Old Dullard

Used to be, my pool cleaning business operated by homeowner contract. They would whoop and holler and cavort in their pool until it got too many leaves, or until the kids were seen playing fetch with Dullard the retriever or whatever they called their mutt. They would call me and put old Dullard in the house and I’d do my vacuum and net thing. Most of the time, they’d leave cash on the front step under a rock or something so they wouldn’t have to talk to the hick-accented Kentucky boy with the imperfect smile.

Pink cat tableauNow I get these jobs. The rich folks have flown the coop, going to estates in the Rockies or Atlanta, a bunch sending prices sky-high in Atlanta. Denver was already sky high, ha! Anyway, they gone and the majestic Pacific is lapping that old front step come winter storms like the one just last week. Wouldn’t know it was winter here in San Clemente except for the calendar as it goes from hot to danged hot year to year.

The call today was from the City and they wanted certification for each property on the list for the pools being empty and not harboring creatures and not creating a fire hazard and on and on for insurance purposes. I know all the forms and make them happy with honest work and pictures to prove it. I used to let my helper Elsie who is also my daughter do up all the forms. I would take her the pictures; she stayed back to the office which is my garage. SheLaptop with Ale did real good, professional like. Now she’s off and married; no time for old Dad anymore. I do okay for a codger.

The first three properties was easy, raking the debris up from around the drains. I leave one and lock the gate up tight, leave the bagged debris on the curb and move on to the next one.

I cannot believe what I see, a live dog, a big one, German Shepherd lookin’, standing down there in a foot of water. “Hey, Dullard! How come you so stupid to get down in that pool? Chasin’ birds?” I quit laughin’ when I consider that dog is probably mighty hungry and could bite my arm plum off when I go in to rake off that drain. He does look ragged. Now typically at this point, I would expect that dog to be barkin’ his head off. Is he that weak or what? Now is the appropriate time to call the Animal Control folks who will arrive accoutered with radios and rifles and such. Poor old Dullard.

knifeWhen I get back with the little sack of dog food, that old dog had walked up closer to my end, the shallower and dry end, and was on his haunches staring up at me. It was like he read my mind and knowed I was coming back. I split the bag down the middle with my Puma pocket knife, better than any other brand, any day. I lean over saying, “Hey, Dullard! Looky here! Here boy, come and get it!”

I must confess, I’m grinning like no tomorrow. When I dropped that bag he went after it, tail a-wagging away. I hustle on around to the ladder with my rake to get the job done. When my boot lands on the floor of the pool, the reek nearly swoons me. The dog trots over and goes to a pile of rags. Sure, it turns out to be a dead old guy, fly covered and bloated. Holy cow, you’d think the fence and gate and cameras and patrols would keep these guys out! I wade around him, yep, dead as a doornail.

I climb back up that ladder and see the busted cameras on the ground by a backpack, solvin’ that mystery. I skip back down the driveway to dig around in the truck ‘til I find the rope and a wide strap with hooks on either side. Back down I go and I get that strap under the dog, right behind his front legs. Um, her legs, turns out Dullard is a female and not very old, maybe three or four years, if that. I’d thought he was a ball-less boy, you know how they do. I hug her neck saying “You be still now” right in her ticky ear.

I climb back up again, sure getting my exercise, toting that dog food sack tight under my arm to keep it from dribbling. I pretty quick lift that dog out of there and put her in the back of my panel truck with the sack. I say, “Lay down and hush” and she does. “Good dog. I’ll be back in a little bit.”

Once I rake the drain and all Dullard’s paw prints is swept, I call 911 and say I found a body while Woods 021draining the pool. They easily believe I was too idiot to know there was a dead guy until I had the pool drained and swept up – all I have to do was talk down home way and raise my eyebrows like Gomer Pyle.

I figure I’ll do the rest of the houses on the morrow and tell the cops that. After an hour or so, they let me go on home and I say a prayer for the old guy as I pass them heaving his carcass into the ambulance. When I get to the truck, Angel is sitting in the front passenger seat, neat as could be. Angel you say? She looks at me with them big melty-chocolate brown angel eyes. No Dullard she.

The Nefarious Dr. Spelov

Lindsey woke abruptly, sat up fast with a rigid back and tried peering through the darkness. She hugged her drawn up knees, straining to hear something besides the constant drip-drip of the water pipe in the far side of the dank basement. She felt a nearly weightless spider cross one set of knuckles, then the other. No Spidersfootsteps crunched the gravel outside, no stairs creaked, no anguished hinges betrayed a slowly opened door. Spelov, her captor, might be away.

Viscous mud had oozed from the wall-floor joints in her sleep period, slick on her bare skin. Day? Night? Pointless to wonder. She leaned forward to place her lands on a dry patch of concrete and heaved up, careful as she stood straight to not let her feet slip. She stooped to dredge up mud and proceeded to smear it liberally across her breasts, down her boney ribcage and past her narrow hips.

Raising her hands and bowing her head she chanted, “P-R-O-B-A-B-L-Y, PROBABLY.” The feeling of the mud transforming into golden armor gave her the confidence she would sorely need.

Spelov clapped his hands and laughed from only a few feet away, his grating voice reverberating. How had she not sensed him so near? She stood firm, not frozen from fright but because of will.

She heard him shuffle closer, feeling his breath as he growled, “Girl, I will break you yet!”

The lights came on brilliantly, blindingly. She blinked and saw him leering from the corner of her eye. In dismay, she realized the gleaming armor she’d created covered only her front. A cookie in one hand, he now reached to place his other hand on her unprotected rear.Oaty in hand

She instantly shifted to face him, splayed fingers extended stiffly to ward him off, chanting, “N-E-C-E-S-S-A-R-I-L-Y, NECESSARILY.”

Bells suddenly pealed at a deafening, head-pounding volume. She fell to her knees and looked through slitted eyes at her enemy. Spelov faded away, laughing manically until he vanished into sparkling cookie crumbs. She had won this round, yet remained his captive. Would the cacophony never end?


Lindsey grabbed the phone off her pillow and touched ‘snooze’. What a weird dream! Trying to recall it brought up memories of last year’s 7th grade effort.  C-O-O-K-I-E, COOKIE. WRONGwrong WRONGwrongWrong! Sirens and howling wolves! CookY! Why? Because we wanted to humiliate you! Injustice and chicanery! Judged using an archaic spelling book! A-R-C-H-A-I-C, C-H-I-C-A-N-E-R-Y. Not this year. She zipped her jeans decisively. Not this year.



Y’all Keep Them Eyes Peeled!

A year ago, Ma and I trolled the cloth store picked out yards and yards of cotton prints for shorts and skirts. Now she sits and stares at nothing, and getting her attention is iffy. Some days are better than others but the good ones are getting further apart. Now at the cloth store she sits at the pattern catalog counter while I look around.July 2013 Circle House Damage 018

I got a” set-up going that looked real smart on paper, but it hurts my ragged heart to have to leave my cabin home real early every Monday morning to get to work in town. I’m still in Kentucky, but have to go from the middle of it to a big town on the Ohio River. Then all through the week I live in a crusty old house with the floors propped up by sticks in the basement. When Ma moved in, I got the running water and furnace fixed. I’m 15 minutes from work, and eliminated all that wear and tear on me and the Subaru. I count the hours until I can get home again.

Anyhow, driving from the cabin to town is a despondent hour or two, depending on the weather. It’s an ordeal to get Ma ready to go so early besides gathering all my plunder. I don’t have time to make coffee and clean up the pot and all, so it’s tough to stay alert. Having a zombie to ride with does not help in the least.

So here I am winding through the narrow rural roads to get to the highway that goes to the Parkway right at Butterfly road 2sunrise. Though I knew it to be a worthless effort, I told Ma to keep her eyes peeled for deer. Then for some reason, I started talking with a high pitched deep South accent, seein’ as she was born and raised on the barrier islands off the coast of Charleston, South Carolina.

“Y’all keep them eyes peeled for them there deer. Now if you were a tater, y’all would have eyes too, but if ya peeled them, they’d be long gone. So watch how ya peel them eyes, ya hear?”

She laughed! I mean actually listened to what I said, understood it and thought it was funny. I was so stunned, I almost missed my ramp to the parkway.

Me: “Looky there at them there RAIN clouds, you see that straight up gray in the sky over yonder?”

Ma: “Yes, that must the RAIN.”

Me: “That’s right, pourin’ down in great torrents. Ye doggies! Did y’all see that lightnin’?”

Ma: Ooo, I’m afraid of lightning.”

Me: “Aw, ain’t no cause for y’all to fear the lightning. Ain’t no way for one of them there bolts to get to the your scrawny little body. Ye kitties! Did ya see that one, haaaw!”

Ma! “That was a big one!”

Me: “They so danged purty, those glorious swords from heaven. They use those swords to chase out the stray animals Dog Puzzle 2that get up there; they don’t care for the dogs howling with the choir. You know if it’s stormin’ cats and dogs, y’all gotta keep them windows rolled up tight as we got enough dogs and cats already. Unless there’s a calico that is, ‘cause I could make you a fine summertime nightgown out a nice bit of calico.”

Ma conversed like a regular person, like she would have a year or two ago. She really participated and was interested. The magic had vanished by the time I came in from work. She sat on the screened-in porch in her rocking chair until very late, eating her supper out there. She didn’t recognize any questions unless I asked them three times, louder each time. She couldn’t remember my name.

It was grand while it lasted.


A Gift Must Be Given

Kenny hated birthdays. All a birthday did was let the city know you needed to renew your tags. Each one for the past several years, since Ginny died, emphasized to him that nobody cared about him, that nobody could be bothered to remember his birthday, that nobody probably even thought of his name anymore. He looked deep into the water, his toes gripping the wharf edge, then to the horizon. ‘No probably to it. Everybody loved Ginny. I ain’t worth shootin’.’ The flip-flops he’d thrown had floated pretty far out, bobbing in the swells.

Holland 357The water enticed him, a siren’s call. He relaxed his worn muscles. His innate will to live that had served him so well through war and disasters drifted away like the wispy smoke from a burnt out fire. With the tide going out, all he needed to do was fall.

A shadow intruded on the water. He frowned and turned to see a pair of hideously large purple sunglasses at eye level, topped by an equally hideous floppy straw sunhat with some sort of garland on it.

“Hi there! Do you think you could help me find an earring? They’re heirlooms and I shouldn’t have been wearing them so of course I did. They have real amethysts in them, for you see I adore violet and…oh, I’m so sorry, are you meditating? I’m disturbing your meditation. I tried that and it always put me right to sleep.”

He waited. The sunglasses didn’t budge. “I have not seen your earrings. Yes, I was meditating.” He turned back to the water, now tensed up all over again.

“I love a southern accent, the way you say you’re A’s and I’s is so sweet! Texas?”

He took a deep breath and blew it out hard as he turned back to the intruder. “Kentucky. I’m from the boonies of Kentucky.”

“I am so sorry, I can tell I’m annoying you.” Her brilliant smile disappeared. “I didn’t actually lose an earring. I was getting depressed and thought it better to drum up a conversation to get my mind off of it.” She turned away, head bowed.

Without thought, he called out, “To get you mind off of what?”

Her sunhat swayed in negation.

Vexed, he walked briskly past her and stopped in front of her. “To get your mind off of what?”

She removed her sunglasses and smeared tears away with her thumb. Looking up, her face expressed such eloquent sadness he nearly choked up.

“It is my birthday. It’s been so long since I had a real conversation with anyone, I tried to take a gift. You can’t take gifts, they must be freely given to be worth a thin dime.”Sack

“Is that credit or debit?”

A faint smile appeared. “Oh yes, and there’s ‘do you want that in twenties or smaller denominations?’.”

“I have direct deposit and do all my bills online. I get ‘sign for this’ a lot because I get my medicine by mail.” He thought for a moment. “My computer used to tell me I got mail, but it quit doing that a long time ago. I kind of miss it.”

“Heck, I miss the old ‘Paper or plastic?’; do you remember that one?”

He moved by her side and thrust out his rusty elbow. “It’s my birthday, too. Would you like to get a lemonade?”

“Only if you tell me your name. I’m Shirley Jean.”


Hancock Fabrics, Good Bye!

Pile of cloth

Alas! The venerable Hancock Fabric Store is no more. I have such fond memories of Hancock Fabrics, from way back. I won the 8th grade science fair and got $50 cash money for it. I bee-lined it to Woolco Department Store in the Indian Trail Shopping Center so Ma and I could pick out a sewing machine. Not that she was much help – she did not sew at all. I got a Brother, rather plain but highly serviceable.

I made all of our church dresses and made my little sisters colorful outfits for church and school. I particularly remember Poo (Alice) wanting more pockets! I made a yellow tunic with matching flared pants. The cotton material had big white flowers splattered across it, and a red band across the front tunic bottom divided into at least six pockets. I made myself a deep purple pair of hiphugger flared brushed denim jeans…the coolest nerd in school.

071415 018Imagine my delight many years later, when I found Hancock Fabrics had a store minutes from the house I’d moved into! I didn’t actually go in there or even find my sewing machine (a different one, another story) until Ma moved in with me over a year ago. Oh, she needed tailor made church dresses! We both enjoyed roaming Hancock’s, ferreting out the deals, and she loved the quirky and brightly patterned stuff.

When I heard they were closing, bankrupt, I couldn’t believe it. No reorganizing? No restructuring? Nope, just gone. I haunted the store the last few days and bought entire bolts of cloth at 90% off. I got gobs of patterns at $1 each. One always needs buttons and zippers, so into the overloaded cart they went.

Now I have cloth from satins to upholstery to fanciful cotton blends. I have years worth of scrumptious silky, flowery fabrics and all of the smooth linings I hope to ever need. Sure I loved the spectacular deals. I’m so sorely going to miss dear old Hancock Fabrics, though.



Strawberries On the Move!

Check that out, those rambunctious strawberries running for all they’re worth! I admit I hate Strawberries escaping to weed and so some weeds are taller than I am. Also, some really insistent viney crap is taking over no matter how many of those plants I pull up. I think they multiply by rhizomes, the root internet between plants. I pull up one gob, roots and all, but the root internet gets the signal: We’re under attack! Grow faster! Spread further!

Now that they’ve infiltrated the strawberries, it’s clear why the poor berry runners are fleeing. I attacked back, wading into the berry patch early Strawberries up closein the morning to take a couple hours in the stifling heat to yank weed after weed. First, I know that stuff will sprout right back up. Second, the stuff is infested with turkey mites. Heard of chiggers? Turkey mites are very similar. They burrow into your skin and it itch-itch-itch-itches for days. Sure, shower and scrub right after weeding to wash them off. Fine plan that I did follow, but the faster burrowers had already dug in. Really, most came from my shoes. I had wiped them inside and out with bug spray, but that was a Bullwinkle move as I got ‘em up and down me RIGHT NOW.new strawberries

You hear so much about unwanted refugees on the news. In can’t help but see those striving strawberry runners reaching out into bare gravel toward a block retaining wall, toward nothing hospitable, as an illustration of an archetypal theme. Unable to let that continue, I extended the strawberry bed and put 25 more (super-sale!) plants in with them.

Check out before and after! Now, all that was last weekend. I dread looking at the berry bed when I get to the cabin this evening. I know what I’ll see – THEY’RE BAAACK!strawberries with weedsstrawberries weeded