Tag Archives: life

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?

Advertisements

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…”


Found Wanting

It’s amazing what little gems the world can slip to you as you go about your day.  With so much negativity floating through the cosmos these shiny drops of positivity shine all the more bright.  So it is that I learned a sharp lesson.  One simple moment that shifted my thinking forever.

My job involved the pick up and delivery of various documents around the city.  I spent my  days on the road.  This afforded me the opportunity to see a variety of locals.  From homes on the beach,  perched on stilts above the sands, to junk yards guarded by feral doberman and rottweiler dogs.  It was an interesting job.  Every day I was thrown out into the river of life, whether I liked it or not, and it whipped me about and spun me in and out of people’s lives.  I was touching on a hundred different worlds but never stopping to live in any of them.  Some days the road stretched in front of me and the blue expanse of sky beckoned me forth into the universe.  Other days the cab of my small truck was like a prison, and I twisted and squirmed on my seat, pounding my hands on the steering wheel.  Those days were dark and mean times.  I had no one to talk to.  Corrupted thoughts filled my skull.  I would try to go blank and to just exist for the day, my mind dark as I navigated the endless streets.  But the stopping and starting. The sun constantly burning at my eyes.  Some days it was all I could do to function.  Those were the bad days. 

One morning I found myself having a bad day.  Instead of picking up a run to the beach I had been dispatched to the city where I would most likely spend my day.  Hundreds of stop lights awaited me, along with damp tunnels and traffic jams.  I wasn’t thrilled with my situation.  To make matters worse my first stop took me to what was probably my least favorite place.  A hardware store in a rough area.  I was twenty and looked fifteen.  They didn’t get a lot of white boys in a shirt and tie in that neighborhood.  I have this thing about getting shot.  I choose not to do it.  Every time I was sent to that place I worried that the choice would be taken out of my hands.

I pulled into the neighborhood, shocked as always at how peaceful it seemed if you didn’t look too close.  Large mature trees grew on either side of the street, arching over and screening the rusted cars, covering them in dappled sunlight.  I pulled up to the first stop sign with every intention of rolling through.  But there was a man there.  He was shuffling into the road and it struck me as rude to blow by him. 

He walked slowly towards the car.  He was tall and thin and stooped.  His skin was dark and lined deeply from many hard lived years.  His clothes were worn but functional.  I wondered if he was homeless.  As he reached my truck he put a hand onto the hood and looked towards me, his eyes dull and mean looking.  “Here we go,” I thought to myself.  He stood there staring.  I had to fight the urge to reach over and roll up my window.  He was only a few feet away and I was feeling a bit exposed.  Sitting there, uncomfortably idle in the warm morning air, I began to deeply regret not passing him by when I had the chance.  With no other options I did the only thing I could think of.  I gave the man the hardest look I possessed.  A look that I hoped would convey the message that I was young and strong.  Not a person to be trifled with.  He stared back for a moment and then his face began to change.  It was like a mask was lifted away.  His features animated and a light came into his eyes.  A grin stretched his mouth showing gaps where his teeth had once been.  He said, “Cheer up young man. Can’t nothing be that bad. God bless you.”, and with a final clap of his hand on my hood he strolled on by. 

I pulled away from the stop sign with a smile on my face.  Unexpectedly I felt a lump in my throat and I struggled to swallow it back.  I felt enlightened but ashamed.  For some reason deep inside I had hated that man.  Fear controlled me and I had wanted him hurt.  I had judged him only to find that it was me who was guilty.  Sitting there in my expensive clothes, driving my company vehicle, I exuded such pain and misery that the goodness inside him had forced him to stop and try to help.  And he had.  As I exited my vehicle to enter the store I noticed a group of rough looking youths staring at me.  I met ones eyes and nodded.  He nodded back.


Bird Conservation: Now with Betrayal, Wrath and Forgiveness.

If your going to know me at all one thing you must be made aware of is my love for animals.  My whole life I’ve had pets, and without a doubt some of my best friends have been of the K9 variety.  I was lucky enough to have parents that allowed my sister and I to embrace our passion for animals.  At various times we had dogs, cats, rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs, a real pig, horses, fish, tadpoles, a newt, and we rescued orphaned lambs multiple times.  I learned so much from my experiences with those creatures.  I remember each and every one and my heart aches to think of those that have passed, including the ones I will tell you about here.

The idea started due to a very interesting neighbor we had.  I remember him as a rugged, hippy, outdoorsman but I can’t be sure that’s accurate.  I was very young.  I can tell you for sure that he had a possum in a live trap at one point and that creepy looking thing made me pretty nervous when it started hissing.  I can also tell you that he had a dog  and I remember it playing with me in the snow a few times.  And I can tell you that he hatched and raised pheasants which he released into the wild in an effort to  increase the population of the birds.  There was a chicken wire pen built behind his home and I would often wander over to stare.  Over the months the pheasants would grow and begin trying to fly within their enclosure.  Eventually he would open the gate and shoo them into the field, thereby making the pen available to the next batch of birds.  It was all pretty fascinating to a kid.

A few years and a move later my mother came in to the living room with an unusual carton of eggs.  We were thrilled to hear that we were going to be raising our own batch of pheasants.  The eggs were placed in a white styrofoam incubator.  The incubator had a clear plastic window on top which allowed us to peer down inside.  The whole setup was wonderfully exciting.  We made sure that everything was just right for our unborn chicks.  Unfortunately after setting up there’s not much to do for almost a month.  Which in kid time is equivalent to forever.  But we kept at it, turning the eggs, keeping the temperature and humidity right.  In the basement we built a small pen with a feeder in the middle and straw on the floor.  We were as ready as we could be. 

This is one of my favorite memories of being a kid.  I was looking down at the eggs one day, through the little window, when something shot across my field of vision.  I yelped and hopped back, and then, pulling myself together, leaned forward once again for a better look.  There was a small yellow and black chick in there, running around on top of the eggs.  After a moments thought I decided to take it to its new home.  I slowly opened the top, reaching down and gently wrapping my fingers around the tiny ball of bones and fluff.  The incubator was in my parents room on the second floor and the pen was in the basement.  I went down the flights of stairs as carefully as I could, carrying the chick out in front of me.  As soon as I had it safely in its new home I turned on the heat lamp and tore back upstairs.  Sure enough two more chicks were running around in the incubator and I saw beaks poking through the shells of many other eggs.  I didn’t feel confident taking two at a time so I grabbed one and ran for it.  By the time it was deposited and I was back upstairs I was breathing hard, but there was no time to rest.  One after another the newly hatched pheasants were transported.  Eventually there was just a couple of chicks left stuck halfway out of their eggs.  I wasn’t supposed to help them, but I did.  I couldn’t bear to watch them struggle.  After those guys made it to the pen I stared at the remaining eggs for a while.  They didn’t seem to be doing anything and eventually I left.  At first I would check back frequently, and then not so frequently.  They never did hatch.  I guess they were duds.  I wasn’t too choked up about it, I had a whole pen full of chicks to stare at. 

Over the next few weeks the chicks grew rapidly.  It wasnt long before signs of feathers popped up on their little bodies.  We got to work on their flight pen, where they would grow to adulthood.  This was just a tall chicken wire pen out near the barn, big enough for them to spread out and move around as they grew.  The day of the transfer came quickly and the whole family was excited to get our pheasants into their final residence.  We’d worked hard on building it and it was perfect for their needs. 

We carted the birds out and sat watching them for a bit.  Things weren’t going as smoothly as we would have liked.  Instead of exploring their new situation they were just freaking out and throwing themselves at the fence.  They didn’t seem to understand that there was a barrier there.  It wasn’t hurting them and we weren’t too worried.  We figured it would take them a while to settle in.  What we didn’t figure on was our dogs. 

We were the owners of two wonderful dogs.  An older Cocker Spaniel (Mr. Snugs), and a young Golden Retriever (Alexander Casapalus Gold: Alex).  Unfortunately these are bird dogs.  I don’t know how to put it except to say that when they were let outside they went nuts.  I watched my two sweet dogs turn into blood-thirsty monsters in an instant.  They came charging up to the pen, jaws slavering.  I saw a pheasant stick its head through the fence only to have my beloved, gentle Alex bite it and pull it off.  We were all screaming.  The dogs had no interest in listening to us.  We tried to get in their way but they just ran around us.  When we’d go after one the other would race in.  Instead of staying in the center of the pen, out of the reach of the dogs, the frightened birds threw themselves against the fence in an effort to escape.  My mother realized it was hopeless and screamed at my sister and I to get inside, where our fragile little minds wouldn’t be maimed by the sight of our chicks being ripped to pieces. 

Some time later my parents stumbled in.  They had managed to get the dogs in the kennel finally.  My mother explained to me that it was in the dogs nature to do what they did, and that they weren’t bad.  She told me the birds that died had died so quickly that there was no pain.  Moms are great for that kind of stuff; making the most horrible experiences tolerable.  I had not forgiven my dogs though and I planned to teach them a lesson.

 I went out to the barn in a rage.  I came out with a horse crop and stomped towards the kennel.  I didn’t care if they were bird dogs, they would learn to listen when I said “stop”.  They had the nerve to leap about and wag their tails as I approached.  I slapped the crop against the gate as hard as I could and they jumped back, realizing that I wasn’t here for games.  I opened the gate and entered, closing it behind me.  I slapped the crop on the wooden floor. “You killed them!”, I screamed. “Why would you do that! Your bad dogs! I hate you both!”  I raised my weapon.  They wagged their tails timidly.  I looked at Alex and he grinned his gorgeous Golden grin.  There was no evil there.  I dropped to my knees and hugged him tight against me, crying into his soft coat, shamed by what I had almost done. 

We managed to release nine pheasants into the wild.  They didn’t want to leave and I spent the day chasing them off the property.  It was good to see them go.  They turned out to be nasty, dirty things.  We decided we weren’t bird people.  It was a great learning experience though.  Besides witnessing the life cycle of the pheasant I now knew that dogs were not people, and in fact what separated us from animals was our ability to deny our basic urges and control our behavior.  I was able to come to terms with the idea that an animal can not be evil.  Only humans, with our ability to decifer right from wrong, can achieve that.


I struggle…

I have another pizza delivery story.  Evidently pizza delivery is fertile ground when it comes to memorable moments in my life.  Who would have thought?  I guess when you get a bunch hungover twenty-somethings together and pay them minimum wage to create and deliver food hilarity ensues.  Well it’s funny to me, so whatever.  Prepare for a brief glimpse into the mind of an idiot.

I had to deliver an order to a trailer park.  The same trailer park I had delivered to hundreds of times before.  People in trailer parks really seem to like pizza.  Is it ok to call them trailer parks?  Trailer community maybe?  I pulled into the trailer community and began trying to figure out which lot was which.  If you’ve ever done this, you know.  It sucks.  You pull in and the first trailer you see is 249 and your like, “Ok, so 248, 247, wait… 109.  What the hell? Ok, so here’s 109 and I need 17… so if I go this way its going down.  Wait, the other side of the street is going up.  Um, that’s the 300’s  soooo.  What the hell is going on!?  Are you serious!?  Who organized this place?  How dare you!?”  I apologize.  Evidently I’m still a little angry.  I’ve lost hours of my life in places like that. 

So after passing the trailer three times I finally located it and rather than go around the block again I stopped, and figured I’d walk back to it, maybe four trailers behind me.  Ugh.  This is embarrassing.  I jumped out of my car, grabbed the warmer-bag, and slammed the door behind me.  I started walking but glanced at the ticket and saw that they had ordered a 2-liter.  A quick glance into my window showed no sign of a Coke, so I put the warmer-bag, containing two large pizzas and a cheese bread, onto the top of my car so I could dig around under my seat.  It took a moment of pawing through months worth of trash to come to the conclusion that I had not brought the drink.  Not to worry however, there was a gas station right at the entrance to the trailer park, excuse me, trailer community.  In an effort to salvage my tip I hopped into the car, which was still running, and took off.  At that moment I glanced in my rear view mirror just in time to see the door to the trailer open and a guy step onto the porch, cash in hand.  Evidently he had noticed me as I passed his home repeatedly with my delivery sign shining in the darkness. 

So I’d been spotted.  I bet you think I went back and apologized, explained my error, and returned in a few minutes with his drink.  Nope, I floored it.  I panicked I guess.  It was a gut response.  I don’t know.  But I did, and as I navigated the twists and turns of the neighborhood I tried to think of how I was going to explain my actions to the customer.  If you’ve read previous posts you’ll know that it was time for a conversation with myself, and yes I do say these out loud.  Well I kind of mumble. 

 “Ok man, nice.  You just take off, you’re so stupid.  The guys probably calling the store right now.”

“It’ll be fine.  I’ll just say I didn’t see him.  I’ll have to explain about forgetting his Coke, but he’ll be ok.”

“If he called the guys at the store are going to be giving you shit for weeks.”

“Yep. Oh well.  What am I gonna do about that now?  It’s done.”

“You’re a moron.”

At about this time I was pulling out of the neighborhood and onto the highway.  As I accelerated up to fifty-five I heard a strange noise from my roof.  I glanced in my mirror just in time to see my warmer bag, stuffed with pizza boxes, go flipping down the road.  Cars swerved to avoid being struck. Yep.  That’s right.  I had left the pizza on the roof.

So a rational human would stop and get the bag, go back to the store, explain the series of events that lead to this unfortunate happening and get his night back on track, but I’m just not that guy.  I kept driving.  My mind was racing as I tried to figure out an excuse, or better yet a believable lie, to explain what had happened.  But there was no way to fix this.  The voices in my head went silent.  It was pretty much just white noise.  And I just kept driving. 

Eventually I pulled into the parking lot of my restaurant and parked.  It was time to make a decision.  I was pretty well screwed.  I kept thinking about that guy seeing me drive past his window over and over, and then seeing me get out and put the pizza on the car only to jump in and take off with his dinner still up there.  Finally I narrowed my options down to going back for my pizza-bag, or committing suicide.  It was a toss-up for a minute but I decided to go back. 

A few minutes later I rounded a bend in the road, holding my breath. I expected to see the bag shredded on the shoulder, cheese and sauce smeared obscenely on the concrete like some kind of delicious breed of animal hit by a semi.  But there was nothing.  No sign that anything had happened.  I wondered if I was going crazy.  Had I completely lost it?  I wonder things like this sometimes.  I fully believe that my mind has the potential to completely come unraveled some day.  Hopefully not.  But what had happened to my warmer bag?  There was nothing to do but head back to the store. 

I walked in the back door with no excuses.  I’d decided to just tell the truth and try to laugh about it.  Sometimes that is all you can do.  I figured I’d have to pay for the bag at least, and I might be fired.  I was greeted by my missing bag sitting on a prep table.  It still contained the pizza boxes and had held up pretty well.  Just some scrapes.  Evidently one of the cars behind me had stopped and brought it back to us.  How lucky for me that so many people had been witness to my bumbling that evening.  I had some explaining to do.

I told everyone what had happened.  It wasn’t easy.  “Well I’ve been gone so long because I forgot a drink, ran from a customer, drove around with pizzas on my car before dropping them in the road… and then I kind of just drove around for awhile.”  There was a variety of reactions.  My least favorite of which was a look of disdain.  A look that says, “Is there something wrong with you?” But mostly people laughed.  My only real punishment was having to re-deliver the food.  So the customer that witnessed me embarrassing myself earlier got a chance to meet me in person.  He didn’t ask me any questions.  His friends just gathered around the door to get a look at me.  I stared at my shoes and prayed for our interaction to end.  Believe it or not he gave me a small tip.  I think he pitied me.  I obviously wasn’t a smart man.


Why won’t you believe me!?

I’m willing to admit it.  Some of the reputation I carried as a young man was undeserved, either good or bad.  One learns while traversing the treacherous corridors of public schooling, and if one is wise it will become apparent that a reputation can be used to pave a way for yourself with minimal effort.  Being wise (arguably) I would fan any little flames I came across pertaining to myself.  For instance,  if someone said, “Hey I heard you beat some guy up outside the mall”, I would say “Yes, that was me,”  or even better, a mysterious, “Which time?”.  And so I became a tough guy without the bloodshed.  Unfortunately, like most things this seemed to work both ways, and while I reaped the rewards of lies and exaggerations the universe seemed to find ways to tarnish my character.

My sophomore year a friend of mine moved to my school.  We had met at catechism.  He loved mischief, I was thrilled to have him.  From this point on, for both the sake of awesomeness and anonymity I will refer to him as Snake-Eyes or SE. 

Around Christmas of that year I went to his house for our first ever sleep over.  That’s just good innocent fun.  Around 11pm another friend of ours called and asked us to swing by for some ice basketball.  Yep, that’s just basketball on a very icy court.  Its fun as long as you avoid a concussion or a shattered elbow.  Which we usually did.  Due to the fact that we doubted we would get permission to go it was decided not to tell anyone until we got back.  At that point we would fall back on the old, “Oh, we didn’t think you guys would care.” excuse.  Kids are devious.  Never forget that parents. 

We were only gone an hour.  We were walking back to SE’s house, which was only around the corner, when I heard a car coming up behind us.  I glanced back over my shoulder, noting that with the way the headlights were positioned it could be a police car.  I was hoping that we wouldn’t be stopped and questioned, which had happened before.  Evidently after midnight its common practice to stop teenagers who are wandering, even in the country. I heard the car begin to slow.  I figured this was going to happen so I stopped and began to turn.  Suddenly, I was struck by something on the side of my face.  The car sped off, the sounds of laughter trailing behind.  SE spun towards me.

“What the hell was that?” he asked.

“I don’t know. I think it was a water balloon,” I said.

“Are you okay?”

“Yeah, I’m good. Just wet and freezing.”

“Those guys were dicks.”

“Screw those guys.”

“What’s that smell?” SE asked.

And it hit me.  There was a smell. 

“Did those guys piss in the balloon dude?” SE asked me nervously, brushing at his lightly wetted sleeve.

I sure hoped not. And I didn’t think so.  It seemed familiar.  But that wasn’t quite right.  Not piss…

“That was a beer,” I said.  I scuffed my feet around in a circle and sure enough kicked a dented can we hadn’t been able to see in the dark. “Ugh, I’m covered in beer.”  I took off my hat and shook droplets of beer out of hair.  They’d got me good.  My left side was drenched, my over-stuffed winter jacket quickly soaking up the liquid.  We ran the rest of the way back to his house.

We burst into the living room having completely forgotten we hadn’t been given permission to leave in the first place.  We were greeted by his parents on the couch, looking grim.  We quickly started to explain how we had “just walked around the corner”, and looked to garner some sympathy by describing how I had been assaulted.  If anything this seemed to make them more angry.  We didn’t get it.  It wasn’t that late.  We had only been two-hundred yards away.  Why did they seem so upset? I was kind of expecting to be coddled a bit.  I had been attacked and I’d gotten wet, and it was very cold.  That can’t be good for a kid!  Didn’t they know I could catch my death? Not to mention the fact that  I had taken a blow to the head, and those are pretty dangerous.  They ordered me downstairs to change while they talked to Snake-Eyes.

When I came back upstairs things were getting pretty heated in the living room.  Evidently, in their opinion, teenaged boys sneaking out and coming home soaked in beer does not match up to our version of the nights events. But that’s what happened!  I was there!  I promise you!  Not only did they not want to hear it but the more we defended ourselves the angrier they got.  This was not the impression I wanted to leave on my friends parents.  As I tried to sleep that night I thought about how to redeem myself.

The next morning I was extra friendly.  Smiling till my face hurt, complimenting everything. It didn’t seem to be defrosting the parents whatsoever.  By the time I left I was glad to get out of such an inhospitable place and I was feeling badly for SE who was stuck living with those grumpy people.  Never before had I had any trouble with parents.  I was a favorite guest of several other families.  What could the problem be? Later I found out.

You see, his mother had the exact same first and last name as my mother.  That summer I had made a very stupid decision which had led to me getting busted stealing from the mall.  My court paperwork had arrived at SE’s house, not mine.  His mother opened and read about my court date.  This was after she had agreed to me spending the night, and it took a lot of work on his part to get me into the house.  I guess they decided to give me a second chance.  So, from their perspective, I was a thief who befriended their son and then after being allowed in the house got him to sneak out to some sort of drinking party that was so wild it left us completely covered in alcohol.  Then we burst in with some weak story about a drive by beer dowsing.  I was no longer welcome in their home.

As I’ve grown up I’ve become more than a little embarrassed by the way I conducted myself as a teenager.  I know we all make mistakes and it’s all ancient history but still, it makes me shudder to remember. I think it’s better to look at the humor and disregard the truly dark moments. And for those who thought I was evil, I never was. I understand why you thought so. But sometimes a fifteen year old covered in beer is innocent, and sometimes a bad kid is just a good kid covered in circumstance.

p.s. For those who are wondering.  Of course we asked them to smell our breath!  They weren’t having it.  Their minds were made up.  Not fair you say?  Tell me about it!


Nature Calling

 

Even as I pulled out of the parking lot I knew I was in trouble.  With three deliveries I would be on the road for about a half hour.  I doubted I had that much time.  The cramping in my gut told me I didn’t.  But I had a job to do, and these people needed hot pizza.  The bathroom would just have to wait.

I shot out onto the main street through town, weaving through the slower traffic.  Winter had long ago settled in and remnants of a recent snow still littered the streets.  My heater was cranked to full blast, my radio was pumping sports talk.  I passed my house and briefly considered running in, but with three deliveries in the car there was no way. I tightened my grip on the wheel, grit my teeth and tried to focus on the radio.

The first delivery took less than five minutes.  I pulled into the driveway under a steel grey sky and handed a nice looking family their dinner.  I was glad for a decent tip, but more glad to be standing upright.  My stomach was really hurting now and being bent in half with a seat-belt digging into my gut was not suiting me. 

As I headed out to my second house things were looking bad.  I started thinking about my options in an emergency type situation.  What businesses could I stop in?  Nothing was on the way.  I didn’t see asking a customer if I could use their bathroom as a possibility.  I couldn’t even imagine.  But when your faced with the alternative… I started considering the remote areas nearby.  Perhaps I could find a nice patch of woods?  It’s good enough for bears. 

The second delivery made it on time.  In my mind the people who received it said to each other, “Did that guy seem sick to you? Or was he just a jerk?”, “No there was something wrong with him, and he walked like he had a stick up his ass.”

I started towards the third stop.  I was almost done and had decided to tough it out.  I shot down country roads at over sixty miles per hour.  My body had progressed past the stage of discomfort and I had started to sweat and get emotional.  Every second seemed like an hour.  I started a conversation with myself which is a habit I have when things are getting bad.

“Oooh I’m not gonna make it.”

“Yes you will, you can do it, stop thinking about it!”

I tried all the tricks, bouncing, deep breathing, strategic flexing, and of course begging my body like it was some sort of third-party who was cruelly torturing me. “Why are you doing this! Please stop! If you just wait ten minutes I’ll give you anything you want!”  But my guts kept twisting, and the pressure in my abdomen was getting unbearable. 

I entered the upscale neighborhood like the cops were after me.  I kept one eye on the addresses and one eye on the road.  The last thing I needed was an accident.  “Yes officer, I saw everything, he was bouncing up and down and panting like a dog.  He was sweating horribly and having a conversation with himself.  I don’t know what he was on but something was wrong, that’s for sure.”

Finally I saw it.  A large beautiful home up on a hill.  I whipped into the driveway, slammed on the breaks and threw it in park.  In one motion I opened the door and leapt out, pizza bag in hand.  Believe it or not things took a turn for the worse.  I had parked on a steep incline which also happened to be covered in ice.  My feet shot backwards and I had to grab onto my driver’s side door to keep from falling and sliding all the way to the bottom of the driveway.  Now I found myself hanging from my door, feet scrambling ineffectively on the ice.  My efforts didn’t help me get myself upright but instead served to dislodge my car from its precarious position and start it sliding backwards and turning sideways.  Now I was actually in danger of my car sliding over top of me if I fell.  Lucky my buttocks were squeezed so tight. I think it gave me the power I needed to launch myself back into the car, where it only took a minute to get my myself upright and into the seat.  Somehow I had managed to hold onto my keys. 

I pulled out of the driveway, and then back in.  This time I made sure to pull all the way up to where the driveway became horizontal.  I approached the front door trembling with embarrassment and pain.  My face was shiny with sweat.  I prayed that they hadn’t seen my little show out front.  I got lucky.  I had to ring the bell to get someone.  At least something went right, but I don’t want to think about the state of that pizza by the time they got the box open.

My little adventure on the ice is actually what saved me.  For a brief second I gave my body a flash of danger and it’s adrenaline fueled response seemed to shut down my less important waste disposal system.  At least I made it back to the store.  Plus it really seemed to make my coworkers day when I blew through the back door and sprinted to the bathroom.  Their laughing was only further fueled by my impromptu biological symphony.  Luckily we were all close friends.  But let’s be honest, I could have done without it.