Truth

My sister came out onto the porch. Pastel patches of laundry peeked through the rigid squares in the side of the basket she carried in her strong slender arms.  The gentle breeze blew wayward strands of chestnut hair away from her face and plastered them against her perspiring neck. She pressed her free hand against the small of her back and stretched.

‘Better check on him. His blankets off again….’

An odd request. I glanced back through the screen door and could just make out the blurred white figure of our brother lying on his downstairs cot. Ever since his second amputation there had been a cot in the front hall for him to rest on.  I don’t know who put it there for him and family policy dictated that I should not ask.  It probably just materialized. Things like that happened at our house; things were constantly appearing and disappearing without any explanation.  One summer morning I got up and the television set was gone.  When I asked my mother where it was she asked me if I had washed my hands.  I never did find out what happened to the TV and it wasn’t replaced for almost a year. That’s how things were at our house: never a direct question, never a direct statement and never, ever a direct statement of need.

If my mother was pressed she would have explained that the cot in the hall was there because my brother preferred not to bother going upstairs to rest. So much easier to just rest on the main floor, closer to the bathroom.  An outsider may have stated more obviously that my brother couldn’t go upstairs, he had no legs.  And we didn’t talk about the fact that he was blind. No, he just loved music.  He had no time for reading or TV – nope too involved in his music.  We were not allowed to discuss the fact that he was dying.

The screen door creaked as I entered the front hall. The dark wood trim made the bright sunlight streaming through the window seem even brighter in contrast. I looked at him lying peacefully on his cot.

With the realization that he was dead came an almost overwhelming relief.  There was no need to lie anymore.  He was gone – no longer suffering and pretending things were fine.  I looked at him sadly and in my mind’s eye set him free.  He sat up on the cot and shrugged off deaths sleep. He stood, no longer some sexless torso, but now a young man standing on two strong limbs, breathing deeply of ghost’s air, stretching like a waking cat.  With an angry glance at me, he stepped purposefully out onto the sunny porch. Down the steps, across the lawn, his stride gaining momentum until he ran, fairly flying down the sun dappled street.  Within seconds he had faded from sight.

The muffled thump of the screen door startled me back to reality as my sister joined me in the hall. ‘Haven’t you covered him up yet?’ she shrilled ‘he’s going to get cold!’  I looked into her panicked brown eyes and then looked away. ‘I can’t’ I replied ‘he’s not here’.

You never know quite when you will become a stalker…

I wander into my favourite coffee shop and scan the room for a good place to sit.  I am planning to write a short story for the Weekly Writing Challenge at WordPress.com: Person, Place, and Thing and I need a good spot from which to observe the other patrons.  The cafe is crowded, but I find a small table wedged in between the self-service coffee bar and a wall; it’s a bit cramped and not really a great spot but there isn’t much else to choose from.  I dump my backpack and purse on the table then go grab my coffee.

When I return to my table I start to scan for a likely prospect… a person… any person.  I suddenly realize that the only direction I can see is across the room directly in front of me. Rats. Well, there is an older gentleman sitting at one of the café tables. I focus on him consciously trying to ‘hone’ my powers of observation. The table is ‘pub style’ so tall enough you could stand at it, made of dark wood and sans table cloth. He’s perched on a high backed chair that looks kind of like a bar stool.  One of his legs is dangling and the other is bent at the knee, his heel hooked on to the chair rung.  His coat is half on and half off the back of the stool and he has elbow on the table and one arm slung over the back of the chair. Overall he looks pretty relaxed and is chatting with someone I can’t see as they are blocked by the corner of the wall that runs beside my table.  He has a large ‘walrus’ style mustache,  well-trimmed and snowy white,  his skin is tanned and a bit lined – it looks like he might spend a lot of time out of doors.  He’s got a white plastic spoon in his hand, the kind they provide in fast food places. I think he must have used it to stir his coffee as there doesn’t appear to be any food on the table.  He puts the spoon in his mouth when he isn’t talking, almost as if he has to keep his mouth busy to prevent him interrupting the other person.  So far i feel I am observing accurately – I am reluctant to pull out pen and paper as I feel this would make my observation too obvious and that would be rude.  so instead I run my eyes over him committing every detail I can to memory.

He’s dressed casually like many other people in the coffee shop:  faded blue shirt, white T shirt peeping out at the neck, blue jeans, and running shoes.  Nothing really outstanding if I’m dead honest.  Well, there is that mustache. Oh, and now I see he has very clear blue eyes.  Piercing blue eyes.  Oh wait, he’s realized I’m staring at him and is staring back. Shit!  Without thinking how odd it will look, I quickly lean back so I am partially hidden by the self-service bar.  I wait a few seconds, pretending to be engrossed in the enamel on the self-service-bar: there are lots of finger prints and coffee drips… gross.  Eventually I relax and ease myself properly back into my chair.  He has turned in his chair and is now fully facing his friend, but glances at me out of the corner of his eye.  I gaze innocently at my coffee and wait.  After a few more minutes I glance up and he’s relaxed a bit more, elbows on the table and is laughing at something his friend has said. He seems comfortable; who could his conversation mate be?   He’s tapping the spoon on the table and jiggling the foot that’s resting on the chair rung.  I wonder what they are discussing… who is his friend? Is it a friend? Maybe it’s a sibling or a coworker or… who knows? I can’t see the person he’s talking to so I lean forward to get a look at them and my movement draws his attention. His face turns towards me and in the split second before I can think I duck back behind the self-service counter. This is when I start to realize that I’m behaving a bit like a stalker. My face gets very hot and I’m sure that at any moment he is going to aggressively question me as to my motive. What do I do now? The mature thing would be to go speak to him, tell him what I’m doing and apologize for making him uncomfortable.  Of course I’m not going to do that… talk about awkward! But I clearly can’t sit here playing some sort of demented peek-a-boo game with this stranger… I sit for a few more seconds then rapidly gulp down my coffee and grab my backpack.  Hopefully I can make a graceful exit.  I lurch to my feet, knocking my chair over and, head down, make a bee line for the door.  My eyes do a quick sweep of the suddenly quiet coffee shop and the last thing I see before I head out the door is my ‘subject’, hands splayed on the table, head turned towards me, brow furrowed and eyes wide with surprise and his friend (a younger man – maybe his son?) watching me with an identical expression on his face.  I wonder what kind of an impression I have made on them today.  I don’t know that I’m cut out for these Daily Post Challenges…

Say ‘Yes’ and see what happens next

goats

Another migrated blog from November 14/2010

OK, so goats shouldn’t really be in the house.  Most people know that without having to experience it but some of us (OK, me) do need to try things before they say they don’t like it, you know?  My mom always made me have one bite of something new because I couldn’t say I didn’t like it until I had tasted it.  She was right – that’s how I discovered how delicious Brussel sprouts are (I’m serious – most favourite vegetable of all time).  We need new experiences – it’s how we learn.  I even went so far as to decide on summer vacation one year, that for an entire week I would not say NO to any opportunity that came my way. Seriously, would not say No… it wasn’t in my vocabulary.  So what happened?  I drove (OK, probably not the right word) a boat on the ocean; I raided crab traps in American waters (illegal on two counts: 1) not my traps and 2) crossed the american border illegally!);  I got a massage and a manicure, bought some outrageously expensive clothing; I went to a really cool house party in down town Vancouver, I participated in a drive by minting (involved a speeding mini-cooper, a bag of scotch mints and some rowdies at a bus stop). These were all new experiences that I would normally have said ‘No” to.  Me pilot a boat?  I had no boating experience, didn’t know port from starboard, didn’t know (till I figured it out) that you don’t let waves slap the boat broadside – that’s how you ‘swamp’ the boat. I learned, after robbing the traps, how to boil and eat crab. I also learned that crabs WILL pinch you if you get your finger in their ‘faces’ and that it really, really does hurt.  I also discovered that when cleaning a crab, pulling the carapace off is best done gently if you want to avoid exploding crab guts all over someones nice house. I also found that treating myself to expensive clothing while on vacation is a luxurious thing :).  And remembering the Drive-By-Minting has kept a smile on my face for over 10 years now.

So what has keeping the goats in the house taught me?  Well, a baby goat is really only helpless and wobbly for about 24 hours.  After that, it can pretty much get out of anything you put it in.  They pee every 5 and a half seconds (or so it seems) and while they can be trained to do their morning pee outside, or, for that matter, to pee outside anytime you put them out there,  they pretty much will pee anytime, anywhere without too much forethought.  Goats pee does not smell good.  Goats climb. They will be found in your laundry basket on top of your newly laundered clothes. They will climb on your couch (remember the pee statement from earlier? yeah)  They will chew (not eat, mind you, but ‘feel’ with their mouths) anything they can get their lips on – just to see how it feels.  BUT, baby goats are the most adorable thing.  It is comforting to sit with a baby goat in your lap, it’s little chin nestled on your chest, giving little grunts of happiness, while you are watching tv.  It is rewarding to see a cold almost lifeless kid rescued from the barn slowly revive under your hand – taking deeper breaths and slowly realizing there is an active world around it. The little girl in me loves blowing their fur dry and putting a collar on them (I stopped just short of the bows on their ears 🙂 ).   It is also extremely satisfying to have them run to greet you when you come back into the room after you have been out of the room for all of 5 minutes – they seem to be bleating ‘it’s you! it’s you! look, you’re back!’.

So, no, goats – un-housebroken  smelly, loud demanding goats probably shouldn’t be in the house.  Tomorrow Rita and Chaos and Chuck (new goat that needed a boost) will go out to the ‘bottle’ pen that Don built in the barn.  It makes sense.  It’s a good idea.  But I know that Rita is going to miss the Tudors on Tuesday night…

And while I know they won’t appreciate the comparison – my kids are not house broken (per se), are frequently smelly, loud and demanding… perhaps they need a pen in the barn? no, no I go to far.  🙂

A Very Bleak Poem

moved over from my facebook blog from November 20, 2010

Many of you may know that I recently lost my dad to cancer.  while I was burrowing through some documents on the computer I found this poem I wrote while my cousin Judy was in the hospital dying of breast cancer.  At the same time this was happening, I found out later that my friend Krista’s mom was losing her battle with cancer as well.  Anyway, this poem reflects my state of mind at the time and frankly, also captures my feelings about this period when dad was dying.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I tidy the kitchen

& hang the tea towels up,

I am not dying.

I gather up my son & his toys

And hustle him into his bath.

He is so full of life.

He splashes through his bath

And chats about the miracle of water going

Down

the

Drain.

Life drips from him;

Sparkles on his lashes like diamonds,

Dances in his laughter.

I put him in his pajamas; we count: one leg, two leg.

Pull the covers up to his chin

Kiss his warm peach cheek

Breathe his sweet baby smell.

The smell of life.

I brush my own teeth,

Wash my own face,

Pay scant attention to the water going

Down

the

Drain.

I put my pajamas on

I do not count: One leg, two leg

I pull the covers up to my chin.

I am not dying.

I think of Judy lying in the hospital bed

Machines monitoring her last days

Coaxing life to stay just a little longer.

She once had life dancing in her laughter,

Sparkling on her lashes like diamonds

Now it escapes in coughs

She spits it out

And watches the miracle of it

Going

Down

the

Drain.