Ms. Wood Accidentally Shows Her Beaver to the World

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Beaver 2

I was barely 18 when I started my “illegal” club hopping days.

I don’t remember who gave me the fake I.D. but I know that it was good enough to get me into just about any club… anywhere in So Cal… and my club of choice at the time was:

The El Paso Cantina at Marina Pacifica in Long Beach.

The El Paso Cantina was a hotbed of illicit activities: booze, cocaine, sex, basically a poor man’s Studio 54 for the Long Beach crew, and since I was a minor and most of my friends were already legal adults, to be able to obtain a fake I.D. and dance the night away in a world that I considered “boogie nights party mecca” was beyond great.

It was a Wednesday, the most popular night at the Cantina, when I accidentally showed my beaver to the world.

The line to get in was lengthy: not because of my beaver… just because the Cantina was the place to be.

My friend Lori Stevens and I were dressed in our 80’s finery: super high black stilettos, skintight micro mini dresses, jet black bras, HUGE silver hoop earrings peeking out from our long blond bleached hair and of course: no underwear.

Now, we weren’t the only people who didn’t wear underwear at that particular time period in the 80’s: thong underwear was not yet a household name and though some of us wore them on the beach… few of us wore them under our skirts and so… to ensure “no panty lines” we often went “commando” when we went out on the town.

Lori and I had just shown my fake I.D. (and her real one) to the bouncer at the door and were heading up the walkway to the very steep indoor staircase that led to the club.

I had walked that particular staircase a hundred times or more and that night… was no different.

I had learned to navigate it drunk or sober.

Six inch heels or small black flats.

I never wavered.

I never bobbled.

I never stumbled.

Until that night… I had a perfect record on those steep, stupid, carpeted stairs but the event of that evening haunts me to this day.

I don’t know exactly what happened… I just know that as soon as Lori and I reached the top of the staircase, we took one look at the dance floor going off… the crowd having a great time…. felt the beat of the loudness of the bass… linked arms and made to walk forward to begin our mid-week shenanigans when one or both of us somehow caught our heels in the carpet and became “hooked” on the threads.

It was as if suddenly we were part of a slow motion segment of a film as we both grabbed at each other for balance, our smiles fading fast, our eyes locked in silent realization of our fate, as together we began the long backwards fall down the staircase.

Now, it’ s bad enough to know that you are about to fall down a very steep staircase:

1) It’s a very steep staircase… you seriously might not survive the fall.

2) If you do survive the fall, it’s gonna really hurt. Not just a little hurt… but a really BIG hurt. Like… hospital hurt.

3) There are large groups of people watching you fall from the top of the stairs and yes… also down at the bottom. Oh and let me add that most of these people “watching you eat shit” are really, really, REALLY good-looking guys that you have been trying to impress with your sly catlike club strutting moves for months and now… THIS.

Add to that… the shocking moment when you suddenly remember that you are absolutely panty-less as you go ass and elbows backwards down the stairs… yes… ass and elbows down the entire staircase and I really don’t think life can get any worse than that at the age of eighteen.

In fact, the only fear that comes close to rivaling this for me is the uncomfortable notion that yes someday… when I am old… I might actually shit my pants in public. Now.. maybe I will be too senile at the time to remember it… but if I am in full capacity of my facilities… it may actually earn first place winner for humiliating moment over the beaver incident but for now: the beaver stands alone.

I can tell you this… I don’t remember much of the fall.

Just a few good solid details:

My head taking a smart smack around the fourth step.

Lori’s back bending in an abnormally strange position somewhere around the seventh.

My right shoe flying off somewhere about the thirteenth.

But all in all… the memory of the fall is one that fades in-and-out of my mind as if a dusty haze has settled on that particular 80’s file of my brain.

However… the landing remains spectacularly vivid and fresh as if it just happened last night:

Lori and I twisted up together in a human ball.

Our arms and legs intertwined in a way that by looking at them… in my stunned state… I wasn’t even sure which arm or leg was mine.

We came to slowly… confused… not sure of what just happened… but it seemed, as I looked up at the shocked faces staring down at me from the top of the stairs, that something must be broken on one of us.

Their faces seemed to denote looks that spoke volumes:

Don’t look at your leg… your bone is sticking out or…

Oh my God! That’s a lot of blood… someone is going to have to get her to the hospital.

But that wasn’t the case.

Miraculously, Lori and I had survived the fall with just a few minor bruises and scrapes.

I should have been thankful that I was alive.

I should have been thankful that I wasn’t on my way to the hospital with a broken leg or broken back but…

I felt a cold blast of air brush across my “privacy” and aghast… looked to see that my legs were spread wide, Lori’s legs were spread wide, and our full frontal commando beavers were making a stunning surprise guest appearance to the excited and exuberant crowd.

I don’t think we could have drawn more attention if we had shown up with Pat Benatar and Debbie Harry.

Thank God it was a time before cell phone cameras because if it were today… my beaver would STILL be on display for the patrons of Long Beach and possibly… in some local hall of fame… a small notation beneath the frame stating: most notorious beaver shot in Southern California.

It was horrific.

The men at the top of the stairs gawked.

The men at the bottom of the stairs gawked.

No one came to our rescue.

No one rushed to cover us or comfort our wounded pride.

They had spent weeks… months… ogling Lori and I with our super fit little sporty girl bodies… wondering what exactly we did have for “view” under our tiny little lycra dresses and now… the moment they had been waiting for finally happened: FULL FRONTAL BEAVER EXPOSURE.

Lori and I tried to right ourselves but the small cubicle of the stairwell made it almost impossible to extricate ourselves quickly.

Each time we tried… we ended up in another awkward position… beavers posed… asses and elbows.

Soon the silence that had followed the fall, changed to a stairwell echoing with catcalls and vulgar innuendos.

We were mortified and actually crawled part way out the door where the bouncer helped us up and watched as we slinked away as quickly as possible to the comfort and safety of my little blue Audi.

We sat in the car… doors locked… heads down… not sure what to say to each other.

I’m not sure how long it was before Lori went back to the El Paso Cantina but I can tell you for me… it was never. Never.

Not even my underage need to be part of the cool older crowd could drive me back through that door and up those stairs.

The idea that so many people had seen my beaver was just too much to bear. (pun intended)

Today… it’s easy to laugh about the beaver incident but back then… there was only one thing I could do to swallow the shame:

I moved my late night party groove to the Sunset Beach Red Onion and prayed that nobody who frequented the club would recognize my beaver there.

Ms. Wood Goes to Big Bear for a Week with Christopher Dorner Resulting in Mass Hysteria in the Small Town of Long Beach California

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WD

I wanted a vacation.

A break from the stress of the world.

A week away from the hustle and bustle of my busy classroom and so… I did what any good teacher would do: I decided to play hooky.

I told the children.

I didn’t lie.

I’m a firm believer in “mental health” days and who were they to complain anyways… this was their substitute:

sparkle stroosma

Mr. Stroosma.

Adored by all… wanted by many.

I was leaving him… as a token gift of my generosity… Stroosma, snacks and Robert Redford as Jay Gatsby at one of his most handsome film periods in time: 1974.

What could go wrong?

As long as Stroosma didn’t set the room on fire again… all should be well in my world.

But… I didn’t take into consideration the saga of Christopher Dorner.

At this time, he was still a stranger in Ms. Wood’s world but that was all about to change.

On the day I was planning to leave for Big Bear, a small group of overly concerned seventeen-year-olds headed into my classroom in a tight little group.

“Ms. Wood,” one of them said with alarm. “You can’t go to Big Bear, that cop killer guy is loose up there.”

I continued to shut down my computer for the day.

“I’ll be fine,” I said calmly. “Trust me. I’ll be fine.”

One of my militant punk students turned to the others and said, “I told you. It’s Ms. Wood. She’ll kick that guy’s ass!”
“No she won’t,” another one interjected. “She’ll talk him out of being bad. She can talk anyone out of being bad.”

This seemed to settle the collective as they nodded knowingly in agreement, smothered me in a flurry of hugs, and exited the room in search of another “high school crisis.”

I smiled and waved but inside: I couldn’t wait to get the fuck out of Dodge.

I grabbed my things, hustled out the door and rushed to the gate before another group of little worriers came to find me.

By the time I reached the mini-van my phone was already going off in text messages:

Ms. Wood… don’t try to find that guy. I know you will. I don’t want you to die.

Ms. Wood… fuck that guy up… take a picture and post it on Instagram.

Ms. Wood… will you bring me back something from Big Bear… no one ever brings me back something from Big Bear.

“Jesus,” I mumbled to myself as I threw the van into gear and headed down the street.

I hopped on the 605 at Spring… floored it to the 91… jumped the Fastrak until I hit San Berdoo, and almost cried at the sight of my mountain.

Covered in snow… crisp and clear… it held everything I could want for a week: beauty, solitude, and a place to write.

I felt like a kid breaking free from her parents.

If the thought of Christopher Dorner even entered my mind… I don’t remember.

The trip up the mountain was uneventful.

No Dorner sightings.

No cops.

Just about a thousand idiots who had no idea how to drive the mountain in chains fighting their way up to the resorts and so… what was usually a two hour trip… turned into a four hour parking lot drive where good music, dark chocolate, and coffee provided the only relief.

Stephen, my man, had followed me up the mountain in his own car and by the time we reached Big Bear City… we were ready for a good meal and a good bed.

The next morning, we went about having a lovely weekend sure, as many people were, that Christopher Dorner was long gone, probably on his way to Canada or Mexico by now.

On Monday, Stephen headed down the hill and back to work and I prepared to spend the rest of my week writing.

I slept peacefully that night on my own… I did not worry about locking the doors, checking the closets, closing up the balcony.

And when the sun came up over the lake at 6am I was dressed and off to my normal routine: to walk the lake and forest path on the far side of Big Bear, close to Fawnskin, a trek that takes a couple of hours and connects with the Pacific Crest Trail.

I didn’t think to check in.

I didn’t think to call anyone.

I didn’t think about anything.

Oblivious to the news of the day, I headed out for a quick bite at the Grizzly Manor Cafe before I hit the trail.

I should have known when a giant man, similar in build to Christopher Dorner, entered the cafe for a quick cup of coffee and the table of deputies sitting across from me stood up with guns drawn that something was up… but I just assumed in a small town like Big Bear… the local law enforcement might just be “itchy” for action… willing to keep the antics up for a few days in hopes something interesting might happen.

I smiled as the guy looked around confused before he put his hands up and said to the deputies, “I just want a cup of coffee.”

He sat down close to me at the counter and rolled his eyes, annoyed that they thought he was a criminal.

He grabbed his sugar packets roughly and shook them back and forth numerous times before asking me, “Do I even look like that guy?”

I didn’t want to admit it to him… but he actually did.

I shrugged my shoulders, paid my bill, and headed off to the lake.

I parked in a remote part of the trail, put on my gloves and hat and started off at a good clip.

It was a beautiful day… quiet and cool….. everything was covered in thick soft powdered snow and I liked the sound of the crunch my tennis shoes made on the path.

I was about half way through the forest when I had that strange feeling of being watched.

I stopped: sure that I heard a noise.

I looked.

I listened.

Nothing.

I stepped up the pace.

Suddenly, I felt the labor of my breathing, the struggle of the altitude, and my usual “bravado” of being able to take anyone flagged.

I wondered what would happen if I was attacked?

Would I be able to fight back?

Would I be able to run?

I patted my pockets and realized I didn’t have my usual stash of Twinkies and Ho-Ho’s for calming difficult situations… my treats always a means of mediation.

I felt my heart beat faster.

I jogged the rest of the way to the bridge and much like Ichabod Crane in the Legend of Sleep Hollow, refused to turn around and look until I had passed over it and was safely on the other side.

The forest now behind me looked dark… looming… and I wasn’t really sure I wanted to walk that way back to the van but… the road was no safer covered in ice and snow… I would basically be a moving target for any yahoo making sharp mountain turns there on the 38.

I pushed the thought from my mind and headed down the lake path to the marina.

The wind was whipping across the water, the day had warmed to a lovely high of 30 degrees and so I walked out to the point and sat on the bench above the rocks and thanked God that I lived close enough to a place like this.

By 10 am, I was safely back home, showered and now warm in my jammies, sitting at my computer, hard into my writing day.

I worked solidly until close to 1:30 when once again… my mind stopped… alert.

I looked around.

Something seemed out of place.

Something seemed wrong.

I realized I hadn’t seen my phone in hours and jumped up to look for it, afraid that I was having some parental premonition regarding something going on at home, and that it was imperative to check-in.

It took me a good fifteen minutes to realize that my phone was wedged between the cushions of the couch and when I saw the massive amounts of texts I had missed I thought I might be sick.

I pushed in my pass code and prepared for the worst:

Stephen: WHERE ARE YOU???? VERY WORRIED!!!! CALL IMMEDIATELY.

My mind jogged.

That wasn’t what I expected.

It seemed that he was for some reason worried about me.

I hit the next message… my daughter Lexi:

MOM! THIS ISN’T FUNNY! ANSWER MY FUCKING TEXTS!

I went through scroll after scroll of worried messages from family, friends, and students.

MS. WOOD! ARE YOU STILL IN BIG BEAR???? ANSWER ME NOW!!!!

MS. WOOD CALL ME I’M WORRIED!

MS. WOOD SEND VIDEO I KNOW YOU NABBED THAT GUY AND BRING ME BACK SOMETHING FROM BIG BEAR NO ONE EVER BRINGS ME BACK SOMETHING FROM BIG BEAR!

I didn’t know what the hell was going on but obviously something was up.

I checked one more message from my friend Sharla:

You’re nowhere near that Christopher Dorner guy right? Call me when you can.

Suddenly, it all became clear.

I ran to the front door and threw it open:

Helicopters were flying throughout the area.

Sirens were going off in the distance.

Smoke was billowing from somewhere down the hill.

“Jesus Christ!” I shouted before jumping back inside and locking the door.

I didn’t know what to think.

Part of me was really disappointed that Christopher Dorner had been in Big Bear and I hadn’t ran into him.

I imagined how I would have lured him into the mini-van with the offer of a getaway car and an exclusive to his side of the story.

I knew that he had snapped and killed in the name of personal justice… but I hoped that it wouldn’t end in more bloodshed.

Right then Matt Vann, my friend and a teacher from Millikan, called.

“You with him?” he asked.

“What?” I said unsure if I had heard him right.

“You with him?” He repeated with intensity.

“No,” I said bummed that I wasn’t. “It’s not me.”

“Damn it,” Matt said. “I was so hoping they were gonna interrupt the State of the Nation tonight with a picture of you and Dorner.”

He hung up with an abrupt “Goodbye” and I rushed to the computer to check the CNN feed.

My Facebook page popped open and I thought it best to write a quick note to let everyone know I was okay… the responses were immediate:

Danny: D.D. I wasn’t worried about you. I was worried about Dorner… if he accidentally chose your place.

Timko: Go take him down Miss Wood.

Trevor: He’s never met sassy Miss Wood. There would be a citizen’s arrest for sure.

Cathy: Can you see the smoke?

I was happy to know that so many people had faith in my abilities to rule the world and once again I wished I had had a chance to intervene.

I hit the CNN feed and saw that Christopher was supposedly in a cabin… that the cabin was on fire… and that he was either going to give up… or die fighting.

I couldn’t watch.

I couldn’t think.

My heart hurt for everyone involved and I couldn’t bring myself to take a side.

I called my loved ones… promised to stay safe… before I grabbed a blanket and sat in the chair on the balcony looking out over the lake.

I thought of how life can turn on a dime.

How you can be the picture of mental stability, a symbol of strength to your community, someone loved… respected… and a vigilante outlaw the next.

I thought of his smiling face… the people he left behind… and I prayed for everyone who had lost in this game.

Just as I was letting the sadness of the day wash over me my phone beeped again.

Another text.

MS. WOOD PLEASE BRING ME BACK SOMETHING FROM BIG BEAR NO ONE EVER BRINGS ME BACK SOMETHING FROM BIG BEAR!

I smiled… and made a mental note to myself… to buy a present for my student the very next day… and be the first person to remember to bring him back something from Big Bear: Myself… alive, well, and there for all who love me… and some silly little gift to remind him that he mattered in my life… that he was important in my world.

Joe Wood Calls Me a “C. U. Next Tuesday” Resulting in a High Speed Pursuit with Pro Skater Eddie Reategui

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Ed and Joe

Back before I was a beloved high school teacher, I ran with a notorious group of musicians and skaters.

Basically, a Rat Pack of boys, sure to provide all types of trouble, and as Steve Soto of The Adolescents fame just recently said to me… I was their “Shirley MacLaine.”

But the problem with being the Shirley MacLaine to the Rat Pack, is that though you are a standing member; a band girl that has been deemed cool enough to hang with the boys… you never really ARE one of the boys and so… it set up a musical dichotomy: me on one side…resentful and hurt… the boys on the other…happy to continue on as they always had.

Having grown up with brothers, I had pretty much resigned myself to this “Continental Divide” this “He-Man Woman-Haters Club” until the day that Joe Wood went way too far.

Joe my boyfriend at the time (later my husband) was in T.S.O.L and we were caught up in a VERY passionate relationship.

We were actually known all around town for our knock down drag-outs.

We were the Ike and Tina Turner of Long Beach.

The Johnny Cash and June Carter of the Punk Rock World.

The Loretta Lynn and Doolittle Lynn of the local club scene.

Basically, we were everything that has EVER been represented in volatile musical couples since the dawn of Rock-n-Roll.

You never knew what to expect from either of us and we never knew what to expect from each other.

One day, as we were driving in our old 69 Buick Wildcat past El Dorado Park on our way to God knows where, we got into one of our terrible arguments.

I don’t know how it started but it escalated so quickly, that by the time we turned off of Spring Street and onto Studebaker Road, it was nearing fist-a-cuffs.

We were barely half a mile from the house, ranting and raving at each other, arms waving, cuss words flying, when the light turned red, Joe lit up a smoke, and said, “You know what? You’re just a stupid cunt on the side lines of music and I don’t really give a shit what you think” and jumped out of the car, ran across the street to the far corner, where he flipped me the bird, before sticking out his thumb and trying to hitch a ride with anyone who could get him as far away from me as possible.

I felt my face burning.

My heart was racing.

My mind was spinning.

If I could have floored that Buick and cut diagonally across six lanes of traffic and run his stupid ass over without killing an innocent bystander believe me, I would have done it.

I thank God that neither of us carried guns during our time together.

We were the perfect poster couple for why there should be U.N. mandated GLOBAL gun control.

Trust me… If I had had a gun back then… Joe would be ball-less wonder right now, singing some type of Hedwig and the Angry Inch cover set at Alex’s bar every Thursday night for the rest of his miserable “little” life.

I glared at Joe across the street.

Smug look on his face.

Leather pants and black shirt.

Cigarette dangling cooly from his mouth.

The Devil standing on the side of the road… and I snapped.

Any man in his right mind should know that you NEVER call a woman a  C. U. NEXT. TUESDAY if you want to live to tell the story.

He was gonna pay and good.

I couldn’t wait for the light to change so that I could throw that car into a U-turn off of Willow, and jet over to his side of the street where I could sock him proper.

But, just as I was making the turn, heading across the intersection to let him have it, a cute little 1970’s VW bug pulled up, Joe hopped in, and as they pulled back into traffic, I saw that it was Eddie Reategui at the wheel.

Now I had known Eddie forever, and I knew there was no way in hell Eddie would have picked Joe up if he knew what the hell was going down.

I saw Joe gesturing wildly and then point his finger forward repeatedly and rapidly as he told Eddie to, “Drive! Drive! Drive!”

But Eddie’s poor little 1970’s bug was no match for my V8.

I revved the engine and laid the Wildcat about five inches off of Eddie’s bumper.

He looked over his shoulder, face crumpled, hobbit like fear at the unknown danger he had found on the road.

He turned back and I could see him clutch the wheel and throw a hard shift into 4th hoping that he could out run me.

For a moment… he pulled away and I saw Joe break into a wide grin.

I let them have their one moment of relief before I floored it again, came up on Eddie’s right side and screamed, “You better pull over right now Eddie Reategui or I’m gonna kill you!”

Eddie shook his head no, a scared little shake of a nod, trying to remain “Boy’s Club” looking to Joe for reassurance, a sign that he was doing the right thing, but he found nothing to comfort him there.

Eddie’s not stupid: He knew the minute he saw me on his tail… that he had sided with the wrong team.

I pulled back and watched as in a panic Eddie cut in front of me and made a sharp left turn on Oak, a small secluded street right behind the Los Alamitos Police Department, hoping that the power of my heavy metal would cause me to blast past the turn and leave me having to make up time on Walnut before I could cut back and cut them off.

The VW cornered like it was on rails but Eddie had underestimated the moment.

I made my own hard left onto Oak, pinned the pedal to the floor, blazed past the boys on the wrong side of the street, before hitting the brake, throwing the car into a hard skid, and T-Boning them.

Eddie hit the brakes, his face one of total terror, Joe, no longer the big mouth in Eddie’s ear screamed as their car skidded towards me and luckily… stopped.

I jumped from the Buick before they had a chance to recover: 113 pounds of green-eyed bitch.

Black mini skirt riding up high…

bullet belt bouncing off of each hip…

boots clicking fast across the asphalt… as I screamed at the top of my lungs, “You get your ASS out of that car RIGHT NOW Joe Wood!”

Joe jumped out of Eddie’s car as if God had yanked him from it himself.

I stared him down.

Hell hath no FURY like a women called a C. U. Next Tuesday.

My eyes could have burned through his skin.

He tried to play it cool…

Strutting towards me as he stopped to acknowledge his nemesis.

He paused, lit up a smoke, I raised one eyebrow and stared him down.

His gaze faltered before he regained a little bit of composure, sauntering the rest of the way towards the passenger side of the car, my eyes following his every move.

I watched as he got in… slumped into the seat, arm extended out the window, chain tattoo prominent on his wrist, Marlboro light dangling from his fingers.

Fucker.

By the time I turned back to give Eddie Reategui what for… I saw that he had slipped his car into reverse and was silently edging away from me.

I raced towards him like the cyborg in Terminator, my steely gaze ready to cut him deep but he was gone before I could even get close.

I never thought I would ever see a 1970’s VW bug pull off such a slow Rockford but Eddie’s skating techniques, in the end, boded well for his escape. I’m sure by that time if Eddie had to perform a 360 Hard Flip in that VW just to get the fuck out of there, he would have figure out a way to do it.

He raced off and out of my general vicinity, happy, I’m sure, to leave with his balls intact and arrest free before the police station caught onto the insane domestic dispute going on outside of their main building.

I stomped back to the car and threw myself into the seat.

“Are you out of your fucking mind?” I screamed.

Joe took a deep drag off his smoke and blew it into my face.

My eyes narrowed.

“Go ahead,” I whispered. “Say it again. I dare you.”

I waited.

My gauntlet thrown down.

Neither of us blinked.

I watched as his gold eyes glared into mine before his stonewall expression was betrayed by a slight twitch.

“That’s what I thought,” I said as I threw the car into gear, spun the back tires hard, and roared down Oak Street for home.

Last Night at The Blasters

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blastersposterblog

I rarely go out.

RARELY go out.

You can ask anyone.

Over the years my aversion to shows has become so legendary that when I do appear people think that I am a figment of their imagination.

But I have recently been dipping my toes in the water again…

Feeling the need to swim back into music…

A show here… a show there….

An impromptu trip to Bakersfield to see Johnny Two-Bags and Salvation Town with X, and a walk around the Buck Owens museum and suddenly…. I’ve been feeling “all in…”

Bobby De Luna:

Bobby D.

a known musical recluse as well… must have been feeling my “itch” because he began to call and harass me about it.

“You went to Bakersfield without me fucker? Call me back.”

And so, it wasn’t surprising that he would be the one to ask me to go to The Blasters, The Knittters and X at The Observatory.

And I really wanted to go… I did.

I wanted to see the music… I wanted to watch the performances of many of the musicians I grew up with… I just didn’t want what goes a long with it: Huge crowds of people, a flood of memories related to my sketchy rock-and-roll past, and a night wedged into uncomfortable clothing.

But the drive for music was pulling me… added with Bobby’s way of forcing me out of my rat hole… the way he always does… with messages like:

“If you don’t come with me I’m going to come over and slap you in the face right in front of Nana”

or…

“I swear to God D.D. Grish, if you even think about cancelling mother fucker…”

or my personal favorite…

“I’ll let you out of dinner before the show but… if you try to cancel going with me… I will come over and make your children orphans”

Fine Bobby.

I get it.

I’ll go.

I spent hours working my way into about five pairs of spanxs and then a corset to really hold in those years of massive cupcake eating.

I knew that I had succeeded in looking pretty decent for an old lady when Dylan, my son walked into the bathroom and said, “You look really good mom. Wow… Your boobs are huge.”

I thanked him for the compliment and was pleased to see that Lexi, my daughter, had done my hair and eyelashes in such a way that for once I actually looked put together and not like the disheveled high school professor I had become; hair in a messy bun, glasses somewhat askew on my face, tell-tell coffee stain or cupcake smear down the front of my shirt.

At The Blasters

I waved goodbye to my kids, teetered off on my four-inch red heels towards the street where I wobbled at the curb and waited for Bobby to pick me up…

I watched as he drove right past me.

I called his cell phone and before I could even say anything he said, “Jesus… was that you I just passed? I thought it was some really good looking tranny.”

Fucker.

We road off to The Observatory, parked about ten miles away, and walked our pilgrimage with a multitude of others until we arrived at our musical mecca.

It had been about fifteen years since I had been to the venue.. back when it was still known as The Galaxy… and as I walked through the corridors, past the small band room to the main stage… I was overwhelmed by the packed house.

Years of being in just these types of band situations caused my instincts to kick in and I found myself immediately jockeying for a position: across from the emergency exit, tight against the rail… close behind a photographer with a very large tripod, and Bobby standing behind me to block my back.

I settled in.

The Knitters were already on stage and the sound was fantastic.

Deep and rich, each instrument blending together in a fine mix of Americana… the members at home on stage and in their own skins after so many years of being seasoned performers.

It was amazing to see so many people wedged into one place, now way too old to slam dance, fight or push… everyone bobbing to the music and having a really good time.

For a moment I actually felt comfortable and safe.

For a moment I thought “Hey… maybe I can deal with a crowd if it is as passive and happy as this one…”

For a moment it all seemed okay until the only walkway turned into a bottleneck of people, backed up from the stage door to the front entrance, and I felt panic set in.

Having almost been trampled once at a rabid ACDC concert some time circa 1986, my fear of being trapped in the crowd intensified in magnitude until I gave Bobby a quick nod… barely waiting for a response… before pushing my way towards the outside smoking area where I actually text’d my man to come and pick me up and bring me home.

“Where are you?” was not the response I was looking for but, was the response I got from Bobby De Luna who text’d me back first.

I was about to type him back when another text from him rolled through…

“You better not fucking ditch me D.D. Grish”

I looked around at the other panickers sitting in the smoking area with me, heard their own hushed whispers to spouses and lovers through a variety of smart phones… and thought, This is ridiculous, before I plastered on my best Barbara Stanwick steely face and strutted back into the club.

I made it as far as the small band room before I heard the roar of the main stage, freaked out, and detoured into the quiet sanctity of the small space, where the next band was just getting ready to take the stage and only a few of their die hard followers were waiting to hear them play.

It was there that my messiah appeared in the form of: Steve Cunningham.

Thank God for my friends who work the shows.

Steve’s face lit up and so did mine as we hugged and laughed before he gave me a backstage wrist band and told me to go get comfortable.

I almost ran outside to go around to the back where I called Stephen, my man, and told him I didn’t want to go home yet.

“I’m almost to the club,” he moaned. “What the hell?” but being the good man that he is, turned around to kill some time before we agreed he would come back and get me at 10.

I walked through the backstage gate and was greeted by the faces of many of my old friends.

Suddenly, I felt like I was 20 again… on stage in my petty coat, bullet belt, half naked except for a small leopard skin jacket and a bra:

LeopardJacket

I watched as John Doe walked past… and smiled to myself thinking that he looked like a 60’s version of my grandpa now, with his little skinny pants, funky leather vest and cowboy shirt, gray long hair parted to the side, greasy and straggly and remembered the night that I once hula danced for him at Disgraceland, Tupelo Joe on ukelele, Pleasant and the Lame Flames dancing by my side, Joe, my ex-husband, grinning from the couch as he watched in quiet admiration.

Exene was standing in the corner, looking like a cute little punk plump sugar cookie, cigarette in one hand, beer in the other, whispering conspiratorially with a girl in a green cowboy dress, yellow and black bumblebee boots, and purple hair about God knows what… but still courteous enough to hide her smoke and booze, in the photo I instagramed to my students as she smiled as innocently or as innocently as Exene ever possibly could…

Exene and Wood

I crossed through the lot and headed backstage to find Drac, my friend in charge of the event, and ran straight into Jonny Ray Bartel who plays stand up with The Knitters.

I smiled, not realizing that no one recognized the woman that was here tonight… no longer the skinny blonde in the petty coats, my long dark hair and black glasses, my twenty pounds of plump frame, hiding the girl I used to be.

“Hey Sassypants!” I said.

He walked past me, turned around and give me a dirty look, until about five minutes later when he realized who I was and came up to give me a big hug.

“Shit, D.D.” He said. “Sorry I was upset. My bass pick-up kept falling out during the set.”

It was a nice lie…not recognizing me… the way he hid it in the truth.

I told him it sounded great from the front… no one knew… and I wanted to add; Can’t do anything about it now… you’re done playing… But he rolled his eyes as if I was just appeasing him and went off in search of his brother.

My phone whistled.

“Where the fuck are you fucker?”

Bobby De Luna.

“Backstage.” I text’d back and couldn’t help but smile knowing the response I was about to get.

“Fucker. I’m gonna stand out here and be a civilian.”

I giggled to myself, I could just imagine what he was going to say later, once he found out that I was ditching him at 10.

I listened to The Blasters, caught up on the lives of all my old friends, lamented the people we had lost over the years, to drugs, disease, and alcohol, before taking one last look around, making a mental photograph of the moment, Exene now singing Jackson with Dave Alvin from the stage, Phil waiting to make a grand entrance, the new up-and-coming baby musicians huddled together in their own little group, before heading out the gate and walking to the marquee where I would wait for Stephen to come and pick me up.

Later, I would be half naked in the car, removing corset after corset, unwilling to sit in pain the entire ride home, not caring who might see Ms. Wood, their favorite high school teacher, rolling down the freeway in a state of undress…. dying for relief, and a late night Del Taco red burrito with a large coke….

But for right then, for just that moment… I sat on the curb… and listened to the last few songs of The Blasters and felt the melancholy of the evening washing over me… wishing that I had documented every moment of our young musical lives in each of my writings, in each of my songs, a photograph of everything we once were… locked in time… forever immortalized.

Joe Screams Like a Girl when Confronted with Aliens in the Gauntlet of our Hallway

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Fire In The Sky2

During the late 80’s early 90’s there was a huge resurgence of alien movies and Joe, my ex-husband, was obsessed with most of them.

But, Communion freaked him out so badly, that he actually became terrified of extraterrestrial beings.

When alone, at night in our house, and our house was a big dark house… he would often let his imagination get the better of him and believe that around each corner these guys were lurking:

comalien2-thumb

And that they would gang up on him and do this:

fire-in-the-sky

I can’t say that I did anything to reassure him otherwise.

Like the rest of the members of the Grisham family, I have quite a penchant for childish yet evil practical jokes and so… I often times would listen to Joe rant on, as he smoked a cigarette on the porch swing, his eyes sketchy, sure that he had just seen a little scary man eyeball him from behind one of the large neighborhood trees… before I would look over his shoulder and shout, “Joe! Watch out! He’s after you!” Taking great joy in watching him scream and squirm before running pell-mell into the house to hide.

I have to admit, there is something very pleasurable about watching a big, dangerous man that looks like the devil, scream in fear.

So much so…. that when Fire in the Sky came out on pay-per-view cable, and Joe wanted to stay up late night and watch it, I knew beyond a doubt that this would be the time to pull one of my best pranks ever.

I had already seen the movie, caught on a flight back from Nashville, and watching it on the airplane, mid-day, drunk on gin and tonics, made it seem almost comical more than terrifying.

But I could see that in the stillness of a great, dark house, how the mood and music of the film, could weigh heavy on your soul and lead you to believe that things were going bump in the night.

I told Joe I would be happy to stay up and watch it with him, even though I had already seen it, and so, we settled in, Joe in the blue recliner by the stairwell and me in the black recliner by the far wall.

I watched as Joe’s eyes grew large, his mouth turning into a small little terrified “O” shape.

The dark wood paneling of the room….. the large glass sliding doors reflecting images of pale white aliens all around us… the cold drafts of the old house blowing under the closed doors… the creaking of the beams… had Joe curled up tightly in his chair.

He was almost in the fetal position as he absorbed every moment of the film… his gaze barely lifting from the screen… only from time-to-time looking to me for some sort of maternal reassurance and still… he couldn’t stifle his weird “Oooooo! OOOOOOooooooos” a sound somewhat a combo of a siren and a guttural growl type of scream… each time a new and unique creepy little man appeared.

I tried not to giggle each time he reacted.

His dark hair spiked up wildly all about his head.

His heavily tattooed arms covered in skeletons, demons, and dragons.

A living oxymoron in my family room.

It was hard to keep a straight face.

I pretended to be just as terrified as him, by the idea of being captured by a small little man, saran wrapped and anally probed but it just somehow didn’t work for me.

I always wondered why Christopher Walken’s character in the film, didn’t just take a bat and “swing away” like Joaquin Phoenix in the film Signs.

They were little guys!

Christopher Walken, creepy in his own right, should have been able to take ’em!

We were about thirty minutes a way from the end of the film when I put my prank into play.

I yawned loudly several times before I got up from my chair, walked over to kiss Joe on the forehead, and told him that I was just too tired to finish the film.

He looked at me in total disgust.

“I know you’re gonna hide somewhere and scare me,” he said.

I smiled lovingly.

“Don’t be silly,” I kissed him on the head again and brushed back his hair. “I wouldn’t do that.”

He glared at me… he knew a fake when he saw one.

I walked away from the living room, and hid behind the kitchen bar, way back in the corner between two bar stools.

I knew that if I just stayed there, I would be able to trap him in the “gauntlet” of the small hallway and hopefully make it near impossible for him to open the hall door in time to get away.

I snickered to myself as I breathed quietly and waited.

“I KNOW YOU’RE  HIDING!” I heard Joe yell from the living room.

I stifled a giggle and held my breath.

A few minutes later I heard him again.

“D.D.” he shouted. “Knock it off! I know you’re over there.”

I didn’t move.

I didn’t breath.

I waited and sure enough, the grandfather clock soon struck 11:45 and fifteen minutes had passed, and Joe had forgotten all about me.

By midnight, the film was over, and I heard Joe rise to turn off the TV.

I realized at that moment, there was only one light left on in the house: the laundry room light on the far side of the kitchen.

Joe would have to pass me to turn it off before going to bed and if he looked in my direction, my prank would be ruined.

I pressed my body deep into the shadow of the corner and watched as he walked bravely past me, head held high, to turn off the laundry room light and walk the very short distance from the kitchen to the front hall, alone… in the dark.

He made his way into the small room and I took the opportunity to creep out of my corner quietly and hide against the wall by the front door.

Once he turned off the light, I would be completely hidden in the darkness and Joe, his eyes not yet adjusted to the night, would be completely defenseless.

The house went black.

I dropped quietly to my knees and waited for his footsteps to approach.

Once he passed by the front door, I waited for him to be trapped in the small closed cult-de-sac that the front wall of the house, the closed hall door, and the small half-wall separating the passage way from the living room created, and knew that he was screwed.

I made a horrific high pitched gurgling noise… and grabbed at Joe’s legs.

He rushed forward and ran face first into the closed hallway door: It was a loud and terrible crash of a sound.

I reached for him again, this time barely nipping at his heels as I gurgled some more.

He shrieked in misery… it was a banshee of a howl.

He kicked and clawed at the closed hall door, crying out as he tried to basically climb the wall and find solace from the monsters, somewhere up high in the corner of the ceiling.

It didn’t work.

He screamed again and threw himself backwards into the wall, smashing a framed antique photograph of a long deceased family member before dropping like a lump, into the corner of the small space, as the upstairs stairwell light suddenly flashed on and my mom screamed,  “YOU KIDS STOP THAT GOD DAMN RUCKUS DOWNSTAIRS!”

Now at this time, Joe and I were already way into our late 20’s but… the sound of my mother’s voice on the stairs stopped us COLD… as if we were two naughty little children.

For a moment, we stayed silent in our solidarity.

We waited.

She stood at the top of the stairs, assessing the situation, deciding if she would come down the steps and berate us.

A few moments passed, before we heard my mother’s bedroom door slam shut and I began to laugh like a maniac as I slid down the front entrance way wall.

“I hate you.” Joe said as he got up, turned the hall door knob, hit the light switch, and stomped off towards the bedroom in a huff. “I fucking hate you.” He repeated.

I looked down at the floor and saw that he had broken the frame of the antique painting.

“Oooooooh!” I taunted. “You are in so much trouble now!”

He turned one more time and flipped me off before he barricaded himself in the bathroom and to this day… I don’t know if it was protection from me…. or protection from the aliens that lived in all the corners of our old family home.

I got up and readied myself for bed, not sure if my husband would be joining me.

Finally, I tapped gently on the bathroom door.

“Joe?” I said.

No answer.

“Joe,” I repeated.

“What?” his response was sullen and somber.

“Are you coming to bed?” I asked sweetly.

“What about the broken frame?” he said. “What am I supposed to tell your mom about that?”

I tried not to giggle as I gave my response.

“Just tell her you were so afraid of aliens that you broke it in your mad rush to escape their carnage.”

“Fuck you!” he snapped.

I gurgled at him one more time and went off to bed.

Joe and Dave Light the Street on Fire: A Cautionary Tale

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Joe and Dave

When I first married Joe, he was the lead singer for a well-known punk rock band and Dave Mello, was his best pal and his new bass player.

They were always together making surf boards, surfing, working on cars, having their little “bromance” and as any good wife knows… it is a joy when your husband has a best friend.

Their “boy” project at the time was a 1959 Ford Fairlane that Joe was in the process of restoring.

He had just had the engine rebuilt at a shop, and he and Dave had the block back under the hood and were in the process of priming the carburetor when all hell broke loose.

I was minding my own business, upstairs in our small apartment across from what now is the Long Beach Towne Center.

I was keeping an eye on Dylan, who was barely 18 months old, as he rode on his favorite rocking horse, which sat sideways next to the large picture window, watching his Dad and “Uncle” Dave work on the car down in the street below.

“Da,” Dylan said which he used freely for both Dave and Dad and just about every other thought he had under the sun in that little baby brain of his.

“Yes,” I cooed. “Dad and Dave are working on the car.”

He rocked on his little horse excitedly repeating, “Da! Da! Da!” as he watched the boys work.

“Yes,” I repeated. “Da. Da. Da.”

I walked into the other room for just a moment, when I heard a sound that any parent knows is trouble: the sound of complete silence.

The rocking horse had stopped.

The baby made no noise.

I paused in my housework and listened before I heard the words “Uh oh” from Dylan’s baby mouth.

Now, I had never heard Dylan say anything but “Da” so that was shocking enough. But the word that followed just about floored me.

“Shit” I heard the baby say plain as day and then the springs creaked on the horse, his feet padded a few steps, and his little hands began to bang against the plate glass window as he shouted “Da! Da! Da!” at the boys below.

I dropped the laundry I had been folding, and rushed into the living room to find the baby now quiet, head leaning against the window, his eyes large and round, his hands pressed flat against the glass, his mouth in a tiny exclamation of an “Oooooooooh” and before I could even start to comprehend my two-year-old’s first full word being “shit,” I saw a large plume of smoke hanging above the hood of the car in the air, and Dave yelling at Joe, “Try it again! But no more gas!”

To this day, I don’t know if Joe actually really didn’t hear Dave say “No more gas” or if he was just being obstinate, but… he completely ignored Dave and poured a large stream of gas from the gas can in the carb before he raised his empty hand in a big “thumb’s up.”

Dave, oblivious to Joe’s actions, hidden behind the protection of the driving wheel and the opened hood, hit the ignition and I watched as a large fireball exploded out from under the hood of the car and blasted into the air.

“JESUS CHRIST!” Dave screamed as he jumped from the car and then stopped short as he watched Joe, gas can in hand, jump backwards flailing his arms wildly as the flame shot up through the carb, ignited the stream of gas coming from the can, and left a trail of fire that blazed steadily across the sky, lighting Joe up as if he were holding a giant Roman candle on the 4th of July and using it to make fiery decorative loops.

“Throw it Joe!” Dave screamed. “Throw the fucking can!”

Joe panicked.

Mouth open.

He looked back and forth from each hand. I could see from even where I was that his rock-and-roll 90’s hair-do, his giant bushy eyebrows and hipster goatee had been singed to a crisp.

If it wasn’t so terrifying… I would have laughed at the comic farce playing out in the arena below but, I knew enough about combustion to know that if Joe didn’t throw that can within the next few seconds he was toast.

“THROW THE GAS CAN JOE!” I screamed through the glass and though he couldn’t hear me… it seemed my urgent need for him to listen had somehow broken the spell and Joe flung the gas can as far as he could.

I saw both boys rush to outrun the explosion.

For a moment it felt as if I were back in time watching two small children play soldiers at war.

They made it to the curb before the can hit the ground and exploded into a fiery bomb that was quite astounding.

Joe did some weird Chuck Norris tuck-and-roll before he leaped to his feet, leaving Dave behind him face down on the grass, as he ran into the building next to ours.

I watched Dave raise his head.

His look… one of dismay.

Joe had left his man behind.

A cardinal sin when in the midst of the heated passion of a bromance.

We all heard a loud crashing of glass followed by Joe dashing back across the street with a fire extinguisher to put out the blaze as Dave smiled, now sure in his best friend’s love for him, as Joe raced throughout the street, trying to right his wrong, putting out large patches of flame, as Dave looked on in admiration.

“Ooooooooooooh!” Baby Dylan said as he watched from the window.  “Uh oh Mama?” he pointed towards the street and then looked up at me.

I picked him up and cuddled him in my arms, glad to know that he was becoming a virtual vocabulary savant from this apocalyptic event.

“Yes baby,” I said as I kissed his cheek. “Uh oh.”

“Shit,” he said again.

I turned to look at him.

“No, baby,” I said sternly. “No!”

I thought he might actually begin to cry for a minute, but then the fire truck rounded the corner, sirens blaring, lights spinning, and Dylan became mesmerized by their brilliance as I heard the boys’ cowboy boots pound up the stairs and then bound through the door where they pulled the curtains closed, dropped to their knees on the floor, and hid low from “the man.”

They watched quietly, afraid to make a sound, afraid they might be seen, as the fire department assessed the incident.

Black 59′ Fairlane: gas trail circling the motor.

Broken glass: fire extinguisher thrown empty to the ground.

Entire street: burnt and black as if some type of car bomb had just gone off in Beirut.

Neighbors peeking from the windows but unwilling to rat anyone out to the authority: the unwritten rule of all good neighbors.

“Shit!” Joe said.

“Shit,” parroted Baby Dylan.

“He said a word!” Joe exclaimed.

“No shit Joe!” I snapped without thinking.

“Shit,” Baby Dylan said again.

“Jesus!” I snapped. “Are you happy now?”

Dave, always the peacemaker, and afraid that I actually might be angry enough to turn them in myself, snatched the baby from my arms and said calmly, “No baby, no.”

I gave Joe a hard look and mouthed the words, “Great.”

Dylan lay his head on Dave’s shoulder and curled his tiny little fingers through Dave’s long hair and said, “Da. Da. Da.”

We watched hidden for the next thirty minutes until the fire department finally went away, sure that the flames were long since extinguished, as baby Dylan slept in the crook of Dave’s arms.

“D.D. did you see that shit?” Joe whispered, teasing me, as both boys started to giggle in silent fits of laughter and tried not to wake the baby.

“Oh I saw it alright,” I said before I rolled my eyes at both of them. “Not funny!”

They sat on the couch, pretending to be forlorn until I exited the room in a over-dramatic huff.

Like any good mother… I let them believe they were in serious trouble, due for a scolding, and a complete disappointment to me.

I went back to folding laundry in the other room when I heard Joe whisper, “Did you see that shit Dave?”

And Dave, pretending to have a coughing attack just so he could get away with laughing like a naughty little boy, giggled as he held my sleeping baby in his arms happy to be in cahoots with his best friend.

Peeing Out the Window of Karen Smith’s Car

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peeing statues

In high school, I was notorious:

Always up for a dare.

Always up for a brawl.

Ditch a class? Steal a car?

Sure… why not.

I was bored.

Diabolical.

A punk rock gangster trapped in the “gifted”  program with a bunch of other Mensa maniacs.

But I swear… there was one girl that I HATED to stand up to and that was my friend; Karen Smith.

It was no surprise that Karen and I became friends: she was street-smart, a brawler, a trouble-maker, a punk rock All-American beauty.

Captain of the Girl’s Swim Team.

On the record board for her stellar backstroke time (a record that actually stood well into the 90’s).

Great at just about everything.

She had giant shoulders, a big blonde high school Rosie the Riveter.

When a girl tried to stand up to Karen, she knocked them down without a second thought.

She looked so sweet: her big blue eyes, her tanned skin, sprinkle of freckles across her nose and then she laid them out: A cherubic angel with a bad ass right hook.

It was terrifying.

I never got into it with Karen.

Smart enough to make her think I wouldn’t fold.

Smart enough to always play it cool.

And although she was more brawn than brain, she knew enough to know that she shouldn’t underestimate my abilities as a worthy adversary…

I stayed a bit standoffish… and acted worldly… as we formed a bond of understanding and silent admiration that was dusted with a fine layer of mutal fear.

She would push me every once in awhile, usually to beat someone up for some ridiculous reason:

She stepped on your shoe… beat the shit out of her.

Or…

You gonna let her walk in front of you like that? Punch her in the back of the neck.

I got in the habit of rolling my eyes, shaking my head, acting as if I was way too cool to waste my time on something so trivial but I knew there would be a moment when I would have to stand up or she would see it as a weakness and might use it to take me down from an equal to a follower.

I had no idea at that time, that I would win the war by peeing out of her car window.

We were driving home from a gig one night: Karen and me, driver and shotgun, and three other girls wedged tightly into the back seat of her small fastback puke green Datsun.

We were a bit giddy really… stoked that our horrific fake ID’s had served us well once again and got us into a 21 and over show for The Damned, one of our all-time favorite bands.

We were full of stories about our night out… laughing, happy, ready to make it to the closest Naugles for a late night order of greasy nachos.

Karen was driving like a maniac down the empty street, probably trying to scare us all with her wicked show of speed, when I asked her to pull over so that I could go pee.

“I’m not stopping,” she said as she flipped a glare at me and accelerated the car.

“Karen, come on,” I laughed. “It’s still like fifteen minutes to Naugles. Pull over so I can go pee.”

She accelerated again.

“You have to pee so fucking bad,” she said. “Then hang your ass out of the window and go.”

The girls in the backseat stopped giggling.

The car grew silent.

Anyone with half a brain could see there was a brawl about to go down.

If I gave in… pathetically sitting in the car with my legs crossed… waiting to go to the bathroom… Karen would win.

I would be nothing more to her than one of her other flunkies currently sitting in the backseat.

And so… I did what I had to do: I took her dare, rolled down the window, lifted up my skirt, pulled down my panties, and hung my bare white ass out of the car.

I heard the girls cackling at me from the backseat… sure that Karen had just thought up the best way to humiliate me and anxious to show their loyalty as minions in her army.

Little did they know… none of them would be laughing for long.

I felt the ice cold wind blow against my naked butt cheeks and thought for a moment that I wouldn’t be able to make myself go… but then I adjusted to the night air, and felt the urgency to urinate return with a vengeance.

I smiled a sinister smile at Karen who was looking smug in her warm driver’s seat as she tapped the gas and the brake intermittently to see if she could shake my concentration or scare me into giving up.

It didn’t work.

I knew then that all of my years in the gifted program were about to pay off.

That today…. brain would really win out over brawn and that this would be a lesson Karen would never forget.

I released my bladder completely and watched as the aerodynamic lift of the wind blew the hot stream of urine back into the window and throughout the entire car, saturating all of the girls in the back seat whose giggles soon turned to screams of disgust, hands over their faces, knees pulled up to their chests, as they begged me to stop peeing on them.

I giggled as I continued my work… happy from my little perch on the window’s edge.

I watched, as they became drenched in it and Karen’s face change from one of smug self-righteousness to one of total shock: stunned that she had been stupid enough to set up her adversary for a chance at her total public annihilation.

She raced to roll down the driver’s side window in hopes that she could beat the speed of the urine.

I looked at her and laughed with glee, still peeing away.

She cranked that window as if she was trying to complete a 50 meter butterfly in under 20 seconds.

It was beautiful to behold.

I watched as my urine exited the car, out the other side, but not before a brilliant splash of gold nipped at Karen’s cheek.

It was just enough for me to see… not enough for the toadies in the backseat to witness… but Karen glanced over at me… worried that I had caught the humiliating moment from my perch and I had.

I smiled at her with a steely knowing grin… it was enough of a “look” to let her know she had been conquered.

It was up to me now to decide if I would push my hand… make her pay… demean her in front of the others.

I took my time.

I finished peeing and waited a moment longer as the wind dried my ass before pulling up my panties, pulling down my skirt, and dropping back down into the passenger seat.

I turned up the tape player and listened as The Damned’s “Smash It Up” blasted through the car.

I hummed along to the words enjoying the moans of disgust from the backseat and Karen’s total silence as she continued on to the Naugle’s hoping that I wouldn’t rat her out.

I let her sweat it all the way there.

We were just about to order from the drive-thru when I watched Karen break.

“That was fucking funny,” she said. “You guys are so bummed. I’m so glad I was in the front seat. Right D.D.?”

I looked at her… she looked at me… the pause was immense in it’s intensity…

If I outed her now… it would mean full scale war.

If I let her keep this bit of power… I would always have a hardcore brawler as my second-in-command.

“Yep,” I said, big smile on my face. “bumming.”

We ordered our food.

The girls in the back clamoring for extra napkins at the drive-thru window, Karen gabbing away excitedly as she told the story for the rest of the ride home… again and again, and me now smug in my own self-righteousness, blissfully content and urine free.

Kicking Joe’s Big Toenail Off: A Lobster Tale

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Lobster

I have always been… what you would call… a troubled sleeper.

It wasn’t like Joe, my now ex-husband, didn’t know this going into the marriage: He’d already been quite at home in my bed for several years.

He knew about my walking through the house in the middle of the night for no apparent reason, talking about someone in my sleep whose name was “Mr. Pig.”

He tolerated my hitting, slapping, biting as I slumbered… but I guess when I kicked off his big toenail during the lobster incident…it really was the final straw in our night time sleeping routine and maybe… actually the catalyst of our marital collapse.

We were living in our apartment at the time, and I had just watched a National Geographic special about lobster migration.

I didn’t even know that lobsters migrated and Joe, already queeeeezed out by the large numbers of lobsters migrating across the bottom of the mid-Atlantic ridge, via our TV screen, begged me to change the channel before he totally freaked.

My mean streak however, caused me to hedge a few moments longer, enjoying watching him squirm, before giving in… but I have to admit… it really was an odd and seriously disturbing sight.

There were thousands of giant lobsters, piled together like bright red cockroaches of the sea, propelling themselves backwards at an alarming rate, towards God knows where, their tails flapping rapidly, pinchers acting as flippers, as the line crossed miles and miles of ocean floor.

It was creepy.

I shut the TV off and went into the bedroom to read.

Now, I’m not really sure when exactly I dozed off, but when I woke, I sat up in bed and stared at the giant lobster sitting at the bottom left hand corner of the mattress.

He was startling in size.

His beady black eyes glaring at me.

He seemed to be daring me to make a move, to put up a fight, his pinchers pulsating in-and-out ready to snap off my finger if I even tried to take him.

I knew what I had to do.

I gently pulled my foot out from under the covers and swung my hardest kick right to the lobster’s face.

He screamed as if I had just thrown him into a boiling pot of hot water to be cooked before I heard his body make a large “thump” and land at the foot of the bed.

I was ecstatic!

I had saved my husband from the lobster’s inevitable wrath!

I was Queen of the Bed!

Queen of the World!

And so…unable to separate my sleep disorder from real life, I woke completely to find Joe, writhing on the floor, screaming in absolute pain, confused and alarmed.

I turned on the bedside light and looked at his face: He was bewildered, eyes the size of saucers.

“My toe!” He screamed. “My God my big toe! What the hell was it? What the hell happened?”

How do you look at your spouse and tell them the honest to God truth?

I tell you… it isn’t easy.

I looked at him with my best pouty face and said in my littlest voice, “There was this giant lobster migrating across the bed and…”

His face changed from one of total confusion to downright anger.

“Fuck you!” He screamed. “Seriously D.D. fuck you!”

“But Joe,” I tried to explain as I pulled back the cover and crawled out of the bed to help him, “It was…”

I stopped.

I knew that what I had just seen was about to escalate this incident to about ten-fold in a matter of seconds and I was preparing myself for it.

“Joe,” I said calmly. “Um, I think we need to go to the hospital.”

Joe ‘s face went from anger to total panic.

He looked down and began screaming. “You’ve kicked it off! The whole fucking thing! Oh my God! You Mother Fucker! My toenail is gone! It’s gone!”

Blood was everywhere.

I began circling the floor as if I were Jackie O. trying to find JFK’s piece of head and stick it back on.

“Joe,” I cried, “I’m gonna find it. I’m gonna put it back on. It was the lobster… I swear I was saving you and…”

“YOU CAN’T PUT IT BACK ON!” He screamed as he rolled into the bathroom and kicked the door closed with his good foot. “FUCK YOU!”

It was actually the most “fuck yous” ever used towards me at one period of time in my life.

If I hadn’t been worried that Joe was gonna come out of the bathroom and shank me with the toilet plunger or the nose hair trimmers, I swear I probably would have chided him on his lack of vernacular.

I sat on the bed in silence… listening to my husband moaning in the bathroom.

I waited patiently until he came out, towel wrapped around his foot, one flip flop on the other, a pair of old athletic shorts and a t-shirt that read “Eddie Would Go” hanging loosely from his tattooed frame.

I watched as he grabbed his wallet and car keys.

“Do you want me to go with you?” I asked sweetly.

“Fuck no,” he said as he stomped across the living room, kicking baby Dylan’s Mr. Magoo car with his bad toe, which resulted in another slew of curse words and a wild swinging of both arms, before he reached for the door, walked out, and slammed it behind him.

It was two hours later before he returned: big toe swaddled in bandages, bottle of extra strength Tylenol in his hand and it was two months before I was forgiven for the incident and to be honest… I really don’t think I ever was.

It’s been over fifteen years since I tried to save my husband from the giant lobster on our bed and yet it was just three weeks ago that Joe reminded me, how I ruined FOREVER… his absolutely perfect toe.

The 6th Grade Boat Trip or… Why We Don’t Eat Flamin’ Hot Cheetos During Large Swells

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Before I was a beloved high school teacher… I was a beloved middle school teacher.

I loved middle school because my students were excited about so many silly little things:

Pokemon cards.

Pogs.

Spongebob stickers and Mojo-jojo drawings.

Field trips.

And Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.

Yes Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.

1994, the year of the 6th grade boat trip incident, the first year Flamin’ Hot Cheetos came out on the market, and they were a VERY big deal in middle school.

In fact, if you didn’t show up to middle school with at least a snack sized bag of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos… you were nothing… you were no one… and because I remembered my own scandal in 1976… when I rode on my Schwinn banana seat to every liquor store within a 10 mile vicinity of my house because I had bragged and told EVERYONE at school that I had the first pack of Bubble Yum to be delivered in Long Beach (which of course I didn’t)… and then showed up at school to be shamed for weeks… I let everyone, all of my students, eat Flamin’ Hot Cheetos in my class. I even brought extra bags to hide in my desk (for anyone that was feeling left out of the game) and generally just spoiled the kids rotten with snacks to make up for my own middle school failings.

Now during this time period, we had been offered a special school field trip from the marine biologists at Cal State Long Beach.

My students were invited to go out on one of the CSULB oceanographic research boats to study the water and learn about the fish and marine mammals in our area.

The kids were more than excited.

A field trip meant a day away from school.

A field trip meant a rowdy bus ride to wherever.

A field trip meant sack lunches full of yummy treats and of course….

EVERYONE WOULD BE PACKING FLAMIN HOT CHEETOS!

HOORAY!

I was more than happy to take the kids on the trip and convinced my young teaching partner, Mr. Eldridge to be my fellow chaperone.

Mr. Eldridge was a lovely man: An idealistic young conservative Christian sure that he could make a difference in the world.

Those of us with more teaching and parenting experience, took bets in the Teacher’s Lounge daily to see which little hooligan would finally break him.

As the science and math counterpart to my English and history teaching, he was really excited at the prospect of taking the kids out to study science first hand.

So when the day finally came for us to go on our field trip, it was no surprise that he was the first one on the bus, face shiny with idealistic expectations.

I smiled at him as I counted each and every little prepubescent head that boarded the bus: once as they entered the bi-fold door and once as they sat, three to a seat, wiggly with excitement, and then went to sit next to him as he babbled on about the joys of science for the entire bus ride: Bless his little heart.

The short fifteen minute trip to the port seemed like an eternity for me and the children. I spent my time trying to seem enthused about Mr. Eldridge’s impromptu lecture on Red Tide and the fate of dinoflagellates and the students spent their time comparing the size of their Flamin’ Hot Cheeto bags.

From the murmured whispers of envy that were circulating throughout the bus, I was able to gather that Treshawn and Jushay had brought family size bags of hot cheetos and were already in a heated competition to prove that THEY would out eat each other at lunch time.

I snapped my fingers and watched as all of the students quieted in their seats but not before I caught a brief exchange between the two boys… both eyeballing the other… with a “just you wait” stare down: It was quite impressive.

We arrived at the CSULB Marine station where we were told that one group of students would go out on the boat in the morning… while the other group stayed at the Marine Station and worked in the classroom.  Then… in the afternoon… the groups would switch.

Now, you would think that a smart young teacher, skilled in science, would be the first to figure out why I would want to be in the group that went out on the boat in the morning, and ended up in the classroom by the afternoon but, Eldridge didn’t even catch it… although he knew science, he had not yet learned children, let alone had any of his own.

This was his first group of students.

His first year of teaching.

But I had learned long ago to be hard on the “newcomers.”

It is best to baptize new teachers by fire and so… I looked at this moment as a necessary initiation.

Mr. Eldridge would learn today… this very moment… why you always take the first boat.

My group of students were furious with me.

“We don’t want the first boat!” they screamed.

“That means we have to spend the WHOLE afternoon in the Marine classroom!” they moaned.

“Please Ms. Wood, please,” they begged. “LET US GO LAST.”

My answer?

“No.”

They all fussed and mumbled “I hate you” under their breath as they trudged up the gangplank and stomped onto the boat.

I smiled to myself, sure in my decision.

We waved goodbye to Mr. Eldridge and his group and went off to have a lovely time on the early morning ocean.

The sea was calm.

The boat barely moving when we stopped to take water samples or dredge the bottom of the shallows.

It was a lovely time… the children forgot their troubles, happy now that I had let them go out first.

We returned to the dock close to 11 where they skipped off the boat to meet up with the other group and share their lunches.

I watched as the bags of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos were pulled out of the brown paper sacks.

Treshawn and Jushay were mowing down cheetos and gulping down coca-cola as the other students cheered them on and it was difficult for me not to snicker…. to hide the impish grin that continued to appear on my face as I watched Mr. Eldridge, who sat eating his PBJ, in complete ignorance, of what would be his total and inevitable downfall.

The students finished gorging themselves on trash food, and so I herded my group into the Marine classroom before turning to wave at Mr. Eldridge, Treshawn, Jushay, and the rest of the group as they ran happily to the boat.

“This is going to be the best trip ever!” Mr. Eldridge shouted with gusto and his students jumped and shouted and screamed with joy.

I took about fifteen minutes to settle my students with their CSULB mentors, before walking back outside to sit on the bench at the dock and wait for Eldridge’s return.

The wind had picked up in the afternoon, the sea had grown choppy.

I could just imagine the size of the swells, the depth between each crest, the rocking of the boat from side to side and end to end, and I wondered just how long it would take.

I thought of my own first years of teaching… my baptism into the reality of the world:

The time I let the kids help paint murals in the classroom and ended up with thirty-five students covered in acrylic paint and about fifty phone calls from angry parents when they realized it couldn’t be removed from their school clothing.

The time I saved the seagull on the school playground and ended up being attacked by it in the teacher’s parking lot when trying to release it, while all of the students laughed at me from the classroom windows and the veteran teachers stood and shook their heads in disgust.

The time I cut the tip of my finger off at the school dance, while cutting ribbon with a razor to tie up hundreds of helium balloons, resulting in large squirts of blood across the dance floor, numerous children screaming hysterically, and the ruining of the big hit line dance “HEY Macarena!” as I was ordered by my principal to take my fingertip and leave for the nearest hospital before the children began to faint.

Yep.

I was doing this guy a favor.

He should be thanking me for bringing him this moment of teaching perspective.

This trial was nothing compared to the ones I had gone through.

I checked my wrist watch.

It had been 45 minutes since they had left the dock.

If my calculations were correct… they would be rolling back in within the next five and sure enough… they did.

I could see the boat approaching.

It was chugging at a slow pace and soon the sobs and wailing caught up in the wind and rang in my ears.

I stood and ran to the edge of the dock to get a better look.

Mr. Eldridge was standing on the bow, his face miserable, his stance one of defeat.

The children were scattered about the boat: hanging over the railings, lying on the lower and upper deck, large red vomit streaks of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos everywhere.

It was a mess.

It looked like someone had bombed the boat with large jars of Prego spaghetti sauce.

I waited patiently as they lined up to the dock, the crew already hosing down the decks, Mr. Eldridge and his group gathering themselves together and exiting the boat solemnly.

Jushay and Treshawn sat down on the dock bench and put their heads down in their hands.

I directed the other children to go lie down in the patio area while I waited for Mr. Eldridge to come and stand next to me.

“Treshawn, Jushay,” I said. “What did we learn today about being greedy with our Flamin’ Hot Cheetos?”

“That we will throw them up on the boat?” Jushay said miserably.

“Yes,” I said. “Next time you go out on a boat, eat a light meal first to see if you can handle the sea. Do you understand?”

Both boys nodded their heads slowly before I gathered them up and sent them to the patio.

I turned and looked at Mr. Eldridge and said, “And what did you learn today Mr. Eldridge?”

He looked at me as if he wanted to give me a hard slap… but his loyalty to Jesus wouldn’t allow it.

“I learned to always take the first boat. Before the kids eat lunch.”

“Good man,” I said with an authoritatively triumphant tone as I patted him on the back.

He grabbed my hand and pushed it away from his shoulders. “And to never go on a field trip with you again,” he said as he walked away from me disgusted with my lessons.

“See?” I shouted after him. “You’re a pro already.”

Unlike the students, Mr. Eldridge did not whisper “I hate you” under his breath… but I knew… at the time… he was thinking it.

And rightfully so.

Amen.

The Bran Muffin Incident: Or, How I Learned Not to Shit Myself During a School Day

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Bran Muffin 5

I can’t even imagine what people “think” teachers talk about:

What a jerk little Johnny was today at school?

How Flora cheated on her history test and she was really gonna get “what for” on Monday?

How to improve the test scores of an entire class so that we can win Teacher-of-the-Month or meet our district’s API goal for the year?

Nope.

Sorry.

We don’t have time to waste on slandering the Youth of America or panicking on a daily basis about our district API score.

We care about one thing… and one thing only:

How to stay regular during a busy school week.

Yes… that’s right.

We like to talk about shit.

Bowel movements.

Bowel movements are very important to teachers.

Now, when I first started teaching… I was teaching at a school that I had attended during my junior high years. Several of my close colleagues were teachers that I had actually had, when I was a student, and if I knew then… what I knew now… that I was NOT in fact the center of their universe and that the idle conversation in the Teacher’s Lounge…  yes… while eating… was on how to have a healthy crap, one that came out long and smooth, and actually didn’t even need toilet paper to finish it off, I would have never believed it.

Please.

Teachers are serious.

Teachers are intelligent.

Teachers MUST be grading papers during their thirty minute lunches and coming up with ways to punish us repeatedly.

Nope.

Sorry children.

Hate to burst your little bubble.

We just wanna talk shit.

So it was during one of these many conversations where our arguments grew into almost a fervor of what was the “best” remedy for keeping your bowels regular during a school week, I showed up, mid-conversation, constipated as all hell, and sat down to hear from my former teachers, now my mentors in crap, how to best get my ass on a proper schedule.

“Stewed cooked apricots every morning” Mr. Myers said as he unwrapped his sandwich.

“No, Chuck,” My former P.E. teacher Ms. Hillard said, “You’re risking it having those every morning. You could end up too loose and then what would you do. Leave your students unattended while you run to the shitter?” She turned to me and placed her hand on my arm. “I find a nice glass of warm water and Metamucil each night before bed produces the desired result by 6 am” She turned and gave Mr. Myers a smug smile. “Seriously Charles,” she said. “Sometimes I don’t even know how you became a science teacher.”

Myers, put his head down and ate his peanut butter and jelly sandwich with a vengeance.

I looked at him and then back at Ms. H who was daintily sipping her lite chicken soup from a small plastic Tupperware container with her large silver spoon.

Damn.

I was shocked.

I’d never seen Myers take a beating from anyone.

This was the man that would make me stand against the back wall of his classroom for an entire period just because I couldn’t stop, according to him, ‘Yak, Yak, Yakking.”

I couldn’t imagine that he was Ms. Hillard’s bitch but shock of shocks… he was.

Mr. Foster my former math teacher, and the first African-American man to wear a LARGE teardrop shaped AFRO circa 1976 at my middle school, put down his fork, pointed his finger in my face, and jumped in.

Wow, it felt like 7th grade algebra all over again.

My first “C” ever was in this man’s class and he had NEVER let me live it down.

Now as colleagues, we would be tutoring together after school in the library and I would actually hear him say to students, “Look here! You need help with English? You go over to that table and see Ms. Wood. You need help with math, you stay right here. Ms. Wood knows nothing about math. Nothing. Do you hear me? Never did. Never will.”

I took it… out of respect… but I often felt like throwing the library’s large Webster’s hardbound dictionary at his now shortly cropped head of hair, and shouting, “LOOK here Mr. Foster! See how much those English words hurt when they hit you on the back of the head?”

But I was still afraid of his punishments: He could write a referral faster than he could give you the formula for finding the area and surface of a rectangle.

For a moment, I thought he might pull a piece of chalk out of his pocket, and actually draw me a formula on how to take the perfect shit, but he didn’t.

He waved his finger in my face and said, “Look here, D.D. It’s logical.” He paused for emphasis waiting for Mr. M to finish his sandwich and Ms. H to put down her spoon.

“You don’t shit during the week,” he said calmly. “You hold it all in. Then on Friday, you go home, you have a couple cocktails, loosen that ass up, and let it go.” He picked his fork back up and stabbed a small grape tomato on his plate.

He waited a moment, and then pointed his fork, tomato attached, in my face. “Let it go,” he repeated. “You got to be at home, relaxed, no bells, Saturday and Sunday, to free that shit up.”

I wanted to say, “No pun intended right?” But I was sitting in a room with a science teacher, a math teacher, a P.E. teacher and therefore I let my stupid little English joke slide.

Suddenly, the teacher’s bathroom door opened, and we all turned to look, at Mr. Gilmore, 8th grade biology, as he appeared from inside the small enclosed bathroom. “Bran muffin,” he said, then pulled the bathroom door closed behind him and turned to leave the lounge. “Don’t go in there,” he added sternly as he opened the door to the hall and exited the room.

“Mmmmmmmm,” the collective nodded and concurred and so I threw my lunch trash away and made a mental note to stop by Hof’s Hut that evening, and grab one of their large bran muffins and eat it as a “special” type of dessert before bed.

And so… I did… and when I arrived at school the next morning, still well into my constipation, no bran muffin bowel movement to start the day off right, I was rather annoyed.

These people were supposed to know what the fuck they were talking about.

They’d spent years working on the science of teaching and crapping.

God damn it.

If I couldn’t count on them who the hell could I count on?

I set up my classroom for the day and waited for my students to arrive.

8 am: all was fine. I was a bit uncomfortable from being bound up but that was nothing new.

9 am: the kids were all doodling on their work folders, listening to music, happy that snack break was just minutes away.

9:15 am: the kids left for Nutrition break and I barely made it to the bathroom across the hall.

My bran muffin had kicked in with a fury.

I sat in the small tiled bathroom, and stared up towards the miniscule window… there only for light… no ventilation and thought, “Please God, please. Don’t let anyone come in while I’m in here.”

I was in so much pain, the cork of my constipation now being pressure popped by the large amount of smooth move behind it that I thought I was going to die.

I was cramping, actually holding on to the sides of the toilet or pressing my hands against the walls, trying to keep myself steady and right during the pain.

Ten minutes later, I was sweaty, worn, but blissfully free.

I put myself back together, and walked confidently to my room. I was already making mental calculations on how tonight, I would eat my bran muffin three hours earlier and in that way, set myself up to crap at 6 o’clock am at home instead of trapped in the small 1950’s bathroom, praying that no one would disturb me.

I waved at Ms. Anderson across the hall, another veteran savvy in the ways of ending constipation.

Her means of choice?

A bit of ex-lax mixed with her hot fudge sundae every Saturday night. “Works like a charm” she said with a smile one day while I was waiting my turn for the xerox machine. “Like a charm!” she had repeated as she grabbed her copies and walked off somewhere down the hall.

Today, she nodded briskly from her desk, before looking back at the stack of papers she was currently grading during her conference period.

Two minutes later, the kids were filing into the room and I was leaning against the podium unable to stand upright.

Ms. A saw me from across the hall and said, “Do you need me to watch the kids for a minute?”

I nodded and hurried to the bathroom where I barely made it before my ass fired off round two in a rapid succession.

It was horrific.

I couldn’t stop it if I wanted to.

By the time I was done it felt as if my butt had just let loose a fiery stream of lava.

It was raw and worn and I was about to cry from the pain.

I would have sold my soul for a tube of Desitin at that very moment but I had to make do with toilet paper dampened under cool tap water, as I dabbed my butt gently, before pulling up my pants and heading back to class.

“Are you okay?” Ms. Anderson asked as I walked back into the room. “You look horrible.”

I wiped a hand across my sweaty brow and nodded. “I’m fine.”

I went about my teaching for exactly five minutes before I felt my bowels about to give way again.

“Oh sweet God,” I whispered.

“What Ms. Wood?” A chubby sweet faced sixth grader asked me as I rushed towards the back door of the classroom. “I’ll be right back.” I smiled at all of them. “Draw me some really great pictures of Sponge Bob while I check the xerox machine.”

I ran across the hall too embarrassed to ask Ms. Anderson for help… too embarrassed to tell my students that I was having a major break down in bowel function, and Ms. Hillard’s lunch time scolding of Mr. Myers ringing out in my head, You’re risking it having those every morning. You could end up too loose and then what would you do. Leave your students unattended while you run to the shitter? Seriously Charles, sometimes I don’t even know how you became a science teacher.”

God damn it.

Now I was going to be Ms. Hillard’s bitch.

I threw myself into the bathroom, locked the door and dropped my pants to the floor: I must have shit myself a total of ten times in that 45 minute class period.

And my students?

They were so happy drawing their little Sponge Bob pictures, listening to music and enjoying their free time, that they barely noticed my absence.

By the time the lunch bell rang and the kids had exited the classroom, I was face down lying on top of a string of desks that I had pushed together… my warm sweaty cheek pressed against one of the cool formica sandstone desk tops. My butt cheeks tender and throbbing from the day’s events.

“Jesus,” Mr. Gilmore said as he passed by on the way to the lunch room. “What the hell happened to you?” He asked.

If I had any energy left, I swear I would have stood up, found a knife and shanked that old bastard.

“Bran muffin,” I said, my eyes vicious. “I ate the bran muffin. Just like you suggested.”

His eyes jumped with surprise.

“I said never on a school day.” He walked over, leaned down and stared at me. “Do you hear me? I said never on a school day. Only on a weekend.”

“No you didn’t,” I moaned. “Mr. Ferguson said never on a school day not you.” My tone was accusatory.

Mr. Gilmore paused a minute, typical science teacher, he was going to re-calculate the entire conversation before giving me the damn answer to his hypothesis.

“Well,” he said, “I meant never on a school day.” He walked out of the room, down the hall, and then peeked his head in the back door.

“Do you want me to find someone to cover your class for the rest of the day?”

“Fuck you,” I barked roughly. “Fuck you Mr. Gilmore.”

I closed my eyes and waited, ready to get the lecture of my life from my former science teacher or some big old hand of God to come down and smite me for cussing him out.

He sighed, completely calm. “I understand,” he said before I heard him head off down the hall and return ten minutes later with Mr. Foster.

“Look here, D.D.” Mr. Foster said. Obviously no pity for my predicament at all.  “Never on a school day. Never on a school day. Are we clear? Do you understand us?”

I picked myself up off the desks, grabbed my things, threw my keys to Mr. Foster and walked out of the room.

“Did I ever tell you that girl knows nothing about math?” I heard him say to Mr. Gilmore as I started down the hall. I stopped, turned, and stomped back into the room.

“And fuck you too Mr. Foster,” I said with total annoyance. “I didn’t deserve that ‘C’ in math and you know it!”

Then I slammed open the glass door and left the building but not before I heard Mr. Gilmore laughing and Mr. Foster say, “Jesus, and she’s a teacher?”

I smiled as I dragged my worn ass home and soothed it with an entire tube of Desitin… my lesson learned: I would NEVER eat a God damn bran muffin on a school day EVER again.