Hemmed In

Somehow it seemed that, The Grownups Wanted Us Dead, less and less often. I suppose they considered their work done since it was obvious we were trying to kill each other.

The next morning I told Rumble to go ahead and go to school without me, because my friends Sue and Anna were coming by. If Rumble left with the impression they would be taking me to school, that wasn’t my fault. We raided Gram’s sewing kit, grabbed a packet of needles and a couple of rolls of white thread, then we descended the basement stairs and invaded Rumble’s lair.

The complete Rumble Stories:

The P.B. & J. Sandwich (part 1)

Bright, Shiny Red (part 2)

Tea Time (part 3)

Cosmetically Yours (part 4)

Hemmed In (part 5)

Cosmetically Yours

Perhaps it was because, The Grownups Wanted Us Dead, that my cousin Rumble and I behaved the way we did. We were emulating our elders and rehearsing for the day we would be grownups ourselves. Rumble and I practiced the art of torture through the innovative use of many common, ordinary weapons things — like eyeshadow.

Rumble loved his car. I don’t know why. It was a banged up beater. A Dodge Dart well past the age of darting anywhere. Still, he washed it, petted it, polished it and praised it. Most days — since my car was really Gram’s car — Rumble drove me to college. He sometimes took my friends Carla and Susan as well. He provided me with a key to the trunk of his car so I could switch out books between classes, but he refused to supply me with a key to the door. He said he didn’t trust me — bad mistake. By not trusting me, he gave me permission to be untrustworthy. I mean, it wasn’t like I was going to disappoint him, right?

The complete Rumble Stories:

The P.B. & J. Sandwich (part 1)

Bright, Shiny Red (part 2)

Tea Time (part 3)

Cosmetically Yours (part 4)

Quilly & the Cougars

For Al, who inspired the memory, then asked me to share it:

The spring I turned 13 my dad was logging on Bumble Bee Mountain, in the St. Joe River area of Northern Idaho. In May, as soon as school was out, we took the travel trailer and moved closer to dad’s work. That particular summer we camped at the edge of a beautiful park-like mountain meadow near a bright and bubbly mountain creek. To the north a small stand of pine trees separated the meadow from a towering rock slope.

Early in the morning on our first full day there, my dad left for work and my step-mom, Shirley, and I went out to explore our new neighborhood. We took the collie, King, with us. King was content to let us explore east and south, but when we tried to move north, or west, he would attempt to “herd” us in the opposite direction. Finally, King, normally a very well-behaved dog, began to push against our legs and shove us toward the trailer. His odd behavior made us uneasy, so we let him herd us in.

Several hours later we decided to try to take another walk. This time King made no resistance. We walked the quarter mile to the creek, strolled upstream until we found a little sandy beach — and stopped and stared in horror at the sand. Footprints. Cat. Big cat. King’s behavior that morning suddenly made sense. Our next-door neighbor was a mountain lion.

After that we went only where King allowed us to go. He was in charge of all trips away from the trailer, and nobody went anywhere without a rifle. Cougars are endangered, and we wished this one no harm — if it was willing to offer us the same courtesy. We tried to stay out of it’s way.

After a couple of weeks the cougar prints no longer showed up in our vicinity. Dad said it probably didn’t like living next to us any more than we liked living next to it. Still, we remained cautious.

Near the end of June one bright, beautiful afternoon I was sitting on the trailer steps talking to dad, who was using his pickup tailgate as a workbench and sharpening his saw chain. The sun angled just right and glanced off a huge strip of silver on the cliff face. I knew it was mica, but I still thought it would be cool to see such a huge chuck of it up close. For the first time I noticed a narrow winding, completely navigable trail up the cliff face. I mentioned it to my father and told him I was going to follow it. He grunted — which means he heard me, but he wasn’t really paying attention. I started across the meadow.

I’d gone about 100 yards when dad shouted for me to come back. I turned and saw him standing on the trailer steps with the rifle in his hands. He waited as I retraced my steps, then he handed me the rifle and told me to follow the cliff trail through the scope. It was windy and twisty and enchanting. The thing is, wherever there’s a trail, there is something that made the trail, and at that trails end, just a few yards below the cliff-top, on a ledge in-front of the mouth of a little cave, lolled a momma cougar and two cubs.

Not a good place for a walk. I never did explore that trail.

~ + ~

Fast forward 20+ years: Michael, (my ex-husband), his son, Brian, and I were camping in the mountains above Bovil, Idaho. We were elk hunting and had parked the pickup in a wide spot on the side of a mountain road and hiked into the woods to the top of a ridge, then we hiked along the ridge, and back down the mountain. The air was quite chilly and occasional snowflakes danced in the breeze. It was time to go back to camp.

We returned to the road a couple of miles up hill from the pickup, and were having a leisurely stroll down, not bothering to be quiet because the snow flurries would have driven the game to bed anyway. As we rounded the last curve in the road, Michael flung his arms wide, catching Brian in the chest with his right fist and about braining me with the barrel of the rifle in his left. Both Brian and I started to protest, but neither of us got further then the beginning of a squawk. About 50 yards away a cougar rested on the hood of our pickup.

Michael whispered, “Don’t move.” Ha. Couldn’t have if I wanted to. At our approach the big, tawny cat had lifted it’s head. I locked eyes with it. It tensed. Muscle rippled beneath it’s sleek fur. A shot of electric current zinged through my body. My brain was shouting, “Look away! Look away!” and I managed to shift my gaze slightly to the left. Those magnificent muscles relaxed.

We stood.

Michael slowly lowered his arms. He checked the magazine of the rifle. I hissed, “You are not shooting it!”

He said, “Only if it makes me.”

We stood.

Snow began falling in earnest. My cheeks, nose and toes were frozen. My back and stomach ached from tension.

We stood.

Brian was 16 that year. I had never seen him so still for so long. I know he’d never been quiet for that long while awake. Michael held the rifle at ready. I wondered why his arms hadn’t given out.

We stood.

I bit my tongue to keep my teeth from chattering. I don’t know if it was from the cold, or from tension. Probably both. Enough snow had fallen that everything, including us, glistened white — except the pickup and the cougar. The pickup was sheltered by pines.

The cougar watched us, as we stood.

The sun sank. The western sunset glowed red. Brian whispered, “It’s going to be dark soon.”

My feet felt completely numb. So did my face.

Michael cussed. “I’m going to have to shoot it now, while I can still see.”

I wanted to protest, but didn’t.

The cougar had never once looked away from us, but it finally turned it’s head and raised it’s nose to the breeze. Suddenly, with a mighty leap it was gone, bounding up the slope like liquid gold.

We stood.

Slowly, Michael lowered the rifle. I exhaled for the first time since coming eye-to-eye with glory.  Brian whispered, “That was awesome.”

Yes, it truly was.

Tea Time

The world is a lot different now then it was when I was a kid. We certainly weren’t as coddled then as children are today. In fact, when I was growing up I was pretty well certain that The Grownups Wanted Us Dead. And when they weren’t trying to kill us, we were trying to kill each other. Pretty much anything could be pressed into service as a weapon, and the more ordinary and routine it was — like Tea Time — the better it’s potential for mayhem.

Our tea drinking during the news had come to be a ritual. Rumble and I took turns brewing and serving. Sometimes one or the other of us would add a special treat ….

The complete Rumble Stories:

The P.B. & J. Sandwich (part 1)

Bright, Shiny Red (part 2)

Tea Time (part 3)

Confession Time

While griping about my neighbor’s insistence on playing the same songs over and over again ad nauseum, I have to confess, I have been known to do the same thing. Not quite as much these days as I did in my youth, but still, I hit replay on the stereo my fair share of the time.

I was a sophomore in high school when Jimmy Buffet’s, Come Monday, first came out. My friend and I each bought 45s. We then went to her house — where no one was home — and slapped the record on the stereo. We left the changing arm up, which was the signal to the record player to play the song repeatedly.

The two of us then went into the kitchen in search of food. There was no soda in the fridge, so my friend went out to the garage fridge to bring some in. She returned with a Pepsi for each of us, and said, “That’s weird. My mom’s car’s in the garage. I wonder how she got to work?” (Neither of us took that thought any further.)

Sandwiches made, sodas in hand, we sat down and the dining room table and proceeeded to play Yahtzee. The song on the stereo was probably on it’s third go ’round. My friend’s mother staggered into the room. She was wearing her robe, her hair was a mess and she rather looked like death walking. She had an Ibuprofen bottle clutched in one hand and was holding her head with the other.

“Turn that off,” she rasped at us.

“Turn what off?” Neither of us had a clue. Mrs. Friend shook her pill bottle at the stereo and said, “That! That racket!” She then took my friend’s unopened Pepsi and shuffled back down the hall.

My friend went to the stereo and turned it down about three decibels. I said, “Your mother said, off.”

My friend shrugged. “It’s okay, she won’t be able to hear it from her room, and that’s as good as off.” We resumed our Yahtzee game.

About fifteen minutes and five repetitions of the song later, Mrs. Friend appeared again. She never said a word. She shuffled to the stereo, took the record and went back to her room. My friend said, “Oh, I guess she could still hear it.”

We tried to play Yahtzee in silence for awhile, but that is a very difficult thing for teenagers to do. After about ten minutes, Friend got my 45, and put it on the stereo. She turned the volume down another notch. I asked if she was sure that was a good idea. She assured me that her mother wouldn’t be able to hear the music.

Not five minutes later Mrs. Friend shuffled into the room again. She bent down, unplugged the stereo, and cut the end off the cord with her scissors. She pocketed the plug and shuffled back down the hall.

Friend and I stared at each other in shock. Finally, Friend said, “Is your grandmother home?”

I shrugged. “Probably.”

“Huh. So, how’s she feel about Jimmy Buffet?”

“I don’t know.” I answered while lifting my 45 from the stereo. “Let’s go find out.”

Friend grabbed her car keys ….

* * *

Speaking of Mondays, this is one and OC is flying into town today. He will only be here for a few hours (2:30 p.m. to 5 a.m.), so don’t send out the National Guard if you don’t hear from us.