Category Archives: Short Stories

Thanks “forgiving”

Thanks Forgiving

This isn’t exactly your typical Thanksgiving story. I woke the other night from a recurring anxiety dream I’ve had since I was a little kid. It concerned the mother of a childhood friend. I immediately woke up sobbing in a cold sweat and hammered this out at the keyboard. I did not pull any punches – pardon the offensive language and don’t read this unless you are in a rather dark mood. I debated posting it at all and only decided to in hopes it will end the dreams.  Names have been changed to protect the innocent from the evil.

Thanks Forgiving

 

The Dissipation of Pepe

PepeI adjusted the minors head lamp to high beam, stretched the zipper of my coveralls to its maximum height around my neck and lowered into the crawl space leading under the house. If I pulled the ball cap any tighter I’d risk cutting off the blood supply to my brain. The last thing I wanted was to pass out under the house with the source of the horrid odor permeating the house and surrounding yard for the last two weeks.

On hands and knees, I glanced back at my dog peering down the crawl space at me from the breezeway. Her large shepherd ears cocked in curiosity.

“I’m going in girl. If I’m not back in three minutes…go for help.”

Shade shook her head, sneezed twice, whirled and left me under the house to fend for myself. Some Rin-Tin-Tin she turned out to be. Ungrateful canine.

The smell hit one night about two weeks earlier. My dreams incorporated the undeniably pungent mephitidae odoripherous, aka “skunk stink.” I swore the thing had crawled through my bedroom window and sprayed me in the face. The smell was worse inside than out. I opened all the windows for several days. The smell subsided only slightly.

Under the guidance of my neighbor, the great white hunter, we baited the raccoon trap with tuna fish and Vienna sausages and lowered the trap into the entrance to the crawl space under the house. Retrieval of the trapped skunk was a bridge we’d cross when we came to it. “If you catch ‘em – throw a tarp over the trap and lose my cell number.” He chuckled. I nodded my head in false agreement. Images of shooting it when the time came danced in my head. I wondered if skunks could spray the moment a .22 entered their smelly little skulls.

Every morning for a week I opened the trap door to the crawl space in anticipation. Like some sort of morbid Christmas like anticipation. What would Santa leave me this year? One skunk? Two skunks? Perhaps a whole family of tuna fish and Vienna sausage eating skunks!

At the end of the week, I pulled the trap up by the small chain we secured to it before setting it under the house. An untouched can of tuna and a fuzzy can of green Vienna sausages was all it contained. No skunk. The smell was stronger some days than others. It seemed to focus around the front of the house. We (my dog and me) determined it must be living under the front porch. I tossed out the moldy can of Vienna sausages no self-respecting varmint would eat and placed the trap next to the hole the cats use as an escape when being chased by the dog. I assumed the skunk entered the same way when he wasn’t repelling into my bedroom window for a direct hit.

I woke early to a commotion of crashing and clanking on the front porch. This could be it! I grabbed the .22 and slipped quietly out the front door. I have no idea what my reasoning was behind the stealth approach. A desperate varmint is a dangerous varmint I suppose. Shade barked at the caged critter. “Get back before you get sprayed girl!” I took aim making sure a stray bullet had a safe backstop. A blur of black and white flashed across the cross hairs of my scope. I needed a clean head shot. I searched for the eyeball of my trapped nemesis. A curtain of metallic yellow with black lettering came into focus…”S…N…O..W..B…A…” SNOWBALL! OMG! I almost shot the neighbor’s cat! Snowball was released back into the wilds of her neighborhood haunt and the now empty can of tuna fish tossed into the trash. Who names a black and white cat Snowball?

The days passed and no skunk. No company coming to visit and no solicitors. Those nice folks at the Watch Tower searching for Jesus must have found him because their visits dropped off significantly, too. UPS deliveries were being left farther and farther from the front porch. If something wasn’t done with the smell soon I could expect my next winning eBay delivery dropped off at the neighbors and my soul condemned to hell for an eternity.

The odor had gone from pungent skunk to something hideous and unworldly. I remembered a friend mentioned finding a dead skunk under her front porch. The search and rescue mission for Pepe Le Pew had turned into a recovery operation.

I searched through the cracks of the front porch. Unless Pepe was buried under a pile of leaves, a collection of spoons that went missing 15 years ago and cat hair, the porch “grid” was cleared. The last option to pursue was under the house.

I prepared for battle secured in an oversized blue mechanics jump suit, lace up boots, leather gloves and ball cap. All I needed was a hockey mask and I could have auditioned for the lead character in Friday the 13th. I giggled while stuffing my pockets with grocery bags, “Would you like plastic or paper?” Plastic please – because everyone knows you don’t bag a dead skunk using paper.

To say I am not comfortable in confined spaces is the understatement of a lifetime. The crawl space under my house might be larger than most but accessible on hands and knees only. I crawled through a mine field of spent bug bomb. When was the last time I bombed under here? Man, I hope it was recently. Shivers spread across the back of my neck with thoughts of spiders inhabiting the labyrinth of cobwebs dropping down the back of my coveralls. I wove under electrical wires and over sewage pipes. I felt like a huge, blue boa constrictor slithering through a maze of urban jungle. Boa Constrictor. Great. Wish I hadn’t thought of that. You read in the papers all the time about a pet boa that escaped 20 years ago discovered only after the disappearance of small children and neighborhood pets. I started to back up and retrieve my pistol before remembering I had lent it to my son. Great. Boa Constrictors.

Armed with a headlamp, mag light and pocket full of grocery bags, I continued my mission. The light from the flashlights reflected off old concrete blocks, hunks of true 4×6’s and a cardboard box. I don’t even want to know what’s in that box.

The underside of my house is divided into two sections separated by a concrete ledge and 16” headers made of 2×4’s. In order to get into the second section, you have to slither…I mean crawl…over a black sewer pipe without putting weight on it, mind you, and through one of the 16” x16” squares. The first section was clear. I slid over the concrete ledge into the second section of hell.

“Shade…?? Are you still up there? Don’t you leave me down here all by myself. Shade?” I heard what I chose to believe was my dog whimper in acknowledgement that she had not abandoned me. I continued to mumble to myself and pretend like I was not crawling under a house full of spiders, boa constrictors and varmints dead or alive. Suddenly, water gushed through the sewer pipe. Who the hell just flushed the toilet up there? I live alone! Toilets don’t just flush on their own! I would have attempted to slow my breathing….had I been breathing.

My eyes burned. A putrid taste in my mouth appeared as the smell grew stronger. The beam from my light scanned from left to right and back to…there it is. A large black and white pile of stench in the far side of the house. The closer I got, the stronger the smell. I started to gag. I can’t gag. I’ve been to confine space training. If you gag you risk choking…or was it you let yourself throw up and pass out – then continue on? No, I’m pretty sure if you gag, you choke and die. “Shade??? Where the hell are you? Lassie wouldn’t leave me you damn dog!” I held my breath for as long as I could. For reasons beyond me – I started to laugh. Ever try holding your breath in the worst, most horrid smell imaginable and getting the giggles at the same time? Nothing good comes of it.

I can do this. Never weaken. Get in there and get ‘er done. I tucked my face in my arm, took a deep breath, pulled out a plastic bag to cover my gloved hand and the other to bag Le Pew. The second I disturbed the body the rancid stench compounded 100 fold. I wasn’t going to make it. I jabbed the maggot covered hide into the bag and started backing out at mock 1. I somehow managed to back out through the 16” header and over the sewer pipe feet first. At that point I didn’t care who had flushed the toilet or if the pipe broke and dumbed on my head. Nothing could be worse than this. I needed to take a breath – dragging the bagged Le Pew behind me as far from my face as I could reach – I took another breath and scampered for the opening.

I flung Le Pew up and out of the hole smacking Shade in the head. “Shade! You didn’t leave me!” I burst out from under the house gasping as if I’d emerged from the ocean depths. The smell would not cease. I crammed the bagged skunk into three more grocery bags and tied it off, opened the trash can, stuffed the bagged Le Pew, along with my gloves, into a thick feed bag and slammed the lid down. I rolled the trashcan to the end of my driveway for trash pickup in a wake of putrefied stench. Thank goodness tomorrow was trash day.

My neighbor met me at the end of my drive as I came from leaving the trashcan on the side of the road. “What the hell have you done this time?” He muffled from behind a hand clasped mouth and nose.  I recounted my tale of the Le Pew recovery mission and its tribulations and successes. It was hard to see his face through his hand, but I swear I saw him tear up a little. I’m not sure if that was from the smell or trying to keep from laughing at me. “My god girl, don’t you ever move away from here. I couldn’t pay for this kind of entertainment.”

The smell has subsided considerably in the few hours post Le Pew recovery. However, I’m certain I will be making another trip under the house; this time with a bottle of bleach, tomato juice and Fabreze in hopes to hasten the dissipation of Le Pew. As for the burning in my eyes and the rancid taste in my mouth – I’ll let you know the effectiveness of a shot of Visine and Pendleton.

The end

PepeEnd

Earnest The Extraordinary

I came close to not writing a Christmas story this year. I started typing up a traditional Christmas letter before realizing how redundant it was with the phenomena that is Face Book. Anything I would care to share with folks has already been shared – complete with graphic high definition photos. Yes – you are welcome for the Franken Knee shots – hopefully nobody was eating dinner and perusing my page at the same time.

In summary:

  1. I shoot shit – mostly balloons and an occasional raccoon. I’m not very good at killing balloons yet – but I’m lethal on the coon population.
  2. I continue to cut trees and clear trail for the Backcountry Horseman when I’m not trying out new Dutch oven recipes on the crew. My specialty is dessert. I heard, “Here comes the dessert girl” more than once last year.
  3. I was somehow talked into (sounds much better than tricked) joining a drill team. Something I did not think I would really enjoy but turns out I love it and it’s been great for me and my horse. The best part has been the new friends I’ve met in the process.
  4. My youngest son, Blake, was married in August. He married into a wonderful family and will be starting their own sometime next summer.
  5. My horse had his unfair share of illnesses, injuries and setbacks this year. However, barring shooting him in the ear again, we plan to come back with a vengeance in 2015.
  6. I changed jobs with the department – my primary focus is e-discovery and data forensics. It’s like an interactive mystery novel and I do love a good mystery. Someday I plan to write one.
  7. I had a few pieces and parts removed and/or replaced. Again, you are welcome for the gnarly knee pictures that arrived in time for Halloween.

If I had to reflect on the most important aspects of my life over the last year – I would definitely say it has been my continued relationship with God, my family and the wonderful friends He has brought into my life. Without all of which I would be nothing but a shell and a $75,000.00 leg.

Oh – I almost forgot the Christmas story. A couple days ago I woke with the inspiration to write something. A children’s story popped into my head. As I wrote it – I pictured it illustrated in watercolor. A droopy, sad eyed donkey with long ears and a heart filled with hope. A donkey that no matter how small and insignificant he may appear on the outside, was rather quite extraordinary on the inside.

I hope you enjoy reading this story to your children and grandchildren.

Merry Christmas to you all and my God bless each and every one of you.

XmasBanner

Earnest the Extraordinary

The journey of an ordinary donkey

 Ask anyone and they would tell you: Earnest was an ordinary sort of donkey. Not special in any sort of way; just a donkey, nothing more, nothing less. Earnest, sadly enough, felt much less than ordinary.

Earnest looked around the small barnyard he called home. There was nothing special about it at all. Chickens scratched in the yard. Oxen lazily chewed their cud beneath the shade of the olive trees and sheepdogs stood guard over their flock.

It seemed that everyone had an important job to do; everyone except Earnest. He tried so very hard not to let it get him down, but some days he just couldn’t help it. You see, deep down Earnest felt he was meant to be something more than just an ordinary donkey. He didn’t know what that something was exactly – but he felt it just the same.

Earnest was feeling particularly ordinary the day Mrs. Goose found him looking more distraught than usual. “Why Earnest Donkey, you look positively and utterly hopeless with that sad, long ordinary face!” she squawked. “Whatever is the matter?” Earnest explained to Mrs. G how he felt like an ordinary donkey on the outside, but rather extraordinary on the inside. “Nonsense!” she honked. “You are what you are, nothing more, and nothing less. Facts are facts and the fact is, Earnest E. Donkey, you are not extraordinary.

Earnest wasn’t ready to give up just yet. He bade Mrs. Goose good day and wandered over to the chicken coop. He poked his head inside the small door of the hen house. Blustering hens filled the boxes of nests with fresh eggs of varying shades of brown – some freckled, some speckled and some neither nor. “Good morning ladies,” said Earnest sweetly. At once the house erupted with gaggling hens. “Good heavens! What’s he doing here! It has gotten to be where a lady has no privacy! No privacy at all!” “I’m sorry ladies.” Earnest apologized. “I was hoping you might be able to help me. I would like to be less ordinary and more…I don’t know – productive perhaps, like you.” A large red hen waddled closer to Earnest and cackled before pecking him smartly on the muzzle. “Like us? You want to be like us? Preposterous! You could never be like us because you, Earnest E. Donkey, are not extraordinary.

Earnest backed out of the hen house rubbing his tender muzzle. He strolled into the pasture where oxen pulled heavy plows through the farmers’ field. “Good day to you gentleman, I would like to offer my assistance!” Earnest said proudly. The oxen stopped what they were doing and laughed at Earnest as he fumbled to slip the cumbersome yoke around his small neck. The yoke was much too large and much too heavy for poor Earnest –tipping him topside down and bottom side up. The sight of Earnest tipped upside down in such a manner caused the oxen to laugh harder still:  “Away with you silly little donkey! You could never be strong and powerful like us because you, Earnest E. Donkey, are not extraordinary!

Earnest tipped himself right-side up. His head hung low as he left the field of oxen and ambled toward a large sheepdog guarding a flock of black faced mutton dotting the hillside. Earnest marched right up and plopped matter-of-fact onto his haunches next to the dog. He turned his head from side to side surveying the hillside without uttering a word. “Who do you think you’re fooling?” barked the dog. His bark was so fierce and so loud it caused Earnest to jump. His voice trembled when he answered. “I…I only thought I could help watch over the flock, like you.” “Like ME?” barked the dog. “Don’t be absurd. You could never be bold and fearless like me because you, Earnest E. Donkey, are not extraordinary.

Earnest wandered to the far edge of the farm where he was born and raised. He paused at the corner separating the familiar from that which was not. Everything he had ever known was behind him; the oxen in the fields and the sheep grazing on the hillsides. The cackling hens and gaggling geese – all reminders of what he was not…Earnest was not extraordinary.

As Earnest left the farm behind him, the days passed beneath his ordinary hooves – each as uneventful as the next. He passed by Shepherds tending flocks and milkmaids milking the cows. He passed merchants on their way to peddle wares at market and weary travelers on their way to and fro; all much too preoccupied to pay mind to a little donkey that was, after all, not extraordinary at all.

Just when Earnest was beginning to think there wasn’t anything extraordinary left in the entire world – he came upon a caravan of camels laden with treasures the likes of which he had never seen! Jewel encrusted chests stuffed full of silver, gold and fine linens…all adorned with golden chains and strands of precious pearls! Earnest had to trot to keep up with the long legged camels. “Good day my magnificent friends. My name is Earnest. Might I travel with you for a bit?” A particularly regal camel looked down his long muzzle without breaking stride. “Surely you jest. We carry the treasures of mighty kings upon our backs! One might say it beneath one to associate with an ordinary donkey. Especially, Earnest E. Donkey – one so obviously not extraordinary.

Earnest could sink no lower. His long donkey ears practically drug the ground. He trod on in this fashion for days, or maybe weeks. He didn’t know or care. As far as he was concerned, his journey was over. He would spend one last, lonely night along the River Jordan before returning home. Home to his ordinary life on the ordinary farm where he would live out his days as an ordinary donkey – quite possibly less than ordinary. He let out a big sigh.

Earnest stretched his short, grey donkey legs and yawned at the rising sun. The previous day had made up his mind to go home. What changed … he could not say. As Earnest slept that night he was overcome with a powerful feeling compelling him to continue on his journey.

Late morning brought Earnest to a crossroads. The sign pointed in two directions: this way to “Nazareth” – that way to “Bethlehem.” The feeling he experienced the night before returned…pulling him toward Nazareth.

Earnest walked several miles before meeting a group of travelers heading south. A young couple was amongst the travelers; the woman heavy with child. The couple lagged behind the rest. Earnest feared for their safety as the roads were known to be teeming with bandits!

Earnest was pleasantly surprised when the young couple did not brush him aside as others had on his journey. They told him they were on their way to Bethlehem to register for the census as the law required. The woman’s time was nearing. Earnest knew what he must do. “Please, let me help. I know I am just a small, ordinary donkey, but my back is strong and I could easily carry you as far as you need to go!” The woman smiled at Earnest as the man helped her onto the donkeys back.

The young couple was able to travel much faster with Earnest’s help. They passed rolling hillsides with sheepdogs guarding their flocks. They passed oxen toiling in the fields and majestic camels burdened with the weight of untold riches. Not one said an unkind word to Earnest. They merely knelt in wonder as the little donkey and his companions continued on their journey.

The trio reached Bethlehem on the fourth day of travel. The young couple went from inn to inn searching for a place to rest to no avail; each filled to capacity. With nowhere else to turn, they settled in to a manger. The small cave offered privacy for the mother-to-be and a place for Earnest in the outer chamber.

Earnest could not fall asleep. He tossed and turned, worried about his new friends. Suddenly, a beautiful voice came to him out of the night. Earnest had never heard an angel before – but he knew it to be true. The angel spoke: (Luke 2-10)…“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” A wondrous peace came over Earnest such as he had never felt and he drifted soundly into sleep.

Earnest stayed with the young family for several days before deciding it was time to return home. He said his tearful good-byes to the young couple and the child he knew he would carry in his heart forever. As he turned to leave, an angel appeared before him. “My dear Earnest, as a gift to you for your strength of heart and unwavering courage, I place upon your back this shadow of the cross. Let it be a reminder to all who see it of the love of our Father in heaven and the rewards offered to those willing to accept his Grace. And…my dear little one – let it be a reminder to you as well that you, Earnest E. Donkey… are most extraordinary.

 

 

 

 

 

Mountain Santa

I am still refilling my blog with content from my old site – thus the reposts – which will continue for some time.

I wrote Mountain Santa for 2013’s Christmas Story. My grandson Emmett is the lead character along with my version of what a real Santa ought to be. I hope you enjoy!

click to read: Mountain Santa

 

A Christmas in Silver City Past

I don’t normally write pure fiction – sure, as my friend Lou Ann will attest, I might embellish a bit – but rarely do I write pure fiction. This story is based in historical Silver City Idaho. The buildings and many of the characters are real. My friend, Janine Townsend, has ancestral roots in Silver City. Janine took me to the historical ghost town late this fall and gave me a tour of the homes once owned by her family. The Townsend House was built by Janine’s Great Grandfather, Hank Townsend. Janine’s Grandfather, Harry Townsend, was born in the house. The Townsend House is amongst the buildings still standing and in use today. Janine and I (and a reluctant Lou Ann whether she likes it or not) are planning to pack in to Silver City in the spring as soon as the snow melts.  

The character “Sadie Cattlebuyer” in this story is based on a poem I wrote when I was fairly young. So, while Sadie may not be real – she has always lived in my heart.

 This story is dedicated to the Sadie “Joe” Cattlebuyer’s in all of us.

Click the link below to read:

 

A Christmas in Silver City Past – 6×9