After The Baby Rabbits Disappeared

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Excerpt from my book, More Than Everything

A year goes by.  A year of life in the fast lane with lots of money, and we finally move out of the rent house in town.  Shane’s paranoia has maxed out.  He is now convinced we are being watched and is sure the cops are listening to our calls, so he finds and leases some property out in the country.  Ten secluded acres in Wise County.  There is an old run-down trailer house, a big barn, a chicken coop, and a huge garden plot.  There is no phone line and Shane likes it that way.  Shane decides that it is secluded enough that we can live there and he can cook his speed there too every few months when we need to make more money.  He and his buddies buy a big, prefabricated barn and put it out there next to the trailer.  We store all of our furniture and boxed belongings in the barn for the time being and live in the old, furnished trailer with the ratty gold shag carpet, a gold crushed-velvet sofa and a heavy, Mexican-style wood coffee table in the living room.  In the kitchen there is a yellow Formica table and two matching chairs that is the spitting image of the one my parents had when I was growing up.  The one that mama would sit at, smoking cigarettes and talking on the phone while she swatted me away like a fly.  One bare light bulb hangs over the center of the table.  One bedroom is empty and in the other one, we throw a double-size mattress on the floor and use a cardboard box for a nightstand.  We stack other cardboard boxes on their sides, so the openings face outward, forming a series of cubby holes, and use them as a dresser for our clothes.

It is great being out in the country, far away from the junkies.  Our dog, a black lab named Dino loves running wild.  A friend brings his dog out there too, also a black lab, and Dino is in heaven.  Those dogs play, run, swim, hunt and have the time of their lives.  For several months it is bliss; just me, Shane and the dogs living quietly, taking long walks in the woods and going fishing.  Shane and I have never spent so much quality time together.  It is nice.  We are relaxed out here away from the city.  Shane actually talks to me and hardly ever yells.  He tells me things I’ve never known about him and I fall in love all over again.  We sit in lawn chairs under the stars and listen to the crickets and the hoot of an owl.  We sleep soundly and make love loudly and shower together every day.  Shane finds an old tiller in the barn and after a day of tinkering on it, has it running like a top.  He tills up the huge half acre garden plot for days and the earth is rich and fragrant; I sit in the big middle of the loose dirt grabbing handfuls and letting it sift through my fingers like all-purpose flour.  We plant every kind of vegetable you can think of and revel at each tiny, green shoot that sprouts from the ground.  We buy rolls of chicken wire and patch up the pens and fill them with chickens, turkeys and geese.  We spend the spring mending fence, planting flowers, and sprucing up the place.

One day I am the only one home and I’m mowing the front lawn barefooted.  I decide to go inside and put on some shoes before I try to mow the backyard where the grass is six inches high.  I turn off the mower, run inside, grab a pair of socks out of the sock cubbyhole, and my tennis shoes from the closet and sit on the edge of the bed to put them on.  As I’m tying the last lace, a large plastic thermos suddenly tumbles down from a shelf in the closet and lands at my feet.  I jump up and look into the closet to see why the thermos would have fallen and I’m eye to eye with a huge chicken snake, as big around as a can of Coke, coiled and stacked on the shelf like a garden hose. Continue reading

Even Steven

fall light

Late afternoon light spilled into the modest living room through the open door. Monty, who lay napping in the sunny spot, was probably taking Claire’s sudden death harder than anyone. The two had been inseparable the past three years. Claire had found the abandoned puppy rooting around inside a toppled garbage can on her weekly walk to Hudson’s market six blocks east of her tiny cottage.

“I’ve given him my dinner scraps and a bath with my dandruff shampoo.” Claire told Thelma on the telephone that night. “He sure is a cute little thing.”

“Well, you’ve done your good deed, now put him outside and let him find his way home.” Claire’s best friend had said. “The last thing you need is a filthy animal living in your spotless house.”

“Maybe.” Claire had replied. “But right now, I’ll just let him sleep here in my lap. I think that bath wore him out.”

Everyone thought it was strange that Claire kept the dog. She had never allowed pets in the house while the kids were growing up. Even stranger, they thought, was that Claire had named the puppy after her deceased husband of 57 years.

“It was a nice service.” Thelma said as she served herself a helping of the lasagna that pastor Bill’s wife, Anita had dropped off earlier. She sniffed before taking the first bite.

“Yes, and didn’t she look natural.” Said Sissy, Claire’s youngest daughter, who sat at one end of the kitchen table that was piled with food.

A steady stream of family, friends and neighbors had kept the screen door busy all day but now there were just a handful left as the sun set outside. A quiet settled over the little house. Everyone was tired from the day’s sad activities.

Claire’s granddaughter, Sharon broke the silence. “I remember spending many a summer here. I loved Grandma Claire, but dreaded the daily cleaning regimen. Continue reading

Mr. and Mrs. #Shannyforever

Magic Was In The Air ~ July 12, 2014

We had a wedding!

Friends, family and loved ones gathered at the end of a beautiful July day, in overwhelming joy, to witness the exchanging of heartfelt vows, celebrate love, and to dance our butts off. All of that and so much more! Everyone ate, drank and got merry, just as intended. And now two extraordinary young people are a brand new family because they chose each other!

There was so much love and joy floating around this place for three full days, I thought I might burst. Every time I turned around there was another smiling face or a hug or a special conversation waiting for me. Not only did the gorgeous bride choose a bright, fun, caring and thoughtful man to share her life with, but he came with a warm, loving family that has embraced us all and now we are bound together too….an unexpected and totally awesome benefit of our children coming together.

Continue reading

A Settlers of Catan Confession

Catan

So, have you been roped into had the pleasure of playing a game of Settlers of Catan yet? Perhaps with a nerdy twenty-something in your life?

“It’s a board game Mom, come on you’ll love it. It’s pretty easy once you learn the rules.”

Oh the rules…. We’ll get to those later, but first the premise: Each player is a settler trying to build settlements and cities by acquiring and trading resources. You get victory points as your settlements grow and the first one to get ten victory points wins. Sounds easy enough.

“Ok! Count me in. I’ll be blue.”

As I sipped a second glass of wine, the kids proceeded to lay out the hexagon-shaped board pieces with pictures of grass, bricks, rocks and wood on them, placed some number tokens (seemingly randomly) on top of those, divided up some cards into stacks and handed me the dice.

“What’s that?” I asked, pointing to a lonely wooden man standing on a board piece that looked like the desert. Continue reading

Magical Thinking

 

Writing 101 – Assignment.

Tell the tale of your most prized possession. Use as many words as it takes.

 

 

Image

My red scrapbook is old, musty and bulging with a lifetime of love letters, keepsakes and photographs. It is where I keep the Apollo 17 pin that I wore while watching the last rocket (that would ever land on the moon) launch from the white sands of Cocoa Beach in December of 1972. Nestled among the yellowing pages are my blue and gold embroidered Presidential Physical Fitness patch, and my nickel-plated Vietnam POW/MIA bracelet; the very bracelet that I wore religiously for months until it broke in half. I secretly worried that the breaking of that bracelet meant my soldier might never return home.

When you’re thirteen years old, you can get carried away with magical thinking.

But the very first page of my scrapbook, the one with my baby pictures, is where my heart lives. There are four black corner stickers hugging my most prized possession in the world – a photograph of me and my daddy. The caption reads: “Vanessa 9 months, with Daddy”. My childhood scrapbook is not neat, organized, color-coordinated or of archival quality. But it’s mine, and mama’s handwriting under that fading photograph is proof we were once a family. Continue reading

Trucker’s Knot

Writing 101 – Assignment.

The neighborhood has seen better days, but Mrs. Pauley has lived there since before anyone can remember. She raised a family of six boys, who’ve all grown up and moved away. Since Mr. Pauley died three months ago, she’d had no income. She’s fallen behind in the rent. The landlord, accompanied by the police, have come to evict Mrs. Pauley from the house she’s lived in for forty years.

Write this story in the first person, told by the twelve-year-old sitting on the stoop across the street.

 

It was a couple a weeks ago – bout supper time. I was out on the porch here. The sweat kept runnin in my eyes, and I had ‘ta use the bottom of my shirt ‘ta mop it up. I was practicin my Trucker’s Knot with a piece of rope Gramps give me last time we was visitin him at the old folks home. Gramps always has a present for ya but not many words. I already have my merit badge for tyin knots but I want to get good at the Trucker’s Knot cause my daddy’s a trucker and next time he’s home I’m gonna supprise him!

After about the millionth time tryin the Trucker’s Knot is when the cop car showed up. Usually when one a them comes ‘round, the lights are flashin and the sirens are a wailin, but not this time. It pulled up nice and quiet and didn’t make no ruckus.

Two men got out and knocked on Mrs. Pauley’s door. While they waited for her to answer, they turned an saw me on my porch. We’ve lived across the street from the Pauley’s since before I was borned. The Deputy waved but Mr. Grimley didn’t. Mama calls Mr. Grimley a slumlord – whatever that is. All I know is nobody likes him and when things get broke he takes his sweet time a fixin ‘em. Continue reading

Home

 

 

Writing 101 – Write about finding something.

 

My parents divorced when I was eight years old after years of drinking, fighting and gnashing of teeth. I cannot conjure a memory of them being happy together during my entire childhood. Smiles and laughter rarely found their way into the fabric of our days.

Daddy has been gone now for over 25 years, mama is remarried again and the past seems like a bad dream – a tragic play with unskilled actors flailing through their poorly-written scripts.

Last fall, while visiting our aunt, two of my sisters and I set up camp on her living room floor and rifled through box after box of old family photographs. We looked at vacation photos taken at Six Flags, faded, creased pictures of unidentified relatives, and shots of tombstones of those long gone.  There were the obligatory “say cheese” group snapshots at holiday gatherings and K-12 school photos of almost everyone.

And then, as I grabbed yet another pile to sift through, a gift fell into my lap. A wallet-sized, black and white picture of my parents that I had never seen before. Nestled dangerously close to each other, they are sitting on one end of a couch, daddy’s arm around mama, a huge smile on her face and the perfect look of peace and contentment in his eyes. They are so young, so beautiful, and so obviously in love.

In that photograph that now sits framed on my nightstand, I can see their love – see back to a time when it made sense for them to be together. In that photograph, I found home.

You Make The Deviled Eggs

Bridget approaches the grocery store with confidence, her nine-month old daughter on one hip and her two-year old son clutching her free hand. The words her mother spoke to her on the telephone last week are still fresh in her mind, “You Make The Deviled Eggs this year sweetie. I’ve got plenty on my plate and Lord knows, at 27, if you can’t handle the deviled eggs, we’ve got worse things to worry about.”

Never before has Joyce, the matriarch of the huge family let anyone else make the deviled eggs for Thanksgiving. She finally accepts that I’m a responsible adult, Bridget thinks to herself as she gets the kids settled into the shopping cart. Earlier she Googled deviled egg recipes searching the list of ingredients for those that sound like they might closely match the famed deviled eggs her mom and grandma before her have fixed for eons. The recipe is not written down anywhere. Bridget silently whishes she had paid closer attention in the kitchen all those years.

With her shopping list pulled up on the Workflowy app on her iPhone, Bridget navigates the aisles of the store swiftly, gathering all the right ingredients, and is back home by nap time when she puts the kids down and dons her grandmother’s vintage apron that hangs on the hook inside the pantry. In no time, the eggs are boiling. Everything goes off without a hitch and she proudly places the finished eggs on the special tray, garnishing the center with olives and pickles. No one is going to be able to tell that Mom didn’t make these eggs. Continue reading