Rainy Day Carcass

A mangled pile of nylon and metal. Alternating blocks of bright purple and white show just how joyful you once were.

Now here you are, dead on the side of the road. Abandoned by your owner when you could help them no more. You weren’t even moved to a proper final resting place.

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I recently got a book about Stephen Hawking to learn more about him and his life. And, I did learn more about him. But, in doing so, I was left with more questions about a few other people’s lives. You see, the second-hand book I bought had two bookmarks tucked away within its pages. They are strips of pictures from the picture booths set up at weddings and other parties. These celebrated two different weddings. First, I located the common denominator- the guest that shows in both photos. This took a bit to figure out, as the guests had lots of props all over themselves – funky hats, golden star antenna headbands, oversized bright red lips that you hold in place with a stick (kind of like you would hold opera glasses in place but a few levels lower on your face), feather boas, oversized glasses and huge polka-dotted bow ties. Ah, there she is. She went to both Sarah and Patrick’s and Kaitlyn and Keith’s weddings. Now I am curious about how long ago these weddings were. How interesting. Sarah and Patrick wed on July 4th, 2015 and Kaitlyn and Keith wed on December 31st, 2017. Both weddings were on holidays. So, on their anniversaries, there will be celebration all around them no matter how their relationships are going. We know, based on statistics, that one of these couples will be divorced. I study their friend groups in the pictures, trying to read into which couple it will be. Everybody seems so happy. I guess time will tell.

I finished the book and moved to donate it back. I once found a crisp clean and certainly flat 2 dollar bill hidden in a second-hand book I bought at my local library. Into my coin collection the bill went. But, this treasure, these pictures found within the pages, I return to the pages before I usher the book along to my local Goodwill. Sarah and Patrick and Kaitlyn and Keith, I will pass your stories on. And hopefully, you continue in wedded bliss.

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As I wait behind a woman in the long black petticoat, pulled tight at the waist, I cannot help but hear her conversation, or more like her announcement.

“I need to be able to squeeze a wedding dress in here to take on the plane tonight”, she says loudly as she tilts her head to one side to further examine the suitcase.

It is covered with dust and has a big tag on it marked $10.

“Oh, that’s not our tag” the man tending to the cash register says.

“Just need it for one night. It’s complicated” she continues her monologue.

The owner of the estate shop comes around to the front counter, interrupting his lunch. He tells her she can bring it back if it is not big enough as he rubs his hands together, presumably to remove any lingering crumbs.

“Well, it will be a while because I’ll be in Hawaii”.

“Oh”, the owner says. Then he motions me over to another part of the counter to tend to my sale. I have chosen 9 unique keys from his secret drawer of old keys that I discovered. I just love his estate shop for this reason. You make all kinds of discoveries as you travel through the store. This one was in a metal tool chest, in one of the drawers marked “look inside”.

I can still hear her, seemingly trying to entice the other worker as she goes on about her wedding. The worker does not seem that interested in her adventure.

“Do you want the suitcase or not? Five dollars and it’s yours”.

Now I’m fully into my world. Her voice goes away. The owner goes though each of my keys, and I watch, each key its own special self. One short and round. Another, long and thin with exaggerated teeth. Yet another very small and very cute.

“Ten dollars for all of them.”

“Can you do any better for me? Remember all those brass keys- that was a big one” I counter. A few years ago, I spent a few hundred dollars on a whole bunch of brass keys- all so beautiful.

“Yeah, I suppose so. The credit card fees- last month $478. I have to fold it into the prices” he explains.

He puts the keys into a little white paper bag and folds the bag top down neatly several times, creating a special little white package.

On my drive back to the office, I get to thinking. There is a draw here to this place. I often wander into the way back back of the store where he has odds and ends of nuts, bolts and the like in glass jars. It so reminds me of my father’s workshop. A special sacred place. A place where my father seemed happy and content, a place he seemed to truly belong.

You see, my father passed a few months ago, and he is on my mind. I have been into my father’s workshop one time since his passing. I am eager to spend more time in there. Chaos and drama as part of the probate and estate does not allow anyone in his workshop at this time. I so am looking forward to spending time in my father’s oasis, his special place of contentment and ease. I see that this is the very sentiment that draws me back to this place where treasures wait for their discovery.

Written February 2018

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Subtle Hints

As I peruse my e-mail, a heavy feeling starts to come over me. I can see an over-arching theme emerging from all the individual messages. E-mails for a reverse mortgage, silver singles, life insurance without a physical, an oxygen system that promises to reclaim my independence and freedom, and walk-in tubs. Oh, I see. This is going in a certain direction. No forensic analysis of my e-mail needed to uncover this mystery.

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Pristine Scarf

I met a woman today who irons her scarves. She was happy she got a new iron recently as well. Wrinkled garments in my home are relegated to a body for wearing on most occasions, and into the dryer for the more egregious offenders. The last time I used an iron was on a polyester blend pant, which promptly melted. The iron was left with an ugly scar of a melted derivative of plastic or petroleum, I believe. And the pant, a crusty melted spot which looked much worse than the original wrinkles. Now I know. I must say, the woman did look quite nice with her crisp, flowing, and wrinkle free scarf.

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Staples Rewards

At the end of October, I received a mailing from Staples. It was four “rewards”, $5 each , distributed one a week through November. I read the details. No purchase necessary. So, this is like five dollars cash, four times over, no strings attached.

Oh, I know the deal. The hope is that when you wander in to find a less than five dollar item to use your reward on that you will find so much more that you cannot leave the store without. My mission, which I chose to accept, is to use each and every reward to get a less than five dollar item (must account for tax!), preferably non-edible and durable.

I decided on a path of building up my clipboard collection. I use them at work quite a bit. In fact, one of my colleagues walked off with one of mine recently, a nice powder blue one. I haven’t figured out how to approach her to ask for it back. I do miss it though. So, clipboards it is.

Each week I walk confidently into Staples, into the proper isle, and chose a clipboard. Four dollars and twenty-seven cents. Under five with tax. Perfect.

Week four. What do I spy? Some new colors? Oh, look, the very blue one that my collegue walked off with! Oh, snap. It’s $5.99. I’ll bring it up front with the usual $4.27 one. You never know if it is on sale. No such luck. So, I stand here for a moment and decide, but just a moment as there is another customer right behind me. No. I cannot open my wallet and hand any money over. I made a commitment to spend under the five dollars.

So, I made it through the four weeks collecting four new clipboards, not spending one penny. But, I know that powder blue one is there. Perhaps I’ll try to trade one of my new clipboards with my colleague for the powder blue one that she walked off with. Or, perhaps I’ll go back to Staples and purchase the powder blue one.

In the end, I did it. I used the rewards without spending any extra money. Not one penny.

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The Clock

I have a clock from my father’s room. I keep it on my kitchen counter. As my 14 year old eats breakfast, the sound of his spoon hitting the cereal bowl and the football game he is watching on his I-Pad leaves me questioning if the clock is still working. Because it doesn’t have a second hand, I don’t know right away. I do see that the time is off by an hour, but that is the case because I never reset it when I took it from my father’s room. So, I put it up to my ear and listen. I am comforted by the gentle and perfectly spaced out ticks it exudes.

All at once, I am struck with the symbolism of this. As my day-to-day life fills more space in my head and heart, I have to pay attention more closely, listen more carefully to remember my father. I still miss him so very much. It’s been less than a year. And, the circus known as probate certainly isn’t helping the process. But, even when life has been paused and thrown into grief and chaos , life has a way of creeping back into place. It reminds me of the green vines we have around our light post and mailbox. No matter how many times they are cut back, they grow back. Not all at once. But, over time. And, one day, you notice they have returned, fully, with a vengeance. Just like life after grief. That is how it has to be. I am sure my father would not want me to be paralyzed with grief, unable to care for my family, unable to participate in my career, unable to be in life. So, the strong insidious vines of life grow back in, all around the fixtures of my life. I will let them grow, even invite and encourage them. And, I will hold your memory close to my heart, Daddy. Every day.

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He sits with one pencil, three erasers, and a yellow notepad with green lines on it. The notepad remains ready to take in the information, to capture and keep it. But, it is never tasked with this. The notepad remains untouched. He looks at the notepad several times, leans his elbow on it a few times, even picks up the pencil once or twice. But, it never comes to be.

Later, in talking with him, I learn about a strict teacher back in grade school. His perfectionism developed in the midst of what can only be described as an evil woman. Constant criticism, constantly ridiculed, made to believe he was stupid, always, and forever.

So, now, he writes nothing, nothing. I am intrigued and curious about the eraser to pencil ratio; 3:1. Should he choose to take the risk of marring the yellow paper with a pencil, he is well equipped and prepared to make it all disappear.

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Dressing Room Business

Laughter flows from the dressing room next to me. Lots of laughter.

“What?” woman one asks.

“It has stripes. That’s not going to work” her friend says.

“No. You try it on” woman one replies.

“Why? So then I can feel as bad as you do?” her friend says.

“Try it on.” woman one requests of her friend again.

“Hey. You didn’t even right side it.” her friend observes.

“What?” woman one says.

“You didn’t turn it right side out.” her friend says

“I didn’t want it on my body a moment longer.” woman one says.

More laughter from both ladies.

“Oh, this wouldn’t look good on anybody. That Mexican food we ate isn’t helping.” her friend replies.

I move a little quicker to get my regular clothes back on in hopes of catching a glimpse of the offending garment perhaps being slung over the top of the dressing room door. No such luck.

I am tempted to ask for a quick look at the striped garment. But, I think twice, not wanting to risk being thought of or acted upon as a voyeur. Oh, yes, I was a voyeur, a voyeur of the ears today. And I will never know just what that striped garment was that the friends were bonding over.

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Save My Soul

She walks away from the front door of her business, down the long sidewalk, broom in hand. She swishes the broom from side to side over the sidewalk. You can see her big round belly shake through her long thin sundress at each step she takes. As I walk past this scene, I smile and comment ” Boy, you sure are keeping things neat and tidy. I can barely sweep the inside of my house, never mind the outside.” Her eyes slowly move up from the area that she is sweeping and meet mine, so slowly in fact, that I stop walking to hear what she may say. I don’t want to be rude and keep walking, especially because I initiated the conversation. She whispers “people come here expecting me to be able to see into their souls. In doing so, they make themselves vulnerable. Their souls, they fall at their feet as they walk out and away. I must sweep them off of the sidewalk and onto the grass so that mother Earth can take them back. I do not want to be responsible for their souls.” I am at a loss for words. “Oh”, I say, and begin walking again.

When she speaks again, she seems like a totally different person, her voice is higher and louder, more assertive. “Take a minute. Come in. Get a reading. You want to know your future, no?” I stop again. I look past her, and I can see the sign. It announces : Halima’s Tarot Card Readings, Palm Readings, Psychic Consultation, and More. The sign is so crowded with words I have to look closely to catch it all. What’s the “and more”? Cleaning up lost, forgotten, mislaid, misplaced, fallen souls at her front door?

All at once I feel a coldness deep inside me. I shiver amidst this hot summer day. I back away from this woman, this space, so drastically and urgently that I stumble.

“Oh, don’t be afraid. Yes, I feel it too” she says as she looks into my eyes. She is whispering again.

I don’t speak, I cannot. I am suddenly overcome by fear, like from childhood at night when
you hear a sound in your house. But here, I can’t close my eyes. I can’t pull the covers over my head and curl into a ball.

I turn on one heal and run. I run. No chances taken here. I am not ready to give up my soul. And, that is what it felt like. Like she takes souls.

I make a mental note to never walk past her establishment again, to quite literally save my soul.

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