Category Archives: In my backyard

Welcome to February

Well, hi there!

So this isn’t one of the posts I’ve got simmering in the hopper, it’s a freshly-written bit that I didn’t know I was going to write until just now.

It’s February! I hate this month! I always have. It’s dreary, cold, and the holiday I most resent pops up on the 14th; it’s just a bad month for me.

This year, February started out snowy for much of the nation.

This is a mostly-common sight right now except for maybe the blue sky. But it’s all snow, all the time, all over the nation right now. Yay.

I started the month with the flu. Not a stomach bug, but the flu that kills old people and children and is mentioned alongside the term “epidemic” in history books. Yeah, that flu. Because February can always get worse.

But you know what? It hasn’t been that bad. The snow kept me inside and we had a fire going so I could huddle near it when I had chills. We have a dog visiting for the month, perhaps one who will come stay with us for good come spring. It’s nice to have a dog in the house again; I still miss Daisy something fierce but this new guy is funny and keeps me active…even though active is the very last thing I need right now.

Gabe’s been taking fantastic care of me. The first night I was sick, he went out to get me food and whiskey (he got me Fireball for the extra burn)(if you’re wondering why I needed whiskey, it’s because I don’t like Nyquil so I made hot toddies – whiskey, fresh-squeezed lemon, honey all mixed together in hot water – to help with the cough and sore throat and the luxury of sleep) In a flash of brilliance, he also got me a video game. He came home and told me it was like I had a penis. I was all, “What? Where’d I get a penis?” He answered, “This is typically the kind of stuff you get a guy, not your sick wife.”

Good husband. Gooood husband!

The video game – Final Fantasy XIV – turned out to be more help than all the whiskey and cold/flu pills combined (don’t combine those, actually) See, my aches and pains and issues with breathing made it so I couldn’t lie in my bed for hours on end, asleep, like I normally do when I’m ill. I was uncomfortable in bed, on the couch, out in the snow with the dog, I was uncomfortable anywhere but in a chair that made me sit upright. I was still uncomfortable there but at least my ribs didn’t hurt when I breathed. But this video game, it made all the difference because it was a huge distraction. During my waking hours, I could sit there and steer a little person around, doing things, seeing things, hearing things, not noticing that my ears were so full of pressure that I got a stabbing pain when I swallowed.

Gabe already had the game and he rolled up a new character so we could play together; it’s like we went back to our origins. Anyhow, there’s a cat-like race and we made a couple of those, naming them Toki and Evie. Yes. We made our cats so we could play them in an online video game. This is how we roll.

This is what Evie and Toki would like like if they were cat + people. No, really, they totally would.

But thank goodness we do because I’m not sure how I’d have survived the past week without Gabe’s care-taking abilities, but, more importantly, his forethought.

I went to the doctor yesterday. My flu was on its way out but had decided to leave me with a sinus infection and upper respiratory infection. I’m on antibiotics and am taking decongestants and expectorants and things are getting better. I’m even going to go back to work (unless I get snowed in) which is good news.

So it’s February, my least-loved month. It started out with snow and the flu but you know what? It’s been a better February than most so … welcome to the second month of 2014!

Coming up later: stories about nose hair, what I’ve been doing since I’ve last posted, and more! Stay tuned!

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Filed under Adventures, In my backyard, My Dearly Beloveds

Cat pee on my shoulders…makes me stinky

Here’s a sad thing: It’s December and we have absolutely no holiday spirit in our house. It’s like we can’t feel Christmas or Yuletide or Feastmas or anything. We are numb. Is this the result of having Christmas shoved down our throats since the end of August? Are we becoming even more curmudgeonly? Are we really pod people from the planet Mars and have no actual emotions? I don’t know. All I know is that I do not have the vim or vigor required to create fabulous holiday posts, not like last year.

Instead, I’m going to talk about our cat, Evie.

EV3

So small, so precious. Such a sweet baby.
Or IS she?

Evie has a thing about peeing. It’s a fetish, really. And, apparently, I do it wrong.

Here’s what happened:

Sometime this past summer, Evie realized that as soon as I get home from work, I run upstairs to the bathroom. She’s been with us since 2008 but only just now noticed this habit of mine. Anyhow, one day, curiosity got the best of her (she is a cat, after all) and as I headed toward the tinkletorium, she raced me up the stairs and into the bathroom to see what I do in there. The moment I sat down, she scurried over, sat in front of me and watched me, watched me pee. It was weird. But it got weirder. She started rubbing against my legs and then she checked my progress, poking her nose between the seat and the bowl. Was she sniffing what I’d had for lunch? Was she making sure it was my pee coming out and I wasn’t faking it? She purred and…well, encouraged me, rubbing against and looking up at me like she was letting me know I was doing a good job.

EV2

“How’s it going in the potty? Are you doing this right? Let me see. I need to see if you are peeing the right way.”

Evie, I’ve been peeing for 41 years and 39 of those peeing years were done on toilets. Mostly. I think I’ve got this down by now.

As I finished, she hopped up on my lap and gave me nose kisses. “Good job, Mommy! You peed correctly! You are so smart!” Then she hopped back down and waited for me to clean up, stand up, and flush the toilet.

OHMYGOD, the toilet flushing. It’s so magical.

She stood, little cat hands on the seat, and watched everything swoosh down the hole with an intensity usually reserved for dogs and food or children and candy. When the flush finished, she leapt upon the seat and stuck her entire front half into the bowl where she started playing with the potty water, splishing it and splashing it and even drinking a bit. Because she is a classy lady.

This has become a ritual.  Every. Damn. Workday. And it’s not like I can just evade her or shut her out or pick her up and toss her down the stairs violently. You try catching a cat on a mission when your bladder is full-up and ready to burst.

Since she’s so fussy over peeing, you’d think she’d confine hers to the litterbox, right?

She doesn’t.

Her poop, yes. She’ll come racing in from whatever she was doing outside to run downstairs and into the bathroom where she shuts the door and poops in her box. But pee? Oh, her nasty cat pee is the ultimate weapon.

Should we forget to clean her box one day, she’ll pee on the couch.

If Gabe is too unloving throughout the morning, she’ll find his important papers and pee all over them.

This started when we got her. I took her to the vet for the very first time, it was a bad experience for us both, and that night, she squirmed her cute little kitten self up onto the bed, walked right up my legs, glared at me, squatted, and peed all over the comforter while staring straight at me. And then she took off. I was stunned.

She’s used this weapon against us ever since.

The worst, though, was the one time we angered her beyond measure. I don’t recall what it was we’d done, but I remember telling Gabe, “Oh, we’re going to pay for this!” hoping she’d get something that could be cleaned and wouldn’t have to be tossed. We were on the lookout for days but found nothing. During that time, we cleaned the house, folded the laundry, dusted, all that jazz…and no pee. I thought maybe our little girl was growing up and finding better ways to express her anger.

EV1

Evie dreams of getting us back. That’s what she does all day long.

I was wrong.

One day, maybe a few weeks after The Angering Incident, whatever it was, I got dressed for work, ran downstairs, put my jacket on and left the house. When I got to work, I removed my jacket and sat down and…smelled cat pee. I sniffed around. It wasn’t on my chair. It wasn’t on my jacket. Not my shoes. Not anything else nearby, not that anything else could have been peed upon; I was at work. But the longer I sat there, the stronger it became.

Finally, I got fed up and went to the bathroom. I took off my shirt and examined it with my nose. Guess what? Evie sprinkled little bits of pee on the back shoulder of the shirt when it was in the clean laundry basket. She did it in such a way that it dried quickly and was not smellable when we folded our clothes. It was sleeper agent pee, activated when the shirt was on the body. The more the shirt warmed up, the stronger the scent became. Of course, this wasn’t a shirt that I could go without for the day as I wasn’t wearing anything else underneath or over the top.  And I was super poor at the time so couldn’t run to Target or the thrift shop to buy another shirt. Also, I live 20 minutes from work so it’s not like running home to change was an option. And it had gotten onto my bra strap, anyhow, so I was all peed up no matter what.

I did what anyone would do in this situation. I put my shirt back on, found some Lysol, returned to the bathroom, sprayed myself down, waited for that smell to dissipate a little, returned to my desk and put on a sweater, hoping to mask the odor of urine du chat. When anyone came near me, I yelled at her to stand back and hold her breath; we’d communicate via sign language and she’d better be obvious since I don’t actually know ASL.

It was a long day. I was so angry when I got home. I lectured Evie. She smirked at me, amused at her wicked clever ways.

You know what? Now that I’m remembering all this, I think when I get home tonight, I will miss the toilet and pee on her. We’ll see how she likes it.

EV4

How can something that started out this sweet be so very evil? How??

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Filed under Adventures, In my backyard, Tales from Toiletopia

The magic of a witch

This is not a scary story, not a ghost story. It is a childhood memory, one that reminds me that there is magic in the world whether we feel it, or not.

For me, Halloween has always been a night of mystery, of potential, of being close to the unknown. It’s thrilling to run about the streets in the gloaming as the wind kicks crisp leaves around ankles; to terrorize the neighbors, threatening malice if not bribed with sweets. It’s exhilarating to step from one’s skin into the guise of someone or something else entirely for an evening, to be a monster or a fairy, a cowboy, an alien, an old hobo who rides the rails. The sense of fear that permeates the lanes, created by bony tree fingers grasping at the clouded moon and the knowledge that the long, dark winter is just days away, the self-manufactured fear among mobs of kids, a feeling that seeps and creeps from all the other little souls in the streets, is tempered by the familiarity of glowing jack-o-lanterns on porches, childrens’ delighted screams and laughter drifting on the breeze, the smell of mouldering leaves underfoot. It’s one last night to be free before hunkering down to early nights, cold days, and darkness.

And there is magic.

My ninth Halloween, I think I was a fairy, was crisp but not snowy. We didn’t have to wear our winter coats over our flimsy costumes as long as we layered up underneath. We ran in packs from door to door. I was old enough to be on my own with my friends, instead of with my mother and siblings. We were wild children, hooting and hollering, running across dead lawns, rushing through the crackling leaves piled in gutters. The moon was full, the wind blowing spirit clouds across the sky. We were free, we were wraiths of the night, and we were full of candy-powered mischief.

I remember a house where there was a Halloween party and the man who opened the door was dressed as a gorilla. We shrieked in delighted fright and he gave us all dollar bills. Some houses had only glowing porch lights for decoration and others had coffins in the yard and scarecrows on the stoop who jumped out at you while horror music played. I remember old women (probably my current age) handing out popcorn balls and caramel apples and we could eat those treats without fear of razor blades or poison. I remember stumbling back into my house as the streets began to sink into quiet, Smarties wrappers and broken leaves skittering alone down the sidewalks. I remember my arms dragging under the weight of my loot sack. I remember washing my face and putting on my pajamas, then crawling into bed, happy and soul-filled. I remember seeing the lights upstairs go out, of knowing I was the only one still awake in my house and that is when the most magical thing that has ever happened to me occurred. The moon was shining through the high window above me, illuminating the  whole room. I stood up on my bed and climbed atop the headboard in order to pull myself up to the window sill to see the luminous body filling the sky, looking down at me. It was so bright, so white, so large. In that moment, the silhouette of a witch on a broomstick, picture-perfect, flew across the face of the moon. I waited for her to pass by again, but she didn’t, and I let go the windowsill to fall backward onto my bed while giggling with the most effusive glee I’ve ever felt, replete with the knowledge that everything I believed about this day was true, all true.

I have looked for that witch every Halloween since and while I’ve never seen her again, I know she is there. For her, for the children who keep the magic of the day alive in their hearts, and for the memory of my own childhood, I heartily embrace the traditions of All Hallow’s Eve. Because, one day, I will see that witch again and I will shriek with glee and be thankful that there is still such wild wonderfulness left in our world.

Happy Halloween, my friends. Even if you do not celebrate this day, I hope you enjoy the spirit of autumn, of readying for a long sleep, of changes. Stay warm, stay safe, and look for magic everywhere you go.

Used with partial permission, courtesy of The Cutest Blog On the Block (http://anostalgichalloween.blogspot.com/)

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Filed under Adventures, In my backyard, My Opinions on STUFF, White trash childhood

Hangman, hangman, slack up your rope

All Hallows Eve, it is so close. I have shivers.

Let me share them with you.

Here is my last ghost story for the season and a song to keep you company as you read.

After our mother remarried, we all moved to a new house. I was a surly, hateful, bitter teenager and, as a result, I spent all my free hours locked in my bedroom, reading fantasy novels and staring at the mountains beyond my window.

There were times, however, when my west-facing room became too hot, too stifling, and I had to escape. I would run from the house, down the back slope, through the field and marsh, to the source of the spring. Two giant, old, whispery cottonwoods, one standing-but-hunched, the other lying down, stretched along the earth, grew in the meadow beside the water. I would climb into the boughs of these trees and stay for hours, reading, watching songbirds and deer, field mice and hawks, butterflies and mosquitoes. I would perch until the sun faded from the sky and the glow worms pulsed from stalks of summer grass. In the winter, the meadow was quiet, blanketed in snow, the spring frozen except for where it bubbled up at the center. On those cold, silent days, I could nestle into the hollows of the cottonwood roots, pretending to be the only soul in the world.

My family rarely explored the stream, the marsh, and the spring where the cottonwoods grew. Had I not been such a sullen, reclusive child, I probably would have known there was something they were all avoiding in our big backyard.

There were two ghosts that roamed those waterways, one hateful, the other peaceful.

Chris and Noelle had complained of hauntings, of scary things, feelings of terror, cold spots, voices, and other such occurances ever since we’d moved into the house. I complained of whiny siblings. They were scared to go near the cottonwoods. I hung out there all the time. My mom felt things, too. I rolled my eyes. I figured I had an ally in my stepdad, Jim, and I probably did until he met one of the ghosts.

Late one afternoon, on almost-summer day, my family went walking through the back fields. When they returned, it was with a story. Chris, Noelle, and Alex were freaked out, the latter on the verge of tears. Mom was obviously discomfited and even Jim was rattled. It took awhile before I could get their chain of events to go in order, to form a coherant tale. From what I could tell, it went something like this:

They’d been walking near the stream that ran through the field during the wet months and were headed for the cottonwoods, not for any particular reason, it’s just where their meandering was taking them. The closer they got, however, the stranger they felt. There was anxiousness then terror in the air. Mom felt anger and hatred. The kids were scared. Their fear fed whatever was running along the stream and it reflected it right back, coming at them in garbled sounds and hissing voices. Even Jim felt it. They fled the area but despite their haste to return to safety, Jim distinctly heard someone, a man, whisper in his ear. The man said, “Hancock” and that was all.

Of course, I’d missed the whole thing, having been shut away in my room at the time.

It doesn’t end there, though.

Jim saw Hancock once more while looking out toward the back field. His vision shifted and he saw an older man, Native American, standing by the back fence with a young boy. The man wore a hat, maybe a John Bull or gaucho, and a brown vest. Jim knew the man was Hancock. He also understood that Hancock had been hung by the neck until dead.

Native American

No, this isn’t Hancock. But he does have a hat.

When my mom began to ask some of the old timers about Hancock, one man, Native American, himself, said the name sounded familiar. As it happens, local legend has it that the two cottonwoods by the spring used to be hangin’ trees. Rustlers, horse thieves, and indians were strung from the branches, or so it’s told. Hancock may have been one of them. However, he was not vindictive; he was not the one who harassed my mom, Chris, Noelle, and Alex. He only made himself known to Jim, perhaps as one man of of the house to another?

No, the vengeful spirit flowed with the water. During spring runoff and summer rainstorms, the spirit was violent. It terrorized my family, scaring the kids and following my mom from home to work and back. It knocked things over, it yelled, it shot out bursts of fear so strong, its victims would be left rattled and scared. My mom worked across town in a plant nursery situated near some picturesque ponds, small bodies of water filled with ducks and muskrats and that were fed by the stream that ran through our back field. The angry creature would pester my mom when she’d be out feeding the chickens. Then she’d go to work and shortly after, the ghost would show up there, too, making a ruckus and being a nuisance, causing more trouble than it ever did at home.

The entity finally got so out of hand that Mom had to do something about it. After peace had been restored, however, it seemed Hancock was no longer needed because he has not been seen nor heard since.

Here’s what I suspect: While Hancock gave the impression of having been hanged, he didn’t seem angry. It was more like he was waiting. I think he may have been connected to the other ghost, the one who caused so much turmoil for my family. Maybe the other ghost was Hancock’s anger, having separated itself from him somehow. Maybe it was someone else who’d met their demise on the hangin’ tree. Whatever the case, Hancock stuck close to home; he kept to the field, to the cottonwoods, to our yard. He didn’t travel far and he didn’t threaten anyone. Maybe he’s the reason the other spirit couldn’t do much more than be a scary nuisance around the yard. Maybe he was watching out for my family.

We’ll never know. Both ghosts are gone, as is the field. It’s now a neighborhood. I don’t even know if the cottonwoods still live. I do know, however, that there will come a day when the field once again floods and those houses will have very wet basements. And perhaps an angry ghost.

Angry spirit

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Filed under Adventures, In my backyard, My journey to writerhood

‘Tis the season to be scary

The spiced cider is burbling away in the kitchen, candles are flickering, and there’s a strong wind rattling the windows. Have a seat in my little cabin and let me tell you a story, a mild tale intended more for wonder than fright.

Years ago, I worked with a delightful woman. Her name was Karen (I say “was” because she is no longer with us, though maybe she is with us right now, listening to this tale) She was awesome. And crazy. And hilarious. We worked late together, alone in our office, long past the time when streetlights came on. We would sit at our desks, cackling and carrying on, sometimes to the point that people from other departments had to walk over and tell us to shush.

Karen was one of those good souls, the type of person everybody should be blessed with as a friend. She would call me when I was home sick to give me the day’s work-related news; she always remembered my birthday; she did recon on one of my ex-boyfriends and we said horrid things about him and his post-me lifestyle; she gave me her unwise shoe purchases (she couldn’t wear heels above 2 inches but bought them anyhow. Then she’d try to wear them but would fail and end up giving them to me because they were “just too cute to go to waste”) When I was looking for a new place to live, she just happened to be looking for a tenant for her parents’ house, a place that had been rented-out since her parents had died years before.

It was a wonderful house – split level on a corner with a landscaped yard. My friend and I, we moved in right away and later, Noelle and Little B joined us later. I loved living there, some of my favorite memories come from our time in that little home we’d made for ourselves. Except for the downstairs bathroom. I didn’t love it so much. It was an eyesore – small and rectangular, covered in a ghastly wallpaper that made a person dizzy. It wasn’t much different from this, actually, just smaller print in a much smaller space:

The color scheme was the same – red on cream – and the busy-ness was there. Our wallpaper, though, was made of a bunch of small, red diamonds that were actually made of four dots. It really did make a person dizzy to be locked in such a tiny room with such dotty/diamondy wallpaper.

So one day, I asked Karen if I could re-do the bathroom. She told me to have at it and I did. Only, here’s the thing: The wallpaper, the monstrous, eye-hurting wallpaper, had been glued directly to the drywall. That meant that even with steaming, removing the wallpaper brought giant chunks of plasterboard with it. It was horrible. I had friends come over and help and every single one left crying. My roomie and I spent two weeks denuding the walls and every single day, I cursed the moron who stuck wallpaper glue directly to drywall and didn’t think of future house-dwellers who might need to remove said wallpaper.

Around that same time, Karen started looking worn down. She said she wasn’t sleeping well at night. She felt jittery all day. One evening, quite a way into my renovation project, she said, “I’ve been having terrible dreams.” She looked awful, bags under the eyes, bruisey skin.

I asked, “Dreams about what?”

She said, “About my mother. In my dreams, my mother is terribly upset because she’s misplaced her purse and I’m trying to help her find it but I don’t know where it is and she’s so angry.”

She mentioned a similar dream a couple of days later. A little bell chimed in the back of my brain. I said, “Hey, Karen, the bathroom downstairs, who put up the wallpaper?”

She said, “My mom. She’d been so proud of it. She hung it all by herself, decorated that room all by herself.” I nodded, put my head down, and got back to work.

The minute I got home that night, I ran downstairs, stood in the bathroom with its pockmarked, crumbling walls from whence wallpaper had been ripped violently away, and yelled,

I AM SORRY! I DIDN’T KNOW! I AM SURE IT WAS BEAUTIFUL AT THE TIME. I NOW UNDERSTAND THAT YOU LOVED THIS ROOM BECAUSE YOU MADE IT YOURSELF! I DIDN’T KNOW AND I SHOULD HAVE ASKED BEFORE CHANGING IT. PLEASE LEAVE YOUR DAUGHTER ALONE! I AM SO SORRY FOR EVERYTHING I SAID!

Then I sat down and explained my vision – grayblue wainscotting with sky blue wall and ceiling, clouds dotted up top. I’d paint a tranquil sea along the trim and my roommate would decorate the room with seashells and lighthouses. I mentioned that it would be a peaceful place in an otherwise dark corner of the basement, just as she’d originally intended. Then I got to work. The rest of the wallpaper came off like I was peeling skin from a sunburn.

I was sitting at my desk the next day when Karen walked in. She looked great! No more dark circles or saggy skin. I asked how she’d slept and she said, “I haven’t slept that well in I don’t know how long.”

“So, no dreams about your mother?”

She thought about it and said, “No. She’s fine now.”

I apologized to Karen for causing her such trouble and when she asked what I was talking about, I told her, “Your mother knows.”

For Karen: I hope the afterlife is everything you wished it to be. I miss laughing with you.

And for Dana since you got to share this adventure with me. We had some good times there, didn’t we?

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Filed under Adventures, For my short story collection, In my backyard, My journey to writerhood