The Quest for JoyBug’s Title: Part 2
June 8, 2019
My heart was a jungle drum beating wildly at the mention of his shotgun. Standing at around 5’7, 94 years old, and no more than 120 lbs, Turkey Bob was not all a menacing figure. But lets’ face it: anyone holding a shot gun can become menacing real quick.
“Let’s just both take a deep breath,” I said.
“You told me there were all these things wrong with that trailer, but it was perfect. PERFECT. And you stole it! I gave it to you for nothing.”
“But sir, you “gave” me that trailer for an agreed upon price, and one that didn’t even belong to you. It belonged to your son. The title is in his name, not yours.”
“Yea well, so what?”
He began to wander around his garage. “Ya see that mower over there. Damn thing stopped working. I gotta fix that now. And then there’s my boat. I sold that last week for way less than its’ worth to a really beautiful lady. I’m a softy for beautiful ladies. But she took me for a song.”
He wobbled bow-legged around the cluttered garage, like a miniature John Wayne, showing me this project and that project, oscillating between yelling at me and treating me like a friend. I couldn’t tell if I was making any progress at all.
“Bob, I need you to come with me to the surrogate office so that we can get a form that shows you are the executor of your son’s estate, and then take another little trip to the DMV so that you can sign the title over to me.” Even as the words came out of my mouth, I knew what he would say.
“Ohhhhhh no. I’m not going all over the place with the likes of you. I have things to do.” he said, fumbling with a box of old rusty tools.
“But Bob, without your help, the trailer is worthless. I can’t use it.”
“That’s karma for ya. That’s what ya get for stealing from me. Now get out of here. I got places to be. And that’s the way that goes.”
Turkey Bob started to walk towards his car and jiggle the door handle, when suddenly without thinking, I blurted out: “Look. I’ll give you $300 to come with me right now.”
He paused with his keys in the door and his fingers on the handle. I could hear the sound of a cash register opening in his mind. He looked up at me, and smiled a little sinfully.
“We’re gonna need a death certificate.”
As I sat (per Bob’s request) in a recliner that had been draped with a bear skin from one of Bob’s proudest kills, I struggled to keep my face relaxed. My feet sandwiched the head of the dead bear, my ankles touching its ears, the back of my naked legs brushing up against its coarse fur. As I rummaged through a safety-deposit box, fingering dusty documents that told the story of Turkey Bob’s life, I accidentally looked down between my hands and saw the bears face at my feet; mouth frozen in a roar, and eyes forever fixed forward. I shuttered.
We found his son’s death certificate and got into my car to make the 30 minute drive to the surrogate office. We were both already waist-deep in the waters of the mind of Turkey Bob.
“I have a lady friend, well.. two lady friends,” he said. Bob went on to tell me about how he was always giving them money, how they were more trouble then they were worth, but because of his extremely big heart, he was always trying to help them out. Then he put his hand on my shoulder “Ya know, I could always use another lady friend.”
“I have a boyfriend,” I said trying to keep him placated, and smiled at him, continuing to drive.
“I was in the navy you know,” He said. “You know how strong you have to be to be in the navy? And these lady friends and me – we’re still sexually active. I have no problem in that department. And that’s the way that goes.”
“Uhhh huh.” I said. I quickly changed the subject.
My goal for the next 5 hours before the offices closed was simple: Keep Turkey Bob interested in helping me. Keep him happy. Keep him entertained. Get the title. And get the heck out of there.
“I’m sorry, but we can’t help you” the woman at the Surrogate office said. “This isn’t an original death certificate. It’s a copy. We need an original.”
I buried my hands in my face.
“We also need Robert to fill out this application to become the executor. And we need proof of the trailers worth. Something from NADA perhaps.”
I tried to explain that NADA didn’t go back to 1975 for Airstreams. But she insisted.
A quick call to the municipal court revealed that we would need both Turkey Bob’s Sr. and Jr birth certificates in order to obtain the original DEATH certificate, so that we could then return to the surrogate office and have him become the executor.
The woman behind the counter was a stereo-typical government employee who comes across as rule-bound and soulless. I poured out my story to her, but she was completely unmoved. The woman behind the woman dealing with us, however, who sat at a computer filing paperwork however, mouthed “I’m sorry” at me.
Rule #1 of impossible situations: Always find and secure an ally.
Her name was Michelle. Michelle convinced Robo-Surrogate-Cop to let the NADA proof-of-worth slide, and helped us fill out the forms. She encouraged us to go home and try to find the death certificate. Upon realizing that this might not get resolved by the end of the business day, Turkey Bob insisted I stay at his house for the night. Michelle saw the look of panic on my face. “Maybe you should take my phone number… just in case you have any questions,” she said.
By the time we were in the parking lot, she texted me. “I know I’m a stranger, but you’re 100% welcome to crash in my guest room tonight. Just text me.”
We drove the 30 minutes back to the house and rummaged his basement for a second time. No death certificate. Turkey Bob, who had gone from treating me like an assailant to a friend, to his daughter, insisted on taking me for a “spaghetti dinner” at the hottest spot in town. Back in the car, I found myself on another magic-mystery-tour of Turkey Bob’s mind; a never-ending parade of impossible-to-follow stories about his past. My brain was starting to shut down.
On his dashboard was a turkey that had been glued in place. I swear that Turkey was mocking me with its frozen stare. “You’re never getting out” its eyes whispered. I wondered if that turkey had been glued in place or just talked into a vegetative state.
“The lady who used to live here,” Turkey Bob said as we drove past an old house, “she used to take my wife to the airport all the time. Well she passed away and her husband passed away. She has a daughter in Alaska. In Evert’s town. And they look IDENTICAL. I said… ‘awe Linda, how you doing?’ She said “I’m not Linda. That’s my mother.” he laughed. “Ah, but they’re both dead now. And that’s the way that goes.”
I screamed inside my head: Forget the Turkeys…Please. Just. Shoot. Me. Now.
Turkey Bob was a regular celebrity at the local area watering hole/spaghetti joint where we ate dinner. He introduced me to everyone as his daughter from Atlantic City, which was awkward at best. Over dinner, he lectured me on how to live a good life, and shared intimate details about his past. Despite my exhaustion, and being no closer to getting my title, my heart was moved by the old man’s story.
Back at Turkey Bob’s house, and back on the chair with the dead bear skin rubbing up against my bum, I rummaged a 3rd time through his safety deposit boxes, this time searching for Turkey Bob’s Sr. and Jr.s birth certificates. By a miracle, I found both. While Bob poured himself a big drink, we made a plan to go at 8 a.m to the municipal court to get a copy of the death certificate. I was starting to feel a little uneasy. I still hadn’t told him that I didnt plan to stay at his house, and could predict how he would react. In an attempt to not offend him, I had a friend call me up as my “boyfriend”, and insist on getting me a hotel. This plan backfired. Bob was convinced I was dating a control-freak, and lectured me for another hour that he was in fact not a rapist, that I should stay in his guest room, and also the ins and outs of why I should dump my boyfriend immediately.
Somehow I escaped, and ended up at Michelle’s house. We shared a bottle of wine, as I regaled the torrid and long-winded JoyBug tale of the last two years, and then I promptly passed out.
Bright and early at 8 a.m, I arrived at the Municipal Court where Turkey Bob was waiting. He was wearing a t-shirt with the words “Smoke Em” on the front. On the back was a gun shell with a huge cloud of smoke in the shape of a turkey. It occurred to me that unbelievably, Turkey Bob was like a caricature of himself. I held my breath the entire time inside the courthouse, waiting for the other shoe to drop. Forty minutes later, we were in route to the surrogate office with two, freshly-minted copies of his sons death certificate which cost me $20.
As we walked back into the office, we were greeted by Michelle, who smiled knowingly at me, but pretended she hadn’t hosted me the night before. We presented her with the forms filled out, and the death certificate. She ushered us into a room, where we waited another hour while the application was processed. Another swipe of my credit card to the tune of $60, and we were on our way to the DMV with an affidavit making Turkey Bob the executor of his son’s estate.
By the time we arrived at the DMV, the dingy, monochrome building looked as brilliant to me as the glistening Taj Mahal at sunrise.
Standing at “window #4,” I slid the documents across the counter, expressing why we were there and what we needed. The man across the counter was about 60 years old. His glasses were hanging on a chain and resting on his beer-belly. He had a look of complete resignation in his eyes, and slid them right back at me.
“This title belongs to Harry Blithe. I need Harry Blithe to come in and apply for a duplicate title.”
I tried to calm myself.
“No, sir. The title belongs to Robert C. Jr. This is an original title from PA. We don’t have the title he then obtained when presenting this one to the DMV. We need a duplicate of that one.”
“Ok, we’ll then I need Robert B. Jr. to come in an apply for the duplicate title.”
I tried to calm myself again.
“Robert B. Jr is dead. This is his father Robert B. Sr. He is the executor of his son’s estate. We have the paperwork.”
“MMMmmmmm” he said inquisitively.
He typed away on the computer for what felt like a thousand years.
“We have another problem. This trailer is registered as a non-titled utility trailer. You need a notarized bill of sale.”
I was about to lose it.
“No, sir. It isn’t. Please just look up the serial number. You will see it was corrected years ago. It is registered as a titled travel-trailer that belongs to Robert B. Jr.”
“Ah! I see now. Please fill out these forms sir – as if you ARE your son. Then sign here as executor. Then go to window #3.”
I filled out the forms for Bob, who paced around the room, loudly calling the guy behind the DMV a litany of politically incorrect slurs while I shushed him. We went to window three.
“That will be $60,” the woman said.
Another swipe of my credit card.
Finally we were issued a duplicate title, and before I knew it, Bob was signing it over to me, legally.
“That will be $180” she said.
Another swipe of credit card.
Finally, with time slowing to a near stop, the woman behind the counter handed me the title to JoyBug, in my own name. As I watched the title move through the air between us, I felt like we were running towards each other in a slow-motion beach scene in a chick-flick.
She was mine. I was free.
A week later, the phone rang, and I looked down to see Turkey Bob on my caller ID. I’d promised myself that if he called, I would indulge him, knowing that he didn’t have any friends. So I answered it, expecting us to have a friendly chat.
“Andrea? This is Turkey Bob,” he said.
“Hey Turkey Bob! How are you?”
“Let me tell you something. I’m a man with a giant heart. It’s my one flaw. I was incredibly kind to you. I could’ve told you to get lost. But I treated you like my daughter. And you said you would pay me $300. So if you think you’re gonna rip me off… you got another thing comin’ sweetiepie…”
I was stunned. I had paid nearly that in fees alone to get his documents, and never expected the man to really ask me to pay him $300. He was calling me his daughter, asking me to sleep at his house, and telling me that he wanted to put me in his will.
“I….I would never rip you off. I thought we’d become friends. I didnt think you were going to make me pay…”
“Now you listen to me. You’re gonna send me that $300 today. And its’ not about the money. I could’ve pulled my shot gun on you. I could’ve told you to get lost. But I didnt. So you get your check book out right now and you get your pretty little ass to the post office before it closes.”
I hung up.
There was no convincing Turkey Bob that it had been his fault the whole time, and a situation that was his responsibility to rectify from the beginning. I’d lent him my ear for 24 hours through insufferably meandering stories, rummaged through paperwork from the 1940s while sitting on a dead bear not once but THREE times, sat through a spaghetti dinner while being lectured on my “racy” clothes and the “turban heads” who were ruining our country, been further lectured on my fictitious boyfriend, and paid for documents that he would be keeping to the tune of nearly $300. I’d done what I had to do to get the title, and Joybug and I were moving on.
And that’s the way THAT goes.