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Stories

This Old Human

No country cabin is complete without a proper old man. Tobias Seamon reports from the set of This Old Human and gives us the scoop on how to craft the perfect curmudgeon.

There’s nothing quite like growing up in a city, but let’s face it: sometimes having wealthy, urban parents can be exhausting. Just prying them out of Met charity benefits can ruin the weekend for any NASDAQ analyst looking to get a break from the rat race. And all that whining about the portfolio—who needs it? Your family should just relax and keep the inheritance intact.

Hi, I’m Bob Vila, and today on This Old Human we’re going to show how to get away from all that by creating the perfect rural parent for any serious fixer-upper. Without a proper old man, no country cabin can ever really be complete. The key, as always, is location, location, location. Here, in Cold Grove, Vermont, it’s about as good as it gets. While it may look a bit shabby, it’s all about possibilities. Sure, an old Chevy is damming up the stream and some kind of awful weasels live in a broken dryer on the front lawn, but for fresh air, green trees, and privacy you can’t beat Cold Grove.

For now, let’s ignore the weasels—man, those fuckers are fast—and just take care of the old human. It took my assistant Boozer McHugh an hour to pry our old human out of his deer-tic-infested easy chair. And here he is: Mr. Lucius Drivel. Now go wash up, Boozer, you’ve got a long, backbreaking day ahead of you. Think I’m going to dirty up my fantastically warm vest? Bullshit on that. How are you, Lucius? You know that rhymes with ‘Confucius,’ don’t you?

Lucius: Get off my property!

Bob: Ha ha, easy there papa-san, we don’t want to you to break anything. Not yet. Now, as you can see, Lucius looks about as crapped-out as a human can get.

Lucius: Who are you? Where’s my smell-hound?

Bob: We put your dog down, Mr. Drivel. Pedigree-only from now on. Boozer, damn it, get back here and hold him still! Like I was saying, when you first look at Lucius, it’s difficult to see how he could ever be made decent. That’s what the Shales thought too, when they first came up to inspect the old man. Isn’t that right, Micah and Crystal?

Micah: That’s right Bob. God, we were horrified. But the more we poked around, the better we liked him.

Crystal: Ha ha, it took some imagination, that’s for sure. Just getting him out from under all those mouse-eaten ammo catalogs was tough. But Micah thought he saw something in old Mr. Drivel, so we grabbed him up. What a deal!

Lucius [sobbing]: Ten lottery tickets and tin of stew, that’s all they gave me. Goddamn them, just goddamn them to hell.

Bob: A smart purchase, Micah, almost as smart as those hair implants.

Micah: Easy there, Bob, we haven’t signed the check yet!

Bob: Haha, well I can’t argue with that! Guess I’ll just have to tell all the little Vilas that the Easter Bunny has anthrax and will be a little late this year.

Crystal: I knew we never should have moved out of the City!

Bob: Like any yuppie, Crystal, I notice you pronounce city with a capital ‘C.’

Crystal: Yes I do, Bob, and considering the way your beard is trimmed, so should you.

Bob: Oh, believe me, I do. As in, ‘Honey, don’t wait up cause I’m going to the City tonight. Lots of cheap whores in the City. The City sure is a great place to score weed. Man, I love the City!’

Micah [muttering]: Damn bridge-and-tunnelers.

Lucius: Oh, gawd, who are you people? Why is this man breaking my ribs?

Bob: Chill, Boozer. Now, Mr. Drivel here is absolutely the perfect fixer-upper. Most of the repairs are pretty cosmetic, and hopefully we won’t have to knock down any walls, but keep that sledge ready, Boozer. Attaboy.

Now, if we look at Mr. Drivel closely, you can see a faded label on these work pants. Don’t get me wrong: everyone loves a pair of Carhartt work pants, but not like these.

Micah: I have a pair of those! I painted our loft in them. I’ve worn them twice, plus every time I go to the gas station. I majored in labor relations, you know.

Bob: No doubt that’s why I haven’t been paid yet. I can see exactly where this labor relationship is going: another series of unpaid expenses and me in your driveway at midnight with a grease gun and blowtorch.

Crystal: Note to self—park Explorer in the garage.

Lucius: Why does that woman have a tiny walkie-talkie? Are you aliens?

Bob: Yes we are. We come from Planet Shut-the-Fuck-Up-Old-Man. You don’t want Boozer to bring out the probe-wand, do you?

Lucius: Lordy, it’s like being back in the army. I served in Korea, you know.

Bob: By the stains on those pants, looks more like you served in the school cafeteria. Boozer, pull these off of him. We brought a simply delish pair of J. Crew, pre-faded jeans for Mr. Drivel to wear.

Micah: Hey, those are my jeans!

Lucius: These are comfy! First time I’ve been warm in 30 years. What else you got in that basket? Mind you, I don’t have any money. Certainly no old Treasury certificates buried out by the crick, so don’t even look back there!

Bob: Here you go, Mr. Drivel, let’s get those brogans off you—sweet Jesus, do something about the socks, Boozer, before I puke—and, I might add, into a nice pair of boots.

Crystal: Hey, those are my Wellingtons!

Bob: You have pretty big feet, you hoofer you. Maybe the anorexia just makes them look bigger.

Lucius: My wife had anorexia. Fattest woman I ever saw in my life.

Bob: As usual, Mr. Drivel, you’re very confused.

Lucius: That’s ‘cause you stole all my meds! I need my meds. They cost 90 clams a pill, I ain’t got no insurance, and the VA hospital is 6 hours away!

Bob: Woo-hoo, is that why Crystal is starting to look so good? Someone’s gonna have to take me to the hospital too, cause I’m seeing stars! Hey baby, I ain’t been paid yet but maybe we could work out an arrangement…

Crystal: Call me the next time you’re in the City.

Micah: Crystal!

Bob: Back off, schlomo, you’re not the only one who majored in labor relations.

Micah: ‘Schlomo?’ I haven’t heard that one since college. Dartmouth is very ethnically diverse, you know.

Bob: ‘Schlomo’ was only a figure of speech. What I was actually thinking was ‘cock-knocker.’

Crystal: Oooh.

Bob: Later, baby, later.

Crystal: Note to self—transfer mutuals and industrial stocks to Daddy’s name.

Lucius: Daddy, that’s me! I’m rich! Have you been down to the crick? Don’t lie to me, you goddamn aliens.

Bob: You ain’t rich till you get some new choppers. Speaking of…here you go: new teeth handcrafted from Martha Stewart herself! She has a lot of time in prison now, and her fall line has really taken off. Check these babies out, they’re made from dried, Sing-Sing soap.

Lucius: My mouth is foaming. Gawd help me.

Bob: Just keep still while Boozer points the leaf-blower your way. We’re just about done here. Now put on this deliberately corny sweater—trust me, the big blue mallards look great with your liver spots—plus this pre-fab shapeless hat from LL Bean, and voila! A perfectly perfect country gentleman! Lively, yet dignified, a sense of humor plus those good old country values that yuppies slaver after. Quite the character, eh?

Crystal: He makes Daddy look so…I don’t know the word…so fake.

Micah: Your father is a fraud. Why do you think the early ‘retirement?’ It was either that or a very nasty court case.

Crystal: You’re just jealous of his big hardwood desk.

Micah: True.

Bob: Boozer, turn that goddamn blower off. You’re getting suds on my fleece. So, what do you think? It’s always good to listen to what a master artisan has to say about his own work.

Boozer: Well, Bob, I have to say, I’m just sickened by this whole thing. You’ve tormented a poor, confused old man to gratify a couple of craven strivers…

Micah: Hey! My family did my striving for me…

Boozer: …People desperate for some sort of history, even if it’s entirely artificial, who are socially obsessed but never enough to concern themselves with actual societal problems like the plight of seniors like Mr. Drivel…

Lucius: My wife had plight. The fattest woman I’ve ever seen.

Boozer: …while you Bob, you cock-knocker, sell these pre-fab ancestries beneath the cynical guise of a socially acceptable Everyman, like some kind of wretched go-between so the yuppies never actually have to deal with actual laborers, thus adding to the vicious cycle of mistrust and—let’s be honest—class bigotry here in America. I’m sickened by this, completely sickened.

Bob: That’s a lot to chew on, Boozer, and I’m sure what’s left of our audience appreciates it. Maybe next week you can build your own little soapbox and we’ll call the show This Old Commie Bullshit, with Boozer McHugh. Would that make you happy?

Lucius: No more soap, please, no more! Where’s my smell-hound? What time is it? I need my meds!

Bob: Your dog got his medicine, Mr. Drivel, and you will soon, don’t worry about a thing. For Bob Vila and Boozer McHugh, with a big thanks to Micah and Crystal Shale…

Micah: Thank you Bob!

Crystal: Call me!

Bob: …from here in Cold Grove, this has been This Old Human.

biopic

Tobias Seamon recently published the novella The Fair Grounds. More can be found here. More by Tobias Seamon