Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Big Ass Bull

Author's note:  I thought I might re-publish some of the older stories on this site since many of them were posted way before there were many visitors to Snippets and Tales.  This one is a classic!

She held tight to her cell phone in trembling hands as if it was the only thing that could save her life.  

“Who should I call?” She screamed at me as we stood motionless on the dirt path in the middle of a hundred acre orange grove.  

My eyes were fixed on the larger than life bull blocking our escape route.  His horns had to measure at least six feet across and his head was as large as my entire body.  His lady friend standing on his right was just as large – minus the horns.  “Who should you call?”  I yelled as the first hint of laughter began to enter my psyche.  The irony of the situation was truly funny:  Here we stood, two defenseless ladies on an afternoon walk, face to face with a 3,000 pound bull and an equally large cow – one of us holding a cell phone poised to call for help.
I began to laugh.  I just couldn’t help it.  Linda, my friend, failed to see the humor in our predicament and began to cry hysterically.  

“I’ll call Bill!”  She screamed as she began frantically dialing.  (Bill, my husband, was at our home located in the front of the orange grove).  

“What is Bill going to do?”  I asked choking back more laughter.  “Is he going to run to our rescue and chase away the big ass bull?”  

I knew the minute the words left my mouth that I had stepped over the line.  Looking at my friend Linda all I could see was sheer panic on her face.  All power of reason had abandoned her.  She was on auto pilot and her only hope of rescue rested in the little cell phone in the palm of her hand.  
It all started when Linda, my good buddy and loyal friend, came to visit me after I had had a particularly harrowing day.  She was dressed in high heels, slacks and a black sweater.  I wanted to tell her about my day but there were five children and a husband in the house so, I suggested a walk in the orange grove.  I was so consumed with my own problems and wanted so much to talk to Linda that I didn’t even take notice of her attire.  However, Linda being the true friend that she is, wordlessly trailed behind me like a dutiful loyal dog follows its master.
The first hurdle we came upon was the fence separating our back pasture from the orange grove.  I, in my shorts and sneakers, climbed the fence without even breaking a sweat.  Linda, on the other hand, labored in her high heels to scale the fence.  Unfortunately, she found herself perched precariously on the top because her sweater had snagged on the splintering wood.  I assisted her from atop the fence while she examined her sweater.  

“Why are you wearing a sweater in Florida?”  I asked as we made our way to the path.  

“I was on my way to a board meeting and it gets cold in that room!”  She replied in a tone that suggested she was getting a bit snippy with me.  (I was still so self-absorbed that I hadn’t acknowledged her high heel shoes or her slacks).
I often take refuge in the orange grove when things are bothering me and I need a quiet place to sit and contemplate the day’s events.  It’s where I go to think and pray.  I don’t usually take anyone with me except my dog, Toby.  So, when I asked Linda to walk with me, I was inviting her into my world of comfort.  I don’t think she saw it that way.  The orange grove was probably as far away from her level of comfort as a city street would be for me.  Yet, here she was walking by my side down a sandy dirt path as her high heels sank perilously with each step she took.   

Oblivious to her plight, I rambled on about my problems with tears steaming down my face.  Panting and sweating, she dutifully followed and patiently listened.  My rambling was suddenly interrupted as Linda spoke for the fist time since our entrance into the grove.  

“Betty, do you see what I see?”  It was the way she asked the question that got my immediate attention.  

There was a dread in her voice that sent chills up my spine.  “A rattle snake!”  I exclaimed.  

“No”, she yelled back, “It’s a huge bull!”  

“Oh, he won’t hurt you.”  

I said this with an air of casualness because I regularly came across bulls in the orange grove.  I always just walked by them with not as much as a glance in their direction.  Linda, on the other hand, stood frozen in place ~ she looked as though she were melting as her high heels sank further into the sand. 

 “Why are you wearing high heels out here?”  I finally observed.  

“What are you talking about!!!”  She screamed back at me.   “Don’t you see that bull!!”   

I glanced at the bull standing behind some trees.  He was at least 50 yards from us.  I also noticed that he was accompanied by a large cow.  I knew this meant that the rest of the hundred head of cattle were very close by ~ like probably right behind us.  

“Okay”, I said in my most assertive voice, “We’re just going to keep on walking forward and ignore the bull.” (She hadn’t seen the cow that was partially hidden by some brush and an orange tree).  

“Are you sure?”  Her pleading eyes looked into my face for reassurance.  

“Of course I’m sure.  Besides if he charges, we’ll just climb a tree!”  

The picture of Linda climbing a tree in her slacks and high heels brought an immediate smile to my face.  I think it was the first time I had smiled all day.  As she clung to my arm, it occurred to me how lucky I was to have such a good friend who’d brave a huge bull just for me.   We proceeded with caution down the path.   
We arrived at my thinking spot by the creek and we talked and we laughed and we cried.  I apologized for dragging her into the orange grove.  

All she said was, “Isn’t that what friends are for?”  

It wasn’t long before we had to make the trek home.  Poor Linda still had a board meeting to attend in her snagged sweater, dirty high heels and sweaty slacks.  
It was on the way back that the real trouble started.  I assumed that the bull would have migrated away from the path by the time we headed toward home.  However, he and his girlfriend had actually come much closer and now stood dead in front of us.  A stare-down ensued as the bull and I made eye contact.  This is when Linda hysterically reached for her cell phone.  
I knew I had to act quickly to get Linda under control.  I also knew I had to act quickly to control the laughter that was welling up inside me as I watched her fumbling with the cell phone.  I really didn’t want to laugh but fleeting images of my husband, Bill, running to our rescue kept rushing through my mind.  

I tried desperately not to laugh.  It didn’t work.  I laughed.  She became hysterical and the situation deteriorated until it was totally out of control.  I thought briefly of slapping Linda, but instead, I grabbed her hand and calmly directed her to back up and move off the path.  

What a sight we must have been: Linda, in her “going to a board meeting attire” hiding behind me, her cell phone in a death grip, as we slowly backed off the path into the weeds.  

The bull quickly lost interest in us and turned his head.  This was our cue to run.  We dashed through to orange trees and prickly weeds – never once glancing back.  Soon, we were at the back yard fence.  Linda wearily scaled the rails without even caring about her sweater (now covered in briers).  I hopped the fence and we wordlessly made our way to Linda’s car.  
I was afraid to talk as I aimlessly plucked prickers from her sweater.  She looked like something the cat had drug around the yard for days.  Her hair was matted to her head, her sweater was marred with snags, twigs and dirt and her slacks were drenched in sweat.  Finally I got up the courage to apologize.  

She hugged me and said, “You owe me big time for this girlfriend!”  
So, now Linda and I have a great story to tell.  Rest assured, every time we tell it, the bull’s horns grow a tad bigger and the cow puts on a few hundred pounds.    

But, there’s another story behind the story.  It’s the story of trust, love and true friendship.  As the tale of the bull is forever woven into the fabric of our lives so is the tale of two friends who find comfort in the fact that we’ll always be within arms reach of each other – even if we’re miles apart.  Sometimes friends have to hold each other up.  Sometimes we have to laugh together. Sometimes we have to walk in silence together.   And sometimes we even have to brave big ass bulls together!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Tidal Wave

Author’s note: this is a fictional story based on my real experiences.  I wrote it for Good Housekeeping but it was not accepted.  I thought it was a story worth sharing so I am posting it on Snippets.  
Gwen sat at her computer amidst the familiar clutter of her desk.  The overflowing piles of papers; half eaten sandwich; and the half full cup of orange juice, with green mold scumming the surface, escaped her notice.  Her pink, threadbare robe hung from her slumped shoulders as if on a wire hanger collapsing from the cumbersome weight.  Her unwashed, bed-head hair obscured her furrowed brow as she struggled to anchor the thoughts running rampant through her brain.  This was her world; her mess; her well-worn keyboard that fit her fingers as comfortably as her soft leather gloves.  Yet, she couldn’t type anything today.  Her mind was as blank as the white paper waiting anxiously for the text to spill from the ink cartridge. She just couldn’t shake the melancholy that filled this morning with a sorrow she has struggled to keep buried.  
She kept thinking: I should be over it; it’s been eight months. 
Other people expect you be “over it” right away.  They say things like, “Gwen, how are you doing?  It’s been two months or six weeks (just fill in the blank).  Are you and Joe going to try again?”  
For the most part, she has moved on.  She carries on mundane conversations, and completes humdrum jobs and chores with perfunctory ease.   On the surface, her life appears to be back to normal.  
Most days she is able to hide the veiled sadness percolating just below the surface, but this morning was different.  Last night, she dreamt the recurring dream where she is walking on the beach searching desperately for a shell she can’t find. In her dream, she has to find the shell before a looming tidal wave crashes to shore.  Frantically searching, she can see the ominous tidal wave in the distance threatening to swallow her and wash her out to sea.   She always wakes up, having never found the shell, just as the tidal wave comes roaring to shore.  Whenever she has this dream, which has been quite frequent lately, she wakes up feeling empty; as if the lost shell represents a significant part of her that is somehow missing.  The dream always throws her into a paralyzing gloom. 
This morning, try as she might, she could not put together a coherent sentence, let alone an entire story.  
Who really cares if I write another story anyway? Gwen was thinking when the shrill ring of the phone startled her out of her comatose state. 
“Hey are you writing?” she heard her friend, Carol’s, voice crackling through the line.  
“Yeah.” She lied.  
“Good, I’m glad you are getting back into something you love,” Carol continued.  “I can’t wait to read you next story.  It’s good for you to write.  I’ll let you get back to it.”  
“Right,” Gwen lied again, “I’m almost done with the story.”  
Gwen hung up the phone and returned to her blank computer screen with the same lackluster, mind-numbing intensity with which she began her day.  
Earlier today, I was anxiously . . . She began typing.  Then, abruptly, she hung her head and wept.  She couldn’t repress the sorrow any longer.  Her pitiful sobs echoed through the empty house.
“I want my baby!” she wailed into the emptiness as if and angel would miraculously appear and hand her her swaddled infant.  
Gwen wrapped her arms around herself rocking back and forth as she tried to hug away her grief.  When her sobbing finally ebbed, she felt as if she had just cleansed her soul of a deep festering wound.  Wiping the mixture of snot and tears from her face, she succumbed to the little voice that had begun as a tickle in the back of her brain.  Now, it was screaming at her to write like she used to write; in the old days when her writing poured from her soul; inspired by her spirit.
She began typing blindly, recklessly, impetuously:  
Writing. Writing. That is what I do. I am a writer. I am, I am, am I? Am I?  I am a writer, or am I a writer?  Is writing who I am, or is who I am a writer? Does writing define me, or do I define it? What a paradox. I don’t know if my writing finds me, or if I find my writing.  Where do I find my writing? Is it in me? Is it outside of me? Where does it come from: A babbling brook, or a bbbabbbling brain, or bbbabbbling blood flowing from within the veins of my being; within the pores of my skin?  Does it pour into me, or does it pour out of me like tears of sadness, joy, and frustration? 
Where does it come from; my fingers that keep typing away at nothing, or typing away at everything? Fingers eating away at the thoughts running, skipping, racing through my brain like a freight train with no destiny; no itinerary; no journey too far or too near or too crazy. Is my writing taking me on the crazy thought train; racing unhindered through my limitless, fertile mind?
The train could derail at any time. It does derail, and skips rails, and tumbles into the train wreck; into the train yard of rusty old memories. Where is my writing going?  What is its destiny? Is it destined to die in the heap of wrecked trains? Or, is it destined to ride the rails of greatness? Does it really matter where the writing takes me? Does it matter where my writing takes you? Do you want to ride the rambling freight of runaway thoughts? Do I want to ride the train?  
I have no choice because my fingers insist on typing; click, click, clicking away at the keys: Frantic fingers; dancing fingers; fingers that have no boundaries. They’re my fingers that won’t tire; typing purposefully; nonsensically - and still they type.  Still they type beyond the cramping beyond the call to stop this silliness. 
“I can’t write!” I shout to the fingers. 
“Yes, yes you can!” they say. “You are a writer because you belong to us and we belong to you and we will not stop typing. Typing is what we do. It is what we love. It is what we live for. We live to type meaningless words, worthy words, funny words, and sad words - any words. That is what we fingers do and that is what we love.”  
“So, fingers, the typers of great and wonderful words, the typers of powerful and silly words, like Horace Hobbersnipple and dancing squirrels; what say you?”
“We are the writers” they punch back. “We’re just getting warmed up.  We are happy fingers.  Happy to be pecking.”  
Peck. Peck. Peck.  
“STOP!”  I scream. “I have to write about something that makes sense!” 
“I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream.” They mock me.  
“What do you want to say? Say it! Say it! Say it!!!!”  
“You had a real baby!” They peck, “A baby growing inside of you.  Honor your baby!”
Then, as her wild, typing tirade slowed, Gwen knew in her heart what her soul was pleading for her to write. She had to write about the gaping sink hole; the bottomless pit of sorrow and longing for something lost, but not forgotten.  She never had closure; no funeral to mourn her loss; no friends and family surrounding her in her time of sorrow – “it” was not a “real baby” after all.  “It” wasn’t born; “it” was just lost. 
Gwen hated when people referred to her child as “it.”  Her baby was not an “it.” Her baby was a child in her womb; growing and waiting to enter the world.  Her baby had a heartbeat and a soul and a future.  Her baby was a unique human being; a one of a kind person that God created and she couldn’t wait to bring this glorious child into the world. Then, inexplicably, her baby was “lost.”
“I didn’t ‘lose the baby,’” she wanted to scream.  “The baby is still with me,” she wanted to shout to the unheeding world.  
Yet, she didn’t shout, she didn’t scream; she quietly mourned alone.  
She still longed to release her baby; to openly mourn her sudden loss.  She knew that she had to give birth to her baby’s story if she was going to fill the void.  She had to allow her baby’s soul to be set free.  
Writing has always been her catharsis; her release.  
So, after eight months of heartache, Gwen finally allowed her fingers to play the rhythm of the story, her story; her baby’s story: The story that yearned to be born; the story that poured from the salty ocean of her tears; the story of the tidal wave:
Life is like the ocean’s waves. Most times, the waves are predictable like clockwork; ebbing and flowing in a steady rhythm. Then, there are the times of restless choppiness; when the rhythm is interrupted and the waves crash to shore in angry bursts.
Finally, there is the tidal wave which sweeps in and changes the entire landscape in one fell swoop.  
The longer we live, the more we come to realize that the steady rhythm of our lives can become choppy in an instant. Then, there are the times when the tidal wave comes out of nowhere and changes the entire way you look at the terrain of your life.  As the waves etch their presence into the sandy shore, so do the waves of our lives etch our faces.  
Our wrinkles are life’s roadmap. Each one has a story and a memory attached to it.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could just touch a “smile” wrinkle and relive the moment that etched it into our face? Sometimes, we do touch a wrinkle - in a roundabout way. That is what happened to me recently. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a smile wrinkle; it was a tidal wave wrinkle.  
I was going through my medical records when I reached into the folder and pulled out a pile of papers.  I was placing the papers on my desk when a small ultrasound image fell to the floor.  I stooped to pick it up and stopped dead in my tracks.  I felt as though the image had suddenly thrown me into a cruel time warp; sending me back to a heartbreaking time and place that I didn’t want to revisit. I bent in slow motion willing myself to pick it up. Lovingly, I retrieved the small image and hugged it close to my heart. I slid to the floor and started rocking it as if I were holding a real baby in my arms. 

But, it was a real baby, I heard my mind screaming as the tears streamed down my face and flowed over the crevices that were formed eight months ago; April 20, 2007.  
On that day, the landscape of my face changed forever.
It was a beautiful, sunny weekend. My husband, Joe and I planned to have a picnic with our daughter, Ava.  We had some projects planned as well, so I decided to get a head start on one of them - refinishing a coffee table. I began sanding the table when, without warning, I felt a sharp pain in my abdomen. I was five months pregnant, so the pain concerned me more than usual. Shortly after feeling the pain, I started spotting. I called the doctor who did not seem to be too alarmed. He tried to reassure me as he told me to rest over the weekend.  He said I could wait until Monday to make an appointment.  I wasn’t reassured.  I was terrified.
Needless to say, it was the longest weekend of my life! We did not go on our picnic. I stayed off my feet trying to read or watch TV, but nothing was penetrating my paralyzed brain. Joe, Ava and I spent many hours praying that our baby was going to be okay. As the weekend dragged out, I kept second guessing my decision to start refinishing the coffee table: Did I do something wrong that hurt the baby? Did I move the wrong way? Did I breathe some toxic dust?
By the time Monday rolled around, I was a basket case. Joe asked if I wanted him to go to the appointment with me. I told him to go to work even though my heart was screaming, “I need you to go with me!”  On some level I resented the fact that he even had to ask, so I dug in my stubborn heels and pretended that I could handle this alone.
I drove to the doctor’s office in a fog. I kept telling myself that everything was fine. I had just had an ultrasound a month earlier and I was able to see the baby’s heart beating.  It was so amazing! I was so excited to show Ava and her father that I had the technician print out the ultrasound: The very same ultrasound that I kept as the one reminder of my precious child.  
When I arrived at my doctor’s office, his ultrasound machine wasn’t working, so he sent me down the street for the ultrasound. He wouldn’t reveal any concerns until he had the results. So, off I went to the radiology department just two blocks away, but it felt like I was driving for an eternity. 
“Please, God!”  I wailed as my fists pounded the steering wheel, “Let this baby be okay! I can’t lose another one! We already have names picked out! Do you hear me God! Michael! Gabrielle! My child had a name, God!  A name!  This baby was going to make it!”  
I cried and cried between rants because I knew in my heart; down deep in my soul that something was terribly wrong. If I was right, this would be our fourth miscarriage - but the first of a baby so far along.
When I arrived, the technician quickly discerned my state of mind and was as pleasant as she could be under the circumstances. She held my hand as she placed the probe on my abdomen and rubbed it all around. I could see the shape of the baby outlined on the screen. I watched as she measured the baby’s length. I noticed she was avoiding looking at me, and knew why. Finally, I broke the silence with the truth that hung like thick rancid air in the room; “My baby’s heart isn’t beating.”  
The technician looked at me with tears of her own streaming down her face. She didn’t need to say anything. As she rubbed the gel from my abdomen, I thanked her and got up from the exam table. Then, I walked, zombie-like, out of the office and into my car.  
By the time I reached the doctor’s office, he had the report. He ushered me into his private office and unceremoniously delivered the news.  
“Your baby is dead.” He said as if he were delivering the weather report. 
I didn’t think his callousness could get any worse until he said, “We’ll have to perform a D&C in case you don’t spontaneously abort the entire fetus. In any case we most likely will have to remove the skull cap.”  
His insensitive words cut through me like a dull saw blade; each saw tooth leaving a gaping wound in my soul. I stared blankly at him until he broke the silence.  
“Are you okay to drive home? Do you want me to call your husband?”  
I didn’t answer him. Instead, I quickly escaped his stifling office, slamming the door in my wake.  
I don’t know how long I sat bawling in my car, or how long I drove aimlessly pondering all the questions bouncing in my head like dodge balls. The question balls pummeled me over and over again:
“Why did you go swimming! Why didn’t you take better care of yourself!” they pounded. “Why did you sand that table!”  
As I drove on autopilot, I questioned every moment of this pregnancy; just as I had three times before. I don’t know where I went, how long I drove, or even how I found my way back home.  All I remember is that the sun had set by the time I willed my numb body to park the car outside of our apartment. 
I walked down the cobblestone path leading to my front door, but I didn’t want to open the door because I didn’t want to face my husband.  In my present state of mind, I ranked him right behind the heartless doctor.  
How could my husband not even take the day off to be with me!  My mind was rattling even though I had told him to go to work.  
I guess I thought I could handle this one just like I had “handled” the others; although, I didn’t “handle” any of them.  I beat myself up after each miscarriage. It’s no wonder I’m not black and blue inside and out.  
When I finally got up the courage to open the door, Joe was anxiously waiting for me.  In my haste to get to the doctor’s office, I had forgotten my cell phone.  Joe had no idea where I was.  I could see the worry and concern on his face as his eyes met mine and I knew that he knew.  The anger I felt toward him dissipated as he took me in his arms and held me.  I buried my face on his shoulder and I drenched his shirt with fresh tears as his embrace offered reassuring comfort.  Joe wasn’t one to express his emotions, but I knew that on some level he was feeling this loss too.  
Later, I had to tell Ava that the baby wasn’t going to be born. I explained that the doctor was going to take the baby out early so that he or she could go to heaven.  Ava listened intently to what I was telling her then; she lifted my blouse, revealing my still swollen belly. I stared at it as it cruelly mocked me.  
No baby!  Dead baby!  Lost baby!  Gone baby, gone!
My taunting mind was interrupted by Ava’s little voice, “Mommy, can I kiss the baby goodbye?”
If I had to point to a moment that defined this profound loss; it was when my three year old curled up next to me on my bed and quietly bent and kissed my belly.   Then, she waved “bye bye” to our baby.  
“Mommy,” she smiled, “I saw him fly to heaven.”  
I believe with all my heart that she did see our baby “fly to heaven”.  I know that God gave me that moment to help ease the pain.  Even now, eight months later, every nuance of the still frame moment is etched in my memory; the rumpled bedspread, the flowered curtains fluttering in the breeze, the patch of sun spilling over the bed; it still evokes tears of sadness and loss.  Yet, it also gives me great hope that one day I will hold that blessed little soul. 
Now, the tidal wave has passed leaving the sorrow crevices forever carved in my face. Yet, without those crevices, my face would lose its authenticity. I wouldn’t wish what I went through on anyone, but I also know that such experiences make us stronger and define us. I would be lying if I said I no longer yearn to hold all my babies in my arms, but these miscarriages have taught me how precious and valuable each and every life is.  
Just a few days ago, I overheard a young lady say that if she got pregnant no one would know because that baby would be gone in the blink of an eye. She has no idea what it is like to have a baby “gone in the blink of an eye”.  I hope and pray that she never does.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Don't Forget to Pack Your Whisk

The car was packed, and Bill and I were ready to go on our four-day jaunt to Daytona Beach.  We were kidless and looked forward to spending time with our friends that we haven’t seen in ages.  I got into the passenger’s seat and settled in for the long 4 1/2 hour drive.  As we made our way across the state, Bill and I talked about all the things we wanted to do when we arrived at the beach - ride the waves was first on the list.  The night before it was freezing outside, so I don’t know why we thought for a second that we'd be getting into the water on the Atlantic coast.  The Atlantic water would be much colder that our Gulf Coast.  But that didn’t stop us from dreaming of being caught up in the huge waves and allowing our bodies to ride expertly on one crashing wave after another.  Truth be told, I usually ended up in a mangled heap gasping for air and being pounded by all the succeeding waves.

We talked about Bill’s upcoming tennis match (which was the reason for our trip) and how his team was going to do against the best fifty and over teams in the state.  Funny, it doesn’t seem like all that long ago that we made this trip competing in the under fifty category together.  Now, my knee doesn’t allow me to play tennis, and Bill has graduated from playing singles to playing doubles on the senior team.  I guess this is what “aging gracefully” is all about - you just accept the next crossroad in your life rather than fight it kicking and screaming.  I have accepted my role as a spectator and head cheerleader, and he has accepted his role as half of the number one doubles team.  He still is an amazing tennis player with the agility and speed of a forty-year-old.

When we arrived at the hotel, we met our friends, Maryanne, and Gene, at the front desk for check-in.  I was beyond impressed with the hotel Maryanne was able to get for us.  It was easily four, maybe five-star accommodations right on the beach - eons away from the last hotel Bill and I stayed at when his team was playing in the state finals.  That hotel was on MLK Blvd. and there was a shootout behind our room.

We were staying at the Hilton and Maryanne even got us upgraded to cabana rooms with porches on the beach level.  Returning to retrieve our luggage from our car, the valets were waiting.  Our little Scion looked forlorn amidst the Lexus’ and Porches.

The Scion stood out just a tad.  The two prominent dents were made even more noticeable by the coat of farm dirt that perpetually hung on our car.  I was a little embarrassed by its shabby outer appearance.  I just hoped that no one would notice the inside of the car.  Just as I was thinking, I’m going to find a car wash tomorrow, the valet opened the passenger door to hang a tag on the mirror.  I almost screamed, “No,” but it was too late.  The door opened and out rolled the wire whisk for all to see.

Mary Anne was the first to notice the whisk tumbling out of the car.  “Damn,” she said mockingly, “I knew I forgot something.  Gene, why didn’t you remind me to pack the whisk?”

I was mortified as the whisk lay in the road broadcasting our social stratum like a neon sign:  HAVE TO PACK A WHISK....MUST NEED TO COOK...CAN’T AFFORD TO EAT OUT. 

“Go over and pick it up!” I ordered Bill, “Before everyone sees it!”

“I’m not picking it up.”  He laughed.  “You pick it up.”

We were talking about the whisk as if it were roadkill that no one dare approach.

Just then, the valet picked it up and proceeded to walk toward me.  I hid behind Bill.  He held the whisk out to Bill.  “Do you need this or should I put it back in the car?”  He asked straight faced.

“Honey,” Bill says to me as he moves away so that I am standing face to face with the whisk yielding valet, “Will you need the whisk tonight?”

“No,”  I answer sarcastically, “Maryanne is cooking tonight. You can put the whisk back in the car.”

Later, when we were all gathered on our veranda overlooking the water, Maryanne just had to bring up the whole whisk incident.  “So, I’m just curious.  Why do you have a whisk in your car?”

“Well,” I retorted, “It comes in very handy for beating things.”

“Do you regularly beat things in the car?”  She persisted in pushing the issue.

“Look, Maryanne!” I screamed, “I don’t know why the hell there is a whisk in the car! It’s been there since Christmas, and I don’t know how it got there.  Why do you care so much about the stupid whisk!”

Suddenly, I started laughing at the absurdity of it all.  Then, we all started laughing.  As my grandmother used to say, "I laughed so hard that the tears started running down my legs."

Here we were in this hoity-toity hotel with our dirty cars, ratty suitcases and “casual” attire.  Who were we kidding?  We were Scion folks trying to act as though we fit into an Audi world. I decided right then and there that my wire whisk was going to be the highlight of our trip.  So, every time the valet brought the car around, I made a big to do as I handed him the wire whisk and asked him to please take care of it while we were out. It became a running joke amongst the valets, and they looked forward to our outings.

From that day on, I always travel with my trusty wire whisk that appeared in my car out of nowhere (to this day I still have no idea how it got there).  I keep it with me just to remind me that who I am is not defined by what kind of car I drive but, by the way, I handle the whisks in my life.

Friday, February 17, 2012

A Series of Unfortunate Events

The van was a bargain at $800.  It ran great, had a great body and It was just what we needed for our family.  It was good for the farm as well because the seats popped out allowing us to fit six bales of hay in the back.  It was even great for taking sick goats to the vet.  Perfect.  We bought it.  
Shortly after we purchased the van, Bill took it to buy hay.  When he came home, he unloaded the hay in the barn and cleaned out all the soccer clothes that had been left in the van by the girls.  He put the clothes in a plastic bag, brought them in the house and deposited them in the dirty laundry basket. The next day, I left early for work and took the car because the van was out by the barn.  When I left, Bill, Lulu and Katie were still home.  I’m not sure what transpired next except to say that Katie decided to take the van to school that day.  This is where it gets interesting.
Let me preface this story by saying that my husband can be a bit forgetful from time to time.  He will tell you that this is not true, but this story will illustrate that it is indeed true.  I, too, am forgetful.  I can’t tell you how many times I find my coffee in the strangest places or lose my glasses five times a day.  That said, this is a story about a series of unfortunate events based on the fact that Bill and I sometime forget things.
So, Katie was ready to leave for school when she discovered the van keys were not hanging on the key hooks by the door.  She asked her dad where the keys were to the  van.  He said they must be in the van.  Katie went out to the van and could not find the keys anywhere.  Now, I know we should have had a spare key but it was one of those things on my “to do” list that I kept forgetting to get done.  So, Katie and her dad went on a exhaustive search of the barn and the house for the van keys - all to no avail.  
The van had one of those ignitions with tabs on either side of the keyhole. For some strange reason, Katie made a desperate attempt to start the van without the keys by holding the tabs and turning the ignition.  I mean, how did she even think the van would start?  But, sure enough, the ignition switch turned. Low and behold, the van started!  Katie told her dad that she was able to start the van without the key.  Bill went out to the van and turned it off and back on again - amazing.  
I don’t know how the conversation went after the van miraculously started, but it was determined that Katie could take the van to school without the key.  
I have to stop here and add my observations.  Why the heck did the van start without the key in the first place?   And, even though it started twice without the key, who’s to say that it would continue to start without the key?  What if this was just a fluke and half way to school, the van stopped?  What if she got to school and the van wouldn’t turn off?  What if she got to school, parked the van and then could not start it when it was time to come home?...I mean I’m just saying....
Okay, now I got that out of my system.  So, Katie takes the van and makes it to school without incident.  Meanwhile, I’m still oblivious about any of this because I am at work.  Fast forward to around 5:30 PM.  I have arrived home from work and am making dinner when I get a phone call from Katie.  
“Mom,” she says in a panic stricken voice, “The van is stuck in a ditch on the side of the road.”  
“What!” I scream into the phone, “Are you okay?”  
“I’m fine, but there’s something wrong with the van.”  
“What’s wrong with the van?”  I ask innocently.
“It’s stuck in a ditch.”  
“Okay, I got that part.  But why is it stuck in a ditch?”
“Because I tried to turn the corner to go to the gas station and the steering wheel locked and I couldn’t steer it.”
“The steering wheel locked up?”  
“Yeah and the guy at the gas station was going to try to get it out of the ditch but he couldn’t start the van.”
“Why couldn’t he start the van?”
“I don’t have the key.”
“Why don’t you have the key?”
“I never had the key.”
“What are you talking about!”
“I took the van without the key and the guy wants to know why I don’t have the key.  The van is smoking too.”
“Yeah, it’s smoking.”
At this point, I felt as though my head was going to explode.  I tried to make sense out of what Katie was saying, but I was unable to comprehend how in the world she had managed to drive our smoking van into a ditch without the keys.  Bill came into the kitchen and asked me why I was yelling into the phone.  
“Your daughter is saying something about being stuck on the side of the road in a ditch without the van keys.”  I answered exasperated.  
“Where is she?” was all he said.
“What do you mean where is she?” I yelled at him, “Aren’t you the least bit curious how she got there without the keys?”  
“I told her to take the van without the key.”  
“What are you talking about!”  I screamed again.  
“Calm down.” He soothed, “Let me talk to Katie.”
He took the phone and spoke to his now crying child.  
I listened to his end of the conversation still trying figure out how Katie got where she was without the keys.  
“Smoking from where?”  
“Calm down, I can’t understand you when you are hysterical.”  
“Tell the police that we will be there with the title.”
“Did he put the fire out?” 
“No, don’t try to start it again.”
“We’ll be there in a little while.” 
“Mom will call AAA.”
“Okay, I’m supposed to call AAA (I didn’t tell Bill that I forgot to pay the AAA bill and we didn’t really have AAA anymore, but I didn’t think this was a good time to bring it up.)
and tell them that the van is stuck on the side of the road smoking but we have no key for it?”  I said as we gathered up Lulu, the title to the van (to prove that we owned it and Katie didn’t steal it) and made our way out to the car.  
“Don’t give me an attitude.” Bill retorted.
“ATTITUDE!” I shouted, “I’ll give you all the damn attitude I want!”  I was on a roll now.  “Why the heck was my daughter driving a van without the keys in the first place!  And why is the van smoking!  And why did the steering wheel lock up!  Could it be because there was no key in the ignition and the steering wheel locked when she tried to turn the corner!”
The rest of the trip was made in silence.  When we arrived at the infamous corner, the van was no longer smoking and our daughter was talking to a police officer.
“...don’t have the key.” I heard her saying as we approached.  
“Hello, officer.”  I said in my most pleasant voice, “This is our van and our daughter.”  I handed him the title to the van.  He looked it over and handed it back to me.  He checked my ID and Katie’s ID to make sure that she was indeed our daughter.  
“Okay,” He said as he made his way back to the patrol car, “This is one for the record books.”
It took us a few hours to get the van home. The towing company was cash only.  We had to stop at a store with an ATM and withdraw the cash to pay the guy.  When we got to the store, we were told that the ATM was broken.  I had to buy five candy bars in five separate transactions (each time getting cash back) in order to withdraw enough cash.  Needless to say, by the time we arrived home, we were all exhausted and no one was really talking.  
The next morning, we discovered that the “smoking” was from the overheating engine.  Why, you might ask, was the engine overheating?  Well, it was because Bill wanted to make sure the van was okay for Katie to drive so he put water in the radiator.  The only problem was; he forgot to put the cap back on.  The van was officially declared dead by our neighbor mechanic who said the engine block cracked.  
A few weeks later, I was doing laundry.  I got to the bottom of the laundry basket where I found a bag full of soccer clothes.  I emptied out the bag and, low and behold, there at the bottom of the bag were the keys to the van!