Walther P38s and Bedpans

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Photo Credit: jessicasvisionsphotography.com (Jessica McCollam)

Bedpans and Walther P38s

(A Christmas to Remember)

Part One
*A short story that is loosely based on true events of Christmases past: 90 percent pure fiction.

Many people escape via expensive out-of-the-country vacations or by weekend get-a-ways. Some escape by watching movies or by playing games. Me? I Amazon. I’m addicted to seeing that brown box (the box with a questionable phallic logo) resting on my front porch as if to say, “Pick me! Open me!”

Amazon’s intrusion began several years ago. My ‘old-school’ wariness would not release me to commit such sin as shopping online. The realization that I could stay in my pajamas and get the all the grandkids their Christmas presents convinced me to risk everything.

True joy begins from that moment I see a screen-full of possibilities on my lap-top or iPhone, items to feed my addiction. The beautiful (sometimes ruinous) journey is afoot.

It didn’t take Amazon long before they offered the best marketing scheme ever: Buy Now With 1-Click? If ever a sentence could be described as delectable as hot chocolate topped with marshmallows this would qualify. But they didn’t stop there ––Prime Delivery––why, you can have this in two days for “free.” Free for an annual fee––ingenious. A recent addition is the all-you-have-to-do-is-tap-it button, ‘buy again’ red circle. Extremely convenient. What will they think of next? Telepathy?
I mesmerize.

As I sit pondering potential deliveries, I remember past disastrous purchases: the Christmas ornaments that looked huge on-screen but arrived a mere one-eighth inch diameter; the children’s farm-animal book that failed to pique interest of a one-year old; weirdly (and putrid) colored shoes; wall décor, museum-sized, for the 12 x 18 inch empty spot near the window, so large it could have covered the entire window. I have learned to read with care (and read between the lines) as my hand hovers over the keyboard ENTER key, I think twice¬¬––three times––before making the final click. That is, unless I have a Freudian tap.

I choose my items, and proceed through the steps: would you like the arrival date to be this Tuesday, postage-free; for $3.99 more you could have this on Monday; add to your dash (just tap it) button? It would be ever so easy to reorder. Thanks, Amazon!

I’m always eager to help family find just what they are looking for.

“Gram, you need a bedpan? Let me look for you.” I’m giddy.

If only hindsight had been my guide. I now have a bedpan in my Face Book feed; subject lines of countless emails read: because you bought a bedpan; just click here or tap to buy again; people who have purchased a bedpan have also purchased the following items; and finally (although, I’m sure it won’t be) I have a picture of Gram’s bright, shiny––thankfully still unused––bedpan in that blasted buy again? button. Or just tap it.

*Stay tuned for part two, coming soon.

The Woman in the Wallpaper, Part Two

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Today’s post is a continuation of an essay written as a university assignment. Every detail is true, except for the name change of my then fiancé, known here as Frank.

 

The Woman in the Wallpaper––Part Two

Months later, while roaming the aisles of Target Stores, I note a young boy of about 14 years stalking me. I am decked out in all my protective, full-body compression garments, that includes a clear facial mask. (This is medically required that I wear these twenty-three hours a day. The purpose is to help compress the scars from raising, and to reduce bumps and ridges.)

It isn’t a sophisticated style of stalking but spawned by curiosity. I am bone-weary of these encounters.  I turn the corner and hide behind the end-cap of bottles of Arrowhead water. I hear the smush-smush of tennis shoes approaching. I jump out and yell BOO. The gloriousness of his terror pervaded, faded, then a squawk, the voice of shame in my ear like a parrot belting out mimicry.  Yet I laugh as the boy runs his 100-yard dash. I wonder at my maturity.

Burns scars are external––I can’t hide them– yet they leave a different kind of scar. I see it in the eyes of others. I detect it in the eyes of misogynists especially, who think a woman’s only purpose in life is to provide beauty and slave to their every need. I see it in the soul’s window of other women: a thankful gleam for their retained beauty and a twinkle of superiority. Other times, it is pity that reflects back to me.

They proffer a shiny-gold, gift-wrapped box tied with a pretty pink bow: take this gift and accept the shame enclosed. They say things like “People can tell you used to be a beautiful woman” and “If I were you, I wouldn’t go out in public, I’d be a recluse.”

I accept the gift of shame at my appearance. It is a mill-stone weighted necklace causing my head to hang.  I think this talisman will protect me, but I deceive myself.  I attempt to return it and rid myself of the weight. We play the you take it––no, you take it–– game.

 * *  *  *

I sit across from Jim at his gray, metal desk, a desk piled with paper; coffee-stained and tinged with pale yellow.  Jim, my trainer, is teaching me to box like a butterfly and sting like a bee. He drones on about something––I am multitasking, listening with one ear (my good one) while composing a text message on my gold, iPhone 5. Then he gains my full attention.

“You know, my father-in-law is a burn survivor. I remind him when he is down that this is only something that happened to him. It is not who he is: it doesn’t define him as a person.”

I stare back into the dark, brown eyes, a brown so dark they are nearly black. Images come of an encounter the day before when a fellow burn survivor reproved me for hiding my left hand behind my back.  I look down at the now-still fingers of my right hand and think about the mismatched set I now own. The sight of my “lucky fin” fills me with shame.

Yet I sit silent.  I don’t tell Jim my mother said God had done this to me because I wasn’t going to church and was living in sin with Frank. I don’t mention how our blue eyes locked––I had my mother’s eyes–– how my own blues eyes were filled with venomous fury at her accusation, nor of my fiery retort.

The internal dialogue runs through my mind like a Dow Jones’ ticker tape: “No, Mom, he didn’t. I’m his child. Would you do this to your child –– would you do this to me?”

But I sit silent remembering the slammed doors, gravel spewing, how I varoomed my black Dodge Ram away.

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Me in my mask, circa 2000, and pictured with Frank’s nieces and my daughter, Christa, in the background.

 

Excerpt #2 (1000 Deaths)

Burn injuries are not like a broken bone that once healed, can be concealed by flesh. There is no place to hide, no protective shell to retreat beneath. Four days from this writing, July 4th, will be my 19th burn-a-versary.  There are many deaths from burn injuries: 1000 surely seems exaggerated, unless you are the burn survivor. Below is another excerpt from my story:

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

A machine emits a tone, flat and hopeless.  The never-ending pain engulfs me as an ocean-wave swallows a tug boat. I flutter like a blue-bird and I gain a bird’s-eye view while I watch my body convulse beneath nurses and doctors, frantic, scurrying like a horde of bees, blue and white.

A tiny beam, the width of a pen-light, shafts through the ceiling and I move toward the light. Someone yells clear!  I back away, drifting through the stars until I shudder back to the room, shrouded in black, cold air, and am resting on the pillowy mattress of  the bed.  I think I hear the crowd release the breath they have held in, or is it my own?

The night sky surrounds me, and a glow brightens as stars begin to rise. Suddenly, one rises beneath me and lifts me high on its beam. I am fringed in majesty. The warmth of light surges, begins to melt and meld me as I fold inside out like an elephant-shaped origami. The elephant sinks into nothingness.

A star glides, slow and sure, behind me until it circles around my left and is facing me. Two beings, transfigured, and perched atop the star engage in sober conversation. I see the Maker of the moon and I hear the voice of Job.

“Quash the day I was born.  Delete it from the books. Rescind the day of my birth, bury it in deep darkness, shroud it with the fog, and swallow it by the night,” Job laments.

“Can you stop the thunder with a shout like I can? Or can you pull in the great sea beast, Leviathan, with a fly rod? Can you lead Behemoth, most powerful and magnificent of all beasts, by a tether like a lamb such as I?” the Moon Maker asks and adds, “Show me your stuff. Let’s see what you are made of.”

I awaken to a darkened room, empty. I hear the rhythmic whoosh of the ventilator at my side––my lifeline­. I close my swollen eyelids and return to the stars.

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Photo by Sindre Strøm on Pexels.com

 

A Polarity in Self-Awareness

Oh, the faces I make while moving through the events of an ordinary day. Something tells me I am not alone.

My trail-walking face: smile, wave, greet passers-by with a cheery “Good Morning.”

My traffic face: scowl, growl, and glare with shoulders scrunched up to my ears and hands raised, outspread to each side,  greet fellow drivers with a screech “What the hay are you thinking?”

Stop. The. Insanity.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com 

 

Excerpts from 1000 Deaths

I am posting an excerpt from writings I began several months ago. It is a true story, written in the present tense, of life after burns, yet the story in its entirety does tells of the accident,  subsequent hospitalization and such. The title 1000 Deaths is a temporary, working title at this point.

 

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Dr. Greenhalgh, my burn doctor next to me in August 2012 at UCDavis Medical Center, Sacramento, California.

            1000 Deaths

I stand proudly before the oven in our newly constructed house. We’ve moved into it three days ago and this is our first home-cooked meal––roast beef with roasted carrots and red potatoes. I secretly gloat at the memory that as a licensed Real Estate agent, I earned a commission for buying my own home.

I open the door for a peek at the goods and I wheeze from the heat-blast, and I’m shaken and tossed. Like a soldier with PTSD, I am standing in the blaze screaming for Frank.* He tells me my hair is smoldering, but it is my hand I notice, melted and deformed.

Someone yells, and I about-face to find off-duty firefighters suiting-up––but they stop, frozen. The fuel tanker explodes, and they shed their gear. They tell me to lie down on the sizzling asphalt.

Once there, they douse me with saline. I am howling, animal-like for more. They say they are out and I plead for water. But they say they can’t because water might cause the burns to become infected.  I yell that I don’t care.

I see the treetops burning as I lie on the asphalt, waiting for my seven-winged bird.   I’m reassured the Medi-Vac helicopter is on its way and I hope. Black smoke floats higher and higher above the flames.

I see Frank on the ground to my right. He has arms in the air and my stomach churns at the sight of the skin falling from his forearms. Rows of vehicles line the road, watching, waiting for the danger to clear, gawking at the unlucky ones. I turn my face to the left and a camera is inches away.  Behind the camera, a woman is crouching and flashes light the air. I yell for her to stop. How dare she?

And I begin to yowl.

The sound of Frank’s footsteps on the hardwood floor and his worried cry catapults me into my world of roast beef, carrots and potatoes.

“What happened?” he demands, “Are you alright?’

It’s nothing dear, wash up, and please, set the table. Dinner is almost ready.”  I turn to smile at him then turn away and wipe the tears away with a dish towel.

*This character’s name has been changed.