Too Much

At the end of each work day I am so tired, it is all I can do to drag myself into the house and package the eBay products that sold during the day. Then I list a few more — and suddenly the evening is shot and I am crawling into bed for a few hours sleep before something jerks me awake.

Sunday afternoon I stumbled into my room for a nap. My head hurt. My eyes burned. I needed sleep.

I fell across my bed and collapsed. Fifteen minutes later I heard shouting and cursing. It sounded close. Too close. In my yard close. I rolled off the bed and looked out the window. Some dude was trying to climb the chain-link fence that surrounds my backyard. It’s a low fence and I think he would have made it easily if it weren’t for the two cops holding on to him.

They lifted the guy off the fence and spread him across the hood of my car. Lovely. They spent about an hour in my driveway before they tucked him in their car and rolled away. After that I couldn’t get to sleep. Every little noise would jerk me to wakefulness, and I had terrifying dreams.

Monday at school we had the annual 5th grade barbecue. Hot dogs, sodas, kickball and 104F heat. I drug my butt home to a huge number of sales — that’s not a complaint, but I had to work rather then rest — and no air conditioning. I called the office and they had someone here within 20 minutes. He looked at the swamp cooler and told me it was an easy fix. All it needed was a new drive belt. That was the good news. The bad news was, he didn’t have one and since it was after 5, he couldn’t get one until morning.

So, I suffered through packaging and listing in 104F temps with no air. Luckily I do have a small unit in my bedroom window and it kept my bedroom cool enough that I could sleep — but again I had those horrid dreams. Cops, sirens, screaming, guns — I don’t need to watch TV, it’s all right there behind my eye-lids.

I need sleep. I need rest. I need school to be over.

Today we had the practice culmination ceremony. Traditionally at the end of the program I take the mic and introduce the outgoing students to their parents as next year’s sixth graders, and the graduating class of ____ (add seven to the current date). Today — at practice — I stepped up to the mic, had the kids stand and face where the audience will be — and couldn’t speak. My throat closed up. Tears filmed my eyes. I realized there is no way I am going to be able to do this for real on Thursday without seriously crying.

Usually the year end ceremony makes me a bit misty, but this is for real. This is good-bye. They won’t be bopping into my room next year to sit on the table and tell me about life in sixth grade. I won’t be there.

Please don’t get me wrong, I am looking very much forward to the next phase in my life, but while looking so earnestly ahead, I forgot how very much I hate saying good-bye.

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)

Pain

Yesterday as my second Parent-Teacher Conference was coming to an end, I rose from my chair and froze, half in and half out, with a catch in my back.   I could not finish standing.  I could not sit.  The pain was like a needle in my lower spine.  I put my hands flat on the table and used my arms to straighten me out.

After that I had 6 more Parent-Teacher Conferences, then I came home to do my back stretching exercises.  They require me getting down on the floor.  This is all good and well if the exercises take the kink out.  It is not so good when they don’t.  Yesterday they didn’t.  Getting up off the floor wasn’t pretty.

I took an Aleve and put myself to bed.  One Aleve only took the edge off the pain.  Twinges and spasms woke me every time I moved.  Add to that a couple dozen bad dreams, probably pain induced, and you get a picture of a very bad night.   About 5 a.m. I shifted just a millimeter to ease the pain, and my back popped.  Now the pain is a residual ebbing tide as my muscles relax.

Pain is a wearing sort of thing.  It saps energy.  That is why I didn’t post yesterday.  Plus, this chair is not particularly comfortable when I am in fine form.  Already it is warning me to get up and move.

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.