Aging · culture · Health · Humor · language · Relationships · Work

There’s a Dead Duck Out There

Robert was a rough-hewn character. He lived in a nursing home outside of Melbourne where I worked as a caregiver.  We heard him before we saw him. He walked with a cane which he leaned into heavily. “Old injury from the war,” he explained, when I asked about the limping hip. The cane tapped a beat on the tiles on the floor and the metal on the sole of his shoe kept rhythm. 

He wore the same shoes every day. “Worn ’em forty years, mate. That’s a good shoe right there,” he explained academically, tapping at the toe of his right one with his cane. “It’s been there for me through the good and the ill.” They were made of very old brown leather and he meticulously polished them every morning. Even the insides had a high sheen with a dark outline where his toes nested. His room had the distinct smell of the Kiwi shoe polish he used.

It was rough being an international uni student and not only having to work to fund my schooling but adjusting to culture shock as well. The job wasn’t much to speak of. A friend had recommended me for it and I’d decided to give it a go. I was grateful for it but it was certainly grunt work. The hardest part was thinking I spoke English but having to learn a whole new version here.

I tied Robert’s shoe laces, and chuckled as he told he about the ‘deadorse” and “wilted rabbit food” he was served for dinner last night. “Where’s the lamb around here? Or how about some roo for supper?” He complained. I liked this crusty man but would like him even better if he quit scratching his nuts  in front of me. He did it every time he put his shoes on, “Only thing is, these shoes make me itch my budgies.”

He loved to talk about his wife. “We raised chooks up north,” he said,  pointing to a grainy photo of  her in her bathers on his old dresser. “She was always full as a boot on the amber fluid.” She was a good distraction while I helped him get dressed, otherwise he’d tell me to nick off. He called me a stickybeak and a perve when I first started.

I shook my head as I left to attend to a buzzer going off in room 24. “I’ll never get over this place.”

Robert loved to walk outside after brekkie. I’d been there about 4 months when he came clicking by the nurse’s station one day. I was enjoying my job well enough and getting a good handle on this culture.  “How ya going Bob? Beautiful day out out there.” I said, replenishing towels from the laundry cart.

“There’s a dead duck in the parking lot,” he announced, adjusting his hat without looking at me. He kept walking.

“Oh dear.” I said, and went back to my towels, thinking it was a good thing the garbo would be here tomorrow.

All of a sudden, my cart was pushed by a nurse of larger build in a tight uniform, running faster than seemed possible for her size. I was thrown against the wall like a rag-doll. She was yelling orders as she ran outside and my fellow off-siders were running behind her in pandemonium, dodging wheelchairs and their occupants. “What was going on?” I asked after I caught my breath, frantically looking around and wondering if I should run or hide. 

Turns out a female resident had fallen in the parking lot and Bob had saved her hide with his announcement! So much for my cultural competence…

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/grainy/

Humor · Neighbors · Relationships

“… I’d Love to Chat, Gotta Go!”

I first saw the young couple sitting on the steep outside steps of the Victorian house next door. It had been renovated so the upstairs space could be accessed from outside.

They both looked terribly thin, sitting there sunning on the steps. They smoked and drank their morning coffee. It was a cold morning and she was wearing shorts and hugging herself. Her worn t-shirt was stretched to keep her long legs warm. Her stringy jet-black hair hung limp over the t-shirt and she stroked it nervously.

Their lean bodies were covered in tattoos and piercings. He wore silver chains up the length of his arms. I watched them through my living room window and wondered what they were talking about.  I smiled as they smiled at each other. They were cute. She jabbed him playfully in the side and he held her in a mock choke-hold.

I had no shortage of distractions while trying to get out the door in time for work. I showered, got my breakfast and lunch ready, and tried to lock the door behind me.

‘He really needs to fix this lock,’ I thought to myself, having to slam the door several times and hold it just so before it finally clicked.

I smiled and waved at them as I juggled an armful and got into my car. He waved warmly, almost standing up. She glanced up and quickly looked away, taking a long draft of her cigarette into her cavernous jaw. When I returned at the end of the day, they were still on the  steps, smoking and drinking coffee.

As I walked to my door, I waved at them and he stood straight up and bounded down the stairs, his silver chains clanging as he came. His wore a leather vest with no shirt and I fought the silly urge to look under it. “Look at the eyes,” I said to myself. He stuck his cigarette in his mouth, flicked his shock of long black hair away from his eyes, and stuck his hand out to shake mine.

My hands were loaded with a dirty breakfast bowl and spoon, my purse, work-bag, lunch bag, and who knows what else. I laid what I could down on my front step and reached out to shake his hand.

“That was kind of awkward. I suppose I could have tried to help you but I didn’t want it to look like I was trying to take your dirty bowl or anything,” he said. “My name is DJ.”

I was taken aback. I introduced myself.

“That’s Denise,” he turned his head around and blew a huge puff of smoke into the air. “She thinks she’s shy but she’s actually kind of spicy, hey baby?”, he yelled. “This is our first house. It’s pretty awesome. She’ll keep it real clean while I work. You guys can be friends.” She raised a feeble arm in greeting and quickly looked away.

“We moved in yesterday. This is our first house. We’re taking it easy today coz that was pretty hard moving on the bus. Moving’s pretty hard, you know. Luckily we don’t have a lot of stuff. Just a couple bags is all. For now. I’ll get a job and take real good care of her. This is a great home.”

He told me he had spent several years in jail since he was a teenager and was recently free. “She waited for me, hey baby?”, he turned and yelled again. She looked up and nodded a wan smile. I thought that if he talked to her again she would dissipate into a wispy membrane and disappear. He spoke fast and shifted frequently from one foot to the other.  “She waited for me. I’m gonna get me a sweet ride after a while. I hate the bus. Bunch of creeps on the bus.”

“I saw you leave this morning. That’s what I’ll do every morning. Leave for work and come back in the evening. I’m gonna pump gas or lift bales of hay or work in a bank or something. I’d go crazy sitting around at home. I need to fix things, do stuff. I do like to cook. Denise doesn’t have to cook. You take a steak and put a great rub on it. Then you grab the potatoes and slice them real thin, like this,” he stuck the cigarette in his mouth again and demonstrated how with his elegant hands. “You gotta fry potatoes with a little salt and garlic. I hate vegetables but you’ve gotta eat the stuff, right?”

He laughed really hard and I got the distinct impression he wanted to high five me. I didn’t know what to do so I stupidly started to raise my hand but he didn’t want to high-five me, so I ran it through my hair and into my pockets, feeling an embarrassing rise in temperature to my face. Note to self, don’t high five strangers, especially when they’re not high fiving you.

I snapped back to attention as he was still talking. “… it’s been a long day and pretty soon we’ll be heading to The Plaid to buy some smokes and milk. Anyway, I’d love to chat, gotta go!” And he spun on his heels and ran up the stairs.

I cocked my head and stood there a minute, rather dazed, then looked around as if to see if anyone  had witnessed what I just had and could confirm that I wasn’t imagining it.

No one, darn it.

I fumbled with the lock and kicked the bags through the door, stepping over them with my milk-caked Cheerios bowl, and chuckled to myself, “That’s a good one. Love to chat, gotta go!”

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/spicy/

Poetry · Summer

Haze

A heavy haze hangs over our heads

Leaving me heaving and hanging my head.

Smoke from infernos, in lands far away,

Is drifting downwind, so the weatherman said.

Though it drafts fiery sunsets and moonrises here

Enflaming and sparking this poetic thread,

We sigh for our Oregon sweet summer days

Begone smokeyhead, begone with your dread!

IMG_20170808_065704799.jpg

 

Brothers · Family · Humor · mothers · Relationships · sons · Teasing · Uncategorized

Orange Flying, in Slow Motion

It all happened so fast, so I’m not quite sure why I recall it in slow motion. My boys were fooling around and laughing. They rarely play together so I relish these times. I was standing by the kitchen about to open the fridge.  James, moving at his usual 300mph dashed by the kitchen counter and grabbed an orange then flew the next few feet into the living room. Paul had just hopped over the arm of the red recliner  and was bouncing on it, looking out the nearby window into the yard and telling a funny story.

This is where things slowed way down: out of the corner of my eye, I vividly saw James in his blue and white striped shirt and grey camo shorts. He took on very impressive form, swinging his right arm with the orange in it while he stepped off his left foot, rotated his shoulders so the left one synchronized forward to power the left one which was lunging back as it propelled the orange at an astonishing speed  straight towards the back of his unwitting brothers head, just as James’ right foot planted onto the carpet. Wow!

Dictionary.com describes a symphony as “an elaborate musical composition in three or more movements, similar in form to a sonata but written for an orchestra and usually of far grander proportions and more varied elements.”

What I was witnessing, my friends, was a mesmerizing movement symphony of grand proportions!

In no time, Paul, with a discordant whelp, raised both hands to the back of his whip-lashed head and tumbled off the chair and onto the floor like a stuntman.

“What was that for?” was his loud, prolonged, barely articulate lament. Babe Ruth’s eyes grew to the size of a large orange and he jumped up and down like a yoyo, “I’m sorry Paul, are you okay? I’m so sorry, are you okay?” He repeated this about 8 times without taking a breath, bouncing in place the whole time and becoming more frantic.

Our stuntman rolled back and forth, clearly in the throes of death, moaning his final words, “Whhyyyy?” and never letting go of his fatal wound.

I snapped out my daze and yelled, “that is the most unintelligent thing you have done all day!”

He answered with the most unintelligent thing he had said all day, “I didn’t mean to hit him!”

I chimed, “What, where you planning to hit the window a foot away from his face?”

“No, I didn’t mean to hit him.” He said that 8 times, still bouncing up and down, but now big tears falling straight from his eyes onto the floor.

“He does it to me all the time and he never gets in trouble.”

“What, he kills you with an orange all the time?” I stuck a pointing finger at Paul in his pitiful predicament, and glared at James, “Is this the time to bring that up?

“I didn’t mean to,” he wailed woefully.

Paul’s howling reached a deafening crescendo and James cried all the harder. What a cacophony!

I leaned down and touched Paul for many reasons. The first was the principle. If he didn’t die, and I didn’t think he would, he would in years to come be sitting at a counselor’s couch recounting this trauma, and she would ask him, “And what did your mother do?”

It would be terrible to have to answer, “She laughed so hard she fell on me and smacked my forehead with hers.”

Secondly, I needed to embrace the victim and distance from the perpetrator. That would not be the time to say, “James, that was amazing! I wish you could have seen it.” No. That would have to wait ten minutes.

I finally pried a gasping Paul’s fingers from the gaping wound so I could inspect it and he was disappointed and shocked to learn there wasn’t as much as a mark. And I looked really close, for a really long time, the whole time repeating, “Wow!” in monotone.

So the melodrama died down eventually. We hugged as Paul reiterated that he didn’t trust his brother to be in the same county, for obvious reasons. I slapped my hand across his brothers mouth as he dried his tears and started to say, “He does it all the…”

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/symphony/