Tree Rage

I caught the action from the corner of my eye, a squirrel was leaping through the trees trying to take down a crow. He exuded determination. This was no ordinary squirrel, I’m sure his name was Rambo. The following pictures are a still life portrayal of what followed. I was too damn slow to get the tree leaping pictures.

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The crow floated down to the ground, looking for something fun to do. It’s such a drag to sit up in a tree all day and shriek.

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Hmmm, I see potential over there. Look at that squirrel running back and forth gathering seeds. He’s such a hoarder. Maybe I should let him know there are help groups, for that sort of problem. I could help him. I could teach him about fun.

FullSizeRender-6“Hey— nose to the grindstone squirrel” calls the crow, “Lets have a little fun?” The squirrel ignores him. “Hey workaholic, I’m talking to you. I can take over packing your seed. Why don’t you go and put your claws up for a while?”

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Rambo leaps up, and barrels across the snow, “No way you feather-faced tyrant. You’re not gonna boss me around. I have a baby on the way.” Rambo shows his sharp pointy teeth, “I’m not a meat eater but maybe I’ll try a wing!”

The crow lets out a cackle, “Maybe you should take an anger management class?” He flies up avoiding the attack, and gives Rambo a wink on the way by.

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“Over here Bucky.” taunts the crow. “Try and catch me you overgrown mouse.”

Rambo races toward him, growling like a banshee. “You lazy, branch sitting, batwing. Leave me alone. I need to work.”

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The crow warbles, “Aww, come on little fur ball, move your feet. Faster, faster owl-bait.” His black wings flap “I’m going to eat all your food, and there’s not a thing you can do about it.”

“Yeah, well you’re not chowing down now? Are you pinfeather brain?” puffs Rambo.

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“I’ll eat when I want to eat.” Preens the bird, “I’m enjoying our rendezvous. Catch me if you can.”

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“I got you now, you mealy mouthed, air-beater.” Rambo leaps into the air, and brushes the crows claw with his teeth.

“Missed me, missed me, now you gotta kiss me,” Singsongs the crow. He sweeps the air with his expansive wings, “Later fur ball, I’ll be back tomorrow.” The crow disappears into the Southern sky.

Rambo begins to pack food again, wearing a teeny tiny path through the forest.

Humans have road rage, we get angry about our personal driving space. Apparently squirrels have tree rage, they get angry about other animals messing around in their tree space.

Today I learned I would rather be a crow, than a squirrel.

 

 

 

 

A Bucket of Frogs

 

September 2009 to March 2010-9

Looks like a good place to catch a bucket of frogs.

“I see one!” Shan shouts leaning over the edge of the canoe, “Get em!”

I peer over the side. I see the frog extend his legs. He dives, disappearing into the murky dugout water. The canoe tilts, threatening to spill us out. We shift our weight back to center.

“How many do we have?” I ask.

She lifts the lid off the ice-cream pail, and peeks inside, “I don’t know, about half a bucket.” Shan looks up with raised eyebrows. “Is that enough?”

I consider the question with all the seriousness of a father, on the throne, doing his morning business. “Let’s see if we can catch some more.” Our chores are done, nothing but time.

We are drifting in the middle of our largest dugout. The sun sits high in the sky, the fresh green leaves of the poplar trees waltz with the breeze. The edge of the pond holds the footsteps of countless cows, intermingled with their splatted cow patties. The flies buzz around trying to lick our arms and faces. We wait, still and silent. We watch for a ripple in the water to show us our prey. The singing of the frogs begins again, rhythmic and consistent. I am eleven, and Shan is eight, our older sister is hanging out with friends today. We are predators. No sharp teeth, no blasting gun, just a big old net with no holes in it.

I see a toady face with dangling front legs emerge at the surface. I swoop under him with the net deep into the murk, and come up with three frogs.

“Whoo hoo!” I squeal, “Get the pail! Get the pail.” I hold the net high watching the frogs struggle to escape.

She pulls the lid part ways off the bucket, and one of the captured jumps out.

I empty mine into the pail. The liberated frog leaps around the canoe, bouncing across our bare legs with his sharp toady fingers. We scramble after him. The canoe rocks violently in the water. It’s a bit cool for a swim.

“Hey! What’s going on?” Gramps shouts from across the garden fence. He has his hands on his hips. He’s wearing the pooh-pooh face, “For Pete’s sake, You girls are going to tip over. I don’t feel like going for a swim today.” He was supervising us— kind of.

“You won’t have to. We’ll be careful,” I holler back. “A frog got loose,” I explain, “we were catching it.”

I give him the peace sign, “Besides, we can swim.” As the words exit my mouth our escapee leaps over the side, plopping into the water. I sag. Well, that’s disappointing. We lost a frog, and I have no idea about Pete or his sake?

Gramps shakes his head.

It’s Shan’s turn to handle the net. She catches four frogs in one scoop— Queen of the Amphibians.

A couple cows come to water and watch us with interest. We watch them watch us. The big bull pushes his way into the middle of the bunch. He sinks up to his knees. His nut sack drags in the mud. We laugh.

In about twenty minutes, we fill our bucket to the top with frogs.

“Now what?” Asks Shan.

We eye the bucket, it’s a whole lotta frogs. The fun is gone.

”We should let them go.” I suggest, feeling sorry for the ones on the bottom. I clearly recall the other day, when there were cousins over visiting, and we played sandwich. I was the bottom slice of bread. It was hard to breath.

We took the lid off, and tipped them out with care. We watched the diving amphibians disappear, off to claim their places in the frog kingdom.

When Mom arrives home from work, she looks at the list of chores on the counter. They are all crossed off, “I see you got your chores done, what else did you do today?”

I grin, “We caught a gallon bucket of frogs, with a net, in the canoe.”

Shan’s eyes sparkle, “We could have caught more. There were so many.”

Mom shook her head, and scrunches up her face, “Gross! Did you have fun?”

“It was so much fun,” I say with all the energy of a bubbling soda pop, “we almost tipped over the canoe, and Gramps gave us the grumpy face.”

“Yeah, and a frog escaped, and I caught four frogs at once!” Adds Shan enthusiastically.

I grimace, and pretend to wipe gook of my hands, “Yeah, Queen of the slime.”

Shan pushes me, “Am not!”

We both giggle.

Mom smiles, “What did you do with the frogs.”

“We let them go,” I said, scarfing down a cookie, “It wasn’t fun anymore once the bucket was full.”

Life is like that— the fun is in the doing.

 

What Are The Odds?

 

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Democracy doesn’t mean the right to choose.

It’s Saturday night, and our television bellows out inspiring sounds of hockey playoff action. Our group surrounds the television passionately cheering the Oilers on. The players rip across the ice, the puck slams against the boards, and then rebounds to various sticks where it is directed in a flurry of action into the net. We shriek in appreciation. Throughout the game we are dedicated vocal fans. The game is almost done. The score is 2-1 for the Oilers. The Sharks pull their goalie, we watch with devoted stares, and shout out feverish advice. McDavid sends the puck into an empty net with a backhand, sealing the Oilers 3-1 win.

The Oilers— Hmmm, come to think of it, that may be the next thing on Notley’s go green agenda. Edmonton’s hockey team will have to change their name to the Anti-Oilers, or the Solar Stars, or maybe the NDP will hire a company from Ontario to come up with a name. Anyway, for now we cheer on the Oilers.

While we celebrated the crushing of the Sharks, an employee from statistics Canada had darkened our door. Unlucky us— we were chosen to do a labour survey. Lucky us— we couldn’t hear her knocking over our hullabaloo.  The government flunky left a note on the door, with her name, phone number, and an informational pamphlet on the survey. The note directed us to set up a time for the interview.

On Sunday morning, I read through the information with all the enthusiasm of having a pap smear. 56,000 lucky households in Canada receive this survey. What are the odds?We can’t win the lottery, but we get a survey? Our participation in the Labour Force Survey is mandatory. If we don’t participate we can be fined $500 and/or spend three months in jail.

I’m a peaceful individual. However, when we are forced into wasting precious moments of our lives answering a lint-licking, mind-numbing survey— it gets up in my grill. Just like hitting a prairie chicken on the highway. I can’t breath. It’s like I have feathers stuck in my craw. It gets my back up. It brings on my donkey like tendencies— make me do it. I dare you. Tug on my lead— I’ll lean back on my substantial haunches, dig my feet in, and set my jaw. You better fetch your RCMP’s— you, red-taped, willy-wanker. The heat of rebellion is brewing strongly in my guts. I better pack my bags, because I pick jail.

It’s Sunday afternoon, less than twenty-four hours after we were served with notice of impending survey. The toady from statistics Canada shows up again. I haven’t even had time, to pick the cheezies out of my hair from last nights celebration.

I answer the door, antisocial tendencies rise up inside me. I’m not ready. I’m not even prepared for jail. I should at least shave my legs.

She smiles brightly, “Hi, I’m from statistics Canada, I was here last night, I rang the doorbell, but you must have been watching the game.”

“Yes, we were,” I answer in a demon infused voice, (my kids know the one I use.) “And it’s probably not a good time now, I’m in the middle of making, chilli, chicken soup and buttermilk biscuits.” Secretly, I’m trying to weasel out of doing the survey today, so I have time to get retrofitted for my chastity belt, for my jail time.

Rick rises up the stairs, like a knight in shining armour for the flunky. He’d been watching the afternoon hockey game.

“Hi” he greets her in a welcoming tone. Ricks a nice guy. He looks gruff sometimes, but I’m the mean one. “It’s not a very nice day for traveling,” he says continuing to smile, “the snow doesn’t know when to quit, does it?”

I am in donkey mode. I am silently balking at her presence.

Flunky lady gives Rick a wide smile, “It’s melting on the road, so the driving is good. I was hoping to do the survey with your household today?” She looks at my sour puss face, and then back at Ricks welcoming grin, “I only need one person to answer the questions.”

I shrug my shoulders, “Well. Rick, do you want to do it? I have quite a bit going on in the kitchen.” I growl. It appears I’m not going to jail.

Rick waves her in, “Sure, I’ll do it. Come on in, we can sit at the kitchen table.”

Rick is such a good citizen. He is afraid to lose his cook to some jailhouse frolicking.

Once upon a time, I took a University course in statistics. There I learned information is only as good as the sources. Some people are more accurate than others. Questions on the survey were directed at every household member. Our son wasn’t home. Rick had to answer for him. His wage, and hours worked last week, are an estimate. In other words not accurate. I am certain we are not the only household with that issue. How will inaccurate answers aid in a truthful representation? And even if they are accurate, how will it really help the employment situation? Fortunately, I have the answer to that question.

The government is creating more jobs— in the Statistics Canada department.

Party Line

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Old School Communication Device

I had a party line growing up. Almost everyone in the community did, except for the cranky old miser at the edge of civilization. He didn’t want a phone. A party line sounds swaggy, like an invitation to bring your squad, and get your Sledge Hammer Shake on. It represents, like the party line is GOAT (greatest of all time).

In reality, the party line was a communication device. It was two steps above a string and two cups. They were shared phone lines, one household had two rings, and another had one ring. If you were really unfortunate, you had a third family on the party line, a short ring followed by two quick ones. We had the pleasure of the double ring for years.

In a household of three girls, we took turns getting on the phone to express our traumatic Judy Blume life moments to our friends. We had big issues then. We could hold the phone line hostage for hours. The following scenario was commonplace in our home.

It was finally my turn to use the phone. Cheryl had been on it forever. I needed to call Sarah, she had been home sick today. I had to fill her in on the days top event,  “You should have seen the look on Mrs. Fanchuck’s face!” I exclaimed, tingling with pleasure at spreading the news, “When she sat on that tack? Nelson is so—”

“Get the hell off the phone!” interrupts an angry voice. It was our neighbour, in full blown frustration. Needless to say, our parents received more than one complaint about their female children with verbal diarrhea.

The party line had zero privacy protection. It was easy peasy for nosy neighbors’ to listen in on phone conversations. All you had to do, was carefully lift the receiver, “—John came out of the closet.”

The nosy neighbour waits until both parties hang up. She calls her other neighbour from down the road, “Did you hear? Little John is gay. I heard it from his own Mother.”

In 1972 being gay was a big deal. The rumor had teeth.

The full sentence, which the neighbour missed by eavesdropping, went like this—“Thank you so much for the gift. Frank and I were able to watch Archie Bunker without interruption. John is positively addicted to sticking his little pieces in, and out of those holes. He just loves to play his new Lite-Brite Easy Push and Plug in the dark. It’s been hours since John came out of the closet.”

Party lines were the 1970’s version of reality TV.

Fast-forward to 2017 where we have fingerprint enabled phones. These days, I have unlimited private minutes to chat about each, and every, body part I may, or may not, have waxed today. I could even video the action in slow-mo. I could take pictures, zoom in, zoom out or even take a panoramic view of my overgrown— pansies. I like flowers.

Yesterday, I made a FaceTime call to my sister in Australia. We had a chat as she walked home from the beach. I viewed her lovely smile. I saw, and chatted with her beautiful girls, and nobody interrupted me with a “Get the hell off the phone!” If technology can eradicate the mess of wires in a house, and underground wires in the earth, while still enabling people to connect around the planet, almost in person. Technology should be able to figure out how to clean up the planet too.

Go— Go— Gadget technology.

Trigger

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Not Riding Trigger Twelve Years Later

The pounding of hooves sounds in my ears. My fourteen-year old cousin is clinging to our brand new pony with his legs. I see them explode down the pasture towards me. He is on the bad side of a tug a war game with a spotted runaway train. The train is speeding up.

My cousin is screaming, ”Whoa! Dammit whoa.”

I stand on the other side of the fence watching the disaster, clenching my fists, “He better not hurt our horse.”

It all started off magically. Two days prior, my Dad called me away from an intense game of Barbie’s Gone Wild. It was a PG-13 rated game. I was six, so it was best I didn’t include my three-year old sister. I felt annoyed at having to leave Barbie and Ken in that awkward position, but a person doesn’t ignore their Dad calling. Not unless you want to meet the brown belt— the big sting.

Dad stands at the bottom of the steps wearing his going out hat and coat, “Well, get your jacket. Lets go.”

“Where?” I question. I can see his friend Rodger through the window, just outside the door. I’m in awe of Rodger. He’s a cowboy.

“We’re going to see if we can get you girls a horse.” He answers, trying to downplay his smile.

My heart literally explodes in my chest, if I was 60, I would have died from an exploded heart. “A horse really!” I shout. I race down the steps stumbling at the bottom.

Riding in the truck between my Dad and Rodger, all I can think about, is our horse to be. Maybe it’ll be like the one I saw in a parade. I’ll never forget it, when I saw the shiny prancing pony stepping down the road, angels sang in my ears, and I was dazzled by the brilliance of its artistry. Right then, I knew horses were in my destiny. I could hardly sit still, I wanted to jump out of the truck and run alongside— finally— owning a horse was becoming a reality.

We arrived at the auction. My heart raced like the regal beast Dad was about to buy. Rodger led the way into the building. There was a big ring at the front fenced off, and wooden seats rose up around it, like it was the greatest show on Earth. I followed Dad and Rodger up to the middle seating area. I had to take big steps up the giant bleachers. I nestled in between Dad, and some smelly old man with a scruffy face and dirty pants. I wrinkle my nose and look up at Dad who smiles down on me.

“Pretty exciting huh?” He says.

I nod. I have no words. Dad never liked kid chatter anyhow.

He drops his head down to mine, “When the bidding starts keep your hands down.”

“Okay.” I reply, giving him my most earnest grin.

The selling starts off slow. They sell a bunch of saddles and stuff. I can hear horses whinny in the back. It makes me sit up on the edge of my seat, and strain to see past the fenced area. Some people come into the bidding area carrying hamburgers. The smell of horse poop and greasy food almost makes me hungry. I guess that’s when you really know you’re meant to have a horse.

The first horse enters, a sleek black fellow, he dances into the ring. The bidding starts.

I feel joy bubbling up. That’s going to be our horse.

Nope. Someone else bought our horse—and the next one, and next one. I start to feel my happiness ebb away. Maybe we won’t get a horse today.

In comes a black and white pinto pony. He’s short and stalky, and doesn’t shine much. He’s kinda ugly. The kid riding the pony puts him through his paces. I looked around at all the people in the stands. There is bidding, but no one else seems overly excited about him.

The auctioneer suddenly yells, “Sold.”

He points in our direction.

I look up at Dad.

He looks down with a satisfied grin, “How do you like your pony?”

“Great!” I say. Letting my expectation of a sleek, coal black horse, with an elegant head and soft eyes dissipate.

His name was Trigger. A bit foretelling, perhaps it should have been mentioned during the bidding. Two days later, as I watch him barreling towards the fence. I admire his athletic form. I’m in awe when he manages to come to an instant halt before the fence, and I am mesmerized as my cousin turns into a projectile over the fence. Trigger— his name was the most honest thing about him. My cousin was too high on himself anyhow.

Sometimes life hands you a lemon, and you get the runs.

Memory Foam

September 2009 to March 2010-15-2

Not a photo of memory foam sofa.

“But I love you.” She confesses, draping her fresh form across his lap. She pouts with a practiced face. “You would do this for me, if you really loved me.”

Air horn sounds— Let’s pause for one-second, and analyze this situation from person number ones seated perspective. You are pretty cozy right now, sitting on the memory foam sofa. I know. It’s comforting, and hugs you in all the right places. It might even be challenging to see you are being manipulated—but manipulated into what? Jumping out of a plane? Plotting a murder? Flossing your teeth with a guitar string? Getting a chin implant?

It doesn’t matter what this person wants. What do you want? Do you feel like jumping out of a plane? Do you feel like flossing your teeth with a guitar string, and then strangling someone with it? Do you really want to be the guy with the dynamic chin? Or are you just bending over, to make it easier for your loved one to insert batteries in your spine, so they can remote control your life? I know. It’s a lot of questions. The fact you removed your spine, and put batteries in its place makes decisions difficult.

Let’s look at person number two, first of all, take an acting class. Who do you think you are? Justin Trudeau? Secondly, what’s going on? Why do you need to beg? Do it yourself. Whose life is this any ways? Yours. So why do you need to manipulate others? The only life you need to worry about controlling is your own. Take your hand off the joystick on everyone else’s life, and put it on your own.

“Hey Babe, I love you.” She states, bending down to kiss him.

He blinks, and leans into her lips.

Stepping back, she shakes her head and smiles, “You’re looking pretty comfy on the sofa. “I’ll see you later.”

He watches her strut away.

She turns at the door, and meets his gaze. “I’ll be at airfield jumping out of a plane, if you feel like peeling yourself away.”

See my blog post—Jump Already.

Layers and Fryers

September 2009 to March 2010-3-2

Plucking chickens, Executioner Grams, Small fry Shan, Lean and lanky Cheryl, and me.

The solid thwack of the axe hitting the block signaled the beginning of the blood bath. That Saturday morning instead of watching my favourite cartoons, I watched the beheading of chickens. I was seven years old, and it was my first ever butchering day. I didn’t consider what would be taking place. I was a kid. Thinking ahead only extended into my next meal. Hopefully it included a grilled cheese.

In 1972 my Dad bought the farm. He didn’t die— he really bought the farm. He purchased the old homestead from his parents, my Gramps and Grams. It was springtime. When sunshine sprawled out across the day, like the to-do list on the side of the fridge.

Our first chicken adventure began around Easter time, my Grams and Gramps had gone to the Co-op to shop. I was hoping for a bag of chips and a pop. They returned with two boxes filled with fluffy, peeping, yellow chicks.

Grams brought them in the house to show us. She told us one box was layer chickens, and one box was fryer chickens. Who cares? They were the cutest babies in the world. They became an assigned chore for my older sister, Cheryl and I. Our younger sister was too young to help, lucky little, dust collector. The feeding, and watering was a necessity. The loving was an extra touch. Over the next few months I grew attached to a couple of the chickens. I had a favourite, named Spot. At this point I had no idea about the butchering day. I thought all eating chicken came from Colonel Sanders house in one way or another.

On butchering day, we entered the chicken coop together, a gang of farmers— Grams, Mom, Cheryl and I.

Grams stalks towards the chickens, “Now, watch how I catch them?” She instructs us. The flock of birds scatter before her, like kids running from a giant dodge ball. She snatches up two chickens, one in each hand. They dangle by the feet squawking in protest. She gestures towards the fleeing chickens. “Grab the bigger ones, they’re the fryers. Leave the thinner ones, they’re the layers.” Grams bustles out the door with her chicken prizes.

I look around. What? What is this madness you speak of? The Fryers, and Layers? I’m starting to connect the dots in my head. I always liked connect-the-dots—until now. I study Spot, my most favorite chicken with a black dot on his head. He looks pretty skinny. He must be a layer. He’s safe.

Mom snags up a couple chickens making it look easy. Cheryl and I scramble after flapping wings. Cheryl gets one, she’s lean and quick.

I corner one, it’s chubby like me. I tuck the hefty bird under my arm stroking its head, “It’s okay.” I comfort the frightened fryer, “It’ll be okay.”

It was a smart chicken. It was right to be frightened. Heading outside the pen, the gate swings shut behind me with a bang. I am focused on my scared little chickie, trying to calm it down. I lift my head to see Grams bringing an axe down on a chicken’s neck. Her face is grim, and her biceps pop. I don’t even recognize her. Shouldn’t she be wearing an executioners hood? I don’t know if I can eat her donuts anymore.

“Thwack!” sounds the axe. The chicken’s head bounces when it hits the ground, blood sprays. Grams tosses the body into the grass, as casually as a newspaper to the floor. The headless body dances in acrobatic style, spurting crimson, colouring the green grass red.

Grams fixes her deathly stare on me, “Debby, bring me your chicken,” she orders.

I swallow hard. I’m a farm girl— this is what we do. I gently pass the chicken to Grams.

She snatches it from my loving arms by its feet. It screeches, trying to stab her with its beak. “Bring me two next time.” She demands as she lays its neck across the block. “And hold them by their feet so they don’t peck,” she adds.

I race back inside the pen, covering my ears, not wanting to hear the sound of the axe. I bump into Mom carrying two chickens by the feet. One of them is Spot and he is screeching.

My eyes pop, “No, Mom, no!” I beg, “Spot’s a layer. You can’t take him.”

“But he’s a rooster, he isn’t going to lay eggs.” Explains Mom with impatience in her voice. I can tell she’s not having any fun either.

My eyes fill, “But he’s Spot.” My lip quivers, “Please Mom, he’s my pet. No one told me he was a rooster.”

Being a farming gang meant butchering chickens. In the years following, our young sister, Shannon brushed off the dust, and joined the crew. We all learned to keep an emotional distance between ourselves and the chickens. As children we are as impressionable as fresh clay. As we grow, we are moulded, coloured and fired by the people and events in our lives.

We never did butcher Spot. He died of old age. I used to think Mom showed mercy for the chicken, but it was her hands in the clay of kindness for me. 

 

 

 

Hope

September 2009 to March 2010-4527

Hope, I dressed it in a clown suit years ago, and treated it like a fart at the dinner table— not mine. I heckled all who held hope in high esteem. Life is not a children’s party? What is this hope nonsense you speak of? Have you been into the cracka lacka? Have you taken a good look at the world lately? It is ridiculous to hope. You have to plan to get things done— look at the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, he is currently writing the How to do a Nuclear Missile Test For Dummies handbook. Planning, people, it takes planning. Hope belongs to Olympic athletes, and teenage girls waiting on their pregnancy test pee stick. It belongs to kindergarten kids who want that extra scoop of bubble gum ice cream on their cake. Hope is not a realistic option for most ordinary adults.

My hopeless life continues, I work; I change jobs more than a pregnant lady has to pee, and then I don’t work. I consider becoming a free-lance writer, but that is an outlandish notion. As though clowns really do have red noses, or abnormally large feet. (If they did I am sure they would have more girlfriends, if you know what I mean? Wink, wink.) The number of talented writers in the world continues to replicate, almost at the same speed as China’s population. Seriously, who needs one more hopeful writer? Years go by and I do not write. I ignore that deep desire to put words on paper.  That would be too much like dressing up with the clowns. Nope, there is no sense jumping into that three-ring circus of disappointment. I am a practical positive person. At least I thought I was positive, but then I was lambasted in the face with a rubber chicken, in the form of a quote by Benjamin Disraeli, “I am prepared for the worst but hope for the best.”

Holy hell in a hand basket! For the last umpteen years I have only been preparing for the worst. I did not consider the best could happen. I did not hope, nor dream, and therefore did not really try. All the planning in the world would only get me as far as I allowed myself to hope. I consistently prepared for the worst— better get your radiation suit, don’t forget the gas mask, batten down the hatches matey, be on the look out for the white whale. You must keep all your hands and feet inside the vehicle, in the event of a zombie attack, objects may appear closer than they actually are…beware.

So spank me cross-eyed, I realize I need hope in my life. Being hopeful gives you vision, and supports ambition. Yes, there are many talented writers on this planet, but maybe, just maybe, with a lot of absolute vodka, and planning, I could become a writer. As Emily Dickinson once said, “Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul, and sings the tunes without the words, and never stops at all.” In my freshly opened mind, I sing words to be spilled onto paper, like an endless exodus of clowns tumbling from the bum of a Volkswagen van.

Teacher’s Pet

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It was a Friday. I’m sure it was, because like a full moon in nature, a Friday afternoon in school brings the crazy out. Sorry, I’m not sure that term is politically correct. Rephrase— it brings out the mentally enthusiastic. On the Skid hanging day, it began well enough. Our science teacher returned the toothpick towers we built, to learn about the brain function of patience. These delightful designs of ingenuity sat at the top corner of our desks. They were our crowning achievement of time spent with toothpicks and white glue. I think Skid put King Kong on the top of his tower.

After Science, Mr. Scott, our Language Arts teacher, arrives to instruct our class. He was the Pied Piper of tantalizing tales. It was a successful day when we asked enough questions to keep him talking for most of the period.  With the full shine of Friday upon us, a few of the mentally enthusiastic boys are messing around. One kid in particular, Skid, could be a handful. He had a couple cohorts in cahoots with him. Class disturbers usually do. They are throwing things at each other, while Mr. Scott regales the rest of us with stories of the past. Most of the class is spellbound. But Skid is flying missiles while Mr. Scotts back is turned.

Mr. Scott can see what’s going on with the eyes in the back of his head. So, although he is pacing around the classroom, entertaining the majority of the students, he begins to pink up in the cheeks. Eventually, there is a slight twitch in his eye. And then Mr. Scott gives Skid the look of flaying skin from bones.

It has no effect on the naughty fellow.

A little steam puffs out of Mr. Scott’s ears while he carries on with his story. In the middle of a sentence, a white object flashes through the air crossing in front of his nose. It breaks the sound barrier.

Our teacher freezes.

Skid sinks in his desk.

Mr. Scott turns to face the class, hulking over a students desk in the front row. He raises a fist. He brings it down, landing like a wrecking ball on top of some kids toothpick Trump tower. Splinters of  wood explode upon the floor.

“Who threw that?” He booms, heading towards the troublemakers. He rampages through the line of desks like a silverback gorilla through the jungle. Toothpicks fly every which way, as his fists come down again and again. “I’ve been lenient with this class, but no more. Who threw that?” thunders Mr. Scott.

Skid sits up and shrugs, “I did.” He confesses, in a tone that says, “What are you going to do about it?”

Mr. Scott yanks Skid up by the top of his shirt, dragging him across the desk, all the way to the front of the class. Skid is a floppy puppet in the grip of Mr. Scott. It’s so quiet you could hear a feather thud to the ground. Time stands still. Our teacher, my favourite teacher, holds Skid high up against the wall by his twisted shirt.

Skid maintains his smirk through his dethroning.

“Do you think that’s funny?” roars Mr. Scott blowing Skids hair back with his voice, and spraying Skid with spittle.

Skid’s feet dangle off the ground, like the clapper on a church bell. His face falls, and suddenly he is paying very close attention.

Mr. Scott, is blazing with anger. This reddish blond haired man, with a normally pale complexion is crimson, the glasses on his face only serve to magnify multiple red veins popping inside his eyes. No one dares to raise a hand, and ask, ”Excuse me Lucifer? May I use the washroom?” Half the class has a puddle of yellow under their desks, and the other half are passed out from holding their breath. We had never experienced such PG entertainment before. The feather thuds to the ground. Time speeds up, and Skids feet hit the floor.

Mr. Scott’s hands fall to his sides, and he wipes them across the sides of his pants. It’s as though, he is wiping away the slime from squashing a bug. “Go down to the office and see Mrs. Fanchuck. I’ll be there shortly.” He orders

The entire class shuffles in their seats, pretending to look at a textbook or write. Everyone does everything they can do, to avoid making eye contact with Mr. Scott. We can’t wait to spread the news at recess time! Mr. Scott went kawabunga coo coo, on a student.

Really though, Mr. Scott didn’t normally drag kids out of their desk, and throw them up against the wall. Who knows why Mr. Scott was pushed over the edge that day? It could have been the projectile event? Mind you, slingshots, spitballs, and elastic bands were kind of routine here, with typical punishments. Sixteen lashes, and hung by the thumbs at recess time. Maybe it was the shark-eyed cold stare of Skid, challenging Mr. Scott to do something? Or maybe Mr. Scott had troubles at home, a sick family member, a bladder infection or money worries? Teachers are human too.

Mr. Scott had always been my favourite teacher. But that was the day, he found his way into my mind forever. The event happened years ago, when the strap still had slapping action, and some boys considered it a right of passage to feel the sting. I don’t think Mr. Scott ever had to answer for hanging Skid up like a church bell. It didn’t really matter to me. It brought me one step closer, to becoming the teachers’ pet.

Jump Already

 

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Richard, Kim, myself, and Rick, my hubby— ready to jump— kind of.

The plane circles again. The Jumpmaster’s voice crackles across the transmitter, “Let go. Goddammit! There’s no coming inside now. Holy mother of horse pucky, you have to let go.”

Richard, Kim, Rick, and I shield the sun from our eyes. We watch the plane come around. We squint, observing the student hanging off the wing strut refusing to relinquish his grip. We exchange broad expressions of concern, animated head shakes, and hidden grins at the reluctant jumper. We can afford to be smug. Our jump was over.

When we signed up for skydiving, we assumed— first mistake, that we would be jumping out of a big plane. This skydiving company used a Cessna182. The only seat in the plane was for the pilot. The rest were taken out to make room for the economy students of skydiving. With the seats removed there was room for the instructor, and the four of us. We became connected in an awkward game of twister.

Along with our stylish jump attire, we had a communication device on our parachute harness— So the Jumpmaster could give us last rites if our chutes malfunctioned.

We took off into the wild blue yonder wondering what the hell we were doing, leaving perfectly good ground. At 3000 feet, the instructor pipes up, “Door opening,” A rush of wind enters the cramped cab. I can taste the fear that rolls around the cockpit. “Who’s first?” asks the Jumpmaster.

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Rick and I living the dream/nightmare.

My mouth is dust, I force out the words, “I will. I’ll go first.” I wanted to go first, almost more than I wanted my first pony. Not because I was brave. I was freakin terrified. However, I couldn’t sit still, and watch other people climb out of the plane. I’m a runner. I’m not built like a runner, nor fast like a runner, but in muscle twitching, gut quivering situations, my feet must move. The only place to move, was out the door.

The jumpmaster hollers, “Move out.”

I nod. My voice box leaps out of my throat, and decides to ride down with the plane. I flick a glance at my husband Rick, and our two friends. They look like they have diarrhea with no place to go. I stand up. I place a hand on either side of the door, and lean forward. The wind shoves at me, trying to force me back into the plane. I want to oblige. Moving on, I grip the wing strut with my left hand, and place my foot on the step. I place my right hand further out along the wing strut, and step out with my other foot. I shake. The air resistance steals my breath. I clench my jaw and push ahead dropping my feet into space letting them dangle. This was my misguided idea. I can’t sprout feathers and cluck like a chicken now. My eyes tear up. My arms feel the strain. I decorate the wing strut like piece of clothing on a clothesline. It’s distressing. I stare at the jumpmaster with dry-eyed fright.

“Ready.” I quaver.

“Go.” He explodes.

I open my fingers. I fall for a few seconds. The pilot chute he had thrown out after me pulls my parachute out. A stunning rainbow of colour expands above me. Reaching up I grasp the steering lines to direct my parachute to the specified landing area. It is freedom, flying with control, floating down to the ground like a piece of poplar fuzz in the spring. It is pure bliss.

After landing safely, we are picked up by the ground crew.

Back at base, we watch the student dangling from the airplane like a sticky piece of sap off a tree branch. I feel bad for him, he doesn’t know about the bliss yet. We eavesdrop on a crew member with a communication device. We hear the Jumpmaster’s voice became hostile, “This is the last time we are circling around. Let go when I tell you to let go. I see your holy weenie of woo woo face. Don’t you dare let go now! You Shite water Mother effer. Wait for the drop zone. I can see you want to let go— but I’m telling you— don’t you do it! You had three chances at this. Hang on cream puff. Two more minutes, then you can open your fingers.”

The guy let go.

We suck in our breath.

The radio snaps to life, “Truck one, did you see that dirty rotten lint licker? I don’t know where he thinks he’s heading. Damn it! I just hope he misses all the power lines.”

There is a reason the Jumpmaster instructs you on the timing to release your hands. It’s to keep you alive— away from power sources, trees, and ferocious farmers and their dogs.

The saga continues for the only student in the sky. “Where are you going jumper? Steer your chute. Head towards the jump site! For Christ’s sakes pull right! You’re headed for the wheat field. Shit! Look out for those trees.” There is an audible heavy sigh,”Truck number one, pick up jumper on range road twenty-one. The bloody blighter landed in Ian Murphy’s wheat field. You might need the first aid kit. He was trimming the trees with his face.

Our group sympathizes for the jumper, but also for jump team looking after our greenhorn butts. We did a second jump that day to experience bliss again.

Years later, I wonder about the reluctant jumper. He was tenacious on the wing strut. I bet he rocks the Boxing Day sales, and local neighborhood tug-a-wars. Whatever he’s become, I hope he’s found his bliss.