, white tampon of a van could ever get more disgusting and stinky? The answer is YES. Also, the entire time the kids are jumping up and down and screaming: "FORK LIFT! FORK LIFT! LET US OUT!")
Lydia: “May I have one of those extension cords?”
Ricky: “Well, I’m not supposed to. But for you… You want a long one or a short one?”
Lydia: “I want the long one.”
Ricky: “The long one is always better, but I bet you already knew that.”
Lydia: (Eyes widen in shock… Whuck?!)
Ricky: “So what are you doing later? You going to happy hour?”
Lydia: “No…No no no…” (shake head and slowly backs away toward the van. Kids are back to screaming “YOU’RE NOT ELLEN! LET US OUT!” as I jump in the van and start it up.)
Ricky: “It’s cool… and the gang. Cuz my name’s not really Ricky.”

At which point I peeled out of there like I was driving the friggin' General Lee. I tried calling Ellen but my phone was completely dead. Of course it was. When I pulled into her driveway the whole story poured out, and do you know what her reaction was? She laughed. At me. At my expense. Grabbed her little belly and rolled around on the floor like a cartoon kitty. She even snorted. Thank you, Ellen, thank you very much. We're lucky to be alive.

The next day, the bouncy house was a big success. After the party, when everyone had gone home, Ellen suggested that we have a mommies-only bounce and we kicked all the kids out.

Here’s the problem.

Let’s say you’ve had three kids and you have a full bladder and you sneeze. You know what happens next? It’s the exact same thing in a bouncy house without the sneeze. The first bounce was fun. The second bounce was unsettling. The third bounce was urgent and… Lydia’s out. Someone took a picture of all of us during the mommy-only bounce, and the Cap’n saw it and asked why we all looked so worried.

Then it was time to return the bouncy house. It took four mommies to deflate it, fold it, roll it, and tie it into a enormous ball. Meanwhile the children watched, exhausted and whiny, like they were seeing Frosty the Snowman melt away into a tragic puddle. One of them was wailing and crying about the fact that he had lost his socks. They were his favorite socks, and it was the worst day ever because he couldn’t find his special socks. The last we’d seen of those socks, they were wet and smelly and so dirty they were black on the bottom. It was all a huge sock-filled tragedy.

After shoving the deflated bouncy house into the back of the van, I started pleading with people to please, for-the-love-of-Pete, come with me to drop it off. Ellen wanted to but couldn’t leave because her husband was still in a coma. The Cap’n had all three kids, and they were acting up. That left my friend and neighbor Mimi, who rose to the occasion with aplomb: “OOOOOOHHHH yeah I want to go! I love to see freaky things!”

When we got there, Ricky was shirtless in size extra, extra tight cut-offs and riding an old bicycle in circles. When he saw us pull up, he smirked and said: “Hey girl. You came back.”

Come on, man. I’m here to return the bouncy house, not to offer myself up as a ritual killing for after happy hour. Just take it and let me get the hell out of here as fast as possible. But instead I said: “Yup.”

Then he smiled, gave Mimi the once-over, and said: “Let me pull it out for you.”

I threw up in my mouth a little, but was actually relieved when Mimi said: “It’s just like you said. This place is amazing. Can I get out and look around?” I pointed to the Silence of the Ponies stalls and she was all: “OK – we’re leaving now. Bye bye Ricky!”

And when I got home, I got the following text from Ellen:


The end.


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