Thursday, March 18, 2010

Miracle on West Edwards Street

“DO NOT GO INTO THE LIGHT!” I yelled hysterically.

My husband poked his head around the door and said, “Excuse me?”

I pointed down at the tank on the counter. Inside was Gabe Junior, the tiny goldfish our son, Gabe Senior, had won at last summer’s county fair.

I sniffed and wiped a tear from my eye. “He’s not doing so well,” I said sadly.

My husband stepped forward and looked down. “Nope, it’s usually not a good sign when fish float sideways like that.”

He shrugged and added, “When’s the last time you changed the filter?”

“You’re...uh…supposed to do that?” I asked, realizing that maybe – just maybe – I had killed the fish. I’m soooo going to hell.

I leaned down with nose to the glass and looked at the little guy floating there, his tiny gills barely moving. In….Out….In….Out….

His big black eye stared up at me, unblinking. I stared back. Not wanting to break the contact, knowing he was reaching out in his own fishy way for love, for a connection, for some small sign of peace as he struggled to keep his earthly body with us.

My eyes began to water, but I kept staring, not wanting to let him down in his time of need.

My husband tapped me on the shoulder and said softly, “Fish don’t have eyelids, you know. They can’t blink.”

Oh, Jesus. I stood up and yelled, “FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, WE NEED A NEW FILTER!!”

My husband, finally understanding the seriousness of the situation, yelled, “I’m on it!” and tore down the stairs and into the garage, off to the store.

I knew it was only a matter of time. I called forth the rest of the family to say their goodbyes.

“Gabe,” I told my son as he stood before the tank, “Gabe Baldwin the Fish is really sick. We should say a prayer.”

He nodded, bowed his little blonde head and said in his preschooler’s voice, “Dear Lord, I’m sorry about Fishy. Can I get a new one?”

“What?!” I said, shocked at his lack of empathy. “He’s not even dead yet and you want another one??!”

Then I brought in Chaser, Wonder Mutt and lover of fish. I leaned down and said, “Chaser, I know you’ve always thought of him as lunch, but he’s sick. So make your peace.”

She cocked her golden head to the side, ears raised and looked at me with gorgeous brown eyes that said, “The kid has pancakes downstairs. What are the chances I can get my paws on one of those?”

Sigh. I patted her on the head and dismissed her as well. The slam of a door informed me my husband had returned.

He barreled up the stairs, bag in hand and said, “I blew through three stop signs, cut off two SUV’s and almost ran over a squirrel. Did I make it in time?”

Oh, how sweet. That’s why I married this guy.

I nodded yes and took the bag. Inside was a new filter, which we quickly installed.

With the tank back in working order, Gabe Baldwin the Fish burrowed into the bottom. The red-gold of his scales looked elegant against the backdrop of royal blue gravel. His head peeked around the bottom of the No Fishing sign placed there in happier times.

“I feel so helpless,” I said and gestured toward the tank. My husband put his arm around my shoulder and said, “You want me to put him out of his misery? You know, like, flush him?”

“ARE YOU FRIGGIN’ KIDDING ME?!” I yelled. I took a deep breath and continued, “No. I am NOT ready to EUTHANIZE the fish. Go away.”

“We’ll have to do it eventually,” my husband countered.

“When his time comes, he will NOT be flushed,” I insisted. “He’ll go the way of the Vikings. Flaming funeral barge that I’ll set adrift in the city lake.”

“Uh, I think you’d need a permit for that,” my husband said.

Then a miracle occurred eight hours later. Gabe Baldwin the Fish returned to the land of the swimming. He flipped, scooted and floated his way around the tank. I looked at my husband and accused, “You were gonna flush him.”

He shrugged his shoulders and muttered, “Sorry. My bad.” He paused then added, “This is great and all, but who’s gonna tell the kid he doesn’t get a new fish now?”

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Alas, poor Gabe Baldwin the Fish, we knew you well


It is with great sadness I report the passing of Gabe Baldwin the Fish. He arrived one balmy summer evening after Gabe Senior won him at a county fair. And now he's gone.
He had us fooled; thought he had bounced back from Sunday's illness. But, alas, his fragile body couldn't handle the stress and he passed away last night.
Gabe is taking it a little harder than we thought he would, so please send good thoughts his way.
He and Jon will head to the store tonight to find new friends - more likely, Gabe Baldwin III and Gabe Baldwin IV.

On a related note, I wrote this week's column Sunday evening after it appeared Gabe the Fish was a survivor. Pondering whether to send an Editor's Note with an update for tomorrow's publication.

Although, I kinda like the thought of people thinking he made it.....

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Fight vs. Flight syndrome

My husband loves gory horror movies.

But the creepy ones that mess with your mind? He just can’t handle them.

So why he arrived home one evening with a creepy horror flick was beyond me.

“Are you sure?” I asked after reading the description on the back of the box. “Young couple thinks their house is haunted and sets up a camera to figure out what’s going on.”

“Hey, I can handle it,” he insisted.

I pointed at the picture. “Looks like she’s had a boob job too,” I sniped. “No wonder the boyfriend wants to put a camera in the bedroom.”

He grabbed the case and stomped off. Oh, if only he’d listened to me.

Thirty minutes later we were watching the couple asleep in bed.

“Wow,” I whispered, “this is INTENSE. I’ve never been so scared in my entire life.”

An elbow to the ribs greeted my bad attitude. “Shh, something’s gonna happen.”

And then - finally - it happened. There in the silence. At 2 a.m. The bedroom door slammed shut.





And, for the record, that wasn’t me.

“I’d be so outta there,” Captain Obvious said. “In the car, to the hotel and calling a realtor the next day.”

“Please. You’d have been out of there after she found the spider in the laundry room and freaked,” I pointed out.

Silence. “I don’t like spiders,” my husband finally muttered.

“Their first mistake was putting the bed on the same wall as the door,” I pointed out. “Everybody knows that’s bad feng shui.”

My husband scoffed, “Like you know anything about feng shui.”

“I know enough you don’t put the bed on the same wall as the door. Harkens back to caveman days when they laid their Mastodon rug on the OPPOSITE wall. You know, so they’d be able to see when a saber toothed tiger wandered in.”

“Did you just use the word ‘harkens’?” he asked, completely ignoring my tip about survival of the fittest. Sigh. Men.

As the movie continued, the paranormal activities escalated, the guy got more stupid and the girl got more annoying. As if that were possible.

“She needs to suck it up,” I stated the obvious. “All this ‘Do something. Save me. Help me’ nonsense. It’s embarrassing.”

“What?” my husband countered. “Are you telling me if some demon/ghost thing grabbed your leg, whipped you outta bed onto the floor and dragged you down the hallway by your ankle at 3 in the morning, you wouldn’t be screaming and wetting your pants?”

“No,” I answered calmly.

“You’re so full of it.”

“Yes,” I said with bravado, “full of awesomeness.” I lifted my right leg and mimed the full-on Karate Kid flamingo move that took down that blonde dude and bragged, “I would so kick that demon’s as-...uh....” I stuttered to a halt due to little ears in the next room and decided to go with the Rated G version. “I would so kick that demon’s rear end.”

An undignified snort greeted my answer.

“Hello? It’s a demon,” my husband said. “Can’t see him. Can’t feel him. Can’t poke him in the eye like the Three Stooges. And you definitely. Can’t. Kick. His. Rear. End.”

While I figured out the answer to that one, we watched as the guy on the movie whipped out a Ouija board.

“Oh, now that’s just asking for trouble,” I said. My husband turned to me and asked, “You believe those things actually work?”

“I’m just sayin’ there are some things in this universe you don’t mess with,” I said. “A Ouija board is one of them.”

My husband shot up straight and said, “What? You believe in ghosts? How did I not know this?”

I shrugged, “Just because I’ve never seen one doesn’t mean they don’t exist. I believe in aliens too. But not alien ghosts. Because that would just be weird.”

As he mulled that one, I added, “Just wait. She’s gonna go Lizzie Borden on him. And then she’s gonna take off with his 60” flat screen TV.”

As the final minutes ticked by, we watched in fascination as my prophesy came true.

I smirked and nodded in a told-you-so kinda way as the demon girlfriend hurled the boyfriend’s slashed body at the camera. The screen went black. Movie over.

My husband could only stare in horror.

I patted his knee and sweetly said, “Next time, get ‘The Sound of Music.’ There aren’t any spiders in that one.”

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

How to report the news

Charlie Brooker's How to Report the News:

Or, as I like to call it, an entire semester's worth of Broadcast Journalism summed up in 2 short minutes.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Read Across America Week

I've been in the Literature Zone for recent postings, so I must have sensed something in The Force....

This is Read Across America Week, sponsored by the National Education Assocation. It coincides with the celebration of the birthday of Dr. Suess on March 2:

Today we'll start with Barney Beagle Plays Baseball. It's been Gabe's favorite since forever. Another reason it's cherished? It once belonged to another little husband and Gabe's dad. Our parents were so great to save many of our favorite books, and today we get to share them with our own son.

Some families have artwork to pass along to future generations. Others have jewels or real estate.

We have books.

...I think we're the wealthiest of them all.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Impressionism: Word style

I stumbled across an interesting question today on a listserv: What is one line from an author that has stayed with you over the years?

I've read a lot of books, so a ton of quotes ran through my head. Shakespeare, Austen, JK Rowling, Dr. Suess. Too many to mention. However, there are a couple that manage to rise to the surface. Not because they inspire great knowledge or give the secret to life or create world peace. Instead, when taken in context, they are heart-breakingly beautiful.

I attended a small school in a rural area, but the literature program was top-notch. By the time I reached college, I had qualified to test out of the freshman literature course because my high school teachers had introduced a large array of literary offerings. Shakespeare to Faulkner. Hawthorne to Bronte. Austen to Twain. Dickens to Chaucer. Capote to Steinbeck. We even read Beowulf. Yikes.

And it was within the pages of a "Tale of Two Cities" I discovered a character that has stayed with me. Sydney Carton. I won't go into detail about Sydney's motivation because I'm no literary scholar. In a nutshell, he was a rat, a tragic character. But one who made the ultimate sacrifice. It's easy to die for someone we love. But to die in place of the person you hate the most? Who is loved by the woman you love the most? To die under his name, so he and your true love can live happily ever after?

Whoa. That's sacrifice, my friend. So it is Syndey's final thoughts that haunt me still: 'It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.'

My second favorite is courtesy of a man called Gaston Leroux. I know he's not at the top of Most Favorite lists. However, he penned a novel that became one of the most beloved theatrical offerings: The Phantom of the Opera.

Good old Gaston was ahead of his time. He was one of the first true mystery authors. Although - in my mind - Phantom isn't a mystery. It's a suspense. Tragedy. Drama. And, yes, comedy. It's a mixture of so many different styles, making it a unique offering.

The line I love the most? Let me put it into context first. Many fans of the musical are familiar with the story. However, it fails to explain the Phantom's background. We learn at the end of the book, he was an architect by trade. After being cast out as a child due to his appearance, living on the streets and joining the carnival, the Phantom acquired a large bag of tricks. Conjuring, magic, ventriloquy, music. And he was intellectually gifted. He became an architect. Worked for a few shady characters and eventually returned to Paris, where he designed the Opera House. With nowhere to go, he decided to make it his home and secretly designed his lair below.

And it is the narrator's words that describe the Phantom's tragic end the best: 'He had a heart that could have held the empire of the world; and, in the end, he had to content himself with a cellar.'

It reminds me each day to look past one's flaws and see the beauty within. What could someone with his talents have achieved had the world shown him an ounce of compassion?

A much better place than we have now.