Aging · Caregiving · culture · Death · Family · Humor · language · Money · Relationships · sad · Thanksgiving · Work

Burying the Cat II

JD darted from the church and into his car in record time. Drenched in sweat, he felt like he would pass out. After he’d got a grip on himself, he reached into his front pocket of his stiff new Bi-Mart jeans for the infamous phone.

He stilled his shaky hands and flipped the little gadget open, muttering at it the whole time. 6 missed calls in 2 minutes. It was his elderly client Lynn. He pushed call.

She answered immediately. “Halo JD.”

He could tell something was very wrong. “Are you okay? What’s the matter?”

“It’s not good.” She said. He could tell she’d been crying. “Can you come?”

“I’ll be right there.” He started his car. He raced the familiar 25 miles there and let himself into the house, scared stiff. “Lynn!” he called gently.

She sat on a chair facing away from him and he hurried to her. When he got to her, he stepped back in utter dismay. She was cradling a very dead cat!

She started bawling when she saw him. “He was very sick this morning when I woke up. By the time I showered and called the vet, he was dead.” She sobbed helplessly.

He was aghast. He was tempted to say, “Is this why you called me?” but she couldn’t hear anything over the sobs anyhow. She reached out an arm for a hug. He leaned in and tried very hard not to touch the cat. “It’s okay, Lynn. I’m so sorry.”

She held him for a long time. So long his back started to cramp. Then his stomach started growling again. And that cat, he was certain he could feel it squirming, or winking at him. Or something.

Two hours later, he helped her out to a spot where they had decided Gumby would be buried. He set a chair up by the old magnolia and  scraped a perimeter for the hole. Once she approved it he got to work digging  a hole, 2 feet by 2 feet. He gritted his teeth at having to dig with his weekend clothes on, but he couldn’t very well go back home  to change at this point. The rhythmic strike of the shovel followed by the thud of the moist dirt landing was punctuated by Lynn’s soft sobs. Strike, thud, sob. Strike, thud, sob, sniffle.

He pulled his bandana from his pocket, wiped the sweat off his brow, threw the shovel off to the side and jumped out of the three foot deep hole. Lynn had wrapped Gumby in one of her towels and JD slowly reached out to receive it. He was met with a visceral wail and she clutched tightly at her stiff but beloved pet.

JD stood by trying not to the think of the tamales at his house that his friends were probably devouring without him. He didn’t want to deny her this precious moment with Gumby but he had spent all day yesterday preparing them and his cousin cooked them while he was at church.

He cleared his throat and placed his hand on her shoulder after she wiped her nose on the sleeve of her pink polyester robe. “Honey,” she started, “I don’t that’s deep enough. I don’t want coyotes and racoons digging him up. Let’s make it a little deeper.”

He jumped back in and dug first one foot, then two feet deeper. Unfortunately this also meant he had to make it wider than two foot square. He put his foot down when he was chest deep and she mistook his tear for sympathy. “Gumby always loved you so very much,” she said wanly, rocking him back and forth.

_______________________________________________________________

“Donde estas?” yelled his cousin, Pablo trying to make himself heard over the loud music in the background.

“I’m coming from buying tulips and heading to Lynn’s house,” JD replied. “Hide me a bunch of tamales.”

“Tulips? What about the tamales? Estas loco? ” Pablo scratched his head, sure he’d heard wrong.

“Hide me 6 tamales. I’ll be home soon. I think,” and he hung up, exasperated. There was nothing like missing a tamale fiesta at your own house.

She’d decided she needed tulips on the grave so that she had something pretty to enjoy when she sat by the chair she’d had him cement under the magnolia tree. That had taken another hour and a half but she just had to have those tulips. They were Gumby’s favorites, she said. She had him lay them out, first one way then another before settling on  a third configuration. He buried them then set up some rockery that the tulips would adorn.

He pulled into his driveway at 6 p.m. to find folding chairs, dirty dishes, and beer bottles strewn across his front yard and no one in sight. He was the epitomy of mixed emotions as he stood there his eyes going from this mess to the wad of cash Lynn had stuck into his breast pocket “Please take this,” she said as she hugged him goodbye.  “You’re a better son to me than my own. He’d have told me and my cat to go to hell hours ago.”

JD counted it 5 times. Nine hundred and Forty dollars.

tulip2

https://wordpress.com/prompts/deny/

Advertisements
Christian · culture · Faith · Humor · language · Mishaps · We've All Done It

Burying the Cat I

JD is sitting on my porch at dusk and my husband and I are howling with laughter. I only catch half of what he is saying. I miss the second half of what he is saying because of his exaggerated Mexican accent, and the other half because he won’t pause for his audience to recover from laughing. Wait how many halves was that?

Anyway, he sets his Modelo down, which is his signature gesture for another good story; all before we even catch a breath and recover from the last one.

He’s been in the States for many years but loves nothing more than telling tales about growing up in Mexico or his experiences in the States. He’s an amazing landscapist with many clients who love him and have used his services for as long as he can remember.

About 5 years ago he was sitting in church trying to keep his stomach from growling. He folds over, bear-hugging his abdomen and trying to be inconspicuous. See, it’s a tenuous task finding the position that settles a sonorous gut. The louder it is, the longer it takes the priest to wrap things up. Just when you think you have it under control, you move a millimeter too far to the right which makes the entire intestinal tract trumpet like a dying elephant.

People beside you shift uncomfortably and clear their throats as though that’s any help. The teenagers in the pew behind him started snickering and couldn’t stop. The young mum in front of him turned around dramatically and, glared at him while smacking her gum. As though THAT was any help. “So sorry,” he mumbled, making the sign of the cross and trying to look anywhere but at her. Of course he was sitting in the middle of the pew and would have had to disrupt 30 people to get up. He closed his eyes tightly and prayed that the Living God would slay him. Or slay all these gringos around him. Something. Anything.

Presently the system settled down and he leaned back with tentative relief, grateful that no one was going to have to be slayed. He leaned back on the blue metal chair on my porch and took a swig of his Modelo. He set it back down on the concrete and lunged forward to continue his story.

“Then, I’m sitting there when the rosary starts and my phone begins to vibrate. Holy chit!” He muttered under his breath and instinctively grabbed his stomach then realized that was the wrong number. He went for his left front pocket, shooting his leg out like a viper, and swatted at his phone as if to kill it. The whole pew was vibrating and he noticed several people also going for their pockets. But his zipper was vibrating too so he knew he was the culprit. He finally smacked the right button and it stopped.

He stared forward, now cross-eyed, his heart racing. He could see a blurred priest gesturing, “In the name of the Padre, and the Madre,..” and the phone started to vibrate again. “Hijo de…” he started to mumble, his chest heaving and his hands now so shaky they couldn’t find his pocket.

Bubble Yum in front of him whirled around and said, “Oh my gosh!”

“So sorry.” He repeatedly automatically, beads of sweat and blood falling from his face as he stopped the phone. He grasped his rosary trying to keep up with everyone else. “Santa María, Madre de Dios, ruega por nosotros pecadores, ahora y en la hora de nuestra muerte.” Just before he said Amen, his stomach AND his phone went off at the same time and he didn’t know which one to go for first.

He would have launched his phone through the opened stained glass windows onto on-coming traffic if he could reach it for all his fumbling. Or at this irritating woman in front of him who was still glaring icily at him.

By the time he finishes this story he is writhing on the little blue chair that’s threatening to fold on him.  His right knee is on the floor and his left leg is jutted in front of him as he reenacts his desperate attempt to reach  his  phone. The husband and I are wiping tears from our eyes and trying to catch our breath as he reaches under the chair for his Modelo and drains its contents.

“That’s why I don’t go to church anymore, man.” He concludes as he pulls himself back onto the folding chair and grabs another beer.

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

Brothers · culture · Family · Humor · language · Nature · Relationships · Teasing

I’m Not a Fan of Yellow

My friend Shawn is a lovable, flavorful character. A mouthful sometimes. A potentially annoying mouthful.

He’d traveled to Namibia to visit his in-laws whom he only got to see every few years. Several women were in the kitchen wrapping up dinner – there’s nothing quite like a kitchen full of African women. Kwaito music was bumping rhythmically in the background and they occasionally paused their stirring to join in a catchy refrain or sway their hips in choreographed harmony, then burst into laughter, omwikos flailing boiling stew in the air.

Shawn sat in a small living room with 7 other guys at his brother-in-law’s new house. The overstuffed, extra firm couch was almost completely covered with colorful handmade doilies that kept falling to the floor and having to be retrieved. They were arguing loudly about politics, talking over each other, and laughing. Any tentative statements made were promptly challenged and severely scrutinized.

Shawn, a rather verbose character, was the only American in the room, surrounded by locals. Shawn talks. A lot. He has few verbal filters and is bold beyond belief. Admittedly, he had been on good behavior, afraid of being the ugly American. The men kept asking his opinions and he was careful, as his wife had tutored him,  not to take center stage and pontificate, which is his preferred mode. Topics flitted from one to the next and he presently got distracted. If he wasn’t the center of attention, he got distracted.

He was looking around the stark room in the house whose construction was almost complete. He could still smell the cement and the single coat of pale yellow paint on the wall, painted at the last minute to impress the guests.  He thought long and hard about this set up and didn’t notice the entourage of women walking into the room bearing food. He proclaimed absently, studying the walls, “I’m not a fan of yellow.”

His words fell like a giant catfish jumping out of murky waters and flopping onto a muddy beach with a splat. Everybody gasped and swallowed hard in unison. Eyes grew to the size of small plates, extremely embarrassed, and in utter disbelief. Hearts sank and no one dared to look at Mike, the heretofore proud home owner.

The strained, stunned silence in the room was pierced by Joe slamming his bottle onto the glass table as he choked over spewing beer. He had  warm beer coming out his nose and eyes. He didn’t know if he should laugh or cry. He had argued for days with his brother Mike to not paint the room and just yesterday, Mike had spent what felt like hours at the local hardware store deliberating over what color of paint to buy. Never mind they only had 6 selections. Like a keDecember Boss, Mike had ridden his bike proudly toting 2 gallons of “Egg-yolk Yellow,” dodging muddy pot-holes, garbage, and mangy dogs on his 30 minute ride home.

Shawn’s wife Maureen narrowed her eyes and inhaled deeply and then her distressed, heavy chest sank in slow motion and just kept sinking. Her eyes told his that he had erred greatly and that he was a dead man sitting. If she wasn’t holding a tray of food she would have hurled her high heels at him and clocked him right on the bridge of his crooked nose. She shook her head slowly and narrowed those eyes further. Her lips began to furl tightly, controlled by an unseen drawstring, and to quiver with rage.

No one in that room will forget those moments till the day they die. There was no recovering from this one, even for my astute friend who can normally extricate himself from just about any situation with his oratory skills. It changed the mood of the entire rest of the vacation and the trajectory of Shawn’s life.

Fast forward 3 years and her family is bursting out of the vehicle after travelling across the world to visit Shawn and Maureen in the States. It was a glorious fall afternoon and the foliage was stunning to behold. Joe was the first guest to get out of the car. He yawned dramatically and inhaled the crisp air, then shivered in the cold breeze. “You guys said it wasn’t cold!  You mean it’ll get colder than this? Mxm!” He exclaimed. His brothers shuddered in agreement as they streamed out of the car and stretched their cramped legs. Along with the others, Joe hastily grabbed a random suitcase from the trunk, flicking a stray welcoming leaf from his shoulder. They all raced into the house, certain a blizzard would sweep through at any minute.

No sooner had they stampeded indoors and dropped the suitcases in a tall pile, than Mike blurted, “Etche muntu! I thought you are not a fan of yellow, man!”  He held his arms out defiantly circling the yellow room. Everyone else, rubbing their arms vigorously to warm themselves, burst into laughter.

“What are you talking about?” Shawn asked, cocking his head curiously.

“What is he talking about?”, choked Joe incredulously.

“What is he talking about?”, gawked Maureen.

That set the tone for the rest of this visit, and my poor friend Shawn spent a pouty fall feeling picked on; while Maureen juggled the fine line between letting him face the consequences of his often tactless speech and helping him preserve some semblance of dignity among his in-laws.

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

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/

Christian · Gardening · Humor · language · Relationships

The Hypocrite’s Goose-egg

If there’s anything the Lord made clear, it’s that he strongly dislikes hypocrites.

Last night I was one and I sure got what I had coming.

I am a gardening nut. I could garden all day and all night if I could. But life interferes. A few days ago, I helped a friend, who has never gardened in her life, set up and plant a garden. I felt like quite a gardenista, giving her all kinds of tips and sage advice. I wanted to set her up for success and a lifetime of great gardening. To do so she must survive many mishaps, let-downs, and challenges.

We were loading mulch into our wheelbarrows and carrying it to the garden. I noticed that whenever I returned to the mulch pile, the pitch fork was lying (not laying, pitch forks don’t lay anything. I guess they lay dirt…) on the ground with prongs pointed upwards. I just now learned that “upward” is interchangeable with ‘upwards’. Pretty cool. I’ve never been sure which one to use. But I digress.

She works in a trade so I’m sure tools are pretty important to her. Responsible garden dojo that I am, I promptly educated my trusting apprentice on the proper use and placement of the pitch-fork. “Stick it upright on the pile or in the ground so you can see it. That also saves you from having to wonder how long ago it was you got that tetanus shot as you do the ‘I just stabbed by foot with a manure laden tool’ dance.” She was impressed.

This woman will make a brilliant gardener, just like me.

Yesterday I worked in the yard after dinner. It was getting dark so I decided to haul one more load of mulch to plant my banana plants before turning in for the night. It was pretty dark but I could still make out forms. The last few feet to the hole were uphill so I had to really muscle that loaded wheelbarrow. It was all I could to balance it on the hill as every time I tried to set it down it threatened to tip over. I threw the pitchfork off to the side to get it out of the way. I strained and twisted my poor body, one knee raised to support the wheelbarrow, and one hand holding one handle. Gutteral grunting was helping a lot and when I stopped grunting the behemoth load pitched dangerously till I resumed the grunting.

I was in a lurch, I couldn’t park the creaking wheelbarrow but I couldn’t very well stand here like this all night. The darned thing decided to help me out as it swayed this way and then that. Finally it leaned over so far it staggered and toppled like a drunk. I quickly let go so it wouldn’t fling me across the garden in the dark.

I stood there tried to look dignified and glare at the foolish pile that was nowhere near where I needed it to be. At this point I could hardly see the hole but I could make out the broad starts. I was very miffed about this predicament. I stepped to the side of the mulch to the retrieve my pitchfork when out of the clear blue a golf ball at top speed clocked me so hard right in the forehead that I saw stars.

I don’t know if the bonk jolted me worse than the shock. I stood swaying like my drunk wheelbarrow. The strange thing is that the golf ball didn’t fall. My hand quickly went to my forehead for moral support and found, not a golf ball, but a long hard handle to my pitch fork still standing in place!

Of course I’d dropped it, prongs facing up, stepped on the prongs, and clocked myself in the head. I was still standing on it. I hadn’t thought of this consequence!

I nursed my goose-egg and my pride. I’ll get to the pile tonight.

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

culture · Humor · language · Uncategorized

Clazy Making

I belong to the Kikuyu tribe which is notorious for many things. Among it’s highlights is what Kenyans used to call shrubbing. Shrubbing is taking English words and Kikuyunizing them (or converting them so they contain distinct traits of a tribal language.) It is no fault of mine that I frequently say “clazy”. It’s one of my favolite shrubs.

Kikuyus swap most of their “r’s” for “l’s” and vice versa, hence, “the rion is at the liver,” doesn’t mean that the king of the jungle is now eating the organ but that he’s slaking his thirst.  The trouble for outsiders trying to decipher our speech is that some Kikuyus swap the  letters 100% of the time while others are part-timers. There are also words or parts of words that remain unchanged, for example, “I leally enjoy brogging.” It’s always “leally”. Never “learry.” That would be lidicurous.

Of course one can never tell exactly what the admonition “Ret us play” is. If the minister says “Prease play,” you watch to see if he brings his hands together before you jump up, whooping and horrering; whereas if the teacher says, “Ret us take a blake and pray,” she’ll probabry open the door and ret the students out for lecess.

The most faburous thing, of course, is that we are notolious for doing this with full confidence and autholity. We are tluly an amazing tlibe. We lerish the aduration and adolation of the world and they are tickled pink at our verbal plowess.

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