She sat on a white plastic wicker chair looking out over the tops of giant sequoias growing further down the hill. Because the marine layer was tormenting her, she couldn’t see the ocean through the trees, but could hear its roar and the barking sea lions, which tourists endangered their lives on cliff overhangs to glimpse.
They could have the sea lions, she thought. Not that she wished the animals ill, but had no need to visit their raucous stinking gathering spots. They seemed like a group of old college buddies, who’d all slept with each others’ girlfriends, finally marrying one of them and having regular reunions as they all got fat and settled into themselves and their lives.
She thought all of this as a way to avoid the conversation she could feel brewing, gathering energy like a circular wind over warm ocean waters. She felt its spin picking up speed, gathering first moisture and then bits of detritus and soon palm trees and fishing boats to hurl like toys in a temper tantrum.
Weighing her options, the energy swelled in her guts, making the spit in her mouth burn like acid. Unleashing a dragon’s hellfire was magnetic, but she pulled herself from the fight, releasing her hold on it one clenched finger at a time. One step back and she could look for an evacuation route or find another way.
Some time passed and the afternoon breeze shifted direction. The ocean began to come into view.
“Are you kidding me? You are not putting me back in that car one more time. I swear I’ll bite you. No, I can’t bite you. I’ll pee on your foot, I swear I will,” Betty thought.
She had only been with this new family a few months and generally she had come to love them. They weren’t perfect, dog knows, but they tried really hard and they fed her good food, were generous with the treats and even included hot dogs and pigs ears in the mix periodically. Could have done a lot worse, or so she thought until today. Today! Grrrrrrr.
“I knew they were up to something first thing. Putting stuff in bags and moving things around. I didn’t even have a chance to find a good poo spot before they loaded me into that car. We’ve been driving for hours! Hours! They have stopped three times all day. Each time, like the crazy fool I am, I jump out certain that this is IT. We are HERE! Only to find that they expect me to pee on demand. Seriously? I need time. I have to find the right spot, relax a little. But no, it’s pee or hold it until the next spot, hours later. Grrrrr.”
“As if all that weren’t bad enough, but now they are winding and twisting and turning. If they had fed me my dinner (and that’s another thing, I eat by 6 o’clock and it is waaaaaay past that) I’d be puking it all over this car. I think it’s time for a good ol’ “I ate a hot dog fart.” I bet they’ll open the windows so I can smell where we are then. Yeah. That’s it. That’ll teach them to mess with me. My name is Betty and as of right now, I am one righteous bitch. Open those windows, fools.”
reposted from BettyTheBoxer.wordpress.com
Patty was seated at the table against the wall at the end of the bar. She was disappointed first, having hoped to luck into a table by the window overlooking the river. Shortly, however, she realized it was the perfect spot to eavesdrop on several conversations– the bar patrons talked loudly over the buzz in their ears and the tables closest to her had their volume turned up as a result of the bar patrons.
Two ladies at the adjoining table were enjoying an early dinner. Although well past middle aged, they were analyzing their mothers’ lives.
“That poor dear. She lived the Tammy Wynette life. Never came into her own. I told my husband right off the bat that he could forget about coming home in a state like that. Tammy doesn’t live in this house, I said.”
The other woman made a little noise of affirmation with a closed mouth before taking a long sip from her drink.
Patty looked around at the Waterfront Depot, which had held this spot in town for more than a century. Originally a train depot, it now served as a Victorian-style cross between a saloon and classy restaurant, to the extent that the year round local clientele of working fishermen allowed. The walls and ceiling had been painted a dark eggplant and modern light fixtures, straight from the Eugene Ace Hardware, hung in regular intervals over the bar. Stuffed pheasants, quail and what looked like a cross between a turkey vulture and a fancy rooster were displayed high above the patrons’ heads, likely procured from the taxidermy shop off Highway 101 on the north side of town.
Yes, she thought, this is the place. This is where I’ll write in the afternoons while I’m here. I’ll develop a persona. The locals will gossip and a few will attempt to make inroads, discover my identity and the nature of my scribbling. Oh, the fun we’ll have!
The canoe floated on top of the water, light as a leaf. I lay in the bottom, feeling the sun hit my face in the spaces between the leaf cover over head. Opening my eyes every so often, I kept track of how far I’d floated. The rapids were miles away and not a worry, but the long paddle back was a consideration against the deceptive river’s flow.
I’d put the canoe in way up river, where rocky cliffs rise on the far side, like a climbing wall straight up from the water. It moved quicker there, a fun place to start, knowing that the river got wide and lazy a half mile away, and here I was with the canoe rocking like a hammock.
Yes, this was the vacation I’d been longing for. Not a compromise vacation of restaurants and shops in a different location each year, lovely, of course, but eventually it was like eating too much frosting. I’d begun to feel unnourished and ghostlike.
I sat up to skim the water, it was like a bath at the top where the sun had spent the afternoon warming it, but it was at least 10 feet deep here. This was the spot where the bass grew large and wily at the cold bottom, evading my brothers’ hooks year after year. The river was a childhood friend, so familiar and yet much changed. Houses were going up beyond the cliffs and fences were dividing the land. Access was becoming a challenge.
I scooped a brown pine needle out of the water and rolled it between my fingers. The trees leaned over the water, reaching, and I stretched my arms toward them, reaching back.
She walked in and sat on the bed, bouncing up and down a few times. There were no wayward coils or squeaks. It would do. A baby ben alarm clock ticked the seconds on the nightstand, a wind up model, and she wondered who had wound it last.
She reached for the clock, but her eyes landed on her ring finger and she let the hand fall to her lap. She twisted the rings in circles —they’d almost gotten too big and seemed heavier, as if iron not gold.
Something outside the window caught the sun, throwing lasers of light that blinded her briefly before swinging across the walls, ceiling, and bedspread. She smoothed the worn blue cotton throw, and wondered who had slept here last.
The hours on the road to get here had worn her out. Although the last three were the most fatiguing, they’d been her favorite part. The road followed a river, with rocky cliffs rising on either side. Before coming into town, the river widened to a lake, Loon Lake on the sign, and her deja vu had turned into a memory’s journey back home to Maine where the pine trees filled miles in all directions, as far as you could imagine, they stretched and the loons called their ghostly call in the evenings.
Had she come home? Had she found a home to replace the one she’d left so long ago and yesterday?
She spun the rings on her finger and touched the brown spots on the back of her hand. No longer young, she thought, I have my grandmother’s hands, now, liver spots and all.
What’s needed when you go out of town is a dog, a pig’s ear, a banana, and a cup of coffee. Having a driver and a co-conspirator is also good. What’s needed is a full tank of gas and a cat sitter, an extra set of keys, and a call to the road, the wide open road where brown fields stretch to green planted rows stretch to gold foothills. Through the Delta and goodbye to water, hello to dry riverbeds, electrical towers, windmills, to pick up trucks, and uninterrupted sky.
What’s needed is the desire to be without even as you fill the car with what is, pushing the door closed, lifting the dog in, and you’re off.
What’s needed is a sense of adventure that starts with a quaking stomach and several trips to the bathroom and no one ever said adventure worked like that. The husband plays air guitar because his ears can’t yet take the silence, the regular hum of the road is the music, the happy sigh is its lyric, and the rolling hills are undulating breasts along the Road to Zamora.
What’s needed is a 70 mph speed sign where before only 65 miles were allowed, and the lack of a carpool lane is the indicator on your compass point due north into hell’s heat with fog a distant acquaintance to be reunited with much later or never.
Tree farms and pheasant shooting farms are my new neighbors. Me and my city clothes with my city husband and city dog, we are on cruise control while we unwind from the clickety-clack, from the BART echo, from the 880 gridlock. What’s needed now is amnesia for a little while, a little while.
On the way to the grocery store, I tripped on a dog. Its reached out from under a bush into a shadow on the sidewalk. Mid-step I saw the disembodied paw, a giant white thing that could have belonged to Big Foot.
“My god!” I said as I stumbled. The bush started to heave and shake as the foot-owning monster climbed out to destroy the cause of its disrupted slumber.
A screen door slammed in the house at the end of the monster’s hedge.
“Don’t be afraid of Moose. He’s a pansy,” the woman on the porch said. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see her approaching in cut- offs with a fringe of threads around her thighs and a thin tee-shirt shortened to expose her belly. My forward vision was focused on Moose, a St. Bernard panting in the heat, rivers of drool hanging from his jaws as he lumbered at a surprising speed straight for me.
“Don’t be scared. He likes to give girls hugs. Just bend your knees a little. Easy, Moose. Easy!”
Her voice was within a few feet of me, but all I could see was the dog rearing on its hind legs, front paws planting on my shoulders and its open toothy mouth fast approaching my face.
“Ah! Oh!” I said before closing my mouth against the spitty onslaught.
We have to break the mirrors to be ourselves, he thought, throwing a pebble in and watching the image blur and vanish-especially when we are over forty. ‘We have to break the mirrors to be ourselves,’ he murmured, aware that it was a line in iambic pentameter. He tasted it. He examined it…Already the Muse was at work.
May Sarton, The Poet and the Donkey
In February, I adopted a dog. She has become my muse and I have started a blog to chronicle our journey together. I hope you will join us! Betty the Boxer
In more blog news, I have signed up for The Writing Salon’s Round Robin. Each day, there’s a writing prompt that we respond to for 10-12 minutes and send to a class partner. I will be posting those rough writes here on my blog after they have been responded to by my partner.
There may be some boring stinkers, but hopefully a few sparkling shiny things, too. The season of writing is on!