Halloweenie Party Favor

pumpkins

The fire blazed a bright orange against the dark, cool night.  An old man with a beard heaved a log onto the flames, sending a whoosh of a thousand sparks into the air like a fireworks show in the middle of summer.

“Thanks, Firekeeper,” someone yelled from the crowd that circled the bonfire.

A zombie nurse and an overgrown Brownie jumped out of the way with squeals as hot ashes landed on their bare legs and arms.  What did you expect standing that close to an open fire?  I mentally growled at them from my perch atop a tractor tire.

I sat between the rubber treads; a huge, round woman dressed as a pumpkin, with green felt leaves and stem bobby pinned into my hair, waiting unhappily on a ride.  Three treads over, a jail bird husband nervously refreshed his phone, in hopes that a driver had picked up the request.    

Unfortunately, we were in the middle of a four cornfields and miles away from the city.  We had not anticipated the Uber and Lyft shortage of rural Indiana or of the nerve wracking nature in being at a costume party, elbow to elbow with drunk people and seven months pregnant. 

I felt like a character in a video game, the crazy clowns, police, walking dead, Gumbies and Trump-alikes were out to get me with their elbows, props and disoriented bodies.  I had to dodge big men and little women alike to escape from the warmth of the barn and into the open air with my jail bird following closely behind me, just as concerned about the perils of the party.

When we finally got a ride, it was with a MAGA Trumpster who couldn’t hold in his thoughts about his beloved leader, sexual assault and his interpretation of consent, and lastly, the current state of his marriage. I wasn’t sure if we would ever make it back to the safety of our home.   

Last year, it would have been just another crazy weekend of going out without consequences or responsibilities aside from the hangover that awaited us the following morning.  Now, the world feels different, somehow spinning more quickly and with more gravity than before, one in which we have an unborn babe to protect and raise until he can go out and make equally poor choices as us, like going to a party without a real plan to get home.

Judas

Embarrassing
The investigator barged into my office with the force of a tropical storm. She had a bad haircut and wore a masculine outfit of pleated pants, a button-up shirt and ugly, scuffed leather shoes.  If I had a proper warning, I would have boarded up the windows and left town.

“I’ve been calling and I rang the doorbell. Why didn’t you answer?”

My mouth opened to say that I had not received any calls in the past hour, the doorbell never sounded, and lastly, who the hell are you? Clearly, if I had notice, I would not be there waiting.

The woman continued in an almost apologetic tone, “It doesn’t matter. My name is Debra Dedmaus and I am here to investigate a claim of neglect.”

I snickered in spite of the uncomfortable tension.

“Is something funny?” she asked. “Because there is nothing funny about child neglect. Now, if you will take me to Alison F. Orgets apartment.  I will handle things from there.”

This was not a request. It was a demand.

I led the terrible Deadmouse woman down the hallway past the numbered doors.

One, Two, Three.

We stopped in front of Four. I knocked, with several light tippity-tap-tap-taps.  Deadmouse waited a second and commenced to pounding on the door.  Plaster crumbled from the ceiling overhead and landed on her dark hair.  Ha! I thought, serves her right.

The door opened a crack, a woman in a bathrobe stood behind it. She saw me and opened it the rest of the way.

“Hi Puney, what’s going on?”

Deadmouse stepped in front of me, wielding her official badge from her agency.

“I’m here to investigate a report of neglect,” she repeated the same line from earlier.

She glanced down at her clipboard and went on to add, “It came from a P. Bones. I assume you know each other,” she smirked.

Ali looked at me in disbelief. I used my mind powers to open a hole in the ground into which I hoped to fall until I hit the Earth’s core.  Again, my powers failed me and I remained standing. I didn’t feel so much embarrassed as I felt small and ashamed.  I set into motion an unstoppable chain of events which would prove to be as cataclysmic as the original sin.

I was Judas and had just delivered the kiss of death.

ju

Old G

Playful

Old G is far from playful these days.  He is, in fact, downright grumpy. 

Just today, I walked into the office and was greeted with a bah-humbug-its-Monday type of hello. It’s nothing new or surprising.  This endearing mix of a grunt and a one handed wave of recognition is what welcomes me into work most lately.  It is also what triggered an increase in my time dedicated to casually observing/spying on my co-worker.

spy

 

My study of the indigenous male, known as Old G, revealed the following:

He starts the day by staring at his email on the computer screen for a few hours.  This gets him through to lunch. The screen rarely changes.  A spam email occasionally pops up.  When this happens, Old G slowly raises his head from his chest and brings his hand to the mouse to open the important message with savings from Kohl’s or a change in the member benefits from a gym to which he does not belong. He clicks on the delete button and returns to his previous position. 

Sometimes I send him a test email to see if he is awake.  When he doesn’t look up, I question whether the test is still effective.  Then I call him on the phone from a blocked number. *67 or is it *69?  I get the numbers mixed up which skews the test results. 

Old G sees its me calling and asks, “Puney, what do you want?”

I have to play it cool and say, “My bad,” and wait until he falls back into his relaxed state so I can resume the study.

He gets other calls through the day from his wife, cousin, mother, mother-in-law, ect.  The list is quite extensive of these personal callers to whom he always speaks in the same secretive and hushed tones, perhaps afraid of someone eavesdropping on his boring conversations.  He forgets that I have excellent hearing, especially when it comes to listening to his personal phone calls.  If I had more time, I would inventory these callers and the nature of the calls but I have the work of two people to keep up with while he naps and whispers the day away.

Fortunately, I have broad shoulders on which to bear this burden.  All I want out of the deal in which I do all of the work and Old G chills out at his desk is a little smile and friendly wave.  My study concludes with the certain knowledge that Old G is capable of at least this much.

Man to man

Ralph had been missing for two days. He had not come in for bus passes, canned goods, or dish soap.  There were no requests for leftovers from lunch or burned DVDs.  Not once had he stopped by the office for a cup of coffee and a separate cup of sugar and creamer filled to the brim.

Something was definitely wrong.

After reviewing the facts of the situation, or lack thereof, I left the office to further investigate the situation. I envisioned a car accident or beating, he was likely hurt and holed up in his apartment, too weak and injured to come out for help.  It was time to check-in.

I jogged up the creaky stairs and down the hallway, dodging dust bunnies as they rolled across the dusty hardwood floor. Worry and dread propelled me towards Ralph’s apartment door more quickly than my usual leisurely stroll.

I tapped at his door and waited. Hearing no noise from within, I tapped a little louder.  Shave and a haircut, two bits.  I put extra emphasis on the two bits.  Still no response.

“Ralph,” I softly called. “Are you in there?”

Suddenly, the sound of footsteps started up the stairs. My co-worker, Mr. Jay emerged from the stairwell and proceeded towards me and the unanswered door.

“Still not answering?”

I shook my head. He pounded on the plain, white door.  Bang, Bang, Bang, Bang, Bang.   The sound reverberated down the hallway, triggering a sprinkle of plaster chips to fall from the ceiling.  There was no mistaking that someone was at the door.  One might even think it was the police from the aggressive knocking.

knocking

A chair scraped across the floor and someone limped towards the door. My suspicious were about to be confirmed, I grimaced and braced myself for the worst.

“He’s in there all right,” Mr. Jay said with a knowing nod and left to return to the office.

The door knob turned and the door opened a crack. A dark eye peered out, recognizing his visitor, the door opened a little wider.  A sliver of face appeared through the crack.

“I’m sick,” Ralph whispered.

Long fingers wrapped around the edge of the door and a bare shoulder appeared; it was the same smooth brown as his face.

“Are you hurt?” I asked.

“It’s just an old injury,” he said, evasively. “I haven’t been able to walk for the past few days.  Sorry I haven’t been into see you,” he apologized.

“How did this happen? I asked.

He looked off and away, “It’s just an old injury. I’ll be better in a few days.”

“Did someone do this to you? Tell me who did this to you. “

I demanded names. He naturally refused with a sad giggle.

“Could you send Mr. Jay back up here? I need to talk to him about something.”

“Of course,” I agreed, “I will send him right up.”

I left, certain of a break-through in this mysterious case. We would get justice for Ralph.  Whatever crimes had been committed again him would not go unpunished.

“Mr. Jay, Ralph wants to talk to you, man-to-man. I think its something important.”

Mr. Jay stood with a stoic face, already understanding the importance of this request, “I’m on my way.”

He returned no more than eight minutes later. It was enough time to go up the stairs and down the hallway, knock and wait for Ralph to answer the door to reveal a terrible secret and to return.

I met him just inside of the door in the office.

“Well, everything ok?”

There was a lot of buildup to this moment, I felt anxious and excited, ready to spring into action. Some things can only be shared man to man. I respected that space and stepped back to let the mutual sharing take place.

“He asked if we have any extra pizzas,” Mr. Jay said in an irritated voice. “He just wanted pizza.”

And so it goes.

Thanks Vonnegut for providing the only possible phrase to end this short story.

von

Prioritize

the three i’s
have decided
that we will
work no longer
much to the
distress of our
dear, darling husband

nose blind?

cat3
Recently, we were expecting company and up against the clock to prepare for their arrival. The house was a wreck, but only because of our three roommates. To put it simply, they are hairy, lazy bums. When they aren’t lounging on the couch or hacking up hairballs, they are kicking litter out of their boxes, digging in the potted plants, or tearing up random mail/papertowels/anything they feel like destroying.

And they don’t even pay rent!

In any case, we launched into a crazy, cleaning frenzy. We swept, mopped, dusted, and scrubbed. The fridge was cleared of mold covered leftovers, the trash was bagged, and the clutter was organized. After a few hours, the place was spotless from top to bottom. The floors gleamed and the windows sparkled.

It was impressive what we accomplished that afternoon. Our roommates came out of hiding (they hate the vacuum and all cleaning activities) and sniffed the air. They inspected each room before throwing themselves onto the couch with bored yawns and meowed for an early dinner. Bums, right?

As I put the cleaning supplies away, I heard spritzing from the next room. The spritzing noise traveled through the rest of the house. I tried to quietly creep towards the sound and was stopped by a scent-wave of artificial wild orchids that stuck in my throat.

Coughing through the mist and covering my eyes, I escaped into the unpolluted air of the living room. I found my darling husband with a bottle of febreze and a determined on look on his face. He was carrying out a self-imposed mission to spread the potent odor of fake flowers throughout our home.

When he saw me choking on the sweet air, he stopped and smiled.

With the bottle in one hand, he explained, “It’s in case we’ve gone nose blind from the cats.”

I couldn’t argue with him and suddenly feared it was true. This was something that I had heard about somewhere…the nose blind concept.  Could we have gone nose blind and even with all of that cleaning, the smell of stinky cats still lingered?

How embarrassing.

Nose-blindness is a stealthy condition that slowly overtakes olfaction when exposed to less pleasant smells on a regular basis. It’s an adjustment of the senses to a new normal that happens without one’s self-awareness of the change.

Yet again, he saved me, the hero of my senses.

Of note:

Later, I remembered where I heard about this condition.  The same place where I get all of my other reliable information, commercials from tv, of course.  This is a real condition, if conditions that are invented and coined by huge corporations as part of advertising strategies are real. The first article listed below actually uses science to explain the phenomenon. Whoa!

Check it out.

Here are some links:
http://nymag.com/scienceofus/2014/08/why-cant-you-smell-your-own-home.html
http://www.febreze.com/en-US/noseblind
http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=noseblind

End of January troubles

The man knocked on the door and yelled, “Maintenance.”

“Hang on, hang on, I’m coming,” a gruff voice said from inside of the apartment.

A large woman opened the door and narrowed her eyes in suspicion at the man. She held a grey cat in her arms and stroked its purring head. The cat stopped purring and glared at the man in suspicion, as well. The four eyes stared at the man in a moment of uncomfortable silence before the woman stepped out of the doorway and motioned for the man to enter.

Flustered, the man looked at his clipboard again, quickly trying to find the woman’s name.

“So the neighbors have been filling your apartment with meth gas?” the man asked as he scanned his paperwork and set a large black bag just inside of the door.

“Mrs. January, right?”

Her head bobbed up and down so vigorously the skin under her chin wobbled back and forth.

“So, that’s a yes,” he said with a smile.

Nice teeth, she thought, before continuing.

“And that’s not all,” the woman added.

Her confidence was quickly growing in the visitor. As a rule, she trusted people with nice teeth. He needs to know everything if he’s going to be able to help, she thought.

The man raised his eyebrows in question and nodded his head encouraging the woman to go on. He pulled a pen out of his coat pocket and poised it over the paper, ready to add to the existing list of complaints.

“They snuck in here and took my original birth certificate and I wouldn’t be surprised if they gave it to that woman who stays over there, so she can change her name.”

“And is that it?” the man asked as he made his notes.

“No, it’s not. They also took my heating pad and when I went over there last week, guess who had a heating pad?”

The man didn’t need to guess.

“Her,” she clarified, “you know, the one they gave my birth certificate to after they stole it from me.”

Nodding his head in understanding, “I see no reason to wait any longer to get started. Let’s sit at the table.”

She took his lead and seated herself at the table, with the blind trust that a sheep gives to its shepherd.
He unzipped the black bag and pulled out a machine with silver nobs and needle indicators. Setting it on the table, he flicked a switch on the back and the machine started to whir to life. From another section of the bag, he pulled out a handful of wires.

As he prepared the treatment, he turned to the woman and said, “Go ahead and take off your glasses. We’ll attach these to your temples and get you fixed right up.”

She stared at him with blue eyes of gratitude before removing her glasses. A tear splashed from the corner of one eye down her cheek.

“Thank you,” she said simply and closed her eyes.

My neighbor’s keeper/active voyeur

spy

Every morning, I crack the blinds to sit on the couch with a bowl full of cereal to watch the neighbors. I might try to make it sound less creepy by saying that I’m keeping an eye on things for them, but it wouldn’t be true. To be quite honest, I’m not keeping an eye on things for them, I’m keeping an eye on them for my own entertainment.

They have quite the routine worked out between the two of them, which varies only if one of them is already gone. I can tell the order of expected events for the day by the cars parked in the driveway. If they are both home, the wife is the active one. She starts by tying the curtains back in the picture window, kicks the dog out, and sends her husband out to warm up the car. Shortly after that, she bustles out carrying a bag on both shoulders with a thermos of something in one hand and a baby carrier in her arms with what appears to be a bundle of blankets tucked inside of it. Although I can’t be certain, I have to guess that this is Baby Dum-Dum wrapped up and ready to go.

When it’s just the husband, the tried and true expression comes to mind that when the cats away the mice will play (or in this case, just the mouse). He usually emerges when my cereal is halfway gone, still rubbing the sleep from his eyes. It’s always the same old grubby green sweatshirt that he wears with the sleeves pulled over his knuckles and his thumbs shoved through holes when he lights up a cigarette and blows smoke rings into the cold air. I’m sure the wife smells the smoke on him, especially since he appears to only own one raggedy sweatshirt.

As I’m finishing up my cereal, he’s stamping out his butt on the concrete steps. He’s careful to pick it up and carry it off for disposal at a different location where his wife won’t find it. Effort counts for something, I used to think. At least he’s not a litter bug.

Then it snowed a few times and the routine changed. His car was gone every morning and his wife continued on as usual. Where has he gone? Is there a divorce in the works? He must have died or been arrested. There was a good deal of speculation from across the street that was quickly squelched out, like one of his secret smokes, when the truth was brought to light.

His car was parked in the tiny tool shed. It left one morning, completely ice and snow free while his wife remained in their gravel drive way, scraping away at her windshield while continuously checking in on young Dum-Dum, wrapped and ready to go.

What a chump. What a bunch of chumps. Yet, who am I to say anything as I rinse out my cereal bowl and wonder how often they peer through our blinds that open every morning at the same time as their curtains are pulled back.

“On the whole human beings want to be good, but not too good, and not quite all the time.”
― George Orwell, All Art is Propaganda: Critical Essays

Post Christmas Puke

elf

There is nothing quite like running late for work the day after Christmas.

Everything was a mess from the holiday hustle bustle with rogue boxes on the couch, batteries rolled under the rug, abandoned sheets of tissue paper, and half-finished laundry on the table. Bags and opened packages were dropped in the hallways from coming back late on Christmas night and remained as cheery remnants of December 25/trip hazards in the morning.

Perhaps, most off putting of the morning, we were out of bananas for breakfast. Grocery shopping had not made the to-do list with all of the other shopping and preparations. The only option to save me from starvation was left-over Christmas cookies and old almond milk, the breakfast of champions and night time snack of hipster Santas.

Needless to say, I was not seizing the day. I was stumbling towards my one and only goal for the day: make it to work before my supervisor noticed I wasn’t there.

Fortunately, I had enough foresight to lay out my least wrinkled sweater, scarf and pair of socks the night before to save time in the morning.

After aimlessly shuffling around and getting nothing done, I mustered up the strength to take a quick shower, feasted on cookies and milk and pushed the X-mas junk into a pile for later. I just had to get dressed and head out the door. The sweater was in my hands, a millisecond away from going over my head, when I noticed it was wet. In fact, it was more than wet. There was also a massive hairball and several perfect circles of bright, yellow bile on the sweater. I suppose I should mention that the goo wasn’t contained to the sweater only, it also found its way to my scarf and socks that were meant for the day.

After a quick sweep of the room, I found the guilty party. She was sticking half way out from under the bed skirt watching me cry out in disgust as I stepped into another pile of goo. If she could have giggled or snickered, she would have at that very moment. Her whiskers quivered and her little cat face smirked at me without a hint of remorse.

Just eight hours earlier, I called her my white princess and hand fed her snacks while she purred on my lap. I struggled to understand how she could do such a malicious thing to me a few short hours later.

“Why?” I cried out, partially expecting an answer.

It felt personal, this attack of biological warfare.

Still trying to get a grip on the situation, I cleaned up the mess, found another sweater, and hurried to the office considering what a mean creature shared a pillow with me at night. Maybe it was time that she got her own pillow, I mused vindictively.

When I finally made it and settled into my cube for the day, I looked down at what I was wearing. Stripes and spots, great. I was glad that everyone else had taken off the day to spare them the confusion of my outfit. I cursed the name of my white princess again and shook my fists in the air.

Before I could really start the day, I needed to get ahold of myself. I needed to take a tour of the internet news and check my horoscope and any other links that popped up demanding to be explored to get my mind off of the mess and the sweater saboteur living in my home.

At the bottom of a random page, it said, “It is best to err on the side of compassion…”

I think there was more, but I was already considering the implications of this message for my day. Of course my white princess wouldn’t intentionally sabotage my work outfit. So what if she did, it was probably so we could spend the day together after being apart for Christmas.

Kitty logic, go figure.

Erring on the side of compassion is a mistake that I can afford to make with my darling cat.

Oh hard heart, how fast a well-placed quote can soften your edges.

I’m just not sure if I have enough reserve to do the same with humans.

Hiding out on Halloween

How to Grow Pumpkins

It doesn’t take much to bring out my antisocial tendencies.  A drop in the temperature to anything below 40 is enough to keep me inside even on the best bar “holiday” of the year.  Add in rain with the chance for snow and it guarantees my place on the couch, thoughtfully watching the world from the window.

So far I’ve only seen a deranged child clown leading a pack of hobos each carrying bulging bags of what I can only assume are filled with candy.  As they shuffled by, I most fervently hoped that the costumed gang would pass our darkened doorway for the homes of our neighbors with carved pumpkins on the steps, orange lights outlining the porch, and giant inflatable lawn pumpkins.

I question myself at times like this when there isn’t a single place in the world I would rather be than curled up on my couch next to my sweet husband.  He is ready to face the elements for a night out on the town yet willing to stay in with me.  We used to be out every weekend at a party or a bar and now we stay in if the weather is bad or a good show is on tv or the cats seem extra needy.

Fortunately, we are stocked up on lunch meat, pumpkin beer, and a bowl of fun-sized candies intended for the trick-or-treaters.  It’s warm and cozy inside and we have everything we need, including a sense of appreciation for the simple things like microwave popcorn and scary movies on cable.

These are the nights.

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