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.
* 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.
Of course I peed my pants, everyone my age pees their pants; it’s the coolest! You ain’t cool unless you pee your pants.
After enjoying the Fear Street trilogy and writing half a scary story, I realized I should go back to basics. I lured you all here under the pretense of crazy and comedy, not horror. Plus, I eat ketchup on steak without shame now because I know I’m not alone. Let’s see what else we can dig up, shall we? Today, I want to share another ridiculous embarrassment that only happened because of my stubbornness.
Reminder: I know some of you tend to feel guilty for laughing at these, but don’t. I’m 33 now and I’ve been laughing at them for years. Yes, it sucked at the time, but you know what? I’d do it all again. It gave me stories that make people laugh, and they honestly are funny. If we saw it on tv, we would all laugh. But most importantly: this kinda stuff happens to teens every day. There are people living their own versions of this who have no clue it won’t matter in a few years. In the thick of it, you can’t fathom a day when your life isn’t ruined. If even one person going through that reads these and it actually helps them get through it - yea, bring it on. I’ll do these all day, I got a million more, just hold tight.
Before I begin, I’ve always had a sort of dream I would like other opinions on. I love classic stories. Poe, Lovecraft, Shakespeare, and so many more, but I hate the old timey speech. What if, someone were to rewrite those classics in modern language? I don’t mean a reboot where some schmuck tries to modernize the story and ruin it, those people should be shot. I want to rewrite them exactly as they are, merely translated to our language. Has anyone else done this? I would love to try it, but no one else has ever shown interest to the notion. Anyway, on to the show.
Let’s talk about a Senior field trip to a museum. A few things to keep in mind:
Only the history class and teacher (Mr. Moore) went.
It was the last class of the day. We each drove ourselves to the museum.
I was dating the high-school sweetheart. He isn’t in this story, but he is relevant as to how I found myself in the following situation.
I was already working at the restaurant from my Queen of the Walk series.
The day of the field trip was hell. I woke to my alarm with a desperate need to pee, almost painful. I emptied my bladder and dressed for school as usual, but as I applied make-up the urge to pee returned with vengeance. I knew something was wrong immediately. I have a boss ass bladder. I trained it to only need attention 2-3 times a day in my plight to avoid public restrooms. Sitting to do my business, I felt a burning sensation as a trickle of urine exited my body.
Terrified, I feared the worst. Was it an STD? Had to be, right? I shudder to think of my reaction had Google not been there to save me. Even back then WebMD identified it as cancer, but admitted an Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) was also a likely culprit. Knowledge is power. I learned it was a common issue which normally resolved itself in a matter of days.
Unfortunately, it listed “frequent intercourse” as the common cause. Normally, I would say “that’s the reason I didn’t tell my parents,” but I’ve never lied to you guys and won’t start now. I wouldn’t have told them regardless the problem or cause. I tried to psych myself up, mentally defeat the UTI, but clearly science doesn’t give a damn about my mental resilience. Telling myself ‘it just feels like you have to pee, but you don’t’ didn’t make it true.
If you’ve never experienced one first hand, I’m not sure how to describe the intensity. Have you ever had a lot to drink before going to bed? Has it woken you in the middle of the night because your bladder was about to explode? If you’re like me, maybe you’re too lazy to get up. Maybe you ignore it successfully and fall asleep, but what did it feel like next time you woke up? Add an extreme burning sensation as if someone heated your urine to the boiling point and you have a decent idea.
After each class – and a few times during – I was forced to use public restrooms. As if I could afford to lose more pieces of my soul. The longer I held it, the more I had and hotter it burned. To make matters worse, I was expected at work after school. Perhaps my years of (almost always) successfully hiding my period made me cocky, but I thought I could pull it off. At least I can say I gave it the old college try.
I kept my problem secret from everyone, including Thelma. Any bathroom related issues in high-school were basically social suicide, and I was already dead in the water far as that went. Needless to say, my mood was poor; but as we drove to the museum, I felt good about making it through the school day. The hard part was over and I believed the rest would be downhill. It’s amazing how stupid we are as children. The urge to pee was prominent when I got in the car, but I was too lazy and sick of the school’s disgusting toilets to go back. I should have gone to the bathroom upon arrival, but again, Past Me was a stubborn dumbass.
As we gathered at the entrance, I saw we had been duped. I love museums and was pleasantly surprised to learn we had one…. but I would describe that place as ‘a large house filled with town history.’ I decided it’s only going to take a few minutes to walk through this place. I can wait until work, it’s just down the street.
I held my bladder as Mr. Moore gave the usual field trip speech, “Be respectful, and don’t touch anything.” He waited until after we were inside and he was blocking the exit to add, “Since we all drove ourselves, this is not technically a field trip. You can go straight home when you leave, but I would like you all to look around first.” He was extremely passionate about history, but his love for our town’s history bordered on unhealthy obsession.
Yes, our town has a lot of interesting parts to it, but I lost all respect for the man after our lessons about slavery. For any fellow John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight fans, you may have seen S07E20, US History about Southern private schools’ archaic history lessons. That was Mr. Moore. He told us things I fear to repeat and he believed them, but the scary part was how many students eagerly adopted his conviction. Alas, I’ll save those for another day. I’ve been working hard to avoid tangents and don’t want to backslide now.
Thelma and I walked through fairly quickly. I did see a few interesting things I would normally have enjoyed, but it was hard to focus when it felt like my bladder was coordinating an armed rebellion against me. As we made it to the final display on the second floor, a new level of urgency struck. I knew beyond any shadow of doubt I could not hold it any longer. All fear of public restrooms vanished as I raced to locate a toilet.
Suddenly, the museum didn’t seem small anymore. After a complete run-through, I failed to find restrooms. I imagined fleeing to my car, preferring to wet my pants privately, but then I saw it. Tucked into a small hallway a beautiful, skirted stick woman’s open arms and expressionless face beckoned me. I ran into her loving embrace and plowed straight through it, into an actual woman who was trying to exit. She cursed and I apologized without stopping.
Somehow, I was lucky enough for the bathroom to be otherwise empty. Had the woman I bumped into been a few seconds slower, this story may have progressed much worse. So desperate was my situation, I couldn’t yet breathe easy. As I ran the last few steps into the closest stall, I began… leaking. I clinched with all my strength, not a drop should have been able to squeeze through. My thoughts as I stood in the stall, next to a clean, functional toilet with piss slowly running down my legs, are impossible to translate.
I’ve never performed well under pressure, not physically. My brain will offer solutions, but even the best ideas are useless if you don’t possess the capacity to execute said solution. I knew I needed to undo my pants and get my ass over that toilet, but my fingers didn’t work. I wasn’t wearing traditional button up jeans, I wore capris pants with a tie-string. I was often pantsed (you know, when they yank your pants down) at school and always utilized every tool at my disposal to prevent such actions. In my haste, I pulled the wrong string, creating a tight knot I couldn’t undo even if I weren’t actively peeing my pants.
I was further distressed to discover it was not the short trickle I’d experienced when returning to the bathroom every hour; it was the full stream of a drunk girl on her second bottle of wine. Adrenaline surged through me as I pulled at my pants and wiggled my hips. I was rewarded with slow yet steady progress. I watched the urine puddle grow and spread into neighboring stalls with despair. I expected someone (most likely a classmate) to walk in any moment, but they didn’t.
No more than 60 seconds could have passed between the time I entered the stall and finished soaking the floor, yet I feel like I experienced hours worth of thoughts. I’m not sure why I didn’t sit on the toilet with my pants up. It’s not that I didn’t think about it, I considered it almost immediately. I even realized it would make a huge difference in the clean up if someone entered.
Each time I imagined the door opening, my stomach lurched and I thought I would puke. When the stream finally ran dry, I let go of my pants in favor of toilet paper. I ignored my pants as they finally fell to the floor, instead concentrating on dropping as much TP as possible. I know “life-threatening situation” sounds dramatic for a pants wetting, but I was 17, a Senior, and finally at a point where boys didn’t spit on me everyday. The prospect of everyone learning I wet my pants on a field trip (while Billy Madison was insanely popular) felt that way in the moment.
I wanted to clean my mess. I struggle for a word stronger than shame; the emotion I felt was so much deeper. My legs and pants were soaked. The puddle spread through my stall, two others, and the open floor. My mind raced for a solution, but there was so little time. I would be lying if I said the grossness didn’t play a part in my decision, but I truly feared I would be discovered any second. I wore a thin, long sleeve shirt over a skimpy tank top. The kind I would normally never wear in public but technically covered the important bits.
I had no choice. I secured my pants once more, removed my shirt, and tied it around my waist. With my head down, I speed walked out the door. I made it to my car without seeing anyone, but wasn’t out of the woods yet. I didn’t know if anyone saw me exit the bathroom which led to hours of paranoid daydreams and a fresh surge of panic with each new text. I also needed new pants if I didn’t want to explain why I was ditching work last minute.
My trunk was basically a suitcase and I hoped to get lucky. I was willing to wear pajamas if it was all I had. I lucked out with slightly stained but acceptable jeans and threw the wet pants into the dumpster at work. I used the horrible bathroom every 20 minutes, terrified of a repeat occurrence, but survived the shift.
That night, I called Thelma. I wanted to think of a way to ask “So, anybody happen to notice pee all over the bathroom floor at the museum?” But Thelma beat me to it.
“Dude! I forgot to tell you! The funniest shit happened after you left the museum! Some lady’s 3 year old pissed all over the bathroom floor.” Thelma paused, laughing hysterically. My heart lifted, but I was too afraid to hope.
I held my breath until I could wait no longer. “No way, you’re screwing with me right? What happened?” I forced a laugh, trying to hide my anxiety.
After a few deep breaths she was able to continue. I feel bad about this now, but admit I was extremely proud and laughed with Thelma when it happened. #Honesty. So, here’s what happened:
The manager walked into the bathroom minutes after I left but never saw me. What she did see, was a mother kneeling in front of her small child.
Manager promptly exited the bathroom, intent to confront Mother. “Excuse me! Ma’am? You cannot do that! You’re going to have to clean that up!”
Mother, taking a few steps back, is confused at first. “I’m… sorry? Um, I think you have the wrong person.” Thelma mistook the lady’s genuine confusion for ‘complete guilt’ and mistook my resulting laughter as genuine instead of guilt.
“No ma’am, I saw you come out of here. I understand children have accidents, but you need to be the one to clean it up.” Manager lowered her tone, aware she was attracting attention.
“Lady, we didn’t go in there, we just stopped so I could fix her backpack.” Mother now had the child’s hand, backing away from the crazy woman.
“Look, I’m sorry I spoke loudly, I was just… surprised. It’s really not a big deal. I’ll get you a mop, there’s one right down the hall.” Manager changed tactics, but to no avail.
Mother looked to the crowd around her with a facial expression begging doyou people see this?! But found no support. As Manager walked away, she called after her, “I don’t know if someone has crapped or puked – because we didn’t go in there – but I’m not mopping up someone else’s mess in someone else’s house. Maybe you should hire a janitor if you aren’t capable of cleaning your restrooms.” With that, she scooped up her child and left.
Manager walked to the front windows, watching her until she was out of sight. With a sad, slow shake of her head, she addressed the crowd. “I walked in there right as they came out. And she knows that, but she wants to stand there lying to my face rather than admit her daughter peed all over the floor.”
All agreed with her regarding the sad state the world had become. Anyway, the UTI cleared up within a few days, but the first was unquestionably the worst.
A bonus tidbit you may find amusing: a few years later, Thelma got an UTI and peed all over a dressing room floor at an outlet mall. The only difference is she got caught. She told an employee she couldn’t clean it up, apologized, and never returned.
I just realized this the third story involving a bathroom incident and I’m not even halfway through them. Oh well, this is probably enough for today. Thank you for your indulgence, and I sincerely hope you laughed.
I still haven’t been able to get a photo of Heathcliff, but he received pets this morning! He ran to me for breakfast and rubbed between my legs like a pro so I went with it. In lieu of his photo, I will pay the cat tax another way.
Remember, stay safe out there. Sometimes, they really are out to get you.
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.”
“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?
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.
If American Horror Story connects the seasons, is it still an anthology? Lately, I’ve had a hard time deciding what to talk about. I feel like writing Halloween stuff, but didn’t want to overload you with ghost stories. For my style, that pretty much leaves something embarrassing or scandalous so I thought hey, let’s do both.
I’ve told you about the western store I worked at and mentioned a pervy boss, he played a role in The Incest Cliche. The 2+ years I worked there are a rich tapestry of Dixie Drama at its finest, but today we will focus on the owner.
The only background you need is, Crook was fed up with my being jobless. I had to adult long enough to venture into the world for work. Applying online was a luxury for few, I had no clue where to begin. During a morning smoke with my neighbor, I explained the dilemma, hoping she could recommend how to proceed.
“Actually, I heard that little western store, the one across from the mall, was hiring. Do you know it? I think it’s called Giddy Up.” She said.
“If it’s not a restaurant or open past dark, I’m in.” With the world experience of a 19 year old, I clearly knew what I wanted from life.
I drove to town, found the store, and cursed my nervous pit stains as I walked in, arms tightly clinched. Approaching the counter, I saw a portly, older gentleman who suspiciously resembled Trump without the bleached wig and spray tan. Let’s call him Don, he was the owner. Don sat at a table with two women, both appearing close to my own age. Full disclosure, I can’t judge age. At all. If I ever guess, please understand I’m probably wrong. In this case, Sara and Jane were 10+ years my senior.
Sara was the manager, and Jane read magazines until closing when she did money stuff. Before we dive too deep, please understand, I have nothing but respect for my coworkers. They were mostly good people making the best of bad situations. Finding a good job in a small town is hard, we do what we must to feed our family. That being said, Don was a disgusting pig and deserved everything he got.
“Can we help ya?” Don asked with a head nod to Sara.
“Hi, my neighbor said you all were hiring, I wanted to fill out an application.” No stutter, it was a miracle. I directed my question to Sara as she approached the counter. She looked to Don for guidance.
“Nawp, I dunno where they heard that, but I can barely afford these two.” Don answered, waving his hand between the women with his best good-ole-boy accent. “You can leave your name and number if you like. We’ll give you a call if anything comes up.”
Sara passed a pen and sticky pad across the counter. Knowing this interaction was the southern way of saying ‘we don’t know you so we’re giving you the brush off’ I wrote my information with a smile and left quickly. Technically, I applied for a job. After sending Crook a highly exaggerated text about my fantastic interview, I drove home to recover. Tv told me it can take weeks, possibly months, before one is actually hired. Imagine my surprise when the very next day, not an hour after Crook returned home, my phone rang. In ye olden days, it was common practice to answer a number you weren’t familiar with. I knew I was doomed the moment I answered.
“Hi, this is Jane from Giddy Up.” After routine pleasantries, she got to business. “We hoped you could start tomorrow, we open 9-6 Monday through Saturday. Could you be here by 8:30?”
Crook was grinning like the Joker. I clearly had no choice. But tomorrow?! “Oh, absolutely… thank you so much. I’ll see you tomorrow.” I answered with my best fake, happy voice.
One of my OCD traits forces me to arrive a minimum 30 minutes early. Sara was the first to show at promptly 8:30, and wasted no time approaching me. “We don’t open til 9, sorry.” She pointed to the store hours, clearly posted on the door, and walked away.
“Right, I’m the new girl, they told me to be here at 8:30.” I called after her, awkwardly trailing behind.
She paused in the middle of unlocking the door, looking me over closely. “They did? You sure?” She sounded confused, but I often misunderstood sarcasm.
She must be joking… “Haha… yes. I am sure.” I smiled, hoping it appeared genuine.
Spoiler Alert: she wasn’t joking, I was hired by accident. They genuinely didn’t like the look of me, but Don loved the pretty, single mom who brought her baby to apply shortly after myself. They considered her hired, but Jane mixed up our information. Several months later, after learning I wasn’t purposely offensive, they admitted the truth.
Don arrived shortly before 9, searching for his new eye candy. When he found me in her place, he was puzzled to say the least. “Uh. Morning. Ladies…” Before he could say anything untoward, Sara came to the rescue.
“Mista Don, this the new girl… member? You told Jane to start her today. She was earlier than me, we off to a good start. Ima finish showing her around.” With that, Sara led me on the grand tour. Without realizing it, her words translated into ‘I know she’s not the one you wanted, but I’m sick of opening alone.’
I would soon learn Don only hired women. Two kinds were employed; the Workers ran the store, helping customers, loading feed, etc. The others were… I’m sorry, there isn’t a delicate way to say they were his whores. Sara pegged me for a worker. I knew I had to work harder than others to compensate for my personality quirks, but had I been aware of the Worker or… Non-Worker… situation, I would have arrived at 8 to reorganize the outdoor plants.
You guys know how it is when a new person starts work, you can’t trust them. Everyone is on their best behavior, you won’t truly meet them until they drop their guard. Same sentiment from the new person’s POV, you’re surrounded by strangers, you have no idea who they really are. It’s like navigating a field of landmines, one wrong step and you’re dead.
I made several wrong steps, but Sara was desperate for a third Worker. Jane didn’t wait on customers, and only worked the register if the rest of us weren’t available. The third, Stephanie, also worked at a grocery store; she could only work a few hours before closing. It was she who first trusted me to explain how Don came to own the store. Or she just couldn’t resist good gossip any longer.
“Believe it or not, this store use to stay busy. There was no sitting around the table gossiping all day, no ma’am. Carey would roll over in her grave if she could see it now. She started this place from scratch, almost lost it a few times too, but she treated everyone like family. People were loyal because they knew she would take care of them if they fell on hard times.” Stephanie stacked boot boxes by size as we unpacked the new shipment. Her smile faded as she continued, “We couldn’t believe it when she passed. She was always a little sickly, but we had no idea how bad it really was. Even her sister, (Kay) Don’s wife, didn’t know. She passed two days after they admitted her to the hospital, she was 57.”
I have deep respect for the dead and grieving, but I’ve never mastered properly expressing those sentiments. I memorized several condolences, but always mess up the delivery. “I’m sorry to hear that.” I was careful not to look away from my task.
Stephanie continued, more concerned with telling the story than my response. “Now Don is running the store straight into the ground. He thinks we’re too stupid to notice his little cash bucket under the register. Thinks we don’t know what those girls really get paid for.” She nodded to the companion giving Don his after-lunch neck massage.
I decided to take advantage of her chatty mood. “I’ve been wondering why Kay stays with him. Why doesn’t she just take the store away?”
“That poor woman is clueless, but she’s one of the sweetest people you’ll ever meet. No one has the heart to tell her the truth. She’s never been with another man, I doubt she would know how to leave even if she wanted to.” Stephanie shook her head sadly, and sighed before continuing, “Besides, he’s only had the money and freedom to do it for a few years, I doubt anyone would touch that nasty man before then.”
“You have a point there.” I admitted. Kay genuinely is a kind soul, I hope Don dies many years before her. She deserves a fair chance at genuine happiness. Even if she’s still ignorant of his affairs, I’ve seen how he speaks to her; it’s not okay. “How many side chicks does he have anyway?”
The way her head cocked to an almost 90 degree angle coupled with how wide her eyes grew seemed to say, “a lot.” Regardless, it was a very informative chat.
When you spend three years working in a restaurant/drug mart, you think you’ve been fully desensitized to the various evils of the world, but not so. Somehow, this kindly, old man cheating on his sweet, little wife seemed far-fetched. No matter how obvious their office tryst, I couldn’t see it as more than a silly coincidence. Even when you think you know, being told and seeing are two very different kinds of knowing.
I could tell you a book’s worth of anecdotes involving Don hiring a new playmate and the various resulting ventures, but many will come out in other stories. Besides, I still don’t understand what length you guys prefer in a post. Today, I want to focus on the one I found personally traumatic. Oh boy, this is harder than I thought. Ok first, let’s get the time he propositioned me over with. Due to my inability to judge sarcasm or social interactions, I repeated what I’m about to share with several others after it happened. All were unanimously agreed, I did not misunderstand this one. Unfortunately.
Within 6-8 months I was fully accepted and nested at Giddy Up. Don possessed a prescription for Xanax, and being a shady guy himself, was aware I knew how to take/sell them in bulk. He must have been particularly lonely one day when we were alone. One minute we were pleasantly discussing NCIS, the next he was setting his bottle of Xanax on the table.
“That’s nice… what? You need to sell some? I asked, confused.
“Yea, I guess so.” He didn’t sound very excited about it.
I assumed he stole too much money from the store. Normally he saved Xanax for special whore candy, it wasn’t surprising he would be upset to part with them. “Alright, well how much do you need? If it’s the full 90, it takes 4 of your Peaches to equal one Xanax bar. I could get $90, but that’s about it.” Best he would get at least.
“Oh, I don’t need money.” He said
“What else would people possibly… eww… dude, gross, be serious. You want the $90 or not.” I wasn’t capable of taking such a notion seriously. If I had, I’m sure I would have been speechless. As it was, I wanted that Xanax and hoped insulting him would end his joke.
“No, you’re not listening. I don’t want… Money.” He said it slower that time, each word almost it’s own sentence.
Joke or not, no drug was worth indulging that line of conversation. “Dude, that’s gross, there aren’t enough drugs in the world.” I walked away before Don could say more. To avoid tainting my experiment, I relayed our conversation verbatim without saying who said what until the end. No one was surprised, but upon hearing Don’s role, Jane changed her answer to “you just misunderstood, I’m sure he was joking.” but her heart wasn’t in it. Jealousy can blind the best of us.
This next part is the whopper, but if I can survive it without removing my own eyeballs, I can relive it long enough to share with all of you. It was New Years Eve, we had no customers all day, so we found various shenanigans to pass the time. Don was running errands, (whores) and therefore unlikely to make an appearance. If you’ve read Weird Science, you know I have an… inquisitive mind, if you haven’t, you need to know I enjoy taking things apart.
For some reason, I was fascinated with the roof at that time. For several weeks I fantasized what it would be like to climb into the ceiling. I had a theory it would exit into the warehouse, possibly providing access to the wide, metal beams and roof. Why the idea of walking across a 20-30ft drop appealed to me, I can’t say, but the compulsion was overwhelming.
With a 4ft ladder placed on the dressing room bench, a flashlight, and broom, I was finally ready to test my theory. Moving a panel to the side, I pushed the broom through the opening. If a spiderweb touched me, it would be game over.
“No way she’s going in there… is she?” Liz asked Sara. Liz was my age, and a real cowgirl. She was a Worker and good friend, but unimportant. Nowadays she’s a nurse, and happily married with two sons, so don’t worry about her.
“She dumb enough to get in. How long until she falls is the question.” I heard Sara’s answer, but was too busy to engage in their foolishness.
“What if she breaks something?!” Liz exclaimed, cringing as I prepared to stick my head through for a real look.
“If she break herself we call 911, if she break the store we tell Mista Don she did it behind our backs.” Sara answered simply.
“Hey! If you break something are you gonna say we let you?” Liz was talking to me now.
I couldn’t tell if it was a serious question, but either way, it was distracting. “Nah, you’re good. I’ll say whatever you want as long as you let me focus.”
“But why are you…” Liz started to ask, clearly not listening.
“I said long as I focus!” I snapped, testing my weight on the wall. I knew the flimsy ceiling panels couldn’t support my weight, they were held in place by skinny metal racks and wire. If I didn’t locate support beams or follow the wall, I wouldn’t be crawling anywhere. Aside from a few giggles and gasps, the girls remained silent.
After a few moments testing the dressing room walls, I decided it was time to go. I situated myself like a bird on a perch, shining the light through decades of cobwebs and dust. “Guys, I think it really does go all the way to the warehouse! I can see really far, and I think I can see sunlight at the end!” I was excited, but the dust was already effecting my allergies. I had the nose itch of a first time codeine user and couldn’t stop rubbing it.
“I wanna see!” Liz was standing atop the ladder, eyes scrunched, looking through the dust we disturbed. “I think you’re right! That is light down there!” She was excited too, caught in my moment.
“I want to see if I can make it across, see how this wall connects over there? I think it’s the chemical room, it looks like I can follow the wall to where that metal starts on the other side.” I pointed, wanting Liz to confirm she saw the same thing. The more we moved, the thicker the air filled with dust. Even with a flashlight it was difficult to see. “Pass the broom up, please.”
Liz passed the broom, and we struggled to maneuver it through the wires. It cleared what it reached, but I had much less space than anticipated. If I weren’t a tiny woman, I wouldn’t fit past the opening, but I was providing too much entertainment to quit. The wires made excellent broom holders, but were otherwise the most difficult obstacles to overcome. It felt like several minutes passed as I struggled to crawl a few feet, but I focused on keeping my weight on the wall.
“I wonder how far I’ve come.” I leaned over to lift a panel. Anxiety paired with a lack of fingernails exacerbated the simple task. The frustration was coming on strong, but I doubled my efforts and finally pulled it askew. “Hey guys! I’m already over the office! Have you ever seen it? It’s just a desk, computer, and futon. Who doesn’t have a desk chair?” I called out, pleased my adventure would have two purposes. The office was always locked, even Sara and Jane were denied access.
“What did you expect? He doesn’t need a chair, I bet he only watches porn in there.” Liz laughed, but stopped abruptly. Sara was telling her something but I couldn’t hear the words. I dropped the panel, not thinking. It landed askew, leaving a wide gap into the office exposed. Before I could try to fix it, Liz screamed for my attention, “Shit dude, don’t move! Don and his current pet just pulled up, we gotta hide this mess! Don’t talk no matter what!” Her head was gone before she finished speaking.
I hoped they were joking, but doubted it. She was terrified, and the clumsy sound of removing the ladder was unmistakable. I heard the door buzzer followed by several minutes of silence. I was too afraid to attempt fixing the crooked panel. The office was rarely used on a normal day, if I risked movement now, I would likely fall through the ceiling. Waiting for Don to leave was the wiser choice no matter how you did the math. I laid flat, unmoving, and stared into the office, letting a daydream carry me away before a claustrophobic panic set in. Without the distraction of impressing Liz, the walls were closing in, pushing out my precious oxygen. I like that shade of green on a futon. I want a futon.
As the fire in my lungs extinguished, I noticed sounds of laughter and keys. More specifically, keys being used to unlock a door. No way, if he sees me I’m dead. Did they tell on me? Did he think it was funny and now he’s going to screw with me? He’s going to see the ceiling the second he opens the door, I’ll kill them both for this.
The door swung open, I held my breath, waiting. Softer giggling reached my ears and confirmed the betrayal. I gritted my teeth, formed the angriest face possible, and prepared to be caught. But I wasn’t. Instead, I saw the Pet lead Don into view. By his penis. She had a firm grasp oh his erect member, through his slacks, and used it to guide him to the futon. Sara and Liz definitely hadn’t betrayed me.
You know how you can’t look away when you see something horrible? This had the same effect. Plus I was too chicken to move. One sound, any reason for one of them to look up, spelled my doom. There was no chance they wouldn’t notice the large, open gap in the ceiling. I’m not trying to give my audience nightmares. I would very much like to use the word ‘fans’ one day, and I feel like a blow by blow (no pun intended, but it is accurate) would be a step in the wrong direction. Instead, I will FF past the use of a dildo hidden in the desk, and skip to their departure.
When they finally left, I remained completely still. Eventually, Liz returned, calling out to me. “Hey! Oh my God, what happened?! Are you okay?” By the tone in her voice, I felt they already suspected what I saw.
“I need to get out of here right now, I’m not joking, I don’t wanna play anymore, I’m done, I gotta get out.” I repeated a mixture of those phrases in one long, run-on sentence as I shakily replaced the crooked ceiling panel. After checking several times to be sure it sat correctly, I began the difficult process of turning around. Not falling off my perch required focus, I continued ignoring Liz as she berated me with questions.
As I came down the ladder, I saw Sara and Liz’s facial expressions, and knew mine was worse. I stuttered out every painful, disgusting detail, gagging several times in the process. I only told it once, after which, I began protocols to erase the memory entirely. Some things, not even bleach can clean. Needless to say, I never crawled into the roof again.
The Pet ‘worked’ at Giddy Up a few more weeks, but she felt so ostracized by the other girls, she quit. Don called a staff meeting and gave a long lecture explaining his disappointment. “I expect better! You aren’t children anymore. Pet was a sweet, caring person, just trying to support her little girl! But you all made her feel so unwelcome, she quit! Do you understand how horrible that is? I can’t even look at you right now.” He turned to leave, paused, expecting us to trip over ourselves with apologies, but no one stopped him. Little did we know, the store would be closing forever by that time the following year. Turns out, prostitutes are expensive.
He always pouted when he lost a pet, but we were far past indulging his delusions. Don was the worst kind of predator, truly believing we were clueless to his hobby. His complete faith in our stupidity was insulting, it took all my willpower to remain silent. I knew I was incapable of a convincing sympathy act, and stopped trying after this ordeal took place.
If I’m wrong and should have written the gorey details, let me know, but I feel like the majority of you would be happier without. Hubby had a few days off recently which makes writing impossible, but for my next story, I was hoping to try something new. So far, I shared a few spooky stories from my hometown, but I have been wanting to try my hand at a real scary story. Something that makes you nervous to look outside and gives you chills. If it sucks, it can go into the future psychologist pile, if not, maybe I can finally break 300 followers! Either way, I’ll take it.
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.
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.
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.
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.
After a marathon of favorite summer camp movies, Dad hit me with “you ready for VBS in a few weeks?”
“Ugh, no! I’m old enough to decide I don’t wanna go!” With one sentence, I went from blissfully happy to deeply offended.
“I guess you might be old enough to make some choices. Would you rather go to VBS, or to a summer camp with Joan?” Dad asked.
“What do you mean camp? What kind of camp?” I was cautious. I may have been 11, but that’s more than old enough to know something too good to be true, probably was.
He grinned ear to ear, obviously pleased with himself. “It’s a real camp, you would go Monday and come home Saturday morning. Log cabins, bunk beds, swimming, I hear they even have a zip-line.” He knew zip-line caught my attention.
“I would go with Joan?” I wanted to find the catch, but was too naive to know where to look.
“Yep, you and her would be bunkmates. Together for the whole week.” His reassuring smile did nothing to relieve my suspicions.
“I want to talk to Joan first.” I still trusted her at that point. She attended camp the previous year, confirmed the list of activities, and told me we use our own sleeping bag. I agreed to go on the stipulation of a new sleeping bag, but I would have gone for the zip-line. They were only a fantasy from tv until that point.
Being thrilled with my expensive new sleeping bag and camping equipment, I missed the huge, red flags waving in my face. My parents were spending several hundred dollars on items I would use once, yet they were happy. Dad offered to buy things I never thought to ask for, Mom never complained about anything. The flags were everywhere, but I was blind.
When the big day finally came, Joan’s parents picked me up, and the nightmare began. “How long until we get to the camp?” I asked excitedly.
“I don’t think it’s too long a drive. It usually takes us close to two hours, but it may take a little longer on a bus.” Joan’s mom answered nonchalantly.
“Bus? What bus?” I knew there was a catch! I knew it! Bus?! They can’t put us on a bus! We’re children! Stranger danger!
“The church borrows a school bus to drive the kids each year. It’s easier than trying to find enough parents.” Joan’s dad answered casually.
“Right, sure. And why is the church driving us to camp?” I felt like they were playing dumb on purpose.
“…because it’s their camp?” He answered like I was the one being purposely difficult.
I looked at Joan accusingly, “You said there was swimming and zip-lines and lots of cool stuff. You listed fun stuff.”
“It is! We do! Just because it’s a church camp doesn’t mean we don’t do lots of fun stuff. It’s not about church, it’s just a summer camp.” She reassured.
I remained silent for the rest of our drive, terrified to learn more. When we arrived at the church, a group of children were already loading onto the promised school bus. Joan’s parents unloaded us quickly, and pushed us onto the bus. I was forced to hand over my sleeping bag and pillow to be stored elsewhere, but refused to let anyone take my duffel. It’s an important detail, it distracted me from my surroundings longer than usual. By time I found a window seat (easier to protect my duffel) and built a temporary nest, we were already on the highway.
I forced myself to have a cautious look at my surroundings. Something felt off, but I couldn’t immediately place what. It bothered me terribly until a chaperon stood to lead us in a round of Jesus Loves Me. Mine was the only groan. As every head turned to face me, I finally saw it. There were no boys, not one.
“Joan… how is there not one boy coming with us?” I hoped no one could hear me over the sounds of attempted singing.
“Ha-ha. Funny. Yea, boys are coming to the girls camp.” She rolled her eyes and continued singing.
Oh gods what have I done? I held my duffel tight for security, wishing I brought Tiger. He couldn’t leave the house anymore because his head was removed during a show and tell. The black hole of depression I fell into for the hours before I knew he could be saved was not a place I wanted to revisit. Instead, I stared out the window, retreating to my happy place.
We didn’t have a GPS to say we reached our destination, but I knew we had because the singing stopped. We drove down a long dirt driveway until we reached the first cabin. One chaperon walked into the large building labeled ‘Welcome Center’ while the rest of us unloaded our possessions. When the first chaperone returned, he lead us down a path, away from the building. After a short walk, we reached the cabins. There were 12 in all, two rows of 6 facing each other. A large group of girls stood in the center with several camp counselors. Our chaperones threw us to the wolves, promising to return in 5 days for survivors.
“Ok kids listen up, we’re gonna have a great week, whose ready to get started!” A blonde girl wearing a counselor shirt stood on a small platform between the rows of cabins. Kids around me cheered with high pitched screams before she continued. “Excellent! That’s what I like to hear! Ok to get us started, you need to know each cabin, is assigned a number. Even numbers on my left, odd numbers on my right. You with me so far?” More approving screams, followed by, “Good, because each side is a team. The even numbers are Rebels, the odd numbers are Yankees, get it? Because they’re a bit odd!” She had to wait for the roars of laughter to stop before she continued. I was truly in hell.
The children around me screeched loud enough to hurt my ears. I tried to cover them with my sleeping bag, but it immediately identified me as an outsider. Rookie mistake if I’m being honest, I should have known better by that age.
When Blonde resumed talking, they slowly turned their attention back on her. “All week we are going to have little competitions. The winners will earn points, and the team with the most points at the end will win special prizes. When I call your name, I’ll tell you what cabin you’ll be staying in, and you can go meet your counselor.” The counselors were dispersing to stand in front of their assigned cabins, two in each. I knew when adults kept prizes secret, it meant they would suck.
Please Universe, I’m begging you, please let me be a Yankee. Just this once, please. A long process of cabin assignments ensued. When it finally ended, Joan and I were in number 12. Rebels yet again. We shared one of 6 bunk beds, meaning I would share a one room living space with 13 other people for 5 days. To add insult to injury, I was on the bottom bunk, and there was no tv. I wished for death, it was the only foreseeable solution.
Once we finished settling into our places, the counselor reviewed our schedule. “Hey girls, we’re you’re counselors. I’m Betty, and this is Sue. Each morning we’ll have prayer, breakfast, bible study, swimming, activity, lunch, nap time, bible study, free-time, dinner, bible study, showers, and then we’ll have 20-30 minutes to wind down before we say our prayers and go to sleep.” Betty read from her clipboard.
I need to call a short time out. I know you guys think I’m exaggerating about the bible study schedule, but I’m really not. They only used the words ‘bible study’ once, but the rest were variations meaning the same thing. Obviously, I don’t remember the exact schedule of a camp I attended at 11, but the important activities are there to get us to the good stuff. Ok, sorry, back to it.
I’ve never gone a whole day without tv, I can’t.“Joan, where’s the tv?” I whispered as Sue began passing out name tags.
“Why would you want tv at camp?” She gave me the Look.
The Look always pushes my buttons, but I was in a bad mood beforeshe 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.
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 throughthose 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 thinkI 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.