-looking for work is hard work-
-looking for work is hard work-
Her mind was a flashlight broken.
The guys in the locker room were amazed. They couldn’t believe how big it was. Some of them refused to look his way but others seemed mesmerized by it and the fact that he was captain of the swim team made it impossible to hide. He learned to accept the shunning and the staring and glaring because his mom was right, joining the team was a great idea. He’d been an avid swimmer since early childhood and the coaches and fans loved him. Truth be known, his teammates loved him too, but most of them were, admittedly, jealous. Timmy’s father gave him pep talks frequently and during those talks he was always sure to mention his own accomplishments. He was proud of the fact that his only son had seemingly inherited his athletic ability and his personality, not to mention his physical build and appearance. As a young swimmer Timmy’s dad embraced and showcased every aspect of himself no matter the audience and he was often reminded of those days when looking at his son.
During the last swim mete of the season Timmy walked out of the locker room wearing his team uniform; Speedo swim trunks and his favorite extra-long swim shirt. Out of the corner of his eye he saw a group of reporters moving in his direction. Timmy immediately grinned while simultaneously removing his swim shirt. When the reporters were in close proximity Timmy swirled around and gave them a perfect view of his full – faced boyish grin and his beautiful six pack. Those were actually only two small pieces of the beautiful “man pie” that made him the eye candy that he was… and he knew it!
His ego was enormous!
(This is the eighth and final chapter of this short story. Follow the links below to read the previous chapters)
(This is the eighth and final chapter of this short story. Follow the links below to read the previous chapters)
Thank goodness the other bathroom was complete or we might have had an entire family of critters living in the walls. What I wanted to say was, “I wish the other bathroom had been incomplete, that way I could have had my own little family “living inside the walls”, but you never know who might be reading this. I wouldn’t want the reader to think I’m weird or anything, you know how people can take one little comment and run with it. Hell, one opinion like that and the police might be at my door with a battering ram, a search warrant and a strait jacket.
Ok, I have total and complete recall of that yellow painted room with the divided towel closet and the long white vanity top. That towel closet was the perfect hiding spot. When Lil Renny and Chuckie would try to force me to play games like “hide and go choke the middle child” or “ring around the middle child’s head with the barb wire headband”, I would hunker down in that closet behind the towels and stay there until they forgot they were looking for me. Naturally, they caught me one time – just before I got into the closet, they dragged me out into the yard. That’s when I learned to play “red light, green light, middle child lights out”. You’ve seen enough of how my life went to understand how that was played without my even going into detail. They also taught me their version of “Simon says” that day, only it was called “Brother Says” and I was the only pigeon playing. After several rounds of “Brother says go spit on yourself” and “Brother says go lick that chicken”, the chickens got wise and ran into the henhouse. That’s when I got away from them and ran inside and got into the towel closet. Unfortunately, there were no towels in the closet that day so I did like all little kid’s do… I covered my eyes with my hands so they couldn’t find me and guess what? They searched that bathroom high and low for more than 3 hours looking everywhere from inside the towel closet to down the bath tub drain but never found me… and they say the middle child is always the slow one, hahahahahahaha!
(This is the seventh chapter of this short story. Follow the links below to read the previous chapters)
http://wp.me/p5AbPX-Pw chapter 6
Being the parents definitely had its perks. For example, they had their very own bathroom complete with their very own incomplete shower. I have no idea why they never had it finished. Heck, with daddy and Mr. Dunston’s brick fence building skills, one would think it would have been an easy task for them, but I guess not. There was a large gaping hole that exposed all the plumbing on one side and a plywood trap door on the other. I would imagine the idea of losing that hook inside the wall was enough to prevent mama and daddy from asking for any assistance from him.
I often wondered if anyone else realized the trap door led to the hole and vice versa. I have so many memories of that room, like the time mama made me crawl through the trap door to look for critters after she heard something running in the wall. The idea was for me to go in, catch, skin, cook and serve it for dinner. Mama promised I could have the leg and thigh portions if it was a nutria. What she didn’t know was that every time she and daddy and the boys left me home alone, I would crawl into that hole and hang out. The critters within were friends. There were the conjoined nutrias, the nervous 3-legged possum, the owl with the glass eye and the pair of bald headed bald eagles. They made me feel loved and needed… go figure… One evening at mama’s insistence, I crawled through the trap door in search of a nutria big enough to be dinner for 4, no not 5, I was the middle child and I always ate alone. I knew Asa and Asa were big enough to feed the entire family, but I knew I could never harm a hair on their stuck together backs, especially the way Asa looked at me and the way Asa looked back at me. That was the night I had to improvise, so I crawled in, bent over and took a chunk out of my right ankle. It was the one with the fungus on it so I had to work twice as hard to chew through all that thick hard skin. To be sure it would be enough to feed the whole family, I reached around and bit a plug of fat off my back and that was actually quite simple. (For more than a year Chuckie and Lil Renny enjoyed playing tug of war. I was the rope… one held my feet and the other one held my head. I think my neck stretched more than a foot before the judge caught wind and banned them from their favorite game.) I took my meat to the kitchen and tossed all of it into a pot of hot water with some fresh dug potatoes and carrots. When it finished cooking I sat back and watched my family have a fleshy foot fungus and back fat food fiesta, and I didn’t even mind the fact that Princess wouldn’t share her bone with me as I watched. Thinking back and looking forward, I suspect that explains my chronic back issues and maybe even my recurring foot fungus.
(This is the sixth chapter of this short story. Follow the links below to read the previous chapters)
My bedroom, aka, The Taj Mahal.
The walls were covered with magazine cut outs of my future husband, Michael Jackson. Yes, the world famous, now deceased, Mr. “I Want You Back”, himself! We He released that in 1969 with his brothers. We were very young then and had one of those arranged marriages, only neither of us really had anything to offer the other. I was a lonely middle child and he was “mean Joe Jackson’s” boy. Who’d have ever thought he’d rise above and make it so big? Not me. Hell, if I knew then what I came to eventually know, I wouldn’t have insisted on him moving away to Indiana. Of course, he came back for me when he started making it big, but I’ve never been one to grab anyone else’s coattail – so I sent him away to live his life …as a lonely guy with a monkey for a best friend. If this seems fictitious, just google the lyrics to “Ben” and you’ll see me written all over that song. Not to mention, “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You”, “The Way You Make Me Feel” and “Baby Be Mine”. I could go on forever, but my peepers of times forgotten are starting to cloud over so I’d better get on with it before they’re too cloudy to see the computer keys.
Earlier in the story I indicated that my room was not appropriately furnished. Pictures on a wall, even if they’re of such a beautiful guy, certainly do not make for a comfortable area to call your own. Remember when I said that I slept on a mat in “the boys’ room”? That wasn’t forever. At some point it became perceptible that I was being treated more like a red head step child than a middle child and mom and dad must have felt bad, or something, so they decided to change things up a bit. They bought used furniture from a flea market, used carpet samples (shag and thin) from a remnant store and a pair of venetian blinds that were only missing half the slats. For the most part, I loved my “new” room. The sofa sleeper would only pop out three quarters of the way so I slept sitting up, sort of leaning forward and folded. The bed bugs and chiggers weren’t much of a problem either, after daddy started dipping me in kerosene and motor oil in the mornings. The blinds, even with their shoddy, flawed design, provided enough shade and cover to keep me from being completely exposed. Since there was no glass in the window, they blew in and out freely, which helped keep some of the horseflies out too. The only thing I didn’t like was the flooring. I couldn’t seem to keep my footing on the thin parts, and the fleas on the shag pieces kept my ankles peppered with oozing, red, itchy spots. To my dismay, the kerosene motor oil potion was more like joy juice to them than poison. It’s like they lived for that stuff. I can still see them licking it off, then using their needle–like front feet to drill holes into the fleshy parts of my ankles making them look like fat, caramel covered candied apples but without the apples. They still look like that to this day.
(This is the fifth chapter of this short story. Follow the links below to read the previous chapters)
http://wp.me/p5AbPX-OQ chapter 4
Ok, now let’s go ahead and put my parents room “in review”:
Their room was laid out much like my room is today. They had the master bedroom in their house like I have the master bedroom in my house, except I added a 6×12 foot walk-in closet and had my half bath converted to full. The closet was a must have, my Snicker Bar, Fritos and Coke fetish have to remain private… and secret. Yes, after all of the “things” I went through, I survived, and I guess you could say, I even thrived…never underestimate the power of prayer, 47 years of psychotherapy and some of the best mind altering drugs known to man.
The master bedroom- my reminiscences of this room are a bit hazy, and it’s likely that the matter involving the bees, the electric blanket and the baseball bat are the cause. The doctor said that waiting until the swelling went down was probably not a good idea. That one nostril was swollen so big it cut off the air to the other one and I guess my airway was blocked off a little more than I thought from that blood poisoning infection I got from the rusty needle mama used for my stitches. Those five days of random wheezing/whistling instead of breathing, undoubtedly must have done some brain damage.
What I do remember is the way mama and daddy had to hold Renny down every morning before school to comb his hair. See, Renny was born with his intestines twisted and had to have an operation when he was just two days old. Granny Lynn said they used too much “ether” and that made his teeth look like tiny yellow spikes. She said it also explained why his hair was so damn bad that they had to use a metal comb to comb it. Spikey teeth, non- spikey teeth, good hair, bad hair – no big deal, right? Especially since his baby teeth were destined to fall out anyway… but what about that hair? Would it fall out, too? Was there any hope? The fact that they basically had to hog tie Lil Renny each day just to get the comb through one “2×2” block was too much for mama to bear. He was her baby and she wanted to protect him at any cost. I believe that’s when the hair transplant idea first crossed her mind, at least that’s about the time that I noticed mama spending more time with me than ever before. She hugged me more, she held me more, she kissed me more, she smelled my hair more and she ran her fingers through it more. The only time I can recall a hug or kiss from mama was the night I choked on my hamburger steak. Looking back, I realize two broken ribs might be consistent with the Heimlich maneuver, but where does mouth to mouth fit in to that scenario? I guess she wasn’t taking any chances. My parents were court ordered to keep me alive “by any means necessary” or else, and obviously, they intended to do just that. Nothing in the order mentioned keeping me with or without hair, which now leads me to believe mama was “casing” my head. Do you know what that means? It’s a slang law enforcement word used to describe what potential thieves do when they check a location out or watch it closely and covertly.
This hugging and kissing and finger combing went on for 6 to 8 months. Then one day granddaddy came around and offered me a cup of that sweet, fruity tasting, warm tea with the funny smelling froth on top. I didn’t want to be rude so I took it, drank it and woke up 4 days older, lying on the floor, in a tea induced fog. I was confused, thirsty, hot and sweaty which was the way I always felt after drinking that “tea”. I eventually realized I was in my parent’s bedroom and I can remember nervously looking up at daddy who was sitting in his recliner next to the bed. When I stirred, he looked down at me with that empty mouthed frown and a question mark on his face. That simple look silently spoke volumes. When I looked over at mama, who was sitting in the corner, her face told a different story. She looked away and snickered. Suddenly I caught a glimpse of my hair in the big mirror over the dresser, only it no longer framed my face. It was Lil Renny’s face that my beautiful, luxurious locks were caressing. I reached up and touched my head and began to cry, not for the hair I’d lost but for the hair they’d left me with. I felt what could be no less described as patches or splotches. One look in the mirror and my muffled sobs were covered by shrill, hyena-like laughter. I stared at my reflection in the mirror until it became obvious that each time I inhaled, the hyenas would stop and they would only begin again when I exhaled. It was me, the laughter slash shrieking was coming from me…
…8 days later…. I woke up to the smell of ammonia and Vicks Vaporub with a hint of Lysol and a touch of bleach on the side. It seems that daddy had convinced mama that I was possessed, and that the only way to stop my “fit” was to purge me. It only took 3 months for some of the feeling in my cheeks to return. I still have trouble with the right one when it rains and the dentist has such a hard time numbing my mouth that he has to sedate me. I guess that’s from that ammonia, Vicks, Lysol, cocktail enema they gave me that day; and all these years I thought I’d inherited this crooked smile…
(This is the fourth chapter of this short story. Follow the links below to read the previous chapters)
http://wp.me/p5AbPX-Ox chapter 1
http://wp.me/p5AbPX-OH chapter 2
http://wp.me/p5AbPX-OL chapter 3
Since you last saw me curled in the fetal position outside my mom’s bedroom door, I guess that’s as good a place as any to get started again.
Let’s see… I’m looking across the hall, in the recesses of my mind, and I see “the boy’s room” as they referred to it. In all fairness, until I was about 12 years old it was my room too. Or at least it’s the room I slept in. Did I have a room of my own, especially since I was the only girl? Actually, I did, but don’t forget I was the “middle child”, so expecting it to be furnished, appropriately, was another story. First, I’ll share my childhood memory of the room the three of us shared, then I’ll tell you about “the other room”.
There was a set of twin beds separated by a three- foot span of floor space between them. Looking back, I can picture Chuckie in the bed farthest from the door and Little Renny nestled all snug as a bug in the other one. Oh, you’re getting good. You guessed it. I was able to tell you about the distance between the beds because that’s where my mat was. It was a thick and fluffy mat with colorful butterflies and red and black lady bugs on it. Little Renny’s live bumble bee collections (jars 1 and 2) were housed, lids off, under the beds and if I didn’t do too much tossing and turning I could make it through the night with only a few stings.
I’m surprised I’m able to conjure this one up but let me tell you about the night I remember getting shocked and stepped on then stung in the nose… 4 times… in the same nostril.
It was a cold and rainy night, and in the country nobody had central heat or air. It was either window units, electric heaters and fireplaces or hand held fans and electric blankets, or a combination of all that. Well, in our house, we had the latter which turned out to be unfortunate, for me… per the norm. I was on my mat, trying not to disturb the bees, when I felt a sharp burning sensation that seemed to be moving from my toes up toward my face- on both sides. At the same time, my arms and legs stiffened up on me and I started trembling uncontrollably. I can remember Lil Renny looking over the edge of his bed, directly into my eyes. He looked as if he was seeing a ghost. The next thing I knew I was hearing an almost unbearable screeching noise coming from the right. My head was locked, but I managed to move my eyes just enough and just in time to see Chuckie screaming and bearing his tooth at me. (He’d lost so many teeth that year and so fast that mama had resorted to making me chew his food up then feed it to him). He was pointing toward my feet and when I looked in that direction what I saw horrified me too. His big black shepherd, Princess, was in full squat relieving her bladder on top of, around and through the chewed up electric blanket that I’d been so graciously given after Lil Renny used it until the electric wires were shredded and showing. The open wires and my little metal leg braces were in a tangled mess fighting to let go of each other with neither one having a mind to actually ungrip the other. The boys’, as I knew them, became nothing more than screaming, sniveling useless little pansies… but man oh man, could they move! They jumped up, in tandem, and stomped all over me trying to get out of that room. What made it even worse was the fact that they too felt a shocking jolt when their feet touched my face. The jolt caused them to jump up, and with all things going up… they must come down. In this case – right in my gut which was a brief, barely felt stomp that I must admit pailed in comparison to the first two. They made it out of that bedroom door in record time – about the same time that the shocking sensation subsided and the bumblebee stings began. They came at me like bats out of hell. No amount of swinging, swatting or swearing would stop that onslaught of furious creatures and apparently, they thought my nose was a hive. They flew inside my left nostril, one at a time, mind you, and stung me so hard my dead man eyes watered and my smutty throat burned. When I thought it was over for me, I saw my mama run into the room and grab the first thing she could. I guess the fact that it was Chuckie’s baseball bat didn’t even occur to her until she saw the blood. It took 47 stitches to close the gap mama created with that bat that night – but that’s ok. I just wish she’d used a different color fishing line and a smaller needle to do it.
(This is the third chapter of this short story. Follow the links below to read the previous chapters)
http://wp.me/p5AbPX-Ox chapter 1
The den (as only I remember it)
Obviously, I survived that little accident (incident). My eyes began to adjust to light much better, but only after the bandages from the second surgery were removed. That first pair of cadaver eyes were no match for those boiling hot, steam baths mama gave me the first time I was released from the hospital. She felt really bad about the way my head and hair smelled since she’d tried to clean my eyes. The judge added a “no contact with hot water” clause to the paperwork the next time I went home, so my skin stopped peeling off and I was able to stop drooling so much, too. I remember the doctor saying that my tonsils were darker than the other parts of my throat. That was probably because of all that hot ass funny, sweet, frothing tea they were giving me. Oh, well, believe me, it gets even more interesting as I look back even further into my own mind. Let’s take a walk into and through the den.
Picture this if you can, burnt orange, thin, carpet with flicks and flakes of some colors I don’t remember. Being a smart ass isn’t a very cute attribute. Yes, I forgot the colors, so what? That’s not the important part of this memory… again, you get what I give you and you know the rest…
Now this was the room that was most lived in. It had a long chocolate colored leather couch that sat facing north, which was where the sliding glass patio door was. Through it, we had a picturesque view of the cinder block fence that daddy and his friend, Mr. Dunston, built with their own hands. I would have said with their own four hands but Mr. Dunston had a hand and a hook so technically that wouldn’t have been a true statement.
On to the memory:
I think I mentioned earlier that the utility room was just off the kitchen, which connected to the den. I always, always followed my mom around. When I was half blind (from the black pepper incident) for that year and a half or so, I discovered that her scent was easiest to follow early in the morning. I had fewer trip and fall and walk into wall accidents before 11 a.m., which is probably how I became the morning person that I am today. I know it’s how I almost got run over by my own mother. No, not in the car, she was running… from a mouse. See, she was in the utility room doing laundry and I was standing next to her. She (apparently) saw a mouse and without any warning whatsoever, she bolted out the door into the kitchen and through the den—and this is where it gets tricky— she leapt,over that chocolate ass couch, lengthwise, with my country ass daddy sleeping on it. She never checked up. She moved at warp speed, and I, running as fast as my little braced legs could carry me, threw up everything I’d eaten for at least the last week. I would imagine my screaming is what woke daddy and when he got mama’s shoe dislodged from between my shoulder blades the lurching finally subsided. Oh, yes, I realize this is the first mention of, my braces but they were of no real consequence. Mama was moving so fast I couldn’t have caught her if I’d had jets tied to my shoes. I eventually crawled down the hall where I fell asleep knocking on her locked bedroom door.
(This is the second chapter of this short story. Follow the links below to read previous chapters)
Chapter 1 http://wp.me/p5AbPX-Ox
Now off to the kitchen we go.
Our kitchen had peel and stick tile on the floor and a rotary dial telephone mounted to the wall. The stove and the sink shared a wall and the fridge stood tall and stout across from them. If memory serves me right, and of course it always does, we did most of our fine dining right there on that laminate topped bar. Microwaves weren’t a thing back then so heating up the grub required the use of a pot or pan and some fire. Yes, fire… from a stove… a real stove… with real fire which, by the way, came from one of those little wooden sticks with the red and white tips known as a match. All it took was a single scrape across a rough surface and voila, you were holding the only thing standing between you and that steaming hot cup of coffee. Naturally, the coffee beans had been picked, cracked and crushed fresh from the field, just hours earlier.
Ok, enough of that… let’s get to the memory…
I have total recall of the night I was sitting on a barstool in the kitchen with my older brother. Yes, I was often subjected to being left in close proximity to one of them but who would have ever thought he could injure me with my mother sitting within arm’s length of us. After all, this was a supervised visit and the lights were on. The paperwork from the courthouse stated plain and simple that I should never be left unattended, without mama or daddy present, especially since that incident with the kerosene in the coke bottle. Well, mama was talking on the phone when Chuckie decided to blow black pepper in my face to make me sneeze. Did he realize I had eyes that could be damaged? Badly! And they say he was the smart one. Needless to say, mama’s telephone conversation with my favorite uncle ended pretty quickly when that black pepper got in my brown eyes. Mama grabbed me and ran to the bathroom, and I can still hear the water rushing in my ears every time mama pushed that handle down trying to flush my eyes.
Memories, memories, memories… where shall I start?… Ok, how about this…The playroom… the time my dad and his friends hired a “hit man from Detroit” to come down and “take care of a situation”. To this day, I still remember wondering how the hell “Uncle John” was gonna take care of anything without ever opening his mouth. He never uttered a single word. He just sat there with an oversized Stetson on his head and an extra long trench (Godfather looking overcoat) with his hands hidden deep inside his pockets. Wait…I guess he had hands… to be honest I never saw them so he could very well have been handless… which would make the fact that he never spoke even more of an anomaly for a man hired to “take care of a situation”.. Shit… was this real life? It had to be. I can still see those damn near thigh high, shiny, black boots he was wearing in my mind’s rear view mirror.
Unfortunately, I have no further recollection of what ever came of “Uncle John” and his silent self. However, I have vague memories of sipping that sweet, fruity tasting, warm tea with the funny smelling froth on top and my granddaddy’s old pocket watch swinging from side to side in front of me as I dozed off.
(up next: Chapter 2– The Kitchen)