Jenny, my sister, and I in the back seat of dad’s old Jeep Cherokee had been quiet across the entire state of Missouri. It was hot as hell and the Cherokee had no air conditioning. Dad had promised mom and us girls that the trip to California would be fun; in his words “a journey, full of history, education, and jolly times.”
“Route 66 girls, was the transcontinental life line, the heartbeat of this great nation, dad explained. Yep, the heartbeat of America before the interstates. You’re gonna love Route 66.” This, as we rolled through Joplin.
“Looks like America’s heartbeat has a clot or something; anybody gotta spare defibrillator?” mom asked.
“Well, I’m betting that opinion will change, ladies,”dad said as we rolled to a stop in the gravel parking lot of a Tastee Freeze whose giant tin soft ice cream logo was in sore need of a paint job.
“I want a milkshake, Dad,” I said.
“Me too,” Jenny echoed.
“Ron, let’s go ahead and eat, I’m starved and I’ll bet the girls could down a hamburger, couldn’t you?” Mom knew that Jenny and I were just like herself, temperamental when hungry.
“No, my lovelies, maybe a little later. Because look. This is why we stopped here,” he said, pointing to an old farmhouse next door. “Behold!” A sign mounted on two upright landscape timbers proclaimed in stark black letters against a red background, The Angry Women Museum. Admission $2.00. Open 9:30 – 4:00. Children under 10 Free!
“You’re not serious. Look at this place. And to think we passed up the Mark Twain Museum for this? C’mon Ron, we’re hungry.”
“No, look, this is a great time to see this place – see there’s no cars. That’s ‘cause everybody else is too busy eating. We’ll have the whole place to ourselves, c’mon girls let’s see the Angry Women Museum – it’s a chance of a lifetime.”
Reluctantly we followed dad. Mom was pissed – I told Jenny that Mom probably could qualify as an exhibit and Mom overheard me and cut me one horrendous look as we entered what had once been the front door of the old farmhouse that had been converted into the Museum of Angry Women. At the counter dad argued admission price with the lady selling tickets who folded her arms over her plump bosom and told dad flatly, “Look, Mac it’s $8.00 plus .72 tax take it or leave it; it’s up to you, cause it’s hot in here and I really don’t give a shit whether you tour the museum or fall in a fucking hole. We don’t take credit cards.”
Dad paid up and the nice lady shoved his change and a brochure across the counter and then barked in a snide tone, “Enjoy your visit to the Angry Women Museum,” as she slammed shut the cash register door. Jenny swears she heard“dickhead” at the end but I didn’t hear that part; I was looking at the big sandwich board on which the museum’s logo appeared, an image of Carry Nation with a wide open mouth, brandishing an ax.
Musee de Femmes Fâchée Museum Bösen Frauen
El Museo de Mujeres Enojadas
Dad, reading from the brochure, explained that each exhibit represented a particular theme. There were exhibits dedicated to nurses, English teachers, waitresses, divorcees and an entire room dedicated to bureaucrats and retail clerks.
Leaving the ticket area we passed a bronze bust of Hillary Clinton. We began at the Angry Nurses exhibit which featured a lovely diorama depicting Nurse Ratched in a neck brace supervising patient R. P. McMurphy’s lobotomy. There was also a lifesize figure of Kathy Bates’ character Nurse Annie Wilkes tending James Caan’s legs with a nine pound sledge hammer. Another diorama showed Texas nurse Kimberly Saenz preparing Clorox bleach IV’s for her patients at the Lufkin nursing home where she worked before her arrest for multiple murders.
The museum was not air conditioned and it must have been 90 degrees inside. Lord, was it hot. Not much had been done to convert the old farm house to a museum. The floors were filthy old linoleum and threadbare carpets and the place smelled like a thousand cats had come for a weeklong pissing contest. Everything was dusty and the floor could not have been swept this decade. I found a wadded up page from an S & H Green Stamp Catalog on that floor by the toilet. We were leaving the Angry Nurses exhibit when mom lit into dad.
“This is shit, Ron, let’s get the hell out of this goddamn dump. I don’t know what in God’s name possessed you to drag us in here, but the girls and I are ready to leave. NOW. We are hot, we are thirsty, we are hungry. Not to mention the smell. What the hell did they raise here when this was a farm? Cats? Jesus, get us out of here, Ron.”
“Aw come on Wanda,” dad pleaded. “Yeah so it stinks a little. Look, we’re only gonna get to see this once, babe. We did pay eight bucks and hey, ya gotta admit it’s unique.”
Now mom raised her voice.
“Stinks a little? Stinks a little? Have you been in the bathroom yet? And I don’t ‘gotta admit’ a goddamn thing. I mean it, Ron. These girls are miserable and so am I. They won’t even pee in that bathroom it’s so filthy and there’s no paper, unless you consider the Kansas City Telephone Book on a chain by the toilet good hygiene. Can’t we please LEAVE?”
“Tell ya what,” dad said. “We’ll skip the Angry English Teachers and the Angry Waitresses and Angry Fish Wives and just go straight to the big room, the one with the Angry Clerks and Bureaucrats, which has got to be great. Then we’ll leave.”
So we tagged after dad, with mom muttering really bad, bad words under her breath directly into what had been the old farm’s living room. Dad was like a kid in a candy store:
“Look Wanda, look girls: Angry Social Security and Social Worker Women; Angry Drivers’ License Bureau Women…”
The cat piss smell in this room was eye-watering and Jenny said she felt like throwing up.
That did it for mom.
“Ron, if you are so into angry women, well you’ve got three of us standin’ right here plenty angry. Gimme the goddam car keys and the credit card. You can stay here and huff cat piss and dirt all you want, but me and the girls are outta here. Gimme the fuckin’ keys and a credit card NOW.”
“Okay, okay, Wanda. Damn it, calm down. Here’s my wallet and the keys – you girls go ahead and get something to eat at that Tastee Freeze next door. I’ll be along directly. I just wanna check out the Angry Black Women exhibit, then the gift shop.”
That was the last we saw of dad. Maybe he’s still waiting for his angry women at that Tastee Freeze, I dunno. We live with Mom and her girlfriend Roxy now in Montreal where it’s not so hot or angry.
© Gary Ives
First published in October 2012, “The Rusty Nail”
Published in December 2012, “The Story Shack”
Illustration by: Cait Maloney