Monday, June 13, 2011

The day I learned that putting up your middle finger means more than simply putting up your middle finger

I’ve started about six different posts all trying to find some funny, light-hearted way to talk about how I feel insecure about the fact that I have recently graduated college with a major in Reconciliation Studies and Art, I’m living at home in La Crosse until I find a job up in the Cities, and all the jobs I thought I wanted two years ago when I set my study program now don’t look so appealing, even though my resume makes me relatively appealing to them.

But I can’t find some funny, light-hearted way to talk about it. So I’m just saying it here to get it off my chest so I can stop planning to write about it.


Now, how about a story?

This is how I learned what the middle finger meant.

For the first eight years of my life, my family lived in a small neighborhood in Rochester, Minnesota. We had nice neighbors to the left and right: a kind Filipino woman who let us use her snowblower in the winter, and a young family of doctors who graced us with the occasional check-up when we weren’t sure of the differences between a scab and a tumor. Across the street, however, was a house that about a million people moved in and out of it on a monthly basis—a woman who collected as many exotic birds as the rooms could hold, a family with two boys who were nice but a little sketchy, and one family that will haunt my memory forever.

I assume the father worked and wasn't home much. That allowed the mother to spend the day smoking like a grill full of damp mesquite chips, yelling at the neighbor kids, and vacuuming the house. Mind you, at six years old, I was in the beginnings of my drug-resistance education, so whenever I would see her vacuuming through the window, I pictured her wading through knee-high piles of cigarette butts and ash, all the while adding to the mess with the burning one in her mouth. 

 [That's seriously what I always imagined.]

She had two kids; they may have been twins, and were probably a year or two younger than I was. I’m pretty sure the girl was born with a tramp stamp, and I am certain that the boy was a real life version of one of the South Park characters—round-headed and snarling. They were both absolutely rotten. These two kids ruined my life every time I would walk across the street and along the border of their yard and the one next to it in order to visit my friend on the other side. 

I always had to sneak and hope to God that they wouldn’t be in the yard when I crossed through. Of course I would always find them there, playing in their cat poop-filled sandbox, mouths and chins stained with Kool Aid in the most un-cute way possible. Their faces would demonically jerk up at the sound of me coming, and the little vermin would start screaming and swearing at me to get out of their yard.

Now, I came from a fairly mild-mannered household. This was SHOCKING.

I recall trying to reason with them, which just proved fruitless against these little creatures. And then the mother would come out, cigarette lodged on the right side of her face and holding a naked infant in her left arm.

THE MOTHER: What’s going on out here?

THE EVIL LITTLE KIDS: This f***ing loser is walking through our yard!

ME: I just want to get to my friend’s house on the other si—

THE MOTHER: Well, what goes around comes around. You walk in our yard, we’ll walk in yours.

ME: What? Why? What have you possibly got to accomplish in our yard? There’s just a field on the other side, and it’ll someday be a Kwik Trip, but for now it’s just a field and I can’t think of anything in there that would appeal to you unless you’re a small game hunter—

But their screen door had already been slammed.

The two little butthole kids then laughed at me and said a lot of words I didn’t recognize, so I was sure they were swear words. I screamed back things like “fart knocker!” and “butt nugget!” unfortunately with a lot less success than they had with their retorts.

Then the little boy did it. He planted both feet on the ground, leaned back and curled his torso into a C-shape, cocked his shoulder and his neck like a snake eyeing up its prey, and slowly raised the back of his hand, with all fingers lethargically curled except for one. The middle one. Dust caught in the creases of its knuckles because of unwashed popsicle juice that had been caked on there, and an untrimmed fingernail filled with the sand he had taken a break from digging in. 

He stayed in that position and nervously eyed his hand as if he had just unveiled the most evil pirate’s curse to ever be seen.

And I was all...

His sister then did the same thing, except in a more feminine way, but still with the fervor of someone who just discovered Osama Bin Laden’s porno stash.

And again I was all...

They just stood there in silence, letting The Finger take affect. Feeling like I was kind of being sneak-attacked, like maybe they were distracting me with their finger-hypnotism, I bolted up their yard and to my friend’s house, discombobulated.

I later asked my dad what it meant and he told me not to do that. That’s all I needed to hear.

And a few days later those little douche-kazoos were caught picking my mom’s tulips out of our front yard. I'll let her rant about it in the comments section.


  1. Hahaha, I love this story. And you just posted a very well-written version, congrats!

  2. Funny how it's easier to write about the small things than the big things. :) Love the story.

  3. You're a great writer. Your description of the smoking mom is perfection.

  4. Also I was feeling jealous of your well told story, and the word I had to type to post the comment was "idaling," which is suspiciously close to But those damn things never work for me, so I also had to type onrion and iniscrior, which are not so relevant.

  5. Well, apparently I wasn't traumatized by this strange family because I don't even remember their existence! I remember the cute doctor family to the left of us. (they told us that you more-than-likely broke your leg when you did your fancy helicopter jump off of your sister's bed.)I remember Janet. (The Filipino woman that made the best egg rolls that I've ever tasted in my whole entire life.)

    But I don't remember this strange little grubby family.

    In my memory it was little Timmy and Nathan (from that same house)that picked my tulips!

    And here's the rant you were anticipating...WHY THE HELL IS IT SO HARD TO GROW BEAUTIFUL TULIPS IN MY YARD?? If it's not deer or bunnies chomping on my tulips, it's grubby little neighbor kids from Rochester picking my pristine and precious tulips!!!!!

    Hilarious post by the way!!!! LOVE it!

  6. The word I had to post to make a comment was 'sheit'. That's probably how the grubby little family described the cat poop in their sand box.

  7. Glad you liked it, JennaRose! I just love the weird words one has to type when leaving a comment, so that's why I keep the security check on. Otherwise, why would I need it? I have no reason to worry about spammers. :)

    Mom, I can't believe you don't remember them! I'll have to talk to Dad at some point when he's not distracted by birds so I can jog his memory. I distinctly remember them. I am sure that it wasn't Timmy and Nathan (the sketchy kids) who picked your tulips, but those awful little cretins I wrote about above.