Losing Maggie

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Last night I lost my dog Maggie. She was three months shy of her 13th birthday and though a little creaky and long in the tooth, she had more energy than any 10 people in the room.

I got her when she was five weeks old and we’ve been through many adventures over the years. Some good. Some bad. But she was always there, right by side, raring to go wherever I went. And many times, it seemed she was the only friend I had in the world. And believe me, that was enough. No matter how bad things got, I always knew there was one ‘person’ in the world who truly loved me no matter what shape I was in.

 

She loved…

thumper-4002 thumper-5005 june2007015 more-thumper006Cats

Eggs

Chasing squirrels and lizards

Barking at possums

Going for a ride

Chasing the ball

Going for a walk

Bones

People

Me

Sleeping on my bed

Bunching up my rugs

And if you scratched her chest, she’d stand on her haunches for hours – just to make it easier for you.

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Anybody who ever met her, loved her. You just couldn’t help yourself but fall for the funny little dog who seemed to have a permanent smile on her face.

She didn’t love…

Dog food (people food was so much better)

Mail carriers

Anybody who scared her cats

Eye drops, medicine or vaccinations

Going to the vet’s

Being dressed in elf, Santa, or baby outfits (although she loved her jingle collar every year)

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Last night, she went out into the backyard and charged an unwanted guest. I heard her barking, but I thought it was the possum she was barking at. The one who likes to climb along our wall. It made her happy to bark at the possum, so I didn’t call her in.

Then the barking stopped.

Then my room mate screamed my name.

The unwanted guest in the yard was a coyote.

We rushed her to the emergency vet. She was struggling to breathe but she was awake and alert and moving. I thought she’d be okay.

But the vet was taking too long to talk to me and I knew. The injuries were too severe. Her windpipe had been punctured. She had too many injuries. My white shirt was soaked with her blood.

We said goodbye and then she was gone.

My life was better because she was in it. My life will never be the same now that she’s gone. I will miss her more than I can say.

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Memorial Day Memories

Flags at GraveWhen I was a kid I always loved Memorial Day.  Mostly because it meant we’d all pile into Dad’s red chevy and head to the park.

Once we got to the park, the fun started. There we would converge with a bevy of aunts, uncles, cousins, and family friends to start putting the feast together.

Mom always made the best potato salad, Aunt Aggie brought her jello salad, Dad and the men comandeered the barbecue and threw on the dogs and burgers. The smell was heavenly and the tables were laden with everything from deviled eggs to watermelons as big as me.

And there were plenty of other families doing the same.  It almost seemed like a big old block party.

The park was just across the way from a small amusement park and my brother Alan, my cousin Tom and I would sneak to the edge of the property and watch the screaming people digging on the roller coaster. We’d lie in the grass and watch for hours, daydreaming about taking that big ride.

We were too little – but we sure could dream.

Eventually Mom would call us back and we ate until we had to lay flat on our backs in the grass because it was the only position that didn’t make our stomachs hurt.

The bees and flies buzzed overhead and we swatted and sweated in the humid air but was still the best day of the year.

Once the sun went down, we each got 6 sparklers that we could light and wave around.  I always ended up stepping on one and burning my foot – couldn’t keep shoes on me.  But I still loved it.

Flags at GraveThen the fireworks, where we oo’d and ahh’d throughout the entire display.

Then back in the red Chevy and falling asleep in the backseat…

When I was older I learned the meaning of Memorial Day – to honor Americans who had died in the defence of our great nation.

I have to admit, it made the holiday a little less gleeful and yet more important.

Today, I still love the holiday because it harkens the memories of family outings, good food and innocent fun – but it also inspires pride in my country and the people who sacrificed everything so we could have so much.

I hope at some point during the day you’ll say a little prayer of thanks and blessing to those people who have made what we have possible.  I know I will.

Have a great and safe Memorial Day.

I Remember September 11th – Tenth Anniversary

Everyone in this country knows where they were on the day the planes hit the towers and a lone plane went down in a Pennsylvania field. We all know someone who was profoundly affected by loss because of the attack or suffered a personal and unimaginable loss ourselves.

There are images that will forever remain in our memories – the wreckage of steel and concrete, the loss of human life, the tears, the grey ash that covered Manhattan – immovable objects tumbling to the ground.

And we became one nation, truly on that day. Our love of our country, our fellow citizens and freedom was on display with pride. With few exceptions the rest of the world mourned with us and the people responsible indeed heard from us.

We vowed to never forget. I’d like to think that we have all kept that vow. I’d like to think that every American will say a prayer for those we lost and their loved ones. I’d like to think that at least on this day we show one another more kindness, understanding and love.

There will be many ceremonies on Sunday, some official and some not so official. But I believe all of us will do something to honor our 911 families and our brave men and women who continue to stand the watch and keep us safe. I know I will.

Please feel free to express your thoughts here. And God bless America – God bless us all.

Respectfully,
Writer Chick

Saturday – Theme Friday

saturday-memories, grandfather, love, family, original fiction
I dreamed Saturday to hurry up and come. The first day of summer – the day I would see my Poppy again. He would drive his old, bouncy truck up the gravel road, and announce his arrival with a squeak of questionable brakes and unsettled dust.

pocket-watch-handsI held fast to his pocket watch and put it to my ear and listened to the tick, tick, tick as each second passed by. Poppy gave it to me and said, “Marni, when you miss me, you hold this old watch to your heart and you’ll feel my heart beating too.” I did and often. That old watch was important, they gave it to him after he gave them thirty years of work and sweat. I didn’t know who they were but I knew the watch was dear. I knew he loved me the most because he gave it to me.

Saturday was so near and each tick brought it closer. I imagined us sitting at the end of the dock, trolling for catfish. We’d catch two, at least. Poppy’s special bait of white bread and Cheese Whiz was irresistible to catfish. Oh yes, at least two catfish for Mama’s frying pan. After we took pictures of our prizes, we’d nail them to the ancient hickory and skin them good. Then give them to Mama for a light dusting of cornmeal and a bath of hot lard.

We’d eat and laugh, and Poppy would steal my nose between bites of catfish and sips of coffee. Afterward, we would wander through the woods and scavenge for wild berries and violets. The tin bucket pinging out a tune with each handful dropped into its hungry mouth.

“If I go to sleep, Saturday will come. Poppy will come,” I told myself. And as the moon rose and shimmied through my windows, the angels wooed me to slumber. Cradled me in dreams of giggles and adventure.

Morning came so quietly I almost missed it. The house was still and I worried everyone had forgotten about me. I hurried into my dungarees and pink plaid shirt – then raked excited hands through tangled curls. Poppy didn’t care if my hair was a fright. He called it my mane and proclaimed, “You’re my little queen of the jungle, lion girl. That you are.”

“Poppy!” I sang out as I burst into the kitchen. Empty. No Mama, no Daddy – no smell of coffee and eggs and the hot rolls that Poppy loved. The old pocket watch that hung around my neck felt different – heavy – and my hand trembled as I put it to my ear. No, tick, tick, tick…

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Jess’s Saturday lounges here and Christine’s Saturday lazes  here

A Memory – Theme Friday

blue-jay-wall, memories, memory triggers, themed fiction

Sally dug in her garden and reveled in the scent that filled her nostrils. She felt the pulse of the earth as the loamy soil sifted through her fingers. The heat of the sun sunk deep into Sally’s bones and rested there like the arm of an old friend. Her old straw hat cast a floppy shadow as the still nimble hands worked their magic – it would be her best garden yet.

A flutter to her left drew Sally’s eyes up. A bluebird, a jay, perched on the garden wall and pretended not to be there. Birds often perched on that wall and ignored her while being intensely interested in her activities but this bird was different.

Its brilliant blue feathers sparkled in bright morning shine and a memory from Sally’s long ago lilted by. “Blue eyes…the brightest blue eyes,” she said aloud and the Jay cocked its head as though to listen harder.

Sally hadn’t thought of Will for a long while – it had been forever since her life had included him. But now he was there and palpable. His laugh. His crooked grin and the blonde hair that always fell in his eyes. Her heart fluttered like a young girl on her way to a first school dance. How she had loved him and the old sycamore that brought them together. They laughed about everything. They danced under the moon and wished upon stars that shone only for them. At times, they were one soul, one heart, one mind. Sally sat in the memory for a long moment and listened to the music that was their life and she smiled.

The jay squawked and took flight and Sally came back to her garden – the blue of the sky was all that remained.

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Christine’s memory sparkles here and Jess’s memory chimes here.

Car Keys – Theme Fridays

Lucky had a key ring, big and jangly. Car keys, house keys, padlock keys, work keys, mysterious keys that unlocked secret things. It hooked to his back belt loop and danced and sang whenever he jaunted about. Looking down at the big, black shoes with the round toes, the cuffed dungarees and white socks. And they hypnotised me, my eyes compelled to follow their big bouncey steps. Always, I wanted to reach out and grab them, like a stranger playing hide and seek, they called to me, promising a prize if I could catch them.

Patsy’s keys didn’t jangle, nor were they on display but were rather a dainty little thing she tucked in her purse with kleenix and gumballs, a small leather wallet and a pink rat-tail comb. I never watched those keys, maybe because they were hidden and did nothing to tease my eyes or my mind. They held no magic or intrigue because they were so normal.

I longed to have keys like Lucky’s to have the power that they would avail me. Loud and big – jaunty and strong. I wonder now, if each of those keys had a place that they fit into or if many of them were gone but Lucky couldn’t let go of the keys to the missing locks. He didn’t like to throw things away. He was a keeper. He kept things and fixed things and made things that were dead to other people come back to life.

Always in his workshop (which everyone else called the garage) with his salvaged refrigerator, radios and televisions. Cleaning tools, steel wooling the rust off, whetting the blades. Tinkering with old cars and castoffs. The doctor of unloved things, always able to cure their ills and give them a new home and a place in his life. He was just that way.

Even now, I wonder about those keys and where they got to and all the secret place they unlocked. I see there dull metal brightness and hear their song stiIl.

I’m afraid Jess won’t be joining us this week, because somebody got those car keys away from here. 😉  However  Christine’s car keys are janglin still, so please, go here to hear their song.

Twisters

I grew up in the Midwest. We didn’t have hurricanes or earthquakes or locusts. But we did have tornadoes. And let me tell you something, there hasn’t been an earthquake or rainstorm I’ve ever witnessed that can scare the bageebers out of me, like a tornado can.

The thing about twisters are that you never know where they will touch down. You can see one off in the distance that looks like it’s going right then it tricks you and goes left. It can look like it’s moving away from you and then come right at you. It can flatten your neighbor’s house and leave yours standing without so much as a loosened board. It can suck up and carry anything in its path.

I remember when I was a kid the odd reports we would hear during tornado season. A woman, cooking in her kitchen was sucked into a twister when it blew off the roof of her house. It touched down and dropped her off (without injury) 20 miles away. Farmers had cows sucked up out of their pastures and left at the next town. A family of four were driving down the interstate and the twister picked them up, car and all and dropped them off 100 miles later. Bizarre, Twilight Zone kind of stuff.

It is a natural phenom that is unlike any other I’ve ever seen. The air takes on this really still and heavy quality – as though all living creatures have caught their collective breaths. As though, you are suddenly in a vacuum.

When it looks really bad, people are advised to turn off everything and to head down to the basement to seek shelter. That may be why there are basements in that neck of the woods. Underground panic rooms, where you sit and wait and listen to the newscast and you try to play cards and not be scared but you are anyway. I remember many times, sitting in a quiet basement with my family, no one talking or doing, just listening and waiting.

We had a family friend named, Marge. A great lady who had a beautiful Victorian house on Lake St. Claire. I used to love to go to her house because she always had watermelon and potato salad and you could sit on her big porch and eat, as the breeze from the lake rustled your hair. There was a peaceful quality about her property and her house. It was like a big, friendly hug, that you always loved to have.
We had many, many visits to Marge’s over the years and it is truly one of my fondest childhood memories.

But one year, we had a lot of tornadoes. They would hit suddenly, knocking down whole blocks of homes sometimes. And believe me, there isn’t much left behind – it looks like a giant box of toothpicks was dumped out on the lot. Sadly, Marge’s house was hit by one of those evil funnels of wind and centrifugal force. The beautiful white house with the dark blue shutters and the wind-around porch – nothing but splinters. Marge was okay – she made it to safety and no harm or injury occurred, but the house was gone. She didn’t rebuild as we thought she might. Instead, she moved to another state and I never saw her again. Never sat on her porch eating watermelon and potato salad, never felt that lovely lake breeze again. And I never forgave the twister for that, nor will I ever.

Here in California, we got your earthquakes and sometimes pretty bad rainstorms, but I’d take them anyday over a twister. They don’t call them twisters for nothing. And they still scare the bageebers outta me.

What’s your scariest natural disaster?

WC

Happy Father’s Day, Pop

It’s Father’s Day and it’s been a while since I’ve really celebrated it because my Pop passed away several years ago. An earlier post I did, will tell you about my dad. My first true hero. To say I loved him with all my heart puts it mildly. He meant the world to me. And he still does. I suppose in a way I try to ignore Father’s Day, so I don’t have to miss him even more than I already do. His funny little giggle, and crusty voice, his clear blue eyes and big belly – his everything.

But I don’t want to get all sad and lonely in this post. I want to tell you about him. Just a little. It’s just a small little story but one that I love.

Long after I’d grown up and moved out to California, with my own place and my own life – I used to talk to him on the phone. Probably once a month or so. Not about anything in particular. We just talked about whatever was going on or on our minds. We ‘got’ each other very well, and there always was a real easiness between us. So, this one night we were gabbing on the  phone and he hit all the usual dad bases, who was I dating? were they good to me? how was the job? what kind of car was I driving? when was I leaving the land of terrible earthquakes? stuff like that.

Then the topic rolled around to him. “So, what’s new with you?” I asked. A pause. Eh? Dad never paused when you asked him something. “What?”

“Aw…never mind,” he said. I could swear I almost heard him blushing.

Too curious to let it pass, I said, “What? What is it?”

“Oh, you’ll just make fun of me,” he stalled.

“I will not,” I insisted. “What is it?” I was starting to get a little worried – no one was more of an open book than my Pop and he was a straight from the hip kind of guy, so I knew something was up. “Oh for cripes sake, would you just tell me?”

“Okay,” he said, none too pleased. “Well, I started taking night classes at the local high school.” Pop had never finished high school, something he always regretted.

“Well, that’s great, Dad. What are you taking? Photography? Writing?”

“No, I’m getting my diploma.”

“In what?” I asked, apparently to dense to get what he meant.

“My high school diploma. I went back to school and got my diploma,” he said as though relieved to confess his deep dark secret.

I was so happy for him. I knew what it meant to him and I could tell he was happy about it too. “That’s great! That’s really great, Pop. When are  you going to finish?”

He laughed. “I already did. Mickey (my little sister) and I are having a joint graduation party next week.”

Now, this may seem a bit small to some of you – and I’ll admit that in the greater scheme it probably is. But I swelled with pride when he told me. That at age 60, he would go back to school and right something he thought he’d done wrong 40 years before, really knocked me out. He didn’t do it for any reason, or anyone, just himself. Just because it was important to him – a goal he’d never reached but wanted to. And then to have his graduation party with the youngest of his five children was like the cherry on the ice cream sundae.

And that was my dad. The guy who just followed his heart and never stopped trying to grow or learn throughout his life. I don’t think I was ever prouder of him than I was in that moment.

So, Pop…wherever you are, whether up in Heaven looking down on me, or reincarnated as an American Bald Eagle soaring through the sky – you still are and always will my hero. Happy Father’s Day, Pop.

Love,

Annie

My Life, Without a Horse – by cA Hughes

 

When I was five, I wanted a tree swing; also a pony.I would fantasize about it, the pony I mean. I got the tree swing. I sat on it while daydreaming about the pony. Her name would be Cinnamon, as her coat was that same red/orangey-brown color as the spice and she’d have a black mane and tail. My feet’d be muddy and walking her around through tallish grasses.

Gnats and butterflies and dust would dot the air, flecks of gold cresting and dipping in summery sunlight.

Even I, in my imagined yet still filthy gingham, would look lovely and hardy in the country light with Cinnamon in a stately follow.

Straddling Cinnamon, I was happy.Behind my closed eyes, I’d rest my face against her neck and tangle my stubby fingers in her mane. I was hypnotized by the heavy, hollow thud of her hoof-falls as we meandered through the countryside.We communicated in our secret way; she knew me by scent; my breathing, the rise and fall and squeakiness of my voice soothed her spirit. And she’d buck anyone else who attempted to ride, brush or feed her.

She would be mine and only mine.This was the best part because in my life without a horse, there was nothing mine.

I don’t know where this desire for a horse came from. We lived in the city. There were no tall grass fields or creeks or beautiful summer days hazy with shining little bugs that looked like fairies in the setting sunlight. No stands of trees aged with gnarled branches. “Where would we keep a horse?” asked Mother.I said in the garage, desperate. “That would be cruel,” she said. Then her eyes glazed over with a dreamy shine. “Horses need to be in a field, they need to run and graze and have sun on their backs…”

I put a horse on my Christmas lists and asked for one each birthday for the next six years.

“Where did she get such an idea?” My father asked Mother once. He was upset that I had been giving them the silent treatment for three straight days after my seventh birthday.

“All little girls want a horse,” she said.

He chuckled at that. “And why is that?” he asked.

My mother got red in the cheeks and I saw a dark, quick flicker in her eyes- so quick I doubted it the moment I saw it. It happened sometimes, mostly when she was talking to Father about us girls. “They just do,” she said.

I think she was right about that. My daughters have been pleading with their dad and me to get a horse. “Maybe someday,” I say. It is possible since we live in the country. We take walks on streets along the horse ranches nearby and I think, We can get a horse and keep it at a stables. I ask them what they think of the name Cinnamon for a horse.

“I like it,” says the older one.

“Aw, I like Fred,” says the younger.

“Maybe we should get two,” the older says.”Then I can name mine Roses”

“How about three?” say I. “Cinnamon, Roses and Fred.” We like this idea and discuss what our horses would look like- the color of their manes and coats, whether we’d braid their tails with ribbon.

The books I’ve read in which girls had horses, there is no boy-craziness. The girl with a horse does not need anybody. She is independent and free, strong like the legs of her steed. And though beautiful and ethereal, horses do seem somewhat phallic; look at the neck, look at the long face broad at the top; look at how they must be straddled and ridden. A girl conquers the phallus, astride her steed. It can take her to her life; take her away from her life. She is control of her destination and the route there. She is not a princess but a queen. She is not a queen but an outlaw. She is not an outlaw but an explorer, a knight, a cowboy. All of these things and natural and wild.

Free.

copyright cA Hughes

What’s That Smell?

A few years ago I lived in a little cottage in a rather pastoral setting. There were several other little cottages on the property, all beneath a canopy of grape leaves. In the summer the grapes would ripen and there would be beautiful, deep purple clusters of grapes seemingly hanging in the air. The landlord, a crusty old coot from Hungary also liked to garden and there were rows and rows of fresh tomatoes, berries and peppers – all freely available to we little cottage dwellers.

So there we were all tucked away in this psuedo Tuscan atmosphere, with our grapes and our fresh veggies and little cottages. Mine being, of course, the ultimate writer’s garret. I could pretend to be Hemingway or at least Erma Bombeck. On warm summer nights, I’d prop open the front door to get in a breeze, since the cottage was woefully lacking windows. Still I loved my little space and my privacy.

Well, one night whilst I plopped on the sofa and watched television, I could swear I saw the frying pan dance. I had one of those open floor plans where the kitchen really was just a few feet from the sofa and the stove was definitely in plain sight.

I was puzzled. Now just how does a frying pan dance, I wondered. I shrugged assuming it was shadows playing tricks on my eyes and looked back at the television – but damn if it didn’t happen again. I got up slowly and tip-toed a little closer to the stove and eeek what did I see but a little mouse doing the boogaloo in my frying pan. (Can you say, throw that pan away?)

Naturally, we both screamed – he scurried off and I ordered my cat to attack. No deal. The cat was just a kitten really and not much bigger than the mouse and my dog was so old she barely noticed earthquakes. So, naturally I got the elimnator (the broom) and attacked the back of the stove and the walls and stuff to scare the little bugger out. Yep, didn’t work.

Next day I talk to the crusty old Hungarian about getting rid of the mouse. He acted like he didn’t understand english and so I went to the store and bought some mouse poison. I don’t really like doing stuff like that but hey – I couldn’t have the little vermin running around my house and nibbling on my toes or ears whilst I slept – so mouse poison it was. I place one packet behind the stove and one behind the sofa.

Every night I’d hear a frenzied, gleeful squealing and rattling of the platic bag. Apparently that was mousie coke based on his obvious enjoyment of that which would eventually do him in. Every morning, I’d peek to see just how much of this stuff he was eating – thinking any day now it’d be over. Well, believe it or not, it took several days. Now that mouse had quite an appetite. But finally one day I came home from work and there he was lying dead on my bath mat (yep pitched that too). Phew! that was over. Must remember not to prop door without babygate in it. All is right with the world.

So a couple of days later I’m sitting at my desk and ‘sniff-sniff’ what the heck was that smell? I looked under the desk, checked the trash – tried to remember if I was wearing dirty sweat pants and so on…but nothing. I went back to work. There it was again. That smell! I checked my armpits – was I going through some serious detox? Was I drinking too much water or not enough? Was the exercise tape really making me stink taht much.

I took a shower.

Sure enough the next day, it’s back again. What was it? What other horrible thing had crawled into my house? Where had the dog barfed or the cat peed? What the hell was that smell? I simply could not find the source.

Saturday morning, I got the bug to do a spring cleaning. I whipped out the cleanser and sos pads, the furniture polish, the window cleaner and finally the vacuum. Yep my little cottage was going to sparkle and shine. On went the vacuum and it went merrily about its business sucking up hidden dirt (and I hoped smells) and sand and rocks and whatever else me and the dog dragged in. Ooops had to move my big desk chair – now for as small as that place was I always insisted on having a big comfy leather chair, so it took up some room – but it was worth it. So move chair out of way and gasp! what do I see? Yep, my mousie’s dancing partner. There she was in all her white and brown speckled glory. And she was rightly stinking the place up. I could never find the source of the smell cuz it was right under my big fat ass the whole time.

So the moral to the story is, if you got one mouse than probably have two. And a dead mouse really stinks!

WC