humor

Rain Showers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This stuff, it’s like thick construction paper.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

humor

Red Ink?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yessum.” Thelma murmured.

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

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

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

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

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

Camp of the Damned

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

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

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

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

After a marathon of favorite summer camp movies, Dad hit me with a VBS notice.

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

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

He grinned ear to ear, obviously pleased with himself. He claimed it was, indeed, a real camp. I would go Monday and come home Saturday morning. Log cabins, bunk beds, swimming – even a zip-line. He knew zip-line caught my attention.

“I would go with Joan?” I wanted to find the catch, but was too naive to know where to look. I was assured Joan would be my bunkmate, yet his reassuring smile did nothing to relieve my suspicions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Her eyes lit up, “oh, what is it?!”

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

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

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

humor

Queen of the Walk (Pt. 3)

For those who notice the blog’s new look, I hope you enjoy the astronaut’s company as much as I do. I had no intentions of changing it, but she reminds me of River Song! Look, she’s waving! I miss the good ole Doctor Who, a fandom that managed to span multiple countries and generations, dead to me now, thanks to a moronic casting choice. People wanted a female doctor? Great, write in a new one, don’t try to tell me a Time Lord who regenerated as a man 12-13 times (this isn’t the place for the number debate) is suddenly a woman now. Everyone wave to River, she’s here to stay.

Omg, it still hits me right in the feels 😭

Now to business, there isn’t much time difference between this and Pt. 2, most will take place before or during.

Entry 3: How to Buy Drugs

I dropped out first semester of Community College to sleep more and work longer hours. Not to make money, though it didn’t hurt, but to spend more time with Crook and friends. Working in a restaurant with a drug drive-thru gave new meaning to ‘business in front, party in back.’ Ready to have your mind blown? Drugs temporarily cure depression! Hold on, we should talk about risk vs reward before you make any life altering decisions. It’s not all cake and coconuts. Drugs are like explosives; fun to play with, but you can lose fingers. Let’s take a journey, I can show you what I mean.

Being a sheltered only-child, I was not provided with information on drugs. Much like my period and swimming, I was thrown in the deep end to swim or die. At 17, Goku introduced me to weed, on which I have already made my feelings abundantly clear. I don’t consider weed a ‘drug’ in the sense we’re discussing today; it’s a life saving miracle. The drugs we’re discussing today are pain pills and Xanax. Pain pills come in a wide variety, but give the same happy, ‘upper’ effect. Xanax now has a rainbow of flavors as well, but back then, it ruled the downer market solo. It cured my anxiety and allowed me to carry conversations as if I were normal! Big magic, indeed.

To enter DrugMart, you need a member to vouch for you. Without a referral, you’ll be met with blatant denials. Crook told the busboys I’m ‘cool.’ Don’t panic. In this case, ‘cool’ has a different definition; if you aren’t a snitch, you’ll be fine. After gaining admission, you are free to shop at your leisure. If you become a trusted regular, you might receive a job offer. I know the money sounds alluring, but had I understood the risks, I would have passed. Ok, I’m lying, I would have thought myself too smart to be caught. See? This is me staying honest. Being arrested for possession is embarrassing and expensive, while intent to distribute is a felony that follows you forever. Some things simply aren’t worth the risk, but I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me finish painting the scene.

To Teenage Me, there were three kinds of people in the world:

  • Those who stand in the center of crowds, entertaining the masses.
  • The members of the crowd who laugh in comradery.
  • Those who stand outside the crowds because if they try to enter, it will disperse.

Want to guess whereI belonged? Yes! The last one, Platinum Membership. At work, I was part of the crowd, it was intoxicating. I stood in the center once or twice, but I’m not here to brag. I’m here to say, if your ultimate fantasy is being allowed to stand near people, you may have worse issues to wrestle. Also, hard drugs are 99% likely to exacerbate those issues. And yes, it bothers me to have a time in my life I desired to be near people, but aren’t most of us fools at 18?

Crook went to work at a lumber mill shortly after we started dating. It paid more, but left me to fend for myself. I was experiencing popularity (fine, what I perceived to be popularity, can you guys just let me have one?) for the first time. I reveled in it, rolled in it like a pig in mud.

My career in the underground began with a bright yellow pill called Norco. It’s a pain pill, or as I call them, Happy Beans. I honestly never believed pills could effect me. I didn’t take medications, I smoked cigarettes to look cool and weed to feel human, but pills were voodoo. I’m not sure why, maybe it ties back to my doctor issues, but I held a strong aversion to them. Until a headache hit me early in a night shift.

Waiter Greg, gave me an aspirin, “This is all I have. Just don’t take the whole thing, break it in half… you hear me? No matter what, do not take the whole thing.”

“Sure, fine thanks.” I wasn’t in the mood to explain why magic wouldn’t cure a headache. He never said what the pill was. Why would I think anything but aspirin? When someone has a headache, people give them aspirin. That’s how social etiquette works.

But then my headache got really bad. Desperate, I retrieved the pill. No one ever recommended breaking an aspirin in half, I considered it may be something different. Desperation has a way of convincing us. I took half, but 20 minutes later, my head was still pounding. Hating myself for believing a voodoo doctor, I took the other half.

After 20 minutes more, the headache disappeared and the painful, crushing depression in my chest lifted. Pure happiness washed over me for seemingly no reason. Knowing it takes more than half a hour to feel the effects of medication requires a basic level of common sense about the human stomach which I didn’t possess. If we jump ahead 20 minutes once more, my euphoria turns to confusion when I’m left in charge of money. Brain was my calculator, I never learned to work the archaic ‘cash register.’ I knew which button opened it, then counted change back, but the numbers were moving. How could I do math when the numbers refused to sit still?

** In the end, weed killed Brain’s super power. I chose banishing suicidal urges over mathematical genius. We all face our own Crossroads. **

I asked Kerry to switch places, hostessing was easier, but the damage was done. I knew what possibilities those magic beans held and life would never be the same. Crook was excited at first. He was still trying to win my love and I discovered a fondness for something he knew how to provide. When he was sober, Crook was a Prince, but drugs turned him into a douche turd, what can you do? I’m almost proud to say I thought I was being careful. It may not have prevented every mishap, but it kept me from experiencing drug addiction. I already knew how ugly withdrawals could be.

I theorized if I didn’t allow myself to take the same drug too many days in a row, I couldn’t become physically dependent. Not to toot my own horn, but that part worked out. A routine developed for popping uppers on busy nights, downers for slow. I learned to use the damned cash register and called it an even trade. When I began to understand the financial downsides, DrugMart offered fair financial plans.

Two busboys ran our local DrugMart, we can call them Jay and Bob. Crook purchased a blunt the day he told them I’m ‘cool,’ but they were out of bags. Instead they sold him a blunt Jay had for the ride home. I misunderstood this and embarrassed myself thoroughly because of it.

Up to that point, Goku and I smoked out of homemade bongs. The blunt Crook bought was the first time I saw weed rolled into cigar paper, it spoiled me. A few days later, after Crook began work at the lumber mill, I bought a blunt solo. I approached Jay on his smoke break, he was easier to understand and had more patience than Bob.

“Ha! Aight Shawty, I knew you be back.” Jay dug into his pockets to retrieve a small baggy, and patiently waited for me to get the hand off right. I tried to mimic the handshake exchange I watched Crook perform, but dropped the money.

Jay noticed the look of confusion I wore when looking at the small bag. “What’s wrong, kid?” His laughter made me brave enough to ask.

“Umm. The other day, you gave Crook a… a cigar rolled.. thing. Ya know?” I muttered, silently pleading with the universe to let this be a test I’m passing. The ‘let’s see if this white girl knows her shit’ test. It wasn’t.

After a fair amount of laughter, he explained, “That’s all I had on me. This how it usually is. That bag fit in one cigar, one blunt cost 5 bucks, so me and you, we straight.” I have to give him credit for patience. I was lucky he found it amusing. Supposedly these guys killed people, but it was never proven and that’s not why we’re here today. Even if it was, they weren’t exactly innocent victims.

“So… where do I get the cigar part?” In for a penny, in for a pound.

“The gas station, any one of ‘em.” He turned to walk back inside, maybe I should have let him. This is probably what caused the side jobs.

“But… if everyone coming to you needs one, wouldn’t you make more money if you just sold them too?” I slid into another fantasy and ran with it.

Jay stopped, turned back, and scratched his beard in thought. “Well, funny you should say. Ole boy from the hood sold pre-rolleds for $7 a pop…” he paused, flipped a 5 gallon bucket, and sat before continuing, “…he made a lil, but ain’t worth it. Pay a dolla for yo cigar, go through the trouble to split it, roll it, and you only adding a dollar to profits. Nah, I don’t see it.”

“But who says you gotta roll it?” It came out before I could check it against the filter. Another problem exacerbated by Norco and Xanax alike.

“Choo mean don’t roll ‘em. What be the point?” He rolled his eyes, preparing to stand up by the tell-tale sign of adjusting his boxers. There was a comical irony in the way he primped his boxers above his hips yet over his tank-top.

The point.” When he looked more confused I elaborated. “I can probably use common sense to roll it, but I’m too lazy to get a cigar to try. Plus, people under 18 can’t buy one anyway. Charge them extra.” Thankfully, Crook previously explained my monotone voice was involuntary, or he may have mistaken hesitation for condescension.

“Huh… well I’ll be damed. Go on girl, here, that one’s on me.” Jay returned my $5, shooing me along. I didn’t yet understand I would be handing it right back when I purchased my blunts and cigars at the special discount price of $7 each. Sure, I could have gone to a gas station, and Crook usually did, but I was always too lazy.

You guys remember Fucking Sookie? She’s making an appearance. After graduation, we stayed close for the first year. She continued dating her abusive high-school sweetheart, and stayed with me after their fights. His fear of Crook made our home a safe haven, but more importantly, they smoked lots of weed. I became the most convenient source to support the habit, and introduced them to Happy Beans.

The first time I asked for a bulk order, Jay taught me quantity/price ratio. “So… if you give me all the weed in one bag… that means I could pretty much split it up however I wanted… right?” I asked.

“You catch on quick, yup and you do it before the meet. Don’t let ‘em see what you buy. They only see what they buy. You already tell ‘em what the pills cost? You buy ‘em for less and charge more. Ya feel me?”

“That’s genius! Thanks!” I ran off to pilfer my first of many commissions.

It didn’t take long for Jay to notice how regularly I needed to re-up. He easily convinced me to expand his clientele with Sookie’s social circle. I brought home lots of goodies. Crook was proud, being a professional criminal in his own right. His approval felt really good, I craved more.

When Jay asked if I was ready to make real money, I thought I was. “You’d make more if you bought in bulk to sell it. You wouldn’t have to come to me erry time you wanna sling a dime bag, ya feel?”

“Yea, they do that on tv, but I can’t let go of that much money at once.” It was a pipe dream, nothing more.

“Nah, you sell it then pay.” He launched into a play by play of Dealing For Dummies, but all I heard was “…and you walk away with a few grand, then use it to buy more. You out of debt forever after one time.”

“Sweet! I’m in! What do I get to take first?” I know I’ve said it before, and I’m sure I’ll say it again, but I hate Past Me. If I ever figure out how to lay hands on that bitch, she’s dead. This bitch asked, “what makes the most money? Can I get a bunch of cocaine?”

“No, hell no girl, I can’t load you down with cocaine, that’s too risky. You can have some pills and weed. We see how you do.”

Can you believe I thought he meant it was too risky for me. Like he was concerned for my safety or getting arrested. He was concerned with his risk, all his.

I went home with 10+ years of jail time crammed into my purse. I walked through the door with a skip in my step, and dumped the contents on the table for Crook to see. His eyes widened in fury. Unfortunately, I mistook it for excitement and launched into my story, ending it with, “…so now we’re going to be rich!”

“What the hell is wrong with you?! I know you’ve seen this play out on tv! Why? Why would you do this?!” Crook screamed.

“Well… I mean, come on. This isn’t tv! Everyone’s always screaming life isn’t tv, and now you want to use it for an argument? Jay and Bob aren’t going to hurt us, they’re your friends. Jay even likes me now.” I was angry. I was so excited for him to be proud again. Not only was he disappointed, he was angry! It was the first time he yelled at me.

“This is the one thing it has right! What were you thinking?! Do you know how long it would take you to sell this much?! We don’t even own scales! No, we can’t do this, I have to take it back. My parole officer could come in here any day, do you know what happens if he finds this? We both go to jail!” That finally got through to me. I already lived in constant fear of his PO, I couldn’t add that to it no matter how small the odds.

“Ok, I admittedly overlooked that part. Can you give it back?” That was an extreme hot to cold mood swing even for me.

“Only because I know so many of them, I’ll be back, just be grateful you didn’t take any of this.” He snatched the bags up and left.

He came home an hour later, drug free. He wouldn’t talk about it any further aside from making me swear not to participate in their business again. I had no problems with that, Angry Crook was scary. It would be over a year before I had to see Angry Crook on a daily basis.

I thought loaning my car to them while I worked was pretty savvy and kept my promise. My car basically retrieved and paid for it’s own gas. As an additional thank you, goody bags were left in the glove compartment. It was an all-win scenario, I was technically supporting a habit with zero overhead. It was baffling to have my felon boyfriend outraged because I let someone borrow my car, but he lost his shit when he found out.

“What the hell?! What do you think they’re doing with it?!” He asked.

“Running errands! None of them have cars, they walk to work, can you imagine how much that must suck? It’s not like they’re using all the gas and bringing it back empty.” I really didn’t understand the harm that time, if anything, I saw it as charitable.

“How can someone as smart as you have no common sense?! They have cars! They walk to work so police can’t pull them over! They’re using your car to run huge amounts of drugs! That way, when the car falls under suspicion, it’s your car! Do you understand now?!”

“Oh, that’s pretty smart! Well… even so, wouldn’t it be fine when they pulled me over and I was me? Could I say they stole the car while I worked? Don’t look at me like that, I wouldn’t do it unless I had to.” I know it sounds terrible, but I was already spoiled and didn’t want to lose my goody bags.

“I’m going to talk to Jay and Bob. Your done working for them, and they won’t offer anymore.” Angry Crook was back, I didn’t argue.

I successfully prevented physical addiction to the pills, but not mental. Being motivated to do good work was impossible. Luckily, this is around the same time Krissy and Kristy needed someone with a car. Someone who was impressionable and desperate to please. That someone was this chick right here. I explained this in part 2, but there is a honorable mention worth telling.

If you aren’t familiar with shotgun houses, this is the perfect example. Long, cheap, yet flamboyant. We had them all over town.

When Kristy first moved into her shotgun house, she saved money on electricity by not paying for it. She let someone hook it up illegally, but obviously didn’t advertise the fact. That’s why, when I came to pick her up, I was confused by the strange utility truck and man in her yard. I parked on the street, tried to get out, but paused when the strange man began looking into windows.

Unsure what to do, I tried to call, but she called me first. “I’m so glad you’re here, I’ll explain in the car, but I’m going to jump in, and you’re gonna drive off fast. Get closer, and make sure the doors are unlocked.” She hung up before I could ask questions.

I drove closer and waited. Kristy rushed through the door, and jumped in like she was escaping a bank robbery. I floored it when the confused man came our way, completely consumed with the fantasy of a police chase.

“What the hell was that all about.” I asked, watching the man signal us to return. Like that was going to happen.

“Ugh, it’s a long story. I’ll give you a bump if you promise not to tell anyone.”

“Deal!”

“Alright, here hold my cig, be careful, it’s laced with coke.” She handed me the cigarette and began digging through her purse.

I tried my first (and only) laced cigarette as I watched her remove a bag of cocaine from a make-up case’s hidden compartment. We each snorted a bump while she explained the power company caught on to her illegal connection. She would pay a large fine and monthly bills now, but that was it. She simply didn’t want to have the awkward conversation in person, and I didn’t blame her, I would have ran too. We had illegal cable once, but after 6 months, one day we came home to find only the TV Guide channel working. They wanted us to know what we were missing.

Life was good for a while. I enjoyed being a happy, social member of society, but all good things must come to an end. Though I was too blind to see it at the time, I can tell you what happened. Crook was taking more than 3x the amount of pills I was, but I never saw the quantity he purchased, only what he gave me.

When Feeny learned she had a DrugMart in her kitchen, she reported it to the police. How did she find out? Do you remember earlier when I said drugs might cost you a few fingers? Bob only lost half his index finger, but Fenny requested a drug test at the hospital. She said workman’s comp burned her too many times, and she had a feeling no sober person could lose their finger to a lemon slicer. When he failed the drug test, other coworkers gave her enough details to save their own asses.

This is the kind we used.

Yes! Fine! Me too! It’s a shame I still live with, but it was an accident! Kerry tricked me! I thought it was normal girl-talk gossip! She told Feeny everything. It’s a matter of principle. I had a reputation to uphold. It may not have been the kind of reputation you write home about, but damnit there was an entire group of people who looked upon it positively! I denied it with fervent conviction. This blog is the first time I’ve uttered the truth aloud. I still feel weirdly ashamed.

City police were useless in the beginning. They asked for evidence and told her failing a drug test for work wasn’t enough. So what did Feeny do? Nothing, at first, but when we cooked 25 fish plates for a reservation that canceled, she made lemonade… metaphorically speaking. She had the food boxed up, and personally delivered it to the Sheriffs Department. The next day, three deputies came to speak with Jay and Bob. I can only imagine the conversation, but both left work that night never to return. A few weeks later, Jay was arrested and Bob was on the run. Police never found Bob, (that I’m aware of) but Crook participated in the food delivering rotation while Bob lived under a an abandoned house’s porch.

When Crook lost his pill source, every night of our lives became consumed with where he would find his next fix. Sure, I was super bummed the party was over, but not to the point I was willing to sacrifice all my free time to find more. I learned there was more to withdrawals than becoming physically ill, there was becoming an annoying asshat too. It was a hard, painful lesson, but it better prepared me for later, when Crook would fall off the wagon permanently.

Well guys, I think that’s it for my days as a drug dealer. I got in and out without being arrested or injured. I think that’s the best one can hope for in that scenario. Let’s call this one a win. After all, it did provide valuable life lessons. Thanks for reading, you guys are the best listeners I’ve ever known.

One more thing, before I go, I know it’s off topic… but why do girls cut their hair off at the end of every relationship? I’m not poking fun, I’ve done it at least 5x myself. Seriously, if I even come close to a break-up, the first thing I’m gonna do is chop my hair off. Why? Well, never-mind, this is something I can Google. But does anyone else feel it’s an overly dramatic reaction? In the moment I’m doing it, I know I’m going to hate myself for being a cliche, but I can’t stop myself. It’s as compelling as an addiction, I don’t understand it. I’m oddly fascinated with the psychology behind it. Oh well, thanks again, laters.

These jokes are everywhere. I want to understand why!