Leaf Peepers

leaves

A sea of yellow and orange leaves covers the yard, rippling ever so gently with the wind.  The mailman trudges through the colorful debris wielding a handful of letters in front of his body and an official USPS bag slung over his shoulder.

“Lazy people,” he curses under his breath as wades to the mailbox on the outside of the small and otherwise tidy house.

He knows so much about the people on his route and so little at the same time.  He knows their names and titles, their subscriptions and bills.  He knows when they get home from work and the cars they drive.  He knows where ferocious dogs are apt to be chained up and where an evil-eyed cat waits all day in the window, glaring out at the world with disdain.  

He knows that it’s time for raking; actually, its past the time for raking, and still the leaves on the corner lot cover the ground, turning from gold to brown and killing the grass underneath.

“Don’t worry about the grass, if it dies, we won’t have to mow next Summer,” I reassure my worried husband about his silly lawn related concerns.

He does not respond with the expected appreciation at my problem solving.  Instead, he arrives home with a box of leaf and refuse bags, two scooper claws, a new gimmick for picking up leaves, and drags out the rakes from the back of the garage.  Navigating the garage without tripping over a level or having a ladder crash onto his head is quite the feat, so I know he means business when he shows up with his gear.

He gives a rallying cry for his leaf army to assemble and begin the long awaited, annual battle against the leaves before the city ends the leaf-bag-pick-up period.  Of note, I am unwillingly drafted, but still fulfill my duty to restore order to the yard.  Soon, the leaves are gathered into huge piles, with one sweep from my husband to every three of mine. 

Thanks to Daylight Savings, it is too dark to continue until the next day.

By the end of the weekend, blisters on our hands and a garage sized pile of plastic bags filled with leaves are all we have to show for our time, but we are nonetheless proud of our work.  We stand back and admire the newly created Mt. Leafmore and the mostly leaf free, partially dead yard, when neighbors from down the street stroll by wearing matching black track suits and wave.

“Looks good, guys.”

“Thanks, we waited until the last minute, but we got it done.”

“Too bad the last day for leaf pick up was on Friday,” they snicker to themselves and walk on towards their perfectly manicured lawn.  

And so it goes, it was too little, too late.  Why did we wait?  Why didn’t we double down and get it done a week earlier?

There is a simple answer, we are leaf peepers.  People who would rather admire the leaves as they change colors and marvel as they drop from the trees and fall to Earth than to try and clean up after Mother Nature.  Blessed are the Leaf Peepers, for they shall inherit the leaves.

Bags and bags of leaves.

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As Above, So Below

as above

The screen door slowly opened with a squeak.  The hinges were reddish-brown with rust and curls of white paint peeled away from the wooden door.  A pink noise poked out and sniffed at the air; the nose was followed by the black and white body of a small dog.  The animal slipped the rest of the way out of the house and the door slammed behind it with a bang.

Scents of all kinds bombarded the tiny but powerful nostrils of the dog.  It looked left and then right, orienting to its new surroundings.  A squirrel watched from the branch of an oak tree in the front yard, holding a nut in its claws and waited to see what the domesticated creature would do next.

The dog took off in a beeline towards the edge of the yard, running with muscular strides, quickly drawing away from the house.

“Beanie!” a boy yelled as he pushed through the screen door.  He wore jean shorts and striped tank top; dark hair fell over his forehead and hit the top of his ears, in a perfect bowl cut.

He yelled over his shoulder, “Beanie’s out, again!”

A girl followed the boy through the door, letting the door slam behind her.  Bangs obstructed her view and she pushed heavy locks away from her nearsighted eyes.  She wore a faded pair of jeans, rolled up at the bottoms with a thin t-shirt.

With bare feet, the pair raced after the dog, leaving mashed grass and flowers in their wake.

“Beanie! Beanie! Come back!” they yelled in unison.

Suddenly the dog stopped and looked back, it waited for the kids to catch up.  Its sides heaved in and out and its tongue fell from its mouth as it rested for a second and then it took off again like a shot.

Chase me, shiny eyes begged as it risked a quick glance back at its pursuers.

The siblings laughed and resumed the chase after the dog.

An engine revved over the hill and a car appeared trailing a cloud of dust from the gravel road as it sped towards them. Screaming, the girl grabbed the boy with both arms, pulling him back from the road as the car flew past them.

The car intersected with the escaping dog.  They watched its body hit the front of the car and shoot off to the side of the road.  The girl’s heart pounded in her chest, she was still screaming.  The car sped on, never once hitting its brakes as the dog lay still on its side. Its life whiffed out in the same moment as the fleeting innocence of childhood.

Once gone, always gone.

 

Real Life Monsters

monster

Once a year, we open our door, flip on the light and wait for monsters to visit.  We welcome them, in spite of their threats of tricks and unreasonable demands to smell their feet, with candy.

It’s my husband’s favorite holiday, far surpassing that of Thanksgiving or my birthday.  He prepares in advance by selecting special treats, canceling any plans that don’t involve passing out fun sized candy bars and waiting in excited anticipation. 

This year, he positioned himself by the door with a bowl of candy.  He cracked his knuckles, stretched his arms, and bent over to touch his toes and stood back up like he was preparing for a half marathon.

“We’re in for a big night, we have to be ready.  I can feel it,” he explained with unexplainable certainty as the clock ticked towards six o’clock.

Sure enough, a steady stream of visitors arrived shortly after the designated start time, one after another.  The first friends of the night were a cluster of superheroes with shiny, plastic masks and capes. 

They stood on the steps outside of the door, while holding orange pumpkin baskets and called out in unison, “Trick or Treat.” 

A group of golden wig wearing princesses followed closely behind the boys.  They gave a respectful thirty seconds to allow the superheroes time to walk down the steps and onto the sidewalk before bounding up to the steps to the door.  Their parents waited at the edge of the sidewalk, close enough to give a pseudo impression of independence or to rush in at a moment’s notice.

Meanwhile, the giver of candy generously continued to pass out handfuls of candy as the night went on, and the visitors began to arrive by vehicle instead of on foot.  They came from nearby neighborhoods where it’s not safe to knock on a stranger’s door and visitors are not welcomed with smiles and snacks. 

We watched as an old van with a missing tail light and a wide array of dents puttered past our lookout point/house and pulled off to the side of the road to unload what seemed like 10 or 20 kids.  They organized and dispersed as quickly as a group of sugar-crazed and costumed children are able to do under the direction of an over worked and exhausted set of adults.

They came to our house twice, assuming we wouldn’t notice perhaps because they were in disguise.   With each visit, they held out their little bags and baskets, and some said thanks and others simply ran off once they had a few pieces of candy. 

A straggler arrived after the group’s second visit, close to the end of the approved trick or treating hours, a tiny child with an eerie green glow to her face.  She wore a mop on her head, dyed the same color, covered with cotton cobwebs.  It was an elaborate but low-cost costume that was hard to forget.  She was accompanied by her mother, a woman in a black hoodie with a huge purse on her shoulder.

“You can pick what you want,” the Candygiver leaned down and offered the dish of treats to the little girl.

Her brown eyes shone in the night, catching the porch light and reflecting it back like two cosmic stars.  She reached into the dish with a pudgy green hand and grabbed a packet of Runts and Gobstoppers.

“Good choice, those are my favorite.”

The man nodded in encouragement, the green creature smiled up at him for a brief second of human connection.  She glowed a brighter green, invigorated by the praise and strengthened with his kindness.

Then the little girl’s mother swooped in and smacked her hand, “Those are choking hazards.”  

The woman glared at the man with butterfly wings for eyelashes that made their own wind with each flutter.  The little girl dropped the hard candies and stepped back; she stared at the Candyman in anger at his betrayal.  She wasn’t sure what a choking hazard was but her mama’s tone told her all she needed to know.  Candyman was a bad man.      

“Shame on you,” the woman said as she reached into the candy dish extracting no fewer than five bite sized Milky Way candy bars with orange and black striped artificial nails.

She shook her head in disappointment as she dropped the candy into her daughter’s bucket and went back for another handful of candy.  This time, she included the dangerous Runts and feared Gobstoppers in her claw and dropped this loot into her purse.  Grabbing her daughter’s hand, she marched down the steps and sashayed into the darkness of the night. 

Until next year.  Farewell and good luck, little green monster. 

The Cost of Healthcare

blood pressure

“Why don’t you just go to the doctor?” my husband asks after hearing my chest crack and pop.

“It’s complicated,” I moan in pain.

Maybe he doesn’t know about the extent of my white coat syndrome and that merely making an appointment makes my heart race and my palms get sweaty. Or that as a kid, I never went to the doctor outside of ingesting a battery or being covered with purple lesions.  And if we did go, it always resulted in the occurrence of something uncomfortable or more painful than the original issue.

As an adult, there is little difference except that now the pain comes from the initial cost of the copay and then later the portion of the bill not covered through insurance.

“It’s all explained in your insurance policy,” the customer service rep explains. “You know, in the really fine print. You agreed to pay for anything not covered when you signed in to see Dr. Gulash.”

Trickery and crooks! I scream in my mind, and then passively settle on a monthly payment of six months to pay off the balance.  It’s easier than taking a stand and getting sent to collections.   The bitter sting of that bill is still on my mind as I refuse to get the cracking and popping evaluated, not just yet anyway.

Let’s follow the journey of Papa Puney who decided not to wait until there were no other options and his proactive approach to his healthcare.

Papa Puney is fit man in his fifties; he sits in a hard plastic chair at the doctor’s office, off to the side and away from the sick people. There are stacks of germ covered magazines next to a pump bottle of hand sanitizer.  It’s a nice gesture but too little too late for most.

He calmly waits and peruses through emails and Facebook on his phone.   He has been working to lower his blood pressure through diet, exercise and limiting his views on the Donald’s latest tweets.   He moves his upper lip unconsciously and the mustache above it bristles out, not unlike a well groomed porcupine, as he flips through the online posts.

A young woman with dry, dyed black hair pops her head out of the door next to the receptionist’s desk.

“Mr. Papa Puney?”

She holds the door open with shiny, red nails. The man looks up in acknowledgement of his name.

“We’re ready for you now.”

Opening the door wider, she waits for the proactive patient to follow her down a tile hallway that smells of antiseptic cleaner.

The woman chews gum as she leads the man into his own room.   PP feels a seed of irritation begin to grow with each snap and pop of the gum.

“Sit right here and the nurse practitioner will be right in,” she gestured with her hand to another hard backed chair.

“Wait a minute, what about the doctor?”

“Oh, he is too busy to see you today. The NP will be right in,” the woman explains cheerfully and leaves before PP can say anything else.

PP waits and feels his heart rate increasing and the blood pulsing through his veins. PP waits and waits, keeping busy by cruising the internet until he reaches the end of the interwebs and still he waits.

Finally, the door opens and a chubby blonde woman in her early thirties with purple Crocs enters the room.

“Hey there, Bub, what’s going on with this blood pressure of yours?”

“Bub?” PP asks.

He feels a pounding in his head as his blood pressure rises like a tribal drum urging him on to stand and leave. No, this is not going to work.  There are other ways to lower blood pressure.   PP excuses himself from the clinic and takes a trip to Burger King to reassess his health goals and the price of proactivity.

Bub out.

Timely

Hospice, the conversation killer

Expectation

wilted-flowers
Hospice, it’s a real conversation killer.

So death, what a bummer, amiright?

The couple, Jack and Jill, rode in silence with the occasional interjection about the weather and the Grammy’s.  When they arrived, it was a relief to leave the car.  They stepped out of their temporary vacuum world onto a freshly sealed, asphalt parking lot.

“This is nice,” Jill said with a grimace against the cold.

She pulled her coat together with one hand and held a bouquet of wilted flowers in the other. At the top of the inclined parking lot was a light grey stone, two-story building with clean, white trim around the windows. Along the edges of the building dry, brown, stick bushes waited for Spring to come alive with bright and vibrant colors, unlike the occupants of the building, grey and prostate, watching the world turn from their beds.

Next to the door, a sign read, “This is a secure facility, please ring bell for assistance.”

Jack studied it for a second, pushed the red button and waited; he was very good at following directions. The door clicked after a few seconds and was opened by an unseen hand.

“After you,” Jack said gesturing for Jill to walk in front of him.

Jack was also known for his good manners and gentle nature. Once inside, they met with another obstacle, Doris.  Doris sat at a table in the foyer, posing as a receptionist, bouncer, and tour guide, depending on the day.

“We’re here to see Beverly De…”

“Bev DeMonn?” Doris cut him off eagerly as though to say yes, we know the same people, isn’t that a coincidence.

Doris was a small woman with short hair done up in that old-lady-way requiring weekly visits to the beauty shop for a wash and style.  She nervously adjusted her glasses on her face and shuffled a stack of papers on her desk.

Jack stood tall and looked Doris in the eyes. He shook his head in confirmation and gave a warm smile.

“Yes, exactly, she’s my grandmother.”

“That’s nice,” Doris said with as much sincerity as she could muster. “Right this way.”

Jack and Jill followed Doris’s shuffling steps as she led them down a hallway and through an open sitting area. There was a fireplace pumping out dry heat, warming two empty arm chairs and an empty couch. The place was strangely quiet and still for such a large facility.

“It’s nap time,” Doris explained, reading their minds. Then in a whisper over her shoulder, she added, “And we just lost a few residents.”

“That must explain all of the locks, everyone wandered out,” Jill snickered.

“Not funny,” Jack hissed without looking at his companion.

“Ok, ok,” Jill said unrepentantly with a shrug, “anything to lighten the mood.”

Suddenly, the lights grew brighter as they stepped into a cafeteria. The kitchen area was against the far wall.  The rest of the area was taken up by empty tables and chairs.

A shriveled up human, presumably a female from the fuzzy pink sweater with shoulder pads that she wore, sat alone at a table. In front of her, there was a small dish with a half-melted, purple Popsicle.  A wooden stick leaned out over the edge, like a riderless teeter-totter.  With a weak shove, the woman pushed the dish to the side and folded her bluish hands on the table.

“Bev, you have company,” Doris announced and readjusted her glasses.

Bev looked straight ahead, her eyes a bleary blue with pupils drawn into pinpoints.

“Grandma, it’s me, Jack.”

Perhaps he was as unrecognizable to her as she was to him; her once black hair was now gray, her face shrunken in without dentures to support a shape, and her body was half of its previous size.

A dehydrated apricot, apple, plum? Jack tried to match up the fruit with the woman without any luck.

“Oh, and this came for you.”

Doris reached into the pocket of her sweater and pulled out a letter, postmarked and stamped from Florida. Bev turned to Doris, reached out with a claw like hand and grabbed the letter without a word.  She sliced it open with the long nail on her index finger and extracted the contents.

Slowly, she read each word of the epistle, feasting her eyes as she refused to allow her body. Jack pulled out a chair and sat next to his grandmother while Jill selected a seat across the table from the two.

On Bev read and still she refused to acknowledge her company.

“How are you, Grandma Beverly? We heard you were sick and brought you these flowers,” Jill spoke loudly.

For the first time, Bev looked up at Jill.

“I can hear just fine. What time is it?”

Jack stepped into the conversation, seizing his opportunity. Gingerly, he put his hand on her arm and said, “Its two o’clock, Grandma.”

“Hmmm…too bad,” Bev exclaimed and returned to her letter.

Dying was not about to change her mind about these unsaved heathens. It was simply too late to do anything about it. So Jack and Jill went back down the hill, got into their car and drove away with a sad promise not to return until another much, much later day.

A quiet day with Chicken-Little

Sanctuary

Earl has not returned as planned.

I am left alone with my thoughts and the tortuous sounds of a dying air-conditioner.

Brrrr….brrr…bleh…..brrr….brrr….bleh….I am unsure how much more time the unit has left, but it can’t be long. There is no home appliance hospice that I can call to quiet its final days or a minister to read its final rites.  It must die on its own terms and then we will make do with the wide range of illegitimate services offered by Junkman.  In the meantime, I turn up the radio to drown out the brrr…brrr…bleh… and send a message to find out Earl’s whereabouts.

Could it be that he is in the hospital? Stuck on the side of the road with a flat or engine trouble?  Was he saving a kitten from a tree or helping an elderly woman across the street with her groceries.

I know that something is wrong; it is unlike him to be four hours late on a Monday. Or more accurately, it WAS unlike him before this summer.  When the message came through from the once ever so reliable and committed Earl, I spluttered out the hot tea I was sipping in a spray of disbelief.

He meant to take the day off; he just never got around to making the request, formally or informally.

No sorry or my bad. He was offended in an unaware, teenage type of way that taking the day off without previous notification of any sort was an issue.  Like duh, can’t you read my mind, he might have said if he was a few decades younger.  Instead, he texted, a clear sign of the times, “c u tmw.”

Perhaps even more surprising, this explanation was accepted by our supervisor as one of those things that sometimes happen. With no further questions, the case was closed, chalked up to the miscommunication of a senior moment.

In this, a fortunate new precedent has been set, whether my supervisor is aware or not, one in which intention is just as good as filling out the time off form and following through with the two required signatures at least one week in advance. This opens the door to so many wonderful opportunities, like sleeping in and texting mid-morning that I simply won’t be coming in today.  Did I not submit a form?  Well, I meant to, so that’s enough, right?

Things are changing, every day and in every way. People are giving slack in the rope as they pull the strings tight in other areas.  The chicken-littles cry that the sky is falling while others refuse to even take the time to look up.  It is preposterous, the sky can never fall.  Perhaps we will stop saying what is impossible when the clouds get stuck in the trees and the sky’s blanket of blue is held up by those few who are still standing.

cl

Maybe Earl won’t come back and I will join the rank of chicken-littles crying that the end is nigh or maybe just plan to take an unplanned day for myself.

Almost Time to Make Nice

Cowardice

king

The old red van rattled up the narrow driveway. Wheels spun hard to make the steep ascent and shot out rocks like a wake of water behind a boat. The van slowed, turned right and parked behind the apartment building.  Turning left would have placed the vehicle in an equally empty lot belonging to the neighbor, Randy.

Randy was a tightly-wound, anti-establishment, gun fanatic who patrolled the shared driveway for strangers and friendlies, alike. They were all forbidden from using the gravel drive which also happened to be the only access point for parking along the busy street. He was insanely militant about the use of the driveway, calling whenever an unknown or known vehicle was parked in either parking area.

One unfortunate day when I didn’t answer my phone because I never answer my phone when he calls thanks to caller-id, Randy came over for a visit.

The doorbell rang no less than 20 times in a row. I saw through the glass panes on the side of the door a tall man with long grey hair, in a plaid flannel shirt.  Hairy knees stuck out from holes in his jeans, and uncared-for toes wiggled from his flip flops.

“Hey Puney, we have a problem out in my driveway. You get that car moved before I move it for you.”

“Randy, that car belongs to a police officer who is currently inside taking statements for an incident. Would you like me to send him over after we are done to talk with you?”

I looked down at the gun shaped bulge at his hip, knowing how he felt about the importance of his second amendment right and how adamantly he also felt against registering his arms. He had explained his passionate views on both topics multiple times, usually following a parking related complaint.  I quickly made a calculated guess that he would avoid contact with the police, if possible.

He narrowed his eyes at me, his pupils were already pinpoints, and considered my offer.

“Alright, he can stay. I don’t want any trouble with the cops.  Just make sure nobody else uses my drive. Got it?”

Oh yes, Randy, I’ve got it now. You’re a damned bully who takes pleasure out of pushing around anyone without an illegal gun stuffed in their pants or a legal one strapped to their ankle. You gain a sense of self-importance through control of the gravel driveway and lord over it like a corrupt king who is drunk on power; or in Randy’s case, high on whatever prescription pain killer he can get from DopeMan.

“Yeah, I got it, Randy.”

As I pulled the door shut, I almost added, guess what, your driveway isn’t all that great anyways.

When I see that he is calling again, I remembered just what I should have said last time. Today, I assume, it is about the red van and the ongoing unauthorized use of his driveway.  The phone buzzes and I wait for voicemail to pick up, saved once again by caller id.

“Puney, I am without words. A red van has been using the driveway for the past two weeks and you know I don’t want your people using my driveway. Yet, you insist on continuing to allow this to happen…”

The message went on for another two minutes but I deleted it after about nine seconds. I had to get back to valet parking behind the building and waiting for the big blow up, which was expected within the month.

Ice Time

Phase

ice

After a minor disagreement, my only coworker, Earl, stopped talking to me.  I thought he was in a meditative state, reflective and quiet.  Perhaps he was dealing with a health issue or his aunt died seven years ago on this date and he was remembering the cinnamon apple muffins she used to make. 

Then I asked him a question about office supplies and he ignored me.  I asked him another question about the mail and he still ignored me.

Ah-ha, he isn’t wearing his hearing aid, I assumed.  No need to make a mountain out of a molehill. He simply cannot hear me.

I walked by his desk to drop off an extra pack of staples as a good-will gesture and he spun his office chair away from me towards the wall.  He pretended to study the blank calendar.  From his new position, it was clear that his hearing aids were both firmly in place.  Suddenly, I realized what was happening.

This was the silent treatment.

I thought the mostly unwarranted punishment would end by noon.  Much to my surprise, it did not.  In fact, it grew worse as he refused to eat lunch with me. I ate my peanut butter and jelly sandwich alone, remorseful of whatever thing we argued about earlier in the day.  The silence of the office was deafening until he started watching videos of old stand-up comedians, starting with Richard Pryor.

As I struggled with the peanut butter sealing my tongue to the roof of my mouth, I flashed back to grade school.  I sat alone with a PB&J at the end of a long white table, unfolded from the cafeteria/gym wall with a bunch of confident, athletic, and well-adjusted kids.  In retrospect, I see that they were actually mutants and I was the normal one.  

I wished for a carton of cold chocolate milk to wash down the pangs of childhood loneliness but more so for the all- natural peanut butter as it clung to my throat.

It was only at the end of day that the ice melted and Earl began to communicate again.  I breathed a sigh of relief, it was just a passing phase.  We were both in the parking lot and Earl raised his hand to wave as I got into my car.  I waved back, humming Hakuna Matata, when I realized he was waving to the police officer who had pulled up next to my car, likely investigating a 911 call in the immediate area.

Too bad throwing shade isn’t considered a crime. 

I drove off a little sadder and certain that life is too short for a grudge, even if the grudge is only for a day.

Scammed

“I just got this in the mail and I won $5000.”

The man who stood in front of me was ecstatic. He wore his usual flannel pajama pants and dirty collared shirt, turned inside out.

“This is for a car dealership and you can’t drive,” I said.

I looked over the flyer more closely; it was addressed to Preferred Customer or Current Resident. The prize could only be claimed during the “event” described as a HUGE VEHICLE SELL-OFF in all capital letters.  The prize winnings were to go towards the purchase of a vehicle which would be a problem since he didn’t have any money for the purchase of bread and milk, let alone a vehicle, and again, he couldn’t drive.

“I already called the number and gave them my confirmation code. I’m definitely a winner they told me.  They are holding my prize downtown.  I just had to give them my address, name, birthdate…”

This was beyond smelling fishy.

df

“You gave them all that information?” I asked in disbelief.

“I’ve never won anything this big before,” he said, ignoring me. “Let’s go pick it up on Monday.”

He handed me the flyer, “You can go research this but I’m keeping the ticket.”

Just like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, he held the ticket tightly in his fist, not about to give up his claim to something magnificent.

Earl

 

toe

“Nope, I can’t make it,” the maintenance man flatly refused without offering a reason.

“Earl can do it,” he continued.  “It’s easy, just tell him to… Is he there? Let me just talk to him.”

I handed the phone over to Earl with a shrug, “He won’t come out and he wants you to do it,” I whispered with a twinge of guilt in the pit of my stomach.

Earl is a tiny, old black man, made about ten years older due to his health.  He wore the same self-assigned uniform of a black pants and a collared shirt every day, pressed and ironed, with pleats sharp enough to slice a blade of grass in half.  He walked slowly with heavy, thudding steps that announced his presence before his actual arrival.  Orthopedic shoes make it very difficult to sneak up on someone.

Fortunately, Earl was not a one to sneak, steal, lie or cheat.  He kept a demanding moral code and held tightly to the training he received in the military, meaning that he never shirked responsibility or refused an order from a superior.

The maintenance man, on the other hand, received no formal training other than from the School of Hard Knocks and had no moral code.  He had no scruples about assuming a superior position to which he had earned no right and making Earl do his work.

“No problem, I can do that,” Earl said after thoughtfully listening to the maintenance man on the phone when he should have been saying, “No, that’s a problem,” and “I won’t do that.”

Without complaint or hesitation, Earl hobbled away with a strange new limp.

Something was wrong, but what, I wondered.

“Wait, let me do it,” I shouted after him and raced across the room to cut him off at the door.

“No, I’ll do it. It will just take me a minute and I’ll be right back.”

Earl pled with his eyes.  Please, don’t take this from me.

And I let him go.

Over an hour passed before he returned, perspiring and covered with cobwebs and grease. He dropped into a chair and pulled a plain, white handkerchief from his pocket and wiped the sweat from his forehead. If he was in pain, it was a mystery to me.

It was a little later that I discovered the origin of the new limp and the teeny, tiny feeling of guilt exploded into that of a massive fireball and my admiration for Earl grew at the same rate.

I learned the following things about Earl.

  1. Earl’s toe was just amputated one day earlier.
  2. The stub was wrapped in gauze and stuffed inside of his orthopedic shoe.
  3. Earl refused all pain medications so he could come to work in spite of having lots of PTO.
  4. Earl needs a vacation. And a new third toe.  He really misses it.

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