Monday, March 10, 2008


“What’s up across the street?” I asked as I wiped my nose for the hundredth time. I appear to have acquired a nasty head cold at some point and my ears and eyes and head pound from the pressure.

The neighbors moved in ten years ago. This means that I didn’t live here on a permanent level for the duration of their stay. Though Christmases and summers mean I’ve met the couple and three children who reside in a home that is a mirror image of my folks’. Woman remarried Man and had brought along Oldest Daughter and Son. Woman and Man had Youngest Daughter together and have added various dogs over the years.

I was surprised when Man and Woman divorced, and even more shocked when Oldest Daughter was arrested.

“She stole Woman’s car,” Dad told me, looking thoughtful. “Well, I think. Maybe she hit her? I don’t really know. But the police came and took her away in handcuffs. Mom and I watched out the window.”

I shook my head at them, but knew I’d have done the same. I peered between my own shades when the police were questioning a teenager a few months ago. I can’t help it - I’m curious.

“She’s pregnant,” Mom answered my question yesterday.

“No!” I gasped. Mom nodded in reply as we shared a sleeve of Thin Mints. Dad said something in the living room and I cocked my head, unable to hear him over the high TV volume.

“The father is twenty-four,” Mom interpreted for me.

“No!” I said again, enjoying the conversation despite myself.

“She turns 18 in October,” Mom said, “and the baby is due in September.”

“Wow,” I sighed. “When did you find out?”

“Youngest Daughter sold us cookies,” she told me, nodding at the treats we shared. “She brought them over and I asked if she wanted to watch a movie with Little One. So they watched Cinderella down the hall and Woman came over later. She said she was going to be a grandma too so we talked about it. She said she doesn’t know how she’s going to afford it.”

“If she wasn’t so busy dating new men, she could have supervised her daughter more,” I judged with a shake of my head. “What did Man say?”

“I don’t know,” she offered. “Apparently he wants her back but she said he hit her.”

“Seriously?” I asked, concerned and suddenly feeling badly. “That’s awful.” Mom nodded in agreement.


“OK,” I sighed after I blew my nose again and sipped at my coffee. “I’m ready.” Little One called at 8 this morning, waking me when her grandfather walked down the hall with the phone, and asked when I was coming over to play.

Dad drove and we walked up the front steps and into Brother's house. I greeted Little One with smiles and kisses and turned to Dad to wrinkle my nose.

“Is that gasoline?” he asked, frowning at Brother.

“Yeah,” he answered. “The motorcycle is leaking.” I soon found myself with a Disney bingo card and the remote (Little One doesn’t like the automatic option since she sometimes gets distracted and needs more time.), an armful of Smallest One, full of smiles and wiggles, and fending off advances from a happy dog and cat. Brother and Dad exited to deal with the smell and the broken motorcycle and other such things. In the meantime, I battled a headache of increasing strength from the fumes. I asked Little One if she had Ariel in a blue square, kept bingo chips away from Smallest One’s mouth and coaxed her into chewing on her teething ring, scolded the cat for laying on the bingo cards and sighed at how difficult this visit was.

I finally carried Smallest One to request that her father put out his cigarette and enter the house to care for his daughter. I then proceeded down the hall to read books and play puzzles with Little One. I fetched orange juice and a granola bar. I cuddled and laughed. It became easy and lovely.

When we left, I sighed at the open garage with the various vehicles and pieces thereof displayed as it aired out. There was a soda can on the porch next to pieces of a fuel line.


I have a small skin abnormality on my shoulder. I pick at it, though I know I shouldn’t. It’s tiny, but it bothers me. I was messing with it last night as I tried to go to sleep and grew wildly frustrated that it wouldn’t just come off.

I looked online to see if it was anything bad. I decided it was not - many people form these tiny flaps and they can be easily removed in most cases. Apart from wincing at photos of more severe cases, I found that while the good advice indicated seeing a doctor for treatment, several people indicated that they’ve used dental floss to make the things fall off or simply snipped with scissors.

Deciding to wait and see how I felt today, I kept thinking of the scissors in the bathroom cabinet. After peering into a magnifying mirror to see the bump, I glared at it and went to prepare. I dumped rubbing alcohol on the scissors and cleaned my shoulder. I prepared a bandage with ointment. Then I went to stand in front of the mirror to see what I was doing. I thought for a moment - wondered if it would hurt or scar - and made a face while I tried to weigh desire versus wisdom.


“What’d you to your shoulder?” Dad asked when I came to the living room, smoothing on a band-aid.

“Minor surgery,” I replied. “Totally worked. Maybe. I think.” He shook his head at me. “It’s not like I’d recommend it,” I defended myself. Then I nodded when he asked if I was OK.

“Hey, Dad?” I asked as we sat, watching a show about trains that were lost in the ocean when they were shipped 100 years ago. I paused when he looked at me, thinking of my shoulder and the smell of gasoline and the way Dad drove the lawnmower around the yard with a piece of fence attached to the back to smooth out the gravel drive in the side yard and our neighbors, “do you think we’re a little trashy?”

He stopped to consider it for a moment, perhaps thinking of anecdotes of his own, and shrugged. “Maybe,” he finally decided with a grin. “But maybe that’s not so bad.”


Amanda said...

You have a much stronger stomach than me. I always feel queazy when I think about doing that.

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