The prologue: As many of you know, my beloved bride hails from the fine country of Austria, a fair Alpine land of mountains, valleys and exceptional yodelers. She’s been in the United States for a long, long time, though, and is of course fluent in English. She does have a slight accent, but I don’t really hear it any more, sadly – I’m so used to it that it doesn’t register. So, occasionally, I forget that she ain’t from around these parts.
The story: “Bye-bye Snookums,” I hollered to my vunderful Viennese vife. “I’m off.”
“Vait!” she hollered back, padding her way out of the kitchen on little Dagmar feet, wiping her hands on a dish towel. “You’re not taking your motorcycle are you? It looks like it might rain.”
“Yes, I’m taking the bike,” I replied, grabbing my helmet and opening the door. “It won’t rain.”
“It’s goink to rain,” she said, hands on hips. “Now you just take the car und forget the bike.”
“Do not tell me what to do, Woman,” I said with mock severity as I kissed her on the nose. “I’m all growed up now. I can make up my own mind to not come in out of the rain.”
“Okay, you just go on, then, Stirring Weasel.” She kissed me on the cheek and shooshed me out the door. I made my way through the gate and prepared the bike for the short trip across town. “Stirring weasel?” I thought. “What’s that got to do with anything? What’s a stirring weasel? What’s it stirring?” I’ve played bass in rock bands for years. My hearing just ain’t what it used to be. I forgot the matter and went on about my business, which consisted of getting rather damp in the rain because I’m too stupid to take the car when it’s wet outside even when my wife tells me to.
A few days later I wandered past my little Austrian Snickerdoodle on my way to the couch. I sat down, thinking that the world really owes a hefty debt to whomever invented flannel pajamas as they really are very comfy to sit in whilst you’re on the couch, and winced. “What’s wrong?” she asked. “Vhat’s mit der wincing? Are you okay?”
“Ah, it’s nothing,” I said. “I trimmed the yard today with the weed-whacker and my elbow’s a little sore.” Stupid elbow’s been bothering me for two months now. I really oughta get it fixed one of these days.
“Why don’t you take an aspirin?” she said, standing in front of the TV, ensuring my full attention to the matter. “We have some Ibuprofin in the medicine cabinet…”
“I don’t need any aspirin,” I said. “It’s not that big a deal. I’ll be fine.”
She shook her head and wandered off to the other room, looking over her shoulder at me, muttering something like, “Don’t need any aspirin. Hah! My little Sturdy Easel.”
Sturdy easel? Wha…?
The next weekend I thought I’d give it a shot myself. If she can make phrases up, so can I.
“I’m going to Mama’s house to visit,” Dagmar said. “Do you need me to pick anything up at the store on my vay back?”
“No, my little Stupid Eagle,” I said, kissing her on the forehead. “Tell your mama ‘Hi’ for me, and drive safe.” She had a strange look on her face as she left. A few hours later, when she came back home, I greeted her with a hearty “Hi, my Whirring Diesel! How’s your mama?” She gave me an odd look, but didn’t say anything about stirring weasels or whirring diesels.
This weekend the matter came up again. “Vhat are you doing now?” cried the love of my life, one bloodshot eye peering at me from under the blankets. “It’s six-thirty in the morning! Put that lawn mower down!” (It should be said at this point that we live in a rather shady neighborhood, we don’t have a door on our garage, and therefore we keep the lawnmower in a corner of the living room, right next to the bedroom door where it can’t be stolen.)
“I have to mow the yard before I go to work,” I said, angling the mower towards the side door.
“It’s six-thirty in the morning,” she repeated. “On a Saturday. Lay down. Don’t mow.”
“It needs to be done,” I replied.
“Shtooreh Aizel,” she said. “You’re a little gray shtooreh aizel.” I blinked at her. Somewhere in the deep recesses of what passes for my mind a thought was forming. Maybe she wasn’t saying “stirring weasel” or “sturdy easel.” Not real sure what she’s saying… it sure sounds like a foreign langua… Wait! German! Austrians speak German! Doh!
It turns out “Sture Esel” in German means “stubborn mule.” Ich bin ein kleiner sturer Esel. Grau, vielleicht. Mit lange Ohren.