Pebbles

April 12, 2011.

I was driving to work, thinking about my sister, Beth. It would have been her 28th birthday.

There was a 17 year gap between us. To say it flatly, we did not have a smooth relationship.

But I remember how fiercely I loved her when she was a child.

Then I married and moved away. I don’t think she ever forgave me for that.

The years went by. Mom died. Dad died. Her health problems, both physical and emotionally, grew worse and worse.

And I was still so far away.

When I moved back home in 2004, it was really too late to try and smooth over our problems. I would try and she would snap back like a feral dog. At the time, I was battling my own mental health problems and didn’t….fuck, let’s be honest….couldn’t handle her fury.

Then in 2005, her cystic fibrosis took a turn for the worse and she was in ICU for months. On life support, thousands and thousands of dollars went to keep her alive. I remember the doctor asking us what we wanted them to do if her condition “decomposed”. That was the word he used. “Decomposed.”

She was in a coma.

Melinda and I would go every night after work to stay by her beside and stay there on the weekends. We didn’t want her to wake up alone.

She finally did wake up. And let me tell you something, it’s not like in the movies. Coma victims are incapacitated afterwards. Her muscles had atrophied. She couldn’t hold up a spoon or walk. The drugs they had her own made her see things. She told us later that we all had Lego Heads.

She had been intubated so speaking for her was difficult. She could barely make a whisper.

I remember the day she tried to use sign language to talk to us. Melinda and I were at a loss. “We don’t know sign language, Beth. Can you write?”

She whispered, “Dumbasses.”

That broke the tension bubble. Melinda and I laughed so hard that we scared the nurses. We told them, “It’s okay. She’s pissed. She’ll be fine.”

I think that time in the hospital taught Beth something. That, through all the fighting, cursing, and throwing shit at each other, the people who were there at her bedside were her sisters. And we weren’t going anywhere.

I remember that November, at Thanksgiving. It was the last one we had and the best one. Everyone was happy. Even Beth seemed to be cheerful. We were talking about philosophy and she asked, “But…what is philosophy?” and I answered, “Exactly!” She rolled her eyes and whispered, “Dumbass.”

She died less than a year later. October 27, 2006.

She had a cold but people with CF don’t get colds. They get pneumonia.

She died at home, on the couch. She went to sleep and didn’t wake up. Even her doctor was astonished but sometimes people with cystic fibrosis die that way. Their bodies just can’t fight the infection anymore and their hearts just stop.

We had been teasing her earlier that week that there was a grand Halloween party we were planning to go to and if she died, we would put her ass on ice. We had bought themed costumes and I had even made a brain Jello mold with grapes for eyeballs. Do not ruin this for us!

She died the Friday before the party. We still think she did it on purpose.

On April 12, 2011, driving into work, these words came to me and I turned them into a poem.

Pebbles

There is a bag I keep in my head.

Memories are stored there

Like pebbles.

There are damn few shiny ones.

Most are obsidian,

Black, sharp things that bite my fingers.

The few shiny pebbles are

The ones I like to pull out and

Fold into a clean

Skin of cloth-

-polishing them-

These few memories

When just being in the same room

As you

Was a natural thing.

Not a détente

I take these few shiny pebbles of time

And I polish them

In my kid cloth until they illuminate the

-Black-

Until all I can see

-The only thing I can remember-

Is them.

*Tap* *Tap* Is this thing on???

I barged into my daughter’s room today and said, “Jesus! I can’t believe how much this month sucks!”

“What month?” she said. “It’s only been ten days.”

Which did nothing for my mood.

I don’t know what is it about April. Something about this time of the year always makes me a little…crazy.

I don’t know if it’s the tree spooge pollen getting up inside my brain meats. Or maybe it’s the changing of the season with all the rain and sun and rain and sun and rain and sun. But it’s the same thing. Every year around about this time I find myself getting a little…weird. Like, unfocused weird….I can’t think or stay on topic for more than a few minutes before my monkey brain has jumped to another branch.

Which means NOTHING GETS DONE!

I haven’t written a single word on my Crown of Feather project. I’ve been buying time by trying to find the perfect journal and the perfect pen and…oh, my yes! More and more research materials to help feather the nest.

But we all know that’s procrastinating bullshit.

And the script for my new podcast idea, They Done Her Wrong? I got about three pages into that and……yeah.

This little fucker

I’ve often said that writing is like jabbing yourself with a needle, over and over, each time the tip getting a little duller, as you try to find the right vein that will shoot you up and over into La-La Land where words burst out of your fingertips like bolts of golden lightning. It’s magic when that happens. The Story takes over and everything is fucking AWESOME.

But, until you find it, all you’ve got to show for yourself is an arm full of holes.

And a brain that is getting duller and duller with each passing day.

I’m not alone in this. Many of my creative friends have been experiencing this since the Great Shut Down of 2020. I, as usual, the eternal late bloomer, have just now arrived to the pity party.

But that’s ok! It’s all ok! I can do this. I’ve wrestled with Aprils before and I’ll bust through this one.

I’ll see y’all on the other side.

Behind the Scenes

Brian caught me cutting up some strips of paper.

“What are you doing?”

“I’m letting Fate decide,” I said.

“Exactly what now?”

“See, I’ve been driving myself crazy trying to decide what year to set my new story in. I know I want it set in the early 1900’s but I need to pinpoint what year.”

“So, just pick a year.”

“That’s what I’m doing! I have listed a year on each piece of paper. Now I’m going to ball each slip up and then draw one. Whichever ball I pick, that’s the year of my story.”

“Ooooh no…don’t ruin the magic for me.”

*I toss the tiny paper balls in a bowl, swirl them around like hot potatoes and, finally, pull one out*

“1908! That’s the winner!”

“Wheeeee.”

“Shut up.”

The Root of all my Anxieties

I was never a Disney kid. Something about Mickey creeped me out. I think it was his laugh. That was the laugh of a serial killer. And Goofy…what the hell was that? A talking dog that had a dog as a pet? How messed up was that?

And don’t get me started on the murderous intentions in Peter Pan. Those mermaids straight up wanted to kill Wendy.

I was a Warner Brothers kid. I loved Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Yosemite Sam, and all those crazy dudes.

As much as I loved Warner Brothers cartoons and their dry sense of humour, I have to admit that, looking back, I have to blame them as the root of most of my anxieties.

Do you remember the cartoon where Sylvester the cat wakes up to find that his family has left to go on vacation?

He’s left all alone. Kinda like that psycho rich white kid in that Christmas movie I refuse to watch.

And then the cat has an anxiety attack realizing that there is no food in the kitchen except for canned cat food.

CANNED. CAT. FOOD.

For the next five minutes, Sylvester tries to open the cans. Explosions. Anvils. All the stuff.

And then a mouse comes out of the wall and twirls a can opener.

The chase begins. Cat pursues mouse and after much shenanigans, the cat comes out victorious with the can opener. He is saved from starvation!

BUT as Sylvester goes into the kitchen he sees that the cabinets are padlocked shut.

He hears a taunting whistle from behind him.

He turns to see a mouse, holding a key, and then he disappears into the wall.

Sylvester falls into a puddle, crying, starvation just around the corner.

That shit messed me up.

Measuring up

This will be a quick one. It’s something I want to say but I don’t have any other forum to say it so…here it is.

Today, someone commented that they had not had the success that I have had in regards to writing.

I was a bit thrown by this because….success? I’m successful? When did this happen? Why didn’t anyone tell me?

And then I heard a little voice in my head whisper, “Darling, what do you think success is?”

“I think success is a little bit more than $4 royalties from Amazon, for starters.”

I could almost hear my Muse take a long sip of ambrosia to calm their nerves so as to not slap me out of existence.

“Darling, the fact you have written stories and actually pushed them out of the nest IS a success.”

*long drink*

“Idiot.”

So, the moral here is that no matter how much of a third tier loser you think you are, someone out there might actually think you’re pretty cool.