Beryl’s Chicken Diary (3)

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Read from the beginning HERE.

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DAY FIVE

wee hours

I can’t sleep. I keep waking and wondering where I am.

Then I remember.

The bathtub.

I can’t tell if it’s morning or night or what.

I miss the garden.

The entire back garden is ours. Americana humans call it a yard but Christopher is British variety and calls it a garden so that’s what I call it.

Christopher is my favorite human.

He speaks gently, paints big beautiful pictures, and has a bright shiny head. I like watching him through the back door.

Sometimes I peck on the window to get his attention and he rewards me with bread crust. And sometimes he sits on the steps with a cup of tea and lets me perch on his arm.

That’s my very favorite thing of all.

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Ten paces from the back porch is a magical wonder called the compost bin.

In it, humans toss orange peels, potato peels, carrot peels, onion skins, banana skins, pear cores, apple corps, lemon slices, watermelon rinds, nectarine pits, plum pits, coffee grounds, rotten veggies, egg shells, leftovers, and the occasional used tea bag.

It gets really, really stinky in there.

Especially in summer.

The sun rots that stuff into a hot sludgy mess, attracting flies who hang out and lay eggs. Have you ever seen fly eggs? They look like tiny piles of white rice.

But not for long.

(Here’s where the magic happens!)

24 hours later, those piles turn into maggots.

Which means that everyday —every day!– that

dark

rich

stinky

soil

pulsates with fresh wiggly maggots.

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Fat

delicious

squishy

newborn

maggots.

I feel you judging over there, human person. But please stop.

Maggots are Aprime gourmet dining and positively delectable. (That’s hard to pronounce with an injured beak, by the way, positively delectable.) Sometimes I don’t chomp hard enough and feel them wiggling down my throat. Being boss lady chicken means I eat first, and the others climb in only after I’m full.

Lucky for them I’m nice and there’s plenty.

We also get leftovers. My favorite is rice.

And milk. I LOVE milk.

Oh, and noodles.

love noodles, too.

We spend our days eating, digging, scratching, laying, pulling worms, taking dirt baths, and clucking at the sun. When the sky fades purply blue we hop to our roost and huddle together for sleep, safe behind a locked gate.

Why am I telling you all this?

Because I know my humans love me.

I know they didn’t mean to cause me harm.

DAY SIX

have you checked the chickens yet?

My humans didn’t lock us up that night.

They spent the night out —something about not wanting to drink and drive. I’m not sure what that means. But our gate was left wide open and they weren’t here when I got attacked. It’s lucky I screamed so loud.

Jennifer woke up to a scary text.

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I’m grateful for that neighbor lady.

Now you know chickens get saved by the light, too.

My humans rushed home expecting the worst.

About clucking time. 

I watched them from my hiding spot, feeling mad.

They stepped around torn feathers and broken eggs, calling my name with worried voices.

Jennifer bit her nails.

I stayed behind a woodpile. Hurt, mad, scared, and embarrassed. I didn’t want them to see me like this. The other girls were already treating me different —even my sister.

Like they didn’t even know me.

And maybe I felt a little unsafe.

So I hid.

This part makes me sad.

If you don’t mind, I’ll tell you the rest later.

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Days SEVEN and EIGHT will be posted Sunday.

If you’d like instant notification, you can sign up to follow this blog.

Meanwhile:

Share this with an Animal Protector. Those people are golden.

Shimmery, even.

love, Beryl.

Beryl’s Chicken Diary. (2)

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Read from the beginning HERE.

……….

 

DAY THREE

hunger

 

They tried to make me eat today.

I can’t eat.

I can barely hold my head up.

Please just leave me alone.

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DAY FOUR

yesterday and today

 

Sorry for the dramatics yesterday.

I was in terrible pain.

Maybe I should tell you about myself.

I am Beryl, pronounced barrel. Adopted three years ago with my twin sister Babs when our humans Christopher and Jennifer one day decided they wanted fresh eggs.

Babs and I are Orpington hens with strawberry blonde feathers and bright red combs like cherry tomatoes. My fluff— the bits around my bottom — are really blonde giving the illusion of soft, frilly underpants.

Jennifer says we’re camel-colored.

I say camels are me-colored.

Christopher built a spacious coop with a roost and three little nest boxes so we can lay eggs in private.

He’s wonderful like that.

He even stocks it with fresh alfalfa hay. We love alfalfa.

It’s tasty and scratchy and smells like hills and sunshine.

I suppose our eggs pleased the humans, because then Wanda and Missus Jenkins came along.

They were a lot smaller, and looked way different from me and my sister. But we didn’t mind. A few months later, Wanda popped out a blue egg! Jenkins’ eggs are brown like ours, thank goodness. That chick doesn’t need another reason to feel superior —but more about her later.

Between us now, we lay 20 eggs a week! I especially like when Christopher collects them.

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Good girl! he smiles, pronouncing it gull, sneaking me toast.

May I tell you a secret? 

I’m not sure I’ll ever lay again.

Chickens don’t lay under stress.

And what happened to me was stressful.

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Continue reading HERE.

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The next entry will be posted in two days.

If you’d like instant notification, you can sign up to follow this blog.

Meanwhile, have you shared this with your grumpy co-worker yet?

You can send it to your whole team so no one’s feelings get hurt.

But everyone will know who you mean.

love, Beryl.

 

 

 

Beryl’s Chicken Diary. (1)

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I don’t think she’s gonna make it.

—overheard.

 

DAY ONE

pain

 

My name is Beryl. I am a lady chicken.

And today is the worst day of my life.

Yesterday I lived in the yard with Wanda, Missus Jenkins, and my twin sister Babs.

Today I woke up in a bathtub, and I am hurt. Very hurt.

My toe is missing.

I can’t lift my wing.

My eye’s crusted shut.

I don’t want to talk about it.

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DAY TWO

the night before

 

I’m ready to talk about it.

Yesterday I was confused and my head hurt.

But now I remember.

A raccoon tried to kill me. That’s what.

And if you scare easily I suggest you stop reading.

RIGHT NOW.

Because in the middle of the night — while we were sleeping — a big raccoon— big as a dog—crept in our coop with zero regard for life.

Not mine, anyway.

I was fast asleep when he yanked me from the roost.

My head slammed to the ground and I felt something tear.

I understand having a tooth pulled may feel similar —that horrid crunch you feel— but this probably was worse.

I tried screaming, but he dragged me across the yard by my throat.

Have you ever seen a raccoon’s teeth?

They’re razor pointy. Like sharpened little ice picks.

And they sank into me like a hot knife through butter.

They say you don’t feel pain with adrenaline. When you’re in shock.

Maybe that’s a human luxury.

Because I felt everything.

Everything.

I screamed.

I heard the other girls make scared noises from the roost.

He hissed bad words at them then bit my neck, exposing raw meat.

Was he seriously gonna try to eat me in front of my family?

I kicked.

I squawked.

I flapped my wings so hard it sounded like TEN birds flying.

No! No! NO!  I wasn’t ready to die!

I escaped for two seconds but he caught my foot, ripping off my toe.

My sister screamed my name.

I pecked his face.

My comb got stuck in his teeth so he ripped that off, too.

Blood streaked my feathers and beak, making me gurgle.

But I never stopped screaming.

I screamed so loud it woke the neighbor lady.

Her porch light flipped on and my attacker froze, his eyes like shiny black marbles.

Then I don’t know why.

But he ran.

He ran.

I lay there stunned.  Bloody, trembling, and struggling to breathe.

The other girls watched me, concerned and confused.

I was the strong one.

The brave one.

The leader.

Now I’m ugly, injured, and weak.

Maybe I should’ve let him—

Never mind.

I don’t want to talk about this anymore.

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continue reading HERE.

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The next entry will be posted in two days.

If you’d like instant notification, you can sign up to follow this blog.

Meanwhile:

  1. Read this to your kids.
  2. Your partner-in-crime.
  3. That grumpy lady in the cubicle near yours.
  4. Or anyone requiring distraction.

Maybe they care what happens to me.

Maybe.

love, Beryl.

 

BOOK LAB: Ugly Ass Books

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We have a recycle bin at the library that should be called the Cornucopia of Surprise.  Mostly, it’s trash. Newspaper circulars. Worn paperbacks with detached pages. Broken books. Wet books. Moldy books. Useless donations like roach-nibbled encyclopedias, obsolete plumbing manuals, and Weight Watcher recipe cards from 1974.

But sometimes, you find treasure. One time I found the social studies book I used in 2nd grade! Not the exact same one, but you know what I mean. And I sure did swipe those recipe cards.

Mousse of Salmon, anyone?

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Anyone?

Hello?

Anyway.

I recently walked by and saw a book.

Not just *any* book.

Quite possibly the ugliest book I’ve ever seen.

I grabbed it, spying ‘WD’ scrawled over the barcode in stinky black marker.

Withdrawn.

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See. I have this mental condition where I feel sorry for inanimate objects.

Like that last slice of bread

. . . too thin for a sandwich.

or

the grape on the grocery store floor

. . . forever separated from its family.

or

The Christmas tree nobody picks.

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I own my psychosis.

And I held that poor, ugly book.

Deemed unworthy. Given the WD death-stamp and cast aside while its prettier friends remain on the shelf.

I read the summary, skimming phrases like gorgeous cophilarious consequences, and battle of her life.

Can’t be too bad, I thought, a familiar delusion spreading over me.

What if this book is awesome?

And what if no one ever picked it up because –let’s face it– the cover was ugly. Like how did a publisher let it go out like this ugly. And how many others were destined for the Withdrawal Cart o’ Death because of unfortunate cover art?

Oh no, little darling. I hugged the book. I’m gonna give you a chance. To prove you’re worthy.

I tenderly wiped roach-nibbled dust chunks from the cover.

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And a new Book Lab was born.

Look.

BOOK LAB was never about reading something safe and popular. We got Oprah and James Patterson for that. No. It’s about experimentation and pushing boundaries while spotlighting books we’ve

  • Forgotten.
  • Never heard of
  • Ignored far too long

It’s a win for the book, no matter what. Please recall the very first experiment in which we selected books blindfolded. Nedra’s pick was not only a delightful source of weiner jokes, but actually a very good read (despite its cover) causing a tiny surge in circulation after her review!

So far we’ve learned:

  1. Book covers LIE.
  2. Pulitzer Prize winners DO NOT SUCK.
  3. Some ‘Classics’ kinda do.
  4. Librarians are more valuable than Google.
  5. The book isn’t always better than the movie.

So how would UGLY books fare in a new experiment?

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We gathered at the library.

“Please pick the ugliest book you can find,” I said.

Define ugly, they said.

I showed them my book.

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“Almost no one on the planet should pick up your book and think it looks awesome,” I clarified.

And they were super excited.

I could tell.

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Bless them.

They wandered into the stacks –warriors armed with good attitudes– and saved picked their novels.

Later we gathered over food and wine to discuss the good, the bad, and the ugly.

(Our favorite part.)

*****

NEDRA

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The Beginning of Spring by Penelope Fitzgerald

Wife leaves husband before the first World War. Man moves to Russia with kids and develops weird relationship with Nanny.

What did Nedra think?

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Nedra’s rating:

Goodreads rating: 3.76

Last time it was checked out from the library? 2015.

*****

PETRA:

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The Solid Mandala by Patrick White

Here’s Petra, describing an overly symbolic story about twin Australian brothers, one simple, one clever, living in questionably close confines.

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She loved it.

Just kidding, she gave it 2 stars.

Goodreads rating: 3.95

Last time it was checked out? NEVER.

This book has NEVER been circulated.

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*****

EMILY

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The Day of the Locust by Nathanael West.

Tod is a young scene designer obsessed with Faye,  a 17-year-old platinum vixen obsessed with fame. The Day of the Locust reveals loose morals, twisted desires, and the false, corruptive lure of Hollywood.

Emily thought it was great and read a few pages. Sounded good to us, too! Researching Goodreads, I found this little gem:

“Adults beating the spontaneity out of children so their kid can be the next Shirley Temple. How twisted. Adults dressing, speaking, moving, expressing themselves in imitation of what they see on the screen. How sick. How appalling. How American.”

* Note: This book was written in 1939.

Emily’s rating: 4 stars.

Goodreads rating: 3.79

Last time it was checked out from the library? 2013

*****

JENNIFER

Wait for it.

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Mixed Blessings by Diane Amos

An investigative reporter minds her grandfather and old-fashioned aunt while her erotic-fiction writer mother’s away on her Honeymoon. Meanwhile, her fiancé’s ex reenters the scene and her aunt gets pregnant.

— the sequel to last year’s smash Getting Personal, per the cover.

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Ya’ll know I wanted to like this.

To be absolutely fair, it wasn’t near as bad as I thought it was going to be and actually coasted along with 3 stars. Even with phrases like “apprehension streaked through me” and “air whooshed from my lungs” and “trepidation streaked down my spine.”

But too many adverbs and cliches weighed this farcical plot down . . . annoyingly.

My rating: 2 stars.

Goodreads rating: 3.5

No library data as it was already withdrawn.

*****

Maybe you’re thinking, Hey Miss Judgy McJudgerton! Those covers aren’t bad!

Please remember:

  • ‘Ugly’ is subjective.
  • Lotsa books have lotsa covers.

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I doubt Nedra would’ve picked her SHORTLISTED FOR THE BOOKER PRIZE novel if it looked like this:

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or this:

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But therein lies the fun.

Love,

Jennifer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Chicken Called Wanda.

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Have you ever heard a chicken in distress?

It sounds like a newborn pig being clawed to death.

Go ahead and imagine that for a sec.

 Got it?

That’s what I woke to 12 hours ago.

It sounded like this:

Heeeeeelll heeeeeellll squeeeeeeeeee 

I felt it in my guts. So my eyes popped open. Really. A very upsetting sound.  It almost sounded like HELP. Heeeeellpppppp sqqueeeeeeeee squeeee. Ugh! I pulled up on my elbows.

Was it a puppy?

The neighbor’s kitten?

Whatever it was, was putting up a good fight.

I knew our chickens were locked up.

But the poor thing continued wailing — maybe a squirrel?

Please put it out of its misery, I thought guiltily. I hate waking in the wee hours. Once I’m up, I’m up.

It sounded farther away than my yard, but —

I heard rustling downstairs.

Then my phone pinged.

A text from my neighbor.

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I tore off my covers and ran downstairs to find Sophia at the back door, peering out.

“There’s something out there, Momma. But I’m scared to go out.” She handed me a flashlight.

I opened the back door, trying to pull a robe around me. I got one foot on the porch when a fat raccoon bolted across the yard then wobbled up a tree. I ran-hopped to the chickens, acorns stabbing the bottom of my feet. Mystery yuck squishing through my toes.

The coop was locked. Secure. Thank God. Three chickens on the roost . . .  Wait.

Why was Wanda on the ground?

I shined light on her.

And my insides slid south.

Her entire side was ripped away, dripping fresh, thick blood. Her torn skin dangling in a vulgar way.

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 Kinda puts you off chicken, right?

(This is after we cleaned her up.)

MOMMY, THE RACOON!” Sophia warned from the porch.

I spotlighted the tree. Bastard thing was watching me, little black marbles for eyes. Waiting.

How did —

I saw the back of the coop. The trap door Christopher crafted so we could reach in for eggs? OPEN! Damn thing figured out the latch!

I can’t go through this again, I thought, looking at poor Wanda.

You’ll recall this happened earlier this year with another hen, Beryl — that time due to negligence. Beryl suffered deeper, scarier wounds so we moved her inside, caring for her like a child until she was well enough to rejoin the others.

Wanda splattered blood as she walked, bumping into chicken wire, clearly traumatized.

It took FOUR WEEKS for Beryl to heal. But it was our fault so we did what we had to do. Well-documented, round-the-clock care in the CHIC-U. For a month. I dragged the Facebook community with me. It was exhausting.

I picked Wanda up, her little heart thrashing. Her flesh against mine.

I can’t go through this again,” I told Sophia, who had 5th grade in 6 hours. Wanda’s blood mapped down my arm.

“We have to,” she said, already laying towels in the bath.

Yes. We have to.

Wounded chickens aren’t safe outside. Even among peers. We cleaned her up the best we could, then settled her in Ollie’s old cat bed, which serves nicely for chicken confinement.

Today we got a trap from the City and hopefully we’ll catch that raccoon tonight. I’ll keep you posted.

But please keep Wanda in your thoughts. I know she’s just a chicken and dumb as a box of rocks. But she’s our chicken. And as we learned with Beryl, chickens have feelings and a will to survive.

Beryl’s story I secured in a manuscript and we’ll see what happens there. In the meantime —so you don’t leave feeling icky— here she is, back on her favorite guy’s arm.

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I’ll keep you posted on Wanda.

I’m so clucking tired.

 

 

A Case for Reincarnation.

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Time?

1991.

I’m 13. Maybe 14. Driving across country with the fam. Sprawled on the backseat of our Dodge Caravan with my yellow Sony Walkman, listening to Billy Joel’s Greatest Hits, staring at the dome light. Wishing I was tan. Pretty. Better at math. Hoping Virginia doesn’t suck.

Really, this was the extent of my concerns.

But something was about to happen. Something 25 years later, I still can’t explain.

Don’t Ask Me Why came on.

Suddenly 

I’m in a bright, upstairs room. The one with two large windows opposite the door. White wallpaper repeats a delicate pattern along clean walls and sunlight spills across the floor. I stare at the wooden rocking horse. It’s new. Barely used. And I feel sad. Simultaneously I sense a tall woman and the rapid passage of time.

What the —

I ripped out my ear phones.

My parents discussed travel routes. Pit stops. How long til Atlanta.

I sat up. Eyes wide. Whizzing past cars and trees.

We didn’t say WTF back then, but it certainly would’ve applied.

I wasn’t sleeping.

Nor daydreaming.

So what. Was that.

And why did I feel so very, very . . . melancholy. 

Maybe it was my imagination. Maybe I was creating a really effective video to the song.

 . . . but.

I’m still halfway there? In the tall-ceilinged room. The rocking horse. Is it mine? The lady. I don’t see her. But I know she’s tall and well-dressed. Mostly, WHY DOES THIS FEEL SO FAMILIAR?

I closed my eyes, trying to see more.

I’m not observing this room. I remember. It’s on the second floor of a grand house. The window panes are thick with rippled glass. Large, potted ferns decorate the periphery as well as —for some reason I know this— a landing on the carpeted stairs.

I don’t come up here often.

The song finished. And so did my vision —if that’s what it was.

I sat there stunned.

This wasn’t a daydream like closing my eyes, wanting to be somewhere else and imagining a beach, or whatever. And it wasn’t some astral projection where I transported behind closed eyes —not that I could’ve achieved that or, even knew what ‘astral projection’ was back then.

No.

This was revisiting someplace I knew. But forgot.

And trying to recapture that feeling now?  In this blog? Under scrutiny?

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Please, allow me an analogy.

Imagine a great-grandmother, ravaged with dementia at the end of her long, full, vibrant life. The culmination of 98 years —childhood, parents, summer, tantrums, teddy bears, church, Christmas, school, fall, Roosevelt, university, snow, births, career, winter, marriage, pregnancies, spring, world war, telegrams, tears, laughs, friends, Easter, children, Eisenhower, deaths, Korea, Elvis, retirement, Beatles, Vietnam, grandchildren, Reagan, Disney, Thanksgiving, retirement, Grand Canyon, diagnosis, and a cancer that swallowed her husband whole —forgotten.

And now she’s dying.

Surrounded by weeping strangers. Calling her Mother. Desperate, one of them hands her a blanket. Within it, her firstborn’s smell somehow perfectly preserved. Confused, she pulls it to her face.

A century splashes over her.

Her babies. The popcorn they strung for Christmas. Her husband. The way he shaved left-handed and smiled sideways. The Key-Lime recipe she saved for her eldest daughter. The backdoor handle you lifted up instead of down. Her granddaughter’s deep dimples and chocolate smile. The P.G. Wodehouse novel she needed to finish and the iron —did she turn it off?

Everything.

But she switches off again.

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This isn’t about an old woman. Or dementia.

Not at all.

I’m asking YOU READING to consider the intimate impact of memory. The soft feelings of life and traumatic confusion in their sudden removal.

That moment right there.

That’s what I felt that day.

Confused?

Me, too.

I was in 9th grade. Did I experience weirdness from time to time? Sure. But the majority of my psychic run-ins were still years away.  I had zero foundation for this experience.

Maybe the song prompted it?

I stopped and rewound. Pushed play. Over and over. From Texas to Virginia. Trying to hold onto —and make sense of— that room.

The song starts again. A strummy little number about— well, I’m not sure what it’s about. But really, it’s irrelevant. My experience had nothing to do with the song. No cosmic connection between me and Billy Joel. Boo.

Still.

That upstairs room (and feelings therein) are raw and accessible, even now.

So what was it?

A past life?

Slip in the Matrix?

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If so, what’s the significance? Why show me that little bit and nothing more?

These days, I describe metaphysical phenomona with clarity and opinion.

But not this.

I feel naked and splayed writing this because I never told anyone can’t explain it.  Still, I protect its integrity by not adding or assuming details. I’ve shared what I know.

And I know that room existed, once upon a time.

A room with dimension and warmth from large windows spreading sun on the dark wooden floor, polished beneath my feet.

CIS:PH.457:174-1968

 

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I don’t know the people in this photo, nor its date.

This isn’t the room.

But it captures my feelings.

Please feel free to share yours.

If anything like this has ever happened to you, I’d love to hear about it.

Love,

Jennifer

Birthday Surprise BACKFIRE.

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You wanna talk about blue balls?

I planned this super awesome surprise birthday trip for my husband.

And get this.

HE DIDN’T WANT TO GO.

For three whole months I snuck around planning. Scheming. Taking time off. Arranging for my mom to take the kids. Asking the Facebook public awesome road trip ideas so he had LOTS to choose from at the big reveal

. . . which was meant to go something like this:

Morning, handsome birthday man! Here’s a cuppa tea. What would you like to do today?

Well, I’d like to-

Too bad! Surprise! We’re going on a roadtrip!

And he was going to blink at me all surprised, in awe of my awesomeness.

And no matter what his concern –cats, dog, chickens, deadline– I was gonna say:

“Already taken care of!” Then we were gonna bask some more in my awesomeness whilst packing.

I even had books on CD waiting in the car.  James Lee Burke in the likely event he chose Louisiana and Alexander McCall Smith in case he didn’t.

“I don’t want to go on a road trip,” he said matter-of-factly. Sipping his tea.

My stomach did this funny flip floppy thing.

“. . . I have too much to do, honey bunny.”

But.

But.

No kids.

For a WEEK.

Corn Nuts and the open road.

“I wanna get the bathroom done.”

Housework? He wanted to do HOUSEWORK?

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“On your birthday?”

–it came out a whisper.

You know when you blow up a balloon all big, let it fly around the room making awkward noises, then it plops to the floor all deflated and moist where your lips were?

That.

My insides sludged down in slow motion. Pulling my ability to fake smile with it.

His face fell, too.

“You ok, Jenny?”

Don’t do it, Jennifer. Don’t get upset. He has no clue what you planned. Don’t you dare make him feel bad on his birthday. My eyeballs burned.

“Darling, what’s wrong?”

“I’m good,” I lied thru my damn teeth. “It was just an idea. We can do whatever you want.”

“I’d love for you to help me do the bathroom.”

He wanted to — I’m sorry– the bathroom?!

4 months ago Christopher took a sledgehammer to our crusty old downstairs loo to remodel, insulate, make it bigger, etc; the final plan of which maybe included a big ole Beatles mural for me.

beatles_group_posterminimal_posteritty_by_posteritty-d60n7gv.jpgThis was the image I had in mind. ( I’d taken it to a tattoo studio in Liverpool but they told me it wouldn’t make good body art.)

“But it will make a great mural,” Christopher said when I came home, tattooless.

(I saved the image on my phone just in case.)

Back to the bathroom:

Unfortunately, remodels take money and time. And it’s still not done. So here we are, months later, with a gaping hole downstairs. A big, fat, dusty, showerless pain in everyone’s ass.

Did I want it done?

(Is the Pope Catholic?)

But I also wanted greasy fried chicken fingers from the swampy back roads of Louisiana. And hot sauce. And Corn Nuts.

That stupid gaping hole would be here when we got back.

Next thing I know we’re at freaking Lowe’s picking out paint samples. And boy was I in a funky mood.

I watched Christopher from the carpet section, creating a safe distance between him and my attitude problem. He bustled around the paint aisle, talking shop with the employees, examining brushes, and I noticed something obvious.

How very happy he was.

Holding samples to the light. Chatting with customers, offering advice on their projects because (inevitably) he knows more than the employees.

He looked over to me and smiled.

“Why don’t you start picking out colors for your mural?” he called.

Me and my attitude slinked over to the wall o’ samples –which I’ll admit– was totally satisfying. I held little color cards against the image on my phone– which ended up being quite hard to match. I forgot about being a brat for a little while.

At home he rolled out butcher paper then taped big long pieces on the wall.

“Let’s get these templates cut out so we can trace them and you can start painting.”

Wait. What?

“How big do you want your Beatles?” he asked all charming, handing me scissors and a pencil. He knew what he was doing.

Me? Paint?

Oh, but his sweet birthday face! Happy and bright. Expectant.

He had vision. Time. A quiet house. A wife to help. No kids to tell 46 times: go brush your teeth!

This was his happy.

“I don’t want to  can’t paint a mural!”

“Sure you can,” he coaxed. “Take it one color at a time. I’ll supervise.”

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I didn’t argue. This is what he wanted, thinly disguised as what I wanted. For the next three days I was either up a ladder or bent down all weird on the floor.

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Painting. Mixing colors. Holding my breath trying to stay within my penciled lines.

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Hours passed.

We listened to music.

The old bathroom was narrow and weird. This new one’s spacious and clean. He sanded. I painted. Someone farted and we marveled at the acoustics. Stanley, our chiweiner, watched from the corner.

We took tea breaks.

Out to dinner breaks.

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Let’s watch a movie breaks.

Do whatever the hell we want cos we ain’t got no kids breaks.

Every time Christopher climbed down from his scaffold, he kissed the top of my head. Or cheek. Or shoulder.

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And everyday I woke up anxious to get back to it.

He slathered and smoothed Venetian Plaster with expert precision while I painted Ringo’s mustache. George’s vest. Paul’s pants *tee hee*. John’s glasses.

And I felt profound gratitude.

Sorry I’m such an ungrateful wretch, I told God. Thank you for this week. Thank you for Christopher, who’s supremely happy with a paintbrush and cup of tea. Who dumbed down this mural process so I could help him.

And you know what? I’m GLAD we didn’t go.

Like, really glad.

We spent three days in that little room. Not spending money. Creating. Listening to music. Beach Boys. Beatles. John Denver. Glen Campbell. Talking. Making rustic French decor plans for the kitchen.

And I noticed something profound.

My mind was quiet each day. Peaceful.

I know Christopher would’ve gotten this mural done in one day. But he wanted me to experience his world. The way anyone does when they’re passionate about something.

So the surprise was all mine.

From an amazing man who inadvertantly gave me a present for his birthday.

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