Unexpected Visitor


This story is both humorous and true. Life is full of opportunities to laugh and love. Thanks to my hubby for providing both.

Unexpected Visitor

 

The cushion of the dining room chair has a permanent imprint of my derriere on it from many hours pecking away at my laptop. The large bay window in my living room, clearly visible from where I sit, offers enough room for imaginary acquaintances (also known to some writers as characters) to visit me as I sip a steamy cup of java and contemplate my next chapter. Unlike the coffee table that collects newspapers, magazines and soon-to-be discarded mail, the nook must be clear of distractions for my visionary friends.

There’s one item that owns the right hand corner of the nook, but normally I’m able to ignore its presence. My husband negotiated a place for his weather alert radio, the one that only chooses to blast its warnings while I’m writing an intense scene or when I’m sound asleep in the middle of the night. It purpose is important, but its timing leaves much to be desired.

One gloomy afternoon, tired of winter’s thievery, I gazed through the nearly translucent sheers to the barren yard across the street and imagined the towering maple tree budding out with hints of spring. Bright yellow tulips appeared and the succulent smell of honeysuckle filled my senses. I was nearly in the zone when a foreign object interrupted my view.

I furrowed my brow as I focused in on the intrusive disruption, my mind struggling to accept the unexpected sight. I closed my eyes and opened them again. It was still there. Perhaps it was my husband’s idea of a sick joke, I thought. Regardless, it had to go. I pushed back my chair, taking caution to not make a sound, my eyes locked on the stationary object as I stood in place. The reddish-brown, furry creature looked me straight in the eye and then dashed under the nearby couch.

A squirrel! How could a squirrel be sitting in the alcove of my living room window? I did what came naturally. I yelled for my husband. “Honey! There’s a squirrel!”

“What?” his faded response came from the bedroom.

“A squirrel!” I squealed as I retreated from my visitor.

“Where?” he asked as he dragged himself away from the television.

“In the living room.” My voice elevated to a scream as my knight-in-shining-armor made his way to my side.

“What’s he doing in here?” he asked as he searched the room and saw nothing.

I shot him a glare in response to his silly question. “How would I know?” I pointed to the corner of the room where the anxious animal sought refuge. “He’s under the couch.”

“I’ll be darned. We’ll have to let him out through the French doors,” he said as he moved toward the dining room.

“Great thought, but remember?” I tried to keep from doing an eye roll as I pointed to the doors that lead to our deck. Last month when air was coming in around the door frame, I’d asked him to fix it. His answer to nearly every household problem involved a large roll of duct tape.

He avoided making eye contact with me. Instead, he searched the room and found a plastic gate we use to keep our black, sixty pound grand-dog, Hammie, from exploring the lower level of the house when visiting. The energetic dog is deathly afraid of it and won’t get near it.

“What are you going to do with that?” I questioned.

“You’re going to keep the squirrel from going into the other rooms,” he said as he handed the expandable object to me.

I stifled a laugh as I looked at the wide gaps between the diagonals. “I don’t think this is going to do it.” As silly as the idea was, I held onto it as if somehow it would frighten the squirrel like it does the cautious dog.

Meanwhile, the intruder dashed back to the window seat, trying desperately to escape the maddening conversation, I’m sure. I listened as my husband pulled the tape from the door frame, and I tried to decide what to do if the animal scurried my way, knowing I’d drop the gate and run the other way screaming like a little girl. The noise from the tape being ripped away sent the squirrel dashing back and forth from the window seat to underneath the couch.

A blast of cold winter air greeted me as the patio door opened. My husband returned to the living room and tried to lure the errant critter out from his hiding place. I offered him a broom from the kitchen, still gripping the useless gate. He poked the handle under the sofa sending the critter into the middle of the room. Fortunately, it saw the opportunity to flee and made a direct path out the door onto the deck.

“Should’ve got a picture,” my husband suggested as he watched the animal leap off the deck and out of sight.

“Can you imagine if Hammie had been here?” The vision of the dog charging around the room brought roars of laughter as we went room to room looking for the port of entry. There were no holes in the ceiling or walls. The glass fireplace doors were closed. Nothing appeared disturbed. We surmised that it must have slipped in through a door left ajar briefly earlier in the day when my husband filled the bird feeder.

I shook my head in frustration as hubby resealed the door with more gray tape, resolving he’d be responsible for removing the gummy residue come spring, which couldn’t come soon enough for me.

As I sat back down at my computer, I worried the vision of the squirrel would distract me from reconnecting with my characters. I tried to recreate a mental picture of yellow tulips and green leaves budding from the tree, instead a furry fictional friend introduced himself. “The name’s Zippy. Better get typing.”

 

Anxious that the squirrel might find his way back into the house, my husband decided removal of its nest in the tree would reduce the chance of another visit. Perhaps it would encourage the animal to relocate to a neighbor’s yard, he thought. Using a long pole, he poked the sturdy structure. The squirrel lunged from a nearby branch and charged down the pole to within inches of my husband’s face. He tossed the pole to the ground, barely escaping the attack.

 “Maybe it’s protecting babies,” he surmised. A few weeks later, when there was no sign of activity, he tried again. This time he succeeded, but not without paying a price. As spring made its appearance, the irate squirrel began its revenge. Empty nut shells were deposited all over the freshly stained deck. The roots of nearly every potted plant my husband sat outside were bitten off. When tomato seedlings, carefully nurtured for months in preparation of spring, were planted in the garden, it dug them up. Twine, stored in a box on the deck, was strung across the floor, down the steps and out into the yard. Every day the struggle continued between man and beast.

As spring turned to summer, the battle intensified, sending my husband over the edge. In anticipation of the next attack by the enemy, hubby placed two large, flat rocks on the corner posts of the deck, ready to chase the enemy away at the first sighting. The next morning, both rocks were gone, the heavy objects pushed off the posts into the garden, damaging some plants when they landed. A record number of curse words were used and included a threat to get a pellet gun.

Nothing prepared either of us for the final blow. My amateur horticulturist spouse grows Plumeria plants and had the joy of having a seed pod develop on one of the plants. The unique event entitles the owner to name any successful growth of a new plant from one of the seeds. The process is tedious and often unsuccessful. The crazed animal gnawed the roots off the three remaining six inch stems that had survived months of nurturing. It was official. The squirrel won.

As fall faded to winter and skies turned grey, I needed inspiration for my next story. With new cushions on my dining room chairs and a full pot of coffee brewed, I settled down in front of my laptop and gazed out the bay window hoping to reconnect with my imaginary friends. A disturbing object next to the weather alert radio caught my attention. My eyes locked in on it as I pushed back my chair. It did not move, nor did I scream, but the laughter it brought was loud enough to be heard throughout the house. My daughter, who was blessed with a sense of humor too, left us a gift while we were out. The life-size squirrel statue looks just like Zippy.

 

This was another honorable mention contest winner

Saturday Writers Elements in Writing Anthology #9

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Autumn’s Predicament


The writing prompt for this story was “Fear the Challenge.”

As the summer winds down and temperatures cool, perhaps you’ll relate my tempered love of fall. Enjoy and drop me a line if you have time.

Autumn’s Predicament

Ah, how I love fall.  It’s a nearly perfect season when hillsides are filled with splashes of vibrant crimson and gold.  A time when nature’s chilling breeze orchestrates a blissful dance of leaves drifting to the ground.  Apple orchards celebrate the season with mounds of pumpkins stacked on bales of hay.  Children dash in and out of corn mazes, squealing with delight.  Large barreled pots compete for attention with boastful yellow, rusty maroon and faded purple mums spilling to the ground.  The taste of sweet, mellow cider lingers on my lips.  I envision long, leisurely walks in thick woods and mesmerizing evenings spent snuggled near crackling bonfires.

It’s nearly perfect, this autumnal equinox.  Yet, anticipation of what follows disturbs my pleasures of October and November and causes my emotions to rise and fall like the swells of the sea.  The joy of the season is tempered by the impending void that is left when the page turns into winter.

In the silence of the night, roof tops are christened with a fine layer of glistening white.  It is a signal to dress in layers before taking my morning walk.  I round the corner of my three mile hike with my spouse and notice the chill has disappeared into delightful warmth that urges me to shed my windbreaker.  Enjoy the moment, I repeat to myself like a mantra needed to survive the inevitable.

We return home and I am drawn to the bay window for another glimpse of the masterful day.  Even after a lifetime in the area, the contrast of Missouri’s unpredictable weather still amazes me.  Yesterday’s gray clouds brought gale-force winds that stripped many trees of their treasures.  I pause to admire the inch of muted foliage that camouflage the fading green earth.  A beautiful carpet left by nature.  The sun glistens through the nearly bare branches and my heart wants to stay suspended in this place until spring arrives.

Then poof!  The spell is broken with the sound of our electric garage door opening.  With it comes a familiar knot in my stomach that begins to tighten in anticipation of the task ahead.  Mentally, I prepare to enter the war zone.

The childhood joy of diving into large piles of raked leaves evaporated many years ago.  In its place is a yearly battle between nature and man.  I hear the grinding pull of the cord and the mulching mower is cranked up.  The battle has begun.  I watch my husband take off with a vengeance.  No leaf is safe from his quest to reclaim the well-manicure yard he spent nearly two decades perfecting.

My partner of forty-plus years views the arrival of the unwanted visitors as an intrusion on his space.  His constant wrath toward the harmless innate objects begins with the first leaf that glides to the ground, daring to lay claim to his sacred ground.  Each year, his passion swells to obsession and it pushes me to dark places where angry words linger behind pursed lips.  We dangle at opposite ends of the spectrum as I struggle to understand the need to alter the natural occurrence of fall.

I force the worn leaf rake to serve as my accomplice in the vengeful attack on the helpless victims entangled in the chain-link fence.  My unwilling weapon rebels by tightening its spokes around the metal structure.  I choke back expletive phrases that threaten to escape my clenched jaw just as the hum of the motor stops.  It is my cue to come help hold the large body bag.  I pretend to ignore the signal, but guilt forces me to give up the battle with the fence and toss the rake to the ground in order to fulfill my obligation as a cohort in this crime.

With my place by the commander’s side, I steady the flimsy container as the dusty remains are deposited.  My body is positioned to avoid eye contact with the enemy for surely my fellow warrior will realize I am a traitor.  The internal struggle rises in my throat and urges me to speak my mind, but I have done so before to no avail, so I hold my tongue.  The warfare will end soon enough.

I return to the hillside to search for my weapon which has become one with the muted masses that soon will face a dismal fate.  I pry its fingers from the tight hold on the fence and continue my disheartened efforts.  My mind drifts to poetic words I think that I shall never see, a poem as lovely as a tree.  The sweat on my brow slowly dissolves the anger in my heart.

With the emerald land temporarily restored to its fiscal owner, the weapons are cleaned and stored away.  We retreat to the safety of our shelter, dusty and worn.  My gray-haired, weary warrior advances toward the bay window and nods as he admires the recapture of his territory.  I am moved by the moment and step closer to him.

“Good job babe.”

He grins, pleased with his victory, and bends down to plant a pleasurable reward on my lips.

“Thanks.”

His comforting embrace warms me and I try to savor the moment.  Tears dampen my cheeks as I watch autumn slip silently into winter.  How many more battles await us?  I fear the answer.

Four Legged Friends – From Fear to Fondness


I’ve often heard the phrase A dog is man’s best friend. I am sure that is true for most, but for me, the unexpected appearance of a canine can send me into an immediate panic attack. A neighbor’s ferocious boxer probably was at the core of my fear. Unlike me, my daughter never met a dog she didn’t love. If something happened to Lassie http://www.lassie.com/ during an afternoon show, she cried for nearly 24 hours until the next episode aired, when she could be reassured that she was alive and well.

I once tolerated a dog named Henry that my daughter toted everywhere as a child. Heck, I even wrote stories about his adventures. There was the time his arm was crudely torn off in a kidnapping attempt. Another time, he was rescued from drowning in a swimming pool. Henry traveled with us and was known to play hide and seek in the hotel lobby or restaurant on numerous occasions. Heck, I nearly faced abandonment charges when he decided to take a nap in a baby crib at a Top Value Stamp store. The charges were dropped after I drove another 80 mile roundtrip to retrieve him.

Henry and Henrietta
When Henry met Henrietta, my daughter’s interest seemed to wane. The pair took up residence on her their homemade sleeping bags and became sedentary. By then my daughter was old enough to know the difference between a stuffed animal and a live dog and she frequently begged for the latter. My husband and I agreed to a compromise when a neighbor entrusted to us a funny looking creature that almost looked like a dog, a Peruvian guinea pig http://www.guinea-pig-paradise.com/guinea-pig-breeds.html.

My daughter named him Opie and he was the first of many. His most fierce bite was a nibble and he didn’t require much maintenance. In fact, most of his time was spent in solitary confinement, inside a large cage.
patches_puddlesMuffy, Buffy, Harley, Puddles and Patches followed.

Two small water turtles also called our house home for a while until they were stolen from the swimming pool in the side yard. With my bawling daughter in hand, I visited our neighbor and suggested that I was pretty sure her son was the thief. A short time later, she returned the two miniature pets with an apology. My daughter turned to her dad and asked they could take them to the river and release them to their natural habitat. It was a pretty mature decision for a young child.

I always felt guilty that we did not afford our daughter the pleasures of a four-legged best friend, but nearly any unexpected sound that resembles a dog set off an alarm in my head that released enough adrenalin to cause a panic reaction. Even as a child my daughter seemed to understand and she recognized my problem was not imaginary. As she grew older, she found my condition humerous at times.

For instance, I was browsing through a general store with my, then, teenage daughter. In another isle, she found a wooden duck with a long handle on it and rubber flappers on the wheels that made a slapping noise when it was pushed. kinderkram-duck-wooden-push-toy[1] The sound effect was much like that of paws trotting and caused me to jump and squeal, like a fool. When I realized the toy would not harm me, I looked around the room where a dozen people were bent over with laughter.

Unless a dog was under lock and key, I did not enter a house. I would sit in a car rather than take a chance, no matter how many times I was assured He wouldn’t hurt a flea. Most of my friends and family accommodated my fear. However, I won’t forget the time I took my nieces and nephews back to their house after an overnight stay. I was greeted by their full grown German Shepherd as she stood on his hind legs and planted her huge paws on my shoulders. I can still see the look of confusion in his eyes when I screamed bloody murder.

I’m ashamed to admit that I even offered up my daughter to an aggressive Doberman Pincher when he charged out from a nearby garage and threatened to eat me alive. I grabbed my daughter by the shoulders and placed her between me and the beast, jumping up and down and yelling to the top of my lungs. She bravely confronted the aggressor while commanding me to shut up and stand still. The owner stood nearby laughing hysterically. What can I say? Desperate people do desperate things.

The opportunity to redeem myself came when a friend offered a black Labrador puppy to my husband. My husband contacted our daughter, who lived nearby, and asked if she was interested. She eagerly accepted the offer and a few weeks later, Hammie became part of the family. KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

I knew it was time for me to tackle my problem because I didn’t want my daughter to have to choose between me or the dog. I embraced the chance to bond with Hammie while he was small enough to be loveable. My husband and daughter were pleased to see the change and even caught me kissing his little head once.

Hammie has stayed overnight at our house often and I’ve even attempted to walk him on my own. Unfortunately, he flunked out of obedience school. The word stay means nothing to him and he now weighs 60 pounds. At the risk of landing face-first on the asphalt when he eyes a squirrel or rabbit and takes off, I usually hand over the leash to my husband and walk by his side. He’d much prefer my husband anyway.
hammyA

Being an only child (yes, I’m talking about the dog), Hammie is spoiled and enjoys being the center of attention. He loves to explore every nook and cranny of our home with one limitation. He is terrified of the plastic gate that is used to contain him to an area. It’s not a bad thing sometimes. He doesn’t try to push it down or escape. In fact, he will not pass over the gate even if it falls down. He demonstrated his limitation when I fell down the stairs and he rushed to my rescue. Forced with the decision to cross the fallen gate and come to my aid or retreat to edge of the stairs and whimper sadly on my behalf, he chose the latter.

Hammie’s role as king of the house has been challenged during the past six weeks with the arrival of Herkie, a 47 pound Basset Hound. herki_bed My daughter offered to care for her until she completes her required stay before flying to Hawaii to be reunited with her owners. Herkie adjusted quickly to her new surroundings. She confidently plopped herself down on Hammie’s bed and took a nap. The first night, Hammie was beside himself trying to understand the change. He laid at the end of the bed and stared at Herkie most of the night. Overall, they get along fairly well, but Hammie still seems a bit miffed about the arrangement.

My daughter and her boyfriend took the dogs to a lake house over the weekend. They needed to leave the house for a while and put both dogs in an upstairs bedroom with the plastic gate across the entrance to the room to keep them confined. Upon return, they found Herkie milling around downstairs while Hammie sat whining on the other side of the flattened gate upstairs in the bedroom. Even with the temptation to join his buddy roaming freely about the house, Hammie feared the wrath of the plastic object. (I can relate. Fear is fear!)

An internal alarm still goes off occasionally when a dog approaches unexpectedly, but my reactions are not quite as traumatic as they once were. When I met Herkie for the first time, I reached out my hand to pet her and she anxiously jumped to greet me so I withdrew my offer. No problem for Herkie, she just rolled over on her back and begged for a belly rub, for which I obliged. I’m making progress. Actually, I’ve replaced fear with fondness – at least that’s what I’m working toward.

How about you? Do you have a fear you’re working to overcome?

Bountiful Baskets


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It’s funny how a thought sticks in your mind until it finds its way into a post. This weekend, my daughter and I made baskets while at Girl Scout Camp Tuckaho http://www.girlscoutsem.org/Programs/Camp/Camp-Tuckaho.aspx. We’ve both been involved in Girl Scouts since 1977 and as a treat, each year about nearly 100 adult volunteers from two districts come together to share talents, laughter and treasured memories with one another.

One of the many baskets displayed by our instructor, Pat Vogel, http://www.bittersweetbasketsandsupply.com/ was titled Bountiful Basket and it made its way into our conversations enough times that it settled in my brain. I returned home late Sunday evening and dragged myself into bed. (Hey, weaving baskets for hours on end and walking across icy fields to get from lodge to lodge was hard work!) Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the laundry basket bursting at the seems with clothes that needed washing. I smiled and decided to wait until morning to tackle that chore.

My thoughts continued to turn to bountiful baskets as I rested my still tender fingers against my disgustingly bloated stomach. Seemed I overfilled the bread basket that occupies the area where I used to have a waist. One thing for sure, we always eat well while at any Girl Scout function; it goes hand to hand, or maybe I should say mouth, with a bunch of women and fresh country air.

As I tried to fall asleep, I realized that although my body was worn, my mind was traveling at a high rate of speed. It wasn’t long before I found myself sitting in front of my laptop. Why? I had recevied the most bountiful blessing on Friday when my last post, Rock, Paper, Laptop, was Freshly Pressed. It was the first time for me and I was overwhelmed by the response. By the time I returned on Sunday, more than 1500 fellow bloggers had viewed my post and many of them took the time to hit the “like” button and/or leave a comment. What an extraordinary event!

To all those who took the time to read my post, write a comment, put a smile on my face with the click of button, or follow my blog, thank you, thank you, thank you! I hope all of you have bountiful baskets filled with great things this week.

Rock, Paper, Laptop


hieroglyphicsYellow PadsLaptopComputer

Ancient Egyptian writers depended upon chisels and stone as the medium for their hieroglyphics. I’m sure many of them embraced the advances in technology that introduced other resources for their passions. Yet, I imagine there were some who struggled to move forward gleefully.

There was a time when pads of yellow paper graced nearly every table top of our home, patiently waiting for any random thoughts of gibberish to find its way onto a meticulously clean surface. With my companions, a smooth writing pen and lined paper, I delight in sitting cross-legged on my couch or out on the deck, scribbling away with the security of knowing I can rip off a page, crumble it and have a clean slate ready for my next attempt.

Much like reminiscing through old photographs, I can pick up a journal or notebook stuffed with pages of deep thoughts, easily revisiting my attempts to imitate Robert Frost http://www.poemhunter.com/robert-frost/ or Erma Bombeck http://www.ermamuseum.org/home.asp. Sometimes, the words I scripted are buried so deep in the recesses of my mind I don’t recognize the words, yet I always know they are mine because of the handwriting.

It isn’t that I don’t know the capabilities of the black box that had been assigned its own room in the house for many years. My job required extensive knowledge of numerous, ever-changing, complex programs, including the infamous MS Word. Perhaps the challenges forced upon me daily formed a callous on my brain that makes it too painful to imagine drafting my work on my computer.

Seldom did I take the time to store my creations electronically. The few that made it through the final stages of editing onto the complex contraption were lost when the hardware failed. (Thank goodness for my archaic backups!) The thought of composing something while sitting at the keyboard was as foreign the thought of writing a romance novel.

My daughter frequently reminded me of the century we now live in and the advances in technology that she believed would make my life easier, if only I would try something new. The way she rolled her eyes when I’d pick up a tablet and began writing reflected her frustration in my failure to listen. Bless her heart. Instead of nagging endlessly, she generously provided me with a laptop upon my retirement. “You can use it anywhere, mom. You’ll love it.”

So I tried sitting cross-legged on the sofa with the slim blue device balanced on my lap. That lasted about ten minutes before the phone rang and I had to untangle my legs from the wire to get across the room to the phone. What wires you say? The one attached to the mouse of course. Yes, I know others may use the one built into their machine, but using the touch pad doesn’t work for me because I keep resting my thumbs as I ponder my next line. If you have never been gifted in this ability, let me describe what happens next. The perfect words you struggled for fifteen minutes to compose transform themselves into paragraphs and sentences for which they were not intended. The time it took to find and edit them is just long enough for the thought to pass and there you sit staring at the screen again. I fixed the problem by disabling the gizmo – ok, I had to have help with that too.

I often found myself reverting back to paper and pen. It wasn’t until I decided to write my first novel that I considered the time-consuming effort it would take to write a 50,000 word manuscript and then transpose it onto the computer. One day, after much deliberation, I relented and established a work zone in my dining room where I began typing and editing the dozens of pages I had written before coming to my senses.

I opened the French doors leading onto the deck and felt a delightful breeze drift in. The chirp of a nearby cardinal provided for an opportunity to procrastinate and it wasn’t long before I ventured out onto the deck with all tools in hand. My fairybook visions of spending the next few hours accomplishing great things dissipated in seconds. The gentle wind turned into a gust and blew my stacks of paper high into the sky. With arms flailing, I scrambled urgently to retrieve the papers in flight for fear of a neighbor stealing page 10 of a best seller.

Once I even tried taking my laptop on a daytrip to the river where my husband docked his boat. He often liked to visit for hours with a friend who lives there. What a great opportunity, I thought. I’ll be inspired as the river carries barges through the lock and dam. Surely a poem or some type of masterpiece was waiting to find its way into my laptop. I proudly headed to the lovely swing where I had often written in my small journal.

I shifted the mouse and pad from my leg to the bench of the swing. I tried numerous positions to no avail. I decided to remove the accessory and use the touchpad. Try as I might, I could not remember the sequence of steps my friend had shown me to reactivate the function. By the time I successfully retrieved the info from my wary brain, the battery died on the laptop. I bit my lower lip to keep from screaming and quietly closed the lid and stood up, dropping the mouse and pad at my feet. Anger turned into tears as I gathered all of the pieces and headed back to the car.

My frown turned into a smile when I opened the door and glanced down at the yellow pad and Cross pen that patiently waited for my attention. In one hand, I tossed the laptop on the seat and with the other, I embraced my faithful companions, hugging them close as I strolled back to the wooden swing and settled in for a lovely afternoon.

The transition from rock to paper to laptop has not been easy for some of us. Still, there are benefits to each. Had it not been for the stones that ancient Egyptians carved, much of history would have been lost. Yet hieroglyphics presented many challenges, especially in portability. Paper is readily available, portable and can be treasured for many years, yet it is fragile and fades in time. A laptop stores immense amounts of data, offers unlimited features that transform the written word into works of art, and advances nearly daily in new technology, but with the touch of a delete key, a year’s worth of work can be forever lost into space.

I’ve taken small steps to embrace the wonders of digital technology, but I doubt I will ever relinquish the comfort of paper and pen.

Can you relate?

Daily Post – Fight or Flight Black Cloud Theory Part II


Here’s the rest of my heart thumping weekend.

By my third cup of java, the August sun began to peek through the blinds.  The plan for the morning was outlined in my mind.  I would surprise my husband by mowing the lawn, then take Laura to her swim lessons at the Boys and Girls Club.  I waited until eight-thirty a.m. to drag the mower out from the shed.  It took a few attempts of priming the bulb and pulling the cord, but I was finally able to start the push mower.  I was quite proud of myself.

I had trimmed a mere twenty feet of grass before I found the discreet copper water line that was buried below the tall blades of grass.  In seconds, I thought I had been transported to Yellowstone National Park as I watched a magnificent geyser erupt in front of me.  I stood dumfounded, unable to move.  From shock to frantic, I tried to remember where the shutoff valve might be.  My husband had shown me the one in the house, but that would not help me outside.  I visualized the man poking his rod down into a hole each month as he read the meter and it dawned on me that it was below ground.  I looked around and spotted the deep, spider-filled opening which was barely visible through the overgrown weeds.

I dropped down to my knees, reached in and tried to find the handle.  There was nothing but webs.  The only way to reach the meter was to lay flat on the ground.  I sprawled out, face first, and reached my arm into the hole as far as I could, trying not to think about the crawling creatures that would soon attach themselves to my skin.  There was no handle.  I jumped to my feet and dashed inside to call for help.

“Bill, I need your help now!”  I shouted into the phone.

“Who is this?” Bill Kramer, the trailer court manager, replied.

I could have said it was the crazy, dumb blond from down the street, but instead I identified myself and gave a brief explanation of my crisis.  Bill agreed to come to my rescue.  When he arrived, he took one look at me and burst into laughter.  There I stood, saturated from head to toe with grass clippings clinging to most of my body.  He proceeded to take his wrench and stop Old Faithful as if it was another daily routine.  I thanked him, knowing I would never again be able to have a conversation with him that did not involve my humiliating call.

There was just enough time for a shower and change of clothes before taking Laura to her swim lessons.  An hour of watching her thrash about in the water with her friends would help me relax, I told myself optimistically.  I found a place on the stadium-type bench and tucked my daughter’s shoes and towel and my purse in the space underneath.

I offered a hand to the young mother who came up behind me as she struggled to unload a large diaper bag, purse, towel and an infant in a pumpkin seat.  We chatted a little about her newborn.  She related that she was stressed about the weather report and thunderheads she had seen building on the horizon.  I assured her we were safe inside the sturdy concrete building.

After a short while, she could no longer ignore her concerns and decided to get her daughter from the pool and leave.  I kept an eye on her sleeping baby as she dried off her daughter and gathered all her bags.  Once she had everything balanced over her shoulder or under an arm, she picked up the pumpkin seat and left.

About thirty minutes into the lesson, I reached down to get a piece of gum from my purse.  My hand grasped anxiously from side to side, but couldn’t feel anything that remotely resembled a purse.  I stood up and looked underneath the bench.  Laura’s shoes and a towel were the only things on the floor.  My purse, oh my God!  My purse is gone.

Panic sank in as I remembered my husband was out of town and no one else had keys to my car or house.  I dashed to the check-in desk seeking help.  My voice was quivering as I tried to get someone’s attention, but the staff was too distracted by the impending storm that blackened the skies overhead.

Just as I thought I would burst into tears, the young woman who had sat next to me came rushing through the door with my purse in hand.

“I’m so sorry!  I grabbed your purse when I left.  I didn’t realize until I got home that I had it.  I left the kids with my husband and hurried back as fast as I could.”

Overwhelmed with gratitude, I thanked her and headed back to the bench to once again get my blood pressure under control.  The moment my derriere hit the bench, a large clap of thunder shook the building and all the lights went out.  Fifty blood-curling renditions of “MOM!” were shouted from the pool.  A staff person tried to announce the emergency instructions, but could barely be heard above the shrill screams.  The only back up lights available were BIC cigarette lighters held by a few shaking hands.

One by one, the children were removed from the water and returned to their anxious parents.  With Laura by my side and my car keys securely in hand, we sat briefly waiting for the storm to pass.  The thought of going to the trailer and riding out the storm was ruled out.  I never felt safe there in bad weather even when my husband was there to calm my fears.  Instead, I thought it would be a good time to visit Mom in Florissant.

The skies cleared as Laura and I made the drive to Mom’s house.  Mom put on a fresh pot of coffee while Laura and my youngest sister watched television.  Mom and I retreated to the breezeway as I narrated a brief version of my nightmare weekend.  It was great to finally relax in a secure environment.  Of course, it was just a façade.

I took another sip of coffee and my eyes caught a glimpse of something outside. I studied the blacktop driveway.  It was parallel to the side street and could hold about four cars comfortably if you pulled in close, perpendicular to the fence.  Hadn’t the car been almost touching the fence?  An alarm was going off in my head.   My white Ford Pinto was inching slowly backwards toward the street.  I bolted from my chair, sending the coffee flying everywhere, and dashed down the dozen steps to the bottom landing.  I flung open the screen door and headed for the car.  I was berating myself all the way.  How could I have forgotten to put it in park?  Imagine my surprise when I whipped open the driver’s door and found my little girl scrunched down on the floor board of the passenger side!

Once again my heart felt like I had been in a marathon race.  Thank goodness the side street had little traffic and was relatively flat.   I was able to apply the break and stop the car before it made it into the street.  Laura knew she was in trouble, but I knew if I opened my mouth, she would get all the frustrations of the day.  Instead, I buckled her in the car seat and pushed the car back into its spot.  Mom was standing at the steps by then, so I asked her to keep an eye on Laura while I retrieved my purse and keys from upstairs.  I was going home to lock myself away for the rest of the day.

The ride home was uneventful, thank goodness.  As I unlocked the door to the trailer, I heard the phone ringing.  “How’s it going?” my husband asked on the other end.

“Just fine,” I lied.

 

An Old Dog Or An Old Fool?????


I have always proclaimed my ineptness when it comes to computers and their infinite ability to make me feel ignorant, though never more than through this week’s efforts to the weekly writing challenge – And Now For Something Completely different.

How can it be so difficult to insert more than one picuture into a post?  It’s not like my portable einstein gives me a clue as to what I’m doing wrong- well, perhapps it does, but it is in a foreign techinical language that I have yet to master.

Still, I am a hopeful person, so I persist.

Perhaps my theme is designed to hold only one photo.  I may be on to something.  Let me struggle for another two days and see if I can get the grasp of this.  Oh look!  Third picture and I successfully changed positions.  Thank you new theme!!

Please tell me I am not the only one who struggles to make sense out of something that was designed to be so simplel  I need some support and encouragement.  Can an old dog learn new tricks or will I remain stuck in the paper and pen world until I fade away?