Perfectly Well Backward

“Celery,” he decided to call her. He was giving them each nicknames probably because he was having trouble remembering their real names. He wasn’t that old, probably something close to forty, one way or the other — but since they were just fifteen or sixteen, he seemed old to them.
The first thought that entered her mind was that he thought she was a vegetable —  a thing with no brain. He was teaching her how to drive, along with two other students — one boy and another girl. The girl she knew from her classes — the boy she didn’t. They were doing eights around markers in the parking lot, backing up with the automatic transmission in reverse.
“Once you can drive perfectly well backward, we’ll go forward,” he said. It seemed like they did those backward eights for days and days. It was all after school but they all got real good at doing crazy eights.
“Where’s the fire?” he asked her.
She didn’t know what he meant. There was that missing brain thing haunting her again.
“You’re going too fast,” he said. Then she realized that she was speeding down the highway and her teacher was trying to be a comic. She was pretty brave going forward now after all that backing up in the parking lot. The teacher was the brave one, sitting there so peacefully while they each took their turn as baby drivers.
He gave each of them a turn for a long distance every time they went out and they always went quite far. He must have made them change along the way because there were only three of them and he never drove and it would have been four trips — there, back, there and back again otherwise — somehow evening out each of their time at the wheel somehow in the long run. They stopped to look at scenery and have snacks along the way from time to time — sometimes down in canyons running beside railroad tracks way out in the boonies.
He never did reveal why he’d picked that name for her — Celery — probably just because it somehow sounded like her real name but what possible context had he found to associate her name with a vegetable? Vegetables don’t have brains and she was depressed at the time — so, a lot of the time she had a feeling that her brain was missing. It was probably depressive paranoia and she was just projecting what she thought he was thinking. Depressives can be high achiever nonetheless — so, of course, it wasn’t surprising that she aced her driving test and her teacher applauded in his silent way, saying her Celery name with a big smile while he handed her the certificate. She could feel a sense of fondness in his voice as he told her how well she had done compared to the others. She liked to please and be applauded by adults —  the good girl, the nice girl.
She would later be the goodbye girl — always saying goodbye to someone — trying to be a high achiever didn’t always pay off. **


** (If you feel this has any merit for continuing, vote with a “like” — otherwise, it shall be filed and remain in the Practice, practice, practice bin.)


Full Of Sugar

Henny Penny the sky is falling!
Bad news at every corner. Floors need mopping, that’s enough bad news today and on top of that, peanut butter’s gone missing from the cupboard again — whatever can one do.

Wealth and greed, greed and wealth stroll hand in hand wherever they are strolling and everyone’s trying to grab the hand of the last one going by.

How much sugar is in peanut butter? How much in the muffin it’s on?
If sugar is like cocaine, is there cocaine in the muffin?

Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.

full of sugar

There were five of them in a little copper-colored Beetle Bug, driving to see a movie. Three little girls around nine years old, were sitting in the back. The girls in the front were nine years older and chatting away about boys — they had candy and cans of soda in their giant grown-up purses and, of course, one of the older girls was driving. They had pullover sweaters and pageboy hairdos and pants with permanent, stitched-in creases that had straps to stretch the pants to hold them at their feet. They were so pretty decked out in the latest style and seemed to have all the answers — boys fixed everything.

Or was it a spoon full of sugar, one or the other or both?

It was just a year or two before the movie that their Chicken Little mothers had all been pulling out their hair, running around in circles and screaming, the sky was about to fall. Everyone was ducking for cover just in case it did.

A crisis with some missiles. Didn’t a boy fix that?

A few hundred days after that boy fixed that crisis, the sky stopped falling and Mary Poppins fell from it. Everything was better now — it was time to laugh and sing.

La la la la la la!

Hundreds and hundreds of days would go by, the sky would fall up and the sky would fall down and then Mary would fall again, after newer Beetle Bugs.

And the three little girls grew up.

Down every highway in the world where money can be made, Beetle Bugs and Mary go round and round in circles working to sell the gas that fuels the greed. Greed and wealth, wealth and greed. They are linked together always with lots of people hanging on or ducking for cover.

Whatever can be sold. Truth but mostly lies and mostly cars and gas and guns and metal things.

Who cares about Donald Duck Lips, Nigel or whether or who should exit? Who cares if the sky is falling? It’s always better to dance — the sky will always fall and boys and girls hold hands.

Trying to fix anything with voting, mopping or candy only ever works as long as until you are holding hands with someone special. Then everything’s alright.
Holding hands with greed, wealth or cocaine — they are kin to mopping floors — dirty again in no time.

Sugar, spice and all things nice, is what girls of the 60s were made of and boys weren’t the only ones driving copper-colored Beetles.

full of sugar

Old Black Water

“I’m an alcoholic. Sometimes I’m tempted to have a drink. — But I never do.”

Dreams are weird. Terribly hard to describe. Maybe easier to make a movie to depict them — or a work of art.

Dali ~ The Persistence of Memory

Dali ~ The Persistence of Memory

Movies. She watches far too many of them but they are her way of staying sane — of feeling like she has company — of reminiscing feelings.

Not that reminiscing is a good thing, mind, but seems necessary at this time.

This time she is departed from loved ones — dogs, cats and most all of the people — family or considered family. It isn’t really loneliness. It is missing. Missing Mom’s house to go to and yard to play in while Mom cooks in the window above where she is playing. Missing sissy’s porch to sit on — of having a chat with her. Missing clipping Little Red’s fur coat with scissors and loving her the whole time. Not really missing picking up poop inside the house from Gertie’s accidents, but missing it just the same and Gertie’s sweet blind eyes. Missing seeing Tom at Safeway or at her front gate. Missing arguing with him or sharing agreement on topics of interest over a cup of senior coffee at Wendy’s.

They are all gone as are many of the people around town who have aged out and gone on too — people she had cleaned house or mended clothes for.

The little town is starting to feel too small. The City is starting to behave in ways she is fairly unhappy with. Maybe she is just noticing it because there is so little else to distract her.

She and Tom had talked about pooling resources and moving to New Mexico and whenever he was out on one of his vagabond trips he was assessing the culture and climate of wherever he was with her in mind. She had told him to look for an old abandoned motel with property that she could work on and they could convert to be a bed and breakfast or alternative housing unit. He had thought that might be a feasible idea — one that would be able to keep them still separated enough but meet each of their individual needs as well.

She knows in her heart that he would likely have abandoned her with the project and continued his vagabond habit but it was something that they could talk about and dream of and a way for them to consider not completely separating as he tried to find a way to leave her same town that he had long ago found way too small for his liking.

Tom is gone in the real sense now, and she has invested 16 years into trying to carve out her style of living. Though it seems to be going backwards, it is likely going full speed ahead. Even growing tomatoes has been a challenge, but such is the cycle of life. She had put out poisoned straw by mistake and things might simply be recovering from that. How can she leave it in such a state?

In her little carved out life, she has abandoned many things — TV, a washing machine, flushing her toilet, driving too much. She used to drive all the time whenever she needed to clear the cobwebs of her mind or sort them out. It wasn’t uncommon for her, back in the day, to set out on a driving expedition that would last for hours — maybe to Julian and back just to go and come. Julian was an even smaller town than where she is now but in her mind it had been huge. It had all the things she had dreamed of at one time, including a boy.

The Little Gardener

Image from the book, The Little Gardener ~ Emily Hughes

That boy liked horses and trouble and ended up marrying “a wonderful English girl”, who liked horses too, that he’d met while stationed in England. He’d been trying to survive the Air Force without being discharged dishonorably. Somehow the English girl must have factored into that survival.

He’d come home between getting out and getting the English girl moved with her horses from England to his little town. “You never know what might happen in that time.” he’d written in the blue letter.

She’d traveled out to visit him in the in-between time of horses and marriage and before she left he said, “If I thought you might commit suicide, I won’t marry her.”

She cried all the way home, listening to The Doobie Brothers, Black Water.

“Old black water, keep on rollin'”

She was affected for years whenever she heard that song. But she wasn’t going to commit suicide and she wasn’t going to lie either. That couldn’t have turned out good.

Years and years she’d make that round, that trek to Julian and back. Often she wouldn’t even stop — just drive through and back home. Once in awhile, she’d get out and walk around — trying to grasp the feelings of why it had all seemed like so much.

“Why had she done that?” she wondered. She figured it was a reminder of her own ability to survive in spite of loving a place or thing or boy. All those years ago, driving home crying, wondering how she’d survive, but she had.

Now to reminisce, because Julian is too far away in space and time, and because she doesn’t drive too much or have TV, she watches movies on DVD. Lately she found one with Tommy Lee Jones and hadn’t heard of it but figured if he was in it, it must be good and it was. Good enough anyway. Good enough to help her remember things she’d thought or thinks she’d like to have had or still have in her little, small town life.

In The Electric Mist, Tommy plays a non-drinking alcoholic detective. He apparently has been married to the same woman for years and has had a happy life with her — things she wishes she’d had or could have.

In the movie, Tommy is given a glass of iced tea that he doesn’t know is laced with LSD. He has hallucinations much like dreams that can’t be explained. The hallucinations correlate to events happening in his investigation, kind of leading him in a sense. Levon Helm plays in it too and he is another one of those people she misses that have gone on except in her mind or in a movie.

Her dreams lead her too. What are dreams except for the mind’s way of coping with or correlating life’s awake events?

Movies can be very much like dreaming. Movies suffice to bridge spaces left by boys who married girls with horses and the newer ones who fail to follow through or are yet to come. They help manifest the feelings of old of how the dream was schemed and attempted to be mapped and of a course that may still be able to be kept, with or without a boy. Of course, all the while waiting she hasn’t really been waiting.

Today on her walk she thought and thought like always. When she started out from home, it seemed so far away to the finish line, like so much drudgery.

We start out life that way, thinking things are so far away — like Christmas as a child, waiting for the next time Santa comes. Before we know it, we’re out of high school and upset about a boy who married an English girl. Suddenly we’re retired and walking up the last leg of a two-mile trek around a small town we feel stuck in and that boy divorced that girl in a few short years and who knows what he’s doing now.

She had been walking with her head down, watching her feet like in a trance when suddenly she looked up. It was the last little leg and up a steep hill. It was so gorgeous. The wild shrubs were gleaming, some with flowers already, in the back light of the Sun. The sky was crystal clear and blue as blue can be. The air was crisp, just right. She’d been looking at her old sneakers and the crummy old concrete beneath them all the while she could have been looking at the beauty before her. Of course she hadn’t been looking at her feet all along — but trying to get that last leg done and finally home, she had forced herself to focus in a methodical, mechanical way. It was starting to feel like drudgery.

Wishing life away.

She kept thinking about that movie and how Tommy’s character quit drinking and stayed sober. His friend, on the other hand had continued to drink and spent his life in misery. Being drunk is just another way of wishing life away.

Now when she checks out at the grocery, while everyone behind her is fidgeting and grumbling and wondering why the manager doesn’t put more cashiers in their stations so they can hurry off to somewhere, she tells the cashier, “No hurry, no worry.” She can see that they are stressed. “How is your day going so far?”

All too often one will say, “Oh, thank God it’s almost over!” She remembers feeling that way and of wishing time would pass and she could leave to be herself and not some robot drudging along.

“Why did you try to start a business when your house was bought and paid for?” her friend asked lately. The friend who spent over 30 years in the same County job, most of it drinking or drunk.

“I wanted to be Me.” she answered. Her friend still couldn’t get it. “Yeah, but your house was bought and paid for.”

“My payment is way less than your rent.” she reminds. “And a landlord can’t force me out or increase the rent. He can’t tell me not to have pets or dig in the yard. I can paint my walls any color I want and the interest is deductible.”

“Yeah, but your house was bought and paid for.” she imagines her friend is still thinking.

She doesn’t often wonder about that boy from Julian — as important as he was. She does sometimes wonder how she pulled herself away, as much as she wanted to stay. It was simply that her intuition was stronger than the inebriation and self-preservation had taken over.

“Old Black Water”, drunk on love she would remember it as. Puppy love.

She’s glad that she didn’t get more of her father’s drinking genes but got a healthier dose of the sober ones of her mother. “Do people have a choice on getting drunk or staying sober?” Her father didn’t seem to.

Dreams, movies, memories, are they means of escape or a way to keep on rollin’?  Seems it depends on the user. “Mississippi moon, won’t you keep on shinin’ on me?” She’ll keep using that memory for healing. That boy, he was a good thing. He was her first lesson in being strong.

That’s why she had liked to drive to Julian. It was a way of remembering strength. Digging in the dirt of her mother’s yard is just a movie in her mind now, it is a reminder of the days of planning and scheming to have a yard of her own and of how strong she had been to get there and comforting to remember the support her mother gave along the way.

“The only things in this life that you really regret are the risks you didn’t take.” ~ Grumpy Old Men — it puts her to sleep at night –comfort and wisdom to sleep on. They are old friends preserved on film.

She guesses that she could put on the movie her mother left of her and her sisters’ growing years, but she thinks that would likely end in tears.

“Yeah, keep on shinin’ your light
Gonna make everything
Pretty mama, gonna make everything all right
And I ain’t got no worries
‘Cause I ain’t in no hurry at all”

Julian boy

Is that boy still alive she wonders…?