Snake Hug

 

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Carlin and I on a Monday outing, at First Federal Bank in Lake Park, Palm Beach in 1987. Earl LaPan created the bucking horse statue in 1962. In 2005 one horse toppled in a storm and it was decided the second was a danger to pedestrians so it was taken down as well. 😦

I feel something brush along my leg, I don’t know why I stood, I normally jump at the slightest unexpected touch. I glance down. In the subdued light of the far barn I can just make out a gleaming black snake leaning against my lower leg. The rest of the reptile’s body slides with slow purpose under the stall to where I stand with a water hose filling buckets. The tropical Florida night had invited me to wear shorts for the evening chore. It’s a decision I regret, as I feel the snake’s large triangular head press into me. It seems to adore the warmth of my skin. I freeze, and suck in a silent breath suppressing a scream. Wild things seldom appreciate the explosive sound of a terrified shriek. It would have surely led to an assault by deadly fangs. I keep quiet. My heart beats at breakneck speed, like the bass of a heavy metal death song. He, or she, I’m not sure which— My knowledge of a snakes sex anatomy is sadly lacking. It encircles my leg with a thick ropy body. I stare down at my ankle watching its body seamlessly slide along my flesh.

I flick a glance to the water bucket. The water reflects near the top. I maintain my statue posture as well as I can, while slowly folding the hose to prevent the water from spilling over onto the snake. A dousing with cold water would surely cause aggression as well. It was a cottonmouth water moccasin. The groundskeeper, Owen had mentioned there were some in the canal nearby. I knew they were venomous, treatable if you got help. I shiver, wondering how fast a person needs treatment? All we have in Canada are bears, and wolves, and crazy moose. None of them could have snuck under a stall and threatened me with death. Oh Canada— how I am missing thee.

I turn my focus back to the ground, and watch with silent relief as the snake lowers his head to the dirt, and unwinds off my leg slipping away under the stall. Maybe it was the garlic I had for supper?

I inhale a deep breath. I scream. I cuss. I jump up and down making strange noises.

The colt in the stall gives me a curious stare.

I shake my finger at him. “Don’t you look at me like that. What kind of horse are you anyway? Aren’t you supposed to protect me? You should have stomped him into the ground. Isn’t that what horses are supposed to do?”

The sorrel colt steps up to me and nuzzles my side.

I shake my head. “Yeah, yeah, okay apology accepted.”

Back at the house the family is hanging out in the living room, Dick is sprawled out on one sofa, and Tracey is sandwiched in between Zack and Tabby on the other sofa.

Tracy looks up as I enter the room, “Everything good out there?” she asks.

I shudder, “Yeah, except my leg was mugged by a snake.”

Zack straightens up with wide eyes, “What? You saw a snake?”

“Yeah, it was down at the far barn. It came out from under a stall, slithered around my leg, and then took off under the other stall.” I wrap my arms around myself and quake.

Zack smacks his leg. “No fair! I want to see a snake.”

Tabby sits forward and wrinkles her nose, “That’s disgusting! I would have bolted for sure,” she exclaims. Tabby gives me a look, it’s crossed between respect and sympathy. “Poor you.”

I smile at her. “Then I guess it’s a good thing it was me with the snake instead of you. I hate to think what might have happened if I tried to run with a snake wrapped around my leg. Probably a trip to the hospital.”

Dick studies me with eyes as expressionless as the snakes, “Did you make sure it was out of the stalls?”

I give him a flat look, “Yes. It was gone. I had to finish watering the rest of the stalls in the same direction it went.”

Tracey rubs her arms and shivers, “Yuck, I’m just glad it was you. No offense. What did the horses do?”

I shrug and shake my head, “Nothing. They didn’t seem bothered by it at all. Weird, I would have thought they’d freak right out.” I scrunch up my face. “It sure as heck bothered me. So gross!” I throw Tabby a meaningful look. “We’ll have to be really careful from now on. Who knows? It could happen again.”

Tabby nods and hugs her knees into her chest leaning back into the couch. “I’ll be very careful.” She stresses. The she shifts her body cuddling up under Tracey’s arm. “I guess Mom’s going to have to water tomorrow night, since it’s your day off. There’s no way I’m going to do it.”

Dick sits up a little, “There’s all kinds of critters that live in the canals around here. It’s a good place to get rid of a body. Actually—“

“Dick!” interrupts Tracey. “That’s not an appropriate thing to say around the kids.”

Dick chuckles and his eyes glitter, “Why not? It’s true. The gangsters around here can just dump the bodies in a remote waterway, or slough, and ta da! The alligators, and snakes, and Mother Nature will dispose of the evidence.”

Tracey stands up and shakes her head, “You’re talking out of your ass again.”

Dick thrusts his chin towards her, “Do a little research. You’ll find out I’m right.” He glances at me, “Problems are easily taken care of in the wilds of Florida.”

Tracey points at the empty glass beside Dick, “I think you’ve had one too many tonight my dear.”

The following day my new friend Carlin picks me up and we headed out to the Fort Lauderdale Beach. Carlin’s platinum blonde hair tosses in the breeze as we drive the freeway in her fire-red Camaro. Mötley Crüe’s, Smoking in the Boys Room blasts out of Carlin’s jacked up stereo speakers. In no time at all, we’re stretching out in the sunshine on our beach towels, and listening to the ocean sigh.

“Debby?” Carlin says, breaking the oceans spell.

I roll onto my stomach and look at her, “Yes?”

She brushes her hair away from her face, and props herself up on her elbows, “So I talked to my boss about Tracey and Dick—” Carlin’s blue eyes narrow in the bright sunshine as they meet mine, “She says not many people in the show circuit know very much about the Fatterods— but the ones that do know them— they know something. But no one’s talking. And the one’s that know something— they avoid the Fatterod family like they are carriers of the plague.” Carlin gives her head a shake, her hair flops with the gesture, “It sounds to me— like there is one hellacious secret. My boss thinks you should look for a different job.”

I’m beginning to think the same.

 

Friend in My Corner

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Carlin and I. My friend in my corner. 

Jupiter, the sleek black stallion relaxes in the cross-ties in the alleyway. I brush him with wide sweeping motions down along his neck and shoulder. I follow the curves of his body and he gleams.

I feel my boss’s eyes on me. I see him in my peripheral vision. He is watching through the picture window of his office in the barn. He is perched in his chair. His gaze follows every brush stroke I make. If I were a cartoonist, I would portray him as an oversized gorilla with a lolling tongue, drooling saliva, while his eyes protrude from his skull. I squirm at his lustful intent. I work with added speed. The sooner I can switch to the other side of the horse away from his greedy gaze, all the better.

I’m only three days into my job working for Dick and Tracey. I have yet to figure out a schedule where I can avoid the ever-watchful eyes of Dick.

In the beginning I was confident that Tracey had no idea what sort of man she had married. How naive I was. She knew exactly what sort of man she married. Eventually, I found out, to her, it didn’t matter a bit. She sold her soul for the benefit of well-bred horses and competitive horse shows.

I take the coal black Ferrari-like horse off the cross-ties to an outside pen for some roaming time. The stress in my body falls away as soon as I am free from Dick’s sight.

Tracey is working a two-year-old in the round pen. She spots me and waves me over.

A ball cap covers her short pixie haircut leaving little strands to poke out from under the edges. She looks like a teenage girl. Tracey then lifts the sunglasses off her face revealing her true age; the lines and creases add the years. She meets my gaze with a confident smile, “Hey Deb,” she said. “Could you run back to the barn office, and let Dick know I’m almost done with Kicks? We’re heading into town for a meeting, and he wants to make sure he has enough time to put the air-conditioning on in the vehicle.” She wrinkles her nose. “He doesn’t like it too hot— maybe he wouldn’t find it too hot, if he didn’t sit in the damn air-conditioned office all day.”

I smile, blocking all the nasty thoughts of Dick that rise to the surface of my mind. Like my mom always said— If you can’t say something nice, then don’t say it at all. I won’t say anything aloud about my nasty lecherous sloth of a boss.

“Sure, I can let Dick know you’re almost done.” I said to Tracey with a bob of my head.

She gives me a brief nod, “Thanks Deb.” She pats the chestnut colt on the neck. “And this young fellow has some people coming to check him out in a couple days. With any luck at all he’ll have a new home soon.”

The horse gleams with a light sweat, his eye is soft, and he has lowered his head into a submissive position.

“He’s a willing boy.” I comment, admiring his gentle manner.

“Yeah, most of our horses have a good attitude towards work, it’s bred into them.”

Hmmm, Dick must not have those bloodlines. I bite my tongue. “Is there anything extra you need me to do today?”

Tracey purses her lips and rubs her forehead, “No, it’s still your first week, just do the usual chores.” She hesitates and adds, “Well, maybe if you have extra time— put Jupiter on the treadmill for twenty minutes.”

“Sure, will do.” I agree.

I head back towards the barn my nerves are holding a tap dance in my stomach. Dick is akin to the flu bug.

I rap on the office door with my knuckles, scrunching up my face, and crying like a baby inside. I don’t want to talk to Mr. Creeps.

“Come in,” said Dick.

I suck in a lungful of air, and stride into the room with a no-nonsense manner. “Hello Dick. Tracey asked me to let you know, she’s almost done with Kicks.”

His eyes are lasers, “Good,” he said, wiggling his hand into his pocket and then pulling out his keys. He holds them out to me, “Can you go and start the truck and put the air-conditioning on high.”

I take the keys, making a mental note to disinfect my hands. “ Sure, “ I reply, turning to leave as faster than Trump can tell a lie.

“Debby.” he said in a hammer down tone.

I freeze wondering what I did wrong, feeling like I was four and just broke a lamp. I take a step back and face Dick, “Yes?”

“Did Tracey tell you about supper on Friday night?”

“No, she didn’t say anything. What about it?”

“We are invited to Bill and Julie’s house for supper.”

“Bill and Julie?” I answer in a wondering tone.

“Dick frowns, “You know? Julie?” He rolls his eyes impatiently. “The girl who worked for us before you? And her fiancé Bill?”

“Oh. Them, ok, I’ve just never met them— you’re sure I’m invited?”

“Yeah, Julie said she wanted to meet you.”

I raise my eyebrows, “Well, that was nice of her.” It’s odd though, why would she want to meet me?

Dick leans back in his chair and folds his arms across his belly interlocking his fingers. “Yeah, she insisted. I don’t see the point but it’ll be an evening out for you.”

I blink trying to keep my face expressionless, just in case he could somehow read my mind. I saw the point. It was a sharp point for me. I want to meet her. I want to know more about Dick and Tracey. I want to know how to get on Tabby’s good side. I was still lower than turds tumbling out of a horses butt according to Tabby.

“It’ll be good to meet some other people.” I admit.

Dick shrugs and a jiggle goes through his body. He pointedly looks me in the eye, and drops one hand to his crotch, “Have you changed your mind about messing around?”

“No.” I said firmly, and pushed my way out through the door before he could spit out one more word.

I practically run towards the truck pushed by the heebie jeebies.

Friday arrives. Dick drives the extended cab truck; Tracey sits up front in the passengers seat. Zack, Tabby and I sit in the back on the bench seat. Zack sits in the middle between Tabby and I.

Tracey and Dick are discussing a horse sale.

Zack talks nonstop, and once in a while I actually listen.

He leans forward and pokes his mom, “Remember when Bill rescued me from the gator Mom?”

Dick is ignoring Zack, “Tracey, what’s the road number?”

Tracey scans the driving instructions in her hand, “101 Palm Lane.”

Tracey glances at Zack, “I wasn’t there Zack. I was at the house.”

Zack nudges me in the shoulder, “It was unreal! Bill wrestled that gator right into the mud.” Zack leans forward and studies me with serious eyes. “That gator tried to kill me.” He said in a hushed voice, “But Bill saved me.”

I prod him with my shoulder, “I’m glad he saved you. The world needs more kids like you, enthusiastic and funny.” I give him an honest grin.

He beams, and dips his head bashfully.

Tabby snorts and tosses her head.

I’m still winning I see.

We arrive at Julie and Bills house. It’s a quaint little bungalow. Some fences run along a bush line encompassing a small barn. I hear a horse whinny’s off in the distance.

Julie is a few years older than myself, a little leaner but the same height. Her fiancé Bill is old. There is no other way to put it. He has wrinkles. Julie looks way too young to be getting married to him, but it’s none of my business.

Dick, Bill and Zack wander off. I don’t know where they went, maybe Zack would try to get eaten by another gator so Bill could save him, and Dick could take credit for it?

Julie brought out a wondrous personality change in Tabby. Suddenly the surly teenager laughed, smiled and made jokes. She told Julie stories about school, and then after shooting me a look of pure dislike she whispers something in Julie’s ear.

Julie creases her brow and tightens her lips.

Here we go I thought.

Then Julie steps in front of Tabby and takes her by the arm, “Tabby, that’s not fair to Debby. She came a long way to work for your family. She didn’t steal my job.” Julie shook her head, “I don’t know where you got that idea? But I left on my own accord.”

Tabby dropped her eyes to the ground, “It’s just that you seemed so happy? We had so much fun together.”

Julie bobs her head, “Yeah. We did. But now I want a different life.”

Tabby knits her brows together, “You didn’t even really say goodbye.”

Julie chuckles, “Because I didn’t leave the country, I’ll see you around. I’m seeing you tonight aren’t I?”

Tabby sighs with a reluctant nod.

After supper I help Julie clean up. Everyone else goes out to the barn to admire the new pair of peacocks Bill bought.

I pick up a plate from the rack and dry it off.

Julie has her arms elbow deep in sudsy water. “How’s it going over there?” She asks.

“Not bad.” I said, wondering how much I should say.

She smiles wryly picking up on my thoughts. “Don’t worry. You can trust me. Tabby and Zack are sweet kids, and Tracey isn’t all bad, but Dick?” She pauses with a snort, “Dick is a dirty rotten pig.” She shakes her head as she scrubs a stainless steel pot, “And I get the feeling he could be dangerous.” She stops and stares at me, “I wouldn’t push him.“

I stack the plates on top of one another as I dry, “I’m not much of a pusher,” I confess, my face reddens as I blurt out the one question I really need answered. “Did Dick proposition you?”

She scrunches up her face, “Many times. Like I said, he’s a pig. They stiffed me on my last couple weeks wages too. That’s also why we had them over for supper. Bill was going to pressure Dick for my money.”

“I wondered about that.” I said, “Owen told me something along those lines. I guess I’ll wait and see how it plays out for me. It’s difficult when you don’t know anybody down here.”

Julie adds some hot water to her sink, “That’s another reason I wanted you to come for supper. I have a friend who just moved out here from Minnesota. She works with hunter jumpers for a local lady. I thought maybe you guys could get together since you don’t know anyone else. Carlin’s likes to get out and have some fun. It would be better for you than always being stuck with the Fatterods.”

At the end of the evening Julie gives me a hug, and presses a piece of paper into my palm. “It’s Carlin’s number. Call her,” she suggests, “maybe you guys can hang out on your Mondays off. “ She leans in closer, “I gave you my number too. Just in case you ever need any help.”

It’s the little things which can save your life. That little piece of paper with a phone number, and name, written by a girl I just met. It held everything I needed to be safe. It was my introduction to Carlin, who had my back. She was my way out when everything finally went to hell with Dick and Tracey.

 

Poison, Poison, Everywhere

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Cane Toad— picture credit to Bidgee

What in the devils basket of creatures was clinging to the stall wall? It was the size of two fists. It drops down into the shavings and lands in the shadows. I explode backwards out of the stall in fright pulling the hose out of the bucket and momentarily spraying the bay mare in the face. She bounds to the side. I drop the hose as a giant toad springs out into the light. I snatch the hose up off the ground and crimp off the flow. My heartbeat thuds loudly all the way up into my brain. The mare eyes me with distain, water drips from her forehead.

I step back into the stall and give the horse a rub on the shoulder, “Sorry girl, the hideous toad freaked me out.”

She blinks and turns her butt towards me. I sigh. Winner, winner, chicken dinner, I’m making friends everywhere today.

I stick the hose back into the bucket. I gasp as another toad lumbers up the wall beside the pail. He is easily the size of a soft ball with thick lumpy luminous skin. He flicks out his tongue. I shudder with disgust.

I finish the watering at the barn. I’m no longer frightened by numerous toads clinging to the various stall walls. It’s not like they are aggressive with sharp pointy teeth, or have a venomous bite.

I stroll back to the house listening to the new sounds of nature in this tropical land, all of them mysterious and unknown to a northern Canadian girl. The warm breeze was a soothing goodnight kiss. I was looking forward to a decent sleep. I wondered if my new roommate Tabitha would sit up on her bed and stare daggers at me all night? I think I could even sleep through that.

I have no choice but to pass through the living room to bed. Most of the Fatterod family is up watching TV.

“How’d it go?” Tracey asks. She is snuggled up on the couch with the dogs, Salt and Pepper.

Dick is occupying an entire length of the couch all by himself.

I grimace, “Wonderful, except for the enormous toads in the stalls. I almost peed my pants when I saw the first one.”

Dick laughs, “They’re cane toads. Zack and I saw one the size of a trash can lid. Didn’t we Zack.”

Zack pokes his head up from under a blanket, “Yeah, now that was disgusting,” he groans.

I smile at Zack, “You should have caught him and put him in your teachers desk.”

“Hey now.” Tracey says, “Don’t give him any ideas he gets enough all by himself.”

“I like that one though,” Zack pipes up. He gives me an honest grin, “Thanks Debby.”

Tracey sits up and pats Pepper on the back, “What you don’t know, is that cane toads are poisonous.”

I stare at Tracey, “No way?” I protest, thinking it’s a fine time to tell me now.

“It’s from their skin,” explains Dick, “they secrete a poison through their skin.”

“It’ll turn you into an Ogre.” Zack said in a gravely tone.

Tracey laughs, “It will not. But it will make dogs sick if they bite a toad, or eat one.” She strokes Salt on the head, “That’s why I keep the dogs inside at night.”

I nod and yawn at the same time. Then I raise my hand and wave, “Well, thanks for the toad nightmares. I’m going to bed. See you in the morning.”

I enter the den of Tabitha, the light to the bathroom is on. She is lying in bed facing the wall. Perfect, no glaring eyes. I get the cold shoulder tonight— a little practice for future marriage.

The next morning I start early feeding and watering.

As I finish watering the far end barn, I notice a man making his way across the sparse grass in my direction. He’s a lean and petite fellow wearing shorts, a t-shirt and a ball cap. His focus is on the ground although he is coming directly towards me. He finally looks my way; as though he were a marionette and some overseeing God had forced him to do so. I smile at him as he nears.

He returns it with a slight upwards turn of his mouth. He slows his pace and sizes me up with his eyes. It is a character assessment and nothing more, no sexual overtones.

He stops square in front of me and sticks out his hand, “I’m Owen, I do the yard work around here, and I’ll be emptying the manure hauler after you clean stalls.” His brown eyes are kind, and his slightly crooked nose tells me life has punched him in the face.

I accept his hand and we exchange a firm squeeze. “I’m Debby.”

He tilts his head, “ Yeah, I heard about you. You came a long way to work here. Have you known the Fatterods long?”

I shake my head, “No, I took the job through a friend of a friend.”

He narrows his eyes and looks into the tree line behind me. “You best be careful around here,” he warns.

I narrow my eyes to match his, “What do you mean?”

“You’re from Canada?“ He asks.

“Yes.” I answer wondering if there is a bounty on Canadians.

“We have a variety of snakes you should get your brain wrapped around. You know the little canal that runs along the edge of the property? I’ll bet my Aunt Millie’s best brassiere that it has a few cottonmouth water moccasins living in it. They can pretty near kill a person if they get their fangs on you. And then we have the coral snake, they’re not so aggressive but damn if they feel trapped? More poison for ya.” He leans his head into mine, “You mean to say Dick and Tracey ain’t warned you about none of that stuff?”

“I give him a wide eyed head shake, “No. Nothing. I met the toads last night on my own.”

“Pisha. Toads ain’t nothing compared to the snakes and fire ants.”

“Fire ants?” I question, rubbing my arms and brushing a stray piece of grass off my leg. “

He shakes his head, “ Damn those Fatterods, they should prepare these foreigners better.”

I nod enthusiastically.

He turns on his heels and waves to me to follow.

I travel on his heels as he comes to the edge of an underused area by the shrubs. I see a mound of soil.

He stops a few feet away. “Today I’ll be treating this anthill to get rid of the ants. These fire ants are out of their mind angry insects. They are whippersnapper quick. Once one climbs on your leg and bites. It’ll hurt like salt in a road rash. And then when you shake your leg to get the rest off, it’s a signal for the others on your legs to chow down too. So running and jumping around is only causes more bites. When they take a chomp, they inject poison into your skin. The bite sites can become blown up with pus and such in a hurry. Some people react bad— so bad they die.” He gives me a solemn look, “Try not to die. It’s my job to dispose of the dead stuff.”

I laugh.

Owen grins, “Crazy ain’t it? I’m from Idaho and I love it here. But damn you gotta watch where you put your feet in this country. Don’t worry yourself sick about it though, I truly doubt you’ll ever see a poison snake. I ain’t seen one yet.”

I rub my forehead and chuckle, “Yeah, but I’m pretty lucky.” I look back to the barn, “I guess I better get back to it.”

I pause and take a deep breath, “Hey,” I exhale. “What happened to the last girl that worked here? Julie?”

He looks around the yard, and to me it seems as though he wants to make sure he’s not overheard.

“Julie was a nice girl but she didn’t take any shit. Believe me, after you’ve been here a while, there’s more shit going on around here, than what’s in these here stalls. Julie is getting married to a local fellow; he owns acreage a ways away. Julie’s pay checks from Dick were bouncing for her last month or so of working here. So she quit. But don’t you worry none, her fiancé will get it out of Dick. He’s a tough man.” He hesitates and then continues, “You got a fiancé?”

“No.” I kind of giggle while my chest tightens, “What about Tabitha? Why do you think she hates me so much?”

Owen grunts, “Julie and Tabby were thick as thieves, but that Tabby girl doesn’t want to see the truth of her parents. She thinks you stole Julies job. Don’t worry, she’ll figure out who you really are. In the meantime, watch your back. At least you know the danger of the critters. It’s the snake in the grass people you have to worry about.”

Owen was a wise man— Hindsight.

I was a stubborn person, I tended to stick things out. How bad could it really get?

Speaking Of Pleasure

 

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My place of employment as viewed by Google maps. Thank you Google Maps.

I trail after Dicks turned out feet through the exit doors of the airport and into the bright afternoon. The sun beams down on the pavement radiating heat. A gentle breeze stirs the humid air into a light broth of mixed people and luggage. I trail behind my new boss to the parking area. He stops at a black BMW convertible.

He gestures to the sleek ride and wipes the sweat from his brow. “This is it.”

It’s a gorgeous car, a sexy car. A strange choice to pick up his newly imported stable hand from hell and gone nowhere. I feel impressed by the loveliness of the leather seats and the sheen of the car. Unimpressed by my reflection, which is cast back to me squat and distorted.

Dick pops the trunk, “I could have brought the truck,” he said. “But I thought you’d enjoy the Florida sunshine on the way home.”

Maybe the heebie jeebie feeling was wrong, maybe Dick is a nice guy and I’m just too tired to think clearly.

I smile into his mirrored sunglasses, “Thanks,” I said. “That’s thoughtful, I am tired of being crammed into enclosed spaces. The trip took longer than we planned.” I push my enthusiastic hair out of my eyes, “Sorry about the ticket fiasco.“

I heave my life’s possessions into the empty trunk.

He grins and said, “Ah, don’t you worry, you’ll pay it back.” He slams the cavernous space closed. “It’s surprising how big the truck is on these little cars.”

I return his grin with a hesitant smile. What a strange thing to say.

Driving down the I95 towards West Palm Beach, the wind tosses my unruly curly hair whipping it into a white girl Afro.

Dick talks nonstop, “We have some of the finest Quarter horses in the area.” He signals left and zooms past a vehicle on the freeway. “Tracey, my wife, has been cleaning up on the show circuit. She loves it here in Florida. The weather here is fantastic.”

He reaches over and pats my leg, “You must be hot. You should take your coat off.”

My creeper alarm begins to go off again, but maybe I’m overreacting, he was just talking about his wife. He’s telling me job related information. That’s a good indicator he isn’t going to lock me in a cage and use me for his pleasure. I shiver just thinking about it. Gross.

I take my coat off. I’m wearing a tank top. It is a respectable no cleavage top.

His eyes linger too long on my hidden cleavage. I feel the heebie jeebies coming on in droves. I should have worn a nun’s habit.

He continues to talk enjoying the sound of his own voice. “We have a couple stallions, good looking muscular horses, impeccable bloodlines. We breed a few mares; they currently have colts at side. We have yearlings and two year olds, enough horses to keep us busy,” he chuckles. “Hell, you’ll have plenty of work to keep you busy. But not too busy. “ he hesitates and sizes me up. “You’ll have some time for pleasure.” He adds in a Latin lover voice.

All the heebie jeebies multiply in my stomach, copulating, and reproducing, I shudder with revulsion.

“Speaking of pleasure—“ He murmurs edging closer to me.

My insides contract, I hold my breath— warning, warning creeper alert is authenticated.

I feel Dick’s eyes on me. I can feel his dirty thought on me too. I turn my head away to look at the palm trees flying past. I rub my hands on my pants trying to get rid of the sick feeling building inside. I clasp them together in a silent prayer for a comet to fall out of the sky and land on Dick.

Nothing happens.

He clears his throat and continues on in his Latin lover voice, “I thought maybe you and I could fool around on the side.” He pauses, “You know, have some fun.”

I freeze. I pretend I don’t hear. “Pardon?” I ask as I turn to face him. I stare him in the eye giving him a chance to take it back. Hoping he will take it back. “

“I thought maybe you and I could fool around on the side?” He repeats.

I frantically reach for an appropriate response, how can I put this nicely? I need to put it delicately, so I don’t end up in his oversized trunk and in a canal as alligator food. “Um, no thanks, you’re married.”

I pat myself on the back. Good job Deb, diplomatic answer. You held back— you didn’t say being humped by a hippo might be less disturbing than fooling around with you. And just to be clear I’m not hating on the hippo. It’s the creep factor. There are good-looking men with the creep factor. AKA, boor, louse, scoundrel, it’s people without ethics or morals, they don’t walk— they slink and slither.

Dick laughs at my moral reasoning, “Awe you don’t have to worry about Tracey getting upset, she’s okay with me getting a little on the side.”

I drop my head, an evil, judgemental thought flickers through my mind, I bet she’d be okay with you getting it on the side all the time. Shiver me timbers and make me walk the plank. Is that why I’m here? To become Dick’s pirate hoard? Not today dear Dick, my treasure trove is my own. I’ll take my chances with the plank.

I reply to Dick’s invitation using my firm tone, “Um, no thanks I’m not comfortable fooling around with my boss,” I sit taller in my seat. I remember reading somewhere that if you try and look bigger than you actually are, some predators will leave you alone.

I flick a look towards Dick, and guide us towards PG conversation. “How many show horses do you have?” I see Dick has tensed up considerably. His hands throttle the steering wheel, and in the back of my mind I imagine Dick changing our travel plans to include a secluded area— to dispose of the cold shoulder Canadian. I plan a defensive strategy. I decide on running. Yes, running would be good, and maybe dodging if he has a gun. Yeah running and dodging, I’ve done that many times escaping from spirited aggressive wasps, and radar sharp wood boring beetles. This guy could barely walk.

“We have six show horses,” He answers me begrudgingly. “Our daughter Tabitha shows horses as well. You’ll be sharing a room with Tabby.”

Sharing a room with his daughter. Excellent, there has to be some level of security in that fact.

“Does your son Zack ride?” I ask.

“How do you know Zack?” He snaps looking at me with suspicion.

“I don’t know Zack,” I explain. But on the phone interview you told me about the alligator that tried to attack Zack. And how you wrestled the Gator away from him.”

“Right. “ He glances sideways at me, like maybe I am more than just a set of boobs, “I forgot I told you that story.”

“It was a crazy story, hard to forget.” Especially now that I saw the size of Dick, Alligators are known to be agile, I had serious doubts Dick could wrangle his way out of a sleeping bag with limber lively movement. But then again, when parents need to protect their young, anything can happen.

“Does he ride?” I ask again.

“No, Zack doesn’t like the horses. He has other interests.”

“Do you have anymore kids?”

“No, that’s it, a million dollar family, a boy and a girl. We’re lucky, but if you think that’s lucky—“ Dick goes on talking, regaling himself, and supposedly me, with his self important stories.

I sigh with relief as he announces our arrival into their property. The driveway is a curving paved road through a grove of orange trees, which evolves into a circular driveway in front of the house. I can’t see any horses or barns from where we are parked.

He lumbers out of the car, “Get your bag, and then Tracey can give you the tour.”

He disappears into the house losing interest in me, maybe because I’ve shown none in him. Better.

The house is a sprawling bungalow, tile roof, and stucco finish with stone accents. The double entry doors are solid dark wood, with scrolled metal door handles. I pack my bag out of the car and step into the house. Dick is standing inside the doorway enjoying the air-conditioning. He leads. I follow, a submissive pony on his heels lugging her bag through a stone entry way and into a large kitchen.

A petite blonde-haired women with a pixie cut turns from the sink to greet me, “You must be Debby. I’m Tracey,” she said offering me a firm handshake. “Welcome to Florida, we’re so glad you’re finally here. You must be exhausted from the trip.”

I feel my worries melt away, “Nice to meet you,” I said accepting her hand. “No, I’m not too tired from the trip, just excited to finally be here and looking forward to starting the job.”

She shakes her head, “Well. You don’t need to start today.”

“Actually I would really like to do something.” I rub my hands together, “I could use some exercise. I’m not used to sitting around so much. All I’ve been doing is sitting.”

Tracey gives Dick a look, “See, I’m not the only one who thinks getting off your ass and exercising is good for a person.”

“Dicks eyes glitter with an edge, “We can’t all be athletes some of us use our brains.”

Tracey steps up and pats his stomach, “No offense Sugar, I was just teasing.”

She catches my eye, “Okay. Grab your bag. I’ll give you a quick tour of the house, and then if you want to change into something cooler we can go down to the barn.”

I like her. She seems straight to the point, no nonsense, no bullshit, lets go. And she didn’t even proposition me. I was sure she wore the pants in the family. As I discovered later, she didn’t just wear pants— she wore the holster with the nine-millimeter glock. When something was to happen around the stable, Tracey pulled the trigger.

She smiles sweetly showing me the bedroom I was to share with Tabitha; it had an en-suite, walk-in closet and two single beds.

“Sorry, we don’t have enough space for you to have a room of your own. Tabitha is a good girl. I’m sure you two will get along. She’s down at the barn right now, so you’ll meet her right away.”

“I’m sure we’ll get along fine.” I reply. One of my mom’s well-worn phrases enters my thoughts— Beggars can’t be choosers. True story.

Tracey breezes out the door assuming I’d follow.

I do. Ever-dutiful Debby.

Cruising through the house her hands sweep here and there, like a graceful game show hostess introducing prizes, “The living room, the bathroom to shower and change after swimming. “ She speeds out a side door, “ The patio, and of course— the swimming pool. Feel free to use the pool whenever you like. You have Mondays off. “ She gestures out past the pool, “We have tennis courts if you play tennis.”

I haunt her steps.

She moves quick and sharp back into the house. “Go ahead and change. I’ll be in the kitchen and then we’ll go down to the barn.”

I smile, as I change into a clean shirt, swipe on deodorant, and throw on a pair of shorts. I’ve always wanted to live in a house with a swimming pool. It’s all going to work out.

We stroll along the access road to the barn area; it runs along a canal.

Tracey motions to the water. “We don’t get the big alligators in these canals, but there are some small ones. We have to watch the dogs. Supposedly, if alligators have the choice to eat a person or a dog, they pick the dog every time. I’m not sure who tested that theory out?” laughs Tracey.

The road takes us past the white wooden riding-ring with golden sandy footing. The barn is whitewashed cinder brick with a metal roof. The entryways are accentuated with curved arches. There are white wooden turn out pens and a round pen. A shed containing a small tractor and feed is towards the back of the property. A small eight-stall barn sits all alone bordering the far end.

As we come around the backside of the barn a couple of corgi’s bound towards us barking a greeting.

I stop to meet them. They both clamber for attention. “They’re so cute!” I gush giving them both a rub.

Tracey shakes her head, “Spoiled brats. The one with the big white bib is Salt, and the one with black on him is Pepper.”

Tracey and I enter the barn at the middle entranceway, the dogs are on our heels. The stall doors are richly coloured dark wood with thin railings at the top. The ceiling is open beam to encourage air movement. A young girl sporting an ash-blonde ponytail has a sleek black horse in cross ties, and is brushing him down. Her eyes flicker towards us as we enter, and then quickly dart away when they land on me.

“Hi Tabby,” Tracey said, “This is Debby. She’s our new stable hand.”

The slender girl moves over to the other side of the horse, “So what else is new mom?”

Tracey’s mouth tightens, “It’s only polite to say hello.”

Tabitha continues to brush the horse, refusing any type of connection. “Why should I say hello, she’ll only be here a little while. Just like Julie.”

Tracey stalks over to her unreceptive daughter. “You’re being rude. Say hello.”

I shrivel up inside, the uneasy feelings are back. Who’s Julie? And why won’t I stay long?

“Hello Debby.” Tabitha said in a robot tone. “Pleased to meet you.”

Tracey stalks back to me, “Teenagers!” she said. “Come on, I’ll show you the office.”

We walk across the aisle from the cross ties to an elaborately carved wooden door. We step inside, on the far wall there is a showcase lined with shiny trophies of every size, and fancy-ribbon medallions. The walls are covered with pictures of winning horses, in halter class, jumping, western pleasure, trail classes, and too many others to bore you with. These people were serious.

Tracey taps the desk, “This is Dicks work space. He’ll be in the barn quite a bit, answering the phone and reaching out to potential horse buyers.” She almost glares at me, “He doesn’t like anyone touching his desk.”

I hold up a hand, “No problem. I can’t see why I would need to touch his desk.”

“Good.” She grins, “I just wanted to make it clear.”

We leave the office, and the corgi’s trot behind us. My new best friends.

I leave the barn with Tracey to meet the horses, and I see Tabitha in my peripheral vision shooting me daggers of dislike with her eyes.

Who was Julie? And where was she now?

Hello Miami

September 2009 to March 2010-27-2

Welcome to the Sunshine State.

I nestle into my airplane seat, trying to make the unyielding chair feel more comfortable by wiggling this way and that. I fail miserably. There is no such thing as comfort in economy seating. The flight to Toronto and then to Miami will just seem that much longer. The short stop in Toronto to change planes will be a welcome opportunity to stretch my legs. It’s my first time on a commercial flight, any flight actually. Half way through the flight I feel slightly nauseous. The flying wasn’t bothering me at all. My guts ache whenever I think about my new boss, Mr. Red Pants, or Mr. Dick Fatterod, it’s all the same, except one suggests a pimp and the other a penis. I have all these nagging questions in my mind. Why did he want to know about my family? Why was he so concerned with what I looked like? I’m a stable hand. Who cares?

I try to forget my concerns as I stare out the window at the ever-changing clouds. How can anything look so solid, and yet if you set foot on the dense looking fluff, you would plunge to the Earth like bullet through the barrel of a gun.

I tap my foot and pat my leg. I tried to read, I have the focus of a gnat. I light a smoke instead. (Yes, this was back in the days when you could smoke on planes. My apologies non-smokers, for I lacked understanding until I became a non-smoker. I realize now, you still inhaled our filthy smoke. Smoking sections are a mythological area, one in which there is a giant open space where an imaginary line divides the smokers and non-smokers.  Just like our borders between countries.)

The flight to Toronto took about a half a pack of smokes.

I thought the rest of the trip would be a balmy breeze, yet plans go sideways as easy as a Canadian car skidding on black ice. I have three words for you, Customs and Immigration. What is this strange beast of which you speak? Dammit, of all the things I conjured up to go wrong on my adventure to the tropics, Customs and Immigration wasn’t even a blip on my radar.

I grew up in a little place called Wandering River, they call it a hamlet in Wikipedia, it’s as close as you can get to being raised in a forest with wolves without actually doing it. I could paint granaries naked and no one would even see me. Of course with the insatiable swarms of the black flies taking large bloody chunks out of your nether regions I wouldn’t advise attempting it. Wandering River would be a good place to host Naked and Afraid Naked with a medical twist. It’s not conducive for building a nudist colony either.

My nerves were dancing to the tune Staying Alive as I line up to go through U.S. customs for my flight to Miami. The nearest experience I ever had to Customs and Immigration in my little world, was when the local fellas denied entry to out of town fellas at dances and parties. There were only so many ladies to go around.

At the customs Q and A booth, I had officially arrived at the ass over teakettle part of my travels. The official at the regular customs booth didn’t like my answers. My heart thumped in my chest as I was led into a private room. The door closed loudly behind me.

I study the bleak room.

The customs officer gives me a stone cold stare, “Go ahead— sit down.” He orders.

I sit in the chair across from his desk as though it’s electrified.

He studies my plane ticket and my identification. “I see your going to Miami. Do you have a place to stay when you get there?”

My eyes are wide, too wide. I try to relax my eyeballs. I end up cross-eyed. “Yes.” I give him the address.

“How much money do you have on you?

“Two hundred and fifty dollars,” I said with pride. It’s plenty of money for me.

“That’s not very much money,” he declares.

“Yeah,” I explain, “but I’m staying with people. I don’t have to pay for food or housing.”

Well done Deb, it’s always a good plan to argue with the customs officer. He loves it when people do that.

“You don’t have a return ticket. Why don’t you have a return ticket?”

Because Mr. Dick didn’t tell me I needed one, I thought. “Because I wasn’t sure of the exact date I would be coming home.” I answer. I can see my failure notice written in his eyes.

“Well, I’m afraid we can’t let you travel today, he said, handing me back my identification and ticket.

I do the walk of shame following a security officer back to the Canadian side of the terminal. I feel the tears building as I looked at the floor. What the hell was I going to do now?

Well, the first thing I did, was go and bawl my eyes out in the bathroom. After I pulled it together, I phoned Mr. Dick. He arranged a return ticket for me at the airline counter. My flight was at six o’clock the next morning. I only had a twelve-hour worry period in the airport.

I sat in a seat with my back against the wall, the safest place to be in a shoot out— not that I was expecting a shoot out, but you just never know.

I tried to read. I people watched. I watched a security guard while he watched me on and off.

Around eight o’clock the security guard stalks up to me. I looked into his face, prepared for the worst, but his dark eyes shine with warmth.

“I’ve been keeping my eye on you,” he said. “You’ve been sitting there a long time. You seem young to be traveling alone. Where are you going?”

I admit, I looked young, I even look young in the future, when I get ejected from a bar at twenty four because the waitress didn’t believe the age on my drivers licence.

“I’m going to Miami.”

He shakes his head, and frowns. “There’s no more flights to Miami until morning.”

I nod, “Yeah, That’s right, I’m flying out at six o’clock in the morning.”

He takes a deep breath and sits down beside me, “You can’t stay here all night,” he said with care in his voice. “ Don’t you have a place to go until then?”

His interest for me triggers a sadness I was trying to ignore. Why did I l leave my safe little job? “No.” I answer. I don’t have anywhere to go.”  Tears leak down my face as I continue, “Well, sob, my sister lives in Toronto, sob, but she doesn’t have a car.” I take a deep breath to try and stop crying, it sounds like I punctured a lung and someone’s trying to smother me, “I’ll just wait here until my flight.”

He pats me on the shoulder, “It’s okay,” he said gently, “Things are never as bad as they seem.”

I bob my head and sniffle.

“Listen,” he said. “I’ want to help you out. You can’t stay here all night. It can be a sketchy place for a young girl to be at night.” He holds out a hand, “If you give me see your tickets, I’ll go and talk to the airline and see if I can get you a place to stay.”

I hand over my tickets and watch my knight with no shining armor, no horse, and no sword, stride up to the airline counter. I guess all a knight needs is a good heart.

I watch him step up to the ticket lady at the airline counter with conspiratorial closeness. He is an animated talker, his hands are waving, shoulders shaking and his feet are shuffling. I didn’t think my story was that exciting. He winds up his pitch by pointing to me. The lady smiles, and I grin back.

He returns to me with a voucher for a hotel, courtesy of the airline. Amazing. Good luck doing that in this day and age, we have a tough time getting a bag of peanuts.

My rescuer walks me to the shuttle bus for the hotel.

“Thank you so much. “ I gush with glowing eyes. “You’re so kind. I never considered the possibility that someone would help me out. Yet, here you are.”

“I have a daughter.” He raises his eyes to the sky, “If she were in a predicament like you? I would hope someone would help her too.”

The hotel is lovely, a bit of safety for the time being. I call my sister Cheryl, who lives too far from the airport to come in person. It’s reassuring to talk to family.

I have a restless sleep.

The next morning I breeze through customs, and board my plane for Miami.

The trip is swift, aided by many mini naps. We begin our descent into Miami, and I press my forehead against the window straining to see the earth below. The crystalline blue ocean hugs the white sandy strips of shore, and vivacious green aligns with buildings, roads, and freeways.

We land on time. As I exit the plane behind a throng of other passengers I feel the damp air sweep me into a moist hug. It’s the only greeting I receive. I enter the terminal observing the action around me; people are hugging, shaking hands, laughing, smiling, and talking. I take at seat and light a smoke well aware there are are no red pants in sight. I still look. I’m checking out asses left, right, and center.

Soon I am alone, just me in my red coat that says TL on the back, it could mean terrible loser, which is exactly how I feel two hours later still waiting for Dick.

What if this is all an elaborate joke? I think. It’s not a logical thought, but based on my emotional stance it seems appropriate. I feel abandoned. The janitor comes by to empty the ashtrays and do a spot sweep. I try to make conversation but I can’t speak Spanish.

Two and a half hours later, I say, screw it, and go get my bag from luggage claim.

I traipse back to the original waiting area, hoping to find Dick. My stomach growls and the waiting room is empty.

I turn around to leave, and see red pants. He’s hard to miss, he is wearing a loud Hawaiian style shirt with buttons straining to hold the material closed, his arms stick out from his sides, his fingers look like plump pork sausages, his eyes land on mine with a beady stare. I lean to the side looking past him, hoping for a different pair of red pants to appear.

He sways towards me with a shark-like grin. “Hi, you must be Debby.”

“Yes, “ I admit, stepping up to shake his hand. “And you must be Dick.” I force a smile.

He gestures to my suitcase, “Good, you have your bag.” “Lets go.”

I follow on his heels. Me, and my herd of heebie jeebies which has materialized inside of me, reluctantly trail behind Dick. I am a big believer in the heebie jeebies. Some people think they are a myth, but ask any woman, and they can tell you without a doubt they are real. They are the silent creep alarm, pervert alarm, or ugly insect alarm. The thing is, when you get that feeling? You’d better listen.

Red Pants

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Farewell my frozen feet and frostbitten nose, it’s off to a warmer climate I go.

My Florida job, the dream job of every frostbitten Canadian kid, turned out to be as unpredictable as a bobcat in a hen house, only with less blood and death. Don’t be too disappointed— there was some blood, and some death. But if we are going to nit pick, I’ll just say, ‘It was similar to a bobcat in a henhouse.’ Anyway, I digress. The job came to my attention by way of a college friend who was employed in the horse industry. She knew someone, who knew someone, who knew someone else, who was looking for a Canadian stable hand to work in Florida.

The plan was, to meet the someone at a stable east of Calgary, and do a job interview on a landline phone. Not for security reasons, but simply because in 1985, a cell phone was so large it took two men and a donkey to carry it.

My college friend, Robbie and I, went to the interview together. Just in case, the whole thing turned into a snatch and grab. A moment in time, where clever criminals, nab some unsuspecting Canadian, and sell them on black market eBay for body parts.

We drove into the yard of a well used horse facility, it showed the years of hard use, faded painted fences, drooping gates and a shabby old barn roughed up by time.

We come to a stop. No sign of an operating room.

“Are you sure about this?” asks Robbie.

I nod, the same kind of nod a bull rider gives to the gate man, decisive and quick.

We hop out of the vehicle and are promptly greeted by a middle-aged man wearing a straw cowboy hat. “ Howdy, I’m Clem.” He gives us a slick smile, shakes our hands good and hard, and then spits tobacco juice out the side of his mouth into the dirt. A little puff of dust protests the intrusion.

Robbie gestures to me, “This is my friend Debby.” She continues on, “ I’m Robbie. I work at Horse Haven. Lisa told me about the job.”

“Oh yeah, I know Lisa, nice girl. So which one of you is applying for the job?”

“Me.” I say holding up my hand like I’m back in school.

He looks me up and down, the same way a herd of cowboys would check out a lady at the Ranchman’s Bar in Calgary. “Okay, let’s get the show on the road,” said Clem walking towards a side door on the barn. “Follow me.”

Robbie glances my way, “You’re sure about this.”

“Uh huh.” I grunt, feeling a my guts churn.

He leads us into an office in the barn and sits behind a desk. “Any questions? Before I call Dick and Tracy?”

“Yeah, I’m just wondering how you know these people? How long you’ve known them?”

He squints his eyes a bit, rubs his chin and leans back in his chair; “I’ve known them about five years. The Fatterod’s are a well-known family on the show circuit. I transport horses across Canada and the States. I’ve had the opportunity to haul for them a few times. Dick is a heck of a nice guy. Great storyteller. ”

I nod, “You must meet a lot of people.”

“Hundreds.” He looks at his watch, and then looks to me, “Are you ready to do this?”

I look at Robbie.

She raises her eyebrows.

I bob my head, “Yeah, absolutely, lets do this.”

Robbie and I take a seat. We hover on the edge of a decrepit sofa with unidentifiable stains on the cushions.

Clem dials the phone, and then leans back to put his feet up on the wooden desk.

I remember wanting this job so badly, you know, that feeling of desire, when you’re not sure who to bargain with to get what you want? The guy with the pointy pitchfork, or the guy with the halo. I needed a fresh start in my dead end life. Forget the fact I had close ties to the customers at my other job, forget the fact I signed up to be a dancer at the Olympics in Calgary— one of the hundreds. Just forget about it. This would be a new opportunity under the sunny skies of a tropical paradise.

I listen to bits and pieces of Clem’s side of the conversation. “No, she’s not fat. No she’s not skinny.”

I’m just right. I think. Why does this conversation remind me of Goldilocks?

“She’s fit, blonde curly hair, no she’s not tall, she’s built like Tracy except bustier. He trails into a quieter conversation, which I can’t eavesdrop anymore unless I tuck myself under his arm, and even I have some limits.

Robbie and I exchange the classic— ‘I don’t know about this?’ look.

Hmmm, I guess he would need to know that I’m physically fit to do the job. I wish I knew for certain. Too bad I was mired in the 1980’s when I couldn’t even run a quick name search on a computer. The Internet at that time was akin to a fairy-tale, and Google wasn’t even spawned yet. It was black times in the eighties, my friends, black times. Do you think hundreds of years from now, the pre Google era, will be called the second dark age of technology?

“Hey, Debby, Dick wants to talk to you,” said Clem, holding out the receiver, and moving away from the desk.

I jump up snatching the receiver from Clem’s hand, “Hello.”

“Hi Debby, I hear you’re ready to pick up stakes, and move down here to work for us.” Dick has a nice, welcoming voice.

“Yeah, that’s right, I’m looking for a job change.”

“Where do you work now?”

“I work at a stable that boards standardbred and thoroughbred racehorses between races.”

“So what do you do for them?”

“I feed, water, clean stalls, bandage, medicate, and exercise the horses by riding, ponying or driving. I halter break the young ones, pretty much anything that needs to be done.”

“Great, you’ll be doing much the same here except with Quarter Horses.” He pauses, “Do you have any family?”

Odd question.

“Yes, my parents and two sisters.”

“Are you close?”

“I guess so. I mean they don’t live close to me, I only see them a couple times a year.”

“You’ll be okay leaving them behind?”

“Of course.” I frown, “I can still keep in touch.” I wonder why he would even ask me that?

“Can you be ready to come here in three weeks? The girl that’s currently working for us will be gone by then.”

“For sure. I’ll be ready to go.” Little bubbles of happiness rise up in me, I want to sing song at the top of my voice, “I’m going to Florida, I’m going to Florida.” But I don’t, because there is still this edge of the unknown.

“I’ll get Tracey, my wife to arrange for your flight to Miami. I think you’ll like it here,” his voice suddenly booms to life, “but you gotta watch the critters when you get here. Last night my son and I were having a barbeque at a friends place in the country. We took the truck out to check the pasture by the canal. My son Zack wasn’t paying attention, he got too close to the edge of the bank and bam! A gator the size of a small horse sprang up out of the water and tried to latch onto my son. I jumped on the gators back, and pinned him down until my son got to safety. It’s wild country out here. You gotta watch around the water. Gators are always looking to eat anything that happens to walk past. “

And apparently, I was looking to eat up all the bullshit dear Dick was feeding me. “Wow,” I said with honest to God enthusiasm. “That’s a crazy story. Good thing you acted so quickly.”

“Yeah, it pays to be wary in this part of the country.”

“So, you’ve lived in Florida all your life?”

“Oh, no we’ve only been in Okeechobee about a year. It’s pretty close to West Palm Beach. We own a nice little property, an orchard in the front, a real nice barn along with some outside stalls. You’ll see it all when you get here.”

“Okay, it sounds wonderful.” A little wondering bell sounds in the back of my mind, only been there a year. You have lots of Gator experience do you? Hmmm.

“Clem will get the rest of your details. And he can give you mine. Do you have any questions?”

“Yeah, I was wondering why you were looking for a Canadian to work for you? I would imagine there is plenty of other people nearer to you that could do the job?”

“Well, Deb, We have hired Canadians before, and we always found they worked better than hiring the locals.”

“Thanks,” I smile into the phone, “I always thought we had a good work ethic, but it’s nice to hear it.”

“Any other questions?”

“No, I think that’s it.”

“Happy Travels Deb, see you in three weeks, I’ll pick you up at the airport.” He pauses, “Oh, and how will I identify you?”

I’m quiet for a second, running through my wardrobe in my mind. “I’ll be wearing a red coat with a TL in a horseshoe on the back.”

“Ok, I’ll be wearing red pants.” He chuckles, “You won’t miss me. See you then.”

Red pants huh? I wonder if he had some gold chains to go with that? Whoo hoo, I was going to Florida to meet Dick. I wasn’t sure whether to be excited or terrified.

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Off on a grand adventure to meet a man in red pants.

Job Switch

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You can’t see it, but Brutus is holding the red coffee cup in one hand.

You know that feeling when you really need a job change. Everyday on the old job feels like you’ve done the same thing over and over again with the same result. You see the same people. You fake laugh at the same overused jokes. And the most obvious indicator that you need new employment, is a continued fantasy of smashing your boss’s favourite red coffee cup into one hundred million pieces.

I clearly remember the feelings of hostility rising up as I saw my boss sit down for the umpteenth coffee break of the day, and start to chat up yet another visitor to the ranch. I envisioned my hand snatching his coffee cup away, “No more for you, you coffee whore.” I see myself flinging it onto the cement floor of the garage, the liquid from his half-filled cup spraying upward as the shards fly across the floor.

I see myself putting my hand to my mouth, as I feign being sorry. “Oops did I do that?”

And then, my hand would fall away, and a devilish grin would find it’s way upon my lips, twisted horns would sprout up out of my forehead, and I would chuckle with evil intent, “Yeah, that’s right, I smashed your cup on purpose, and I’m not sorry. I’m glad. I’m so flipping happy. I could do a little jig with cloven hooves on your future grave. Because this job is hell. It’s sucking every bit of oxygen from my life. I can’t breath here. I’m dying. I quit.”

My boss would only hear half of what I said, because we’re like an old married couple already. He would reply, “Oh no! You’re dying! What are you dying from?”

With a look of disbelief, I would clarify, “I’m dying from watching you drink coffee all day, while I bust my hump doing all the work. I’m dying of working a job where I will never have an opportunity to do anything other than what I am doing now.”

At those words, I would see his face flush all the way up to his ears, and watch in amazement as his cheeks suck in with pointed anger. He resembles a rat with whiskers. No harm is meant by my words, he was a nice man, and a decent boss. It’s just that sometimes, if you stay stuck in a job that no longer holds value for you, the little annoyances become insurmountable. At that point in time, change is always a good decision.

I found a new job

My real resignation was much less showy, I would even say boring. (At this point in the story I’ll use a fake name for my boss, if he’s still alive I don’t want to hurt his feelings. He probably isn’t, but just in case, I’ll call him Brutus.)

I tracked down Brutus in the garage. It’s our makeshift coffee room on the ranch. He’s sitting at the picnic table with the newspaper, and steam rises from his freshly filled red coffee cup.

I sit across the table from him and greet him in an upbeat tone. “Hey, Brutus, I need to talk to you about something.” My insides are quaking.

“He looks up from his paper, bits of grey hair poke out from under his cap, “Sure, what’s up?” He pushes his glasses back up on his nose with one finger.

“Well,” I begin by looking into his tired eyes, “You probably noticed, I haven’t been myself lately— “ I take a deep breath solidifying my decision, “I know this’ll come as a shock, but I have a new job. I’m giving you my two weeks notice.” I drop my gaze to the floor. The floor is pretty quiet.

Everywhere there is silence.

I finally raise my eyes to his. He looks like he was just kicked in the face by a horse.

He leans forward, and stutters, “But, what— Are you sure? Is it the money?” The question hangs in the air, and then he goes on, “Maybe we could figure something out.”

I squeeze my hands together looking for strength, “No. I just need a change. My new job is in Florida, a long way from Calgary. It’ll be a big change.”

He shakes his head, “But you’re like family— I’m shocked. What’ll I tell everybody?”

His face crumples into a frown.

My chest hurts, “I’m sorry Brutus, I wasn’t going to stay forever. “ I could see him searching for the words to change my mind.

I stand up before he can continue. “Well, I better get back to it.”I hoof it out the door feeling like I really did smash his coffee cup.

My new job is full of change— venomous snakes, fire ants, poison toads, stolen horses and a death threat.

The Devils Pet

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Are you cringing yet? Read on.

The long awaited summer arrives. We peel off the layers of winter clothing, and exchange it for tank tops and flip-flops. The outside world comes to life. The trees bud and open, dandelions bloom, bees drone, caterpillars crawl, and mosquitos flourish. The world outside is a magical place of color and light. And then… the long-horned wood-boring beetle shows up. I think it must be a mascot to the devil himself, a fang-like mandible insect, which will whirl towards you with the most practiced skill. It’ll swerve and vibrate through the air in an unreadable motion, unnerving the very confidence you have in your own two feet. You might try to escape, but it’s never really apparent which way they are flying. All you know for certain is… if it lands on you… it will stick to you, longer than a cowboy can stick to a bull. Dear God, it will stick like the Brazilian hot wax you were going to get to surprise your husband, and if it bites it’ll be far worse. Holy fleeing buttocks, there are few things in this world which can get a chill Canadian fired up to sprint across the yard, than the sound of an air born beetle with his antennae pointed your way. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, the religious folk bring out all their prayers, as they streak across the yard hoping for the safety a little distance can bring.

It’s early summer. The sun sits high in the sky, it’s light spreads far and wide, overseeing far more than the government. That fact alone makes me smile. The heat builds along the outside of the house. The breeze is absent. The leaves hang from the trees, silent. It allows the buzz of insects to dominate. The yellow swallowtail butterflies flutter amongst the lilac trees, and the bee’s buzz along the flowerbeds, hovering from bloom to bloom, slurping up the nectar and pollen. The dragonflies swoop to and fro, picking mosquitos out of the air left and right.

I see Rick, my husband, across the yard and walk towards him. Suddenly, I hear the whirring sound of the most feared insect of the summer season, the long-horned wood-boring spruce beetle.

The reverberating sound ends. I feel it make a perfect ten point landing down my shirt. I can feel its picky sticky legs grasping my soft flesh. I look down to see its long black curved horns in my cleavage. I freeze, recalling the stories of people being bitten, the large chunks of flesh that can be removed by those strong mandibles meant for chomping wood.

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Window shot. Peek-a-boo nightmare!

I ran. You might laugh, thinking well what’s the point of that? He’s already inside your shirt? It’s called panic people. Panic. If I lived in the city I probably would have been hit by a bus. You know that term scared stupid? I know it intimately. I then proceed to up my game by screaming, and end it with a flurry of clothing coming off my upper body.

Rick watches me with a dropped jaw as I run across the yard half naked.

I use my shirt to try scraping the clinging beetle from between my boobs. I finally knock him off. Before he munches off a breast.

I proceed to jump up and down, “ Gross, ooh, oh my God! You fricken ugly bastard!” Plus far more grunting and groaning noises.

In a few seconds I settle down and sigh with relief.

I suddenly become aware of a vehicle driving by on our quiet gravel road. It’s our neighbour, a sweet old fellow who usually dawdles by at 30 km/hr in his truck. He is going much slower today.

I struggle to put on my twisted up shirt.

His eyes are bigger than the Tarsier monkey, as he zones in on my topless form. He unwittingly steering towards our house, and then corrects himself before he gets too far down the ditch.

I pull my shirt back on, and feel the blood rise in my face.

“Rick trots up to me, “What was that about?”

“A fricken spruce beetle went down my shirt.” I shiver, and wrap my arms around myself. I look around for a sign of anymore of the devil’s pets. The echoing fear sits in my eyes.

Rick laughs lightheartedly, “Well, at least Mike got a show.”

I force a tight grin, “Yeah, and not a black eye.” I reply with hostility.

See— the Devils pets— creating hostility within family dynamics.

Looking at this beetle from a less dramatic point of view, it actually has an agenda to perform good deeds for the Earth. In Fort McMurray this beetle is nicknamed the Tar Sands Beetle because they swarm to the scent of terpinols in exposed bitumen, the smell is the same as in damaged trees. This year there is a plethora of the long horned wood-boring beetle in Northern Alberta due to all the burnt forest it has begun to reclaim. This beetle lays their eggs in dead and dying wood, when the eggs hatch, the larvae will help break down the wood. It turns fire burnt areas into soil much faster than rotting can accomplish. Good job beetles.

My condolences Fort Mac, on the influx of Tar Sands beetles, on the bright side, running from them is good cardio, and I hear the bee-keepers garb can be quite slimming.

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Yoo Hoo Justin, Remember me?

 

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The Right Honourable Kim Campbell 19th Prime Minister of Canada.

Our world is stuffed full of public drama. Am I the only one who feels the news has turned into the National Enquirer with world leader choices? We have a Drama teacher in charge of Canada. A student of expression, who has all the emotional presence of a ventriloquist puppet on a stool. Right across the border is an egomaniacal reality TV boss supposedly in charge of America. Trump and Trudeau, studying their most recent photos together, there are moments it looks like they’re best buds. But then I read the latest headlines, and Trump is naming Trudeau the worst Canadian President in history. Canadian President? What?

Trump and Trudeau, T & T, hmmm, TNT, explosive, isn’t it? I wonder if Trudeau shares his stash with Trump when they’re together? Donald does seem happier in Justin’s company. I wonder if Trump shares with Trudeau too? I doubt it. He’s not really the sharing type. Especially not the nukes— he keeps those in private places. As the world watches, Trump’s advisors scramble in his wake, attempting to do damage control. It’s almost comical. I can’t help but wonder, if Trump ever asks for the nuke launch codes, would his advisors roll up the rim on a Canadian Tim Horton’s coffee cup, and give him the eight-digit prize code instead. I hope so.

For one second, I was praising the wooly wanking gods for Mexico’s President, Enrique Pena Nieto. I was head-down grateful. North America had one decent leader in power. Then I braced my feet, and popped my head up out of the sand. I did a little research on the track record of Mexico’s current president. After all, I shouldn’t assume. My hopes were stomped out like a herd of wildebeest stampeding though the open plains of Africa. There are rumblings of possible corruption in President Enrique’s term— nasty business of an escaped drug lord, murdered and missing students, and most recently gas gouging at the pumps— which seems mild compared to the previous two accusations. Nothing is proven of course, but his popularity rating is down to 17%.

Maybe our selfie taking Prime Minister, who achieved his desired limelight through politics, doesn’t seem so bad now? Let’s see— Stop, breathe, center into calm, and bring up the most recent news on Mr. Trudeau. Nope. It still feels terrible. I see a photo of Mr. Trudeau strutting his stuff on the TV talk show, Live with Kelly and Ryan. He is taking a selfie, with Kelly Ripa and Ryan Seacrest, surprise, surprise. I can’t help but groan aloud.

My husband asks me if I’m dying.

I say, “If I’m lucky.”

Trudeau is questioned by the talk show hosts on how he planned, to keep Canada safe from terrorists, after yet, another attack in Great Britain,  “Keeping citizens safe is the biggest responsibility of any leader.” He said, and went on, “There’s all sorts of different things we need to do, whether it’s investing in safety, security, police officers and investigative national security stuff,” (security stuff?) He continues,  “Or whether it’s in creating a society, in which we’re there for each other, we lean on each other (and) we’re resilient enough to handle bad things happening without falling into a bad space.”

Bad space? Let me tell you, I’m falling into bad space just listening to this interview.

Ryan Seacrest, and Kelly Ripa, question Trudeau on how he would feel about one of his children becoming Prime Minister one day.

Trudeau replies, ” I will say, I have one daughter, and there is something very special about imagining a woman prime minister,” said Trudeau. “I think it is long overdue, I just don’t think we have to wait that long. I think it should be sooner than that.”

I’m of average IQ, even I knew— Once upon a time, we had a female Prime Minister— her name was Kim Campbell.

I cannot relate to our Prime Minister. Every time I see his face, I see a cream puff— fluffy on the inside with a lack of real substance. I see someone who has never struggled with the basics, of life— food, shelter, and clothing. I see a well-practiced façade. He wears a perfectly performed smile, accompanied by an insincere tone of voice. He is someone who has never had to figure out how to pay the next hydro bill, or mortgage, or rent. I bet he’s never had to shop for groceries using sale flyers. He’s probably never had a fifteen-dollar haircut, or bought stale dated food. I would wager my life he’s never had to wait until payday to fill a prescription.

Give me a leader with guts, and with hardship under his belt. I want to know my leader struggled, and came out on top, with a fearless desire to lead people into better times because he has been through tough times. I want my leader to unite our country. I hear murmurings of Western separation here and there. People are frustrated. They have lost faith in these poxy politicians who throw the tax-payer’s money all around the world, as though we have no poor, sick, or hungry to take care of at home.

Dear Mr. Trudeau, we don’t need your fake perfect smile, or hundreds of selfies, or embarrassing performances on talk time TV. Stop preening,— perfect people are an illusion. Show us you have a bit of muscle to get things done in your own country, Mr. Prime Minister. Get a little dirty. Pick up a damn shovel, form a few calluses on your manicured hands, and dig us out of this shithole you’re placing us in. The debt you’re building is beginning to weigh on children who aren’t even born yet. Pull your head out. Perfection is for Photoshop and cheesecake.