The Mean Wife


A red light used to flash when a voicemail came through on the old office phones.  They had cords and wires and buttons, remember those?  I used to wrap the cord around my finger, flatten it out, and kink it up.  The more I used it, the more stretched and misshapen the cord got until I had to swap it out one day with a coworker’s.

Those were the simple days of technology; there was a kind of bliss in not knowing everything.  When the light flashed, it was nice to not know whose voice was on the recording or what information or glad tidings were to be shared.

Now, I use a Smart phone for everything. No cord, no buttons, no fun, really.

I have to know as much as possible before answering any call and have taken a vow to screen all unknown calls.  Fortunately, with advances in caller id, this has become easier than ever.  My husband, on the other hand, looks forward to unknown callers for the chance that he has won the big check from Publisher’s Clearinghouse or some other contest that he never entered.

If I don’t know the caller, I let it roll to voicemail.  Today was no exception.

Five times today, I received a message from the same woman.  She called from different numbers each time, perhaps with the hope to throw me off and get an unguarded, “Hello, this is Puney…” The calls came from unknown landlines and a cell phone, and several restricted numbers, so of course I didn’t answer.

The messages did not grow friendlier throughout the day. In fact, they reached a boiling point with threats against humanity and a promise to find me in a suspiciously Liam Neesan Taken style. While the phone rang unanswered, my voicemail inbox slowly filled to capacity and my left eye developed an uncontrollable twitch.

“She’s just trying to find her power in a powerless situation,” a colleague sympathized with the woman. “I feel bad for her, I really do,”

I pictured a bug struggling in a spider’s web; the harder the woman fought, the more entangled she became with the very thing holding her back.

So after a careful review of her voicemails, I called her back.  I did it to appease the little part of me that sensed desperation within the psychotic threats.  I heard the need for an advocate and patient listener beneath the screaming and unreasonable demands.

Then I discovered that little part of me was wrong.

She was just a mean wife.

A lady bully.

The Path of Least Resistance


The severe weather warning sounded on my phone. I turned it off without looking down. Distractions were not appreciated as the sky turned dark and heavy rain started to pelt the windshield. I was heading to the safest place in Indiana under the predicted conditions; a trailer nestled in a park with many other trailers.

This was a visit that needed to be done before my vacation. I didn’t have time to wait out the storm or to reschedule for the next week. There was a quote about taking the path of least resistance that came to mind but I couldn’t remember the last part of it.

Anyways, if a tornado were to hit, there wouldn’t be any pesky foundation to stop us from going airborne. So taking the path of least resistance must be a good thing- I imagined if we were in the way of a tornado, we would be lifted up, swirled around and set back down. No bigs, right?

I arrived just as the sky turned an eerie green and the wind died leaving the trailer park silent. The tornado warning siren cut through the air, deafening all of the ears within hearing range.

On further consideration, this home visit was probably not going to have a great ending.

A ferocious honey colored dog greeted me at the screen door, snarling. Its teeth were barred and the fur between its shoulders stood straight up, stegosaurus style. My can of pepper spray was in the car where it could be most helpful to me in an attack/assault type of situation.  I sighed, this was really not going to end well.

Then a woman emerged from within the dwelling with a lit cigarette dangling from her thin lips. She grabbed the dog’s metal choke collar and pulled back with a yank.

She said, “Queenie, this is a good friend. Stop it.”

We had somehow completely skipped the acquaintance stage and gone straight to friends.  At that rate, we would be family by next week and the holidays were about to get very complicated.

“C’mon in and don’t mind our mess.”

Whenever someone says that, I know it means the home is either immaculate or a disaster zone. There is never a happy medium type of situation to back up that statement.

Once again, this proved to be true. I walked in cautiously and looked for a clear space to sit. We had paperwork to complete but the table was covered with Arby’s roastbeef sandwiches, foil, fries, and stacks of papers.

“You caught us in the middle of lunch,” she said stubbing out her smoke.

She picked up a half eaten sandwich to resume where she had last left off. Queenie growled at me from a rug by the door.

“Don’t worry about her. She takes a while to warm up to strangers,” the woman explained which did little to reassure me that Queenie wasn’t about to lunge for my throat.

The possibilities of this visit were endless, a dog bite, tornado ride, COPD/lung cancer, and then a new threat ran at top speed into the living room.

A small, dirty, shirtless boy with spikey hair charged out from a backroom with plastic Hulk hands on yelling, “Hulk smash!” as he ran towards a dozing woman sitting on a stained plaid couch.

He jumped onto the cushion next to the woman and started punching her with the gloves.  Surprisingly enough, the woman did not resist the Hulk inspired blows.  In a flat voice, she said, “No, don’t,” and weakly tried to defend herself.

What strange reality is this, I wondered.

An hour later, I left with the paperwork finished and about six Marlboro Red cigarettes smoked secondhand, completely unsure of the number of people who were there as different faces continued to appear and disappear from the backroom.

I was a cloud of smoke as I made my way back to my car, never so grateful for the fresh air.

In the meantime, the storm cleared and I remembered the rest of the quote.

The path of least resistance leads to crooked rivers and crooked men.

Or in this case, just a trailer full of smoke.