Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Trees of the Field.

The trees gaze down on the two figures. One is perched on a blue bicycle. He clutches the handlebars like a prayer, a small wrinkle creasing his forehead. The larger figure crouches beside him, whispering, hoping. 

Their heads part, and the dance begins. She grips the seat and begins to run. His wheels spin, as she sprints, gripping his sweatshirt. "Don't let go! Don't let go!" he yelps. All is motion, as her shoes thwack the asphalt. Her heart pounds. His face melts into motion.

She lets go. He glides, an unwavering, elegant line. She runs behind him, raising her hands to the heavens. Don't let go, she whispers. Don't let go.

The oaks and willows observe his journey, whispering encouragement through age-old groans and whispers. He streaks down the road, all red hoodie and  propelled bravado. When ready, he glides to a stop.

She gasps, finds her footing. The world, once more, has shifted. "Mom," he says, "You've got yourself a bike rider!"

And the trees of the field clap their hands.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Mate for Life

"It's like this, " Jake said, casting his line into the bay. He swallowed once, then ran a hand through his hair. The line hit the water like an exclamation point. "Your mom's leaving me."

I turned away. The silken fishing line glinted in the sun. "I know," I mumbled. "I'm not stupid."

"No, you're not," he said. "In fact, you're too smart for your own good." He reached into his front pocket, pulled out a Camel. With a practiced flourish, he lit the end, and passed it.

The smoke burned my throat. "Of course she's sending you clean up her mess," I said.

He shook his head. "What else is new?"

Nothing was new. Mom stepped out on Jake, and he put up with it. Same fucking story. Last week I saw her in action. From the back of the school bus, of all places. We were driving past the Fastop, and there she was, straddling some guy's motorcycle. Big loser guy with long blond hair. She was laughing, wearing a top with her tits falling out. So fucking disrespectful.

And Jake just took it. He put food on her table and raised me and my brother, all the while smelling another man's stink. And now, since she's found her next Prince Charming, I guess it's out with Jake, in with the newest step-dad.

 Which sucks. Jake at least took me fishing and passed his cigs. He talked to me, instead of hollering like Mom.  I stubbed out my butt. "I think the fish got your line." 

"Little fucker," he said, gripping his own cigarette between his back teeth. "You know none of this is your fault." He reeled in the line, and released it again in one seamless motion.

I watched an osprey flying to its nest, a flapping fish crushed in its beak. Those birds manage to mate for life. My stomach twisted, looking at it  "Of course it's not my fault my mom's a fucking whore."

"Watch your mouth, boy." He leaned in, and I could smell the Michelob on his breath. "She may not be perfect but--" his eyes darted to his feet, "she's what you've got. She's all you got."Our eyes caught, and I understood exactly what he was saying.

"Yes sir."  I watched the waves lap up against the pier, smacking the weathered wood.  I choked on each weighted syllable.

"So, I'll see you around, right?" he lied. "Maybe go fishing?"

I couldn't stand to look at him. "Sure," I said, "You know the number."

I knew he would never call. And that our connection would snap, like a fishing line. It would sink into the waters, soundless and forgotten.

We're writing about heartbreak at Write on Edge. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

My Auntie Moment

This is me in 2005:

This is me about two weeks ago:

(You must ignore my face here. This was at the height of no-power-for-days-Hurricane-Irene and I thought it would be funny to compare myself to those Dorthea Lange Depression Era photos. After all, a few days without TMZ is exactly like the Dust Bowl.)

Uncanny, yes? 

I post these two pictures because when I look at the top shot, I'm reminded of one simple fact: I felt fat and ugly that day. My arms were too big, my face too round, and my eyes too squinty. As my husband and I toured the Cherry Blossoms on a stunning spring day, I crossed my arms and scowled, trying to hold in the sagging and bubbling, that toxic flesh spilling from my clothes.

I was so stupid. I mean, just look at that rack. My boobs didn't know what (or, more specifically, who) was going to use 'em and abuse 'em. My belly didn't know it would be stretched until it was as taut as a timpani, and just as ponderous. Twice.

Anne Lamott talks about loving her body. She calls her saggy upper thighs "The Aunties," and speaks of how she treats these funny body parts as one would treat a revered, beloved aunt. You, know, the silly one that wears straw hats and orders Gin Fizzes? She rubs delicious lotion on her Aunties, and let the sun rest on them whenever she can. 

I love that. And I had an Auntie moment of my own right after my oldest was born. It was my first postpartum shower. My stomach sagged, my feet were like two balloons, and I was so weak I needed to grip the shower bar. 

And yet, when I bent over to shave my legs, I could do it. For the first time in forty weeks, I could touch my toes without hitting that block of baby. I could move, unencumbered and so very light.

My body was mine again. And it was more than enough. It was beautiful because I had it back, and finally realized what I had lost. 

And when I looked at my son, I was awed at what it could do.

I can't say that every day is perfect. But I am confident enough now that I can post a frowning, less-than-perfect photo online. A photo of days without hot water or flat irons. A photo of a middle-aged dame who will never again be as young and foolish as that miserable woman in the first shot. 

And thank God for that. 

This post is linked up with Just Be Enough. For every 20 linked up posts, Bellflower Books will provide a memory book to a woman fighting breast cancer through Crickett’s Answer for Cancer, and help bring a smile to courageous women giving it their all, every single day. 

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Pruning Season

For the Red Dress Club this week, we were to write about jeans. If you look really hard, you'll see that I mentioned them. I think that totally counts.

I'm writing fiction this week, inspired by the non-fiction piece I wrote previously.

Concrit is always appreciated.

After the hurricane, Donny found me temp work with his Uncle Robbie. Tree removal--you know, chainsaws, tearing up shit. A regular Redneck Christmas. 

It's was all under the table, of course--I'm not bonded or trained. But Robbie sent my skinny ass up trees anyway, while he sat there on his, holding the ground down. Not that I was complaining. Hell of a lot better than being at home. And cash was cash.

We were working at the Scallon place. The storm smacked them like a motherfucker, throwing shit around, hollering and carrying on. Kinda reminded me of my stepdad.

Robbie scratched his gut, then spat some chaw on Mrs. Scallon's driveway. An oak had fallen from behind her house, the top branches dangling like a question mark over her front porch."Get on the roof, Eli," he grunted, "Take care of it."

"Yes sir," I mumbled. I wiped my hands on my jeans, leaving streaks of sweat on the denim. I adjusted my belt, and hoisted myself up.

I scanned the tree, studying the pattern of the cut, the fissures along the surface of the bark. I couldn't help but smile. You know how some people see a statue in a block of stone? I can look at a fallen tree and see its whole sad story. Where it's overburdened. Where it's still strong. You need to prune it with care, trimming away the branches and the rubble. Give it a little hope.

"What the fuck are you doing up there?" Robbie yelled. Mrs. Scallon's kid popped his head out the window.  "Stop thinking of your boyfriend and get to work!"

I jerked my head, my gloved hands clamped into fists. The only thing stopping me from telling the fat fuck where to shove his chainsaw was the kid, still looking out the window. His little hands were cupped under his chin, staring at the Bobcat as if it was made of magic and chocolate bars.

Kids. They don't need any pruning yet. They just bend in the wind.

They'll learn soon enough.

For the sake of the kid, I didn't beat Robbie's ass. I cleared the tree, and then cleared three more. At the end of the day, I took his goddamn money.

I promised myself not to piss it all away. Again.

You see, I'm getting out of here. It's pruning season.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Cutting Edge

One could say that my three year old was a bit wiped out towards the end of his first stroller-less trip to the National Zoo.

But I prefer to believe that he was planking.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Red Writing Hood: Returning the Favor

Sweat dripped off my nose. A blister sprouted on the small of my hand. I shoveled and shook my bloodied fist at the heavens. Why must rural living suck with such intensity? Why don't dirt driveways gravel themselves?

I heard footsteps. A young boy, probably twelve years old, put on some gloves, and began to work. "Do you mind, Ma'am?" he asked, mid-shovel. He tucked his long hair back in a baseball cap, his legs planted firmly to the ground.

"How much are you charging?" I would give him anything.

He gazed at me, and shook his head twice. "Nothing, ma'am."

I looked down. My face reddened. I still was such an outsider here. 

We worked in companionable silence. I forced a Pepsi into his hand, and heard his footsteps crunch against my completed driveway as he returned home.

Later on, when talking to another neighbor about the encounter, he said, "Oh, that's Eli. Great kid. He just likes to help."

The seasons twisted like a kaleidoscope. Eli left middle school, and moved on to the high school. His bike gave way to a truck of his own. He grew a mustache and stayed out of his house as often as he could.

He lifted his arm as we passed in our car, as if a full wave would exhaust him. My husband and I called him "Joe Cool" as we watched him saunter around the neighborhood, trousers sagging, a cigarette dangling from his lip.

One late spring, Eli knocked on the door. He was dressed in a white colored shirt, holding a tie in his hands. It was high school homecoming. "Is your husband home, Ma'am?

I nodded, and listened from the kitchen as my husband explained, "First, you twist this part under that part. You loop it through, and pull it up." I pressed my hand against my swelling belly, felt the kick of my growing son.

I prayed he would always have a daddy to teach him such things.

Eli graduated high school,and found a job working construction. And then he disappeared.

"Drugs," a neighbor confirmed. "He'll be in for six months. He broke into most of the neighborhood houses to get money."

Our house was never touched.

Come spring, Eli returned home, his shoulders defeated, and his eyes clouded with steel. Once again, he rode his bike around the neighborhood, the truck long sold to feed other needs.

We lived in darkness for the six days, thanks to Hurricane Irene and her bad attitude.

On day three, Eli's family had power. Soon, we heard that knock on the door. He stood there, holding an extension cord. "For your fridge, Ma'am.Use this as long as you need it."

Each morning, I sat at my kitchen table, hearing my fridge hum with life amidst the darkness. Humbled.  Reminded once more of the thin orange cord that binds us all. Empowering us. Until, once again, it is our season to return the favor.

*We're writing about seasons of change at Write on Edge this week.*