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I thought I had told this story before and promised to send a link to the story to  Eilene , but looking through my WordPress files, I can’t find it so I’m sharing it here. This story will also be in my upcoming book, The China Bulldog and Other Stories of a Small Town Girl, but I’ll give you a sneak preview here.


   We were gathered in groups up and down the broad sidewalk that bordered the church windows. The service was over, and people had lingered to talk away ten minutes or so before climbing into their cars and going home to Sunday dinner.

My mom and older sister had gone on home right after church–my mom to make the gravy, my sister to talk on the phone.  I was talking to Pressie and Tina Ivy, but I could overhear my Dad talking to Babe Reynolds. To tell the truth, someone a half block away could probably overhear my dad and Babe talking. They were swapping stories and laughing and trying to one-up each other in both.

Tina Ivy was lying, as usual–telling Pressie and me about a boy she met at the show in White River. Pressie and I could hardly stand to think about boys, no matter how cute they were. The boys we knew were mean and dumb, and they were Murdo boys. White River boys were, everyone knew, even worse. The thing that made it hardest to believe was that Tina Ivy, like us, was only eight years old. It would be three years before any of the rest of us began to think about wanting to meet up with boys, and five more years beyond that before we started to realize the potential of White River boys. Thinking about boys at the age of eight was crazy. It was gross.

The truth was, nobody could stand Tina Ivy. But since we lived in a very small town with a minimum of kids my age, and since I craved variety at any cost, I kept trying to play with her. But she used to pinch––taking real little pieces of skin between her nails and squeezing hard–so she made marks and even drew blood sometimes. And she lied all the time–everything she said. So liking Tina Ivy wasn’t easy. On this particular day, Tina was telling lies about boys and Pressie was rolling her eyes and looking fed up, so I told Tina we had to go and pulled Pressie toward my dad. Babe was talking when we walked up. He was telling about a coon hunt they’d been on the night before–how the dogs had caught the coon and killed it before they realized that she had babies. How they’d taken the baby coons home–three of them–and had them in a box in the kitchen.

Babe is the dad of Lyle, one of the five boys in my class at school. I told you this was a small town, and ours was the smallest class in the school every year. There were just 15 of us who went all the way from first grade through high school together. In spite of this fact, we weren’t a very close class, because even though we saw a lot of each other, we also fought a lot.

Lyle’s family lived four or five miles out of town on a farm I’d never seen. Farm life to me seemed glamorous­­––the travelling to and from, the animals, and farm kids got to bring their lunch and eat at school while the rest of us all had to go home for lunch. The fact that my dad was a farmer/rancher did little to dispel the glamour, since we lived in town and I only got to visit the farm occasionally for very limited time periods.

But my dad did what he could to bring the farm to us. Every night when he got home, we emptied wheat chaff from his pants cuffs, scraped dried mud off his work boots with a dinner knife, dusted the dust off his broad-brimmed straw work hat or billed khaki cap. Usually, we were rewarded for our efforts, because along with grain and dirt and dust, he brought us stories of the feral cats that built their nests in the fields, of mother birds feigning broken wings to lead him away from their nests, rattlesnakes in haystacks or the tiny mole he had unearthed while plowing.

Some of these stories he illustrated by bringing home their principles: three tiny yellow kittens whose mother had been killed by the plow, a blind mole, jackrabbits too small to survive on their own, goldfish from the stock dam where they had thrived and multiplied after someone dumped a bowl of them into the pond, an injured magpie.

But a raccoon I had never seen.

“Ben, promise me that you’re not going to bring home another animal.”  It was my mother speaking. We were at the dinner table.  I’d beaten my dad to the raccoon story, my words stumbling over each other as I tried to give her all the details.

“And we get to go see them, Mom. We get to go see the baby coons.”

My mother, always a sucker for baby animals, protested every time, “Never again.” Every tiny grave, every shoe box lined with dandelions and worn out silk panties and filled with kittens dead from distemper or limp goldfish, every trip out to the farm to release a now-grown baby rabbit, brought these words.

Of course, she said it again. “No baby animals, Ben. No baby animals. You can go see them, but I’m not going. I don’t want to get attached so I’m not going to look and if you’re going to go look, just remember. No more baby animals.”

Five minutes later, my dad and I were bumping down the rutted dirt road to the Reynolds place. I had my feet propped on his old steel water can. It was wrapped in frayed dirty canvas that he wet to help keep the well water he filled the can with cold. The canvas was all dried out now, but I took a drink of the well water anyway, loving its tinny sharp taste. Whenever we went out to the old Millay place, we stopped to fill the can with that water–the best water any of us had ever tasted.

When we got to the Reynolds’ house, they took us into the kitchen, where the baby coons were nested up to each other in a cardboard grocery box. Lyle’s mother let me hold one, and it wrapped its black little human hands around my finger and sucked on it, like I was a bottle. It was warm and furry and gave off a strong odor of milk and wet fur and wildness. It was the closest thing to a monkey that I ever held and my heart turned over. I loved this little thing. It was better than a baby sister, which I’d been told I’d never get. It was so tiny I could hold it in my hand with only its legs dangling over. Its nose was black and sharp, its fingernails beautifully shaped like it had had a manicure, and the skin on its palms was the softest thing I’d ever felt– smoother than the silk inside my mother’s fur stole, smoother than the chamois powder-choked lining in her compact case, smoother than my mother’s face just after she’d washed off the Lady Esther Face Cream.

My mom’s real name was Eunice, but she always called herself Pat. My dad, however, much to her displeasure, never called her this. He called her “Heifer,” which she hated, or, when he was feeling more tactful, “Tootie.”

“ Toooooootie-Wootie….?” he called out teasingly as we slammed in through the back door.

“What did you do?” My mother accused as we walked into the kitchen.

My dad faced her in his innocence. We were empty-handed.

“You didn’t bring back one of those baby coons, did you?” she said.

“Didn’t you tell us not to?” asked my dad, “You did tell us not to bring home any more baby animals, right?”

“So you didn’t get one, then?” my mom asked.

“Well, you told us not to, didn’t you?” This was my dad again. I was just watching.

There was a little pause then as we all just stood there, looking at each other.

“Were they cute?” asked my mother in a softer voice.

Then I couldn’t be quiet anymore. I told her about their fingernails, their breaths, their soft coats and softer palms. I told her how they fit in my hand with only their legs hanging over. I told her she should have seen them and she said she wished she had, but that she’d just get attached and that it would make it harder not to take one and how she’d decided: NO MORE BABY ANIMALS and so she’d just rather not look.

My dad went out then and came back with the cardboard box. I lifted out the baby coon, whose eyes were closed even though he was waving his body around.

“Oh Ben, you didn’t!” She was holding the baby coon, though, and she was smiling.

She sent me for one of the doll baby bottles and when I came running through the kitchen with it on the way from my upstairs bedroom to the living room, where I’d left them, I ran into her at the kitchen stove, warming milk.

His mouth was so tiny that only a doll bottle nipple was small enough to fit. He made hard sucking noises and drained the bottle very fast, wrapping his hands around my mother’s finger as he nursed. I ran back to funnel more milk into the tiny glass bottle, then worked the rubber nipple on as I ran back to the living room. After another bottle, he fell asleep, his fingers still gripping my mom’s hand. When I bent over him, the hot fusty pee smell of his fur mingled with a slightly rancid milk breath. His mouth made little sucking motions, like he was dreaming about even more to drink. My mother was smiling.

“We can take him back if you want us to, Tootie,” my dad said.


We named him Zippy for the way he liked to unzip and zip my dad’s jacket pocket, looking for treats. For the way he moved fast under the beds, up the shelves. For the way his tiny kidskin paws slipped like eels into hidden places. Zippy for the smooth way his mind worked as he figured out solutions to each new puzzle that life presented him with.

My mom used to dress him up in doll clothes and wheel him around in our baby carriage. As he got bigger, he graduated from holding her finger to holding onto her wrist as he nursed. Finally, he got so strong that when she drew the bottle away, he would twine both feet and both hands around her wrist, dragging the bottle back down.

The first week we had him, my sister and I would fight over who got to give him his morning bottle, but after a week, she began to be diverted by the kids swinging in the schoolyard across the street before school started, and she was off like usual to claim the best swing before all the other kids got there. Never having had a baby sister, like she had had, I was not so easily diverted.

Soon he was crawling up the floor-to-ceiling built-in shelves in the living room, maneuvering carefully around Patti’s salt and pepper shaker collection, reaching his hands into the cornflower blue urn on the top shelf.

It was my mother’s pride that every one of her girls had walked by the time she was ten months old and was potty-trained soon after. In like fashion, she had litter-box trained every bunny, puppy or kitten that my dad had carried guiltily home for her to nurse, feed, train, groom, clean up after and love.  Even our parakeet Chipper, the only animal we ever had that was actually purchased in a pet store, had been trained by my mom to fly into his cage whenever nature called.  So it was no surprise that Zippy, from his first week in our presence, was trained to use a litter box.

As he grew, he graduated from doll bottle to baby bottle to milk in a bowl and raisin bran that he mined from “his” box in the row of cereal boxes that stood lined-up on a bottom shelf of one of the kitchen cupboards.  If we didn’t wake up early enough, he knew which of the numerous cereal boxes was his and he would climb up to hang off the side of the box as he reached one arm in to gather raisin bran. At first, he was so tiny that as the level of the cereal went down, he had to reach farther and farther into the box, until finally he was clinging onto the edge of the upright box with his hind legs with most of his body hanging down into the box as he reached for the morsels at the bottom. When we replaced the box, we put his new opened box in the same position–last cereal box on the left–and he proceeded to eat from only it–only the last box on the left and only raisin bran. If we put our own box of raisin bran right next to it, he would not touch it.

When my dad got home from work at night, Zippy would be the first to greet him at the door. Before my dad could get off his overboots or unzip his parka or take off his cap, Zippy would be climbing his pants leg and perching on his shoulder. He’d start tugging at the zipper on the parka, and as my dad took off his coat, he would move to cling from his shirt front as he slid the coat off his shoulders. Then back up to his shoulder he would climb, reaching into his pockets for treats. If the pockets yielded no treasures, he would search ear holes, nostrils, pry open my dad’s mouth and teeth to search even this secret place. Once when my dad squeezed his eyes shut, he even pried open his eyelid.  Always, though, in some hidden place––his zippered coat pocket or the top of his socks, my dad brought some surprise, even if it was a piece of dried cat food picked up from the dish of the outside cat on his way up the backdoor steps. More usually it was candy or gum or, in dire circumstances, a Bisodol antacid tablet.

Every animal that came to our house was my mother’s baby. We had a bunny once who used to hop around under the train of her long robe––a hopping lump of quilted velvet, following her all over the house. Our parakeet learned to speak in her voice, always cued by the school bell which was calling us into the school across the street as consistently as it was drawing my mom with a second cup of coffee and a cornmeal muffin into my dad’s vacant rocking chair––the most comfortable chair in the house––which just happened to be situated right next to the birdcage. Then woman and bird would talk for a half hour or so, using the ever-expanding vocabulary taught to him by my mother.

“Baaaaaaad Benny,” one would say to the other.

To which the other would answer, “Hi, Chipper.  Pretty bird. Gee you’re cute. Gimmee a kiss!” This line was always followed by five kissing sounds.

“ Hello, Betty Jo.”

Would be answered by, “Patti Adair: or “Judy Kay, Judy Kay.”

But Zippy was a baby not only to my mother, but to each of us. He entered my Dad’s stories every day as he took coffee with other farmers and ranchers at Mack’s cafe. His was the first story that was told to each arriving family member at night.

“Know what Zippy did?”

“So, how’s Zippy?”

“Where’s Zippy?”

“Zip? Where are you boy. Here Zip.”

He was only a story to my sister Betty Jo, away at college in a state so far away that she only came home for Thanksgiving, Christmas and Summer Vacations. And by the time she finally saw him, he had grown so big that he scared her and we had to lock him in the basement whenever she was around. To tell the truth, it was kind of a relief when she went back to school so Zippy could come be a regular member of the family again. He was friendlier than my sister and more fun since she’d taken on college airs.

When Zippy was a few months old, I came home itching from school. Within the hour, I’d broken into livid red spots which my mom said were measles and which she told me not to scratch. She put me in the only downstairs bedroom—which was my parents’ room––so she could more easily care for me. It was agony as I lay in that dark room so my eyes, made vulnerable by the measles, wouldn’t be damaged and with my arms on top of the covers so I wouldn’t be tempted to itch. Bored and miserable, I begged my mom for constant company––begged her to read to me outside the bedroom door––out in the kitchen, where there was light. This was in a time before television––a time when the only radio was a huge console in the living room––but my mother brought in Zippy, bathed and powdered, and he immediately climbed under the blankets and under the sheets, pushing up tunnels of covers like a mole pushing up dirt. He’d run from one side of the bed to the other, jump down, run under the bed, back up under the covers on the other side, across the bed again, in an ever more frantic cycle. Then he’d poke his head out and cuddle up to my sore face with his soft hair. Reach up to my forehead with a graceful black delicate hand. Touch one red berry on my brow, then another. Then he was under the covers, locating each new red patch on my legs. Itching first one, and then the next, delicately, softly, exquisitely quenching the itching that no amount of calamine could cure. All afternoon long and all the next day, he stayed with me, itching my itches under the covers where my mother couldn’t see. Me with my arms folded on top, as she had directed. She’d bathe and powder him three times a day to keep him fresh, then sponge my legs and chest and arms with water and baking soda. She’d read to me outside the door, or my sister Patti would read. But Zippy was my most indulgent nurse. His hands, ever gentle and curious, ever vigilant, knew where I itched. His soft fur knew where to place itself against my neck and face.  His energetic body knew how to entertain a bored eight-year-old. Outside the door, it was my sister Patti reading to us “The Little Prince,” but under the covers, it was Zippy and me. Our secrets.

When my sister Betty Jo came home for Christmas vacation, Zippy was again relegated to the basement. And this time when I’d go down to look for him, I couldn’t always find him. He’d climb the water pipes and wedge himself into corner spaces between merging pipes right up against the basement ceiling. And even when my sister left, we couldn’t get him to come up again, except for food every once in a while, and then he’d return to the pipes in the basement. My dad explained that he was hibernating, but I was sure that he was miffed. My sister, barely a relative any more, had been placed before him––my ever-vigilant friend. I couldn’t blame him for having his feelings hurt, but I missed him and wanted him back.

In mid-January, we all drove in the car to Pierre and went to a big store that had a room filled with toilets and tubs and sinks and hot water heaters. My mom picked out a creamy yellow bathtub and toilet and sink, and the next week Mr. Chambers came to rip out our old bathroom and put these modern fixtures in. My dad and our hired man, Wes, helped him carry the old tub out and the new beautiful yellow tub in. We were relieved that the new tub fit in the old space–snugly, but it fit. Then we all left as Mr. Chambers climbed into the tub to frame and caulk and tile. Next came the chrome around the drain. I imagine him now as he was then in his pillow-ticking overalls, bending over the drain.

“Jeeeeeesus Christ!” screamed Mr. Chambers, hitting the door full face, then bouncing off it to open it, running through the kitchen and out the front door.

All of us ran from every part of the house we’d wandered to. My mom from the bedroom, me from the front porch, where I was playing jewelry store, my sister from in front of the radio in the living room, my dad from the kitchen where he was sizing up prospects for a snack.

Into the bathroom we streamed, scanning the room with our eyes before focusing on the drain hole in the new tub. Up through it was poking a small black hand–like a devil hand–carefully feeling around the edge of the drain hole, then reaching up to pat the cool enamel–moving in concentric circles: pat, pat, pat. Never the small demon that Mr. Chambers imagined, Zippy had been perched in his pipe maze “tree” when he had seen the light shining from above through the unconnected pipe hole and reached up to investigate.

We found Mr. Chambers in his truck outside. We explained and even brought Zippy out to meet him. Later, he pretended that he was just pretending to be scared of Zippy, but in our stories, every time we told this story, he ran farther, ran faster, yelled louder. Until finally, he never came back.

When Zippy came out of hibernation, he was the same as ever except for the fact that he was very very big. When my sister came home for summer vacation, he scared her so much that she could not even stand to be around him on a leash. This was ridiculous, but not as ridiculous as the letters she’d been getting from boys––letters that she kept in a shoebox-sized locked cedar box that I knew how to find the key for and that I’d begun to be able to decipher, even though they were written in cursive.

When we took her back to school in late August, my mom decided that Zippy was old enough to look after himself. We left him on our enclosed back porch with three loaves of bread, a box of raisin bran and a roasting pan full of water. From the porch, he had access to the basement down the L-shaped basement stairs. We’d be back in three days. Aunt Stella would check on him every day to replenish his food supply. After electing to hibernate for months the past winter, how could he object to a few days absence on our part?

We were ten minutes down the road when my mom remembered something she’d forgotten. This was a family tradition, so there was no question that we wouldn’t simply turn around and go back for it. My dad drove up to the garage, which was behind our house, and she ran into the backyard and up the back steps. Three minutes later, she was back again.

“Come on, everybody, you’ve got to come see!”

We trooped after her, up to the back porch, opened the door.

“Don’t go inside!” she warned, “You might slip and fall.”

We peeked inside to find a floor entirely covered with a thick white paste. In less that half an hour since we’d left, Zip had taken each slice of bread out of its wrapper, dragged it through the water in the roasting pan, and plastered it to the floor, grinding it into a thick mush with his talented hands. Three loaves of bread–every piece applied to the linoleum. Almost every inch of the porch covered.

By the time I was in the fourth grade, Zippy was so well “trained” that I could take him to school on a leash. He would lead like a dog. Do dignified tricks. Sit when I told him to sit. I took the cereal boxes so they could see how disciplined he was. His box was empty. He checked it out carefully, upended it., checked it now and then throughout his entire classroom visit, but never touched one of the “family boxes” full of cornflakes and puffed oats and even Raisin Bran.

When I took Zippy home, I put a new Raisin Bran box in his place, returned the other cereal boxes, ate the big noon dinner with my mom and dad and sister, and returned to school. It was when I got home from school that my Mom and Dad told us about the new house. It was to be a ranch-style house, modern and big and just a block away, in the corner lot kitty-corner across from the school. It would have wall-to-wall carpet except for the bathroom, which was yellow-tiled with turquoise tub and sink and toilet. And the kitchen, of course, which was to have linoleum which coved part way up the walls so there’d be no cracks to collect dirt.

First there was the drama about the fact that I couldn’t have linoleum in my room. I loved my green linoleum, which exactly matched the green flowers on my yellow flowered bedspread, curtains and vanity table cover. I had to have green linoleum. I demanded green linoleum. But carpet it was to be.

Then there was the fact that there were to be no second story rooms with dormer windows to climb out of onto a sloping porch roof. No access to the roof. No place to sunbathe or have picnics or to observe baby birds in eavestrough nests. No high perch to torment Bobby Larkin across the street from or to throw water balloons from or to torture Susan Thatcher from by telling her Pressie could come up, but not her.

Fluffy, our outdoor tramp cat, might not find us a block away, I worried, a fact which turned out to be true. When we finally finished the house and moved, he became the cat of the family who bought our old house.

As it turned out, we all loved the new house–which we moved into a year and a few months later. But one aspect of the new house spelled tragedy. Zippy, I was told, would not be moving with us. He was too big, my mother argued. He needed to be in the wild. Dad knew a family out in the country who wanted him, he said. They had big trees he could climb in, or he could live inside with the family. They had three high school or college-aged sons, he said. They would play with him. They came to see him and admired all his tricks. They were excited to have him come live with them.

I didn’t get my green linoleum. Never again did I taunt Bobby Larkin from the roof of a house. I never owned another cat until I was a home-owning adult with all the attendant powers, and, in fact, Zippy never moved to the new house with us.

His adventures continued for many years, but only one of those adventures was to be experienced in our company–and that final adventure was, alas, a sad one. We were at school. Dad had decided to take Zippy out to his new home before we got home, to avoid the drama of that potential heart-wrenching scene. He had come home in the afternoon with one of the Smith boys and with Wes, the hired man. My mom, in the house, did not know that they were there to take Zippy. Wes had come at him with a gunny sack, lunged for him and missed. My dad had tried and missed, chasing Zip once around the outside of the house. Zippy by now was of a formidable size and weight. In his winter coat, he was perhaps a foot and a half wide and two feet long. He was fat–almost too heavy for me to lift. Yet, although he’d outgrown doll clothes long ago, he would still ride around in a doll carriage in my old baby clothes, and he’d still nurse from a baby bottle, play hide and seek, and try to climb my dad’s leg. He’d never shown a vicious side except in mock play, chasing us in tag from the floor to the bed to the floor–growling in make-believe anger, much as my dad did when he was chasing us around the house–playing troll to our three billy goats gruff.

By the time we got home from school, Zippy had taken sanctuary under our large front porch. Two of the men had rakes and hoes, trying to use the handles to prod him out from under the porch. They were calling out, making what must have seemed to Zippy to be threatening movements, and he was cowering in the far corner of the porch, on the foundation side near the trumpet vine. We could see his shining eyes in the darkness. I yelled, my sister cried, and my mom came running out.

“They’re hurting him!” my sister cried.

“They’re killing him!” I screamed, ever the drama queen.

My mother ran down the steps, scolding, “Ben, you’re scaring him to death. He doesn’t know what you’re doing. He doesn’t even know Hank and Wes.“ She was as upset as we were as she moved around behind Zippy, then reached out for him from behind. His eyes still focused at the two unknown attackers with prods, Zippy spun around and attacked, biting my mother severely on her arm. My mother, a bleeder, was spurting blood, my dad was shouting, we were crying. The minute Zippy recognized my mother, he was out from the porch, gentle again. I held him in my arms as my dad rushed my mom up to Doc Murphy’s office for cleaning, ointment and a tetanus shot. When they came home, my mom and dad got in the car and took Zippy out to the Smiths. All of us were sad, but my parents vindicated in their belief that Zippy was a wild animal that should be in the wild.

That was the last time I ever saw Zippy. For some reason, every time I thought to ask to go visit him was a bad time for my Mom and Dad. And the Smiths lived too far out of town to ride my bike out to their place. So Zippy’s final chapters proved to be hearsay, only. On Saturday nights in Mack’s cafe–after the show let out, or around tables filled with farmers and ranchers in for their afternoon break, my dad heard Zippy stories: new tricks the Smiths had taught him, how he lived inside with them just as he had with us, how smart he was, messes he’d made, new games he’d learned.

It was like we had a brother who’d been given away and never seen again. Yet we accepted it, my sister and I. There was, for a long while, the excitement of the new house–first the long months of the construction, then carpets and curtains and new furniture to pick, colors to choose, flowers to plant. In the sixth grade now, I knew what Tina Ivy had been talking about. Thus, Zippy slipped under the surface of our memories–less clear with each passing year so that I can’t remember exactly when the final chapter occurred. When I was in high school, perhaps, or maybe a story told when I was home on vacation from college. How the Smiths left to go to town. How they unintentionally shut Zippy up in the bathroom with no open window to climb out of. How they had looked for him when they came home, “Zip. Here Zippy.” How they finally found him in the bathroom–hunkered in the middle of the floor over a huge pile of tiny tile pieces. How he’d picked every inch of newly-installed bathroom tile off the floor, tearing off the tiles in quarter-sized chunks. How Mister Smith threw a shoe at him and Mrs. Smith opened the bathroom window, which Zippy dived out of into a nearby tree. How Mr. Smith called him that gol-damned coon ever after. How Zippy lived in the tree for a few months, never again gaining access to the house. How one day he was gone. Coon tracks around sometimes, but they never knew for sure that it was him.

All animal stories end more quickly than we would wish them to. With their shorter life span, it is inevitable. Some stories end with a shoebox lined with dandelion chains, some with a dead goldfish flushed down a toilet, others by watching a grown cottontail disappear into an alfalfa field, but Zippy’s story just faded away without an ending. Like the stories of people we lose touch with. Like the stories of people who move up or move on in life. Like the stories of people who pass from being friends into being just another story in our lives.

It is the difference between a present friend and an old one, like the difference between your next-door neighbor and the neighbor who has moved away, like the difference between the child who lives across town and the child who lives cross country. It is the difference between intimacy and familiarity, acquaintance and crony, the difference between pet and wild animal. How the story ends–with what degree of certainty and truth and detail and affection–depends upon this perspective: how long ago, how far away?




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A cow is screaming across the arroyo. Fireworks explode in honor of whatever saint’s day is being celebrated this week, drowning out her loud shrieking bellows. It is twelve hours later that someone finds the cow, her horns caught in the wire fence. Too late to save her, they do the kind thing and a single shot rings out. When her owner leaves her for the buzzards, a stench settles over the neighborhood, and we pay a man to cover her in quicklime. It is months later that someone ventures up to find a perfect effigy of the cow—jaws open in her last cries of agony. In mistaking concrete for quicklime, the man we paid to do away with her has instead constructed her monument. Immortalized on that mountain where few others will ever see her, I often see her in my dreams.

For dVerse Poets, we were to write a story of 144 words or less that made use of the line about the screaming cow above. You can read the stories others wrote on the topic by hitting the dVerse link above. This one is exactly 144 words. True story, by the way.

Three Stories Miraculously Bonded into One

Click on the first photo to enlarge all photos and read the captions.  You must do this first to reveal the mystery.  What do all of these things have in common? Can you guess before reading the complete story printed after the photos and captions? Do you even want to?

Annie just peed in my shower––I mean a man-sized stream that arced up from where she was standing on the floor in front of the shower, over the 6 inch ledge and into the shower, where  it ran from a couple of feet away right down the drain. I shouted, “No, no,” but she finished and ran away. Then I remembered that I’d cleaned out her box this morning in the location where it is located in the  guest room shower and had to empty all the sand and wash out the box and under it because there was pee all over the shower floor, probably because all the cats were in yesterday and had used it and it was not pleasant to enter, so she just peed in the shower, or they did.

Anyway, I had sprayed ammonia over all the floor and box, scrubbed them both and then sprayed again with an odor eradicator and stood the box on end to dry while the shower floor dried. Then I closed the door so she didn’t go in there while it was drying. Unfortunately, I then left to drive Yolanda home, do a bit of shopping and stop by the fraccionamiento office to see if I’d paid my special assessment. I then stopped by a couple of neighbor’s houses to apologize for Diego’s barking while I was gone–another story–forgetting that I hadn’t opened the door to her guest room bathroom and set up her litter box again, so she had nowhere to pee. She did it in the easiest place to clean. Good girl.
Phew. Telling about it took as much effort as doing the two cleanups, but now the plot thickens.

Yesterday I knocked a bottle of dark rose-colored nail polish off the counter of my master bedroom bathroom and it dropped and broke on the eggshell-colored ceramic tile of my bathroom, spraying across 8 feet of floor, over the new rug I had just bought in the states, and a bit up the wall. Rapidly drying pools of bright polish and splatters mixed in with shards of glass and tiny pieces of glass made passing through the bathroom to the tub nearly impossible! Damn! How to clean it up without walking through it and cutting my fingers to shreds? I ended up wadding Kleenex and toilet paper and picking up what shards were big enough to see, then used nail polish remover pads to tackle the polish, removing big gobs with Kleenex, then carefully scrubbing with the pads. When I ran out of pads, I put polish remover on wads of Kleenex, but it was a big job.

When I had cleared away most of the bigger puddles and largest shards and removed most of the polish off the wall and rug, I had just the decorative splashes left—about 3 feet of them—it occurred to me then that the first thing forgottenman would say when I told him the story was, “Did you take pictures?” No, I hadn’t. So, now that most of the mess was already cleaned up,  I did.  Secondly, it occurred to me that I should just pour the rest of the bottle of polish remover over the floor and use my foot in my Croc to rub Kleenex over them. I wouldn’t have to worry about glass and could apply more pressure. I finally got it all up and then put more remover down and rubbed over larger areas to remove the stain, as that porous area now sported an overall  pinkish glow.

Finally, coming up to the present and Annie’s peeing in the shower, when I was mopping up her urine with toilet paper so I could flush it, I found a pretty good sized clear shard of glass from the top part of the jar which had no polish on it to make it obvious, jagged end facing up, in the shower just where I would have stepped when I took my next shower. It had flown up and over the edge and into the shower when the nail polish bottle broke! Good Annie! Her foresight (or hindsight?) in peeing in my shower probably saved me a serious injury.

But! Did I really say finally? As I was writing this post, the plot thickened again. Just before I started writing this post and taking the photos to accompany it, I had put a small pan of Brussels sprouts on to steam. Since there were only seven largish sprouts, I used a steamer basket in a small covered saucepan with water up to the bottom of the steamer bottom.  I had cut the tops of each sprout almost through to the bottom in an X pattern, and as I sprinkled them with “No Salt,” pepper, garlic powder and a bit of balsamic vinegar, I was remembering the last Brussels sprouts I’d had when I first got to Sheridan two months ago.  They were served as an appetizer in a restaurant and since both my sister and Jim, her husband, hate them, it was up to my friend Patty, her boyfriend Duffy and me to polish off the whole batch.  That was no problem.  They were delicious—piquant and a bit charred with a wonderful smoky flavor.  I was wondering how I could duplicate that recipe.  Would I steam them first, then char them? What were the spices? For years I’d been using a friend’s recipe which I loved but I liked these even better.

At any rate, the present day Brussels sprouts went on the gas stovetop to steam and I went to the bathroom to survey the scene and to write this story, then to my desk in the bedroom to finish it.  One thing led to another and a half hour had passed before I finished typing the story.  When I came back to the living room to plug in my computer, edit photos and post, I heard a sizzling and rapid rocking sound and smelled a burning smell.  Damn! The Brussels sprouts!  I quickly turned off the gas under the completely waterless smoking saucepan, removed the sprouts with tongs and took the pan to the sink, running hot water over the charred black inside of the pan.  Yes. More hissing and steam, but then, mindlessly, I turned the pan over and ran cold water over the burning hot pan.  Instantly, an explosion of steam so intense that it removed the color from the outside of the enamel pan that was nearest to its bottom. 

Luckily, I had a huge box of baking soda and two partially full bottles of cider vinegar.  Into the pan they went with the expected chemical reaction: rapidly swelling foam and more hissing. I did a rigorous scrubbing with a scrubber sponge and Spongedaddy, using lots of muscle power as well as more soda and vinegar.  Scrub scrub scrub.  Although I got some of the char off the sides, I made little progress with the bottom of the inside of the pan. 

As I left the pan in the sink to soak, I spied the Brussels sprouts neglected on the counter.  I mixed up a bit of stevia in balsamic vinegar and sprinkled it over the sprouts. Swirled them a bit, then decided to taste. I think you’ve guessed the ending.  Yup.  They tasted exactly like the Brussels sprouts appetizer in the restaurant in Sheridan, Wyoming.  So, again, thanks Annie. I’ll think twice before scolding you for any future misdeeds.  But I’m going to have to buy a new pan.  xoxoxo

First Offense


First Offense

He took a cursory look at the damage. Just a paint scratch, really—one that could probably be removed from his back bumper with a little turpentine. Taking a look at the vehicle that had rear-ended him at the street light, he doubted that it had insurance, so it was a good thing that he’d already decided that there was no need to file a claim or to persecute the offender. It would make a good yarn once he got to the office and a perfect excuse for his being late. 

“Better stay on the sidewalk after this,” he yelled at the back of the toddler pedaling his toy car quickly away from the scene of the crime, his little friend in the toy patrol car pedaling down the sidewalk after him in pursuit, red light blinking, siren wailing as they rounded the corner.


The prompts for today are yarn, being, cursory, and persecute.




https://dailyaddictions542855004.wordpress.com/ persecute

“My Humorous Anecdote” by Sarah Southwest (Reblog)


I love this poem that Sarah wrote for dVerse Poets this week.  I’ll prime the pump, then you need to go to her blog to read the rest:

My Humorous Anecdote 

                                 –by Sarah Southwest

We have a funny story
that we often try to tell,
so funny, when we start it,
we giggle for a spell

We can’t remember how it starts
or recall how it ends,
so perhaps we shouldn’t share it
with our dinner party friends

but it’s really so amusing,
it always makes us smile,
so we keep on trying to tell it,
and we struggle for a while –

we argue on location,
can’t recall the time of day,
but it was so hilarious,
we must tell you, we say, . . . .

(To read the rest of this poem, go to:  Sarahsouthwest’s Blog.

Fourth Floor (17 minute Writing)


4th Floor

When I was a young girl, I worked as a maid in a small hotel in Puerto Vallarta. It was not one of the big all-inclusive monster hotels, but rather a place small by comparison. Perhaps twenty-five rooms per floor, four floors. Esmerelda, my best friend, got me the job. She had worked there for many years and so had the prime assignment on the first floor. I, being new, was assigned to floor 4. That entire floor was my responsibility. The sheets, towels, trash cans, restoring chairs moved by large parties to other rooms back to their prescribed place, restoring order in rooms seemingly hit by a big wind—clothing strewn here and there, drinks spilled, sometimes crude messages scribbled on the mirrors with lipstick or dripping creams whose origins I didn’t care to guess. This job was like a new book that I read each day. What of the person who had slept in that room last night still remained? What did the condition of their room tell about them?

One day, after I had knocked on the door and announced myself, hearing utter silence, I entered a room to find a man still sleeping in the bed. I could tell it was a man because of one foot which stuck out from under the sheet. He slept on his stomach, very near the edge of the bed that faced toward the center of the room, his face turned toward the space between the two queen-sized beds. He slept soundly, which is a strange adverb to describe the way he slept because he actually made no sound. Not a whistle of breath through nostrils. Not a loud inhale through the mouth that seemed to catch against barbs in the throat to create a snore. Not the soft vibrations of lips as he exhaled. No inhalation or exhalation, now that I grew closer, and suddenly I became sure that this man had died in the night in this bed that I would have to strip and remake in this room that I would need to clean many more times if I continued in this career in this hotel and that I would always remember that a man had died in this room and feel a slight hesitation as I put the key in the lock.

Feeling already that this would be my true future, I moved closer to the bed to meet my fate as well as the fate of this stranger. I sat myself on the bed across from him, moving my head down to his level to look closely at his face to see if his eyes were open—to see if his last thoughts would be revealed in them or in the curl of his lips, upwards or downwards. To see what sort of a man he might have been. To see what he might look like with life leaked out of him before making the call to the desk for someone to aid me in dealing with this matter.

It was a pleasant face with no panic written on it. A face at peace. A face with a day and night’s stubble on it that would have been shaven by now had he had one more chance to do so, as it was clear there was no more than 24 hours of stubble on those swarthy cheeks. He was handsome. I was sad to have such a man departed from this world.

I do not know what possessed me that I reached out to touch this man on the hand that hung down a bit from the bed, as though it had dropped there absent-mindedly, unconsciously, in sleep. Expecting to find it cold, I was surprised at its warmth. I held it more firmly, seeking with one finger to find a pulse.

“Hello.” The eyes opened. Those lips breathed and they spoke. Those lips smiled, as did mine. And that is how I met your father. And that is how I came to be your mother instead of a girl who cleaned rooms on the 4th floor of a small hotel in Puerto Vallarta.


During our four day writing retreat in Puerto Vallarta, we did a series of four to twenty minute timed writings to prompts.  In this one, our “leader,” Judy Reeves, told us to take ten photos, then to choose one small detail from one of the photos to write about for seventeen minutes. This was the piece I wrote yesterday to that prompt.  I’m now home, promptless, as WordPress hasn’t published the prompt yet.  I soon have to take a friend to the airport, so will share with you this bit of our lovely four day get-away with writing friends.

Snowball in Hell

I just got home from a luncheon where I was surprised to discover I’d received the 2017 Ojo del Lago Award for outstanding literary achievement in the category of best fiction for a short story, “Snowball in Hell.”  I don’t believe I’ve ever published it on my blog as it was done as a timed writing for my writing group in La Manzanilla. Since it loosely follows the prompt for today, which is “tentative,” I’ll stretch things a bit and publish it today:

Snowball in Hell

“There’s not a snowball’s chance in Hell,” she snarled at him as he beat a hasty retreat out the door. Everyone knew she was a feisty old dame, but she still felt compelled to prove the fact often enough to remind herself of the truth of it. Lately, she’d been feeling herself mellow. Growing teary-eyed at the sight of kittens on YouTube videos—having little heart-flutters when she glimpsed other women’s grandchildren in photos on cell phones.

When she stood back to consider this strange new course of events, she could only view it as she might view a mysterious disease—look at the symptoms, try to figure out a cure. Surely, being around children or kittens might help. Nothing like reality to pop the bubble of a fancy. Kibbles underfoot and gumdrops in the sheets could surely cancel out cute. Although she had no experience with such cures, since they’d never been necessary before.

Jake had wanted kids long ago. Actually, he’d gone on wanting them for a good twenty years—as long as she might have provided them—but her refusal had been as determined as her response today, when he had asked if she perhaps would be interested in a Caribbean cruise. Her on a cruise ship with old men in madras shorts and women in beauty-parlor hairdos? She tried to think of what she would do on a boat. She had taken a mental oath years before to never play shuffleboard and bridge made her dyspeptic. She’d discovered this in college, waiting for Karen Schuller to play her hand, drumming her long perfectly polished fingernails on the bridge table, screwing her little red cupid box mouth into a perplexed knot.

“Play the damn card!!!” she’d screamed internally, afraid that if the bitch ran one more finger tattoo on the table that she’d slam her fist down on that perfect hand. It seemed easier to give up bridge than to give up the aggression she felt every time she heard the sharp drumming and viewed that pensive mouth.

Cruise ships, she was sure, were full of Karen Schullers, all grown up, with fingernails an inch longer, lips forty years more wrinkled. And they made you eat things like lobster and crabs—giant underwater bugs that no one would ever convince her were meant for consumption. But the truth of it was, that aside from these irritations, being cooped up in a cabin with Jake for a week or more must didn’t carry any attraction for her any more. The old coot got stranger by the day. Just last night, on the couch, watching Ray Donovan, he had tried to hold her hand. Forty years married and like a teenager, furtively reaching over. They’d been done with all that syrup years ago, but now, why was he thinking hand holds and Caribbean cruises?

What month was it? She tried to sort out a reason. Valentine’s Day, birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas––not that they ever observed any of them. Finally, she gave up. There was no accounting for old men in their first states of senility. She would just have to put up with it, but she didn’t have to go along. She settled herself more solidly into her chair and grabbed the remote, switching on the TV connected to her computer. Millie Perkins had Facebooked her another puppy/bunny video. She tried to resist, but found herself moving the mouse over to the arrow. The bunny had loppy ears and the puppy had very long hair and a little vest. She clicked off the TV quickly when Jake came into the room, but didn’t greet him.

“Clara?” he asked tentatively. She pretended not to hear. “Honey?” In his hand was an envelope that looked sort of crumpled and a bit dusty, like he’d been hanging onto it for awhile. “Remember your last checkup? The results came a few days ago.” She looked up at him, and his face looked soft––like the face of the bunny. Something was written on it––a different sadness that she hadn’t seen before. He sat down beside her on the couch and risked once more taking her hand. And this time she let him.


The prompt today was tentative

On the Road in Sonora

 Busy day today…ten hours of driving and many adventures, beginning with the night before, when we ate at a wonderful restaurant/patisserie called Panama’s in Mazatlan.  Unfortunately, they didn’t serve any alcohol and Blue, the friend I’m traveling with, was dying for a glass of white wine.
Remember The TV show “House Party,” where Art Linkletter inspected purses from the audience members and gave prizes for certain objects if they were found in their purses?  I still pack a purse as though I expect to be picked in House Party!  So, I just happened to have had in my purse a flask given to me recently by my friend Dianne which I had stocked with a fine Anejo rum! Blue and I both ordered a pineapple-coconut blended smoothie and I spiked them with rum from the flask.  I had always wanted a flask, and I was feeling happy on both counts and then, as usual, overacted as Blue snapped a second picture with my camera.
So, we had a wonderful meal and afterwards, went in search of boxes of wine–easier to pack and Blue isn’t terribly picky about her wine, other than the fact that she actually has it–every night!  So, we went to several stores that didn’t sell wine before finding one that did…a large store similar to Target, but remember, we are in Mexico.  We stood in a very long line and finally got to the checkout stand…only to be told by the clerk that they couldn’t sell wine after 8 p.m.!!  We couldn’t believe it.  We asked if this was a Mazatlan law and she said no, just a rule of this particular chain store.

So, we went to a 7-11 store. Blue asked if they had white wine and the clerk just motioned at the wall behind her that was covered with shelves of liquor bottles.  Blue asked again in Spanish if she had vino blanco and the girl, who was playing a video game on her phone, again just waved at the wall, where Blue could see they had only red wine.  Off we went to search out another 7-11 store.  Same story.  Only red wine!  So, we retreated back to our hotel.

The next morning, because we had a very long drive, we got on the road early, but when we passed another Ley’s store (the chain that wouldn’t sell us wine the night before.) I asked Blue if she wanted me to stop and she said yes, so I went in to get batteries and met her at the checkout.  She preceded me in line, blissfully holding her two boxes of wine…unbelievably, to be told by the clerk that they couldn’t sell her wine before 8 in the morning!!!!  By now it was getting surreal!!  Or, like a sort of south of the border Candid Camera.

We left the store, shaking our heads, unbelieving.  Blue has lived in Mexico for 19 years and I have lived here for 14 and neither of us has ever heard of this!  Nonetheless, we proceeded to drive northwards and eventually, we came to another town.  It was our good fortune to see another Ley’s store right off the Cuota road and since it was now an hour later, I exited, knowing Blue was anxious to buy her wine.  This time I remained in the car, sure that I’d soon see her emerging triumphant from the store.  She did in fact emerge–but not triumphant. She opened the car door empty-handed.  ????  I couldn’t imagine what had happened this time.  It turns out that once again, she had been told that they couldn’t sell her wine before 8 a.m.  It seems as though unbeknownst to us, we had passed into another time zone and once again, it was earlier than 8 a.m.!!!

Certainly by now we should have gotten a hint that some force in the universe did not want Blue to have her wine, but we share a certain stubborn streak and so several hours later when we passed yet another Ley’s store in yet another town several hundred miles north of our last stop, we stopped again and this time she emerged triumphant with two boxes in her shopping bag.  We drove on and when we arrived in San Carlos and got our room, she was looking forward to her first glass of wine of our trip.

As I set the luggage out for the attendant to carry up the stairs for us (no elevator), Blue called out that she had to go get the wine that she had forgotten to remove from the car!  Two men who were just unloading their car called out, “Oh yeah, can’t forget the wine!”  Of course, Blue had to tell them the story, at which point they said, “That’s a law all over Mexico.  It’s a church thing–you can’t sell alcohol between 8 pm and 8 am.  When we tried to tell them we’d lived in Mexico for many years and this wasn’t so in Jalisco, they were adamant.  So, we let the matter be.  Blue was anxious to have her long awaited first sip and there is no arguing with some people.

Unfortunately, the wine was warm, there was no ice machine in our hotel and the hotel restaurant was closed, so Blue trooped across the road and paid 20 pesos for a glass of ice, then returned to the room and ahhhhh poured her first glass of wine.

I can’t quite duplicate the sound that issued from her mouth when she poured the wine.  She was at the sink out of sight from  where I was lying on the bed, but it was not a pretty sound.  Nor was the wine a pretty sight when it emerged from the box a bright orange color.  Obviously, something had gone wrong in terms of the procedure for wine storage in that store.  Perhaps the demand was not that great for boxed wine or white wine or perhaps no one else had been able to manage to buy it within the prescribed hours, but clearly, this wine so hard won was not to be the prize hoped for.

Something there is that does not want Blue wined.  She poured the wine down the drain and we trooped across the road to a wonderful palapa restaurant perched on a rock high above the ocean and had an adventure not involving white wine but again involving pina coladas, a fall off a bar stool, brash gulls and a toothpick.  But that is a story for another post.

Tomorrow, we cross the border.  The next time you hear from me, we’ll be in Peoria, Arizona, and you’ll get another chapter of our drive northwards.  Yes, we’ll be stopping for wine as soon as we cross the border.  No, I won’t be drinking it, but I’ll still be packing my trusty flask.  Thanks, Dianne!!!


Daily Post: Play Date


Play Date


My sister’s house has sold and they are cleaning out her attic. My niece and I make one trip more and I find my old dollhouse, collapsed, in the garbage can. I take the pieces out—some of them—and stash them in her trunk. I’d thought them gone forty years ago when the tornado took the roof off my parents’ house, but now, here they are like the leaves of memory blown miraculously back to me.

When she sees I’ve taken them, my niece asks what she should do with the dolls she found in the back recesses of her mother’s attic storage room—the one I hadn’t got to on my last visit—perhaps because of the roofing nails sticking through the wood which made reaching back behind the eaves a physical danger.

I find them where she has stashed them In a suitcase in her garage, and when I open the case and see the first doll staring up at me, I think it is a “find” from some antique store, like the dishes in my sister’s China cabinet or the tiny figures on her shelves. One rubber arm, sticky with age, has burst open and streams kapok like a froth of bleached and fermented blood. Other limbs have decayed to nothing but empty puddles of congealed rubber. Only the torso, held in place by a sagging pink fancy gown; and the face, stained red in places from some surface it’s been pressed against for too long, are still intact. As I lift the first doll from the suitcase, the other doll—the size of a toddler—stares up at me, one eye unhinged, her hair in pigtails sealed with rubber bands. When I lift her by one arm, her head turns, her legs pump and I realize this is my Ideal walking doll. When you raise her arms, one at a time, she walks toward you and her head swings, side-to-side. Hard and beautiful, she was not a doll to cuddle and she would not sit. She stood propped up against one corner of my room, rarely played with. What, I wonder, has happened to the bright blue dress she wore? Then I look closer and see that she’s still wearing it—faded to paleness even in the dark. What is here is original—her hair, her limbs, her dress, her petticoat—but her shoes and socks have been lost to another little girl, perhaps, or have jiggled off in some trunk and been left behind.

I’m 1500 miles away from home, yet I load the child-sized dollies into my boyfriend’s trunk: my sister’s doll in it’s fancy pink floor-length formal, my doll with her eye gone wild in its socket. They won’t make it home to Mexico in my suitcase this time, but it is impossible to leave them there in the suitcase to be thrown away by someone who has no memory of them. They are not collector’s items. They have been too neglected in their lives since they stood propped up in the corners of our rooms, then in the corners of our closets, the basement, my sister’s trunk and then her attic 800 miles from where they called us their owners and stimulated our imaginations to the extent they were able.

They’ll now reside in my boyfriend’s garage in Missouri until the time comes when I can carry them back in an extra suitcase or he can mule them down for me. If they were miniatures, I could include them in a retablo or a memory box, but each head is larger than the largest assemblage I’ve ever made. The closets of my house are full and overflowing, as are the wall-to-ceiling cabinets in my garage and studio and every area of my house where I’ve had room to build a closet. But I must use them. Give them some purpose for still existing other than to fill up room in some box on some cupboard shelf.

I imagine a memory box of gigantic proportions and suddenly, I have to make it, even if it takes up all the work room of my studio, and I start to plan how I could take my own doll back with me and what I’ll have to leave: the case of books that I’ve just had printed or my clothes or all the cartridges for my laser printer? If I wear a baby carrier, will they believe it is my baby, sound asleep? And what sensation will I cause when I try to stuff her into the overhead rack?

When I start to plan what else will go in the memory box with her, I remember the metal dollhouse sides and suddenly, I’m planning another trip back to Missouri, where I will make the mother of memory boxes—four feet square—and I wonder how my boyfriend will react to this and what I’ll do with it when it is finished. But somehow all these practicalities do not matter, because this dolly, relegated to corners for its whole life, is finally going to get played with!!!


The Prompt: Antique Antics: What’s the oldest thing you own? (Toys, clothing, twinkies, Grecian urns: anything’s fair game.) Recount its history — from the object’s point of view.