- Tlas and Reppepby Spitfire
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Tlas and Reppep by Spitfire

"Excusta me, I find da handle in da box."

Huh?  What's that all about?  My Dad.  When he made mistakes like driving down the wrong road or miscalculating income tax, he never said "Oops" or "Sorry," but instead, he would drag out the punch line about a handle.   Even when he told the entire story, it took my ten-year-old mind awhile to figure it out.  I'll tell you the joke at the end of this piece.

Dad taught science at the junior high level.  He kept one day ahead of his students although he graduated summa cum laude at St. Lawrence College in upper state New York.  Did I mention the size of his graduating class?  Three!  That's classified information. His students thought him brilliant: girls smitten by his movie star looks; boys hypnotized by his charisma.  Dad's colleagues described him as dignified and charming--the perfect gentleman.

Students and co-workers never saw the quirky side of father, the man who made dinnertime an adventure in word play. He'd season his food with "tlas" and "reppep"-- salt and pepper spelled backwards.  Mom always served rolls, and Dad always asked someone to pass "the solidified fluid of the bovine quadruped."  Did you figure it out?  Butter, of course.

For Dad, the perfect desert was jello because it flowed through the spaces not yet filled.  When we settled down to watch television, Dad wanted a   "nugget pugget."  Translation:  something to hold in the other hand.

He taught my sister and me side-splitting ditties—some you've heard:

                                        Bean soup, musical fruit.
                                       The more you eat, the more you toot.

My sedate mother frowned at this one.  But another rhyme gave her the giggles. See, Dad loved jelly donuts, ate them to excess and regretted it later. After he recovered, he recited his tale about the snake:

                                        As I was going around battle lake
                                        I met a groaning rattlesnake
                                        Who'd eaten so much jelly cake
                                        It made his little tummy ache.

But his favorite line was one that took me two years to figure out. Whenever I called myself or anyone else  "stupid,"  he would say, "You should see my brother, he walks like this."  Then, hunching his shoulders and lowering his head, he shuffled around the room.  About the time I decided to take English seriously, the punch line hit me. Come on, Dad—"stupid" is two syllables; "stooped" is one.   No wonder I never caught on!

Now, how about that handle.  Here's the story:

A Swede ordered an axe through the mail.  When the box arrived, he opened it up and found only the blade.  Irate, he penned a brutal letter to the company. The order was incomplete. How inefficient. How careless. He wanted his money back. But before sealing the box for return, he checked again.  Under layers of tissue the Swede found the handle. He still mailed the letter, but added a postscript. You guessed it.  He wrote:  "P. S. Excusta me, I find da handle in da box."


Author Notes
Yes, the photo is Dad in his thirties. Of course, my sister and I never thought of him as gorgeous. He was just our funny old father.


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