2008 09 Jul

Moving Mother Nightmares

Author: Shawn Categories: Story Shelter

I knew she wasn’t prepared. Now, to my horror, we sit in a dirty little hotel room and she’s left me laden with the stomach-whirling truth.

“You haven’t found a place to live, Mother?” I asked.

“Well, no. Not yet,” she replies, unconcerned. “I have a few places in mind but haven’t called anyone yet.”

My mind begins reeling. Why must she always do this? Personally, I prefer to have all my ducks in a pretty V shape when I’m moving.

“It’s Wednesday. I fly back Saturday. What if you haven’t found a place by then!” I retort, trying to impress some sort of reality check.

“I’m sure I’ll manage.” She smiles sarcastically.

“Yes, I’m sure you will,” I relent, meeting her resolute gaze with my defeated face. The hard part was over and I know it. I also know better than to worry about Mom’s unpredictable objectives. We’ve both moved over fifty times in our lives.

Her trifling of the larger matters, e.g., finding a new home, renting a truck, planning the trip, setting up utilities, and those sorts of details comes from her familiarity with the routine. For such, one could fill a passenger seat with her guidebooks.

I walk over to the sink and prepare to brush my teeth. The sink smells and the water is not draining.

“Mother, the sink is backing up,” I sigh.

“So, go to the office and get some Drano or something,” she replies.

As I stroll to the front desk, I contemplate the scourges of moving and how it could be so much worse. The big details are obvious. The little ones are the nefarious buggers that get you. Mother excels at moving. To my fortune, she taught by example and thank Goddess I paid attention.

I’ve helped more people move than I can remember. I have observed that loading the truck is when flaring tempers can burn down the realms of sanity. I have moved everything by myself more than once. It can be done and my name isn’t Billy Biceps. I’m not even related to him.

My mother works like a brain surgeon when it’s time to load the truck. On this particular trip, she used every accessible slot and gap in the truck, the car, and the car carrier. The night before we left, we were jamming mops, brooms, the vacuum, and other cleaning supplies up behind the bulging back door of the Ryder truck. It was a very small space that mom left just for those things.

The trick is to have a mental picture of all your stuff and the size of that truck. Mom and I sit in it, imagine all our things in it, and let them put themselves in order like a Jenga puzzle in our minds. Mother has been known to halt the whole loading process until she can find the perfect doohickey to fit right there. I’ve not met anyone who can rival her in this area.

The big details, well, some of us plan them and some of us don’t. I say, why leave too much to chance. So many other things can go wrong.

But mother likes living in the moment.

I shake my head as I open the door to the dingy hotel room with plunger in hand.
“No Drano,” I mutter, and we both proceed to the foul sink. I cover the bad drain with the rubber, mom backs away, and I deliver one swift plunge. A geyser of reeking rotting food bursts from the pipes blanketing everything within three feet.

I am frozen.

My face starts convulsing.

“Oh, Gross! YUCK!” I stand there holding the plunger and look up.

Mother is doubled over, hands over her nose, tears flowing down her bright red face looking as if she might pass out.

I am covered in the most repulsive stinking stuff I have ever encountered and she’s laughing. I glare at her.

Never–never a dull moment with my mother.

2008 09 Jul

Endless Frustration

Author: Shawn Categories: Poetry Park

Poisonous spires entangled
Blackness of thorns
Agonizing sting pricks
Screams painfully mute

Clawing and grasping
Spiked stabs burn
Rotting every finger
Bones torn ripped
Sliced and hanging
Hands convulsed

Stronger survival
Compelling anguish creeping
Deep like sleeping
Turning day dreams
Cloyed nightmares sicken
Insidious blanketing souls

New hands crafting
Dismay chiseled anew
Thin shards snapping
Once again breaking

©Shawn Shearer

2008 09 Jul

Chapter Two – The Hidden Hospital

Author: Shawn Categories: Violet's Vengence

The crisp morning air smacked Violet’s cheeks and nose with frosty lips. Creeping out of the house, she picked up the bucket of leftovers she left on hidden underneath the porch. Indigo spirals splashed across the sky as the moon faded to give the sun its share of the day dotting the ancient Blue Ridge Mountains.

Humming softly, Violet carried her muscled five-foot-four self through the yard and up the hill toward the towering spindly pines on the rise of the mountain.

Reaching the makeshift pantry she built out of scrap wood at the edge of the trees, she gathered some scavenged roughage into a second bucket she kept underneath two shelves inside the pantry next to an old backpack. The lower shelf held fresh raw vegetables, greens, nuts, and bread.

The top shelf was filled with rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, Bag Balm, different sizes of gauze, medical tape, towels, rags, and jars, scissors, tweezers, eye droppers, flea powder, Popsicle sticks, and a jar of pure aloe.

She built a hospital of wire and wood complete with straw beds and cardboard boxes under the grove of trees. It covered a space of about thirty feet with a few trees inside. A small creek trickled over worn mossy stones at the far end of the pen. Thick brush and rhododendrons weaved around and through the towering trees shielding it from the outside. A ring of triple layered barbed wire circled the outer edges of the area.

It was a perfect little hospital. One that Violet was proud of. It had taken her about three months to gather the supplies, research mending procedures and build. The hardest part had been figuring out how to arrange cohabitation for normally wild and free animals and keep them safe from the coyotes and mountain lions that roamed the hills.

There had been some fights along the way, but each incident helped Violet improve the area. Violet’s square jaw softened into a grin when she opened the crooked wooden gate.

“Good mornin, my fuzzy friends. Did y’all have a good sleep?”

Two troughs, low to the ground, sat on either side of the gate. Setting the bucket of vegetables to her right, Violet carefully stepped through the mass of small bodies and poured the leftovers into the large left trough. She was always amazed at how well they tolerated each other during feedings.

Dumping the greens onto the ground for girl and boy rabbit, she looked each of them over. It was hard for her to believe that until two years ago, she ate their cousins. She was fourteen when she had saved her first rabbit.

That’s when everything had changed. That’s when she started taking weekly walks looking for hurt animals. That’s when she was compelled to live a different kind of life. A life that didn’t feed on pain and death.

She smiled at her special friends. Almost all of them were healed now. She had freed baby pig from a small wooden box. He was put there by a distant neighbor who said the box would make its meat tender. Violet thought the man should be put in a box.

Pig had beaten the sides of the walls until his little hooves were splintered and bleeding, his snout and ears ripped and gooey. Violet had listened to him squeal and cry for weeks before she had crept in on a moonless night and rescued him. She made it look as if pig had busted the box by himself so the owner would think he just ran away.

Skunk, boy and girl rabbit were hit by cars. Usually, the animals died of shock before they died of injury. If an animal looked like it could be still living, Violet would check. If she found a pulse, she would carefully wrap them in a big towel that she carried in her old backpack.

Skunk had been awake, but clearly delirious. His tail was severed and was now a stump of what it used to be. Girl rabbit had a limp from her twisted back leg, but she had healed quickly. Boy rabbit’s ear would forever be mangled. His face would be scarred as well, but he was lucky to have a face at all.

Raccoon was nearly dead when Violet found her. Coon had been shot and probably fell from a tree because both her front legs had been fractured. It had been pure luck that Violet spotted Coon in some thick bushes. She had removed the buckshot from Coon’s back leg, stitched the hole, and set her front legs with sticks and cloth.

For five nights, Violet had crept out of the house and slept all night with her. She had fed nearly comatose Coon with countless cups of lightly sugared water with a baby dropper until Coon began to respond., Then, Violet hand fed her until her legs and hands healed enough to use again. Of all the animals she had nursed over the last two years, Coon had been her biggest challenge.

Violet watched them nibble and slurp. They would all be ready to release in the next couple of days. Coon’s freedom was iffy. Not only had Violet allowed herself to get attached, she wasn’t sure if coon had the speed or agility to survive on her own anymore.

Plus, Coon had taken to being held and kissed. Her soft little black fingers would rub Violet’s face when she was held. The first time Coon did that, Violet cried and Coon licked Violet’s tears. Yes, Coon was a dilemma.

Pig would be a problem, too. He wouldn’t survive on his own because he didn’t know how and she couldn’t keep him or her Pa would surely have him on the dinner table. For that matter, Pa would eat every creature here.

Sighing, she picked up her buckets and stepped through the gate, leaving it slightly ajar so those that were ready could leave.

“OK, if any of you’s feel like leavin, you can. You ain’t prisoners. But, if you need a couple more days to feel brave, you’re welcome to stay. Everyone have a good, good day. Be back tonight.”

With buckets in hand, she skipped back to the pantry and put them under the shelf. A musky spring wind played with her sandy-blond ponytail as the sun touched the top of the mountains making the sky bleed with oranges, pinks, and blues.

2008 09 Jul

Chapter One – The Argument

Author: Shawn Categories: Violet's Vengence

“The girl needs to understand, cost Lula Mae!”

“She don’t. She ain’t no boy, unhealthy Grady! She don’t need ta learn no huntin ways. She can shoot a gun and that’s enough. This is just a phase or somethin. I’m sure she’ll grow out of it.”

“Lula Mae, I ain’t havin no young’un of mine actin like she do. She been actin like a damn fool for goin on two years now. She gonna see and learn how to behave like a normal girl. Now, that’s all there is. I ain’t sayin no more.”

She heard them yelling. She knew her Pa hated her collection of animals she’d saved from the forest. Saved from the roads. He didn’t know she went looking for them.

He’d be right mad if he knew that. But I don’t care what he thinks. I don’t care what any of ‘em think. An’ I sure ain’t huntin ‘em. He’ll have to kill me first.

She pulled the bed covers up to her squared chin and squeezed her eyes shut. They’d tried to force her to eat chitlins again tonight. But, she wouldn’t. She couldn’t. They didn’t understand that just smelling the grease made her want to puke. They didn’t want to understand.

The battle of “meat or not to meat” had been escalating every night. She didn’t even want to eat any more. She had pushed the chitlins toward the edge of the plate and ate her potatoes and green beans in silence while her Pa glared at her.

Mama had just kept wiping her hands on her paper napkin until it bunched up into little greasy strings that hung through her fingers. Between every bite she had gazed at her daughter as if she had been teleported to her table from some alien planet.

Her twelve-year-old brother, Gil, had hunched over his plate with his arm bobbing from plate to mouth like a rubber ball. His dark brown eyes flitted between his Pa and his sister underneath his long lashes.

“You gonna starve, Violet. It ain’t normal for a body to live on just greens. God gave us the animals to use.” Grady had barked.

“God gave us the animals to protect, Pa. And I ain’t eatin ‘em.” 

“An I ain’t eatin ‘em even if you try to beat me into it.” Her voice had been low. Almost a whisper.

Grady had rubbed his wide roughened hands on his paint-stained jeans until one formed a fist. Gil’s bouncing arm had frozen in mid-air, buttery mashed potatoes dripping from his fork.

“Grady York,” Lula Mae’s dark brown eyes narrowed inside her round face. “I won’t be havin no violence at this here table. The Lord God blessed this meal and I won’t allow it. Violet, take these dishes into the sink and get on to your room.”

Violet had stacked the dishes into her arms, plodded into the kitchen, and scraped the leftovers into a bucket on the back porch. Gil had scurried away and plunked himself in front of the television in the next room.

Grady and Lula Mae were silently sitting at the dinner table when Violet headed into her bedroom.

In the beginning, they had just ignored her. Then, they tried to cajole her. Bribe her. Reason with her. Made her go to bed without supper. Finally, her Pa decided countless “meetings” with the switch and open palmed smacks across her head would fix things. That’s what he called the beatings. Meetings. As if the mind was actually involved.

Violet persisted, despite the hungry nights. Despite the lumps above her temples and the moments of dizziness where she would fall to her knees and his huge hands would cease swinging. Despite the angry bleeding welts on her back. She wouldn’t give in. She recited her mantra until she fell asleep.

I won’t. I won’t eat the flesh of my animal friends. I won’t.