How I Deal with Life.....

How I Deal with Life.....

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Autumn Again

It is a perfectly beautiful, calm October day. My little Maltese dog, Truman, is curled asleep on the floor where a streak of sunlight is warming his nine year old bones.  There is vegetable soup simmering on the stove, full of potatoes, corn, leftover peas, and plump skinless tomatoes. I am dressed in my “doing jack-shit” uniform: a boys’ size 14 striped button up shirt, jeans, and fuzzy socks.  The entire day is unfolded in front of me and I have no idea what to do with it. Should I read? Maybe clean the bathroom?  Or perhaps write that long overdue letter to my sister-in-law? I don’t feel like doing any of it. I just feel like being in the right now without having any tasks, enjoyable or not to take up my time. Time, which as I near fifty is becoming more precious, that I waste.
            I waste it by sitting on the front porch listening to the sounds of small town traffic that echoes from two blocks over and the slam of house doors down the street. I waste it by staring out the window in my study wondering if the bird sitting on the mulberry bush can see me. I waste it reading the news that never seems to change. I waste it thinking about what I want to do with the fifth part of my life, knowing that often plans come to nothing.
            Life is broken down in sections or parts. No one has the same amount. Some people have three, some as many as ten. It is all dependant upon how many times people reinvent themselves, shedding old skin like a captive boa in a pet shop.  I happen to be entering my fifth part. It is the first time I have been aware of the parts.  I didn’t count them before, the way I do now.
            In the first part of my life, I was a child. No worries except if Bennie was going to find me in the game of hide and seek, or if mom and dad had bought me that new doll for Christmas. In my sesond  part of life , I rode the wild teen years, trying to fit in, coughing and laughing as I sent a tightly rolled joint down the line at a Ted Nugent concert, wondering if Kent really did like me. Fast forward to my third incarnation- motherhood and marriage. Giving birth to and raising three children, loving every minute being with my children,  aching for a full night’s sleep, keeping watch whenever illness struck, watching as they grew and changed a bit more each day, trying to be a good wife and severely  failing. The fourth part of my life was all mine. Going back to school earning a degree, diving head first into a career in teaching, being inspired by my profession and then becoming disillusioned, seeking better, and building a new life with a good man..
            I thought each part of my life would last forever. Now those lifetimes seem like someone else’s. Each separate, each distinct. Each belonging to four different people. People I don’t know. I lift the quilt that covers the small bed in my study and from underneath the bed I drag out a cardboard box.  It holds the various photographs that I keep promising I am going to organize. I plunder through the photos, and time slips through my fingers. Each of these lifetimes is memorized in photographs. Here is a photo of me pregnant with my third child, my wedding to the childrens' father, my high school graduation, my three children dressed for Halloween, my daughter’s first Christmas, my ninth grade school photo with braces shining. The photos are strewn on the floor, and the concept of linear time breaks down and instead begins to exist like the photos. Scattered, unevenly, like a haphazardly unwound ball of yarn. 
            I scour flea markets when I am in one of my moods that doing nothing cures.  I have a distinct affinity for old postcards and photographs. I buy the ones that capture my eye- for fifty cents, a dollar. . Some of the  postcards are etched on back with handwritten sentiments that mystify and entertain me. “We are in Washington today and going to New York Wednesday. Love Uncle Bill” (1937), “The luaus and shows are something to see. Don Ho show tomorrow” (1974), “No horses are here they are all illegible. No place for you here J.S.H” (1915).   
            I turn them over, study the pictures, turn them back over, reread the message. Why was Uncle Bill in Washington? Was the trip for pleasure or business?  
            Was the Hawaii trip a honeymoon for a newly married couple? If so, were they happy? Did they stay married? Have children?
            Why was it so important that there were no horses in Washington, D.C, and why is there “no place” there for the recipient of the postcard?
            The postcards give me a glimpse into lives lived so long ago. I can almost hear their voices in the writings, and each life..
            As for the photographs, I never buy them. I can’t bear to separate them from their nestled boxes or scratched frames, or the common smell of time that pervades the places that sell lives outlived.  I merely look at the photographs, scanning the faces to see if I can decipher any emotion. I study the clothing, the backgrounds, and the eyes of the subjects. Are the people shown long gone and nothing more than the images they have left behind, or do they still exist somewhere in that ball of unwound yarn? What does that hand resting on that young woman’s back mean? Why is the old man looking at the younger one that way?  Whose car is that the woman is leaning against? Is the young man in the World War II uniform coming back or going to war? The stories are lost. The people frozen in sepia tones or flat black and white.
            What will become of my photographs after I am gone? Will a restless woman, starting to realize the preciousness and instability of the years, thumb through my photographs one day and wonder? Will she look into my frozen in time eyes and attempt to translate a portion of my life?  Will she note the ring on my left hand or the way my gaze is off to the side, pulled at the last moment of photographic capture by the voice of my granddaughter?  Will she perceive the questions etched into the lines on my face and feel a kinship? Will she sigh, go back to her life, sit on a porch, stare into the color of her life and attempt to become a part of the sounds around her, the way I do?
            It is a perfectly beautiful, calm October day.  It is a fifth chance to be me.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Only Daddy That'll Walk the Line (short story written on a rainy day)UNREVISED

Heaven help me. I think I killed the son-of-a-bitch. I go into the kitchen and run the tap water until it’s cool. I grab one those plastic tumblers that’s supposed to make you think of cut crystal, and fill it to the brim. I drink the water in one long breath, letting it slide down my throat. I sink to the floor and throw the tumbler against the wall. It bounces off and lands back at my feet. Fuck. Now what do I do? I can’t break a plastic tumbler made in Korea, but I can kill a man? That’s screwed up nine ways to Sunday.
    I look at my hands. I didn’t mean to kill him. I mean, who knew? I was only trying to hurt him a little. He spent all night trading googly eyes with that little slut at the bar last night. I just wanted to teach him a lesson. Not kill him.
     I start to sob. What am I going to do? My mascara has probably run all down my face. I know I look like a raccoon. I bring the ends of my hair to my nose and sniff. Cigarette smoke and stale beer.  I have to take a bath. But wait. What about his body? What about Lester? I gnaw on my bottom lip and contemplate the situation. Oh hell, he’ll keep. Not like he’s going anywhere. I chuckle, then start crying again. 
    I fill the tub with scalding water, pour in some of that lavender Bath and Body Works stuff Lester gave me last Christmas. I rip off my jeans and t-shirt. Throw my bra and panties in the corner and test the water with my toe. Hot, just the way I like it. I lower my body down. The hot water stings, but in a good way. I spy Lester’s razor on the sink. I start to cry again. I sink down into the water and give in to my grief and anger. That stupid fucker. Why did he die? He did it to get back at me I know him. Oh, God. I miss him already.
       I give into my tears. But pretty soon my face starts to sweat from the hot water and I can’t tell the difference between the sweat and tears. It’s counterproductive to cry and not be able to feel the tears on your face. Kind of like fucking for peace. I hiccup once and stop crying. I know I probably look tragic like one of those busting out of her bodice women in those books I get at the WalMart. I inhale and thrust my bosom up. I take a deep breathe and exhale. My bosom is heaving.  
       Time to get to work. If I don’t get rid of Lester he’ll start stinking soon. I wrinkle my nose. I just had the carpets cleaned. Damn. I’ll never get Lester’s blood out of it. I towel dry my hair and get dressed in an old work shirt of Lester’s and a pair of cutoff shorts.  I go into the living room, sit in Lester’s recliner and stare at his curled up body. I figure rigor mortis might set in soon and I’ll never get him straightened out, so I kneel down and unbend him. Just like playing with Gumby when I was a kid, only heavier. His arms are curled into his stomach so I unbend them.  I roll him over. His legs flop down and splay. I push them together. I lay his head back and cross his arms over his chest. I sit back down in the recliner. No, that’s not right. I kneel back down and move Lester’s arms by his side.  A little better.  His eyes are wide open staring at the ceiling, but the face below the eyes is gone. I turn away. He looks kind of gross.
     Now what to do with him. He’s too big for me to get in the back of the SUV, but what if he was in little pieces? I could move him then. I glance at the clock. 5:45 a.m. I could work all day; it’s Saturday. I don’t have to be to work until Monday morning. I could sneak him out when it gets dark and then think what to do with him.  
         Can I even start the chainsaw? I’m scared of the chainsaw. It makes a lot of noise, plus the Thompson’s, who live a quarter mile down the road, will probably hear it. Hand saw? Maybe. I go into Lester’s “shop” in the garage. There are five hand saws. One has a pretty red handle and looks nice and sharp. I take it and at the last moment grab a pair of wire cutters and pliers, and a rolled up sheet of clear plastic. I dump it all in the garage.
     I go back into the living room and stand over Lester. Poor Lester. There’s a big ole hole where his nose should be. I aimed for his leg. Lester always did say I was a piss poor shot. Now his face is all messed up. He had a pretty smile. That’s the first thing I ever noticed about Lester. That and those big ole boots he always wears. I hate those damn boots.
      I unlace the boots from Lester’s feet. I pull them off and throw them across the room. I ask Lester, “What you gonna do now?”. His eyes just stare up at me. He don’t say nothing. He won’t ever say nothing again.
      I pick him up by his feet. His socks stink. I turn around and start dragging him to the garage. I get to the garage and his head thunkity-thunks over the threshold. It hits pretty hard. “Sorry, Lester”, I apologize.
     I get him in the center of the garage and go peer out the closed garage windows. No one in sight. Good. I roll out the clear plastic on the garage floor. I pick up Lester’s legs to drag him on the plastic, but every time I get him on it, the plastic rolls up underneath his dead weight. I squat on the cement floor and think. Bricks. I need bricks to hold the plastic to the floor. There are several stacked against the back wall. I go over and get two at a time until I have ten of them. I place them around the plastic and attempt to drag Lester onto the plastic again. The plastic still rolls up. Shit.
      Super glue! That’s it!  I go to Lester’s work bench and look for the bin labeled “glue”. He might throw his crap all over the house and leave dirty dishes in the living room, but he’s a regular neat freak when it cam to his work bench. I find the bin and there are about five different glues in it; cement glue, wood glue, sealants. I find five tubes of Superglue. They’re pretty tiny.  Maybe they’ll be enough. I uncap one and spread a thin line of the glue onto the concrete floor. Then I take an edge of the plastic and hold it down on the glue for a minute. I try to pull it up and it sticks! About time something went right. When this is over I’m so going to go to Panama City for the weekend.
      I go around the perimeter edge of the plastic, one foot at a time and secure it to the floor. When I’m on the last two feet I try to pull my hands away from the plastic and can’t. I glued my hands down. Don’t panic. I pull and feel my skin ripping against the plastic. It hurts like a bitch. I plop on my ass, my hands plastered fast in front of me. I pull again. Again the ripping on my skin. Lester’s neck somehow turned when I was moving him around and he is staring at me. Shithead.  I pull again. Nothing. I bend down and rip the plastic with my teeth until I am free from the floor but still glued to the plastic. I gnaw between the sheet. Now I can move my hands, but I have two sheets of plastic stuck to them.  It’s okay. They look kind of look like gloves. Might keep my fingerprints off things.
        I get Lester on the sheeting and undress him. His clothes are bloody, but I can probably get it all out and donate them to Goodwill. I put them in the washing machine, fill it with Tide and that Oxy shit stuff they sell on T.V, and close the lid.  I look over at Lester. His dick looks like one of those German sausages they sell in the processed meat aisle at the Piggly Wiggly. It’s shriveled and gray.  Not as tasty though. I know that for a fact.
       Got get Lester into tinier pierces.  I start with his legs. I figure those will the hardest. I remember when I was back in tenth grade Mr. Williams, the history, teacher told us how doctors back in the Civil War would amputate legs with hand saws. I figure if they could do it, so can I. At least Lester won’t be squirming around.  It takes about two hours to saw through the legs and then saw them into four more pieces. I had to use the wire cutters a few times for some tendons and muscle that were a bit stubborn, but I did it! I am staving to death.  I strip off my bloody clothes, go to the bathroom and get in the shower. The blood runs off my hands and arms and whirls down the drain in pale pink ribbons. When I am fairly certain I have most of the blood off my body, I dry off and go into the kitchen. I am still naked, but I’ll be damned if I will ruin any more clothes because of Lester. I make a bologna sandwich with mustard and eat it so fast I’m not even sure I chew. I open the liter bottle of Dr. Pepper and gulp it down, warm.
    Time to finish this job. Getting Lester’s head and arms off is easy. Takes less time than the legs. I pile Lester’s parts in the middle of the plastic sheet and cut it free from the concrete floor. I fold the plastic over and then duct tape it all together. I use an entire roll of that silver duct tape Lester swears could fix anything from a washing machine hose to my vibrator. I go into the bathroom and soak my hands in nail polish remover. I inch the plastic away from the glue on my hands a bit at time. But I ruined the manicure I got yesterday at the Curl Up and Dye. After about an hour of sitting on the bathroom floor working diligently, I get most of the plastic off. Only tiny strips remain here and there. The bathroom reeks of nail polish remover, I used up two entire bottles.
     I take another shower. This time being careful to get good and clean. I wash my hair, condition it, and then dry off. I put on my makeup and blow dry my hair. I blink in the mirror. More mascara. I apply another coat and then go through three outfits. The jeans make my ass look big, the green top has a stain on it. I finally settle on the cute black jumpsuit I bought at J. C Penny’s. I look hot in it. Lester always thought so. I add a wide red belt and slip on my red flats, the ones with the silver buckles.  Now to get Lester in the car.
        It’s getting dark. Another two hours and I can get this done and get to bed.  I head out the front door and back the Chevy Tahoe as close as I can get without actually hitting the garage door.  I push the button on the outside wall that opens the garage door. It squeals on its rusty wheels. We hardly ever open it. I go out and back the Tahoe into the garage until only the nose is sticking out. I peek around. All clear. This is going good. I open the back of the Tahoe, and drag the duct taped package over. Now how in the hell do I get Lester inside?    
       I lean up against the Tahoe and think. My eyes fall on Lester’s leaf blower. That’s it! I ransack the work shop cabinets until I find the big box of black leaf bags. I undress and fold my cute outfit over the hood of the Tahoe so it won’t wrinkle.  I slip out of my flats. I get the scissors and start cutting away at the duct taped bag holding my dearly deceased husband. I get it open and gingerly place poor Lester’s pieces into the leaf bags. Just a few in each bag. I don’t want the bags to be too heavy to lift. When I finish, I duct tape the bags closed and go take another shower. I have taken so many showers and baths today I feel waterlogged. I rewash my hair, recondition it, reapply my makeup and blow dry my hair. I squirt some Poison perfume on for added measure, then pad out naked to the garage and get dressed again.  This time I can heft the bags into the back of the truck.  I finish loading the bags, go get my purse, lock the doors to the house, and pull the Tahoe out. Last, I hit the button on the key ring to close the garage door.  The mess in the garage and house will have to wait until later.
      I drive to Mama and Daddy’s house making sure to keep under the speed limit. It’d be a bitch to get pulled over, especially if it was by that gossipy deputy, Horace. If I was arrested for murder the whole town would know by sundown. The paved road turns to dirt and the Tahoe’s shocks bounce and stutter.  Finally Mama and Daddy’s house comes into view. An old farmhouse that’s been in the family for years. A barn, horse pasture, chicken coops, and far away from the house out back are the hog pens.  Mama’s car isn’t here. Good.
     I go into the house and holler, “Daddy?” Daddy comes out of the kitchen wiping his grease stained hands on a cloth. When I see him I start to sob again. “Oh, daddy.” I wail.
     “What’s the matter, sweetheart?.” He asks. He pulls me into his arms and shushes me.
     I look up at him. “Daddy, I did something bad.
    “Bad? Sweetpea, you couldn’t ever do anything bad.”
     “But I did” I wail. “I killed Lester.”
      Daddy stands stupidified for a moment then takes me in his arms again and pats me on the back. “Well, I’m sure he deserved it, baby. Where is he?”
      “I sniffle, “In the back of the Tahoe…. in pieces”.
     Daddy seems to take this in stride. “Baby girl, I tell you what. Take the Tahoe down to the hog pens. Your Mama’s at the beauty parlor, but she’ll be back soon. Let’s be quick. I’ll meet you down there”.
      I bump the truck over the rutted dirt road the mile to the hog pens. I can smell them before I see them. I hear the oinking and snorting of the hogs as soon as I step out of the truck. Daddy drives up in his old pickup. He gets into the Tahoe and backs it up to the pen that holds the largest hogs, the ones almost ready for sale.  He opens the back of the Tahoe, grimaces and looks back at me. I shrug. He gets in back and pushes the leaf bags into the hog pen where they land with a dull thunk.
       He walks over to me, looks over at the hog pen and says, “Well, that’s that. Won’t be much left in a few hours.  Go get some shut eye and I’ll be over after dinner. I’ll tell your Mama I’m going to the pool hall.  You and I will get the rest of the mess cleaned up.  I’ll bring that new fancy rug shampooer your Mama just bought." he pauses.  "There is a mess, isn’t there, honeypie?”
     “Yes Daddy” I whimper.
      “Okay then". He hitches up his pants. “Be on your way. I’ll be there directly”.
     I kiss him on the cheek. “Thank you, Daddy”
     “That’s what I’m here for, baby. Now go”.
     All the way back home I blast Lynyrd Skynyrd on the C.D player.  I punch my arm in the air a few times and yell, “Fuck you, Lester!”  It feels good. Daddy will be over later and he’ll help me.
    I get home, climb in between the cool sheets on the bed. Before closing my eyes I repeat the words Mama taught me when I was just a little girl.
     “Now I lay me down to sleep…..”