Grandpa Shop Vac
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Trashburg was like a lot of rural Mississippi: provincial, backwards as hell and stuck in the 50’s; the 1850’s.
They had all sorts of crazy laws like you weren’t allowed to swear within 50 feet of a church and dogs could drive but only if they were wearingpants. But I learned about the craziest rule of all after my Grandpa Jeb shot himself in the head with his trusty 12 gauge.
Many of you know I grew up in Connecticut, but I was actually born in Mississippi, the ancestral home of the Filipkowski’s. Every summer I would leave the urban decay of Glastonbury and stay with my grandparents on their poison ivy farm in Trashburg.
I was actually the one who walked in on him about to take his own life. “Hey Nancy,” he called me Nancy because I always wore shoes. “Hey Nancy, let’s see that bitch try to take my farm now!”
There I was: six years old, ears ringing, covered in my grandfather’s brain matter, but before I could even say, “check please!” my Grandma Jeb burst into the room, screaming at me not to touch anything.
You see, that day, I learned of a little-known Mississippi law that predates the Founding Fathers and goes back to a time when the state was a swampy backwater controlled by French fur traders.
According to this law, which is based on a misguided notion of the conservation of mass, if you have a ‘person’ and the ‘person’ dies, but all the physical ‘person’ is still there, they haven’t really died because they haven’t gone anywhere. Makes sense, right? It’s basically the inverse of ‘what does the soul weigh?’
So, the first step was to get a squeegee and get every last drop of Grandpa Jeb off my face and into the trusty Shop Vac which Grandma Jeb then used to mop up all the blood, bone and other detritus that had formerly been her husband.
I think she planned to transfer him to a nice receptacle, but Grandma Jeb decided it would be easier to just buy another vacuum cleaner. She glued some googly eyes on the front and placed his old hat on top – Grandpa Shop Vac was born! Well, not ‘born,’ but you know.
You see, right before he shot himself, Grandma Jeb had asked Grandpa Jeb for a divorce and fearing she’d take his precious farm from him, sought to deny it from her out of of spite, figuring, if she couldn’t produce a viable corpse, there would be no easy transfer of the property.
I take it as a symbol of their mutual hatred that they took it so far – so passionate!
So anyway, that’s how it was. The holidays would come along, Grandma would drag out Grandpa Shop Vac, safe and sound in his little container, until, one Thanksgiving when I was still at college, (thank god) and the gases that built up in the hermetically sealed chamber proved too strong for the flimsy plastic of the latches and o-rings that kept Grandpa Shop Vac under wraps. So for the second time in his “life,” Grandpa Jeb’s remains were all over the dining room. You’d think after something like that, you would want to move, but not only did Grandma Jeb not move, she boasted that she was able to save most of the turkey for leftovers.
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