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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Perspective is Everything

Mr. Mousey leaves the apartment some mornings when it's still dark outside.  He prefers to get to the dumpster behind the big church before the other mice arrive. He doesn't like waiting in line for his opportunity to lick the sides of the huge, oily container.

He sets his alarm clock thirty minutes early several nights a week.  He kisses his children 'goodbye' while they're still sleeping.  He grabs a hug from Mrs. Mousey, and off he goes.

******

On Wednesdays and Thursdays, I drive into the city to attend writing classes on the campus of Covenant Presbyterian.  I love everything about being a student.  Well, almost everything.

I usually prepare a quick breakfast that I can enjoy during my commute.  Some peanut butter on a slice of this delicious bread I secure from a modest bakeshop in my town.  Maybe a piece of fruit.  I bring a Diet Pepsi with me to wash down my vitamins.

It takes about thirty five minutes to get there.  I like listening to music along the way.  I think about bits of stories I can piece together in my head.  I write them down on a sheet of paper that I keep on the passenger seat of my car.  I never take my eyes off the road, so reading back what I've written can be challenging.  And frequently illegible.

When I arrive, I park my vehicle in the lot across from the main building.  I gather up all the garbage - my napkin and banana peel, the empty soda bottle.  I lock the car and head over to the dumpster to pitch the trash.

This past Wednesday, Mr. Mousey and I crossed paths for the very first time.  He may argue that he has seen me before, and I don't really care.  As far as I'm concerned, he's not gonna win any prizes for keeping tabs on my comings and goings.

I caught sight of him out the corner of my eye.  He skittered atop the pine needles at the base of the big blue box.  After making visual contact, my brain suggested the presence of a small rodent to the rest of my body.  My armpits reacted by sweating.

"Eek!" I exclaimed, almost as an afterthought.  I suppose I felt somewhat pleased with the word that accompanied my reaction, considering the colorful options at my disposal.  There are mothers and babies in strollers everywhere on the grounds of the church.  Had I shouted "Shit" or "Fuck," I'd have been embarrassed.  It was, after all, just a mousey.

"Keep it moving, lady."  He sounded exactly like James Gandolfini.  "Or I will come out from underneath this here filthy bin and bite you."

I said nothing as I walked briskly past my provocateur.  I had no intention of engaging him at length.  Scooting into the building, I mentioned my unpleasant exchange to the lovely receptionist at the front desk.

"A mousey startled me, Amy.  He showed me his teeth."

"Oh, no.  I'm so sorry," she said.

"It's okay.  But don't go outside if you can help it."

*******

That night when Mr. Mousey got home, he poured himself a thimble full of scotch and regaled the day's events to his wife.

"You'll never believe the nervy broad I ran into today at the dumpster.  Not in a million years."

"Oh, honey," Mrs. Mousey replied.  "Don't be so dramatic."

"You weren't there, madam.  A bold piece, she was!  Almost ran me over with her truck."

"Well, you're safe now.  Try to relax.  And go easy on the sauce, will you, handsome?  Tonight is my Bunco game, and you'll need to put the kids to bed."

*******

The following morning, I got a little bit later start than usual.  I decided to wait until the laundry had finished its last cycle so I could transfer the wet clothes into the dryer before I left for my class.  Fortunately, there was no traffic, and I reached my destination right on schedule.

Very much a creature of habit, I returned to the trash area as I had the day before. This time with an apple core, a wadded up paper towel and a Dixie cup that had contained my breakfast cereal.  Immediately, I called to mind the previous day's altercation with Mr. Mousey and his less than cordial attitude.

And then, I saw him.  Licking the remains of a donut in the leaves.

"Oh, c'mon!" he squeaked, sounding not quite as tough as he did when we'd last met.  Perhaps he was hung over.  Or worse yet, I may have gotten used to the treatment.

"Look, I don't want no trouble," I told him.

"Too bad.  My middle name is Trouble.  And woman, it is on!"

With that, he charged me.  I hurled my half empty soda bottle in his general direction.  I don't think I nailed him, but the projectile did send his tiny frame scampering back underneath the dumpster.

I ran toward the building, feeling a little guilty that I left my garbage behind in the parking lot.  To say the least, the entire experience was categorically upsetting. Precisely what category this situation might fall under is not clear.  Assault seems a bit harsh.

*******

Mr. Mousey rushed back to his colleagues and the safety of his mulch pile.  He was out of breath, sporting a huge knot on the top of his forehead.

"Woah, Mike.  Where's the fire?" one of the day shift guys asked, and they all chuckled.  Apparently, this wasn't his first donnybrook.  Things had been thrown at him before.

"Laugh it up, dickheads.  You weren't there.  That bitch is crazy."





Monday, October 20, 2014

Come To The Window


I can't remember a time
without the organ grinder.
He has always been there.

With very little sleep,
he is up before the sun.
Pushing his cart through the dirty streets.

I sit on the shoulder of his worn coat,
thick with the stale smell of cigarettes.
Wearing a silver chain around my neck
and that silly little hat.

I do not mind these things.
I love the organ grinder
and the music that he plays.

How I wish I could explain
these feelings that I have.
But I am only a monkey.

Please open your window
when I tap, tap on the glass.
I can see you in the kitchen.
Your face lights up
as I crawl across the ledge.

You know the songs
that spill from his machine,
and I have them memorized.
Yours is a beautiful voice.
Won't you share it with me?

So many tenants in this building,
drawn together by poverty.
Each with a story to tell.

I will visit them all
and hold out my cup
for a laugh and a smile.
I have a few tricks
that I know you'll enjoy.

I don't care about the coins.
I may even nibble one by accident,
wishing instead that it were a biscuit.
It's a reasonable misunderstanding.
I am, after all, a monkey.

Let me sit at the bottom of your bed
while you run to fetch a knife
and cut an orange into portions for me.

I can stay a little while,
but not forever.
Two refrains, at most.

Then I should go,
climb back down to the sidewalk.
My heart belongs to the organ grinder.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Cake is Awesome!

I like to think I'm cool and modern.  For the most part, that's what I see when I look in the mirror. And more importantly, when I search inside my heart for the answers to difficult questions.  Given my age, experience and level of maturity, I try to extend a vibe of modern coolness across the board.  At least I hope so.  This position keeps the door open for growth and further development.  Plus, I have this tee-shirt of a cake holding an electric guitar, with the message being "Cake is Awesome!"  I wear that occasionally.  It appeals to the youth.

I feel as though my relationship with God should reflect this contemporary composure.  I am most peaceful when He and I are on the same page.  When I go to mass, I know I belong there.  I hope the same for my sons as they begin to embark on their own spiritual journeys and get to know the kind of God who can help them have the best lives ever.

Church is nice.  I enjoy that sixty minutes devoted exclusively to guiding my thoughts through each story and song.  I say my prayers.  I think about the people I love.  I glance over at my boys, and I am grateful for the opportunity to be their mom.

In the middle of the ceremony when the little kids are called to the altar and they file sweetly into the adjoining room for the simplified version of the gospel, I watch Rory look them over.

"I had no idea they still did this anymore," he whispers into my shoulder.  Perhaps he is under the impression they shut the operation down after he made his Holy Communion a few years ago.

"There's no reason to keep running this program," Father Ambrose might suggest to the Monsignor during the pancake breakfast after mass.  "Rory Killian sits with his mother these days.  Clearly, he is the best of all the children ever brought before the Lord."

My youngest is in the fifth grade now.  He kills time in the pew with his older brother, Desmond and I.  There are no physical breaks in the torture of his organized religion.  They've also got a new policy at St. Matthew's.  You have to be eleven years old to go to the bathroom without a parent.  Des can stand up and walk out whenever he wants.  If you're ten, you need to use the toilet before you leave the house.  That's the rule.  Rory Malcolm is trapped.

"Mom, can I look through your pocketbook?" he asks.

"What for?"

"Something to do."

"No, honey."

"How about I just tidy things up in there?"

"Not necessary."

We stand and then, we sit.  Desmond and I sing.  Rory attempts to braid one of his shoelaces.  I give his other foot a little kick.

"Stop that," I say.  "Spend some time with Jesus."

"I already did."

"When?"

"When I got here."

"Well, what did you say?"

"I said 'Thank you.'"  He thought for an extra minute.  "And 'Help me.'"

"Help with what?"

Exasperated, he replies, "Church."

Rory folds his arms in front of his chest and leans back on the bench.  I can't say that I blame him for not totally digging the scene the way I do.  It took me a good, long while to get to where I'm at.

"Mom, do you think there's intelligent life on other planets?"

"I don't know, Brother.  Perhaps.  It all depends on how you look at it, I guess."

"Well, I'm gonna look at it like there is.  And it's a lot smarter than here on Earth."

"You're just saying that because you're bored."

With that, Desmond leans over and inserts himself into our exchange.

"You people really need to keep it down.  I'm trying to pray here."

Friday, October 17, 2014

We Have Winners!

We have two awesome winners for this evening's Halloween Drawing:
      Rachel King and Tara Puzio!

Congratulations, folks.  Whoever contacts me first gets to pick which prize package is preferred.  There's Dorothy and her pals from the Wizard of Oz or Superman with a few members of the Justice League.  Both collections are super cute and very soft!

I can't tell you enough how much I appreciate everyone who's reading, following and sharing High Wire Girl.  I am so grateful for and humbled by all the support and generous feedback.

It's such a marvelous feeling to be in a position to communicate hope.  That's what being and staying sober does for me.  Writing certain helps with that great message.

Thank you, friends.

Love always,
Mary ox

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Halloween Contest Drawing is Friday!

This Friday is the Halloween drawing.
There's only one way to win.  Participants need to follow the blog!

I appreciate all the likes, comments and wonderful support I receive whenever I post my stories.  It is such fun gathering the prizes to share with friends.  How nice to be able to give back like this.

Oh, my gosh.  October's prizes are so dang adorable:
Hallmark Wizard of Oz and Superhero Itty Bitties, among other delightful treats.

Double check that you're following, just to be certain.
It's easy to do.  I promise - you'll be so happy when your name is chosen.

Read through these brief steps to make sure you are among the potential winners:

1.  Under the Halloween Contest section on the High Wire Girl 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.

Good luck, everyone!  oooxox

Monday, October 13, 2014

Goodbye Girl


There's this guy.  We're not friends.  I met him through a girl I know, Lucy.  She's nice.  She works at the C-Town.  I get my groceries there.  I usually go the night before my son comes to stay with me, some weekends.

Kirin is six years old and lives with his dad.  I buy macaroni and cheese, cereal, peanut butter and bread.  These are his favorite foods.  On Fridays, we go to the pizzeria.  On Saturdays, I cook.  I get drunk both nights after he goes to sleep.

"I love powdered donuts," Lucy told me one evening as she rang up my selections.  "I bet I could eat a whole box."
"I like the chocolate ones," I replied.  "These are for my kid."
"I got a kid.  He's almost two.  We stay with my aunt."

I paid for my things and crossed the street.  I picked out two movies at the video shop.  Cartoons.  You don't need a credit card to rent from there.  I went next door and bought wine at the liquor store, a box and a bottle.

"Hey, do you work?" Lucy asked the next time I saw her.
"Yeah, I work."
"Where at?"
"In Manhattan."
"What's your job?"
"I'm a secretary."

I tried to figure out how old Lucy is.  It's hard to tell with all that eye makeup.  I guess it's not important.  She talks like she's young.  She may be nineteen, but who knows?  She could be my age.

"So, you like it?"  Again, with the questions.
"Like what?"
"Being a secretary."
"Oh.  I guess."
"I need to get me a job like that," she said.  "You want paper or plastic?"

I can tell that Lucy wishes we were better friends.  She invites me places, but I don't want to lead her on.  I'm not much interested in anyone else's drama.  I have plenty of my own to keep me busy.  Besides, there's something about that girl that makes me nervous.  She seems lost and desperate.  Perhaps she reminds me of myself.  I try not to think about what I'm really like.

I saw Lucy standing outside the supermarket one evening when I was walking home from the train.  She shared a cigarette with two young Puerto Rican dudes in blood-soaked aprons.  I assumed they worked in the meat department.  At least, I hoped so.

"This is Mary," she told them.  "She's like my sister.  Mi hermana."
They spoke to her in Spanish, and she laughed.
"They're funny," she said.  "They want to know if you get high."
"Sometimes.  Why?"
"You should give me your phone number."
I guess I could make a little room for her, I thought to myself.

Lucy has two brothers.  I can't remember their names.  I went to a party at their apartment one night during the summer.  They live over the stores by the subway.

Lucy and I did a little blow before we arrived.  And they had a keg, which is always generous.  I was feeling pretty good.  Not too tight to mingle.  Plus I had my speed so I could drink a lot.  I waited in line for the privacy of the bathroom to snort my drugs.  I hate standing still.  I finished my beer.  I kept forgetting the bottle was empty and found myself putting it to my lips.  I was getting shit-faced.

Anyway, this guy was there.  The one I mentioned earlier.  For the life of me, I can't recall his name, either.  I'm pretty sure it's one syllable, like Mark or Paul.  I think it's Mark.

I could feel him staring at me as we stood in the hallway between the bedrooms.
"I know you," he said.
"No, you don't."
"Yes, I do."
"Oh, yeah?  Then, what's my name?"

The door to the bathroom opened.  Four girls filed out, yapping away like puppies.

"It doesn't matter.  I know you."  He raised his hand close to his face and pointed a finger in my direction.  He tapped that same finger against his nose.

"You can come in, if you want."
Turns out, he did know me.  Very well.

Eight hours later, Lucy was gone as were most of the other guests.  There's just me, him and three people I'd never met before.  But we were all great friends.  That's the beauty of cocaine at parties.  The fellowship.
So now, there's this guy.  Mark, I think.  I'll admit, I go looking for him when I am drunk.  When I want to get high and have no money.  He always has coke.

Problem is Mark knows where I live.  He was in the car when a few of us were driving around.  And then, I got dropped off at my house.  He knocks on my door late at night, and it freaks me out.  I don't like for him to just show up.  Yes, I love his crystal.  The shit is good.  But he is weird.  And half stupid, I think.

So I pretend I'm not home when he comes around.  Once, I even unplugged the lamp after I heard him tapping on the window with his fingernails.  They are long and dirty.

He sang and whispered my name, laughing to himself.  "Mary, Mary.  Why you bugging?"  I could hear him pissing against the side of the building.  I stood there in the dark and waited for him to go away.  Then I took a shower and walked over to his place.  It's only about fifteen blocks away.  I can get loaded and still be able to leave when I want.  I prefer it this way.

I know that sounds stupid.  I do so many stupid things.

*******

I am lying on my belly, and he is on top of me.  I am full of rum and sugary pineapple soda.  That's all he has to drink here, and I finished all the wine I brought.  It feels like he will never be done.  I try not to think I will throw up, but the barf is already in the back of my throat.  It's difficult to not envision it filling my mouth.  I squeeze my eyes shut tightly, pretending they are the valve that controls what happens next.

Finally.  Thank God.

I get up and go to the bathroom.  I vomit while I'm in there.  Immediately, I feel much better.  I rinse my face and step on a cat turd that's been shat outside a filthy litterbox.  I wash my foot with water.  There is no soap.  I am tired, but I'm not sleeping here.  Besides, there's still coke left.

I flush the toilet and come back to where Mark is laid out on the floor.  I step over him and sit at the table.

"Are you okay?" he asks.
"Yeah."
"Don't be an animal.  Save me some," he says.

I wait a few minutes.  Until I hear his breathing is regular.  Until I know that he's asleep.  Then, I do it all.

*******

I just remembered.  His name was Paul.  Not Mark.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Mary, You're a Fine Girl

I knew the big report was coming my way.  I can sense these things before they occur.  I'm like a meteorologist who specializes in bullshit storms.  Sketchy details, a comprehensive lack of focus, a limited grasp of the material.  This one had all the earmarks of a Category 4 squall.

Tension builds during these stressful weather events.  I put my cows in the barn and clear my calendar.  I don't really have any cows, but if I did, they'd be in the barn.  Cows hate it when ladies yell.  So do the neighbors.  I close the windows. Still, no report materializes, despite such careful preparation.

Every day, more pressure is added to the cloud of anxiety that looms like an unaddressed journalism essay nobody wants to actually sit down and write.  Bits and drabs of useless information are being revealed each day.  Until finally, I can take no more.

"Have you written anything yet, son?"  I ask.

"No.  I'm still gathering my resources."

This accumulation of facts and figures continues for nearly a week.  On Saturday morning, I interrupt a podcast of some sort being viewed on a laptop in my bedroom.

"Shut the computer off, Desmond."

"But I'm still watching this."

"You're done, my dear.  You need to write something."

*******

When I was a little kid, I thought my mother was brilliant.  I based this assumption solely on her clerical skills and the equipment that came with her from the last office position she'd held.  Big Mare knew how to use a typewriter, and she'd taken dictation in high school.  From time to time, she used strange symbols to jot down the lyrics of songs we liked on the radio.  I thought this skill was ridiculously useful.  Thanks to Gregg shorthand, I knew all the words to "Brandy, You're A Fine Girl."

"How do you know what to write down?" I asked her.

"You just do what your boss tells you."

"Oh.  What about what you wanna say?"

"That's not important."

We always had this impressive gray stapler in the kitchen junk drawer, a Swingline.  Underneath the bottom of the fastener, my mother had taped a piece of paper with her maiden name, Mary Purdon, in fancy script lettering.  Mom had very nice handwriting.  She could address an envelope like an angel.

I wondered what my mother's life was like before she met my father.  I loved looking at photographs of her and the other girls in the secretarial pool.  They always seemed like they were having a good time.  I couldn't wait to get a job someday and enjoy myself.

Big Mare always insisted that Judy and I get good grades in school.  Not because she valued education.  I'm pretty sure she just thought it was polite.  Mom wanted the nuns to think she was a decent mother.  She was desperate for some rules to follow.

As I got older, it started to dawn on me that maybe Mom wasn't all that smart.  She did, after all, marry my dad.  She couldn't drive, and her math wasn't so great, either.  We didn't even own a calculator.  Just that stupid stapler.
"Honey, you can't just go to CNN.com, copy someone else's conversation onto a sheet of paper and call it an editorial piece."

"I know, Mom."

"But that's what you've done.  So clearly, you don't know."

"Yes, I do."

"Listen, I'm not gonna argue with you.  But if you truly knew what you were doing, you never would have handed me these four paragraphs of whatever the fuck this is and asked me to read them."

"Just forget it."  My son attempted to grab his half-assed effort from my sweaty grip.

"Don't be like that.  I just spent eleven minutes of my life trying to figure out what it is you're attempting to say.  And four hundred words later, I still have no idea."

"You don't understand, Mom."

"Yes, I agree!  I don't understand.  Help me to understand," I begged my sixth grader.

"I have to write about digital libraries."  Desmond looked like he was about to burst into tears.

"Are you gonna cry?" I asked.

"No."

"Good.  Then neither will I."

I paused for a minute to collect myself.

"So - What is a digital library?  And why should I care?"

"It's a collection of electronic documents, exclusively available on the internet."

I guess the child was waiting for me to say something.  I wished I could, but I had virtually nothing to go on.  As a rule, all subject matter has to at least include a person in order for me to pay attention, let alone become emotionally invested. Desmond's explanation of this weird futuristic database didn't even sound like it involved books.  My hopes for a quiet librarian with a dark past were impractical.

"So, what's the problem?"  That's the best I could manage, as far as relevant questions go.

"I don't know how to write what I feel."

"Look, kid.  As long as you feel something, you're headed in the right direction.  You just need to choose good sentences that describe your thoughts.  But they have to be your thoughts.  Otherwise, you're not gonna learn anything."

Just then, I realized my message was the absolute truth.  It's what happens whenever I write.  I found myself explaining a valuable lesson to both of us.

How neat.