It’s warm in here. The hot summer sun beats down on my world and gives my arms a farmer’s tan while I drive. I honk my horn and curse at the people around me. Stupid idiots; where did they learn to drive, the school for the blind? I curse again, because it’s cool, and because I can get away with it since my dad doesn’t know I’m here. No one knows I’m here. No one except my cohort in crime, Colleen, who sits to my right commenting on various oddities. Clearly I’m the better driver of the two, and thus I’m in the driver’s seat. My life has given me lightening quick reflexes and suspicious eyes, which means I can see danger up ahead on the road, from a hundred paces out. I love sounding like an old western.
Except today I’m not riding horseback. And I’m not in a sweet Steve McQueen ride either. I’m driving a bus. School bus, city charter bus, it doesn’t really matter; I’m the driver, which means I’m in charge. And none of my occupants are complaining that I’m only 11 years old. I look years beyond my age anyway, I’m sure they wouldn’t even notice. Except there are no occupants. It’s just me and Colleen, and our flourishing imaginations. We drive this bus 100 miles an hour. I’m sure it can go that fast in real life, because I live in LA, and everything in LA can go 100 miles an hour. And despite the fact that this bus is abandoned for some unknown reason in a back parking lot at a five and dime store by my house, it seems perfectly functional to me and Colleen.
True, we had to sneak in through the little side window by the driver’s side. Colleen is skinny, so I made her stick her long, lean body half through the window until she could pull the lever that would open the passenger door. And then I was able to come in, and simulate dropping money in the money box, and wave at all the make believe passengers that know me because we all take this bus every day. Except we don’t. Because this day is the first time I’ve ever seen the bus here.
Why aren’t there forty other kids playing in this bus? Are they crazy? This is the treasure hunt of a lifetime! Hot sun baking the insides of the bus a nice toasty 400°. Loud obnoxious horn to honk, though we try not to do it too often, so as not to draw attention to us. I don’t want some other smart ass punk forcing his way into our pleasure center. Especially since it took us a good hour to get in here. Or half hour. Telling time is tricky when you are eleven.
I turn the wheel madly, because some idiot on the road can’t seem to see my huge looming frame careening down the highway. Time for some glasses, you old geezer. Geesh. Had the movie “Speed” been invented yet, I would doubtless be pretending I had a bomb under my bus’ carriage, but I’m light years ahead of that movie. I don’t know, perhaps Sandra Bullock isn’t even born yet. Or maybe she is off somewhere making out with some pimply boy for the first time ever. I can’t worry about boys right now; I have a huge damn bus to drive.
This breaking into a bus business makes me feel like one of the Bowery Boys, and I imagine myself as a New York/Jersey type Italian mob kid, off for a joy ride in a stolen vehicle. Yeah, see? Or maybe I’m in a Hitchcockian short, and play the part of a murderer, desperately running from the law after brutally murdering an inconsiderate boss who overlooked me for a promotion. Better yet, I might be one of the detectives in Hitchcock’s “The Three Detectives” series, which I LOVE. Though of course they are all young boys my age. But maybe my daring acts, quick thinking and stupendous sleuthing skills would convince Hitchcock to write stories about a GIRL detective. Hmmm….I wonder if he is even still alive; maybe I could write him and pitch him the idea.
I have all day to come up with these fabulous ideas, and force Colleen into playing the sidekick to my hero. My fertile imagination is rippling like a frothy sea, eager to come up with a thousand scenarios for this bus ride…until the evil old man down the alley spies us in our luxury vehicle, and threatens to call the cops on us. On us? On eleven year olds? We didn’t leave this stupid bus here. And sure I’ve been wiggling the gear shift around all over the place, but it’s not like the keys are in here and we’re gunna take the bus to the beach. Like no one would notice on the road that they can’t actually see the driver of the big bus, because the head of the driver isn’t visible over the dashboard? Hello? Old man, are you serious?
Oh. Shit. Yes you are, and here you come wagging your old saggy arm at me! Guess this early minor rebellion of mine is over for now, but hopefully it can be continued later in life…
i don’t drink it every day. i wonder why? it’s so delicious smelling, and warming, and makes me feel so much like a writer, and today was the most coffee-drinking day i could have, so here i am, cup in hand.
fall has always been my favorite season; i love the colors on the trees. colors i don’t always know the names for. colors that capture my attention and whisk me away into a surrealistic painting trapped somewhere in my imagination. i love the smell of fire places and burning leaves, the smell of snuggling. i’ve always loved the coolness of the weather, and the advent of sweater wearing – though sweaters decidedly lose their novelty after several months of harsh winter. still, with football and crunchy leaves, Halloween and cider, fall brings a bucket of joy with it.
today’s walk through the park led me to a new tree-friend. a twinkling yellow tree, whose leaves were so happy and energetic, i had to go say hi. millions (or lots) of little yellow leaves waved at me as i came closer, and i saw that there was a sign under the tree, declaring it to be a Gingko Biloba tree. i had no idea my local park had a Gingko Biloba! i gathered up a pocket full of the little flyers from the ground and thought my day to be quite magical thus far.
pockets full of treasure i journeyed on, past my little Poncho tree who is all decked out in yellow, past the squirrels digging out or putting in a stash of nuts, past the stone lions and their diligent perseverance, and past the ghost girl who sits in her attic room practicing the flute. my other park had a blanket of leaves waiting for me, and as it began to rain steadily, i visited the river to say good morning, and finally lay on my back under a tree. i know i’m crazy, so don’t bother reminding me. it’s not usually something that is far from my mind. i know that if anyone was actually out on a day like today (the weather channel calling for severe thunderstorms) they would have wondered what the *#&! was wrong with me. but i couldn’t resist. i was tempted to make a leaf angel, but the whole park was so gloriously decorated i couldn’t bare to disturb the scene. so buried under leaves was the park, i couldn’t tell where the grass met the path, and just plundered over everything until i collapsed at last, like i said, on my back.
and there i lay, looking up at the sky as the rain beat down on me and chinked off the trees, pavement and wrought iron fence. and the leaves came tumbling down around me. this fall, since the trees have been shedding, i’ve been telling myself that i have wonderful great fortune every time i see a leaf fall. sometimes my great fortune is so great, i can’t keep up, and just stand in a shower of wonder. so as i lay under a sky of wet kisses, i called off my wonderful fortune as the stars fell on me, and listened to the murder of crows gathering in a nearby tree. and the love of the universe just fell all around me, and the peace of life just embraced me in its arms. and i walked home finally, soaked to the skin, deliriously drenched, and supremely content. i peeled off my wet layers of clothes, slipped my turquoise satin robe over my bare skin and set about making my cup of coffee. for wondrous things happen when you combine coffee with a fall day…
How do you know when your dentist is really a serial killer in disguise? Let me give you some good hints, just so you can be wary.
On my daily walk I pass by a dentist’s office. The lawn has little tiny flowers growing in the bushes, and the building is sitting right next to a house I am fond of. It took me a while to finally suspect that this dentist is actually a murderer. But here, for the first time, I reveal his villainy.
The sign on the front of the dentist’s office has a terribly arcane and intriguing symbol. I’m sure if I asked the dentist he would explain it away by saying it’s an old ancient Greek symbol for healing arts, and health, and that kind of poppycock. But I know it to be a recognizable and familiar symbol to flag other murderers in the area. “Hey guys, I have wicked tools and a dark and moldy basement here. Want to come play sometime?” That’s what the symbol REALLY means.
This symbol is painted on a sign which sits in front of the entrance to the building. Being a considerate kind of mass murderer, and an equal opportunity one at that, the dentist has installed handicap accessible ramps to his office. Because it’s not bad enough that he wants to maim and torture small children and the elderly. He wants to get the handicapped and other-abled involved as well. Like I said, considerate.
The cement walkway has two large cigarette receptacles on either side of the raised path ramp. The tall, white monstrosities are shaped like giant pawns that belong on a chessboard. Oh sure, you can say that he doesn’t want people tossing their cigarette butts all over his parking lot. But I recognize the symbolism here; he is clearly expressing to the world that it is all a game to him, life is a game, and he is the mastermind. Everyone is but a pawn, and he the player who decides which patients live, and which patients are good for the black market trade of kidneys, livers and hearts. Being a dentist and all, he should probably be discouraging people from smoking anyway. But the smoking may lead to more problems of the mouth and gums, and maybe that’s what he’s hoping for.
The walkway itself is partially shrouded beneath a tarp-like overhanging. The normal, unaware person might think the dentist is being thoughtful, trying to keep his patients comfortable during a rainy day, or protected from a sudden gust of wind. To the untrained eye this might seem perfectly reasonable. To a sleuth like me, however, suspicion is raised once again. Why does this overhanging look so menacing? They used to call Jack the Ripper “leather apron” before he gave himself the Ripper title. It was suggested that the Ripper was a butcher, and wore a leather apron. The dentist’s awning looks mysteriously similar to a leather apron, as though it might be made of faux leather, or, in fact, real skin! It wrinkles like skin would, here and there around the poles it is tied to, only I imagine it is waterproof, so you can rinse it down if arterial spatter should get all over it. The sides of the awning are stitched together in a creepy, laced up fashion, like you might find on a nice lamp in a proper serial killer’s home, where they have pieced together furniture out of various victims. And the awning just happens to be the color of old blood. Hmmm. Creepy, Creepy, Creepy.
Finally, if I haven’t convinced you by now, my last two pieces of evidence. While walking one day, on a Saturday, you know, when doctors and dentists should be out golfing, spending all their riches on the grassy knolls, I spy the dentist coming out of a side door in his building. He creeps out of the door, which opens out to the parking lot. Interesting, what is he doing inside today, when there are no cars in the lot? He obviously has no real client to work on…so why is he dressed thus? He is covered in a giant, white apron, and seems to be wearing gloves, while at the same time smoking a cigarette. Is this a protective apron for his trade? Because yes, teeth cleaning is gross, and yes, plaque is disgusting, but does it fly around so much that you need to be in HAZMAT gear from head to shin? This vision arouses my curiosity, and during my daily walk I vow to watch the dentist more closely. Interestingly enough, this very week I heard crazed, manic, wild music coming from somewhere in the vicinity of the dentist’s office. Was it he, the mass tooth murderer who was playing the diabolical music to cover up the screams of his victims? Is he even now busy at work, dismembering limbs from a scheduled root canal gone wrong? How long will he get away with his dastardly deeds? Stay tuned to find out if the dentist is scurried away by the bobbies of the town, or if he eludes the long arm of the law…
What can I say? Some days there is no way to process life but through writing.
My morning walk started so beautifully, with the overcast sky, the cool air, and the scent of flowers on the wind. A beautiful mourning dove hovered over my head, looking for her nest, I thought. Unless she was hovering over me to bring me a message, which is quite possible because these birds are connected to my grandmother. I saw it as a good sign, along with the three silly squirrels who were playing a fierce game of tag, and a happy black butterfly that smiled at me as she flew by.
The second park I try to visit on my morning walk is something of a fairy wonderland, if you disregard the droppings left behind by the resident alcoholics. After I picked up an empty booze bottle, a can of worms from a fishing excursion, and an empty six pack carton, I was able to sit on a bench and enjoy the water for a while. Many of my Monday mornings start here, at the water’s edge. We have a little river ‘round here, and at this park I can watch it head into Old Town, and sometimes see people out fishing in their boats. Or I might just stand at the edge of the park, like today, and look out over the drop of the dam, staring at the frothy build up as the water cascades over the edge. It’s a fun little drop – not a Niagara Falls or anything – just a little waterfall that makes the view interesting.
I have imagined it as a good murder site for some time. I am forever thinking of plots and ideas for the many novels I intend to write one day, that are all on a slow-cook right now, back in my brain in some kind of Dutch oven. Today, as I stood over the railing looking into the water, I felt for sure this was the scene for the first murder of one of my mysteries. The fencing that I leaned over was made of stone and a wrought iron gating material, making it look rather a lot like a cemetery structure. The water drop below showed debris I don’t usually see, like a giant tree stump, a soccer ball, and bottles of booze or tea. For a while I was worried that there might really be a body in the water – there is a sign right where I stand, after all, that warns about the undertow, and how strong it is; that it can pull a body under and drown a victim, so careful, careful, it warns. Maybe there was an argument over the World Cup already, and someone tossed his drunken friend over the edge, along with his Nerf soccer ball.
Still it was a beautiful day, so I resigned myself to enjoying the moment. Little cheeps were close at hand, and I looked around to find four little ducklings chirping away. All in a clump, they cheeped loud and long, ‘till mother duck found them finally, and helped guide them away from the dangerous edge of the falls. It was the cutest, sweetest site, as mother duck and her three ducklings were re-joined by the four stragglers. And off they swam. But I kept hearing more cheeping. Are these just extra loud ducklings, who are destined for a life on the stage with that kind of lung power? No, actually, there were two more ducklings that hadn’t yet braved the water fall. Seeing mom and the others sailing off without them, the final two ducklings race toward the fall in a panic, trying to catch up to the troupe.
Over the edge they flow, and then bobble up and down in the frothy, tumultuous water at the bottom of the falls. Both of the ducklings struggle in the fierce bubbling mass – the water is high today, and the current is strong. One of the ducklings manages to find the large tree stump, and struggles his way onto the wood, finding purchase at last on the floating device. But the undertow is strong, and the stump wobbles, tossing him once again into the violent water. He bobbles, and struggles, and rights himself again on the wood. The other duckling has already lost his battle with the angry river god. I watched these two ducklings struggle for their lives, swimming and tossing, going under and resurfacing. They spent so much energy on surviving, they couldn’t even cheep out for their mother to find them, so I called to her, trying to tell her where they were. But at last, they both were under, and didn’t come back up again.
I started crying. I looked in vain for their little fluffy heads. I waited, and worried, and cried some more. And finally, I plucked two white wild flowers from off the vine on the ground, and tossed them into the river, mourning the loss of the innocent little lives.
I thought I lost another innocent last week. We have a situation of strays, at our house. My sister is something of a cat magnet, and we’ve had strays visiting us for years now. Axel, Xander, Sneakers, Bear. Some strays we make attempts to adopt, like Petey McGee. (actually peanut butter cup, but Petey stuck pretty good) Petey is the offspring of two other strays, Tiger and Smokey Joe. Tiger makes good kitties, so we also have Piglet and Ozzie now as porch kitties, because we already have Siris, Bunny, Doodle and Petey indoors. Christ. We made attempts to adopt Zorro, which ended badly, and are now feeding Snaggle Tooth as well.
Snaggle is the one I thought we lost the other day. He’s something of an old cur, we don’t know if he belongs to someone or just roams the land looking for fights and women. His legs are broken and crooked, making him walk like a wounded cowboy, or more likely, a pirate that should have a peg leg. His fur is long and mangled, and his eyes are distant and wild. He howls when he is hungry, and growls at you when you bring him food. But he’s the cutest damn thing. So we talk to him, and tell him how cute he is, and he’s been around a couple of weeks.
Last week he was howling so loud, and walking so badly, I thought he had the Death. I went out in the rain, and stood as close to him as he would let me, across the street on the neighbors lawn. I told him it was ok to die. I told him he was a good kitty, and loved, and that it was ok to die, because I was right there with him, and I loved him. He howled another howl and then fell silent behind a bush, while I stood in the rain and wept over a cat I hardly knew.
Of course those surly pirate types don’t go that easily, so he came back and got into a fight with our Piggie (Piglet, named after the character in Winnie the Pooh) so we called him a sonuvabitch and told him we would stop feeding him if he pulled this crap again. We fed him anyway the next morning, but still, you can’t treat our porchies like that! But other than the miraculous resurrection of Snaggle Tooth the Ferocious, Death has been all around me lately, though I imagine it is always all around me; I’m just usually too distracted by life to notice, or too caught up in myself to see Death’s claw marks in the sand, or his scratches on the trees.
Friends that I love have watched friends that they love die in their arms. Colleagues of mine have had parents and uncles die. And what can I do to ease their pain? Nothing. Nothing helps this kind of thing. All I can do is love. Love those around me that are hurting, and hold them to me as close as I can. Love those that are dying, and send them off with as much positive energy as I can muster. Love the world, and the earth, and the precious moments we have right now. Love in the here, and the present, and stop holding it inside me like I’m a stingy old miser who is hoarding it all for himself. I want to love strongly, and fiercely, passionately and well. I want to love deeply and many and for no apparent reason other than I love to love. Because I don’t know how many tomorrows I will have. I don’t know when the tide of life will pull me under and keep my head below the waves. I struggle and I fight to live on, and live well, but I don’t know, do I?
So I must love today. And hard. And much. And I just pray that those I care about will embrace me, accept my gift, and allow me the beauty of now.