Al Batt: You couldn’t buy a single green Dot in the outhouse

Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, January 3, 2023

Tales from Exit 22 by Al Batt

It was back when rocks were soft and coffee came in only one size — a cup.

Al Batt

The old house creaked and groaned in the cold weather. The house exists only in my memory. It fell to age.

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Leonard Cohen wrote and sang in “Anthem,” “There is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”

It’s hard to argue with that, but our old house had enough cracks that when the wind blew, it gained speed as it went through the house. We didn’t have enough motivational posters to cover all the cracks.

Bats lived in the attic in warm weather and mice held conventions in the cellar in cold weather. I slept upstairs where the floor protested loudly with each step I made. I roosted above the kitchen and enjoyed the smell of breakfast. Bacon was a deluxe perfume.

It was a warm and welcoming cold house. There was no insulation. The inside of the windows collected enough frost I could have shoveled it. The shower gathered water from a rusty pipe and its showerhead offered two temperatures — frigid and Antarctic. That was warm when compared to using the outhouse in January, a true test of one’s intestinal fortitude. I’d have enjoyed complaining about that, but it wasn’t in me.

A family-made quilt kept me warm. Its makers had put whatever was handy into the quilt — rocks, dead chickens and electric bills. It had enough heft that I required a truck jack to get out from under it in the morning.

Having a new house didn’t set my brain on fire. I don’t remember wishing for a better house like one owned by a $ 100,000aire. I didn’t believe there were millionaires. Our house was my house. I didn’t want more from it. I had no legitimate complaints. The old house was my home and plenty good enough for the likes of me. Every bird likes his own nest best.

There was a wooden box of gloves in the mudroom, which was the only entry into the home. The gloves were survivors of hard work. My parents worked, that’s what they did. The survivors were all for the left hand. In a family of right-handers, we wore out the right-handed gloves, leaving left-handed coverings too good to throw away. Mom painted relentlessly. Where there’s a wall, there’s a way. There were stir sticks with paint on them stashed here and there. If a stick didn’t get out of the way, it went to work stirring paint.

I spent my time doing nothing about something and something about nothing.

We had a snow globe, even though we lived in a larger, windier version of a snow globe. It was called Minnesota. The globe presented winter’s mythical soft landing. Any shiver found by someone holding a snow globe in a cold house could shake it, but I don’t remember shaking the globe much in the winter. There was no need.

I saw an electric one in a store. It shook itself. My father would have grumbled about someone being lazy if they needed a snow globe that shook itself like a wet dog.

I liked movies. I remember purchasing a box of Dots in a theater, when a friend asked to try one of the sticky, gummy candies. He wanted one, so I gave him one, a green Dot. He put it into his mouth, said it tasted like a green plastic toy army man, spit it into his hand and flung it toward the screen, where it hit and stuck. I was sure we were going to be asked to leave. Some moviegoers laughed and others were appalled. It slid slowly down the scenes on a screen before falling to the floor. There was polite applause.

In the opening scene of the movie “Citizen Kane,” a snow globe, featuring a peaceful scene with a house, falls from the protagonist Charles Kane’s dying hand and shatters on the floor near his deathbed.

“Rosebud” was the last word spoken by Kane. Rosebud was the name of Kane’s beloved sled from his childhood.

If I’d played Kane, dropping a snow globe and uttering my last words, they would have been “Green Dot” or “I wish the outhouse had been indoors.”

Al Batt’s columns appear in the Tribune every Wednesday.