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“We can’t go that way,” I told Emma. We were walking home after the belly dancing show in the park.

“Why not? It’s shorter,” Emma said.

“Because of the beaver.  I can’t deal with it. I tried to call the city to pick it for two days now.”

“Is it dead?” Emma asked.

“As a door nail.”


“Remember when you used to keep track of the dead animals we’d see on our road trips?” Emma asked.

“I had to stop doing that. It was too traumatic and I was concerned I’d start stopping to bury them.”

“Didn’t you have a character in one of your books that did that?” Emma asked.

“It was in my Family Affair trilogy. Chase did it. She couldn’t  bear to watch a beaver or any other animals get squished and taken to parts unknown in the tire treads of all the cars that will run the poor things over. And neither can I. If your mother hadn’t had stellar reflexes we would’ve high-centered the Jeep going over it,” I said. I was so busy worrying about the beaver that I didn’t realize we’d arrived at our street.

“Come on, you can do it,” Emma said.

“I can’t look.”

“Just pull your shirt over your head like you do when you watch scary movies.”

“I only do it when there’s a lot of blood, or needles, or dark hallways leading up to closed doors or…” I stopped. Evidently, I did wear my shirt over my head a lot. “Oh, all right. You’ll have to lead me past the beaver because I won’t be able see.” I pulled my shirt up over my eyes.

We got past the beaver without incident. At the top of the hill, Em told me it was safe to come out. I pulled my head out of my shirt. “What did the beaver look like now? Was it smooshed, dismembered, and lying there as a reminder of the complete disregard for the sanctity of a dignified death?”

“I don’t know.”

“How can you not know?”

“Because it wasn’t there.”

“Then why didn’t you tell me? It’s hot under my shirt.”

Emma just smiled.

“Does this have anything to do with my comment on your room?”

“You mean the one where you called it a cesspool of teenage funk and disarray?”

“Sounds familiar,” I said.

“Then, yes.” She looked at me and grinned.”Paybacks are hell.”

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“I know how important they are,” I told Layce. I slurped coffee through a straw. I couldn’t feel my lips and my tongue felt like it was two sizes larger than normal. I had just spent two hours at the dentist. Being the multi-tasker that I am, I got a crown followed by a teeth cleaning.


I wouldn’t recommend doing this to anyone including people I find annoying.  I realize going to the dentist is a first world problem but it is still torture.  I do want nice teeth but the mental, physical and fiscal toll is a bit much.  Dentists must rank up there with IRS officials. We don’t like them but they are necessary evils. If we didn’t pay taxes we couldn’t flush our toilets or drive to the store on roads.

“How much was it?” Layce asked as she pulled a can of soup out of the cupboard.  Whatever we were going to have for dinner it wasn’t happening now.

“Eight hundred and sixty five dollars,” I replied. “Which included the cleaning.”

“A veritable steal,” she replied. I was pretty sure that was a facetious comment.

“Except I’d rather buy a new winter wardrobe, a flat screen TV for Emma, take a weekend vacation or just about any other fun thing I can think of,” I said. “Why is that? I mean I chew a lot so you’d think that I’d be ecstatic about crowns, fillings, cleanings and a complimentary toothbrush, floss and toothpaste but I’m not. I feel abused.” I slurped more coffee. My lips still had difficulty wrapping around a straw.

I thought back to the fun and games I had at the dentist’s office. Like being asked questions that I can’t answer with my mouth pried open without sounding like a gorilla communicating with the rest of her tribe. Why do they do that? Is it amusing to ask someone what they’re having for Thanksgiving dinner?  The answer sounds like “uh, goo ha herky aaa ah potaaathohs.” Do the techs and the dentist take a linguistic class in patient-with-mouth-full-of-equipment speak?

Next was the “Tell me if this hurts,” or the “How are you doing?” questions. Well, first off how am I going to do that when you’re drilling which sounds like the noise torture in the Clockwork Orange movie? Next question—how am I doing? I am having so much fun I can hardly stand it. Can’t you see my clenched fists and white knuckles?

Then there’s the quandary of whether I should close my eyes or keep them open? Am I being rude for closing them? Does that indicate I don’t want to see the dentist’s pores, moles or nose hairs up close and personal?

And finally the what-do-you-do-with-your tongue conundrum. I evidently have a very curious tongue. It wants to be wherever the action is. I try to tell her this is dangerous but she won’t listen. It’s amazing to me that after a dentist appointment I still have a tongue. Evidently dentists also take a class in how to deal with tongues.

The best part of a dentist appointment is leaving—except that I have to have another dentist appointment. I sigh and resolve myself to future torture. When I get home I know I’ll admire my new crown—not.  The silver lining is that I don’t have to have a root canal because I’m being proactive. Somehow that doesn’t sound like a consolation.

Okay, when I think of it at least I’m not teething, having regular visits from the tooth fairy and looking like a vampire because I’m missing my front teeth.

 false teeth cartoon


I glanced at the pile of books on the end table. They weren’t doing anything other than being books but they were askew. I contemplated my next move. I wanted to straighten them so bad. My hand inched in their direction.

The books taunted me saying, “I bet you want to line us up, corners to corners, all tidy like. Do it, you know you want to.”

Then the coasters started in. They weren’t sitting right next to each other. One was on one side of the end table and the other was diagonal to it. The coasters should either be stacked or lined up even with each other.

“Come on, just straighten the books and the coasters, it’ll make you feel better. You’ll sleep better. You’ll be in a good mood in the morning when you come downstairs and all is as it should be,” my brain said.

“This is your fault,” I told my brain. “You are turning me into an OCD person. Is that what you want?” I said, straightening the books and the coasters.


“There is nothing wrong with being neat,” my brain said.

“This isn’t about being neat—this is an ever increasing obsessive behavior hence the Obsessive in the acronym OCD. I was putting the throw pillows on the couch in order of height and slanted at a 45 degree angle. I stepped back to check my work. Perfect.

“Are you coming to bed?” Layce called out from the bedroom.

“Yes, I’ll be right there,” I told her.

I’d moved onto the kitchen. I couldn’t possibly leave those dishes in the drying rack.

“See, now I can’t go to bed without tidying up the already clean kitchen.” I put the dishes away and got the dish cloth out and wiped the counters down again. “We’re moving into the Compulsive part of OCD. I can’t go to bed without doing this or I’ll lay awake berating myself for not doing it,” I told my brain.

“Who are you talking to?” Layce called down.

“My brain. It’s acting up again,” I said.

“Well, tell it that the Disorder part is now affecting my sleep patterns.”

“Oh, my God, she knows,” I told my brain. “See, it’s become more than apparent. People are noticing it.”

“Just come to bed,” Layce said. “Even OCD deserves some rest.”

“I do not have OCD,” I lied. Then to prove my brain wrong I walked over to the books and messed them up. I flicked one of the coasters so it was uneven. “Hah, take that,” I told my brain.

I climbed into bed and kissed Layce good night. I laid there. For exactly three minutes. I sat up. “I’ll be right back,” I told her.

To straighten or not to straighten, that is the question, and I know the answer.

Corsages and Chaperones

“Please, Mom, don’t let her do it,” Emma begged.

“It says right here that anyone can volunteer to chaperone the dance as long as you don’t have a criminal record and you’re not a perv,” I said. “I’m not either of those things.” I pointed at the paper containing the 8th grade formal dance information.

“Surely you realize that we live in a small town and anything you’ve ever done as a child will be remembered for the rest of your life and brought up frequently when you meet your classmates later on in life,” Layce said. “This includes Emma and her 8th grade dance. People will remember her crazy chaperone. She’ll never live it down.

“No one brings up the fact that you took the principal’s car for a joyride. All the way to Tulsa,” I retorted.

“Yes, but I moved. I don’t live in that town anymore.”

“You stole a car?” Emma asked her eyes big.

Layce glared at me. “I didn’t steal a car. I borrowed it.”

“Did you hotwire it?” Emma asked.

Layce glared at me again. “No, he left the keys on his desk and I took the opportunity to appropriate them while he was gone.”
car keys

“What were you doing in the principal’s office?” Emma inquired.

“I was getting a Student of the Year award,” Layce said.
student of the year

Emma and I both rolled our eyes. Everyone knows those awards are given out during a school assembly.

“Back to the topic at hand, I want to chaperone the dance. I seldom get the chance to have parental experiences because I didn’t come along until Emma was ten. I missed a lot.” I was seriously guilting them, but I wanted this bad.

“Are you going to wear the bunny ears?” Emma asked.

I was standing in the kitchen wearing the bunny ears. Sometimes a person just feels like putting on their bunny ears.

“Well, of course, they’ll go perfectly with my bar mitzvah suit.” I meant the tux I found at the thrift store that had been tailored for someone petite. It fit me perfectly. “Or I could wear my Bob Barker suit.” Another thrift store find—a small, green suit that also fit perfectly. “But the bunny ears won’t look as good.” The suit was a light green.

Emma put her hand in her head. “You can’t let her do this to me.” She gazed at her mother. And then she seemed to have an eureka moment. “Unless I can wear my white wig with my gray beret and the purple fox tail.”

“For the love of God neither one of you are going to the dance like that. I’ll never live it down.”

“You’re no fun,” I said pouting.

I didn’t get to chaperone but I did get to be the photographer. After the dance we lined up with all the other parents to pick up their kids. I wanted a picture of Emma with her boyfriend (he shall go unnamed to protect the innocent.)

“I don’t know how you’re going to get a picture with this line of cars,” Layce said.

“You’re going to stop and I’ll hop out real quick and get a photo,” I replied, scanning the crowd for Emma.

“This is a round-about line. You can only stop to pick up your kid not get out of the car to take pictures.”

“That rule doesn’t apply for school dances.”

“You do realize you’re breaking the Social Contract?” Layce said.

I should never have told her about the Social Contract. It requires that one doesn’t lie, cheat, steal or otherwise break the rules for purely selfish reasons—it’s the basis of a civilized world.

“I believe there is a clause in there that states one can be inconvenient during once-in-a-lifetime sentimental moments involving children.” I spotted Emma and her boyfriend. “Stop right here.”

I grabbed the camera and leapt out of the car. I’d forgotten I was wearing my house slippers. I got my pant leg caught on the door handle. It hiked my pant leg up to mid-thigh. Emma was mortified as I disregarded the wardrobe malfunction due to time constraints.

“What’s wrong with your pants?” she asked.

“Nothing,” I said as I pulled the errant pant leg down. “Now hurry, stand next to your boyfriend (who still shall remain unnamed), we’re the breaking the Social Contract.

I glanced over to find boyfriend’s mother taking photos as well. We smiled at each other. “I finally found a corsage in town,” she said.
wrist corsages
I looked puzzled. What the hell was a corsage? Was she referring to fancy undergarments? And if she was why was she telling me? Emma must have seen my bewilderment.

She held up her wrist. “See, isn’t my CORSAGE beautiful.” Corsages evidently were a bunch of flowers all squished together to make a bracelet.

“Oh, right.  Yes, it’s very nice,” I said.

Emma got in the car and banged her head on the back of the headrest. “Oh, my God. That was horrid.”

“We’ll get through it,” Layce said soothingly.

“I can’t wait until next week when we go for high school registration and we get the tour of the school,” I said.

“You can’t ask a bunch of questions, promise me,” Emma said.

“Well, some questions at least. I think it’s my duty as a parent to inquire of fire exits, how often are the fire extinguishers are checked, if there’s an evacuation plan, how a lock-down works…”

“Mom….please,” Emma said.

“I don’t know what all the fuss is about,” I muttered. They had no idea about the outfit I planned on wearing. It was going to be a surprise. I think they’ll be pleased.


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