She Remembered Me

I don’t know how long she’s been gone but it seems like a very long time.  I don’t remember the exact day or even the year, but one day she left.  “Don’t go,” I begged.  “Please don’t go.”

I remember all the times I watched her cry.  I tried to comfort her but it never seemed to be enough.  Sometimes, she would curl up in a ball and hide in the corner.  Other times, she would stand at the window and just stare.  I told her that it was going to be okay but she kept crying.

There were times when I pleaded “stop hitting her.  Please stop hitting her. I don’t know what she did but I know she didn’t mean to.”

She sought refuge in the trees.  A huge Mimosa with a bifurcated trunk made climbing easy and in the summer, made hiding even easier.  The black cherry tree was no match for her nimble limbs but the huge oak tree that stood in front of the house would forever remain unconquered.

I watched as she climbed those trees.  She would sit there for hours and I always wondered what she was thinking.  Was she praying for wings so that she could fly away?  Was she praying for a knight in shining armor to come rescue her?  Was she praying for absolution for being alive?

Sometimes she would look toward the sky and sing “When You Wish Upon A Star.”  She knew the stars were always there even though they only shined at night.

I wanted her to come back but I didn’t think she ever would.  I wondered if she remembered me.  I wondered if she remembered that I had always been there, trying to make her feel better.

One day my wish came true.  I saw her, standing across the gravel road that snaked its way up to the house.  She had come back and my excitement was indescribable but did she remember me?  She stood there, as if she was trying to memorize the old house but she didn’t look at me.

I waved but she didn’t see me.  “You came back!”  I said with delight, but she didn’t hear me.  She slowly walked up the path that led around the house, now overgrown with weeds.  It was the path that led to a huge pasture where long ago, cows with bells around their necks used to graze. She giggled when she tickled their noses with a long blade of grass and made them sneeze.

I watched as she stopped to pick wild flowers along the way, just as she had done as a child.  I was trying to keep up with her, calling to her but she never turned around.

“She doesn’t remember me,” I thought.

When I was finally able to catch up with her, I watched as she kneeled down and placed those wild flowers on my grave.

I smiled because I knew.  She remembered me.

 

The Eclipse Is Coming

I just finished making my solar eclipse box.  I think I did it right.  If not, I guess I’ll have a little trouble finding my way back into my house when it’s over.  My area is in the path of totality.

This morning, I heard that we should expect all sorts of strange things…like crickets chirping.  Really?  The crickets around my house never shut up. They’re chirping right now.

The birds would stop singing.  The birds here sing all the time, even at night so I don’t think they’re going to know the difference.

We will be able to see Jupiter and Saturn burning brightly in the sky, but only if you’re one of the places that will get the total blackout.  Great!  I’ve actually grown a little bored with seeing Venus all the time.

The temperature will drop.  Well, yeah.  If the sun is blocked, I would imagine the temperature would drop.  I don’t think you have to be a rocket scientist to figure that out…but I’ll make sure I have my blankie.

That temperature drop could also possibly cause dew to fall on you.  Cool.  I’ll bring a towel.

There are supposed to be traffic jams and empty shelves at grocery stores.  I’m not going to be out and about and I have my case of Boost chilling in the refrigerator, so I’m good.

One person said it would change anybody who witnessed it.  Okay.  Change them how?  Are women suddenly going to grow facial and chest hair?  Are men going to develop boobs?  Maybe they mean it in a metaphysical way…such as feeling that you and the universe are “one.”  Pffft!  I’ll pass.

Then I heard this woman say “and make sure all of your pets are inside.”  I’m thinking….”seriously?”

In all my years, I have never seen an animal who looked like it was thinking “hmm.  I think I’ll just sit here for a while and stare at the sun.”  I know some people are a few bricks shy of a load but most animals are pretty smart and I can’t imagine a dog or a cat, jumping up and down saying “let’s go stare at the sun.  Please, please, can we?”

I’ve also heard that it will signal the end of time.  When I was younger and still had hopes and dreams, that idea would have scared the ever-loving stuffing out of me.  Just a decade ago, I would have been worried to death about my family.  Now…I don’t really care.

Still, I’m going to watch the eclipse and if I hear trumpets blowing and see an angry God sitting on His throne, I’ll just say “oh well.”

 

The Neighborhood – Chapter Eight

Just as I predicted, the bistro folded after a month of struggling to make enough money to keep the doors open.  They had one last hurrah and everybody in the neighborhood attended, including me and Jean.  She remarked that if they had the kind of traffic they had the last day, they might have survived.

We had continued our regular Tuesday coffee klatches and gossip hour. The word around the neighborhood was that the town tramp and Ditto were having regular trysts and trying to keep them secret, but they should have known that secrets were impossible to keep as long as Jean lived there.

Winter was coming on and there was a noticeable chill in the air, which I loved.  Our gossip hour had turned to the holidays and how the neighborhood decorated their yards.  Jean said “we aim for uniformity as far as the color of the lights on our houses but it isn’t law.”

I was thinking that was a good thing because I didn’t intend to decorate the outside of my house nor the inside either, but I didn’t tell her.

Jean let out a cackle when she said “the town tramp replaces her panties with Christmas stockings around this time of year.  It’s such a hoot.”

“Are the stockings filled on Christmas morning?” I asked.  She laughed as she said “I don’t know.  I guess it depends on who she makes ‘like her’ at the bar.  I did tell you that’s her catch phrase, didn’t I?  ‘I did that so you’d like me’.”

I said “no, but I imagine women of that ilk do all sorts of things to make a man like her.”

The next Tuesday, Jean was atwitter like I had never seen before.  “Oh my goodness,” she said.  “Sit down and listen to this!”

I sat down and told her I was “all ears” as she poured my coffee.

“Judge Carson has disappeared,” she said.  “I mean, poof!  Vanished into thin air.  One day he was here and the next day he was gone and nobody knows what happened to him.  He was married, you know and his wife says she has no idea where he is.”

I laughed and said “maybe he was Divinely raptured.  You know how those God people are.  They take the Bible literally.”

She said “I don’t know but they found his Bible on the corner where he used to preach.  It’s just so strange.  He’s been there for as long as I can remember and now he’s gone.”

“Maybe he moved to another neighborhood,” I said.  Jean said “I could entertain that idea if his Bible and his wife hadn’t been left behind but there’s no way he would leave them.”

I smiled and said “maybe it’s just one of those mysteries that will never be solved…or maybe he wasn’t as Holy as he pretended to be.  You know, preachers are some of the worst sinners, not to mention being chronic adulterers.”

Jean said “maybe but I nor anybody else would suspect any wrongdoing from Judge Carson.”  I looked at her and said “don’t you know that it’s always the people you trust who will betray you?  It’s not strangers you have to worry about.  It’s the people closest to you.  I’m thinking that maybe he ran off with another woman.”

Jean capitulated and said “you may be right but I just can’t wrap my head around it.  It just doesn’t make any sense to me or anybody else.”

She got up to refill our cups, looked at my hand and almost frantically said “wait a minute.  What’s this?”

“What’s what?” I asked.  She was fumbling her words as she said “when did…how did…I didn’t know…”

“What ever is the matter with you Jean?” I asked.  She recovered enough to say “you have a fourth ring on your thumb!”

“Yes I do,” I said.

Still trying to find her words, Jean finally managed to say “but you said the others came from the hands of your dead husbands.”

I looked at her, smiled and said “no. I said they came from the hands of dead husbands.  I didn’t say they were mine.”

 

Mech’eresha.

 

 

 

The Neighborhood – Chapter Seven

Earlier in the week, I received a flyer about the grand opening of a little bistro just up the street.  There was the promise of door prizes and half price lunches.  A plea for everyone in the neighborhood to “come check us out” was written in bold type.

It was lunchtime so I decided to walk up there.  For an instant, I thought about calling Jean to ask if she would like to join me but as much as I enjoyed her stories and company, I jealously guarded my solitude.

When I got to the corner, I hadn’t gotten within five feet of “the judge” before he turned to me and said “have you come for salvation sister?”

He was like Jean, in that there was no time for a response.  It was like bad journalism.  Run-on sentences, one right after the other and you could hardly distinguish when one sentence began and the other ended.

He had the perfect cadence of a preacher when he asked “have you had hands laid upon you and been dipped into the Holy water of His righteousness?”

I started to giggle but he abruptly moved toward me and said “I can see that you have a black soul.  You are dark and twisted.  Come sister and let me cleanse that black soul that you might enter the kingdom of our almighty God.  In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses according to the riches of His grace.”

I smiled and started to walk away.  He said “remember sister, whoever sheds human blood, by humans shall their blood be shed: for in the image of God has God made mankind.”

I couldn’t help but give him a rather flip retort.  “Wow.  That was a mouthful,” I said.  He quickly replied “be not deceived sister.  God is not mocked.  For whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.  Thou shout fear the Lord thy God.”

I looked at him and said “likewise, I’m sure but I’m in rather a hurry.  I’ll fear Him tomorrow.  How’s that?”  He quickly and sternly chastised me by saying “tomorrow may be too late.”

I was wondering if that was the same speech he gave everybody who was within shouting distance.  Preachers always tend to read the riot act and assume that we are all sinners.  Most of us probably are but sometimes, at least in my eyes, sin is defensible, especially when you have just cause.

I don’t believe that vengeance exclusively belongs to God.  I believe that you should sometimes get retribution in your own way and if you feel the need, seek forgiveness later.  I had never found it necessary to seek absolution nor had I ever felt the need to have my “black” soul cleansed.

When I got to the bistro, I was surprised to see that only a few patrons were there.  They were sitting at round 50’s style tables, complete with bygone era napkin holders and sugar containers.  The waitress had on a short skirt with a little apron around her waist and she was on roller skates.

There was a counter with bar stools upholstered in red vinyl and a retro soda fountain.  I found the whole set-up rather charming but I felt sure that once the novelty wore off, it would most likely go out of business.  I was also pretty sure that before that happened, since it was in the neighborhood, Jean would have colorful nicknames for the owner and employees.

I sighed as I thought “this is really nothing to write home about,” so I gave them empty wishes for much success and left.

As I walked by, the judge once again fixed his gaze on me.  Before I began my judgment of him, I only remembered hearing him say “sister, there is evil in your heart.”

I was thinking “okay, he’s just your average Joe…medium height…medium build and age appropriate thinning grey hair.”  He was clutching his Bible with a wedding banded hand, which to me doesn’t mean anything and like most men, thinks he’s entitled to feel superior.

I wondered what kind of evil was in his heart.  What was his reasoning for standing on his self-erected pedestal to pass judgment on others?  I found it offensive when someone was quick to make assumptions, predict damnation and threaten ever-lasting hell.

Still spewing out his ominous rhetoric and condemnations, I simply smiled and walked away but not before turning to take one last look as his eyes followed me.

 

To be continued_______________

The Neighborhood – Chapter Six

I had almost gotten my house in order and only had a few more boxes in the basement to unpack.  They were going to require special attention so I had procrastinated a bit.

Jean no longer had to insist on our weekly visits.  The next Tuesday, I strolled over to her house for my cup of coffee and the “gossip hour” as I came to call it.  “There’s only one more neighbor that I haven’t told you about,” she said.

I admit, it was like knowing you were nearing the end of a book and not really wanting the story to end but books should be finished so I was ready for the last chapter.

“I don’t know if you have noticed the house that sits back from the road and is almost hidden by a row of trees,” she said.   I told her that I hadn’t noticed.  “It’s a good thing it’s hidden by the trees.  If you get close to the house, you can see a strand of Christmas lights strung across the front porch and there are panties hanging from it.

It was almost another one of those “blowing coffee out of your nose” moments but fortunately for me and Jean’s table, I wasn’t in mid-sip. “Panties?”  I asked.  “Yes,” she said as she giggled.  “There are all kinds and all colors of panties.  We don’t know if they are symbolic of conquests or if she just grabs one on her way up out.  Her name is Veronica Guice and we call her the town tramp.”

I laughed and said “well, I guess every neighborhood has to have at least one.  I mean, given we have a preaching judge, a kleptomaniac, a soliloquist, a human parrot, a know-it-all and a serial killer, why shouldn’t we have a tramp?  Do go on.”

Jean in true form, closed her eyes and began.  “She has dyed red hair and I’m not talking about movie-star dyed hair, I’m talking about dyed hair with grey roots that all but screams ‘I’m a tramp’.  Remember the line in Gone With The Wind…’I ain’t never seen that hair color before’?  Well, there you go.  I’ve never seen that hair color before either.”

“She goes up to the Lounge every night, except Sunday of course because it’s closed, and drinks and shoots pool with whoever is buying.  She’s well known for latching onto some poor lonely schmuck who’s had too much to drink and after he has paid her tab, she plays the ‘you’re so handsome, you’re so special’ game and gets him to ‘loan’ her money for her taxes or house payment or whatever.  As long as he keeps writing checks, she keeps paying attention to him.”

“Does she pay them back?” I asked.  Jean let out a hearty laugh and said “I imagine she pays them back one way or another.”

“She used to dress up in her hooker clothes, as we call them and prance back and forth in front of Leo’s house.  She knew about his inheritance and was hoping he would notice her, I guess.”

“And do what?” I asked.  “Steal her?”  Again Jean laughed and said “maybe. Who knows?  But he never noticed her so she set her sights on Ditto.  I told you he was a handsome man, didn’t I?”

“You did,” I said.  Jean leaned down and whispered “I think they might have hooked up a few times…pardon the expression but Ditto wasn’t desperate enough to fall for her antics.”

Then she said “can you imagine?  She’s screaming ‘yes! yes!’ and he’s echoing every word?’  Jean had a sense of humor and I appreciated it.

Of course, I was thinking “there are ways to shut a man up…and I knew what they were.”

 

To be continued____________________

 

 

 

The Neighborhood – Chapter Five

On my way home I was thinking, “okay.  We have a preaching judge, a kleptomaniac, a soliloquist, a human parrot, a know-it-all and a resident serial killer.”  I felt like I had just stepped through the looking glass.

Some people might be amused or alarmed or, as was I, completely indifferent toward the plethora of personalities living in the neighborhood. I had always appreciated diversity and I had my own propensities, although nobody yet knew what they were.

The next week, via her usual story-telling, Jean “introduced” the neighbor directly across from me.  “We call him “double-take,” she said.  “His name is Don…or Donna, depending on the day.”  I was laughing as I listened.

Without breaking stride, she said “he’s one of those ‘higher-ups’ for the Shell Oil Company, although he’s semi-retired.  I think he pretty much only works when he wants to.  He’s been a confirmed bachelor his entire life but he loves all the women and all the women love him.”

I interrupted her and asked “what’s the Don and Donna about?”  She said “oh.  He sort of likes to wear women’s clothes and be called Donna.  He just has that little eccentricity but we all adore him.”  She laughed and said “last year, he came to the neighborhood party wearing a sun dress, a long blonde wig, a floppy hat and a strand of pearls around his neck.”  She opened her eyes and said “I don’t have a problem with it.  I find it rather charming.  I mean, haven’t you ever wanted to dress like a man?”

It took a few seconds for me to say “not that I recall.”

She continued.  “You might see him working out in his yard, wearing a tube top and short shorts or you might see him wearing jeans and a t-shirt.  It just depends on ‘who’ woke up that morning.”

I asked her if he dressed like a woman when he went to work.  Jean said “that, I don’t know.”

I was really starting to wonder if Jean was having me on but I had witnessed Gladys doing exactly what she had described, so maybe the stories were true.  I knew people were strange and as I said, we all have our own stories but this neighborhood seemed to be a little more bizarre than I expected.

I asked Jean if she had come up with a nickname for me yet.  “Oh, yes,” she said.  “I call you three-ring.”  Again, I was echoing Ditto when I said “three-ring?”

I was wondering to myself, “does she mean a three-ring circus?  Was she comparing me to a trick-performing elephant or even worse, was she comparing me to a clown?”

She said “it hasn’t escaped my attention that you wear three gold bands on your left thumb.  That’s why I call you three-ring.  I’ve seen people wearing thumb rings but I’ve never seen anyone wear more than one.  Might I ask their significance?

I looked her dead in the eyes and without blinking said “I pried them off of the cold, severed hands of three dead husbands.”

For the first time since we met, Jean was totally gobsmacked.  It took her a few seconds before she burst out laughing.  “That’s a good one,” she said.

“I’m glad you liked it,” I answered with a smile.

 

To be continued________________

 

 

 

 

 

The Neighborhood – Chapter Four

I decided to walk by Gladys’ house to see if she was on her porch and sure enough, she was sitting there talking away.  I tried not to look like I might approach her since Jean said if you did, she would get up and leave.

I couldn’t really make out anything she was saying but just as Jean said, she seemed to be having an agonizingly painful conversation with herself.  She was wiping her eyes and covering her mouth with her hand as if maybe trying to muffle her sobs.  I wondered what had happened to this woman to make her escape into a world of make-believe and I didn’t think by any stretch of the imagination that she was anywhere close to normal.

The next Tuesday, as usual, Jean began to tell me about her immediate neighbor to the left.  She said “we call her “four-ells.”  I said “do you have names for everyone in the neighborhood?  Judge Carson, Leo the klepto, Ditto and now there’s someone called four-ells?”

She laughed and said “her name is Ann.  She is a sun worshiper and the only time you see her in pants longer than her underwear is in the winter.  She looks a lot like Tweedledum.   Shes very rotund in the middle and has these little leathery lizard legs.  All four of those words start with an ‘L’ so we call her four-ells.”

“Do you call her that to her face?” I asked.  Jean laughed and said “no, we call her Ann.  I don’t know much about her but she’s really sweet.  She’s always willing to help if you need anything but because she’s always in the sun, her face looks like an old catchers’ mitt.”

“Then,” she said emphatically, “there’s Martine.  She lives on the other side of you.  Honey, have you ever met someone who knows everything there is to know about everything there is to know?  Well, that’s Martine.  Her real name is Martha but she changed it so it wouldn’t sound as she says, so old-fashioned.”

Jean was cracking up as she started telling me about her.  “She will let you know in a hot minute that she knows more than you do about any and every single thing from lawn care to car engines to how to shingle your roof.  It doesn’t matter if you are Oxford educated, you don’t know squat and she will let you know.”

“Anyway,” she went on.  “She took the test to be on Jeopardy and passed. She was telling everybody that she was going to be the most winning contestant ever seen, even better than that Ken Jennings fellow.”

“She was bragging about being flown out to the studio and how after she won, she just might decide to stay and start mingling with movie stars.  She was a little hard to take sometimes but we all wished her the best luck possible.”

“What happened?” I asked.  “Obviously, she returned to the neighborhood.”

“Well,” said Jean.  “She didn’t get a single answer right.”  Jean was laughing hysterically by then and said “she blamed it on a faulty signaling device, saying that when it finally ‘worked’ she was so shaken up, she couldn’t think.  She claims the whole show is rigged and favors male contestants.”

By that time, I admit that I was laughing too.  Jean said “the show finally aired and I’m not sure but I think you could hear collective laughter throughout the neighborhood.  It took several months for her to more or less re-emerge and we decided to never talk about it, at least not in front of her and of course, not at the neighborhood parties.”

“Speaking of the neighborhood parties, when do you have them?” I asked. “We usually have them in the spring,” she said.

She started to say more but I interrupted her and asked about the neighbor who lived in the house at the end of the street.  I had noticed that house, due to the overgrown “jungle” on both sides although the front lawn was carefully groomed.  The house didn’t really tacky up the neighborhood but somehow, it just looked out of place.

Jean handed me my second cup of coffee and I was in mid-sip when she just as nonchalantly as she could, said “oh, that’s hacksaw Henry.  He’s our resident serial killer.”

Coffee spewed out of my mouth and nose like an erupting geyser.  When I finally stopped coughing up both of my lungs, I sounded like Ditto when I repeated “our resident serial killer?”

Jean said “well, the rumor around the neighborhood is that he chopped up his entire family with a hacksaw, put their body parts in oil drums and threw them into the Florida Everglades.  You know that nobody is ever found in the Everglades.”

I was stupefied.  I asked why he wasn’t in prison.  She said “there wasn’t enough evidence to convict him.  They didn’t have bodies and he told the authorities that his wife left him, took the children and changed their names.  You know that without a corpus delicti, it’s hard to make a case.”

“Does he come to the neighborhood parties?” I asked.  “Oh sure,” she said. “We don’t want to end up in a barrel in the middle of the Everglades.  We’re cordial but nobody really carries on much of a conversation with him.  I have personally never talked to him.”

I found that statement interesting, especially considering Jean’s vociferous personality.

She said “he just sort of walks around with this eerie grin on his face, like he knows that we know that he got away with murder.”  She laughed when she said “and this is funny.  He always brings a rack or two of ribs and we always think twice before we eat them.  For all we know, they could be human.”

I looked at Jean and said “now, HE sounds like my kind of guy!”

 

To be continued_________________