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.

Assorted Stupidity

The other day I went to the grocery store.  All this time I have been under the impression that the grocery store was the place one went to do grocery shopping.  Apparently that is no longer so.  Now the thing to do is go to the grocery store, push around an empty cart  and stand in the way of as many people as possible while talking on your cell phone.

How did people manage to cook dinner in the days before cell phones made intense four and five party calls possible so everyone could provide their preferences and opinions on what’s to eat?  I am all for bringing back the days of, “eat what I cooked or go hungry.”

Go out and talk on your cell phone while driving your car.  Just get the flip out of my way in the grocery store!

~ : ~

Speaking of cell phones — I called T-Mobile the other day with a question about my bill.  As long as I had the rep on the line, I asked her how my contract would be effected if I wanted to move somewhere else — like say, Hawaii — and wanted to change my phone number.  She said the good news was that T-Mobile did provide service in Hawaii, and I could keep my current contract and plan.  The bad news, however, is that since I would no longer be in the the United States, I would have to buy a different sim card.

So, when did Hawaii secede from the Union?  And how did I miss that bit of news?

 ~ : ~

And you’d think in these days when most drive-thru employees carry bachelor’s degrees in Fine and Performing Arts or Philosophy, that they’d have enough sense to hand their customer the biggie soda first, and the ice cream cone second.  Nope.  They pass you the cone, which obviously can’t be put down, then extend the diet-soda which cannot possibly be grasped by only one small hand.  Hello?  Soda first.  That I can put down.

~ : ~

And last but not least is my drunk neighbor — the one I take shopping every week, not the one who plays the same record for days on end.  The drunk I take shopping is in her mid-sixties and does not have a car.  Out of the kindness of my heart I take her grocery shopping with me on Saturdays.  I’ve never asked for, nor do I expect, payment;  however a little courtesy woudn’t be amiss.  (Come to think of it, a little courtesy is what I get — very little.)

Saturday, as she stepped into my car, she started complaining about the fact that I wouldn’t be coming the following Saturday, and how much time she spent on her grocery list and how she most certainly hoped she wouldn’t run out of anything important before the two whole weeks passed and I once again had time for her.

I sat there for a moment in silence before I started the car.  Not long enough for her to add more, but longer than would have been expected of a casual reply, then I said, “You know, just because I’m not taking you doesn’t mean they won’t let you in the store.”

Wisely, she changed the subject, but not for long.  When we got to the store — Wal-Mart, the only place she will shop so I go there specifically for her — I turn toward the produce isle.  She says,  “I don’t need any produce.  We’re going to skip this part.”  I told her that I did need produce, and I proceeded to shop for it.  Several times she whined, “I don’t need anything from this isle.”  I ignored her.

Next I moved to the meat counter.  She said, “I bought plenty of meat last week.  I don’t need anything here.”  I told her I did, and picked up a package of chicken.  We both always shop every week.  We don’t always need things from the same part of the store.  I don’t whine when she drags me out to the garden center, even though I don’t own my yard so I don’t buy plants for it.  She snapped, “Just how much shopping do you have to do?”

Again I paused and stared at her for several seconds before responding.  “You know,” I said, “You are free to shop whatever aisle you please.  There’s no need to follow me around.”

“Well,” she said, huffy, “if we separate, how will you know when I’m ready to leave?”

I smiled.  “You wouldn’t really have to worry about that since the bus comes by every fifteen minutes.”

After that she was quite patient while I shopped — and she didn’t drag me out to the garden center.





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)