Monday, November 28, 2011

The Beaver, the Lie and the Dentist's Office

The Beaver, the Lie and the Dentist’s Office

As she noticed people starting to glance their way, Nan hissed, “Would you please keep your voice down?  I can’t believe you are so upset about this, it’s not like I did it on purpose.”  Ted, ignoring her request, shrugged his shoulders and thrust his hands out palms up, asking sarcastically, “So, that makes it okay, you didn’t do it on purpose?”   
Nan and her husband Ted had arrived at their dentist, Dr. Trimble’s office for their six-month checkups.   She had arrived just a few minutes after Ted and had slipped into her seat next to him. The large waiting room was full of people and as she began to explain what had happened, more and more of them flicked covert glances their way.

She was stunned to see Ted’s familiar face morph from its usual open and friendly contours to a warped red glowering face with bulging eyes.  Through clinched teeth Ted ground out, “Are you blind? Did you not see it behind you when you backed out? It’s been setting there for two months, how could you not remember it was there?” His voice was incredulous as he said, “You know how long I worked on that beaver, how much it means to me. How could you be so careless?  How bad is it?”
At these words the people in the waiting room, who had valiantly tried to disregard Nan and Ted’s conversation, began to titter and glance at each other with compressed grins. 

Nan, in a state of shock, could do no more than stare at him open mouthed and speechless.  Ted, usually the calmest and quietest of people, had never in their ten years of marriage spoken to her with such venom.

When she finally found her voice she said, “Ted, Honey, please calm down, it’s just cracked a little and the head is missing, but other than that it’s fine. I’m so, so sorry, really. It was an accident, really!” Ted, finally realizing people were listening and commenting, began taking deep calming breaths to regain his composure.  He couldn’t believe Boris--he had always secretly thought of the beaver as Boris--was gone.  He had loved that beaver.
Three months ago Ted’s college football team, the Clark University Beavers, had won the Gladiola bowl, beating their arch rivals the Dover University Jackals by a decisive 35-0 victory. The last time they had beaten the Jackals had been twenty years ago.  To commemorate the momentous occasion Ted had constructed, in his garage, his homage to the Beavers.  With a zealot’s fervor Ted had constructed a seven-foot-tall paper Mache beaver.  Its broad flat paddle of a tail and its ample haunches served to steady the towering, snarling rodent.  It was posed rearing, its mighty front paws raking the air and its grizzled muzzle gaped wide.  Between its enormous incisors it held a flailing jackal desperately trying to free itself.  Ted dotingly painted the beaver in realistic shades of brown and black and of course added a bright Clark University orange “C” in the center of its massive chest. It had been a labor of love for Ted and as nicely done as a seven-foot-tall beaver can be done. With bursting pride Ted had placed the enormous beaver at the end of their driveway where it had set until today.  

Nan, feeling guilty, made one last attempt to explain what had happened. “I am sorry Ted!” but even as Nan reaffirmed this she knew it wasn’t true.  She had deliberately backed into the brown monstrosity, not once but twice.  She had hated that beaver from the moment she had seen its beady little eyes.  Her hatred had only increased when she drove home from work one day to find her driveway full of people.  Ted was proudly standing next to the thing; arm wrapped around its wide butt as people with cameras and camera phones snapped pictures of the crazy man and his giant beaver.

 It was then she knew that something had to be done.  The beaver had to go, but how?  She had thought of hiring someone to steal it away in the night. Then she remembered what her Mother had always told her,” simple is always best”.   She would run over the beaver as she was leaving the house today. It would be an accident; he couldn’t be upset if it had been an accident, could he? She now knew the answer to that question.  Yes, he could.

So they sat waiting, not speaking, trying to ignore the glances and hushed whispers of their fellow dental waiters. Each of them deep in thought, remembering the seven-foot-tall paper Mache beaver with a jackal clamped in its teeth who was secretly known as Boris. 

Diana for the Poplar Grove Muse 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Three Thanksgiving Haiku


Thanksgiving dinner
Missing ones not in their places
Turkey of secondary importance

In woods filled with nut droppings
Wild turkeys look like little old  men
Happy to survive another holiday

Giblets yearly bow
Loud pause hushes all before grace
The white food awaits


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Poetry Corner

Some poetry treats for this gloomy November day.

Becoming Separate

I've become someone you used to love,
You've become someone I thought I knew.
I've become a relief from obligation,
You've become an ache I can't find relief from.
I've become the one who can't just be your friend,
You've become not a friend at all.
I've become the one you have hurt and can no longer face,
You've become the one I won't let hurt me anymore.
I've become the one who won't accept the secret part of you,
You've become the one I used to believe in.
I've become a reminder of the man you tried to be,
You've become a reminder to be true to myself.
--Amy L.

Saying Goodbye to the Downtown P.O.

I had no reason to trust in this frumpy
building , its turquoise-tinted windows broken,
speckled linoleum smelling of Lysol,
most-wanted flyers scotch-taped to the walls.
But I did, offering up envelopes
and brown paper packages with the hope
of a newlywed or novice, releasing
my cards into the crocodile maw
of the mail bin, that yawning metal hole
that never vowed to be faithful, yet
still carried every check and love
note to its destination, undamaged.

The post office closed today, and I admit
I cried sending last letters in this place
where life never let me down.
--Lauren B

Some more poetry for the Post Office

When the Post Office was a Happy Place

Back then, when mailmen walked their routes
Leather bags slung over their shoulders
Cans of mace tucked safely at their hips
Mail contained letters and postcards from lovers and grandmas

Leather bags slung over their shoulders
Cream colored envelopes with black handwriting
Mail contained letters and postcards from lovers and grandmas
Pictures of gondolas in Venice and brown bears in Yellowstone

Cream colored envelopes with black handwriting
Gave way to No money down; only %6 APR financing
Pictures of gondolas in Vienna and brown bears in Yellowstone
Became fake sweepstakes entries with million dollar first prizes

No money down; only %6 APR financing
I once was a child traveling with that mailbag
Hoarding the fake sweepstakes entries with million dollar first prizes
Waiting for riches in letters arriving by post

I once was a child traveling with that mailbag
Understanding that hope often came in envelopes
Waiting for riches in letters arriving by post
The most anticipated light of day was the shadow of the mailman on the porch

Understanding that hope often came in envelopes
I had a secret crush on the man who lugged this mailbag up and down my street
The most anticipated light of day was his shadow
Bringing my letters from a long ago best friend moved to Boston

I had a secret crush on the man who lugged this mailbag up and down my street
Bringing my admission to the college that would take me finally far from home
Bringing my letters from a long ago best friend moved to Boston
Or a card and note from my grandmother with a $5 bill

Bringing my admission to the college that would take me finally far from home
Back then, when mailmen walked their routes
Cans of mace tucked safely at their hips
Bringing a card and note from my grandmother with a $5 bill.

--Amy C

Monday, November 7, 2011

Mary and James

She moves more slowly now than ever.  Think weebles wobble but they don’t fall down.  She’s short and round.  One leg appears several inches shorter than the other and the extreme limp is actually the result of many years of hip degeneration, a couple of operations, and failed physical therapy to alter destructive patterns of movement that go back to her childhood.  Her soft tongue protrudes with the concentration it takes for her to stay on her feet.  She looks down to see where her feet will land but somehow, out of the corner of her eye, she’s also aware of the need to get across the traffic lane.  So she speeds up.  In so doing she tilts and wobbles at ever more extreme angles.

He seems to glide across the parking lot as if on a slow conveyor belt.  He carries his slim frame like a torch, but there’s a small stoop to his shoulder and his left arm bends close to his chest, his weak fingers curl near his heart.  His prominent smile and squint behind thick glasses tells us what he told us earlier.  He’s just really happy to be alive.  They do not touch as they walk; each make their way as best they can. But they are definitely together. 

Lots of people stare.  They stop traffic as they navigate the parking lot and I think they should have held on to the shopping cart, or at least she should have, since it worked as a kind of walker for her in the store.  After many months of our not seeing one another, I’m alarmed by how unsteady she seems on her feet these days.  I do not hover.  I walk at my own pace and trust they'll make it through this gauntlet on their own terms.

“That was fun, Sweetie,” he says in a gorgeous baritone radio voice I keep thinking he could have used as an announcer had his circumstances been different in life.  She says “Oh yeah Honey, we should do this more often,” and they hug and slide in to the back seat of my Toyota Highlander. 

My sister, Kate and I have just taken our youngest sister, Mary, and her boyfriend, James to lunch and to Walmart.   This “sister day” was a day Mary had been advocating for for many months. The four hour drive and my busy schedule have prevented me from visiting Mary in her own apartment, sadly, for over two years. While I see her regularly at family gatherings, this is different. 

Today I think the distance and my life are no excuse.  We’re aging. Time is passing.   This sister, who, in my mind, will always be a sweet girl with odd ways in need of my protection, now has grey streaks in her thinning hair, and seems on track for a wheelchair if her body doesn’t miraculously straighten out.  Still, she navigates without me day in day out. She works with James 5 days a week but they never see one another except at break times.  So Saturday Lunch and shopping.  Meeting James.  Mary's wished for this more than anything for a long time and it's taken me too long to make it happen.  While there's plenty to worry about on my sister's behalf,  James is not one of those things.  In fact, he's a beacon and their tenderness for one another gives me pause to think all is well in the world for the moment.

But five hours together is enough for her, as I suspected it would be.  By late afternoon we have accomplished all her sister goals for the day. We visited at her place, fetched James, ate a meal out on the town, did some shopping.  She exchanged her faulty Discman, purchased new headphones, some beloved “office supplies”: pens and spiral ring notebooks.  She got to snuggle and laugh with James in the back seat as James told me his story and wished aloud for a place of his own like Mary has.  When we dropped him off at his group home, they hugged but did not kiss.  “Love you James,” Mary said.   “Love you too Mary,” said James.

I got to see Mary in the world with the man she loves.  She helped him cut his sandwich at lunch and was by his side to sort out his financial transaction at the Walmart check-out counter.  “He’s good to me,” Mary says.  “She looks out for me, Beth,” James says.  

When we leave her, Mary hugs Kate and me each quickly but completely, totally ready for us to clear out so she can have her alone time.  She has house chores to do and a schedule to keep.   I know this includes listening to music on her new Discman and writing her version of the day down in her notebook. 

BLR for the Poplar Grove Muse  11-7-11