Enjoy one of your favorite posts from the past until I return to entertain you!
And thank you for your loyal following.
This… is Matilda.
Matilda is a chicken.
A Rhode Island Red to be exact.
I didn’t go out and purchase Matilda.
I wasn’t given Matilda.
Matilda, like most of the animals in our home, including Jax, my pet squirrel, just appear to me, usually in dire need, and being who I am… I can’t seem to walk away.
Case in point: Matilda
It was Thursday night, 8pm, after hours at El Dorado park and my favorite time to walk there.
This night I was walking with my two adult friends, Frank and Abe and my 10-year-old friend Finn.
Finn, like me, seems to be some type of “animal whisperer” and so I was a bit concerned when we jumped the rail of the flood control and ran down the embankment to enter the park after hours that we might run into an injured skunk, coyote, goose, hawk, or owl… but I had no worries that we might run into a chicken. For God’s sake…. a chicken?
We were barely past the LBPD shooting range when we saw a small reddish animal bopping about in the grassline…
“Is that a chicken?” Frank asked.
We all stopped to watch as she made her way closer to us.
“It is a chicken,” Abe said.
We didn’t know what to do… I voted to finish our walk and when we looped back, see if she was still around. With Frank, Abe, and Finn all hailing from Arizona…. I knew that this chicken wasn’t going anywhere unless it was going to Ms. Wood’s house and I was trying my hardest to make sure that didn’t happen. I mean the menagerie was really getting ridiculous: Jax (my squirrel) her babies, three chihuahuas, four cats, seven dogs and a partridge in a pear tree; I wasn’t looking to add a chicken to the mix.
I swear I didn’t want to leave her because I’m heartless… I just thought… Maybe if we give it some time… she’ll magically go back to where she came from and I will be saved from care-taking yet another pet… but the boys weren’t having it.
The Arizonians were looking at me with pitiful sad little faces.
The chicken was looking at me with her pitiful sad little face.
“Come on…” I said to the boys as I strided ahead with purpose trying to get away from the bird, only to turn and find the chicken running after us all as she made the saddest little cooing sounds that seemed to say, “If you leave me I will be eaten by a coyote and you will never be happy when you walk in your park at night again, because you will always remember that you left me to die.”
I couldn’t do it.
It was horrible.
They were pulling at every one of my heart strings and they obviously knew just how to work me.
So… I just gave in and turning on my heal, marched towards the exit, while shouting in my best authoritative tone, “Come on, Matilda. Let’s go home!” and watched as she hustled to catch up and walk beside me… as if I were her best friend and we had never been parted.
After a few feet of walking, we realized that it would take forever to get Matilda out of the park at this pace, so Frank picked her up and carried her with both hands, arms extended straight out in front, as if Matilda were a hood ornament on his human car.
It wasn’t five minutes later that the Park Ranger pulled up next to us, rolled down his window and said, “My God! Is that a chicken?”
Apparently he had never seen a chicken in the park either and now, Matilda startled by his big shiny car and flashing police lights was out of Frank’s hands, on top of the hood of his car and pecking at her own reflection in his windshield, like this was all good fun.
Obviously, the park was a wonderful place for Matilda as long as she had humans to protect her.
I asked him if he wouldn’t mind driving Frank to my van and was pleasantly surprised when he agreed.
I smiled as I watched Frank drive off with a Park Ranger and a chicken and I spent the rest of my walk back to the Wardlow Street bridge whistling to myself and making up my own stupid little jokes about it:
So… a chicken and a Ranger walk into a bar……
Or…. Is that a chicken under your arm or are you just…
How did the chicken cross the road? By getting a ride in the Park Ranger’s car.
Before hoping back over the rail and walking to the van.
Frank was in the back when I got there, Matilda running around on the floor, pleased that she was in some type of cage that seemed more comfortable then the cold park at night.
We took her home… gave her some water… and watched as she climbed to the top shelf of the squirrel cage and bedded down for the night. Already content in her new environment.
“Good night Matilda,” I said as I turned off the porch light for the evening…. trying not to be attached to a chicken… but knowing… I was already totally in love.
I had been married to my X for almost 20 years.
So…. when we divorced, I was a bit gun shy about dating.
I actually remember crying to my friends, “Who’s going to ever like me again?”
And I’d like to say that they patted my back and comforted me but they actually laughed at me and said, “Are you fucking serious?”
Divorce will do that to you.
It completely rocks your moral, spiritual, physical foundation and makes you think really crazy thoughts like: No one will ever like me again.
Most of us do.
It takes time, totally cliche but true, and distance and a fair amount of compassion and love.
My first long term dude after my X was Eddie.
We dated one year.
Eddie was a good first dude because he’s funny, down to earth and liked to do a lot of the same stupid things I liked to do:
Walk in the Nature Center
Lay around and watch South Park
Listen to music
and… believe it or not with all this laying around, eating and watching cartoons…
We both had a solid work ethic which kept us from killing each other by spending too much time together.
But the best thing about Eddie, was that he was like my junior high school boyfriend. Seriously… the way we played and hung out was like 7th grade summer.
I’m surprised I didn’t make him ride me around the neighborhood on the handlebars of his cruiser every night around 9 pm… before we had to rush home to beat our curfew and an inevitable grounding.
Eddie could get me to do things that only your junior high school boyfriend could do… And one day… Eddie actually got me to do something I thought I would NEVER do in front of a boy… fart. And… not only that… but actually fart on his hand.
He tricked me.
He knows he tricked me.
Believe me… I DON’T want to write this story but to not write it would mean that I was a complete FRAUD.
If you truly want to put your life out there in the world.. than you have to be HONEST about it and so… I must concede that Eddie Avalos was smart enough to trick me into farting on his hand and I feel like a totally idiot to this day for falling for it.
And if Eddie’s reading this right now… he’s laughing super hard and clapping his little hands because that’s what Eddie does when he thinks something is really funny.
So, Eddie and I were out in the front yard and he was showing off… he was running around on the grass and playing slap fight with me.
I was slapping back but he was quick.
He’d get in a good slap, run away laughing and when I would try to catch him, he would slap me again and run away.
Then, he fell down on the grass, put his legs up in the air, grabbed a lighter from his pocket, and I watched in utter amazement, as he cut a huge fart, flicked the lighter and suddenly shot a huge blue flame out of his ass. Then he laughed like a maniac and got up and ran away again.
It took me a moment to register what had happened.
I was laughing so hard I could barely breathe.
He was dancing in little circles, thinking he was super funny… when all of a sudden he came over to me and said, “Fart on my hand” and put his hand on my butt.
I slapped his hand away hard… mortified as I shouted, “NO! Girls don’t do that!”
He circled me again… doing some crazy little dance just to egg me on before he put his hand on my butt again and said, “Fart.”
I was slapping him with both hands now but it just made him laugh harder.
“Do it!” he shouted but I repeatedly refused I was NOT going to fart in front of a boy… NO WAY.
But Eddie, who knows me very well… said exactly what he needed to say to get me to take the bait.
“You are such a pussy,” he taunted. “You act like you would do anything… like you are so tough and look at you,” he began to do his little dance again, “You can’t even fart on my hand.”
I became suddenly determined to prove him wrong.
How dare he insinuate I was weak… not up to the task…. less than him because I was too embarrassed to do what he had just done with utter abandon.
I would show him.
Girls could fart just as good as boys.
I would fart on his hand.
The next time Eddie ran up to me, I waited until he put his hand on my butt and then I held my breath, pushed hard, felt something move, and then heard a small “bweeeep” before my fart vibrated across the palm of his hand.
It seemed for a moment that everything in the world stopped. Completely stopped.
I knew immediately that I had fallen into a trap and that there was no way I could have a “take back.”
I looked up and saw the shock and amusement register on Eddie’s face… his eyebrows actually bounced, his mouth turned into a sly smile and he ran away laughing as he squealed, “Oh my God! You’re a girl! You’re not supposed to fart on my hand! Girl’s don’t do that! I can’t believe you just farted on my hand! Eeeeeeew!”
Then he laughed, danced around some more, pretending to smell his hand while shouting, “Eeeeeew! My hand is ruined! You farted on my hand.”
He humilated me in the worse possible way.
First, by basically getting me to fall for the old fart on the hand trick and second, by tricking me into breaking the number one girl rule… don’t ever fart in front of a boy EVER.
I felt my face flush a hot red as I ran over and slapped Eddie as hard as I could, heard him screech “OUCH!” before I ran into the house TOTALLY embarassed.
A few moments later, he followed me in, jumped on my bed, threw his legs up in the air again and let another fart on fire, giggled like a madman before he kicked off his shoes and prepared to watch cartoons.
“Come on,” he said and patted the bed. “Don’t be such a baby… I was just messing with you. Come on, lie down now and watch cartoons with me.”
I tried to pout as I stomped my little feet over to my side of the bed and lay down next to him… my legs and arms crossed in silent protest.
We lay there a few moments… waiting for South Park to begin before Eddie smelled his hand one more time and giggled.
I ignored him…or tried to… pretending that I was just so engrossed in the cartoon that I couldn’t even see him… and I probably would have been able to manage that for awhile but in true Eddie form he waited until things were calm and then said, “Have you ever heard of a Dutch Oven?”
I didn’t even give him a look… I just reached over and gut punched him.
He curled up into a ball moaning and laughing and I knew that though I had gotten him back… I would never live down the day that I farted on Eddie Avalos’s hand.
It wasn’t like I planned to break the law.
I’m a Nationally Certified public educator for Christ’s sake but… sometimes, my inner “I Love Lucy” mixes with my former “Punk Rock Persona” and creates some type of alter-ego that I imagine has a name like, Frankie Smith, who sports wild red hair, drives a 1969 Fastback Chevelle, and has a tattoo of a large sacred heart branded across her chest with the slogan, “Jesus loves you but he’s still working on loving me.”
It was a school night, probably what is referred to as Indian Summer on the East Coast and “Santa Ana Wind” weather on the West. Amy and I were walking in the park after hours. This is something that people are allowed to do but, the Nature Center, a sort of wild life preserve within the park, home to coyotes, opossums, bunnies, snakes, and a slew of water turtles, is gated and locked and off limits after five pm every evening.
We were on the road that meanders next to it… the wind blowing warm… the street lights every hundred yards or so punctuating the silhouettes of the big beautiful trees as they swayed wildly in the wind.
Amy and I were prattling on about something when one of us… I’m not sure who but I would bet money Amy would say, “It was you dork.” Thought it would be a good idea to climb the six-foot chain link fence, break into the Nature Center, and walk the trails through the forested area at night, alone, believing that it would be lovely to have the paths all to ourselves.
Actually, now that I’m writing this… I can say with 100 percent surety that I was the one that came up with this idiotic plan.
But we have been friends for many years and Amy knows how persuasive I can actually be…. and our antics do always end up as really great stories later, so… there’s my justification.
We wandered off the road and walked into the brush by the fence that borders the flood canal. We started to climb the chain link several times but stopped each time we heard a small group of bicyclists passing by us.
Maybe we were paranoid.
Maybe we were having second thoughts.
But by the fourth time of jumping down and squatting in a bush I finally shouted, “Fuck it,” and hustled my ass over the fence and landed cleanly on the other side.
Amy’s face registered a mix of admiration at my clean climb and complete despair when she realized we were actually really going through with this. I stood and waited for her to climb up and over all the while feeling a childlike sense of glee. I had ALWAYS wanted to break into the Nature Center since I was about thirteen-years-old. So many of my friends had already done it in junior high or high school. Some… to make out… some to get high… and some to actually fish the ponds. I felt as Stephen Chbosky once wrote “Infinite” not taking into consideration that I was NOT 13 and “Infinite” but 40 and “finite.”
As soon as Amy jumped safely to my side of the fence, we ran through the brush to the trail and giggled like idiots at our stealth sneakiness. We were criminals. We were law breakers. We were suburban commandos. Seriously? We were idiots. Who the hell does shit like this in their 40’s?
We walked the back path, the one that takes you by what we call “the lake” but actually is about the size of a large pond and watched as the sun began to set right before we came up to the area we called: the pine forest.
Now, the pine forest area is actually quite creepy even during the day time. There is something about it that is reminiscent of the 70’s slasher movies where young “stupids” are often ambushed while walking, or skipping, or chattering lamely through the brush.
Amy and I were no different than these characters. Actually, I think we even commented on how we “felt” like characters in Friday the 13th as we passed the lake and headed to the forest.
We were just turning the bend in the path, that would lead us right next to the woods, when we saw something that will forever stick in my memory as the moment when I thought I would actually die of a heart attack just from viewing something. A large man, dressed entirely in black with a ski mask on, stepped out of the woods, stood firmly on the path, and stared us down before… without a word… he took one step back into the treeline and disappeared.
I’m surprised Amy and I didn’t just simultaneously shit our pants and then pass out.
My mind instantly calculated how fast we could get to the front gate and the security phone and would we be fast enough to defeat our attacker.
I mean come on…. no one survives in the slasher movies. They believe all the way up until the bitter end, even gloat about it, which we all know is the kiss of death, that they got away and then next thing you know Kevin Bacon’s throat has an arrow sticking through it.
It took me barely a split second to look at Amy and scream, “RUN!”
We booked it down the service path, cut across by the bramble bush tunnel, ran past the meadow, over the two bridges to the front gate in what seemed like a moment. Our breathing was rough and raspy, our hearts pounding, unable to keep up with our bodies. Even when we arrived at the well lit, neatly trimmed area by the front office, we still couldn’t stop from turning around and watching our backs sure that we would look across the front pond and see… well… the iconic photo of Jason emerging out of the woods of course.
Now, we knew once we picked up the security phone, the rangers would be there in a matter of seconds, their office we could view across the street but… I didn’t want to call. I could just see the local newspaper headline the next day, “Popular high school teacher arrested for breaking into the Nature Center. Is this the type of Public Servant we want shaping the minds of our children?”
I knocked a large metal trash can over and up-ended it. I shoved it next to the fence and told Amy to hold it while I climbed. Now, to this day, I’m not sure if Amy just didn’t “hear” me say, “Hold the trash can while I climb” or if Amy was feeling a bit passive-aggressive after I convinced her to break into the Nature Center, and then forced her to run from Jason, and now, I was making her wait to be the last person out, expecting her to hold the trash can for me when really… the heroic thing to do on my part was to let Amy climb first, but either way… as I threw my right leg over the fence, Amy did not hold the trash can and the weight of my body pushing up and over, knocked the large green can sideways and sent me tumbling down with it. I was fine until my right ankle, bashed against the rounded rim of the can and then rolled the rest of the way across it as my weight bared down upon it.
I knew immediately that it was broken. It wasn’t broken in the “your ankle is hanging off your foot,” or even “your bone is sticking out of your skin” type of way… but it was definitely inoperable.
I don’t remember if I yelled at Amy… but I probably did…. I was pissed. Mainly at myself but ready to take it out on anyone for that matter… In fact… if I could have walked then… I’m sure I would of picked up a LARGE stick and hobbled back to beat the holy hell out of that guy who scared the shit out of us in the first place.
I had a feeling it was most likely, one of my own high school students anyway, playing paint ball or smoking pot… or forest tag with his friends… and I imagine when he stepped out of the forest, trying to terrify what he assumed to be one of his own cronies and came face-to-face with MY GOD… Ms. Wood my Period Three English teacher… actually shit himself, passed out, and upon awakening ran to the back fence where due to his young age, was able to leap it clean without the help of a trashcan and was probably sitting in the 24-hour Jack in the Box, eating 99 cent tacos and bragging to all of his friends how he got away from “The Man.”
My imagination running wild was actually causing me to become infuriated.
I got up, no help from Amy, (who I shall note one time ALSO let me fall off one of the exercise apparatus at the park stating, “It was too funny not to. You looked just like one of the guys in the Matrix… falling all slow motion and shit”) and rolled the trash can to another gate which had a wide gap at the top and was used as a service truck entrance.
I knew if we could climb up the trash can to the gap, all we would have to do would be to slide through and then use the chain that connected the lock as a foothold on the other side to get down. It worked beautifully and soon we were back in the warmth of the mini-van.
I drove directly to Stephen’s house, my new man at that time, who looked at the state of our clothing, our worn faces, and my ankle which was now twice it’s normal size, completely black and blue and said, “What the hell were you thinking?”
How do you respond to a question like that?
Hey Stephen, well… I was thinking with my 13-year-old brain that breaking into the Nature Center was a GREAT idea!
Or… I was thinking I’m 40 if I don’t do it now… when will I ever do it?
Or maybe.. I was thinking, what a great way to fuck up my friend and my ankle all at once. Hooray for me!
Everything I thought about saying sounded absolutely stupid as I sat on the couch with even his dog looking at me like I was a complete moron before I finally mumbled, “I don’t know.”
Stephen went off to the kitchen to get me an ice bag and Amy started laughing uncontrollably, in that way you do when you know you aren’t supposed to laugh and so you try to hold it in but it just keeps coming out in silent bursts of nervous energy.
I had to go to the doctor the next day of course and yes… I did have a hairline fracture in my ankle which took over two months to heal and about a year and half before it even stopped hurting.
I’m now 46 and yes I still walk in the Nature Center almost daily… and once in awhile as I pass the forest I think of that night where I let myself be deviant and failed.
I can’t lie, it has become a good story… and I feel sorta “outlaw” when I think about it. And I’m glad that Amy was not injured due to my stupidity. But there is something in me that still wishes I hadn’t run… think if I had just convinced Amy to start acting completely insane, and we ran wildly through the forest, middle-aged “Ophelias” gone insane and Mr. Ski-mask could have been the one screaming and running… the idiot falling off the green trash can, in the bright light of the front gate.
It could have been brilliant.