Homer's spin cycle

In Frost Heaves, NH, one thing tends to lead to another



Illustration by Brad Fitzpatrick

Around here, winter is long and dark, and sometimes even spring seems to be a little depressed, as if to say, “What’s the use?” The way some folks deal with this is to buy things to try and cheer themselves up.

Take Homer Andrews. He just bought himself a new rifle. There are a lot of wild turkeys that hang around Homer’s farm, and he got it into his head that he was going to fill the freezer with free, organic turkey meat. (If you ever saw the wild turkeys around here, you would know this was not a great idea. These aren’t exactly Butterballs. They make vultures look positively appealing.)

His wife Helen, she weren’t too pleased. The thing that really frosted her perm was that she had been bugging Homer to buy her a new washing machine for months. But Homer said he wasn’t going to waste money on a new machine as long as the old one was still working. So when he bought that new rifle, she gave him a few words about wasting money, and then for a while there was very few words being said.

The next day Helen was still fuming, and her mood wasn’t improved by doing several loads of laundry. We’d finally had a warming spell, so she’d decided to hang the clothes on the line. When that was done, she thought she’d go to town to give herself a chance to cool off a little more.

Homer had finished his chores and was sitting in the kitchen when he saw a whole flock of turkeys making their way across the yard, passing right under Helen’s clothesline.

He quick grabbed his new rifle, but then he hesitated. With the rifle, he would only get off one good shot before the rest of them birds scattered, so he decided to use his shotgun instead, which would maybe let him get a couple of turkeys. He knew this was cheating, but as they say, all’s fair in love and domestic arguments.

Homer blasted away, and sure enough, he got three of them birds. By the time Helen came home, he was busy plucking those turkeys. He didn’t say much; he was just humming a tune, one that’s an old favorite among fighting spouses, the one that goes, Neener, neener, neener.

Helen didn’t say anything either. She just headed out to the back yard to get the clothes off the line. A few minutes later, she came back in and said, “You know those brand-new shirts I bought you for Christmas?”

“Ayuh,” Homer said.

“Well, that old washing machine has ruined them.”

She held up one of the shirts, which had a pattern of holes all through it.

Homer realized pretty quick that the spray pattern of a shotgun was a lot wider than he’d thought it was. He took a deep breath and said, “Well, I guess it’s time to get a new washing machine.”

“I guess it is,” Helen said, and she set to folding the rest of the laundry, feeling pretty cheery despite the long, hard winter, not saying another word, just humming quietly to herself: Neener, neener, neener.

This essay is an excerpt from Fred Marple’s new book “Welcome to Frost Heaves”
— available May 10 from Islandport Press.

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