The Monster Without

“Ready to go, Chip?”

“Sure thing, Pop.” This was going to be a special “just us” trip outside, just me and my Pop. I felt all grown up, even though I was still a ‘tween. I’d lived a sheltered life, here at the house with Mother and my brothers and sisters; I’d never even been outside to play yet. I was ready for an adventure!

“Well, don’t just stand there dawdling. Lunch isn’t going to eat itself, you know!”

I followed Pop out of our small, but comfortable, house into the sunshine of an already warm June day. Mother stayed behind, curled up on her bed, surrounded by my siblings. “Be safe, my darlings!” she called after us.

Pop stopped, a horrified look on his face. “What’s wrong, Pop?” I asked.

“The neighbors house. My goodness, I just saw them yesterday! There’s nothing left!” Continue reading

Upgrade

I’m a cheating hussy and my husband couldn’t be more glad of that fact.  Now, y’all might be scratching your heads at that one, but trust me, it’s the God’s honest truth.

You see, when I met the man I’m going to spend the rest of my life with, I was already married to a low-down, no-good skunk of a guy who didn’t know how to treat me right. Sure, he cooked me dinner once in a while. Yes, he took pretty good care of our kids.  But that same man had a terrible temper; and he liked to take that temper out on my nice things, throwing them and whatnot.  To make sure that I never thought more of myself, him knowing that I was the smarter of the two to begin with, he never missed a chance to put me in my place, especially in public. Them failed English majors sure do have a way with words sometimes.

When you added up all the fors and againsts, that scale came down pretty heavy on my leaving him, which is why, for some perverse reason, that man would do some strange things to try to keep me around.  Continue reading

Welcome to River Street

I have signed a contract with Fey Publishing LTD to publish my novella, which I had been writing under the working title “Vignette” and have now titled “Welcome to River Street.”  If all goes as planned, copies of the volume (which may also include two other short stories set on River Street) could be available as early as July of this 2010.

In Welcome to River Street, a young woman, Michelle Bradley, navigates her way through some difficult times as best she can.  Her friends can only hope that she finds her way back to reality before someone else gets hurt.

Radial

“One set of ten,” Christine says, handing you the purple weights. You take their measure, these small latex-covered bits of iron, tentatively lifting one then the other. They pull at your already-tired arms, drawing out a thin line of pain in protest.

You watch her in the full-length mirror as she demonstrates the motion required: arms crossed over her chest slowly make a “Y” and then back. “Go easy, this is supposed to be hard,” she says.

You cross you wrists at your waist, thumbs pointed down, and you square up your shoulders. “Don’t try to go too high,” she warns you. You try to lift the weights in a smooth motion. You try to make your thumbs sweep in a gentle arc up away from your body. Pain stabs through your left shoulder. You stop, far short of the goal.

Staring into the mirror, you see your left shoulder has risen up towards your ear. You squeeze your shoulder blades together and you are rewarded with a straight collarbone line. “Looks good!” Christine cheers from behind you. You slowly bring your arms, your hands, back down across your chest, your recently-repaired bicep already burning.

“One,” you whisper.

You begin the arc again and your left shoulder loudly pops. You are certain everyone in the room could hear it, but no one comments. As you finish the motion, the mirror reflects your failings: your right hand is nearly two inches higher, your right elbow is straighter, and your right shoulder is a smooth line. Your left arm resembles a puppet sans puppeteer: elbow bent, wrist dangling, shoulder out of alignment. You grit your teeth, throw your shoulder blades back, and swing your arms back to start.

“Two,” you breath out between your teeth.

“Keep that elbow straight,” Christine admonishes.

“It’s only one pound,” you remind yourself. You flex your imaginary wings and swing your arms up.

“Excellent! Keep going!”

Scarred muscle tissue cries out in revolt as you drop your arms and immediately raise them again.

“Four…my own good,” you tell yourself as the barbells make the transition from perpendicular back to parallel. Your focus narrows to the person reflected in the mirror. “Five. Six. Seven,” You count in quick succession, struggling to keep the motion smooth, shoulder down, thumbs up, go-so-high-but-not-higher.

“Slow down,” warns a disembodied voice. You are alone with the mirror, the tortuous weights, the screaming of your muscle.

“Eight. NINE!” You ignore the pop that explodes from your left side. You refuse to recognize the shrill signal from your shoulder. You raise your arms in one final salute to your reflection. It smiles back at you as your drop your arms to each side, lead weights dangling in your shaking hands.,

“Ten.”

Expressions of Love

My border collie has me well-trained. Just a few minutes ago she called me downstairs and had me open the back door for her so she could go patrol her domain for squirrels. I left the door open too, even with a 45F rainy day outside. If I hadn’t, she would have insisted on a cookie for being made to wait, rather than being able to walk right back in whenever she wanted. I can leave the cookie box out; she won’t help herself if I am out of the room. But as soon as I return, she will herd me to it and bark once or twice, just to make sure I know what she wants.

Now, this didn’t happen all at once. When my husband and I first met our G-girl at the mobile adoption center thirteen years ago, it was love at first sight. We weren’t looking to adopt a dog; in fact, our apartment complex had a single-cat policy. We already had a Maine Coon mix, and a guinea pig too. G-girl was a two-timer, we were told, adopted out to a local family who brought her back because “it didn’t work out.” The one-year-old, shaggy, black-and-white puppy tore at our hearts. We took her for a short walk. Ears up, fluffy tail bobbing with every step, she seemed so bright and alert. We signed the papers right then and there.

It took the complex management nearly two weeks to catch us out walking our G-girl along the edge of the woods. My husband pled with the manager, in tears, to let us keep her. They relented, telling us we had to keep her out of sight until we could move. We made arrangements to rent a house. During that time I learned that border collies get bored. And when they get bored, they find things to amuse themselves, like chewing shoes. I filled the apartment with chew toys, empty paper towel rolls, balls of newspaper. We would come home from class and she would be sitting in the middle of the room, surrounded by unpalatable alternatives, with one of our shoes cradled between her paws. Her head would in shame, her normally perky ears down. She wouldn’t run and hide, though. She would come up, drop to the floor right in front of us, and demand a belly rub.

Eventually, she stopped chewing, bored with the whole thing.

One thing we loved about that rented house was the fenced-in back yard. In the beginning, we would let G-girl out the back door, into the yard. She quickly found ways to get out. One time, my husband watched from the window as she carefully climbed, paw over paw, up the chain-link-fence. Another time she nosed the latch of the gate open and simply walked out. I even saw her leap up onto the dog house, left behind by the previous owners, and easily jump from there into the neighbor’s yard. Each time she would go to the front door and bark to be let in. When we opened the door, we would be greeted by a dancing dog: her eyes bright, her tail bouncing, ears up. She was proud that she had solved the puzzle we had given her.

Eventually, we managed to persuade her that she was supposed to stay in that yard. She did, but grudgingly.

We taught her both audible and hand signals for the typical doggy commands: “come,” “sit,” “stay,” “heel,” and “lie down.” And while she understands the commands speak and sing, she refuses to do them unless certain that a treat will follow. We are fairly certain she has learned a fair amount of English. My husband and I have several nicknames for her; not only does she respond to all of them, she knows when we are talking about her even if we do not mention her by name. While she won’t beg at the table for people food, she will wait patiently for someone, ok me, to offer her a bit of biscuit or some other nibble from the plate.

That is, until one of us shows her two open palms, fingers up, and says “all gone.” Her face, always expressive, will droop a bit, and then she will go flop down in some other part of the room, certain we are holding out on her.

Our baby-girl is fourteen years old, has cataracts and arthritis. We have been told that she will still go into vicious-attack-dog mode if someone tries to enter the house when we are not home; this is a face I have never seen. She still chases squirrels, even though she has no idea what she should do with one when she catches it. She is demanding, a little whiny, and we have no idea what we are going to do when she is no longer with us.