humor, life

That is Not Adderall

A short rant before we begin. I was born in 1988, therefore, I’m quite fond of the number 88. Today, I learned that number is apparently a nazi thing? Fml, are you serious?! Screw that, it’s mine!

Time for another tale of terror from the time we rented the spliced together hoard house outside town. If you haven’t read Rain Showers, I suggest you go there first. You can’t appreciate the horror of this atmosphere without it. This will take place during our second month, before we lost water, but after we lost the dryer. You also need to remember Amy is Hubby’s sister and had a Xanax problem.

Memory Refresher

* I want to include a reminder. This story is almost a decade old, and Amy has not had a drug abuse problem in several years. We get along famously these days and I’m happy to consider her a sister. She has no memory of these events, but she’s a great sport about laughing at them. *

One day, I will get around to how Amy dumped Rob, but that drama can wait. Today, we’re going to talk about after they separated, when Amy’s electricity was cut off. Whether she forgot to pay the bill or used the money for drugs is irrelevant. The important part is that no one would take her in. We were the only family still speaking to her at that time, and we genuinely needed help making the house livable.

With great hesitation, we said she could stay the week if she helped out. To be fair, she did help a bit. As these things tend to, it started off well. She had food stamps and filled the house with groceries. Was it food we ate? Eh, not really, but we thought, well, at least she’s feeding herself. That will save some money.

Wrong! Let me tell you now, most of the groceries spoiled. Hubby worked during the day, I worked from home answering a phone. Every day, when I drove into town for whatever errands, Amy tagged along. Every day, without fail, she asked, “Can we stop at Fast Food? I haven’t eaten today.”

Of course, she only works the months around Christmas so she didn’t have money. She never volunteered the information, instead waiting until it was time to pay. I wouldn’t offer on principle, meaning we had to play out the same long, awkward silence until she asked for money. The worse part was how she counted the wasted groceries as “paying us back.”

Anyway, the point is, she offered us drugs to help cope with the pain. Our favorite pill has always been Adderall, but it’s extremely difficult for us to acquire. They were a rare treat. Imagine our glee when Amy announced, “You like those? I have a whole bottle. My friend has a prescription, but she hates them.”

“Amy, if you have a purse full of Adderall I need you to get it right now.” I said with the eyes of a starving wolf.

We tried to keep our hopes in check, it was Amy after all. Even as she removed the large bottle from her purse I thought it was too good to be true. Then she opened it, placing it on the table before us, and we stared at a mountain of pure white powder. That’s when I called bullshit.

“No, it really is, I swear! She just takes it out of the capsules so she can rip people off, but this is real stuff!” Amy insisted, spreading generous lines of the drug.

Hubby and I were dubious but had to admit it was a common practice. “You’ve done some already?” I asked.

“Yea, it’s fine, watch.” Amy snorted the first line, and when she didn’t have a seizure, we tried it.

It was Adderall! Can you believe it? We sure as hell couldn’t! I know, I know, ‘but what about your title’ right? Hold your britches, I’m getting there.

We had two extremely productive days thanks to the miracle powder. Everything went so well, we didn’t even mind Amy’s Xanax fits like when she asked the same question thirty times or talked through new episodes of Doctor Who. Everything was aces until we left her home alone for twenty minutes.

Hubby and I drove to the gas station and back, no big deal… or so we thought. Upon our return, we decided it was time for a pick-me-up. I retrieved our powder from its hiding place – it’s relevant to know it was hidden well on one of our many bookshelves. It wasn’t left out in a place for anyone to happen upon. I poured a nice healthy pile, and as I began to separate it into lines, I realized huh, why does it look so funny.

“Hey, come look at this… is. Is this salt?!” I asked Hubby in the opposite of an indoor voice.

(This is one of those times I’m going to reduce the cursing by 90%. It was so bad.)

“Because it is fraking salt! That bitch!” Hubby stormed off to find Amy while a monkey named Jonesy ruthlessly clawed my back for that Adderall.

I spent more hours than I want to admit separating the tiny specs with a flashlight and tweezers. I fully understood how pathetic it was, but I had to try. The worst part was, she didn’t have to do it. We weren’t being greedy, trust me she was like a blood-hound. Every time we pulled it out – no matter where we hid – she was there. She wouldn’t ask for it, no. She talked about how tired she was until Hubby offered.

That was fine. It was a huge bottle, and she didn’t get anything in return she wasn’t already getting. I didn’t understand why she felt the need to ruin the entire bottle to cover the fact she used more. My rage was also divided by the fact she thought salt was something to use for that purpose. I didn’t trust myself to speak when Hubby brought her to the kitchen.

I bit my tongue long as I could, but then she started talking. “I just came to see what happened, is there really salt in the Adderall?”

I glared at her, hoping to induce an aneurysm.

“Because Phoebe and that guy came over while you were gone. They just walked in the back door… and they were standing over there by that shelf when I walked in… they left after I told them you weren’t here.” After an incredibly long silence she continued, “So… I mean. I don’t know them, but could they like…”

Let’s entertain her story while we’re here. The notion of Phoebe and her boyfriend coming was ludicrous. She only walked over if they were fighting. When she did walk over, it was via the rock path to the front door, not the mud hole to the back. They didn’t know the drugs existed nor that I decided to hide something on that shelf for the first time ever.

“Do you understand what I would have done to you if I snorted salt?” There it went. The dam broke and all bets were off.

“I really didn’t…” Amy started.

“Please don’t. I’m begging you. If you’re going to do the deny, deny, deny thing, save it for later. Just get away from me for now, I don’t have it in me to pretend to believe you.” I couldn’t look at her, instead I looked at my tiny white specs and begged Jonsey to let me think.

Amy walked away but didn’t stop talking. She continued professing her innocence as she walked to the living room. My memory gets a little fuzzy here, but somehow I came to stand in the doorway, throat sore, staring at her, Hubby standing next to me.

“How about we go for a drive? It’s not like she can do more damage. I’ll help you sort what’s left when we get back.” He offered.

I suppose I agreed because we were no more than a few minutes away when I realized I left my purse behind. “Shit, we have to go back. I have cash in there.” I said angrily.

“Where did you leave it?” He asked.

“In our bedroom, under my nightstand.” I admitted, knowing what he would think.

“Okay, well it’s not like you left it in the open. She won’t go looking for it, she probably assumes you have it with you.” He tried to be reassuring.

“No, I already don’t like this. We gotta go back.” Money aside, I still had (have) only-child syndrome. I couldn’t accept she wouldn’t want to steal my prized possessions.

We turned around, gone for less than ten minutes when we returned. I almost let myself hope when she was sitting on the couch, exactly as we left her, but I knew I couldn’t breath easy until I saw the cash. I went straight to the purse and opened my wallet. It was empty. Can you guess who Amy blamed? Yes! It was Phoebe again! Wouldn’t you know we just missed those rascals!

I was done folks. I washed my hands of it. “You know what Amy? Forty bucks is a small price to pay to get rid of you. You’re going home first thing in the morning, best of luck with your electricity.” I walked away before I said anything truly harsh.

Hubby talked to her for a few minutes, but I had a monkey to feed. We resumed powder picking and saved more than expected, but it was a pittance of the whole.

The next morning I was gifted with Amy’s reasoning for destroying our white gold. She returned our money and a hefty pile of Adderall powder after waking. Apparently she wasn’t happy just doing the drugs, she wanted to sell some when she realized how much people like it. She was too ashamed to ask for it and thought salt would be the best way to hide her actions. She included, “I don’t remember any of it, but this was in my bag so I guess that’s what happened.” To help maintain a distance from true blame.

We took our possessions back and reassured her she was forgiven. “No hard feelings” as it were. Unfortunately she misunderstood forgiveness as “you can keep staying here”, but we were over our limit. You can only have so many angry, mentally disturbed people living under one roof before someone dies. Hell, we were already stretching that number before she came.

So yea, we dropped her off at her apartment. It was really dark in there, she didn’t have windows, but no one else would agree to take her. I really do feel terrible about how bad she sounds in this, but we all pull an Amy at some point in our lives. Whether you were drunk, high, or just plain nuts, you have at least one story where you star as the asshole. We all do, and we should all be the terrific sports about it she is.

Thanks for reading! I wanted to translate a non-horror classic next, but I seem unable to help myself. I want to have a variety of genres to select from, but I keep getting distracted, I’m sorry. The Yellow Wallpaper is coming soon because I’ve always wanted to read it but never had time. I’m going to try to take a few days off in order to clean a guest room out, but we’ll see how it goes.

Stay safe out there. Sometimes, they really are out to get you.

Poetry Disclaimer: The below poetry is horrible. Do not read it if you are serious about poetry. It is for amusement purposes only. For full poetry details see Sex, Drugs, & Robbery.

“Everyday Take Away”


28 hour days,
Time trickles, slowly fading away.
Lost, confused, in a daze,
Spinning, twirling, in a haze.

Eyes are the windows to the soul,
But mine is no longer whole.
Rotten, decayed, black as night,
Broken, defeated, screaming in fright.

Love is a useless word,
Spoken but never heard.
No give and all take,
A world engulfed in hate.
Whatever was meant to be,
Is long lost to eternity.


humor, life

JustNoMil (Pt. 2)

I hope this final installment of the JustNoMil duology finds you well. The week is flying by, so with your permission I would like to dive right in today. We’re going to start with the first Valentines Crook and I were able to spend together. We were two years into the relationship, but he was on a rig for the first one. The second year, he returned from a two week hitch February 13th. Normally I don’t buy into Valentine’s Day unless it precedes the word ‘massacre,’ but we were excited for this one.

Upon arriving, Crook was unable to keep his special plans secret any longer. The fact he planned anything while at work was impressive. “I was trying to surprise you, but it’s harder keeping the secret now that I’m home. I made reservations at Haunted Hotel.” His voice was filled with pride. Securing a reservation anywhere on Valentines was difficult, but he succeeded with one of the best.

If you read Calling All Ghosts, yes. That’s the place. He knew I’m not big on romance, but wanted to show the effort. Hoping (correctly) a spooky theme would make the holiday more enjoyable, he called in a favor to reserve the best haunt-themed food in town.

As if her spidey-sense detected our happiness, Effie called intent to ruin it. “Hey Sweetie, I just wanted to make sure you got home safe.” Her sobs sounded more genuine than usual. I suppose practice makes perfect.

“Yea, I’m fine. What’s wrong? Are you okay?” Crook shifted into worried son mode seamlessly.

I assumed she was trying to force him to feed her animals, but that was only a secondary reason for calling. “Oh… I’m fine… you don’t want to hear me cry about my pitiful life. I’m just so depressed about Valentines Day. I’d rather kill myself than spend another one alone…”

You could tell she was desperate by how quickly she brought out the big guns. With Crook’s blindness to the manipulation tactics I memorized in a month, Effie successfully invited herself to our dinner in under 5 minutes. Was I so angry I nearly blacked out? Obviously. Did I make a scene? No. I knew he would get defensive if I tried to explain what Effie was doing. Instead, I took deep breaths. Reminding myself, you hate this crap anyway. It’s only for dinner, just a couple hours. The rest of the day is ours. We’re going to watch anime, smoke weed, and eat Chinese takeout because that’s what gives life meaning.

That mantra got me through the night and next morning. At noon, my happy place was burned to the ground when Effie arrived, unannounced. I stared at her through the window, willing her to disappear, but eventually I was forced to open the door. I motioned for her to have a seat, explaining Crook was still catching up on his sleep.

Effie was having none of that. She walked straight down the hallway, into our bedroom, and shrieked “Wake up Sweetie! Mommy is heeeeeeeere!”

I remained on the living room floor, struggling to breath as a panic attack consumed me. I became deaf to all but my own thoughts. She went in our room. There’s someone in our room, what’s wrong with you? Get in there and kill it! She’s going to sit on your bed! Move!

Faintly, distant noises began filtering through the static. I heard sounds that were either dresser drawers or blunt force trauma. Realizing the moans of pain were coming from myself, I assumed it was the former.

Eventually, I see them exit the bedroom, arm-in-arm. Crook disheveled and confused; Effie grinning ear to ear, still talking. “I’m so excited we’re spending the day together. This is the best Valentines ever!”

I physically bit my tongue, terrified to speak. I could already feel the angry tears forming. I knew if I tried to talk, only unintelligible squalls would emerge. The one thing preventing a full meltdown was my invisibility. Effie was only interested in feeding her delusion, and I didn’t fit into her script. I tuned her out, pouring all my focus into tv for the next several hours.

We were 20 minutes away from leaving for dinner when another knock sounded at the door. I opened it to be greeted by a dozen red roses; Crook’s last surprise. Before I could react, Effie pushed past me, squealing like Miss Piggy, and took my flowers.

Smelling the roses, she met my gaze. I’m not sure what emotion she mistook fury for, but I still get angry thinking about how she said “Oh Crook, you shouldn’t have! But it’s not fair to buy me all these beautiful roses!” Looking at me as if I were a homeless person begging for spare change, she gave me the card and one rose. “Here, don’t feel left out.”

(This always bothered me, think about it. Since she handed me the card… she knew, right? Deep down on a subconscious level she can never admit to… she had to know, right? I think she knew.)

I looked to Crook, (still naive enough to think he might correct her) but he stared at his feet, tail tucked between his legs. I threw the card (open for all to read) on the table next to Effie, and finished preparing for dinner.

Seated at the only 3-top in the restaurant, Effie ordered for all of us. When I told the waiter to change my order, she glared at me as if slapped. I held my tongue as she requested a vase for her roses, but I finally understood why she insisted on bringing them. It wasn’t enough to claim them, she needed other people to see; they made it feel real. When I didn’t react to her prompts clearly fishing for a compliment, she became sullen.

From that point forward, she complained about the food and service nonstop. The only complaint I had toward dinner was Effie’s company, but I digress. It was the longest dinner of my life, and we still weren’t free of her. Having refused to drive herself “to a date” we were stuck with her until she sobered enough to drive herself home. After the first pot of coffee, I thought she was faking. It wasn’t the first time she tried to spend the night, but it was thankfully the last.

Thus ended the worst Valentines of my life. For the next and last story regarding Effie, I will discuss her arm/shoulder surgery. Do you know what’s worse than a paranoid, codependent hypochondriac? A hypochondriac who actually has something wrong. I don’t have kids, I’ve never cared for one under 7 in my life, but I would take on five toddlers before going near Effie again.

At this stage, we were years into our relationship, and I was savvy to all Effie’s tricks. When we learned she was genuinely in need, I had no problem visiting her in the hospital or caring for her animals. When she was able to finish recovery at home, I was a fantastic sport. I even walked her to the bathroom a few times (it’s not like I had to go in with her).

What I did have issues with, was how she treated us while we were helping. Each day we did our usual chores, and before leaving we asked, “Is there anything else you need? You’re sure? Because we’re about to go home.”

Every single day she said, “No, I’m fine thanks.” Without fail, 10 minutes after being home, she called Crook, begging him to return.

If I had to guess, I think she preferred him to visit without me (I sure did) knowing he would be easier to manipulate. Let me be clear, after the first week, she was fully functional for everything except lifting or certain movements with her arm. We knew she would use us as long as possible, but even if she didn’t have a walker, there was absolutely no reason she could not walk unattended.

With that understood, here’s what happened three weeks into her recovery. As with every other day, we performed our morning chores, asked if she needed anything else, and went home. We only had time to sit down with a fresh bowl before the phone rang.

“Can’t we just ignore her this once? Just until we finish smoking?” I begged.

“I’m sorry, I just need to make sure she hasn’t hurt herself. I’m not going back today, I’m sick of it too.” Crook answered the phone. It was one thing to lie to me, I could understand that, but it was infuriating when he lied to himself. Let me break their conversation down the easy way as we near our conclusion.

Effie: Hey Baby, can you bring Mama something to eat? I finally have an appetite and I’m craving my favorite pizza place.

Crook: But… they’re right across the street. The doctor said you should be trying to get out now. It might be good for you to go.

Effie: I don’t care what that quack said! He can’t feel my pain! I’ll never make it!

Crook: Okay, fine. If you aren’t ready to drive, just have it delivered.

Effie: Ugh, I can’t get out of my chair to make it to the door! Why are you arguing with me? I’m starving!

Crook: Fine! When did they say it would be ready?

Effie: I haven’t ordered it. Tell them to make sure all these very picky details are correct or you’ll send it back. I absolutely can’t eat it if it’s not right.

Crook: I’ll never get all that straight. Could you at least call the order in? Then I’ll just pick it up and bring it to you.

Effie: No, they don’t like me, they always do it wrong on purpose. See if they’ll get it right for you.

Crook: Fine, I’ll be there soon to get the money, then I’ll go grab your food.

Effie: You can’t even buy your mother one meal while I’m starving to death?!

Crook: Yea, sorry.

People, my blood boiled. I could almost see the bubbles under my skin as the heat simmered throughout my body. I stared at Crook in disbelief, speechless, wondering if his balls would ever drop.

When Crook delivered her food, it was indeed wrong. He insisted she asked for olives, Effie insists she said no olives. I don’t know who was correct, I didn’t hear it firsthand, but I have two equally plausible theories.

  1. Crook subconsciously got it wrong on purpose, sick of Effie’s shit.
  2. Effie didn’t have anything else to complain about, and olives were the first thing she thought to use.

As an adult possibly speaking to impressionable teens, I won’t say what I would have done to the food, but if you’re familiar with the movie Waiting, you have a pretty good idea. The important thing is, these stories are home where they belong. There’s still the matter of my notebooks, but as far as online publications go, I think these were the only ones. Now I can spend the week fully submerged in all the glorious horror of Halloween. I think I’ll go listen to some CreepyPastas while I decide what to write next. Maybe I should start taking requests.

Oh yea, can’t forget the sign-off. You all be safe out there. Sometimes, they really are out to get you.

Here is Hannibal pretending to be a flower. For cat tax.
humor, life

JustNoMil (Pt. 1)

Cat Update: #12 has shown me his dingleberries, he is now Heathcliff. He no longer hides under the truck when we go outside but will not receive our pets. There is territory trouble with Percy and Lily, but we’re making daily progress.

If anyone is a fan of the subreddit JustNoMil, this one goes out to you. For those unfamiliar, MIL is mother-in-law, and Reddit has a fantastic community where people discuss their personal experiences. I highly recommend it, they have some gems. Bestie, who has relatable in-laws, introduced me to it knowing Crook’s mother was prime writing material. I posted a four part story about her six years ago, but can’t get into my old account. I want to bring them home to the rest of my crazy.

My only-child syndrome has clearly evolved to a new level. I now see my stories as living things, each in need of my loving protection. Maybe it’s more god-complex or OCD, but either way this needs to be done. They were fairly short, but typed in the subreddit’s speak. Written correctly, they’re too long for one post, but I think I can get it done in two. Back then, I was apparently too embarrassed to admit certain details. That and other deviations will be corrected in this improved telling of my MIL series.

Crook’s mother reminds me of a ginger Aunt Effie from Mama’s Family, so that’s what we’ll call her. We had a traditional meeting, Crook introduced us after our third date. She was kind, seemed normal, asked the usual questions. Was she a little chatty from the wine? Sure she was, but it was Friday night; nothing to raise red flags. By night’s end, I believed we would have a fairly decent relationship. Let’s call it the foolishness of youth.

Effie owned a large, beautiful house (I dreamed of one day inheriting), 5 dogs, and 6 cats. Roughly five minutes from her home, she owned a barn with 4 horses. Like so many others, she too habitually mixed wine with Xanax. As we learned with Amy, that can be a dangerous combo.

The short time Crook still lived with Effie, I gave no thought to him caring for her animals. It made sense; she was older, single, and Crook was being a good son. The first red flag didn’t wave until we moved in together. We transported all our possessions into one home over the course of one very long, hard day. When we finally stopped, we spread a blanket on the floor, plugged in a tv, and laid back, exhausted. Within 10 minutes, Effie called.

“Hey Sweetie, you fed the horses today, right?”

“No, I told you I wouldn’t be able today… remember? We’ve been moving stuff all day, we literally just sat down for the first time.”

“You did not tell me! It’s already dark out, they must be starving! You gotta get over there!” Effie shrieked loudly enough for me to hear perfectly. I was not pleased but remained silent.

“Yes. I did. You’re only five minutes away. You could feed them and be home in less than 30 minutes. I’m over 30 minutes away, and I’d have to get gas. I’m sorry, but do you think you could please handle it?”

“Oh I really don’t feel good, not tonight. I’ll end up hurting myself trying to lift those heavy feed bags…” Effie whined.

It was a long, painful conversation to hear, but at the end, Crook lost. For what it’s worth, he didn’t ride horses, didn’t much care for them at all, but knew they wouldn’t eat if he didn’t acquiesce. Effie rode them a few times, but otherwise simply enjoyed the status of ownership. After returning home, Crook showed me texts he sent, informing her to make future arrangements for the horses. As it were, he could no longer make the drive on a routine basis. He did not receive a reply.

I’m sure most of you have guessed, but she called the next evening with the same question, “Have you fed the horses yet?” Each day they had the same argument with the same result.

I stopped being a good sport after the first day but stayed silent, too timid to rock the boat. That all changed when Effie upped the ante. She grew bold in her demands, adding the cats and dogs to her list.

“Are you serious? It’s bad enough I have to waste time and gas to care for the horses you have nothing to do with but won’t sell; now you want me to come to your house – while your there – so I can clean the litter, feed, and water 11 animals?!” Crook paced, furious. “Well, it’s too bad. I’ve already fed the horses, and I’m not getting back out tonight.”

It was a lie, he hadn’t fed the horses, but she would never know. Each day he still deluded himself into thinking it the last. Never once did he consider feeding them early, as if doing so could further encourage her behavior.

“I’m sorry I didn’t call sooner, but my back started hurting. I can’t handle the animals tonight, I need your help.” Effie cried, complaining of new aches and pains with each excuse Crook gave. She had two litter boxes, neither of which had been cleaned since we moved.

For almost three weeks, this new pattern continued. It evolved into Crook going straight to her house after work, making him 2-3 hours late getting home each night. We began fighting, both our limits stretched to the breaking point. Finally, he agreed to put his foot down. He didn’t have the balls to say a forceful “No!” but compromised by felling Effie we would be out of town for a week.

“I’m sorry, but we’re going to be over two hours away. If you can’t take care of your animals, maybe you should think about finding new homes for them.” Crook spoke kindly, but it didn’t matter.

Effie responded with shock and rage. The tears were instant, her cries deafening. “I can pay your gas. You could just wake up a little earlier and…”

“No! Do you hear yourself, do you know how crazy that sounds?!” He came close to losing his temper but reigned it in. “Please Mom, can you please take care of your animals for a week? I can’t handle this anymore, I need a break.”

We all needed a break. Effie pulled every emotional manipulation in the book, but Crook held strong. After an hour of being called an “ungrateful son whose abandoning his single mother and fur siblings to rot” she finally ended the call with, “Fine, I’m going to call you everyday to let you know everything is done… so if you haven’t heard from me by 6pm, something’s wrong.” She likes to hang up before you can respond. It’s her last line of defense; making poorly veiled insinuations something terrible is about to befall her and it’s your fault.

After no contact all week, she called us the morning we were due to return. “I’m alive, even though you clearly don’t care. I could have been dead and you wouldn’t know since you didn’t check on me once! My back is killing me now, I can’t move anymore. Feeding the horses and bending over that litter is just too much, I need your help. I haven’t eaten anything since breakfast yesterday because I can’t get out of my chair except to crawl to the bathroom.” She poured the guilt trips out like they were rehearsed, nary a breath taken.

Her act won her a visit from both of us. I don’t remember why, maybe we had to go somewhere before. Not only did we have to order, pay for, and deliver her food, the house reeked of litter left untouched for a week. I refused to participate in the chores on sheer principle. I almost ignored her when she called for me, but forced my feet to move anyway.

Seriously though, 6 cats, 2 litter boxes, 1 week, the smell. I know my fellow cat servants will all need a moment to shake it off, don’t worry, take your time. We’ll wait… * happy thoughts * … Okay, you good? Great.

She skipped the pleasantries and got straight to business, a trait I normally admire when it isn’t in lieu of delusional rants. “Can you believe he did that to me? Of all the ungrateful! I mean, the one time I need him. You have no idea how much I sacrificed for him! For him to just… I could have died!”

I resisted the urge to point out she was always in need. It was made easier by the fact she didn’t give me an opportunity to speak. She ranted for two hours while Crook tended her animals and cleaned. When he finally finished it was close to 8:00 and my happy place didn’t provide enough protection to stay any longer. Only severe Southern Hospitality Code of Ethics training held my feet in place and mouth closed as Effie tried to prevent us from leaving.

“Oh Honey, please don’t go. I’m afraid of being here alone in this big, old house. What if something happens and I can’t get to a phone? Please, why don’t y’all stay the night?” She cooed like a witch with a poisoned apple.

After another brazen display of emotional manipulation, Crook agreed. With a sad look and ‘what can you do’ shrug, he said “Just tonight.”

I can’t even. “That’s fine if you want to stay.” I smiled wide, careful to keep my voice non-threatening. “But we have animals and things to do at our house too. I’m going home, let me know if you want me to pick you up tomorrow.” I was already walking to the door, desperate to put distance between myself and Effie.

Fearing (correctly) Crook wouldn’t stay if I didn’t, she threw her Hail Mary. “You two should just move here! It makes so much sense! It’s a big house, plenty of room for my future grandkids, and think of all the money you’d save!”

Nothing raises my hackles faster than the threat of extra roommates. It was too much for my rookie, adult brain to handle. “There’s no way that’s happening. If you need any tips on how to handle your household, all you have to do is ask, but I can’t stay here any later. Crook are you coming or staying?”

That was the moment she started hating me, but it was worth it. Crook came home, and the confrontation won us a week of no contact. It seems a week was her max tolerance for accumulating litter.

Now we’re jumping ahead to the first time I went to work with Crook. If there are new readers today, I quit my job to travel with him because I was too codependent to be home alone for a week. Yes, I acknowledge the crazy, but this isn’t the post for dissecting my inability to cope with separation anxiety.

In the time we are skipping, Effie proved herself capable of caring for her animals when forced. For 6+ months, Crook’s drill site was only an hour away, but 12 hour shifts on top of the drive left little room for sleeping or eating. When all was said and done, he cared for the animals his week off, and Effie fended for herself when he worked. Did they try to con me into carrying the torch while he worked? You bet. Did I ever agree? No. Principles and all that.

Keeping in mind Crook still cared for her animals half the time, he proposed Effie care for our two cats while we were away. I had doubts. “I’m not sure if I’m comfortable with the idea of their litter not being cleaned for a week. She’ll say she did, but she still won’t scoop her own… no way she’s going to clean ours. Plus Gambit throws a fit if we’re even a few hours late, he’ll lose his mind if it’s a week!” I was baffled he couldn’t understand the certainty I felt.

Gordy is in front, Gambit in back. They’re old men in this picture, but they were babies at the time of this story.

“She really is getting better. It’s only one box for two cats, just let me talk to her. I promise, if I’m not 100% certain she’ll do it, we can call your parents.” Considering that a victory, I secretly sent my parents a few preemptive texts preparing them for the situation.

Unwilling to trust his “certain” faith in Effie, I listened to their conversation. It started worse than I expected. “Hey Ma, you got a sec? I wanted to talk to you about going to Nice City next week. We would need to leave Saturday and wouldn’t be back until Monday night, but…”

“Oh! That sounds lovely, but who would we get to take care of the horses?” Effie began listing prospects.

“No, wait! Mom, no, not you, us. I need you to feed our cats while we’re gone. You would only need to come once a day, Sunday-Sunday.” Crook explained carefully.

“I know that… I was just teasing. Gosh, you live pretty far to make that drive everyday… What do I get?” She giggled, playfully.

Crook clamped a hand over my mouth as I tried to scream into the phone. “I know it’s far, I have to do it all the time. Remember? I was hoping we could make it an even trade, you know? I do all your animals when we’re home, you do ours when we’re away.”

The silence was thick with tension, but it was my turn to prevent Crook from speaking hastily. By that time, I mastered the art to her manipulations. At first, her silence was genuine. I could hear her brain whirling, deciding what to wish for as she weighed the deed with our need, but she long ago settled that matter. Now the silence was her power. She imagined us sweating, eagerly awaiting her answer. As seconds ticked by she saw us turning worried, anxious, desperate. What else might we freely offer in that moment?

Well, I wasn’t a rookie anymore. We remained silent until finally, after I had to restrain Crook twice more, she sighed deeply, ensuring it was audible to us. “I mean. I guess. You seem determined to hold anything you do for me over my head, so fine. After I struggle my way through all your daily chores at the barn, I’ll drive all the way to your house.” She added a few sniffles for good measure.

“Thank you, I really appreciate it! Please don’t forget the litter, it’s super important, Mom. K-thanks-bye!“ I was genuinely proud of Crook. I didn’t believe Effie would do litter, but I honestly thought she would handle the food and water. We added a second litter box to help delay the inevitable, but Crook would do no more. He was certain she would really do it this time.

Noon Saturday, we settled into our hotel, pleased with the pictures from our scenic drive. While unpacking, we see Effie has text us the same message. “I’m not feeling well today, I’m going to the ER. If you don’t hear from me in a few hours, something bad happened.”

Checking the time, we see the text was sent over two hours ago. Do you see the genius in this? We had to play her game. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t know if she fed our cats. She was very much willing to bail if it suited her dramatic scene.

Crook called, but got voicemail. It wouldn’t be as dramatic if she answered. She wanted him assuming the worst. He tried a text, “How are you feeling?”

Receiving no immediate response, we find a place for lunch. Assuming she would call when satisfied with suspense level, we had a lovely day shopping followed by a nice dinner. Upon returning to our hotel that evening, we had not heard from her. I feared for our cats’ well-being more than hers. The likelihood of that day being the one she wasn’t crying wolf was too minuscule for even my bad luck.

Crook begins to legitimately worry for Effie which angers me further. Her charade was terrible for many reasons, but making your son believe you might be dead was plain cruel. I did my best to reassure him but had to contact my parents. I should have called sooner, but all I could do was not waste more time.

They were understandably annoyed at the late hour, otherwise agreed without fuss. After arriving at our house, they confirmed food bowls were empty. In attempt to comfort Crook, I hypothesized Effie may have fed the cats but wanted us to wonder. Learning she truly had concocted this charade to avoid the task rather than mere attention seeking angered me most. Thankfully, my parents volunteered to assume the weekly duties, ensuring the remaining days went smoothly.

Once I knew our cats were safe and comfortable, my rage faded quickly. I realized we were truly free. For one entire week, I would have no work, cleaning, responsibilities, or contact with Effie to dread. I was so happy, I shot off one last text. “Just wanted to let you know you’re off the hook. My parents took care of the cats and will continue to do so the rest of the week.” I thought it would give me great pleasure to ignore anything she may later reply.

She didn’t wait 10 minutes before calling. I answered, putting it on speaker for Crook to hear his healthy mother. “How dare you be worried about cats when I’m dying! Neither of you care about me at all! I’m pulling onto your street right now, but I guess I’ll turn around. Thanks for making me waste a trip for nothing!”

Taking advantage of her need to inhale, I interjected “How are you driving? I thought you were in the hospital… you know, dying?”

She hung up and we had no further contact until returning home the following Sunday. Against my wishes, Crook answered. Once again she felt bad and needed help with the animals. Also against my wishes, he agreed to go when she turned on the water works.

Do you think she cleaned her own litter boxes while we were away? If you do, you’re wrong. Her cats were finally fed up, they mutinied. Piss and shit were everywhere. The walls, floors, shoes, beds, you name it – covered! Crook cleaned it all. None of the animals had food or water. I’m grateful to my parents. Had our cats been in such a position, I would probably still be in jail.

Alright! It feels good to have those condensed into one. I’ll get the final section out soon. Hopefully in time to resume my struggle in trying to get another Halloween story out before my excuse to write scary stuff is gone for a year. Thank you all, and remember, be careful out there. Sometimes, they really are out to get you.

humor, life

Rain Showers

Hubby and I lived in our first apartment for 18 hellish months. By that time, I had a work bestie, Phoebe. I suggest imagining her as Phoebe from Friends, but if she drank heavily and popped pills. She was my age but dating a 45 year old creeper. It wasn’t a fling, last I heard they were still together. Phoebe stayed with Mike through several beatings and trips to rehab, but that all came later. At the time we’re discussing, they were 6 months into their relationship and living together.

Mike owned a double-wide 45 minutes outside of town. There was one gas station 15 minutes away, otherwise they were alone with a few scattered neighbors. His home sat between his grandmother’s and aunt’s, but Aunt (Dee) moved in with the granny when her husband died. He committed suicide five years prior after being fired, and his affairs were made public knowledge. He drove to a secluded area to shoot himself, but Dee never went into their house again. I can’t blame her there, but personally I wouldn’t have left my diary behind for anyone to find.

During a particularly bad rant to Phoebe, she told me about Dee’s situation. Apparently the 4 bed, 3 bath house needed cosmetic repairs, and was available for rent to anyone capable. Due to the work required, rent (water included) was only $300. Life in the country is cheaper in general, but to give you an idea of living costs in my hometown, the rent for our tiny crap-hole was considered cheap at $550.

Hubby and I were ecstatic, it was exactly the kind of work he does. We followed Phoebe and Mike there that evening. The money saved on rent would be more than enough to justify the extra gas cost. “Is… Is that a house or a trailer?” I asked Hubby as we pulled into the driveway.

“That would be a trailer with extra rooms built on each end.” He explained, slightly unsure. After a full walk around, he corrected, “It’s actually two trailers with two additions, none of which match.”

I know my maps aren’t fancy, but I swear this is completely accurate. The problem this time is the location and trashy owner, not my lack of art skills.

“They don’t expect you to do anything on the outside. There’s no leaks; structure, electrical, and plumbing are solid, but the rooms need to be cleaned and painted. They had pets inside, so they want to rip out the carpet and install linoleum, but that’s the worst of it” Mike reassured as he struggled to open the front door. If his assessment had been accurate, everything would have worked out fine.

“Are the utilities already on?” I asked, too entranced at the prospect of living far from Rob and Amy to be suspicious.

“No not yet, but she already started the process, they should be on by the end of the week.” Mike answered and lead us through the house.

The stench of carpet repeatedly soaked in urine and left to dry assaulted our senses upon entry. The woman was clearly a hoarder, it quickly became apparent why the extensions were done haphazardly. They built where they could when they needed more space. The living room, kitchen, one bedroom, and bath were free of clutter stacks, but the remaining rooms were so full you couldn’t enter. Look, I know this has more red flags than a date who casually mentions living with his mother, but that’s why I wrote Breakfast of Champions first. If you haven’t read it, you can’t follow the thought process through this decision.

Sure, the place looked and smelled bad, but at the time, I was working from home and Hubby did these kinds of repairs for a living. We figured we could be cozy in a week and clean the spare rooms at our leisure. The living room and kitchen alone were bigger than our entire apartment. Honestly, we already had our eyes on a few things. There were all sorts of buried treasures, including a loaded gun hidden in a curio cabinet, but that’s for another day.

We moved the following weekend when utilities were restored. The house was so filthy we asked friends and family for help, but we only got Amy. My parents came, but stressed me out so badly we let them leave. Amy was excited to come, she was fighting with Rob and packed for the weekend. It was better than no help at all, we were grateful.

After checking each appliance and faucet, we learned the fridge was broken, the kitchen had the only functioning sink, the washer didn’t spin, most outlets didn’t work, nor did the guest shower, and a dead rat floated in the toilet. Every second I suffered from Amy’s Xanax delusions were justified when she reached in, grabbed the rat’s tail, and dropped it into a trash bag. “Huh, that was gross.” She shrugged it off as if she were discussing inconvenient weather.

Mike delivered a new fridge, otherwise nothing else was repaired for the 6 months we stayed there. Hubby wears 4-5 outfits daily, we can’t go long without washing clothes. Desperate, I tried to clean them without spin cycle assistance. I rung out each item before throwing it into the dryer, but the best way to describe the resulting pain in my hands is wet-burn. Plus, drying heavily soaked clothing broke the dryer inside two weeks.

We learn fast, it didn’t take long to understand our landlady had no intentions of making the home livable. We delivered our first rent payment in person, believing we would make fast introductions, hand them money, and retreat. Standard procedure. Not for these ladies. Dee and her mother were lonely, chatty women. They insisted we come in to “set a spell.” Thats hillbilly for “we want you to sit and listen to us talk a few hours.”

Scared and nervous we entered the witch’s lair, and again, were immediately assaulted by the pungent oder of urine, but fresh this time. Imagine you’re in a movie theater wearing flip-flops. You know what it feels and sounds like walking on those floors? That’s exactly what their carpet was like. Yes, I said carpet. Let that sink in a moment. If I was going to be trapped anyway, I wanted the conversation to be beneficial. I gave her a list of our major issues, most importantly the plumbing.

“I think we need to address these items before we begin cosmetics. The house isn’t livable.” I wanted to be polite, we wanted this to work.

“Oh my, I don’t know what could have happened, everything worked perfectly when I lived there.” Dee reviewed my list. “But there’s no reason to wait, my son is a plumber and I’m sure he can find a washer real quick.”

It was hard to resist pointing out the last time she entered the home was seven years go, but I managed. “That sounds great, but we can’t wash clothes until then. If he can get it quickly, it shouldn’t hurt to wait. We (Hubby) go through clothes too fast to dirty more with house work. My parents live outside the opposite end of town, it’s almost an hour from here. That’s too far to take clothes every other day.” I made a conscious effort to maintain a smile.

“Ah, I see! Well that’s no problem at all. You can was clothes here while we wait on the new one.” Dee beamed proudly.

I would have worn each pair of underwear for a week before I did laundry in that house. They would smell worse leaving than going. As it is, we burned the clothes we wore inside this first day. I’m not joking. I would like to take a moment to apologize for the sins we committed against the environment, but I was raised in a place that doesn’t believe in science. I didn’t know better, I am truly sorry. They were old clothes anyway, so when the smell clung to us we threw them in the burn pile.

By Sunday afternoon, we filled five 42 gallon trash bags but had no clue what to do with them. We hadn’t made a dent in our closet, where we were surprised to find clothes piled floor to ceiling. No hangers or baskets, nothing folded, just clothes thrown in until it was full. “But wait! Can’t you donate the clothes to charity?” You ask. That was also my initial response. Unfortunately, it was soon apparent we found the rat queen’s nest.

The smell was our first warning sign, but tolerable by our new, lowered standards. Armed with rubber gloves and face masks, we initiated contact with the pile. Rat feces fell from each item we picked up. Some things were chewed and matted together, some were stiff as a board. When the first live rat fled from the pile, we changed tactics. Newly armed with shovels and rakes, we scooped clothes into heavy duty trash bags. Hopefully you now understand why I would be averse to have them in my car, especially for multiple trips. Burning them honestly seemed like our only choice.

When Amy left Monday, we considered our living spaces almost as good as it would get. We obviously couldn’t waste money fixing the house, but we ripped out the carpets for our health and sanity. Once the living room and bedroom were clear, we saw there were very few places not permanently piss-stained. The thought of walking on it everyday was unsettling to say the least. Are you familiar with the felt paper used underneath shingles?

This stuff, it’s like thick construction paper.

Far from glamorous, but we had tons of the stuff and it put something clean under our feet. After the first two months, we adjusted to our new routines. We learned to brush our teeth in the kitchen, took five minute showers, and never left the safety of our living areas. It was around this time, the complaints about plumbing got serious. We accepted we would never have faucets or the other bathrooms functioning, but Hubby found a leak under our good bathroom. That scared us. If it stopped working, we were beyond screwed. I do not ‘pop squats’ no ma’am.

Every day for weeks I sent messages to Dee and Phoebe, “We have a leak, I’m really worried about it.” I understood they weren’t capable of concern for our general well-being, so I decided to appeal to their needs adding, “I’m mainly concerned because of your water bill. I’ve seen leaks cost several hundred to the water company alone.” That one always earned me a response, but not one I wanted.

“Oh goodness me! My son is a plumber, I can ask him to fix it. Can you maybe just fill up a couple buckets to flush and wash with, then you can cut the water off?” Dee suggested this as if it weren’t the same son who was supposed to provide a new washer. I was skeptical.

We tried it for a few days, but the shutoff valve was ridiculously hard to access, and when days turned to weeks we were beyond our limits with Dee. Each time I spoke to her she behaved as if it were the first time. At the end of the first week she let slip, “My son is a plumber, I can call him to come fix it!”

“You said that last week, have you still not called anyone?!” My calm facade fell momentarily, but I struggled to regain it in her awkward silence.

Finally, she said “I did. I did… but he was busy, maybe he forgot. I’ll call again right now.” It was the first time she ended a conversation voluntarily.

As I’m sure you can all guess, this continued until they received a $400 water bill. Dee called crying, sucking snot back every few words. “What… what happened?!” I thought… but you said you could keep the water off. You… you said… you didn’t mind!”

I never cared for her poor me act to begin with and now she pushed me far past caring about etiquette. “Never once did I say we didn’t mind, I said it was doable for a few days! That was over two weeks ago!”

“I… I’ll call my son… he’s… a plumber.” Dee hung up, but she didn’t call her son, she called Mike.

A few minutes later, Mike knocked on our door, a sheepish Phoebe standing behind him. I knew what was coming. “Ah, let me guess, you heard about the water.”

“Yea, look. We really need to work something out. You have to see it’s unfair to tell her about a major leak and decide to turn the water back on when she can’t get it done the next day.” Mike tried to hand me the water bill, but too many things pushed my rage past the limit of control. I’ll leave out my curses, they’re unbecoming.

He was use to commanding fear and respect from Phoebe and the two old biddies he cared for, he forgot you can’t treat other people that way. I was already in defense mode before he tried to bow up in my front door to push that cray on me. I ignored his outstretched hand completely, and looked past him to Phoebe. “Do I need to show him the texts and calls from the last several weeks or do you want to explain it to him? Because the way we’ve been living it’s not going to be pretty if I have to relive a play-by-play.”

Phoebe tugged his shirt sleeve, “She really has. Non-stop. I told you.”

The look on Mike’s face said it all. Dee called him crying her pity story, he wanted her to leave him alone, so he believed her hogwash without an ounce of thought. Caveman then decided he would bully his way through like he did with everything else. It was only a few weeks until the water was shut off completely. Dee claimed she couldn’t afford a plumber or water bills. She invited us to use her facilities, but if you’ve been paying attention, you know that wasn’t a valid option. Instead we drove to mooch water from family.

Life wasn’t too terrible. It was genuinely better than dealing with Rob and Amy until Hubby had a wreck. We were less than a week into living without water when a car came into his lane. I’m thankful he wasn’t seriously injured, but our only car was totaled. I don’t want to go on a tangent about the wreck, but it took almost 3 months to receive our insurance money, and we were too young for a rental. Once a week, my parents drove us for groceries, otherwise we were stranded. It was kind of fun at first. Hubby couldn’t take jobs, and winter was an incredibly slow time of year for a porch building company. I took a few short phone calls a day, but the rest of our time was spent popping Adderall, smoking weed, and watching tv.

We could cook and brush our teeth with store bought water, that was never a problem when we had so many larger challenges to face. Washing clothes had us stumped, but we worked out a routine of washing at Phoebe’s every Friday while they bar hopped. We grew to look forward to those nights. We were able to have a real shower and toilet. Some of you may be wondering why we didn’t visit regularly, but we just aren’t those people. Maybe if it were only Phoebe, but we hated Mike and I have a super weird thing about potty etiquette.

The first two days without water, we became desperate enough to use each toilet regardless of flush capabilities. Unfortunately, that put us over the max waste limit one can tolerate in their home, and we were forced to find alternatives. Hubby peed outside freely, but to my great despair, I too was forced to pop the squats. Alas, this did nothing to help with pooping. How campers and hunters use bushes I’ll never understand, but Hubby tried walking into the woods on Day 3. He returned covered in poison ivy and red-bug bites. So, what do do?

Well, it turns out, if you take a 40qt pot, and hook a few Walmart bag handles over the pot handles, you’re off to a good start. No matter what, don’t forget to hook those handles. Learn from our mistake, you don’t want to clean your own. Then you need four 4×4 cut offs taller than your pot, 6 inches is ideal. This requires a flat, even surface, and it helps if your willing to put a few screws in the floor. We were. Again, not something you want to learn the hard way. Once you have your base, you need to two more (preferably decking size) boards to lay across the top. Now you have a redneck toilet. It doesn’t flush, and you have to change the bag after each use, but it kept us pooping indoors.

The sad part is, once that’s resolved you have to figure out what to do with the bags. Obviously we couldn’t burn them as we had other trash, no one picked up garbage this far out of town, we were baffled. Then we noticed the shed in our backyard. We were use to ignoring it after our first look, when we moved in we saw it was full of garbage and smelled of mold. “You think that would work?” I asked Hubby as we shared a knowing glance.

“I think it’ll have to, let’s check it out.” He carefully approached the shed with a shovel, using the spade to swing the broken door ajar. It couldn’t latch, but it closed far enough to get the job done. The shed appeared to be Dee’s first hoarding victim. We honestly believed if (big if) anyone ever discovered our shame, it would be years away with no reason to suspect it wasn’t Dee herself. Hoarders save all sorts of weird stuff after-all.

Pooping quickly became the worst part of each day, but when the shed could hold no more, we were forced to hike into the woods. We found a deep gully to throw our bags into, but ignoring the fact we had to add a lengthy walk to our waste disposal routine, it felt deeply wrong. It’s the one routine I couldn’t adjust to. As the weeks progressed, with no end in sight, we sank deeper into depression. While we only had to suffer the poo routine in the morning, other challenges faced us through each day.

We may have showered every Friday, but we couldn’t go more than a day without feeling gross. Bird baths with store water were a waste of time and resources, but it’s what we did most often. The first time it rained was on Day 5. “It’s raining hard enough to shower outside, do you want to try?” Hubby suggested, already collecting soap and shampoo.

“Yea, I think I do.” I was excited at the idea. I enjoyed playing in the rain, and this gave me a valid reason.

We don’t have snow here, our winters rarely have truly cold days, but apparently standing in the rain will make all the difference. As soon as we stepped into the open, rain hit us hard and cold, it felt like someone knocked the air out of me. Hubby was able to last almost five minutes for a complete scrub down, but I only managed to wash my hair. We felt better than we had in days regardless. We showered every time it rained for the entire 8 weeks.

The first time rent was due after losing water, I refused to pay. Dee was furious, but I wouldn’t budge. “No! We’ve been living without water for over three weeks, and no, we are not comfortable using yours. Even if we were that wouldn’t make this ok.” I was no longer trying to be polite. Those days were long gone.

“But I need rent money to pay for the water. You can’t have water until you pay rent!” She demanded as if she cut the water off as leverage.

“If I thought there was any truth to that at all, I would pay it just because that’s how desperate we are, but I know full well that’s not where the money will go. You had our money and several weeks before the first water bill, but you did nothing.” I was shaking with fury.

When Dee resorted to calling us con-artists and refused to discuss water further, I hung up mid rant. A few minutes later she realized I was no longer on the phone and tried to call back. I ignored the calls, well out of patience for the day. The biggest surprise of all came the following day. With no forewarning, a man resembling a dirty, redneck Santa knocked on our door.

He introduced himself as Dee’s son-in-law, and was not a plumber but explained, “She won’t leave me alone about it. I done told her over and over this place needs to be tore down, but she just don’t wanna hear it. I came by today just to shut her up. You all need to get outta here ASAP, she ain’t got no money, and if she did she’d just spend it on stupid shit from the tv.”

I thanked the man for his honesty and blocked Dee’s numbers. We already planned to run for it when the insurance money came, but I decided there was no point to suffer through any further contact with her. There was no fear of her coming in person, she wouldn’t even pull into the driveway. After having her blocked several days, she sent Mike in her stead.

Lucky for him, he arrived with a vastly different attitude. He apologized profusely, told us to continue ignoring Dee, and reminded us we could use their facilities anytime. It was all very amicable in their regard, but I’m sure he used a different act when reporting back to Dee. I didn’t care in the least as long as we had no contact with her. When the insurance money finally came through, we bought an Avenger and moved to a nice 2 bed 2 bath apartment in town. It was a wonderful, glorious home.

A few weeks after the move, Phoebe informed me Dee hired a lawyer and intended to sue us. She and Mike were present during the lawyer’s visit, and the conversation was phenomenal.

“Not only did they refuse to pay rent, they stole from me! I want all my rent money, my stuff, and then something for all the emotional distress they put me through. They lived there for 6 months!” Dee ranted at the lawyer.

“Well we can probably get the rent money, but pending what they did with the stolen items… what all did they take? Do you have a copy of your renters contract?” The lawyer asked, pausing to look up from his notes.

“We didn’t do no contract, but they robbed me blind! I’ll have to make you a list, we gotta get in there and look, but my beautiful glass cabinet is gone!”

“You didn’t have any contract? That’s going to make recovering rent very difficult if not impossible. What other big items were taken? Did any of you see them take it? What’s our proof?” The lawyer put his notes away, already suspicious of his “easy paycheck” Dee described over the phone.

“I told you, I gotta get in there and see, I don’t know what else yet! Of course they didn’t take it when we was looking! They ain’t gonna admit to it, they saying they never took nothing! Liars! Liars and thieves!”

With a deep sigh, the lawyer asked, “Well why wouldn’t they pay rent? Did they give a reason? They just didn’t have it, or what?”

“They said they wasn’t gonna pay till I fixed the water, but that’s bullshit! They wasn’t supposed to be using it!” Now fully exasperated, the lawyer asked, “Wait. Are you saying that house doesn’t have water?!”

“Course it did. They had water till they ran up a $400 bill and got it turned off.” Dee snapped.

Mike, tired of the conversation, sped things over the finish line. “Look, they paid rent on time every month until the water was cut off. Aunt Dee did the water in her own name, it was suppose to be included in the rent.”

Dee looked at Mike with black hatred, but the lawyer spoke first. “I think I’ve heard enough. Ma’am , if they decide sue you, give me a call. Otherwise you need to thank your lucky stars and leave those folks alone.

And that friends, was how Dee left our lives for good. You have to be very careful when house shopping. Whether it’s to rent or own, always do your homework. I’m glad I finally got to write this one. We didn’t have time to cover all the good stories from living there, but the water incident was easily the most difficult. Next up, I’ve decided to make my 50th post the Halloween Special! I hope to post it in the next few days, until then stay safe and suspicious. Remember, the paranoid ones survive horror movies longest.

humor, life

Breakfast of Champions

I’ve decided to tell you about my first apartment with Hubby. It’s necessary information if I want to tell you the living without water situation. As promised, I don’t write romance gush, nor do we have time if I want to cover the best drama from our first apartment. The point to this post is to accurately convey how desperate we were to move away from that place. By the time we are finished here, that will be abundantly clear, but first I must ask your indulgence as I lead you there properly.

To begin this story, let’s go over how Hubby and I met. I have one cousin on Mom’s side, Rob, who is 7 years older. Our grandmother watched us as children, and Rob hated my annoying ass. Rightfully so, I was terrible. As we grew, Rob moved away to live his life as a waiter. The fancy kind, he worked at places celebrities ate, Britney Spears among others. Years passed, I grew, broke up with Crook, and landed back at my parent’s house, Rob’s taunts largely forgotten.

Dad came home one evening, and handed me a scrap of paper with a phone number. “What’s this suppose to be?” Dad still believed I wanted to socialize. You have to stay on your toes with that one.

“I ran into Rob at the gas station. He moved back and wanted to see you… but he looked kinda rough. I didn’t want to give him your number so I got his. You can talk to him if you want, but be careful, he sounded drunk.” Dad warned, hoping I didn’t want to call. Interesting change of pace.

Unfortunately, my memories were deleted so long ago, I forgot they were missing (how’s that for a mind-fuck). Any inkling I did have was chalked to, of course he was mean, do you remember how annoying we were? The fact he never physically hurt us says he’s practically a saint. “Really?! He asked for me? Wants to see me? Wants me to call?”

Dad’s shoulders slumped in my excitement. “Well, yea, but maybe you should start off with a few conversations before you go meeting up with him. We don’t know wh… where are you going?” He called after me as I ran to my room.

“Don’t worry, I got it. Thanks!” Silly Dad, Rob knows how to handle drugs. Rob is my super cool big cousin, I bet he’ll smoke with me. I can’t wait to show him how grown I am.

I took several deep breaths, rehearsed a few opening pleasantries, and dialed his number. He answered almost immediately. “Hey Big Cousin! Dad just gave me your number, you’re back home?” Damnit, you’re blowing this. Calm down, be cool.

“Sup, Lil Cuz? Glad you called, we need to meet up. Start hanging out and shit.” Rob said casually, proving he was still the modern Fonzie I believed him to be.

This is the best mental image you can have. Me idolizing Rob’s existence, he completely unaware of my presence.

“Yea! Totally! Where you staying? Whatcha doing tonight?” Stupid! Don’t say tonight, could you be more needy?! I couldn’t help myself. I assumed Rob would have his own place. Possibly one with a spare room. Any room not in my parent’s house would be a welcome upgrade.

“I’m staying with MawMaw (except he uses her first name, so cool) for now, it’s better than living with Dad. I’m about to get an apartment though. My fiancé is pregnant and we want to get a place ready for the baby.” He said these things without a hint of shame, but my hopes were stomped further into the ground with each sentence.

MawMaw?! No, not her! I can’t go over there! Pregnant? Even if he had a mansion I can’t live with a baby! Pregnant woman is probably just as bad. Don’t hate me too much for the thought. The only thing I knew of pregnant women was tv portrayed them as extremely emotional. They were either angry, sad, hungry, or a combination of the three. “Oh, that’s neat.” I couldn’t think of anything more to say, I turned on auto pilot and went to my happy place.

“Yea, I want you to meet Amy. What you got planned for tonight? We could come over, her and MawMaw hate each other so she won’t come here.” The casual manner in which he informed me of one red flag after another made me nervous.

“Um, I was just going to Cody’s house, you could come there.” Most of you probably haven’t read How I Met My Mother, but we don’t have time for a recap. An aunt raised me for a few years, and her oldest son, who I just decided to call Cody, is a year younger. We were always close, and he was living alone in the house we grew up in. If it weren’t next to his father’s parents, I would have lived there too. Ok? Moving on.

“Cool, text me the address, we’ll see you later.” The call ended. I snapped out of auto pilot and got to work on Cody.

Thankful I retained enough sense not invite a stranger to our house, I called Cody. As always, he was game for anything perceived as a chance to show off. One day I do intend to talk about Cody at length, he has a tragic story, but without his background you may be tempted to judge him unfairly. For that reason, I will not include the multitude of annoying behaviors he exhibited this night. Don’t worry, nothing he did registers on his Cray Scale, you aren’t missing anything important.

Rob and Amy arrived an hour after myself, and as promised, he looked a little rough. Maybe if I hadn’t been in prove Dad wrong mode, I could have accepted it sooner, but Rob became his father. He was a full-blown alcoholic, probably still is; we haven’t spoken in a few years. He introduced us to Amy, and we all shared a fairly pleasant evening. I theorized winning Amy’s approval would ensure continued contact with Rob. I’ll leave it to you guys to classify results of said theory. It’s laughable how largely she impacted my future. Before I say things to make you hate Amy, know that she has been off Xanax several years, and I love her very much.

“So you were Crook’s girlfriend? That’s crazy, yea I know him. He went to our school, he was in Jessie’s (older sister) grade. You know, you should meet my little brother. You two have so much in common it’s kind of creepy.” Amy warmed to me quickly. I thought she wanted to befriend her fiancé’s cousin, and I’m sure that was a factor at first, but she wasn’t lying. Amy is Hubby’s sister, we indeed have much in common.

Hubby and I met the next night. We sat in his apartment with Amy and Rob, silently, both too shy to speak.

“Alright y’all, this is ridiculous, we tried to let you do it yourselves, but it’s been over an hour.” Amy stood, arms flailing in her annoyance. A quick glance at Hubby revealed he too, was mortified. I felt slight relief from terror induced chest pains as I watched another potential relationship go up in smoke. Then Amy continued, exasperated this time, “So. Whose read Harry Potter.” And with a deep sigh, she returned to her seat.

The spell was broken as Hubby and I both began our detailed analysis of the series. Our motto became ‘you had me at Harry’ and the rest is history. Now, let me tell you about Hubby’s apartment. I made you two maps this time!

It’s one big house divided into 4 apartments. We will discuss the interpersonal relationships with the downstairs folk at a later date, but it’s a cuckoo nest of cray.
This is our floor plan, next door mirrors it. Our closets shared a wall, bathrooms, etc.

As you see, there is only one bedroom and it must be crossed to reach the bathroom or kitchen. This made the fact Hubby had a roommate with a live-in girlfriend very uncomfortable. That situation in itself is a very long, complicated ordeal, but two months into our relationship, the roommate stole rent and fled the state. While it created a difficult hurdle, it was well worth having the place to ourselves. Since it does not relate to why we had to move, we will save my ex brother-in-law’s story for later. Remember, it’s the South. We’re all related.

Now we finally arrive to the good stuff. Oh where to start with Rob and Amy? Let’s pick up after the baby is born and taken by an aunt, some may find Cousin-Nephew’s situation upsetting, and that isn’t where your focus should be. From this point forward, understand the wall between apartments is paper-thin. Only poor, desperate people live there, and most (like Amy) were without jobs or transportation. Hubby and I shared my car, and Rob lost his shortly after I moved in. Please enjoy the following examples of what life is like when you live next to a cousin and sister addicted to Xanax, pain pills, and alcohol.

Each morning I worked, I woke at 8 to be at Giddy Up by 9. I learned to dress quickly and quietly, grinch-walk to my car, and never ever look around. I stopped showering before work, but sometimes even these precautions weren’t enough. Descending the steps outside, I hear Amy’s door open. She calls my name, but I keep running. I hear her footsteps cross the porch, chasing me. I reverse onto the street, sweating, staring straight ahead. Please make it, please make it, I don’t have time. Then she is standing in the center of the road, blocking any chance of passing.

“Hey! I was screaming your name the whole way down! How did you not hear me?” The way she continued pulling on the locked door told me her Breakfast of Champions was kicking in nicely. I unlocked the door on her 5th try, anger burning through me.

“I don’t have time for this Amy, I’m going to be late for work.” I said through gritted teeth, knowing it was pointless.

“Yea you do, I just want McDonald’s. You don’t have to be there until 9, and it’s only going to take 4 to get there, and…” I went to my happy place as she continued to account for each minute leading to 8:56 when I would arrive 4 minutes early.

I was already at the first stop sign, anxious to get her out of my car. I knew it was pointless to communicate when she was this far gone, but that day she insisted on asking questions instead of her usual scattered chatter. “Thank you for taking me. I’m so hungry, but Rob ate all my groceries last night. Do you want a breakfast biscuit or something? I have enough.” She offered, showing me a handful of ones, most likely Rob’s tips from the night before.

“No, I’m fine, thanks.” I tried to be polite, all I wanted was to get her out of my car.

“Oh. Ok. I can’t believe Rob ate all those groceries last night. You know, I get $500 in food stamps every month and we just spent over $200 a few nights ago. Hey! Thanks for taking me, I’m so hungry. Do you want something? I can get you like, a breakfast biscuit or something!” She excitedly showed me the ones again.

“Nah, I’m really good. We get breakfast at work.” I answered, then decided to add “I get there early so I have time to eat.”

She didn’t catch my sarcasm. “Rob was so hungry last night! After work, a busboy smoked some really good weed with him. It gave him the munchies so bad, he ate all our groceries, it was insane. But now I woke up starving and there’s nothing to eat. Thank you so much for taking me. Oh! Hey, do you want something? I got plenty of money!” Once again she held the ones out like an offering.

I doubt you want to read the other repeats anymore than I want to type them, but there were at least 3 more. When we pulled into the parking lot, there were 7 cars in front of us. The ride was so terrible, I counted them several times. I took her money next time she held it out, placing it on the dashboard clearly in her view. I hoped it would help her retain our discussion, but it didn’t. In the end, she ordered two drinks and six sausage biscuits. “I can eat two at once, but I want something to heat up later since Rob has a double shift and you work til 6:00.” She reasoned as if she weren’t simultaneously informing me I was her dinner plan.

I didn’t feel the need to respond to her statement, but I think she was fishing for confirmation I would be home on time. After her longest stretch of silence, she tried again as she swallowed her first bite of food. “Oh my god, this is so good, I needed this so bad, you have no idea.” I had a pretty good idea considering how long she talked. “Thank you so much for taking me, I was really scared I was gonna miss you when you didn’t hear me on the balcony. They’re so good. You want a biscuit? ” She asked, one hand under her chin to catch the falling food as she talked.

“I’m seriously good dude, I just want to get to work.” I was having a hard time controlling my anger at that point. If I turned up the music, she screamed over it. If I tried to talk, she cut me off before I finished a sentence. If I ignored her, she repeated herself louder with each attempt. I was only one stop sign away from home when I snapped.

“I can’t believe I ate a whole biscuit before we got home, I…” I was in another world, focused on surviving the last few minutes when I felt her hand on my shoulder. “Did you hear me? I said thank you for taking me you’re such a life saver. Hey! Do you want a biscuit?”

We were right there, but the word vomit spewed forth so suddenly there was no stopping it. “Fine, yea I’ll take a damn biscuit, Amy.” I held my hand out with every intention of throwing it to the backseat in spite, but it never came.

When I looked at Amy, her jaw was dropped, eyes wide in shock or terror, maybe disgust. She looked from the food to me, back to the food, speechless. I mean mugged her right back until she finally spoke. “Oh. Well. It’s just that I asked you before I ordered and you said no… I ordered a specific number, why wouldn’t you say you wanted one then?”

Guys, snap doesn’t come close to describing what I did. As she finished speaking, I was giving the gas pedal an extra push to get us across the finish line. We flew into the driveway, I slammed on the breaks throwing Amy forward, and put it in park dramatically. Before she could move, I was screaming, “are you joking. The hell is wrong with you? I don’t want your damn biscuit! I told you no! No, no, no, no, no, no. All the way there after you chased me down! All the way home while you rambled on, I said no! I said no over and over and finally I said yes hoping it would shut you up! I don’t care you don’t wanna give me a biscuit, I care you apparently remember asking the other times! So why the hell would you keep asking?!” I started choking on my words at the end, regaining enough control to close my mouth.

“Wow, I was trying to be polite, it’s called manners, maybe you should try it sometime.” The anger I felt throbbed in my chest. Amy looked at me as if I were a worm and got out. She forgot our altercation before they finished eating and it was never mentioned again.

After work, I visited with a friend to avoid going home. I didn’t feel like immediately taking Amy for more food, but if I waited for Rob leave work, he would bring her leftovers. Another infuriating habit she developed was to snub me if I didn’t do as she wished the second she wished it. She enjoyed walking into our apartment without knocking to ask Hubby, “can you drive me to the store for this sob story reason?” while refusing to acknowledge my presence. Somehow she thought it acceptable to have her brother chauffeur her in my car.

Rob and Amy fought daily and sought refuge in our apartment when they separated. It’s hard to say which one was harder to deal with, but Rob was violent so I’ll say he was worse. When they fought in earnest, they could be heard through the wall. Pending our mood, sometimes we were nosy enough to listen. Our favorite fight happened on a rainy, fall afternoon. Hubby and I were enjoying a day off when we heard the familiar sound of objects hitting the wall. Having just smoked, we muted the tv, curious.

“Why are you such a bitch! I’m so sick of it! You did it on purpose I know you did!” Rob was screaming, glass shattered against the wall, making us jump in surprise.

“I’m sorry! I wasn’t thinking, I swear it wasn’t on purpose.” Amy cried. I could picture her retreating into the bedroom as she became harder to hear.

“No! Don’t you dare use that excuse again! You say that every damn time, I’m done! Do you hear me?” Rob yelled louder, the objects he threw sounded larger, and we were dying to know what she could have done. Our guess was taking some of his pills, but we were wrong.

“No, I swear, I’m sorry, but they really are accidents. It’s really hard to remember I can’t fart.” It may be the most pathetic sentence I ever heard. Hubby and I stared at each other frozen, dumbfounded, wondering if she could be joking, but deep down knowing she wasn’t.

Rob’s voice cracked saying, “shut up! You ruin all my shit” and fell silent when he heard the walls roaring with laughter.

We rolled on the ground, tears spilling from our eyes as we heard Rob’s curses walk out his door and down the steps. He walked away, drunk and embarrassed while Amy joined in our laughter. She explained Rob was allowed to fart anywhere, it’s ok for men, but women should go to the bathroom. “What’s up with that? Is it something you grew up with?” She asked me.

“No! I don’t know where he got that bowl of crazy, could be one of Uncle’s loose screws.” I shrugged, trying to control my giggles. Rob sounded like she cheated on him, but no, she farted.

I know this is getting long, I’m sorry, let’s do one more then we can call it a day. It took a while, but I finally taught Hubby to keep the door locked. He had an occasional lapse, but after this night, he never forgot again. We lived together almost a year when we woke to someone trying to break down our door. It was 2:30AM, and we had no guns. We relaxed when the sounds of an attempted break in turned to banging on our living room wall. It was Rob or Amy seeking another mediation.

“They muse be really messed up to go this far. We are not engaging with this bullshit. They’re not going to learn they can get our attention with this kind of behavior.” I angrily informed Hubby. He shoved his head under a pillow, waiting for the end. I watched as our phones began to ring in concert with hard knocks against our bedroom wall.

I didn’t disturb Hubby until his mom began calling. We knew better than to answer, but we did read her texts as we sat quietly in the darkness, pretending to sleep. Apparently the cops were outside. This time, when Rob burned Amy with his cigarette, she wasn’t in the mood to put up with it. She ran to the bathroom, and Rob chased her. With her eyes closed, she grabbed the blow dryer cord and swung. The dryer caught him in in the jaw, cutting his cheek, so he called the police on her.

These officers responded to their fights almost weekly, and while they didn’t care for Amy’s refusal to press charges time and again, they weren’t eager to do Rob any favors either. Amy decided she could make us write witness statements claiming Rob hurt himself, but in the end the cops were out of patience. They offered a choice between both being arrested, or shutting up. They shut up.

The next morning, the fight promptly resumed when they heard us return from breakfast. They followed into our apartment, yelling their stories, angry with us for not getting involved. I ate silently, refusing to acknowledge either until Rob knocked my burger from my hand. “Hey! You better listen up Lil Cuz, that shit don’t fly with me.” I watched my burger fall to the floor, ruined as he rambled his nonsense. The room fell silent, whether actual or rage induced, I’ll never know.

All my rage from the last year finally boiled over. I fell into a magical zone of awareness where time slowed, all fear gone; I was confident, unstoppable, and pissed off. I stared at Rob’s finger, pointing at me, shaking, and grabbed it with my left hand. I snapped it sideways with an audible pop as I punched his still moving lips with my right. Rob’s head snapped sideways, a drop of blood appeared at the corner of his mouth, and his finger yanked from my grasp. I felt a new surge of rage as his eyes, full of hatred, came back to meet my gaze. I punched him again, this time in that wide, accusing eye. It was black the next day.

To Hubby’s credit, he moved quickest in the after-shock. He got between us as Rob prepared to overpower me, which I’m sure he would have done quickly given the chance. “You need to go now, you went too far.” Hubby told him. Amy came to stand next to me as we waited to see how Rob would respond.

“You tripping bro, that bitch just assaulted me! You’re about to go to jail, bitch! You under…” Rob’s spit was showering us, I couldn’t take another second. I wasn’t cut out for handling that level of crazy, I can barely control my own crazy on a good day, and this bastard wanted to play? Oh I played.

I screamed. In the middle of his little threat, I wailed like a murder victim. When I saw his mouth stay shut, I spoke. Everyone uncovered their ears as I said, “you won’t do shit, you have a record, and the cops hate you. Me and Hubby have never been in trouble, so tell me, do you think they’re going to believe the three of us, or you? I mean when I call to say we heard you beating Amy through the wall so I hit you? Look, my knuckle is bleeding, it’s obvious I did it. Do you think they’ll laugh when they hear your little cousin beat you up?” I spit my words like venom, almost hoping he called my bluff, but Amy broke the silence first.

“If you don’t leave now, I’ll let her hit me next and we’re all gonna tell her story. I bet it plays nicely when my face has the bruises to match.” I thought it was genius, but after another pause, Rob left. He cursed us the whole way down the street, but didn’t come back until the next day. As always, he was sober and sorry, but I was no longer disillusioned. It would be another six months before we got out, but this was the worst we dealt with while living there. Rob and Amy eventually moved into a better apartment, but their breakup story is another long ordeal that will need it’s own post. I suppose it’s comforting to know I won’t run out of material anytime soon.

Thank you all for re-living this experience with me. Each time someone enjoys a story it makes every crazy moment I endured worth while. Blogging has been fun and therapeutic, but I wouldn’t have made it this far without all you, dear readers. I change hobbies as often as normal people change clothes, the fact I’m over the two month mark with no sign of getting bored is truly astounding. I’m now fully nested and have every intention of staying that way. I purchased my domain, I read that’s a step bloggers take when deciding to get serious. I have no idea how to use it, but that’s why Bestie married a computer engineer. I’m sure he’ll get around to helping. Probably. Maybe I can look into a ‘coming soon’ thing until then.

humor, life

Camp of the Damned

I’ve been telling you it was dangerous to dig up memories when you don’t know what’s buried. Now the dam is leaking, and it’s only a matter of time before we all drown. On today’s walk down Memory Lane, we will revisit my time as a hostage in the woods. I don’t care what any future psychologist says, of all the stories I will tell you, this one did the most damage. Time heals all wounds, but some will always be mangled scar tissue. Ok, you guys ready? I’m going to tell you about church camp. It’s too long for both summers, but I’ll get the first done today.

For those who haven’t read The Birth of Speed Bump, you need to know I had a religious friend named Joan who broke my nose. Breaking my nose is irrelevant here, but I want everyone to feel my scorn for her. That’s enough for this story. We’re going start with the summer Joan broke my nose, but before she broke it. I’m not sure if Vacation Bible School is nationwide, or a southern thing, but they are usually a week long daycare with Bible themed activities for young children. Granny held enough sway with Dad to force me into her church’s program each year, despite my heavy protests.

Looking back, I suspect plans were hatched in secret before the option of summer camp was presented. Their attacks were coordinated down to what I watched before they pitched the idea.

I watched this movie so many times, I had the secret handshake memorized.

After a marathon of favorite summer camp movies, Dad hit me with “you ready for VBS in a few weeks?”

“Ugh, no! I’m old enough to decide I don’t wanna go!” With one sentence, I went from blissfully happy to deeply offended.

“I guess you might be old enough to make some choices. Would you rather go to VBS, or to a summer camp with Joan?” Dad asked.

“What do you mean camp? What kind of camp?” I was cautious. I may have been 11, but that’s more than old enough to know something too good to be true, probably was.

He grinned ear to ear, obviously pleased with himself. “It’s a real camp, you would go Monday and come home Saturday morning. Log cabins, bunk beds, swimming, I hear they even have a zip-line.” He knew zip-line caught my attention.

“I would go with Joan?” I wanted to find the catch, but was too naive to know where to look.

“Yep, you and her would be bunkmates. Together for the whole week.” His reassuring smile did nothing to relieve my suspicions.

“I want to talk to Joan first.” I still trusted her at that point. She attended camp the previous year, confirmed the list of activities, and told me we use our own sleeping bag. I agreed to go on the stipulation of a new sleeping bag, but I would have gone for the zip-line. They were only a fantasy from tv until that point.

Being thrilled with my expensive new sleeping bag and camping equipment, I missed the huge, red flags waving in my face. My parents were spending several hundred dollars on items I would use once, yet they were happy. Dad offered to buy things I never thought to ask for, Mom never complained about anything. The flags were everywhere, but I was blind.

When the big day finally came, Joan’s parents picked me up, and the nightmare began. “How long until we get to the camp?” I asked excitedly.

“I don’t think it’s too long a drive. It usually takes us close to two hours, but it may take a little longer on a bus.” Joan’s mom answered nonchalantly.

“Bus? What bus?” I knew there was a catch! I knew it! Bus?! They can’t put us on a bus! We’re children! Stranger danger!

“The church borrows a school bus to drive the kids each year. It’s easier than trying to find enough parents.” Joan’s dad answered casually.

“Right, sure. And why is the church driving us to camp?” I felt like they were playing dumb on purpose.

“…because it’s their camp?” He answered like I was the one being purposely difficult.

I looked at Joan accusingly, “You said there was swimming and zip-lines and lots of cool stuff. You listed fun stuff.”

“It is! We do! Just because it’s a church camp doesn’t mean we don’t do lots of fun stuff. It’s not about church, it’s just a summer camp.” She reassured.

I remained silent for the rest of our drive, terrified to learn more. When we arrived at the church, a group of children were already loading onto the promised school bus. Joan’s parents unloaded us quickly, and pushed us onto the bus. I was forced to hand over my sleeping bag and pillow to be stored elsewhere, but refused to let anyone take my duffel. It’s an important detail, it distracted me from my surroundings longer than usual. By time I found a window seat (easier to protect my duffel) and built a temporary nest, we were already on the highway.

I forced myself to have a cautious look at my surroundings. Something felt off, but I couldn’t immediately place what. It bothered me terribly until a chaperon stood to lead us in a round of Jesus Loves Me. Mine was the only groan. As every head turned to face me, I finally saw it. There were no boys, not one.

“Joan… how is there not one boy coming with us?” I hoped no one could hear me over the sounds of attempted singing.

“Ha-ha. Funny. Yea, boys are coming to the girls camp.” She rolled her eyes and continued singing.

Oh gods what have I done? I held my duffel tight for security, wishing I brought Tiger. He couldn’t leave the house anymore because his head was removed during a show and tell. The black hole of depression I fell into for the hours before I knew he could be saved was not a place I wanted to revisit. Instead, I stared out the window, retreating to my happy place.

We didn’t have a GPS to say we reached our destination, but I knew we had because the singing stopped. We drove down a long dirt driveway until we reached the first cabin. One chaperon walked into the large building labeled ‘Welcome Center’ while the rest of us unloaded our possessions. When the first chaperone returned, he lead us down a path, away from the building. After a short walk, we reached the cabins. There were 12 in all, two rows of 6 facing each other. A large group of girls stood in the center with several camp counselors. Our chaperones threw us to the wolves, promising to return in 5 days for survivors.

“Ok kids listen up, we’re gonna have a great week, whose ready to get started!” A blonde girl wearing a counselor shirt stood on a small platform between the rows of cabins. Kids around me cheered with high pitched screams before she continued. “Excellent! That’s what I like to hear! Ok to get us started, you need to know each cabin, is assigned a number. Even numbers on my left, odd numbers on my right. You with me so far?” More approving screams, followed by, “Good, because each side is a team. The even numbers are Rebels, the odd numbers are Yankees, get it? Because they’re a bit odd!” She had to wait for the roars of laughter to stop before she continued. I was truly in hell.

The children around me screeched loud enough to hurt my ears. I tried to cover them with my sleeping bag, but it immediately identified me as an outsider. Rookie mistake if I’m being honest, I should have known better by that age.

When Blonde resumed talking, they slowly turned their attention back on her. “All week we are going to have little competitions. The winners will earn points, and the team with the most points at the end will win special prizes. When I call your name, I’ll tell you what cabin you’ll be staying in, and you can go meet your counselor.” The counselors were dispersing to stand in front of their assigned cabins, two in each. I knew when adults kept prizes secret, it meant they would suck.

Please Universe, I’m begging you, please let me be a Yankee. Just this once, please. A long process of cabin assignments ensued. When it finally ended, Joan and I were in number 12. Rebels yet again. We shared one of 6 bunk beds, meaning I would share a one room living space with 13 other people for 5 days. To add insult to injury, I was on the bottom bunk, and there was no tv. I wished for death, it was the only foreseeable solution.

Once we finished settling into our places, the counselor reviewed our schedule. “Hey girls, we’re you’re counselors. I’m Betty, and this is Sue. Each morning we’ll have prayer, breakfast, bible study, swimming, activity, lunch, nap time, bible study, free-time, dinner, bible study, showers, and then we’ll have 20-30 minutes to wind down before we say our prayers and go to sleep.” Betty read from her clipboard.

I need to call a short time out. I know you guys think I’m exaggerating about the bible study schedule, but I’m really not. They only used the words ‘bible study’ once, but the rest were variations meaning the same thing. Obviously, I don’t remember the exact schedule of a camp I attended at 11, but the important activities are there to get us to the good stuff. Ok, sorry, back to it.

I’ve never gone a whole day without tv, I can’t.“Joan, where’s the tv?” I whispered as Sue began passing out name tags.

“Why would you want tv at camp?” She gave me the Look.

The Look always pushes my buttons, but I was in a bad mood before she did it. “I don’t know, why would I let you keep top bunk instead of throwing you off?” But I caught myself, and corrected course. “Ha… Joke.”

“Here you go, girls. Write your names, stick it to your shirts. Just for today while we get to know each other.” Sue handed each of us a sticker. Markers were passed around.

The only excuse I can offer for my conviction against wearing a name tag is that I feel like it opens the door for conversation. Employees wear name tags because they say “Hi world, I’m telling you my name so you feel comfortable talking with a stranger.” Well no freaking thank you, if someone wants to start a conversation, they can feel every bit as awkward as I do. I put my tag where I could easily cover it with my arm. No one noticed, my invisibility powers held true even there.

“Ok everyone, looks great! Since we have a late start today, we’re going straight to a special activity. Before we leave, I’ll show you where the bathrooms are in case anyone needs to go.” Betty announced to a chorus of giggly girls confirming the status of their full bladders.

The counselors showed us a path leading behind the cabins. Each side had a large building with restrooms and showers. It was terrifying enough to be taken outside to find a toilet, but now they were taking us into a building where we would share toilets with 5 other cabins of 14 people. I hated my brain for automatically telling me that’s 70 people. Things only got worse from there. The toilets were in stalls, as in the kind you can clearly see into through the cracks on either side of the door.

I don’t use public restrooms. Never have, never will. Disregarding how terrible it is to have my bare ass touch a surface where other bare asses touch, the thought of someone hearing me pee is mortifying. Then, the granddaddy of all Nopes, how could one poo in this environment? You couldn’t! The smell, the sounds, all function would cease as everyone turned to heckle you for indecency. You would be the butt of all fart jokes for the rest of your natural life. There was only one thing to do. Wait for the middle of the night, and poop while everyone slept.

“Alright, if everyone’s used the bathroom, listen up. When we take showers, you have 5 minutes, then you have to come out or we come in to get you.” Betty announced. It was the most terrifying statement I ever heard. I promised myself to set a watch-timer for 3 minutes, better safe than sorry.

“Ms. Betty!” A skinny brunette asked, “if we shower together, can we have 10 minutes?” And just like that, a new scariest thing I’ve ever heard.

“Yes , Jenny. I was just getting to that. Anyone who wants to shower in pairs can have 10 minutes, but it’s entirely up to you. Ok! Now that’s out of the way, let’s get going so the next cabin can use the bathroom.” Betty answered.

I followed the group in a haze, lost in thoughts of how to escape the hell I wandered into. I didn’t realize we were taken to the zip-line until an adult was explaining how the harness works. It stretched downhill over a large, open field. If I had any capabilities of judging length, I would guess slightly shorter than a football field. I was the last one in our group to go, but it was worth the wait. If I can do that everyday, I just might make it through this.

We had this kind of harness, I didn’t realize how many types there were until I Googled for pics. I couldn’t find a remotely similar location, but if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.

Spoiler Alert: We would not be allowed to zip-line again, it was only one time. No one volunteered the information, I only found out by the recurring disappointment of not going each day. I wish I could tell you I figured it out after a few days, but every morning I convinced myself today’s the day.

Next, we were taken to lunch where I learned we only had one meal choice. We got in a cafeteria-style line, and lunch ladies slopped food on our plates as we walked by. If you said no thanks, they rudely informed it’s the only option. That was fine, I thought it polite not waste food, but they said I had to eat it all. That was never going to happen. I disappeared into the crowd and found a line of kids who were finished eating. I dumped my food into the trash, and circled back with my empty plate to sit with my cabin.

“Where’s your food?!” Joan asked louder than necessary.

“Shut up!” I whisper yelled. “They’re weirdly sensitive about the food here. I’m not eating whatever that slop is.” I pointed to her plate with a disgusted look.

“It’s just a sloppy joe, what’s wrong?” Joan asked with a face covered in meat goop.

“No. Just no.” I answered, trying not to stare at food dripping from her chin. I failed.

We ate dinner that evening, and three meals a day for the remainder of our stay. Out of 14 meals over 5 days, I ate eggs, a corndog, french fries, and a few slices of pizza. If you want to count the banana they gave us Saturday morning, go ahead. Everything else was inedible. I normally don’t care for food, but I was starving by the end of the week. No one would feed me until Saturday afternoon when I finally made it home.

The first night, I tried to shower. We had to strip down in the cabin, and walk to the showers in our towel. Let’s talk about how this was set up. Imagine rows of shower stalls like in a gym, but they had the bathroom style divider walls. Each stall was divided in half. You walked into the first half, which had a curtain, not a door, and hung your towel. Then past a second clear curtain, was your shower. I washed my hair quickly, but everywhere I looked, I saw girls through open spaces left by the curtain. I was painfully aware if I could see them, they could see me. I could feel them watching, laughing at my nakedness. I ran from the shower, shampoo mostly rinsed, with 2 minutes remaining on a 3 minute timer. Betty was supervising showers while Sue stayed to supervise those who returned to the cabin. Privacy didn’t exist in that place.

I crawled into my sleeping bag, furious to get it wet, putting clothes on. I was among the first to return, the rest dressed openly as if they didn’t care who saw their noonies. I was already desperate for bed time. I hadn’t used the bathroom since leaving home, and I could only delay the inevitable so long.

Girls talked and giggled loudly until bedtime, then Sue reviewed the sleeping rules. “No one gets up during the night for any reason unless it’s to go the bathroom. You do not want to use the bathroom in the middle of the night. I won’t be nice about it when you wake me up, so we’re all going to have one last chance to use it before bed. If anyone needs to go, Betty will take you now.”

“Wait, if we have to pee, we have to wake you up to go with us?” One girl thankfully asked so I didn’t have to.

“That’s right.” Sue answered. “Seriously, you have to, and we rather wake up to take you than have an accident in here, so it’s ok if you do… but at the same time, we really prefer if you just go before bed, k? Great! Go with Betty now, last chance.”

I knew I couldn’t stay. I was already filled to capacity, and there was no version of reality where I wake one of those girls for a special trip. I returned to the bathrooms, but only to pee. Can we all be adults about potty humor a moment? You know how, when you have to poo really bad, it tries to come out when you pee? I never focused so hard to control my anal sphincter. I clinched harder than a man having his first rectal exam. By some magic, I managed to pee without a single fart, and returned to the cabin unmolested. It was time for lights out.

They had no nightlights, I curled under my sleeping bag to hide light from my watch. It was just bright enough to pretend I was camping in a tent, not a cabin with 13 other people who could be doing anything in the darkness. After midnight, I heard the first snores, a torture element I hadn’t considered, but highly effective nonetheless. More soon began snoring, and it made me think.

If they can sleep through those snores, maybe they could sleep through my farts. I’m going to try, if someone does wake up, they couldn’t tell it came from me. I can press my butt into the mattress to muffle sound, and smell won’t escape the sleeping bag… probably.

So I did. I pressed into that mattress, and let one rip with the same level of fear as if I were petting a snake. It was long and blessedly silent. The stomach cramp instantly disappeared, and when no one woke to berate me, I tried another. It was louder, but no one stirred. The next try would have released more than a fart. I couldn’t take that risk. Though I do become more desperate, the first night was easiest. I fell asleep shortly after the farts, and woke to counselors turning on lights. I dressed in my sleeping bag again. This is where I learned to stop wearing pajamas. Each night, after I showered (understanding that means I got my hair wet to appear as if I showered), I dressed in my clothes for the next day. It was preferable to anxiety of someone seeing my naked bits.

Now we have come to activity. Obviously, the bathroom problem becomes my biggest hurtle, but a close second was activity. To fill the time slot that should have been zip-lining, we were given a list of activities to choose from. Basic stuff; arts and crafts, music, comedy, dance, and a few others too dull to remember. “You can only pick one, and you can’t change your mind. No exceptions, so we don’t want to hear it. Make sure you choose carefully.” Betty instructed.

“Friday evening, we’ll have a little performance in the cafeteria. There’s going to be a special dinner, then each group will get on stage to show the camp what they’ve been doing all week! Doesn’t that sound fun!” Many girls agreed, they did think it sounded fun.

I thought it sounded horrible, why would anyone want to be on a stage? That clearly means the rest of the camp would be in the audience, carefully observing. No thanks. My luck ran out concerning others asking my questions, but I had to know. “Um, scuse me, umm… I was just wondering if we could umm… maybe not do any of these? Like could I just stay on my bunk and not do the stage thing?”

Complete silence fell. I was surrounded by the Look from every angle. “You have to choose one. Don’t worry, it’ll be fine. How about comedy? You can do that, then if you make a mistake, they’ll think it’s on purpose.” Sue smiled, attempting to lull me into a false sense of security.

All eyes were one me, waiting for my response. See what happens? I open my mouth, and suddenly the world stops. They wouldn’t resume their conversation until they heard my answer. My brain isn’t capable of thinking under those conditions. It’s only capable of assessing the fastest escape route. In this case, the quickest was, “ok, I’ll do comedy.”

And just like that, my paper was returned with the comedy box checked. The other girls chose arts, dance, or music. Joan refused to do comedy, and I was too chicken to ask for something else. They said no exceptions.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is how I became trapped in ‘Clown College’ for 4 days. When I entered the ‘comedy’ room, I saw a woman surrounded by clown wigs and make-up. She sat in a chair facing a half-circle of smaller chairs. When everyone arrived, we had less than 10 kids. For the first time, I wished for a larger crowd, one big enough to become invisible. As it was, the unusually kind woman sensed I was having difficulties and gave me special attention. My rotten luck held stronger than ever.

I had to wear a wig, but got lucky with the make-up. After a short demonstration, we were given small make-up kits. After 15 minutes, the other girls were finished, but I had yet to touch mine. The adult offered to help me, but a strange survival instinct took hold, “I’m allergic to make-up. I don’t know if I can use this… Mom put stuff on my face once, but I turned red and itchy and they took me to the hospital.” Holy crap, I said it out loud, crap I’m in trouble now.

“Oh my goodness! I’m so glad you told me!” She frantically took the make-up away, giving the other kids strict instructions to make sure they don’t touch me with theirs. It was the one and only lucky break that week. Each day, for one hour, I wore a clown wig and participated in a skit I have no memory of. I only remember it involved a huddle at he end, because that’s the part I messed up on stage. We can get back to that, but we have other things to cover first.

Let’s talk about the messed up swimming at this place. You hear summer camp with swimming and think lake, right? Was that just me? We have lakes everywhere, I assumed the camp was near one, but no. It was fenced in like a prison, barbed wire and all. Why did they fence in a pool in the middle of nowhere? Glad you ask, because I’ve never seen this before or since, but they wanted to control where you entered. The walkway leading to the pool was also fenced in and lined with shower heads. We were required to wet our hair before we got into the pool. They didn’t explain why, but it was a serious rule. I saw a counselor jump a girl’s ass for not getting her hair wet enough. The girl sat in a corner crying that day, screaming, “it was wet, you just can’t tell cause how dark my hair is.”

Every day, after evening bible study, we had an hour of free-time where we could play with kids from other cabins. I followed Joan and the few girls I knew from home, but this is where it gets bad again. I need to explain this game we played. Imagine 10-15 kids standing in a circle. One kid stood in the middle, and skipped around the circle while everyone sings. There were a few different songs, but I remember “Here comes Cindy Crawford walking down the street, (clap clap) she didn’t know what to do, so she stopped in front of me.” When they sing the last line, the kid in center had to stop, face the kid next to them, and those two kids ‘dance’ face to face for the rest of the song, “she said come on girl, shake that thing, shake it (repeat)!” Then the kids switch places and the other kid skips around the center. There are no winners or losers, it’s just that process repeated over and over. The only ‘point’ was to show off a funny dance move.

This is one of my worse ignorant moments. In my mind, I was doing really well. Kids stopped in front of me often, I was the center of attention. I became brave as the week wore on, inventing new moves, copying old disco moves I saw on tv. I actually came to look forward to it. Then, on the last day, I heard girls in my cabin talking about me. “We have to get her to play, remember last night? Everyone kept picking her so we could laugh at how stupid she looked trying to dance?” A roar of laughter erupted through the cabin.

I replayed every game in my head, and she was right. I could see it clearly once she pointed it out. They were cheating to land in front of me, not because I was cool, but because I was the loser they made fun of. Those rounds of laughter weren’t for me, they were at me. There were just enough kids from my school to carry the story back. I was teased with the game for almost two years.

While all of this is going on, never forget, I have to poop bad. My last poop was Sunday night, and each passing day added more stomach cramps. Each night, I lay awake to fart as much as possible. I stopped drinking except a few sips of water with meals to cut down on how many times I had to pee. By Thursday, I didn’t think I could make it any longer. I went from being depressed to furious, I wanted out. I lost my tempter during lunch, and said “dangit ” fairly loud.

Betty lost her shit, “don’t you ever say that word again! You hear me? Next time I hear you talking like that, I’ll take you to the bathroom and wash your mouth with soap.” I was so shocked, I couldn’t speak. I only stared at her. Apparently my face was terrible because she felt the need to add, “you can wipe that look off your face too. I won’t have that kind of behavior in my cabin.” I turned to walk away, but she just couldn’t leave it alone. “Don’t you walk away from me!” She grabbed the back of my shirt, turned me around and yelled, “what do you say?!”

I couldn’t fathom this reaction to the word ‘dang’. It occurred to me, she could have thought I said damn. “What do you think I said?!” I accidentally asked aloud.

Betty released my shirt, and her demeanor changed. She made a face of pain, as if merely repeating, “you said… … dang… it” would cause a lightning strike. I had no clue how to handle someone that stupid.

“Wow. Ok then. Sorry, I guess.” This time when I walked away, she allowed it, but she still couldn’t resist one last comment. “You better be on your best behavior the rest of the time your here.” She called after me.

I was so filled with rage I had to promise myself revenge before I could stop shaking. For two days I rehearsed the special goodbye I would say to her, but I’ll save that for the end. Don’t worry, we’re almost there.

Friday was the big last day. I survived by telling myself, “ok, that’s over. I never have to do this again” after every activity. At our ‘special dinner’ they ordered pizza, enough for everyone to have two whole slices. The Yankees, as always, defeated the Rebels. Their special prize was ice cream, I enjoyed saying “told you so” more than I would have the ice cream.

When the stage performances began, the clowns had to go first. We had to throw buckets of ping pong balls onto the audience, but my bucket flew from my hand. I hit a counselor in the face, but she was mostly fine. The performance continued uninterrupted. At the end, we had to group in a huddle, but someone’s arm hit me in the head. I screamed, “ouch” into the silent auditorium. My voiced echoed loud and clear for all to hear. When it finally ended, I was allowed to sit in the audience. Waiting for all attention to focus on the next act, I returned to the clown props. I shoved the wig I wore under my shirt, and stayed in the back of the audience. I had special plans for the wig. When we were finally allowed back to our cabins, I hid it carefully in my duffel.

Ok, all I have left is one more pretend shower, then I can sit in bed, and clinch my ass till morning. I held it this long, I can hold it one more night. Just don’t unclinch. The stomach cramps were constant and almost unbearable. I had so much poop in my body, I was actively prairie dogging it since Thursday morning. I went to the bathroom at every opportunity, but it was never empty.

I didn’t sleep at all Friday night. The stomach pains were too extreme, and I long ago passed the point where farts relieved the pressure. I had a few terrifying moments where the possibility of shitting my pants was extremely real. I had to decide how to handle an accident. Being the last night, and not needing the sleeping bag again, I determined I would have no choice but to grab the poop, and hide it under someone else’s bed. Thankfully it didn’t come to that the first year.

Morning finally came. Betty and Sue gave a cheesy speech about how special our time together was while we all packed. The kids played in the pavilion while waiting on our busses, and most counselors were working to prepare for the next group. There would be a few more that summer, and there was plenty of work to do. I sat quietly, unable to move around for fear of shitting my pants, and waited for the bus. I loaded up with the other kids, made sure my possessions were safely aboard, then told a chaperone, “I forgot something, sorry, be right back.” I ran before anyone could stop me. Each step, the poop tried to escape my clinched cheeks, but this was something I had to do. I was lucky, I poked my head into our cabin, and Betty was alone, in the far corner.

Rage took over, and my mouth did the rest. “Hey Betty!” I got her attention. She looked at me with an expectant smile. The smile vanished quickly when I continued, “you are the worst counselor here! Dang is not a bad word. Damn is, Fuck is, shit, and hell too, probably. So maybe don’t be such a bitch to the next group.” I was running away before the last words were out. It was imperative to return before she told on me.

I heard her say, “get your butt back here! You are not…” before I was out of range. I weaved through every structure possible, hoping she wouldn’t know which bus was mine. And she didn’t. I got on the bus, laid low in my seat next to Joan, and kept my mouth shut. I was the last kid on the bus, and they were in a hurry.

As the bus started moving, I was afraid to look around, but Joan said, “Hey, look, Ms. Betty came to wave goodbye! Sit up and wave! Byeeeeeee Ms. Becky!” Joan was knocking on the window, waving for Becky’s attention. Panicked, I grabbed her arms, pulling her down. We made it out of hell without being stopped. I was fairly certain Becky didn’t know my name. Either way, nothing came of my outburst.

I was upset to discover Joan’s parents were driving me home. It would be that much longer to receive real food. Joan talked the whole ride, it seemed she had a very good time. The first seeds of hatred she planted with camp, sprouted to fine seedlings. When they pulled into my driveway, I leapt from the car without saying goodbye, ran past Dad’s outstretched arms, and pushed Mom out of the way when she was blocking the bathroom.

“Hey! What’s the hurry?” Mom asked as I ran through her.

“I have to poop, and I’m so hungry. I haven’t pooped or eaten since Sunday, please make food.” I slammed the bathroom door closed behind me.

Mom wasted no time going into her own episode. She screamed through the door, “what do you mean you didn’t shit or eat? Are you telling me you haven’t shit in almost a week? Do not come out until you shit.”

“I wasn’t going to, please, leave me alone and feed me!” I begged from the toilet. If you don’t know what it feels like to go that long without pooping, I’m not sure there’s anything I could say to make you understand. It felt like everything in me combined to form one solid, hard brick of waste. I was in the bathroom almost 30 minutes. If that wasn’t torture enough, Mom told Dad my problem when he finished talking to Joan’s parents. Every 5 minutes he came to the bathroom door to ask if I was ok.

“It’s great, please leave me alone!” But he never did. I was never dumb enough to share my bathroom troubles with them again. I had to learn quickly, any problems I have, they will make it worse. I can never stress that to you enough. They made every problem a crisis, and it consumed them. They weren’t capable of normal speech until it was resolved.

When I finally came out of the bathroom, I ate half a hot pocket and fell asleep on my plate. I woke up that night to find the food removed. When I realized my parents were asleep, I raided the kitchen. The remainder of the weekend was its own special brand of torture while I waited for my parents to tire of asking about camp. When they returned to work Monday, Joan came over as usual.

“Hey, I saved a special surprise for you from camp!” I told her excitedly.

Her eyes lit up, “oh, what is it?!”

“Follow me.” I led her to the backyard with a small bag, ignoring her questions.

She looked puzzled when I showed her the clown wig, but before she could ask questions, I showed her the lighter. Her eyes grew big with realization, but the wig burned exactly how you expect cheap, fake hair to burn. It was gone in a flash. The burns to my fingers were well worth it. Joan cried and I reveled in her tears, they sustained me. It was my first step toward healing, I felt ready to put the trauma behind me. I would live to fight another day.

As usual, you all have been a fantastic audience. I’ll save next year’s camp story for another day. I hope this one gave you some chuckles. If it did, I can look back on that summer and say, “something good came from the experience.” I think I need that.

humor, mental health

Road Rage

Road rage will get you killed. I admit, I had it bad. The kind that makes people not want to ride with you. I’m not proud, but this is one of those ‘please learn from my mistakes’ things. I know so many people killed in car wrecks, I myself have metal in my body because of a wreck. Let’s go over the key points to why it’s a dangerous emotion you should do away with immediately.

1. People are flipping insane. You never know when one is going to lose their shit. And for every smartass thinking ‘what can they do in the middle of traffic?’ it’s time to wake up, Buttercup. Crazy people don’t care about witnesses, they’re crazy. By time they snap out of it they could be in jail for murdering you, but they didn’t realize there would be consequences because they’re crazy. It doesn’t make you any less dead. Here, I’ll give you examples of how I learned the hard way, please, enjoy my pain.

Let’s start with summer after Junior year. On the way to work, I had to pass through a large intersection. I drove through a green light, but saw a truck running the red to my right. I slammed on breaks and skidded to a halt, the beat-up truck missed me by inches. I had a habit of responding to fear with anger, still do, but I’m working on it. As the truck passed, I flipped it off and gave a good, 3 second honk. Pretty standard procedure, she was clearly in the wrong. I drove away and continued singing whatever emo shit I was undoubtedly playing when I saw the truck cut a u-turn. It raced to catch up and rode my bumper. I never saw inside, but it was obviously a truck full of gangsters, and you know they had guns. We don’t really see people when we’re driving. We see obstacles that exist solely to thwart our attempts at traveling.

Looking in the rear-view, all I could see were three shadowy outlines. This was happening as we entered the downtown area. The four-lane was coming to an end and the next red light offered nowhere to hide. I was jammed in with other cars; accepting the inevitable, I made sure doors were locked, and daydreamed worse case scenarios. Securely trapped until the light turned green, a woman who looked like Momma Klump emerged. My assumption about gangsters was a tad hasty. She was wearing one of those moo-moos, and her head was covered in curlers.

This is accurate except for the missing curlers. Nutty Professor II: The Klumps, hilarious movie.

I was afraid my window would break if she leaned on it, but she only jabbed it with her finger while cursing me. No one else got out, but her volume increased significantly when I began to laugh. She didn’t understand my relief of not being gunned down in the street. I drove away when the light turned green, wondering if I could get away with running over her foot. At the time, I was stupid enough to think she would regret following me to work. Luckily, she didn’t, but I am disappointed in Past Me for being too dumb to understand there are many, many terrible things she could have done with the knowledge. Alright, let’s jump ahead to after we moved out of that crap town.

The bigger the city you live in, the more likely you are to cross paths with crazy. The turn for a house we rented was off a skinny two-lane. My actual road was a cul-de-sac, but it was long, you couldn’t tell until the end. I hated that two-lane, it was only 45mph without a single place that allows passing. Normally, I didn’t waste a lunch hour trying to drive home, but if I did, I was in a hurry. Once, I drove down the long two-lane and saw a truck pulling up to a stop sign on my right. It never attempted to slow down, it just ran the stop sign and shot onto the road. I was going 51, if you want to say that’s too fast in a 45, whatever, but there was no stopping. I was driving a tiny Dodge Avenger, the truck was a large Dodge Ram, I would have died if I hit it. Reflex and luck saved me. I couldn’t see around the curve, but I swerved into the left lane and passed without wrecking.

I want to point out, I didn’t flip it off or honk. I couldn’t if I wanted, both hands were glued to the wheel. The truck filled my rear-view mirror. When it followed me into the turn for my road, I knew it wasn’t coincidence. I had no clue who was inside, I passed my driveway and kept going. That’s how I learned I lived on a cul-de-sac. The truck pulled across the exit to block my path, but it wasn’t big enough. I squeezed between its hood and the curb, seeing one small woman inside. I decided I didn’t have time to play this game. I drove out of the circle, pulled over behind my drive-way, and got out. The truck stopped dramatically close to my bumper, and the tiny woman came out screaming. She smelled like a distillery. She slurred so bad, I couldn’t make out most of the words.

When she finally paused for a breath I let out all the anger built up from running and watching the clock. “Are you done? I could see you run your stop sign clear as day. How early you start drinking?! It’s like 11:30 and you reek! Do you understand I would have died if I hit your dumbass in that huge truck?!” I did my best to make the Look.

“You ain’t see shit, you the bitch speeding!” She wobbled like a bobble-head.

“Oh bite me I was going 51. Fuck off, if you pull this shit again I’m calling the police.” I turned to walk away, wishing I had a something to use for a mic-drop.

“I wish you would, bitch! I’m friends with all the cops!” I could hear her feet dragging as she followed me.

“Yes, I’m sure you do think that. And I’m sure the ones your thinking of super appreciate you driving plastered under their protection and harassing people. Bravo, next time, try a cup of coffee before you drive.” I locked myself in, pulled my camera out, and showed her it was recording. She tripped getting back into her truck, but I never saw her again. I want to point out how lucky I was; I stopped because I saw a small woman alone, but only later did it occur to me she could have easily shot me if she had a gun. I could have done a million different things to resolve it, but road rage clouds your judgment.

Hubby has far worse road rage, and the inability to learn from mistakes. Yes, it’s a deadly combination and why there’s metal in my body. Seriously guys, please learn. If I ever speak of the car wreck it won’t be anytime soon, but there’s plenty more where that came from.

Not long after leaving our hometown, we were out learning the roads, trying to find a route to work I could drive without having a panic attack. I don’t know what these guys did to start a war, probably nothing significant. If a car pulls out in front of Hubby, he behaves like they spat on him. Had we lived in the age of dueling, he would have died before 20. Anyway, these guys did something he considered offensive which meant revenge had to be swift and painful.

Hubby sped to pass them, grabbed an empty Sprite bottle, and threw it out the window. It hit them on the driver’s side. That seemed to piss those guys off a lot. They sped up to pass us, which was scary in itself. In the middle of heavy traffic we’re all bobbing and weaving to do these ridiculous stunts. They one upped Hubby by throwing a full Sonic drink. Sticky coke splashed all over our windshield. There really aren’t words in our language to properly express my anger. I’m not sure which hurt more, the anger at Hubby for starting it, or the anger at Hubby for being too stupid to understand I was angry with him, not the idiots in the other car. FYI – coke is horrible to clean off, but after it cooks in the summer heat and turns into syrup, it’s torture.

A few weeks after that incident, the sharp pains of anger still burned in my chest, but I was hiding it better. Make no waves, suffer no tsunamis, it’s a great life motto, I wish I remembered where I got it. We were on the main highway when a mini van cut us off. It was a bit of a dick move, but worse happens all the time. Hubby zoomed up next to it, flipping the guy off while screaming “fuck you” out my window.

Guys. Inside the mini van, an old man who looked like a serial killer was gripping his wheel so tight I could see the veins in his hand. He was medium built, had wild gray hair, but clean shaven, and had the stern face one associates with dads who force kids to choose the belt they’ll be spanked with. If I had mastered the Darth Vader strangle hold, Hubby would not be alive today. Be sure of that. I made him turn off the highway at the next light.

“Fine, if it’ll make you happy, I’ll circle through that neighborhood.”

“If that guy follows us I’m letting him kill you while I escape.” I warned. Sure enough, serial killer followed us. “Surprise, surprise asshole!” I was terrified, I used angry sarcasm to show it.

“I really don’t want to hear it.” Hubby grumbled.

Hubby drove through the neighborhood, serial killer on our ass. He turned at random, and of course, it was a dead end. Not a cul-de-sac with the turn-around loop, a dead end. The mini-van pulled across the road to block us in, driver side directly across from us. He glared at us with a ‘wish you were dead’ look I couldn’t help envying.

“Shit, what do we do? Should I get out?” Hubby asked.

“I’m tempted to let him kill you, but if you open that door I’ll kill you myself. He probably wants you to get out.”

Hubby is useless in a crisis. He can get you into one faster than teenagers on acid, but once it starts, he’s only capable of making it worse. You have to remove him from the equation immediately or his panic will hinder you every step of the way. “Just sit still and be ready. If he gets out, run him down, I’ll say I was driving and panicked.” I wasn’t sure if I was telling truth, but hoped it wouldn’t matter.

I turned on my phone’s flash and took several pictures. I hoped if I had pictures, he would leave; criminals tend to be camera shy. If he got out of his van, I planned to scream he was live on Facebook. After a minute of constant flashing, he drove away. I’m not sure if he even blinked while we sat there, but when he was out of sight I made Hubby drive the opposite way. Did this teach him a lesson? Hell no. I won’t speak of him often, but when I do, never, ever make the mistake of thinking he learned anything.

2. You aren’t saving time. Most rage stems from being in a hurry to get where you’re going. Have you ever done the math on how much faster you arrive when speeding VS driving the speed limit? For daily commutes you’re talking an average five minutes or less, totally not worth the hassle.

Here, let’s put this one in perspective. When we first started driving, Thelma and I had vastly different reactions. I believed I was an invincible race-car driver, and Thelma believed she would die if she drove over 40. I once made her cry hitting 80 on the bridge. It boiled down to me not having patience; driving is boring, I’d rather get it over with. In this one instance, Thelma had the right idea. Thankfully, she’ll never read this to know about it, alcohol erased it from her memory years ago.

To prove how much time her driving wasted, I proposed we race from school to her house. I planned to arrive long before her, but I only won by two minutes. I sped, bobbed and weaved, cut people off, but she caught up at every red light. When I turned off the highway I finally pulled ahead, but a two minute lead didn’t grant much bragging privilege. Unless you have serious distance to travel on open roads, there’s no argument for taking the risk. Plus paying tickets are expensive and dealing with insurance sucks.

3. It makes you look like a proper ass. Sure it feels justified in the moment, but have you ever seen someone else with road rage? Have you seen their beet-red faces lined with bulging, purple veins? Spraying the windshield with spit, making excessive hand gestures as if their words aren’t sufficiently expressing their displeasure? They look kinda foolish don’t they? Are you ready for a shock? It looks the same when you do it. I know, it’s hard to accept, but dig deep, you know it to be true.

See, here’s a good one. Don’t be this guy. Do Future You a favor, count to 10 or something.

No one plans to have a wreck, they happen when you least expect. They can change your life forever in an instant. A trip to the gas station can kill a loved one. Most people need a close call for this kind of life change, but it’s not necessary. Life doesn’t give you a sign in the sky saying, “good job, if you had cut that guy off, you would be dead right now” it shouldn’t have to. Yet if someone suffers through a terrible wreck and 6 month recovery, they start driving differently. You don’t need to suffer to learn, just learn. If it isn’t important enough to use your hazard lights, it isn’t important enough to risk driving erratically.

Look, I’m not exempt from this. I feel terrible about what I did to the poor man on the bicycle. I mean, to be fair he shouldn’t have been riding it there in the middle of 5:00 traffic. We were on a two-lane road out in the country, nowhere near civilization. There’s no bike lanes in places like this! And this guy is riding his bicycle in the right lane knowing full-well myself and a line of 10 cars were stuck behind him. A chance to pass finally presented itself, but when I got next to him (ok yes, I was too close to him) I held the horn down. His entire body, bike and all went straight up, and over. If the cars would not have already been behind me, also passing, he would have been ran over. Sure I wanted to punch the guy in the face for being a jerk, but I damn sure didn’t want him dead or crippled. Did everyone laugh like it was a big joke? Yes. But he wasn’t injured so it’s ok.

I know this isn’t the kind of stuff I usually write, but this crap is important. It’s not just you. The road rage between you and one other vehicle can kill kids in the car behind you. The car neither of you realize is there because you’re behaving like idiots. I don’t care how angry you are, no one wants to be that asshole. Karma is a crafty bitch, do not give her a reason to cut you.

Ok, thanks everyone.

Oh, one last order of business. I sincerely hope my imaginary groupies are enjoying their new lives, perhaps the break has absolved me from any… unsavory presumptions. I think it has. Alright, good day.