How to do the wrong thing right

Dear Howard: My life partner, Mr. Survivalist, has found heaven within the headlines lately: The coronavirus, he prays, will be his ultimate “I told you so!” He’s been stockpiling gallons of potable water, canned goods, sacks of flour, rice and shotgun shells down in the basement for a decade now. I haven’t ventured down there for years. There’s no telling what end-of-days supplies he has squirreled away, salivating for some globally catastrophic pandemic. Suddenly, with increasing reported deaths in America, he’s now talking about moving our bed into the cellar. Yesterday, two orange biohazard suits arrived, along with the requisite gas masks. I’m beginning to think Joel truly needs some professional help. How far should I let this lunacy go? — The Omega Man

Dear Megan: Personally, I would have probably walked out the door when the pile of shotgun shells surpassed the number of deer living in Texas. Granted, the mortality rate of the coronavirus is two percent, but so is the chance of wheat dust down in your basement igniting a flash fire. Does G.I. Joel at least have a good sense of humor in bed? While fucking, does he coo things like, “Alert! Cavity penetration in manhole No. 2!” If not, then what fun is he gonna be during a real Armageddon? The risk of the media creating a Mount Everest from every coronavirus molehill coming down the pike is that ultimately the sheep will begin seeing fanged wolves drooling everywhere. Should Joel reach the point of ceasing to go into work, the time for you to seek him professional help will have arrived.

Dear Howard: Over the past decade, my partner and I have sort of ad hocked a fairly even distribution of labor pertaining to our housework. We both detest it, but a maid isn’t in our budget, and neither of us is willing to play the other’s house slave, so: Jim volunteers to clean the kitchen if I’ll do the cooking, and I raise my hand to clean the toilet if Jim will do the laundry. We take shifts walking our two labradoodles, Snowflake and Sunny. All in all, it works without any of the knockdown/dragouts we used to have: We never take each other for granted anymore.

It had become toxic. Used to be, if Jim left his towel on the bathroom floor, I’d let Snow and Sunny urinate on it while he was at work, then air-dry it, folded neatly back atop the stack for Jim to dry off with it his next shower: That’s the level of pettiness we’d sunk to before realizing our relationship was worth more than vengeance against a slovenliness. I think what I’m getting at here is that gay partnerships can work long-term, despite my being able to count on just one hand the number of other couples who have made a successful go of it for 10 years or longer. Neither of us can figure out why most gay couples just give up after a few years, split, then grouse how they let the one true love of their life get away because of some stupid, fill-in-the-blank reason: He ate with his mouth open, he chewed gum during sex, he never cleaned his dirty dishes, he watched pro sports too much, he was too nelly in public, he wouldn’t change his hairstyle with the times, etc. Are Jim and I an anomaly? — The Devil’s Details

Dear Devil’s Food Cake: You’re absolutely right — ultimately, most throw in the towel rather than let imperfections slide. I don’t know why couples aren’t willing to make things work just because one has a habit of biting his nails in bed and the other won’t ever fill the gas tank all the way full. Everyone is quirky. Everyone is a pig. A great relationship is a working partnership that splits life’s mundane chores along a balanced division of aptitude, versus strengths and weaknesses, equally.

Dear Howard: I’m a young counselor of severely abused kids from “troubled” homes … or rather, torture chambers where almost daily they were emotionally, physically and sexually assaulted, starved, beaten and raped — you can’t sugarcoat it. More often than not, none of my patients will speak to anyone at all by the time they reach me. They learned staying mute was better than saying something wrong. The silence of molestation is near impossible to break through. So, if you don’t mind, Howard, I’d like to share with your readers my own personal story I’ve honed over the years—an icebreaker with these damaged kids that gets them to finally smile at me:

I was 12 the day a car crash killed my mom but spared me, sitting directly behind her, without even a scratch. Before her wake was even over, I got sent straight to hell for surviving. The man who mom had lived in sin with for the four years put one arm around me and the other around his own 16-year-old son, my older stepbrother, and whispered to him just loudly enough for me to hear, “First thing tomorrow we’re phonin’ foster care to haul precious baby here away. I’ll be damned if we’re feeding her orphan with my paycheck.” Junior nodded rapturously, “Amen to that, Father! Praise Jesus, I get to have my room back all to myself again, tonight! Soon as this party’s over, his bed goes straight in the Dumpster.” To which His Eldership nudged me closer, somberly smiling, “Along with all his fancy shoes, his mama’s clothes from my closet and their stupid collection of jigsaw puzzles, too; why, he’ll be just dandy sleepin’ out in the garage ’til they come get him. Oh, and ain’t nobody drivin’ Little Miss Nancy to school tomorrow either, or ever again, hallelujah! I sure as hell ain’t wasting another nickel on that pissy private school. And should anybody come nosing around askin’, why, we’ll just say he’s being home-schooled now — what with his heartbreak and all.”

So, there I waited, shivering in my mother’s garage a full week waiting for child services to whisk me to paradise. And then another week went by, and another, until finally I realized nobody from anywhere was coming to rescue me. I had an aunt living somewhere out in California, but she and my mom didn’t speak. I didn’t even know her married name. Nobody ever missed me or wondered where I was. My two kidnappers, whose garage (my garage!) that I was allowed take refuge in, would occasionally toss me a bag of McDonald’s or Sonic out the kitchen entry’s door. At night, I heard dining table tidbits, sighed with growing anxiety over money: “We can’t just keep him out there in the garage ‘til he’s 18,” they fumed, dumping all my clothes and personal possessions into the fireplace. “Hell, he’d run away long before then, and our gravy train with him. Any normal kid with even half a brain would have bolted by now.”

Gradually, I pieced together that, at 18, I was to become the sole beneficiary of a life insurance windfall worth a quarter million dollars. The conundrum lay in how to most swiftly cheat me out of it in a legally-bulletproof way. The quicker they got my money, the faster they could kick me out of my own home — my uneducated, utter destitution being just a delicious cherry on top their going away sendoff. Legal adoption seemed to be the frontrunner, until somebody must have clued them in that, legally adopted or not, mom’s insurance policy would still go exclusively to me, which was also still six years away. Meanwhile, putting this worthless street whore to use as their barefoot house slave helped nothing toward actually turning me from a resented money drain to a profit gain. They still were forced to hurl a bag of cold fries and burgers at me once in a while, lest risk my sorry little, good-for-nothing faggot ass starve literally to death before they got full hold of my inheritance.

Then, somehow one day, those two idiot SOBs stumbled upon their genius stroke: In accordance with the law, when one turns 16 in Texas, one is allowed to legally marry anyone 18 or older. In no time, of course, their every meal invariably turned into a clowns’ ruckus, with each buffoon shouting out the other as to why he should be the one who Little Miss Nancy Pants gets to marry — the unspoken being, naturally, “And thus, as thy Lady Nancy’s betrothed master, shall therefore immediately retain sole proprietorship over the distribution of all well-deserved spoils from its dowry.”

I never knew how much money their whoring me out brought in. During all my teenage years as their personal ATM, I never even saw a single one of the erections I entertained. For the protection of my abusers, I was always kept in a sensory blackout: blindfolded, wearing earphones, playing acid rock at full volume. Apparently, I’d scream out for my mom as the duct tape was being wrapped around my head, to which Junior would shove amyl nitrate up my nostrils.

I must have been a goldmine. Within weeks of entering my new career, I noticed a new candy-apple Corvette in the garage, and Pops had a new luxury fishing boat in the driveway. They began eating steaks for dinner off their new patio grill, while permitting me enjoy any leftover scraps dumped atop the garage floor’s drain.

The only gratis client they allowed me was my consigliere from child protective services, and local law enforcement. The reports of the wonderful environment my guardians provided me couldn’t have been more glowing…until they weren’t. One bright day, the constable was zipping up after his freebie and said he heard the bass were biting over at the lake and he “might apprehend that shiny new boat of yours a couple hours. Hitch it up for me, would you?” Pops grimaced. “Just lemme take out my tackle box first.” The fuzz grunted, “How’m I expected to catch anything without lures?” Pops snarled, “You ain’t takin’ my tackle box,” chuckling, “You don’t think I ain’t got video of you, cop?” And those were the magic words! Just two days shy of my 18th birthday, I celebrated in the hospital with all the cake and ice cream I could eat. I went back home a legal adult, owner of a shiny red corvette and a boat roomy enough to seat six, while my torturers went on to enjoy solitary for life, plus one extra day. Oh, and a funny thing about that tackle box. Heavy as the dickens, it was: There was sure no fishing bait in it, but seems my ass produced solid gold, indeed. And, Howard, that’s when I reach a first smile from these kids. — D.P.

Dear D.P.: Kudos to you. That you survived is a miracle. That you’re using your expertise to salvage other kids deserves canonization. I’ve nothing else to add. Thank you sincerely for sharing.

— Howard Lewis Russell

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