Bedpans and Walther P38s–Part Two

BedPans and Walther P38s
(Part Two of a Christmas Past)

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Photo Credit: Jessica McCollam jessicasvisionsphotography.com

It was seven days before Christmas, and I still had to purchase gifts for 21 grandchildren, two great-grandchildren, and 10 adults. Technically, Christmas was eight days away, but our family gathers for dinner on Christmas Eve, opening gifts after the grandchildren wash the dishes.

Ho! Ho! Ho! Oh, here I go. I snuggled into my favorite love-seat position: blanket; feather-pillow; pajamas; steaming mug of coffee latte at the ready, with the Amazon page brightly shining and resting on my lap. Christmas / Saravejo 12/24 by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra transmitted via Apple TV. The music  was so loud that I thought I heard the neighbors singing along.

I read that Amazon Prime members were extended an offer-of-the-day to have purchases gift- wrapped for free. I started to clap my hands. I had forgotten I was holding the latte, and nearly doused my shopping cart.

The doorbell rang. I was greeted by a small crowd; my third-born daughter, Angela, her six-month-old twin daughters, Annakate and Adeline, and her ten-year-old son, Dylan. I welcomed them in, and as they were seated, Dylan spied my computer and asked if he could play Minecraft on it.

“Of course,” I said with a wink at the platinum-haired boy, “That’s why I downloaded it, silly Dilly.”

He carried the laptop to the dining table and I set my attention to oohing and awing over the twins.

They left. I returned to my Amazon shopping, made my selections and set about washing dishes, making the bed, and tossing clothes into the washing machine.  As I cleaned, I made a mental grocery list for the big dinner. Then, it came to me; a jolting revelation, so jolting I swear I heard the angels sing. I could order all my groceries on Amazon.

*     *      *     *     *

I opened the door to the UPS delivery truck driver asking for my signature and I happily signed, although I wasn’t sure why this particular delivery required a signature; she didn’t look happy. She must have made 12 jaunts––truck to doorstep, using a dolly–– getting more red-faced each time, as I gawped. Her parting words were something about why I thought I needed 42 Christmas hams and concluded with a caustic Merry Christmas as she offered a hand signal that may or may not have signified her IQ level.

I smiled, dripping with saccharine to shield my consternation, I called out something about her job security. I ogled (my face as frozen as the hams) for a few minutes at the mass covering the front porch and decided the Amazon SNAFU could be dealt with in the morning and began dragging the boxes inside.

The new day arrived; the sun shining in a clear blue sky despite putting my order with the Big Guy for snow. I wondered if I should have checked for availability with Amazon Prime.  I hoped and prayed that the one special gift would arrive before dinner as I baked all day for the expectant, hungry horde.  The gift was delivered at last, and I placed it upon the swollen mound that exceeded the ‘under the tree’ notion.

I rang the Amazon office contact number only to reach an automated response: closed for the holidays, please try again December 26, 2017.

Dirty Deeds Done on Spoon Lane

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I can’t even. Think. I’ve never this stumped before.  Writing prompts are not improving the flow of creative energy through the synapses of this brain.  So, I decided to post this essay that won second place in my university writing contest in two parts.

 

Dirty Deeds Done on Spoon Lane
(Part One)

Anderson Union High School bus #94 squeals to a stop and the yellow double doors swing open. The bus driver, Aunt Pat, wishes me good luck as I drag and stall my exit. I dread the half-mile walk home, more so today than any other in my 16 years. I glance at her over my right shoulder and tears begin to sprout from the corner of my blue eyes. I wipe them away.

“You got to go, Janet,” she says, “Get it over with.”

I step out onto the dirt. Five mailboxes line the road; all are labelled SPOON. I grab envelopes from the box reading Tim Spoon. I deliver their mail (it’s on my way home) and go inside for a chat with my cousins and enjoy an ice-cold Coke––staving off the inevitable.

The telephone rings––Mom wants me home.

I have spent my entire life in the tiny town of Cottonwood, California. I say I am from Cottonwood. In truth, I’m not sure. I have a Cottonwood address, Anderson phone number, attended Cottonwood elementary schools and now am at Anderson High School––a Bermuda Triangle.  I am in a sea of cousins, aunts and uncles, grandparents. No action escapes notice––ever. I am safe from reproach only with my cousins––my cohorts in crime­––33 of my 56 first cousins live in Cottonwood proper.

I trek toward home, kicking small rocks from the dirt and gravel with the toe of my black and white Converse tennis shoe. I approach a muddy, slushy pond, divided in two by the road. I grab   the contraband from the right front jeans pocket and toss it among the cheerful daffodils, planted years before by my grandmother. I think of her as I stare at the flowers, belying my mood.

Half-way home the surge of a diesel motor snaps me into reality­­––it’s my Dad. I slump my shoulders and slow my walk to a crawl. He waves, and I am grateful he doesn’t stop for me­­­––that’s his way­––no special treatment just because I happen to be his daughter.

I trudge heavy feet up the porch of the yellow house at the end of Spoon Lane. The sliding doors open; Mom’s face is the color of gray ash as she tells me she had an interesting phone call from Mr. Litaker, the school’s principal. I say I know and look around for Dad. His chair is empty, and I know he is still outside. I stomp to my room, slam the door and throw myself down on the squeaky springs of my bed.

Within moments, Dad roars, “Janet Lee, get out here. Now.”

I think how I know I’m in trouble when both names are called.  I explain to both parents what happened, holding nothing back. Daddy wants to know what I did with the rest of it. I tell him they are in the pond. Sharp pangs stab at my intestines but it is my elbow he grabs and marches me in silence to the scene of one of my crimes. I dig in the mud. By now a cold spring rain is drizzling then increases in intensity. I wonder if God is weeping over my sins.

“Dad, I’m telling the truth. I threw them in there, but I can’t find them. Please, can we go? I’m freezing,” as I extend muddy hands before him.

I wash the muck from my hands, relishing the water’s warmth. I wash the tears stains, change into pajamas––pink with large, white polka dots––and crawl under bedding. Mom and Dad are arguing in their room, next door. Mom says I ought to be flogged. Dad says just take her driver’s license and keys for the next month. Their bedroom phone rings––twice, before Mom says a weak, timid hello.

A knock at my door drives me from my cocoon. My mother’s shrill voice squawks that my arraignment is set for 10:00 the next morning, in Cottonwood.  She shakes her index finger and launches a tirade, a litany of my evils. For the umpteenth time, she asks what kind of mother people will think she is for all my bad behavior. I say she should worry more about what I think. Doors slam. I retreat to beneath the handmade quilt Gramma Spoon willed me. I position the goose-down pillow over my ears and close the baby-blues.

I dream my mug shot, on over-sized posters––Wanted––decorate the walls of the Post Office. Morning comes. My brother and sister get dressed for school.  Dad left for work in the woods at 3:00 a.m. Mom reminds me I have other places to go. No one asks if I slept well.

The Woman in the Wallpaper–Part One

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Photo credit: Lucas Mobley/Redding Record Searchlight.

I am posting this autobiographical essay in parts because the original essay was written as such. I wrote this in response to a course requirement in the Advanced Composition course at Simpson University.

Every detail, even the seemingly miniscule, is true to the best of my recollection. The exception is the name change of my fiancé­­­­––now and forevermore known as Frank.

The Woman in the Wallpaper ––Part One

The vexing sound of the 3:30 a.m. alarm trumpets through the dark morning air. I groan and pull the duck-down comforter around my chin. My fiancé, Frank, jumps up like a jack-in–the–box and heads into the kitchen. I rouse from a groggy fog and aim for the bathroom. My head throbs and I search through the muddled mist as to why when I remember the festivities of the evening involved beer­­––a lot of beer. I cherish the sweet, therapeutic bouquet of brewing coffee wafting into the room, ‘go-juice’ that promises to counteract the cobwebby fog.

I stand before the mirror in the dimly-lit room of the porcelain god and begin slathering flesh-colored goo over the source of my identity. I stare at the face in the mirror.  Everyone says I am gorgeous, but I don’t believe them.  I wonder what I would do if anything happened to my face.

“That’s a weird thought,” I mutter to the reflection as I click off the light and head to the promised land of java.

* *  *  *

The fuel-tanker’s roaring motor is silenced as Frank brings the truck to a stop at the Whiskeytown Visitor Center. He hops from cab to ground, not bothering to use the two stairsteps, and begins to check the tires––tires carrying nearly 8,000 gallons of gasoline and diesel.

We had met as employees of SST Oil, Inc., a wholesale gasoline and diesel company. We discovered we had attended the same high school, but he was two grades behind me. I knew of him, we knew many of the same people, but we ran in different crowds. I was a band-geek and an aspiring journalist, and he was of the cowboy-party crowd.  I remembered seeing his picture in the year book because the class that put the book together thought it would be funny to list his name as a brand of beer, a name similar to his.

At SST Oil, Inc., I work as a bookkeeper, billing fuel stations for gallons of diesel, gasoline, and kerosene delivered by our drivers.  Frank is one of our drivers.

I hear the thwack of the tire thumper pounding the tires. Frank whacks each tire––all eighteen of them, a legally required and routine safety check.  I have a sudden, all-consuming urge to get out––and stay out. But this urge remains mute and mum.

Frank directs the rig back onto the pavement, West onto Highway 299, a highway buzzing with holiday traffic as we head to the Weaverville BP fuel station.  Frank’s conversation takes a weird turn: he talks of recent nightmares of crashing the tanker.

“Well, I hope it’s not today.”

                                                                         *  * *  *

I fight through a fog of another kind as I am rousing from a medically-induced coma. I am told I have been under for two months.  I fade in and out. Morphine-laden dreams.

Awareness slowly ebbs in to stay. Was it real? Was I the headline: WOMAN HAS EMERGENCY TRACHEOTOMY IN TACO BELL?  Pain and tears are the bane of my existence, an existence nearly extinguished.

Nurses bossing, machines beeping, and laughter from the night-shift  are the sounds that fill my day.  The face on the wall glares at me––we face off––one without blemish, mocking.  A red luminescent hand swings around 360 degrees, 1, 440 times a day. I wonder if this ‘hand’ gets as tired as I do from the constant vigil.

I can’t speak or move.  I lay in bed with the video playing––what happened; when it happened; and why it happened.

A year later the official report reads that a tire blew out. The blown tire caused the truck and trailer to veer into the ditch. Frank fought to guide it back onto the road, but the weight of the fuel shifted, throwing the truck and trailer into chaos. In the process, the trailer split in two, sparking against pavement. We flipped and rolled across the road into a small ravine. Flames engulfed and surrounded us before the truck stopped twisting, turning.

I lay with pain, tears and memories: hearing Frank say that we’ve got to get out; Frank breaking the windshield with the tire thumper; how he scampered up over the dashboard and out the tiny opening of shattered windshield. A far greater pain pierces and splinters like the windshield at the memory that he bolted and left me to fend for myself.

I replay scene after scene: I think of how I stayed in the midst of bone-penetrating heat, staring at the golden-red flames around me­­––a moment so surreal––I am starring in a Hollywood film. I replay the panic of knowing I would be burned trying to get to the road; I remember thinking of my grandchildren; thinking that if I was going to die, I would die trying; I recall reciting the mantra– stop, drop and roll– and I remember the rocky ground as I begin crawling army-style up the steep- sided ravine.

The sound of a harsh, double tap at the doorway jolts me back into real time. It’s Nurse Kate. She scolds me for crying. Coming down from morphine accentuates emotions, and I am on the downswing. I say that if you were a burn victim, you’d be crying too.

“You are not a victim. You are a survivor,” she chides.