October 19, 2007

The Birth of a Nail Biter

Running while biting your nails is harder than it sounds. But I was motivated. Behind me lay Marie- our live-in maid and ahead of me, open road.

It was 1987. My mother was bed-ridden with a heart virus that year and needed any help she could get. But when a friend called and told her she would pay us to take in Marie, there should have been warning bells. Regardless, my parents agreed to give Marie a shot. Her duties consisted of helping my mother keep up with the astonishing amount of laundry and cleaning that plagued a family of eleven.

Since my mother spent most of the time ill in her bedroom, Marie often took the general care of the household into her own hands. Overall, she was good at what she did. She would clean like a slave all day and then lay outside my mother's door, eventually falling asleep so she could be present the instant my mom called. She would do anything for my mother, anything.

Although Marie loved my mother, she had nothing but disgust for us children. We were simply the obstacles between her and a perpetually clean house. She would spend evenings glowering in the corner when we got out our toys to play. How dare we sully this sanctum she had created for her blessed employer? We tried to steer clear of her but her accusatory eyes made my skin crawl. There were no smiles between the factions. We knew she hated us and she seemed to like it that way.

What possessed her to have a fingernail cutting party in spring of 1988 I'll never know. But on that beautiful afternoon she grabbed my terrified younger brother and held him down in the grass to clip his nails. "Oww! You're hurting me!" John yelled. But Marie wouldn't give up. She was going for all twenty digits. She finally managed to finish the job on Johnny then moved on to my little sister, Bethany.

Marie was a big woman and easily captured Bethany. Again, screams filled our backyard as Marie took her instrument of torture to Bethany's sweet, plump fingers. In her struggle, blood was drawn from a clumsy snip of the clippers. I knew I was next in line for a clipping. I ran inside and told my older sister Annie of the blood bath outside. "She won't be able to catch us!" said Annie and took off running. Out the front door, down the driveway and up the street. I followed her breathlessly. "She can't cut our nails if we bite them all off!" I yelled and Annie and I frantically chewed our fingers as we ran, spitting our ripped fingernails on the road. I kept looking over my shoulder, sure Marie was thundering after us, fingernail clippers brandished and screaming Spanish obscenities.

After Annie and I had torn off all our our nails (and yes, I do mean all) we found a quiet spot in the woods to hide. Finally, when the sun began going down, we decided to risk going home. Surely Marie had finished her evil work by now. And what could she do to us anyway? We, the declawed, walked triumphantly home. We had won. But I confess to being a nail biter ever since. Marie, if you are out there, you'll never catch me alive!


Catherine M. said...

Ummm, Where was I? I swear I'm your sister, yet I've never heard of Marie in my life. I do remember a Guatamalan woman whose swimsuit couldn't quite stay up in the pool. She also made great potatoes/boiled eggs/soup. She also almost made Johnny die on thin ice. Hmmm, I thought she was the nail cutter, but I could be wrong. I definitely remember running from someone with clippers. What was her name anyway?

Hollywood said...

Catherine, I changed her name in my post to "Marie" for privacy's sake. And she was from Honduras. Mom sacked her after the thin ice incident with Johnny.

Anonymous said...

Your parents fired a free maid!? I guarantee my parents would have kept her even if little Johnny had succumbed to the ice, especially with there being 11 you had several extra to spare.


Annie said...

The best thing I've read all week!

The Employer said...

Heh heh. She wasn't free. We paid her. Do you really think I could ask ANYONE to do what she did for free? I put up with her craziness till it became literally a matter of life and death. Choosing between her and little Johnny, the apple of my eye, wasn't hard at all.

"Marie" said...

aaah! I finally tracked you down you little nail chewer! You best watch out the next time you are out by the pool! You never know who is over there behind the privet hedge trimming away!...I still have my clippers and once I get your dna sample I am going after Annie!

Marie said...

I resent that you chose "Marie" as her pseudonym -- pttthhhllp on you. Better watch out, or you might be clipper attacked by a real Marie! We Maries are known for our ferocity. Of course, I'm a nail biter, too, so I might chase you down and then bite your nails off for you. Now THAT would be scary.

Physcokity said...

hahaha I'm surprised she wasn't canned right after that!