The Key Crack’d

I encountered a pretty serious obstacle on Thanksgiving Day as I attempted to exit my house – my fantastic Hulk-level hand strength snapped my key in the lcok, leaving the lower half stuck in the deadbolt. I know you’re thinking that I probably dissolved into a fit of “O’wailey woe, whatever shall I do,” but I didn’t. I just exited through the front door, which I then had to leave unlocked because the key was broken. I turned my alarm to “more sensitive than a soap opera heroine on extra estrogen” before I left. I have a strong suspicion that this tactic may have been futile as I have personally accidentally triggered my alarm so many times that the operators at Simply Safe don’t take codes coming from my house with any kind of seriousness:
Them: Ma’am are you safe? Do you need us to send the police?
Me: Oh hi, Sharon! I did it again. How was your son’s birthday last week?
Sharon: Hey, Abs! It was good. We had Iron Man at the party. How did your column come out?
They’re really more of an extended family.
I got my spare key from the G.P. (Great Provider, my Dad) which solved the front door locking issue. I’ll admit that part of me wanted to resolve the rest of the problem by never using the backdoor again, but every time I advanced this option, I heard the Rev’s voice in my head saying, “FIRE EXITS ARE IMPORTANT!” This is especially true for me. I once set a kitchen ablaze trying to make toast.
When the backdoor doesn’t work, I have to walk all the way around the side of the house (maybe 100 feet) to get to the garage. I’m so dramatic that I walked the short distance each time like I was in a gulag on the way to a dinner of rotten potatoes and rottener vodka. The neighbors get upset when I hunch around with a scarf tied over my head syllabically singing Russian funeral dirges. I didn’t want to wind up neighborhood weirdo on Nextdoor.com (again).
Now many of you fine folks have the means and motivation to just call your friendly neighborhood locksmith when this happens. Not me. Wikihow gave me a solution in three simple steps:
1) Spray inside the keyhole with penetrating oil (there is actually a brand of grease called “Penetrating Oil.” Dad has some. The graphics on the can are disappointingly unfunny).
2) Return the key to the “unlock position” using needle-nose pliers.
3) Remove the key. If the key does not come out, use a small saw blade to “rake” the key free.
It was one of the easiest fixes ever. I returned Dad’s tools to him and he hit me with a, “Good job. Did you get a new key made?”
Now it should be noted that I used to have loads of extra keys until my brother got ahold of them and then moved them to Hawaii and later Germany (my spare keys are having quite the vacation). Other copies were relegated to various odd key chains and strange metal boxes. There are probably more keys in existence for my doors and gate than there are copies of the Twilight Saga. Giant books about wussy vampires (while being much less useful) are considerably easier to locate, though.
I felt bad that Dad didn’t have a key. It was Black Friday, however, so I wasn’t inclined to go anywhere. The fact that I wasn’t hiding under my bed drinking boxed wine and watching all the Star Wars movies on my laptop represented huge personal progress for me. I loathe stores, shopping and crowds with a ferocity most reserve for root canals. I again turned to Google.
An independent locksmith had a store that was actually really close to my house! “Problem solved,” thought I, imagining how proud my father would be. Google said that Lock Doc was open 24 hours a day, which seemed a bit generous, but surely they would be open at 2 p.m. on a Friday. I drove over to the store only to find the cinderblock building sealed like Fort Knox. There were no windows on the front of the building – the only possible entrance was a solid steel garage door pulled down and double locked. “How the heck do you get in there?” I thought. You couldn’t even go around back because the way was blocked by a six-foot chain link fence.
This guy was the smartest locksmith in the history of the world. He knew that every lock can be defeated (because that’s his job), extrapolated from that premise and came up with the idea to make fewer entrances. I decided that you could only get into the shop through secret (possibly interdimensional) portals, at least one of which was probably on the roof. A complicated system of boobie-trapped subterranean tunnels certainly provided further access. Also, the pictures on Google made it look like the only thing the store sold was keys and two ton safes. Try hauling one of those bad boys though a secret (probably interdimensional) hole in the roof! This guy was the Indiana Jones of locksmiths.
A few days later, I figured out from Facebook what the actual operating hours of the store were, and headed over there to have my keys made. The steel garage door had covered a regular-as-snot glass door. I admit disappointment. I was sincerely hoping for interdimensional-roof-portals.
I awkwardly tried to tell the clerk my incredibly-rad-unified-theory-of locksmithery, but he looked at me like I was insane. “People just walk in here all the time,” he said (in a gently confused tone), “even when the OPEN sign is turned off.”
My disappointment must have been noticeable because, as he handed me my latest set of spare keys he allowed that, “They are pretty dang serious about locking up around here” which confirmed my Interdimensional Roof Portal theory.
“You betcha,” I replied with a joyful wink.
I can’t wait to go back so that I can stare at their ceiling. It won’t be long before I have to visit.
My latest set of keys is probably already on safari.

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Posted in Humor | 3 Comments

Clapping Back

Most of the comments we at the Moon receive on Ye Olde Facebook page are complimentary.  Believe you me, we love it when you guys tell us you think we’re just pretty danged okay and share your stories and memories with us.  Over the past few months, however, I’ve noticed a bleak trend in the comments section for my weekly column; to cumulatively paraphrase the remarks: “What a waste of time!”

Now, if I’m being totally honest (and setting aside at least one obvious Russian troll – come on dude, half your bio was in Cyrillic) there have been only two comments of this nature since June.  Still, I don’t want to leave my readers hanging.

Dear Obviously-Very-Busy-and-Super-Important Facebook Detractors,

First off, thanks for reading!  The fact that you took the time out of your busy schedule to read my column in the first place is nothing short of ASTOUNDING!  I have thought about you often, wondering how far you got in my article entitled “Possum Problems” before deciding your time had been “wasted.”  Clearly, how you spend your free minutes browsing Facebook is my absolute responsibility, and I am so terribly sorry that I cost you (assuming you read the entire story) that whole not-very-in-depth personality test that would have indicated with cool finality your Harry Potter Hogwarts House.  I feel like I should send you a gigantic “Condolences” wreath and make you a casserole to comfort you in the profundity of your loss.

Here are some suggestions to help you save precious seconds in the future:

  • If you think humorous personal stories have no place in a newspaper, maybe avoid reading a column called “Anecdotingly” altogether.
  • If you would rather not ingest a tale about a rotting possum corpse, it might be a good idea to get leery at the title “Possum Problems” as a major difficulty with possums is that they tend to get hit by cars. To be absolutely sure, (because Heaven forbid you judge a story IN A NEWSPAPER by its headline) you could have simply read the first half of the first sentence in the article which began: “If you had asked me a mere two days ago how many entrails a standard North American Possum had…”  You can’t say I didn’t warn you.

All-in-all had you employed responsible reading hygiene, you would have wasted approximately two seconds eliminating my column from your literary plate.  I must apologize again.  You could easily have spent those moments saving the world from approximately everything, or on scratching off almost one whole silver square on your daily lottery ticket.  Woe is me!  My shame is great.

To the people who repeatedly chastise me for “using too many words,” I must apologize.  I wish I was the kind of writer whole could tell an entire story complete with nuance, rhythm, callbacks, and multiple punchlines in a single, digestible sound-bite.  Alas, alack and alay, I am not. For you, and only for you, I am ending this article at a mere 554 words.  However, in respect for space considerations, below is the part of Chronicles with all begats .  If you have a problem with either the length or the time it takes you to read it, I’m afraid you’ll have to take it up with a power much higher than editor@islandmoon.com.

abi comic potato problems

Here is a comic that got banned from the newspaper due to being “too racy.”

1 Adam begat Seth; and Seth, Enos, [Adam, Seth, Enos,]

Kenan, Mahalaleel, Jered,

Henoch, Methuselah, Lamech,

Noe, Shem, Ham, and Japheth.

The sons of Japheth were Gomer, Magog, Madai, and Javan, Tubal, Meshech, and Tiras.

Forsooth the sons of Gomer were Ashchenaz, and Riphath, and Togarmah.

And the sons of Javan were Elishah, and Tarshish, Kittim, and Dodanim.

The sons of Ham were Cush, and Mizraim, Put, and Canaan.

And the sons of Cush were Seba, and Havilah, Sabta, and Raamah, and Sabtecha. And the sons of Raamah were Sheba, and Dedan.

10 And Cush begat Nimrod; this Nimrod began to be mighty in [the] earth.

11 And Mizraim begat Ludim, and Anamim, and Lehabim, and Naphtuhim,

12 and Pathrusim, and Casluhim, of which the Philistines and Caphthorim went out, or came. (and Pathrusim, and Casluhim, and Caphthorim, from whom the Philistines came.)

13 And Canaan begat Sidon, his first begotten son (his first-born son), and Heth,

14 and (the) Jebusite, and Amorite, and Girgashite,

15 and Hivite, and Arkite, and Sinite,

16 and Arvadite, and Zemarite, and Hamathite.

17 The sons of Shem were Elam, and Asshur, and Arphaxad, and Lud, and Aram. And the sons of Aram were Uz, and Hul, and Gether, and Meshech.

18 And Arphaxad begat Shelah; which himself engendered Eber. (And Arphaxad begat Shelah; and Shelah begat Eber.)

19 And to Eber were born two sons; the name of [the] one was Peleg, for the land was parted in his days (for the land was divided in his days); and the name of his brother was Joktan.

20 And Joktan begat Almodad, and Sheleph, and Hazarmaveth, and Jerah,

21 and Hadoram, and Uzal, and Diklah,

22 Ebal, and Abimael, and Sheba,

23 and Ophir, and Havilah, and Jobab; all these were the sons of Joktan.

24 Shem, Arphaxad, Shelah,

25 Eber, Peleg, Reu,

26 Serug, Nahor, Terah,

27 Abram; this is Abraham.

28 The sons of Abraham were Isaac, and Ishmael.

29 And these be the generations of them; the first begotten of Ishmael was Nebaioth, and then Kedar, and Adbeel, and Mibsam, (And these be their descendants; the first-born son of Ishmael was Nebaioth, and then Kedar, and Adbeel, and Mibsam,)

30 and Mishma, and Dumah, and Massa, Hadad, and Tema,

31 Jetur, Naphish, and Kedemah; these be the sons of Ishmael.

32 And the sons of Keturah, the secondary wife of Abraham, the which she engendered, or conceived, were Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah. And the sons of Jokshan were Sheba, and Dedan. And the sons of Dedan were Asshurim, and Letushim, and Leummim.

33 And the sons of Midian were Ephah, and Epher, and Henoch, and Abida, and Eldaah. All these were the sons of Keturah.

34 Forsooth Abraham begat Isaac; whose sons were Esau, and Israel (whose sons were Esau, and Jacob).

35 The sons of Esau were Eliphaz, Reuel, Jeush, and Jaalam, and Korah.

36 The sons of Eliphaz were Teman, Omar, Zephi, Gatam, Kenaz, and Timna, and Amalek.

37 The sons of Reuel were Nahath, Zerah, Shammah, and Mizzah.

38 The sons of Seir were Lotan, Shobal, Zibeon, Anah, Dishon, Ezar, and Dishan.

39 The sons of Lotan were Hori, and Homam; soothly the sister of Lotan was Timna.

40 The sons of Shobal were Alian, and Manahath, and Ebal, and Shephi, and Onam. The sons of Zibeon were Aiah, and Anah.

41 The son of Anah was Dishon. The sons of Dishon were Amram, and Eshban, and Ithran, and Cheran.

42 The sons of Ezer were Bilhan, and Zavan, and Jakan. The sons of Dishan were Uz and Aran.

43 These be the kings that reigned in the land of Edom, before that a king was on the sons of Israel (before that the Israelites had a king). Bela, the son of Beor; and the name of his city was Dinhabah.

44 And when Bela was dead, and Jobab (then Jobab), the son of Zerah of Bozrah, reigned for him.

45 And when Jobab was dead, Husham of the land of Temanites reigned for him.

46 And Husham died; and Hadad, the son of Bedad, that smote Midian in the land of Moab, reigned for him; and the name of the city of Hadad was Avith.

47 And when Hadad was dead, Samlah of Masrekah reigned for him.

48 But also Samlah was dead, and Saul of Rehoboth, which is set beside the river, reigned for him. (And when Samlah died, Saul of the city of Rehoboth, that is set on the banks of the river, reigned for him.)

49 Also when Saul was dead (And when Saul died), Baalhanan, the son of Achbor, reigned for him.

50 But also he was dead, and Hadad, the name of whose city was Pai, reigned for him (And when Baalhanan died, Hadad reigned for him; and his city was named Pai); and his wife was called Mehetabel, the daughter of Matred, the daughter of Mezahab.

51 And when Hadad was dead, dukes began to be in Edom for kings (And after Hadad died, the leaders of Edom, or of Idumea, were these); duke Timnah, duke Aliah, duke Jetheth,

52 duke Oholibamah, duke Elah, duke Pinon,

53 duke Kenaz, duke Teman, duke Mibzar,

54 duke Magdiel, duke Iram. These were the dukes of Edom (These were the chiefs, or the leaders, of Idumea).

Posted in Humor | 3 Comments

Get the Hell Out of My Kitchen: A Thanksgiving Vignette

I was 33 before I recognized my Mother’s devious and treacherous nature. Her painstakingly constructed House of Lies toppled into ruin one rainy afternoon. I was smoking a cigarette on our very optimistically named “Sun Porch” out in Portland, Oregon, and thinking about my childhood when the epiphany struck. I suddenly had a lightning-bolt-realization that my Mother had lied when she said the reason that I had to eat the crusts on my Roman-Meal-and-bologna sandwiches was because they “are the most nutritious part of the bread.”

“But MOOOOOOOOM, the other kids get their crusts cut off.  The crusts are GROOOOSSSSS.” I whined in retaliation.

“I guess their mothers just don’t love them as much as I love you,” the Rev snapped in return.  “You are one very lucky little girl.”

It sure didn’t appear that those kids’ mothers loved them any less, as they chomped happily away at their delicious, crust-free, white-bread sandwiches.  It actually even looked like maybe someone took an awful lot of time over the dinosaur and kitty-cat shaped morsels.  I glumly devoured years of nerdy, square-shaped, crust heavy, boring old brown sandwiches, all the while avoiding telling the other kids that their mothers clearly didn’t love them.

I was a raging dragon, smoke furling from my rage-flared nostrils, as I phoned the Rev that day to tell her she was busted.

“I know what you did, Mother,” I said in a low growl.

“What the hell are you talking about?” the Rev replied calmly.  She was rather used to dramatic outbursts from her silly daughter.

“I KNOW YOU LIED ABOUT THE CRUSTS!” I crowed triumphantly, as though this was the most significant truth in world history.

To her credit, Mom knew exactly what I was talking about, and in the most disappointingly blasé way said, “So? You just NOW figured that out?”

Having spent approximately twenty-seven years being vaguely worried about the high-proportions of unloved children at my elementary school, I found the Rev’s answer highly unsatisfactory.  I began to hold her eternally suspect, and rapidly discovered that the Great Deceiver has perpetuated many other “Lies-of-Convenience-That-Will-Probably-Shut-Ab-Up.”  The most significant of these is the “Get the Hell out of My Kitchen Illusion of Holiday Martyrdom.”

If you haven’t yet figured out that cooking Thanksgiving dinner is infinitely superior to waiting for it, then your Mom may have tricked you, too.  Thanksgiving Day preparation mainly revolves around waiting for the turkey to be done, and making one huge trough of mashed potatoes and gravy. Most of the other casseroles and desserts are prepared in advance, ready to be unceremoniously chucked into the oven.  I know this for a fact because the day before the holiday, the Rev sets me to work in the kitchen (mincing, dicing, chopping, peeling, be-marshmallowing and pouring cheese sauce on things) all the while having great fun abusing me like a monkey sous chef in a fine French kitchen.

Despite the rather obvious fact that the vast majority of actual hands-on cooking has been completed well in advance, every year my Mother employs Pentagon-Grade Military Style Evasion Tactics to keep us out of the kitchen and away from the food.

First comes the disguise, for who could doubt a woman wearing a holly-patterned apron covered in approximately 833 yards of rick-rack?  Her pretty, plump Mom-arms are revealed by rolled up sleeves (because she’s WORKING), and a strategic streak of flour resides upon her rosy cheek.  Every 40 minutes or so, the family hears the banging of the chopping board on the counter or the sound of a spoon gonging against the turkey pan as delicious smells of roasting feast waft tantalizingly through the house.

Then Rev believes that if hunger is the best seasoning, then starvation must be the culinary equivalent of heavenly ambrosia.  She is not, however, without charity. Each year she leaves on the beautifully appointed dining room table one (1) tray of vegetables with ranch dip and one (1) gigantic barrel of homemade Chex Mix.  The veggie tray is like a clock – as the hours pass the plate dwindles until only three giant clumps of desert-dry broccoli, two limp spears of celery and the one weird baby carrot (that everyone is afraid to eat because it distinctly resembles a severed human toe) remain.  The family salivates like a starving pack of wolves.  Try, however, to enter the kitchen to procure any sort of food and you will be met with a whirling dervish clad in a cheerful holiday apron (and very possibly snowman earrings), waving a rolling pin at you while screaming “YOU GET THE HELL OUT OF MY KITCHEN RIGHT NOW!” By four o’clock, a kid usually has to army crawl in to remove the dogs’ food and water from her territory.  No one (not even Dad) has ever made it as far as the fridge.

I have no proof of this, other than the briefest glimpses during “Save the Dogs” raids, but I think Mom’s costume would readily fall apart should anyone ever get past the rolling pin.  It’s a mystery why there’s a rolling pin at all when all the pies were made earlier by either me or Sara Lee.  I suspect that she keeps a crossword puzzle book hidden in the big potato pot on the stove, and that there’s a reason all of the bottles of wine are identical.

However, mom has us all so bamboozled, starved and terrified that there’s no possible way of proving any of this.  I’m pretty sure rolling pin beats bike helmet, and I incur enough accidental concussions without trying an all or-nothing-Thanksgiving-blitzkrieg.  We might as well just let her have it.  After all, we do eventually get to eat.

The Rev only hides from us and starves us because she loves us so much – probably way more than your Mom who feeds you and hangs out with you loves you.

Lucky us.

Posted in Humor | 6 Comments

Nipping At My Toes

A Brief Aside: Two days ago, Stan Lee died.  He was a personal hero of mine, and for about as long as I can remember, I thought he was just the coolest of the cool.  When I was a small child stuck in the hospital with double pneumonia, Spider-Man helped me survive.  I wanted to dedicate this article to eulogizing Stan, but frankly others have said it much better than I could.  They’ve said that Stan Lee will be remembered because he wrote super heroes more like us — more human.  I would add just one thing to that: in making super heroes more like us, Stan Lee also made us more like them.  It’s not such a bad thing to have made so much ordinary so very exceptional.  You will be missed, Mr. Lee.  ‘Nuff said.

Most human lives have a few inevitabilities, most commonly death and/or taxes.  In my world, there is a crucial addition to these known simply as the dog jog.

I don’t know how I spoiled my still-stupid-but-increasingly-canny Black Lab, Stadler, into thinking that she was owed at least one six-mile run alongside my bicycle every morning, but she acts as though God himself spake this unto her as her very own inalienable right.  We had enough problems with Divine Right of Kings, and I have a pretty good idea that Divine Right of Dogs is just about as bad.  I would opine that we should be fairly careful extending any rights to felines.  Give cats a nanometer and they’ll take the very globe by its countertops.

In any case, as soon as I lumber out of bed in the morning my occasionally-loyal-when-she-wants-something-or-is-terrified-of-the-garbage-truck dog is right at my heels – or, more often, sitting directly in the middle of my path so that I have to go around her do anything.  What possible advantage can this be for canines?  It just mean no one gets anywhere, and the human folks trip over the dog folks and yell.  I keep telling Stadler that she’s obviously not the lead dog “because leaders don’t continually look over their shoulders to figure out where everyone else is going.” “To dog” is probably a verb due to this kind of annoying behavior.

As the morning progresses through the bathroom and coffee stages, Stadler gets increasingly ansty.  She jumps around the house like a Mexican Jumping Bean, clacking her toenails to and fro in a loud tattoo that says, “I’M READY TO GO, AB!!! GO!”  If I make any move toward a door-type region, Stadler flashes into zone defense, gracelessly somersaulting in excitement.

Her little dog brain (which I’m beginning to think is powered by squirrels in strange neural hamster wheels) is now so hardwired to believe that run time is incontrovertible, we recently have had to go in the pouring rain.  Obviously, the recent cold snap didn’t provide even a modicum of deterrent.  If anything she was even more excited.

Yesterday, I was awakened by 80lbs of Black Lab standing on my right boob (which now unfortunately resembles and eggplant).  I reacted by gasping, and flipping onto my side to protect my more delicate regions, but the dog just climbed onto my ribs and stared down her long snout at me, giving my one long lick to assure herself that I was, in fact, awake.  I checked the weather on my handy phone app – it was 45 degrees outside, but the Weather Channel helpfully reported that with the gusting winds it “felt like 35.”

“Great,” I thought as I climbed out of my nest of covers.  I began to dress for the ride as the dog danced around me in joyous anticipation, hurtling in and out of her dog door after running great laps about the yard.  I put on two pairs of pants, four pairs of socks, a tank top, a t-shirt, a long sleeved shirt and a cashmere sweater that I bought when I lived in Oregon and couldn’t bear to get rid of.  Then I put on outerwear: a hoodie, a jacket, a hat that looks like a cat (with earflaps), a scarf and a pair of painstakingly located almost-matching red gloves.  I looked like a fatter version of the Michelin man, or (since my entire outfit minus the gloves was black) a very plump ninja.

20181113_083709Stadler exploded into joy as I waddled towards my trusty steed, Gertrude.  I’m pleased to announce that it only took my four tries to realize that my helmet wouldn’t fit.  I could get it on, but it teetered precariously on top of my cat ears, threating to loll to one side at any second like something out of Dr. Seuss.  I thought about old-timey football players in leather helmets and decided I to forge on without protection, although (admittedly) I studiously avoided thinking about brain damage.

Off we went, Stadler running so fast the wind whipped my face.  My glasses got so cold they gave me brain freeze, so I took them off and tossed them into my basket.  I once again had a flittering thought that perhaps living for so long in the Coastal Bend has turned me into a weakling when it comes to the cold.  After all, I’m from Kansas where frigid winds whip across with prairie with nothing to stop them but you.  I’m pretty sure we used to wear shorts and t-shirts in fifty degree weather, but that might be because we were also idiots.

Of course with perfect ironic timing, I spotted a guy doing yard work wearing shorts, flip-flops, a funky gardening hat (evidently to block the absolutely non-existent sun), and a Hawaiian print tank top.  I was devastated.  My cold-wussiness was confirmed.

THEN ICE FELL FROM THE SKY.

As I rode through the sleet, I began to feel a lot better about myself, although I honestly felt that several of my limbs were going to fall off as soon as they thawed.  It was going to be a long winter.

Later that day I got a text message from the G.P (my Dad) telling me that he had purchased a new space heater and that I had officially inherited “Old Shocky” (our familial name for the electric heater inhabited by a poltergeist who thinks static electricity is hilarious).  By then, I had thawed, but I was still grateful.

Old Shocky could defibrillate a bull moose while warming a cathedral.  Once again, we will survive.

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The Blackest Lab

I’ve been watching a lot of scary movies lately – maybe because of Halloween, but probably because I like them.  I also know that I have literally scared myself sleepless binging Law and Order Special Victims Unit (BA-DUM).  I was having a grand old time watching all sorts of creepy nuns, murderous aliens and zombies, etc. (which will be the name of my horror-themed coffee shop, should I ever get one) until I started listening to the My Favorite Murder podcast somewhat *ahem* excessively.

If you folks haven’t heard of it, My Favorite Murder is essentially (to put it in old-timey terms) a radio show on which creators Georgia Hardstark and Karen Kilgariff discuss true crime, cats, marriage (or lack thereof), food, and often moustaches.  It’s very funny, but also terrifying because the crimes they discuss are mostly pretty brutal.  Case in point, yesterday I listened to one about a Japanese cannibal.

When I was younger, I worked for several years in a used bookstore that had a small library of true crime books.  I hated that section, and resented any new acquisitions that had to be shelved there.  It had nothing to do with the quality of the writing.  I didn’t sneer at them like I did the Harlequin romances and various and sundry Avon publications.*  I hated the true crime books because every single one of them had a middle section filled with pictures of very real, very deceased human beings – each of which I couldn’t resist looking through before I put the books away.

That’s how I got to know Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, Richard Ramirez, and David Berkowitz, along with hundreds of less notorious killers – many of whom weren’t discovered until after their deaths.  I developed a real loathing for Ann Rule, even though it really wasn’t her fault.  I read Helter Skelter when I was eleven (thanks to my favorite librarian), and it scared the pants off of me far worse than the Stephen King I was also sneaking.

Sometimes, working alone in that bookstore at night (having looked at the innards of twenty or thirty true crime books earlier in the day), eerie feelings would creep over me and I would move to the part of the store furthest away from the “bad” section – a move which would put me closer to the floor-to-ceiling front windows and dark parking lot.  I spent a lot of those nights “dusting” but I probably looked like I was trying to avoid landmines.  Serpentine!

To this day, I don’t read true crime books.  Turns out, listening to murder podcasts can have a similar effect.

I noted several weeks ago that Stadler had stopped sleeping in the bedroom with me.  One night, I got up, turned on the lights, called her, and up popped her head over the back of the couch.  “She’s just found a better bed,” I thought, knowing that I’m a tosser, turner, kicker, flipper, occasional sleepwalker and sometime faller-outer of the bed.  She’ll still crawl up with me when it’s really cold, but otherwise she nests in my sofa

I was a little hurt, but overall okay with the new sleeping arrangements – until I listened to the episode of My Favorite Murder about the quest of Michelle MacNamara’s  (a true crime writer really worth reading if you can stand it) to identify the Golden State Killer.

If you don’t know the story of the Golden State Killer, it’s particularly bad.  Not to get gory, but he started out as a rapist who preyed on couples, later escalating to murder.  If you need more details, you can look him up.  If you don’t, please feel better knowing that he’s in jail now (although his crimes started in 1976 and he just got arrested last year) thanks to identification through familial DNA.  Here’s the problem, though: the Golden State Killer is thought to have stalked his victims over a period of months (possibly years).  He went in and out of their houses, unloading firearms, hiding tools where only he could find them, and MAKING FRIENDS WITH DOGS.

That’s right.  He made friends with their dogs.

The Black Labrador is a particularly friendly breed of dog.

Stadler is a Black Labrador and a consummate love dork.

The very night after I listened to the aforementioned story, I woke up troubled.  I called Stadler, but she didn’t come.  I got up and went to look for her.  She wasn’t on the couch.  I called again.  No dog.  I shut off the alarm, unlocked all my locks, threw open the back door and called her again.  She came trotting out of the backyard with a huge grin on her face.  I brought her inside and bolted her dog door shut.

Stadler’s evening privileges have been officially revoked.  Now, she wakes me up three times a night to let her out instead.  Either she’s being a good dog and checking the perimeter, or she’s dating a serial killer.

Either way, if I get murdered, you can definitely blame the dog.

*Don’t worry. I came around.  Today, I have a great love of terrible romance novels.  I mean, talk about horrors!

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Possum Problems

If you had asked me a mere two days ago how many entrails a standard North American Possum had, I definitely would have looked at you funny while telling you that I wasn’t sure.   Today, to my great misfortune, I am sitting on a treasure trove of information regarding the internal contents of a possum, strongly wishing that I had maintained my ignorance.

I noticed the dead animal in my neighbor’s ditch early Monday morning, when Stadler (my not-exactly-a-super-genius-but-still-pretty-okay Black Lab) and I went for our early morning dog jog.  I figured the dead-ite must have been hit by a car during the night.  It look like it had been hastily ejected from this mortal coil, but possums being possums I left it alone, thinking it might just be auditioning for a part in a so-far-off-Broadway-it-might-as-well-be-Mongolia play called: “Dead Possum the Musical.”

It was still in the ditch when we returned.  On that side of the road, it was far away from any homes (which were double insulated from the grossness by tall oleanders and an even taller fence).  Still, I felt sorry for my neighbor.  He is a kind man who after Hurricane Harvey, cleaned up probably the worst trash in the history of the world.  Some nineteenth-level jerk lord had dumped two bags right in the middle of the road.  I spent several weeks thinking it was my neighbor’s (silently cussing him each morning on a level that may have inadvertently caused low grade testicular cancer), until  I saw him wearing three pairs of bright yellow gloves and cleaning it up.  He said it was the remains of what appeared to have been a liquor-laced  “Hormel Chili sex party,” which is worse than anything even I can imagine.

Still, the possum wasn’t in MY ditch, and the neighbor was safe.  “Things like this,” thought I, “have a way of taking care of themselves.”  Our neighborhood is rife with stray dogs and cats.  Last year, on Christmas morning, I even saw a turkey vulture eating a cat in front of an inflatable Santa.  Nature is so beautiful.

That afternoon the game changed.  Stadler and I ran some errands and when we returned, there in my side yard was the possum corpse, actively being eaten by one of the aforementioned turkey vultures.  And that’s how I know there is WAY more possum on the inside than on the outside. Turkey vultures are far from delicate eaters.

This particular turkey vulture, however, saw my car pull into the driveway, hopped two little hops away from his meal, then decided he didn’t want to mess with humans and flew away.  “He’ll come back,” I thought, “and probably bring some friends.”

Wrong again.

The next morning, the corpse was still there.  Stadler now exhibited great interest in getting close enough to it to roll in it.  This was clearly a shovel and bag job.

I tried, folks.  I really did.  I approached the corpse with my trusty snow shovel (I don’t know why I have it, either), and then bravely ran away because EWWWWWWWWWW.  Possums are gross enough when they’re alive, but this was basically a swarm of flies, ribs, and something that looked like an epically failed attempt at spaghetti. It was just too much.

I started writing Facebook posts that sounded like battlefield letters from the Civil War:

“My Dearest Rev and G.P.,

The sun rises slowly over the decayed battlefield.  The flies swarm like the blackest of Biblical plagues.  There is little hope here, as I peer through the curtains. Our provisions will not last. We are crushed, weak, although my boon companion seeks to revel in this madness.  I fear we must seek succor in your bosom, else be murdered by this malingering stench.”

Finally, I gave up and got into my car (which I started calling “Boris the Odorless Possum Observation Bubble” because Stadler and I had done several drive-bys to reconnoiter the best corpse disposal tactics) and drove to my Mom’s where I begged my Dad to go deal with the problem.

Dad left in good spirits. The G.P. doesn’t much mind a dead possum.  When he returned, the conquering hero pushed up his glasses, puffed out his chest and announced, “From a technical standpoint, it’s impossible to get a dead possum into a trash bag with a shovel due to the long, stiff tail.  I just threw it in your trashcan.”

“OH GROSS, DAD!” I exclaimed, wondering whether things had just gotten a whole lot worse.

“Oh don’t be a wuss, Ab,” the mighty Thor replied.  “The trash guys are coming on Thursday.”

Mom sent me home with a giant can of RAID, which I applied generously to the entire area before gingerly opening the trash can lid and depositing my weekly bag of garbage.  I then pushed my can out to the curb two days early – you know, to be SURE it would get picked up.

I really, sincerely hope the City doesn’t miss my house this week.  If they skip me, I guess I’ll have to move.

Mom says I can come live in the pop-up camper, but only if I’m nice to the possum that occupies their compost pile.

From a technical standpoint, his name is Blossom.

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The Kid From Easter Island

Last night, the Rev and I had what was quite possibly our dumbest fight to date.  Here is a transcript:

Rev: There’s a news story on about people making Halloween treats out of human remains.
Me: Cremains, probably.
Rev: No, you couldn’t because bones don’t break down.
Me: Of course they do, Mom! Otherwise, you’d have femurs just sticking out of urns all over the place.
Rev: There are shards of bone. I KNOW! I’VE OPENED THE BAG.
Me:  Yeah, so you just sift them and mix the ash with flour, duh.
Rev:  I’m going to go watch the story.

Halloween (minus human remains cupcakes) is my favorite holiday.  When I was growing up, we didn’t have a ton of money for costumes, so we always made our own.   Dependent on the Rev to do the heavy lifting, my brother and I wound up being hoboes, clowns, pirates and fortune tellers (I had gigantic gold canning ring earrings).  Basically, any character that employed a bright red or blue bandana was fair game.  The absolute bottom of parent-decorates-child Halloweens was the year Dad was in charge and I wound up being Paper Bag Head Kid.  My brother got the slightly better ROBOT Paper Bag Head Kid mask.  In case you don’t quite understand: Dad took a brown paper grocery bag, cut holes in it for eyes, and said “Here ya go. Have a blast.”

We didn’t care all that much when we were small – after all, we were in it for the candy.  As I aged, I started making my own costumes after figuring out that better outfits get more treats.  One year, a friend and I went as A Guy with Two Heads and Three Legs.  Until you’ve walked several miles in weird home-sewn polyester pants with your leg tied to your friend’s through a snow storm, you haven’t really committed to Halloween.  We did get a lot of candy, though.

A few years ago, my niece Jess was about to “age out” of Halloween.  She was thirteen and decided that the upcoming holiday would be her last.  Aside from when she was two years old and went as R2D2 (made out of a trashcan), Jess had always had pretty bland, store-bought costumes.   I wanted her to close out her trick-or-treating tenure on a high note.

For years, I had wanted to make a costume that was one of the giant heads on Easter Island.  The idea of one of those things with feet absolutely tickled me. I unilaterally decided that this was the costume I would create for Jess (I think she probably wanted to be some kind of anime character).

The week before Halloween, I strapped on my mad scientist goggles, headed to the garage and began to create.

build 2A gigantic trashcan provided the basic armature for the piece.  Before you ask, yes I bought the kid a brand-new trashcan (you guys are getting to know me way too well).   Then, the next three days of my life involved a whole heck of a lot of papier-mache.  It took layers and layers of gluey newspaper to build the shell.  I had to dry it with a heat gun/fan/blow dryer combination.  The entire process was vastly unpleasant. I lost a lot of hair to “glue incursions.”

On day four, I painted the great mass.  Jess was desperate to help with this part (she ran away after about five minutes of stickiness), so I let her dig in. She lasted about an hour.  In order to get the stone texture correct, the paint had to be sponged on in thin layers.  It took another eternity to cover it.

But, when it was finished, the costume was a thing of great majesty.

I decided to enter Jess in a costume contest the following day.  The grand prize was $250, and I told her that if we won, she could keep the money for college.  Additionally, the contest was at the nearest Mall  (45 minutes away in Salina, Kansas) and she was thrilled to be taken there (13 year old girl, y’all).

Now, had I not been greedy for recognition, it is totally possible that I never would have seen the major design flaws inherent in my project.  It wasn’t until the kid got lost in the mall parking lot that I realized the eye holes were too small.  They also allowed for approximately zero peripheral vision, and their spacing caused huge problems with depth perception.  We played “follow my voice through traffic” until I realized that was going to get both of us killed.  I lined up behind her and sort of guided her into the building.  She couldn’t hold my hand because (massive design flaw #2) the costume had no arm holes.

Unfortunately, we were late for the contest (largely because it took us 40 minutes to navigate the parking lot), so we didn’t get to participate.  Frustrated, we returned to the car and discussed just leaving the costume sitting on a rest area toilet along 1-70.  I imagined a poor lady opening the door, seeing the giant head, and having a heart attack, so I vetoed the notion.  I’m not a total monster.

kid with feetJess took the outfit home and wore it on her last trick-or-treat.  She reported that she got more candy than ever that year, and that everyone thought her costume “ruled.”

Her Mom had to carry her plastic candy collection pumpkin, though.

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