“Only I didn’t say fudge. I said the word! The big one! The Queen Mother of all dirty words! The F-dash-dash-dash word!” said young Ralphie’s older self in his reflective, adulthood narrative of the flat-tire changing scene from the movie A Christmas Story. Ralphie learned the “fudge word” from his father, played by Kevin McGavin, though upon interrogation by his mother, played by Melinda Dillon, “Where did you learn that word?” Ralphie places the blame for its source on his innocent friend, Schwarz.
You know the story, or ought to. It runs twenty-four-seven on one of the major television networks from 6:00 PM Christmas Eve through 6:00 PM Christmas night. Originally made in the 1980’s, the film is set in 1940’s Indiana, and has become a Christmas movie classic – yeah that’s right, Christmas, not holiday. The whole tale revolves around Ralphie, played by Peter Billingsley, wanting a BB Gun, where his mantra is, “I want an Official Red Ryder, carbine-action, 200-shot, Range Model Air Rifle.” (With a compass in the stock, and this thing which tells time). That line was written in Ralphie’s school theme that his teacher, Miss Shields asked the class to write.
“No. You’ll shoot your eye out,” was his mother’s reply. “BB guns are dangerous.” Everyone in the movie, even Santa Claus, seems to be plotting against Ralphie’s dream of owning said Red Ryder carbine, with ‘you’ll shoot your eye out’ as the film’s most-enduring, iconic phrase.
“Oh, fudge.” That’s not what I just said. But it’s close. Why? Because I just spilled a full cup of hot coffee on my tying table. A full cup! It was one of those big, about 14-ounce mugs. I went to reach for it while I was standing up, and my right forearm brushed against the shade of my table lamp, which was very hot. It wasn’t so much the heat, but I was startled. My grip on the cup handle wasn’t quite secure. And I had it placed rather precariously, not flat on the table where it should have been – there was no room due to the clutter. It was on a little pedestal of three small plastic boxes, barely large enough to accommodate the mug, to the left of my vise, about four inches above the table top. This position gave the coffee cup increased height above the surface of my desk and thereby, being so harmlessly and innocently located, allowed gravity to exert greater influence once the inertia of the mug; and this is your physics lesson for the day – inertia (in-NER-sha) – the tendency of a body to remain at rest – was suddenly interrupted by my clumsy and careless right hand. Now you know the rest of the story.
What a mess. An absolute disaster to a fly tier. The preeminent position of the mug allowed the coffee to rush forth as if I had deliberately poured out its contents. That’s when I said, “Fudge!” Not once, but repeatedly. Or as writer Pat McManus, author of They Shoot Canoes, Don’t They, and other very funny books, always writes, “You bleeping bleep-of-a-bleep!” I reached for a bath towel on the laundry shelf to begin the mopping up process, which will likely take me another half-hour. In Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, this language was referred to as colorful metaphors.
Here’s the good news. My tying table needed a good cleaning. I had four different Carrie Stevens streamer patterns lying flat on the table surface, underneath and to the right of my vise, their heads hanging over the edge to dry since I had just added another coat of head cement this morning. After that application set up a little, I moved them to hang on the ventilation holes on the shade of the offending table lamp to dry. Had they been where they were, they would have been inundated. They were fortuitously spared. That was a relief.
I had at least four ounces of coffee in my Griffin Waste-trol, which even though last evening I thought about emptying it; no, I didn’t and left that task for another time. The time has come. I plunged the towel into the container and then took it out on the driveway and wrung it out. What remained was a damp mass of, well, you can imagine. The bag kept that much coffee off the carpet.
I have an eighteen-compartment container where I keep my spools of floss. It was underneath the table on a stack of plastic drawers. Two of those compartments have standing coffee in them. I guess it was fortunate that my tying table needed cleaning, because the assortment of feather snippets, small bundles of loose dubbing, numerous loose strands of peacock herl, thread spools, and assorted clutter acted more or less as an absorption mat to prevent the liquid from spreading further. And no coffee leaked into the drawers.
Another note on how this could have been worse – I drink my coffee black, so there will be no sugary, sticky residue that will attract ants, that will make stuff stick together, or that I’ll have to clean tomorrow, next week, etc. A few flies were soaked. I may see what a coffee-stained Professor looks like when it dries.
Writing this has been therapeutic to ease my utter chagrin of an hour ago. I was initially so upset by this. When I said the F-dash-dash-dash word, I soon thought of Ralphie, and “fudge.” My next thought was, “I think I would have rather shot my eye out.” Now I feel better. So much so that I think another cup of hot coffee would be really nice. Better yet, a big piece of chocolate fudge to go along with the coffee would do wonders to assuage my pain.