The Real Culprit

The tree trunks had been stripped of all their limbs — one was a Christmas tree and the other an apricot that had died of a disease. The trunks had been brought into the house for the kitties to scratch and climb on but they were starting to get in the way and the kitties were showing little to no interest in them so had been taken back outside and were leaning on a big metal tub that was placed for collecting rainwater off of the porch roof. A wind had pushed them over and they were lying on the concrete not far from the porch but had been pushed to make sure they were enough out of the way for walking on the sidewalk — or so she thought.

“It doesn’t pay to be mad”, she said under her breath after she spit out a few unladylike cuss words, was able to bear the pain of the fall and had collected her wits enough to know that nothing was broken — thank God. There they were in plain sight right to the right, those two big hunks of wood, but maybe it was just twilight enough and her vision poor, for her to not miss one of the nubs with the tip of her toe.

Somehow she went flying forward after the first step off the porch and everything she was carrying went jetting ahead, propelled by thrust. There was nothing but thin air to slow the decent and her new device went crashing, it seemed like a mile ahead. Her mind saw it in pieces or scraped like she was, but it hadn’t been affected at all. She was very happy about that. Her right knee was bloody and her left elbow the same and they were screaming from the cytokines already commissioned for war. She was so mad at herself, that she decided she’d suffer. She’d already locked the front door and didn’t want to spend any time right then to clean the abrasions — thinking she’d only be at the library for a very few minutes. All she needed to do was to post a story but it was all she could do to get through that little bit of time. “Fire in the hole!!” It felt like her skin had been blasted.

In the back of her mind, she was thinking of what a big risk it was to put off cleaning the scrapes at her ripe old age, but was just that mad enough at herself that she kept thinking she deserved whatever she’d get from it.

“You knew those trunks were there, silly old lady. And you know how detrimental a fall can be. What in the world were you thinking not to be more careful”, she was talking to herself now but no one answered.

“Your immune system must be better than you think it is, you’re healing quite nicely — even if it is pretty hard to sleep with the pain from the knee.” Still no one was listening nor would answer. That’s the thing about single living. Though if she’d said it out loud one of the kitties might meow, thinking she was directing her words at one of them. She pretty much had to stay in one position because the bad elbow was the one that was needed for leverage and the knee didn’t like very much to be bent.

Her favorite quote by Rene Dubos from the book So Human an Animal started floating through her head on a regular basis:  “To live is to struggle. A successful life is not without ordeals, failures, tragedies…”

It did seem that there was never an end to one thing after another to deal with and mostly not always good things, though there were those laced through too — just easier to feel pain over pleasure most of the time.

“…but one during which the person has made an adequate number of effective responses to the constant challenges of his physical and social environment.”

Physical environment. That was the current challenge. Effective responses? Well maybe her attitude was improving because she was not blaming the fall on Century Link because after all, it was they who had failed getting her a signal for days and days and why she was going to the library — but it was that she was storming out mad that had been the real culprit. She had just heard through the phone in an almost foreign language, “I’m sorry you’re having this trouble, ma’am. We will get the right motem out to you tomorrow, but because we are closed on the weekend, it won’t effectively be shipped until Monday.” It was Thursday.

“Hurry up and wait”, her uncle used to say.

What was really at the heart of the madness might just as well have been that she was fed up with holding on to things for so long or for not building the kitties a catio already or that at some point in the future she’d build an art installation in her yard with that wood. More of that one thing or another stuff that required “an adequate number of effective responses” that weren’t happening quite like they could have. But that was the thing — all one can do is their best. Rene Dubos said that equaled a successful life.  Maybe a better thing would be to quit being so hard on herself.

She suddenly found herself thinking about the time that her truck got stolen out of the parking lot where she was working at the time — how violated it had made her feel and mad to say the least. It was found, but when she went to retrieve it she had to pay impound fees and it was missing the camper shell and all of it contents. Whoever had taken it used it for something and dumped it leaving some of their own towels in the bed after removing the ones that she had for emergencies or an impromptu beach trip. After she’d gotten over the trauma and the feelings of her truck being contaminated and not her friend like it had seemed before, she kept those two blue towels and washed them and used them for years as an act of forgiveness, she thinks. Something to help her get over it. They were actually very good towels and it didn’t make any sense at all what was left in the back. Kids playing a prank it seemed.

“Effective responses.”

It doesn’t pay to get mad.

“I am going to build that art installation with those darned trunks”, she decides. “If nothing else, they need to be painted yellow or used somehow to make a catio.”

The best thing about it all was that she had been able to pick herself up and keep going. It could have been a whole lot worse.

That time that the truck was stolen, it just happened that her mother had taken a trip to visit relatives and had left her car parked in her drive. She drove that around until her truck was found and the police said that was a miracle in itself — that they seldom are.  And it was found just in the nick of time that her mother needed her car back. Funny how things work out. She needed to remember that and that “to live is to struggle”. There must be some kind of magic in that.


the real culprit




1 thought on “The Real Culprit

  1. Pingback: Powers That Be | Ms. Jackie of all Trades…

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