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Archive for January, 2009

I clearly remember me as a kid standing half naked on a cold metal chair, bent over the kitchen sink, washing my hair. The glass hourglass-shaped bottle of green Prell with the plastic pearl dropped in it – to prove how thick and luxurious it was – in my hand. A palm-full made good suds, and I worked up that lather until it was as lush as a cartoon cloud, all the while wiping around my eyes – you know how those suds sting – then I started my parade of hairdos.

First, the pylon point straight up in the air, I was the Bride of Frankenstein. Then I’d split it in half and guess who I am, ma?! I was Bozo the clown, of course. Then I’d pull the points down and make dog ears – that one was easy, and then Swedish buns on each side (this was long before Princess Laeh was around). For my grand finale I’d coil up my bodacious bouffant into an impressive Diary Queen swirl. My meringue beehive was the Everest of dos and I felt like a princess. I’d start all over again, mix them up for fun, and when my mom finally got tired of guessing who I was with my vague clues, I’d grab the sink hose with the black nozzle and transform myself into a little girl again.

My ma is gone now and I can’t ask her to guess who I am. I haven’t washed my hair in the sink for years, and Prell isn’t the same anymore either. I still have heaps of imagination, but often it makes me melancholy after I rinse my head of it. Sometimes I wonder where things have gone; the joy and anticipation of holidays, looking forward to events and outings, my enthusiasm, my fearlessness, my childlike hope, my endless string of dreams. I seemed more alive then, my mom and dad were alive – many of the things I’ve lost were still alive. Some say it’s not wise to live in the past, but I did live in the past. Others say it’s not wise to live in the future, but I’d like to live in the future. I remember times as a kid when I could barely get to sleep at night for all my excitement, now I can barely get out of bed some days for my lack of it. It’s impossible to pinpoint the time it all began to dissolve for me, but when it started, it was like sprinkling salt on suds – it vanished before I knew it and it’s impossible to redo it. Perhaps this will be one of the scenes that flashes before my eyes at the end; my hands in soft, warm suds, my hair piled up into billows before I hit the clouds, the white edge of the sink the brink of eternity, and my ma waiting for me in Heaven’s kitchen ready to guess who I am.

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When I was a kid there was a Super Walmart type of store in my hometown called “Shopper’s City” (yeah I know, say it 10 times fast). They had a pet section in the back of the store and I was always overly excited to go there because they had a little monkey.

Anyone that knows me knows that I’ve always been fascinated by monkeys. I begged my parents for a pet monkey my entire childhood, but the stock reply was always the same, “They’re too wild, they’re not supposed to be pets, they stink, they throw shit, and they’ll scratch your face off!”

One Christmas my dad got me a very life-like stuffed monkey with real glass eyes that looked real. The best part was that his tail was attached to its head and you could ask it any yes or no question and get a head nod, and believe me, I asked everyone every yes or no question I could think of. I still have it and still ask it questions. It’s my furry magic eight ball.

Sad to say, nobody would buy the real live Shopper’s City monkey because he was too wild (my dad was right). The sign on his cage warned, “DO NOT PUT YOUR FINGERS IN THE CAGE. PLEASE DON’T TEASE THE MONKEY!”  I, for one, never hurled insults (or poo) at him, but I witnessed some that did tease him and I felt that sinking ache of pity for him as I put myself in his place, trapped and away from anything familiar being mocked by ugly, hairless creatures. I would’ve catapulted poo too if was him (or is it ‘if I were he? ‘). I wouldn’t have blamed him if he’d instigated some kind of digital maiming either, but this was back before law suits were all the rage and somehow he hadn’t been convicted of whatever discrepancy that had taken place, even if he was on a kind of death row.

Whatever the case, it didn’t matter to me that this little monkey was branded a wild bastard, I liked him anyway. I’d sometimes stand there and watch him the whole time my mom shopped and I’d still protest when she’d come to get me to go home. The more time I spent observing that monkey the more fascinated I became, and in a way I think he kind of got used to me. He never threw anything at me, or screeched at me when I got too close to the cage. No, I didn’t put my fingers in the cage, but once his paw was grasping the bar and I gently touched it just for a second and he made eye contact with me just before he pulled his paw away and jumped back to his nervous perch. I often imagined that he knew and remembered me and was maybe even a little glad to see me. Yeah I know, “Is that a banana in your fur or are you just glad to see me…”

Speaking of phallus-shaped objects, this monkey had an odd habit – well, odd to me, I was just a kid remember – of grabbing his own personal pink banana and pulling it so violently that it appeared to me that he was trying to rip it right off of his body. Something like spit would dribble out of the end of the tiny pink limb and sometimes he’d take whatever that was and either eat it or whip it to the bottom of his cage. He repeated this procedure over and over again, and due to my naiveté I had no idea what he was doing and as ever, I was curious (not Curious George and the man and the yellow hat, though I’d read every one of those books and the third limb was never mentioned).

I decided to ask my mom about this strange behavior and finally talked her into watching the monkey (as long as she didn’t tease him). She did, and afterwards I asked her what he was doing and “what was that white stuff coming out of that little leg in the middle?” She calmly replied, “I think he has an infection. He’s sick.” She grabbed my hand and we walked toward the doors, all the while I was looking back longingly at my poor little sick monkey. If only I could’ve brought him home with me and nursed him back to life (I know, it sounds like the premise for some kind of bestiality-based porn movie, but I was just a kid!).

I continued to visit my sick monkey and he never got better. The last times I saw him there were a couple of kids that teased him just a little too much, he had a monkey fit, screeched, and whipped the white substance he had in his hand at one of his antagonists. Whenever I watch the scene from “Silence Of The Lambs” where Clarice is in the high security prison meeting Hannibal for the first time and the inmate throws his “monkey pus” at her I think of my little sick monkey. Had I known that the “pus hurling” incident was going to be the last time I’d see my monkey I would’ve said a teary goodbye. I probably would’ve whiningly begged my mom one more time if we could buy him.

I’ve thought about that monkey a lot over the years, it’s often not a pleasant thought. I imagine his sad life ended tragically, I know now that he should have never been caught, caged, or subjected to teasing in the first place. After all, he wasn’t a criminal,  he merely had an “infection”and was doing what monkeys do. However, I did learn a valuable lesson that I’ve referred to again and again throughout my life, whatever you do, don’t tease the monkey.

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Living in the woods, you can’t help but notice everyone who comes and goes, mainly because hardly anyone comes and goes out here in the woods. I’ve gotten acquainted with Thea the post woman, Will the UPS man, and Ellery the meter man. Each one has a few interesting quirks I’ve noticed, Thea wears a mask to keep out the dust and fumes, and won‘t get out of her truck because of our dogs, friendly as they may be, she repeatedly honks the horn for me to come out and get the package from her, usually sometime around noon. Will plays guitar, loves cookies, writes a note on our packages when they’re small enough to leave in the mail box, and doesn’t like coyotes any more than I do because a pack of them attacked his dog.

Then there’s Ellery, he looks like Santa in farmer overalls, he has a white beard and usually wears red, though he doesn’t give the dogs treats like the old meter man did, and he was named after Ellery Queen the mystery writer, because I asked him once. The only thing that’s really mysterious about Ellery is that I can’t understand anything he says. He’s got most of his teeth, and isn’t a tippler, so it’s not a physical impairment or a speech impediment. I’m the one who feels impaired and impeded because I can’t comprehend him.

I’m fairly good at dialects and after living in the south for more than six years, I can almost get every word from every conversation, not so with Ellery, we’ve had more than a dozen ten minute conversations and I think I’ve understood about a dozen words from each. I get that one word out of many and I’ll latch onto it like leech on a catfish and try to use it as a key to unlock the rest of the conversation. This doesn’t work very well, but it’s really the best I can do without an interpreter.

This is what I know about Ellery thus far; he likes tulips, he has a son and a daughter and he taught them to read the stars so they’d never get lost, his son is a hunter and is good at tracking animals, and the daughter is small in stature. That’s all I’ve gleaned in all these months.

I have his cadence down but this doesn’t help me get any more out of our conversations. I nod and say, “Oh, I see.” a lot, even if I don’t know what it is that I’m seeing. It seems like he’s got such a strong drawn out drawl that it connects all the words together into one long roller coaster of indecipherable sound. If he was a Pentecostal I’d figure that he was speaking in tongues, but he doesn’t carry a snake and doesn’t seem like the overemotional type. Yet, I like Ellery, he seems like a nice guy. He usually laughs – that I can understand – and usually has a smile on his face. I guess that’s all that really counts, but still I wonder what wonderful tidbits of old country man knowledge that I’m missing along the way. One thing I do know, he certainly lives up to his mysterious namesake, only not so much a “Whodunnit,” more of a “Whatdidyousay.”

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