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Archive for July, 2007

 
|| July 16, 2007 || 10:50 pm || Comments (9) ||

so, um, CRRRRAP.

Hey, I wasn’t going to mention any of it at all, but now we’ve had incident number three in about four days, so I have stories. It’s all about THE STAWRAYS.

Friday morning I was headed to work when I pulled into the nearest convenience store to fetch a shot of caffeine. I went for the cupholder-slash-console thingy where three very important things reside:

ay) my lucky nickel

bee) a mess of fortune cookie fortunes I was collecting up for an upcoming project and

cee) boodles of spare change

It was mostly empty, save for a couple of fortunes. It was then that I noticed there were a couple of fortunes in the floor of my vehicle, as well. My spare change! She is awayed! I went into the store and used my debit card to the tune of ninety-seven cents, how fucking embarrassing. Then I phoned Maxim.

“Hey,” I asked him when he picked up, “did you raid the change stash in my car this morning?”

“Funny you ask that,” he said back, “I was gonna call you and ask the same thing. My console’s been plundered.”

Hmm, I says to myself, HMMM. I then immediately went to quasi-blaming teenagers. My son was first, because he was taking a daytrip to Auburn to hang out on the campus. I don’t believe in the foolish-assedness of a child with no car and no job having a cell phone, but I do in fact believe in contacting my child via a friend or two whose parents indulge their own children’s silly little cellular whims. That’s what I did, leaving a couple of voice mails. When Sam called me back, I asked him if he’d helped himself to our change stashes. He’d never done so without asking before, but there are always firsts. I just wanted to make sure that if he’d made a blind grab, he made sure to guard diligently the gold necklace and bracelet that were in my change holder until he could return them to me. Like maybe he’d grabbed them inadvertantly, you know?

What I got was not confirmation that my son needed a bit of change; what I got was a resounding NO I DID NOT DO SUCH A THING MOTHER and GAH, MOTHER! YOU NEVER LOCK ANYTHING and I KNEW THIS SORT OF THING WOULD HAPPEN ONE DAY. Dig it, a twenty-minute lecture from my fifteen-year-old son about the hazards of today’s world and my lack of appropriate response to them. Shit.

The little kids didn’t do it; they were both in bed at an early hour the night previous and still asleep when the discoveries were made. Scout didn’t do it; she was down on Dauphin Island beaching it up with some schoolmates. That left Piper, who has never taken anything without asking and, upon inspection, had her car’s ashtray shaken down.

We live in a pretty nice neighborhood…far nicer than should allow the likes of us in, really, but it backs up on a set of projects a couple of blocks over. The folks that live there like to walk our street to get into town, as it is wide, quiet, low-trafficked and cooled by a morass of rich-folk trees. Therefore, I just assumed some kid went trolling for change and lucked up on a couple-hundred dollars’-worth of jewelry in the process. I mean, I had at least a thousand bucks in ceedees, several pair of sunglasses, my checkbook and wallet lying there exposed. Piper had her checkbook and emmpeethree player on her seat in the wide open and Maxim had his laptop and iPod and Sirius radio in full view.

I kept with the kid theory until late that afternoon, when I went for my checkbook. The register was untouched, but my checks had been pulled out then turned upside down and backwards in the leather cover. It smacked of, “Heh. I’ve been here and look what I did.” and I didn’t like the way it felt one bit. Still, lesson learned, and we will lock everything up tight from now on. We paid a very small price indeed.

For three weeks Scout has been having vague sort of dreams about car accidents and death. For three weeks I have been having dreams of Maxim in a wreck and dying as a result. About a week ago, we managed to tell one another these things; five days later I clued Maxim in.

Therefore, you can imagine my reaction when –Friday evening as I was on the phone with Maxim– I heard, “Oh God,” followed by the loud sounds of tires screaming and metal tangling. The call stayed connected, but I could hear no sounds. I was taking Mathias to watch him swim and was right in front of the gym when the call dropped. I hurried him and Lili out of the car and into the front doors, then I promptly went around teh back of the building and heaved. I’d not had a lot to eat that day because of the combination of funeral nerves (we buried Tess’ sister that day) and the heat and my own emotional fatigue. What I had consumed, however, came all the way up from my toes.

In that moment, I just knew beyond a shadow of doubt that my entire world had just turned fully inside out with me hanging on by the skins. My mind clicked through its channels, scanning, looking for some practical course of action while every hair on my body screamed. Suddenly my phone rang with a completely foreign number and here was a voice, flooding me with ‘He’s alright’ and Maxim in the background hollering for them to assure me he was okay and would be calling me shortly.

Maxim hit a guy running a red light head-on, both cars were totalled and he had busied himself with the task of assisting this man, whose car spun until it smacked a building and then puddled out of the car, injured. The building he hit happened to be a bar, and cocktail-hour menfolk came pooling out to see what Armageddon had befallen them. A nice man offered his services and he was the one that called me, the Good Lord bless his booze-swilling soul, amen.

Our car, it was only some three months old, and the story of its purchase is a funny one indeed but one I’ve not gotten around to telling you as of yet.

In short, we will likely not get enough to recoup its payoff, much less the decent downpayment we saved up for it, and much-much-less money to place on a new vehicle. There were witnesses, though, and they have already attested Maxim’s innocence in the whole matter to the relevant authorities.

I drove the hour it took to retrieve him, my friend Scottie in attendance to serve as distraction, and was thankful to the ends that he wasn’t lying, he really was okay save for some abrasions and nasty bruising and an already-swelling shoulder, head and eye.

Today, just as we were beginning to experience the frustration of a stubborn guilty party who refuses to accept responsibility, another thing occurred. I’d just broke for lunch and picked the little ones up to go shopping for school supplies when Maxim called.

Good ole steady, even Maxim. He got me on the phone and said, “Are you at the stop sign yet?” Assuming he’d forgotten to give me something, or that Scout had changed her mind and wanted to ride along, I told him I was sitting there now. He advised me to put the car in park and just sit for a minute.

In a measured tone, he informed me that Piper had just called; she’d been out with a friend, a really good kid from church. This kid, he is a gentle giant –all seven-foot-one of him– and was one of the first people to crack through Piper’s thick emotion-bearing wall when she came to be with us. He was out jobhunting today and came by to see if he could take our daughter out to lunch with him. It began to rain, and on their way home he hit a car head-on. That car hit another car, which bounced off of their already-spinning truck and sent them into a large concrete and steel pole. I am thankful for that truck, because its size in light of that woman’s rate of travel is what helped save those kids.

When I got to the accident scene, there were a couple of ambulances, the paramedic truck and four cop cars. The rain was still pouring, and there stood Piper in the middle of the five blocked off lanes, her pixie self looking all the tinier given the surroundings and props and weather. Our gentle giant was in shock, walking around asking everyone if they were okay. At first it appeared that only one person in the red car –teh driver– was injured. They were busy prying her door open and bracing her up. They eventually put her on a board and loaded her into one of the ambos. Within minutes, though, Piper was hurting and swelling, her knee and neck and shoulder pretty jacked.

I knew most of the guys working the scene; some of them were patients of mine and some have swilled a beer or two with me on occasion. They hugged my neck, gave me direction, answered my questions. When the giant’s daddy got there (he is a near-giant himself), I gathered up Piper and loaded her into the car. The startled little ones scrambled to make room for her in the Magical Superior Stealth vehicle, petting and kissing their big sister.

“Oh Piper,” Lili exclaimed, “you are not dead and we are all so LUCKY.” Mathias held her hand all the way to the doctor’s office; she lies back there doped to the gills right now until I can get her to the MRI place tomorrow.

No one can ever, ever convince me that there is not a God and He does not hold me in some sort of favor, because everything over the last handful of days could have bounced in such a horribly different direction. I’ve told you all before that I am Wretched, and I’ve told you before that I’m Blessed.

The latter exists, thankfully, far and away in spite of the former.

 
|| July 15, 2007 || 9:13 pm || Comments (2) ||

look!

I was the kid who took the household electronics apart to look at their guts (phones, my God did I love phones, but nothing was immune, really). Sometimes I forget that part of myself in the basic day-to-dayness of life.

Kent Rogowski turns bears inside out and photographs them. That is genius.

 
|| July 14, 2007 || 10:42 pm || Comments (1) ||

good wine, poor lighting

post-cocktail stroll
:: post-cocktail stroll ::

 
|| July 10, 2007 || 12:05 pm || Comments (12) ||

You are.

Sometimes life is so hard it’s a wonder that it doesn’t grind you down to bone.

I am tempted just to let that one sentence stand, alone and unexplained, in the sea of words your monitors proffer up every day. I don’t want to have to explain myself to all of you, each and every time you visit; I want you to come here and by some magical brain osmosis understand that I’m spinning out or I’m bathed in joy or I am so twitchy that it’s all I can do to manage turning on a computer. I don’t want to proffer up my guts, steaming and sometimes unrecognizable to even me, when I’ve no idea what else to do; I want you to get me in such a way that no amount of words could, would or should be necessary.

But me? I’m sick with this thing called language: The words bounce around fevered in my brain, commanding sentences and phrases to be regurgitated up from my middle, all these letters that went in perfectly formed and come back out in an acrid, acidic multisyllabic scramble. With me, this communication-thing is just as instinctive as the hunger for air, for food, for sex. It’s near-primordial.

So I can’t put it all on you. And, being reasonable, I can’t expect you not to feed when I set the table. And, as I am told that I’m a (mostly) sane and (sometimes) rational person, I *certainly* cannot expect you all to lay fingertips to screen, chant ‘Ohhhhhhmmmmm’, pick up my vibe and surf away into the sunset. But don’t discount that happening in the next couple of decades, All You Interwebnetses Poepels.

All this is not to say that I begrudge our relationship, readerwriter and writerreader, so please don’t take umbrage here. (And if you’re here taking umbrage? Lord, please go the fuck away and try not to come back real soon.) It’s just that some of the things I’m compelled to put to paper or screen or the palm of my hand are just like self-flagellation, but in an instinctive, compulsive way. I don’t always want to do it, but I feel I always have to.

There you have it. The most honest sentence about the writing process that has ever escaped my fingertips. Enjoy.

Despite the fact that I’ve always written, from the time I could hold a pencil and command simple sentence structure (long about the age of three? mebbe), it’s only been since I’ve had this medium to work in that I understand my relationship with words, understand their power over me and through me. I now know that without the process of writing, I would likely be quite mad, doing horrible things to myself or perhaps others. I have realized, first and foremost, that by the time I get to the point of writing about an event in my life –until I can and do write about it/through it, rather– I’ve not fully processed it; the writing of it, the sorting it out on paper, is the final step to laying something down in my spirit and making my peace with it. And also, lest we forget, the final step in fully acknowledging it, the role it has in my life and the shaping of me as a person.

Yesterday, by most accounts, was a pretty good day. It started with a slight foreshadowing, but mostly rocked along in a positive manner. Long about seven in the evening there came a sledgehammer blow and an hour later came another, and the night found me out in my driveway, staring up at the moon all deadfaced because that’s all I had in me to do.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

My alarm was set for six, and as I am prone to doing, I lie there in my bed –my refuge– for a few minutes before even attempting to set feet to floor. Out of nowhere, the bottom fell out and it was raining, hard and insistent, the fat and rapid drops singing off of the patio flagstones; it was such a blessedly wanted and welcome sound that I decided to set the alarm for an hour and a half later, gymming on lunch instead of pre-work as is the usual custom.

When I headed for the bath later, there was a slight drip-drip noise just outside my bedroom door and a small, splishy puddle on the delightfully retroflecked linoleum of the family room. A leak. The joys of owning a huge, rambley, fifties-built home. Not panicked at all, I matter-of-factly sailed through the dining room and kitchen and into the utility room to fetch a small bucket. When I drew back the sash door separating the kitchen from the utility room, I was pulled up short by what amounted to a small pond across the cement floor (thank God we’ve not redone the floors in there yet). This was not the most alarming part. The most alarming, panic-inducing part was the fact that the puddle was emanating from the light fixture overhead. I mean, I’m no expert or anything, but I’m pretty sure that I should have been having a batch of kittens over the fact that water was not only pouring through the ceiling, but it was pouring through via an electrical fixture into a room FULL of massive (refrigerator, deep freezer, washer, dryer) electrical appliances.

The biggest response from me, though, was a deepish sort of sigh as I killed the juice and went fishing (HA! FISHING, HA!) in the storage closet for a cooler to align under the light’s spill. I wasn’t even all that moved, much less panicked, but I do indeed recall noting the irony of going to retrieve a bucket for a small leak and finding a near-lake at the source of the small-puddle remedy. My brain sort of drew three strong lines under that, in fact, and put a decisive period behind it. In black Sharpie marker.

I went on to scrub teeth and face and body, to exfoliate and moisturize and perfume, to paint and drape and shod. I went through my day pleasantly enough, trading jabs and laughs with patients and coworkers and friends, picked up children, came home to family and extended family and a waiting table laden with good food and wine and love.

As we were putting a wrap on dinner –after the children had been excused for baths and social lives– and there were only adults ringing the large square expanse of warm cherry to conversate and fondle the stems of my favorite goblets, I got a call. It was Tess. “The sheriff just left. They found Beryl an hour ago. She shot herself.”

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

You are due some background, precious and fair reader. I do this sometimes, I sit on something very tender long enough to prepare myself for the recounting of it. Sometimes something occurs to push it to the foreground before I’m quite nerved up enough and ready to tear off the band-aid.

Two years ago, on the fourth of July, there was a picnic in a park a handful of miles from here. The picnic was to honor a much-decorated soldier, one who’d gone off to war twice and one who loved –and in return, was loved by– his men and his woman and his kids and his extended family. He could be honestly classified as One of The Good Ones you hear about from time to time, they who live their lives quietly and well and mostly uneventfully by their own accounts. So we laughed and ate ribs and pies and played ball and later under the bold stars seated in unassuming darkness we caught fireflies with the wee ones and, even later into the night, shot firework cannon after firework cannon, our faces bathed in electric yellows and greens and blues.

He was called to war again, this man of the military career, and that was hard in its own way because his daughter was due to marry in the fall. On the fourth of July, one full year after the picnic in his honor in the heart of a little Alabama town full of Just Plain Folk, the soldier died and his family was broken; this was in part because they were so fiercely devoted to one another, in part because they were not there at his passing and in part because he was the Great White Hope, the Farm Boy Done Good, the Hometown Boy Gone To God.

This man was Tess’ biggest brother. Tess had that role that always seems to fall primarily to one child, even though there were four others to choose from: She, the youngest of them all, shored up her mother.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

Last month we went to an outdoor music festival. At its close, they shot fireworks up and over the river. Me, I sprawled out in all sorts of crazy fashions trying to catch something, anything, with the calculated lens of my camera. When it was all over, when the four of us girls sat later in the booth, martini bowls as big as our faces in front of all of us, two of our compatriots excused themselves to the restroom.

“I thought that was going to kill me,” Tessa said to me.

“What?”

“The last time I saw fireworks was at the park, the picnic for Gibby.”

“God, Tess, I’m so sorry. I didn’t even think….”

“How could you have? You can only know which dots are connected back to that when I point them out to you. They start at MY insides.”

I still felt like Grade-A Prime Asshole. I catch all these subtle nuances that never even ping anyone else’s radar. This is all the time; I’m made crazy with profound realization on a constant basis. I fully and roundly suck at scooping up the obvious. Maybe that’s why I’m not exactly great with The Subtle myownself.

For the rest of the month we waited with collectively-held breath, Tess and me, dreading the upcoming holiday and what it might bring for her mother. See, Tess’ momma and daddy have become my momma and daddy by extension; they have loved me and petted me and scolded me and just simply been in my own mother and father’s absence. From the minute that Tess presented me to them, “Here is someone I adore,” they have made it their job to give a damn about me openly and consciously. They are remarkably like my own people, salt of the earth and passionate and wicked-smaaaaaht in that dirt-raised way that is so fucking valuable in this world of oversated nincompoops.

Tess worried wordlessly on how her mother would fuck out and how she would hold her up and I in turn worried wordlessly on how this would fuck Tessa Nicole out and in what manner I might hold her up as needed. We wasted a lot of quiet adrenaline, it seems: The fourth passed without event, and passed quite happily, at that.

Whewww, we breathed silently, that went okay.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

Beryl was the second-born, just after Gibby. There has been trouble for the last year. This is a theme I’ve seen repeated as of late: One sibling goes, some of the rest come unseated in strange ways as a result. Oddly enough, I think maybe witnessing it in some acquaintances and not-as-close friends was meant to somehow prepare me in this situation where I’m closer to the middle of things.

So there has been trouble and this trouble culminated in Beryl being on the run, despite the demands/pleas of family and advice of counsel. And today, Beryl is dead, supposedly by her own hand. That bit of it feels sketchy to me, so don’t be surprised if I report to you later, THIS WAS A MURDER, AND DIDN’T I FUCKING CALL JUST ONE MORE GRIM HUMAN STATISTIC, OH DIDN’T I?? Because I’m good on the Grim Human Statistics, y’all. Roundly, grossly, morbidly good…just ask anyone who really, really knows me.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

A mere hour after I got Tess’ initial call and some thirty minutes after our guests had been seen off, I spoke with my mother. Not far into the call, she cracked and broke all over my left ear. My insides seeped out dread, because my gentle-yet-hickory-tough mother was weeping, something I’ve only witnessed five, maybe six times in my thirty-six years.

My niece, bold and gorgeous and all of eleven. Even in matters of reproduction I bullied my sister: “LOOK,” I said to her on more than one occasion, “I’VE GONE AND MADE YOU AN AUNTIE TWICE-OVER. I WANT TO BE AN AUNT TO SOMEONE. NONE OF THE OTHER SIBS ARE NEARBY; THEY’VE DRAGGED THEIR KIDS ALL OVER THE PLANET. YOU’RE BEHOLDEN TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT THIS.”

There are family members that you are more innately connected to over others. Justice is one such person in my life. December of nineteen ninety-five. I flew home to greet her first passage over my mother and daddy’s threshold, driving a hunnert, hunnert-ten most of the way. I kissed her forehead, this little peachy-hued sausage bundle, pronounced her both ‘Blessed’ and ‘Mine’. Words stir things, they do, because while she looks just like my sister, she has the shifting, somewhat remarkable blue of my eyes and her mother is constantly bemoaning the fact that “Oh GOD, SHE’S JUST LIKE BETH, let me TELL YOU what SHE DID TODAY,” to our momma.

Someone has gone and broken my bold, defiant-chinned, knobby-beautied slip of a niece. I don’t know that it’s not irrevocably. You’ll have to forgive my brevity on this one. I’m more than a little gobsmacked. I just don’t have the words and don’t know that I ever, ever will.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

My face is often off in the clouds, but I like tangibles: Despite the fact that Tessa and I have spoken several times since last night, I have not yet been able to see her. The office is empty; the doctor is out and there will not be patients until this afternoon. I’m here by myself, and I feel like I need to be with my friend, so I am wearing her her jacket to stave off an inexplicable chill in my bones, speaking over it and into it, the same murmurings I’d speak over and into her were she here.

And, conversely, I’m wrapped in her arms, her chest across mine, soundlessly pulling my pain out in that way she has.

Without her even being here.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

A friend called me a few minutes ago, “Um, I’m driving over to pray for my cousin with breast cancer, to minister to her. I need you to pray.” Oh yeah, that’s right, that’s today. She told me about this thing this past weekend.

I am a zombie today, a zombie out here in The World, even though in Cyberia there are reams and reams of words. I didn’t breathe a peep of my own matters. Part of me doesn’t want to go into it all, and part of me just merely does not want to.

“I need you to pray for me before I pray over her.”

“Uhm, okay.”

A few minutes after that, I called another friend, one of my Best Ones Of All The Best Ones. He lives on the other side of this (sometimes mighty fucking biiiig) world, and he knows my frustrating rhythms, my unreasonable demands and my ridiculous generosities, which –in being consistent with the rest of the Incongruous Me– are flip sides of the same coin. It is the dead of night where he is, but I was hoping against hope that he would pick up, because he is one of the rare people in my life whose voice I can just hear and be easy about Things In General. Mostimes he answers despite the ridiculous hour, and really, shaking him out of sleep is the best way to go about things at times; he hates the telephone, or the Getting On Of It, at least.

He didn’t stir, didn’t answer, but he will be here later to read this, I’m sure. To him I say: I had something along these lines in mind to say to you,

“Do you think you could say something? Do you think you could just fill ten minutes with some words?”

and I could still use a call, unexpected and just simply consisting of a “Oh hello, I miss you, stinkface.” because I’m tying a knot in and hanging on, but you yourself know I’ve been doing that very thing for an ungodly long time and my hands are just shreds, the rope a bloodier, meatier mess the further down the knots go and sometimes I just need you to return the favor and remind me where the God is in all of this. Sometimes I just need you –not to urge me to breathe, but– to be my breath for a minute while my pulse settles and my insides thrum down a bit. And oh my God, do I miss your wide-open and ready laugh when my own hair-trigger one grows quiet.

And also? It’s far past time. I need something tangible.

thick face, black heart
:: thick face, black heart ::

 
|| July 9, 2007 || 2:43 pm || Comments (1) ||

in case you were wondering…

I probably work in the only office on the face of the planet where you rush to close your boxed meal instead of your browser window. IT IS GREAT STUFF.

Also, my best friend sits five feet away and we can surreptitiously type one another up about incoming patients:

JETT: His credict carrud says see I.D.,

JETT: but I’ve seen his penis, so do I still have to ask?

TESS: OMG, when did you see THE PENIS??

JETT: aaaages ago. refers to it as ‘him’

JETT: AHHHHAhaha

TESS: shut. your! mouth.

pee ess….if Skillzy has your phone number, please be aware that he will call you while you are otherwise unawares of his ability to record you and then post your curseswearing on his voyeurnal for all of Cyberia to hear. So, to my mother, who pretends like I don’t have a weblog in the same manner she plays like I’ve never been to rehab: I DO NOT TALK TO BOYS ON THE PHONE AND I CERTAINLY DON’T EVER SAY THE SHIT-WORD OR THE FUCK-WORD IN THE MIDDLE OF POLITE CONVERSATIONS WITH THOSE SAME BOYS I DON’T TALK TO ON THE PHONE.

 
|| July 7, 2007 || 11:15 pm || Comments (2) ||

a general query

How does one go about getting a copy of one’s mug shot, hmmm?

I figger there’s got to be two or ten of you that give them out as yearly snapshots to various family and friends and thus could advise me.

sure I am unhinged, but this is why you heart me, lololz.

My children, as most of you well know, are part of a constant campaign to make me appear to be The Most Unfit And Disorganized Of All The Mothers On The Planet (Ever). In keeping with this theme, Mathias did not wear shoes or a shirt to swim practice last night, and I guess his Nana –who had pick up at house/drop off at pool duties last night– found neither of them imperative to her eight-year-old grandson’s well-being.

And well, as much as I admire and love Roxie, there is this certain sadistic part of her that is distinctly mother-in-lawly, wherein –on the rare now and again– she finds my foibles fodder for the shoring up of her own faltering ego. For instance, right after my car wreck glorious and heroic slaying o’ the tractor, she thought it would be GREAT, OMG, JUST OH SO GREAT! to plant a mess of azalea bushes outside my front windows at the new house and then biiiiiiiitch to the high heavens a month later when they were dying back a bit because I would not get up off of my crippled ass and go water them. I withstood this about twice, quietly, in order to keep the peace, before enough of the Vicodin wore off for me to grow sufficiently annoyed.

“ROXIE!” I yelled through the picture windows, where she passive-aggressively huffed and puffed, “IF I CAN’T WORK OUT THE HAVING OF SEX WITH YOUR SON JUST YET, I’M NOT REAL INCLINED TO WORK OUT THE MECHANICS OF HAULING MY ASS AROUND THOSE BUSHES TO GET THEM WATERRRRRRRED!”

Don’t fuck with me. But most importantly, don’t fuck with me just as the Goofenthals are wearing off, capiche?

Then there was the obligatory yelling at Maxim to ‘Oh my GOD, could you please CONTAIN YOUR FAMILY, because they TALK TO ME IN A FASHION that I’d never in a million years allow MY FAMILY TO ADDRESS YOU.’ All this while Memaw Ruby looked on, inwardly amused. (That woman quietly adores contention, because she can blow it up and tell a story like nobody’s business. She has me licked in that department four ways to Sunday.) I can count the times on one hand that I’ve actively yelled at Maxim in our nine years of marriage (I fully get a pass on that one time just after the wreck, because the pain was sudden and unbearable, oh shit was it ever); I know you find that massively hard to believe, but it’s altogether true.

So, Mathias: I arrived to pick him up from swim practice only to find that there were only swim trunks and an overlarge, overexpensive orange beach towel resplendent with dancing yellow suns to adorn his skinny, broad-shouldered, drowned-rat self. And me with an impending trip to Hell(Wal)Mart for dinner goods.

I don’t know why I lack the basic skills for meal planning that I once had: I used to be ├╝berhousewife, with the neatly-clipped and -organized coupon pocketbook, the two-week menu, the accompanying grocery list cleverly broken down into precise categories. This was before that I wised up and decided that stomping through mudpuddles and dancing wildly to numetal were altogether more satisfying than hotrollered hair and scissored bits of paper enticing me to BUY TWO AND SAVE SEVENTY-FIVE CENTS. Please, people, give me teh credicks! I made an earnest and genuine stab and the whole Donna Reed thing, carrying it off for a good long while before screaming, “OH SHIT, FUCK THIIIIIIS!” and leaving a trail of coupon leaflets in my wake.

So, I no longer possess that particular skillset, having made the conscious decision long ago to Fuck That Noise, because time was a-wastin’. This means I spend an inordinate, disorganized amount of samesaid time phoning the children so they can reconnoiter the pantry situation for mommy and help me make a brief list on the fly. Then I zoom to, through and from whichever market is directly in my trajectory at the time. Wal-Mart won last night because I also needed some shea butter (an essential part of my beauty regimen, if you at all give a crap about things like my feet looking satin-smooth and feeling baby-soft year ’round….AND I *KNOW* YOU DO) and some of those cotton rounds. And some shoelaces; newish puppy, remember? She has been re-assigned to another Primary Owner (from Piper to Scout, and we all saw it coming), re-monikered ‘Ellie’ (which everyone likes better) and is in her obnoxious clumsy, chewing-on-EVERYthing stage. To include, oh woe is me, the gorgeous Eames-style wool rug. I threatened her with various Puppy Tortures over that one.

Mathias lapped up our one-on-one time greedily, beating my eardrums with in-depth descriptions of various Bionicles and their stellar abilities, as well as flooding me with Big Important Questions like “Do you know how to stop time, mom?” I wanted to say, Well, of course I do, son, and it is this easy: Shout the word ‘fuck’ as loudly and gregariously as possible in the middle of a Baptist church during Sunday morning services, but I fortunately have a smidgen of impulse control to rein me in enough so as to render me somewhat passable in the respectable mothering department.

We navigated the store swiftly, safely and without incident; it was in the checkout line that it happened. As Mathias stood, stunning and orange-draped, next to me I leaned lightly on the buggy, one foot resting on its metal base and flicked my eyes around distractedly. Waiting in checkout lines just kills me, All Ye Muffinasses, because I can think of a thousand things I could be doing with my time but I don’t have them readily at my disposal. I hate –nearly more than anything else– missing an opportunity to multitask.

So I stood there, sweeping the store with my eyes and all of the sudden they snagged on something, my brain yelling, “Whoaaaa, back up!” A dude. A pretty hot dude, I thought, but he was still a good fifty yards off and weaving in and out of people. I casually checked him out in a slick fashion (eyes on him, eyes away, eyes on him, eyes away) as he neared me, and confirmed that yessir, though he was a titch shorter than I generally liked them, he was dark-haired, dark-skinned and fit. Pretty, though I was only catching part of his profile. Looked away again, he was getting closer and who wants to be obvious?

I felt him near enough to pull a good eyeful off of, so I casually looked around again and when my eyes caught sight of his companion, whom he was directing his attentions to, they locked on to her and my guts recoiled. The girl was my own Scout, and she was striding through Wal-Mart with her father. I quickly grinned at her, barely flicking my gaze over Biff, doing that dead-eye thing to him that he so despises. I goosed Scouty as she glided by, she and Mathias blew exaggerated kisses at one another and they were past us, heading toward the deli section.

Sweet Mother Of Christmas Pete, all you various and sundry readers, I checked out and mildly lusted my ex-husband. Even though I covered and recovered nicely, you cannot IN A MILLION AND TWO YEARS imagine the horror this evokes in me.