It’s Always Something
Click here to see larger picture.To purchase:
~Home on the Range
~The Hair Says It All
~Sunday in the Park With Josh
~Song From Beginning to (No) Ending
~November 21, 2002
~In the Fast Lane
~The Monkey’s Uncle
~Thinking Outside the Box
~Throw Momma From the Dive Boat
~Wild Garden Mixture
|Home on the Range
by Marian AllenYou don’t realize how big cows are until you find one sitting, totally uninvited, in your summer kitchen, tucking into a big slab of your rhubarb pie.
She didn’t even have the grace to look ashamed. She froze when I opened the door, but then she met my gaze and deliberately took another bite of pie. Her big brown eyes were hard and challenging, and I had no doubt that this was the wild cow I had been warned about.
I knew I couldn’t let her know how frightened I was.
“Is it good?” I said.
“Yeah,” she said. “Be better with some ice cream.”
She picked up a glass of white liquid and took a swig.
“…Is that what I think it is?”
“I don’t know. Maybe you think it’s wallpaper paste. But what it is, is milk.”
“You drink milk?”
She smacked her lips. “Just like mother used to make.”
“You drink MILK?”
“Hello? I’m a cow? What do you think little cows get big and strong from drinking–martinis?”
We headed into the wilderness. Then Pharaoh changed his mind and came after us with his army. We were trapped between him and the Sea of Reeds. Moses held his staff out over the water and the waters parted. We walked — no, we ran as fast as we could — across on dry land with a great wall of water on each side. I don’t know which was scarier — the walls of water or the army behind us.
By the time the last of us were across, Pharaoh and his army were right on our heels. But when we were safe, those walls of water just collapsed — and the whole army drowned. We were free — completely free of Egypt and Pharaoh and all of it.
That’s when the grumbling began.
Sunday in the Park With Josh
The grin abruptly disappeared as he surveyed the wreckage around him. At first, he thought someone had been here before him and ransacked the place, then he remembered the infamous mess in Connor’s office — but this was ten times worse. Maybe thirty. Suddenly, the word buried took on a chilling new meaning. He stepped over a toppled stack of computer magazines, closed the door behind him, and flipped his cell open, then hit speed dial #2. It rang once on the other end.
“Hey, Josh! Where are you?”
“Avi Rosenberg, I hate you.”
“Ah, you’re at Connor’s place.”
“Your mitzvah level will never recover from this thing you’ve done.”
“Oh, come on, Josh. Do you see any sign of the thumb drive? He said it might be in the vicinity of the couch.”
“I’ll be lucky to find the couch.”
I was one of the most computer-illiterate people I knew, blissfully ignorant of the Internet and totally content to use my computer as a word processor and a means to send and retrieve e-mail. I was, at least, until September, 2006.
My descent into technological purgatory actually began in August of that year, when I returned to my job as a tutor at a local children’s home. At the end of the second week of school, I was told that the state had changed the requirements of my job description. To keep my position, I had to have a college degree — no problem — in education — still no problem — and a current teaching license — big problem. Mine had expired two years prior, and I’d never gotten around to taking the six college credits I needed to get it renewed.
Now what? It was mid-August. The fall education classes were full. Maybe the state would grant a grace period. After all, it wasn’t my fault they had changed the rules, right? Wrong. They weren’t going to budge. Despite my pleading, compromise was not an option. The children’s home had to have the funding from the school to pay me and Stephanie, the other tutor, for our services. The school system had to have the state money, and the state did not consider Stephanie — who also had let her license lapse — or me to be qualified. Everyone involved on the local level expressed regret over our plight, but their hands were tied by the state’s purse strings. The tutoring positions were to be posted the next week.
At this juncture, Stephanie got the bright idea that we should look on-line….
She found Stitch, finally, all five buildings and eighteen houses of it. There was a general store which had gas, groceries, and the post office; a ranch supply, feed and hardware store; a restaurant; a saloon/ pool hall; and a church. The lady at the general store, a petite redhead about fifty years old, introduced herself as Mabel Jones and welcomed her enthusiastically. She gave Jory directions to Uncle Jeb’s place.
The directions said this was it, but they had to be wrong. The place was a disaster. The log cabin had been built right up against the rock wall of the canyon. She thought it a wonder a big boulder hadn’t fallen and smashed it. The porch sagged badly and was missing a step. The screen door hung on one hinge. A crack in the window had been patched with duct tape. The barn was in better shape than the cabin, but it was a wreck, too. There was an outhouse at the side of the cabin. None of them had ever seen a paint brush.
Jory stared in horror at her inheritance. How was she supposed to live in a place like this?
Dear Horse Listener:
November 21, 2002
Let me start by saying, writer’s group was to meet that night. That’s important, because that’s what caused the whole morning to spin out of control. When I woke up, I had two things I knew I needed to do. The first was to get copies of chapter three of my Willim story made for the writer’s group. The other was to go to the grocery. Simple, right?
Since I had printed out chapter three the previous night, all I needed to do before taking off on my two little errands was to write out my grocery list. I copied the current items from the ongoing out of list on the refrigerator, then went through the recipes for the things I planned to make in the next few days in preparation for Thanksgiving. With list in hand, I grabbed my purse, got in my car and took off.
At the bottom of the drive, I realized I had forgotten chapter three. I turned around in the drive across the street, drove back up the hill, ran into the house, got the story, got back into the car–throwing the story pages onto the passenger seat as I got in–and headed for the copy store.
I am a creature of habit. By the time I got from home to Main Street, (we’re talking three blocks, here) I was locked into go-to-the grocery mode and forgot to stop at the copy store….
I stared at the empty spot where I’d stored the souvenir ashtray from Colorado. How could they do this to me? Why? Boy! Am I angry!
This was adding insult to injury! Not only had I lost my husband, but his children and grandchildren swiftly descended upon me like a swarm of locusts– and someone from his family had taken the ashtray my step-mother had given me many years ago!
Late in the 1970s, I visited my father and his new bride, Ann, in Terre Haute, Indiana, where I saw and admired the unique ashtray. It was a circle with sides of silver lace, the bottom, a colorful mosaic. The tile had the Colorado state flag, state bird, and the date the state was admitted to the flag spelled out in a semi-circle. Not practical or usable but very pretty to admire.
Handing me the souvenir, Ann said, “Before he died, my first husband gave me this ashtray. We went to Colorado to fish on our honeymoon, and he bought it for me as a token of his love. Fond memories from the past….Could I give it to you?”
“Yes,” I replied. “I’d appreciate that. I have the perfect spot for it in my curio cabinet.” I thought of it as a special treasure from Ann’s hand to mine.
The ashtray stayed in my curio cabinet for twenty-five years, until recently. It wasn’t worth anything…at least I didn’t think so….
In the Fast Lane
“Can’t talk now. My sister-in-law just called, and she’s on her way over.” Let’s see….twenty minutes from the airport….Sure, I can change Ty, pick up the toys, do the dishes and shower before she gets here. Probably have time to make the beds and scrub the kitchen floor, as well.
I hesitate, groping mentally for the likeliest course of action, which whops me behind the knees and hangs on.
“Ty, come here you little hit-and-run!” I fish for my two-year-old, hoist him into a hug, and we’re off to chase down a diaper. At least he didn’t bite me this time.
The Monkey’s Uncle
The plane landed hard and I bounced in the nearly-comfortable seat. Its plentiful padding was bursting out of aging vinyl, as if the cushion actually had been used for a flotation device, then recycled.
“Doesn’t this damned thing have shock absorbers?” The propeller was winding down loudly, and I wasn’t sure if the pilot had heard, or if he’d just chosen to ignore me.
My co-passenger scratched her armpits. She stuck out a bright pink lip and picked her nose.
Nothing could be finer than to fly to Carolina…with a monkey.
My sister and her fiancé already have a table, by windows that overlook the park. They greet me warmly, and we all place our orders. I try to remember my sister as a little girl: the highlights in her fair hair, the refined features, a sweetness about the large blue eyes that take in everything.
The only thing that’s changed about her is her depth. When Meredith speaks, her words are considered, definitive, yet kind. She and Vaughn ask me to be the matron of honor in their wedding.
–The delight of clothing itself hits me first. The blend of fabrics, the subtle language that textures speak to my fingertips, a history of origin under the sun, all of it informed by the play of light and color as it is handled. Then, slowly, I become aware of the rare opportunity, an invitation to join in this momentous event in my sister’s life. It is nearly too much. As always, I find myself virtually inundated in the swirl of sensory stimuli, to the exclusion of actual experience. I struggle to hold on, hear myself acknowledge her request, then I am in her arms, weeping, all forgotten except my very strong love for this incredible sister.
Thinking Outside the Box
I was strolling through the mall when a whimsical tee shirt caught my attention. If my mother were still alive, I would buy the shirt, walk over to her house next door to my own, and watch the shocked look on her face as she read the message:
If It’s Not One Thing…It’s Your Mother!
She would sit in her swivel rocker and think back, sorting the years, one by one, trying to figure out her failings. “Why, Joanna, what have I done to deserve that? I raised you the best way I knew how!”
I would have worn the shirt as a joke, so I wouldn’t let her dwell on it, because, in reality, when I reminisce, I can’t think of one thing my mother did wrong. Period. I say that with all the sincerity in the world. She was a fabulous mom–ask all my childhood girlfriends–they confided their jealousy, wishing their mothers were such fun, so understanding.
By now you may think this is a tale about my perfect mother. And while I did consider writing it that way, I thought better of it. When a writer concocts her mother’s story, she risks losing readers if, after a paragraph or two, the narrative bogs down, gets downright boring, unless, of course, Mommy was hell on wheels. Mine was no Mommy Dearest. In fact, she was so ideal her story would put most people to sleep. There was one major thing she did, though, a decision she made when I was five, that altered my direction for over four decades.
Throw Momma From the Dive Boat
The diving advertisements enticed, the colors of the new scuba gear seduced, and my husband’s offer of vacations to sultry waters was one I couldn’t refuse. So, I signed up for scuba class. You may well ask why a much stressed and frazzled woman would take a dive class. Simply put, I did it for love. Love of diver-husband and love of exotic white-sand beaches. But, contrary to what the Beatles taught us, LOVE is not all you need.
First, you need good thorough training with a fully-qualified safety-minded scuba instructor. Second, purchase your basic equipment: mask, fins, snorkel, gloves. A small water-proof slate inscribed in indelible, not to mention waterproof, ink with the assuring words “DON’T PANIC!!” written in 3 block letters is also very helpful. The training came from a local dive shop. I had to make my own sign.