Playing Possum

“Jesus H. Christ! What the hell is that?” I yelled. It was five thirty in the morning, I wasn’t wearing my glasses and I hadn’t had my first cup of coffee. I was not at my best. I was not in high alert mode. I wasn’t even close.

Our dog, Bear, had a possum in her mouth. Or what I ascertained from the fur and long tail. And size. For those of you who do not live in possum country, let me educate you. They are the size of a cat, not a cute kitten, a full grown cat, with a long hairless tail, a prodigious snout and pointy teeth—lots of them. And IT was in our dining room.
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“WTF!” ( you all know what I really said, but this is a family blog)I screamed and backed out of the kitchen and right into Layce.

“What?” Layce said. She wasn’t wearing her glasses, hadn’t had her first cup of coffee and wasn’t in high alert mode either.

“Bear has a possum!” I pointed as I retreated further into the living room.

Layce squinted into the dining room. “Bear, drop it, right now.”

Bear wagged her tail, dropped the possum and sauntered into the living room–her pride self-evident.

“That’s a good Bear. You just stay right here next to me while Alpha,” I pointed at Layce “Gets rid of that THING you brought home,” I said, patting her head.

Layce poured herself a cup of coffee.

“What are you doing???” I said.

“We’ve got a good fifteen minutes,” she said.

“For what?”

“Before it wakes up,” Layce said. She sipped her coffee.

“What do you mean, it’s not dead?” I eased toward the coffeemaker. Layce poured me a cup.

“It’s ‘playing possum,’” she said. “They faint so their predator backs off. Bear thinks she killed it.”

“Oh.” I crept toward the dining room. It did look dead.

Layce put her coffee cup down and started for the back door.

“Where are you going?”

“To the garage to get a shovel or did you want Bear’s friend to stay for breakfast?”

“No, I don’t. Hurry back,” I said.

I kept an eye on the possum. I checked the clock. We still had ten minutes.

Layce came back in without a shovel. “I need a flashlight.”

“Why?”

“Because I can’t see to find the shovel.”

I ran to the office to get my ever accessible LED flashlight. I’d purchased three having discovered during a power outage that we didn’t have a working flashlight anywhere in the house. I gave her the flashlight. I checked the clock. We had eight minutes.

Layce returned with the shovel.

“OH, MY GOD!” I screamed at the possum rose up and scurried toward the kitchen. I ran and hurdled over the love seat.

“Get Emma,” Layce said. She headed the possum off with the shovel.

“Emma! Wake up! Hurry!” I said, frantically knocking on her door.

Emma opened her door, blinked twice and said, “What?”

“There’s a possum in the dining room,” I said, and leapt back up on the loveseat.

She ran to the dining room where Layce was playing hockey with the possum and a shovel.

Emma ran straight at the possum, planted her feet, made moose antlers on her head and hissed.

The possum stared at her. Emma hissed again. Layce came in from the side with the shovel. The possum was trapped. It turned tail and ran out the open back door. We watched it run into the dark of night.

“It was kind of cute,” Layce said. “It had a very nice pelt.”

“We could’ve kept it and named it Fitz Herbert,” Emma said.

“Or Sylvia if it was girl,” Layce said.

I collapsed on the loveseat.

“Good hissing, by the way,” Layce said.

“Thank you,” Emma said with a little curtsy.

“Oh my God, I don’t think I’ll ever get used to this Oklahoma living,” I said.

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Diary of an Insomniac

Did I lock the front door?

H. Bear would not allow anyone to get past the first ominous door handle turn without ripping off a limb before the perpetrator ever got further than the threshold.

“Go back to sleep,” my inner I-wanna-sleep voice said. I tried to close my eyes. My eyes popped open. Do we have enough milk for morning coffee? I want to bring Layce breakfast in bed which is mostly comprised of coffee due to my lack of culinary skills. Maybe I should go check. I could run out and get some. I’m not sleeping anyway.

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“Close your eyes. There will be enough milk,” my inner I-just-wanna-sleep voice said.

“You sound like Yoda.”

“I’ll sound like the Dalai Lama if it will make you go to sleep. Now, close your eyes.”

I closed my eyes.

If I live 30 more years that’s only 30 summers left to enjoy. That’s only 30 vacations maybe 60 tops if I go on two trips a year.  I better make them count. I should make a bucket list right now.

“Please, close your eyes and count sheep, or how about walking on a beach or try meditation. That might work.”beach

“I can’t meditate. My mind is like a squirrel in a box.”

“Deep breathing. That’s easy. Anyone can breathe,” my I-wanna-sleep voice said.

“I always feel like I’m hyperventilating.”

“How about taking your hyperventilating squirrel in a box to a happy place?”

Am I happy? I feel happy. I have all these wonderful people in my life. I am happy. I am very happy…zzzzz.

“Thank you, Morpheus,” the I-wanna-sleep voice said.

“Not a problem,” Morpheus said. “I was getting sick of her too.”

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Forking My Girlfriend

“I’ve never read anything by Willa Cather,” Layce said. She sipped her coffee. “Have you?”

We were having iced coffees and a snack in the Barnes and Noble café. I didn’t answer right away because my mouth was full of spinach and feta filled pretzel. My grandfather taught me never to eat with my mouth full. He did so by poking me with a fork. A lesson well learned.

“I had a Willa Cather stage. I’ve read them all.”

Layce slurped her macchiato and eyed me over the rim.

“What?” I said, swallowing a piece of pretzel.

“Who has a Willa Cather stage? You’ve really read them all?”

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“Of course, I read My Antonia, Song of the Lark, Death comes to the Archbishop, O Pioneers, the Professor’s House…”

“I got it.” She sighed heavily.

“Song of the Lark was my favorite,” I added. “It’s about an artist following her dream…”

“Please, not a book synopsis.” She slurped her ice macchiato.

“Didn’t you have a certain author period where you read everything by that author?”

“Yes, but it wasn’t Willa Cather.”

“She’s like an American classic.” I shoved another piece of spinach and feta pretzel into my mouth.

“I had a classics period.  I read all of Proust’s work.”

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“Really? I’m impressed. Very few people have actually read him. What did you think about the madeleine? It was such a beautiful metaphor. And Swann was so indicative of social mores at that time in Paris.”

Layce stared at me. “You realize I was kidding, right? Nobody in their right mind actually reads Proust.”

“Well, I didn’t exactly read him. I listened to Swann’s Way on audio tape. It was twenty-one discs long which at 72 minutes a disc amounts to 1512 minutes or 25 and half hours.”

Layce gazed at me in what at first I thought was reverence for my accomplishment.

“There’s something sick and twisted about you,” she said.  “Normal people do not do that to themselves. It’s like you’re a reading masochist.”

I poked her with my fork.

“What was that for?”

“I did it for Proust and Willa.” I aimed my fork for another blow.

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“Oh, all right, I’ll read Willa Cather but just one book if you promise not to poke me again. “

“Deal. Now which one are you going to read first?”

“How about the Song of the Sparrow?”

I poked her again. “It was a lark not a sparrow.”

“Have you ever noticed that Willa and Proust were never seen together?”

I raised my eyebrows.  “So?”

“They’re the same person.”

“Don’t be ridiculous.”

“You have spinach in your teeth,” she said.

“Fork you.”

 

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Tying the Knot

“Oh, my God, I forgot my book,” Layce said as she swerved toward the shoulder of the highway.

“No worries,” I said. I dug around in my bag (not a purse—a bag.) “I brought a book. I just had this feeling that I should bring one even though I most likely won’t have the opportunity to read.”

“Whew, I almost panicked there for a minute.” She swerved back into her lane.

We were going to see the surgeon to have my neurotic tendencies removed. Just kidding.  Actually, it was for a spine consultation but that’s another tale. Layce was going to have to sit in the waiting room while I went in and talked to Mac-the-Knife. We’ve got this drill down by now. She’s a good little camper driving me around and then waiting while I talk shop with a doc.

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Layce glanced over at me. “So you brought your Kindle, right?”

“No, just a good old fashioned book of short stories.  So you’re in luck—you’ll have lots to choose from.”

“What collection of short stories is it? Something by Kurt Vonnegut, or Erma Bombeck, David Sedaris?” She looked over at me, hopefully.

“No, it’s something totally new. I discovered it when I was reorganizing the books. I wanted all the travel books to be together. You know how I put all the humor books in one section, all the 19th century literary classics…”

Layce cut me off. She was well acquainted with my organizational jags. “What’s the name of the book?”

“Oh, I think you’ll like it. I’m reading a very interesting story about a group of subsistence hunters in Greenland.”

“What?”

“It’s this book by Paul Theroux. He put together a collection of the best travel stories from 2001,” I said brightly.

“Why didn’t you just bring me a book on the history of knot tying? That would be more exciting.”

knots

“Don’t get all huffy. Let me read you some of your story options…Travels with Chekhov—I know how you like him, or Volcano Alley Is Ticking or Fox and Whale, Priest and Angel. Maybe that one has something about knots in it.”

Layce glared at me. “Only you would bring a book like that. I am going to be trapped in a doctor’s office with a travel book.”

“It’ll take your mind off being cooped up.”

She swerved off the freeway.

“What are you doing? I’m going to be late for my appointment.”

“Finding a grocery store so I can buy a something to read. And you won’t have to worry about being late if you’re dead. Because if I don’t get something decent to read I’m going to kill you.”

“I used to have a book on knot tying. It’s quite interesting. There’s the rapala knot, the blood knot, the poacher’s knot, the sheepshank, the lark’s head, the clove hitch –

She interrupted, “The noose knot.”

You didn’t have to be a mind reader to know what she was thinking. I shut up and opened my book.

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My Father’s Legs

You can’t out run your genes. Or, in my case, it would be my shorts. I am always on the lookout for the perfect pair of hiking shorts. It’s more difficult than it sounds. I’m height-challenged so finding shorts is hard because when hiking I don’t like the shorts to rub on the top of my knees.

I was at Bass Pro Shop when I found my dream shorts. They were dark brown which meant they would go with a lot of my T-shirts. Color coordinating my outfits is imperative. I remember the day I discovered that they didn’t have Garanimals for Grown-ups. I had a panic attack. How would I know what went with what?

The dream shorts were made out of the soft, super light, windproof, rain repellant fabric—the ultimate hiking apparel. It was love at first sight. I wore them constantly. They were like being near naked yet clothed.m_7SHsxwWKuBP5C43qLT2Lg
I still love them. I still wear them despite what happened. I’ve resolved myself to my fate. It’s not all that bad. My father has nice legs. He’s eighty-two and he still has nice legs.

The revelation occurred while waiting for Emma outside a store in the mall. I caught a reflection of myself in the glass. I could only see myself from the hips down. With the shorts on and cross trainers, my pockets a little sprung, I saw my father’s legs. I looked around. My father was 1300 miles away but his legs were staring back at me.

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Holy crap! When did this happen? How had I not noticed? Was it all the walking I’d been doing? All the yoga Layce made me do? The Indo board, the squats and calf raises while waiting for my coffee to get zapped in the microwave? Whatever it was I now had my father’s legs.

Despite gender, genetics had won out. The perfect brown hiking shorts had brought this to light. I am my father’s daughter. It was a proven fact—you do become your parents eventually.

Microwave Calisthenics

“What are you doing?” Emma asked.
“I’m doing my exercises,” I replied.
I’d just finished my second set of 10 calve raises. My ginseng herbal tea still had another sixty seconds to warm in the microwave and with no interruptions I could pull out 30 squats in the remaining time.
“In front of the microwave in your pajamas?” Em continued with the interrogation.
“Is there a problem with that? I’m multi-tasking and increasing the blood flow to my brain.” I resumed doing my squats.

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“What is she doing?” Layce asked Emma. She’d taken to inquiring with Emma whenever my behavior disturbed her. I think she was afraid of offending me by asking me directly.
“She’s multi-tasking in her pajamas.”
I took my tea out of the microwave, placed it on the bar, and headed upstairs. I brought down my book. Then I went back upstairs and brought down my glasses. Then I took the laundry upstairs.
I came back downstairs and got the milk out of the fridge for my tea. I did three sets of ten of bicep curls with the half full gallon milk jug. I sat on the chair, strapped on my ankle weights and did ten leg lifts on either leg.
By this time Layce and Emma were both concerned.
“What?” I said, getting off the chair. I began my ascent up the stairs again.
“You’ve been up and down a lot today. Maybe you should make a note about what you need to bring down so you don’t have to make so many trips,” Layce suggested.
“I know, but that’s the point,” I said, as I powered upstairs taking two steps at a time.
On the way back down with my phone and sneakers, I overheard Emma say to Layce, “Maybe you should just get her that BowFlex she wants so bad. Then she could exercise like normal people.”
I smiled. My evil plan was working.

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