Norman: The Book-Eating Goat

It was 34 degrees out, I was 22 years old, and I was sitting in the snow.

Well, okay.  I’m exaggerating.  I wasn’t exactly sitting IN the snow – I was technically crouched on the edge of a set of wooden steps, outside a never-used guard shack – only my feet were actually in the snow.

There really wasn’t any reason for me to be crouching in near-freezing temperatures, on rotted wood, in the snow.

It’s just… I had finished feeding the horses, and it was at least 200 feet back to my cabin. The record snowfall made trudging something you had to pay attention to – with two feet of snow, you couldn’t just meander without looking.  it was too easy to fall into troughs, or holes, or other items that hid beneath the pristine, innocent-looking mounds of snow.

So in order to get back to my cabin, I would have to put aside the book I was reading and actually walk there.

That would take at least three minutes.

Did I mention it was my first time reading through the Da Vinci Code.  Whether you approve of the plot or not, Dan Brown knows how to write a good suspense tale, and I was at an incredibly crucial moment.

Having to wait three minutes while waiting to figure out a crucial plot element in a book is an ETERNITY.

So…. instead of walking back to my cabin and reading the remainder of the book while sprawled on my couch in luxurious warmth, I was crouched on the rotted steps with my feet in the snow and my nose turning numb.

Keep in mind this was back in 2003/2004 – Amazon wasn’t really a “thing” like it is now, and when you live hours from the nearest bookstore, the first time through any book will grip you like that, much less a bestseller like the Da Vinci Code.

I was just reaching the critical part of the scene when….

Norman happened.

Norman was a sweet, bottle-fed goat who followed people around wherever they went.  I do mean everywhere – somewhere along the lines Norman had decided he was a human, and that the company of horses was no match for hanging out with people.  It was cute at first, but eventually became a little annoying.  “Wranglers, the goat is out again” was a familiar cry coming over the ranch radio – that goat could slip out of everything.

Still – he had silky white fur and large, intelligent, amber eyes so it was easy to forgive him anything.

Until that day.  That day, Norman crossed a line.

I still own that copy of Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code. Did you know my copy falls open to the page that gives away critical information that’s crucial to the entire book (you know, the whole Last Supper thingie).
 
It falls open to that page because as I was sitting on steps in the snow…. just as I got to that particular page….
 
 Norman, came up behind me and ripped the page out of the book and started eating it.
It was like a scene from a cartoon.  I was in the mountains, trapped in by an epic snowfall, with no access to a replacement book….. and Norman had torn out the most important page of the entire book and was calmly eating it.
Look, I’m not proud of how I got the paper back, but let’s just say that I managed to make Norman understand that it was very, very important he allow me to retrieve the paper from his mouth.  The good news is that with a little bit of cleaning and a little bit of scotch tape, I was able to restore the page to my book and finish the story.  I forgave him for tearing my brand new book and trying to eat a critical page, and he forgave me for pouncing on him and making the mountains ring with the echoing cry of “NORMAAAAAAAAAAAAAN” as I retrieved it from his wet, sticky little mouth.

The bad news is that…. well, if you’re ever over at my house and if you ever want to read that particular book…. well, I just hope you already know the big reveal, because the book now opens permanently to that page.

On Fries and Life

I see him there, standing on the corner, with his brown skin gone leathery from too many years in the sun, indistinct brown features, muddy brown eyes peering forth from the cracks and crevices of a face gone hard from life and weather.

He stands there, rocking slightly, cardboard sign that’s nearly as limp and worn as he is, and suddenly I’m not in the air-conditioned driver’s seat of my new car, surrounded by the greasy-sweet aroma of fast food while I wait at a red light.

Suddenly I’m eight, and I’m staring down at the grizzled, unmoving form sprawled on the front lawn of our complex.

 

 

“Is he… okay?”  I want to ask if he’s dead, but I’m scared to say the word.  I’ve never seen dead, except on tv.  I think that’s what dead looks like, but I’m not sure.

“Drunk.  And selfish.  He’s just passed out from drinking other people’s money,” my dad says, and then we’re walking past, and I’m left craning my neck over my shoulder to stare at the retreating, prone figure.

I eye the legs spread akimbo on the lush green of our condo’s lawn, the frazzled beard which hides his face, and I feel my stomach go clammy.   What if he is dead?  I can’t see him breathing.  What if he is dead, right there, on my front lawn?

I swallow and step closer to my dad as my hand steals up of its own accord, finding comfort in the grip his large, calloused palm.

 

 

I come back to myself, and eye the never-ending red light.  It’s a hot day – too hot – which is why I bought a soda.  Normally I’m a water drinker, but hot days and Dr. Pepper go hand-in-hand, and I close my eyes in bliss as I take a sip.  Why are fountain drinks so much better than the bottled ones you get at the gas station?  Who knows?  It tastes delicious, though, and my hand sneaks into the bag of its own accord, finding comfort in the feeling of being nearly-burned by the too-hot curly fries.  I wanted to wait until I was on the freeway to eat, but it was Jack in the Box. I hadn’t eaten curly fries in almost two years.  I mean, if you’re gonna be stupid and break the “no gluten” rule you’ve set for yourself, you might as well do it in a blaze of glory, right?

Out of the corner of my eye I see a flicker of movement, and I barely catch myself before I glance sideways.  He is there, still standing.  It’s not that I am trying to forget he exists, it’s just…. I never know where to put my eyes when I’m beside someone who is begging on the street.

Boy, if that’s not the definition of stupid, self-centered “First World Problems”, I don’t know what is.

I’m curious about him, and I want to look – to take a peek into the life I might have lived, had circumstances or any number of things been different – but I don’t want to look in his eyes, to feel that sizzle of connection as our gazes meet.  I’m scared what I might find.

Besides, what if he feels hope?  What if he thinks I’m looking at him because I’m going to give him money?  Do I shake my head “no”?  That seems…. that seems worse, somehow, than not even looking.  I see my purse beside me, flipped open to reveal the last crumpled dollar bill from this week’s paycheck.  I resist the urge to dart my gaze sideways again as I flip the purse closed, hiding it.

And then, even though nobody is watching me, or maybe it’s because, I drop my eyes to stare at my lap in guilt.

 

 

Beans.

I hated beans.  Hated them.  Daddy loved them, and he felt like they were a treat, but they weren’t.  They were boring, and gross, and even Ketchup couldn’t save them.  We were going to go to the store when he got back from work, but Brandie and I had eaten the last of the cereal in the morning, and the only thing to eat other than beans was a jar of sweet pickles I’d found behind the mustard – well, that and an abandoned can of tuna that was probably older than me.  I knew for a fact there wasn’t anything else, because I hadn’t even known about the tuna until I’d dragged a chair over to stand on so I could search the far corners of the empty shelves.

We weren’t poor – I knew we weren’t.  Daddy just lived on a budget and was very strict about saving his money….. but it was hard not to feel poor when all you had to eat was beans. 

“I’m hungry,” I whined. Again.  It was hot – but then again, it was always hot in August. Garden Grove was too far from the beach for any breeze, and so landlocked it felt like you were trapped.  The sidewalks caught the clean sun, trapped it, and tossed it back at you full of the stink of sweat and too-many-humans.  “I’m huuuuungry.”  I fully expected to be mocked, or told to be quiet.  I mean, there were beans.  And Ketchup.  And a can of tuna. When no “hush” was forthcoming I looked up, confused, and instead of irritation I found sympathy in my older sister’s large brown eyes.

“Me too.  Let’s see if we can find enough change to go to McDonald’s.”

My heart leapt within me.  At 11 Brandie was the de facto parent while my dad was at work, so if she said we could, then we could. We scrounged throughout the entire house – under couch cushions, behind the bookcase that we’d wedged beneath the staircase, behind the toilet, under the sink…

You will never know the meaning of dedication until you have a chance to exchange beans for a McDonald’s hamburger.  Just sayin’.

Somehow, we found enough, and the walk next door felt like a victory parade.  I tripped along after my sister, balancing on the short brick wall that bordered the sidewalk, jumping down to run down the small grassy hill.  I’m not sure what my dad was thinking.  Who? Who purchases a condo built right next door to a McDonald’s and then tries to feed kids healthy food with the scent of hamburgers drifting in all day long? I felt like the Fruit Loops Toucan, floating along in ecstasy on beckoning airstreams of greasy fries. I could have found the door with my eyes closed.

The blast of air conditioning brought blissful goosebumps to my hot, sticky skin.  We waited in line, fidgeting, scuffing our shoes on the cool linoleum.  I was so overwhelmed by the scent, the anticipation, the sweet feeling of not being horribly hot that it took me a moment to realize it.  We were standing next to one of them.  Right next to one of them. I edged closer to Brandie.  There were a lot of homeless in the area, and they all made me uncomfortable, with their scary beards and distant eyes and tendency to pass out on our condo’s front entrance way.

Brandie didn’t seem to notice him. Then again, she didn’t snap at me to quit touching her when I crowded her, so maybe she did.

“Big Mac – wait.  Two big Macs, large coke, large fries, and three of those apple pie things.”  He reached into a pocket and dropped a messy handful of change onto the counter to count out to pay.  It slammed onto the counter with a resounding crash, crumbled dollar bills and quarters mingling together in a wrinkled mountain of wealth.  How much was it?  Five dollars?  Twenty dollars?  One hundred dollars? I stared, sullen, as one of the quarters rolled to a stop, bouncing off the edge of my shoe.  I edged it away from me with a toe, following Brandie to the next register when it opened.

“One cheeseburger, and one small fries,” she said in her pretend-adult voice, carefully placing the small handful of pennies and nickles into the outstretched hands.

I watched the man receive his food and leave, and as soon as the door closed behind him I dashed over and picked up the abandoned quarter.  I considered pocketing it, but brought it to Brandie instead.

She brightened, adding it to the pile of leftover change, and pushing it across the counter.  “I would like to change my order please.  One medium fry, instead of one small fry.”

 

I pop the curly fry into my mouth and chew. Thoughtfully.  He’s looking the other way, having given up on this particular group of red lighters.  There’s a jacket tied around his waist – an impossible blue against the uniformity of his earth tones he’s wearing.  I wonder – do the clothes turn a uniform color from not being washed, or is it something he does on purpose?  Is it chance or an actual uniform – maybe a deliberate camouflage? I’ve always wanted to know, but there doesn’t seem to be a polite way to ask.  Besides, I’m not sure it’s any of my business.

I look at him, at his small backpack and the way his fingers are tight against the limp sign. I bet he makes his clothes less bright on purpose, so he doesn’t stand out at night.  I doubt he wants anyone knowing where he sleeps.  Sleeping is so…so vulnerable.  It lays everyone low, makes us all defenseless to predators, whether they’re the four-legged or the two-legged kind.

 

 

 

F*CKINB*TCHC*NT!  F**KING GONNA F**K YOU UP!  GONNA TEAR YOUR EYES GONNA TEAR IT OFF GONNA TEAR YOU…

It went on.  And on.  He’d been at it for some time.  Most of “the bums” in the area were regular as clockwork – Red Shirt Guy took the east corner, right off of Westminster Avenue.  Crazy Eyes guy would take the opposite corner, on Brookhurst Street, but usually only in the evening.

I swear they had regular shifts. They’d show up, yawning, at the same time, nearly every day.  Morning was for standing on the corner, with the cardboard signs.  Over the years I’d watched them make the signs – grabbing cardboard from the dumpster behind McDonald’s, bending it with strong hands, scuffing it along the curb to make it more worn before writing their message on it.  Homeless Vet.  Please Help.  Hungry.

The liquor store on the east corner would make their change for them, converting the crumpled bills and pocket change into larger bills.  Fives and tens, and sometimes even twenties.  Bad days would be only one trip.  On a good day they’d make 3-4 trips in a day.

And in case you were curious – No. No, there wasn’t anything good on summer daytime television in the late 80/early 90s.

As far as I could tell, they mostly drank it.  There wasn’t a lot of turnover in the population, and they seemed to sleep in the same place every night, with their brown-bagged bottles.  If they were choosing to buy or do anything harder with it, it rarely showed.

Until tonight.

“That’s it,” my dad said, punching the power button the tv with a sudden ferocity of movement.  In two strides he was at the door, throwing it open so hard it slammed into the back of the kitchen table.  Three more steps and he was through the yard, past the ridiculously short gate and on his way to the fence line, three doors down.  

The homeless man on the other side of the fence was mid-tirade, howling out a slippery stream of rage as he’d been for nearly an hour.  He seemed to go in fits and starts – quieting down just long enough to give us hope before launching into another skittering, frenetic river of cussing and anger and incoherent threats, slamming intermittently on the wooden fence that separated the condo from the alley.

The neighbors perked up as my dad strode past – eyeing the angry set of his shoulders, the crisp strides of a man on a mission from behind their drapes. 

“I’M GONNA TEAR YOUR EYES, EYES, AND F****YOU F****CNT***” 

WHAM!  WHAMWHAMWHAM!  My dad slammed his palm against the fence in quick succession.  “SHUT UP.  There’s families here. Get the hell out of here.  Go somewhere else.”  

“WHO THE F***” began Mr. Howl, and kicking the fence from his hidden retreat on the other side with such ferocity I watched the wood shudder.

WHAMWHAMWHAMWHAMWHAM!  “KNOCK IT OFF.”  The slam of my dad’s hand against the fence drowned out the sound, and the sudden silence from the other side had an almost shocked quality to it.  

 

From the safety of staring at my lap I glance back at the man on the corner, through my lashes, trying to see him for who he is, who he isn’t, who he might be, and who I might have been if I’d been less lucky.

And suddenly, I’m so ashamed of myself and my avoidance I can feel it crawling over my skin.  It’s french fries, Becky.  It’s not the winning lotto ticket, or the cure for cancer, or the last doily your great-grandma knitted before she passed away. It’s just $2 worth of french fries, and an ice cream shake, and I’m hunched over it like I’ll lose it and never see it again.

Guilt prickles like acid, eating its way past the barriers I’ve erected to keep the world out, burning through to a hidden place where the only person who has the strength to hurt me is Me.

I roll down my window.  “Hey,” I call.

Our eyes meet.

“I’ve got some lunch, if you want some…?”

I wait for him to approach before I hand it to him through my open window, feeling the waves of heat against my skin, the difference in temperature causing goosebumps to dot my forearms.   I pass over out the brown bag full of fries, and then a smaller bag with the real ice-cream shake. Our hands touch, for a brief moment, a fleeting contact even more nebulous than the touch of our eyes.

“Thank you.”

“No prob,” I say, and I mean it.

And then because I’m me I ruin it by following up with, “Stay cool,” from the air-conditioned interior of my new car.  I wince and wish I could retract it, to say something different, something more, but then the light is green and I’m through the intersection, and I’ve always sucked at small talk so there’s no sense hating myself now.

I merge on the freeway before I take a sip from the Dr. Pepper that stayed in my car.  It stayed because to give him the drink was to give him my lunch – and I wasn’t giving my lunch away, I was sharing it.  It seemed important to me, that distinction – a difference that resonates in my head and my heart in a way which helps me see clearly. Giving implies charity.  Charity implies obligation and debt.  Sharing is just… human, or at least what humans should be.

And besides – curly fries won’t change anything. It won’t change the biases I struggle to see through or the way my life is going, or the way his life is going, where he’ll sleep tonight or or where either of us will eventually end up.

But in sharing my lunch I meet his eyes, and in meeting his eyes I can meet my own in the mirror, and for today, that’s enough for me.

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Bobbi

“He always knew what to say.”

Bobbi’s eyes broke away from mine, glancing down bashfully.  She had beautiful eyes – what color were they anyways?  Blue?  Cornflower blue?  She traced the edges of the table between us with a fingertip, cheeks flushing slightly as she fell into the memory.

“He’d come home, and it would be late.  He worked such long hours, you know.  We both did.  It was before the babies came, but we still had trouble making ends meet.  We both worked so hard.  I’d be in the middle of making dinner – and I’d have all the burners going at once, trying to time it so it all finished cooking at the same time.  It was so hard getting the timing just right.”

She raised her eyes to mine again – such a startling intensity for a woman well past 80.  I wondered briefly what they must have looked like when she was in her twenties – Liz Taylor probably had nothing on Bobbi. She was looking at me, but I could tell she wasn’t seeing me. She was back in her kitchen – steam rising from pots boiling over, damp summer heat curling the hairs around her face.

“I wouldn’t hear him come in, sometimes.  He was tall, but he moved so quiet. Always did.  He’d come up behind me, and I would feel his arms slide around my waist, and I would drop the spoon.  Always the spoon,” she laughed, as her hand rose up of its own accord to tuck flyaway hair behind her ear – hair that framed her face only in memory.  “Every time, that damn spoon.”  She laughed again, her eyes crinkling at the corners.  ” ‘Why do you have to sneak in and scare me?’ I’d say. ‘I’m sick of having to rewash that spoon.’ It’d make me so mad.”

She looked anything but mad.

“You scared me,” I’d say, and I’d turn around to smack him… but he’d draw me into his arms.

‘Dance with me’, he’d say.  I’d tell him to let me go.  The spoon was on the floor.  The pots were boiling over.

‘Dance with me,’ he’d say again.

“I wouldn’t want to.  Who had time for dancing?  I’d spent all that time, trying to get dinner going, so it would all be done at the same time.  I couldn’t just let it burn, and if I turned the burners off, the pasta would be ruined.  It’s not like we had lots of food in the house.  The sauce needed to be stirred, and I still had to rinse off the spoon…. but he wouldn’t listen.  He’d reach around behind me, and he’d turn off the burners, one by one.”

She raised her eyes, glancing up with a shy passion into the the eyes of a face that was no longer there.  “And then he’d stretch his arm up to the shelf above the stove, and he’d twist the knob on the radio, slowly, and the music would get loud.  ‘Dance with me,’ he’d say again.

“And he’d pull me into his arms, and I’d protest – but not for very long.  The dinner would be ruined, but it didn’t matter.  We would dance. The pasta would get cold, and the biscuits would be dry, but he’d hold me in his arms and we’d just lose ourselves in the music.”  Her eyes snapped back to me, and she gave me a surprisingly girlish grin.  “Of course, sometimes we wouldn’t even make it back to dinner.”  The twinkle in her eyes let me know that she hadn’t been very upset about that, either.

“How long were you married?”

“Forty years.  He’s been gone for more than twenty years now.   Twenty years….”  She shook her head, eyes darkening.  “I should have danced with him more.  The dinners didn’t matter.  I should have danced with him more. For such a tall man, he moved so quiet.”

She looked away from me then, glancing around at the beige walls of the upscale retirement home.  It was clean, it smelled of vanilla air freshener and the art in the sitting room was tasteful, but something about the lonely way she’d rolled right over to me, the moment I sat down, let me know that it wasn’t enough.  I was waiting for someone to lead me back to visit my great-aunt, but after Bobbi’s eyes met mine, it didn’t seem right to just leave her.  Alone.

“Twenty years,” she repeated, as she rubbed her hands on the worn armrests of her wheelchair.  She stared wordlessly for a few moments at the fragile, wrinkled skin of her hands.  “If I’d known I would have to be without him for so long…. I shouldn’t have said no, not as often as I did. Who cared if dinner was cold?  ‘Dance with me,’ he’d say, and he’d spin me in the kitchen until the song was done, even it ruined his dinner.  He never minded. So why did I?”

And then she was gone, looking off into the distance, lost in the memory of ruined dinners and the kind of love that lasts.

.

ADHD Test

Thank you for calling our clinic!  Before you schedule your first appointment, please follow this link and create your Patient Portal Account.  We request you finish all steps before calling our clinic.

Step 1:  Fill out your name

Step 2:  Fill out your date of birth

Step 3:  Fill out all of your insurance information from the card you keep in your wallet – of course you totally know where your wallet is and you haven’t misplaced it, right?  You have?  Well, go find it. We’ll wait thirty minutes while you ransack the house and car.  Okay, do you have it?  Well, fill it in.

Step 4:  Fill out more information about…. about something.

Step 5:  No, for reals, go back and finish step 4.  You can’t skip it.

Step 6:  Do you have any new email?  You should check.

Step 7:  That’s not what Step 6 said.  Go back and check it again.  Speaking of checks, did that one check clear your bank yet?  Better go check it out before you bounce a check. Heh.  CHECK it out before you bounce a CHECK… was that a pun?   Is it a pun if you use the word “check” twice? No?  I wonder what that’s called?  Wait, follow through on the bank thing.  You really need to see if you have to transfer money.  If your account overdrafts The Bean’s gonna be mad.

Step 8:  Stupid.  You  were thinking of The Bean and accidentally logged into his account.  Log out and log back in to your own account.

Step 9:  We didn’t say log into Facebook – log into Wells Fargo.

Step 10:  Why are you logged into Wells Fargo?  Was there a reason? Man, the browser is slow – how long has it been since you closed it out and restarted it?  A day?  Two days?  And why do you have 19 tabs open at the same time?  Better close all tabs and restart it.

Step 11:  Wait!  Wait!  What happened to that thingie you were filling out?  CRAP.  It didn’t save.

Step 12:  Thank you for logging in to your Patient Portal Account.  We request you finish all steps before scheduling your first appointment.  Please fill out your name.

Step 13:  Fill out your date of birth.

Step 14:  Fill out your insurance informa—Wait… where did you put your wallet?  It was just here.

[Twenty-five minutes later]

Hooray!  Thank you for creating your Patient Portal Account!  Please click on the following link and answer some important questions before your appointment!


Step 1:  Please complete the ASRS-V1.1

Step 2:  What the heck is an ASRS-V1.1?  Better Google that.

Step 3.  Wow, cool.  Better Google that further.

Step 4:  Why do you have 17 tabs open already?  Close some of them.

Step 5:  CRAP – NOT THAT ONE….. too late.

Step 6:  Log in.  AGAIN.

Step 7:  Holy crap – how many survey/test thingies do they want you take?  There’s, like, 9 or 10 of these things.  Never mind, just click on one of them.  It doesn’t matter how many there are – just do one at a time.

  • Question 1: How often do you have trouble wrapping up the final details of a project, once the challenging parts have been done?  Never?  Rarely?  Sometimes? Often? Very Often?
  • Question 2: How often do you have difficulty getting things in order when you have to do a task that requires organization?  Never?  Rarely?  Sometimes? Often? Very Often?
  • How often do you have problems remembering appointments or obligations?  Never?  Rarely?  Sometimes? Often? Very Often?
  • How often do you make careless mistakes when you have to work on a boring or difficult project?  Never?  Rarely? Sometimes? Often? Very Often?
  • How often do you have difficulty keeping your attention when you are doing boring or repetitive work?  Never?  Rarely?  Sometimes? Often? Very Often?












Step 8:  OMG, can you just focus?  For like 5 minutes?  Please?

  • How often do you have difficulty waiting your turn in situations when turn taking is required?  Never?  Rarely?  Sometimes? Often? Very Often?
  • How often do you have difficulty concentrating on what people say to you, even when they are speaking to you directly?  Never?  Rarely?  Sometimes? Often? Very Often?
  • How often are you distracted by activity or noise around you?  Never?  Rarely?  Sometimes? Often? Very Often?
  • How often do you misplace or have difficulty finding things at home or at work?  Never?  Rarely?  Sometimes? Often? Very Often?

And now you know why I’ve never seen anyone for help with my ADHD.

Bubbles the FreeRange Kitty

I keep wanting to blog about the clinic, and I want to get it all out while it’s still fresh in my head.

Needless to say, I had the world’s most incredible time… and in addition to having the time of my life, I learned so much my brain hurt.  In some areas of how I approach horses I experienced a completely revolutionary shift in thinking… which was both weird and awesome.

I have a ton of pictures to go through – I’m only about halfway through going through them, and I have over 50 “favorites”.

I even took a bunch of notes on the long drive home, so I know exactly what I want to write about.

And then I woke up on Tuesday, physically exhausted but happy and ready to write….

And a freak accident occurred, and we lost our kitten Bubbles.

Even though he was still young, he was just an AWESOME cat.  He was one of those one-in-a-million cats.

I mean, we drove him to the DragonMonkey’s  preschool for show and tell and handed him around to twenty different preschoolers, and he never even complained, or tried to wriggle away.

That’s a pretty awesome cat.

On the one hand I’m just incredibly sad, although I’m not as devastated as I could be… mainly because when I lost my best friend (also another incredible cat) when I was in my early 20s,  I spent about three months just going through the motions of life, feeling like I had a hole where my heart used to be…. and I realized how ridiculous that was.

Our pets do not live as long as we do.  We live 80 years.  They live about 15 years.

I knew I couldn’t survive having my heart destroyed every 10 or 15 years, and I made a conscious decision to not lose myself completely in any of my pets again, at least not the shorter lived ones.  Oh, I still love them passionately, but I just don’t let myself completely go with them.  In the back of my mind I realize I’m going to outlive them.

Hey, maybe that’s not the healthiest way to approach it, but it’s what I had to do to keep myself from flinging myself off a bridge if I ever lost another pet.

Which I guess is why it surprised me that it hurt so much when Bubbles passed.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised – he was an incredible little cat, and I bottle fed him from the time he was about 5 days old.  Once they were old enough his sister found a home with my very good friend here in town, and we kept him. 

So, anyways, before I go on and post anything about the clinic, I just need to take a moment to say goodbye.  I kept trying to just keep it to myself, because I didn’t feel like writing about it, but the sadness was seeping into my clinic posts, so I realized I needed to do this.

Miss you, Bubbles.  You really were the best of kitties.  I’ll see you again someday.

That’s Some Loud Underwear You’ve Got There

Yay! I got another article published at The Shake.

I should post it on my blog.

But wait.  I just posted yesterday.  I should wait a day or two before posting this one.  I’m bad enough about updating regularly – I should spread the love out.  If I start posting twice in one day, they’ll think I’m on some kind of writing spree, and get all spoiled.

I’ll wait a day.  Yeah, that’s a good idea.

And then I’ll write a really interesting intro, so it doesn’t feel like I’m just sending them a link and shooing them away.

Except…. Oh, geez.  SQUID!  THE YOGURT IS NOT FOR FINGERPAINTING THE DOG.  GROSS.  You either eat it or you put it on the counter….NO.  I MEANT EAT THE YOGURT IN THE CONTAINER, NOT LICK IT OFF THE DOG.  STOP.  I’m not joking, little man.  STOP, RIGHT NOW, OR YOU’RE GONNA PUT YOUR NOSE IN THE CORNER UNTIL YOU’RE 20.

Has he stopped?

Nope.

If you’ll excuse me, I’m off to put a kid in the corner.

Edit:

I did a little more research and discovered that the undies I wrote on was a marketing prank done by a feminist group to raise awareness of how sexist Victoria’s Secret underwear is…. which, the more I think about it, just makes it seem even sillier.

I actu
ally researched it before I wrote about it, but I didn’t do a good enough job. BAD, Becky. Bad. Go get the Cone of Shame.

Also, I’m bummed, because I missed the chance to make fun of the angry feminists instead of Victoria’s Secret. Boo.

Ah, well.  It was a good lesson to learn.

Pizza

“Oh, for goodness sakes.  I’ll take it.”

The instant I saw the pizza waiting in the heating racks I knew exactly why everyone was dubiously ignoring it.  Pizzas rarely lingered there – a full bag meant a run, and a run meant a tip, and each tip added up.

I’d just come in from a delivery so I should have been the last on the list of drivers, but nobody argued with me as I clocked the run out. I grabbed the red insulated bag from the wire heating racks and stomped out the front door, tossing the bag haphazardly on the passenger seat of my car before speeding out of the parking lot.

I was fuming.   What a bunch of jerks. Nobody ever wanted to take the TIL runs – pizza deliveries to the Transition To Independent Living section of our local college.  The TIL section was a branch of dorms filled with high-functioning mentally disabled students in the process of learning how to live independently – how to live alone in an apartment, maintain a job, cook, pay the bills…. and even how to order the occasional pizza.

The problem with runs to the TIL section of the college is they always took twice or even three times as long as a regular run.  More often than not you had to help the student count out the correct change.  They could underpay or overpay by obscene amounts, and after all the extra time and help you rarely got a tip.  I mean, you couldn’t very well pull your own tip out of the money you were counting back to them.

TIL runs weren’t my favorite runs, but they definitely didn’t deserve to just sit there with the cheese congealing.  Jerks. My coworkers were disgusting jerks.

Three minutes later I pulled the little blue Honda civic into the parking lot, tires squealing a little from the sudden stop. 

I balanced the bag on my forearm as I jogged to the correct apartment, ignoring the heat as it scalded my forearm – after nearly a year delivering pizzas I’d learned how to tune it out.  I used my free hand to knock sharply on the door, and did my best not to tap my foot impatiently as I mentally calculated the minutes and potential tips as they steadily ticked away.

The door opened up, and my eyes widened.

“PIZZAAAAAAA!” came the raucous cry, rising above the deep beat of the party music.  The tiny dorm-like apartments were designed for a single person, but this particular room had somewhere around 10 people crammed into it, leaving it looking less like a room and more like an oversized clown car.  Everyone was wearing party hats – flamboyant cardboard affairs strapped onto their heads with thin, elastic strings, perched at crazy angles above round, flushed, smiling faces.

The young man at the front of the door had a particularly festive hat  – a red and gold cardboard crown with glittering streamers and “IT’S MY BIRTHDAY!” written in a particularly obnoxious font.  His face was red with excitement, and the sandy brown hair beneath the hat was sticking to his forehead, damp with sweat.

“Heeeeeeey!” He leaned forward, and before I could defend myself I found myself enveloped in a large, happy, slightly sweaty hug.  Despite the heat radiating off of him, he smelled oddly nice – maybe Axe Body spray, or some other kind familiar cologne.  “It’s my BIRTHDAY!”  His voice was a little too loud, speaking right by my ear, but the joy in it was infectious.  “MY BIRTHDAY!”

“Okay, uh… okay.”  I hugged him back awkwardly with one arm, struggling not to drop the pizza.  “Happy Birthday.”

He pulled back and turned around to the others in the room, who had fallen silent during the interaction, waiting with a strange, solid patience.  “It’s my BIRTHDAY!” he said, throwing his hands up in the air.

The room erupted in raucous, wordless cheers – the kind of happy melee they always show on TV at a college frat party, but that never seems to exist in real life.  When the noise level seemed about to die down, Birthday Boy threw his hands up in the air again.  “And the PIZZA IS HERE!”   He worked the room with all the skill of a political orator, and his friends responded happily, right on cue.

The cheers erupted again, and one girl in the back stood up and began dancing with abandon, overcome by either frenzied happiness or the deep bass of the song in the background.  What she lacked in rhythm she made up for with enthusiasm.

I laughed.  Who wouldn’t, when confronted with such deep, unapologetic joy?  “Well, happy birthday, dude, and here’s your pizza!” Reaching into the bag I pulled out the two large pizzas with a flourish. “That’ll be $23.97.”

Birthday Boy, flushed and sweating, grabbed the boxes from my hands and placed them on the table, returning to press two twenties into my hand.  I palmed the two bills in one hand as I reached into my pouch to pull out change, but Birthday Boy waved his hand magnanimously.

“No change.”

“No, no, you need change,” I explained patiently, as I dug around in my fanny pack.  “You gave me two twenty dollar bills – that’s forty dollars.  Your change is over sixteen dollars.” 

He shook his head obstinately, ignoring a bead of sweat that slid down the side of his face.  “No change.  It’s your tip.”

I ignored him as I recounted his change, making sure I’d pulled out the correct amount before I began the process of counting it back to him.  “See, a tip is the right thing to do, but that’s too much.  When you order a pizza you should only give about two dollars for a ti–”

I broke off as his hand clamped over my own, thick fingers covering mine as he curled my fingers over the change.  I met his eyes in surprise.  He had nice eyes – hazel and warm.  Kind.  Happy.

“No.  No change,” he repeated.  “It’s your tip.”

“It’s too much.  I can’t take this much.  It would be wrong. You’re not supposed to tip this much.  It’s only supposed to—“

“NO.”  His voice was firm, and he shook his head.  “You keep it.  No change.”  He looked at me smugly, taking his hand from mine, and pointed slowly at the towering crown on his head with its ridiculous display of streamers.  “It’s my birthday.  You have to do what I say.”

He broke eye contact to turn back to the room, and raised his hands.  “IT’S MY BIRTHDAY!!!”  Obediently, the room broke out in cheers.

I surprised myself by laughing.  It was hot, I was tired, I’d pulled a double shift with some of my least-favorite coworkers…. and yet standing there, in that doorway, I felt happier than I had in weeks.

“Are you sure?  This really is too much.  I’d really prefer it if you didn’t give me…”

He turned back, and pointed wordlessly at his hat again, his other arm still forgotten in the air. 

“Alright, alright, I give up.  It’s too much, but thank you for the ti–”  The door shut in my face, our transaction apparently complete. 

From behind the door came the muffled sounds of continued celebration.  As I stood there in the fading evening light, with the limp pizza bag dangling from my hand, I couldn’t help but wonder if maybe they had their life more figured out than I did.

NaNoWriMo Excerpt

“Cameron, I’ve had a long day, too.  I work just as hard at my job as you do at yours, and I’m constantly picking up the slack with Toby and the house.  This place doesn’t run itself.”  I didn’t even have to think to come up with the words – we’d argued about this so many times that it almost felt like a script.  

Only this time I wasn’t going to play the same role.  

Time.  There was never enough time…. but sometimes, there was too much of it.  I’d spent way too much time by myself in that house, lying in the dark bedroom, spending gritty, uncomfortable hours staring at the ceiling as I waited for Cameron to come home – ignoring the sound of the shower he only took on the nights he was late.

Time.  I think it was time.

I crossed over the room and went to stand in front of him again.  “I’m serious, Cam.  Where were you?”


He looked up from his glass, moody,  a heat to his lazy movements.  It took me a moment to identify, but when I did, it surprised me.  Angry?  He was angry?  

“Do we really have to do this right now, Alexandra?  I’m serious, I am not in the mood for this.”  


I remained calm outwardly, but I could feel my fingernails biting into my palm as I clenched my fist.

“Cameron, I’m not really interested in what you’re in the mood for.  Do you know what I’m in the mood for?” I paused, making sure he was meeting my eyes.  “I’m in the mood for the truth.  Where were you?”

I was right about the anger.  He exploded up from couch suddenly, probably in response to the fact that I was standing over him, and began to pace around the room with a liquid grace.  

“So that’s how it’s going to go, is it?  I come home after a long day of work, and I show up to— what— you pouncing on me as soon as I hit the living room, not even giving me a chance to sit down?  What gives you the right?”  He picked up speed as he got going, and I stared at him, not even bothering to hide the fact that my mouth was gaping open.  What in the world?  Where was this coming from?


“Cameron, what is going on?  What are you even talking about?  I didn’t ‘pounce’ on you, I–”

He interrupted me, flinging his hands up in the air for emphasis, obviously forgetting about the drink in his hands.  I watch as it spilled over the side again, and onto the carpet.  Well, if he thought I was getting down on my hands and knees to clean it up again, he had another thing coming.  “You’re arguing words, and I’m discussing issues.  Quit picking at me over the small stuff. Jesus, Alexandra, can’t I get five minutes to myself?”  He gestured sharply again, and there was another splash onto the carpet – this from a man who never had a hair out of place, or a wrinkle on his suit.  It hit me suddenly.

“Are you….. are you drunk Cameron?”  I take it all in – the flush to his skin, the lazily hooded eyes, the sloppy behavior.  “You are, aren’t you?”  Cameron never got drunk – he’d drink, but getting drunk implied being sloppy, and that’s one thing he never was.  

That’s when it really hit me.  “Wait a second – you’ve been home less than five minutes.  You had to have been drunk before you got here. You DROVE drunk?”  

Somehow, out of everything that had happened tonight, this bothered me the worst.  It was one thing for him to slowly destroy our family from the inside out.  It was an entirely different thing for him to put the lives of strangers at risk with his stupid behavior.  Suddenly I wasn’t just angry.  

Suddenly, I was furious.  

“You drove drunk?!” I repeat.  He thought I pounced on him before?  He had another thing coming.  “What in the hell were you thinking?  Do you have any idea how lucky you are that you didn’t plow your car into some unsuspecting family?”  I approached him, raising my finger and jabbing at his chest, stopping just short of actually touching him.  Once I’m closer, I can smell it on him – he’s not just drunk.  He’s plastered.  “You’re not some idiot teenager, Cameron.  What were you thinking, driving like this?”


“I wasn’t,” he said in a surprisingly clear voice for the amount of alcohol I could smell oozing out of his pores, the words coming out tight through his gritted teeth.

“You’re damn right you weren’t thinking.  Nobody who is thinking would drive while drun–”

“No, I wasn’t driving.”  He waited a beat, then leaned forward, invading my space aggressively.  “I said I didn’t want to do this tonight, but fine.  You want to do this? You’re going to insist on it?  Fine.  Suit yourself.  I wasn’t driving,”  he repeated, still leaning forward, face only inches from my own.  “Kristen was.”  He said it deliberately, weighting the word with significance, eyes hot with anger and daring me to understand.


It felt  like ice.  It wasn’t pain, it wasn’t hurt, it was ice, ice that threaded its way deep into my heart, slicing through and enveloping everything I was in a single flash.

“Kristen?” I repeated numbly.  Kristen.  I finally had a name, and proof, and yet – and yet I couldn’t seem to wrap my brain around it.  “Who’s Kristen?”

“Who do you think she is, Alexandra?”  He leaned back out of my face, and suddenly I could breathe again, released from the potent force of his nearness.  He headed back to the couch, where he sprawled on it again, holding the drink in front of his eyes, swirling it.  

I knew darn well who Kristen is – or at least what she is, and what this implied, but I wasn’t  about to let him get off that easy.  I wasn’t going to fill in the blanks for him – he had to say the words.  I deserved that much, didn’t I?  

“I don’t know, Cam, why don’t you tell me?  Who is Kristen?”

He laughed then, and the sound of it was a little bitter.  “You know, the interesting fact isn’t really who Kristen is,” he said, still staring into his glass.  I don’t even know if he’s talking to me – it seems like he might just be talking to himself.  “The interesting thing is what she is.”  He paused again, and gave that same, bitter laugh.  It wasn’t a sound I was accustomed to hearing from him, and suddenly, I was scared.  I didn’t want him to say another word.  Stop.  Just…stop.  

But it was too late.


“I’ll tell you what she is.”  His mouth wrenched suddenly with something between a smile and a grimace.  “What is she?”  He raised his glass to me in a mock salute, eyebrow crooked up.
“She’s pregnant,” he finished, tossing back the rest of his drink into his mouth with a flourish.

Pregnant.

Who would have thought that one little word could say so much?  Imply so much?  I tried to keep my face blank, but it wasn’t my face that was the problem, it was my legs.  I felt like they were giving out on me, or like the world was suddenly shaking beneath me.  I crossed the room to stand by the bar, placing a hand lightly on it.  The feel of the smooth wood grain beneath my palm was steadying to me, and I closed my eyes for a moment, trying to find my balance.

Pregnant.


I should have been angry.  I should have been furious.  I should have been something – anything but this cold confusion.

Kristen, whoever she is, was pregnant.

It was like I’ve never heard the word before, and I turned back to face him, looking at him, shaking my head slightly.  

“Whose is it?” I heard my voice say, even though I felt like an idiot for saying the words.

“Whose is it… Jesus, Alexandra, whose do you think it is?  It’s mine.”
Of course it’s his.  I knew it was his, I knoew what this meant, and yet, I still couldn’t seem to wrap my head around this.  How could he do this?  How could he do this to me – to Toby?

“Why?” I heard myself ask, hating the tears I heard in my voice, the soft sounds of hopelessness.  When did I become this person?  What happened to the person I used to be – the strong, independent young woman who felt like she could change the world?  When did that person die?  


“What do you mean, ‘why’?  Alex, there isn’t any ‘why’.  It just…. it just happened. I’m not happy it happened this way, and I didn’t want to talk about it tonight, but you kind of forced me to.”  He was looking at me with the same expression I gave Toby when he had done something wrong… like this was somehow my fault.

I shook my head again, trying to push past the ice that had become the new core of who I was, trying to find just a single foothold, or handhold, on this new slippery disaster that had become my present.  “I don’t… I don’t understand.  I mean, I understand what you’re saying,” I said with a laugh – a laugh that now held the same bitter echo that his did a few moments ago.  “I just don’t understand…. now what?  What do we do now?”

Cameron stared at me with a cool, somewhat vague sympathy.  His eyes were as beautiful as they’d always been – hazel seemed too plain a word to describe them.  Rich, warm brown, flecked with shards of blue and green, and those lashes….. Back in our early days, I remember rolling over in our bed, watching the first rays of morning sun bathe him in golden warmth until it seemed like he was glowing.  His lashes seemed even more incredible when he was sleeping – thick, long, and giving him an air of innocence….. which was pretty incredible, considering the hours of  passionate abandon we spent in each other’s arms were anything but innocent.

Even now, looking up into those eyes, I could feel my stomach tighten and warm with the heat of the memories.

“Alexandra….there is no us.  It’s nothing that you’ve done.  It just….It’s just… well, sometimes two people just fall out of love.”

I was sure I was supposed to make some kind of response, but it was like I’d lost the ability to communicate.  I stared at him, trying to make sense of the words.  Was I dreaming?  Was this really happening?

“What Kristen and I have found… well, I need to move forward with this.   We were going to do it anyways, but her being pregnant kind of forced our hand sooner that I was planning.  I’m in love with her, and she’s in love with me. I’m sorry if that hurts you, but it’s the truth.”  He sounded reasonable, calm.  It was his lawyer voice, honed to perfection from years in the courtroom.  He sounded perfectly at ease, but I could see a tightness in his shoulders that let me know he was anticipating my explosion.

I should be exploding at him, shouldn’t I?  Shouldn’t I feel something?  Anything?  Shouldn’t I feel anger, or betrayal, or hurt, or something other than cold, icy, numbing confusion?

Nine years of marriage, thousands of home-cooked meals, hundreds of phone calls ending in “Don’t worry baby, I understand, you stay as late as you need to at work, I’ll put the baby to bed and leave something warm on the stove for you“,  two different cities, countless hours of passionate intimacy and one three year old little boy who stole my heart…. and it came down to this?  He had found something with someone named Kristen, and he didn’t love me anymore?

I stared up into his eyes, those warm, comforting eyes, refusing to blink.  It was like they were my lifeline to this earth, and if I lost contact with them, I’d fall.  Shatter.

Maybe I was already shattering.

“So, uh…”  He was starting to get uncomfortable with the silence.  Even while I was in the middle of having my entire world fall apart, I could read him.  It was only natural.  I’d spent the better part of the last decade trying to anticipate his needs, supporting him and loving him as best as I knew how.

“So, I’ll just toss a few things in a bag…” he trailed off again, waiting for me to say something.
 
I knew I shoud rspond, but out of nowhere, I was stuck on the thought that he probably had no idea where we kept the suitcases.  I wonder if he’d realized that yet?  And it wasn’t  like he could drive drunk.  Was he going to take a taxi?  Or would Kristen come back and get him?

“And a couple of things for Toby…”

Toby?  I could feel my eyebrows rising in challenge, and I felt myself center again, as if I was being achored, just by thinking about my son.  Toby, with his daddy’s eyes and mop of golden hair that would look better suited on a girl.  Toby, who drove me nuts all day long with his incessant questions.  Toby, who could tear my heart out with one quickfire hug from his skinny little arms.

Suddenly I wasn’t feeling so helpless.

 

Conversations With My Dog


“C’mon, Max.  Time to come out of your kennel.”

Tick Tick TICK!  TICKTICKTICK!  TICKETYTICKTICKTICK!  TICKTICKTICKTICKTICKTICKTICKTICKTICKTICKTICKTICKTICKTICKTICK...

“Max, no running in the house.  Settle down, you’re going to wake up the babies.  Here, go outside and go potty.”

TICKTICKTICKTICKTICKTICK –

“MAX!  Get back here.  Max, COME.  Good boy.  Now go outside.”

Tick. 🙁 Tick. 🙁  Tick.  🙁 Tick.  🙁

Silence.

“Max, you actually need to pee before you can come back inside.”

Silence.

“I am completely unmoved by the big, sad, “I’m-so-abused” look you’re giving me.  GO.  Go potty, Max.  Good boy.  There, see, was that so hard?  You can come inside now.”

TICKTICKTICKTICKTICKTICKTICKTICKTICKTICKTICKTICKTICKTICKTICK!  TICKETY! TICKETY! TICKETY! TICKTICKTICKTICKTICKETY!

“Max!  No running in the house – relax, dog.  You’re going to wake up the DragonMonkey.”

TICKETYTICKETY!  TICKETYTICKETY!  TICKTICKTICKTICKTICKTICKTICKTICK—

“LAY DOWN, MAX.  Good boy.  Geez, didn’t we just trim your nails?”

Tick.  Tickticktick.  Tickticktick.  WHUMP.  Sigh.

“Good boy.”

Tick?  😀  Tick? 😀  Tick? 😀 Ticktick :D?

“I said ‘Good boy’, not come here.  Go lay down.”

Tick 🙁  Tick 🙁  TickTick 🙁 🙁

“Okay, fine.  C’mere.”

TICK 😀 😀 !!!! Tickticktick!!!! 😀 😀 😀 🙂 🙂 🙂 TICKTICKTICKTICKTICK!

“Yes, you’re a good boy.  Good dog.  Here, let me get the eye crumblies out of the corner of your eye.  Ewww.  There.  All better?  Good boy, yes you are.  You’re a good boy.  Now lay down, right here.”

WHUMP.  Sigh.

…..

………

…………….

Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick.  Tick, tick, tick –

“Maaaaaax!”

Tickticktick?

“You better not be going down that hallway to drink out of the toilet.”

Ticktickticktick 🙁  WHUMP.  Sigh.

“That’s right.  You stay out out of there.  Good boy.”

……

……….

…………….

tickticktickticktickticktickticktickticktick

“Hi, Max!  Mama, Max open doowr!  Hi, Max.  Up?  Up on da bed?  Sweep wif Max?”

“Max, get out of there!  Quit sneaking down the hall and waking him up!  No, DragonMonkey, you can’t sleep with Max.  Max, GO.  And you – go back to sleep, DM.”

“Pwease?  PWEASE?  PWEASE SWEEP WIF MAX?  PWEASE?”

“No.  He’ll go pee in your room in the middle of the night.  Max sleeps in his bed.  Now go back to sleep.  Max, GO.  Go lay down”

Tick 🙁  Tick 🙁  Tick 🙁 Tick 🙁 

WHUMP.  Sigh.

………

……………..

………………………

tickticktickticktickticktickticktickticktick

“Max, come here.  I see you sneaking down the hallway.  Come lay by me so I can keep you out of mischief.  The DragonMonkey’s fine. Quit trying to check on him – you’re just waking him up.”

Tick 🙁  Tick 🙁  Tick 🙁 Tick 🙁  

Tickticktick.  Tickticktick.  Tickticktick.

Tickticktick.  Tickticktick.  Tickticktick.

Tickticktick.  Tickticktick.  Tickticktick.

Tickticktick.  Tickticktick. Tickticktick.

“Max, you’re stuck on circle mode.  Just lay down and relax, dog.  Your nails are driving me crazy.”

Tickticktick.  Tickticktick.  Tickticktick.  WHUMP.  Sigh.

“Good boy, Max.”

Tick? 😀  Tick? 😀  Ticktick? 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

“No, I didn’t call you.  Just lay down, Max.  You’re a good boy, but just lay down.”

Tickticktick.  Tickticktick.  Tickticktick.

Tickticktick.  Tickticktick. Tickticktick.

Ticktick—

I swear the next place I live is going to have floor to ceiling carpet. 

Rooster Pinata: The Best Sport in the World

For those of you who don’t know, I love chickens.  Seriously – they’re awesome.  I love them.  Read this post if you don’t believe me.

Okay, now that I’ve cleared my good name I can tell you about Evil.

Back when I was living in the Kern County area I used to board my horse at a little stables off the main highway.  The stalls were fantastic, the rent was incredibly cheap, and even though it was in a small town the stables themselves seemed to have less drama than most barns I’ve been at.  All in all it was a really great place.

The only downside to the barn was the location – as it was situated off of a main highway, most people could see it from the road.  I don’t know what your experience has been, but when normal, non-horsey people see a stables they don’t think, “Hey, look!  A stables!  I bet they keep horses there.  Neat.”

They seem to think, “Hey, look!  Horse Stables!  That’s where my latest unwanted puppy/cat/dog/kitten/chicken needs to be abandoned!”

I’m sure they mean well, even if what they’re doing is incredibly selfish, lazy, and rather cruel.  They probably have this nice idea of their animal living a comfortable, happy lifestyle, surrounded by laughing people and sweet-smelling hay bales.  “The kittens are playful!  They can eat mice, and run around, and live a good life!  All barns need a cat, right?”

Look,I don’t know about the rest of you, but we had a term for abandoned kittens at a horse barn.  We called them “Coyote Candy”. 

Maybe it was the area we lived in, but the animals which were constantly abandoned at our barn never really lived all that long.  It was a race against time, trying to find them homes before they were eaten.  Someone would drop off a litter of kittens.  By Tuesday, there would only be three little fluffballs.  On Friday there would only be one.  By Monday the barns would once again be cat-free, and someone would drop off an abandoned puppy.

Cats, kittens, puppies, chickens…. None of them seemed to last.  The coyotes in the area seemed to consider our barn their own personal buffet, and none of the abandoned animals seemed to live very long. 

That is, except for Evil.  Evil was a ratty, ragged, ill-tempered rooster.  He was a mottled red, had two or three drooping, pathetic tail feathers, and evil, beady little eyes.

I have no idea who dropped Evil off, but for all I know they knew all about our coyote issue and thought they were assigning Evil to a very deserved death.  To be honest, I wouldn’t blame them.

From the day he arrived Evil took over the stables.  He went wherever he wanted to go…. and heaven help you if you tried to make him leave before he was ready.

He was fine as long as you approached him directly.  If you walked towards him he’d stand up and saunter off, bobbing slowly away.  He always managed to make it look like it was his idea, too.

What’s that?  Oh, I just felt like getting up and walking over here.  See how I’m not meeting your eye?  You’re not making me do this at all. I *want* to go over here.

Yeah, getting him to move away from your stall/barn/hay stack wasn’t a problem.

The problem was when you turned your back.

I still remember the first time I saw him.  “Oh, hey!  A rooster!  Someone dropped off some chickens.  Cool!”  I squatted down, waggling my fingers at him.  “Heeeeeere, chook,chook, chook.  Heeeeere, chook, chook, chook.”

Evil stared at me silently, ignoring my outstretched hand.

“Tcht, tcht…heeeeeere, chook, chook.”

“Bakwaaaaaaaaak….” Evil growled ominously, and sauntered off.

I stood up, dusting my pants in disappointment, then turned around to head back to Jubilee’s stall.

“BCKWAAAAAAK!”  With a triumphant scream of rage, Evil launched himself at my back in a furious scrabble of flapping wings, scratching legs, and pointy, stabby little pecks of his beak.

Naturally, I did what any sane person would do when ambushed by an evil, attacking rooster bent on world domination: 

I  dropped my car keys, screamed like a little girl, and bolted about 10 feet in the opposite direction before turning around to see what was after me.

Evil stood in a cloud of dust, glaring at me, then smugly scratched the ground twice before sauntering off.  He’d showed me. 

I stared at him, mouth agape.  Had I…. had I just been beaten up by a chicken?

Why, yes.  Yes I had.  And it wasn’t the last time, either.

If Evil had just come at me fairly, I would have shown him who was boss, and that would have been that.  The problem was that Evil was smart.  He knew his only hope lay in ambush, so he never attacked you face-to-face. 

He was oddly stealthy for a chicken, and would creep up on you silently while you were distracted.  One second I’d be calmly cleaning Jubilee’s stall, lulled into a peaceful state through the steady scooping and sifting of the clean shavings through the tines of the manure fork…

And the next second I’d have a giant rooster stabbing me with his claws, screaming his rage into my ear as he scrabbled and clawed at my back.

I’d scream and bolt every time, and every time I’d turn around and see that stupid chicken standing there, smugly eyeballing me before he sauntered out of the pen.

No matter how vigilant I remained, he always managed to wait until my guard was down before attacking.  He bothered other people at the stables, but for some reason he took a particular aversion to me.  I swear that rooster was hunting me. 

I hated that rooster.  I felt a little guilty, but to be honest, I couldn’t wait for the coyotes to get him.
 
For once, the coyotes failed to do their job.  That stupid rooster refused to be eaten.  I think even the coyotes realized he was a little too evil for them to mess with.

Within a few weeks I was twitchy and spooky, jumping at the slightest noise and doing my best to look over my shoulder every thirty seconds.  It’s not like I didn’t try to fight back.  I remember the time he spooked me so hard I jumped into the barn wall, scraping my nose.  I completely lost it.   That was IT.  Love of chickens or not, I’d had enough.  Evil the rooster was going DOWN.

I flew out the front of the stall, manure fork carried over my head like an angry villager’s torch.  Evil tried sauntering away from me for a few steps, but once he realized I meant business he took off.  I don’t know if you know this or not, but chickens are FAST when they want to be.

Unfortunately for evil roosters, so are Beckys.

That stupid rooster and I tore up one row of stalls and down the other in an eerie silence.  He didn’t make a single sound as he ran, and the only sound coming from me was a steady, determined breathing.

He fluttered through stalls, doubled back through the manure spreader, scurried over pipes, dashed through the round pen…. All with me hot on his heels. We were spooking every horse we went past, but I didn’t care.

I’m not sure how the situation would have resolved itself if the barn manager hadn’t come by to feed her horse.  She pulled in front of her stall just in time to see me round a corner, red-faced and sweaty, four steps behind that stupid rooster, manure fork cocked and loaded against my shoulder like a bat.

“Becky!  What are you doing?!”

“Killing him,” I huffed as I sprinted past her, spooking her horse.

It didn’t do to spook the barn manager’s horse.

“BECKY!  KNOCK IT OFF.  LEAVE THAT CHICKEN ALONE!”  For such a short woman, she had an impressively loud voice.

I slid to stop and watched angrily as Evil immediately slowed down to a saunter.  He wasn’t running away.  He was just out for an evening stroll… although for once I did catch him looking directly at me as he panted as heavily as I did. 

“I’m sick of that rooster, Diane.”

“Then leave it alone, Becky.”  An animal lover to her core, I could see that Diane wasn’t going to see my side of the equation. I was just an evil, chicken-chasing animal hater. She shook her head in disappointment.

“Fine,” I snapped, stalking back to my barn to fume.

Life continued along the same lines for a couple of weeks.  I did my best to ignore the idiot, evil rooster, hoping the coyotes would finally man up and do their job.  They didn’t, and Evil continued to ambush and scare the living crap out of me every time he got a chance.

That is, until that one, beautiful, magical day.

I had just finished cleaning pens and was on my way to go dump the manure in the manure pile, when I saw him.  I know you probably won’t believe me, but the stupid rooster was sneaking around the corner of my barn so he could lay in wait and attack me the moment I walked past him to put my manure fork away.

Ha.  Gotcha, Evil.

I did my best to pretend I didn’t know he was there.  Casually, I dumped the load of manure and went to go replace the wheelbarrow in its spot by the barn.  Even more casually I turned to head back on my usual path to Jubilee’s stall.

As I walked past the corner where he was hidden, I just happened to raise the manure fork and rest it on my shovel.  I wasn’t doing it on purpose… it was just a casual thing.  I had a manure fork.. why not rest it on my shoulder?  It had nothing to do with the fact I was getting ready to take a swing.  Nope.  I was Casual Becky.  I was Unaware Becky.  I was Victim Becky, just continuing along with my chores.  La, la, la, laaaa, laaa……

About three steps after I passed his hiding spot, I saw him make his move out of the corner of my eyes.  Head low and limp tail feathers spread, he rushed forward, preparing to leap for his attack.

Tightning my grip on the handle, I pivoted on my left foot, straightened my elbows and started a downhill golf swing with the manure fork, driving through with the force of my hips and the experience of too many mornings practicing at the driving range with my dad…

And I connected.

The second I felt the back of that manure fork connect with that idiotic, evil bird, I knew it was a good shot. 

THWAAAACK!!!!  The sound of that solid, square, perfectly on-target hit resonating through the evening air was one of the sweetest things I’ve ever heard.  I can’t even begin to describe how good it felt.  It was a cool drink on a really hot day.  It was the first taste of ice cream.  It was stepping into a Jacuzzi after getting chilled spending too many hours in the pool.  It was all those things… but better.

It was incredible.

“BAKWAAAAK!” Evil sounded genuinely surprised as the rush of his charge met with the swing of the manure fork. 

“BAKWAAAK!”  He complained.  “BAKWAAAAAAK!” He said, as he flew an incredibly satisfying distance, landing about 15 or 20 feet away in a disheveled heap in a cloud of dust.

“HA!” I shouted in my most mature, intelligent fashion.  “HA!  Take that, you stupid, evil rooster.  Who’s the man, now?  Huh?  Who’s the one who won that bout?  ME, that’s who!  What’s that?” 

I may or may not have stomped threateningly in his direction.

“What’s that?  You want some more of this?”  It’s possible I may have throw my arms wide at this point – not that I’d ever to admit to such childish, infantile behavior.

Evil stared me, and for a brief second it I saw a brief flash of respect, bordering on fear in his eyes.

I met his look, squaring my shoulders and facing him defiantly, trusty manure fork by my side.

“Bakwawk,” he muttered disdainfully, turning around to saunter off in the opposite direction.

He never attacked me again.