Darrel Merchant was not known to have the best luck. He had Murphy’s Laws and the Corollaries to Murphy’s Laws taped to the wall in his basement office. One time, he bought his kids a swing set. He opened the box and pulled out the directions. The first line read, “So you think you’re going to assemble a Gym-Dandy Swing Set. It only took our expert engineers three days to complete.” When he was driving down the street, he hit every red light in town—but only when he was in a hurry. Water leaked into his basement. One of his kids had two accidents with the car—before he was 18. He either couldn’t put up a straight Christmas tree or his wife’s head was cocked permanently at an odd angle. He ran a ball team and every year it rained on Sponsor’s Night, the biggest crowd of the year. It was OK to laugh when these things happened, because it got so bad, he was left with no choice but to laugh himself. What else could you do?
His kids inherited his luck. The son who had the two car accidents was known by his first name in emergency rooms all over the state. He had more stitches than a quilt, and that’s how he came to be known—“Stitch.” His older brother, Darrel, Jr. had such bad luck with women that at one point (only for a second mind you) he wished homosexuality wasn’t biological. He never learned. He kept going back for more abuse. Darrel’s daughter didn’t get married until she was much older. Because she never met the right guy, she kept saving up for the perfect house. Immediately after the marriage they bought a lot and built in the most exclusive part of town. Wanting to have children, she explored the various fertilization options. One year after moving into their new home, she got the good news that she was pregnant—with quadruplets. After she had the babies, she had to quit her job. It was 2009 A.C. (After the Crash). They could neither sell the house nor make the payments. Foreclosure proceedings began promptly . . .
Then, they got to the last toll booth of the night . . . Cars rip out of these toll booths like horses out of the gate at Arlington. That was too much excitement for the kids to miss, so they peeked out of their blanket to check it out. As was typically her job, their mom began fumbling in her change to get the appropriate amount of money. With no quarters left, she was down to two dimes and a nickel, adequate to satisfy the hungry toll. Darrel, Sr., flipped the change toward the basket but a couple coins missed and landed in the snow drift.
“Give me some more change.”
“I don’t have any more change. I told you that.”
“Well, what the hell.”
“Get out of the car and find the money and put it in the basket.”
“It’s 20 below zero and cars are already backed up all over the place. I should get out of the car to look for 15-cents in a snow bank?”
“Get out of the car and find the money.”
At this point, the only other option probably would have been to meander over to a manual toll for change, which could hold things up even more. Whether or not either one of them even thought of that is unknown.
Darrel, got out of the car and started to look for the money, and Darrel, Jr. and Stitch started to roar at the hilarity, while Darrel undoubtedly saw no humor in his current dilemma. Darrel’s wife started to lean over toward the driver’s side of the car, she herself chuckling at the absurdity of their plight. The boys assumed she was just inching over to get a better look at the action, but not so. She actually moved over into the other seat. Just then, Darrel discovered the wayward change and put it in the basket. As he did the arm of the toll went up, and Darrel’s wife tore out of there and sped off to the side of road. She feared the arm would go back down and they’d be stuck again. Darrel looked up in amazement. He was dumbfounded. Out of options, he pursued the only course available to him and began to chase his family down the Tri-State in a blizzard, weaving in and out of traffic and muttering words that were usually reserved for when he had a tool in his hand . . .
By the time Darrel got back to the car, his wife was sitting peacefully back in the passenger seat. He just looked at her, incredulous.
Words were exchanged.
“If I didn’t have another 15-cents, what makes you think I had a quarter?” . . .