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Rant #474
(published February 18, 2010)
You Say Tentacle, I Say Testacle
by Eva Lesko Natiello
The hardware store greets me with the combined musty smell of wet lumber, galvanized nails, and the thick brown oil that comes from the necks of copper piping—and Will, the sarcastic, perverted store manager. Will, who's never seen a cheeseburger he didn't like, stands mid-aisle with hands on hips; feet anchored to the concrete floor—about a yardstick apart—to help balance the weight north of his waistline. This is an excellent vantage point, after all, to check out any female patrons who wander in. Young, old, attractive, disheveled—no matter—they'll get the same greasy smile.

It's really too bad that Ken, the other manager, isn't around. These two guys are complete opposites, thus my nicknames for them: Will Not and Ken Do. Apart from Will being a can't-do kind of guy, you can't help but imagine he's thinking, 'I'd love to see her with a circular saw,' drool, fart, belch.

I try not to make a habit of coming here for obvious reasons, but our patio party is this weekend and my to-do list is a mile long. First stop is the hardware store to fill the propane tank and buy a set of grill tools. So not to prolong matters, I stride right up to Will and confidently ask, "In what aisle can I find the thongs?"

Without speaking, his eyes widen, eyebrows lift and mouth opens slightly. He doesn't want to jar me with an obvious reaction and discourage any other potential verbal blunder I might utter in his presence. This is the stuff that makes the day of a hardware store manager. He does manage to mutter, "Huh?" Simply to facilitate my trip down the troubled path of foot-in-mouth.

Of course I'm oblivious to my actual request because then I say, "You know, for when I'm grilling." He can't conceal his delight. Now a weakened man, his jaw drops open completely, revealing a pool of saliva that's collected around his tongue. His eyes canvas me from head to toe. The visual image of me grilling, wearing a thong, holding a circular saw, is just too much for him to bear. It is with this that I finally realize what I'm saying.

Now one might argue that I should have thought a minute or two before I opened my mouth. But the truth is—thinking would not have helped me. There are certain pairs of words that I consistently misuse.

More than embarrassed I'm angry. First of all, if you're gonna throw a guy a bone like this—don't let a creepy perv like Will be the recipient. Secondly, I promised myself a long time ago, I'd stop attempting to use certain words because of situations just like this. 'Tongs' and 'thongs' are a perfect example. Of course, is there any real shame in asking for 'tongs' at Victoria Secret? No. But I never confuse the two in that way. I ask for 'thongs' at the hardware store. I can live a perfectly gratifying life without such words. Like 'masticate' and 'masturbate' or 'tentacle' and 'testicle'. Fine, gone. Just the thought of going to Libretti's and ordering the calamari appetizer, requesting only testicles, could have me eating Chinese for the rest of my days.

I quickly gather my handbag and the paper lists I've placed on the counter top. I dart my head back and forth as if searching for something else in the store, my index finger on my slightly raised chin, trying to ignore the sleazy grin that has germinated across his face. Will hasn't moved a hair. Waiting for me to undress, no doubt. Then I thrust that finger into the air—in an 'Ah-ha!' kind of way and shout, "Oh yes! light bulbs—" and make a bee-line for the door. When I push the door open with force, it swings with ease and hits the corrugated metal wall causing the entire front of the store to shake like the hula doll Will has stuck to the dashboard of his pickup truck. I clutch my handbag and hug it up close to my chest and jog to the car.

I make a quick decision to cater our outdoor party and make peace with myself by deciding that the next time I need a screw (driver) or a three-way (bulb) I'll buy them online.

Eva Lesko Natiello is seeking representation for her first novel, The Memory Box, about a woman who discovers an unremembered past when she Googles herself.

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