Sunday, May 3, 2015

The Pusher

Some people are so sweet and innocent looking that you just never realize the sort of mischief they will get you into. Mrs. Carter, who had taught culinary arts at our school for 20-some years, is a sunshiny individual, ready with a kind word and a cheerful smile for everyone she meets. Her students love her, as much for her encouragement as for the fact that if mischief makers flip her switch to the dark side, she will put them in their place so firmly they tread funny for a month.

Debbie and I would talk occasionally in passing, but we really got to be friends when we had lunch together one semester. If you've read any of my other writing, you've probably picked up on my irreverence and the lack of filter that my brain often has. Suffice it to say, Debbie Carter is one of those friends who would laugh just the proper amount when I'd go off-color--a giggle to say she'd gotten and appreciated the joke along with a raised eyebrow to tell me to curb it back in since I was approaching that line and about to vault over it with my usual lack of grace. On the occasions that she dished it out, she'd leave me rolling with laughter with her perfectly placed one-liners.

She became one of the teachers that I'd run to when I had something that I was dying to say back to a student but just couldn't because it trampled that professional line a little too much. I'm pretty sure that there were many days when she would see my eyes sparkling with that look and she'd start thinking of escape routes, but she was always there for me, both with laughter and indignation when needed against the often frustrating elements of our profession as teachers. Our lunch that year was one I remember as overall hilarity, just waiting to see what our little group was going to come up with each day. About halfway through that semester, Debbie inadvertently gave us fodder for a solid month of teasing.

Up until I had my wisdom teeth removed at 33, I rarely had headaches. When I would get one, I turned into a whiny baby, and because they were so rare, I never kept meds with me. Typically if I had an ache, I'd run to Barbie next door and she would pull out the ibuprofen.

On this particular day, Barbie was out of anything resembling pain relief. I stuck my head in every classroom and hit up the bookkeeper in our building, but nobody had any ibuprofen or acetaminophen, my two typical go-to meds. After every single teacher, including Debbie, had turned me down, I returned to face the second half of the day by turning out my classroom lights and letting my students watch a video that was loosely connected to something I would eventually teach, promising not to make them do the accompanying worksheet if they just didn't make any noise at all. I only had to finish that class and third period since fourth was my planning.

Most of the way through second period, Debbie tapped me on the shoulder and I raised my bleary eyes from where I cradled my head and shielded my eyes from the light of the screen.

"I didn't find any ibuprofen," she dashed my quickly raised hopes, "but I did find some of my daughter's Excedrin migraine if you'd like some."

I'd never taken Excedrin before, both because of the fact that I so rarely had headaches and because ibuprofen always just took care of me, but I was at a point of desperation and would have taken just about anything anyone would give me. Going home had crossed my mind, but the pain was so intense that I was frightened to drive.

"Oh, please," I gulped and thanked her profusely. We walked back to her office since we weren't inclined to pop even over-the-counter pills in front of students and she shook two out of a bottle into her hand.

"Do I need two?" I queried. I didn't know the standard dose and usually didn't need as many pills because not taking them often meant they always worked well for me. The bottle she was pouring them from was a general pill bottle that many women carry in their purses, containing extras of her prescriptions and various OTC stuff, including several of the Excedrins.

"I assume so," Debbie replied in her sweet voice, her brow furrowed in concern at how awful I must have looked. "My daughter always takes two."

I thanked her again and ran to the water fountain to wash them down just before the bell for class change rang. Third period shuffled in and asked about the lights. I offered them the same deal as second, and since my usual persona is overly bubbly and somewhat hyperactive, seeing me so quiet and squinty made my kids very agreeable. The light of my monitor as I took attendance shot knives right through my brain, and I put my hands on my temples as I rested my elbows on my desk to maintain an illusion that I was still watching what was going on in my class while the video started playing.

When my head dropped between my hands, I jerked upright. The pain in my head was quite muffled, but so was the world around me. Everything with a light had a soft glow and I felt like I was swimming through the air. I looked at my hands because they felt like they were vibrating slightly and while I didn't actually see color trails, I felt like if I could just get the right angle, colors would become visible. I petted my own arms, feeling how soft my skin was as my classroom wavered in front of me.

A couple of my students scooted closer to my desk as they watched me looking so closely at the pores on my hands.

"Mrs. Williams? Are you okay?" one of them asked.

"I'm fine," I said and giggled at the way my words echoed inside my head. "Do I look fine?" I asked.

"How's your head?" another one inquired.

"It doesn't really hurt any more," I answered as I struggled to lift my face up to look them in the eye. It felt like the air was molasses and when I finally raised my head up, I think it wobbled. Then I tried to wobble it and my eyes went wide with the ensuing vertigo.

"Woah!" I exclaimed. "I'm dizzy!"

The kids frowned and several others were taking note of my behavior to the point that I heard whispers about calling the nurse, but I told them I'd be alright and that I was just going to put my head down on my hands again for a little. Somehow, I managed to stay awake until lunch time, mostly by pinching my leg and smacking myself gently.

I teetered into the lounge after the halls cleared and put my lunch in the microwave. I rested my face on book pile on a desk while I waited. I awoke to Barbie gently shaking me.

"Are you okay?" she echoed my students.

I couldn't have actually been asleep for long because we eat lunch together, but the speed with which I went under was new to me.

"I don't think so," I said. "I'm not sure why, but I can't stay awake."

"Just go to sleep then," Barbie said. "I'll wake you up when lunch is over and maybe the nap will help."

I thanked her and added another book to the pile to keep from getting a crick in my neck. When she woke me up about 30 minutes later, I stood up and went to the bathroom to splash some cold water on my face. Some stretches helped to get my blood flowing a little and I thought maybe I was better.

Back at my desk, I tackled a stack of papers only to find my head drooping down and my lids weighted beyond my power to open them.

With Herculean effort, I forced my way down the hall to Rhonda, our bookkeeper, to tell her where they could find me if they needed me. Plus, I wanted someone to be aware that I was in this horrible state. I legitimately thought that the headache was the first symptom in whatever hideous bug had attacked me and was knocking me out now.

"Hey, Rhonda," I began while she looked up and started to rise as soon as she saw me falling like a drunk against the doorway. "I don't, like, ever do this, but I'm going to go into the lounge and sleep. I don't know what's wrong, but I can't stay awake and I surely can't drive home right now."

I'm pretty sure that my eyes were closed while I was talking to her because I remember being startled when she somehow transported to right in front of me. She leaned close into my space and looked closely at my eyes.

"Oh my goodness!" she exclaimed. "What happened?"

"I'm not sure," I replied. "I had a horrible headache and now I'm too sleepy to function."

With her close look at me, she apparently saw that my pupils were dilated. "What did you take?" she asked.

"Huh?" My brain stumbled through the thoughts. "Just some Excedrin Debbie gave me."

"Are you sure it was Excedrin?" she said.

"Well, that's what she said it was. I'll double-check," I added as I headed for that comfy book pile.

I did plan to double-check with Debbie, but I sat down after making it all the way down that interminable hallway. Debbie woke me up a while later when she came in to gather her things to go home.

"Emily? What are you doing?"

My cheek stuck to the top book with a little drool as I tried to focus on her.

"I'm sleeping. I don't feel good," I managed to get out. "What were those pills again?" I remembered to ask.

"My daughter's Excedrin," she said, "for her migraines."

"Well, I don't think they work the same for me," I slurred. "Maybe I should have just taken one?"

I laid my face back down on the pile and told her I was going to sleep again until my children got off the bus so I could drive them home. I recall her frown as I drifted back out.

With the state I was in, I have no idea how much time passed before Debbie woke me up again.

"Emily, I called my daughter," she said with a distraught expression. "Those were Excedrin PM, not Excedrin migraine. Also, my daughter only ever takes one. She usually just takes a half pill or she's too sleepy the next morning."

My impression of an owl was quite excellent she assured me later, what with my wide, blinking, disbelieving eyes. She and Barbie teamed up to get me and my kids home that evening since I was not going to be in any condition to drive for several hours. I had a lovely afternoon of napping in my recliner while my kids enjoyed PB&J and lots of TV. Once I got them put to bed, I had the best night's sleep I'd had in years.

I was back to my usual hilarious self in the morning and I waited until she'd started teaching her advanced class with my yearbook editors in it before I struck. With a smile, I walked in her room.

"Good morning, Mrs. Carter." I grinned.

Her eyebrows took on that familiar wrinkle, knowing that something was coming, but I could see the humor lurking in her eyes, too.

"Good morning, Mrs. Williams," she replied. "I'm glad you're back to yourself this morning."

One of my editors hollered from the back of the room. "What was wrong with you yesterday, anyway? I've never seen you like that."

I threw a smile in her direction before saying, "I don't want to get into it right now, but let me warn you guys that you should never, ever take any medicine if Mrs. Carter offers it to you. Ever."

Debbie sputtered as I laughed hysterically and ran out to a chorus of confused "What's she talking about?" echoing behind me.

During the class change, Debbie marched into my classroom. She didn't speak, but grabbed some thumbtacks on my bulletin board, stabbed something up there, and walked back out. As my kids filed in, they stopped in shock as I collapsed against the wall, holding my gut and cackling with laughter.

Next to a note that said, "I will never share with you again!" was a coupon for Advil.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Fragment

When I was 14, I spent long weeks conditioning for the upcoming softball season. From running until I puked to a seven-minute mile and some serious weights on my squats, I was in the best shape in my life. Tryouts were in a week and I was ready.

On one rare occasion, I had to ride the activity bus home after conditioning; both my parents were teachers, so there was always one of them still in town doing something, but on this highly unusual day, they had gone home and wanted to pick me up from the activity bus stop. Of course, this was the one day that I ended up running late in getting changed back to street clothes in the locker room, and when one of my friends hollered at me that the buses were ready to pull out, I tackled the gym stairs while still pulling on my jacket and hefting my book bag on my shoulder.

My distracted, klutzy self missed a step on the second to last step of the second landing and I took a long fall. The crack of my ankle when I landed was pretty sickening.

I ended up, of course, in the ER getting an X-ray and when the doc put it up on the light board in the room with us, his eyebrows furrowed as he looked at a strangely shaped object in the center of my foot.

My dad noticed his frown and decided to quiz him. "You know what that is, don't you?"

Our family doctor, who had treated every illness since I was two, shook his head.

"That's the bullet fragment," Daddy shared.

The doc's eyebrows lifted in comprehension. "Right," he said. "I didn't think it would still be there."

When I was six, I shot myself in the foot.

I had been raised around guns and shooting. My dad was an avid hunter and about half the meat on our table came from wild game. From the time I was old enough to aim and squeeze the trigger, I'd been target shooting with my father and some of my best memories from four and five years old are going squirrel hunting with him to help him listen for the squirrels cutting nuts in the trees.

On the day after Thanksgiving during my first grade year, my mom washed up dishes from dinner while my dad took me and my two-year-old brother out for some target shooting with his .22 revolver.

I was so excited for this session because my dad had finally decided I was big enough to cock the gun myself. Previously, I would aim it and pull the trigger while he held the stock, but he was letting me hold the stock, cock the gun, aim, and pull the trigger this time. It took years for me to realize that he was still supporting the weight of the gun with his finger underneath the barrel.

I felt like such a big girl as I positioned the gun. Daddy had talked me through cocking it, using that finger on the barrel for balance, and I had one eye closed, slowly moving the gun so that the little metal line at the front centered perfectly between the notch. My concentration was absolute and my finger tightened marginally as I prepared to squeeze the trigger, having been instructed by my father a million times not to jerk it.

I remember the sound of the shot as it rang out and I remember my confusion at hearing it because I hadn't pulled the trigger.

While I was aiming, my little brother had started around my kneeling father, coming around the arm on which the finger balancing the gun rested. When my dad saw him out of the corner of his eye, he automatically shot his arm out to knock him out of the line of fire. I simply dropped the gun.

Unfortunately, I caught it by the trigger.

Have you ever had your foot go to sleep and you didn't realize it? When you put it down, it was completely numb until the ants started crawling and then you started jumping up and down and smacking your foot until full feeling came back, right? Take that full-on ants crawling sensation and multiply it by 100. That's what it felt like when I shot my foot.

My father frantically searched the ground for the hole. I could feel his rising panic as those ants started marching up my foot.

"Daddy?!" I cried just as the blood started staining the awful brown penny-loafers that my mom loved and I hated.

His response was instantaneous; he scooped me up, pinching the top and the bottom of the hole that was starting to pump blood pretty fiercely as he started to bellow for my mom.

I've never been a huge believer in psychic ability, though I'll allow that there are too many unexplained phenomenon for me to deny that there's some things I'll never be able to explain. The fact that my mother had already grabbed the keys, locked up the house, and was on her way to the car as soon as she heard the report of the gun falls into that category for me. Before my dad and I had even realized what had happened, my mom had one of those magic mother moments--she just knew.

We jumped in the car and tore up the road. Back in the 80's, we didn't have 911 in our middle-of-nowhere home. To get to the main roads was an eight-minute drive, at one point crossing a one-lane bridge to get through Fairystone Park.

I don't remember too much about the ride, but I still have the occasional nightmare about driving through Fairystone. At the very end of the bridge, we got behind a dark green truck. The man driving the truck had ice blue eyes, a large black beard, longish black hair that was topped by a ball cap. For some reason, this man would not let my father pass. Daddy had his emergency blinkers on and honked his horn. He tried to pass on the left as soon as the road opened straight, but the man crossed the double-line to prevent him from passing. The other driver braked hard, actually slowing down and swerving to stay in front of him. Both my mother and father experienced road rage, my dad in particular swearing vociferously and promising legal action against the man while I bled slowly around my mom's pinching fingers.

Aside from being extremely grumpy that my mom was hurting me by squeezing so tightly, I don't remember having strong emotions like fear. Because I was the collected one and we were behind him for so long, I took a few seconds to memorize his license plate since my dad said that he wanted to call the police on him. We passed him as soon as we got on route 57.

We dropped my brother off at my great-aunt's house, roaring into her driveway like the Dukes of Hazzard, and Daddy sprinted up with my freaked out bro in his arms to pound until they opened the door. He was back in seconds and we ripped our way back onto the highway.

They were waiting when we pulled into the emergency room after the quickest trip into town I can recall because my great-aunt had called the hospital to tell them we were coming so they could prepare. The orderly who took me from my mother's arms was a giant black man, and I remember thinking that being enfolded in his arm's felt like sinking into pillows made of marshmallows. He was such a kind man, reassuring me as he hefted me onto the waiting gurney where they rushed me to be examined.

I don't remember much about any of the time in the hospital. I do remember talking to the police, answering their questions about how I was shot since they had been called as soon as the gunshot wound was reported. My dad felt so much guilt that I think he almost hoped there would be legal consequences, but it was just a tragic accident that could have been so much worse.

I do remember the look on my parents' faces as Daddy gave his statement about the man who wouldn't let us pass when I jumped in to give the deputy the make and model of the truck along with the license plate and detailed physical description. Their faces weren't quite as awesome as the deputy's face, though.

The doctors told me that if the bullet had been less than a millimeter to the left, it would have shattered the main bone of my foot instead of barely chipping it. I would have never walked without a limp, they predicted. As it is, I have an uncanny ability to predict when it will snow because the tiny fragment that's there wiggles just a little when the pressure changes.

The only real negative side effect is that I always have to warn the technicians not to rub over it when I get a pedicure. The silver lining there is that so far I've only kicked one technician in the face from reflex when they hit the fragment.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Assumption

Stereotypes are not often true but sometimes they are. I grew up in a Southern Baptist church and for those who don't even know that stereotype, I'll share a joke to bring clarity.

How many Baptists should you bring on a fishing trip? At least two or the one will drink all your beer.

My aunts on my mother's side fit many of those stereotypes; they believe they know what is right and holy and get great enjoyment out of judging all those sinners around them with sympathetic words and a gentle "Bless their heart." Even as a young child, I made their eyebrows raise with my challenging attitude and determination to find my own way.

As an adult with kids of my own, I've enjoyed a subtle harassment of my beliefs and practices though it pretty much makes me laugh at this stage of the game. They don't bother most of the time now and just assume that my kids and I are going to do and say weird and inappropriate things with regularity though I try to respect how my mom wants me to be perceived.

At Christmas this year, my 13 year old son got a new gaming computer and the only monitor in my parents' house that we could hook it up to was my dad's 15 year old machine that he keeps in his bedroom just for decoration. After we have our small gathering in the morning at my folks' house, the extended family descends and we pack about 40 bodies in the house. The cleaning begins the minute the last present is unwrapped.

I'd barely had time to help the kids get their new gifts set up for play before my mom's older sister arrived to help with the cooking and table setups. My daughter was upstairs hidden in the study on her new laptop and my son was contentedly exploring the versatility of his system and ignoring the entrances and exits into my parents' room as everyone dumped their coats on the bed. I was running around as my mom's gopher, trying to help her avoid walking and setting off her arthritic foot.

The ingress of family continued and my generation showed up, bringing kids from ages 2-18. They all meandered or screamed upstairs, depending on their stage of kid-cool, while we adults congregated in the kitchen setting out the food. In short order, it was time for the blessing and eating.

As the line thinned, I realized that my boy wasn't among the crowd, so I went to fetch him. By this point, he'd been playing on his computer for over an hour and every single person who had come to celebrate had walked in the room to deposit coats.

I stepped past my uncle in the doorway and took a couple of steps when my son moved his head and I saw his screen.

I froze. I stared. I questioned, "Are those people NAKED?"

His head whipped around with alacrity.

"They're fuzzed out!" he immediately began his defense. While he was talking, the character turned towards the front and sure enough, his crotch was a pile of pixelation.

"See?!" He pointed and exclaimed as though vindicated.

I spluttered. "But they're NAKED. Why are they naked?"

I've already mentioned how I challenge the traditional roles in which I was raised. I haven't given specifics, but even I don't consider naked video characters acceptable gaming for a 13 year old in a house of elementary-aged kids, pixelation or not.

Looking for support, I turned to my uncle, who was still standing in the door and starting to crack up as he saw my face.

"Did you see that he was playing that?" I asked incredulously. His daughter is only five.

"Sure I did;" he replied, with a sideways glance and an awkward grin that indicated boys will be boys.

My red-faced son was quickly heading towards me to try to escort me out of the room. He did not, however, have the presence of mind to turn off the game first. When he reached me and took my elbow, I, who was still goggling stupefied at my uncle, turned to him and spotted a not very pixelated naked butt on the screen.

"What game IS that?" I asked, pointing at the screen I still couldn't believe I was seeing. On Christmas. With my uber-religious, judgy relatives there. And their little children. On Christmas.

"It's called Rust," he explained. "I played it at a friend's before and they had clothes."

My eyebrows rose with skepticism.

"Really!" he sputtered. "This is the beta version and they got rid of the clothes."

"It's really fun," he mumbled at the floor as the blush crept up his neck.

As he began to pull me to try to make me leave the room, I whacked him in the back of the head. "Go turn that off!"

The idiot looked at me and said, "But I haven't saved yet!"

I threw up both hands and exited to my plate at the table. When I sat down, my cousin's husband asked if I was alright.

"No, not really," I muttered. I looked up at him. "I just caught Wyeth on a game with naked people!"

He shrugged at me. "Yeah, I saw that."

"What?" I shrieked. "Why didn't you tell me?"

He shrugged again. "I just figured you let him play it."

I was still speechless and staring when my son came in the dining room.

"It's okay, Mom," he said reassuringly. "I saved."

My silver lining was that I've finally trained them to not be surprised at anything me and mine do. Funny that I always thought that would be a good thing.


Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Poo

She woke me up at 12:50 the first time. The dog, that is. I had stayed up a little later than normal watching a TV show and it felt like I had just dropped into sleep. She was whining loudly enough for me to hear her over the wondrous white noise app I installed on my iPhone that keeps me blissfully unaware of all but the loudest of sounds from my children and pets. They have to really want me to wake me up.

Apparently, the dog really wanted me.

I accepted that there must be a problem out of the ordinary because she usually sleeps through the night. Once I stumbled through the kitchen and found the leash from the strange place my son had dropped it, I opened her crate and took her outside so she could sit and look at me pleadingly.

Two nights ago, after she'd been in her outdoor lot for all but two hours, she woke me up at three wanting outside. I let her out and watched her sprint into the distance. I gave her a few minutes to go to the bathroom and then whistled her back. She came with alacrity, charging full speed towards me in the door. To say I was surprised gives a new definition to understatement. It normally takes several calls before she decides to hear me calling, so I was pleased to be able to get back in bed so quickly.

Of course, she was only teasing. At the last possible second, she altered her trajectory so that she whizzed by me at a speed high enough for my nightgown to ripple. At the very edge of the porch light, she screeched to a halt and gave me a mischievous doggy grin before heading into the pitch blackness of the front yard.

I whistled and yelled again, and then I heard the charge of claws coming my way. I prepared to grab her collar this trip by, but with puppy laughter, she raced by at the perfect distance for me to just feel the fur of her back. Damn dog. We kept this "game" up for at least fifteen minutes until I caved and got the treats. Right in the door she came when I shook the bag, and I got another three hours of sleep once my temper chilled.

Hence the leash last night. I was not playing rocket dog another night. If she had to go, she could go while on the leash. It was her retractable leash, so she'd even be able to burn a little energy jerking my shoulder socket.

But no. She just sat beside me and gave me a pitiful look.

"Go pee," I told her. I got a lick on the hand and whine in response.

I moved a few more feet out into the wet grass. "Pee!" I commanded forcefully. She took a few steps out, turned around, sat at my feet, and hit me with another pitiful look.

The other dogs came up. The happy-to-see-you-here nose sniffing and licking commenced, and when I told her to go pee a third time, the two outdoor dogs looked at her as though waiting for her to get on with her business so they could go back to bed too. She hid behind my legs and wouldn't budge.

At this point, it was on o'clock in the morning and I was tired, so I took her inside and she willingly went back to her bed and laid down. I shut the door and breathed deeply when my head hit the pillow.

Ten minutes later, she whined again.

My response was a bellowed, "SHUT UP!" and she did.

Fifteen minutes later, I hear a whine followed by my daughter's dulcet call: "Mama, I think Vivie had an accident."

Grumbling and thinking havoc and mayhem, I took the four steps from my bed to the door when it hit me.

Up to that point, the worst smell ever was caused by my husband's digestive system really not liking the barium cocktail required before his CT scan and resulted in my husband and I riding with our heads hanging out the window during a sleet storm in below freezing weather while driving to a friend's house.

The smell assaulting my hallway was at least that bad. With an oath, I flipped on my daughter's light and saw the dog, head hung low and a miserable expression on her face, sitting on the top corner of her doggy bed, as far from the string of diarrhea as she could get.

With a more serious oath, I opened her cage and she made good time tracking the diarrhea down my hall in little, wet, brownish paw prints. That's when I really started cursing. The first time anyway.

I let her outside and decided that I didn't care if she ever came back in. Since I was in the kitchen anyway, I opened the cabinet under the sink to get out my cleaner. My Mr. Clean wasn't there.

My housekeeper usually brings her own supplies, but I figured it was possible that she had moved mine somewhere else. I looked next underneath the bathroom sink. Nothing. Not even extra shampoo. I was more than a little pissed off now, both at the dog and at the housekeeper, since I know that I had a bottle of some sort of cleaning solution somewhere, but furious at 1 a.m. is still stupid tired at 1 a.m.. I headed into the basement where I might find anything. She doesn't normally go down there, but occasionally she leaves a note about doing some laundry so I thought it possible that she might have left my cleaner there. It wasn't.

I finally found a little bottle of an old cleaner supplement that smelled strongly if not good, and decided it was the best I had. Then I turned to look for my mop bucket. I still haven't found it.

I went upstairs, grumbling to myself, grabbed the mop, and ran a bathtub full of suds. After a few swishes to be sure it was wet, I lifted the mop from the water with my hand on that little lever that squeezes the two sides together and gets out the excess water. The sponge wasn't there. The glue had simply turned loose and the sponge fell right off that little plastic bit that holds it to the mop. I stared at in stupefaction for a minute or two and then my brilliance shined right through.

I plunged my hand into the scalding hot water, grabbed the scalding hot sponge, and pushed it back on to the plastic thing as though the nonexistent glue would suddenly hold it there. When it fell off again, I just stared at it dumbly while flapping my scalded hand in the air.

I'll admit to a few tears at this point. I'll also admit that I really don't function well in the middle of the night. Most people wouldn't still have the sleep-time fog after the stench and the burn. I had wised up some and woken up mostly. Just not enough.

I tried again with my unburned hand.

Eventually, I got the paper towels and a bottle of window cleaner and cleaned up the majority of the semi-solid matter with those, shoving everything in a plastic grocery bag. I only had to stand up a few times from gagging at the smell, and the dry heaves only took a few minutes once. I'm very proud that I didn't tow up. The smell when I walked in the room was nothing compared to bending over enough to get it up with paper towels.

And bending over was nothing compared to kneeling on the rug and feeling a squish underneath my knee. That dog got distance with this shit. There was at least a foot and a half of clearance between the cage and the rug.

As I am a forced-positive person (I'm a natural-born pessimist who refuses to let myself stay that way), I turned my poop covered knee into a good thing by realizing I would never have looked under the little dresser stacker for stray poop if my knee hadn't gotten gooed. I would have searched for the smell for days, missing the stream that somehow made it under there. (See how good I am at silver linings?)

About 30 minutes and one roll of paper towels later, I tied off the grocery bag to hold in the stench and shoved it to the bottom of the biggest trashcan I owned. Then I went back into the bathroom for the mop head. It only took eight trips to scrub my daughter's floor by hand with the mop head.

In only ten more minutes from finishing a deep scrub of the floors, walls, and furniture, I had scoured every inch of my arms and legs, glad for the scalding since germs couldn't live through it and even if they did, they would be sloughed off with the top layer of my skin. I changed my nightgown, gulped several glasses of water, checked to make sure my daughter was sleeping well in the recliner since her room was unlivable with stench still, and went to turn off her light.

That was when I brushed off some poop that had gotten on the door jamb from my mad dash with the crate bottom out the door. Another tub of suds and serious scrubbing of every door jamb I passed through whether I saw poop or not, I finally scrubbed up again and wet to bed.

I couldn't sleep because I could still smell it. I would turn my head to the side and catch a whiff. Each whiff resulted in me sniffing another body part for fear that I had missed some on my skin. I did both elbows first, then tried to smell my hair, and when I realized that I had folded double trying to sniff my own stomach, I called paranoia and decided that if it was me and not just lingering odor, it was going to wait until morning.

It took only thirty minutes of talking to myself to convince my brain to believe me.

I have, of course, bought a new mop head, some Mr. Clean, another mop bucket, several sponges, rubber gloves, and a spray bottle of some sort of degreaser since last night. I have taken the cage and everything that might possibly have been touched by the explosion out of my daughter's room and scrubbed every nook and cranny again. Only one element for my peace of mind remains:

Where do I hide my Mr. Clean?

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Clock

I don't think you ever forget your first apartment. I hated campus life and moved off campus as soon as my college would allow me to. Being the anti-social butterfly that I am, I took on the empty fourth bedroom in an available apartment with three other girls who all went to the local community college for the vet tech program. Christie, Heather, and Alana were great girls, but quite different from me. I still see a difference in vocational people versus book-learning folk, though I bridge the gap quite nicely with my tech skills.

The night my parents brought me up, I hadn't told anyone that I'd be coming. I'd spoken once on the phone with Alana and since I was paying good money and since I have those developmentally delayed social skills, I didn't think about calling to tell them that I'd be coming into my apartment that night. When we opened the door with the first armful of my things, I don't remember any particular sight. What I do remember was the sound of bunches of kids drawing in a collective breath, a quietly whispered, "Oh, shit! Parents!", followed by melodious chiming as many liquor bottles were gathered together as quickly as possible and moved into the kitchen away from parental eyes.

Alana came forward to introduce herself and to guide my parents and me away from the party zone until the evidence could be better hidden. Alana was quite the adept with social skills and had had many years of practice on the party scene.

My other two new roommates followed her up the stairs to introduce themselves. I don't remember Heather's introduction very well because the poor thing was quite forgettable. I have a couple of memories of her, but nothing long-lasting, sad to say. Christie, on the other hand, permanently engraved herself on my brain with a "Hello. I'm Christie. I'm drunk!" She punctuated her introduction with a hand stuck out for a shake and the very first inebriated hiccup I ever heard.

My father was delighted. I could tell he hoped I'd finally loosen up with this crew and have a little fun. My mother was less enthusiastic and frowned pretty much the rest of the night. Her Southern grace took over and she was polite to the girls, but she wasn't happy that this was where I'd be.

We did have some good times there. They continued to live the college life and party and I continued to maintain my anti-social behavior, enjoying the solitude that I found in my bedroom. We had diners together and occasional fun.

I remember distinctly one night being awakened by the three of them coming home from some party and hearing Christie and Heather get a drunk Alana up the stairs and into the bathroom for what must have been a truly horrendous puke session. I know it was horrendous because when I got up several hours later to use the restroom, my sleepy self woke up when my butt stuck to the toilet. Apparently, two drunk girls don't do a very good job of wiping up after a third drunk girl in the middle of the night.

I'm not sure when it happened, but the three of us slowly drew apart. Eventually, Christie became my best friend. I think it was because she was the most like me. We each came from conventional homes with two married parents and siblings. Heather's mom had divorced from her cheating father and remarried a sap. Her mom hated all men, including her pushover husband, and Heather learned her bitterness. I'm not sure what Alana's background was, but she alluded to living on the streets at one point and there were never any parents in evidence while I knew her. There were guys and long conversations about how big her mouth was, in more ways than one.

Living with vet techs meant our apartment was filled with animals. Alana had Jerry, a cat spawned from a demon. Heather had a huge Persian whose name I forget, and I ended up with a cat who ran in off the street during a party they were throwing. I was in my room getting drunk for the first time on a juice glass of vodka because one of the women I considered a mother had just died. I was having so much trouble stopping crying that Alana gave me a full 10 oz. of vodka and made me drink it. When that only worked a little, Christie got me to come in her room where this little gray ball of fluff was backed into a corner with its fur sticking out all over. The cat was muttering these little growls and warning us t0 back off. She was so adorable that I picked her up and called her Merlin. The grief combined with the exhaustion and the alcohol to make me bring her into my room and claim her for my own. Christie borrowed Heather's litter box for the night and caring for the little cat calmed me enough to let me sleep.

Christie felt left out with all the rest of us having pets, I think, and she decided to get herself a pet. In an apartment full of cats, she decided on a bird. A cockatiel, to be exact. I helped her name him.

"I don't know what to call him," she said. "I really like that yellow crest he has, though. What can I do with that."

"I would call him Ajax," I replied.

Christie looked at me with a weird expression.

"You know. Ajax. The hero of the Trojan War?" I explained.

Still with the blank face.

"The Trojans wore helmets with a crest on them," I continued, but Christie had stopped listening.

"Trojan," she muttered, half to herself. "I like that."

She turned to me. "I'm calling him Trojan."

After a lengthy conversation on the merits, or lack thereof, of naming her bird after a condom, the name stuck. Trojan became part of the happy family.

To pay for her vet tech program at BRCC, Christie worked at a local vet's office on the weekends, getting paid peanuts and experience. The only problem was that the rest of us were typical college students who slept in until after noon on weekends. Christie's alarm would go off at 5:00 and she'd hit the snooze until the last possible minute to make it out the door for work. When I would wake up at around 1:00, her alarm would have been beeping for hours since it didn't have an auto-off. I'd go in and turn it off, then proceed with my day.

That summer, Christie gave Trojan to me as a wedding present. She had advanced to dog ownership and knew how much I liked him.
My new husband and I lived in the apartment until the lease was up. The other girls were gone home for the summer and Christie let us turn her bedroom into our bedroom. My room was converted into a study of sorts for the furniture my uncle gave us.

Since Christie brought him down to us on a Friday, our first morning as bird owners was a Saturday. Still college-aged, we planned to sleep late. However, our alarm went off at 5:00 a.m. My husband rolled over, still more asleep than not, and smacked the snooze button.

The alarm continued.

He smacked it again.

It continued.

He reached down, picked up the clock, and looked carefully before firmly pushing the snooze button.

The alarm continued.

He ripped the cord out of the wall and flung the alarm clock across the room.

The alarm continued.

At this point, we were both wide awake and I will admit to being a little freaked out because the alarm was still going off and I knew that there was no battery backup in that clock. Christie hadn't mentioned that her room was haunted, but my fuzzed brain leaped to that conclusion and started pumping adrenaline.

My husband and I sat there staring at the clock on the floor. Gradually, I realized that the sound was further left than the clock. As I turned my eyes, my husband flipped back the covers to go get it and perform an exorcism, I assume.

As soon as my eyes hit the bird cage in the corner, the alarm stopped.

"Pretty bird!" replaced it.

After all those weekends and all those hours of alarm sounds, Trojan could perfectly imitate the sound the clock made. He had also learned that the sound began about the same time that the sun came up. I started to laugh hysterically and then set about covering him to go back to sleep once the adrenaline wore off.

My husband never did see the humor in having to buy a new clock.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Owl

Right around Christmas time, the season of giving, I was returning from a visit with the element of family that I don't see very often. My children and I were in the middle of nowhere, on a road slicked in places with ice, and I had seen few cars on my way home. The snow was still piled high on the road's edges, right up to the white lines on both lanes. The frigid air was so crisp that I wasn't even driving the speed limit for fear of hitting black ice.

I came to a straight stretch on the road and kicked my speed up a couple of notches. I passed a fence post and a white blur darted into my peripherals. I turned my head a little to see what it was and an owl's tail feathers fanned out right in my direct line of sight. I blinked and I was looking right up an owl's butt.

Immediately, I let off the gas and went to hit the brakes, but my logic kicked in over my emotions and I realized that if I dodged or braked, I might very well lose traction. The owl flew along with my windshield brushing his tail feathers for longer than I would have thought he could, but when he dipped a wing to change direction, the car got him.

I'm the type of person who has to make sure that her roadkill is actually dead, as I can't stand the thought of any creature suffering needlessly. After a bad word or two that prompted my children to tune in and ask me what had happened, I pulled off on the shoulder and went to make sure there was a corpse and not a pain filled bird.

The tiny body lay near the middle of the road, with one wing spread across one yellow line. In the moonlight, enhanced by the reflection off the snow, I thought I saw its chest rise and fall. I took a couple of steps farther and the owl popped up and flopped its way to the white line, scaring a year or so off my life.

I said a few more bad words and got back in the car, putting it in reverse to try and finish the poor thing off. My five-year-old daughter was babbling that "we had to kill it because it couldn't live while in such pain and we couldn't leave it" to try to stop the sobbing of my eight-year-old son. Backing up took all of my concentration since I was trying to keep my tires aligned with the white line and I responded with simple grunts to her exclamations of "Right, Mama? Right?" repeated endlessly and tearfully.

When I was sure I had gone far past the spot where the owl had landed, I still hadn't spotted the body or felt the bump as the tires went over it. Admittedly, the owl would make only a small bump, but I was waiting for it. I turned my attention forward and advanced in increments, examining the roadside in my headlights. Still no owl.

I got back out in the freezing cold and squinted as I searched for the little squish I wished I was certain of. Instead, as I walked the line, I saw movement off in the two-feet deep snow. With a few more bad words, I debated if it was really worth getting snow in my sneakers, until I caught a faint wail coming through the closed windows of my car. Crap. I had no choice. I took two steps into the snow, just enough to wet the ankles of my jeans when it melted and to have a couple of clumps drop into my shoes when the injured bird took flight, gliding in for a rough landing back on the yellow line.

I debated my options. I could get back in the car and try to squish it again, but that could just result in another round of flopsy. I could get in the car and lie to my children, but then I'd have to deal with my conscience, knowing that I had left it to die. My cold feet would feel even worse if I chose that course of action. Finally I concluded I had no real choice.

I took off my coat and tiptoed toward the poor thing. The rise and fall of its chest was clearly visible now as it labored for breath. When I was several feet away, I tossed my coat on top of it then stepped forward and carefully gathered it up.

Getting back in the car, my kids asked me what I had done and I explained as I headed back down the road. I worried about the owl getting enough air and decided to pull off the road as soon as I came to a spot that wasn't a snow drift. While I drove, my mental voices had a serious debate about what I was going to do with the owl, both in the short and long term. While they proffered multiple suggestions, none seemed to fit the bill I was searching for. The lights of a convenience store ahead lit the night and a solution came to me as I flipped my turn signal.

Two days before during my after Christmas shopping, I had purchased a new coffee maker for the teacher workroom at school. Since I had attendance window duty first thing in the morning, I always got the last cup of coffee left in the pot. Unfortunately, this cup was usually half grounds since we could not seem to find a filter that would hold up under the force of the hot water. Plus, another teacher always set the pot up for a quick flip in the morning and I wanted a machine that would do the self-timer bit and turn on even if she wasn't around to flip the switch. It took quite a bit of searching to locate the one I wanted on the shelf, since the store was running a sale and most of the timer ones were already purchased, but I had succeeded, quite proud of myself.

School began in two days and I knew the coffee maker would be well secured in styrofoam. As soon as I pulled into the parking lot, I jumped out, dug through the Christmas clutter in my trunk, and unearthed the new pot. I pulled out the maker, carefully keeping the styrofoam together around it and laid the ensemble back in a safe little nook of wrapping paper. The box was far more important to me at that moment.

I moved around to the passenger door and worked very carefully to gently rest the injured owl in the box. As soon as I saw it was safe and still alive, I closed the lid, hoping to lessen its fear. The short term solution met, the voices began working on the long term; who was going to kill this owl for me?

In my chosen home, I have more friends than I've ever had before. I ran through the list of all of them in my head and came up with several who either hunt or have husbands who hunt, but I couldn't think of a one who would still be up at this hour of the night. While they're wonderful friends, there's only one who I'm close enough to that I would wake her to shoot an owl and she was on the opposite end of the county, another good two hours' worth of driving. As the smell of bird filled my car, I decided to do what most distraught girls with my background would do. I ran home to Daddy.

I couldn't call my parents because they were out at a dinner party. I also didn't want to actually ask my father to kill the owl because he would swear and/or mock me quite a bit. Mostly, I knew where he kept his guns, so we headed down the mountain to kill an owl.

My daughter fell asleep, both due to the excitement and the late hour, but my boy was in it with me for the long haul. He would go for long stretches in complete silence and then offer options for ways we could avoid killing the owl. I would consider his thoughts and then explain why they wouldn't work. Eventually, he accepted that I would have to do it. That's when the crying began again, but softly this time as he mourned.

When we finally arrived at my parents' house, I half hoped the owl would already be dead, but it wasn't. I carried my daughter up to her bed and tucked her in then went for the .22. Getting gun was no problem, but then I discovered Daddy didn't keep his ammo with the guns. I had no idea where to find a single bullet.

My son trailed after me up and down stairs as I searched in all the places I thought my father might logically keep his hunting supplies. Eventually, I found a couple of .22 bullets in a basket on top of the refrigerator in the basement. My boy was bawling and begging me to find him headphones. He had accepted that I was going to shoot the owl, but he couldn't bear the thought of hearing the shot and knowing it had happened. His plan was to get on the computer and blast away the sound. I helped him set up something upstairs, though we couldn't find any headphones, and went back down to the kitchen to load the gun.

I slipped a shell in and locked the bolt into place. Again, as I opened the box, I prayed that the owl was already dead. Again, it wasn't. I stared at its terrified eyes for a couple of minutes, trying to nerve myself to pick it up and take it outside for extermination. Finally, my son yelled down the stairs, wondering why he hadn't heard the fateful shot.

I simply couldn't do it. I had driven an extra 45 minutes to put the poor thing out of its misery and had ended up merely prolonging its agony. I hated myself in that moment. I quietly opened the bolt and removed the bullet, telling my son that I just couldn't do it. He threw himself at me, hugging me around the knees as we headed into the living room to cry together.

After a bit, I went to check on the owl to tell it my dad would be home soon. When I opened the box, I couldn't see any movement of its chest. I grabbed a coat hanger and gently lifted its wing for a closer look. Its eyes had finally glazed over. It was gone.

Ten minutes later, my parents walked through the door.

My mom was getting ready to look in the box when I walked into the laundry room. "Don't say anything," I commanded. After one look at my face, they complied. I made sure that they were okay with my daughter spending the night since my son was still stuck to me like glue then I loaded the boxed dead owl and my boy into the car. We dumped the corpse near a church parking lot, not for the religious connotations, though that did comfort me just a little, but because it was a convenient place to pull off the road close to woods.

On Wednesday I returned to school, armed with the new coffee pot still coddled in packing and a sad story to share. When I removed the styrofoam, I began swearing so much that another teacher came in to see what had happened.

It was the wrong pot. Some jerk had switched out the pot with the timer on it for the cheaper flip switch version. If I hadn't spent 15 minutes searching the shelves, I would think it was my mistake, but I knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that this error was not my doing.

Normally, I wouldn't swear enough to call someone else's attention to the situation, but this time I couldn't help myself. Normally, I would put the pot back in the box and exchange it at the store. Normally, this would be an annoying inconvenience, but not significant enough to chance having a student hear me swear.

I stood looking at the little green switch on the regular coffee pot for what seemed to be a long while. Then I walked over to the counter and plugged it in. This coffee pot was now mine. I couldn't return it to the store. The box had had a dead owl in it.

My best friend at school was so sympathetic about the owl. So sympathetic that she choked on her lunch laughing at our new coffee pot. Each morning for a month when I walked in and got a cup of perfectly brewed coffee, the teacher who flipped the switch would look at me and the corners of her lips would twitch just a little before she hurried out the room. The next time they go on sale, I'm buying a single serving pot.

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Parking Lot

My high school has a tradition of holding a drug free party after graduation at a local bowling alley. Although I wasn’t exactly the joiner type, Ben and I decided to go to the free bowling, more because we loved bowling than for the people, but we did have fun with my friends. Most of his friends went to another school. I remember Ben won a free hat for hitting a strike when they called for a volunteer. No one was even attempting it despite the cajoling of the guy on the intercom, and Ben felt pity for the man and was in a mood where he didn’t mind making a spectacle of himself. It was the only strike he bowled that night.

That party was the third time in my life I had ever stayed up all night. The first two were our junior and senior proms when we went to the after party so Ben could jump in the bungee trampoline and get a killer wedgie on the velcro wall. I remember driving home after the junior prom and falling asleep in his pickup. I was cold, so he turned the heat up. Since he hadn’t had any sleep either, I still think it was a miracle we made it home without him falling asleep at the wheel.

The day after our bowling graduation party, I started my summer job that I would work until heading off to college in the fall. I had accepted a position as third shift short-order cook at a local convenience store. The pay was decent, but I worked 11 pm to 8 am. The work was easy since not that many people want deep fried food during those hours. Most of the people I dealt with were drunk or stoned, with the notable exception of the hospital staff who always had a large midnight order. In the morning, I cooked biscuits for some regulars and made gravy for the morning shift. Having made that gravy, I would never eat gravy at a convenience store again.

The graveyard shift is what led to my first summer of adulthood’s shenanigans. Because I haven’t been a night owl since the day I was born, I absolutely hated the shift I worked. I didn’t have the energy to do anything other than drive home and sleep until my shift started up again. If I was lucky, I’d get in two or three hours of wakefulness before I went in to work since my internal clock was so off that I slept through the entire day.

On weekends, I’d drive over to Ben’s house and pass out in his bed or on his couch until he’d show in the afternoon. He knew I’d be sleeping and since he rarely slept in his house, this worked pretty well for both of us.

At that time of our lives, he spent almost every single Saturday wrestling with the AIWF, a small federation started by one of his friends who wanted to wrestle but didn’t have the form or capability of making it in the big time. They were nice men, the wrestlers, but none of them could have really gone on to something on television. They put together a pretty good league, all in all, and still have local cable channel talk shows and wrestling venues around a couple of states. Ben wrestled as Chris Windham from Sweetwater, Texas, which amused me to no end, him being about as far from a Texan as possible. In the ring, a side of him came out that manifested nowhere else; he loved the adulation and attention from the crowds as he tied on the bandanas and wrapped himself in his good-guy persona.

The wrestling events were staged all over the state of North Carolina and we would often have to drive three to four hours to get to that night’s venue. I hated sleeping in his truck, especially since we frequently took a friend along for the trip. Ben drove a little blue Mitsubishi stick shift. It was just wide enough for three people, but when I was trying to sleep, I couldn’t contort my body sufficiently to keep my feet in the passenger’s side and put my head on a shoulder that wasn‘t shifting gears. There was never a question of me sitting on the door side because that would put the two guys squooshed together and that was not happening.

I don’t remember how we discovered my salvation, but somehow we realized that the mattress of the chair that folded out into a bed in his house was easily removable and fit just perfectly into the bed of his pickup truck. There wasn’t more than an inch of space from the top of the mattress to the cab of the truck when it was pushed up against the tailgate and no room on the sides. With a blanket and a pillow, I could go anywhere and still get as good a rest as if I were in bed at home thanks to the balmy summer weather.

So we traveled. I would sleep in the house until he arrived, he’d kiss me awake, load up the mattress, tuck me in back, and head off to wherever. Half the time, I didn’t even know what town or city I was in when I woke up on the back side of a National Guard Armory or a high school, places where the group held most of their shows. I’d get up, brush out my hair and have a sip of the water Ben would leave for me chilling in the cab, and then meander inside to find him and help set stuff up whenever I woke. All the guys kept an eye on me, I think, while I slept in the back, but I didn’t really know very many of them all that well.

The only flaw in our brilliant adventure was when it rained. On those occasions, Ben would pull off the road and I’d pile in the cab for the ride and sleep stretched out across the seat when we got there. I always had a crick in my neck on those days. Plus, I couldn’t sleep on the mattress again for a couple of days until it dried out.

One day, I was sound asleep in the back with my covers pulled up snug when I felt a few raindrops patter across my forehead. I tried to ignore it and go back to sleep, hoping the light shower would pass without making me move, but as I began to feel the drops impacting on my blanket, I realized I was going to have to go inside.

I opened my eyes to a gray sky and laid there blinking for a few seconds, trying to work my tear glands into wetting my dry contacts before I actually sat up. I will admit to being grumpy when I emerged because I didn’t relish trying to fit my 5’9” frame into the interior of the truck or the inevitable crick that would come. To stall a little longer since the rain wasn’t pouring yet, I checked my watch to see that I really only needed another half hour of sleep before I’d have reached my normal time anyway. With that, I shrugged off the now damp cover and sat up.

It took me a minute to process what I was seeing. I usually sat up to chainlink fences and narrow lanes next to a large building of some sort. There were usually people who knew me within earshot. This time, I saw lots and lots of cars. I looked slowly to the left and saw more cars. This parking lot was full and whatever store I was at was doing a brisk business. Before I could determine my exact location, the skies opened up and the rain went from a cooling mist with an occasional actual drop to a soaking rain with drops large enough that you felt each one hit the top of your head.

Whatever fuzziness from my sleep lingered was pretty much washed away, and though my confusion remained, self-preservation kicked in and I vaulted over the side of the truck. Once my feet hit the pavement, my head came up and I saw the Food Lion sign way up the parking lot from the space I had been left in.

I was in the middle of a Food Lion parking lot. Ben had driven me to a Food Lion parking lot and left me sleeping without a word. My infamous red-headed temper started to rise. By now I had moved up the water chart from damp to wet and I grabbed the door handle as I started to fume in earnest. Boy, was he getting a piece of my mind when he came back. The diatribe with which I planned to blast him was writing itself so loudly in my head that my brain failed to register that the handle was pulled out but the door wasn’t opening. I paused my mental tirade and looked inside the cab.

The doors were locked.

To recap, Ben had driven me to a very busy Food Lion parking lot in a city I didn’t know the name of, left me sleeping alone in the back of his pickup open to the elements, and had locked me out of the vehicle.

A slow boil is the first term that comes to mind when I recall that moment. I stood there with the above three thoughts chasing each other through my brain. I was so surprised that Ben would be so inconsiderate and uncaring of my safety and comfort that I couldn’t form a coherent thought. I glanced at the store, just beginning to decide I was going to have to have him paged when my next shock hit me.

Heads down to avoid the rain and moving as fast as their legs could carry them, Neal and Jimmy, two wrestlers I barely knew, sprinted out the door heading for the vehicle. Slowly my brain processed this new tidbit of info.

Ben had not left me sleeping in the back of a Food Lion parking lot all by myself, locked out in the rain. He had sent me, sound asleep, off in the back of his pickup with two men I barely knew, in a city I didn’t know the name of, to a Food Lion parking lot where I woke up in the rain locked out of the cab.

Neal looked up as I realized this and the expression on my face caused him to visibly miss a step. I was raised with Southern manners, but even those failed me when the two guys got to the cab, sputtering apologies. I don’t remember actually saying a word, namely because I was too angry to speak. Not at Neal and Jimmy. They had just borrowed the truck. But the numbskull who handed over the keys with his girlfriend in the back end? He was going to get it.

Said numbskull was waiting anxiously when we pulled into the little lane up to the chainlink fence behind the big building. I didn’t speak a word. He started to, but thought better of it.

I dripped into the building and sat down on the padding that went under the tarp on the ring. I pulled off my shoes, wrung out my socks, and laid down to go back to sleep. He sat down quietly beside me and moved my hair off my forehead. When they needed the padding, he woke me up and hugged me.

I never delivered that tirade. I never released all that anger in one screaming hissy-fit. For once, I just let it go. Well, I let it go for then. I pretty much brought it back up in every argument we had for the next ten years. I won all those, of course.