A Seed of Promise

Luck

A  massive apple seed fell onto the floor from under the pillow.  It was brown and flat, still and unassuming.  Perfect for planting. What luck!

However, when the  seed stretched out its legs and started walking, several things became known at once.

The seed would never produce a healthy tree and give shade to weary passerby or a juicy, ripe fruit to satisfy an empty stomach.  It would never send roots down into the earth to bully the worms or stretch its branches up towards the sky for birds to take shelter from a storm.

The seed that held such promise turned out to be a bedbug. Perhaps it was one of many, all living off of the life blood of its gracious host, destined to feed and breed and wait for death.

Isn’t that life?

 

apple s

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If it wasn’t for the wool

shp

The sheeple will wake up one day to the sound of barking and push the wool, heavy and dirty from neglect, back from their eyes. Squinting and blinking, sensitive to the light, they will try to close their dumb eyes again.

Without the wool, it will be too hard to stay in the dark for long.

The sheeple will soon realize that while they were blindly grazing, their shepherd was changed for another. The loving master tried to rouse his herd, “Please wake up,” he begged, but on they slept.

The good shepherd tried to trim the wool back, but there were too many sheeple and the shears were dull. When his time was up, he humbly took his leave with a plea, “Take care of my dear sheeple,” a request that only brought laughter to the lips of a cruel man with a taste for lamb, his replacement.

Woe to the sheeple when their eyes finally adjust and they realize they are no longer in the lush green fields of plenty. Instead, they will find that they are in a corral too small for so many, pawed and tramped down to the dirt.  Earth and excrement will mix and cover their hooves.  Proper hoof health will be impossible in their new environment without enough room to stretch, let alone to grow, and so the sheeple will stay small.

Then the sheeple will notice the ferocious dogs, circling the pen and gnashing their teeth, a hunger in their red eyes.  The beasts are starving and desperate, and the sheeple are easy prey.  With absolute intention, their new guardian will open up the gate, “If only you were smart…” he says to the doomed creatures as the dogs rush in.

If only, if only, if only, they might have seen it coming.
Someday

Twists and Braids

Promises

red

Mama stopped to twist a lock of rough hair to match the others, all reaching up like the tentacles of a sea anemone. Her older daughter, Gal, continued her halting walk forwards. She was in charge of Baby and had to make sure the little girl didn’t run out into the street or eat glass, but that was the extent of her caregiving ability or desire.

Gal matched her steps with Baby’s; Step, step, rest, step, step, rest. It wasn’t a quick way to travel, fortunately, the three didn’t have far to go from the bus stop.

They stopped in front of a heavy set of doors. Mama straightened out her tank top and ran her hands back over her hair. Baby toddled off of the sidewalk and plucked a bright, red bloom from a mass of red flowers in a big, decorative pot in front of the building.  She brought it over to Gal who had lapsed in her duties of watching her liege to pick at her dirty and chewed nails, still bearing the flecks of bright pink polish that refused to be flicked off.

“What?” Gal said without looking at Baby and swatted away the little fist that reached up to her with the fragile gift.

“Girls, it’s going to be different this time,” Mama said standing up tall.

Her older daughter raised her thick eyebrows in doubt and continued to pick at her nails.

“Don’t start, Gal.”

“What? I didn’t say nothing.”

“And don’t start. Keep your mouth shut and let me do the talking.  You watch after Baby and don’t let her cry.  People don’t like crying babies,” Mama spoke in a hushed voice with an urgent tone.

Gal knew the routine. Someday, it will be different; she thought and followed Mama through the doors, dragging Baby and the impossible load of psychological baggage behind her.

Water, water, everywhere,

And all the boards did shrink;

Water, water, everywhere,

And not a drop to drink.

Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Samuel Coleridge

Words of a baffling father

Fragile
Baffling is the father who declares his undying love for his son to every stranger, but neglects to mention how he lost custody and refuses to seek treatment or change. He blames the system that conspires to separate his family and sets his jaw with grim determination in his crusade to right the wrongs done to his clan by others.

He would give anything, including his right hand, to bring his boy home. He explains this to the judge when asked what he has been doing to rehabilitate over the past few months.

“That’s not what I asked,” the judge says.

The baffling father clarifies, “I would climb Mt. Everest or swim in shark infested waters if that would prove my dedication to bringing my boy home.”

The judge shakes his head with sadness. Frustration left him years ago for a level of acceptance just before apathy.  He has seen this case before and will see it again many times before he retires and takes up deep sea fishing in Florida. Sometimes the thought of riding in a boat over the open sea, smelling the salty, fresh air and feeling the spray of warm water and sun on his face is the only thing that gets him from one moment to the next.

“A boy’s place is home with his parents.”

The judge wants to laugh as he scans the room for the boy’s mother, already knowing that she is not to be found. The baffling father is alone in his battle with the state while his partner is out on streets, engaged in a fight of her own and losing on a daily basis to her demons.

These are the same demons that plague the baffling father and the same ones that brought him to this place, alone in a room full of people.

In just a few minutes, the judge sets a date for the next hearing, straightens out a stack of papers and prepares for the next case. He has heard more than enough.

Pleased with the power of his convincing speech, the baffling father discreetly slips out back to the parking lot where a man wearing dark sunglasses waits inside of a blue pick-up truck with tinted windows. The baffling father walks around to the passenger side and hops into the vehicle. An efficient transaction takes place; few words are needed for their business.

He returns inside after all of the morning cases are completed to pick up his paperwork from the clerk, his eyes are glossy and his pupils have taken on a black-hole like appearance, massive and destructive.

Wanda, the clerk, purses her lips as she stamps and staples his papers.

Baffling father excitedly exclaims, “I am so close to getting my son back, I can feel it in the air.”

In truth, he is feeling the benefit of air conditioning on a hot day and the rush of whatever just travelled up his nose or into a vein. Apparently, the combination can feel like the false hope of a man in denial about the reunification process.

Fragile are the hearts and minds held together with a wad of pink bubble gum.

bubble-gum

Six Month Sentence

Vice
My mouth aches from the violent hands of a psychopath and my mind fills with questions.  Why do I allow this abuse to happen, over and over again?  How do I so totally forget about the pain of the last experience to sit in the waiting room without apprehension and allow it to happen all over again?

The assailant, Lashes, led me back to her lair and gestured for me to sit in the dental exam chair made of leather.  Such opulence for such a dark place of torture, it barely made sense. I would feel better on a plain metal chair, no frills allowed.  Mentally, I could be more ready by remaining uncomfortable and instead I sank into the plush chair and foolishly lowered my guard for what was to follow.

On my left, I noticed that Lashes was armed with multiple weapons, tiny daggers and swords for scraping, poking, and general destruction.  Not surprising, they were all perfectly sharpened and polished on a tray.  Lashes wore a paper mask and safety glasses, perhaps to make it harder to pick her out of a police line-up? It was a clever disguise.  Lashes looked just like the other female hygienists in their bright scrubs, crocs, and blonde hair tied up in ponytails.

Lashes stabbed and speared my gums with one tool after another.  She carelessly hopped from tooth to tooth like a flea on a cat’s back.  There did not seem to be a plan or a method to the woman’s madness.  Suddenly, she snapped off her gloves and shuffled a stack of papers; then she was back, pulling on another pair.

“Open up wider,” she demanded without an explanation.

“Not that wide, close your mouth halfway.”

“Ok, a little wider.”

There was no making this lady-demon happy.

I could see the concentration in her beady eyes through the plastic protective lenses as she continued to scrape and scratch in my mouth.  Not for the first time, I tasted blood during the appointment and felt tears welling up in my eyes.  I willed myself to endure the pain in silence with a reminder that this too would soon pass and checked my watch with the classic stoicism of a martyr.

Nearly an hour had passed; this was officially the longest, most excruciating cleaning I had ever experienced.  Simply doing a job that she either detested or loved, the passion that Lashes had for the work was apparent, but also quite unclear as to which pole it leaned.

Afterwards, I still wasn’t sure that I could pick her out of a lineup but knew the major difference between Lashes and every other human, was her preference for pain; the pain of other people, to be specific.

However, I suppose as far as torture standards go, she is quite good at her job so I naturally scheduled another appointment in six months.

dental

 

 

The Cucumbers are Multiplying

cucs

The air has a chill to it this morning and the sun has yet to break through the darkness of night.  Fall is coming, slow and gentle, like it does every year to ease us into the misery of winter.  Soon it will be time to put away tank tops and shorts, swimsuits and flip flops in exchange for corduroys, sweaters and waterproof boots.

It is a problem that Midwesterners understand all too well, how to maintain two totally different wardrobes with only undergarments being seasonally interchangeable.  Residents of Hawaii, California and Florida, you have no idea what you are missing out on.  Unless of course, you escaped the weather of your home state after declaring to anyone who will listen, “This life of grey skies, chapped hands, and constant scarf wearing is no longer tolerable.”

I am nearing that state as my tolerance diminishes with each year.

Yet, I stay and dream of escape and an ocean breeze to cool my sun-kissed face, not ready for the change that a move would require.  And I work, like the rest of the sheeple that I know.  I work to pay utility bills and a mortgage, to buy food for my cats, husband, and self, and sometimes, I work just to get through to another season with the promise of better days.

As an offshoot of this working, I recently found myself as a defacto dog-sitter.

It started out as a one-time only situation, out of sheer necessity, and has since turned into a routine as natural as picking up the mail from the mailbox after work or taking out the trash on a Thursday night.  Whenever the owner of the hound leaves, he stops by the office with a leash and a bag of snacks.

“These are just in case she gets hungry.”

Gee, I thought they were a present for me.  I nod and wave the man off, I know the deal.  Take her out for a walk when she whines at the door, give her treat whenever she asks for one.  Easy.

The dog entrusted to my care is a mixture between Rottweiler and German shepherd and woe to the fool who messes with her.  Actually, she can’t be left alone without howling and trying to escape by hurling all seventy pounds or so repeatedly against the door which is how I ended up as her temporary custodian.  In summary, she is an emotionally dependent, fatty girl with missing teeth and bad breath, loyal to bacon strips and strangers who might be carriers of her beloved bacon strips.

Not that I mind her company.  After she gets dropped off, she flops herself down at my feet and patiently waits for a treat or for her owner to return.   The former always occurs before the latter.  When her owner does finally return for the beast, it is always with a generous payment in hand and gratitude.

Lately, I have been paid in cucumbers. Extraordinarily large, garden fresh cucumbers.

A worthy payment for services rendered and in the customary Hoosier spirit, he has given me more than I could ever eat.

Generosity: it’s one of the good problems that Midwesterners are all too familiar with, right after mastering the fine art of small talk about the weather.
Learning

On the Cellular Level

phones
Obsessed
I have a not-so-secret love affair/obsession with my i-phone and technology in general. It’s the world in my hands and at my fingertips. If I want to find out how long to boil corn or how to change a flat tire, the rationale behind string theory or the number of monkeys in the jungle, it is all there waiting to be summoned from the mysterious depths of the internet.   As wonderful as it is to have access to endless information, it is not my main reason to constantly check my phone or computer.

For me, it’s for the sense of connection that texts and emails offer and the validation that a like via thumbs up or a star provides.  I constantly check and recheck emails and text messages and stats, giving too much time and value to the number of views or comments left.  A void opens up in my chest when there is no activity.  No calls, no texts, no views or comments.  I am alone in the world and my loneliness   is a black hole that threatens to swallow me.

Why do I allow myself to go through this torment over something that is as unreal and fleeting as phantasmagoria? All of it is smoke and mirrors, an intangible and impossible replacement for a real human connection and genuine approval.  Yet, it is to technology that I continue to turn for entertainment, comfort and interaction and my anxiety around real people grows.

I am quite certain that I am not alone in this. I went on a bike ride with my husband, a real person, last weekend. We rode through a town in which people were gathered on park benches, waited in line for a restaurant and were seated at tables with steaming hot plates of food.  Every single person on the benches had their phones out, they texted, played music and threw poke’ balls.  Almost every other person at the restaurant had their phone next to their plate or in their hand.  While standing in line, the people glanced at their phone or flipped through screens, some punched in messages or played games.

We rode onward and I felt a profound sense of sadness at the scene as it seemed like a fair representation of the greater population. There is a human desperation to feel a part of something greater, linked to others, approved and liked.  Through technology, we have the ability to be constantly connected, no matter the distance.  However, the closer the physical proximity, the less use or ability people have for a quality connection.

I am pledging to put my devices away for a bit and to appreciate the reality that surrounds me, to engage with other people, and to be present in my interactions. For the weekend, I will have to seek validation from within myself and connection with those in my household, on my block, and in my life.

Get ready husband and cats, we are about to have a seriously engaged weekend.

 

Training for the Olympics

ameb
Surface

Last night, I tried my body at lap swimming. Naturally, I was inspired by the Olympians in Rio.  What could be more motivating than watching the super-fit athletes in their slick suits glide through the water like a pod of porpoises? They made swimming look so effortless. There was no spluttering or messy kicking. Not a single swimmer rolled over onto his or her back to catch their breath while floating and panting.

Obviously, they had gills and webbed fingers. Instead of ostracizing these fish people for their differences, we regale them as the heroes and champions of our country because they are winners. Would we be so open to these genetic mutations otherwise?  Personally, I am quite jealous of the fish people. I envy their extra big lungs and controlled breathing, their webbed toes and gills turn me green.  Some (fish) people have all the luck.

Before I could start on my own Olympic training, I had to track down my swimsuit from when I was 12 or 15 or 29. The suit was an old purple Speedo, not the best looking suit, but it still served its porpoise.  I knew it was somewhere around our house, stuffed into a cranny or nook in a closet.

Sure enough, I found it at the bottom of a box tucked into the closet, under 357 unmatched socks, just waiting for Match Day. Squeezing into it was the next challenge but once I was in, it was for good.  There was no risk of this suit slipping as there was barely the possibility of breathing and regular blood circulation, let alone a wardrobe malfunction.

So, I had the suit and the desire, I just needed the big body of water with lines and as few other people as possible. I headed to the gym, weaved my way through the meatheads and the sweaty sweaters to the locker room and into the pool.

Thankfully, I was the only one there for the first few laps. I stopped after each length of free-styling to pant and rest on the wall before trying it again.  At one point, I floated on my back down the lane and imagined myself to be an ameba on a Petri dish, running into the wall and the separating buoy line.   I choked on water, spluttered and gasped while kicking and splashing in what might be called swimming by someone watching from far away without binoculars.

Then a very serious-about-swimming woman appeared with a swimming cap and goggles, water shoes and a nose clip. Drats! My secret was about to get out that I was the worst swimmer in the pool.  She then proceeded to lower herself into the pool to walk, slowly, from one end to the other waving her arms in a crazy water aerobics class type of way.

I stopped worrying about what she thought or any other person who slid into the water. It’s not a competition, unless you really are in the Olympics and then good for you.  For the rest of us, it is about letting go of being self- conscious and doing what feels good and what is good for us.  Regardless of how messy or terrible it looks, who cares?

It is another one of those things that is about function not fashion, right Dad?

 

Initiation

dogs_backside
Apology

“Were we invited to this party?”

There were no cars parked outside or people milling around the front door.  We were at the end of a cul-de-sac, standing where the GPS led us and there were no signs of life.  A trash can lay on its side at the end of a drive; all of the windows were closed up tight and the blinds were drawn in each of the identical houses.  It was not an encouraging scene.

No one responded when my party date/husband texted the friend-of-a-friend to whose house we waited outside like census takers double checking the address and comparing notes.  The only things missing were the signature clip boards and name badges.

Instead we carried a bag of chips, salsa and a bottle of wine and escalated our communication efforts by calling this friend-of-a-friend.

It’s the new age way of things, text and then call.  Calling is a last resort, when all else fails.  Like come on, just text us back, I thought impatiently as my inner teenager started to show.

Suddenly, an event more exciting than a New Message coming across one’s iphone screen. A real person emerged from the house and it was our friend.  We both rushed towards him like two lost souls towards the promise of salvation.

“How long have you guys been out here?  You should have just come on in.”

He was blissfully unaware that in some neighborhoods not far from this one, walking into a stranger’s house without permission was more than enough to enact the Castle Doctrine.

Now properly invited inside, we followed Friend through the doorway where a sea of strange faces awaited us.  They suspended pretzels and cheese stuffed bread balls in mid-air, conversations went on hold indefinitely, all activity ceased until our acceptability could be determined.

“Hi, I’m Puney,” I said with a slow and non-threatening wave.  It is sometimes best to not make any sudden movements around strangers.

“I’m Neb,” the tall handsome man next to me introduced himself, confident and unafraid of making sudden movements around strangers, breaking my stranger rule #1 within the first sixty seconds.  He darted around the counter and dropped off our offerings and grabbed a plate, ready to dig into the beanie weenies, cookies, and chips.

A shaggy with dog with a low swaying belly ran out from underneath of the cluster of legs.

It smelled my toes and wiggled its chubby back end where a tail might have been at one time, perhaps delighted by the smell of JibberJabber, my cat, that patiently waited for our return at home.

“That’s Cooper, he won’t bite,” a faceless female voice from the still watching and silent crowd explained.

I reached down to pet Cooper and instead of receiving the pets, it turned around and sat down right on top of my feet.  It looked up at me with an excited doggy smile as a hot whoosh of gas escaped from its rear end and whirled around my bare toes.

It got up and ran off, disappearing back into the cluster of legs.

My face must have shown my disbelief.  Was I just the victim of chemical warfare?

“I think that dog just farted on my feet.”

The faceless female voice emerged with a real face and body, laughing and unapologetic.

“Looks like you just got initiated.”

Roxanne

Unstoppable

The raccoon curled up next to a grease-stained, wadded paper bag from Rally’s and rested her head on an empty carton of milk. She wiggled her soft ears as she settled down deeper into the shallow layer of trash covering the base of the dumpster.  Flies buzzed around, delighted with the stale, stinking air that they shared with the sick animal. She prepared for end; hot and weak, escape was no longer possible.

From one mammal to another, I felt a duty to ensure the suffering of the raccoon was minimal and called Animal Control.

A woman arrived carrying the infamous hoop pole, dressed in a brown animal-catching suit, and overly ready for an easy catch. Sick animals, however, are often the meanest and nastiest with which to wrangle.  Is it the awareness of impending doom, the discomfort of disease, or a grasping desperately to the ability to continue living that brings out a wild energy from a creature previously lethargic and barely breathing?  Animals and people are not so different in this final burst of effort to avoid the world of cold dirt and worms.

Whatever the case may be, Roxanne, as I have named our dumpster dweller, gave an evil hiss when she saw the woman in brown peering over the edge at her. She reared up backing over trash and bared her teeth, hissing and blinking. The loop came down and Roxanne darted sending up a swarm of flies.  She dodged and rolled, jumped and crouched avoiding the loop for good few minutes before she caught.

Even with the loop around her fat belly, pulling her from the safety of the dumpster, Roxanne continued to fight with both little black fists in the air.  Perhaps captured for the first and last time, she was dropped into a wire cage and taken to a destination unknown but likely not to see a vet for the medication and treatment she needed.

The lady in brown promised she would take her to a nice park where Roxanne would be safe to roam but I knew it was just an easy thing to say instead of the truth.  What else could possible happen to a sick raccoon found in a dumpster?

Regardless of where she went, Roxanne will always be remembered as a brave little fighter that refused to give up or give in to the unstoppable nature of fate.

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