Monday, May 28, 2012

Flying Into the Sun

During summers when I was a kid, my friends would often disappear with their families to the Jersey shore or the mountains to paddle in the lakes and I would ask my dad when we would go on vacation. He said, 'You're a kid. You're always on vacation.' and the conversation was OVER. I didn't know that it was a matter of having (or rather, never having) the money and the hours at work for him to take time off; I just accepted it as my reality that I was to eke out my own recreational endeavors, because my other choices were limited to babysitting my siblings, playing handball against our concrete stoop (while babysitting my siblings), making kites in the garage out of construction paper, Elmer's glue and Tinker Toys a la da Vinci, or submitting myself to the mercies of my grandmother who regarded me as a mini serf available to scrub every step in the house, to gut the garage and basement and to clean cobwebs from the attic and closets, to name a few. She was pretty creative with torturous household chores. If I was good, I got an applesauce and butter sandwich. I said fuck that shit and looked for a way to disappear.

Every Saturday morning, my grandmother would make a sumptuous breakfast for anyone who woke up early (and put their slippers on; bare feet was an offense worse than profanity) and then she and my mother would go out and shop. For the record, I rarely made it to her breakfasts. I was an inveterate insomniac and didn't finally fall asleep (if I did at all) until dawn. This routine of mine was always met with disdain and a prediction I would amount to nothing. I figured I could fry my own damned bacon in peace and BAREFOOT once they left.

First they'd hit every yard and garage sale on the entire eastern seaboard. Then the thrift and consignment shops, then they'd end the day with the weekly grocery shopping. Often, they would stop at the house to have the available serfs (us kids) unload the full tailgate, so they could continue shopping, and woe if one was in the house but did not answer the cruise ship horn of the Mercury Grand Marquis station wagon, which evoked as much terror in me as the sound effects of the martian space crafts in The War of the Worlds. I had been requested to join them, assimilate, be one with them, but they already had my toddler sister and I knew these were not joyful women-bonding events because they enjoyed these weekends with the grim and determined faces of ruthless consumerism. They just wanted me to run up and down aisles grabbing stuff they'd forgotten or tend to my sniveling, bored and hot sister or carry bags to and from the car and one day when I could not escape them, I stood at a bulletin board near the exit doors of Shop-Rite and saw a piece of paper that changed my life. FREE DAY CAMP.

I ripped it off the board and folded it up and shoved it in my pocket as my mother hollered for me to grab my sister's sandal as she kicked it off while sitting in that seat in the carriage, that seat I wish I could sit in and swing my little legs but I was always too big, too big but now I figured, too big for that but not too big for this so on the day noted I arrived at the day camp with the required dollar (couch cushions are veritable bank vaults) with all the other rag-tag kids in my neighborhood. I discovered quickly that there was one of these camps in every neighborhood and the city paid for everything, except a dollar, so as long as I had that covered, theoretically, I could spend every day on the bus going somewhere awesome.

 I learned to sing On Top of Spaghetti, Hello Mutha Hello Fatha, Ninety-Nine Bottles of Beer on the Wall plus every top-forty song because when the bus' radio wasn't working, I had my trusty Radio Shack Realistic lime green transistor radio and I absolutely without any remorse whatsoever would cannibalize every single appliance in the house that used the batteries required to make my radio sing. Oh I may not have yet become an intrepid shopper, but it appeared the ruthlessness known to the women in my family was innate in me and was in fact, sharply honed by self-preservation and a little bit of bloodthirsty desperation to never ever EVER be at that house when that fucking car showed up blaring, COME OUTSIDE, COME OUTSIDE, LET'S GO, LET'S GO. I was already long gone.

I didn't make any friendships during those trips. It wasn't a conscious decision. I guess I considered my friends on vacation were still my friends and I had no desire to play little girl games which might distract me from the claw games and carnival rides at shore towns and boardwalks up and down the Jersey shore or hiking up a mountain at a state park in Pennsylvania. My biggest concern was conning my parents into signing the permission slips until I mastered their signatures. At that age, I had not yet learned to cave to their pressure and disdain for my independence and still had disdain for their disdain for me. I put on my sandals and Snoopy shorts and walked three and a half blocks and through a park to meet the bus everyday.

 If it rained, we made crafts in a municipal building on site. I learned how to sew and made a bunny rabbit hand puppet. I also learned through another intrepid explorer, how to make a noose. I would later be thrown out of my first Girl Scouts meeting for showing another girl how to make one to hang her Barbie dolls too, because no one had the forethought to tell me it was illegal in New Jersey to teach someone how to make a noose, no matter how tiny or ornate (some of mine were delicately woven with satin rosettes and pom-poms stolen from my grandmother's sewing room) but then, I was learning how to survive and if that included eating ants or hanging upside down from the highest monkey bars in the playground to prove how tough I was, I was willing to take the risk of incarceration or my ass beat with my father's belt.

We often went to the same places which was fine with me. I got to know them inside-out and enjoyed the little corners never discovered by the usual tourists. I spent a lot of time at the Newark Museum for Children, Suntan Lake, Turtle Back Zoo, Keansburg Amusement Park (too rich for my blood, never went inside but played the games on the boardwalk) and Bertrand Island, an amusement park where it seemed all dangerous carnival rides went to fall into further disrepair and die in rusty murky obscurity. I loved Bertrand Island because it was indeed a small island worthy of Peter Pan and his Lost Boys and I'd wander the park listening to the Magic by Pilot and Afternoon Delight by Starland Vocal Band on the loudspeakers, hoping to find magical sprites and exotic birds and animals. Instead I found the Whip-It.

Four round cars rolled around on a giant X that whirled around and around until you were sure you'd dry heave and then it would snap and throw your car into a long cool tunnel bumping along while you screamed in the dark. The workers there were bored as hell and hardly ever took our tickets and often kept the ride running for ten minutes and it was the most exhilarating thing in the world. I have no idea how I never got whiplash and I never saw that ride at any local summer carnival but it was the one thing that my heart thumped for all summer long for at least three years.

Every now and then, if the Whip-It was down (actually, it frequently was probably due to lawsuits) I'd have to find another ride to try out. I was a pretty loyal tenacious little kid and stuck with what I liked but I had a taste for the unknown and exotic too so I found something called the Torpedo of Death. Okay, that was probably my name for it and I can't find any record of it in the history of the park (Woody Allen filmed some scenes from Purple Rose of Cairo in '83 there, which seems to be its biggest claim to fame) but it taught me one of the most profound lessons about my own character.

I was lonely. I was ten, eleven and I felt unwanted and unloved and invisible to my parents except as a servant. My father had the habit of telling me my ideas were stupid and I didn't want what I wanted, that  I wanted what he thought I wanted and I was no longer allowed to sit on his lap and watch monster movies with him, and my mother was always too busy or would give me weekly Silent Treatments over some mystical infraction and I was spending a lot of time avoiding two uncles whom my parents never seemed to notice were paying way too much attention to me, so my feeling of belonging anywhere was at an all time low. My insomnia increased with everything going on at home, and I was sleepwalking when I did drift off but still I'd wander, wander, looking for something I didn't think I had but wanted really bad.

So I stood there contemplating this ride which was pretty simple in appearance. It was a circle somewhat on its side and in the tracks were rockets that a body would lie in, while the circle would speed around and around until centrifugal force would make one flatten against the seat but nobody told me that that would indeed happen. I stepped inside my rocket, which had seen better days and probably had been part of the early Soviet space program so I imagined myself a cosmonaut. If a dog and a couple of monkeys could do it, so could I, I reasoned, although I worried that they had helmets and I'm pretty sure, seat-belts and I did not. However, it was too late to turn back. The ride began and I held on to the sides of the car.

I remember it was a really sticky hot day in August and one of the worst because it had rained in the morning and the sun was merciless. These were the days before sunblock so although I had my dad's dark Italian eyes and hair, I had my mother's Polish snow-white skin and even that day, I recall looking at my pink swollen arms and legs, knowing that I would pay for it later that night, tossing and turning and never having a cold enough side of the pillow. That was the price for being a voyager into the unknown and I took my lumps as I always had. This trek, however, would be different.

The ride began to speed up and I began to have difficulty sitting up so I attempted to lean back but that meant I would lose my grip on the sides of the car. There were no real handles, so I was literally white-knuckling bare metal in one hundred degree weather and the palms of my hands and my fingers were burning and I felt as if my muscles were tearing as I held on screaming not in joy but in terror because I was certain that at some point, like the Whip-It, my rocket would be released and I would be flung straight into the sun without a helmet, without a seat-belt, without any damned sunblock and still I hung on screaming, screaming, screaming, the tears flowing up my forehead rather than down because of the force of direction. I didn't think. I just held on. I held on and I held on and finally the ride began to slow and then stop. We all staggered off and I felt as if my arms were a foot longer than they were when I got on. The pain would last for over a week but I survived and not only that, I had beaten the ride. I did not lie back and I did not let go. I didn't question my ability to hold on, nor did I analyze the odds or my options. I held on because something inside me said I wasn't invisible, I wasn't unwanted, and I wasn't going to die. At least, not on that day.

I have done things and made decisions in my life that I'm not entirely proud of, in fact, things that shame and disgust me. I have experienced, endured and in some ways been the architect of my own wreckage but there has always, as long as I've been conscious of it, a theme in my life of rebuilding, starting over and recreating what was thought to be lost and even now, I'm rebuilding against seemingly insurmountable odds but I don't intend to just survive. I remember those carnival rides and both feared and loved them and faced them anyway and still found delight in my humble couch-cushion discoveries.  I intend to be like that little girl who nobody told what was supposed to happen, and pretty much nobody cared, and fly off into the sun, on my own terms, in my own time, with my own indomitable spirit. Hopefully with sunscreen. And maybe a helmet.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

What Are Your Qualifications For the Position?

"If you're doing something else I can let you go....."
''m know when we're here on Yahoo chatting and that little notification comes up that you've got mail, well, not 'you've got mail' cos that's AOL but"
"Yeah, Lainey, I get it...your point?'
"Oh...panties in a twist today? Fine. You know how I get all these declarations of love and promises of devotion and fantasies of pure delicious filth on FB and that forum I talk about from people I don't know, how some are quite entertaining?'
"Yeah, you've posted a few gems as your FB status. In case you haven't noticed everyone in my family and most of Lubbock has friend requested you because they find me rolling on the floor in tears and want to be in on it."
"Ahhh...I was wondering how Bradley and I became friends....and then there are spin-offs where your friends friend my friends and my friends friend your friends and those friends friend those friends."
"Lainey, there's a shampoo commercial in there, I know but ffs, focus, please."
"Sorry, anyway.....I'm hungry. Hold on, please."
"You pull this shit all the time. Damn, might as well potty break myself, brb."
"Me too. So anyway, there was a new one today from someone who isn't even a friend and the email was in Arabic but it included a pic."
"Oh Christ. Am I going to regret asking 'of what'?"
"A pic of me."
"So? Remember that stalker you had that did collages of you and him and photoshopped hearts and did morphs of your future babies together...he was from Zyzaroplokikistan or something wasn't he? He was harmless....."
"A pic of me with what I thought was soft focus and there was an indecipherable caption underneath so I put it through Google Translate."
"What did it say?"
"I splooged all over your pic and my keyboard, sorry you are my angle. Can we be friends."
"THAT gets you but the splooging part doesn't?"
"Was there a glitch in Google Translate? Angle, huh?"
"Well, much as I like to hear about your gazillion conquests here and internationally, why don't you just change your security settings so you don't get unwanted messages anymore?"
"Because people who I *do* want to contact me that I've lost touch with wouldn't be able to contact me then."
"True, rabbit, true. You also have four thousand fucking friends. I think everyone you know has found you, Lainey."

"Oooooh, Racketeer Rabbit....oldie but a goodie. Oh and he sent me a pic of his junk."
"Wait...WHAT? Why do YOU get all the good pics. Was it a good one?"
" It was respectable.  I miss the good old days when people just sent greeting cards, valentines, roses, chocolate..mmm chocolate."
"Maybe in his country it was a culturally acceptable form of interest."

"I asked him if he'd show his mother or sister that pic."
"What'd he say?"
"I don't think he's figured out Google Translate. I *do* think that might work in my favor. Meanwhile, I'm blocking him."
"Send me the pic of his pecker?"
"What's wrong?"
"I got a love letter, a poem no less, in French from a lesbian German porn star. It rhymes in English."
"Wow. All hail Google Translate."
"No, I asked the guy I liked if he knew any French and he figured it out for me."
"Which one? Not...?"
"NO. And anyway, he's pissed off at me, now."
"Oh God. What now?"
"Well, this other woman he was crushing on, friend requested him and he was thrilled and then she friend requested me and he mentioned it to me and I said, relax that's just a coincidence but turns out it isn't."
"Why? Is she trying to keep tabs on you or something, like you're competition?'
"No. Evidently she used him to get to me. She likes me likes me."
"AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAA. He thought you were cockblocking but he's vagblocking. Oh God."
"Maybe I should figure out and post an application form on 'gettin' wit me' to cut out the riff-raff."
"I could only imagine the interview process."
"Yeah. What are your expectations for the job? What did you like best about your last position? What have you been doing since you resigned? Work history: What were your starting and final levels of compensation? What did you like best and least about your last boss....hey this could work."
"Don't get carried away Miss Ego. Remember, there is no "I" in 'team'"
"No, but there is a 'M' and an 'E'.

"You're fired."

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Hold My Hand

In the space of a few months, my mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer, I got engaged, we got married, my mother died and we bought a house, every last one of these I was ill-prepared for. It's all a blur now but I remember that Mom did get to actually see the house but was only able to peer in through the patio door because we had yet to close and there were problems with liens against the title and my entire existence during this time was one of anxiety and dread. 

Even on my wedding day when I was supposed to step out of the limo to camera flashes,  I instead begged the driver to take me to a bar and drive around a little because something was wrong so very wrong, I felt lost and without direction but I chalked it up to cold feet and eventually walked up the steps and down the aisle, nearly two hours late to a very visibly relieved groom. (photographic evidence can be provided upon demand) and then spent the reception worried about my mother whose side I was reluctant to leave. It would be her last public outing and I knew that it took every last bit of strength in her being to even attend my wedding, the last of her children's wedding, the wedding of her first child. Although the wedding album belies a face beaming with joy it was pure adrenaline and Xanax and a few gin and tonics that got me through until the last guest was gone.  We honeymooned for a weekend at a local lover's resort that specialized in champagne glass jacuzzis so we could be within driving distance should there be a sudden change in my mother's condition and I don't recall for a moment in all those months ever exhaling.

My mother died on November 10th and we closed on the house on December 19th and moved on December 21st to an icy hill we didn't know existed because we last saw the house in August. Not only did we NOT observe Christmas in ANY way but because of a realtor goof, the boiler had accidentally been turned off and the hot water baseboard heaters in the living room exploded and geysered all over the ivory wool wall to wall berber which had to be removed by Serve-Pro on the day of the walk-thru and then giant dehumidifiers were stationed throughout the first floor to combat any mildew that might develop on the sub-flooring so I couldn't even bring my furkids to their new home and I was utterly miserable. I was inconsolable. Not the weeping and gnashing of teeth kind but more like Ophelia headed for a short walk to the lake to 'clear her mind'. 

No one in the neighborhood told us that the hill was the type that tried men's souls and fortitude and unless one had a four wheel or all wheel drive vehicle or snowshoes, or a magic carpet there was no way in hell you were getting up that hill for most of the winter because it was illegally graded, the township wouldn't adopt it to clean and maintain it and we were shit out of luck and no less than two days after we moved in, my car got stuck in a ditch about ten feet up. Every time I tried to pull out I would drift in deeper and deeper and as determined as I was even I couldn't bend it to my will so I sat in my car on that dark country hill and cried and beat the dashboard.

Then a light went on and I saw a house to my right and two snowsuit wearing figures trudging toward me with shovels. They helped me get out of the car and pointed to the house something about going inside and as I knocked tentatively on the door, I looked back to see my husband pull up behind my car (his now also stuck) jump out of his car and help the others. I was swept into the house and a blanket was wrapped around my shoulders and a woman said, 'Oh God you poor thing and here have some hot cider' and I stood in her foyer shivering in shock. She took my arm and pulled me physically inside the kitchen and sat me down and made me talk and I poured out everything in a torrent like a relentless waterfall, my mother, the wedding, the move, the house, the commute and she put her arms around me and just held me. Her name was Beth.

Eventually the cars made it up the hill but it was decided that I would spend the night in the Murphy's home because I was too worn out and in the middle of the night there I got a phone call that my father had suffered a heart attack and I was needed immediately. I woke up Beth and dressed numbly and she stood in the doorway and made me eat the most delicious Eggo waffle ever toasted. Then my husband arrived with a packed bag and picked me up, we drove to my dad's and I began to take control of the situation as I always had done, as I was taught to do out of love and duty but perhaps not desire. I longed more than anything to be held and taken care of and with my mother dead and my father's health in peril and my needs would have to take a backseat to others. And so they did.

When I was able I made a large eggplant parmigiana (a specialty) and Spouse delivered it to the Murphy's who proclaimed it the best they ever had. This would be the first of many exchanges of neighborly help for yummy dishes as Spouse and I were totally ill-equipped as new homeowners in the country but I was an awesome cook and everyone likes to eat. Beth and I struck a warm friendship.

She tended to be a bit bossy at times but I was accustomed to the ministrations of the capo di tutti capi or boss of all bosses, my late mother, so in comparison she was small potatoes and in fact at times comfortably familiar but every now and then I had to put my hand up and ask her to cease and desist. Once we were sitting outside on a warmer spring day watching koi in her pond gulp at the surface and she brushed a strand of hair out of my eyes and I asked, 'Why do you treat me like I need a mother?" and she said, 'Because you do."  I insisted I didn't but could use a sister or friend and she agreed to it and we drank our wine. 

We didn't see each other every day although we passed each other's house (they at the bottom of the hill, we at the top) either driving up or down or they walking their poodles and yellow lab and sometimes she'd call me and I'd accompany them for a part of the way around the circle but sometimes I avoided her because her love demanded something I couldn't or wouldn't give, perhaps it was a loyalty reserved for someone who would never leave my heart, someone under who's heart I grew. 

I was so very sick and she would arrive at the house with meals for Spouse and trinkets to amuse me and stacks of books and told me she believed in me. She told me there was a book in me, no, many books and I had to stop shining my light under a bushel. She would leave with a kiss on my forehead and tuck her copy of the key to my front door tied to a gorgeous silk ribbon, into her threadbare pocket. They had little money but were lavish with love and service to others.

When I had to be rushed to the hospital for a blood transfusion it was she who held me and rocked me and sang songs to me while I wept deliriously. I have no memory of these things but others have told me.

One day I sat on my porch as the sun was beginning to go down but still sparkling in the air and I held a glass of wine in one hand and a bottle of Percocet in the other and didn't hear her walk up behind me with her three dogs and husband and she wordlessly handed the leashes to her husband and told him to go on without her and sat down next to me and asked me what I thought I was doing. I told her I wanted a divorce and she put her arms around me and said, 'I know.' and it was the first time anyone had touched me in six months. Her husband came 'round the circle again and she asked him to take the dogs down the hill and bring up the car and he did without a question and she called out to Spouse that she was taking me to her house for a little bit and she poured me a glass of wine and we sat and watched large birds try to fish in the pond, no words spoken, just company and when I was ready she drove me home.

In the nine years we've been friends we've seen each other at our best and worst and while still friends in some ways remain strangers because while my love and grief are deep running rivers always flowing, never resting, relentlessly searching and longing for belonging, Beth does not operate the same way. It's almost as if we are pen pals needing Google Translate to decipher each others heartfelt missives. Mine are dramatic and exhaustive. Hers are cryptic and require a secret decoder ring and a sundial.

However one day her husband appeared with some lame excuse to drop something off and something felt 'not right' and I followed him down the hill. I showed up out of the blue (not my thing) and they were delighted to have me and shared some stuffed clams they'd made and a nice discount merlot they'd found and then he disappeared into the depths of the house and she and I sat in silence as the sun disappeared behind the pines and blue spruces surrounding the property and she got up and stood at the slider door and I stood next to her and searched her face and asked her what she was thinking. 

She told me she was thinking which tree out there could she easily tie a rope to and hang herself and I gasped and she rolled her eyes and said, 'Oh Elaine, people would get over it.' and I said hysterically, 'NO NO I WOULDN'T GET OVER IT HOW MANY MORE PEOPLE I LOVE DO I HAVE TO LOSE??.' and I grabbed her around her waist shocking her out of her reverie and said, 'What's going on? What's happening? What aren't you telling me?' And she told me. Her mother was dying. The mother she had no relationship with. She envied mine and my love for my lost mother and she envied that I'd said I'd been thoroughly loved by my mother and was able to tell her everything before she slipped away because her mother slipped away into dementia without any chance for absolution. She had told her husband because he found her standing there earlier that day and asked her the same thing and she said before she knew it, he'd left and I'd come following. He had come for me and I hadn't even know I'd been summoned.

I remembered the times Beth sat and listened to me and held my hand and kissed my forehead. I remembered when she rocked me in my delirium and when she was a stranger and she took me into her house and her arms and fed and clothed me. When she mothered me when I didn't want mothering and needed it desperately.

Too, I remembered all that I did out of duty and love, sincerely but because I was commanded to, whether raised or by some imperative or instinct to care for my own, but this time it was one of desire and gratitude for someone who reached out and patiently peeled through the layers and layers of cheerfulness and stoicism, the 'I'm just peachy's', 'no really I'm fine's' to peer inside the little girl who just wanted to be loved and was very lost.  I reached out and took her hand. I did need mothering in spite of my protestations. She needed to mother and she needed a mother. She needed a daughter and absolution. So we began.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Goldilocks' Revenge

I told him. As soon as I saw it in the window I started screaming, 'GET BACK IN THE CAR! GET BACK IN THE CAR' but he made a face and kept walking toward the house and couldn't see what I could see on the other side of the soffit and the big red sugar maple. I knew by the look on his face he was thinking 'hysterical female' but I was losing it for good reason. He was about to walk into a bear.

We have about an acre and a half of woods, a corner property. Across the road and on one side are some neighbors but not too close. Three seasons of the year there is enough tree cover to obscure a clear view, a constant source of frustration to a former neighbor from Newark who eventually couldn't hack country living and moved back home. I could literally sunbathe nude from my own back deck except for the fact that neighbors were so friendly that they often dropped by unannounced and it could be a little awkward. And then at holiday parties it would be awkward again when they'd remind me after they'd had a few drinks and slapped Spouse on the shoulder hard enough to knock him over telling him what a lucky man he was. He despised being told that almost as much as 'Attaboy.'

We're on a circle, again an end property and across the road is the back of a llama farm, and on another side is 70 acres of undeveloped property, then the home of a dead mobster's younger more stupid brother who couldn't be trusted to take charge of the 'family' business so was put in charge of the immediate family's landscaping (read: wood chippers) business, then the Russians, then the Kowalskis' who threw awesome Christmas parties and so on. Behind them was another 70 acres or so of land in conservatorship and directly between us and the Russians was a small circle of woods on our property that was sweet because with our house set back a bit it made it look a little like a fairy cottage from a distance and if you squinted just right. 

Our driveway was a large circle or lazy 'D' with the bit of woods in the center and it was through this set-up that I was able to see many animals meandering about, from my giant atrium window in the living room.

Because of all this beautiful land and the way it's situated, there are several bear as well as fox dens. Besides the blue spruces, hemlocks, sassafras and white pines, there are in inordinate amount of oaks on the property probably because there are an inordinate amount of fat happy squirrels waddling around hoarding what has amounted to thousands upon thousand of acorns over the years. In the fall, my driveway has so many acorns on it that although it is paved, it sounds like one is driving on gravel as the acorns pop and crack whenever we maneuver around the circle.

When it rains or is damp, it can be quite slick and so on this cool fall day, copper oak leaves dancing in the air, I could hear the crunch of tire on acorn announcing Spouse had arrived home so I walked over to the front door to greet him. I had been cooking dinner but the kitchen was hot from the oven and I took off my top and stood in my bra the living room not far from the door but where I knew I couldn't be seen from outside when I saw what I thought was my neighbor from Newark's big German Shepherd but it didn't look like a German Shepherd and my mind tried to fit around this large animal rubbing its back on a tree and I realized this animal was not on a leash and my neighbor was nowhere in sight and it dawned on me that the only thing separating me from this BEAR was a pane of glass and ten feet which was okay, but Spouse was already stepping out of his car, his work shoes crunch crunch crunch and I started screaming at the front door while watching the bear startle from the window and they literally ran toward each other like a choreographed ballet, and if not so terrifying, it was piss-in-your-pants funny.

They nearly brushed each other as the bear veered off into the little circle and Spouse ran up the four steps and opened the full-view screen/glass storm door, flew inside, slammed the big door shut, LOCKED IT, then threw his body against the door, glaring at me, ME, who warned him to get back in the car. He was hyperventilating and began shouting at me why didn't I say, 'BEAR! BEAR!' and I told him honestly because the last time I said, 'BEAR! BEAR!' it was to the Russian as he was mending his 8-foot chain link fence, his back to an approaching mother bear and two darling cubs and when I called out to the Russian he just said, 'WHAT? WHAT?' so I just pointed and he ran around in a circle a few times then climbed over his fence just as the mother heard me screaming at him and took off in the opposite direction so I knew that saying, "BEAR! BEAR!' might cause Spouse to allamande left or dosido with Yogi and figured he'd trust me enough to just fucking do what I was asking but he shouted at me NEXT TIME to just don't say anything. I burst out laughing and said, 'FINE' and that was it.

In July we have a giant annual cookout and invite everyone we know. Everyone in town is invited and they can bring anything and anyone with them. We have a great time, many of my friends and family come from long distances to make this party and in anticipation I requested my brother Donny to dig a large fire-pit in the little circle of woods so we could have a bonfire that year.

He spent the week at the house and did nothing but play video games and watch movies and nothing was being done about my fire-pit and I'd had a terrible case of bronchitis which required me to go on a 6 or 8 day regimen of steroids and I developed a very rare side-effect. I became manic and somewhat psychotic for about 24 hours and before I knew it, not only was a fire-pit dug, but it was completed beautifully and frantically by both Donny AND Spouse as I sat in a lawn chair sipping diet decaf iced tea with a pick-axe by my side.

Every now and then they would surreptitiously look up at me and then look at each other but they completed their task, I congratulated them on a great job and Spouse disappeared and returned with a Xanax and a martini for me and a diet soda for Donny then went to hide in the basement. Donny and I sat in the driveway late into the evening talking and laughing and I came down from my side-effect and we joked about that too and suddenly I saw movement behind him and at the same time smelled a very familiar odor and the floodlight wasn't working because Spouse kept putting off borrowing the ladder from the Russian to change the bulb but I distinctly saw a large mammal walking right behind Donny on all fours and I simultaneously got up, grabbed him by the collar and dragged both of us up the steps into the house.

Our noses pressed against the screen door we heard the chuffing and the movement through old brush and debris and I told him to take a deep whiff and he thought it was the most amazing thing and we stood together holding each other and laughing, our hearts beating and adrenaline pumping and we left everything as it was, locked up and went to to bed.

The following morning I told Spouse and although he was thrilled he'd survived the night considering my behavior the day before, he wasn't in any hurry to change the bulb on the floodlight even though I'd expressed concern that a bear might sneak up on us. He chortled and said yeah and dismissed me. He also reminded me about the original bear incident and took the opportunity to chide me again and I said, 'Yes dear. Fuck you very much,' and kept typing as he turned the remote to FOX News.

Now, the Russian liked me. He was the head of some union in Brighton Beach and he and his wife, when I was sick would bring me little care packages of salmon and caviar and other tasty morsels and one day had walked in the house looking for Spouse who had said to him earlier unbeknownst to me, 'Yeah just come in when you get a chance to look at this 'thing'' and ran into a very shocked me standing there trying on a black silk teddy. I was unaware of his presence until he said with his charming accent, 'Vell, Helllllllooooo Beeyooooteefool' and I twirled around in surprise and ever since then he would volunteer to do some kind of electrical work for free.

Thanks to that black teddy, we didn't have to pay a penny to have four ceiling fans, a light fixture and several extra electrical outlets installed. So I personally asked him to please change the bulb and he not only did, but he provided the bulb himself which I thought was very kind. And no, he never once asked for payment, ever. Spouse was livid that I went over his head because he said he was getting to it and I made him look bad and I said he could do bad all by himself and as of that night I would no longer remind him or warn him or do shit for him again since he was always so insulted anytime I offered to help and he said, 'FINE', and that evening ended remarkably well too.

So last night I heard some leaves crunching in the driveway and the cats were in the window and I thought, 'Oh they see Daddy is home' and got up and sure enough he was but strangely he stopped the car midway up the driveway and briefly tapped the horn. I figured he was on the phone with his buddy and wasn't looking for me especially since he insisted he neither wanted nor needed my help but I was curious so I got up and stood behind the cats and saw him standing outside the car, looking at one of the tires. And then I saw the bear behind him. And I remembered that he ordered me not to tell him, not to warn him, not to help him so I let him have his way and the bear ate him.

The End.

 The detective leaned back, his chair squeaking and took the thumb nail he was absentmindedly gnawing on out of his mouth and said, 'So that's your story Mrs. Goldilocks.' It wasn't a question, really. I smiled sweetly and said, 'It's 'miss'. I kept my maiden name. Yes' I sadly sighed. 'It's all true, all there, every last word.' He smiled and said, 'I'm very sorry for your loss. You're free to go, but here's my card, and my personal number on the back, if there's anything else I could do for you.'
I took the blanket off my shoulders to give back to him and he said, 'It's cold outside and all you're wearing is that little black thing. I think you can keep it and maybe return to it me at a later date?' So I smiled and said, 'Oh THANK YOU Officer *glanced at card* Wolf.' and hightailed it out of there.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Sleepwalker At Chiller Theatre

This is a re-post from another blog I used to contribute to. It's one of my favorites so I thought I share it here.

Sleepwalker At Chiller Theatre

We had a deal. I would try my best to not get up in the middle of the night all night long to watch the test pattern on the big TV in the den, and he would let me watch monster movies with him on Saturday night. I demanded every night but he explained they weren't on every night and Daddy needed his sleep. He also asked me to stop jumping up reaching for the chain-pull to the ceiling light because I'd snapped it off several times and moved the easy chairs together to climb on them and click it on directly from the beveled glass fixture itself and then leave the chairs there in the dark in the middle of the night for him to trip over on his way to his middle of the night job but he didn't understand that I was afraid of stepping on lava so the only way I wouldn't go up in flames was by commuting throughout the house via furniture. It all seemed very cut and dry to me and I didn't really get why he was being so obstinate. I was four. He was 34. God, man, grow up.

They couldn't do anything about my sleepwalking though, well except install slide locks at the top of every door leading outside because they'd found me in the street or garden in my granny nightgown at 3am standing in the moonlight eyes wide open but vividly dreaming. This is not something an elderly neighbor with a heart condition wants to see when she puts her cat out or something else for my father to find upon returning home from a swing shift. They also couldn't negotiate with me when in my sleep I'd drag chairs over to the doors to climb on them (lava, too) and unlock the doors and go outside anyway,. I suppose that in my dreams it made perfect sense.

When I was six-months-old my father decided it was time for me to sleep through the night and thus began his fakakta Get Elaine To Sleep mission which failed or succeeded spectacularly depending on who you asked because YES, I did go to sleep and YES, I did sleep through the night but it didn't stop me from getting up and doing everything anyway. At six months, mobility is an issue but there does come a point in development when cribs are the toddler equivalent of K2 and therefore must be conquered no matter the personal risk: bruised tush, black eye, bloody nose--many casualties including the tragic broken bodies of colleagues I was unable to bring back to home base, my teddy bear (Teddy) and doll baby (Smakata which is Polish for 'snot-nose' a favorite endearment of my Grandmother for me), and a Dawn doll who not by her own fault was missing a head. I also held in my possession specific Tinker Toy and Lego parts that technically belonged to my brother David, parts that were uncommon and necessary to assemble anything remotely resembling a 'thing' so were of great value in terms of currency, negotiation and manipulation. I was an intrepid, shrewd, if somewhat reckless adventurer. I knew how to haggle with the natives and learned their primitive lingo. It was at this time when I became an insomniac.

Either I would sleep and walk, or not sleep at all so at night I was either dreaming technicolor musicals rivaling any Bollywood extravaganza (while exploring) or use my imagination while wide awake to dream up and plot my future adventures and any revenge against anyone who may have recently wronged me. I also pondered the meaning of life and what would happen after I died, like would my 'being' cease to exist or go somewhere else or if my brothers would consider playing Gilligan's Island using their bunk beds as the pitiful broken Minnow because I wanted more than anything to be Ginger. I didn't like her at all. I liked Lovey, Mrs. Thurston Howell III because she was the only one with a partner on the whole friggin island for the entire length of the series, while no one else seemed to pair up (well except for the Skipper and Gilligan-not that there's anything wrong with that) which I thought was really stupid. There is strength in numbers (as evidenced by my siblings and extended family) and maybe if they did they could have built a new boat especially since the Professor could make anything out of coconuts including a shortwave radio which incidentally didn't get them off the island either. The whole thing was frustrating but Ginger had the best wardrobe so of course I had to 'be her' when we played. Then during my midnight musings I would look to up to find my father standing in my doorway and say softly, 'Elaine, go to sleep.' and I'd roll over and pretend. Until Saturday night.

On WPIX in New York from 1971-1982 old thrillers, monster movies and horror movies would be aired on Chiller Theatre. It actually began during the 60's with an on-air host and then eventually morphed into a six-fingered claymation hand rising out of the mists replete with spooky music as the opening for the show. Then they played some good but mostly godawful movies. Other little girls had puppies and kittens posters on their walls. I had Christopher Lee and Vincent Price and various pages from Monster Magazine taped to mine and would 'borrow' my uncle's monster mags to read in the basement whenever I had a chance and he wasn't in his room. My dad and I would settle in on the couch and I would snuggle up against him. He was big and warm and cuddly and he would put his arm around me and tell me I was hot like a little furnace and made him sweat and he'd drink lots of ice water but he still let me cling to him like a monkey and ask him incessantly, 'What did that man mean, Daddy' and, "What did he say, Daddy' to the degree where he never had a moment's peace or got to see any movie all the way through, in my presence.

I tried hard to keep awake. I practiced keeping my eyes open and holding them open and considered using Lincoln Logs to prop them but though better of it but eventually sleep would overtake me and finally my father would shut off the TV and carry me to bed and I would fuss and he'd tell me to go to sleep and sometimes, eventually I did.

I cherish those times with  my dad. Now he's become really cantankerous and misses my mother terribly and calls me constantly to ask me how I'm doing or to complain about 'some shit on the Food Channel'. I  don't see him as often as I should because I need to take him in small doses and he worries too much about me which makes me feel horribly guilty but we talk a lot and every now and then I do go over there and watch a scary movie with him and he calls me his little girl, his little sleepwalker, his little dreamer. He says it proudly and with such love. And when I can't sleep at night, when the Ambien and the Xanax and even a martini doesn't help, I hear his voice softly saying, 'Go to sleep, Elaine' and sometimes I do.