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Can't Take the Heat? They Got Out of the Kitchen

August 23, 1987|BOB O'SULLIVAN | O'Sullivan is a Canoga Park free-lance writer

My wife Joyce gave me the word the moment I walked in the back door.

Her chin was quivering and she'd cried off her eye makeup. "I'm not making it. I just can't take anymore and I've got to get away from all this."

My heart started to sink.

"You're out in the world all day while I'm here at home, stuck with them."


"Your children, that's who. You've got to take me away, that's all. We're going on a trip, just you and me, but we're going."

I felt a little better. At least I was included. "Joyce," I began, "money's a little tight. . . ."

She stood up from the kitchen table. "Tight? Let me tell you about tight. I'm wound up tighter than a clock spring."

I got a quick rundown of her day, which had started with the washer overflowing. You can't run the garbage disposal in our house while the washer is emptying without clogging the drain. Somebody had forgotten that. She didn't say who.

Ralph Lost His Cool

Then we learned that our dog, Ralph, was having a worm problem and had to be taken to the vet.

On entering the vet's office, Ralph, as always, went into his crocodile imitation, slinking so low he could only be picked up with a spatula or by someone with very good fingernails and a lot of patience.

Having cooled a little in the vet's office, Joyce decided to treat our four children and a neighbor, who had gone along to help control things, by stopping for milkshakes at Foster's Freeze on the way home.

John's milkshake, however, would not flow, so he had upended it over his open mouth and given the container a light tap.

Suddenly, the ice cream flowed. The entire milkshake leaped down onto his face, up his nose and over his upper body.

A Good Laugh

His sisters, thinking it was a pretty good show, laughed uproariously. The neighbor laughed uproariously. Joyce, on the other hand, almost cried. First, because she felt so sorry for her little boy, and second, because he was sitting in her car at the time. John, of course, was furious.

"Find something," I said, handing her the travel section of the paper. "And see if we can get a sitter for a couple of days."

I arranged to take some time off and went to the bank for some money.

I was back in two hours. Joyce was sitting at the kitchen table with the newspaper, the telephone, half-a-glass of wine and a satisfied expression.

A recent oil spill from one of the drilling platforms off the Santa Barbara coast had depressed hotel prices in that area to the point, where, with a little planning, we could afford to stay in one of the family bungalows at the Miramar Hotel.

"Family bungalows? But I thought it was going to be just us."

"Actually," she said with a sigh, "in all fairness, they need a vacation, too."

We drove up the coast the next morning and checked into our hotel. Santa Barbara, being 90 miles north, was a little cold, but we put on our bathing suits and went down to the water's edge. There were small gobs of clotted crude oil on the sand and a little breeze blowing.

Too Cold?

John ran into the water and stopped suddenly about knee-deep, pulled his arms in next to his body and tried to cover his ears with his shoulders.

"It's too cold," Joyce said.

"N . . . n . . . no," John said. "It's j . . . j . . . just right. Per . . . perfect.'

Jean, then 7, ran in, stood next to her brother, and seemed to be going into shock. She forced a smile. "See?" she said. "I'm n . . . n . . . not even crying."

Catherine, always the bold one, said: "It's all in your head anyway," and waded in. She then stopped, turned and said: "Why, this w . . . w . . . water's as wa . . . warm as ch . . . ch . . . chicken soup."

Marian, the oldest, looking doubtful, stood back for a moment and then waded in. Other than a sharp intake of breath, she gave no indication of discomfort.

"Bob," Joyce said, "is that water too cold?"

As I waded in, four children looked at me with pleading eyes. Every hair on my body stood out at attention on its own little mound of gooseflesh.

"Joyce," I said, "like Catherine said, it's like ch . . . ch . . . chicken soup." Under my breath I added, "That's been in the freezer overnight."

"Well, then," Joyce said, with the hint of a diabolical smile, "I just know I'm not going to be able to talk you out of swimming to that raft out there."

The hotel had a raft tethered about 50 yards off shore.

No arguments were possible. The five of us swam to the raft, reminding each other all the way of how "chicken-soup-like" the water was and how much fun we were having. At one point, though, John, chin quivering and just about an inch above sea level, said, "Daddy, watch out for the noo . . . noo . . . noodles."

Caught in the 'Noodles'

I drank about half a pint of sea water, laughing, as I tried to swim out of "the noodles," a kelp bed, on the way to the raft. We spent the afternoon, up to and including the sunset, on the beach. And we all seemed to unwind together.

That night in our bungalow we sat around in the kitchen, scrubbing our feet with butter to get rid of the blobs of black crude oil.

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