Monthly Archives: April 2011

Death, Marsupials, Swords, and Google

Death is something I’m just not good at.  I don’t mean dying.  I might be very good at that, hell I might be the best at it.  We don’t know yet.  Hopefully not for a while.  But death as in dead bodies.  Or even the idea of something ceasing to exist.  It gives me the willys.  Maybe if I’d taken up hunting or worked in a butcher shop I’d get over it, but for now, ugghhhhhhlehhhhhagagagh.  Yuck.  I’ve even considered becoming a vegetarian because sometimes while eating I start thinking about my food as dead animal flesh and  just about puke in my mouth.  It’s an issue. 

Unfortunately I’ve found that sometimes death is inevitable, and chances are your going to see it.  I’ve managed to avoid it as much as possible.  Besides seeing my poor cat Mocha dead I have very little experience with those who have “ceased to be”.  While working as a maintenance man for an apartment community I dreaded entering an apartment to find a dead resident.  That does happen by the way, all the time.  It happened to some of my coworkers at another property in fact.  Not to me.  Thank god. 

I’ve found that my dogs don’t have the same aversion to death.  Making something that is running away into a chew toy is high on their list of priorities.  A successful grab makes them so happy its hard to be mad at them.  I wish we could get a little more Disney around here and maybe sing some songs with the local rodents but alas, they prefer biting and shaking. 

Late one summer night I let the dogs out and instantly there was crashing in the bushes.  The dogs dove right in, snarling and teeth snapping.  Lilly my black lab popped out with her head held high, holding something gray and wriggling.  Before she ran out into the night I saw a long hairless tail whipping about.  My first thought was, “Oh thank god it wasn’t a cat,”  my second was, “Ugh a possum, gross.” 

I managed to get the other dogs in after some shouting and threatening.  Lilly wasn’t having it though.  She was off playing with her new friend.  I find myself once again in a position where I’m going to embarrass myself by admitting my behavior.  Ah well.  I yelled for her to come back for a minute.  Then I went to the back window of my home, and with the use of a flashlight, tried to locate her in the darkness.  I saw her pawing at a limp pile of fur.  She barked at it a couple of times and then decided it had become too boring to bother with.  In a minute she was at the glass slider, mouth full of course gray hair, thrilled with her adventure.  Again gross.  That’s just what I want, filthy possum hair all over the place.  I sent her straight to her cage. 

I went back to the window with my flashlight. I prayed that it was up and wandering off.  Of course not though, it lay where she’d tossed it.  I could just make out the fuzzy curve of its back and it’s rat like tail.  I watched for a while (don’t ask me why), and then spent some time thinking about the situation.  I couldn’t leave it.  I couldn’t have the gf remove it.  I do have some pride (and she may have picked up a rabbit the month before).  I wasn’t going to call animal control either(the pride thing again).  But I really didn’t want to.  I mean really didn’t.  I mean stomp my feet and throw a fit didn’t want to.  After a few minutes I gave in to the inevitable.

I left the house armed with a shovel, rake, bucket, trash bag, flashlight, and thick leather gloves.  I’d put on jeans, long sleeves, and boots.  I might have had to do the unpleasant chore but I was going in prepared.  If I had owned some type of protective mask I would have put that on too. 

The night was cool and breezy with very little moonlight.  The leaves of the giant maple trees in my back yard sounded like distant waves.  The beam of my flashlight whipped back and forth over grass that hadn’t been mowed in too long.  Suddenly there it was, limp and still and very much dead.  The way the light struck the possum was… well it was creepy ok?  Its white face glowed and its eyes were beady, black, empty.  It’s pink lips curled back in a snarl showing white needle teeth.  I turned around and went back on the deck.  I needed some more time to think.

After a few minutes of motivational self talk and deep breathing exercises I headed out for round two.  The possum lay there, looking like some little hell spawned demon sent to test my manhood.  I was determined to remove this carcass from my property.  That’s what I’d taken to calling it in my head.  A carcass.  I crept up on it from the back, so it wasn’t staring at me, and dropped my trash bag.  Taking my shovel I stretched forward and slowly, slowly I touched it.  And its stupid little hairy side moved slightly.  I yelled something that rhymes with, “FUDGE TREE!,” dropped the shovel and swiftly retreated. 

So I was back inside, at the window with the flash light.  It was still laying there.  My nightmare had become… well, a worse nightmare I guess.  It seemed that I was faced with a new and much worse situation.  That of killing this creature myself.  I considered letting the dogs out to finish it off, but realized that was a horrible idea for so many reasons.  Images of me beating this thing to death with a shovel were bringing me damn close to tears.  It seems that my home is short on killing tools.  I don’t have any guns (except for the tons of guns I keep in case someone breaks in, you hear that you robbers?) and there really isn’t any other way to make a good clean kill.  For a moment I considered bloodying my replica sword but the image of skewering a possum on my blade was so ridiculous and weird.  I turned to a much more modern weapon.  Google.

I looked up “my dog got a possum” and was greeted with tons of stories.  Evidently this is part of being a dog owner.  I read all sorts of tales.  In fact I got so caught up in them that I managed to chill out a bit.  And I was learning.  Possums excrete a foul-smelling substance when attacked.  Well that explained why Lilly was licking her chops and looking ill.  I made a mental note to let her out and get her a drink as soon as possible.  Possums have too low a body temperature to harbor rabies.  Also good to know.  Things were looking up.  Then I saw it, a fact most everyone knows but which had slipped my mind in all the excitement.  Possums play dead.  They’re not just good actors either.  They actually go into a little coma.  Their hearts barely beat and they hardly breath.  “Oh please,” I thought, “please make the possum be faking.”

I got up and went to the window.  My flashlight found the trash bag, and unbelievably there was no possum next to it.  I quickly scanned the rest of the yard.  My tools and a couple tufts of hair were the only evidence that anything out of the ordinary had taken place.  I said a quick “thank you” to the man upstairs and went to bed feeling down right cheery.

That possum doesn’t know how close it was to getting beat, crushed, stabbed or impaled by medieval weaponry.  Instead modern technology, in the form of the worlds foremost search engine, saved it’s life.  Not to mention my poor sensitive mind, I don’t know how I would have come back from that.  Thanks google!  It was too close though.  I’m terrified that the time is coming where I might be faced with having to put an animal down myself.  I’ve had nightmares about it.  I read a short story that addressed that topic, I believe by Stephen King, and it was horrible!  I’m getting a gun. (Besides my hundreds of robber shooting guns which are always loaded and close at hand.)

P.S. I know I’m a big baby, I told you I was no good at death.  I keep this blog anonymous for a reason.  It keeps me honest.  If I wanted to make myself look cool and tough I could, but where’s the fun in that?

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Gone Fishing

Once upon a time I was asked to leave school and not come back.  There, I said it.  It’s something I hate to bring up.  Not only is it embarrassing but I would hate for someone to think that I’m somehow proud of myself for reaching that level of troublemaking.  Sure, I joke all the time about how I once did this or that, and while it’s fun in its way it’s almost a punishment to myself.  Like I want people to realize I’m not trying to hide from my past, or blend in with the good, honest folk.  Many people don’t believe it.  They say, “I can’t see it.  You just seem like a nice guy.” Well this is how it went down.  Keep in mind I was a teenager, which is to say I was confused, angry, lost, bored, frustrated, hopeless… you know.  We’ve all been there to some extent.

I’m going to skip ahead a bit here.  There’s no reason why readers should have to sit through the story of my life from the beginning, though as with any story the beginning shapes the end.  My senior year.  That’s where this story begins.  I was struggling (remember, I struggle).  My problems in school have never been a secret.  Sitting in a desk all day and listening to someone talk.  For those of you who can do it, I envy you.  It drives me nuts.  By the twelfth year of it I had had enough.  Problems at home and depression had taken their toll on me.  I discovered skipping school. 

Now it wasn’t like I had never skipped a class before.  Many times before I had decided to avoid the boredom and went searching for some entertainment.  This year however it seemed like the only option.  I couldn’t sit there anymore.  I’d fight with my family all night and spend my free time smoking and drinking with friends.  When I tried to sit quietly and listen to the teacher… I can’t really explain it.  I wanted to scream and flip desks.  Drama was becoming my drug of choice.  I needed the screaming and lying and debauchery.  Turmoil fit my mood. 

So I started missing classes.  At first just one or two here and there, always carefully chosen so I could have a longer lunch, or a shorter day.  In the first few weeks of senior year however it escalated.  I started missing classes regularly.  Sometimes I would even forget what class I had and when told to “get to class” I literally didn’t know where that was.  I had to go to the office and get my schedule again almost a month into the semester. 

This did not go unnoticed.  I was talked to by my parents, the guidance counselor, and the principal.  Would you be surprised to hear that I didn’t listen?  I didn’t have it in me to listen.  Not right then, and not for a while yet.  The principal told me I had attended thirty-three percent of my classes.  Not good.  Really not good considering I had called myself in sick or had my friends in the office mark me present many times.  I was told that if I was absent anymore I was out of school.  Though I made some effort at that point it was hopeless.  I was hooked on skipping.  I could no longer sit through a class. 

So began an interesting time for me around school.  The principal was after me.  Literally.  He was chasing me.  I’d see him in the hallway trying to flag me down.  I’d pretend not to see him and the chase was on.  I’d turn a corner and as soon as I was out of his sight I’d break into a sprint.  Eluding him became a game to me.  Friends would help by stopping him to ask random and frivolous questions.  If I felt he would try to corner me during a class I wouldn’t go to it.  Any notes I received to go to the office were ignored, though I did use them as an excuse to break free from my classroom prison.  It was a losing battle and I knew that.  It’s something I chose not to think about. 

Then one weekend in early December, nearly the end of the semester, myself and my two buddies were feeling down.  Things weren’t good for us.  That our problems were largely of our own creation didn’t matter.  The fact is we were pretty miserable.  We knew a reckoning was coming.  The world wouldn’t abide our disrespect for long.  We decided a vacation was in order.  Just an escape from our dingy little world.  In the span of a couple of hours it was decided that we would set course for Cleveland where my friends older brother had an apartment.  When you’re a kid anything other than home seems cool I guess.  Plus that guy was known to drink upwards of twenty beers in a sitting, which gave him legendary status by our ranking system.  We set out immediately.

In our defense, our admittedly weak defense, we made an effort to inform our families.  We didn’t want anyone thinking we had died or something.  One of the guys  just boldly told his family, “I’m going, that’s it.” He was told he wasn’t welcome back.  Another tried to make up a story about spending the night at a friend’s house.  Unfortunately he made that call from Cleveland and was busted by the caller i.d..  Watching him trying to lie his way out of that was a highlight of our night. “Hey Mom, I’m fine…What? I told you were I was going….I don’t know why it’s a strange number… I’m not lying!… Mom! Wait… Mom! I’m in Cleveland!… No I can’t come home!… Because I didn’t drive!  Whatever! I’m eighteen. You can’t call the cops!” Poor guy.  He wasn’t welcome home either.  I chose to keep it simple and to the point, with just a hint of humor.  On the counter I had left a piece of notebook paper with “Gone Fishing” written on it.  Just enough so they knew I hadn’t been kidnapped.  I’m not proud of myself but it was kinda funny.

We stayed in that apartment for several days.  We wanted no part of what awaited us back home.  We even discussed getting jobs and settling in.  Eventually we wore out our welcome.  It was time to head back and pay the piper.  Our first stop upon arrival was the school.  We burst into the gym during volleyball class, quite pleased with ourselves and our adventurous ways.  Everyone wanted to know where we had been.   This was before social networking, hell before even before we had cell phones.  No one knew where we were.  We started bragging about our trip and sudden departure.  The story telling didn’t last long.  It was interrupted when the gym door opened and the principal walked in, looking straight at us.  Word traveled fast I guess.  Perhaps we should have made our entrance a little quieter.  He didn’t play any games this time.  We were given no chance to escape.  He pointed and his voice boomed, “You guys are out of here!”  He didn’t answer our questions or allow us to argue.  He ignored our insults.  We were marched to the front doors and quite literally expelled into a wintry afternoon. 

I can’t really explain how it feels to suddenly not be welcome.  Whether at home or at school.  Try to imagine.  Snow falling and there’s nowhere to go.  Your cold and there’s no available warmth.  Tired with no bed.  It’s a terrible feeling when the world casts you out.  We hit bottom that day.  The world was done with us.  At least our tiny little worlds.  I could tell you about sleeping in a cold car in the parking lot of my workplace hoping I woke in time for my 6:30am shift.  I could tell you about walking icy railroad tracks at three in the morning because we heard a rumor that a girl might let us sleep in her basement.  Or trying to camp in a field where we just couldn’t get warm no matter how big a fire we made.  But those things aren’t important.  Well, not to this story anyway.  This story is about how I ended up expelled from school.  I think we’ve basically covered it. 

If there was anything else to say it might be this.  The way I was feeling at that point in time was valid.  It was very real to me.  I was trying to find my way and failing.  Adults need to be very wise when dealing with troubled teens.  There is a paradox.  You can’t force them anymore, they’re not kids.  But trying to be overly sympathetic only enables them to make bad choices.  You can’t be too hard or soft with them.  Instead you have to wisely choose when to lean on them and when to bend to them.  Let them mess up but quietly be guiding.  Most of all love them, no matter what.  That’s how I see it at least.  If I didn’t learn something from this mess then what good was it?  But I don’t have kids yet, and I’m sure somewhere there is a parent just shaking their head thinking, “He’ll see…”