Mudding the Walls

mud

There is great satisfaction from working with one’s hands. However, when one nearly amputates one’s finger, the satisfaction is greatly decreased.

Let me paint the scene, or in this case, mud it.

We had taken down all of the wooden paneling in our backroom and replaced it with drywall. This makes for a short sentence but took several long weekends to actually accomplish.

Generally speaking, once nailed to the walls and ceiling, the sheets of drywall are close but not perfectly flush with one another. Most especially this is true in an unevenly cobbled together house such as the one in which we live. So we use this special tape wherever two edges of drywall meet and cover it with this grey gunk, called mud, to fill in the cracks, seal the seams, and to make the walls nice and smooth.

Easy enough, right?

I had just finished the perfect seam. Smooth and evenly spread with light feathering out on each side; it was the kind of seam that I knew would make my dad proud. Then it occurred to me that my tongue was going numb and my hands were shaking.

“Blood sugar’s dropping,” I slurred out.

I’ve got this, I thought to myself since my usual mode of communication was temporarily disabled. I shook off the shakes with the determination to finish one more seam before collapsing or seeking out a cookie or scoop of peanut butter. In either case, I was not giving up just because of a little hypoglycemia.

Scraping the excess mud from one drywall knife onto the other, I wavered with the thought that I really should stop but continued on anyways. And then suddenly when my drywall knife should have been scooping, smoothing, or scraping, it took on the function of slicing. The edge of the blade cut through the skin on the top of my index finger and stopped just shy of the bone. This was the finger that I might use to point out something interesting, to scoop a sample of frosting from a cake or to squish an ant, a very important digit by all accounts.

As blood spurted from the top of my finger, I stared in shock.  Then, I swore to never be helpful again and started screaming.  Side note: I am not the best at dealing with situations that involve pressure, crisis, conflict, or blood which are not exactly strong talking points in a job interview or when making a few friend.  Subjects such as these are better left to discussions with penpals and counselors.

Fast forward to a new day with a fresh bandage wrapped around my wounded finger.

I am still fervently wishing the walls will come together on their own, possibly through divine intervention, and waiting for my finger to heal.  The fact remains clear that this terrible job is not meant for the impatient or weak of heart.

My utmost respect goes out to the DIY (do-it-yourself) nation.

“Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet.”
-Aristotle

http://www.wikihow.com/Tape-and-Mud-Drywall

http://www.thisoldhouse.com/toh/how-to/intro/0,,410343,00.html

http://www.familyhandyman.com/drywall/tips-for-finishing-drywall/view-all

Letter to ******Airlines

plane

Dear *****Airlines,

Thank you for a delightful trip. The seat was at the perfect tilt forward to never get comfortable and the armrest was just sticky enough for me to know that bacteria was alive and well. I liked the way the air vent was stuck at both full blast and pointed directly at my head. The constant air blowing kept me alert. You must have anticipated my excitement about the flight and desire to not miss a second of it. Not to worry, the tall lady behind me got the message, too. She kicked and kneed my seat every few minutes, so the air vent situation was really unnecessary.

I admit that I was a little puzzled by the extended delay on the runway. First, there was too much weight on the plane. Of course, this was concerning so I was glad that the extra weight by way of fuel was to be drained off to ensure our safe passage through the skies. Then, the defueling crew couldn’t remove the fuel cap and it was determined that we were actually an acceptable weight. No changes needed. So we rattled off into the stormy night.

A free drink might have been nice to calm our nerves about possibly being over the normal weight capacity in a wild storm that violently shook us while lightning bolted in the distance. Never mind, I understand the outrageous price of ice, plastic cups, and peace of mind these days that makes it impossible to give away.

In any case, we landed well shaken, not stirred like a good martini. The flight attendant took over the intercom and said, “Welcome to Indiana, where everyone is welcome all the time, now.”

My fellow passengers breathed sighs of relief and congratulated one another on reaching the ground in one piece. We bonded through that perilous adventure into a group of tough, urban, first world survivalists who really have nothing to complain about aside from a delayed departure time and excessive turbulence.

Thanks for getting me home alive *******Airlines.

Sincerely,

A loyal, economy flight rider
P. Bones

“Tell me,

what is it you plan to do

with your one

wild and precious life?”

-Mary Oliver

Dinner and a show

mashed

A stream of patrons wearing cut-off jean shorts and tank tops or oversized t-shirts and sweats flowed from the restaurant. They shuffled and limped as was customary for the diners of this fine establishment but today it was with a noticeable bounce from the excitement of witnessing something unusual.

“Enjoy the fight,” a woman without any upper teeth lisped as she walked past us and cackled.

Her gang joined in with knowing nods and a chorus of raucous laughter, “Yeah, enjoy.”

Taking no heed of this, we marched onwards towards the glass doors from which the motley crew had just emerged. It was Father’s Day and we were celebrating in classic Indiana fashion at an all you can eat buffet.

It was the type of place where it was unheard of to leave more than a $3 tip and rude not to accumulate a stack of plates with bits of chicken skin, rib bones, green beans in juice from a pineapple slice and the remnants of a piece of carrot cake on the edge of the table. The dress code was less than casual and strictly enforced most days.

Once we were assembled inside, the hostess looked up and down at us and shook her head in disapproval. City folk, I could almost hear her saying. She narrowed her eyes but allowed us in anyways.

They made an exception for us because they were dealing with a much bigger issue.

The staff huddled around the hostess stand, drawing safety from numbers.

A large, unkempt man a patchy beard and dirty t-shirt bellowed, “It ain’t right. I been here 45 minutes and want my mashed potatoes. It ain’t right to take a man’s money and not give him a regular part of the meal.”

The manager approached the angry man and spoke so quietly that the crowd leaned closer. He used his hands to emphasize his words and pushed the tense air down with open palms, saying, “Just calm down.”

Generally, this is one of the worst things to tell an irate human. It’s the same as telling a sobbing woman, don’t cry. Things get worse.

“Give me my money back and we’ll call it even,” the man demanded and stepped closer to the manager who was a foot shorter.  The man puffed his flabby chest up like an overfed, dirty rooster with patches of missing feathers preparing to fight for barnyard justice.

I wanted to look away. I knew it was wrong to stare but this was eye candy, the sticky kind that pulled out your fillings. The man disgusted and intrigued me, demanding mashed potatoes after he had been there for close to an hour.  Undoubtedly, he had filled his quota of heaped up plates leaving behind only greasy chicken bones, cast off vegetables, half eaten rolls and a bite of tuna salad.

“He just wants a free meal,” one of the servers said in a loud whisper.

Her comrade shook her head in disagreement and with a sly smile said, “No, he just wants his mashed potatoes.”

———————————

“You shall love your crooked neighbor, with your crooked heart.”

-W.H. Auden

take it…

Take it moment by moment, and you will find that we are all, as I’ve said before, bugs in amber.image

-kurt vonnegut

A light in the dark

flashligh

I am at the bottom of a deep hole, maybe an old well, trying to figure out what happened. The darkness is suffocating and heavy as I try to stand. Nothing is broken. I feel my arms to be sure a bone isn’t sticking out where it doesn’t belong. I’m just a little sore and confused. So that’s good, but it is dark and creepy. I am afraid of the dark, so this is bad.

Fear sets in spreading from my chest outwards, reaching my head and feet at the same moment.

Frantically I try to find my flashlight. It came down with me so it must be here. My fingers are my eyes now; they are both far and nearsighted as they adjust to their new role. I feel my way over the muck, decaying leaves and twigs, walnuts, trash and still no flashlight.

The rotting debris stinks and I am panicking. If I could still the thousand thoughts in my head, I might try to use the Litany of Fear. Reading all of those Dune books need not be in vain. Fear is the mind-killer…

That’s not happening because I’m gagging, the stench surrounds me and I’m covered in this muck. Bile rises in my throat. Mouth breathing makes it worse; the smell is so pungent I can taste it in the air.

Vomit will not improve my current environment, although I’m not sure if I have a choice as the bile continues on its path upwards.

Mind over matter, mind over matter, I tell myself and swallow hard. Briefly, I consider that the nausea could also be related to a possible concussion. Not knowing how long I was out from the fall, I am only certain that it is night and that the nausea is passing.

I dig for the flashlight. It won’t get me out of this pit if I do find it, but it will give me the comfort of light. Light is a reminder that I am human and therefore a conqueror of the dark.

Unfortunately, I am not the conqueror of anything, aside from the urge to vomit which may only be temporary. My only power is that of patience to wait for the first light of the day. I can be patient.

I feel hope for the new day.

Then something moves, squishing through the muck towards me.

Fear ties my stomach into knots and makes my heart pound. Needles of pain shoot out from my neck and scalp. I am deaf, dumb, and blind in this hole with patience as my only defense and acutely aware that I am not alone.

I was never alone.

Short Fuse

monkey
Norm raised his hand feigning respect, “I was just wondering,” he started and hesitated, “I already know the answer, but I want to hear you say it.”

A silver bracelet fell down his forearm with his hand still in the air. He wore a turquoise ring on his middle finger that was as large and obnoxious as his personality.

He continued. “Do you think it is necessary to read poetry in order to write it?”

The instructor also wore silver; hammered half-moons dangled from her ears.

“Yes, you have to read…”

“Wait a minute, I wasn’t finished with my question,” he interrupted the instructor’s soft stream of words.

A snarl started to spread over my face.

The instructor took a deep breath and removed her glasses, a two-step, Norm-deflecting technique to regain her inner peace.

Without waiting for the instructor’s response, he continued. “What I was driving at…”

Norm went on but I could no longer hear him. I did not practice Norm-deflecting techniques. Red filled my eyes and the room went silent. I could only hear the pounding of blood in my head and feel my heart beating in my chest.

Like battle drums. Boom. Boom. Boom. They demanded action.

I leapt from the back row up and over the shared table-desk with the war cry of a wild Borneo monkey.
“Aieeeeeeeeeeeee….”

I landed square on Norm’s fat back and he stopped talking.

“Shut up!” I thought I screamed and shook his head mercilessly.

Later, I learned my words came out as a continuation of the newly acquired Borneo monkey language.

Norm grabbed at his chest as his eyes bulged out and his greasy, worm-lips moved with wordless gasping.

It looked like he was mouthing either, “Get help,” or more likely, “I’ll sue you for this.”

A few minutes later the ambulance arrived and Norm was carried out on a stretcher.

The drumbeat no longer called for battle;it announced victory.

It’s been a few months and I now have a lot of Norm-and-others-like-Norm deflecting techniques to use. The judge won’t like to hear this but even after all of the therapy, medication, and electroshock, I can’t help but to feel like a hero.

A certified, bonafide hero.

Misplaced Beliefs

cow

“Before you go, I’ve got something for you.”

Jan stood with a groan and walked towards the counter dividing the kitchen from the living room.  She moved with an uneven gait from a recent hip replacement. She had a simple mind, dull eyes, and a sweetness that inexplicably drew people to her.

“I should have finished PT, I know.”

She made no excuses but no one had asked for any. Anyways, she wouldn’t have given a straight answer if asked the reason because the answer sat nearby, frowning into a cup of cold coffee.

An oxygen machine clicked in the background and her husband scrutinized Jan with narrowed eyes.

“Careful, watch the tube,” Ted growled as Jan walked towards the counter and yanked at the clear tubing with one hand.

“By the way, coffee’s cold,” he declared with a fierce look at his wife.

While Jan emanated a bovine presence, not from her shape or hygiene, but her gentle spirit, her spouse was like a hawk circling above the field where she grazed.

“Don’t worry, honey. I won’t step on it.”

Tactfully, she ignored his comment about the coffee and smiled, “He always gets so worried about his oxygen.”

Her dull eyes did not smile with the rest of her face. They told of the sacrifices and strategizing of a wife.

Perhaps her mind was not so simple.

To hell with them, Ted scowled in his recliner.

He had other things on his mind.

Namely, his upcoming death.

He was good with Jesus now. Volunteering at the church, helping out at the soup kitchen, mentoring those kids. It was all a part of his life-insurance policy.

I never thought much of buying something I could never use, he mused to himself. There was satisfaction in his investment, soon to pay out, big time.  It was just a matter of time before he was released from his hell on Earth. This body, this woman, this condo. It was all suffocating him to death, which was fortunate.

I bet all this suffering adds to the value of my policy, he thought, as he did a mental computation on number of years of suffering multiplied by amount of good work.

In the midst of Ted’s silent ruminations, as he went over the same thoughts every day, Jan arrived at the counter.

She leaned against it and reached over, producing a perfect, one foot tall Santa Claus in her hand.

“For you. I made them with our church group. There are nine others back here.”

As she offered the gift to me, I considered the tribe of Santa’s hiding behind the counter, and Jan watched for the expression on my face.

Santa stared up at me in his perfect suit and beard with his kind, googly eyes.

Quite naturally, the eyes were not so different from those of his Creator.

a cup of tea

tea

“Can I get you a cup of tea?” she asked with dry and cracked lips.

Her mouth sounded like it had been swabbed by one hundred menacing cotton balls. No moisture survived there.

Old, faded jeans and an oversized sweater hung from her gaunt frame as she turned around.

“I’m going to have some; it’s supposed to fight the cancer.”

She didn’t seem convinced.

“No, thanks,” I politely declined remembering to never accept food or drink from a stranger.

Wait, was that advice good only around Halloween,only related to strangers in unmarked vans or pertaining all strangers? That was the part I couldn’t remember. Then I recalled voice from my past to always accept food and drink, but with discretion.

So that’s a maybe, sometimes its ok, grey area type of suggestion generated from a voice in my head.

The woman shrugged with indifference and returned to the electric kettle of boiling water. Steam rolled off the hot water as she dipped a bag of tea into a cracked teacup.

An earthy and fragrant smell escaped as the water turned red from the teabag.

My throat longed for a sip of tea. I swallowed my fears and concerns with a mighty gulp of air as she sipped from the cup.

What the hell, I thought.

“I would actually love a cup of tea, if it is not too much trouble.”

She gave me a wicked grin and I noticed her stained yellow, crooked teeth.

“You’re going to like this.”

Leaning forward, she whispered, “It’s got the good shit in it.”

Machines

Once men turned their thinking over to machines in the hope that this would set them free. But that only permitted other men with machines to enslave them.

from Dune, frank herbert

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