Tuesday, April 28, 2009

I'll take crazy, thanks

There once was a nice man named Kirk.
In whose house was a smell not so pert.
He soon saw his freezer
was unplugged and disease-ridden.
Oh, the bugs! The smell! How it hurt!

***

"Here is a home owner's tip for you," my brother-in-law recently wrote in an e-mail. "When going to the basement for a tornado siren, do not - and I seriously mean do not - unplug one's chest freezer in order to plug in a radio and then not plug the freezer back in."

Seriously. I cannot make this stuff up.

But let's back up a bit.

It all started with a storm. Those late-spring busters that haunt the Midwest each year, producing hail, torrential rains and tornadoes by the dozen and sending mobile home owners and television weather gurus into a tizzy.

It was during one such storm that I decided heading to the basement was the best recourse. The storm had been dropping tornadoes for about 50 miles across the state, and the sky had taken on that nasty green color that screams, "Tornado coming!"

Oh, crud.

So I quickly grabbed the essentials - weather radio, water, double fudge chocolate cake, tequila and Chaser, wonder mutt of West Edwards Street.

Our three-year-old son was with his grandparents, so I confess to being happy that they would have the particular joy of a panicked child that evening and not me.

Hey, I'm only human.

I headed to the basement, plugged in the weather radio, plopped on the couch, poured a shot, turned on the television to follow the storm's progress, grabbed a fork and dug into the cake. Come on, Tornado. Bring it on.

But, wait, I thought with fork midway to my mouth and chocolaty goodness just hanging there. Something was missing.

My brain clicked into action.

Dog? Nope, she was here. With her head buried in the couch. All that was visible was the long-fringed, strawberry blonde tail trailing out from between two cushions. It twitched with each clap of thunder, so I assumed she was still alive.

I snorted. My protector.

I thought some more. Looked around. Then realized...Oh, yeah.

My husband.

In my panic I dropped the fork and - unfortunately - the chocolate cake. Which apparently was the only thing able to get the dog out of the couch because her Jedi-like intuition sensed the disturbance in the Force. She exploded out of the sofa and snapped up the cake before it hit the floor.

She may have the heart of a chicken, but she's got the reflexes of a cat.

I raced upstairs and tore through the house, searching for what some believe is my better half.

If they only knew.

I finally found said better half standing outside on the street. Watching the storm while lightning popped through the sky around him. I shook my head in disgust.

"Get the hell outta the street!" I yelled out. "There's a tornado coming!"His only response was to smile brightly and holler back, "Yeah, ain't it cool?"

***

So here we are, a few weeks after the storm - the very same storm that swept through my brother-in-law's neighborhood. Apparently he got the brains in the family because he joined his wife in the basement while the storm tore through.

But then something would happen to make us re-think that "who got the brains in the family" theory.

While home alone one evening, he headed downstairs to retrieve a frozen dinner from the freezer. He threw open the lid to discover a whole new kind of nasty. And quickly realized they'd forgotten to plug in the freezer after the storm passed. Several weeks ago.

Uh, oops.

"HOLY SH**!!" his e-mail continued. "Does rotten meat and whatever else was in there for the entire month of June smell like 100,000 pounds of monkey butt."

Note to self - I don't want to discover how he knows what a monkey's butt smells like. There's a good chance it involves a story about a keg of beer, a stripper and a kidnapped college mascot.

He continued, "Plus, the gnats flying around the basement? I had to bug bomb the lower part of the house...after I puked in the trash can, of course."

Thanks, but I think I'll stick with the guy who chases tornadoes. In a crazy way, it seems safer.

(orginally published July 16, 2008)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

I scream, you scream, we all scream for...

He was getting closer.

I ran down the hallway and ducked into the first room I saw, quietly closed the door behind me and cowered in the dark corner.

My heart beat frantically in my chest. My lungs chugged for air. I leaned against the cold surface of the door, my ear strained to listen for his footsteps.

Tap-tap. Tap-tap.
They were getting louder.

I bit my lip to hold back the scream that threatened to rip from my throat. I panicked and looked around for a quick exit. My shoulders slumped as I realized I’d chosen a room with no other way out.

I was trapped.

I looked down at the small, square box I delicately held and wondered how much longer it would be mine. Its precious cargo was the reason for my flight. To give it up would go against the very fiber of my being.

I clutched it tighter to my chest, its coldness clashed violently with the heat of my flushed body. It jarred my senses and spurred my resolve to fight.

“This is mine!” I silently raged. “Not his.”

I ripped open the top of the box and reached inside with the small, silver object I’d tucked away before I’d made my escape.

The sudden knock froze my entire body.

My husband poked his head around the door, took one look at me huddled in the corner on the floor and casually asked, “Uh, is there a reason you’re eating chocolate ice cream in the bathroom?”

Dammit! Busted!

I shot upright, grabbed his arm, pulled him quickly into the bathroom and shut the door. “Shhh!” I ordered. “Did he hear you?! Did he see you come in here?!”

Like a junkie hopped up on a three-day binge and hiding from the narcotics squad, I twitched around the small space, praying my husband hadn’t unwittingly led our three-year-old son to my hiding place.

“He went upstairs to look for you,” was his answer.

I freaked. “No-no-no-no-no!” I held up the box in one shaking hand, showing him the contents and said, “Look! There’s only a little bit left. Like two bites. That’s all!”

I held the spoon in my other hand and stabbed the air with it. “And I am NOT in the mood to share today.”

My husband, eyes wide with fright and perhaps thinking a psychiatric consult was in my near future, quietly said, “OK, I’ll go distract him.”

I lowered the spoon with an unsteady motion as the adrenaline surged through my body. I nodded and said with new-found bravado, “Yeah, you go do that.”

I opened the door, peaked out and motioned him to get out.

He squeezed past me and headed down the hallway. Just as I stepped back to close the door, I heard a soft boof.

I jumped back in shock and tripped over the toilet, dropping the ice cream into the sink and hitting my head on the wall.

You don’t want to know where the spoon ended up.

“Son-of-a-#*&!” I howled, sat up and tried to shake my blurry vision back into focus.

Standing in the doorway was our golden retriever, apparently wondering why we were holding a conference in the bathroom. With food. Without her.

My invitation must have gotten lost in the mail, her chocolate brown eyes said.

However, her bruised emotions were not my first priority at that moment.

I leaned over, grabbed onto the sink’s edge and pulled myself up on shaky legs. I looked down and saw the soggy container on its side, dripping melted, chocolate goodness down the drain. But before I could mourn its demise, I heard Stomp. Stomp. Stomp. Stomp.

Feet running down the stairs. So much for the helpful interference my husband had promised. I’d have had better luck sending a United Nations convoy upstairs.

I sighed, looked at my sad reflection in the mirror then back down at the mess in the sink. Apart of me felt shame at my selfishness, leading to this brutal, tragic end.

Oh, screw it, I thought. Life is too short. I ran from the bathroom, grabbed my purse and headed for the garage just as a little voice behind me asked, “Mommy! Where are you going?”

To the ice cream aisle at the grocery store, I silently answered. Where’d I put that spoon?

(originally published Feb. 25, 2009)

Monday, April 20, 2009

The brains God gave a snow shovel

I was in pain. So very, very much pain.

Sledding is an activity for only the young, I thought, not for out-of-shape thirty-somethings who get winded pulling the pop-top off a Pringles can.

I collapsed on the bed and prayed for God to put me in full-body traction.

If he didn’t kill me first.

A large spasm ripped through my thigh and shot out my right foot.

OK, God, you win. Go ahead and kill me.

***

“Are you sure this is a good idea?”

Words straight from the mouth of my three-year-old son who – for some reason – doubted my instructions that he lay down head first on his new sled before I sent it screaming down a hill freshly packed with six inches of new-fallen snow.

“Sure!” I answered, clapped my gloved hands together in excitement and continued, “This is gonna be fun!”

He shot me a look that said he clearly doubted my intellectual health. But like a good trooper, he climbed aboard, wrapped his tiny hands around the sides and screamed, “I’m ready!!”

My eyes welled with pride. That’s my boy, I thought, and grabbed the sled, pulled it back to get a running start then pushed it forward and let go.

It wasn’t until later that I realized I should have paid more attention to his rational mind. It was, after all, the only one thinking clearly that day.

***

“She has the brains God gave a snow shovel,” my husband muttered.

I looked out the window to see the fuzzy, golden rump of Chaser, Wonder Mutt of West Edwards Street.

The rest of her was buried head first in a large snow drift running through the backyard. Every few seconds, her fringed tail would begin to wag in excitement, only to flop back down to earth, suggesting monumental defeat.

I glanced at the outdoor thermometer and noticed the mercury had yet to climb above 8 degrees.

“What is she doing out there?” I asked. “It’s freezing.”

“She’s looking for tennis balls,” was my husband’s response.

Aah, that explained it. Chaser’s love of tennis balls was only surpassed by her love of peanut butter, ear rubs and Grandpa Bill. Not necessarily in that order.

“Did you throw one out there?” I asked. She had trained us well. When it was time to go outside, one must toss a tennis ball in the backyard first. Otherwise, she’d plant her rear on the deck and refuse to go any further.

Once, she stayed out there for three days. She became best friends with the neighborhood rabbits and ate half of a wrought-iron patio chair before I gave in and decided tennis balls are a lot cheaper.

“I didn’t have to throw her a ball this time,” my husband answered. “She spotted the snow as soon as I opened the back door. Then she ran out like her tail was on fire, dove into that snow drift and hasn’t come out since.”

He gestured toward the window and snorted, “It’s been an hour.”

***

The sled went one way.

My husband went the other.

As I watched his body fly through the air, I recalled our son’s earlier question. You know, about this sledding head-first down a hill being a good idea.

Oh, the wisdom of youth.

“A little help here, please,” I heard my husband mumble.

At least I think that’s what he said. It was a little difficult making out the words since he was face down in the snow and half buried under a bush.

I reached down for his outstretched hand and heard, “THAT WAS AWESOME, DADDY!” Our son hopped up and down with excitement and yelled, “DO THAT AGAIN!”

My husband collapsed back onto the snow and grumbled, “Jesus. What the hell am I doing?”I knelt down beside his prone form, looked into his eyes and gently said, “Honey, I think you have the brains God gave a snow shovel.”

Then I took off running.

***

It wasn’t until I had dragged our son back up the hill for the 247th time that I realized, “Hey, the kid has legs! He can walk!”

But the damage was done. By that evening, every muscle was screaming in agony. And you know what they were saying?

Yep. You got it.

“You have the brains God gave a snow shovel.”

(originally published March 11, 2009)