Thursday, April 09, 2009

Tammy Part 6 - The End

When Tammy finished wiring her jaw shut, she looked like Jaws, the Lurch-like, metal mouthed henchman from Moonraker. Her mouth was a mess of hardware; wires tangled as her hair. It took her hours locked in the bathroom to complete the job, in which she wove the wire through her teeth like floss. She wrapped the wire around each tooth and then latticed and twisted more wire vertically to connect her top and bottom teeth. Her mouth looked like a prison fence.

She came out and announced her accomplishment through a clenched jaw. From that point on, every word she said made her sound as if she were holding in a great rage.

My mother couldn't believe it. None of us could. Poppop called her "one crazy broad." Tammy didn't care. She'd show us all when she got skinny. Then my grandfather would suddenly realize his love for her and if she had her way, she'd end up as Mommom Tammy. The idea of this gave me the kind of nightmares where you wake up screaming in a cold sweat.

"How in the hell are you going to eat?" my mother asked her.

"Liquids," Tammy answered. She'd taken to talking as little as possible. She said the wire had shredded her tongue and talking made her mouth sore.

"What if you need to throw up? If you get sick you're going to choke and die. This is dangerous," my mother tried to reason with her.

But there was no reasoning with Tammy. Especially when she was hungry and pretty soon, Tammy got hungry. Really hungry. It was like watching a junkie go through the DTs.

"I need ice cream!" Tammy said through her locked mouth.

She lived on milkshakes. She went through gallons of ice cream and milk every day trying to quell her ravenous hunger. With her jaw wired shut, she probably consumed more calories in butterfat and sugar than she did when she allowed herself to chew and gorge freely, but she couldn't see the logic and her anger increased with her weight. Still, she sucked milkshakes through her metal balleen like a humpback inhaling tidal waves of krill.

Soon we noticed an odor. My mother thought the cat had hidden a rodent. We looked everywhere. We cleaned out the garbage can and the sink disposal. The odor got worse and it became obvious that the stench of decaying mole oozed from Tammy's maw. The smell was indescribable. Once my sister puked up spaghetti and meatballs in the car and it got all gummed up in the gear shift, nearly impossible to clean. Our car never lost the sour, rotting odor. Tammy's mouth smelled worse. I've heard stories about the reek of dead bodies left undiscovered in unairconditioned apartments for many days. I think Tammy's mouth smelled similarly.

"Can't you brush your teeth?" my mother asked.

"Tried. Toothbrush got caught in the wire and ripped. Almost lost a tooth pulling it out."

We tried to get her to rinse with Listerine. She could spit it out easily enough and she didn't like the taste. Everyone took to avoiding her. When we couldn't, we maintained a safe ten foot distance, but it seemed like the stench permeated the entire house. Still, Tammy kept her jaw wired shut and still, Tammy drank milkshakes.

My parents became more and more alarmed as this progressed. It had been obvious for a long time that Tammy wasn't right in the head, but she seemed like she was with us to stay. She wasn't about to go anywhere. I heard my parents discussing it in their bedroom late at night.

"She's nuts," my father said.

"What can we do? She has no one, no where to go."

"We could give her some advance notice so she could get another job."

This didn't work. Tammy liked it with us.

"She's too comfortable," my father said.

"We have to make things harder for her so she'll want to leave."

"That's easy," my Dad said.


"Stop buying her ice cream."

The next day my mother had a talk with Tammy.

"Look," she said, "things are hard for us. We can't afford to pay you and feed you at the same time. In fact, we can't even afford to feed you. The deal with the Hungarian's not finalized yet and I scrape together every cent I can selling produce with my Dad to feed the kids and pay the bills and I can barely make rent this month because the cost of your ice cream. The kids don't even get to have treats this often. I haven't been able to get them ice cream in a month and they're skinny as hell. Ice cream's expensive and you eat two week's worth in a day. So if you want it, you're gonna have to find other means at getting it."

Tammy wasn't happy when we cut her off. After starving herself for three days she went in the bathroom and with pliers, snipped and ripped the wires out of her teeth. Jaw freed, she was so hungry that she proceeded to tear through our refrigerator like a Tasmanian Devil. In two days our refrigerator was bare.

"This is ridiculous. We can't live like this," my father declared.

My mother took me to the grocery store.

"Ok, this is what we're going to do. We're going to get a few things that don't need refrigeration and we're going to hide them under our beds. Eat in your room and don't let Tammy see you or come in there. We have to do this or we won't get anything to eat. For dinner, on the nights I'm home, we'll take you out to eat without her."

I was kind of excited about this for a couple reasons. Number one - my parents and I were united against a common enemy. We had the same goal to rid our household of Tammy once and for all and I was more than willing to participate in Operation Starve Out. Number two, we could go out to dinner which meant pizza, grilled cheeses with greasy diner fries or my favorite pasta primavera at the new place Daly's Dandelion that opened up by the mall. Third, I was allowed to not only eat in my room, but I was permitted, instructed even, to store a box of Devil Dogs under my bed. Yes, this was very exciting.

It took about two weeks, in which Tammy did actually appear to drop a few pounds. One day she stormed up out of her underground room and demanded my mother buy her a train ticket.

"Where do you want to go?" my mother asked, feigning innocence and surprise.

"I'm going back to Utah. They got food there. I know people. I can get work. I can get something to eat. I'm too hungry here and you all can't afford to pay me or feed me."

"Well, I'll borrow some money from the Hungarian and we'll do what we can to help you get back home."

That weekend, Tammy left just as she'd come, trashbags in hand. We celebrated after dropping her off at Grand Central by grabbing falafels and strolling the cobbled streets of South Street Seaport. It was one of the happiest days of my life. As we walked I learned how displeased my parents had been about Tammy.

"She never once ran the vacuum cleaner. She never so much wiped off a dish. She made a bigger mess and to think I wanted her to help me out by cleaning."

"I thought we'd come home and find she'd eaten the kids."

"I'm shocked she didn't go out to dad's pickup and eat a bag of raw turnips."

My father laughed.

"I can't believe he slept with her."

"What??" I said.

"I can't believe you said that around her," my mother admonished my father.

She turned to me.

"Nothing. He did not just say that."

"Poppop and Tammy -"

"Don't you say another word about it! Nothing happened. You don't need to hear things like this."

On the drive home from the city that evening, my parents tried to figure out what to do next. They lit cigarettes and didn't put the windows down far enough.

"The problem is," my mother started, "I should have gone through an agency or something."

"Exactly," my father said, "like Rivka the Au Pair down the street. We can get a girl from her agency."

"Yes! We need a foreigner. American girls aren't worth a damn. These foreign girls'll work their asses off and be happy to do it."

"That's it then."

My parents turned to me in the backseat.

"We're getting an Au Pair!!"


booda baby said...

It's the best when I get to laugh out loud and I did, so - thanks! Great tale!

MtnMama said...

Thank goodness she finally left! Eeeewwww.


hylissa said...

I really gotta wonder if you are just a really terrific writer/storyteller, or if all this really happened to you!! I have been a fan for about a year? already I guess .. when I found you, I read ALL the archives!!

Haha! I can't believe all this can happen to the same family so much! You would be a hoot telling stories around the campfire!

Keep up the wonderful stories!

Michelle said...

I need to go bleach my brain.

Maria said...

Is Au Pair Part 1 next?

Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry to hear that you had to experience that and also glad your parents finally caught on to her ways, and your intuition.

So, how long of a time was Tammy actually with you?


Wide Lawns said...

It was a couple months. She came in late September and left before Christmas. Luckily the whole ordeal wasn't very long.

Wide Lawns said...

Maria, do you want Au Pair 1 next? I was going to return to the present for a little while, to tell you the truth.

Missicat said...

Wow....just wow. I also need some brain bleach to get those images out of my brain! Darn you for being such a good writer! :-)

Maria said...

The present sounds great!

I enjoy your writing so much it doesn't matter what you write about really.

Amy said...

This is a fantastic story. You really need to write your memoirs. I bet they'd be best sellers like "Running With Scissors" and "Me Talk Pretty One Day."

I can't wait for the au pair story. How are they going to afford an au pair?!

Melanie said...

Ashlee Rose said...

Gross. Man, poor little-girl you.

JoeinVegas said...

Post what you want to next. You've left so many hooks that you can go in any direction.
Thanks for finally wrapping this one up.

Green said...

She must have messed up her teeth something awful, between not brushing, eating so much ice cream, and threading wires BETWEEN her teeth.

Are you going to friend her on Facebook because writing this made you all nostalgic and shit?

Wide Lawns said...

You know, I don't remember her last name. I've been trying to come up with it, but I'm drawing a blank. She was just Tammy.

Anonymous said...

Holy crap dude. I can't believe she actually WIRED HER TEETH SHUT. She must have the worst dental hygiene ever. I just can't fricken believe it. I must say, out of my 15-ish years on the internet you are without a doubt one of my favorite people to read about. Well written and just insane topics. Someone mentioned David Sedaris in the comments and.. if he can publish wonderful memoirs so can you. I'd buy. Hint: Keep fricken' writing. & Hope your fingers' doing better.

Anonymous said...

I stopped reading a few minutes ago, and I can still smell Tammy.

Jean_Phx said...

What a gift, as always, thank you.

UmmFarouq said...

Operation Starve Out. Love it.

pocketdoc said...

Eww. Just eww. Awesome as usual, Wide Lawns!

Christi Lee said...

Just Awesome.

baseballmom said...

Oh my gosh. I just read all of the parts of the story and was just DYING! I love your blog!

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