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Monday, September 29, 2014

Tricks Are For Kids!

This is a difficult time of year to eat responsibly at our house.  Everywhere I look, there are ceramic jack-o-lanterns crammed with Halloween goodies.  Glass skulls filled to capacity with the kinds of candy I wouldn't dream of eating any other time of year - Gummy Vampire Teeth, Chocolate Eyeballs, our beloved Nerd Rope.

I am solely to blame for this arsenal of low grade confection.

"The neighborhood kids will love these!" I mention to my husband as I browse the five foot wall of assorted fun-sized snacks at the supermarket.

"You love those," he replies.

I choose to ignore him.  Instead, I reach for an eight pound sack of Kit Kats.  They are layered like sandbags on the front lines of a battle between discretion and indulgence.  War is hell.

"I hope this will be enough."  I am totally serious.

I never anticipate things will become this ridiculous.  I scoff at the preliminary overtures that appear in August, before the seasons change.

"Already?" I gasp in disbelief.  "For heaven's sake, it's still Summer!"

The m&ms always catch my eye.  Carrot cake flavor is new.  So harmless.
"Hmm.  These look crazy.  I should probably check."

I drive straight home from the grocery store with my manageable pouch of little candies.  I transfer them into two dishes - one for the kitchen counter, and the other atop my dining room table.  They are both empty in the morning.  Better refill them.

As September begins, all food and beverages that used to taste normal become pumpkin flavored.  This transformation renders nearly everything we eat and drink irresistible.  Especially when slathered with whipped cream and covered in caramel.

Midway through October, I start turning to my workout clothes regularly.  Not because I'm exercising.  It's just that stretchy pants are more comfortable, and my regular clothes feel snug.  I'm polishing off my fair share of brownies and sucking down lattes like nobody's business.

These days after breakfast, I reach for an Almond Joy and a handful of Whoppers as if it's the most natural thing in the world.  There are little empty Sugar Baby boxes in both pockets of my robe; Butterfinger wrappers in the lint trap of the dryer.  I can't blame the kids or my dad.  They're mine.  I bury the evidence in the bottom of the garbage, so nobody hassles me.

Monday night as I undressed to take a shower, I found two melty Lemonheads in the waistband of my jeans.  I vaguely recall tossing a handful in the direction of my mouth earlier that evening.  I suppose it's possible that a few morsels may have bounced off my face and down the front of my shirt. Oh, I still ate them.  Of course, I did.  Candy's candy.

I brush my teeth six and seven times daily, in efforts to decontaminate the crime scene that occurs every time I eat FunDip, which let's face it, is a gateway drug.  It doesn't work.  As a matter of fact, the taste of toothpaste triggers the uncontrollable urge for Junior Mints.

By now, I feel like Halloween has already happened, at least a half dozen times. I've replenished my voice-activated cauldron so frequently in the last few weeks, I finally did myself a favor and removed the batteries.  I don't want to be reminded whenever I head toward that bowl.  For the same reason, I'm reluctant to purchase a FitBit bracelet.

Nevertheless, I am ready and waiting for Trick-or-Treaters - whenever they eventually show up.  But I've gotta be honest.  The only child who rang our doorbell recently was a boy scout selling popcorn so his troop could go on a rafting trip.   I hardly even cared that he wouldn't make eye contact.  I was so excited, I bought two giant containers.  

I just need to muscle through the next few weeks.  Maybe cut back on the Raisinets and Wax Fangs.  Then I can focus on eating more sensibly at Thanksgiving.

Friday, September 26, 2014

How Am I Different?


Last evening at the nail salon, I watched a young lady entertain two glasses of wine.  I found myself studying her carefully, as if she were a laboratory experiment.

She drank the first measure while her feet were being addressed.  She sat quietly, watching the other customers have their needs met, occasionally glancing at her phone.

When her toenails were dry, she switched to a seat at the counter and chatted with her manicurist.

From what I could gather, her name was Lisa.  She'd just returned from a vacation to Cabo.  I don't know where Cabo is, but it sounds tropical and rather lovely.  As well, she'd been involved in the planning of a friend's bridal shower.  The arrangements did not go smoothly.

It wasn't as if Lisa's behavior was extraordinary or even noteworthy.  Her second beverage sat largely untouched for the remainder of her appointment.  She was not wasted or making a scene.  She was just a girl, getting her nails done.  Having a drink.

I would have liked to contribute to the conversation, especially since the mani-pedi technician spoke very little English.  But instead, I said nothing.  A part of me was afraid.  I didn't want to get too close to the action.  Another part decided I didn't like her.  I was jealous.  She could drink, and I can't.

I wish I were able to enjoy a glass of wine like normal people.  Do cocaine and amphetamines like regular folks.  You see where I'm going with this, don't you? There's nothing normal about the way I perceive these options.

I don't always feel this way.  For the most part, I function comfortably in social settings.  I seldom have the urge to judge others as far as their beverage consumption is concerned.  It's not my business.  I can attend a get-together and not hole up somewhere until all the booze and drugs are gone.  I don't have to consider selling my shoes just to keep the party going.

I have a mysterious and baffling malady.  I need to recognize and acknowledge this condition on a daily basis.  Yesterday, I was an alcoholic and an addict.  When I woke up this morning, it was the same.  Tomorrow will be no different.  I must never forget what I am.  It's okay.  Really.

But this week's weather was rainy, and we have a sick goldfish at the house.  These are as good an excuse as any to jeopardize thirteen wonderful years of sobriety.

That's just the reality of things.  It sounds crazy because it is.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Nunsense!

I held Rory's hand as we walked along the path to my parents' place. Another two hours before we had to pick Desmond up from pre-school.  Brother and I were checking on our old folks.

"Remember to say 'Happy Birthday' to Grandma when you see her."
"She is Grandma," my youngest boy informed me.  He was two and a half at the time and right on top of his facts.

As we climbed the front steps to their apartment, I could see Big Mare through the kitchen window.  She was changing her nitroglycerine patch in the morning sun and talking on the phone.

"I have to go, Nonna.  The kids are here," she told her sister.
"Hi, Aunt Joan!" I called from the porch, as if she could hear me back in the Bronx.
"Mary says 'Hi,'" my mother spoke into the receiver.  "Aunt Joan says she loves you."
"I love her, too."

"There's my precious pumpkin!" Mom exclaimed, pulling up the blind so Rory could see where all the commotion was coming from.
"Here, I am," she called to him, waving a feather duster in his direction.

Big Mare loved my boys - the way a pirate loves gold.  She treasured them.  These children played such a big part in mending our tattered relationship.  I thank God for them.  And her, as well.

"Shit!  What time is it?" my mother asked.
I checked my watch.  "Eleven."
"Quick.  Get your bottoms in here."
I jiggled the handle unsuccessfully.
"I can't, Mom.  The door's locked."

"Hang on, love.  I'll send your father."
She hollered into the bedroom.  "Gene!"
The tone of her voice changed abruptly from loving to… well, not so loving.
"For Chrissake, Gene.  Hurry up!  Little Mary's at the door."

"What's going on?" I inquired through the speakeasy opening at the bottom part of the window screen. I sensed the urgency in my mother's tone.
"Shh," Mom admonished.  "I don't want Carole to know I'm home."
"Too late," I suggested.

"What do you mean?  Did she see you park the car?"
"I don't think so, Mom.  But between your big mouth and the fucking television set, everybody in America knows you're home."
"Please, honey."  She cupped her hands over her ears as if to shield their delicate inner workings from physical assault.  "Don't say that word."
"What?  America?"
"No.  The "F" word.  It's filthy talk."

"I thought you liked Carole."
"I do," my mother assured me.
"Then what's the problem?"
"She wants to take me to lunch for my birthday."

Big Mare turned her attention to Brother who stood mesmerized by the box of donuts I carried under my arm.
"Mommy has a fresh mouth.  Doesn't she, sweetheart?"
"We're coming in," Rory informed her, stomping his feet.  The child had already licked at least a tablespoon of sprinkles off the floor at the Dunkin' Donuts.  He was ready to party.

Gene Dall finally appeared in the doorway, wearing pajama bottoms and a tee-shirt with an illustration of a slice of toast on it.  The words "I Love Jelly!" were written in big letters across his chest.

"Take these inside.  Will you, Chief?"
I handed my father the balloons I was holding.  I picked the baby up and followed my old man down the corridor, moving toward the sound of two TVs playing at volumes you could easily hear from a beach chair in space.

"Happy Birthday, Grandma!" I announced joyfully, swinging my happy, human bundle from side to side.  I leaned Rory against my mother for a smooch.  She kissed him noisily and hugged us both.  He lost his balance in my arms, giggling uncontrollably.

I plopped Brother onto the sofa and searched frantically for the remote control.
"Shut that crap off, will you?"
I handed the device to my dad.  He shuffled over to face the screen and changed the channel to cartoons.

"Have lunch with Carole, Mom.  Do something fun for a change."
"I can't," she replied, willfully.
"Why not?"
"Because your father's a pain in my ass."
"That's no excuse.  We'll watch him while you're gone.  Right, Bro?"

"Toast," the baby pointed to Gene Dall's belly.
"Bread," my dad rebutted.
"Toast," Brother insisted.
Daddy looked carefully at the picture on his clothing.
"I could've sworn it was bread," he said.

"You know, she used to be a nun," Big Mare whispered secretively.
"Who?"
"Carole."
"No.  Really?"

I suppose I was shocked.  Not because I couldn't envision my mother's neighbor as a woman of the cloth.  Oh, I could.  Carole fit the profile perfectly - the older career girl, devoted to Christ.  She was quiet, educated and stooped.  She wore polyester slacks and practical shoes.  I guess I just never thought you could get kicked off the force.

"Did she get fired?"  I needed more information.
"I doubt it."
"Maybe she quit," I added.
"I have no idea, babe."
"Mom, you have to find out."
"I can't, honey.  That's not something you ask a person out of the blue."
"Oh, I disagree.  It's precisely the kind of question that needs answering.  'Carole, your sandwich looks delicious.  How come you're not a nun anymore?"

I glanced over at my dad.  He stood by the refrigerator, waiting for an opportunity to reach in and snatch something when my mother wasn't looking.  A cookie perhaps or a handful of grapes.

"Get away from there," Mom barked without turning around.
He came and sat next to me at the kitchen table, sulking.

"Why didn't you ask her, Big Guy?  Don't you care?"
"Care about what?"
"Not what, who.  Carole."
"What happened?"
"She and Jesus broke up."

Big Mare interrupted us.
"Don't bother telling your father.  He doesn't give a shit."

Just then from the window, I saw Carole.  She trudged slowly toward the building carrying two bags of groceries that weighed probably seventy five pounds each. Ex-nuns are freakishly strong.  They're working that much harder for God's love.

"There she is now!" I motioned toward the sidewalk.  "I'm gonna tell her you'd love to have lunch together."  I headed for the door.  "Go put your bra on."

Mom grabbed me by the arm.
"Listen, Mary.  Whatever you do, don't mention my age."
"Okay."  I paused.  "Why not?"
"Carole thinks I'm 76."
"But you're 77."  I made a face.  "Why'd you tell her that?" I asked as I reached for the doorknob.
"I don't know.  I just did."



Saturday, September 20, 2014

Halloween Contest!

High Wire Girl has the loveliest members!
We are 101 followers strong.  That's a pretty big deal.
I'm flattered and so excited to share my stories.

Halloween is right around the corner, and the October Contest is so adorable. When you see the prizes for this month's giveaway, you will undoubtedly keel over and need to be medically revived.

There's only one way you can win something this ridiculously awesome.
Read through these brief steps to make sure you are following!

1.  Right under the Halloween Contest section on the website, look for Networked Blogs (Like on Facebook).
2.  Click the BLUE Follow This Blog button.
3.  When the next screen pops up, click Follow to add yourself to the directory.
There you go...

Itty Bittys are, perhaps, the cutest, softest little things.  Ever.
I saw them in the Hallmark Store a few months ago and made a mental note to secure and share them with people I love.

Two versions will be up for grabs this Halloween:
- Dorothy and Pals from The Wizard of Oz
- DC Justice League Super Heroes

Plus lots of other delicious goodies and surprises.  You'll love receiving this wonderful prize.
ACT NOW!  Otherwise, you'll be kicking yourself through the holidays.

As always, thanks for supporting High Wire Girl.
Please read and share. ox

Jump Around

Maybe I need to cool it with the drinking.  You know, take a few days off.  Give myself a break.  My fucking head was pounding all morning.  Of course, it feels better now.  I'm four beers deep.  And switching to wine - yay!  My mind is soft and wet again.

Once I start, it's like I can't control myself.  I do the dumbest shit.  I make fucked-up choices.  I disappear from my responsibilities and the people who care about me.  But I am always thirsty.

Perhaps I should cut back on the drugs.  Just a little.  Too much blow.  My nose is wrecked.  I am a maniac when I am high.  But I love this feeling.  I am so clever.  I can almost watch my thoughts whiz by.  I only grasp portions of what I'm thinking.  I have too many ideas anyway.

Every morning is death.  But I know I can't be dying.  That only happens once, and I keep waking up.  This must be something else.  I guess it's just my life.  And my life is shit.

These diversions own me.  I hate the way that sounds, but it's true.  I am like a nervous rabbit, chewing on everything.  I can't tell the difference between a carrot and an electrical wire.


Living in the basement was kind of neat.  I could hear everything that went on in the rest of the building.  Come evening, I listened to the sounds of progress occurring elsewhere in the house.  Footsteps on the stairs, telephones ringing, toilets flushing.  These noises made me feel connected to other people, especially as I slipped into the monotony of my chemical romance.

Michael was a young man who lived in the apartment on the first floor.  He had a girlfriend when he first moved in.  Sometimes, I would hear them having sex.  Or fighting.  Eventually, she stopped coming around, so I guessed they broke up.  I preferred that he was alone.  I was between boyfriends and extremely lonely.

I asked my second floor neighbor about Michael.
"Do yourself a favor, kid."  Eddie said.  "Steer clear of that one."
I paid no attention to this advice.

Michael was a deejay and party promoter.  He left the house at night and came back in the morning.  I couldn't understand how this was a real career.  It seemed more like fun than work.

I met Michael for the first time in the front hallway of our building.  Some of his mail was in my slot, so I rang the buzzer.  I waited for someone to answer.

"Who's there?" asked a voice.
"Hey, it's Mary.  I live downstairs."
"What is it?"
"Checks.  Lots of them, I think."

He opened the door slightly, and I saw his sweet, young face.  He couldn't have been more than 25.  Given my insecurities and lack of direction, I felt quite old. Like maybe I should be taking care of him.  I was almost 30, I guess.

"Thanks," he offered, leaning against a wall in the foyer.  "I have a bunny, you know."
I didn't know.
"Cool," I said.

He pulled the door a bit wider, just enough for me to see a little beige animal, hopping across the carpet.  It nibbled anxiously on the page of a magazine left on the floor.

"Her name is Jewel.  Actually, it's Luna."
He paused for a moment, purposefully recalling a story to mind.

"But I went to sleep one night and forgot what I'd named her.  After I woke up, I just started calling her Jewel.  When I finally remembered about Luna, it was too late.  I already wrote Jewel on her dish."
He pointed to a metal bowl inside a glass aquarium on the coffee table.  He smiled and shrugged his shoulders.
"She's nice," I crouched down and murmured to her as if she were a cat.  When she didn't respond, I felt foolish and stood back up.
"I have to go inside," Michael decided.  "So you need to get out of here."

As he shut the door, I smelled the faint whiff of cooked cocaine.
I knew it, I thought to myself.  It felt like I'd just won a prize.

*******

Michael's alarm clock went off at close to 6 pm.  I could hear him padding around quietly from room to room, as I drank and snorted my brains away in my underground lair.  I wondered if he was up there, getting high.  Probably.  I became obsessed with his existence.

I tried to hurry home from work so I could maybe bump into him before he set about to smoking his rock.  Most evenings, he ignored the doorbell as well as my knocking.

I climbed the inside flight of steps that separated our two living spaces.  I sat at the top of the landing where I kept my record collection, listening quietly for sounds of life.  All I heard was the popping and crackle from inside his glass burner, the endless flick of a lighter.  Sometimes, he coughed.

"Hey, Michael  Let me in," I suggested from my side of the door.
"I can't right now.  It's not a good time."
"I have a present for Jewel."
A soggy manila envelope filled with leftover strawberries from a breakfast conference at my job.
"I don't need your help," he replied.
"C'mon.  Just take these, then."

He unlocked the deadbolt and tried to release the door.  It resisted.  There was a big pile of laundry in the way.  He slid his hand through the narrow opening.
"Give it," he whispered.
I did.
The door closed, and he secured it shut again.

*******

Within a week, we were smoking crack together regularly.  We smoked and smoked and smoked, everything we had.  We drove into Flushing to buy more and returned to his flat.  When that was gone, we got back in the car and scored again.  More driving, additional purchases.  Ultimately, we remained in the vehicle until the sad morning reminded me that I had to take a shower and go back to work.  I called in sick.  A lot.

"I was in rehab, you know," Michael announced during one of our marathon visits.
I didn't know.
"It was my mom's idea.  She thought I had a problem."
"Did you?" I asked.
"Maybe."

It never dawned on me.  I felt kinda bad.  His poor family.  And there we were, sharing a stem.  His had snapped in half, and I hated taking turns.  Like I said, I felt bad.

Michael tried to put the glove on me one night for rent money.  We were sitting in his front room, filling our lungs with garbage.  He faced the window, and I looked toward the wall.  Places, everyone.

I didn't want to lend him any dough.  I knew I wouldn't get it back.
"I don't have that kind of cash," I told him.  It wasn't a lie.
"How 'bout a few bucks for carrots?" he asked.
Jewel stumbled across his sneakers and chewed on a shoelace.
I felt relieved that he wasn't mad.  I didn't want him to make me go away.

"Do you wanna fuck?" Michael asked.
"Yeah," the word slipped from my broken lips when I exhaled.
Neither of us moved from our spots on the couch.  It seemed like we stayed there forever.

Hours later, I happened to glance at the floor next to the radiator.  I noticed Jewel, laying on the rug.  Her body was stretched out stiffly, an extension cord in her mouth.  Her eyes were open, unblinking.

"Look," I pointed to the lifeless rabbit.
"Don't touch her," he replied.  "She's asleep."

*******

Several weeks later, Michael died in his car.  He was on his way to work.  But first, he went to cop some dope.  His heart stopped, right there in the parking lot of the venue.  It was a sweet sixteen party.  My landlord told me.

Michael's mother and another lady cleaned out the apartment.  I could hear them crying as they packed all of his shit into garbage bags and hauled them away.  I hid in the basement closet when they rapped on my door.

"We know you're in there.  Please talk to us," one of the women pleaded.
I was afraid and far too high to carry on a conversation about their dead boy.

The next morning, I saw Jewel's empty fish tank on the curb by the driveway.  When I got home later on, it was gone.  Just like Michael.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Turn On and Tune Out

Since Gene Dall bonked his head in 2002, he's met with a neurologist for routine check-ups.  This is done to ensure that all the parts of his brain damaged in the fall remain stable as he continues to be alive and enjoy his life.  Although my dad has never been the same since the accident, his condition hasn't varied much. Perhaps my mother was right.  He may just bury us all.

I pulled the car into the driveway next to the medical building.  I could see my parents sitting on a bench in the vestibule, right beside the elevator.  Big Mare chatted with an older lady holding a small child.  I tapped the horn gently to get my mother's attention.  She waved for me to come in.

I looked at the clock on the dashboard of my vehicle.  I had roughly thirty five minutes to drop my folks back at their place and get my ass to a meeting. Recognizing that my mother viewed doctor appointments as prime opportunities for socializing with brand new friends, I beeped again.  This time, a little more deliberately.

Mom stood up and opened the glass door.
"Mary, you have to see this baby!" she called to me.
I rolled the passenger window down, hoping to divert her interest.
"Is Daddy okay?" I asked.
My question hung in the air between us, completely disregarded.

"Honey, please.  This'll just take a second," she assured me.
"Damn it," I grumbled under my breath.  I squeezed my left hand into a little fist and gently punched my thigh.  I steered into a parking space and ran across the lot.

"How'd it go?" I asked my mom when I got inside.
"Look at those cheeks," Big Mare said.  "Did you ever?"
She squeezed my hand lovingly.

The most adorable baby on earth cooed and kicked its enormous legs in our direction.  It tugged on my mother's boney fingers as if they were candy canes.
"This is my youngest," Mom continued her conversation with the woman who I assumed was the child's grandmother.
"It's nice to meet you," I smiled.
"Likewise," the lady replied.  "Your mother's been singing your praises."
"Oh, well… I appreciate that."

Big Mare looked my way.  "Give a guess what her name is.  Pearl."
She volunteered this information without waiting for a response and returned her attention to the baby.
"You are Grandma's precious gem.  Yes, you are."

The three of us chatted for a little while longer, basking in the contagious joy that a happy child brings.  Glancing at my watch, I mentioned that we should leave.  I helped my father to his feet, buttoned his coat and signaled for Big Mare to wrap things up.  I herded my parents onto the sidewalk and fetched the car from its spot in the yard.

After securing them in the Blazer, I climbed behind the wheel and rolled out onto the avenue.
"So, what'd the doctor say?" I asked Mom's reflection in the rear view mirror.
 "Well, I'm still falling apart," she reported from the back seat. "But the dumb bastard next to you… He's gonna live forever."  She gestured toward my father who grinned sweetly and stared straight ahead.
"So, it's good news, right?"
"Whoop-de-doo," my mother said.

Gene Dall watched the cars taking turns as they proceeded through the intersection.
"You can go," he informed me quietly.
I looked at him and then, at the traffic signal.  My old man was right.  The light was green.
"I guess I should pull my head out of my ass, huh?"
"That'd be nice," he said.

We drove in silence for a few minutes.  I turned the radio on, and immediately, my mother started speaking.
"Oh, Mary.  That poor woman," she began.
I switched the radio off so I could hear what she was saying.

"Who?  The one in the lobby?"
"Her daughter's on the junk and can't be trusted.  She and her husband have to raise that baby," she said.
"That's rough," I replied.
"It's a disgrace is what it is," Big Mare corrected me.
"I don't know, Mom," I added thoughtfully.  "If I ever pick up again, you two might have to raise Desmond and Brother."
"Jesus Christ, honey.  Don't even joke like that."

"What about David?" Daddy asked.
I considered my husband briefly.
"Well, he'll more than likely go off the deep end.  I suppose that means you guys gotta take care of business."
"I'd hang you if you ever did that to those children."
"I'll try not to, Mom."
"I don't want to talk about this anymore," Big Mare decided.
My father laughed.

I pulled into the courtyard of their apartment complex.
"I sure could go for a cup of coffee," my mother hinted, not so subtly.
"It'll have to be next time, my dear," I said.
I really hated disappointing her, but I was focused on my commitment.
"There's a meeting at noon, so I better get moving."

"Why?" she asked.  "What's the matter?" she grabbed my shoulder.
"Nothing," I replied.  "I just wanna go.  It's good to check in."
"Tell me," she insisted.  "What's wrong?"
"Everything's fine, Mom."

"I wish you'd just forget all that shit.  Can't you?"
Big Mare wanted to help.  She really did.
"Oh, boy.  It should be that easy," I said.

"It's like whenever your father does something to piss me off, I just tune him out.  I try to pretend he's not even there.  Otherwise, I might let him choke to death some day when he's eating his lunch."
"Hooray for lunchtime!" Gene Dall announced.

"Listen, bitchface," Mom paused, poking me in the neck.  "You need to forget that shit and stop thinking about it.  Tune it out, once and for all!  There's your answer," she declared.
"I don't remember asking you a question."
"Do you understand me?"
"Yes, Mom."
"Promise me you'll forget it."
"I'll do what I can."

"Now, how about that coffee?" she asked.
"I'll come back after the meeting," I suggested.
"Suit yourself.  See you in an hour."

Monday, September 8, 2014

One Man's Garbage...

Ne'er do wells robbed crap from in front of Big Mare's house on a regular basis. They weren't fussy about what they took.  Everything that wasn't nailed down went missing.  Her broom, numerous umbrellas, an Easter lily in its shiny pastel container.  One afternoon, they swiped a kitchen valance that had been hung over a beach chair to dry.  They came back the next day for the chair.

The neighborhood was changing, and my mother was powerless to thwart this unfortunate development.  She had no choice but to add this sad state of affairs to the pre-existing list of situations that made her furious.  In a fit of defiance, she began leaving more things outside than ever before.

She cried the night they stole the Christmas lights.

"Thieving bastards," she snarled from the edge of the porch.  Several sets of footprints remained in the snow underneath the window where the decorations had been tacked up.  She couldn't even shovel herself a little path to unplug the extension cord they'd left behind.  No goddamn shovel.

Why, in turn, would anyone want our garbage cans?  It's unclear.
They still snatched them from the side of the house one Saturday morning.

I remember being sent out front with a plastic bag full of trash.  I guess I was about thirteen at the time.  My ability to figure things out quickly was severely underdeveloped.  I stood on the sidewalk for a few minutes, staring at the stains where the containers had once been.  I carried our refuse back into the kitchen.

"The cans are gone," I told my mother.
"Gone where?" she asked.
"I don't know.  They're not out there anymore."

Big Mare went to the neighbors on either side, hoping our waste bins were only temporarily misplaced.  Fat chance.  Both receptacles and the contents therein had vanished.

"Sons of bitches," my mother kept repeating over and over, like a nasty magical chant that might just bring them back.  She loved those garbage cans like they were her own children.  Two brand new state-of-the-art plastic drums that really turned heads.  A less than scrupulous individual could easily stuff at least two bodies into each of those bad boys, with plenty of room left over for newspaper and accelerant.

Her precious cans were a birthday gift from my Uncle Mike.  What can I say?  My mother liked nice things.  She gleefully replaced her rusty, old gutbuckets - vile, corroded cylinders of uncategorized disgustingness.  Shriveled slabs of banged up metal with flattened, mismatched lids, half-heartedly emptied and flung in anger at parked cars and across curbs all over Butler Place.

As far as we knew, our sanitation workers were troubled individuals with violent tempers.  It certainly did seem that way.  But who were we to judge, really?  Perhaps they liked nice things too.

After the theft, Mom did the only thing she knew how to do in times of crisis and despair.  She took to the telephone and talked with her sister for the next three uninterrupted hours.

"Give a guess what happened to my friggin' cans," she prompted Aunt Joan.
"Don't tell me.  Somebody stole them."
"You're goddamn right someone stole them.  It's getting to where I have to shove my shit right back up my ass if I wanna hang onto it."

I miss these conversations more than anything in the world.

"I'm so mad right now," my mother continued.  "I could eat darts."

At lunchtime, the police rolled up in front of our house.  Two uniformed officers got out of the vehicle and rang the bell.  Still in her nightgown, Big Mare dropped the receiver and leapt clean out of her slippers, fearing the worst.  My father wasn't home yet, and she automatically assumed something dreadful had occurred.

She made the sign of the cross as she bounded toward the front door.

"Are you Mrs. Gene Dall?"
"Jesus, is he dead?" she responded, panic-stricken.
"Is who dead?" they asked, rather confused.
"My husband, Gene.  Please don't let it be true."
"We have no idea, ma'am.  We're only here about your garbage."

"Oh, thank you, God!" she cried as she raised a hand to cover her mouth.  She'd suddenly realized her bottom bridge was still in a cup by the kitchen sink.
"He's a stupid son of a bitch," she said thoughtfully.  "But still, thank Christ."  She paused momentarily.  "Did you find my cans?"
"I'm afraid not, Mrs. Dall.  Just the garbage."

Seems whoever robbed the trash cans dumped what was in them over the bushes and onto someone's private property, two blocks over.  That homeowner came across his little dog in the backyard, choking on a piece of Reynold's Wrap he'd discovered when he chewed open one of the bags.  After dislodging the aluminum foil from his pet's throat, this gentleman sifted through the debris.  In amongst the Chef Boyardee cans, orange peels and cigarette butts that were part of our daily balanced diet, he found a copy of our telephone bill.  He'd been trying to reach my mother all morning and kept getting a busy signal.

So, he called the police to see if they could help.

"Where is your husband, by the way, Mrs. Dall?" one of the patrolmen inquired.
"How should I know?" she responded.  "That one comes and goes as he pleases.  He's a regular pain in my ass."

The young man asking the questions jotted a few things down on his notepad.  He exchanged a look of concern with his partner.  Big Mare seemed oblivious to the severity of their conversation.  Granted, this character trait was a large part of her charm.

"Do you boys want to come inside for something to drink?  A beer or a soda, maybe?  I have cold cuts.  I can make you both a sandwich," she suggested, smiling brightly.  Mom simply adored everyone in law enforcement.  Except for my old man, that is.

The officers made several administrative attempts at refocusing her thoughts.  My mother asked their ages and if they had steady girlfriends.

"There's no rush to get married, you know," she advised.  "You've got your whole lives ahead of you.  Are you sure you can't stay for supper?  Let me defrost some chop meat.  I bet I have noodles."

"That's quite all right, ma'am.  Is Mr. Dall at work?" the investigation continued.  Sort of.

"Oh, honey.  It's hard to say," Mom told him.  "I guess you could call it that.  I'm not sure if I mentioned earlier.  My husband's a cop.  He does whatever the hell he wants."

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Teach Me Love

"Mom, I can't find my reading book!" Rory shouted from the top of the stairs.  "I can't find my BOOK!" he repeated for emphasis.  I could hear the panic in his voice as he barreled down the steps.  Although Brother's thoughts are pretty loosey goosey first thing in the morning, he enjoys being prepared for school.  We all crave structure.

"What book?" I asked.
"A Wrinkle in Time.  Please help me find it!"

"Calm down," I suggested as he began searching in places his reading material would never be - the cupboard where we keep cereal bowls, my pocketbook and the fridge.

"Mrs. Kiser says I need to bring that book every day!" he exclaimed as he slammed shut the door to the oven and headed for the pantry.

I stood in the living room with one sock on my foot and the other in my hand, only half-prepared for a crisis.  Some coffee would be helpful, but there wasn't any time.

"I'm gonna miss my bus!" he bawled.
"Get a hold of yourself, son.  Where is your backpack?"
"It's not in there.  I checked."

Rory's knapsack lay in a heap in the middle of the hallway.  I groaned as I dragged it into the kitchen.  We lifted it together onto the counter.  The bag weighed 85 pounds, easily.

"Open it," I said.
"Why?" he argued.  "I already looked.  Twice."
"Just open it."

Rory's satchel bared its metal teeth at us, taxed to capacity with unaddressed fifth grade facts.  As I dealt with the uncooperative zipper, I could almost hear his school supplies gasping for breath.

I cleared away some crumpled up papers and gave an earnest tug to a large binder without success.  On my second attempt, I plucked out his pencil case, a very pointy scissor and my packing tape dispenser, fully loaded.

"Why do you have this?" I asked.
"In case of an emergency."
"A shipping emergency?"
"Mom, please just help."

I yanked at the binder again and this time, it slid from its lynchpin position.  The remaining contents of the bag heaved a collective sigh of relief.  I pointed into the darkness at the bottom of Brother's receptacle.

"There it is," I said.
"Oh my God.  You're AWESOME!"  He flung his arms around me.  "You saved my life!"
"Don't be so dramatic.  You better hurry up or you're gonna be late," I replied.

I carefully stepped away from the debris and opened the blind over the sink.  The morning sun burst through the window and seemed to celebrate my excellence.

My youngest boy scooped up his equipment, kissed me goodbye and galloped out the door toward the bus stop.
"See you later!" he called over his shoulder.

Suddenly, the house was quiet.  Both boys were gone for the day, discovering how to be in the world.

"I should watch the news," I thought to myself.  I picked up the remote and started pressing buttons.

*******

Rory is ten years old.  By definition, he is still a child.  He does not see things the way I can.  I am fifty one.  I am good at some stuff, like being his mom and locating misplaced books.  We can learn a lot from one another.

And when he gets home from school this afternoon, he can show me how to turn on the TV.