Classics Translated

The Signal-Man

Charles Dickens, first published 1866; translated into Modern English, otherwise exactly the same. 

“Hello! Down below!”

When he heard me calling to him, he was standing at his box’s door with a short flag rolled in his hand. Considering what was said, my location should have been obvious, but instead of looking up to where I stood atop the steep ledge – he looked down the tracks. There was something remarkable about the way he did it, though – for the life of me – I cannot say what. It was enough to attract my attention even though he was hard to see down in the deep trench. I was high above him, blinded by the glow of an angry sunset; I had to shade my eyes before I could see him at all.

“Hello! Below!”

From looking down the tracks, he turned again and – looking up – saw me standing high above him. “Is there a path I can use to come speak with you?”

He looked up at me without replying, and I looked down at him without repeating my question. Then, the earth began to shake slightly, but it quickly grew violent, and a sudden blast of air caused me to jump back as though I were being pulled down. Steam rose from the speeding train and rolled away over the landscape; I looked down again, and the man was re-rolling his flag after waving it at the passing train.

I repeated my question. He paused, staring at me before pointing his flag towards a spot roughly two or three hundred yards away on my level. I called down, “alright” and made my way over. Looking closely, I found an uneven, zigzagging path and followed it.

The trail was extremely deep and unusually steep. It cut through a clammy type of stone that oozed and became wetter as I went down. The walk took long enough for me to recall a reluctant expression when he pointed out the path.

When I was low enough to see him again, he was standing between the rails, looking as if he were waiting for me to appear. His arms were crossed, and his chin rested in his hands. He seemed surprised that I paused and was wondering why.

I resumed my descent and stepped out onto the railroad; as I got closer to him, I saw that he was a pale man with a dark beard and thick eyebrows. His post was in the loneliest, most dismal place I ever saw. On either side was a dripping-wet wall of jagged stone, blocking out all but a strip of sky. In one direction, only a long, crooked view of this great dungeon could be seen, and the other ended in a gloomy, red light. It was the entrance to a black tunnel, and inside the massive structure was a depressing, forbidding air. So little sunlight ever found this spot, that it had an earthy, deadly smell, and so much cold wind blew through it, that I felt a chill as cold as death.

I was close enough to touch him before he moved. Without taking his eyes from mine, he took one step back and lifted his hand.

This was a lonesome post to occupy, and I said so; when I looked down from above, it instantly drew my attention. I suppose a visitor was rare, but hopefully not unwelcome. He merely saw me as another random person with a new interest in the great wonder of railroads. I spoke to him for that reason, but I am not sure of the words I used; I do not enjoy beginning any conversation, but there was something in this man that intimidated me.

He looked towards the red light near the tunnel’s opening in a very curious way – as if something were missing – and then looked back at me. I asked if that light was part of his job.

He answered in a low voice. “Don’t you know that it is?”

A monstrous thought came to me as I studied his fixed eyes and gloomy face; that he was a ghost, not a man. I stepped back, but in doing so, I saw he appeared frightened. This put an end to my monstrous thought.

“You look as if you are afraid of me.” I said, forcing a smile.

“I think I have seen you before,” he replied.

“Where?”

He pointed to the red light he had looked at.

“There?” I said.

Watching me intently, he replied a silent, “yes.”

“My good man, what would I do there? However, I will swear that I was never there.”

“I think I was mistaken,” he said. “Yes; I am sure I was.”

Our demeanors softened, and his answers to my questions were knowledgeable and interesting. He had many responsibilities, but most importantly, his job required him to be attentive and precise. There was practically no manual labor; he only changed the train signal, trimmed the lights, and sometimes turned an iron handle. When I asked about those long, lonely hours that would bother me so much – he simply said it was routine, and that he had grown used to it. He taught himself a language down there – even if he did form his own crude pronunciations of the words he read. He also practiced fractions and tried a little algebra, but he had no skill for mathematics. I wondered if he was required to stay in that damp tunnel the whole time, or if he could take a break to enjoy the sun. It depended on how busy he was; some days were slower than others. In sunny weather, he often did venture out of the shadows, but he never strayed too far from his electric bell, and he always listened for it nervously; it sounded like it was not worth the anxiety it caused him.

We went into his box where there was a fire, a desk for his logbook, a telegraph machine, and the little bell he previously mentioned. Hoping he would excuse the remark about his education without offense – I could not help notice he seemed educated for his position; he observed that men like himself are much more common than I would think. Men like him often end up in workhouses, the police-force, and even the army in desperate cases; he knew of others in the railroad industry as well. When he was a young student of natural philosophy, he attended lectures, but he also ran wild and wasted opportunities. He had no complaints about it – he made his bed, and he was lying in it; he was far too old to make another.

I condensed everything he said quietly in his dark, serious way; the whole time his attention was split between me and the fire. Occasionally, he threw in the word, “sir,” when referring to his younger days. He was interrupted by the bell several times along with needing to send and receive messages. Once, he had to stand outside waving a flag and shouting something to the driver as a train passed. He was remarkably dedicated to his duties – always stopping his answers mid-sentence until each new task was done.

Basically, I would have sworn he was one of the safest men ever employed in that position… except for the two times he fell silent and pale when the bell did not ring; then, he opened the door and looked towards the red light near the mouth of the tunnel. On both occasions, he came back with the same baffled expression I mentioned before and could not explain why.

When I stood to leave, I said, “You almost make me believe that you are a content man.” Though, I am afraid I must admit this statement was not completely true.

“I believe I used to be, but I am troubled, sir; I am troubled.” He replied in the same, low voice as when he had first spoken.

He would have taken the words back if he could, but I responded quickly. “With what? What trouble?”

“It is very difficult to explain, sir, and very difficult to speak of. If you ever visit again, I will try to tell you.”

“But I specifically intend to visit again. Just say when!”

“I get off early in the morning, and I will return tomorrow night at ten, sir.”

“I will come at eleven.”

He thanked me and walked me out. “I’ll use my white light until you have found the way up, sir. Make sure not to call out when you find it or when you reach the top!” He said in his peculiar low voice.

“Very well.” His manner seemed to make the place colder, but I said no more.

“And when you come tomorrow night, don’t call out! Let me ask you one last question. What made you shout, ‘hello! Down below,’ tonight?”

“Heaven knows… I said something like that—”

“Not ‘like that’, sir. Those were your exact words. I know them well.”

“Yes, those were the very words, but I only said them because I saw you below.”

“There’s no other reason?”

“What other reason could I possibly have?”

“You didn’t feel like they were conveyed to you in a supernatural way?”

“No.”

He wished me goodnight and held up his lamp. I walked alongside the tracks with an unpleasant feeling that a train was coming. When I found the path, it was easier to climb than descend, and I returned to my inn without any trouble.


As promised, I arrived the next night when the clocks were striking eleven. He was waiting for me at the bottom with his white light. “I have not called out; may I speak now?” I said when we were closer.

“By all means, sir.”

“Hello, then.” I extended my hand.

“Hello, sir.” He replied as we shook; then, we closed ourselves in his box and sat by the fire.

“I’ve made up my mind, sir.” He leaned forward and spoke in a whisper. “I’m going to tell you what troubles me. Yesterday, I mistook you for someone else. That troubles me.”

“That mistake?”

“No. The other person.”

“Who is it?”

“I don’t know.”

“Do they look like me?”

“I don’t know; their left arm was covering their face, and their right arm was waving violently – like this.” He imitated someone frantically waving their arm around and shouted, “For God’s sake, clear the way!”

“One night,” he continued, “I was sitting here when I heard a voice cry, ‘hello, down there!’ I jumped up, looked outside, and saw this Someone standing by the red light near the tunnel – waving as I just showed you. The voice was hoarse from shouting. ‘Look out! Look out!’ It cried, and then repeated itself. ‘Hello, down there! Look out!’ I picked up my lamp, turned it on red, and ran towards the figure. ‘What’s wrong? What happened? Where?’ I called as it stood just outside the dark tunnel. I got closer and wondered why it was covering its eyes. I ran right up to it, and when my hand stretched out to pull the sleeve away, it vanished.”

“Into the tunnel?” I asked.

“No. I ran 500 yards into the tunnel and lifted my lamp; I saw the distance markers and the wet stains dripping down the walls, trickling through the arch. Then, I ran out even faster than I had entered and looked around the light with my own; I climbed the iron ladder to the gallery, came down again, and ran back here to send telegraphs both ways. I acknowledged an alarm was given and asked if anything was wrong, but the answers stated that all was well.”

I tried to shake the chill that ran down my spine as I told him he must have been mistaken. There were known cases where a sickness in the brain could cause people to see things that were not there; some patients were even aware of the hallucinations. They would prove what was real with various tests. I said, “for an imaginary cry, you only need to listen to the wind blowing through this unnatural valley. Do you hear the wild sound it makes with the telegraph wires?”

We sat listening to the wind for a while, and he thought that was all very well, but he was already familiar with the sound; he had spent many long, lonely winter nights there. Instead, he begged that I allow him to finish his tale.

I asked his forgiveness, and he touched my arm before slowly continuing his story.

“Six hours after I saw it, a horrible accident happened on the tracks, and within ten hours, the dead and wounded were brought through the tunnel – over the spot where the figure had stood.”

I shuddered unpleasantly despite actively trying no to. I admitted this was a remarkable coincidence – it is no wonder it made such an impression on his mind – but the fact is, that remarkable coincidences happen all the time; they must be considered when dealing with such subjects. Though, when I feared my words had offended him, I was sure to add, “men with common sense rarely believe in coincidences when it comes to their daily routines.”

He again begged me to allow him to finish.

I again asked his forgiveness for my interruption.

Again, he laid his hand on my arm and glanced over his shoulder with hollow eyes. “It happened only a year ago; I had recovered from the shock after six or seven months, but one morning – while standing at the door – I saw the ghost near the red light again.” He stopped with his eyes fixed on me.

“Did it cry out?”

“No. It was silent.”

“Did it wave its arm?”

“No. It leaned against the light pole with both hands covering its face. Like this.”

I watched as he imitated the scene; it was a gesture of despair. I have seen the same one in graveyards.

“Did you approach it?”

“I came in and sat down – partly to collect my thoughts, partly because it made me feel faint. When I looked again, the sun had risen, and the ghost was gone.”

“But that was it? Nothing else happened?”

He touched my arm with his finger a few times – nodding in a ghastly way with each poke.

“That same day, when a train came out of the tunnel, I saw into the carriage windows; there was a tangle of waving hands and heads. I saw it just in time to stop the driver. He hit the brakes, but the train continued drifting for another 150 yards. I chased after it, and heard terrible screams and cries along the way. A beautiful young lady had died instantly in one of the compartments, and she was brought here – laid on this floor between us.”

I instinctively pushed my chair back as I looked to where he pointed at the floor.

“It is true, sir. It happened precisely as I said.”

I could not think of anything to say, and my mouth was very dry. The wind and wires sounded like a long, sorrowful wail.

“Now – listen to this and see what you think of my troubled mind. The ghost returned a week ago; ever since, it has been coming and going often.” He continued.

“At the light?”

“At the Danger-light.”

“What does it do?”

He repeated himself with even more passion and intensity – making the same frantic gestures that seemed to say, “for God’s sake, clear the way!” Then he continued. “I get no peace or rest; it calls to me in an agonizing way for several minutes at a time. ‘Look out, down there!” It stands there – waving to me and ringing my little bell—”

“Did it ring your bell yesterday evening when I was here, and you went to the door?” I asked.

“Twice.”

“Do you see how your imagination misleads you? I was looking at the bell; I would have heard it, and it did not ring then or at any other time. It only rang when the station was communicating with you.” I said.

He shook his head. “I have never made that mistake, sir. I have never confused the actions of a man for a spirit’s. When the ghost rings the bell, it has a strange vibration unlike anything else, and I never said the bell physically moved. I’m not surprised that you didn’t hear it, but I heard it.”

“Was the ghost there when you looked outside?”

“It was there.”

“Both times?”

“Both times.” He repeated firmly.

“Will you come to the door with me and look for it now?”

He bit his lip – somewhat unwilling – but rose anyway. I opened the door and waited on the step while he stood in the doorway. There was the Danger-light, the dismal mouth of the tunnel, the high, wet stone walls of the valley, and the stars above them.

“Do you see it?” I asked, carefully studying his face. His eyes were wide and strained but not much more than my own were when I looked at the same spot.

“No,” he answered. “It is not there.”

“Agreed,” I said.

We went inside, shut the door, and took our seats. I was thinking of how I could keep this progress going when he resumed the conversation in a very matter-of-fact way. It seemed as if he would not even consider the facts, and it made my argument sound like the one that was incorrect.

“By now, you should understand what troubles me so much; I must know what the ghost means?” He said.

I was not sure, but I told him that I did understand.

“What is its warning against?” he said, staring into the fire as he contemplated. “What is the danger? Where is it? There is danger hanging over us somewhere on the tracks; some horrible catastrophe will happen. It cannot be doubted after what happened before – this is the third time! This surely is a cruel haunting. What can I do?”He pulled out his handkerchief and wiped the sweat from his heated forehead.

“If I send a danger signal, I won’t be able to give a reason,” he continued, wiping the palms of his hands. “I would get into trouble for nothing. They would think I was crazy. I would say, ‘danger! Take care’ and they would ask what and where the danger was. What should I say then? ‘Don’t know, but for God’s sake, take care!’ They would ignore me – what else could they do?

His pain was very sad to see; he was a good man enduring mental torture. The pressure was more than he could handle.

Pushing his dark hair back and rubbing his temples feverishly, he continued. “When it first stood under the Danger-light, why didn’t it tell me where the accident was going to happen? Why not say how to stop it? The second time – when it hid its face – why didn’t it tell me, ‘she is going to die. Let her stay home’? If it only came to show me that its warnings are true, then why not simply warn me the same way now? And I – Lord help me – am merely a poor Signal-man on this lonely station! Why not go to somebody with credibility and the power to do something?”

Seeing him in this state, I realized I needed to help him regain his composure – for his sake as well as the public’s. Therefore, setting aside the question of real or imaginary, I told him that no matter what – he had done his duty well, and that should be comforting even if he did not understand a confusing ghost’s appearances. That attempt was far more successful than anything else used to reason with him. He calmed, and his workload increased as it grew late. I left at two in the morning; I offered to stay, but he would not hear of it.

I looked back at the red light more than once as I climbed the pathway; I freely admit that I did not like it, and I would have slept poorly beneath it. I did not like the two accidents or the dead girl, either.

What ran through my thoughts most was the consideration of what to do now that I was aware of the situation. The man proved to be intelligent, vigilant, and painstakingly exact, but how long will that last in his state of mind? Though it is a low-ranking position, he still holds an important trust. Would I bet my own life on his chances of continuing with precision?

Ultimately, I felt it would be treacherous to tell his superiors what he told me without first proposing an alternative to him; I resolved I would offer to accompany him to the best doctor we could find. He said that the next night, he would be off an hour or two after sunrise and back after sunset. I decided to return accordingly.


Next evening was lovely, and I left early to enjoy it. The sun was not quite set when I crossed the field near the top of the deep valley. I decided to keep going for an additional half hour to give myself a half hour walk back so it would be time to meet the Signal-man.

Before beginning my stroll, I stepped to the edge and looked down from where I had first seen him. I cannot describe the thrill I felt when – close to the mouth of the tunnel – I saw the figure of a man with his left sleeve across his eyes, frantically waving his right arm.

The nameless horror that struck me passed in a moment when I saw that this man was indeed only a man; there was a small group of men standing nearby, to whom he seemed to be making the gesture. The Danger-light was not yet lit. An entirely new, low structure sat against the light-post; it was made of wooden supports and a tarp, and was no bigger than a bed.

With a strong sense that something was wrong, and – cursing myself for leaving the man alone with no one to supervise or correct him – I descended the path as quickly as possible.

“What is the matter?” I asked the men.

“The Signal-man was killed this morning, sir.”

“Not the man who works in that box?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Not the man I know?”

“You will recognise him if you knew him, sir – his face is in good condition.” The man said, solemnly, removing his hat and raising one end of the tarp.

“Oh, how did this happen – how?” I asked, turning from one to another as the tarp fell back into place.

“He was cut down by a train, sir. No man in England was better at his job, but for some reason, he was not clear of the outer rail. It happened in broad daylight; he turned on the light and had the lamp in his hand. As the train came out of the tunnel, his back was towards her, and she cut him down. That man drove her, and he was demonstrating how it happened; show the gentleman, Tom.”

The man wore a rough, dark suit and returned to his former position at the mouth of the tunnel.

“Coming round the curve in the tunnel, sir, I saw him at the end – as if I were seeing him through a telescope. There was no time to check speed, and I knew him to be very careful. He didn’t seem to take notice of the whistle; I shut it off when we were getting close and called to him as loud as I could.”

“What did you say?”

“I said, ‘down there! Look out! For God’s sake, clear the way!’”

I gasped.

“Ah! it was dreadful, sir. I never stopped calling to him. I put one arm over my eyes so I wouldn’t have to see, and I waved this arm until the last moment, but it was no use.”

Without prolonging the story to dwell on any one curious situation more than another – I may point out the coincidence of the train driver’s warning. It included not only the same words the Signal-man repeated to me, but also the words that only I had attached to the gesture he imitated.

Classics Translated

The Tell-Tale Heart

Edgar Allen Poe, originally published January 1843; translated to Modern English, otherwise exactly the same. 

Who’s ready to hear another phenomenal narration by my amazing friend, Danie Dreadful? YouTube
Illustration by Harry Clarke

It is true! I had been – and am – very, dreadfully nervous, but why would you say that I am crazy? The disease had sharpened my senses – not destroyed or dulled them. Above all was the acute hearing; I heard all things in the heavens and on the earth, and I heard many things in hell. How, then, am I crazy? Listen! and observe how sanely – how calmly – I can tell you the whole story.

It is impossible to say how the idea first entered my mind, but once it was there – it haunted me day and night. It was not because of an objective or hatred; I loved the old man. He had never wronged or insulted me; I had no desire for his gold. I think it was his eye! Yes, that was it! One of his eyes was like a vulture’s; it was pale blue and covered with film. Whenever it fell on me, my blood ran cold; very gradually, I made up my mind to take his life and be rid of the eye forever.

Now, this is the point where you think I am crazy. Madmen know nothing, but you should have seen me. You should have seen how wisely I proceeded with caution and foresight; no one could have guessed my intentions when I went to work! I had never been kinder to the old man than the week before I killed him. Every night – around midnight – I turned his doorknob and opened it very gently! When I had an opening big enough, I put in a dark, closed lantern before sticking in my head. Oh, you would have laughed to see how cunningly I stuck it in! I moved very, very slowly, so the old man would not wake. It took an hour to place my head in far enough to see him lying on his bed. Ha! Would a madman have been this smart? Then, when my head was in the room, I opened the lantern with extreme caution to avoid the creaking hinges; I did it just enough for a single, thin ray to fall upon the vulture’s eye. I did this for seven long nights, but the eye was always closed, making it impossible to do the job; it was not the old man who irritated me but his Evil Eye. Every morning, I went into his room with confidence and spoke to him fearlessly – calling him by name in a friendly tone, and asking how his night was. He would have been very insightful to suspect that every night – just at twelve – I watched him sleep.

On the eighth night, I was even more cautious than usual when opening the door. A clock’s minute hand moves faster than mine did. Never before had I felt the extent of my own power and wisdom. I could hardly contain my feelings of victory. There I was, opening the door little by little, and he had no clue of my secret actions or thoughts. I laughed at the idea, and he may have heard me; he moved suddenly, as if startled. You may think that I withdrew – but no. His room was pitch black; the shutters were closed for fear of robbers, and – knowing he could not see the open door – I kept pushing on it steadily.

My head was in, and I was about to open the lantern when my thumb slipped on the tin fastening, and the old man sprang up, crying out. “Who’s there?”

I stayed quite still and said nothing. I did not move a muscle for a whole hour, and I did not hear him lie down. He was sitting up in the bed, listening – exactly as I have done night after night – listening to the signs of imminent death.

Then, I heard a slight groan, and I knew it was the groan of terror. It was not a groan of pain or of grief – oh, no! It was the low, muffled sound that comes from the bottom of the soul when it is filled with anguish; I knew the sound well. Many nights – at midnight – when all the world slept, it came from my own chest; it deepened with dreadful echoes and distracting fears. I knew what the old man felt and pitied him, although I laughed in my heart. He had been lying awake ever since the first slight noise when he rolled in the bed, and his fear had been growing ever since. He tried to convince himself it was nothing, but he could not; he tried thinking, “It is only the wind in the chimney, or a mouse crossing the floor, or a cricket chirping.”

He tried to comfort himself with these thoughts, but his efforts were in vain. All in vain, because Death’s black shadow had already consumed its victim, and it was the sorrowful influence of the unseen shadow that caused him to feel my presence in the room.

When I had waited patiently for a long time without hearing him lie down, I decided to open a very thin slit in the lantern. You cannot imagine how stealthily I opened it until a single, dim ray – like a spider’s web – shot out from the crack and fell upon the vulture eye.

It was wide open, and I grew furious at the sight. I saw it perfectly – a dull blue, covered with a hideous film that chilled me to be bone; I could see nothing else of the old man since the ray of light fell directly on that damned spot.

Did I not say that you would mistake acute senses for madness? Then, I heard a low, quick sound – like a watch makes when wrapped in cotton. I knew that sound well, too. It was the old man’s heart beating. It increased my fury just as the beating of a drum inspired a soldier’s courage.

Even then, I remained motionless, scarcely breathing. I held the lantern steady, keeping the ray of light trained on the eye. Meanwhile, the hellish beating of his heart increased, growing quicker and louder every second. The old man’s terror must have been extreme! It grew louder every moment! Do you understand? I have told you that I am nervous, and I am. At that late hour of the night – among the dreadful silence in that old house – this noise drove me to complete terror. I stood still for several more minutes, but the beating grew louder! I thought his heart would burst, and a new worry gripped me; the sound would be heard by a neighbor! The old man’s time had come; with a loud yell, I threw open the lantern and leapt into the room! He only shrieked once; in an instant, I dragged him to the floor and pulled the heavy bed over him. Then I smiled happily, glad the deed was done, but – for many minutes – the heart continued its muffled beat. This, however, did not bother me; it would not be heard through the wall. Eventually, it stopped; the old man was dead. I removed the bed and examined the corpse. Yes, he was stone, cold dead. I placed my hand on the heart and held it there for several minutes. There was no pulse; he was dead, and his eye would no longer trouble me.

If you still believe I am crazy, you will not think so after I describe the wise precautions I took when hiding the body. As the night wore on, I worked hastily but in silence. First of all, I dismembered the corpse by cutting off the head, arms, and legs.

Then, I removed three planks from the living room floor and deposited everything between the joists. Next, I replaced the boards so perfectly that no human eye – not even his – could have detected anything wrong. There was nothing to wash – no stains or blood whatsoever. I had been too cautious for that; all was done in the tub – haha!

When I finished these chores, it was four o ‘clock and still dark as midnight. As the bell announced the hour, there was a knock at the door. I went down to open it with a light heart – after all, what was there to fear now? Three men entered and introduced themselves as police officers. During the night, a shriek was heard by a neighbor, and there was suspicion of foul play. A report was filed at the police station, and the officers were sent to search the premises.

I smiled; what was there to worry about? I welcomed the gentlemen, saying the shriek had been my own – caused by a dream – and I mentioned the old man was visiting the countryside. I took my visitors all over the house, telling them to search well. I led them to his chamber and showed them his valuables – secure and undisturbed. In the excitement of my confidence, I brought chairs into the room – inviting them to rest – and placed my own seat directly above the hidden corpse.

The officers were satisfied; my demeanor had convinced them, and I was completely at ease. They sat, and while I answered cheerfully, they chatted about familiar things. Though, before long, I felt myself getting pale and wished they would leave. My head ached, and there was a ringing in my ears, but still they remained. The ringing became more distinct as it continued – and I talked more to be rid of the feeling – but it persisted and grew louder. Finally, I realized the noise was not in my mind.

There is no doubt I grew very pale, but I talked faster with a louder voice. Still, the sound increased – and what could I do? It was a low, dull, quick sound – very close to the sound a watch makes when wrapped in cotton. I gasped for breath, yet the officers did not hear it. I talked faster – more intensely, but the noise steadily increased. I stood, arguing insignificant matters in a high voice with wild gestures, but the noise increased. Why would they not leave? I paced with heavy strides – as if infuriated by the men’s observations, but the noise continued increasing. Oh God! What could I do? I ranted, raved, and swore! I threw my chair, and it struck the boards, but the noise rose above it all and still increased. It grew louder, louder, and louder, but still the men chatted – smiling pleasantly. Was it possible they did not hear it?… Almighty God!… No, no!… They heard!… They suspected!… They knew!… They were mocking my terror!… This is what I thought, and what I still think, but anything was better than that agony! Anything was more tolerable than their ridicule! I could not bear those hypocritical smiles any longer! It felt like I must scream or die! Now – again!… Listen! Louder, louder, louder!

“Villains!” I shrieked, “mock me no more! I admit it! Tear up the planks! Here, here! It is the beating of his hideous heart!”

humor

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

The Boy in Pink

I am excited to say I can now call myself a CreepyPasta author! They posted Deadlands on Wednesday, and I found it by accident yesterday. That’s not a complaint, it’s a happy surprise. It was surreal to see my story on the site I’ve visited almost daily for several years. After this post I would like to complete the next story I’m working on. If I can get a few noticed, maybe Bestie’s husband will take pity on me and help with my domain sooner. In the meantime, it’s back to business.

I had a lot of trouble deciding what to write about next in regards to my personal adversities. There’s still so many to choose from, like wetting my pants in Mom’s office at 12, or puking all over Bestie when I smelled tuna. Then the puke thing reminded me of getting puked on myself, and I thought, yea, that’ll do. It’s funny for two reasons because it coincides with my worst ‘mistaken for a boy’ experiences.

For this story we return to 6th grade, but first, I need to introduce Pumba (named for her amazing personality, not appearance. She’s actual super pretty). She came to our school in 5th grade, but because I was being raised to follow in our culture’s ignorant footsteps, we hated each other that first year. Now, she is the only friend I still have from high-school besides Thelma.

Was I confused to walk into the first day of 5th grade to see my first black kid? Sure I was, but I didn’t care. I didn’t speak to kids who weren’t Bestie, and I assumed she would be no different. I only wanted to sit quietly until class began, but she talked to me first. Before I relay our first interaction, let me remind you I had a the first of two boy’s bowl haircuts, boy clothes, and purple flower flip-flops. Mom told me I would regret he haircut, but I wouldn’t listen. As always, I would have to learn the hard way… except twice this time.

“Hi, why are you wearing girl’s shoes?” Pumba asked, curious.

I remained silent at first, but decided “because I’m a girl” was a safe enough answer. Fool.

“Oh, I’m sorry. I thought you were a boy.” Pumba replied. She spoke softly, she wasn’t trying to be heard by others… but she was.

As surrounding children stopped their own activities to laugh, a mixture of anger and humiliation radiated through me. It wasn’t the first time I was mistaken for a boy, but it was the worst (up to that point).

I identified with Naruto so hard purely because people looked at me the exact same way. I hung in there for every annoying “believe it!” catchphrase just to see someone else endure the same thing. Unfortunately, no matter how hard I tried, I wasn’t able to become a ninja.

My little brain grasped for any comeback to turn the tide and settled on, “Why are you going to this school? Black kids go to the public schools!”

“I’m not black, I’m Indian.” She replied, completely unfazed by my ignorance.

I ran to class, too frightened to say “I thought they were all dead.” Clearly they weren’t, and I couldn’t afford to be wrong again. Later, Dad tried explaining the difference between India and the Indians I knew of, but it would be years before I understood countries beyond our own existed. The important thing is, Pumba and I were forced to spend several hours alone at the end of 5th grade and we became close friends as a result.

That’s why, in 6th grade, when our school rented a greyhound bus to shuttle us to a museum over two hours away, we sat next to each other. Two other friends, Maggie and Meg, sat behind us and we settled in for a long ride. Unfortunately, about thirty minutes into the drive, Pumba began to feel sick. We weren’t concerned, she never said it was a nauseas sick – if she had, I would have moved.

As it was, I turned in my seat to talk with Meg and Maggie while she rested quietly, head leaned against the window. I had all but forgotten her when I felt the light tap on my shoulder. I turned to see her sitting erect, eyes wide, one hand covering her mouth, the other pointing to the rear of the bus.

For 11yr old me, it was an almost comical sight. “Ha, what’s wrong, are you…” that’s how far I got before noticing there was something seeping between the fingers of the hand covering her mouth. Then time slowed as I saw she was actively vomiting.

I understood her request too late. As I fell backwards in desperate attempt to get out of her way, the dam broke. Violent jets of vomit threw her hand aside, spraying me as I lay fallen in the center aisle. Large brown chunks covered my torso and legs as I scrambled to roll clear of the chaos. When it was over, teachers rushed to Pumba’s aide, ignoring my primal screams and gags completely.

I ran into the small, smelly restroom to clean myself up. It was no easy task, but I managed to wipe my arms and legs clean. My shirt however, was ruined. I removed the… chunky bits, but the stains and stench remained.

When I came out, a chaperone approached me. “Well, it looks like you got most of it off… I’m sure you can get a t-shirt at the gift shop.” She smiled, lifting her hand as if she were going to pat me on the back, but dropped it awkwardly as she remembered my soiled status. I stared at her blankly until she returned to her seat.

I reluctantly returned to my own upon accepting no better option was available. Thankfully Pumba didn’t get sick again, but I couldn’t help be a little salty over her cleaner shirt. She had a line down the front, but minor drippings compared to the full drenching I received. I stared at my feet until arrival, finding it easier to ignore the looks of disgust as the stench overpowered any fragrance sprayed to combat it.

In my youthful naïveté, I believed they would take us to the gift shop first. You know, so we could buy those promised t-shirts? No. Gift shops were for the end of the tour. It took our first guide’s insistence for a teacher to compromise by going to the gift shop for us. Pumba didn’t bring money, but Teacher bought her a blue museum shirt I would have been pleased with.

With my $20, she purchased a hot pink nightmare with a picture of our state on the front, and list of state facts on the back. It was a size too big and as she handed it to me she said, “I had to cover the tax for you, but I thought you might like to have at least one pink shirt.” I think she expected a thank you, but I was frozen in a state of disbelief.

Instead of reaching for it I asked, “Can I take it back? I hate it so much.”

Obviously she said no. As we walked away to change, I heard the tour guide ask, “Why would you get the boy pink?” I quickened my pace before I could hear any more.

I was forced to change into the shirt, but as I followed Pumba into the girl’s restroom an employee stopped us. “Wait! You can’t go in there! That’s the women’s!”

A teacher had to intervene before I was allowed to enter. For once, other children were the least of my worries. They were terrible, but practically neutralized under public scrutiny. No, the big problem from that point became that special breed of adult who thinks they’re the most charmingly witty souls to ever walk the earth. Every employee who spoke to us and most passing patrons noticed me.

The most popular line was “Hey, it takes a real man to wear pink.” which was almost bearable if not for the playful punches to the arm.

A close second, especially once we made it to the outdoor trails and exhibits, was “I could spot y’all a mile away thanks to this young feller!”

Honorable mentions:

“Well starch my knickers! Never seen a fella love pink s’much!”

“Don’t feel bad, Boy. I had a nephew who was backwards, but he did ok later in life.”

“What’s wrong, Champ? Get dressed in the dark this morning? Looks like you grabbed your sisters shirt don’t it?”

“Scuse me, son. I was just reading your shirt there… sure is pretty.”

When the long day came to an end I was too angry to tell my parents, but I didn’t have to. Apparently my teacher asked Mom to be reimbursed for her tax money. I knew she found out about the shirt by the look on her face. When saw me wearing the monstrosity she yelled, “Is that why she’s wearing that hideous thing?!”

I got really smug. Mom was having an episode and I knew exactly what that teacher was in for. Mom was ushered into a classroom where we could no longer hear what was said, but I knew victory was at hand. The one thing she got really serious about with school was money. Dad wasn’t there to balance her fury, and by time she was done they reimbursed the $20, gave me a school shirt to wear home, and made the teacher keep the pink nightmare.

It was far from a total win. I still didn’t get to buy stuff I actually wanted from the gift shop and my original shirt was in a trashcan, but it ended better than I expected. If anything, finally accepting I couldn’t pull off that haircut no matter how I wore it was the true victory.

For the record, Pumba went on to be our graduating class’ success story. She got fancy enough to have a view of Bryant Park in New York for a time. These days she is settled down and happily married with two beautiful, little poodle dogs. Not literal poodles, but they have that look. The point is, we’re all super proud.

Thank you for reading! Life is going to be busy for a while as we have to travel home for a family gathering tomorrow, and next week I have to clean out a junk closet so Hubby can fix the ceiling. Apparently we had a roof leak that is beginning to grow mold, so. Fun. Aside from finishing my scary story, I hope to start my next classic soon. I’m not sure which to choose yet, but if anyone has suggestions I’m completely open to them. Eventually I would like to do Dracula, but I’m not quite ready to tackle a full length book yet. I think I need to get my domain up and organized before I take on a project that large.

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. This was written by me as a crazed, suicidal teenager. PLEASE DO NOT HATE ME FOR IT. I have nothing but respect for ALL religions and one like this is rare, but my OCD will go insane if I skip one. For full poetry details see Sex, Drugs, & Robbery.

“Breathe Tonight”



Why is this so ridiculous?
Life is so utterly meticulous.
“Oh God, why me?”
Why say “oh God”?
God is nothing but a myth of a fraud.

People ask forgiveness in prayer,
Hoping life will be fair.
Life is a curse not fit living,
Thinking God is a gift that keeps giving.

God is a bedtime story,
To drown the screams in your head roaring.

The human soul, a myth or a role?
A story untold, waiting to unfold?

There is no salvation,
No hope of revelation.
Live each day, hoping not to suffer,
Lay low, and hope you recover.

No one cares,
There’s no one else,
There is no God, save yourself.
humor

All’s Fair in Love & War

A few things before I begin. Regarding my unintentional cat rescue situation, it happened. We’re back at 12. Friday, as I paced, writing, robe securely caped, I looked outside to see an orange cat eating on our porch. I racked my brain for the name of this cat, baffled I couldn’t remember. When I was finally able to face reality, I tried to approach, but no luck. This morning, it was hungry enough to accept food, but I didn’t get a glimpse of gender. Looks like a new game is afoot. Death to all who abandon their pets.

Regarding my name, I have realized ‘Dubbed’ is a poor alias, which led me to the thought, hey, pen name! Long story short, I wanted it to be fun, and what’s more fun for a writer than Page Turner? I know what you’re thinking, why not Paige? Right? It’s because Paige is a common first name, and Turner is a common last name. There’s probably a ton of them, and it makes me wonder how often people don’t believe it the first time they meet. I bet it’s annoying, plus Page is shorter and I’m lazy.

Lastly, as of late, I’ve drifted away from acknowledging my own toxic traits. Instead, other people have been the focal points of my stories, and tonight is no different. To make things squaresies, I’m going to admit something I’m deeply ashamed of but can’t stop. Deep breath. The way I embody the hillbilly cliche is… I eat my steaks rare… with ketchup. When you finish cringing, we can begin.

We’re talking about Giddy Up western store again. More precisely, my final few months employed there. We didn’t have time to discuss the credit system in our last chat, but any employee or ‘playmate’ could take anything without paying. Instead, we wrote a ticket, signed it, and put it in a basket with dozens more. It got out of hand fast, but there was nothing Don could do.

I’m sure you remember Don; older guy, ran his wife’s dead sister’s store into the ground? You see, Donnie boy thought he was being clever. Not only was it cheaper to pay his playmates in merchandise, he thought “they’re paying monthly” sounded believable. Unfortunately, he didn’t consider how it would look when his “charge accounts” became a stack totaling thousands but never actually received payments.

Even worse, he didn’t realize actual employees would want to utilize the same benefits. It’s Psychology 101, of course people want what others have. Our merchandise was marked up 1.65, it added together quickly. Remember, Jane and Sara are our managers, Liz and Phoebe (from Rain Showers) are other workers like myself. That should be all you need beforehand, now let’s get into how this mess played out.

We set the scene on a warm Monday morning when Don introduces his newest pet, Cindy. This one was truly a piece of work. She wore skirts with no underwear, and we saw her noonie often. Why one would feel a need to brag about deep throating skills, I’ll never understand, but I hear ecstasy is a heck of a drug to do regularly. Personally I’ve only tried it a handful of times, but much as I appreciate a good high, it just isn’t my thing. If you can use it responsibly, props.

Normally, his new girls waited a few weeks before taking free clothes, but Cindy was clearly special. “Hey Gurlz! What’s up!” Cindy arrived her second day, late and stoned on a pharmaceutical cocktail.

“Tell me this bitch ain’t come in here wearing pajamas.” Sara muttered.

Exasperated, I glanced up. “Yea, that’s exactly what it is.” I turned away, refusing to acknowledge it further.

“I can’t take another day of this.” Sara began texting Don. I didn’t get my hopes up, knowing even her voice would be ignored in favor of a playmate.

We sat quietly until Don’s reply. “You kidding me?” She cursed under her breath, glaring at the message.

“What?” I was afraid to know.

She turned to Cindy, “Mista Don said go pick an outfit. Shouldn’t be wearing pajamas to work. Act like you got some sense.” Sara shook her head. Adding, “Ugh, white people! Oh… no offense.”

“Nah, that’s fair.” I shrugged.

Cindy clapped gleefully, “Really? Yay! Thank you, I didn’t have any clean clothes this morning.” When she finished playing Fashion Montage, she was decked out in $389.99 (before tax) worth of merchandise.

“It was ballsy to include the ostrich boots.” Liz grumbled, angry Cindy was wearing the boots she wanted but couldn’t afford. “I mean, it’s bull! She’s been here two days! Does Don know she got boots?!”

“I text him when she was trying them on. He said start her a ticket.” Sara answered exasperatedly without looking up from the calculator.

“I don’t see why you all don’t just start a ticket. You guys hide all this stuff in the back until you can afford it, why? Take it home today, pay later. Not like he can tell you no. What’s he gonna do? Admit they are paying him, just not with cash?” I was being sarcastic. I didn’t even look up from whatever phone game held my attention back then.

“…Why don’t we do that, Sara?” Liz asked.

“… Because I hadn’t considered it. I mean… I am going to pay. I ain’t gonna be like all them. But it would be nice to get those new jeans before Friday… I’ll do it if y’all do.” Sara said

“Oh I already know what I’m getting.” Liz agreed. “What are you getting? You gotta find something too.”

“Ew, I don’t want none of this redneck junk.” I replied, enduring the slaps I knew were coming. My distaste for country-life still baffled them, but they enjoyed teasing me about it.

“Hey! If y’all are doing that, I got stuff I need for my sister’s birthday.” Jane shared my preference for Hot Topic, but came from the same hillbilly breed as the rest of us.

“See, even Jane is, you have to find something.” Liz pressed.

“Fine, fine. Actually, if we’re serious, Hubby could really use some new Red Wings…” Go big or go home, as they say.

“This store won’t make it another year the way he going. That new girl just showed up in pajamas on her second day. What happened? She’s going home in over $400 worth of clothes and a day’s pay! I’m serious.” Sara was already filling in her ticket.

Mob mentality is a strange thing. Before I knew it we each had our own tickets, though mine substantially lower. Try as I might, nothing appealed to me. When Don arrived, Sara and Jane casually asked if they too could “charge a few items.”

Don agreed after a slight hesitation, but weeks passed before he understood how far it went. At that point it was too late to complain. He couldn’t figure out how to tell some to pay up when so many with longer, higher debts never made payments. It was then he realized the store, and subsequently his entire lifestyle, could very well be coming to a tragic end.

“We have got to figure out a way to make more money.” He complained on a day when he and I were co-existing peacefully.

“Everything in your store only appeals to one demographic, why don’t you try buying some Pacsun and Hot Topic? Set it up in the clearance room, there’s plenty of space back there. Me and Jane could run it.” Again, it was sarcasm. I pitched the idea every few months since beginning work there, but never was it taken seriously.

“I don’t know, hell. Maybe it’s not such a bad idea.” Don pondered.

“Really? Because I can bring some magazines for you to look at tomorrow…” Jane pounced like a cheetah. I silently cheered her on, stunned.

Hell, don’t we have a bunch of that stuff laying around? We got stacks of dealership magazines somewhere. More of it’s coming in the mail every day, we ought to.” Don grumbled, nodding his head in the general direction he wished us to search.

For once no one complained. We went about the task enthusiastically and were rewarded for our efforts. Whose familiar with BUDK? They sell all kinds of weapons. Swords, knives, blow darts, you name it. Full disclosure right away, I didn’t buy arsenals of battle ready weapons as you will immediately realize when I share the costs. The knives are real, but the swords would take great effort to cut.

“Ooo! Now this is what we need! I’ve never heard of the place, but look at all these weapons! Tasers, mace, samurai swords, they’re… they’re beautiful!” I threw the magazines on the table, saving them for later, and continued my search.

I hadn’t realized Don picked them up until he asked, “Y’all think we should get some mace and tasers? Lots of women might wanna carry one in there purse, look, there are pink ones!” Don held the magazine to Jane.

“Yea, I know I would.” Jane took the magazine, flipping through as Don and others watched over her shoulder. All seemed interested.

I stood back, afraid to break whatever magic spell was creating this miracle. They can’t be serious, I’m not that lucky. Even when Jane took the necessary information to contact the company, I expected nothing. The next day, when they asked my help choosing items for our first order, I threw myself into the task with vigor.

“This is just torture, look at all this stuff I can’t afford! I’ll go broke trying to buy everything we order.” I complained to the girls. Only Sara, Jane, and Phoebe were present. Don and his playmate were on their daily breakfast run.

“You looking at the wrong price. That’s what they want us to charge regular people, we pay the dealer price, look.” Sara pointed to a smaller number. Each item listed a recommended sale price in large, bold print, but underneath, much smaller, were our dealer prices.

“That can’t be. It says $16 for this $80 Ichigo’s Zangetsu… what’s the catch?” My brain couldn’t comprehend such a thing.

“How you think we suppose to make money? They dealer prices.” Sara rolled her eyes and I decided not to push my luck.

An hour later, our order was ready. We started small with mace, tasers, pocket knives, and Zangetsu. The wait seemed forever, but the ship time was only a few days. I was disappointed with its smaller size, but reminding myself of its low cost, a new addiction was born. Upon receiving my $60 at closing, I returned $20 to Don and took my new prize home.

The tasers sold well, and Don asked us to make a new order. Before I knew it, I added an Alien Vs. Predator battle axe with detachable knife for less than $20. I was highly impressed, but when it came time to pay, I couldn’t stop thinking about my measly $175 ticket piled amongst others who owed 10x my current total.

“We have rent due, can I charge this one?” I asked Don after being paid.

He waved me off, knowing he couldn’t say no. Our fancy hunting knives sold like hotcakes, but the more money we made, the more dates Don arranged. None of us complained, we long ago accepted Giddy Up’s fate. The other girls charged boots and Cruel Girl jeans while I expanded my weapons collection.

For our next order, we found truck nuts in all colors and sizes. The ones that lit up were returned by angry customers who were pulled over for their flashing lights, otherwise they sold better than anything in the store. I found a lovely Kit Rae dagger; I’ve never seen the show, but again, pretty and cheap.

Also available in chrome.
Knowing I would purchase more expensive items in the near future, I paid the $12.

Around this time, Don angered Cindy by not having cash when she wanted it. For revenge, she shared their texts with us the next morning. Phoebe, Jane, Sara and I gathered to see the words in print as she read aloud. For your convenience, I will add punctuation and correct spelling, but know the real text was enough to give a Grammar Nazi an aneurysm. These are people who couldn’t distinguish between or/are, won’t/want basics.

Don: Can we meet tonight? I’m having a hard time with the store and family right now. It feels like everything is falling apart, I really need someone to talk to.

Cindy: Poor baby, usual place?

Don: Yea, thanks darlin’. I’m already here, I didn’t know where else to go.

Cindy: Okay, I’m with Baby Daddy, be there in an hour.

Don: Oh. Okay. Well, please hurry, I need somebody so bad right now.

Cindy: Do you have an extra $100 with you? We’re low on diapers and formula, I can tell Rick I’m going to the store or something.

Don: I didn’t bring money, I can’t get more cash without Kay seeing the bank statements. You know I’ll take care of you tomorrow, someone always pays cash. Maybe we can sneak those Montana Silversmith earrings ;).

Cindy: You don’t have ANY money?!

Don: I will tomorrow, you know I’ll make it up to you. We don’t have to do nothing, I just need someone to talk to. All this stuff going on makes me wish I was dead…

Cindy: I’m sorry, the baby has a fever. Rick wants me to stay while he goes shopping. Wanna hang out tomorrow? I can say you need me to work late.

Don: Wow, I see how it is. I actually thought you cared about me, but I guess you only care about my money. Maybe I should just kill myself.

Cindy: Don’t be like that, I got a sick baby. See you tomorrow.

Don: You’re nothing but a liar and con-artist! Just like all the others! Don’t even bother coming in tomorrow.

Cindy: Are you firing me for not coming to see you after hours when I have a sick baby?

We think that’s when Don understood the great power texts hold. He never responded to that message. The next morning, Cindy arrived early for the first time. “Anyway, I just thought you ladies would be interested. I’m afraid I may be coming down with a cold, does anyone mind if I take a sick day?” It was rhetorical, she was already gathering her possessions, knowing she would never return. She blackmailed Don with those texts for a long time, at least as long as the store was open. I doubt he could afford it after.

Don didn’t come to work that week, citing flu as the reason, but we knew better. None of us were brave enough to say anything directly, but the tension when he came around was at a new high. We all grew bolder with our charge tickets in the following weeks. Mine, still drastically lower, never topped $1,000, but some of the other girls came close to $5,000. I bought nunchucks, and tried to learn how to use them via YouTube. Several bruises later they were for display only. I bought a chain whip for no reason other than wanting to say I owned one. Same goes for the crossbow which was cheap and broke a few years ago.

Can’t use either, but we have guns now so it doesn’t matter.

Liz bought a blowgun first, but I got one on the next order, unable to tolerate someone owning a weapon I didn’t. Along with several styles of throwing knives, I found a nifty thing I can only think to call a pocket throwing star. Last but not least, I’m sad report I can’t find my weird chakram. I searched all over Google before I found a picture, but I believe it was labeled as a Soul Calibur rip-off. All of which is moot to me, I just thought it looked neat and it’s genuinely sharp. I have the scar to prove it. Remember the cousin I talked about in Breakfast of Champions? He stabbed me with it on accident. Well… technically it was on purpose, but not with malice… more like a test.

Sorry, I know it’s blurry. It’s literally the only one I could find.

After officially beginning work for Hubby’s aunt (Slushy), I happily resigned. The store was open a few more months before it closed down, but the drama was far from over. Next time we discuss this time period, I’ll tell you about convincing Sara to hire a different cousin who just moved back into town. I was completely unaware she developed a drug addiction, I honestly do feel poorly about what it put the girls through.

Honorable mentions include Urahara’s Benihime, Naruto kunai, Kill Bill samurai swords, and a taser made to look like a Nokia brick-phone. My nephew, who I haven’t had a chance to tell you about, has inherited most of these. He’s 19 now and currently living in another state, but I’ve asked him to send pictures. I figure we have a 20/80 chance he’ll remember, but if he does, I’ll add them later. He is Hubby’s oldest sister’s son, and was 7 when we met. He is my mini-me, my prodigy, and I love the little stinker to hell and back, but holy cow did he have a shit childhood. That’s going to be a longer story I don’t want to write sober, but absolutely worth telling.

I know my last few posts were on the longer side so I wanted to keep this simple. Plus I ran out of internet again and waiting on Hubby’s hotspot makes publishing difficult. I haven’t decided the next topic yet, but I hope to have at least one more Halloween theme before the holiday is over. I appreciate all of you who take the time to indulge my Blogger fantasies, and remember, stay safe out there. Sometimes, they really are out to get you.

UPDATE:

Before I posted this, I confirmed the ketchup thing with Hubby and Bestie before publishing. Yet behold. First comment.
humor

Rain Showers

Matt Snyder of A Prolific Potpourri has narrated this story on his wonderful podcast, Short Story Saturday! I recommend checking him out!

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

Red Ink?

Before I start, do you guys think it’s weird I wear my bathrobe like a cape when I write? It makes me feel sophisticated as I pace. You should give it a try, it’s very empowering. I especially need it for today’s topic. We’re not going anywhere near sophisticated, in fact, we’ll be at the opposite end of the spectrum.

I apologize to the men in advance, but I’m going to talk about my period again. For those who haven’t read my first post, I didn’t know what a period was. It took years to learn, and I still had no access to tampons when I did. I stuffed my undies with toilet paper to compensate for the lack of pads I didn’t know existed. I warn you now, if you’re squeamish, you may want to skip this one.

By Junior year, every girl I knew had their period. I now understood all women bleed for one week every month. It didn’t matter why; only that I accept it and act accordingly, regardless my resentment toward nature. I had limited resources for acquiring tampons, they were a highly desirable commodity. I saved them strictly for school and work. At home, I had high quality TP and a private bathroom, no need to waste one there.

I mastered the art of folding fat wads of TP into a homemade pad. It works best if you secure it in place with a combination pantie pouch, lip squeeze. Everyone have that image in place? Great.

You find some weird stuff googling ‘panty pocket’ but I found this in case my terminology confuses anyone. Huge thanks to whoever made this beauty. Everything else was super pervy.

I would like you to understand these events could not have transpired without grander forces (Karma, that bitch hates me) conspiring against me. As any woman can confirm, we all experience our periods differently, it’s like a conjoined twin you can’t cut off. All you can do is get to know her and learn to coexist. Mine was heavy the first day, got heavier days 2-4, until tapering off 5-7. Days 2-4 were the equivalent to the elevator scene from The Shining, it was foolish to waste a tampon on other days. Most of those required double protection, tampons and TP, to avoid public restrooms.

The book is way better, but doesn’t illustrate my point as beautifully.

A typical Day 1 entailed the usual stuffing of TP. Upon arriving at school, my rounds of tampon begging began. The trick is asking girls who are alone, (nearly impossible in high-school) or you significantly decrease your chances of scoring multiples. On a good day, I could get 3 or 4; on a bad day, I may only get one. Either way, I stayed alert, always waiting for a chance to beg another. Now I can share how I learned the necessity of begging in advance.

“Thelma, do you have a tampon?” I asked when we were alone at our locker. First period was about to begin, and I was already annoyed with sticky, drying blood in my crotch.

Thelma dug through her purse, “Damn, I guess not. Sorry” she shrugged and walked to class. Strike 1. I tried not to be too disappointed, she was my most reliable supplier, but it wasn’t her responsibility.

I tried to stay calm when I hadn’t scored by lunch. I lost count of strikes after the 5th failure, but couldn’t give up. When I saw a senior walk into the bathroom, I was desperate enough to follow. “Hey can I borrow a tampon?” I asked, heart pulsating in my throat. As if the situation weren’t bad enough, now I was speaking to a stranger.

“Sorry, don’t have one.” She replied with barely a glance my way.

After she left, I forced myself into a stall for spot check. It was leaking through my underwear and the day was barely half done. If I didn’t do something, it would be through my pants within the hour, and I didn’t have a jacket to tie around my waist. Gritting my teeth, I changed into fresh TP and returned to lunch. I became so desperate by 5th period, I asked any group I passed in the hall. No one would give me a tampon.

I tried to visit a bathroom after each class, but it was always full. When 7th period began, I knew it was bad, but getting away with it so long made me cocky. I thought if I could make it through the last class, I could drive myself home to clean up properly. I sat at my desk, legs clinched together as if I could stop the blood flow.

Our teacher (a man, of course) left his grade book in the science lab from 6th period. In a class of 15, he chose me to ask, “Could you go get it please?”

Saying no wasn’t an option I considered, but I was afraid to stand while all eyes were on me. Stop being stupid, you do this every time, and every time, you’re fine. You’re going to stand up, visit the bathroom, and insert fresh TP. When you see the blood hasn’t gone through the jeans, you’re going to be fine.

I took a deep breath, stood, walked across the class, and out the door. Walking felt terrible, but I finally had the bathroom in sight, it was finally over. Until I heard “Hey, lady!” somewhere behind me. I turned to see a small 7th grade boy standing there, pointing. “You got something red all over your butt.” He said, scrunching his face as one does when presented with something particularly disgusting.

Without a word I ran the last few steps to the bathroom. Victory had been so close. When I saw the mirror, it was much worse than I feared. My light-colored jeans looked like they belonged to a murder victim. I had no extra layers, nothing to cover my waist. I stood in a stall, staring at my phone, with no clue who to call, what to say, or how to get back to class.

Later, I learned what happened in class while I contemplated how to commit suicide in a school bathroom. Apparently, as I walked out, the class fell into a stunned silence, catching a peep at my soaked pants. Almost simultaneously, someone drew attention to the blood pooled at the bottom of my chair. The teacher, bless his mortified soul, tried to tell them, “It’s red ink. Her pen burst! Everyone shut up!” He was a gay man forced to live in the closet of a small, redneck town. Pms was not his forte, but damnit if he didn’t try his hardest to help.

Thelma asked, “Can I please go tell her, in case she doesn’t realize her… pen… busted?”

“Yes, yes please, you may.” He agreed, grateful the problem was being solved without his physical involvement.

As I sat in a stall, wondering if I had the willpower to drown myself in a toilet, I heard Thelma’s voice call my name. “Are you in here, hello?”

“Yes, holy shit Thelma, please tell me that’s you.” I begged.

“Dude! You got blood everywhere! Mr. M told everyone it was red ink.” She tried to be casual, but she was bouncing off the walls in excitement.

I chose to let myself believe red ink was a plausible excuse, I needed that. “I always knew I liked him. Dude a freaking 7th grader stopped me in the hallway! I don’t have any clothes here, tell me you have pants in your car. I’ll take a dress code violation, I don’t care.” I pleaded, trying to will new clothes into existence before she could crush my last hope.

“Well, no… but I could call your mom! Want me to do that?” She was already pulling out her phone.

“Hell no!” I snatched her phone before she could dial. “You know better than that!”

“Oh yeah… but what else can we do?” She said, taking her phone back.

“What’s your mom doing?” I asked cautiously, fearing the answer. If she was busy, I knew this ended with a very awkward call to my own mother, no matter how horrible.

“Umm, I really don’t know. Hold on, we can check.” She made the call while I held my breath.

“Momma! What are doing?” Thelma clawed my arm, shaking me as if it were her fate at risk.

When she confirmed she wasn’t working I snatched the phone. “Hello Mumsy!” I habitually thrusted my desire for a motherly bond onto friend’s mothers. “Could you pretty please bring an extra pair of pants to us? Thelma can meet you in the hallway.”

“Why do you need pants?” To be fair, I knew the chances of being asked were north of 95% but I had to try.

“She ragged all over her pants and desk, grab the ones in the third drawer.” Thelma yelled before I could think of a more delicate phrasing.

“Oh you poor thing. Hang on I’ll be there in 10.” She was very soothing, wonderful woman. “Give me back to Thelma right quick.”

Thelma took the phone, “Yes, Momma?” Thelma said, smile dropping as Mumsy’s voice perforated her ear drum.

Thelma jumped, pulling the phone away. Mumsy could be heard plainly without assistance from a speaker phone. “What’s wrong with you? Don’t you dare laugh at her! How would you feel if it happened to you, Missy? I expect to see you behaving like a supportive, decent human-being when I get there!”

“Yessum.” Thelma murmured.

“Love you, Mumsy.” I yelled before she hung up.

Mumsy worked fast, she even provided a bag for my ruined pants. I changed while listening to Thelma’s continued lecture. With only a few minutes until the final bell, Thelma returned to class, and I ran for my car. Though Bloody Mary was added to my list of taunts, it unfortunately didn’t replace Speed Bump as my nickname. I didn’t enjoy either, but at least Bloody Mary was a killer. Both actually; the real Bloody Mary and the horror movie Mary. I didn’t yet understand the ingredients for the alcoholic drink were disgusting, so that was another thing in the pro column.

Thankfully, at the time this took place, I was still an inconsiderate fool. Had I understood someone would later be forced to clean my chair, knowing exactly what, and whose, it was…. I don’t even know. All I can say for certain is, it would have been hella dramatic. You’d think this experience would teach me a lesson, convince me to grow up and ask Mom for some damn tampons… but it didn’t. All I did was collect tampons in advance with a new fervor.

To any unpopular kids out there, don’t worry. I know it really doesn’t feel like it, and I promise, I know you’re instinct is to hate me when I say this… but I promise. No matter how bad it seems, once you graduate, those bullies mean less than the poop you scrape from the bottom of your shoe. You only have to survive until then. Whether you believe me or not, in the video game that is Life, you haven’t yet completed the tutorial. The game hasn’t even started yet. Just hang on.

R.I.P Chester Bennington. You pulled so many of us from the dark.
humor

Dixieland Uncensored

I had some wine last night, and Drunk Me prepared this for you. Unfortunately, Drunk Me is incapable of correcting typos, but otherwise, I left this one alone. It will be perfect for our future psychologists.

It’s Drunk Me y’all! I’m posting behind Sober Me’s back so that bitch can’t censor me! If you have any doubts, you can tell it’s really me by my use of the word ‘y’all.’ Sober Me hates that word! She thinks it shows her inner hick, and I’m sure you’ve had time to notice that’s a sensitive issue. Today, I’m here to discuss Dixieland, or more accurately, how I use the word Dixieland. My way involves sex and reconstructive surgery, and whatever you’re guessing, I promise, it’s wrong.

First, who knows what the Dixieland Nationals actually are? I don’t. I grew up hearing the phrase, but never listened long enough to learn what it was. I had to Google Dixieland Nationals to make sure it’s real and not something I made up. I was too lazy to click on any of the links, but it looks like some kind of rodeo. That would certainly fit the theme. The only thing these people love more than NASCAR is a rodeo.

See, it’s a real thing. Told you so.

Why is NASCAR all caps anyway? Is it suppose to be an acronym? At what point does an acronym need it’s own acronym. Is that possible? I guess not; an acronym of an acronym would only be one letter. Maybe there could be 26 acronym acronyms, but I think it would be too confusing. I don’t know why we have to be backwards down to our sports… or why NASCAR is called a sport. It’s like they learned nothing from the metric system mistake. Sorry, tangent. It’s harder to avoid when you’ve been drinking, I’ll come back to NASCAR another day. Right now, I should really get back to explaining Dixieland before I lose the rest of your attention.

This tale starts in December, at Nana’s with Bestie. She was home from college and Crook was working on an oil rig through the holiday. Nana had three sons; Bestie’s dad, Goku’s dad, and Kevin. Kevin lived in a city two hours away with his wife, Medusa, and their son, Jimmy. Kevin also has two stepdaughters who are a goldmine of trashy drama, but I’ll save that honor for Sober Me.

This year, Kevin came to Christmas alone. Medusa and her ilk spent the holiday at home, gloriously far away. The days leading up to Christmas Eve were so dull, there isn’t a single anecdote worth sharing, but that’s ok, we only came for one. Christmas Eve started normally. Bestie, cousins and I still considered ourselves ‘the kids’ and continued our traditional Christmas movie marathon. The adults came and went as they made last minute preparations. Life was good y’all.

That evening, the phone rang. We heard Nana answer, and knew something horrible happened almost immediately. “Kevin! Get in here! It’s Medusa, she’s frantic I can’t understand her. Sounds bad.”

We appeared in time to see Kevin take the phone. We could only hear his side of the conversation, and his reactions were terrifying. We thought the worst when he said, “No! Not that, not my boy! I’m leaving right now, I’ll be there soon.”

*** SPECIAL WARNING ⚠️ TAKE NOTICE ***

Listen up, it’s come to my attention some people need rape trigger warnings. I myself need animal harm warnings, so I take that shit seriously. I have to mention rape now, but don’t worry. It’s totally not what you think, just keep reading. 

Kevin explained while we helped him prepare to leave. “It’s Jimmy, I guess he was with a friend and they went to the mall… I don’t know. I don’t how it happened. He was at the mall, and some guy just… I guess… I guess he jumped him. He… they raped my boy!” He burst into tears, falling to his knees.

We were all traumatized, it definitely put a damper on the festivities. Stuff like that doesn’t happen to people you know. “Call me as soon as you know more.” Nana said to Kevin, following him outside.

“I will. I just… Momma they’re taking him to surgery! Who does something like this?!” Kevin cried.

“A monster. Baby, only a monster does something like that. Pure evil.” Nana patted his back, hugging him hard before he left.

Everyone went inside to wait for the long drive back. It was obvious Medusa wouldn’t bother to update us in the meantime. We lost all interest in our movies, preferring to wait in the kitchen together. There was nothing to do but speculate what happened. We talked through many scenarios, but none seemed to make sense. Jimmy was 16, but he couldn’t drive yet. If he went with friends, where were the friends?

Kevin’s first call came almost three hours later. He still wasn’t sure how it happened, but Jimmy was undergoing surgery to stop ‘massive internal hemorrhaging.’ He also needed reconstructive surgery before he would use the bathroom normally again. The good news was, his life was no longer in danger. Knowing he would live, we returned to our movie marathon to await further developments. The mood was dampened, our small, innocent world felt violated. These things don’t happen to people you know.

The next significant update didn’t come until Christmas Day, just before noon. Kevin and Medusa slept at the hospital, and Jimmy was awake. Obviously, being a sex crime against a minor, the police were anxious to speak with him. They were unable to locate him in any of the mall security tapes. They couldn’t even find proof he went to the mall.

Jimmy’s story fell apart quickly. He didn’t go to the mall. You guys have no idea the things I would do to hear that conversation play out, but sadly we can never know exactly what was said. Kevin was too ashamed to go into much detail, but Nana felt we were old enough to hear what she knew. Allow me to pass that story along.

It seems Jimmy recently became aware he was more attracted to men than women. Great, good for him, but remember where we live? Jimmy was a 400 pound kid who looked like (I’m so sorry, but it’s true) the butt of an incest joke. Even if he were a quarterback who looked like Brad Pitt, his life would be hell if he admitted to being gay in that place (especially over 10 years ago). I understand his secrecy completely, but not how he chose to… experiment. You see, Jimmy had access to Google for his teen years, lucky prick. Unsurprisingly, it made him curious about anal sex. Being a teenage boy, I suppose vegetables never occurred to him, but a screwdriver did.

Ok hold on, I know what you’re thinking and I need to correct you before we continue. Don’t feel bad, I got it wrong too. You think he used the handle end first, don’t you? But he didn’t. I know, I know, but I can’t tell you why. I never got a ‘why’ so you don’t either. Ok, now that you’re picturing the correct end first, we can proceed.

With screwdriver inserted, all he lacked was the desired pumping motion. He just needed to figure out how to simulate it. Personally, I would have removed the screwdriver before standing. Or at least taken my pants off properly. Jimmy was not so cautious, he tripped almost immediately. Gravity is a bitch, and she took him down… backwards.

Never say I’m not loyal to my fans. I googled ‘screwdriver in rectum’ for you because they won’t give me his real X-rays. I admittedly should have thought of a good reason before I asked, but no point crying about it now.

I freaked when I saw this one, but it’s not Jimmy’s. Can you believe this is a thing?!

The X-rays from Google all look fake, I won’t waste your time there. After hearing the truth, we were more confused than ever, but it boiled down to simple facts. Jimmy made a choice of his own free will, he was not attacked. He was a confused teenager going through something, and he got the help he needed. Most importantly, he goes on to make a full recovery. That’s why we can talk about this now.

Nana had the most difficult time recovering from the shock of it all. She spent several hours imagining the worst for her grandson, but she soldiered through for the rest of us. Christmas continued; we opened presents, ate fancy food, and the adults drank. After consuming enough alcohol to lighten the dark moods hovering over us, the first jokes emerged.

“I just don’t understand why anyone would do a thing like that. But if they were gonna… why the hell would he use the business end first?” Uncle B (Bestie’s dad) asked.

“I dunno man, shits crazy. Maybe he couldn’t get the handle to go in… so he turned it around to get started. Just be glad he don’t live here.” Uncle G (Goku’s dad) laughed.

“Shit, ain’t like everybody won’t know anyway. You think them kids ain’t told 50 people each by now? Shit. I can already hear it, gonna be calling that shit a Dixieland.” Uncle B spat.

And that is how the act of shoving a screwdriver in your bum became known as a Dixieland. Kids, please don’t try this at home.

In the end, Jimmy had 3 surgeries, and spent several months pooping in a bag before life began to feel normal again. He’s extremely lucky he is not spending the rest of his life with the poo bag. There are thousands of safe ways to experiment, never do it with pointed objects.

humor

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 a VBS notice.

“Ugh, no! I’m old enough to decide I don’t wanna go!” With one sentence, I went from blissfully happy to deeply offended. He conceded I might be old enough for some choice, and asked if I preferred VBS, or to a summer camp with Joan.

“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. He claimed it was, indeed, a real camp. I would go Monday and come home Saturday morning. Log cabins, bunk beds, swimming – even 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. I was assured Joan would be my bunkmate, yet 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.

Very nonchalantly, Joan’s mom informed me a bus would take slightly over two hours.

“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!

Apparently, the church borrows a school bus to drive the kids each year. It’s easier than trying to find enough parents!

Right, sure. And why is the church driving us to camp, you ask? You guys will never guess the answer! Because it’s their camp! And now, everyone was looking at me like I’m the one being 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

MVP

Like Google, my life would have been so different with this.

Has anyone seen the talking buttons people are using to train dogs? I saw some people on YouTube use them with their cats! I must have them! I’m a little concerned this may be what pushes their critical thinking skills over the tipping point in evolution, and ultimately results in their becoming the master race… but I don’t know. Now that I say it out loud, I kinda want some even more. This has nothing to do with my topic, I just really, really want to feel like my cats are talking to me.

I’ve been thinking about Past Me again. It’s getting to be a dangerous hobby, but I thought it be nice to check masochism off my bucket-list. I wonder if there’s a world record for most diagnosed mental illnesses. If so, I have to be close… though, this does loop us back to the psychologist problem. Crazy how that keeps popping up. At least I know I’ll get hypochondriac off the bat, that’s a given.

We binged Superman and Lois (so freaking good) all week, and the season finale did the cliche motivational ‘determination conquers all’ speeches. The universal commonality shared by all genres, the ultimate mind-fuck for a dumbass raised by tv. “Remember, no matter how hopeless the situation, you can win with enough determination.” If anyone out there is twisted as I am and enjoy others’ embarrassments to lessen their own, then do I have a treat for you.

Omfg guys, there’s an awesome word for it! I’m dying right now!

It took a while to accept determination would not guarantee victory under any circumstance. Sure, they weren’t all preceded by speeches of the motivational variety, but they include me opening my fat mouth when I shouldn’t because tv taught me the underdog always wins. I wish I could have heard how backwards that sounds when I was 9. The first two times weren’t far apart, both happened in 4th grade. To complete the picture in your head, make sure you picture the unkempt girl with mismatched clothes and a boy’s bowl haircut.

Our school had a different “activity” each day of the week. In PE, we played flag football, but keep in mind, there are only 15-20 kids in the class. It goes without saying I was picked last in everything, my team always lost. One day, probably after watching Little Giants, the score was tied, and only a few minutes remained. The other team had the ball, but if we could get it back, I might be on the winning team once. Maybe I could be promoted to second to last… or third… no, don’t get cocky. One step at a time.

“Who cares? I’m hungry, let’s just get this over with.” Team Captain said in the huddle. After setting my hopes on such a vivid daydream, I found this to be disappointing.

We’ll lose for sure… unless… (insert fantasy of the most rousing locker room speech in history). “Wait! All…” Oh crap, I’m really saying it! “…we have to do is get their flag one more time, then we could really win!. We can do this! If we work together, I know we ca ca can ca.” Their faces were not encouraging, but realizing the other team could also hear me allowed my anxiety to overcome the fantasy induced auto-pilot. Once my stutter kicked in, my eye-twitch started, and the resulting laughter was enough to effectively clamp my mouth shut.

“Nobody cares! Whatever team you’re on is the team that loses.” Team Captain taunted.

My lesson learned, I kept my mouth shut and head down. That’s what I wish I could say, but it wouldn’t be worth talking about if I were that intelligent. No, I showed my ass and made it worse.

Dont panic, this happens sometimes. All you have to do is get that flag. Then they’ll see. “Oh yea?! Well, ju just you wa wait.” I shrieked over a new burst of laughter.

When I said that, I said it with full knowledge the other team’s quarterback was the fastest kid in class. So fast, our Freshman year, he would be a starting player on the high-school football team. I’m told it’s a big deal, I don’t actually know how to play football, but I know you have to hit whoever has the ball.

You won’t be surprised to hear Mr. QB decided to run the ball himself. I was the only kid to chase him. His teammates opened a path for me, and sat back to enjoy the show. If he had ran fast, straight for the touchdown, I would have given up when the gap grew too large. As it was, he ran just the right speed to keep the distance tantalizing enough for me to believe I had a chance. Not that I understood that, I believed I was extremely fast and about to give him the surprise of his life. My fingertips grazed a flag, and he dodged just out of reach. I chased him across the gym floor, believing one last push would get me the victory I craved. I wanted to see the look on all their faces when I held that flag up high. As he approached the finish line, I desperately lunged forward with both feet, flying through through the air, and across the finish line behind him. Everyone was already laughing before I face-planted, but my fall gave way to a fresh roar with increased volume.

The next incident was a few months later, in daycare during handball. We played in the cafeteria when it rained, and a since it doesn’t require much skill or muscle mass to hit a ball made from tape with your hand, I wasn’t terrible. I felt more confident in daycare, I was far from last picked. There was only one group of older kids, and if I stayed out of their way, they didn’t bother me. Normally, I gloated silently as I dreamed of the day I would be the oldest, and therefore, a Captain, but something must have gotten into me that day. Instead of keeping my head down and taking no chances, I tried to participate in the game. The longer I played without making a mistake, the more I dropped my guard. The game was almost over when I blew it.

One of the younger kids on our team struck out. The pitcher taunted him, “Wanna try again? You’ll never hit it, so I don’t mind watching you try for a while.” He won a round of laughter.

My smartass-reflex triggered. “Be careful, the way you swing you’re liable to slap yourself in the face.”

If given a choice, I would have been too chicken to say it. But once it was out there, well, everyone laughed. At my joke, not just at me. It was intoxicating. Never-mind it was at another’s expense, my primitive mind could only handle so many revelations at once, and a big kid was laughing at my joke. The point is, I was drunk on their laughter, and wanted more. Oh! That might have been the first definitive sign of my predisposition for addiction! Anyway, the kid wouldn’t try again and it was our third out. As we switched sides I couldn’t help myself, “alright, let’s hurry up and get three quick ones so we don’t lose because of Loser over there.”

It was the last inning, all I had to do was lay low while we maintained a one-run lead. But I didn’t. No, when we had 2 outs with kids on first and second, the batter hit a line drive straight to me. Did I catch the stupid piece of balled-up tape and win the game? Ha! No. Did I pick the ball up, and throw it to the third baseman for the final, game-winning out? Nope. I stared into space as the ball bounced off my chest and fell to the floor. I picked it up, and saw kids running everywhere. I had no clue where to throw it. I watched every kid run around the bases while three different teammates screamed for the ball. We lost. Because of me. Karma justly served.

“If you don’t know what to do, throw the ball to the pitcher, dumbass.” is permanently seared into my memory. The 6th grader screaming at me was extremely fat, I couldn’t look away from her flapping jowls as she shook her head with each word.

I was already so upset with myself, I didn’t have time to stop my mouth from saying, “Does it feel funny to talk with those jiggling all the time?” (I genuinely wanted to know, I wasn’t trying to insult her.) My hand also turned traitor, clearly pointing to her triple chin to eliminate any confusion toward my meaning. My mistake was immediately apparent, but I also felt my second laughter high. Granted, that one was shorter lived. It stopped when the girl tried to attack, but teachers intervened before she could catch me. I suffered the usual old taunts anew for a few weeks until she felt satisfied with her vengeance, but it was worth it. It made most forget my handball blunder.

I’m not sure if it falls exactly into this category, but it reminded me of an incident from the only year I played league softball. If you read the 14 Year Old Virgin, you may remember the softball fields where everyone went to socialize. I was 11, and the bleachers were packed, we were the oldest group playing.

Somehow, I made it to first base. That had never happened before. My routine for the two innings Coach was legally required to let me play was hit the ball, and run as fast as I can to first. As I walked back to the base, I looked at Coach to learn the ball was caught, and returned to the dugout. This time, no one caught it, I had to stay on first while the next person batted. I couldn’t watch what happened to the ball or I ran diagonally. I focused every ounce of my attention on making it to second, forcing the distracting fantasy of scoring out of my mind. One step at a time.

The familiar crack of ball on bat sounded like a starting gun and I was off. I never ran faster, my feet slapped the bag at full speed, with a satisfying feel. As per routine, I looked to Coach on my walk back to base, but this time a girl stood in my way. She was coming at me. I didn’t have time to look around, I tried to ask, “what are you…” but she lunged at me! I dodged backwards, stealing a glance at Coach, wondering why someone wasn’t stopping this crazy chick, but they were laughing! I was furious. Here we were trying to play a serious game, but they were going to let this happen?! Unbelievable!

I dodged backwards 3-4 times before I tripped over my feet and she tagged me. “Fine!” She got me, good for her, maybe we can get on with the game now.

I tried to get back on base, but the referee guy started screaming, “You’re out!” all dramatic like with the handle signals and everything. I couldn’t believe he was going along with this charade too.

I tried to explain to the man, “my foot touched the base way before she had the ball in her hand.” I was beginning to worry they might think she had the ball sooner than she did. That was the farthest I had ever gotten, I wouldn’t be cheated out of it.

But I guess technically I was out. Coach had to come explain, “first base is a special exception. You can run past first, go back, and be safe, but any other time, you have to stop on the base. You got that?” He was giving me the Look and the Tone. I’m sure you know the Tone, it’s universal when used with the Look. The ‘am I talking slow enough?’, or ‘got it, dumbass?” Tone. The laughter was deafening. Thankfully there was no YouTube, but the number of home videos out there is terrifying. I should look into changing my name, maybe in a Covid world I could do it without leaving my house.

Softball successfully turned me off sports until Sophomore year. To my dismay, I sucked at sciences. We had a very easy school, I was on honor roll for 7-12 without ever taking home a single book. I’m actually really proud of the scams I worked out, but it will have to be its own story one day. It gets to be a long list if you go into every different tactic, which the god complex side of me kinda wants to do… sorry. Anyway, moving on.

Sophomore year I was forced to take Anatomy & Physiology. It was extremely disappointing to learn that’s what A&P stood for all those years. The class came along with the first teacher to ever be too strict to cheat. Try as I may, I couldn’t find a way around her system. The only kids getting any breaks were the few on her tennis team. Thelma and another friend of ours I’ll have to introduce later also joined, but to everyone’s surprise, I was good at it. Believe me, no one was more shocked than this bitch right here. Something about tennis just clicked for me.

Tennis became a huge part of my life, but all that matters right now is my first tournament. We were down a player, and the #2 singles spot was mine. I’m going to continue to shock you for another moment. I won my first match. I won it by so much, the other girl cried! Coach came to the fence, “I’m so proud of you!”

“I know! Can you believe it?! She’s full on blubbering!” I was literally bouncing with excitement.

“Well… yea I guess I am kinda proud you made her cry,” Coach chuckled, “but I’m more proud of how considerate you were to call a break and take her some water so she can calm down a little.”

“Oh! Yea, that’s why I did it! Good looking out.” I winked.

“Why.. why else would you?”

“Well, it certainly wasn’t to get a closer look. Alright, has it been long enough?”

I finished my first match 6-0, 6-2. We had an hour break before the next match began. During that time I lived up to my snobby bitch reputation admirably. “I was worried last night, but if those are the kind of players I have to beat, I’m going home with a trophy!”

You probably already know that isn’t how tournaments work, but please do keep in mind I was a sheltered fool from a tiny private school. Hell, by the worlds standards, a poor private school. I still struggle to tell the difference between wealthy, rich, and the 1%. If you live in a home that didn’t come with wheels, to me, you’re rich. The end.

The school my next opponent was from had a professional tennis player for a coach and they began learning tennis in elementary. Well, that’s what they claimed. My theory is steroids. That chick hit like-a-man! Her serve looked like an MLB pitch! I stood completely still as the first ball wizzed by. I never moved a muscle. It took a full 10 seconds to register what happened. I finally switched sides and backed up when I saw her make ready for the next serve. The same thing happened. A green blur passed by, my arm twitched as if it were going to swing, but chickened out. I switched sides and stood far behind the court. The girl threw the ball high for another ace, then barely tapped it over the net. I couldn’t run fast enough. She had me 0-3 (in school, they did 1-4 to keep score, it’s easier for people who don’t know the real way) in the first game.

I looked at games around me to copy where others stood to receive their serve. I finally returned the ball. She smashed a volley at me, (my specialty, if you hit your opponent, it’s your point) I only had time to hold the racket up. When the ball hit, I heard the strangest popping sound. The ball didn’t work like it should have, it lost all momentum, barely managing to bounce off the net and roll to her side. I scored one point. First of 3 I would receive throughout the match. The strange popping sound was my string breaking. We had to stop while my racket was re-strung, I cannot stress enough, this tiny, tiny girl, was a beast.

I should have seen enough to understand it was beyond my capabilities to beat her. It was my first year playing, I made it much farther than anyone else. That in itself was enough to be proud of. But no. The break gave me long enough to think about all those underdog victories. I sat amongst my peers and Coach ranting, “I can come back from this! She’ll underestimate me now and I can use that! I want it more than she does, that’s what really counts. People come back from worse all the time. I’m going to make her work for every single point and she’s gonna cry just like the last one!” What the hell is wrong with me?

The first game, I was pumped. It was my turn to serve, it was my weakest point, but I didn’t care how pathetic my lobs looked after her all-star aces; I was going to win. How many times have I seen someone save the world with sheer determination? I knew I had the exact feeling Naruto and Sasuke had when they freed Kakashi from Zabuza’s water prison, I had to beat her. They were totally the same thing.

And if you don’t know Naruto references, this is how things end for Zabuza (the one with all the dog bites).

I had a fleeting moment of, ‘holy shit it’s really happeningwhen I scored an amazing point on my first serve. I returned the ball 3-4 times before she hit it out-of-bounds. Then it was over, she pulverized me quickly and efficiently with only one further out-of-bounds error. When I lost the first match 0-6, we took the customary 10 minute break before she finished me off.

During the break I sat quietly, hoping all forgot the long, conceited speech I made 20 minutes earlier. Fooled you again! No, I totally made it worse. “Well it’s just so hard to focus when she has an entire crowd cheering her name and I’m the bad guy wrestler getting booed off stage.”

I said it as an excuse for my poor performance. I couldn’t think of anything else, and it spilled out of me before I could apply any filters. It wasn’t taken that way. It was taken more as, “wah wah, poor me, boo hoo, no one is cheering for me, I want cheerleaders.”

For the duration of the second match, Coach stood alone and cheered my name through all six games. She never stopped, not even when the two girls willing to stand with her abandoned ship. I found it touching, on one level it meant a lot to me. She is a very special person and I hope the years have been kind to her. On another level, it was incredibly awkward, I was getting creamed the whole time. I kept thinking her voice is going to be hoarse, she needs to chill. But that would be an incredibly rude, ungrateful thing to say. I was also upset about how awkward the thank you would be. I assumed that kind of thing surely required a thank you, but how painful would it be to say? ‘Thanks for cheering me on while I got my ass handed to me!’

You know what, I’m not saying I ever would do it, but the super villains that want to destroy the universe and all existence… I mean, I understand why. I accept it would be wrong to do so because it would involve making life-changing decisions for others, but I see their point. It’s important to honor basic moral principles, otherwise one tends to implore emotionally flawed decision making skills. But in a hypothetical scenario where everyone else was cool with it, I wouldn’t argue.