Monday, November 30, 2009
There’s a no scratching and no licking rule that goes into effect as soon as a dog gets on the bed. All evening absolutions must be done on the floor. Once on the bed there is no changing of positioning allowed. No barking, no growling, no getting up in the middle of the night, and when the train leaves the station you’re on it until it stops, I don’t want to hear it. You get off the bed you stay off the bed. This is how it works.
Sam would sleep in if it was just Sam. He’s totally content to lie there and nap. However, Sam is a Happy Hound, and when he does wake up, his tail thumps. Thump, thump, thump, Sam is awake and he’s happy. Sam is happy each and every time he wakes up and he’s here. Sam is flawed, horribly damaged, and he’ll never be whole, but Sam is grateful for each and every morning he opens his eyes and he’s home.
Bert stares. I have no idea why it works or how it works, but I can wake up and feel it. I can see the silhouette of his ears perked up over his head, and I know he’s staring at me. It’s time to get up. Why aren’t we up? Why haven’t you turned on the light? Are you dead? Do you need mouth to mouth? Bert will edge closer to me and wait. If I pet him he comes closer and if I don’t he’ll stare. Once he’s close enough he’ll start licking my face until I get up or roll over. If I roll over that’s Sam’s cue I’m getting up and he’ll come over to be petted. Lucas sits all of this out until the pettings start and then he has to walk on top of me to get to the pettings.
None of this kicks in until the temperature in the room dips below fifty degrees. Anything less than that and everyone is perfectly happy on the floor. Sam won’t get up on the bed until Bert does, but once Bert breaks the seasonal barrier it’s on. Bert doesn’t like to get on the bed when the lights are on; he likes for me to turn the lights off before he jumps up on the bed for some reason or another. I’m not allowed to rearrange Bert once he’s on the bed. If I try to push him around he’ll growl at me with this high pitched leave me the hell alone growl. I truly think he’s afraid of heights. I can tell him to get down, and he’ll get down, and then before he gets back up I can talk him into landing where I want him to land, but once he’s there, he’s there.
Bert’s a Dropper and a Winder. He has to walking around in a circle two and a half times before he can lie down, and he cannot just lie down. He drops likes he’s been shot. He lands on the bed like a seventy pound dog dead of a heart attack. If he lands on a leg or an arm, it hurts like hell. I’ve learned to yelp loud when any of the dogs step on me. That teaches them what they’re doing hurts, so they’re careful not to step on me. Sam is a Glider. Sam can get on the bed in the middle of the night and I never know it. This usually happens when there is some light thunder, or something scares him. I’ll wake up in the morning to find Sam sleeping at my feet. He’ll look at me then look around as if he, too, is puzzled as to how he got there. Lucas is not a Winder but he is a Dropper. He’s getting some mass to him and when he drops he usually likes to land on me. Lucas craves body heat. He’s a great dog to lie on the sofa and watch television with, on a cold day. Sam stares at us when Lucas and I watch television together because dogs are not allowed on the sofa. He makes me feel like I’m committing adultery.
Bert’s sleep is deep and even. He rarely dreams, almost never snores, and I have to listen hard to hear him, even when he’s right next to me. I can tell when he’s sleeping, and when he’s staring, and I can tell when he’s just lying there resting. Sam snores. Sam has dreams. Sam’s sleep is more restful when he’s on the bed than when he isn’t, but Sam sleeps like there is something going on in there. I can tell where Sam is instantly. Lucas is still a puppy, but he’s showing signs of being a bit of a dreamer, like Sam, but without the drama. At night, before I go to sleep, the last thing I hear is the sound of three dogs breathing deep of sleep, and at least for one more night, all is right in the world.
Sunday, November 29, 2009
Loki: Daf, I brof you presenf.
Me: OMG! WTF!
This is what the Loki Mutt has unearthed.
This part of the world has been inhabited by Europeans now for the better part of half a millennium so it’s not a surprise Loki has unearthed artifacts. But this looks recent. I rush outside to see if I can tell where he might have gotten it. I took a photo of each and every likely location and realized there might be people who thought, “WTF? Did he get shelled by the Marines or something?” Yes, there are quite a selection and varieties to be had. The Loki Mutt is a Digger. So I took the new toy, which is some sort of insulator for electrical wiring, and stashed it on top of the refrigerator. I went back to writing.
Loki: Daf, I brof you presenf.
Me: OMG! WTF!
My first thought was he had gotten on top of an appliance once considered safe. This is a scary thought. But no, it’s a case of there happens to be more.
I’m watching out of the window to see which hole he goes back to but it seems right now he’s set on tormenting the older dogs into killing him.
The Oak in front is shedding limbs so they all went in there, and there’s always a sizable limb down somewhere that would make a great addition. There’s always a lot of little stuff just lying around, so Thursday, after a great feast and much socialization, I sat down in the woods with a beer and a fire, and three mutts as background music. It was too cold to spend the night out there, and far too wet to worry about the fire escaping, so I left the fire burning and retired. Friday morning the fire was still smoldering so I decided to keep it going. I raked up some of the detritus from the yard, fed the fire again, and got it going. Just for the hell of it, and just to see how long it would take, I rolled a fairly large sixed log into the fire. This was a log from the Oak that fell a few years ago, and not very good firewood at all, but it would burn, and burn it did. I spent most of Friday hiding out from the shoppers. I knew it would be bad and there was no reason for me to risk my life by going out in public. I kept the fire burning all day Friday, and more or less forgot about it Friday night. The air was cool and the ground very wet. The fire would die out. But Saturday morning it was still smoking, so I decided to roll a couple of more of the giant pieces of the old Oak down to the pit and see what would happen. One of them was a very massive piece of wood I would not have tried to move by myself, except I was finishing off the six- pack I had damaged Thursday. This piece of wood has been invaded by fireants, and unless you’ve been bitten by these demons a few million times like all of us Southerners, you have no idea how good it felt to push a log full of them into a fire.
The fireant log burned for a while, as I knew it would. It was the massive stump piece, broken at one end where the tree had snapped at the bottom. It its prime it held up an Oak that reached sixty feet up into the sky. It just fell one day, with no warning, and landed on the house. It wasn’t rotten, the wind wasn’t blowing, and when I got home the tree was there, as if it wanted to come in with the mutts. Since then I’ve been letting it return to the earth slowly, but it’s full of fireants, and I need fuel for the fire. The firepit is downhill from where the log was lying, so rolling it into the fire wasn’t a problem. It had to burn for a few hours before it was reduced enough for me to move it around, and I kept smaller stuff stacked around it in the meanwhile. The firepit has been invaded by fireants, by the way, as all firepits are. I have no idea why they like such sites, but they always do. I kept a flat shovel handy and scooped up burning ash to keep them occupied.
The fireant log finally burned into two pieces, the broken end looked like the transmission from a 1967 Chevy Impala, and the other end kind looked like a giant ham. The ants lived in the transmission end, and as it burned the ants leap out of the broken end in streams. The ham end was so massive I didn’t think it would burn down, and I spent a lot of time Saturday moving things around so this morning it would all be gone.
This morning there were two small pieces left of everything. I sprayed it all down with the hose, and began scooping up the ashes for the mulch pile. There was nearly a wheelbarrow full, and I had to spray it down all again to turn it into a sort of loose mud. I spread it out evenly over the mulch pile, and them hosed it down again. The massive oak that once was is no more, but it will return to the earth, and new life will begin again. I plant to replant some of the saplings in the woods into the yard, and I’ll mixed the mulch pile debris with lime, and the new trees will grow from what is left of the old trees. I will be long gone before any of the trees I plant get as big as those I lost, but maybe one day someone will come along, and repeat this process, and love the Oaks as I do.
Friday, November 27, 2009
It was surprising to meet someone who lived just a couple of miles from me, and Elbow and I quickly became very good friends. She has a small plantation that dates back to the 1800’s, and it’s been in her family forever. A relative left it to her, and one of the many wonderful things Elbow inherited was the hired help that ran the place. We’ll call one of the HH because that stands for Hired Hand. He’s older than I am by more than a few years, and he’s spent most of his time coming out on the wrong end of arguments with the local legal authorities. Mostly, these have been alcohol related incidences, so HH has neither an automobile, nor the license to drive such. Elbow has to go into town to pick him up, and hten return him to his home once the work is done. Thursday is usually the day Elbow has work down around the place, so I’ve learned not to bother her on those days. HH is good help. He mows, he keeps the paths clear, he does all manner of work, and he is a truly nice guy. The horses love him, the dogs love him, and I like the man. He and alcohol are best of friends, however, and most of his friends are a drinking support group.
Anyway, a few years ago I was driving into town, Elbow was gone out of town for some reason or another, and she had left HH in her house to take care of things. She had done this before and it had worked out very well. The animals have someone to look after them, and HH has a very nice place to hang out and drink. But this day, there poking down the middle of US 221, was Elbow’s tractor. There was HH standing up while driving, weaving, waving people around him, and having the very best of times. Taking a tractor on a beer run is not uncommon in South Georgia, trust me on this, but that doesn’t make it any safer. I told Elbow what I had seen and she was more than a little skeptical. However, on her next trip out, as she was telling HH what was to be done while she was gone, before she could say it he said, “And no more trips into town on the tractor” Just so.
Flash forward to Thanksgiving Day, 2009. As I was heading back to the house there poking down the middle of US 221 was what looked very much like Elbow’s tractor. It was pulling a Haywagon pull of people. This was as bad as it was going to get. I went up to Hickory Head, turned down on Baden, and checked to see if there were tractor tracks coming out of Elbow’s place. There were. I doubled back and went back to 221 but there was no tractor and no Haywagon. Whoever it was had turned off on Roberts Road. The very last thing I wanted was to confront HH while he had been drinking, and even less so if he had some buddies with him, so I called Elbow and left it at that.
Today I went over at her request, and HH was mowing grass. He barely looked at me, but he did wave. The Haywagon was parked in the barn. Busted, I’m thinking. Elbow will be back in town tomorrow night.
I’ll keep you updated.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
Classical music is something I can drive forever on, if it’s good, and this is a boxed set that is good. I dial up sixty-five miles and hour and the road is empty early. It’s eighty miles, and that usually doesn’t translate into two hours but a lot of it is back woods two lane roads, and some of it is in Albany Georgia. Albany is also another rant for another day. I don’t like the town.
My niece has been offered, and she has accepted, a scholarship to Mercer. We are thrilled, but she’s a little taken aback by all the positive attention. I think she see this as something she was going to get, because she worked so hard for it, why wouldn’t she get it? It was mine all along dammit, don’t act so surprised, people! I told her the people at work were happy for her, and she seemed a little confused as to why I would tell the whole world I have a niece who has a scholarship to go to Mercer. Because I have a niece who is going to Mercer, that’s why!
My nephew is still a self centered jerk, but he’s less a self centered jerk than usual. He eats meals with other people now, which is a step up from my older sister slipping his food under his bedroom door, no, that never really happened but it might as well have. The kid has serious issues dealing with people. I can relate. But hiding in his bedroom from family and anyone but his sister and his mother is big trouble, coming up fast.
Both my mother and her husband have gained far too much weight to be healthy and it worries me a lot. Neither look good and neither are very young anymore. My step father has hip issues, and cannot get around like he once could, and I think mom has slowed down because he has. This is worrisome.
My younger sister still sounds like a hick. Not just a hick, but a hick, hick. It’s hard to believe she is a college educated individual who came close to a 4.0 GPA. My father brought over a ton of old VHS tapes of us during the holidays and my sister sounded even worse on tape. The tapes were, ultimately, a bad idea. But my father has been doing that more and more each holiday, dragging us all into one room and cranking up the past, and we’re watching with morbid fascination at some old slow train wrecks.One day we'll watch tapes of the holidays were we all sat and watched tapes of the holidays where we sat ans watched tapes.
There’s a Christmas tape with me with my ex. That made me squirm a bit. I haven’t seen the woman in over seven years, and she mostly exists as some sort of literary device, a sort of work of fiction that was part of my life. I’m not putting her down, or anything like that, but I’ve gotten a lot of writing mileage out of that seventeen dog years I was married. To see a tape of the two of us together was surreal. There was also footage of my younger sister and her ex the next year. She looked at me. I looked at her. The tapes must die.
My older sister is a lost woman. My niece is leaving home, the first to fly the coop, and it’s like watching one person being led to the gallows while another is set free. My niece is ready to go, straining at the leash, and my sister is freaked over the idea her little girl is going to be gone come September of 2010. That’s almost a year away, but every holiday or event brings that day closer.
I really like my brother in law. He’s a very stable, down to earth, and likable person. He’s the type of guy you could call at four in the morning to come get you out of the mud, and apologize for not getting there sooner, get you out, and offer to pay for breakfast. He’s been married to my sister now for almost eighteen years, and I tell you, I couldn’t have lived with her that long.
My brother in law’s parents were there, and they are from a very strict Southern Baptist family, which caused no end of conflict with my sister when she, and the kids, converted to Catholicism. The “Saying of the blessing” thing is not something I’ve ever really gotten into, but it’s a big deal to my sister, her husband, and his family, and it is one of the sticking points. Apparently, I misunderstand the whole thing. The Cath’s have their own way of doing it, which is fine, and the Baptists have their own way of doing it, which is fine, but is either wrong, or more right than the other? Anyway, my brother in law’s father did the honors and after the first hour or so my little sister and I started looking at one another like, “WTF?” Then we started making faces at each other, and had my mother or father looked up, which they would have never done for fear of damnation, they would have freaked. But the man finally wrapped things up after thanking the people in china who make paper plates, and the beavers for cutting down the trees the table were made of, and we fell to feasting. The food was great. Everyone ate too much and afterwards everyone just sort of hung suspended for about an hour or so. My brother in law’s parents had to leave first, and then my mother, and finally I left, too.
I’m stuffed, still, and I’m wondering now if everyone liked me being there as much as I liked being there.
All of this happens about fifteen minutes before eight. I’m rattled. I do not like conflict with strange humans. Because I’m in my work truck I’m unarmed. Clearly, the other driver isn’t sane, or happy. I do not mind crazy people, and in fact, some of my most favorite people are nuts to the guts. None of them confront strangers on the road, unless you count screaming out bible verse to traffic.
The Smith and Wesson makes a compact .357 with a hidden hammer I could stash easily in a coat, and when it gets right down to it, there isn’t much else you’re going to need than a five shot hand cannon that sounds like Armageddon when it’s fired. The downside to getting into a firefight with a moron is he’s likely to be having the same experience. Firing a few rounds off in the middle of Moultrie Georgia is going to be remembered in court as seriously fucked up. The only upside is getting fired isn’t going to seem all that important considering the other factors focused on those who get into firefights over being cut off in traffic. A .357 does remarkable damage. It does this damage regardless as to whether you’ve tagged someone who started the fight, or if there’s some ten year old girl half a mile away saying good-bye to her mom for the last time.
Okay. No guns. Bad idea. Sorry I brought it up.
You have to wonder why anyone would open up with a firearm but that’s happened in the last week in Valdosta, not twenty-five miles from here, when a dispute over nothing at all led to someone firing into a crowd. The indefinite combination of firearms, alcohol, young men and stupidity will lead to people being killed. Hint: It is neither the guns nor the beer.
When for the second time in less than an hour, someone changed lanes on top of me, and then became hostile because I blew the horn at them for doing it, I began to wonder if maybe this just wasn’t my day. This was a SUV with a Clayton County tag, and trust me, conflict with someone from Clayton County Georgia isn’t going to result with some sort of intellectual recourse. We really have neither time nor space to discuss the Clayton County Educational system, but perhaps another day?
But then again, we are talking about education here, aren’t we? The more educated someone is in regard to what guns can do, the less likely they are to start shooting over some stupid shit. But then again, you have to get them educated enough to realize stupid shit isn’t worth killing over, hence my problem with Clayton County Georgia. Clearly, if some self educated redneck has figured this out, what the fuck is wrong with the people in Clayton County?
In a word, plenty.
As I pointed out a few words ago, this isn’t about Clayton County Georgia. They were unfortunate enough to donate a moron driving a silver SUV who almost got me killed, but this by no means is has anything to do with most of this. The idea it’s okay to ignore traffic signs and common sense is pandemic, and not in the same sense our foolish government is calling a few thousand people getting sick, out of three hundred million, a pandemic. Shooting into a crowd of people and wounding a dozen while killing one is a pandemic. It’s a pandemic of stupidity. We don’t have a Center For Stupidity Control and Prevention, like we do for disease, and clearly, stupidity is a much more dangerous condition.
Eight years of George Bush as president gave us a sense of tolerance for stupidity. He meant well, sort of, and he was president during 911, and he had that one good speech. But by and large, Bush was a moron of the first order, and anytime he spoke in public his handlers did shots of tequila in the corner. He wound up shooting into a crowd, and even years after we’ve been rid of him, no one can figure out how to stop the bullets. No, this isn’t some peace-nik rant. We burned to death 100,000 men, women and children, on March 10, 1945, during a bombing raid on Tokyo. Nearly all Americans were happy to hear about it. They knew this is what it took to win a war. Now, if you heard about us killing that many people in Afghanistan would you be horrified? Maybe we’re not supposed to be at war there, huh?
Let’s tie this together shall we?
On a personal level we’ve lost our sense of prospective when it comes to conflict. We’ve become a Taliban of one, ready to shoot because someone did something in traffic we didn’t like. Perversely, we’ve invaded two countries, well one country and Afghanistan, for reasons that seem to escape nearly everyone who knows anything about war or foreign policy.
Doesn’t all of this seem, for the lack of a better word, stupid?
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
This isn’t to be a big fire at all. All I want is to be warm, and I want to see light. All the blankets and clothes on earth cannot replace real heat. Electric light is not sunlight. True enough, fire is no great substitute for either the sun or body heat, but it is all I can create with my unwell hands. I crave fire. I crave the feel of my skin tightening under its blaze. I crave the bright spots under the fuel, the glowing coals of the fire life, and I crave the warmth to the bone feeling only fire, or a woman, can bring; within everything.
This is the first fire for the Loki Mutt and he misinterprets the gathering of sticks. Strays are rarely Stove Touchers, and as soon as the first flowers of flame blossom he takes his cue from Bert and backs away from the fire. Bert will come in on the fire as soon as it is settled, and warm with me, but he has learned to keep distance from a young fire. Most of the fuel is still wet from the weekend’s rain but I am a Firesmith. I can coax into flame that which can be coaxed. Oh, no gasoline, or any sort of accelerant is allowed, oh my no, that is so heavy handed. One match, some dry tender, and from that I can create a conflagration if it so pleases me. But all I want right now is to be warm again, to feel heat sink deep into my flesh, and feel the power of fire course through me very slowly. I want my hands to be warm, and my feet to feel alive. I want a fire.
I strike the match towards the tender and for a second I think the wind killed it, but the flame ebbs and flows from the matchstick. I twist the stem around, hold it down, and the tiny flame lives yet. I have a small pile of dry leaves and Spanish moss for the baby fire to suckle, and break tiny twigs up and build it a small house to live in. Smoke hides the flame, and as always I think maybe it’s gone out again, but the tiny flame once more survives the feeding and begins eating the twigs. All of this is taking place under the pile of stuff Sam and I have gathered, but it is far too early for the fire to have such a meal. Small sticks are next and then larger fuel until there is a small bed of coals for the fire to rest upon, and rest it does not. It’s trying to colonize now, sending out heat and fire onto some of the smaller stuff in the pile, and if it can get another part of the pile burning, which it does, both parties feed upon the heat of each other. Tiny twigs to pencil sized sticks to thin limbs to small branches to good-sized pieces of woods, and in between leaves, moss, and debris become a banquet for the fire. The coals under the fire are few but slowly become a glowing bed of heat. I have a fire! This is a feeling I share with generations of unwarm humans, back to the days we first sought to stand upright. Some small bent creature hiding in a cave with tame wolves and his ( or her) kin crowded around waited for this moment with me. The fire takes a life of its own, now only dying for lack of fuel, now getting as big as it can get as fast as it can, now with real heat, the cold is over, the wait is over, and there is light, and there is warmth, and there is finally a fire! Smoke turns on me and I instinctively close my eyes, and I wonder how many generations of Firesmith’s have sat near a newborn flame and cried these tears. I hold my hands out and in them I see thousands of others before me, fingers spread out to catch the heat, the flames licking and curling behind them, and I know this is elemental to us, this is as human as it gets without being in the those of passion, and this though a poor substitute for that heat, is still so much a part of who we are, this fire.
Monday, November 23, 2009
Most drivers see highway workers as those people who are interfering with the traffic flow and to a degree that is accurate. I have a very simple example for you to use if you would like a comparison; imagine trying to live in a house while it’s being built. You would discover the carpenters, the plumbers, the electricians, and the bricklayers would all be a terrible inconvenience to you and your family during your day-to-day routine. Welcome to transportation construction.
I chose to do bridge work because when a bridge is being built you don’t have nearly the weirdness. Yeah, I have had people pull up on a bridge that is half done and them ask if it’s open. Because I’m on the public’s payroll I make great effort not to be a smartass about such. I’ve seen a few people try to go around a bridge. Now, I’ve been a part of building a couple of dozen bridges. Generally speaking, we either build the new bridge next to the old bridge, or we build a detour bridge next to the old one before we tear it down and build the new one. At least twice I’ve build a bridge were the old one was demolished, or traffic was detoured, and at least twice that I can recall, someone tried to go around us, as if the bridge not being there negated the need for a bridge being there. Of course the guy got stuck, and equally of course he wanted us to help him, but because he was such a butt about it the contractor instead called the law, and they called a wrecker.
Out on the open road you’ve got to work with your head on a swivel because there are X amount of people out there drunk while driving. Then there are Y amount of people texting. The there are Z amount of people who are reading the New York Times while they drive. Then there are W amount of people breast feeding three kids at once while smoking crack while driving. Then there are X,Y,Z and W amount of people out there drunk, texting, smoking crack, reading the New York Times, smoking crack while breast feeding three babies at once. These usually have their own reality television shows, but you simply cannot tell.
In good truth, even the very best drivers make mistakes. Someone who is driving the speed limit, has their cell turned off, isn’t drunk, stoned, or stupid, can still get distracted by something on the roadside, a woman flashingfrom a passing car, or visions of god, but the last two are strikingly similar. It really doesn’t matter. You are just as dead if you get hit by someone sober and driving safe, but accidently hit you, as you are if the freak show came in on you.
Being killed in traffic is bad enough, but at least it’s over. I handed a sock to an EMT once that still had a foot in it. They were going to try to reattach it, but the foot was hamburger. The former owner of the foot was dodging in and out of traffic on a motorcycle and a dump truck pulled out in front of him. He had to lay it down, and he slid under the truck, bounced off the inside driver’s side tire, and ricocheted fifty feet. His front teeth were ground down a half inch, his right leg was broken with the bone sticking out, and his foot was gone.
Back in 2003 a woman died of a heart attack while driving and flipped her car and rammed another vehicle. Her grandson survived but he was there with her until the ambulance got there. I’ve always wondered how he survived that and stayed sane.
It does occur to me I’ve got a gracious plenty traffic stories. All of them involve people who were, seconds before the wreck, likely not thinking of having a wreck at all. They wound up just as dead, or mangled, or traumatized anyway. I try not to forget I’m a target, and I try not to forget other people are too, when I’m driving.
Will you remember this for me?
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Sam tried to kill Lucas a ten days deep into the adventure. That precipitated a very brutal flying lesson where Sam learned dogs do not have landing gear, and there would be no killing of the puppy. Since then the two play together more often than they fight, and even though they have yet to share food like Bert and Sam will, we’re working towards that goal. Bert sat out the fight, and for the most part he doesn’t play very often with Lucas.
The yard looks like the Marines have shelled it with mortar fire. Dead chew toys litter the landscape like the soon to be discovered dinosaur bones after a flood. I’ve lost two pairs of tennis shoes, the laces off another pair, some of the paneling on the side of the house, a couple of glass bowls, and who knows how much sleep. I’ve spent the better part of five hundred bucks getting him looked at by the vet, getting shots, getting Lucas fixed, getting him chipped so if he gets lost someone will know he’s mine, and buying him chew toys.
It’s funny how much about having a puppy I had forgotten. I had forgotten how destructive they will be, and I had forgotten how much mischief they will get into, and I had forgotten how adding a dog rearranges pack dynamics. I had forgotten what a mess a puppy creates, and how housebreaking a puppy is a bitch. ( Sam helped by trying to kill him, Lucas will always associate Sam’s attack with me trying to housebreak him. You couldn’t pay Luke to pee on the floor now). I had forgotten what it was like to find a good pair of shoes partially eaten. I had also forgotten there is damn little a puppy will not try to eat. He’s eaten half a rotten cucumber, a paper towel, a disposable razor, a dime, and a glass marble.
I also had totally forgotten how grateful a stray will be once he realizes he’s won the lottery. Lucas is loving and affectionate. To the degree any puppy his age can be, Lucas learns well and is obedient, at least when he needs to be. I’m was not at all surprised but very pleased when our first trip into the outside world showed me Lucas has social skills, and knows when he’s supposed to sit there and look very cute. The puppy Lucas is a very cute dog, and he knows it. As time has progressed he’s come to enjoy a life most strays do not get. I must say Lucas has worked hard to earn it. I nicknamed him The Loki Mutt for all his energetic mischievousness but truth be told this is a good dog. The three of us, Bert, Sam, and myself, were nearly as lucky as Lucas.
One hundred days later Lucas naps on my chest as I watch television but he’s getting too big for it. The Loki Mutt digs up things, plays too rough with the elderly dogs, takes things from me and runs away with them, and generally speaking acts very much like a puppy. He’s nine months old now, and about this time next year I’ll notice he’s beginning to mellow, just a bit, and the puppy Lucas will be a dog soon after that. Far too soon, in my opinion, really, but I look forward to seeing who he grows up to be.
Lucas will transition me through Bert and Sam one day. I realize now just how old they’re getting. Lucas will be grown, I hope, when one of those two passes on and I’ll lean heavily on the stray I found in the road, that hot August day. When you rescue a stray, when you take from the road a certain death, and when you make that stray your own, you negate part of the evil humans do, and you restore humanity, just a bit, in the Universe. Strays rescue us from ourselves, when we rescue them.
Mike. Photos follow
Lucas, Day One
My Loki Mutt today
After coffee I settled down and read some internet stuff, looked at some very nice photos, and made ready to write. I have a brand new short story and I like it. The first three hundred words go well. I have to name people. Viking names, I need Viking names, so… the phone rings. Vert rarely does anyone call me on my landline at nine on a Sunday morning, so I answer it. Elbow’s horses are out, and they’re just down the road, if I could drop by her place for some horse feed, surely they will follow me back, and it’s not raining nearly as hard as it was earlier.
While I’m heading down the driveway the heavens open up, and I wonder just how hard it was raining earlier. Baden road is very slippery. Mine is the first truck down the road, and there are no ruts in the fresh mud. I poke along until I get to Elbow’s place, get some horse feed in their favorite food container, and maybe in a half hour or so I’ll be home again.
The horses have discovered a house down on Stanly Road where there is very green grass growing. Diamond, the mare running the show, her daughter Mena, and Rojo the Tennessee Walker, have staked claim to the grass. I show them the feed in the back of my truck and they dutifully follow me to the end of the neighbor’s driveway. Life is good! This will take all of ten minutes or so. But at the end of the driveway they turn around and go back to the green grass. Elbow gets out of her car, I get out of my truck, and while there is torrential rain, we try to talk the horses into relocating. The horses no longer speak English, or Southern. Diamond refuses to let Elbow put a halter on her. The rain comes down in buckets. I pull the rope that’s attached to Mena’s halter but she isn’t listening to me. She stops so I have to stop too. A thousand pound hay eating machine isn’t going to be towed by an animal weighing less than a fifth of what Mena weighs. The rain comes down. Finally, Elbow gets Diamond roped, and Diamond allows Elbow to walk her towards the gate at Elbow’s place, a few hundred yards away. Mena allows me to pull her in that direction. The rain comes down. Rojo follows in front, but keeps stopping, which causes Mena to stop until Diamond moves forward again. The rain comes down. Elbow coos and coaxes and Diamond moves forward. Someone fires a gun and the horses all skitter a bit. This might end poorly. The rain comes down. Diamond moves forward and out happy little caravan moves along the muddy road.
When we get to the gate Elbow takes the horses in, and on to the paddock, and I slog back to get my truck. I think it an extraordinary bad idea to go through the gate, and into the plants pines because I might get stuck. So I continue down Stanly Road, and cut back over on the hardtop to Baden, and back to Elbow’s place, where she’s got the horses in the paddock. All we have to do now is go get her car. But nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo! That would be far too simple.
Elbow wants to go look for the rope that came off Mena while they were wlaking back to the paddock. I’m a man so when I woman suggests we go down a path I think is far too muddy I cannot say anything about it. We go down the muddy path, slipping and sliding, and when we get to the gate we find the rope, and my truck gets stuck. The first rule of stuck trucks is not to make things worse. Elbow has a tractor so we can pull this thing out. It isn’t stuck bad. Someone in a truck stops and offers to help, so we say yes, and wait. And wait. And wait. Finally, I walk the few hundred yards to get Elbow’s car. I bring it back to her, and she’s to go get a chain to pull my truck out of the mud.
I’m pissed. I want to be unstuck. I get intot eh truck and rock it back and forth. First! Reverse! First! Reverse! First! Reverse! First! Reverse! I finally get it moving backwards and I’m free! I have to go through the muddy path through the planted pines, but I’m dons screwing around. Nothing going fifty miles an hour gets stuck! I fishtail and skid, but stuck I do not get. I actually make it back to Elbow’s house before she does. She pulls up looking all bewildered and I say, “Didn’t you mention something about breakfast?”
It stops raining.
Friday, November 20, 2009
Pink Floyd, Led Zepplin, Alice Copper, Journey, Foreigner, Heart, and the list of FM radio favorite were all there, all once neatly tucked into a collection I had many years ago, and all carrying some memory of a time long past. Some young guy came up and was treating them like he had discovered a cache of dinosaur bones. “Darkside of the moon!” he exclaimed “I remember my mom having this one.” Ouch.
There were several “Best Of” collections, and I can remember seeing some of these in the Bargain Bin many years ago. Boston, Seals and Croft, Olivia Newton John, and Otis Redding were represented there. Olivia Newton John was once incredibly hot and very popular. The young guy asks me who she was and I tell him she was a byproduct of the Disco Era, which isn’t strictly true. She was more than a little country back in the late seventies, and strayed over into the pop world when Disco broke out like the popular culture plague that it was. I hated Disco. Disco sucks.
It was odd seeing a copy of Jethro Tull’s “Heavy Horses”. It was 1978 when that LP came out, and I rushed out to buy it. I was the first person at the record store when it opened and I felt strangely alive by being the first person I knew with a copy of the album. I couldn’t listen to it on the way home, so I had to drive for about an hour before I could play it. Maybe everyone is like this, or maybe it’s just me, but there are certain pieces of music that are soundtracks for things that happened to me, and Heavy Horses was the soundtrack for the summer of 1978. That and the song, “Miss You” by the Rolling Stones that came out at the same time, trigger memories of the last real Summer I would have without an all Summer job. I had no idea I would never spend another Summer unemployed. I enjoyed it, though, I must say that.
There was a place we used to hang out called Factory Creek, where there was a small waterfall, and those of us who smoked pot called the place “Reefer falls”. Two idiot fool teenaged girls spray painted “Refer Falls” on the side of a limestone face, and I still remember how stupid I thought they were for doing it, much less the spelling error. I went there with a young woman that Summer, and it’s incredibly hard to describe what she meant to me. I was totally in love with her. There wasn’t anything about her that didn’t excite me, that didn’t feel my sense to overload, and to have her there with me was almost enough to cause my heart to stop. She was pregnant, just a couple of months, by someone else, and had returned to me out of the need of someone safe. I remember almost every single second of being with her there. I remember every breath I took, and each touch on every square inch of my soul.
Months later she was gone, and I went back to taste the remnants of the Summer, and the memory, and I listened to Heavy Horses. There was this thought I had, and I remember being very stoned when I had it, that there was just so many times an eight track tape could be listened to before it broke, or jammed, or one of the plastic wheels inside died. It was a bootleg tape, of course, one I had made myself, and it occurred to me there would be more tapes I could make and it didn’t matter if this one died because I could replace it with another. But something also told me there was something special about there here and now, and this tape, and this day, and no matter what else happened in the future, much would never be the same again. This very moment was sometimes the very best of all moments, and no matter how well memory might serve, it would never surpass the heaven of the now.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Sanity is a relevant term, as you have discovered on a very personal level. What the overwhelming majority of people would consider normal or sane, or well adjusted may simply be a state of inertia. Creativity comes with a price, but the price paid may very well be worth the sacrifice. Time will tell. I say to you your path chosen is neither easy nor straight, and none can foretell the future, however wise they may claim. But I also say your choice is honorable, and it is brave, and though the Universe has not always shown favor to either, I would have my heart judged true before I had my path judged certain. The Universe has no obligation to reward honor, or courage, but we humans do. I cannot imagine I will be of much use to you in this journey, but I offer what service I may be, to you, and to your family.
If you haven’t heard I was married for nine hundred and eighty-nine days, but I refer to it as seventeen dog years. Before I got married I had a sense of loneliness about my life, yet after the divorce, I very rarely have felt the need for constant human company. I have taken up the title of Hermit, and made it a lifestyle I have enjoyed quite well. I share my life with Giant Oaks, three mutts, and on rare occasion, humans. This should not surprise anyone, either. You, of all people, should remember there has never been a time when I fit well within any group of people, and more often than not was outcast from them. Perhaps you will understand it better now, but I would not have that understanding come to you at such cost.
My deepest suspicious about human beings is there are those who are born differently than others. In some, creativity in some form or fashion forbids the alliances and bonds humans form with one another, and in that stead is formed an understanding of a much different world. In various degrees does this creativity manifest itself. In various crafts will it be revealed. There may yet be arts in which we humans have not devised a method of revelation. This thought, be it correct even in the smallest degree, I bid you to keep counsel with, and true. Allow what to others seems madness and chaos, and from that discern what voice you may hear only with love. Your path, if I have heard you correctly, will not allow for anything less than this.
Writing has become who I am more than anything else ever was, or ever will be. It is my drug of choice, it is my couch, it is my light in the darkness, my one voice of stillness in the rage, and the only voice I have among the humans that can reach them. This should not surprise you, and if you think of it, it makes sense, considering who I have always been. Perhaps the Universe is all accident and happenchance, and perhaps things happen for some reason. But in the last two weeks three people from my deepest past have emerged and I cannot help but think the reason why will be revealed soon, if it has not already.
Monday, November 16, 2009
Mule people once rode into town on mule back. Mules walk ten miles an hour so when these people get to going twenty miles an hour they’re actually traveling at Mule Factor Two, which is twice the speed of a mule walking. Anything past that and they’re entering speeds that cannot be safe at any Mule, so they start riding their brakes. The only thing worse in traffic than you find yourself behind one of these people is to find yourself surrounded by them.
US 84 through Quitman was four laned over a decade ago and it ran right through the very heart of a very small town. Downtown Quitman, such as it was, and such that it is, was bifurcated, north and South, and crossing the street became more of a challenge to some than they thought possible. Worse, the parking went parallel so the outside travel lane is also where people have to back up to parallel park.
In case you do not know how it is supposed to be done; if you want to parallel park you turn on your right blinker, as if you’re making a right turn, thus signaling to the motorist behind you your intentions. That’s the whole concept in less than thirty words. How hard can it be? Oh! Wait! This requires advanced knowledge of turn signals! Nevermind! We’re simply screwed because we all know how difficult the operation of a turn signal can be!
So when the ancient truck in front of me today hit their brakes I just assumed it was a Mule Person. I couldn’t change lanes because of traffic coming up behind me. Well, the traffic behind me pulls in behind me, suddenly. The ancient truck in front of me stops. I have to stop. The car behind me stops. We sit there. The ancient truck in front of me sits there. The car behind me sits there. I sit there. I finally tap my horn, in case the Mule Person in front of me has zoned out in favor of fond memories of Rita Hayward. To my everlasting horror, the man gets out of the Ancient Truck. This will end poorly.
At this point in time, Mule Person #2, who is stationed behind me lays down on the horn. Not just a tap to remind someone the light turned green yesterday, or not just a short blast to let someone know their cell phone conversation is burning daylight, no, not at all, this is a lay it down Armageddon type assault the nerve endings of the ear, if not civility.
Mule Geezer#1. Can’t you see me?
Me: *disallowing the possibility of invisibility in favor of brevity* You would be the person directly in front of my truck.
Mule Geezer #2: Hoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooonk!
Mule Geezer#1 What the hell do you think I’m doing?
Me: Far too much Geritol?
Mule Geezer #2: Hoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooonk!
Mule Geezer#1 *speaking to Geezer#2* *insert maledicta*
Mule Geezer #2: Hoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooonk!
Mule Geezer #2: Hoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooonk!
Mule Geezer#1 *speaking to Geezer#2* *insert maledicta*
Incredibly, the police had to get involved.
Geezer #1 was trying to parallel park at the local greasy spoon. He looks into his rear view mirror to find me camping out there. Irritated, he decides to wait me out. But then Geezer#2 arrives and he sees an incredible opportunity to block me in behind Geezer #1. These two have been going at it since they made a bet on the 1655 World Series. They have to threaten to arrest Geezer #2 to get him to move, and then we all get to stand there and watch Geezer #1 attempt a parallel park. Even with a cop ground guiding him, this man is the mortal enemy of the curb.
So off to work I go. I’ve listened to two men with the better part of a century and a half curse each other in language rarely heard outside a senior citizen’s center on meth. Worse yet, ten minutes of my life has been devoured, and the better part of twenty or thirty people, the other Geezers within the Greasy Spoon, and half the waking population of Quitman, have witnessed me having some sort of conflict with two men four times my age, collectively.
So how was your Monday?
Sunday, November 15, 2009
I set fire to the pile in the fireplace but in just a few days… Okay, there has to be a Plan “B” other than just throwing it into a landfill somewhere. So I started a Mulch Pile, where all things organic from my house will make their way. I suspected it would get quite large and very smelly, but after just a couple of weeks, it reached a point of equilibrium. The smell isn’t something that can be noticed unless you’re digging around in it. I even put up a small fence to keep the dogs away from it, but they showed no interest so I took it down. It went back up when Lucas arrived, as he loves to mine the pile for rotten veggies to eat.
It’s hard to do with weird hours but I try to walk the fenceline once a day, and this is a big deal for the mutts. The whole pack is out in the woods, all one acre of it, and Bert and Sam take up hunting positions, or they did until Lucas arrived and now it’s all they can do to get from one point to another while he’s dragging them into play. We’ve walked a path around the whole place and the mutts for reasons only they can discern, have secondary path crisscrossing here and there. It was these secondary paths that made me think it was time to get a puppy. The path around the fenceline remained clear, but the mutt paths leading here and there, for mutt reasons, began to be overgrown from lack of use. Bert and Sam were not walking as they once did when I was away. The paths are very clear and distinct again. The puppy is exercising the elderly dogs, it would seem.
I go out to visit the Giant Oak in the Southwest corner of the property when I walk the line, and there is a vast limb that fell years ago, still intact at the trunk, and still massive. Sam thinks there are varmints in the top of the Oak and he will stretch out on his hind legs, reaching for the crown of the Oak, in hopes that some small furry animal will be so intimidated by his fierceness, it will swoon and fall directly into his mouth. To date, this has not happened, but Sam is nothing if he is not relentless. Bert suspects there is nothing in the tree, but the possibility, no matter how remote, Sam may be right, gives Bert reason enough to help as he may. They both will lean up against the massive truck, standing upright, and pushing with all they have, in hopes of toppling the tree, perhaps. You do have to admire their optimism, yea.
Between the Mulch Pile and the Oak is where I found my wallet, just off the mutt path. Canine Route 202, leading Southbound from the Firepit, Exit 13, in the lost and found department, in as much as they need one. I was actually setting up a target for Reece, who wants to see what damage a shotgun does up close, and there it was. None of The Three showed any interest in it being there, and there is not a mark on it at all. How it came to be there, I can only suspect one of The Three, but for what reason or reasons, I cannot discern.
Saturday, November 14, 2009
There’s some quarters I used as laundry mat fodder when I wash the mutt blankets, and so I scrape together enough for a five dollar sub. It’s going to be weird paying with twenty-one quarters and a dime, but these people know me. It’s not like I’m going to look like one of those homeless people who pay for everything with change. Can you tell this is annoying the hell out of me? I want to slip a card through a reader and not speak to the people at the counter unless I have to do so. I remember a homeless guy paying for a twelve pack of beer in Valdosta with change and how the clerk (and I) was annoyed the man was taking up so much time counting out pennies and nickels.
Thankfully, the place is empty where I get there, but none of the people I know are working there. Dammit! Worse, just as soon as things get started a crowd comes in. Great! The better part of a dozen people will see me pay for food with change. Oh the humanity! (Did you see that guy with all the change? How desperate is that? He looked drunk to me! I bet he’s homeless and has verb confusion). These people are apparently two chaperones and some group of tweens who have been taking white sugar and meth intravenously until they arrived. They’re like a school of fish in as much as one of them will see something fascinating which causes all of them, en masse, to converge upon whatever point of attraction that has appeared. I’m plugged into my MP3 player, have on sunglasses and a hat, so I ignore them. They all rush to the window squee-ing about a cat, and just for an instant I thumb down the volume. Please don’t tell me someone hit a cat in the parking lot. Nope, stray cat, or says the manager, two of the tweens go to rescue the cat and are immediately recalled.
It’s like a herd of Boxxy clones. They’re all speaking at once and nonstop. They rush around like minnows, to the window to see the cat, to the counter to all talk at once to the clerk about the food, back to the window, back to the food, back to the window, and all the while, the poor minimum wage drone is thinking quite seriously about going outside and burning one until all this goes away. By the time my food is ready I’ve got all the money laid out in groups. Five groups of four quarters, and a quarter and a dime off by themselves and that’s my life’s savings right now. It’s like I’m the quarter, with a dime’s worth of sanity, and I’m surrounded by five bucks worth of madness. I like the analogy.
I have to stop when I get outside. There’s a cat. The cat. This cat.
I want a cat. I miss cats. I want to live with a cat, and have cat things again.
“Are you going to take her with you?” A tween has escaped her charges and has come to negotiate for the cat’s survival. She’s thirteen, fourteen, hell, I can’t tell, everyone under twenty-five looks the same most of the damn time. “I’ll help you catch her.” The Tween says this as if she can catch the cat, I have to take the cat. She gets down on her knees and coos. The cat washes her foot, with one eye on Tween. “Kitty kitty kitty kitty” coos Tween.
“I can’t have a cat.” I say. “I have Sam.”
“Sam?” The Tween stands up. This one is fearless. By sheer force of will, and by right of the Universe as to what ought to be, she has taken up The Cause.
“Kelly get in here NOW!” The male chaperone has come to rescue me from the Tween.
“We’re trying to get the cat!” Kelly isn’t moving. The man advances on us as if he’s going to physically carry her back. Lo! He picks her up at her waist and she squeals. “We have to get the cat! Get the cat! Get the cat!” He tickles her and she screams with laughter, her mission forgotten.
With three dogs, and the Loki Mutt as amped as those young ones in there, no, I cannot, really, it would be just short of murder. No, actually not short of, it would be. Sam with a young puppy to train, no, that’s criminal.
If she lets me get near her. The cats dissolves into invisibility, the way only cats can do as I approach. The Tweens AWWWWWW in unison from within. “Go get her!” Kelly yells at me through the window. I shake my head. “Sam.” I say back.
I get onto my truck and leave.
I thought my wallet was safe. Since the first pair of shoes were destroyed I started keeping everything I really wanted to keep, other than Bert and Sam, on bookshelves, on the top level of the bookshelves, and the Puppy Lucas has yet to learn how to use a ladder. Back when Bert was a demonic puppy, he ate my ATM card. He also ate a chair. Yes, a chair. Bert ate an entire overstuffed chair I had on the porch. It looked like it had been gang raped by zombies with chainsaws looking for stuffing. So, yes, I was more or less in the know when I stopped and picked up a puppy from the side of the road three months ago. I knew a day like this would come. I just didn’t think I would spend the better part of a day looking for my wallet.
Just a few days ago it was my cell phone. Well, it wasn’t my cell phone but I thought it was. Lucas has gotten into the grab-and-go habit. If I drop anything at all he grabs it and runs so if it’s edible he’ll not have to share it with the elderly mutts, and if it’s valuable I’ll have to chase him. I bent over to play with him, and he suddenly grabbed something and ran with it. I checked my shirt pocket and realized my cell was missing so I gave chase. Lucas is a lot faster than I am, but when I’m really trying to stop him Sam will usually intervene and roll Lucas so I can catch him. I think Lucas might be faster than Sam on a flat straight run but Sam computes attack angles like Einstein did third grade algebra. Whatever your plan is to get away from Sam in the backyard it better include powered flight. Lucas hasn’t developed that yet so Sam catches him, flips him over, and I am able to rescue…nothing. My cell was in my jeans pocket. Sorry, Lucas.
So yesterday was nice and warm, and we spent the day in the yard doing yardwork and it felt good, too. Sunshine and a nice warm breeze make for a very good day. I raked a bunch of leaves and added them to the mulch pile. I threw the ball for Sam and Lucas. Bert doesn’t play fetch anymore. It’s sad, but Bert has resigned from puppyhood altogether. He’ll romp with Lucas some, but all in all, Bert has more or less given up on play. I got all hot and sweaty so when I went inside, as the day cooled off, I threw my jeans in the laundry basket as so to wash the jeans later. When I got out of the shower my wallet and the Loki Mutt were gone.
I always put my wallet in my pocket, and I remember getting it off the top shelf before I went outside. I think I remember that. I’m not 100% sure. I think I would have missed it. I’m sure I would have missed it. Okay, I’m not sure. But I am fairly sure, you know? So I backtracked this morning, just to make sure, and the store hasn’t see it. My credit cards haven’t been used. There is an acre of woods to search, and he may have hidden it in the house. On the upside, I haven’t found any pieces or parts of it, so that’s a good sign. I just hope it didn’t fall out into the mulch pile.
Dammit, I hate this sort of thing.
Friday, November 13, 2009
First off, no one in Quitman understands there is a pattern to the parking lot. They ride around as if it’s an open field of asphalt, and parking within the lines escapes far too many off them. Like a seriously delayed domino effect, someone will park next to a vehicle that is seven feet over the line. They have to park seven feet over the line next to the offending car. The first person that started this will leave, but the moron who parked seven feet off the line because someone else did will cause someone else to do so, and if enough people get this going, the parking lot is basically a large paved cow pasture. There are a lot of people far too damn lazy to push a buggy all the way out to their car so they’ll park it near the door, blocking anyone trying to get in, and then unload the buggy when they park their car right next to the door, blocking traffic. I usually park in another area code to prevent all this.
Like the town square of old times, like in the middle of the 1700’s, people use the grocery store as a location for socialization. Who can blame them? Where else might they stop in the middle of a paved pasture and hold up traffic while carrying on a conversation with someone they haven’t seen since this morning? Where else can two neighbors block an aisle while comparing back pains? Where else can a mother bring her ten kids to run screaming towards other customers? Yeah, this is the only place. At least it seems this way.
The phrase, “No shirts, no shoes, no service” is more or less a comment on how a lot of the customers dress, and what everyone else can expect to get from the employees inside. As recently as last year, customers still smoked cigarettes inside the store, though I haven’t smelled anyone doing that in a while. The employees clock in and out near the front door, where they allow various civic groups to set up begging booths, and this is where all the buggies are, and this is also where people come in and out. If there is ever a fire in that building you better be in a begging booth or you are screwed. Oh, you know what a begging booth is! It’s where a church or boy scouts or some other organizations sells homemade cookies for donations or such as that. They ambush you as you walk in or out of the front door, so I usually slink in the side door. “The Cheapskate’s Escape” I’ve heard it called.
Today’s special include a man pushing a buggy who is totally incapable of looking in the same direction he’s pushing the cart.
There’s a two for one special including a pair of women who are shopping together, using two carts, and doing this side by side down aisles meant for 1.89 buggies.
The Blue Light Special is going on in aisle five where a family of ten is mobbing the produce aisle with the kids picking up stuff, taking to their parents, being told to put it back, and then the kids dropping in on the nearest flat surface.
There are random sites of stocking going on, blocking access to various parts of the store, and this is more like a reality television show gone horribly wrong than a simple trip out to get enough food for one meal.
So why don’t I complain? The last piece of that puzzle falls into place as I actually make it to the checkout stand. The woman there is a twenty year old high school dropout who wears the nametag “DIP” for her favorite for of tobacco enjoyment. She’s been working here at least since she was sixteen, and has only left long enough to have three kids. How do I know all this? Because the cashiers here think nothing of stopping what they’re doing to show interested customers pictures of new kids. There isn’t anything wrong with this practice as long as there aren’t customers backed up to the Jello section trying to pay for food before it evolves, but this one will whip out the photos regardless. Worse, today her kids are being bad, and one of them calls the store. The manager calls this woman to the phone, in the middle of a transaction, and I stand there with my wallet in my hand waiting for her to referee a fight between her kids as to whose turn it is to choose a cartoon on television. I look at the manager and he smiles as if this sort of thing is the way to run a business.
I am very seriously thinking about taking up hunting and gathering.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
There was a lot of talk about Ida being a major hurricane and sneaking in to do a lot of damage late but I don't see it. There is a band of cold water off the Gulf coast, about seventy-four degrees cool, that’s going to gut any storm who happens into it. Katrina, who was a CAT 5 monster tripped over this same band of water, and while it was a few degrees warmer then it still took her down to a CAT 3. Anything can happen, certainly, but the Universe runs in a much more orderly fashion than the television news people would have us believe. I wasn’t thrilled with the idea of working at night in twenty miles an hour winds with rain, but I’ve worked under worse conditions.
The sound of the rain in the woods is a sound people have recorded and sold as calming, and it’s no wonder to me at all. Just twenty feet from where I sit right now, just past the fenceline, are oaks drinking deep of the rain. They still have many of their foliage, but Ida is going to strip them of a lot of those yellow and brown leaves still hanging on. The sound of the rain hitting the newly fallen leaves adds to the music. A quarter of an inch of rain an hour has been falling for the last three hours, and it looks like it will fall like this all day. I bought a ten pack of Classical music CD yesterday for my birthday, but I won’t turn on any human noise until the concert outside is over.
As the daylight hours become less and less, and the darkness grows, the leaves that shed from the trees let more light in, what light there is. This is the last warm storm we’ll have, I suspect, until March or April, and the rain is washing away the last vestiges of Summer, who hung around until the middle of last month. The trees have stopped soaking in as much water so the pond and small creeks will begin to fill. We’re beginning to look a little like late Summer now, and it’s almost Thanksgiving. Welcome to South Georgia!
The rain has slowed down to a trickle and cooler air is beginning to filter in. The storm has passed, and made her way into the history books if not the record books. The television news crews, who were so hoping for late season disaster, must now return to the latest near naked famous person who has misbehaved and must be interviewed for it. The trees take no notice, nor does the wind or the rain. I haven’t turned the television on all day, and it looks like work is going to be called off for tonight. I have my background music, and I have my Muse. The coffee smells good, and the cool air is beginning to filter in.
Sunday, November 8, 2009
The phone rings just after the fourth beer, and I grin. Caller ID is one of the best human inventions, right up there with beer. Damn, It’s Elbow. I stop grinning. It’s close to ten at night and she never calls this late. The horses are missing. Elbow has three horses; Diamond and her filly, Mena, and the Tennessee Walker, Rojo. They didn’t come home from roaming out on her plantation. I cannot drive, of course, but she wants to come get me, and ride around for a bit. This will end poorly. I have a paranoia about leaving the house after four beers.
There is little use to riding around looking for horses after dark, but Elbow loves her animals, and I understand this. We have to make sure they aren’t running loose near US221, which isn’t very likely, but… The moon comes up and we can see into the fields, but it’s useless to do more than hope they are standing right in the open, near the edge of the dirt road, looking for a ride. They aren’t. Elbow talks the entire time we’re riding and I can tell she’s stressed. We don’t think the horses have been stolen because you cannot give horses away in today’s economy. In fact, someone gave Rojo to Elbow after no one would buy him. A friend of mine found two horses wandering her property and the owner said he released them back into the wild because he couldn’t afford them. It’s a weird time for equines.
Elbow and I have a beer and I tell her to call me Sunday morning and we’ll try again. Sunday morning rolls around and the horses are not back. Now, Elbow’s place is large, but it’s basically in a larger box. To the north lies Baden Road, to the east there’s Hamlin road, to the west there’s US221, and to the South is Stanley road. That’s a very large box, true that, but it is a box. If there are hoof prints on either Baden or Stanley we know they’ve crossed there. Hamlin is paved but there are a number of houses there so someone may have seen the three horses. US221 is out. If they were on a major paved road we would know it.
Elbow talks almost nonstop. I’m very hungover and it hurts to ride, and try to hold Izzy, the lapdog of Universal Cuteness, but this is serious. Baden Road is without a hoof print or any sign of the three horses. We stop and talk to some people who live on Hamlin and I wish we hadn’t. Izzy and Theo, Elbow’s ancient Lab, get into a barking contest with the people’s fifty dogs. Worse, one of the men is wearing a T-shirt which reads “ A Dozen Things That Get My Dick Hard” On the top of the list is “Your mama’s tits”. I cringe. This sort of thing is an abomination to Elbow’s inner feminist, and I’m not real thrilled about it either but what can we do? The man is in his own yard, on a Sunday morning, and we came here looking for help. Elbow speaks at greater length to the man than I would have, and then mercifully, we leave, but still no horses.
Stanley Road shows signs of a recent horse visit. There are hoof prints and fresh dung. Oddly, one fence post has been pulled up, as if the horses were trying to let themselves back in! Elbow opens the gate and we fly through it. We pass Sea Pond, and head to the house as quickly as a Volvo can safely be driven. Then suddenly we see the horse paddock. There are three horses inside! And the gate is closed? Huh? How did they do that?
As it turns out, word spread quickly about Elbow’s lost horses. A family of four went out walking along Stanley road and espied the three horses in a peanut field. Okay, they had no idea where Elbow lived, just that she lived somewhere between Baden and Stanley roads. So the people called the horses, the horses came to them, and then they walked down Stanley road and assumed the horses would tell them where they lived. When the horses got to the place where the fence post was down, the man lifted it out of the ground, because the horses seemed to want to go in there. They then let the horses led them to Elbow’s house, and when the horses when into the paddock, they closed and locked the gate behind them.
Of all the weirdness that can be found with some people in Hickory Head, you have to love a family who will go that far out of their way to rescue three horses, and you have to admire their intuition when it came to knowing what the horses were telling them. Elbow offered them a ride home, and I retired from the scene, to nurse a hangover, and to relate the good news about the horses, and the fine outstanding people who helped them find their way home again!
Friday, November 6, 2009
There’s been very little bullshit on this project.
The specter of the dead man travels with these men and it shows. They’re still mad. They still resent losing a good friend to a drunk, and that drunk still be walking free. They don’t blame anyone but him, but they wonder what they could have done different. We’re getting very near the end of this project and these men just want it to e over with without loss. They want to walk away from a job and walk away with everyone still there. The paranoia over that god damn drunk driver shows up everywhere. They are hyper careful and it makes everyone edgy as hell. The fact that everyone is sucking down coffee like it is ice water in hell doesn’t help a bit. We’re running on high octane fuel, and we’re running hard. Everyone knows what we’re running from, and running to, and we run.
The vacant lot where the idle equipment is stored is where we go to pee. The front end loader’s bucket is in the shadows so it’s safe to stand there and relieve yourself. There is a small patch of woods there, and it’s dark enough so traffic cannot see you, so there is where we go. There is an unofficial scheduling conference and we all talk about what’s going to happen next, how, when, and what happens if we do it differently. It’s basically a chance for the foreman to talk out his plan, and the rest of us are there to let him. He’s done this many times before. I know enough when to know I ought not try to run the job for him. His plan is a good plan. We talk over what happens next, what happens if things go wrong, and in the end, the plan is good. I have to pee.
I walk away from the group of men, and just before I leave someone quips, “Me next!” and I hope we can get out of this night alive. I like this group of men. They’re hurting and I want this to go okay. The urine leaves my body in a hurry, and I’m thinking we’ll get out of this project in another couple of…
The ground is cursing. It’s yelling. It’s screaming. I reel everything back in and retreat. Out from under a sleeping bag a homeless man stands up cursing me. The group near the Homeless Guy are all armed with flashlights, to a man. They turn as one, and like Godzilla being bracketed by floodlights, we see our protagonist. We wish we didn’t. The Homeless Man is still half in, and half out of his sleeping bag, and he is lumbering forward, cursing me, but he is naked. He’s trying to hold the big up with one hand, trying to chase me, and still trapped by his portable bedding. The Homeless Guy falls flat on his face, and curses me.
I’m trying to apologize for peeing on him, trying to stay away from him, and the group of men behind me are dying. The Homeless Guy gets up, falls again, and then realizes he’s naked, and tries to find his clothes. There is an ancient tattoo on his butt that reads, “LUANNE”. We get a clear view of Luanne as he tries to find his pants. I’m still trying to figure out a way to make it up to him that I peed on his head. The group of men are rolling around on the ground, laughing.
In all seriousness, they are laughing, but none of them are letting the Homeless Guy get out of hand. They do not trust this sort of situation, and one of them has called the deputy that is paid to be on the project while we work. The deputy arrives and tries to get the Homeless Guy to produce some sort of ID, or reason he’s sleeping in the bucket of a frontend loader. Apparently Homeless Guy is a wee bit crazy, and maybe more than just a little drunk, too. Even Crazy and Drunk realizes he’s outnumbered. The Deputy arrives, and Homeless Man is loaded into the patrol car but there really isn’t anything he can do. It’s not illegal to be crazy and homeless, and there really isn’t any reason to lock up a drunk who isn’t bothering anyone. I feel bad about peeing on him, really.
The contractor gets a couple of his men to drive Homeless Guy to the truckstop on the Interstate. He has to ride in the back, of course, but he’s lucid enough to realize we’re trying to help. The truck stop has showers, and a laundry mat. I pay one of the women working there to make sure Homeless Man gets a shower, and gets his clothes washed. When I get back the contractors have taken up a collection, and I ride back to the truck stop and make sure the man gets a decent meal, and I tell the cashier not to let him trade the canned goods for beer. Homeless Man isn’t a very good conversationalist, but he does know when someone is trying to help.
Back at the project the pall has lifted a bit. They’re still edgy, they are still paranoid, but everyone seems to be just a little more…human again. For the rest of the night men walk up to me with flashlights and say, “Gotta go?” and it is funny. Finally, it is funny.
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
I eat chili year round, but it is better when there is cold weather to be had with it, true enough. Have you ever gotten a tried and true recipe totally right, I mean just completely perfect, even though you cannot say what you did different this time? Maybe the onion was just the right size, or the green bell pepper, or maybe the one Jalapeno was just big enough, or maybe it was because I used another tiny can of tomato paste this time, or maybe I was just in the right mood, but the chili was perfect. I did put the garlic in a little late, and that might have helped. I’m certainly going to try this again and soon, but right now I still have some pretty good leftovers.
This was my midday wake up meal, neither lunch nor breakfast, nor brunch, and afterwards I lay down to take a nap before going back to work. The Three didn’t get leftovers because onions are bad for dogs, but I did give them some canned dog food so everyone had a full belly. Sam has discovered the very best time to be petted is when Bert and the puppy Lucas are playing, so he got up on the bed to join me while the other two were still outside. Sam, Sam the Happy Hound. He likes a good meal more than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s hard to lose focus on how simple, yet wonderful food is with Sam around. Sam hasn’t missed a meal in almost nine years but he still remembers what it’s like to starve. Each and every bowl of food is precious to Sam. Each and every treat that involves eating is an event worthy of admiration and great praise. There are no tidbits of food so small they cannot be scarfed down with glee. Sam, Sam, the Happy Hound, was almost dead when he was found.
Sam molds himself to me and is instantly asleep. The snoring of a human might bother me sometimes but Sam’s sleeping noises never bother me at all. I know this is the one time in his life Sam is truly at peace, as long as he isn’t dreaming, and he doesn’t have the dreams he once did. The first couple of years of his life he would yelp in his sleep, and wake up yelping as if he were being beaten. Holding him like I’m holding him now helped no small amount, and when he’s up on the bed with me, Sam rests deeply.
A few days after Bert found Sam, I couldn’t find him. He was a tiny thing, just thirteen pound of meat hung of a three month old lab/greyhound mix, and I was constantly afraid Bert would accidently kill him. Bert was gentle enough with him, which was surprising to a degree, but Bert seemed to realize Sam was hurt in a way that defied explanation. Bert would lie on the floor and allow Sam to crawl all over him, snarling and growling in play, and Bert just lay there and took it, happy to have the company. I was sure Sam wouldn’t run away. It was difficult to get him to wander away from the food bowl. I eventually found him in the closet curled up on some old clothes. I curled up with him, and we hid in the closet together, until Sam fell asleep. I kept the closet partially open after that, so Sam could have a place of his own to hide. Sometimes Bert would stand at the door of the closet, ears up, tail high and wagging, as if he wanted to go in, or wanted Sam to come out and play, but Bert never did encroach upon that place. The time Sam spent hiding became less and less, until finally it was surprising to find him in there. Yet there were times I would find Sam in the closet again, curled up in the same spot, as if he were reminding himself of the past. Sam will look at me sometimes, as if I just do not get it, as if there is some message of his life I do not understand, and it is dangerous for me not to know these this thing. Life is fragile, Sam wants to tell me, there isn’t enough food to go around. You should keep some in the closet.
Sam sleeps deeply now. He is anything but a gentle snorer. But there is something comforting about Sam’s sleep. Sam will never be whole, never be totally healed, but much damage has been undo. Much evil has been cured. Death came to get a puppy, but Bert got one instead. We haven’t cheated Death, no one ever does that really, but we did allow on this earth a person who is loving, caring, and gentle, for almost nine years. We took a callous disregard for an animal’s life and we replaced it with compassion. Bert and I did not cheat death, but we did cheat evil. We were given Sam for our efforts, and very little I’ve ever done has been this worthwhile.
I’m half asleep when Bert gets up on the bed, circles a few times, then drops. Lucas follows a moment later by dropping on my left leg. Sam stirs, looks up to see where Lucas is, and then puts his head down again. Less than a minute later his sides rise and fall in an ancient rhythm of rest. Sam sleeps deeply, and if a soul so tormented early in his life can find real peace, there is hope for the rest of us too.