Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Pearl Earring

The Courtyard by Marriott in Tifton, Georgia. I needed sleep. Don’t even remember dropping my bags, but I do remember one thing. I looked out the window. At a cemetery. Right there butted up against the hotel.

 Ah, the quiet. Yes.

Swine flu had evicted me from my elderly and virally susceptible parent’s home, and turned me out shivering and woozy onto the freeways of three states. Ursula, my Chrysler PT Cruiser, performed beautifully. She and I battled a constant drizzle, everlasting road construction, mother truckers and a razor blade volcanic-gates-of-hell canker sore painful Eustachian tube throat. I spiked and broke fevers in as many hours as we drove, soaking my clothes and car seat. The exhaustion pump was primed and the common sense of all my loved ones whispering in my ear compelled me to pull in and hunker down. So the Courtyard it was. How did I check in? Doesn’t matter. I locked the door twice and fell face first fully clothed into the cloud deck of five pillows and floated through “sleep’s dark and silent gate.”

The rest was a dream.

Eyes open. Standing at the sliding door in my underwear looking out at the dusky cemetery. Pine trees shed needles down on grey gravestones and a stocky boxy mausoleum. Purple clouds shrouded the bruised and bleeding sunset. A lady who looks like my Aunt, carried a rake and walked the long aisles between the graves. She looked up at me. I ducked away.

Eyes open. Pitch blackness, I stand holding the curtain aside. I look out over the cemetery. No detail. Nothing. Like someone held up black velvet over my eyes. Green lights streak through the blackness. No sound.

Eyes open: Something’s covering my face. Homespun. I recognize the weave, it is so close to my eyes, and backlit by candlelight. I hear a voice. She’s arguing with a man. “She has nothing to pay!” “Oh yes she does,” said he and I felt the cover jerked from my face; my earring snatched out of my earlobe; and the sting. “This’ll do just fine,” said he. “Leave the other,” said she, “She deserves somethin’ purty for when she rises up again on the last day. 'Sides, might be bad luck if'n you take th'other'n” The homespun shroud was tossed back over my face. I feel soft hands smooth out the cloth over my face.  The candlelight yields to blackness. I can’t move. Said she, “Let’s call her Pearl, since no one’s a claimin’ her.” Says he, sniffing and spitting, “Makes sense. That’s all she’s got to her name.”

Eyes open: Cool air slaps my face. I stand on the balcony overlooking the cemetery. My nightgown seems inadequate against the drizzle, the coolness. People stroll among the gravesites, long dresses, hats, parasols, men in black tails. A horse-drawn carriage draped in black clip-clops and stops. The carriage decants a pine box, plain and anonymous that is manhandled by the workman somewhat hastily into a yawning red clay hole. A preacher preaches. Dirt reigns down on the top of the box. The people fade away among the pines as the workman employs his shovel. He looks up. I duck away.

Eyes open: The alarm was bleating, the radio weather report was blaring, and television was telling me that 24 soldiers have perished in Afghanistan. My throat, my eyes, my legs all tried to unknot. Why still exhausted after 10 hours of sleep? Swine flu sure kicks ass. The CDC wasn’t kidding. I stumbled to the sink and I eventually got my act together for a whole new day of driving ever closer to home.

Checking out, the desk lady frowned and looked at me with concern in her eyes. I looked sick, grey and pasty, and I knew it. I said, “Don’t worry, I’ll be ok. Not far from here until home.”

She said, “Oh, I am sure you’ll be just fine but did you know you’re missing an earring?”

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Swine Before Pearls

I like entertaining the odd conspiracy theory now and again.  It is fun to debate the peculiar circumstances surrounding the JFK assassination, UFO sightings, and the existence of Sasquatch. My current curiosity revolves around this:  How in the hell did a Mexican pig get infected with a chicken virus, mix it up with a few other human flu viral strains, add a mutation or three designed to evade vaccine, and then deliver it to a human child at ground zero? 

I want to know who french-kissed that pig.

Or is it some kind of subtle grass roots mad-scientist style warfare introduced by those homicidal fanatic hater peckerheads who don't like us very much and want to weaken us where it counts?  The best and brightest generation, the kids we are depending upon to inherit this United States for us when we are aged, confused and ineffective, our adolescents and teens, are catching the worst of it. Some are dying. Obama just today declared this virus a National Emergency. Vaccine availabilities are lagging pitifully, some fear the danger that may be lurking in half-developed and possibly mercury contaminated vaccines and won't even get them when they are ready, ER's are bulging with misery.  I can hear the haters now, "Screw bringing down Wall Street, this virus is the bomb!"

The Emergency Room at Transylvania Hospital in Brevard, North Carolina didn't seem too crowded.  In fact it was kind of nifty since the windows facing out framed the heli-pad and we were treated to an exciting view of their emergency rescue 'copter humming-birding in and out.  In the waiting room with us were just a couple of people looking forlorn and uncomfortable wearing surgical masks.  I was one of them.  Seems the puking in my car was the big DING! that should've alerted me that something was indeed awry.  And in my usual state of blissful denial, I ignored the sore throat, cough, nausea and bone-snapping aches allowing that lotus-eater bliss that comes from regularly eating Aleve. (Angels sing!) When that stuff kicks in, the baseball bats raining down on my long bones and skull cease for at least 8 blessed hours.  Normal, un-cranky and even personable are descriptors for me at these times.

Truth be told, my kids were sniffly and complaining when I embarked on  my annual pilgimage to the cool serenity of the autumnal, on-fire-with-unbelieveable-color Appalachians.  My kids are always sniffly with something.  It's part and parcel of attending that giant infested petri dish we call High School.  But this was more.  After both their throats closed up in a red inflamed clench, and the fevers began their attack, they were Clinic-bound with their father.  After each receiving a swab up the nose, ("Mom I think they touched my brain!") and swabs in the throat ("Mom, I thought I was going to hurl all over the guy!"), tah-dah!  The cards they swiped with the kids' boogers revealed Swine Flu, or for the more scientifically inclined, H1N1. 

I like hi-nee.  Works for me.  Like something unwelcome up the wazoo!

"Mom, I have the Swine Flu!"

"No. You've got to be exaggerating. Can't be, my little drama queen exciteable one.  Princessa della Luna, put your Eagle Scout brother on..."

"Mom, it is H1N1 Swine Flu. I have it too. You better get checked."

"Ohhhhhhh... (Expletive deleted just this once. It was saltier than usual.)"

That's how my mother and I landed in the ER. 

And, yes, I have apparently french-kissed the pig.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Road Kill Fandango, Galahad and The Mother Truckers

When the flattened remnants of mangled road kill stood up and belly-danced before my watering eyes, I should’ve known something was up. In fact, it was my breakfast. I was going to puke, vomit, hurl, blow chow.  And right now. But, at hour three of a ten hour drive, I was running at 70 miles per hour in the fast lane boxed in by a giant blue truck with “Galahad - How’s my driving?” stenciled on the door and a lovely monolithic “Jersey” wall. The “Happy Halloween” pumpkin donut I had eaten along with a multi-vitamin and other daily morning nostrums I had taken before my solo drive to NC were clawing their way back up my throat like a chain gang of cranky hamsters. With tiny little blowtorches.

Options were limited. I could not swing across 4 lanes thanks to Galahad who had me pinned. There would be no comfortable off-ramp and open door, no baptizing the side of the road with my steaming stomach contents while someone good-naturedly holds my hair and pats my back, no leisurely clean-up and no deep cleansing breaths. The pumpkin donut and the pills staged in the back of my throat setting up to blurt with volcanic velocity from my sealed lips, spraying hot chunks all over my lap and steering wheel at 70 miles per hour. I am the proud mother of necessity and had to think McGyver-quick of something inventive while not ramming my car into the wall. It was go-time and my midsection was flipping with intent, made even more immediate by the fact that Galahad the Truck was watching me…Actually the driver was, not the truck itself, but those guys are so attached to their vehicles they seem blended like centaurs of the highway. Metal and flesh Siamese Twins.

Split second timing critical, I darted my eyes to the back seat to see (Angels sing!) an abandoned McDonald’s bag left by my pig-like kids. Eyes back on the road, holding the steering wheel steady with my weaker left hand, I groped frantically with my right arm and caught the bag, whipped it up to my face and achieved sweet, sweet respite. Twice. Nice and neat. No besmirchment of my travel pod. Can I multi-task or what?

After dabbing my mouth with wet wipes, which I neurotically keep on hand as a card-carrying germ phobic, I gingerly rolled the bag down and placed it on the floorboard of the passenger side intending to make a “deposit” when I could finally find an off-ramp. Flat Shoals, Georgia coming right up. Congratulations Shoal-ians, you get my DNA. Right then, I looked up to see, much to my complete dismay, Galahad’s driver, still pacing me,  asking me in silent road sign language, “Are you ok?” I gave him an embarrassed “Ok” sign. To which he responded with three sharp toots of his air horn.

Sure beats having my hair held.

All the way to I-85, Galahad reintroduced himself in my rear view mirror, his shiny grinning grill and flashing headlights fixed in a perma-smile. He passed me on the left with a light toot, or gently, if gentle can be trucking trait, appeared in front of me inviting me to draft his slipstream to save gas. I knew it was him because he was transporting on his flat bed a huge mysterious lumpy cylindrical object, guy-wired down and cloaked in black visqueen flapping in the wind. It looked like a giant be-condomed penis, of all things. No mistaking Galahad the Guardian Road Angel, his payload called him out!

More than once, I think in cahoots with the CB fraternity of fellow good guy trucker guys, Galahad delivered disciplinary rolling road blocks to the madly erratic amphetamine befuddled or asleep at the wheel “mother truckers” out there who were, for sport, demonically scaring the shit out of chicks in small cars and grandma and grandpa in Winnebagos.

We parted ways as I veered off east toward the purple foothills of the Appalachians, waving a thumb’s up to Galahad. He shot back a prolonged blast from his horn and rumbled off west into a brilliant Fall sunset.

Thanks, dude, wherever you are.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Blitz, Boo-yah, Spartacus and The Statue Man

Mr. Blitz and Dr. Boo-yah conspired mightily this muggy autumn to squash a pesky but potentially virulent insurrection at Boone High. After all, 'tis the season for school administrators to either exert the kind of pressure that makes diamonds out of worthless lumps of teenage coal, or missing the one pivotal opportunity, retreat to various offices and golf carts for the rest of the year to lick their wounds and plot for another day. There is no middle ground. One shot. Either dominate totally and very publicly or just watch the rag-tag parade slouch by until the next school year and they could begin again. Blitz and Boo-ya went for the Hail Mary this time, and the touchdown is a matter for the refs and the playback to decide.

The game deciding play? The Statue Man.

Most of high school is a swirling watercourse of sometimes toxic events, including lesbian bitch-slap fights, nut job tazings, jocks and cheerleaders, atomic wedgies for all (both literally and figuratively) and tangy smoke filled restrooms.  But once in a while, in the meandering flow, an odd eddy forms and the world just arranges itself around it. That would be The Statue Man.

An unassuming shaggy-haired white kid, he arrives at Boone football games trailed by a cadre of fans who know what he’s going to do. He is always accompanied by his cohort/cameraman. He strolls to a good spot, like the grassy knoll (that’s what they call it) near the bleachers and a crowd forms.

He freezes in place.

The scene unfolds under the disconcertingly constant gaze of the camera, and the intimidating stares of Mr. Blitz and Dr. Boo-yah, as he adopts whatever statue position is imposed upon him by passersby. Anyone who walks by is allowed to physically move The Statue Man's arms, legs, head, facial expression or clothes to suit their whims. They sometimes add or subtract clothing or props decorating him with found items. He transforms in just minutes, depending upon the mob energy surrounding him, from triumphant Poseidon, with arms and gaze flung heavenward, to abject slave kneeling with his shirt pulled up over his face. Until someone else decides to change his scene.  He's a life-size Gumby but without the green slanty head, and his monkey-cam co-conspirator is not Pokey.

The Statue Man maintains this act of supernaturally-disciplined all-consuming performance art throughout the length of an entire football game. Some brave ones, unconcerned with whether it's cool or not, actually join him and stand still for short blocks of time just for fun. One such pioneer dork says that he strikes poses gleaned from his Art History Class. Rodin’s The Thinker, for instance. Or Tutankhamen. Or the Sistine God. Or Dr. Evil. Whatever.

Think long on this: Post adolescents standing still. Contemplating art and society and metaphors and funny movies. Miraculous. Awe inspiring.

And yet The Statue Man goes against everything Public High School in the United States of America has adopted as appropriate behavior. No, a student cannot deviate from the norm by adopting disruptive behaviors or by promoting physical contact. What if someone touched him in a “bad way?” What if one of his actions offended someone’s religious/cultural/racial beliefs? What if he “shot a bird?” What if the kids got over stimulated and a fight broke out? Or a riot? Or, god help us, a LAWSUIT?

“Young man if you stand still one more time, you will be escorted from the premises.”

This was the decree issued by Blitz and Boo-yah at the conclusion of the game before Homecoming. It was all over Boone High that Blitz and Boo-yah had suppressed The Statue Man. That they didn’t want Homecoming to be spoiled in any way by an “incident” so they nipped it hard. This was the pivotal event this year to cement their dominance. Or so they thought.

The unassuming shaggy-haired kid arrived at the Homecoming football game as expected, followed by his posse and paparazzi. He confidently took his spot on the grassy knoll and froze. Mr. Blitz and Dr. Boo-yah circled like sharks in well-chummed waters working up the nuts to make good on their decree.

But a funny thing happened.

The Statue Man suddenly had a buddy. A kid froze right next to him and submitted to the manipulations of anyone passing by just as The Statue Man had. Then another joined. And another. Then 10. Then 20. A silent I AM SPARTACUS littered the grassy knoll with Statue Men and Women. They were not kids just pushing back at “The Man” from some anarchist-esque rebellious place. They had stepped over the line to assume the positions of grown-ups; men and women with opinions, causes, and, yes, passions.

Blitz and Boo-yah were at a crossroads.  Blitz, with strict authority, swiftly and commandingly took the lead. Scowling, he approached The Statue Man closely, invaded his personal space for just one intimidating moment. He brought his hands up, dug his heels into the ground for stability…and froze.

Blitz struck a pose.


"Let's see if they can keep us from standing still!"

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Mr. Sadistic Public School Bus Driver

I like having my kids hostage in the car for 20 minutes every morning. 

It makes me kind of happy to drive them to school after they re-appear at the front door, hangdog pissed and sweaty, because the Mr. Sadistic Public School Bus Driver, who never shows up at the same time window every day, gunned it, and sped away laughing while they sprinted vainly toward the wheeled yellow tube of doom.

How'd you know he was laughing?

I saw his teeth!

They could actually see the demonic glint of his perfect white teeth as he rolled by, air brakes huffing and squealing in delight. He stops patiently for the 300 pound teen mother down the way barrelling down the sidewalk in flip flops with her massively stuffed land yacht stroller. Not even sure if there is a baby in there.  He stops for the bespectacled kid with the bird nest hair and the inhaler. He even stops for the Emo stoners who slouch their way up to the bus at a glacially relaxed sub-warp speed.

I suppose Mr. Sadistic Bus Driver thinks he is helping build character in my two unfairly and freakishly normal straight-A no rap sheet /criminal record, un-pregnant, non-knife-wielding sober pleasantly affable kids who do sports. Or, he knows I won't sue him and appear on Channel 6  all indignant and weepy in my nightgown complaining that, "Ah'm just doin' this here lawsuit so it don't happ'n to anyone else's kids. And for the money so' Ah kin donate some to Brother Bobby down there at church and have mah long awaited varicose vein surgery that those bastards at Medicaire won't cover!" Springer? Springer? Bueller?

I really try not to show the kids my oppositionally defiant tendencies with propped up power munching authority figures, but it is all I can do not to indulge out loud my current fantasy.  It would give me such pleasure to track that bus halfway to school, jack it, spin gravel into the face of the now duct-taped supine driver left on the side of the road on a fire ant hill and give all those kids the ride of their short tawdry little lives! That is after I give them my What the hell are you thinking? Cut the crap!  Quit being such dumbasses and wise up!  "talk".

Hey Mom you just ran over something.


No it was metallic.

Robot squirrel.


Going to the stylist this week and wonder what I should do.  My blog friends should weigh in so here're the choices -

Leave it long

Bring it up to medium length

or lop it OFF!

Update:  It stayed long per popular request.  Thank you for playing!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Halloweeny Cat

With the moon behind him
He’s as black as pitch.
He sits upon a gatepost
Watching for a witch!

His eyes like jack o’lanterns,
They have a yellow gleam.
He sees the ghosts and goblins
And hears the banshee scream!

Tonight he’s not a kitten,
Cute and soft and furry,
He’s a Halloweeny Cat
Big, and black, and SCARY!

I was enrolled in the Ft. Lauderdale Children’s Theater at age 7 for the very same reasons kids are medicated and given detention at school these days. I needed to work out some of my hyper headstrong ways. Seems I had manifested, according to the big fat sweaty mean penguins nuns a very annoying and rampant imagination and a compulsive need to command attention by disrupting class with outlandish outbursts talking, a lot. This needed curbing and direction. Although regular spankings time-outs were prescribed by the nuns, Mom decreed that theater was the solution.

The first assignment was to tape that poem carefully into my black and white Composition Book, decorate it with crayon drawings, memorize it and “act it out” for my seven year old peers in the class. It was written by one of the most talented drama teachers ever, Miss Nancy Yohe. “Picture it in your mind’s eye,” she told us, “Go there and feel the shivery thrill of HALLOWEEN! Whooooooo!” And she’d whoosh by our rapt little faces, a ghostly floating Isadora levitating on pointed toes. Damn, if I didn’t go there.

I go there still.

The moon holds me in its thrall.

The cat
a black hole punched into the air on the fencepost,
arranges itself in stark silhouette be-rimmed by the ghastly cloud-riven orb.

Its yellow candle wick eyes, flickering, scan the skies for contrails of flitting witches, grey floating revenant tatters on the wind.

The cat turns her carved pumpkin eyes to me.

For I am the ghost of a goblin, screaming like a banshee in the midnight, and only now, on this twelfth toll of the bell, allowed to rend the tissue-thin veil separating our worlds.
I am the cat.

For one night I am the night and the nightmare.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Baby Tree, part 5

The Baby Tree

Nervous and amped up, Elizabeth paces checking out the window at intervals. Light shifts slowly, imperceptibly to blue.  She picks up the fallen magazine replacing it on the table. As she turns away, it is roughly pushed off the table again, a chest-rattling boom, boom, boom is heard in the attic and the cradle moving of its own accord scrapes right up to her in a threatening approach like a dog. She gasps and freezes. There is a soft knock at the door. Elizabeth carefully goes to the door and begins to open it peeking through the crack.


Ohhhhh.  Miss Louise told me about you, Fiona. Your babies…yes I understand. Charlotte, Abigail, and George? There are three? In the tree? Oh that’s where they are. (She sings) Rock a bye baby in the tree tops, when the wind blows…. Of course. You finally found them. Show me…

(As she tries to open the door wider to join the shadow woman, the door is abruptly pushed shut from behind her wrenching it from her hand. Lights flicker and dim. Elizabeth is then flung to the couch by invisible hands and she scoots across to get away.) Leave me alone! You have no control over this house. You are dead. And I am not afraid of you. (Items shake, scrape and scoot around while a low wail is heard phasing through the house. Elizabeth, trying to go out the door is caught in an invisible pair of hands, pulled backward and appears to be choking as though being strangled. Enter Louise flinging the front door open with a bang! She is holding a blue faded mildewed cloth bundle. )


That’s ENOUGH!   (All unnatural activity stops. Elizabeth is gasping and holding her throat.  Lights brighten slightly. She is followed by a somber Kevin holding the shreds of two small pink weather-worn cloth bundles tenderly in his hands. He goes to Elizabeth who is gasping for air.)


Beth. The babies. Fiona’s babies were wedged in a hollow in the tree. When I cut the branches, their…bones…fell out. Here they are… (Elizabeth cradles them and weeps)


(Looking up and around addressing the spirit) This doctor boy is right, I am sorry to say. We shoulda stopped you then. I’m stopping you NOW. John Wilson McCarthy, Fiona’s babies are coming in out of the cold and this here mama is going to love them, along with her own, to make up for you’re a killin’ ‘em. Fiona, darlin’, I am sorry. Rest now. (She pauses, takes a shuddering breath and wails in grief)  And I want my Georgie back. You had no right to put yourself on me after Fiona died, that was evil, but you’ll roast in hell for taking my baby Georgie from me and putting him with the others up high in the hollow in the apple tree. I could hear him cryin’ on the wind like he were flyin’ and couldn’t find himI've walked by that tree hundreds of times...(She wipes her nose on her sleeve and pulls what's left back together of her emotions.)  Say you’re sorry to St. Peter, Uncle John, and maybe save your soul, but go out of here! This is a house of life now. (Deflated)  As for my sorry self, I’m standing here in front of God ‘n everone with the bones of my baby boy in my hands, askin’ for forgiveness. I need forgiveness.  Georgie!

Light goes white and bright and the sound of pipes bursting throughout the house is heard. There’s a lot of water running. Then in cadence, the sound of several doors slamming and a wind blowing through and out. Lights return to natural. Kevin runs to the “main” water cut off and twists it shut.


My water broke.

(In a new father flurry of unnecessary kinetic activity-) It’s time? It’s TIME. Let’s get to the car. County is only 30 minutes away so we’ll make it.  (They go to the door where her maternity bag is packed and ready. Kevin, grabbing his physician’s bag and supporting his wife, turns to Miss Louise who is holding Georgie’s remains tenderly)


Miss Louise…


You go on now. Clock’s tickin.’ I’ll be here when you get back. Things need straightening up and it was my damn Uncle John what went through here like Grant went through Richmond. You like vegetable soup and bread? It’ll be waiting…And boy? I’m pleased to have met you and Elizabeth here…


You know Miss Louise, I can't say what really happened here but as a man of science, I am sure there is a perfectly reasonable explanation…


(Putting her finger to his lips to shut him up she says warmly through a labor pain) Likewise Miss Louise. Likewise.

They go. A car starts and gravel spins.  Ms. Louise turns from the closed door and gently lays her son’s remains in the cradle. She gathers the pink bundles as well and lays them in carefully with her boy. She vigorously wipes her tears away and sniffs.


You’ve been together for so long, be a shame to separate you now. (She pulls the cradle over to the recliner and sits. She clears her throat…puts her hand tenderly on the cradle and rocks it.) Rock a bye baby, in the tree tops, when the wind blows, your cradle will rock…

Gradual fade to black.

The window is backlit by moonlight where the motionless silhouette of a woman in a brim hat and shawl is looking in.

The End

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Baby Tree, part 4

Amazing Photo by Tabitha Soren

The Baby Tree


(Speechless at first.) Whoa. Hello. That’s enough. It has been a sheer pleasure meeting you, Miss Louise. Can I drive you home?


(Grumbly.) No need for a car, I can walk. Moon’s full.


Wait! Who was he? Who was she? What happened?


(Exasperated) Here we go…


In the order of the askin’ darlin’ - My dead uncle. His dead daughter. Incest. That’s cutting to the chase without too many grisly details so the Doc here won’t have nightmares. Squeamish ain’t ya? I’ll be goin’…




Hold it!  Ok, I give up… Are you saying this shadow lady with the hat and shawl Beth saw is a ghost of this woman?


Girl. My cousin Fiona. She was 21 when he finally kilt her. But not before he put a couple a babies on her. One day pregnant, next day not. No sign of the babes. We reckoned they were adopted out for money. She just wanders lookin’ fer ‘em…


Poor soul. Maybe she just needs to know where they are so she can rest. She seemed so sad and tired. (She gazes out the window.)


Yeah, I imagine she’d want to know what happened to her children. I would. We’re pretty close to the veil out here in the boondocks, y’know. All our kin make what you might call spectral appearances, especially when there is business left undone. No news there.


I don’t understand. This guy was sleeping with his daughter, selling babies and you did nothing? Where the hell were you and her family? Why didn’t you step in?


That ain’t how it’s done out here. We mind our business. I don’t like the tone of that. I’ll be goin’…


We just met, and I apologize if I am stepping out of bounds, but Louise it was your business. You didn’t stop it so you are to blame.


Blame? What do you know from blame? You don’t think I grieve everday of my life? I am punished more than you know. I just came here to get my apples…


(Transfixed at the scene out the window) Wait! Miss Louise can you see her? Oh God! Can you see the babies?


Ok damn it…See what you’ve done? The power of suggestion…


(Talking to Kevin.) Y’ know, bein’ pregnant is confusing. She needs to go to bed. Good bye.


No really, I can see them. She’s holding them in her arms. They’re so small and cold… Why aren’t they crying? We’ve got to get them. They’ll die… (She runs to the door and is restrained by Kevin.)


Now that is spooky. My hackles are all raised up. See? If I don’t look, they ain’t there… That’s my rule.(She shows them her arm and shivers.)


Miss Louise and I will go out and check on her way home. Relax, honey please. This is too stressful for you. Sit. There now. We’re going out to check…And if there is a Mama and her babies outside, I swear I’ll bring them in. I promise.


You believe me? Thank God… What in the world have we gotten into here?


Louise and I will look all over for them, right Louise? We’ll be right back…


I’d rather not. I think I should stay here. You go on…


What?  (Taking her by the arm and moving away whispering.) You have got to be shitting me, woman!


I got my reasons and you let go of me before I knock you in the head so hard you’ll think you’re in jail from looking through your rib cage.


Look, now you even have me spooked and if some impaired inbred smart ass relative of yours is outside messing with us by backing up your bizarre, and might I say sick stories, I want you along to call off all the fun! What is all this anyway? Some sort of warped welcoming committee? I’d have been happy with just the pickles. C’mon. (They exit)

(To be continued...)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Baby Tree, part 3

The Baby Tree


Glass of water?


Never touch the stuff.




Too yellow.




Gives me wind.


What then?


What’s that you got? Think just because I am old, I wouldn’t like a brew?  (Kevin tentatively opens one for her while Louise whips off her hat, shoves it in her pocket, ruffles her hair and looks intensively at Elizabeth.) What happened to your hand honey?


I cut it peeling apples.


You sure about that? There are many sharp things around this old place that could’ve snagged you. Lemme see. (Elizabeth hesitates)  Lemme SEE little missy! (Ms. Louise unwraps her hand and looks.) Here I can fix it. (She reaches into her pocket and pulls out a small tube of super glue and glues the wound shut.)


Hold on! What are you doing? Wait! I wanted to stitch that up.


This works better, Mr. Big City Doc, less infection. Evertime my dogs get into it, I use this on their ears to close ‘em up. I got dogs. Hounds. Hear ‘em yonder? You will. They’re lively. Better company than humans I can tell you.


Ow, it stings.


Aw. c'mon Missy, take it like a woman, for the love of Pete!  (She looks at Beth rather more closely and relents.)  Oh. alright.  Can't stand to see the tears.  Got something fer that too… These leaves leech out stings… (She takes out a pouch and pulls out green leaves. She presses them to the wound and rewraps Beth’s hand. Kevin watches with interest.) I can't wait to see how you handle birthin' your little girl there if that bugged you.


Natural aspirin. Nice work. Miss Louise, I need to spend some time with you. You could teach me a thing or two I bet.


Flattered but not lookin’ fer a boyfriend at this delicate time in my life. However, if you have this good beer all the time, we can engage in proper conversation on the porch once in a while.


Miss Louise, did you pass a woman outside wearing a brim hat and a shawl? I saw her standing under the tree…Maybe you know her. We didn’t invite her in. Maybe she was just out for an evening stroll or something...


She wouldn’t a come in anyway. She thinks her Daddy’s still here. Personally, I think her Daddy’s still here, evil son of a bitch. Even though he shoulda gone di-rectly to hell when he died. Hell wouldn’t have him, I reckon. Puked him right back out I bet.  (She points to Beth's wounded hand.) Figures he’d make a nuisance of himself.  Oh, don't worry, he got his in the end. He died tangled up in the thresher. Got chopped into 8 pieces and they had to completely pull the blade apart to fish out all his remains… (She whispers conspiratorially.) People say he was pushed over the guard by someone ‘cause it takes some real effort to fall in.  Stands to reason he got kilt by mechanized knives. He liked to use ‘em on people he didn’t like.  (She eyes Beth.)  You should watch it. He has a special dislike for pregnant women.  (Ms. Louise warms to the idea of telling a story and sits.)  You want to hear more about it?

(To be continued...)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Baby Tree, part 2

The Baby Tree


Here, pressure on that.  (He grabs a towel and wraps her hand tightly)  Might have to whip a stitch or two into it later. Now we’re checking your pressure. (He locates a blood pressure instrument in his doctor’s bag and wraps her arm in the cuff and pumps it up. He expertly presses a stethoscope to her wrist and listens.) Do you feel lightheaded?


No. Just weird. Outside of myself. I could see the knife cutting my hand but it wasn’t me. Funny…


Even funnier. 120 over 80. You are great…No hypertension for the first time in months! (Dracula voice) Maybe we should’ve bled you sooner, ha-ha. Lame doctor joke, I know. Sorry. Put your feet up…


(Still fuzzy) I like your dorky bedside manner sweetie. A little dark, but funny. I guess I’m loopy from hormones. Tried to skin myself instead of that apple!  Sorry.


No, the hypertension meds are pretty powerful. You just nodded off and probably rolled over on it.


(They both jump as a loud knock is heard on the door) Who the hell? Stay here. (He looks out the window and can’t see the visitor, and then gingerly opens the door)


(The door’s pushed in roughly from the outside and standing in the doorway is a tallish elderly woman in overalls, tall water boots, a multi-colored sweater and a hat with turned up ear flaps. She’s gruff…)  You got my apples?


Excuse me?


You deef boy? You got my APPLES?


Well, I think they’re my apples now since I just bought the place. And I am not “deef.”


I knew that. At least you ain’t ethnic. (She spits) And yer not hard on the eyes. But I get the apples. Just like usual.


(Sensing something a little off with her)  Fine. You can have half. Here’s a bag…


Half’s better than nothin’, Mr. Hot Shot Landowner. I’ll bring you some pickles next week in barter. (Noticing Elizabeth she visibly softens)  Well, boy, why didn’t you tell me you had a little wifie here all full up with babe. Obviously your pickle is in perfect working order. And I see you found the cradle in the attic…




(She barrels over) How you doin’ honey? (She puts her hand full on Elizabeth’s tummy, making her jump)  You got a girl in here. I never miss.


But... (Sarcastically) Aw dammit, we wanted to be surprised...


(She touches Elizabeth’s shoulder and Elizabeth nearly crawls over the back of the recliner to get away.) Milk’s droppin’. You due soon? I’ll be by when you get to laborin’ to help out.


Not that we wouldn’t appreciate…


I am known as the best baby catcher in the county. Never once fumbled a slippery little squealer fresh outta the oven.


Well, there’s something to hang your hat on…


Could turn a breech in a twink too…


Hang on…That's enough.


And if a baby is a big’n and havin’ a tough time makin’ it out, why my signature move is called the North Carolina Forceps.


Uh uh. Stop there…


Y’see when the mama is nice and relaxed and not paying me too much mind…


No! Stop!


I just take both my forearms and apply sudden pressure right to the top of the…


Oh Lord! Thanks but no. Going to County Hospital.


…and those babies just come flying out! Gotta stand across the room with a catcher’s mitt they comin’ so fast then!


(Jutting out his hand)  I’m Kevin Kopp, the new town doctor. This is Elizabeth, my wife. We moved in yesterday. And you are?


Miss Louise McCarthy. (She shakes his hand, eyeing his beer) Anything you need to know about this place I can tell you. You know most folk around here offer a guest a little something to drink when they’re callin…

(To be continued)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Baby Tree

('Tis my favorite month and holiday, so I hope you enjoy a spooky play I wrote especially for Halloween!  Tune in for each episode...)

Act 1
Scene One

 Setting: Country cabin setting in autumn. There is a comfy couch, dining table, Franklin stove, recliner and end table with lamp. An old fashioned cradle is next to the recliner with new linens draped over, still unwrapped. A doorway and window leads into front yard. It is the new home of young marrieds, Elizabeth and Kevin. Elizabeth is quite plainly pregnant and walks with effort. Kevin is strong, enthusiastic and cheerful, and dotes on his wife.

It is dusk. Kevin and Elizabeth enter laughing from outside. They are both a little cold and he carries a giant basket of big, beautiful red apples.


(Puppyish and jumping around his slow moving, glowing wife.) God, I love it here! I am so glad we moved way away from the city. Aren’t you?


Anywhere you are I am delirious. (They kiss.) Ok, that was sappy, but no one can hear except the ghosts in this fixer-upper - These apples will need to be put up soon. You like apple sauce?


Love it!  (Leaning down to speak to her tummy.) Hear that, little critter; your mama’s a happy lady. I’m in heaven. And you’ve got a womb with a view. My work here is done.

Oh ho, you think so? Not really. We’ve both got a lot of stuff to do to make this drafty little mess a home. It just doesn’t feel like our house yet.

(He grabs a beer.) I think I might go take the handsaw to the lower branches on that tree while dinner’s cooking. We need the wood for the stove anyway. I’ll chainsaw the rest of it and pull the stump in the morning. I’m all set to yank it with the tractor and chain…


Kev, it’s getting too dark, and anyway, do we have to take down that old apple tree? (She gazes out the window at the tree.) I like it. It’s like a big old gnarly guard on the lane, full of holes for animals to live in. It speaks to me somehow. I mean I know it is too old and rotten to stay up on its own, but it is still making these unbelievable apples…Isn’t there anything we can do? I mean look at it…it’s so protective, so ancient…


Well, maybe when I trim it up and lose some of that deadfall weight at the bottom it might do better. A little TLC and maybe we can bring it back. Ok…But I am going to pull down those dead branches for the stove tonight.


Apple wood smoke. I like that.  (She flinches and laughs, hand on her belly.) Oooh! Soccer kid strikes again… Come feel –   (She stops and freezes.) Who is that?




Out there near the apple tree… There’s a woman I think… She’s just standing there.


Welcome Wagon maybe? Bet it’s a neighbor…People are more friendly out here in the sticks. Where? I just see shadows…I should be able to see her, the moon’s rising. You sure?


Honey, I can see her eyes under her hat. It’s cold. Go ask her in…


Wait here, I’ll check it out.  (Gets a flashlight and talking to himself.) Our nearest neighbors are two miles away. I didn’t hear a car…(He exits.)


Well, I saw her. She’s sad. (To herself.) We should ask her in to warm up; cup of hot tea…

Elizabeth goes to the basket of apples, picks out a good one, grabs a knife and bowl from the table and begins to peel it as she sits in the recliner. She relaxes and allows the knife and apple to fall into her lap. As she nods, the atmosphere, the very air in the room takes on a bluish tint, a door slams elsewhere in the house, a magazine is pushed from the dining table, a chair moves of its own accord away from a path leading to Beth, the bowl tips from her lap, a boom boom boom, like heavy footfalls, is heard and Beth’s hand comes up with the knife in it...


(Enters bustling and busy putting wood in the box next to the stove. The atmosphere subtly shifts to warmer tones again.)  Whew… getting nippy out there. Little nippy in here too. No shadow woman, Beth. Moon’s a beaut though, huge, and I think it’ll be frost tonight. (He sings) Can I just have one more Moondance with you, my love? (He stops short) Beth! What did you do? Your hand…


What? I don’t know. Oooooh it’s a bad cut… (She raises up a bloody dripping hand.)

(To be continued)

Friday, October 2, 2009

Officer Krupke, I'm Down On My Knees

I got popped for speeding. I paid my fine online swiftly, felt like ripping a band aid off a furry spot, or even an energetic bikini wax, to ameliorate the pain of supporting Brevard County’s latest public works project. There goes all those quarters and nickels and Canadian dimes I saved up for a new reclining chair and the co-payment on the colonoscopy I am supposed to have as a freakishly undignified reminder that my last birthday makes me old… Whatever.

Now the “points” problem. It's going to take me 4 hours to complete this Florida Driver Safety Course online. I thought when I tuned into the Course, well hell, I can just skim this stuff, take the module quizzes and be done with it in no time. But no. Those wily imps, the Safety Course people, have affixed a timer, an infernal speed bump, to each module so that you cannot skim, skip ahead and just merrily guess your way to completion in a fraction of the time like I did in college. No Way. You've been a bad bad girl! Time out!

From the Course: "The operation of a motor vehicle takes a clear and focused mind, uncluttered by thoughts of aggravation and distress..."

Well, Officer Krupke, try this on for size -

"Mom! We’re LATE! Coach's going to make me do pushups. One for every minute we’re late! And laps too. Everyone will yell at me for being late. I'll sit the bench first half. Then I’ll pull a muscle from not being warmed up…”

"It’s not my fault you overslept and didn’t put out your things last night like I told you to not less than four damn times little missy. But oh no! Miley frickin’ helium head Cyrus and those fat kids living in the hotel show just couldn’t be missed…”

“My socks are dirty looking, did you wash them? My hair is awful. A-W-E --- - no how do you spell awful? OMG I can't find my cleats, we got to stop at the Sports Authority and buy some...”

“It is your responsibility to keep track of...WTF? You’re playing in your bare feet I don’t care now"

“Can't you drive any faster? God, you drive like an old lady!"

The Safety Course Voice: Must you always be right? (YES) Do other people upset you, particularly when they don't do things your way? (YES INDEEDY THEY DO!) Try cooperation instead of confrontation; it's better than fighting and always being "right"." (MAKE ME!)

At this point the Safety Course Voice begins speaking to me in a just-put-the-weapon-down-and-come-on-out-of-there-with-your-hands-up voice:

“Good drivers have a quiet level of efficiency in their actions. What do you do when emotional distress has taken over?

1. Take a deep breath, hold it for a few seconds and then let it out. (Done) Go for a walk. (Can't. Got to roll. We are now officially really late.) Do anything non-violent. (Check! Chewing soda straw to smithereens.) Do not get in your motor vehicle and drive angry. (Whoops! Too late!)

2. Try to displace yourself from what it is that is upsetting you. (But she’s right there---> Can’t you see her there in the passenger seat?) Take a time out and go sit in your room. (Going to my happy place....Connecting in Atlanta.)

3. Take a moment and recognize your anger for what it is, some hurt, real or imagined. (Huh? Can’t hear you because of the blood rushing through my ears.)”

“With severe emotional pain, the driver could turn to substance ______ to hide emotional pain.

Exhaustion can manifest itself in your life in such things as:
_migraine headaches
_both a and b
_neither a or b”

This is when I spontaneously consider this: “At what Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) are you considered impaired?” Sports Authority is next to the ABC store. Then I punch in all the data into the mental calculator and decide the beer goggles are not worth it.

Hey look! The Safety Voice has calculated it all out like I did:

“Towing - $150
Lawyer - $3500
Fine - $250 to $500
DUI School - $190 to $285
Insurance - $1500
Lost Wages - $1000
Court Costs - $450
Substance Abuse Evaluation - $75
Treatment - $400
License Reinstatement - $155
Cost Recovery - $350
That "one" 5 oz. glass of Pinot Grigio costs you in the neighborhood of $8000.”

Check. No green light for the coping liquids. Only at home when the keys are missing.

So migraine it is... here comes the aura, wham, and it's black. Just as black as the inexpensive cleats my daughter does not want, nor even glances at, perched like adorable enthusiastic “pick me, pick me” mutt dogs in the pound on a rickety folding table to the right. After screeching into the Authority, leaping out and scurrying barefoot into the just opening store, she sees with supernatural laser eyes, yes, the pure white shimmering aura of the sacred Nikes elevated on an altar of just Windexed plexiglass.

“I LOVE these.”

“Get them; just get themmmmm (my devil voice in lowest octave) GGEETTT THEMMMMMMMMM!”

“Mom you're scaring me.”

Deep breath, charge card, and the birds are released, cue the balloons and angels sing.

11 minutes more to go on this Florida Safety Course module. So carrying on…

Back in the vehicle we call Ursula, we peel out and step on it to make time. Ursula bleats at us incessantly until the seat belts are clicked. Ursula says; “Oh hell no! None of your faces are going to come to a splattering stop on my pretty windshield! Put those belts on, my bitches!”

Still we were 20 minutes away and going to be late by as much. So it's Sunday, everyone safely tucked away in church except we heathen soccer pagans, no one on the road, and I put the pedal down on a straightaway leading to the soccer fields.

She says, I shit you not: "Wow Mom you are driving much faster in this car than the last one!"

“Yeah well it was falling apart. I was trying to baby it into living longer. Remember it tried to kill us in Port Charlotte by not letting me release cruise control at 70 mph? It croaked anyway. Put your damn shoes on."

I felt assaulted, betrayed and abandoned by the Mazda 626 until I found Ursula. Now I could cook down the highway leaving flames in the rear view like I had my very own Flux Capacitor and could warp time and distance at will. Rock n roll!

Safety Course Voice, where the hell were you at this juncture. Sitting somewhere sipping tea after church pursing your lips and waving a naughty, naughty finger in my direction. I got another finger gesture in mind right now.

"One should avoid dangerous driving situations (excessive speed, running red lights or stop signs, etc.)"

I could have USED that information right then.

"If the vehicles are the same weight, the vehicle with the higher speed will have the greater force of impact. If one vehicle is going 20 mph and the other is going 60 mph, the one going 60 mph has nine times the force at impact than the one going 20 mph. This is a squared relationship. Three times the speed will have nine times the force of impact (32). Four times the speed will have sixteen times the force of impact (42). Five times the speed will have twenty five times the force of impact (52), and so on."

They told me there would BE no Math, not wired for it in any way at all, but holy hell! If this Safety Course has done anything for me that last piece of demonic natural was it.

"The belted-in occupants count their lucky stars and continue on with their lives. The unbelted occupants are carted off to the hospital or morgue for an extended stay; some longer than others."

You try it:

If one vehicle is going 20 mph and another is going 60 mph, the one going 60 mph has ______ times the force at impact as the one going 20 mph.

_Oh God Help Me Sweet Mother of Quantum Physics!

"Drivers should … not let outside distractions deter them from safe driving habits. Billboards, homes, pedestrians, etc., can be observed yet should not consume one’s full attention. Drivers must realize that an awareness of the road is vital in safe driving.”

“I see the field lights, we're almost there. Maybe Coach will forgive us the pushups or laps or whatever.”

“Well YOU don't have to do them Mom, I do, so hurry.”

“I see lots of cars up ahead, it's right there on the right, we’re ALMOST there..."

"Mom, I see police lights behind us."

"Oh I’ll pull over so he can get to where he's going"

"He's where he's going Mom"

"Am I getting popped?"

Stopping. Turning car off.

"Eh, yeah Mom you are. See ya!"

She scampered like a happy bunny off to the relative safety of her team where I found out later, they wondered aloud whether I'd flash the cop to avoid the ticket.

Safety Course Voice,  a fey cavorting guardian angel right by my side, reminds me in a prissy lisping I-told-you-so tone: “Everyday driving is hours and hours of the same thing, followed by a few moments of terror. Imagine running as fast as you can into a wall. You'd expect to get pretty banged up. Do you think you could stop yourself if the wall suddenly popped up when you were two feet away from it?"

“Hello Officer. What can I do for you today?”

“License and registration please...”