The Day the Substitute Custodian got an Eyeful: Or also known as… Ms. Wood’s Accidental Full Monty

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caught

Boobs are something most female high school teachers try to hide.

Having large boobs in fact, is a detriment in this particular profession.

You have to constantly check that they do not bounce, jiggle, shake, or incite ANY type of movement that may provoke an inappropriate remark.

And, you might be surprised what topics will cause an inappropriate remark.

Take the time I was talking about getting an EKG, thinking I was making students aware of screening and good health when I look down from my perch, on top of an empty student desk, and see my 11th grade student, Zach Smith, staring up at me lovingly, mouth agape, breathlessly imagining me topless and connected to electrodes, on an examining table, before he breathes in a whispy whisper, “God I love when you talk about your doctor’s visit, Ms. Wood.” (student=1, ms. wood=zero)

Or just recently, when I bought a t-shirt from Old Navy. Not realizing when I put it on in the morning that it was completely see-through and that my nude underwire bra made me look like I had the best pair of perky breasts since the days of the Playboy Vargas girl drawings. Student commentary? Uh, no comment. (students=2, ms. wood=still zero)

Yes, we work hard to protect our reputations as stand-up teachers but sometimes our bodies just get in the way. And though at times high school boys and yes… sometimes girls make an inappropriate remark regarding my mammary glands… these incidents are of course, few and far between in my twenty years of teaching, but have made enough of an impact on me to still fill me with complete despair when they return to my memory.

But in my WORST nightmares… I never imagined that my breasts would make a public appearance on a school day but OH let me tell you… they did.

It was the substitute custodian, actually who enjoyed the full monty of my breasts.

He was a slow man (think Portagee Joe in John Steinbeck’s, Tortilla Flats) who shall ever remain nameless due to this “incident.”

Mr. Marshall, my regular custodian, was out on sick leave and so the district added “PJ” temporarily to our night time crew.

Now, “PJ” loved to take his break in my room.

He would sit at the desks and read my plethora of books.

He would eat his snacks and watch my classroom videos on the dvd.

He would saunter about and flop on my couch.

The only thing the man WOULDN’T do was clean.

I tried time and time again to tell him that I appreciated his love for my room but that it was filthy and he needed to clean it properly.

He would nod his head seeming to understand, a big sweet smile on his face, his hands wringing his dust rag in anticipation of the great job he would do for me and then… I would leave and find the next morning… my room still a dirt pit from the day before… his leftover snack crumbs trailed from the couch, across the floor, to his attempted deposit in the trashcan. Filthy, filthy, filthy.

My bungalow buddy, Dr. Hawkins was sure that he had something wrong with him. “There’s nothing going on up there,” she said one day as we were conspiratorially whispering during our nutrition break. “Brain like a bag of rocks” she added as she tapped her temple repeatedly… and I knew… that if Satinder Hawkins, a woman who can communicate with anyone and teaches advanced psychology couldn’t get this guy to pick up on our message and clean the fucking rooms… then no one could.

Days passed.

Mr. Marshall did not return.

PJ was our sub and there was nothing we could do about it.

All of the teachers on his run tried to reason with him but no matter how we cajoled and pleaded: the empty stare, the large smile, the wringing of the hands, the nodding head, the filthy rooms remained.

We gave up and assigned students to take over the cleaning until Mr. Marshall returned from GOD KNOWS WHERE but man… did we want him back.

For weeks nothing changed… until a Wednesday.

A non-descript Wednesday.

I’d stayed late that day… a group of alumni water polo players, our current coach and I had decided we would all get in the pool after regular practice and rip it up “after hours” with an alumni scrimmage. It was great fun… alone in the pool… a small crew… playing hard and laughing each time someone made a goal… until it began to grow dark and worn… we decided to get out and call it a night.

The girls all wrapped in towels headed off to the parking lot to get in their cars and shower at home but since the locker room was still open, I decided to stay and have a quiet shower alone… a bit afraid of my old high school locker room but… feeling grown-up and responsible and silly for giving into childhood fears.

I walked in and noted the half lights… the quiet calm… the emptiness without the sounds of a hundred girls shouting or giggling or blow drying their hair and headed to the first stall. I left my towel on the bench and stripped out of my suit in the shower. It felt good to be alone. I finished my rinse and then reached for my towel. I did a quick pat down and then wrapped it around my hips before I bent over and wrung out my hair. My head was down… my breasts were bare and dangling… when I did an extra large hair flip and bounced up to feel my long wet hair slap the middle of my back.

It was then that I heard a loud gasp and looked straight into the large stunned eyes of my substitute custodian.

I tell you the moment seemed to last forever.

The eye contact.

The amount of force I used to throw back my head must have showcased my breasts in stunning jiggling glory.

I imagine the uplift alone must have startled him silly as I watched his eyes roll back in his head and his breathing become ragged.

I yelped and rushed to hide in the shower stall.

There were no words spoken.

He scurried off… ashamed that he had entered the lady’s locker room without first shouting out. His little bowlegs painfully working to gallop away… his back hunched as if he had just received an actual physical blow… as I peeked at him from the top of the shower wall and waited for his shadow to disappear before pulling my suit back on over my hips…. Running for my pool bag… towel pressed to my chest as if it’s terry cloth fabric could erase the scar from my bosom. I hoofed it to my car, rushing to the warmth of the private interior, where I laid my head upon my steering wheel and moaned, “Oh God…” at the realization that I would have to see this man actually SEE this man on a daily basis until Mr. Marshall’s return.

I wanted to call in sick until further notice.

The next day, I headed to my classroom late…. terrified that he had left me a note about my improper impromptu show as he “innocently” tried to clean the lady’s locker room. But as I turned the key and flipped on the light… I found nothing… absolutely nothing but…

A SPOTLESSLY CLEAN ROOM.

My mouth dropped open and my face flushed.

‘God damn it,” I whispered.

I felt like I had a scarlet letter burned across my chest.

My own breasts used against me!

My dirty room now spotless not because of my voice and my brain but because of my abundant naked boobs.

When I finally got up the nerve to tell Dr. Hawkins several days later why my room was now each day…  “sparkling clean” she laughed a deep throaty laugh that made me feel connected and comfortable as a woman. “If that’s what it takes,” she roared.

It was two weeks before Mr. Marshall returned, and I refused to stay late after the ‘incident” and thankfully… I never had to make eye contact with the substitute custodian again. But now… as I grow older…. and my breasts give way to gravity (as they all do) I like to imagine the moment… and even have a bit of a giggle… knowing that somewhere in the LB Unified School District… I am legendary and considered “Custodian Porn.”

 

 

 

 

 

Lying to the Lake Patrol in Big Bear

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Charlotte was nine-years-old when I lied to the Lake Patrol.

Dylan and Lily weren’t much older… a few years… but still quite young.

It was our first summer, with all of us together in Big Bear, and I thought it would be fun to rent jet skis.

Everyone in the group had been swimming since they could walk and since I, unlike my brothers, preferred jet skis and water skiing to surfing… I thought it would be fun to show the kids what I could really do.

Was I showing off?

Yes.

Isn’t that what water sports are all about?

I can do things with a jet ski that moms aren’t supposed to do.

Moms apparently are supposed to ride safely.

Moms are supposed to stay close to the kids.

Moms are not to see how deep they can submerge the tail while they spin a tight 360 and then pop the jet ski out of the water with a child on the back of it.

Moms are not supposed to know how to reach under the cover and reset the switch so that the rental jet ski can now do exactly what it is supposed to do: HAUL ASS… but this mom… well, that’s a different story.

I knew that Lily really hated the lake water: she did not want to get wet.

She did however want to ride on the back of the jet ski with Dylan, who she adored at the time, and so poor Charlotte, having no idea yet how crazy I was after only being connected to our family for about six months, was stuck with me.

I putted out to the buoy, looking like the perfect PTA mom, waiting for the children, waving at the lifeguards, riding close to Dylan and Lily, pretending to enjoy the leisurely pace, until I had enough distance from the rental office to open it up.

Dylan was smiling… happy to have his own jet ski to ride. Lily was smiling, happy to be snuggled up to Dylan… and Charlotte had her little fingers wrapped in the belt of my vest… not really worried about anything.

I waited until Dylan pulled along side of me before turning and telling Charlotte to hold on. Now, Dylan didn’t hear me say “Hold on” but he saw my face when I turned back to crank the throttle and he knew (having lived with me since birth) he was in for it.

I gunned the jet ski and shot off across the glass with just one smug look back at Dylan who was trying his best to catch up. I waited until he and Lily were dead center in the lake before I spun a large circle around them and headed back towards them… ready to play chicken before I stopped about twenty feet from where they now were, cranked the handle hard, and watched as a good seven foot high wall of water flattened them.

They didn’t have a chance.

They were tipped over and in the lake in a matter of seconds.

I wasn’t really sure what Charlotte was up to. I could feel her hands now clawed into the armpits of my vest. I’m pretty sure she was screaming bloody murder as we roared up to Dylan and Lily, positive that we were going to kill them, but she hung on through it all and I was quite impressed that the child who once used to stare out the window at me, afraid that I would walk too far away from the house and strangers would somehow jump out of the bush and snatch her while I was somewhere near the garbage cans for five fucking seconds, was actually a bit ballsier than I had given her credit for.

I waited until Dylan and Lily got back on their ski before I took Charlotte for a few more passes at them, hitting them hard again and again with walls of water, before I raced off to freak Charlotte out with some 360’s.

This is when the Lake Patrol came on the scene.

I turned to Charlotte and said, “Whatever you do… don’t speak.”

I doubt she would have… by this time her lips were blue from the cold wind and the cold water, and her face was pale white, ghost like in the terror and realization that she really had picked the wrong jet ski to ride. I saw her glance back towards the dock. I’m sure she was thinking if she just jumped off now and made a swim for it, she wouldn’t go to the Big Bear Lake Patrol jail wherever the hell that was.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” The Lake Patrol officer asked.

“What?” I said, looking confused and humble with my little mom pony tail and my little mom bathing suit.

“We have rules on this lake missy and you just broke every single one of them.”

“I did?” I asked and I used this opportunity to practice my “totally innocent”‘ face which isn’t one that comes easily to me.

“Speed limit, reckless driving, those tricks aren’t allowed in California,” He stopped here and removed his aviator shades and leaned over the edge of the boat. “Did you know that?”

I actually did know that, but the good thing about being a mom, is that most people would believe, as I said earlier, that a mom would NEVER break the rules intentionally.

“Really?” I said. “Officer, I’m so sorry. This is the first time I’ve ever been on a jet ski. I just rented it over there.” I stopped and pointed to the far dock.

He made a face, “Those tricks you were doing were tricks only experienced riders can do.”

I looked at him and blushed. “Really?” I smiled, and pretended to act shocked at my “natural” ability. “I just watched a how-to video on TV about an hour ago and thought I would see if I could try it.”

This was the moment where he could have written me a ticket.

This is the moment where he could have taken me in.

This was the moment where he had to decide if I was a true mom: responsible, honest, mini-van driving, church on Sunday, bake sale cooking woman or…

a she devil… a harpy from the lake… a sea nymph waiting to lure him down.

He chose wrong.

“No more,” he said to me as he pointed his bony, weathered finger my way. “I’m going to be watching you.”

I smiled and nodded before I putted off towards the dock.

“You lied,” Charlotte whispered from the back of the jet ski. “And you’re a teacher,” she said as if God himself was about to come down and smite me.

So I lied again.

“You didn’t want to go to jail did you?” I asked. “You know, they take everyone on the jet ski… not just the driver.”

Charlotte was silent.

I could tell she didn’t know what was worse… hearing a mom and a teacher, a double pillar of the community, lie so blatantly to an Officer of the Law or… believe that she could go to jail at the age of nine.

Either way… in the end I left without a ticket, Dylan and Lily had a good story to tell, and Charlotte learned to never ride on a jet ski with me again.

Lexi Berates an Old Man for Looking at Her Boobs in the Hospital Recovery Room

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Lexi 4th

Lexi, my daughter, is quite the “Sassypants.”

She can trade barbs with the best of them.

She’s quick.

She’s smart.

And she can make you wish you’d never engaged.

This is not a surprise… it seems to be a family trait that has been passed down from sassy generation-to-generation.

We have been blessed with a gift.

Our family is always in search of the better moment… the better story… and love us or hate us… we do tend to liven up a room.

My father was legendary. Known for his inappropriate Polish jokes and ability to light his chest hair on fire after one too many 4th of July cocktails.

My brother: a punk rock sociopath. Actually started a riot in the middle of downtown Los Angeles during one of his sold-out punk shows… definitely in a league of his own.

My own son? A giant 6′ 1″ furry bear willing to wear short shorts all four years of high school while accepting mass amounts of public ridicule and humiliation because he believed that wearing short shorts was the “new true punk.”

And so, when it comes to dealing with my family, I am usually prepared for the unexpected at every turn.

However, when Lexi had her tonsils out, I had no idea that her brash manner would be enhanced by anesthesia and used to berate a poor little old man.

I have to admit, that even I felt pity for her unwitting victim.

He was just trying to do his job.

He was just trying to lend a helping hand.

a seventy-year-old frail, thin, rod of a man, who was passing out big stick popsicles, in the recovery room at Los Al Medical Center.

I had been waiting for the nurses to allow me to come in and visit Lex after her surgery, when one of them finally popped out and said, “Man, do you have a handful in that one. Could you come in please?”

I turned and looked at my boyfriend, Stephen, who looked at me as if I had no right to comment, being that in his opinion, I was quite a handful myself.

I pushed open the recovery room door and immediately saw from the look in Lexi’s eyes that she was completely belligerent.

I had heard about this happening to people after receiving large quantities of anesthesia but I had never witnessed it.

I had a feeling the next hour in the recovery room was going to be a long one.

Lexi was propped up in bed, her hospital gown untied and falling loosely around each of her large, bouncy, tan breasts.

She was working a big stick popsicle in a way that can only be described as… pornographic.

As her mother, I was speechless and at the same time, totally amused.

The nurses were keeping their distance. They circled her as if she were a wild animal ready to bite.

“Lexorcist,” I said as I walked towards her… “What the hell are you doing?”

Her glazed eyes settled on me and I understood why demonic possession seemed so terrifying.

She didn’t answer.

She went back to working her big stick and glaring at something in the far corner of the room.

I sat down in the chair next to her and turned to see what she was focusing on.

And that’s when I saw him.

The old man.

He was quietly trying to pass out popscicles to the other patients without disturbing “the beast.”

I could see it in his eyes.

He was hoping that she would somehow forget about him… be distracted from her prey… that her wrath would somehow fade… but like a cat who is focused on toying with a bird, Lexi barely blinked her eyes, obviously obsessed, as she burned him through with her steely stare.

I couldn’t imagine what he had done to entice her anger in such a way until she suddenly screamed out.

“Old Man!”

I jumped at the ferocity of her voice.

I had assumed the removal of her tonsils would silence her but I could see now that her voice box was very much intact.

“OLD MAN!” she shouted to him again from across the room.

I was now stunned… in full view of a train wreck that could not be stopped.

The nurses looked at me as if I had brought this plague down upon them.

I smiled and waved, pretending I could confidently handle the situation, but I knew the truth.

Stephen, unwilling to believe that there was nothing that we could do, went to the other side of the bed and tried to quiet Lexi down.

He placed his strong hand upon her forehead, prepared to brush the loose hair away from her face, when she wrenched away and actually snarled at him.

She broke eye contact with the old man just long enough to let Stephen know with an icy glare that if he stepped between her and the old man again she would kill him.

Stephen’s eyes grew large as he backed away slowly and stood quietly against the wall, finger itching to hit the emergency CALL THE DOCTOR switch.

“OLD MAN!” she screamed again and I watched as the old man cowered behind a hospital curtain afraid to make eye contact but afraid to look away.

He slowly cast his eyes up and upon her as she used her big stick to point at her breasts and say, “I know you were looking at these babies when I was out cold old man. Do you hear me? I know what you were looking at!”

The old man shook his head in terror.

She pointed the big stick out in front of her as if she were Babe Ruth calling her spot in the outfield, her arm out firm… pointing that big stick at his frightened little face… She squinted her eyes and glared… then she gave him a knowing nod… before pointing the big stick back at her boobs and saying, “That’s right old man. I know what you did.”

The other patients looked on in doped-up enjoyment.

They slurped on their popsicles, amused with their own live recovery room stage show as the old man hurried to finish passing out the pops before rushing from the room in total fear and humiliation.

She calmed then. She looked at me and winked. Her chin raised high with pride in her ability to terrorize him as she finished off her big stick, her eyes becoming heavy, before finally falling off to sleep.

The relief of those in charge was palpable.

The nurses shook their heads and rolled their eyes before quietly getting back to their discharge paperwork, most likely now moving Lexi’s file to the top of the stack.

I mean let’s face it… I would have.

An hour later, Lexi was quiet as we wheeled her through the hospital and out to the car.

She had made a complete mental recovery and was unaware of her hospital hi-jinx.

Stephen and I thought it best that we wait until a few days later to share the details of her hideous behavior.

We turned the corner to the elevator when suddenly, the old man she had been terrorizing rounded the corner and ran straight into Lexi and her wheelchair.

His face was priceless.

He gasped and stopped cold before scurrying to the far wall, his bony little hand clutching at the corner.

If he was wearing an adult brief at the time, I’m sure he took this opportunity to fill it.

“Oh sorry about that,” Lexi said unaware of the total humiliation she had just recently caused him in the recovery room. “I didn’t mean to scare you.”

I almost laughed.

I watched as his face turned furious with indignation.

How dare she blatantly pretend she had not terrorized him just minutes ago.

He glared at her before gathering his wits and stomping away.

“What the fuck was his problem?” she asked me and Stephen innocently.

Stephen looked at me as if he was having second thoughts about choosing to be part of my family.

“What?” I said with a snarky snap…. feeling that Lexi’s recent twisted behavior was somehow a reflection of how fucked up I was as the actual birth parent.

“It’s not my fault,” I said to Stephen.

“What’s not your fault?” Lexi said, now completely bewildered.

“Nothing,” I mumbled as I pushed the elevator button and waited for the doors to close.

“Could you stop and get me some popscicles on the way home?” Lex asked sweetly.

“No big sticks,” Stephen said. “I don’t ever want to see a big stick again.”

“Amen,” I said as the doors closed and the elevator moved towards the ground floor.

Peeing on Annika, Dylan and Stroosma While Riding the Matterhorn at Disneyland on Grad Night

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I don’t think people should be punished for having bladder issues.

But that is exactly what happened.

Annika, Dylan, Stroosma… all shaming me in the line of the Disneyland Matterhorn ride because I had to go pee super bad right before we were about to get in the bobsled.

“If you go now we’ll lose our place in line,” Dylan fussed.

“You’re tough,” Stroosma said. “You can hold it until the end.” Obviously… he was a teacher already exhausted from a long grad night… ready to hit this one last ride before cutting out, what was considered early, at 4 am.

“Ms. Wood,” Annika, my student, whined. “Come on! I don’t want to wait in line like two more hours again.”

“Alright,” I said… giving in… though my bladder was past the point of full… actually ready to balloon out as if I was hiding a boda bag of urine.

I stepped into the bobsled and sat in seat #4, considered the brake position in a real four-man sled, with Annika between my legs, Dylan, my son, in front of her, and Stroosma between his legs, in the first position as the “driver.”

“Don’t pee on me.” Annika laughed as she settled in, sure that her teacher would never do such a horribly nasty thing.

But she would live to regret those words.

I knew things were going to go terribly wrong when we hit the first stop in the track and I felt my whole body lurch forward and my bladder just about shake loose.

Oh my God… I thought to myself… I’m not going to be able to hold this pee. I’m seriously gonna lose it.

I felt my heart beat faster… and panic set in.

If I pee’d my pants and actually urinated on a student… I would NEVER be able to live the moment down.

I tried to wave to the ride operator, ready to beg for him to let me out of the sled, but it was too late.

We glided into the cavern of man-made rock and began our ascent up the track to the top of the Matterhorn and each click, click, click of the sled chugging up the rail… seemed like the sound of a time bomb ticking:

Go!… tick tick tick… Go! tick tick tick… Pee! tick tick tick…. Pee!… the track beckoning me to give in.

I worked to give myself a pep talk.

You can do it, I said. Just a few minutes and you can get off this ride and pee.

I even thought that this might be a good time to practice those Kegel exercises I’d been putting off for years, when suddenly, I came up with a brilliant master plan.

“QUICK Annika!” I shouted. “Let me put both my legs on one side of you.”

Annika turned around and looked at me as if I were a demented stranger. She couldn’t even imagine Ms. Wood EVER putting a child in peril during an amusement ride.

“Are you out of your mind?” She screeched. “Ms. Wood! You can’t do that in the middle of the ride. We could be hurt!  And you’re a teacher,” she snapped. “YOU should know bet…”

But she didn’t have a chance to finish her scolding and I didn’t have a chance to cross my legs and close them tight.

Stroosma and Dylan began to scream, Annika threw her arms up into the air and wailed wildly with joy, and I knew that in a matter of seconds I was going to decimate everyone in the entire bobsled with a long stream of urine.

I tried not to scream as we rocketed down the hill but as soon as the first abominable snowman popped out and scared me from his perch…I screamed bloody murder and the peeing began.

Annika was so engrossed in the moment that at first she had no idea that I was actually peeing all over her.

She screamed and squealed with glee until we hit a calm curve and catching her breath looked around before saying, “Wow. I really got wet.”

Stroosma grabbed the edges of the sled and turned back to look at me as if I were Judas. “You are NOT peeing on us are YOU?”

My face full of shame and betrayal… he knew immediately I was.

“It’s just water!” I lied. “I swear! Just water from the ride!”

“STOP IT!” He shouted. “STOP NOW!”

And then we hit the next big drop as we all screamed like mad.

My peeing escalated.

It was now a violent river rushing forward at an alarming rate.

“STOP PEEING MS. WOOD!” Annika shouted. “STOP!”

But I couldn’t.

We hit a drop and screamed again.

By this time… I was laughing so hard and screaming so loud… Stroosma’s yaking GUFFAW punctuating the moment as we barreled down the mountain… Dylan holding on for dear life screaming, “STOP MAMA! STOP!”  as my urine saturated my jeans, rushed out towards Annika, and flooded the bobsled floor.

I began to cry and curse my lot in life.

Why hadn’t I thought to wear an adult diaper?

Sure I was only 40-years-old but maybe the battle of old age was won by building reinforcements early.

I had a quiet epiphany:

If I had truly been smart… I could have been peeing and shitting myself comfortably right now in my adult diaper, while totally enjoying the ride.

“Noooooooooooooo!” Annika cried as we hit the last big turn… Stroosma still hysterical… Dylan disgusted by the entire episode.

And then the ride came to a stop.

“How could you do that?” Annika turned around and screamed at me. “How could you Ms. Wood!”

I sat in silence… my arms crossed… my brows knitted into an angry frown… pouting over the fact that they wouldn’t let me go to the bathroom…. furious at my idiocy for not thinking of wearing the adult diaper sooner… and distraught that I would have to walk the full mile to the exit with my pee-pee jeans rubbing and rashing my legs, while all of the grad students pointed and mocked me.

“Fuck you all,” I whispered. “If you would have just let me go to the bathroom, none of this would have ever happened.”

I climbed out of the sled, pulled my sweatshirt roughly over my head, wrapped it around my soaking butt, and stomped off towards Main Street: a dirty mess trapped in the Happiest Fucking Place on Earth.

Neighborhood Barnyard Critters

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The Barnyard Critters

It will be a year ago this next month that my chicken, Matilda magically appeared in my life.

It was late night, while I was walking the park, when this funny little red head popped out from behind a tall pine tree and called to me as if she had been waiting for me and only me.

It did seem like fate that evening… the way she followed me down the road, sure… now that she had made herself known to me, that I must realize immediately that we were kindred spirits. And I must admit, no matter how I pretended to protest to my friends walking with me that evening, how we already had too many pets how I didn’t need a chicken in my heart, I already considered her mine.

And so… when I said begrudgingly, “Come along, Matilda”  she seemed to smile at me and say, “See? You did know my name! I knew you were my bosom friend.”

And now, I have Frida. She, like Matilda, was also left abandoned late night at the park and as I saw her dark red shape huddled down by a tall oak, I realized that unlike my Matilda, she was just a baby… unsure of herself and the world…. and that she had resigned herself to her fate: the dark of the night and the idea that she may not survive the moment.

Once again, I was with a friend who even said to me, “You are not going to bring that chicken home.” But I could not leave her to fend for herself, and as I stepped up quietly on her, making soothing whispers, my hands gently reaching down to enclose her, she cried small coos that reminded me of the sad sound of the mourning doves that some times nested in my tree outside my bedroom window… as if she longed to go home… where ever that had been… and couldn’t understand how the people she believed had loved her… had left her there… all alone.

“Don’t cry, Frida,” I said quietly and then I held her tightly to my chest and watched as she laid her head in the crook of my arm, her bright yellow legs stretched out like spindly twigs beneath her, the only part of her body which betrayed her fear at being handled by a stranger.

Shocked from her experience, it took her nearly a month to come close to us and almost two before she would eat from our hands yet now, she sits bravely each day, on top of the small table on the porch, eating grain from a tin, and acting as if she is queen of the yard.

And then there was Rupert.

Unfettered by feathers and claws, a fat, hairy little hoofed black and white pig, who was brought to us in a cat carrier, dropped at our house by someone who believed that a pig was “way too much work.” His tiny little tail the only thing we could see swishing through the holes in the side of the cage as he hid his face from us, unwilling to come out of the carrier. My son and I understood his fear and so… we quietly popped the top of the cage, lifted the lid, and watched the wee small man climb over the edge and head to the mound of chicken feed on the dirt, while our pet squirrel, Jax, now five years past being “Star of the Yard,” watched in horror from the roof top as if to say, “Two chickens and now a pig? Are you out of your mind? Isn’t a squirrel enough for you?”

Rupert, entitled from day one, threw his weight around daily. He destroyed gnomes, stepped on top of our German Shepherd, Emma, as though she didn’t even exist, and pushed his way closer to me and what he believed was my endless handful of  “manna.”

And really… I can understand why people choose not to have critters when I am surrounded by so many needy animals.

They are noisy and messy.

They must be fed and cleaned on schedule.

And of course, like any pet, you take the risk of falling in love, becoming attached, and losing them, heartbroken, to a hundred different maladies.

But really… is this any different from anyone or anything we love in life?

When I picked up Matilda that night in the park, brought home Frida, gave Jax her first peanut, accepted Rupert into the yard, I had no idea the gift that I would be given in return.

The stories I am able to tell, the people that share in the joy of my barnyard world, and the community that has been delivered to my front yard gate due to this motley crew of critters.

Every day, when I sit and write, I hear out my office window a steady stream of foot traffic coming to my yard to see my pets:

I know that Kay’s sister is about to retire from teaching, is an author like me, and that Kay loves to keep turtles.

I know the toddlers, Faye and Mia, believe my yard to be magical and almost always wear their princess gowns when coming to visit.

I know that Bruce and Bridget, the widowers, met in French class, wed in their 70’s (after long successful marriages to other people) and found solace and joy and love in each other.

I’ve learned that Richard works late but still rushes down the street in his work suit so that he can bring his boys to see Rupert before my pig goes to bed. And I know that his son Max’s autism finds peace in the quiet petting of my animals.

And even as I write this, I stop to meet Eric and Bekah, a young married couple who live over in the Ranchos and had heard about our yard, word of mouth, questing out on their bikes across the busy street, to find this “mythical” farm yard and were actually just leaving when a young boy named Logan, not more than four, ran up to my fence with his brother, mother, and father, following close behind, to let me know they had just gone to the pet store to buy mice for their snake, but had stopped by to check on my pig. Logan racing back as they left, to give me a flower saying, “You can put it on your computer so when you write, you think of me.”

It would be a fault that I could not bear to carry, if I did not acknowledge how my “cup runneth over” by what some would consider a burden, a nuisance, a hindrance.

The joy I find in these shared moments of togetherness are worth the work and the risk.

How fortunate am I to have a life filled with children and neighbors who find a moment of connection and happiness on a random corner of Anywhere, U.S.A.

There is a comfort in knowing that I will watch these children grow over time, as they first walk past my house on their way to elementary school and then soon… maybe even becoming my own students when they are teens, and one day… when I will be gone as we all soon will… may still stop at my front yard gate with their own children, point to a particular corner of the yard and say, “When I was little this garden was a magical place.” And though I will not be there to stand witness to the moment, I find solace in knowing that I will become a thread in the stories they tell.

The Food Poisioning Incident: Or how I found out that Stephen truly loved me.

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Many years ago, when Stephen and I were first dating. We liked to go out to Hof’s Hut for dinner.

It was just one of those silly stupid things you do when you are first dating: Go to “your” regular spot. Order “your” regular dish… and try on “being” a regular couple.

It had only been about a month, but we seemed to be doing a pretty good job of getting along and easily bonded over our shared love of Chicken Tortilla soup.

So one night, we followed our regular routine: soup at Hof’s… and then headed back to my house to lay on the bed and watch some mindless TV.

I don’t remember who fell asleep first… but I do remember who woke up first: that would be me.

I felt funny.

I felt woozy and sweaty… poo sick basically and so I quietly snuck off to the bathroom where in just a matter of seconds… I eliminated what I thought was my entire dinner and most likely also my meals from the previous day.

Like most people… for a moment… I felt relief and was sure that I was fine.

I washed my hands, splashed water on my face, and then headed back to bed.

It wasn’t more than a moment later that my stomach began to cramp and I knew that I was in trouble.

This time… there was no “walk” to the bathroom… I raced towards the toilet… just making it in time… where once again… I thought that everything exiting my body could not have been found even if I had chosen to do a HIGH colonic.

I put my elbows on my knees… I felt the room spin…. I was hot and irritated and upset that I was dating.

I was irrationally angry with Stephen who was sleeping peacefully in my bed.

I heard an Exorcist style voice from inside me hiss, “GET OUT!”

But there was no movement from the other room.

Stephen slept on… blissfully unaware of the horror that was taking place in the bathroom.

This time… I was unable to exit the toilet for a good fifteen minutes.

I knew then, that something we had just eaten had made me sick.

We had basically had exactly the same thing yet Stephen was fine.

It must of been the Ranch salad dressing, I thought to myself. He had the Honey Mustard. I seethed. “Fucker…” I whispered. “Fucking men.”

When I felt able to rise, I quietly crawled back into bed, weak and worn and hoped that I would be able to sleep.

“Are you okay?” I heard Stephen whisper from the other side of the bed.

I wanted to say, “No. Go home now. I’m sick and I don’t want you here to witness it.”

But we were new in our relationship and I was still trying to hide behind the facade of the perfect woman and so I said, “No I’m fine. I was just a bit sick to my stomach but I’m okay now.”

I would have to say… that amongst my many “famous last words” that these sit firmly at the top of my “wish I hadn’t said that” list.

I closed my eyes… and fell to sleep… thankful that I seemed to be stable after my incident.

I don’t know how much time passed… ten minutes… fifteen… but I had crossed over to the place in which you are definitely asleep but still… something in your brain… is awake and watching. Like… when you are observing your own dream or listening to someone rustling around in the kitchen late night… a quiet alarm really somewhere off in the distance… but still not yet in a place where you are “willing” to wake up and see what’s going on… and that… is when I needed to fart.

I could feel the urge to push and yes… somewhere… inside of my twilight… I thought… maybe it would be a bad idea… but I was too far gone… too far worn and groggy and so I pushed and immediately felt the warm rush of wet sludge fill the back of my panties as if filling a hot jelly doughnut.

My eyes opened wide… I moaned in embarrassment when I realized what had happened. I saw the stain on the bed and ran to the bathroom, hoping nothing more would escape my pants.

I barely made it to the toilet before I began vomiting.

Can you imagine?

Four weeks of dating…

Still in the limerance of the moment…

Never a burp or a fart or a misstep and now… on the floor… shit seeping out of my underwear…. my head halfway down the toilet… vomiting and crapping myself… sobbing uncontrollably between bursts of excrement and bile: the perfect picture of Aphrodite in all of her glory.

I heard a gasp and looked up to see Stephen standing at the bathroom door and that is when I completely lost it.

“GO AWAY!” I screamed. “DON’T LOOK AT ME!”

But look he did.

In fact, he even walked into the bathroom, grabbed a hair clip from the vanity and pulled my hair back.

My crying grew louder… so touched by his small act of kindness and so embarrassed that my current “love interest” was seeing me at my absolute worst.

“Please go home Stephen,” I cried. “Please… I swear I will be okay. I just need you to go home now.”

I felt him place his hand on the back of my head for a moment before he walked out of the bathroom and closed the door quietly behind him.

I cried hard against the rim of the toilet seat. My sobs echoing in the bowl before I once again lost all control and my body gave way at both ends.

I stayed there for sometime before my pain eased… and then I stepped into the shower: panties and shirt still on… to clean the excrement from my body and clothes, before stripping naked, drying off with a towel, and heading back to the bedroom to clean up the mess that I had left all over the sheets.

But when I opened the bathroom door, and walked to the bedroom… there was no mess.

There were fresh sheets on the bed… a large towel placed across the spot where I would be sleeping… a lined, clean trashcan by the side of the bed in case I got sick again in the night… and a good, good man waiting to see if I was okay.

“I couldn’t leave you,” Stephen said. “I wouldn’t have felt right about that.”

I can’t tell you how much this still touches me today: to be with someone who doesn’t leave… who doesn’t abandon someone at their worst.

I sobbed all over again knowing that this time… I was the lucky one.

Stephen helped me into bed where he held me close until I fell into a deep sleep that lasted into the early morning.

Of course… by then… Stephen was also shitting himself… vomiting uncontrollably… and writhing around on the bathroom floor in pain.

It was the soup… not the dressing: Our shared love of Chicken Tortilla had betrayed us.

But seriously… it was okay.

We spent 24 hours caring for each other living on Saltines and Gatorade.

We laughed… we cried… we crapped… we vomited… and we swore… and then… we shared a vow… a solemn vow… that we would never eat the Chicken Tortilla Soup at Hof’s Hut ever, ever, again… as long as we both shall live.

Saturday July 13th through Saturday July 27th: Ms Wood will be on SUMMER VACATION!

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Enjoy one of your favorite posts from the past until I return to entertain you!

And thank you for your loyal following.

D.D. Wood