What Goes Thump in the Night

What goes thump in the night? Me, trying to get into my bed. Over at Authorblog, David McMahon’s weekly, Weekend Wandering question is, “As a child, were you afraid of the dark?” Below is an excerpt from my answer:

I often suspected she [Gram] liked the dark monster more than she liked me, especially when she’d send me to the basement. She would say, “Go downstairs and get the peas out of the the freezer.” I would say, “I don’t really want peas tonight.” She would say, “Then get the green beans.” I would say, “Can’t we have canned corn?” And she would swing her wooden spoon in my general direction and send me off to battle the dark monster.

You may read the rest of, What Goes Thump in the Night, on my memoirs blog, The Grownups Wanted Us Dead.

Slice of Life: The Tree

I was wandering the web about a week ago and stumbled across a website called, “Slice of Life Sunday.” It is a meme site that helps one focus his/her thoughts on a specific topic, and share a related life scene.

This week’s prompts are:
1.) A Lesson Learned in My Youth
2.) A Flight of Fancy

Ha! I thought. I can do both of those with just ONE story. I hopped over to my other blog, The Grownups Wanted Us Dead, and fetched this back:

The Tree

You’ve got to know that the best toy in the world for any kid is a tree with good climbing branches. When I was a kid we had several such trees in our neighborhood and in the summer we would spend more time in them than we did on the ground.

One tree in particular – a young pine – was our favorite. The tree was still very supple and one day when a group of us decided to see how high we could all climb, the tree began to lean. The higher we climbed the farther it leaned. Soon we were suspended just a few feet above the ground.

I don’t know whose idea it was, but somebody suggested we all jump out of the tree at the count of three. Then came the counting, the jumping and the landing. It all went surprisingly well.

After my friends crawled off the top of me and we sorted out which limbs belonged to whom, no one was hurt – much. There was a problem though. We were on the wrong side of the fence, in the Khol’s yard instead of the Jacobs’ yard. This meant that to climb the tree again we had to run through the Khol Orchard, scramble down the embankment, around the end of the fence, scramble back up the embankment, run across a small clearing and back into the stand of pines that housed our tree.

It really wasn’t much of a trip, 50 or 60 yards at most, but as we sprinted the course for the third time, I realized I was getting a little tired. After the fourth trip, as we were climbing the tree, I thought to myself, “I need a rest,” so I decided not to jump.

As the others prepared for departure, I snuggled up to the tree. I put my belly flush against the bark and wrapped my arms tight around the trunk. Handsome began counting …

One: I tightened my arms.

Two: I tightened my legs and crossed my ankles.

Three: …………………………..

I landed flat on my back in the Jacobs’ dog run. When I opened my eyes Thor, the German Shepherd god of thunder, towered over me. Thor spent most of his daily energy trying to catch small children to snack on, and there I was delivered to him from heaven — literally.

Truthfully, at that moment I really wasn’t too concerned about Thor. Probably because I thought I was already dead. There was no air in my body. I could not breathe.

As I lay there gasping … choking … convulsing, Thor raised his ears in curiosity, tipped his head sideways and smiled at me.

About that time my friends arrived, stopping safely out of reach of Thor’s chain. They were wonderfully helpful and shouted such encouragements as:

“Lay still!”

“Play dead!”

“Don’t move!”

I was reasonably certain I wasn’t playing dead.

Finally Preacher, the eldest Kohl kid, stretched out on his stomach and, risking his hand to Thor’s wrath, grabbed my ankle. Slowly, inch-by-inch he pulled me to safety. As soon as I was freed from Thor’s realm, my companions thought I should just pick myself up and walk home.

I remained on the ground convulsing like a fish out of water.

“Maybe we should take her home,” someone suggested. There were murmurs of agreement.

“How?” Someone else queried.

There were other comments, too. “That’s a lot of blood,” and “I’m not going to touch her,” are two I remember. I mean, being too bloody to touch had serious “cool” potential — providing I lived.

My struggle to draw air into my lungs distressed my friends to such an extent that they each grabbed one of my limbs and half-drug, half-carried me across the street and into my own yard. One of them ran to the door to get Gram so she could view my remains.

Gram declared that I would live and set to proving it with a tub of hot water, a scrub brush and much vigor. When she was finished saving me I almost resembled a human girl-child, except most of my visible skin was Mercurochrome neon-orange.

Gram rarely punished me for my stupidity. Usually she just left me to suffer the consequences of my actions — alone — in my room — for days (which sometimes lasted as long as a half-an-hour).

Post originally published on June 30th, 2006

As to the flight, I’m not certain how fancy it was, but it was certainly educational, so I figure it counts for the prompts. And if not, prompt #3 is Writer’s Choice.

UPDATE:  It appears that The Tree has posted the story from its point-of-view:  The Kids.

A Booming Tradition

It is 6 AM on the 4th of July, 1975. On the 48th parallel, North latitude, the sun has been up for nearly an hour, but in the San Juan Island town of Friday Harbor, Washington, there are few signs of human activity. The streets are deserted, no ferry will arrive for two hours, and the tiny marina is silent. In the rickety, World War II era dormitory complex of the Friday Harbor Laboratories, which is held together by the trails of the burrowing ants and the fervent prohibitions against stray sparks from the wood-burning stoves, the students are following through on their plan to honor the holiday by sleeping late. The horn that summons the marine-biologists-in-training to breakfast will sound at nine instead of the usual 6:45.

At the stroke of 6, all plans for a morning of uninterrupted quiet are exploded.

ka-BOOOOMMMM!!!

The blast rattles the ant colonies in the dormitory and reverberates across the harbor. Throughout the dorm, heads pop out of sleeping bags and blankets. “What the [insert favorite delete-able expletive here] was that?!?” Some of them peer around anxiously, listening for the sirens of emergency vehicles, or tuning radios in an effort to hear what sort of dire calamity has just been visited on their über-peaceful corner of America.

Nothing. No one seems to care except the rudely-awakened labbies. The silence following the explosion is as deafening as the explosion itself.

It is much later in the day when one of the lab’s veterans explains the mystery; a man familiar with the ways of the place, with Friday Harbor as a town of fishermen and farmers, of salmon canners and quarriers of sand and gravel. One of the quarrymen (he said), probably the owner, decided one year, no one could say how long ago, that he was going to be the first to announce to his neighbors the dawning of the American Independence Day. Fireworks he didn’t have, but he did have the dynamite he used to blast the hills on his land into the piles of sand he shipped away on trucks and barges. So he rigged a keg of the stuff at the bottom of one of his pits, and, at 6 AM on the Fourth of July, he set it off. Evidently, he could show his face at the town’s one tavern thereafter without getting it ripped off, so he did the same thing next year. And the year after that. And so on. It became a tradition …

It is 6 AM on the 4th of July, 2007. The sun has been up for nearly an hour, but in the town of Friday Harbor, there are few signs of human activity. The student who, in 1975, bolted out of a sleeping bag desperate to know who was bombing whom, and why, lies in a bed in one of the apartments on the Laboratory grounds that has appeared since 1975 (the ant-infested firetrap of a dormitory is no more; the horn that once summoned everyone to meals is silent) and awaits the stroke of the hour …

ka-BOOOOMMMM!!!

Tradition!

ka-BOOOOMMMM!!!

Hey, waitaminute …

ka-BOOOOMMMM!!! ka-BOOOOMMMM!!! ka-BOOOOMMMM!!! ka-BOOOOMMMM!!! ka-BOOOOMMMM!!!

Who the hell are all these other guys lighting off dynamite? Haven’t they heard of not gilding the lily?

Oh well. Friday Harbor’s a tourist town now. The sand and gravel quarry is still there, but the fishermen are gone (along with most of the fish), so are the canneries and the farmers. The marina that was once so tiny now stretches halfway to Seattle. There are yachts tied up to the docks that would have filled the entire harbor in 1975. The fireworks display tonight will rival anybody’s anywhere, and right up close and personal too. I hope these people are impressed.

I wish to return to a time when one blast was enough.

  – O Ceallaigh
Copyright © 2007 Felloffatruck Publications. All wrongs deplored.
All opinions are mine as a private citizen.

Going Postal

At the post office one should be able to POST things, right?

Wrong!

There is a postal sub-station about a half-mile from my house. I don’t do business there because the folks are surly, and if I have a question — or need them to weigh a package and determine proper postage — they snarl about it. So, I choose to drive further for better service.
I can drive two miles to a post office open only from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., or I can drive 4 miles to one open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. During school I really didn’t have a choice. I had to go to the one four miles away because the other was closed by the time I got off work. That’s okay. The clerks at that station are fantastic. However, yesterday I had 11 eBay packages to ship and I wanted to get them out of my house and out of my way early, before I inadvertantly put them in with my storage stuff. Early meant the post office only two miles away.

Except — I arrive at the post office, struggle in with my 11 packages — stand in line where everyone can clearly see me — and finally get to the window. The clerk says, “How may I help you?”

I say, “I’d like to mail these.”

The clerk says, “We don’t accept mail here.”

I look pointedly at the red, white and blue US MAIL sign. The clerk blushes. “I query, “These is a post office, yes?”

The clerk nods. “Yes, ma’am, but only for outgoing mail. We are a general delivery post office.”

“Don’t you think you should have a sign or two to that effect?”

The clerk shrugged and shook his head. “Everybody just knows.”

“Apparently not everybody,” I say as I walk away.

The woman behind me stepped forward. “I’d like to buy a book of “Forever” stamps.”

The clerk responded, “I’m sorry, we don’t sell stamps here.”

A fellow further back in line said, “Can I get a change of address form?”

Nope. All you can do is pick up any mail you had put on hold or sent care of general delivery.  Period.  But you have to stand in line for 35 minutes to discover that little gem.

Sneaky Flies Away

This is Sneaky. He is moving to Europe. Since he’s a little fella, he can’t fly all the way to Europe on his own, so he’s going with the help of the postal service. He was somewhat fearful and dubious about this venture, and to tell you the truth so was I. He needs to be treated like delicate porcelain — because he is.

First, I made him a cozy little nest out of bubble wrap inside a cozy little box. Next, I bundled the cozy little box in bubble wrap, and inserted it into a box just a tad bit bigger. Finally, I wrapped the whole thing in a bit of brown shipping paper and a lot of packing tape.

Using mental telepathy (dragons can do that), Sneaky assured me that he is quite comfortable. Then he settled down to hiberate, which will conserve his oxygen supply and keep him from getting hungry. Sneaky voiced one more tiny worry: he wondered what if, when he gets to Europe, his new companion can’t get the boxes open? I assured him that wouldn’t happen ….