Three Burrows, Maybe Four

hedgehog fall

Meesies likes it when the forest is oh so quiet and peacefullies. I can wander about and munch on little crunchie squigglies and snuggle away in my three cozy burrows. I am thinking of digging a fourth in case my little missus decides to wander over and sqoochy with me but I haven’t seen her in a while so that can wait. There’s plenty to do and see when the skies and trees are dark and only an owl hooting far away.

There’s a new menace in the forest though, a bully-bully of a huge orange Tabby cat, with a floppy belly and a limited vocabulary.  He only knows how to hissy and growl, and while we laugh so mirthy at him behind his back, he’s a danger to us one and all.

Last night he came upon me unawares, while I had a juicy worm nicely wiggling down my throat and startled I began to choke! He tried to bat a paw at me but struck my spines while I was balled up, it was a messy fright I couldn’t relaxy for hours after.

What more can I do?  I am only one hedgehog. 

He don’t like my spines so I do have that. I want to be able to wander tonight but what if he returns? Ah, but if I could only set a trappie for him to make him squack and run..he is a coward at heart I can see that.  My mind darts here and there and all of a sudden I have a plansie…..

I will invite Frankies and the missus over to help and together we will run him out of our forest never to returns. He always comes from the direction of the house over yonders and through the hole in the thicket, jumping over a shallow dip in the ground. I shalls dig the dip a bit deeper.  Me’s not like to climb much, its so awkward like, but I can climb to the branch over the thicket……when he comes through I will drop as a ballsie onto his fat head, which will knock him into the dip, where Frankies and the missus are balled up too….so many spine-sies, he’s sure to squall all the way back home! And yes, the merriment when he does!

When one hedgehog joins another hedgehog, and another, as well, oh magic can happen when we work as teamsies! And since the missus will already be here….maybe even more magic tonight, me dreams….

 

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Come Back To Me

roses

He was stunned – the stranger in front of him looked exactly like the girl he’d been dreaming about. He’d had the dream for weeks now, the same dream each time.  He was sitting on a bus dreamily staring out the window, when he’d see this young girl, maybe eight years old, sitting on her lawn as the bus passed by.  She’d wave to the bus, while mouthing something he couldn’t quite figure out.  For some reason it was important to know what she was saying.  He’d started recognizing the dream once he entered it and started trying to change things. He’d wave back but it didn’t change anything. A few times he tried to lower the window so he could hear her but the window was stubbornly shut and refused to budge. He even tried to get off the bus, but it didn’t work.

The girl was standing in line in front of him at the movie theater with her parents. He couldn’t help staring at her. She said something and her parents laughed. Her dad tousled her short blonde hair before stepping up to the window. “Two adults and one child for Elmer and his Flying Machine,” he said.

He bought tickets for the same movie and followed them into the theater.  He sat in the next row back and a little over, where he could study her face. She was a lively child, joking with her parents until the movie started. Then she fell silent, staring intently at the screen, the moods of the movie reflecting in her face. He was especially touched when a few tears escaped her eyes to drift down her cheeks.

He didn’t watch the movie.  He watched her and thought about what to do. He didn’t want to look like a creep or pedophile or stalker. He had no interest in her, other than that she looked exactly like the girl in his dream.  After the movie was over, he followed them back out into the lobby.

“I have to pee,” the girl said, and darted into the women’s room.  The parents exchanged glances and each went more slowly into the restrooms.  The girl came back out first, without either parent.  He saw his chance.

“Do you know me?” he said to her.

A look of confusion crossed her face. “No,” she said.

“Does a bus go in front of your house each day?” he asked.

She took a step backwards. “um, yes, several do. Why?”

“I am just curious.  Do you wave to the buses?”

“Yes, doesn’t everyone?” she said. Her arms were crossed and she was rocking back and forth on the tips of her toes. She looked behind her for her parents, but they hadn’t come out yet.

“What do you say when the bus goes by? You say something, right?” He broke into a cold sweat.  This was it.  This was the answer that he’d been waiting for.  The answer that had been haunting him.

“I sing,” she said. “I sing a song my grammy taught me.”

“Can you sing it for me?”

She paused. Her parents had come out of the bathrooms and were standing on either side of her.

“Yes,” she said. And began to sing.

Come back to me in my dreaming 
Come back to me once more 
Come with the love light gleaming 
As in the days of yore 
I wonder if you still love me 
And if your heart is still true 
When the spring roses are blooming 
Then I’ll come back to you
Somewhere a heart is breaking 

Calling me back to you 
Memories of loved ones waiting 
Of happy home and you 
Absence makes my heart fonder 
Is it the same with you 
Are you still happy I wonder 
Or do you feel lonesome too

When the sun is sinking 
In the golden west 
And the birds and flowers 
They have gone to rest 
Come tell me that you still love me 
And that your heart is still true 
When the spring roses are blooming 
Then I’ll come back to you

The theater lobby was quiet as she sang in a high pure voice.  When she stopped there was a spattering of applause. Her mother smiled at him and reached down to take her hand.

“Eva is a very special child,” she said. He nodded.

“Thank you Eva,” he said. The family walked past him. Eva gave a little nod as she passed. He walked slowly outside and thought about his wife. They had been drifting further and further apart and he hadn’t known what to do about it. Now he knew. He walked faster and faster towards his car and then began to run.

 

(Postscript: song lyrics are an old Appalachian song called Happy or Lonesome.)

 

 

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Stuck

knuckles

“It’s so lovely to meet you!” It was said in a way that immediately made him feel special, the long-lost family member.  She came out of one of the dark corners of the room and into the light of the candles on the table in the middle. She didn’t look anything like a psychic, or what he thought a psychic should look like…no shawl or flowing skirts or deep probing eyes.  She was tall and lanky and wore a man’s plaid shirt tucked into a denim skirt. Her hair was short and brown and there was a cowlick in front she’d smooth down with one large hand from time to time. She looked like a farmer’s wife or someone working at the local library.  Even though she wasn’t smiling she looked so friendly and warm.

“Are you the psychic?”

She smiled a small smile. “Well, yes, although I prefer to call myself a searcher.  Somehow I am able to find things, see things others can’t.”

“I am not sure why I stopped.  I saw the red neon sign, and well,” he said hesitantly.

She motioned to him to sit down on the other side of the table from her. Up close he saw freckles on her nose and that the knuckles of her fingers were red and inflamed. She saw him looking at her hands and put them under the table in front of her.

“You stopped because you need answers,” she said.

“But I don’t know the questions!”

“You just think you don’t. I charge $35 for a reading.  That work for you?”

He nodded. She brought her hands back out and lit a cone of incense on the table.  Immediately, white smoke began to rise, making the air hazy and fluid. He thought he might start coughing as the smoke came closer, but instead he breathed in deeply and relaxed. She reached over and took his left hand to hold it in both of hers.

“I do best with palm reading. Or at least that’s how it feels tonight.” She began to lightly stroke his inner palm with two fingers, across and down and across again.  It felt good and he relaxed further, feeling sleepy. He wanted to close his eyes but he didn’t want to be rude and he wanted to hear what she had to say.

“We’ll start with the obvious. You’ve been travelling.  Really a lot of travelling. Some you like, some you don’t. You don’t know how to stop the travelling you don’t like.  This true?” She looked up at him.

“Yes,” he said.

“You’ve been married twice. Both times to awful women. You don’t trust your taste in women any more.  This true?”

“Yes,” he said.

“You lost your father a year ago and you still haven’t cried about it. It’s a dark shriveled heavy thing lying inside you next to your heart and you can’t get it out. This true?”

He groaned. “Yes,” he said.

“There’s a lump in your groin and you touch it compulsively, but you are too afraid to see a doctor, you are afraid it’s something really really bad.  This true?”

He couldn’t move. “YES,” he said hoarsely.

“You feel like you are stuck in your life, just plain stuck, like a horse trying to pull a cart out of sucky mud, it’s quicksand, pulling you down, this true?”

Tears ran down his face. “yes,” he whispered.  There was a humming in his head and it was getting louder. The room was blurry from his tears. She got up from the table and went to a sideboard and picked something up.  It looked like a glass tumbler, but not like anything he had seen before. Colors swirled across its etched surface.  She stood over him.

“Do you trust me?”  she said.

“Yes.”

She tapped the edge of the glass tumbler and it rang a loud clear bell sound. She tapped it again and again until the room was filled with ringing…and then she slammed it hard onto his chest, over his heart.

“OUT!” she said, in a booming voice. “OUT OUT OUT.”

He felt something lurch out of him and into the cup. The humming in his head stopped. She pulled the glass away in a slippery motion and slammed it down onto the table top, capturing whatever was inside.  “I’ll deal with that later,” she said.

“What the hell was that all about?” he asked.

“Do you still feel stuck?”

He thought for a moment.  “No. Not at all.”

“Then that’s all that matters, right? 35 bucks please.”

He got up, dazed and reached for his wallet to pay her.

“It’s in your other pocket.  Sit in your car for a few minutes when you leave. You aren’t quite ready to drive yet.”

He nodded and handed her two twenties.  “Keep the change.”

“I said 35 and I meant it,” she said brusquely and handed him a five.

“I don’t know how to thank you,” he said.

“You don’t need to. This is what I do.”

He felt an impulse to hug her, but he restrained himself and left, taking one last glance around the room.

She sat down at the table, staring at the tumbler. Something moved inside. She sighed.

“Here goes nothing,” she said, and raised the glass to her lips. She swallowed what was inside the glass. The knuckles on her fingers glowed bright red for a moment.

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One Night at the Candlelight

20170929_222035

I passed for human most of the time, unless I wanted them to truly see me. I may have had an old-fashioned way of speaking, although I certainly tried to keep up with each era and learn the different new terms. But people just carried their bodies differently a hundred years ago. Watch old news reels and you will see what I mean. I was turned in 1893 and things were just very different then. I will admit there were times over the years  it amused me to show my true self just to see the fear in their eyes.  I was past all that now, since Jadis had entered my life. Imagine falling in love, finally, after 100 years of travelling the earth by oneself. It was ten years since I had turned her, and I still marveled at the curve of her tender little ears, the way she held her wrists just so, the line between her eyes that appeared when she frowned.

 

I knew she loved me too.  After all, most of us tend to be solitary creatures…emphasis on CREATURE.  But she chose to stay with me, and gladly too. She proclaimed that being turned was the best thing that had ever happened to her and she was going to take this gift I had given her and embrace it fiercely…as well as embracing me too. But she did have one condition.  That I give up my human feasts…and turn to other sources, like animals.  She laughed and said that we were our own version of Vegetarians and wasn’t that fabulous. She had a tender heart, a touching reminder of her humanity.
And so, we traveled here and there together, finally settling down for a while in Portland Oregon, because we liked the weather and the quirky nature of the town. There was plenty of food in the countryside on the outskirts of the city, so we didn’t have to go far for our feasting, and there was plenty of food of another kind in the funky little bars and food truck courts and open mike readings and naked bike ride events.  We found that we loved acquiring quirky characters of one kind or another, each with an interesting story to tell. We were always thirsty for the next one to explore…that nattily dressed gentleman over there with the carefully waxed mustache, that oldish woman over yonder with blowsy casbah pants and a purple streak in her hair….or that rather pompish looking banker type who had chosen polka dot socks. Instead of sucking their blood, we sucked their stories out of them and were all the more satiated from it.  And if we liked them and liked their story….ah, well we gave them a little gift. One of us…whomever we thought might be more welcome…would give a little kiss at the end of the story.  And the story-teller would leave feeling strangely invigorated and yes, sexy too. We knew what a gift that was. And the ones who were boring, or worse, arrogant and full of hot air, well, we pricked their bubble a little bit. A gentle nibble on their ear ( not a bite!!!) would give them nightmares for three nights or so. It was only fair.
One evening not long ago we were in one of our favorite little haunts, a little bar called the Candlelight in the southeast part of town.  We had become friends with the bartender Mike and there was a never ending parade of characters wandering through.  It was just our kind of place. I was sitting at the bar chatting with Mike while Jadis was on the dance floor singing a karaoke song….. Hit Me With Your Best Shot by Pat Benatar. She stopped singing and I turned to look at her and felt a blow to my head and I fell off the stool to the floor. There was scrabbling over me and I saw legs going up and over the bar. I jumped up quickly and saw a man screaming at Mike and trying to lunge past Mike to his other bartender Jill, who was crying and hiding behind him.
“Come here BITCH,” the man bellowed…..”I’m a gonna getcha!”  He pulled out a knife.
“Henry!” Jadis yelled, and tossed me a pool stick.  In a flash, I had tapped the knife out of his hand with the stick, knocking him backwards and down, and I jumped over the bar.  I held the bar stick over him, like a stake. I’d vowed a decade earlier that I’d never kill another human being, but at that moment, it seemed impossible that I’d fulfill that promise.  There were other other hands now on the pool stick.  Mikes and Jadis.
“Good job, man,” Mike said. “You can let go now. I got it from here.”
I let go of the pool stick, reluctantly. It would have felt so good to slam it through his rib cage into his worthless heart. Jadis grabbed my hand and placed it on her bosom.  Her heart was racing.  She grinned and I grinned right back.
“You sure do know how to show a girl a good time,” she drawled.
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To Augustus, Love Pappy

 

watch

 

“To Augustus, Love Pappy.”

He blinked and read the inscription again.

“To Augustus, Love Pappy.”

His heart thudded painfully in his chest. His girlfriend Wanda was holding a rhinestone bracelet up to the light, looking for any missing stones. The small antique shop was dimly lit, maybe for atmosphere, maybe so minor flaws might be missed…he suspected the later. He didn’t much trust most antique dealers. He’d read it somewhere that they liked to rip off gullible customers.

He held the pocket watch in his hand.  The last time he had seen this watch was in a pawn shop twenty years ago, when he was a teenager. He’d snatched it out of the top left drawer of the roll-top desk in the little office by the kitchen in his parent’s house when he was 19 and wanted to buy weed for a party his friend was throwing. It was his great-uncle’s watch and a family heirloom.  He was a little shit when he was a teenager, he knew that. His mother never said anything about the pocket watch. But he knew she knew. And every once in a while he’d see a certain kind of clock or watch and feel shame, but it was easy to shove it back down, where it belonged.

He was finding it hard to breathe. It was so stuffy and the shop was so small.

“I’m going outside for a sec to smoke,” he said to Wanda. She nodded, still intently staring at the bracelet.

He put the watch on the counter, stepped outside and didn’t light up a cigarette. Instead, he pressed his back against the brick front of the building and took a few deep breaths.

We have so few opportunities in life to truly right a wrong. Especially a wrong of any magnitude. The thought of righting this was thrumming in his head.

Back inside, he asked the dealer for the price on the watch. It was always a bad sign when items didn’t have a posted price and when the dealer said a number that was the size of one of his paychecks, he groaned.  It was exactly 20 times the amount he had originally gotten for it at the pawn shop and there was some justice in that, he supposed.

He slapped a credit card down on the counter.

“What the hell, Dean?” his girlfriend said.

“I just need to do this,” he said. “Don’t give me crap over this. Please.”

He’d put it back in the roll-top desk that was still in his parent’s house. His dad was gone now but his mom was still there in the same house. He wouldn’t tell her.  He’d just do it. It took him 20 years to return it.  But he knew now, what a gift it was to be ABLE to put it back where it belonged.

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SlimJim

Namib desert at night from our porch

I could hear my dad’s voice but I couldn’t see him since I was lying on my side facing the desert.

“Don’t hurt my boy.  I will give you anything you want.”
I was duct-taped, naked, freezing, and had a gun to my head. I knew what they wanted.  He spoke slowly, maybe to keep his voice from shaking.
“We can work this out.  Whatever you need. We can pull $400 from an ATM.  I got a diamond ring worth at least 2 grand in a safe deposit box in Tucson. Just tell me what needs to happen here.”
There was a thud and my dad groaned.
“Next time it’s the kid. Just give it to us man.”  I thought it was the taller of the two men speaking but I wasn’t sure.  He was the one who had jumped into the cab of the truck at the last truck stop, when my dad went inside to take a leak and grab some junk food for us.  I stayed behind in the cab with SlimJim who was asleep in my lap.  It had been two weeks since we had started my summer adventure driving long haul across the country with him and the novelty of living in such a small space was still fun for me.  I loved the little gas burner for cooking, sleeping on the bunk and all the tiny compartments to store things. I had insisted on bringing SlimJim, who was a quiet little dog but he did get nervous at truck stops, maybe from all the noise of the big truck brakes.  My dad was driving his buddy Bill’s truck for the summer to help him out.
My dad had come walking out from the building with a guy following about a foot behind, one hand in a pocket. The bigger guy rode in the passenger seat as he directed my dad to drive out on a quiet desert road. When we all got out I could see the shorter guy in a pickup truck right behind and a woman too.
SlimJim lay about 5 feet from me. He hadn’t moved since he’d been kicked in the head with a steel-toed cowboy boot. I wouldn’t look at him. These fuckers were never going to see me cry.  I turned my head into the dirt and said “motherfucker, motherfucker” over and over. I said it quiet but I said it out loud.
“You want I should hurt your kid?  Come on man.”
“Dad.  DAD.”
“Everything going to be okay Ethan,” he said.
” I think I know what they are looking for,” I said.
 I had spotted a package duct-taped midway under the long part of the truck, when SlimJim went under it this morning and wouldn’t come out. I crawled under to get him and saw it. I wanted to get it down but my dad was saying let’s get going and I figured I had time to do it later.
I told the guys where it was.  I heard scrabbling noises and then one of them said “Score. That bastard Bill wasn’t all talk after all.”
“You want I should?” the other voice said.
My dad let out a sound. It almost sounded like he was crying.
Female feet in sandals stood about two feet from my head. They were surprisingly
delicate. The toenails were painted purple.
“This is only a kid,” she said. “What is he, like ten years old?”
“I’m TWELVE.” I said.
“You got what you wanted, Jeremy,” she said.  “Let’s leave this to chance. Either the coyotes will get them or they’ll figure it out. Let’s get out of here.”
There was some muttering back and forth and then I heard them leave and the sound of the pickup truck fading into the distance. It was so cold, and dark now that the pickup lights weren’t shining on us.
 
I heard a sound and then something wet touched my face.
 
SlimJim was licking my nose.
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Something Outside the Tent

alley

When he gripped me by the wrist and whispered to be quiet, I knew that it hadn’t been my imagination, that there really was something outside the tent.  It had been two days since he had taken me hostage, near  the front gates of  my  Forentui family compound.  He’d planned well, using an untraceable vegetable cart and crafting a cloaked tent, that blended with the walls of the dead end alley where we were hidden. 

 
 I had felt him watching me for months, during my carefully orchestrated trips to various markets.  He’d make a point of saying something to me each time, before blending back into the crowd. I’d see him smiling from across the street, or a quick wave from a park bench. So I wasn’t entirely surprised when he decided to claim his bride the old fashioned way. He was from a different clan, with bad blood between his and ours, so he knew that asking for my hand from my brothers was futile at best, and possibly dangerous too.
 
We said little to each other.  I thought his chances were low and didn’t want to get too attached. I was attracted to him, despite my best attempts to be unflappable, and didn’t want to fill my head with girlish fancy notions about a life with him.  My brothers would find him soon enough.
 
“You’ve made it farther than the others,” I said, after the first day was over.
 
He grinned. “I expected to. I know what I am doing.”
 
“Do you?” I murmured. “The others lost a thumb for their trouble.  You’d better hope my brothers are in a good mood…or you might lose something even more valuable…..” 
 
I stared pointedly at his lap and then raised my eyes to him.  He laughed. 
 
“Ah, but you’d be sad if I lost that, wouldn’t ye? “
 
My answer was to move to the other side of the tent and pull my hood down so my eyes were hidden.  I couldn’t hide the fact that I wanted him to win.  If he was able to keep me hidden and with him for three days, then the bans would be posted on the front gate for all to see and we would be wed. It was part of the laws of my clan. But if my brothers were able to find us before then, we were lost to each other forever. 
 
There was another noise outside the tent. Had they found us?  There was only 12 hours to go. They were running out of time.  I could only imagine the favors they had called in, on their search.
 
He slowly pulled down the small flap at eye level he used to scan the outside.  He looked and then drew back, startled.  Then looked again.
 
“It’s my blasted dog! My buddy was keeping him for me…..he must have gotten loose and come hunting for me.  He’s a great hunter, that one. ” He grinned, despite himself and opened the large flap to let his dog inside.  A large dog in high spirits bounded in, tail wagging fiercely.
 
“You’d best check him.”  
 
He looked at me and then ran his hands over the dog’s body quickly and within a minute found a small persnu tracking wire. He cursed, and jumped up.
 
“We’re moving NOW.  They’ve found us.”
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Encounters

mountain 2

a person can be a meadow you slowly walk through
wild-flower spangled in the early morning light,
another a stony courtyard
horse hoofs sparking as they clop clop clop.
one, two, three stepping stones, across a fast moving brook,
or a crunchy gravel path, with many pebbles in your shoes.

a person can be a gentle hillside, that stretches to the sky,
or a treachorous murky bog, that waits to snatch your shoes.
a craggy bluff you climb, where you dare not look down,
a half built house, with rooms in disarray,
where you wouldn’t want to linger and you head right for the door.

And oh, the person who is a garden, all loamy filled with smells,
or the person who is a mountain, covered with sturdy firs.

Each person is your journey
how ever long they stick around.

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Quick on Her Feet

pantyhose

When I was twelve my body shot up until I am the height I am now… 5 ft 9. I was the tallest kid in the whole elementary school, boy or girl. I was all knees and wobbly ankles while trying to navigate this new reality…and part of this new world was learning how to dress as a preteen and wear things like pantyhose. Oh, how I hated pantyhose at first! It felt stifling and one had to be so prim and proper, otherwise inevitably the pantyhose would get snagged and get runs and that was a fate worse than death.

One evening I was at an event at our church with my parents. For some reason I don’t remember now, my three brothers weren’t there, so it was just my parents and I. For the occasion I was wearing a skirt and blouse and the inevitable pantyhose. And, of course, panties. I was a good girl and good girls ALWAYS wear panties. Or at least I did THEN.

Now, here’s the important detail. I had decided, that I should wear the panties OVER the pantyhose. The pantyhose weren’t a good fit, with my long legs, and I believe I decided that the panties could do double duty…..keeping the pantyhose from slipping down too far also.

We were standing in the middle of a long line winding it’s way towards a potluck table. As I stood there, I felt a whooooooosh of something slipping down my legs. My panties had fallen down and were now pooled around my ankles.

MY PANTIES HAD FALLEN DOWN IN A HUGE ROOM OF PEOPLE.

As quick as a wink, I stepped out of the panties and nonchalantly reached down, grabbed them and stuffed them in my purse.

I WAS MORTIFIED.

I looked around to see who had noticed. My mom was smiling at me and my dad was looking the other way. She leaned over and whispered….you did that so fast…nobody noticed! Sure enough, I looked around the room and nobody was staring. I was still mortified, of course. I didn’t tell anyone. But here’s the thing…..the best thing about it.

From that point forward… I knew I could think fast on my feet. (literally AND figuratively.)

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Life Can Go On Undimmed

 

glam

“He liked to see a woman still flaunting her powers of attraction.  His taste, these days, ran not to the young, not even to the middle-aged, but to those about to enter their late fifties or even early sixties.  He liked to see what a woman could make of herself then, as if he might catch her out on her whole amorous history by virtue of the signals she still displayed.  A disappointed woman, he thought, would not bother, whereas a woman whose faith in herself had been preserved would go to town, embrace every remaining year, enjoy the afterglow of her past, and thus earn his indulgent and always amused approval.  He knew, of course, that the signs could be misleading, that not all decorative, or indeed decorated women had had a gallant past…..what he admired now, he thought, was a sort of pluck, the quality that made a woman want to dress herself boldly and sally forth in spite of the damage that the years were doing to her…..Life could go on and that it could go on undimmed.”

 

-Anita Brookner, Latecomers

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