Thermostat Battles

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The house is finally warm enough for me to stop shivering. I am wearing a scarf, two shirts and a sweater while wrapped in a blanket and can still feel the chill. And even this is a tolerable relief from the freezing conditions of the morning, but sadly, time limited.

This is just another day in the saga of the Thermostat Battles. It has been quietly fought over the last few years by a few degrees in either direction. If its warm, I’m winning, which isn’t often. Everything else is a loss. Admittedly, we try to fairly negotiate the temperature depending on the season but then we each make secret/not-so-secret adjustments when the terms are not agreeable to both parties.

Unfortunately, the odds recently changed in my temperature-opponent’s favor when we acquired a roommate, who also prefers a constant state of refrigeration. He moved in during the hottest season, when long pants and coats are locked away like criminals and windows can be left open at night for the fresh air and sound of cicadas. The open-windows-at-night thing was never a possibility in any of our past apartments unless we wanted to welcome in more than night noises and a breeze.

Back to the present when mysteriously, the windows ended up shut, the A/C kicked on and dropped to a dangerously, hypothermia-causing, get-ready-to-freeze-to-death low. The summer days took on the temperature of the seasons to come, unnaturally early and indoors. Instead of wearing shorts and t-shirt, I was in jeans with a sweater, shivering and silent.

Now it is Fall and my enemies continue to collaborate against me; they make bold and direct moves to freeze me out.

I am left somewhere between a Pacifist and a guerrilla war soldier. We the cold and puny are outnumbered, two to one. We do not want to fight, we don’t believe in war, but fight we must or die in the middle of the night from cold.

While I work on a new battle strategy, I will continue to use the same tactic, adjusting the temperature, slowly enough to avoid detection, but surely, up to a climate more like Key West or Cuba. Yet, each time I hit the button up a degree, I do it with the full awareness that it is only a matter of time before it plummets back down into the cold, cruel torture zone and the battle continues.

Such is the life of Puney.

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The Power of Potatoes

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Potatoes are a tuber of particular importance to my family. According to the Bones’ family legend, the Bones left Bone County in Ireland during the potato famine. With nothing to grow and even less to eat, the options were slim pickin’ for their future.

So like so many before and after them, the Bones left in search of a new land to sow and harvest new fields of barely nutritious, starchy vegetables. The funny thing with family history is that although the past is the past, it is guarded by a select few who may or may not be willing to share. This is the extent of early Bones’ history as people of the potatoes.

One way or another, the Bones landed on Alabama’s shores of plentiful opportunity. Filling in the gaps with my imagination, I can only imagine a bunch of grimy faced potato farming relatives packed into a raft, as inspired by the recent images of the Syrian refugees, floating up to a sandy, white beach.

No one stopped the Bones from crawling onto the shore and standing up to claim their new lives as farmers and later sharecroppers. The oppression of the working poor is another post, altogether. The Bones were able to create a new life, one in which their basic needs were met so they could go onto to attain greater success as bootleggers and furniture makers.

This brings me to the point, we were all immigrants at one time or another. Of course, that excludes our real forefathers, the Native Americans, whom I haven’t heard speaking out against our current immigration situation. So live and let live, or go a step further to help others to live better. Immigration should not be a political issue, it should be one of the human right to live free of hunger and hate, to have shoes and housing, and to grow potatoes if you darned well please.

Letter writing blues

  
I have a box stuffed full of unanswered letters. It sat on my desk for weeks, guiltily reminding me of my responsibility to respond. The weeks turned into a month, two months, and now it is approaching three months without a single response.

Officially, I am the worst pen pal in history.

The letters flew back and forth, at first. A real connection existed, made strong by carefully thought out reflections and responses, a sharing of lives and hopes and dreams. We invested time and postage in our exchanges. I felt a sense of duty to write back, as a courtesy for their trouble but moreover to keep the art of letter writing alive.  

Slowly the connection grew weaker, like a handful of fireflies trapped in a glass jar. Time passed and then too much of it to write an apology and start over or to jump back in and pretend nothing happened. So I did what any person driven by shame might do.

I locked the box into a dark drawer to let the final lights flicker out.

Vulnerable Positions

  
In a strange city and state, I had to get across town to my hotel. Instead of hoofing it to the metro or hailing a cab, I called for an Uber. There is comfort and perhaps an undeserving sense of trust placed in that which is familiar. Uber worked flawlessly at home, and it would work here in this foreign land of six lane roads and sidewalks full of well dressed professionals.

My countrified sensibilities remained in a state of awe as I waited for my ride. Even the people of the streets, pushing a shopping cart of bags or shaking a cup of change at tourists, looked like dressed down professionals in hand-me-down designer jeans and scuffed brand name tennis shoes. They eyed me suspiciously, recognizing an imposter in their city.

When a car with a U in the back window pulled up, I jumped in without hesitation. A sharp smell of body odor mingled with Mexican food. It shocked my senses but I was so relieved to be rescued from the street, it didn’t matter.

Bad smells can be a warning of trouble to come. Like smoke before a fire, an odor that offends or repels can be a wordless message of danger, especially if accompanied with an uneasy gut feeling. However, as a person conditioned not to be rude or inconvenience others, I closed the door behind me and it locked with a click.

I was alone, locked into the backseat of a stranger’s car with a dying cell phone. The man drove silently into traffic and I considered my options. He was either going to take me back to my hotel and drop me off, as requested, or off to a secluded location to kill me. Those were the only possible two scenarios: death or delivery.

A few miles miles later, the man drove past my hotel, and I grew hysterical.

“Let me out!” I demanded.

I took off my seatbelt and prepared to jump and roll at the next stop light. We were on a busy road, but I didn’t care. I desperately regretted my lack of discretion as it led to my current state of kidnap/abduction. My worst fears were in the process of happening.

The man fumbled with the gps on his phone and blanked out the screen. Now, no one knew where we were and my phone was seconds from dying. I hoped it would send out a final signal with our coordinates that the FBI could recover when retracing my steps.

Then the man pulled a u-turn, speaking for the first time to apologize, and dropped me off right in front of the hotel. And that was it, the end of what I thought was to be my last ride. It ended as quickly and unceremoniously as it began.

Could the little voice in my head have been wrong?

I have since returned to the Midwest and had time to reflect. My intuition was not wrong, it warned me that something was wrong. It helped to raise my adrenaline and put me on high alert. Perhaps, the outcome would have been different if I didn’t notice our missed turn or been ready to duck and roll. Road rash was to be a minor sacrifice for the continuation of my life.

The time to be assertive and brave is when that voice speaks. Put trust in that little voice, trust the feeling in your gut, most of all, trust yourself.

Fire doesn’t always have to follow smoke.

A day of resignation

  
She woke up early, excited and nervous to make it official. 

Her husband, on the other hand, was less excited and hoped that she had changed her mind overnight.

Yet, he knew, as fickle as she was, that she was set.

He scrounged around in the closet for a pair of socks. Hangers jangled against each other as he maneuvered his wide shoulders through the small space.  Clothes swished back and forth and the rod creaked. He settled for two singles, one blue and one black.

He didn’t complain, he was glad to have socks. A quick sniff, clean socks, even better.

A pair of dark eyes watched as he emerged, switching the light off behind him with the socks flopped over his hand.

“You give up the fight in there?”

“There never was a fight. It just is what it is,” he replied with a shrug. 

And so it goes…

Oldest guy on the crew

Wiry, white hair pokes out from underneath of his hardhat, like straw from a scarecrow. He walks with a limp and a stooped back, a half-step behind his coworkers.

Young people, he thinks about the forty-something-year-olds next to him, always in such a damned hurry.

They each wear bright yellow vests, unifying the team in safety.

The creases in his ironed khakis look sharp enough to cut through the soft and baggy jeans of his vested companions.

“Got a long day ahead of us, Bill.”

“Eh? What’s that?”

Bill is deep in thought and hard of hearing. He pulls out a tape measure from his pocket and starts taking measurements of something in the air.

His co-workers laugh, quietly and with as much respect as possible.

He is, after all, the oldest guy on the crew.

  

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