Tuesday, April 19, 2011

April 19th-Brought To You By the Letter 'S'

Shag Carpet Toilet

    My best friend’s father had just dropped me off after spending a week at church summer camp.
(NOTE:  Even though it was a “church” camp, our devoutness to the Lord was limited to, “Jesus, look at the size of that spider in the latrine!”).
    Considering I’d just spent seven days communing with nature (nature not having indoor plumbing, you know), my most pressing need was the bathroom.  A shower could wait, the food in the pantry wasn’t going anywhere, and I had yet to develop the fanatical obsession I would have with television in my later adolescence. 
    However, I knew that if I didn’t release the angry beast within me (probably how Michael Moore’s mom felt), there would be an unholy mess that even FEMA couldn’t handle (ok, that was probably a bad example).
    I burst through the door and tossed a perfunctory, “I’m baaaaccckkk!” to the family gathered around our black and white TV (“Hold the friggin’ aerial right, Phil!  I can’t see Red Skelton!”).  Squeezing my cheeks so hard I could probably make butt diamonds, I bounded up the steps, two at a time.
    Just as I reached the threshold, my sister stepped in front of me, blocking the way to the Lavatory Promised Land.   
    “He’s done it again.”
    Beads of sweat formed on my forehead and I hissed, “What’re you talking about?”
    She grabbed my arm.  “Before you go in there, remember:  while you’ve been at camp, he’s been on vacation.”
    The urge I had been suppressing suddenly fled.  To be replaced by a disturbing image of a crazy man running unchecked through our home. 
    Instead of schlepping to work at six every morning, coming home at five every afternoon, and falling asleep in front of the TV at seven every evening, our father had the run of our poor, unsuspecting house for the past seven days.
    A cold shiver ran down my spine as I remembered his past adventures in “fixing” things.  Seeing as these usually resulted in a call to a repairman or visit to the emergency room, I took Kathy’s warning seriously.
    “You mean we can’t use the bathroom?”
    “Oh, you can use it, all right.”
    “Then, what...?” 
    I took a wary glance around me. 
    Hmm, didn’t see any scorch marks when I ran up the stairs.  Ever since the time he set the hallway on fire after dropping his cigarette into a bucket of turpentine, the old man was extremely careful with flammables.
    I also didn’t see any whacky paint schemes.  He was still living down the grief he got from our neighbors after he painted the house bright yellow and black.  Or, as they called it, the “bumblebee house.”
    No, nothing looked any more remiss than it usually did.  Sure, the plastic folding partitions still leaned in tattered flaps away from where our bedroom doors used to be.  And, I noticed our garish firehouse red beds made from pressed wood hadn’t been confiscated by the Good Taste Police.
    So, what could it be?  Racking my brain for any explanation, my eyes drifted to my feet.  I suddenly realized what Kathy was talking about.
    A couple weeks earlier, my father backed his truck into our dirt driveway a couple hours earlier than normal.  Hoping he’d brought something home from that new McDonalds down the block, we rushed to greet him.
    He threw us a happy wave as he leapt from the cab.  “Look what I got,” he said, dropping the tailgate.
    There, piled in the bed of his truck, were three spools of differently-colored shag carpet.
    He tossed the gold roll onto the driveway.  “You know how they’re building that new Holiday Inn next to where I work?”
    We silently stared as gold was joined by blue and green.  “Well, they were just throwing this crap away.   Can you friggin’ believe it?”
    Even at 14, I didn’t buy his claim that he just found this stuff in the garbage.  Like wood paneling, lava lamps, and aluminum Christmas trees, shag carpet was very trendy in the 70s.  I couldn’t imagine anyone getting rid of one, let alone three, rolls of it.
    Even though Mom looked suspicious, she didn’t say a word.  I just think she wanted some of the glitz that only a Holiday Inn could bring. 
    That night, my father schemed on how he was going to use his new-found fortune.  Sketching floor plans on the back of a pizza box, he paced from living room to porch, tape measure in hand and pencil stuck behind his ear.
    Finally, he hauled the green roll in through the front door.  Without a word, he dropped it in front of the TV, much to the annoyance of my sister, who was mesmerized by the polyester antics of the Brady Bunch. 
    Telling Kathy that that “crap will rot your brain,” the master craftsman grabbed his pizza box for reference and disappeared down the cellar stairs.
    Minutes later, he reemerged with a carpet knife, yardstick, hammer, and plastic jar of little black tacks.
    He sat down and drew the roll towards him.  Quickly consulting his sketch, he flipped the rug on its side and grabbed hold of the end.  After smoothing out a length, he set the yardstick across its grain.
    I figured he was going to cut off a piece which would wrap around the bottom of the staircase.
    Heedless of the damage he was causing the wood underneath, he drew the knife toward him.  After only a foot, he stopped and made another foot-long cut at a right angle. 
    When he was done, he held up a perfect square of shag and pronounced, “Ain’t that something?”
    Thinking he was just making a test cut before tearing wholesale into the carpet, I told him it looked great.
    “Yeah,” he nodded, “it does, doesn’t it?”
    Then he flipped the square over and promptly nailed it to the floor.  Staring blissfully at the little island of shag adrift in the middle of our living room, he called my mother in from the kitchen.
    “Whaddya think?” he crowed.
    Even though she liked shag carpeting, she looked a little doubtful.  “You’re going to put more down, aren’t you?”
    “You betcher ass,” he said as he cut another square.  Little did we know at the time, but his transformation to the Dr. Frankenstein of Interior Decorating was nearly complete.

    In no time, the lonely little square was soon joined by a couple hundred of its friends.  What was once a hardwood living room floor became a shaggy sea of green.
    Flushed with success, the mad doctor next decided to cloak our stairs in a hairy swathe of green.  Each evening after work, he quickly inhaled dinner and proceeded to wail away on our stairs like Geppetto on speed.  Before you knew it, shag carpet treads snaked a finger upstairs, stopping only at our bedroom doors.
    As he concluded his march to the second floor, we breathed with relief.  There was no more green carpet to be had.  Maybe the master decorator was satisfied with all he had wrought.
    Unfortunately, we were wrong.
    Proclaiming our sleeping quarters in desperate need of a face-lift, he selected the gold roll for our bedrooms.
    Like a man possessed, he ripped the beige Peel-N-Stick carpet tiles from around our beds until all that remained was its foam backing.  Undaunted, he poured a bucket of glue remover on the rubber, which did the trick of separating it from wood.
    Unfortunately, its noxious fumes sent Duke howling to the cellar and caused Phil to see the ghosts of Dukes I-IV.  Gary also vomited in our fishbowl, but that may have been normal for Gary.
    Oblivious to the smell of hair dissolving in his nose, the crazy carpet-layer of New England then began cutting up more tiny squares.
    For the next three nights, he roared through each of our bedrooms, methodically laying a mantle of cheesy gold as he went.
    By the time he was done, bedrooms, living room, and stairs were smothered in the finest carpet a man could “find.”  Surely we had raised the value of our home by the thousands, my father proclaimed.
    “Yep,” he grinned as he scratched his back with a dinner fork, “nothing says classy like a couple hundred square feet of shag.”
    For the next few days, everything remained unusually quiet.  We were distracted by our summer pursuits and Dad, thankfully, had to work a lot of overtime.  Like Grandma at the nursing home, the remaining roll of blue carpet sat, ignored, on the porch.
    We thought we were safe.  We hoped the scourge of parasitic floor covering had run its course.  But, alas, no one noticed our father eyeballing the remaining roll each time he came home from work.
    Little did we know.
    Last Saturday morning, we gasped in dismay as he dragged the blue roll inside.  Even more horrifying was the carpet knife hanging from his belt and container of tacks jiggling in his shirt pocket.
    Refusing help, he cut dozens of blue squares and set them aside while we helplessly watched.  Once done, he gathered them into his arms.  Ignoring my mother’s protests, he began hammering away in the kitchen and dining room.
    By the end of the day, the places where we ate our meals were draped in a veil of what strongly resembled blue algae.
    My father proudly stood like the Jolly Green Giant of interior design.  To him, it was the masterpiece of a talented homeowner.  To us, it was an invasion of a freak mutant strain of synthetic kudzu.
    The following morning, he dropped me off at camp.  Even though he had the next week off, I didn’t worry because I thought our nightmarish summer of shag was finally over.
    There were no rooms left to defile.
    Caught up in the wonders of the natural world and the chance to crap in the woods, the "Great Rug Epidemic of 1972" slowly slipped my mind.
    Until Kathy barred me from the bathroom.
    Uh, oh.     
    Overcome by an overwhelming need to see what he had done, I shoved her aside.  Steeling myself, I grabbed the knob and pushed the door open.        
    Just as I feared.
    The bathtub and toilet bowl were covered in blue shag carpet.
    “Hey, Al,” I heard my father call from the backyard, “you want to give me a hand?”
    Oh, no.
    The pool.


  1. Hysterical and slightly nauseating. I cringe at the thought of the lovely wooden floors being shaggerized.

    I am curious as to why your Dad cut up squares to lay the carpet, did he change the nap to create a checker board effect. Because if he did... he was a mastermind in decorating.

  2. Your dad had tons of energy! I love that about him. What is it with men and carpet? My man loves carpet too and I've had to put my foot down about carpet in the kitchen and bathroom. He even has carpet in his garage. He LOVES carpet!!!
    Another great story Al. So funny and endearing.
    How have you liked the A to Z challenge? I've had a hard time keeping up, but I sure have enjoyed the hilarity.

  3. @lifeshighway: While a checkerboard would have looked pretty good, he chose instead to use the same color throughout (changing colors in different rooms). It wasn't until I got older that I wondered why he cut them up into foot squares. Why not have laid just a big piece? I will say this, he did a good job piecing them together-you couldn't tell that they were all pieces-it all looked pretty seamless. That was in my original blog, but I edited it out. As big as it was, I didn't want my post to be even longer!
    @PAMO: He had just enough skill to attempt the most outrageous of household tasks. I haven't even told you about the time he put five lacquered beams across our living room ceilings. He said that, if it was good enough for "Bonanza", it was good enough for us.
    Epilogue: He DID put shag carpet on our pool's diving platform. It looked hideous when mold grew on it. Plus, all those tacks played hell with our bare feet.
    The A-Z Challenge has been fun, but tiring. I'll talk about it for 'Y'-"Ya'll Come Back Now, Ya Hear?"

  4. That was hysterical! Great job. You really are a great humor writer!

  5. I am so glad that shag carpet was just a passing phase. My husband and his buddy rented a house right out of high school that had the most atrocious green shag carpet that I have ever seen.

  6. @Eva: Thanks! I'd like to give credit to the nuts and squirrels in my family tree.
    @Leslie: That, and almond wood paneling, avocado and green kitchen furnishings, and cheese grater light covers.
    Was the house he rented in Stratford, Connecticut?

  7. BIG *giggle*
    My in-laws' house still has that 1970 avocado green/orange mix shag carpeting. It's awesome!

  8. @OT: I'm glad you liked it.
    @Giggle: Wow, that house is a collectors item!

  9. My dad had orange shag carpet in his living room until I was about 14. Talk about the most nauseating and embarrassing thing in the world. It's one of those trends where you really have to ask, "What were they thinking?"

  10. Orange? That actually could work. You could have baked ziti for supper. Get blasted at the local pub. Then, if you hurl when you get home at 3 am, no one's the wiser.

  11. Your dad has made your stories so entertaining.

  12. There's more. I'll return to the normal "Once Upon a Time..." routine next month where I split up my tales from the Lunatic Fringe into two or three parts. That way, you won't have to deal with Pops in one big chunk.

  13. Great time reading the antics of your one square at a time wonderful dad. My dad covered our livingroom floor in a carpet made out of all our used clothes, linens and underwear; packed up and mailed off to the factory that advertised a cheap way to carpet ones home. That carpet covered the livingroom floor for more than 40 years...40 years of caressing ones tootsies with everyone's underwear, lol.

  14. Great story. BTW, you know I'm getting old and my glasses need to be upgraded. The tiny font is really hard to read. Just sayin'

  15. @Barb: Sorry about that. It IS kinda small (the font, I mean). I'll make it bigger next time (like I said, the font). If you're willing to read, the least I can do is make it bigger (sigh......the font).
    @Clipped: That carpet sounds pretty neat (just hope the skivvies were clean, dontcha know).