HOME SICK FROM SCHOOL

GO AWAY

GO AWAY

I’m fourteen years old, home sick from school, and someone is pounding on the front door.

Who comes out to the country and wants to visit in the middle of the day? No one I want to talk to.

The dogs outside are barking like crazy so I pull my pillow over my feverish head and roll over. The pounding continues.

My room is on the second floor of a cobbled-together addition Dad built last year. I raise my head and look out the crooked windows. A large yellow sedan is in the drive.

I stagger out of bed and take two steps before I realize the knocking has moved from the massive old oak front door, to the dilapidated back door. My foot is on the first step, when the cardboard door crashes open.

I run back to my bedroom and drop to the floor, ready to roll under it and hide. Only, there’s so much of my crap under there I can’t fit.

Just as a footstep hits the first tread of the stairway I run to my brother’s room and slide under their crap-free bunk bed.

Two sets of black booted feet walk by – inches from my face.

“Hurry up, Jimmy,” the small booted man says.
Robber #1

“Hold your horses, cousin,” big booted man replies.
Robber #2

I listen as they ransack my brothers’ room. Books crash to the floor. A box that one of my brothers carved, lands on the floor next to me and the false bottom drops open.

So that’s where he hides his stuff, I think. Little sneak.

Cousin says, “I’m going downstairs, you check under the beds.”

I see Jimmy’s ankles bend as he prepares to kneel down. I roll over two times and plant my face against the wall.

“Cousin,” he calls. “Wait for me. I think this place is haunted.” Jimmy’s boots pound down the wooden stairs.

For what seems like hours I hear the bang, crash, clap of possessions being ripped from our home. After the noise stops, I lay there counting to a hundred and then another hundred.

I slip out from my hiding place and tiptoe back to my room to look out the windows. My knee hits something solid on the bed. It’s a jagged knife with a long black handle. I use my pillow to slide it out of the way and peek over the windowsill. No yellow sedan.

I creep down the stairs to the wall phone and pick up the heavy receiver. With a shaky finger, I pull the round dial seven times. I ask the school receptionist to find my mom.

“It’s urgent,” I whisper.

While I wait I look around the family room and wonder how the robbers could have made so many trips through the house and not knocked over our month-long Monopoly game sitting on a rickety card table.

Mom’s irritated voice comes on. “What is it now?” she asks.

I start to cry and she says over and over “What is it? What is it?”

“We were robbed,” I wail.

“Did they?” Mom gasps …

TO BE CONTINUED.

I’M A SLOW LEARNER

The back door to the house I grew up in, swung out onto a set of narrow concrete steps. With no handrail, opening the storm door on a windy March day was like raising full sail in a hurricane. That was the kind of day my Dad called a “Winnie-The-Pooh-Day and the kind of day I called fun.

I'm Telling Mom!

I’m Telling Mom!

After the school bus dropped us off, I would convince one of my younger brothers to open the sail door first. With little brother flapping in midair, clinging to the tiny plastic handle and screaming how he was going to tell on me, I’d casually unlock the house.

After dropping my books on the floor of the hallway, I’d turn around and head back outside.

Slippery Slide

Slippery Slide

An orange rusted swing set stood a few feet from the back steps. The swings had long ago busted and been removed, but the metal slide still survived.Polished to a sheen with Mom’s precious waxed paper, it became a treacherous and savage ride.

Turns out, little brothers are also perfect for experimenting with the trajectory and uncertainty of a safe landing, depending on the number of bricks used to raise the end of the slide.

Now, where did that little brother disappear to?

Now, where did that little brother disappear to?

The frame of the swing-free swing set became my jungle gym. I started out stepping from the crossbar and grabbing the top pipe, then dropping to the ground, but progressed to hanging upside down by my knees. This was much more enjoyable when accompanied by Mom screaming through the kitchen window, ” Teresa Carol, you get down right now before you kill yourself!”

On one particularly daring day, I began to swing back and forth. The aroma of a slow-cooked pot roast wafted through the kitchen window and it guaranteed that it wouldn’t be long before I heard what I wanted.

“If you fall, I’m not taking you to the emergency room,” Mom shouted.

I waved and smiled.

Through the corroded window screen I saw her finger jab to my left, indicating a little boy with a broken arm. “I’ve already been twice this week from your brothers shooting off that slide!”

Not content with the amount of screaming coming from the kitchen window, I took a move from the Summer Olympics and decided to throw myself forward and land on my feet.

To my surprise, that is not what happened.

I fell flat on my back and, with a simultaneous thump and whoosh; all the air left my body. I tasted the tang of blood in my mouth and time slowed unbearably. Like I was underwater I heard Mom’s muffled howl, “Mike, save your sister!”

My older brother’s face appeared above mine.

I made note of the ha-ha-you-look-like-a-wide-mouth-bass-gasping-for-air smile on his face and vowed to pay him back…just as soon as I could get the oxygen to return to my burning lungs.

I should be able to tell you that it was the last time I ever tried that move. But, I’m a slow learner.

I WANT TO WRITE, BUT I DON’T? WON’T? CAN’T?

Cant WriteI want to write, but I don’t write.

Or maybe it’s that I won’t write?

No. For sure it’s that I can’t write.

Last night I vowed, as I do every night, that come morning, I would sit down in front of my computer for twenty minutes even if I don’t put any words on the paper.

While I’m brushing my teeth this morning I decide to prepare to fill my vow. I Google “Writing Prompts” on my IPhone. I read dozens of them and not one prompts me to write.

So, I scroll through Facebook . Nothing there prompts me to write either.

I toss the phone on the counter and my new puppy barks. I realize she should go outside. I stand by the back door, like an idiot, hoping Puppy figures out how to ring the Go Outside Bell.

She’s so excited to see that she might get to go out, she wags her tail, which hits the Go Outside Bell.

Does That Count“That doesn’t count,” I say.

My words excite her even more. Her body wriggling with anticipation, she slams into the bell. It goes off like a high holy day at church.

I wrench open the door and the two of us, anxious to get away from the awful Go Outside Bell, fall through to the other side.

I wait for Puppy to do her business and look up at a giant picture window. I see a beautiful scene, right out of some writing movie. A sleek black desk, with a trendy light and a robust green plant, fills the frame. “If I had that,” I think, “I wouldn’t need any stinking writing prompts. I’d just sit down and write.”

Wait.

I do have that because…that’s my picture window.

I march inside and renew my vow to sit in front of my computer for twenty minutes even if I don’t write a word.   This is how well I fulfill my vow.

# I flip open the screen and see that it’s so covered in dust it would be impossible for me to write.

# I search for a special screen-cleaning cloth. No luck. I wipe the screen down with a damp paper towel. Visibility is now in worse shape than before.

# I search harder for special screen-cleaning cloth. Discover one the size of a postage stamp and spend ten minutes scrubbing computer screen.

# I am ready to write now. Nothing can hold me back.

# I pause to pat myself on the back for carving out such a great place to write.

# I notice sound of a tiny bell.

# I close laptop

# I follow noise to my IPhone, which is about to lose its charge. I walk to the car to retrieve the one IPhone charger I possess and when I open the car door, remember — from the stink that hits my face — I forgot to empty my car of bonfire smoked coats and empty gas cans – leftovers from weekend work at farm and ancient tractor.

# I discover hooded sweatshirt coated in stick-tights. I spend a futile thirty-minutes plucking at pointy seeds.

# I return to computer and open it. I stare at blinking cursor for what seems like hours, but in reality is two minutes.

# I think Puppy has been too quiet. I look across the room and see that she is rolling something small around the inside of her mouth.

# I close computer and get down on the floor, pry her mouth open and find nothing.

# I open laptop.

# I glance over and Puppy has resumed chewing small object, which pops out of her mouth and lands on the white carpet.

# I close laptop.

# I gag slightly and pick up tiny bloody tooth.

# I clean carpet.

# I open laptop

# I hear a ding from the charging IPhone.

# I close laptop.

# I watch text of grandson hitting a home run. I watch it twelve more times.

# I open laptop.

# I take sip of tea, which has turned cold.

# I close laptop.

# I reheat tea.

# I open laptop

# I immediately become aware of rumbling in stomach.

# I close laptop.

# I stand in front of open fridge searching for healthy snack that tastes like a chocolate chip cookie. I give up.

# I open laptop.

Outside Bell# I hear wiggly-jumping Puppy ring the Go Outside Bell. I take her outside and walk around back yard while Puppy sits and stares at me.

# I return inside to sound of the doorbell ringing.

# I listen to sales pitch from Boy Scout. Get purse and write check.

# I hear a ding come from other side of house. Follow it to dryer, telling me load is done. I move dry laundry to bedroom.

# I chase Puppy to retrieve stolen sock. I fold laundry, except for the sheets. I decide it is easier to change sheets on bed than fold clean sheets. I do that.

# I pick up slippers from bedroom floor and put away in closet.

# I organize entire shoe collection by color, then season, and then heel height.

# I follow faint beeping noise to the open laptop. I look at screen. Battery dead.

I want to write, but I don’t write.

Or maybe it’s that I won’t?

No. For sure it’s that I can’t.

Cant Write

 

 

Meet The Mayor of Crazie Town

Hello, my long-lost readers.

Wait.

You weren’t lost, I was.

???? Lost

You may be asking, WTF?  Why did The Mayor go from writing a hilariously funny and entertaining post every week, to barely a dozen over the last two years?

That is an excellent question and one I’ve been trying to answer for…well, the last two years.

I could tell you a lot of stuff happened, like:

My dad died,

and then;

My favorite aunt died,

and then;

My dog died,

and then;

We moved into the house from hell,

and then;

My husband was diagnosed with prostate cancer,

and then…

And then, I got stuck in Child’s Pose.  Literally.  Knees to chest, forehead pinned to a yoga mat.

My first yoga class in years and, unable to stand in Warrior 1, 2 or 3, I folded myself into Child’s Pose to wait for a position I could manage.  The problem became apparent immediately.  Once I arranged myself into Child’s Pose, huge crocodile tears rolled down my face and plopped onto the mat.  As the puddle of tears grew, the salty drops splashed back up onto my cheeks.

“Let’s continue our Vinyasa,” the teacher murmured to the class while tucking a pile of tissues next to me.  “Downward Dog…to Plank…to Cobra.”

I pushed up to try a Downward Dog but, the tears traveled upside down across my forehead and added to the growing dark patch on my purple mat.  Back to Child’s Pose, where I continued to weep silently until the class was over.

That was it.  I’m done.

I’m actually tired of being sad.

Khalil Gibran wrote: “The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.”

I figure by now, my life can hold a shit-load of joy.

For example, this brings me joy.

Blue Mayor

I’ve spent a small fortune at Shutterstock and thought it would be better to pay an artist I’ve actually met.  This is a creation from one of the extremely talented members of the WTF Critique Group.  Annie is an artist, a writer, an art critic and a world traveler.  I hate her awesome talent.  I think she has awesome talent!

I asked her to make a drawing that looks like me but add a top hat.

Done and done.

Meet the Mayor of Crazie Town. She confirmed that hilariously funny and entertaining blog posts will soon follow.

 

THIS DAD vs. THAT DAD

“Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!”  This was Dad in the emergency room, large hands out in front of him as if to push away a charging bull. “No one asked me if I was okay with a girl doctor.”

I smacked him on the head with a magazine I’d taken from the waiting room.

Chauvinist Statement3“I’m just saying,” he continued digging his hole. “They oughta have you sign a paper or something. You know. Giving them permission.”

This was the exasperating dad of my adulthood.

– This Dad provoked me by telling his friends not to worry about their spills because his maid (me) would clean it all up.

– This Dad fed a week’s worth of the meals I cooked for him to the dog.

– This “dieting” Dad left wrappers from Big Mac’s and Sonic burgers on the counter for me to pick up.

– This Dad had plopped himself in his rocking chair after Mom died, giving up on…well…everything, letting his home literally fall down around him.

More often than not, our visits ended with me stomping from his house and driving away, leaving him in his filth until the next Saturday visit.

My childhood dad was tall and lean, his skin a mahogany brown from the tips of his fingers to just above his elbows, where the sleeve of his t-shirt rested, his shoulders and chest as pale as a ghost.

– That Dad hauled hay bale after hay bale, stacking them to dizzying heights.

– That Dad survived having the zipper of his jeans [and the body parts behind it] twisted into a piece of churning farm equipment and then managed to sire six more kids.

– That Dad lay at the edge of my bed at night with a chipped ashtray on his stomach.  One hand under his head, the other held a smoldering cigarette.  His soothing voice relayed made up stories about Stinky and Slim, a skunk and a scarecrow, who got into all kinds of mischief but were saved by Stinky doing the right thing.

– That Dad taught me that girl’s can grow up to be anything they want.

Now, eighty-five year-old Dad and I were in the emergency room because he’d slipped off the “step” he’d made for his tractor.  Earning his family title of World’s Laziest Man, he’d tied one end of a rope to a plastic egg crate and the other to the base of the steering wheel. That way he could haul it up or drop it down as the need arose.

The crate/step had failed to work properly owing to several factors; he wasn’t twenty-five years old any more, there was an inch of ice on the ground, and he no longer tipped the scale at 150 pounds but weighed in at close to 300.

Dad Spreadeagled1I’m not proud to share this with you, but when I stood over This Dad spread-eagled on the ground, it took every ounce of compassion I had to not get in my car and drive away.

He crawled on his hands and knees up the handicap ramp he’d had built — he wasn’t handicapped, he just didn’t like to walk up steps — and propped himself against the back door. I sat down next to him and we argued, in the freezing cold, over the benefits of calling/not calling 911.  I was a proponent and, as usual, he held the opposite view.

“There’s no sense making someone go to all the trouble to drive out here from town when we can drive in.”

I pulled my car beside the ramp and he crawled back down. Using upper body strength I assumed he no longer possessed, he pulled himself to a standing position. He hopped a bit to turn around and dropped himself blindly, barely landing on the edge of the car seat. Unable or unwilling to expend any more energy, it was my job to turn his body and lift his feet into the wheel well. Sweating and cursing, I ran around to the driver’s side and jumped in.

Two seconds after I shifted into drive he shouted, “Wait a minute!”

I slammed on the brakes  “What? What’s wrong?”

“I’m hungry. Could you get a sandwich from the fridge for me?”

I put the car in park and ran inside. Dozens of leftover containers crowded the shelves, shoved helter-skelter on top of my well-packaged healthy meals.  The first three containers I opened reeked, the mysterious items covered in mold.  I finally came across a half-eaten club sandwich that looked edible and delivered it back to the car.

This time I made it to the end of the driveway before he asked, through a mouthful of food, “You got any salt? This is kinda bland.”

I plunged the accelerator to the floor and we fishtailed out of the drive. By the time we reached the hospital in town, I’d managed to find a bit of sympathy.

In fact, I survived the waiting room without stabbing him with the pocketknife he’d removed to carve his thumbnail. I tolerated the two days time it took for him to explain to the insurance clerk that he had no idea why his mama had spelled his name Lewis when every other Catholic spelled it Louis.

I’d made it through the x-ray process where he coached the confused young man pushing his wheelchair that there are two kinds of jobs in the world; dirty dirt and clean dirt, and you’d go far in life if you stuck with the clean dirt.

Broken Bone JPEGWe were back in the exam room when a woman in a lab coat walked in, looked at the x-ray and told him his ankle was broken.

He said that maybe he’d just wait and see what the doctor had to say.

Then she said she was the doctor and next thing I know, I’ve smacked him on the head with a magazine.

Dad finally agreed to let her set the break but asked, “Is this going to hurt much?”

“More than it needs to,” she replied. “More than it needs to.”

BILLY BOB’S RURAL COMPOUND

I sat in my car surveying Billy Bob’s rural compound.  A crash involving a battered Barbie car, a hula-hoop and a rusted barrel lay in the weeds. rusted equipmentIn front of me were half a dozen crumbling carcasses of gigantic earth moving equipment.  To my right was a graveyard of broken household items; a shattered mirror, a decomposing sofa, a fry pan missing its handle, and more. So much more.

My older brother, Mike, sat in the back seat as our younger brother, Rick, climbed the rickety stairs and knocked on the door.

Mike and I stared in silent horror as a massive, furry white head emerged from beneath the steps.  The body of a gargantuan moth-eaten dog followed the head.

“Psst.” I whisper shouted. “Hey, Rick!”

He turned around and I pointed to the creature waiting for him at the bottom of the stairs.  Mike and I rolled up our windows. Rick walked down and patted the beast on the head.  “Good dog,” he said and sauntered up the steps to the back, where he continued his knocking. Old Camper 2

While we waited, the door of a vintage camper swung open. I cringed, certain Billy Bob would vault out, roaring chain saw in hand. Instead, a rooster and two hens jumped down from the grimy vehicle and crossed over to the grass to peck at insects, of which I am certain there were many.

After several more knocks on the door to the house, it opened.  A beautiful eighteen-year-old girl, with a killer body encased in spandex, stepped onto the porch.

Mike and I started to get out of the car.

A grimace on the girl’s face caused me to re-evalute my move and her age. Now she was a well worn thirty-five year old woman. “Get back in there!”

We did as we were told.

“It’s down the road. We have to drive,” Girl/Woman said.  She walked over to a camouflage ATV, pushed off a six-pack worth of empty beer cans and hopped on.

We followed her past the chicken coup RV and into some deep weeds.

How do I get myself in these situations?  You could read last week’s post, Unicorns, Mountain Lions and Brush Hogs, or you could just assume that, as the Mayor of Crazie Town, I’m doing my duty and trying to purchase a mower.

Remaining on the ATV, Girl/Woman pointed to a group of trees. Rick and Mike exited the vehicle and whacked their way to the brush hog for sale.

“Any way you could get it out so we could look at it?” Mike asked.

“Nope.”  She punched a thumb toward the house. “He don’t want to get up.”

We stretched a rope between my car and the equipment.

“You better not do nothing to hurt it.” She threw a worried look over her shoulder.

We dragged the piece of machinery into a clear patch and Rick began his expert negotiating tactics.  “It’s not quite what we’re looking for, but we’ll give you $400.”

“No way,” Girl/Woman snarled. “And you’d better put it back where you found it before you leave.”

Mike and Rick gave it a second look and decided it was worth the asking price.  I counted out $500 and handed it over.

Her fingers flashed through the bills and she nodded. Girl/Woman jumped off the ATV, a smile lighting up her face, turning her back into the beautiful eighteen-year-old girl.   “How ya gonna get it in your trailer?  I can bench press three-hundred pounds, so I could help.”

Mike’s plan was for them to tilt the brush cutter on its side, I’d “slide the trailer” under it and they’d flip it on.  Girl/Woman was correct in her bench press statement and with her help, this endeavor went fine.

Unfortunately, Girl/Woman had laid the $500 on the ground to help lift and when she returned to the pile, $20 was missing.  We kicked around in the tall grass searching when Mike joked, “Maybe one of the dogs ate it.”

“Max,” Girl/Woman hollered.  The raggedy behemoth turned his head her way, a luscious $20 bill hanging from his mouth.

We took off before a replacement twenty could be demanded.  As we drove back to our family farm, Mike and I concocted our stories of Girl/Woman’s life.  A stripper who’d made it good, and likely to tell Billy Bob that she’d only been able to get $400 for the equipment.  Rick was appalled by our assumption and insisted she was probably a schoolteacher.

In any event, I made it out of there with my life and ready to work on my next Crazie Town situation: How to remove a frog from the fresh water tank of my camper, whom I discovered last week, peering up at me from inside the intake valve.Frog

UNICORNS, MOUNTAIN LIONS AND BRUSH HOGS

A couple of years ago, when my aunt died, she left me a fairly worthless piece of farmland about sixty miles from my home.  I know the land is worthless because my Grandpa said so in his will.  A third of the original farmstead [the rich flat land] went to my father, the other two thirds [the rocky, cedar-tree-infested land] went jointly to my two aunts.  That’s the part that I inherited with my brothers and sister.  Basically, I own one/nth of one/half of some acreage.

We hired a local farmer (Little Steve, son to Big Steve – a friend of my dad’s and the only farmer we knew) to plant the fields he could.  The rest is rocky, hilly and covered in trees.

In the plus column, at the highest point, you can see for miles.  I’ve spotted dozens of deer and turkeys and coyotes. In the early spring we even had one little lonely duck on our sad tiny pond and after I parked my vintage camper out there and spent the night, I heard a mountain lion.

In a fit of Crazie, and against the advice of every attorney I talked to (more than six, less than twelve) we all decided to keep the land.  Why? you might ask along with my husband who asks constantly. Maybe because it is two-thirds of the farm I grew up on and although as a kid I never once wanted to do a single farmer thing on it, now I can’t wait to get my hands dirty.

Unicorn Besides, I had a vision. Simply remove all the invasive cedar trees and we’d be left with unicorns dancing in the starlight or possibly just rolling hills covered in prairie grass and wildflowers.

We worked and slaved (for one weekend) and then paid someone to bulldoze acres of the prolific cedars.  After two days we ran out of money he finished. But I was determined to keep going.  I had a vision after all.

I started out with a hand saw and then graduated to a reciprocating saw, which required the purchase of a generator, extension cords, gas cans.

Teresa with sawI borrowed my nephew’s chain saw (don’t tell Husband) and cut down every cedar I could reach.

Overwhelmed with nightmares of cedar trees, I learned from Little Steve to hone in on the female of the species, easily distinguished by the thousands of blue berries covering her branches.

In the process of tidying up the land, I uncovered spectacular deciduous trees; walnuts, red buds and pears.  Next to the hundred year-old-dump — a dry creek filled with rusted tin cans, stoves and old tires — I discovered a hundred-year-old oak tree with a seven-foot circumference.

From Little Steve, I also learned that baby cedar trees pop up wherever there is open grass so the cleared area would need to be mowed. Rather than pay someone, I thought it would be more fun (?) to buy my own tractor and a brush hog — that’s a mower to you city folk.

From a friend of a friend of my brother, Rick, I looked at a 1949 Ford 8N tractor.  The owner was kind enough to deliver it.  Sure there were a few issues, like I had to disconnect the cable after every use or the battery would run down and the steering was so loose I could turn the wheel a foot in either direction with no reaction.  But it was a tractor and it was destined to be mine.

In Crazie Town, the women/girls stayed in the house and cooked while the men/boys ran the equipment, so in all my years on the farm, I never once drove a tractor.  I gleaned a little bit of farm knowledge so I could probably tell the difference between a plow and a harrow, but I couldn’t, for the life of me, tell you what a harrow is used for.

But, now, I had the possibility of my own tractor and I was in farmer heaven.  I puttered around learning how the gears worked.  I drove the tractor fifty yards one direction, changed gears and drove fifty yards in the other direction.  Number one lesson learned: don’t drive over rough terrain in third gear with the throttle full out.  Until I could get my foot on the clutch long enough to downshift, I bounced around on the seat like a piece of popcorn in a hot pan.

After that harrowing (hey, maybe that’s what a harrow is for?) experience, I coasted up to the owner who was trying very hard not to laugh. I paid him and with a shaky hand I waved goodbye and he drove away.  I turned off the tractor and…it never started again.  I left it where it landed and drove the sixty miles home, composing a story in which I could tell Husband about the tractor without actually mentioning that I’d probably just purchased a very expensive lawn ornament.

The new plan was to meet my brother, Rick, the next day to see what we could do to get  the !@#$#@! thing running. But the next day it rained and then it rained…and rained…and rained.  It was over six weeks later before Rick and I could get out to the farm and see what repairs we could make.  This is the condition of the fuel filter when we arrived.Fuel Filter

It appears to have been eaten by some rats cute little field mice.

With the help of Rick and his wife, Shelly, we took a trip to the Tractor Supply store, where (as every woman has experienced) the salesclerk would only talk with my brother.  He informed Rick that my vehicle was so small that bona fide tractor parts don’t fit.  He sent us to the lawnmower department which I found quite insulting, but less expensive.

Once we installed the fuel filter — right side up — the tractor roared to life.  Hurray!

However, it is just a moving lawn ornament until I can buy the brush hog to do the mowing.

Stay tuned as I find myself in Billy Bob’s Death Compound.