Sunday, October 30, 2011

Golf Course Gorts

“Wake up.  They’re back and they need our help again.”  
I could hear Dad growling in a groggy fugue while she repeatedly bumped his shoulder nudging him awake. 
“Well, go get my bag then. I thought you told them last time we were done with all that…” 
“I did but this is serious.”
Mom trained us up early about unexplainable things.  In fact, she was certain all could be explained if she just got a shot at interrogating the parties involved.  She always quizzed us thusly -
“What are you going to do if a UFO lands on the golf course out back?”
“I’m to say, ‘Wait right there! I’m getting my mom and she’s got some questions for you…’”
Unidentified flying objects were never poo-pooed in our house. Mom, ever the romantic, was fascinated by the topic.  So much so, I think besides A Wrinkle in Time and anything by Maurice Sendak, the book I most remember reading at a tender age (although forbidden to, I snuck it by flashlight under my bedspread) was Mom’s copy of Interrupted Journey.  It is the story of Betty and Barney Hill, a married couple who were allegedly abducted from a rural country road in Connecticut and experimented upon by space aliens. The experiments they recounted under hypnosis stood my hair on end.
Science fiction had me in thrall. For an “active” child with a hummingbird span of attention, this was a miracle.  I was dedicated to movies like The Day the Earth Stood Still and Plan 9 from Outer Space on our local horror flick channel late on Saturday nights.  Robinson Crusoe on Mars still does it for me.

Me and my brothers:  Typical homemade costumes created by Mom
So between Mom and me, anything super or extra natural, or even paranormal with all its idiosyncrasies, was worth poking with a stick.  Still is.
“Mom, who’s out there?” I called out from my bed that night hoping to halt her sprint down the hall to get Dad’s doctor bag.  She didn’t miss a beat.
“Just one of the golf course workers. He hurt himself. Dad’s going to take a look at it.”
“Oooh! Can I come see?”
“Nope. You stay there.”  She didn’t even look in my room at me on the return trip with the bag and towels. They were the nice towels reserved for guests. I'd get whooped if I so much as dried my pinky finger on them.  
Naturally, I planned to sneak a look if only I could kick my way out of the bed sheets.
I couldn’t.
I couldn’t move my feet or arms, just my head and eyes.  The cats, my fat warm Siamese cats were pinning me down, one on each side of me stretched out the full length of my body, their bottomless Siamese blue eyes sparkling. They purred and calmed me.  Funny, I never even felt them jump up on the bed. The frangipani tree blooming outside my window sent a sweet cloud of fragrance drifting in.  I felt sleepy, like waves of warm water were rocking me, but resisted with every piece of me.  Then I pinched myself in the thigh – Hard!
Oh no, this all was too good to let sleep get in the way.  
I listened really carefully so I would remember.
The usual night sounds on this suburban golf course were just the lonely scree of night hawks and the wind slapping around the eucalyptus trees and Australian pines.  Occasionally the putt-putt sound of gas fueled Cushman carts would jangle by carrying the night shift golf course workers to their assigned chores. Every once in a while, on a normal night, I could hear them talking in low tones with each other in foreign languages as they groomed sand traps, mowed fairways and moved the holes around on the putting greens. That course was “play ready” every morning by 7 a.m. with only tire tracks left on the wet grass telling the story of the night’s tasks done there by shadow workers.
The Cushman cart that brought the injured golf course worker to our back door that night sounded slightly off to me as it idled in our yard; more like George Jetson’s cartoon commuter jalopy. The headlights on the cart sprayed light across the ceiling of my bedroom, but it wasn’t the usual tired yellow color. The light was intensely white, and a shadow play danced on the ceiling. Dad and Mom rendered assistance to the person outside who was moaning in pain, their shadows and others, expanding and contracting...
“How did he get this?  Mmm-hmm. Ok. As he came through? Ok. Well, I can’t stitch him up as you know, his skin is too delicate, stitches won’t hold, but keep pressure with these towels on the wound until you can get back. I can set the bone though. Mmm-hmm, yes, it’s painful but you guys can block that right? Do that now so he’ll stop making those sounds. The neighbors…”
And the moaning stopped.  I heard some shuffling and a muffled wet crack and then Dad.
“Ok! That should keep you until you can jump again. Let’s wrap this up with an Ace bandage…Good. Done. Would you guys do me a favor and quit using that damn thingamajiggy until you work out the kinks? Too many of your guys get mangled in it still…Thanks. And maybe find another doctor who lives on a golf course please?”
And then Mom.
“Oh no, he’s just kidding. You are welcome anytime. Never mind about the towels! Come when you can stay longer, I have a few questions…”
Fabulous photo courtesy of deserttrumpet at Flickr, Creative Commons

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Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Space Between Hell and College

Bullies were always stereotypically singular and identifiable. They were the loner sweaty-faced angry kids who shoved and punched their way around knocking books out of the hands of the meek or making “meet me at 3 on the playground” challenges. They were always in the company of just themselves and the anonymous mob kids who watched, egged on and color commentated the rough handlings of these snarling malcontents like Romans in a warped Colisseum. The mob kids shouted louder when the dust rose, the fists flew. “Fight, fight. Fight!”  The mob kids had to side with the bully so they wouldn’t be next on the bloody dance card. 

Until now, I thought a bully to be handle-able.  I never took the first swing, but if I was punched first, I had permission to end it right then and there. I believed that all a bully needed to quit was a good nose bloodying, or a knee to the crotch.   I did my share of leveling the field in those days, both for myself and others.  I stuck up for the ones who couldn’t fight. Not terrifically girlie of me, I know, but my sense of social justice was simmering.

If someone would just hold my glasses and my retainer, it was on.

If adults got wind of it, we’d endure a “come to Jesus” meeting. The bully, the prey, both sets of parents and the school principal usually cleared it up. Deal sealers like a “no contact contract” or the threat of a lawsuit would stop down the whirling gyro of anger and then, after an appropriate period of time, the bully casually targeted the next victim in the chute, and the games began again.

The bully was, for me, a surly kid sitting in a chair. A singular I could diminish with one well-aimed punch.

Fast forward to now.

The bully at high school is a cyberspace phantasm named Rumor.  Its genesis is secrecy, anonymity. 

Who knows what sneering voodoo princess hatched that first untraceable egg a year ago?  Someone who hates the Girl’s spark, her courage, her confidence, her independence, her beauty, probably.  Someone who took her boisterous “ah, screw it” attitude personally.  Someone who wanted her love and loyalty...

But hatch it did. 

It splits like an atom over and over again dividing exponentially along razor sharp web fibers sending soul killing lies and accusations from cell phone to laptop to hissing sibilant whispers echoing in steamy cement corridors.  There is no bully to blame, no singular to bloody or restrain by law.  

The bully is a ghost.

When the electrical storm of lies abates, Girl breathes, but just a breath or two.  It comes again in waves, she knows.  It’s not stopping, not flaming out. Friends don’t battle with her, stick up for her, fearing the ignition of their own personal incineration. 
It is invincible.
It comes from the space between hell and college.