Corey Hale Becomes Confused After Experiencing an Overly Sexy Hug from Mrs. Wood

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Corey Hale copy

Well it was bound to happen.

Sooner or later I knew that I would cause some type of confusion in a young man’s life.

And so it goes…

Corey Hale: former student, friend and band mate of my 23-year-old son, amp wizard, and all around good kid.

I had forgotten about the “overly sexy”  hug that had sent him reeling for many months but last night as we all sat around at Sam’s Seafood, enjoying Kallie’s 23rd birthday party, the story came out.

I had just been lamenting the fact to my boyfriend, Stephen, and my dear friend Margie, that I was “dry” and didn’t have a Saturday story to tell, when Corey popped up, plied with cheap beer and a shot of Wild Turkey, his new girlfriend in tow, and said, “Mrs. Wood, do you remember when you gave me that overly sexy hug and then got really angry with me because I told Dylan about it?”

Stephen’s eyes widened… so did Margie’s before she said,  “Well there you go. Your Saturday story. See how the Universe aligns?”

I turned around and looked at him.

He was clutching his girlfriend’s hand tightly, she was a tiny little sweet thing and I could only imagine what she was thinking: I was the spitting image of Joan from Mad Men last night. A brick shit house in a tight white wiggle dress… dark red lips… high peep toe pumps.

I had become Mrs. Robinson and hadn’t even realized it.

I wasn’t sure where his story was going to go… but…. I am always willing to call myself out publicly and so… I joined in and hoped he would continue.

“I wasn’t angry at you.” I said.  “Just surprised you were such a kiss and tell!”

“I was confused!” he shouted. “Dylan and I were just about to go on stage. We were loading in out front of Di Piazza’s. You had just finished playing. I was in awe of you and it was like my first show ever and then you gave me the overly sexy hug.”

Stephen smiled at him, “Do you remember any of your set that night?”

“NO!” Corey said. “I was confused. The overly sexy hug confused me. I kept wondering. Did Dylan’s mom mean to give me the overly sexy hug? Was I really supposed to be the recipient of the overly sexy hug? Was I just imagining the overly sexy hug?”

Here he paused and looked to his girlfriend for assistance: She was no help.

“I don’t know what you’re complaining about,” she said. “Mrs. Wood is hot.”

This only made things worse.

I felt my shoulders tighten and I couldn’t bring myself to look at Stephen or Margie.

Corey began to sweat freely.

You could see his shiny little face… embarrassed, as if admitting in a confessional, that he had “feelings” for his friend’s mother: inappropriate feelings.

It was hard not to chide him and really fuck him up for life but I was reeling now myself and so… I sat quiet.

He reached up and wiped the sweat from his brow.

“Corey,” Stephen asked. “Can you show us the overly sexy hug?”

Corey put down his drink.

Excited to replay the moment.

He had his girlfriend stand up on a step so that she could portray his height accurately while he would play me.

He grabbed her roughly, took both hands and pulled her hips in towards his until they were both touching. Then, he kicked up one of his heels in a cutesy position and arched his back and pretended to press his make-believe giant boobs forward.

Oh my God… I thought to myself. Jesus…. I’m surprised he hadn’t passed out on the street when it happened.”

Stephen was really enjoying the moment: I of course was squirming.

I wiped my own sweaty brow and pretended to examine my fingernails.

I took a long sip off of my Coke and rolled my eyes at Stephen.

“Yep,” Stephen said. “That’s an overly sexy hug.”

“RIGHT?” Corey said directly to him. Happy to have a champion on his side.

At this time Corey’s girlfriend left to get a soda and I turned to face Corey head on.

“Corey,” I asked feeling defensive for my behavior. “Are you saying that my hug confused you all of this time? That it was a negative experience for you?”

He looked at me stunned.

“Are you kidding? No way. I was confused in a good way for months.” He looked at Stephen and then added, “Months and months” a big happy smile plastered across his baby face.

I felt my own face flush.

Stephen nodded his head, lifting his beer toward me, in a silent toast to my brazen behavior.

He loved it.

Happy in the knowledge that I was Corey’s Mrs. Malone: Stephen’s hot high school teacher who he was still crushing on after all of these years. She was probably close to seventy by now but to Stephen, she would always be thirty-five, in a tight black pencil skirt, white silk blouse, small sprinkle of light freckles across the bridge of her nose, and a large luscious mouth.

“It was great,” Corey said. Before he bounced off to find his girlfriend.

Stephen leaned in close to me and whispered, “Mrs. Robinson. You’re trying to seduce me now aren’t you?”

“Oh shut the fuck up Stephen,” I snapped.

He giggled like a school boy as I watched Corey wave and smile at me from the bar… to be forever happily confused over the overly sexy hug.

While I considered the possibility of a breast reduction and a life time of wearing, no make-up, my hair pulled back in a small tight bun, a moo-moo and some nice orthopedic shoes.

Ms. Wood has an Affair: The Lemon Lush Pie Incident

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Lemon Lush

I didn’t mean for it to happen.

I swear… I really didn’t… but then again… isn’t that what everyone says?

I couldn’t control myself?

I was overwhelmed with passion?

I was in love with a feeling?

I thought it would be just a one night stand… a fling really.

But it wasn’t….

Me sitting secluded in the dark booth…

My new lover, Lemon Lush Pie from Jongewaard’s Bake n Broil sitting seductively in front of me.

Oh… how he lured me in…

His intoxicating smell…

His handsome exterior…

He was the perfect combination: sweet, rich, complicated in his multiple layers.

Any woman would have fallen for his magnetic pull.

One bite… and I was overwhelmed.

I tried to act coy… pretend I wasn’t that interested… and so I pushed him away and waited a week before I returned.

And when I arrived… he was excited to see me.

All spruced up on his little blue plate… just waiting in anticipation for the moment when we would be together again.

I didn’t hesitate.

I jumped right in.

And by the time I was done I was spent… satisfied.

I believed that my craving for him had been quenched but I was a fool…

I had no idea what power he had over me.

Soon, I was obsessed.

I began to talk about him often.

I found numerous ways to bring him up in almost any conversation.

Any excuse to focus on my crush:

“Hey Ms. Wood, did you hear about that incident in North Korea?

“Oh yes,” I would reply. “By the way… did you know that they don’t have Lemon Lush pie in North Korea? I think we should go have some just to celebrate that fact.”

Soon… I was dragging others along with me.

They had no idea how serious it was.

They thought we were just friends.

They thought it was just casual.

And like any good addict I hid my addiction.

I kept my distance at the table.

I never licked my fingers in public or acted as if my heart raced whenever I was near him.

I made sure not to stare at him for too long or give him an overly flirty look.

I played it all off… and I was good… really good…until the real lying began.

I would come up with any excuse… any reason… to get away and be with my crush.

“Hey D.D.” Stephen my boyfriend would say, “I’ve gotta pick something up at Home Depot do you want to…”

“Oh! I’ll go for you,” I would shout, knowing that Bake n Broil was less than a mile from the hardware store.

“Are you sure?” Stephen would question… his innocent gaze completely unsuspecting.

“Sure,” I would say overly cheerful.

And when I returned… sated once again… sugar still on my lips… he had no idea of my indiscretion.

But after months of lying… I began to feel horrible.

How could I do this to my man?

Hadn’t he always been so good to me?

Extreme guilt washed over me each time I looked into Stephen’s sweet, naive face.

I watched as he stayed steadfast… his trust in me secure… while he ate his diet lunches and dinners sure in his knowledge that we were in a mutually exclusive relationship comprised of trust and love.

But it still didn’t stop me.

I had to have Lemon Lush at any cost.

Soon, I began bringing him home.

I had him in my office.

In my bathtub.

In my bed.

He was amazing.

And each time we were together… the risk seemed worth it.

Even when I heard the dogs bark…

the gate latch lift…

the front door swing open…

I rushed to finish before I was caught ecstatic that once again… I had my way.

But like any affair… the outcome always ends in tears and so… on one particular Friday when I believed Stephen to be fast at work in his office in Anaheim, I sat in my bed, fork in hand, an entire pie tin of Lemon Lush pressed close to my face, and looked up to find that Stephen had quietly come down the hallway and was now standing at my bedroom door, shocked… stunned…. expression full of pain.

“All this time?” He said, his voice breaking on the last word.

I stared at him… caught mid-act I didn’t know what to say.

Lemon Lush had no time to hide and I had no time to clean myself up.

“How could you do it?” He asked. “D.D. How could you do it?”

I sat silent.

Mute in my guilt, as Stephen slowly turned and headed off down the hallway and out the front door.

We sat there… Lemon Lush and I… unwilling to go on… ashamed of our behavior.

I gathered his things and escorted him to the trash bin.

I could see that he was hurt but I knew… it was Lemon Lush or Stephen… and Stephen was my true love.

I would have to make an amends to Stephen and give Lemon Lush up forever.

I left him at the curb and rushed to find my keys so that I could go find Stephen and apologize for my indiscretion.

I found him… sitting on his front stoop.

Sad face.

Head down.

Eating a tin of Sardines.

Glass of water by his side.

I walked up hang-dogged and sat beside him.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “It won’t ever happen again.”

“Oh I know it won’t,” Stephen said. ” There’s consequences to your actions.”

He tipped his head, motioning behind him, where I saw the Weight Watchers Digital Scale looming in the background.

“Go ahead,” he said as he ate his last sardine.

I stood up, I knew what I had to do. I stepped on the scale gingerly.

“All the way,” Stephen said sternly.

I watched as the scale went up twenty pounds higher than it had read four months ago when the affair began.

I gasped in shock.

“I could have told you that guy wasn’t good for you,” Stephen said smugly as he moved on to his hard-boiled egg… a small snarky smirk on his face… knowing the painful months that lay before me.

Diet.

Exercise.

And the day-to-day painful longing for my lost love: Lemon Lush.

Stapling my Thumb Clean Through with an Industrial Strength Stapler: Or.. How I Terrified Two Young and Idealistic Student Teachers and Almost Lost my Bad-Ass Reputation Forever

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OS stapler

I’m a tough broad but… even now, as an experienced teacher… there are two tools I seriously hate: the industrial paper cutter and the industrial electric stapler.

Both can cause a chill of terror in even the most seasoned educator’s soul and we have, in our profession, become accustom to wearing our battle scars from each of these work weapons, as a right of passage: If you haven’t lost a thumb or almost lost a thumb in a paper cutter or a stapler accident… then you basically don’t know jack shit about teaching.

Now as a “scrub” in the first few years of my career, I had almost lost my thumb several times:

Of course… the paper cutter incident…

The X-acto knife fiasco…

The uncovered razor on the helium balloon tank episode.

Yeah… those were good times.

But they gave me a sort of notoriety… an O.G. quality with the more experienced teachers.

It was as if I had been jumped into a gang very early on…

You see that teacher over there?

They seemed to whisper in the staff lounge.

That’s Wood. She’s already lost that thumb almost three times. She’s got what it takes.

It was hard not to cross my arms, throw up my fingers and sign an M and a W for Ms. Wood, tip my chin up in a “What’s up?” manner and swagger my way out the door.

I had proven I was tough.

Yeah… tough.

Now, it was an unwritten code that even if you were deathly afraid of the cutter or the stapler… you acted “cool” about it… yes “cool” if you had an incident.

That even when you told the story as a cautionary tale, or a fun anecdote over a tuna sandwich in the staff lounge, you made yourself look like you knew what you were doing all along.. that it was some simple malfunction or someone else’s fuck up that caused you to be maimed: You never let on that you lost your shit:

You locked that shit down.

And why?

Because it was very important to convey your mysterious authoritative exterior to the younger, newer baby teachers so that they would always be in awe of you and therefore, your little minions for years to come.

And so the years passed… many other incidents followed… until my reputation grew into one of legendary proportions and even the newest baby teachers would whisper:

See that teacher over there? That’s Wood. I heard she almost lost a whole hand in a paper cutter. Oh… and chased down and captured those two armed robbers who ripped off the credit union, by cornering them in the alley with her mini-van. I wouldn’t even try to talk to her until you have like five years under your belt.

Yeah.

It was beautiful until the industrial stapler incident: the day I almost lost my solid reputation as a bad-ass forever.

I was feeling good that day.

The state had given us money for a workroom and we had converted a bungalow into a staff area with the best of the new teacher technology:

The poster size paper cutter that dwarfed our standard sized one: where a thumb, index, and middle finger had all been hacked off simultaneously in a violent lunch time assault.

The laminating machine: a third degree burn always waiting to happen.

The 3635MPX Xerox machine… Oh yeah… class sets of collated documents in a matter of seconds but don’t catch your tie in that feed.

And of course: the new electric industrial strength stapler, with the heavy duty Stanley staples thick one-inch length, that could handle a 200-page packet and drive that staple in so hard it would never come out.

Nice.

So I rolled on into the new workroom, to pick-up my class set of reading packets that Judy Hogan, our supply purchaser, had kindly xeroxed for me and at the break table, I saw two brand-new student teachers sitting there meekly eating their lunch and I wondered what the hell they were doing.

“Too scared to brave the staff lounge,” Judy whispered as she handed me my packets. “I took pity on them.”

I shook my head in disgust.

“These still need to be stapled,” she said before getting back to her own paperwork.

I carried the stack over to the counter and began to run the packets through the industrial stapler.

I fell into a steady rhythm: the electric staple hitting a hard THWACK each time a packet was completed.

I was moving fast… really flying.

The beat was so steady and so quick that I was actually singing “Baby Love” by the Supremes.

I was just about on my last packet, totally in the zone, happy that I would still have time for lunch, when I heard a, “What the heck is she singing” from one of the newbies at the table behind me.

I turned around to give her a snarky lecture on her lack of musical knowledge and what songs work best to keep a beat with the xerox machine and the electric stapler, so that you don’t lose your mind in monotony, when… there was a loud sickening SMACK, the stapler jammed, and my body was rocked by an excruciating pain.

Judy stopped, startled, and looked towards me.

“Oh my God,” I heard her whisper.

I was afraid to turn around.

I looked back slowly to find that I had just stapled my thumb all the way through the nail, out the other side, and that the staple: the thick one-inch industrial staple, had folded neatly on the fleshy side of my thumb and stapled it clean.

I held it up and stared at it in horror as the intense pain registered throughout my entire body.

“MOTHER FUCKER!” I screamed.

The newbies were beyond alarmed… terrified to move… they stared at me in horror.

MOTHER FUCKING SHIT! I screamed again.

Judy’s eyes grew large. She looked at the newbies: One now with her head folded down into her hands… her soup and crustless peanut butter sandwich left bare to the world. The other… her hands over her ears, her eyes focused on Judy, begging her silently to, Make that woman stop! As she winced at my use of profanity.

This infuriated me.

“FUCK!” I screamed right in her face, “FUCK!” I shrieked as I ran about the room.

Judy ran to her desk, always ready for a workroom emergency, and grabbed something from her drawer.

I stopped, looked at her with suspicion, and like a rabid animal, began to back into the corner.

“D.D.” she whispered. “Give me your hand.”

“BACK THE FUCK AWAY JUDY!” I snarled and hissed.

“D.D.” she whispered again as she crept quietly towards me. “Give me your God damn hand now.”

“No!” I shouted.

I heard one of the newbies whine.

“Shut the fuck up!” I screeched.

Judy’s mouth made a small shocked “Oooooh.”

I was breaking the cardinal rule of teaching: DON’T LOSE YOUR SHIT IN FRONT OF THE NEWBIES.

I looked at my thumb again.

I thought I was gonna be sick.

I felt the room swimming and my thumb throbbing.

“D.D.” she said sternly. “Now.”‘

I moaned as I laid my hand gingerly in Judy’s palm.

“This is gonna hurt,” she said as she held up a pair of pliers, and snatched my wrist tightly as she pried the ends of the staple to a straight up position before I had time to react.

My eyes welled up in tears.

“Judas!” I cried and then the pain registered and I howled loudly.

“Knock it off,” she said before putting the pliers back in her drawer.

I calmed down for a moment… gathered myself together… and looked at the staple with interest:

It now looked like my thumb had fangs.

I looked up again and saw Judy with a black staple remover in her hand.

She was chomping it at me… trying to be funny… like a mom trying to coerce her kid into trusting a doctor with a needle: It didn’t work.

NO! I shrieked again. “No JUDY! NO!”

I ran across the room, Judy laughing now, chasing me about with the staple remover clicking until she grew tired of the game and stopped.

“God damn it D.D.” she shouted. “Get it over with. Pull that fucker out.”

I gave her a dirty look, grabbed the staple remover from her hand, and dug it into the top of my nail fast, pushed it down, and pulled that staple out with a hard tug.

The pain was right up there with childbirth and divorce: physically excruciating while emotionally… I was ready to kill someone.

I screamed again: a guttural scream of anger, as I threw the staple remover and the offending staple hard against the counter, before picking up the electric industrial stapler, ripping it’s cord from the wall, and chucking it as hard as I could against the large purple recycling bin.

We all looked at it: lying on the ground broken and mute.

“Fucker,” I said to my electronic enemy. The newbies gasped behind me.

Judy and I both turned around and as I came to my senses, I realized I had just lost my cool points in front of these teaching neophytes.

I felt like a failure.

I felt like my O.G. status was about to be removed in a unanimous vote in the staff lounge later that afternoon.

It sucked.

But right them, Mr. Ferguson, my own junior high school teacher, now over forty years of experience in the business, walked into the room, saw all of us locked in pose, immediately assessed the situation after a glimpse of my bloody stump of a thumb, the expressions on the babies faces and the stapler lying broken on the floor.

“Jesus!” He screeched. He pointed at my thumb. “Is that from the stapler?”

“Yeah,” I said quietly.

“I knew something was wrong with that thing the other day. I knew it wasn’t working right.”

I looked at him in pleased shock. Even in my pain it was hard not to smile at his gift of camaraderie.

“Man,” He shook his head. “That must of hurt like hell. I wouldn’t have been able to lock that shit down. No way.”

He gave me a head nod of respect before turning to the newbies and saying, “You best not use that stapler. If that took Ms. Wood down, you’d never be able to handle the pain. That woman is tough.”

Judy put the tools back in her drawer and slammed it shut, went back to her paperwork and went back to ignoring the newbies.

Mr. Ferguson went about making his math packets for his Algebra class…

and I gave the student teachers a look like, That’s right… even Mr. F with forty-years in the system would have lost it to” before I grabbed my packets, in one arm, bloody stump of a thumb raised up in the air, and kicked the door open with my foot, reputation, Thank God, still intact.

My thumb?

Not so much.

Eating Dean Karlen’s Booger: Or How I Learned Eating Boogers is a Bad Thing

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nose pick

When I was very small, I loved to eat my boogers.

Kindergarten.

First grade.

Second grade.

Yep.

I didn’t stop at a normal age.

I just kept going.

I loved them.

I became a booger connoisseur.

I knew exactly the type of booger delicacy I needed to be satisfied: crispy on the outside, thick and meaty in the middle, salted just so.

They were delicious.

And I probably would have gone on eating my boogers happily until someone caught me, or until I became interested in boys, if Dean Karlen hadn’t ruined it for me.

Yep.

Ruined it.

I probably had at least one or two good booger eating years left but at seven: Dean Karlen destroyed my favorite pastime forever.

I was at the Karlen’s house one day, after a Friday night sleepover with my best friend at the time: Terri.

Terri was the oldest Karlen and their were several little Karlens besides her: Kirk, Kim, and of course, baby Dean.

Terri, Kirk and Kim were long past booger eating for all I knew… I never saw them delve into the realms of the dark cavern but then again… I was very secretive about picking myself. I often hid in the playhouse in our backyard, or a closet behind my dad’s coats. I rarely asked someone to join me unless I was absolutely sure I had seen a small finger go up a small nose. So maybe… they were secretly picking their boogers and I just didn’t know about it. But at the age of seven: I didn’t make that connection.

Somehow I just believed: that they had moved on.

But Dean… the baby… a tiny little blue eyed man…  I felt was still young enough to be down for some booger picking activities and so, I grabbed his hand, and dragged him out of the family room, past the kitchen, down the hallway to the formal sitting room, where we threw ourselves onto the nice couch and where I believed we would secretly sit and enjoy a booger eating extravaganza together: Picking away… enjoying our salty little treats… giggling conspiratorially like a couple of stupid idiots until we had to go back and join the group.

But… that didn’t happen.

Dean bounced up and down on the couch a few times, reached down and rubbed his hands on it’s edge, and then slapped me hard on the top of my head before he ran back off down the hallway to find Kirk or Kim or someone else to play with.

I sat quietly slumped on the couch… upset at first that I had lost my little playmate and would now have to eat my boogers alone but soon I settled in and began my routine.

I was deep in thought and about three boogers in, when I decided to take a pause and rest.

I placed my small hands by my side and relaxed into the couch as I kicked my feet against the edge.

“Terri!” I heard Mrs. Karlen yell. “You kids better not be in the sitting room! You better not be on my good couch!”

My eyes grew big.

I loved Mr. and Mrs. Karlen as if they were my own parents and I didn’t want to anger them in any way.

I held my breath as I silently slid off the couch, and curled up into a small ball on the floor, hoping I wouldn’t be seen and now anxious for Terri to come back from wherever she was and find me.

I lay there for a moment… praying that I wouldn’t be punished… that I wouldn’t be sent home… when I noticed a small perfect booger stuck to the side of my index finger.

It was lovely in color and shape, golden really like a perfect raisin, and I was thankful that I had one more good one to eat and enjoy as I waited in my self-imposed prison on the tri-color shag carpet.

I rolled it around on the tip of my finger: massaging it into a perfect booger ball… before I popped it into my mouth without hesitation.

I chewed that booger with glee…

I waited for the familiar taste I so loved…

The enjoyable sensation of the booger-licious flavor I had come to cherish…

But as I mulled the small but powerful bouquet of taste on the surface of my tongue I realized I had made a horrible error in judgement: this booger was foreign.

This booger was not mine.

Yes.

I had eating someone else’s booger.

The taste was odd and metallic.

The smell similar to that odd smell of new puppy breath and it piped up the back of my throat and into the back of my nose.

For a moment… I thought I was going to puke: I couldn’t get that booger out of my mouth fast enough.

I spit it onto the floor and actually wiped my tongue across the shag carpet several times trying to remove every remanant of the foreign matter from my mouth but even today… I can still taste that thing.

I lay there… trying not to gag… trying not to puke… and I probably would have laid there all day praying that I would recover, if Dean Karlen hadn’t ran back into the room at that very moment, picked his nose right in front of me, and wiped his tiny booger laden finger on the edge of the couch before running away.

I raised my head up as my mouth fell agape.

There, on the length of the couch, I could now see Dean Karlen’s booger minefield that he had been planting for God knows how many months of time.

Dried ones.

Crispy ones.

Little mummified pieces of booger clinging to each micro-fiber of the couch and of course… the newest patch full of juicy baby booger specimens where the one I just ate had obviously come from.

I jumped up and ran away from that couch as if I had just witnessed a bloody accident or a brutal murder.

I no longer cared where my best friend was, where any of the little Karlens now were, or if I would be punished.

I ran out the side door, grabbed my pink Schwinn banana seat bike… and pedaled as fast as I could for home.

I wanted Dean Karlen’s boogers far behind me.

I wanted that memory to be erased forever from my brain.

But my bad booger behavior had been broken for eternity in that one moment.

And though forty-one years of time has now passed me by… the taste and the memory of that rotten foreign baby booger sticks forever in my sensory memory and mind… like the day it stuck to the edge of that couch.

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 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.

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.