The Biggest Insult

Maybe it was the phone call.

“I’m calling on behalf of the Texas Paralyzed Veterans,” the voice said.

“I’m sorry,” I said.  “Will you please take us off your phone list?”

He told me that, unfortunately, he couldn’t do that.  I’d have to call a number to get off their list.  Did I want that number?

No, I didn’t want that number.  I went on to explain that it seemed unfair that I had to call someone to get off a list for unsolicited phone calls.  You see, I —

Click.  He’d hung up on me in mid-sentence.

A few hours later, when it was growing dark, someone started banging on our door.  It was a kid in his late teens, clutching some papers.

“Do you know my mother?”  he said.  His mother, it turned out, lived only a few blocks away in a big house.  How surprising that I didn’t know her.  But, anyway.

“You’ve probably read about our team,” he said.  “We’re a select team.  We’re going to international playoffs.  I bet you’ve read about us in the Austin Times.”

I said no.

“You haven’t read about us?” he said, amazed.

No, I hadn’t.  I really seemed to be dropping the ball today.

He shook his head and went on.  As it turned out, he and his teammates were raising money to get books for the unfortunate members of his team who couldn’t afford them.  Wouldn’t I — ?

No, I said.  I wouldn’t.  The kid looked amazed — and crushed — for the third time in 30 seconds, as I closed the door.

He reminded me of the other kid who had shown up at our front door several months earlier.  His parents also lived close by — and it was odd I’d never met them.  He kept chatting about this and that (no select team, as I recall), when he noticed I wasn’t paying close attention.

He went bonkers and started screaming at me about what a terrible person I was.  For some reason, I was in a foul enough mood to tell him he should go into therapy for his anger-management problem, and we spent several seconds screaming insults at each other.  (This is rare.  I never scream.  Nobody in my neighborhood ever screams.  I think it’s against the law here.  We’re supposed to talk in soft, modulated tones.  An ill wind must have been circulating that day.)

He stalked off, climbed on his bicycle, which he’d parked at our curb, and screeched his final insult: “You remind me of my mother!”

Ouch.  I slammed the door shut.  I’d practically been accosted at my own front door.  Upstairs, my teenage son was hanging out, doing something important like texting his friends.  Clearly, it had been too pressing for him to be interrupted by all the mayhem downstairs.

“Didn’t you hear all that screaming?” I asked him, thinking he might have wanted to defend his poor, vulnerable mother.

“I was kind of busy,” he said.

Yesterday, shortly after being hung up on by the Texas Paralyzed Veteran, I just read that the American Paralyzed Veterans group is on some kind of watch list for charities that hog the majority of donations for “overhead.”  If that’s true of the national group, I can only imagine how bad the state outfit is.

Besides:  Veterans?  Veterans of what?  A select team?  Any particular sport?  The Austin Times?

Forget it.  I don’t want to know.  Don’t call me, don’t bang on my front door.  I won’t listen to you, I won’t give you anything and, worst of all, I’ll remind you of your mother. 

(Copyright 2007 by Ruth Pennebaker)

1 comment… add one
  • Paul Link

    I can’t tell you how many personalized address stickers I’ve gotten from the PVA. They seem to think I do nothing but mail letters!

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