Tuesday, June 17, 2008

What The Hell Is That?

It's been a weird week. Not that it isn't ALWAYS a weird week for me, but this one is really strange. First of all, I have this plant from outer space in my yard. It's sooooooo Little Shop of Horrors. I have no idea what in the hell it is. The leaves are super velvety and there's the beginnings of yellow flowers emerging on top. I'm standing next to it because you have to see how freaking tall it is. I'm about 5'10."

All summer we've watched it grow up through the rocks in the swail (another story for another time) but couldn't bring ourselves to take it down. "Let's see what it turns out to be..." my husband and I find ourselves saying to each other for some reason. I can't help but wonder how many sci-fi horror flicks began with that simple premise. As far as I know, it hasn't devoured any of the neighborhood children. There are a few less squirrels around, but maybe there's a rodent bubonic plague going around, or perhaps they are on vacation in the Hamptons.

I've named the plant "Al." Why? Because the cactus is named "Bob," of course.

The kids had friends over the other day while I was writing. Conor said, "Hey, let's set up our own business!" I thought that was kind of cute and went back to being deep in thought about my book...something to do with killing a guy with a pair of tweezers and an apricot. Anyway, a few minutes...or maybe hours...later, Ian (you know him as Louis Bombay) came down to tell me it was time for me to visit the businesses upstairs.

In Jack's bedroom, Conor and Jack had a gun store. The guns were pretty reasonable - a mere quarter bought me a lovely faux pearl-handled .38. And they'd even opened Jack's window to give me the chance to practice "shooting" bunnies and squirrels, something I don't even do in fiction. Conor insisted on seeing my FOID card (Illinois' firearms owners identification card) and I thought that was very responsible of him.

I took my pistol (unloaded, of course) and went next door, where Margaret and Ian were running a spa specializing in massage. Ian did this thing to my back with his elbows that would make any masochist proud. Enpurpled and armed, I went back to my book.

Then it hit me. For businesses, my kids were running an underground arms operation and a massage parlour. Instead of lemonade stands or factories that made widgets, my kids had a genuine red-light district worthy of Deadwood. Junior Achievement would be so proud...

And then, I've been delving into the family history this week and came across a name in the Quincy, Illinois newspaper from the 1890's: Otto Hellwagon. Sigh. Isn't that wonderful? If you saw that in a novel, you'd say "what a ridiculous name! They can't possibly expect the reader to believe it!" They don't make names like that anymore. It's a shame, really. Otto Hellwagon. Go ahead, say it. It just trips poetically off the tongue.

So that's a normal week, right? I'm sure it has nothing to do with the plant. And once I get past these weird dreams I'm having where "Al" asks me to feed him Pizza Rolls and teacup Chihuahuas, I'm sure everything will be just fine. Right?

The Assassin


Terri Osburn said...

There aren't any mushrooms around that plant, are there? Because I think you've been smoking some.

Great name. At some distant family reunion, the only one I remember and it was centuries ago, they passed out a family tree and the name I remember is Marmaduke. I had a great (many times removed) Uncle Marmaduke. Can you imagine?

Leslie Langtry said...

Why don't we name people Marmaduke anymore? I love that name.

No, no mushrooms. Just weirdness. I swear.


Anonymous said...

"They don't make names like that anymore."
If your researching genealogy have you tried the German spelling? Hellwagen?
I got curious and did a little googling, yahooing and clustying :) on Hellwagon.
Most came up with paid genealogy sites :( I did find this site: http://www.karensgen.com/buch/illinois/willco/greengarden/stpetercemetery.htm
Which appears to list two infant deaths in 1868.
BTW Google works fast. It already had your mention of Hellwagon indexed.

"Why don't we name people Marmaduke anymore?"
Because people are into much weirder names now. Don't believe me, check your local paper's birth announcements. The things parents do to their kids!

Hellie Sinclair said...

Bookmobiler's right. Flip open a scandal rag: they're always writing about what celebrities are naming their babies. Pax, Maddox, Apple, Magnus, Atticus, Audio Science (it's real, look it up), Banjo, Coco, Dashiel, Harlow (for girls, mind), Pilot Inspektor (seriously), Moses, Phinneaus, Tallulah, Hazel, and Indiana August.

And those are the rather normal names.

Be careful of that killer plant...though might be useful in an assassin book. J. K. Rowling used one to good effect in book 5 of Harry Potter.

Leslie Langtry said...

Can you imagine going to your first day of kindergarten as Pilot Inspektor Hellwagon? Although I should admit, my husband wanted the name "Skullcrusher" (I'm 100% serious) for both kids' middle names. Fortunately, only the person who passes said child through their birthcanal get to name them. That's a federal law...right?


Terri Osburn said...

Actually, when I moved here to Virginia back in '04, I moved in next to a guy named Marmaduke. He was in his mid-20s and in the Navy. He went by Duke but still, he's the only person I've ever really met with that name.

And I've met his mother. Very weird. Explains a lot.

When I named my daughter Isabelle, I got flack for giving her an "old-fashioned" name. It's not like I named her Mabel or something? Which is my step-grandmother's name so it could have happened.

Terri Osburn said...

I have to know, who in the world named their kid Audio Science?

Somehow that Skullcrusher thing doesn't surprise me.

Anonymous said...

That is one honkin' big plant! I feel like I've seen something similar at some point in my life, but probably not that big.

Love the kids' businesses!!!

Otto Hellwagon is a great name! I've got some fun names in my family. My great-grandmother was Aramantha Grimsley. She had a sister named California. Oh! Hey, she could have been a Bombay in disguise. *g* Then I had a very distant cousin named King Solomon Peeler. LOL! Lots of George Washington Whatevers and Thomas Jefferson Whoevers and other famous historical figures got used, too.

Kim Castillo said...

OH. Dear. God.

Seriously, Les, you crack my ass UP.

I would definitely be scared of that plant. Have you tried drying a leaf and smokin' it? As big as it is it could be a real cash cow ;) I'm just sayin...

Weird names, my husband wanted to name our son Jaguar. Seriously. You wouldn't believe the smackdowns we had over that one. We compromised with naming the cat Bentley. Men, sheesh.

And damn, but you got some smart kids. They know where the real money's at ;)

Kim Castillo said...

Today's the day you can start voting for the first Langtry's Larcenist Line!

You do have to be signed up for Leslie's Newsletter to vote but its super easy to do.


Terri Osburn said...

Signed up and voted. My work here is done.

Keri Ford said...

When I first saw that big arse plant, I thought it might be a bremeliad (don't wager on that spelling), but on closer look, the leaves are little limp for that type, I think. but hey, maybe soon you'll have a pinapple sprouting out of that thing!

*tori lennox, honey, I think we are neighbors or live some kind of close! I've been noticing the phrases you use in your posts and I rarely see them on-line--unless like, I do them. I'm a south arkansas girl myself.

Leslie Langtry said...

I've had neighbors coming over to see the plant. No one knows what it is. Maybe I should call in an emergency botanist?

Jenyfer Matthews said...

I'd call you local agricultural center. You might have some sort of new species on hand there! LOL - probably not - but maybe you'll be on the news :)

There were lots of interesting Puritan names way back on my father's side of the family tree. Hepzibah Death is one that springs to mind, as does Thankful White. My dad named his black powder rifle Hepzibah!

Christie Craig said...

Lol! Nice plant. Wouldn't try and smoke it. Water it. Talk to it. Horticulture therapy is great.


Crime Scene Christie

Gemma Halliday said...

Les, I love your kids. :)

Some day I'm going to rope you into teaching me how to shoot. I've always wanted a gun. But... do they come in pink?