Doggonit, Give Me Some Directions that Make Sense

Nutsrok

            I’m not good with directions.  In fact, I’d have to improve considerably to even be bad.  Useless terms like left, right, North, South, East, and West annoy me.  If people actually expect me to get somewhere, they need to be more specific.  “Turn off the interstate at exit 5.  Go the opposite direction you’ve been going and go three streets past Brookshire’s.   Drive just a minute or so and you’ll see a restaurant with the big cow in the parking lot.  Don’t turn there.  Drive to the next red light and turn on the street that turns between the WaWa and that hardware store with the inflatable lumberjack.  Watch for the ugly house with the silk flowers in the bucket of that tacky wishing well.  Pass it up, but now you need to start driving pretty slow.  You’ll see a big, old white house with a deep porch and…

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Charley’s Tale Part 8

Indulged since birth, Ellen was completely unprepared to deal with disappointment. She felt angry and cheated that Charley was so unlike the daughter she’d envisioned.  Rather than examine herself, she avoided the situation as much as possible.  In her mind, she was wronged, denied the child she was entitled to.

A few months before her fourth birthday, Charley and the four-year-old Barnes twins from next door were making mud pies in the back yard while Cora put the final touches on petit fours for a tea Ellen was hosting at Geneva’s house.  Ellen parked her car and walked in the back yard to find the three children muddy and naked as the day they were born.  Donnie, the little boy, inspected the two little girls and announced to no one in particular, “Charley’s peach ain’t like Sissy’s.  It’s got a little peanut on it.”

“What’s a peanut?” Charley asked.

“Boys got peanuts, girls got peaches.” shared Donnie.  “See.”  With that, Charley educated the girls about peanuts.

At Donnie’s horrifying announcement, Ellen grabbed a broom hanging near the back steps  and flogged all three children, shrieking “You filthy little beasts….”

The children had no idea what hit them as they cowered.  Cora came flying out the back door, restrained the mad woman, and told the children to run.  The twins fled screaming next door as Charley clung to Cora’s skirts, trying to escape her overwrought mother.

“Miss Ellen, you got to hit a holt of yourself.  They just babies.  They don’t know what they doing.  Git on in the house and let me take keer of this.”

With that, Ellen flew in the house, just as Mrs. Barnes showed up with two crying children.  “What’s going on.  The kids said Ellen whipped them with a broom!  Surely she didn’!”

“Oh, no ma’am.  They was makin’ mud pies and Miss Ellen come in the back gate an’ saw a snake slippin’ up on ’em.  She took a broom to it an run it off.   One of ‘me might a caught a lick. She’s all to pieces it skeet her so.  I need to git in an’ see ’bout her now.  I shore am sorry she skeet the younguns a whalin’ on that snake, but at least none of ’em got bit.”

Mrs. Barnes was mollified and left with her children. Cora took Charley in for a bath and went to check on Ellen, who’d shut herself in her room.

“Bring me my tonic.  My headache is killing me!” Ellen demanded as Cora helped her out of her muddy dress.  What am I going to say to Sarah Barnes?  I can’t go back to that tea like this.  You’ll have to call Mama and tell her to handle things.”  She fell on the bed crying.

“Now, don’t fret, Miss Ellen.  Miss Barnes done come over to see what happened.  I told her you seen a snake ’bout to git the kids an’ beat it off of ’em with the broom.  She was proud you saved ’em.” Cora explained.  “Do you want me to call over an’ let Miss Geneva know to go on without you?”

Hearing this, Ellen rallied, feeling quiet heroic. “No, just call and let her know I’ll be delayed changing clothes.  I’ll tell them all about it when I get there.  Help me into my new yellow organza.  I was saving it for Delores Parker’s wedding, but I’ll just have wear it today”

 

 

Charley’s Tale Part 7

Things settled into a new normal once Ellen reluctantly returned to her home.  Little Charley made every step Cora made, unless she was lucky enough to catch the boys playing indoors, when they captured her total attention.  Like all babies, the toys of the older children were the most delightful, especially when they grabbed them and ran.  Ellen punished the brothers for calling her Charley but soon tired of the effort and gave it up as a lost cause.

Ellen left more and more of the care of the children to Cora, immersing herself in her volunteer activities.  She was president of the Altar Guild, Secretary of the Missionary Society, headed up the Donation Committee, and Representave to the War Widows and Orphan Benefit Society.  Not only that, she was very active in her Sorority.  As a doctor’s wife, she was expected to take a leading role in the community.  She was formidable.  As the children grew, she began to host her social functions at her mother, Geneva’s house, ostensibly to lessen her mother’s.  Though her husband provided a gracious home, her mother’s home and things were far finer and didn’t come along with boisterous children.

Cora was relieved to have Miss Ellen occupied outside the house.  It was a relief not to deal with headaches, tears, and outbursts at the children, especially Charley.  The baby was completely as ease in Cora’s care, happily toddling behind her banging on pots and pans.  The boys were old enough to be outdoors most of the time.  The family was settling in comfortably.  Dr. Evans was gratified to have peace in his home thanks to Cora’s skillful management.

With the children out of sight, out of mind, Elle’s life suited her far better.  She only saw the children at bedtime, if at all.Being the wife of a handsome, prominent doctor suited her.  With her time  her own, she looked forward to a generous inheritance.  Unfortunately, she suffered a nervous setback should she receive an invitation to a baby shower or christening, but by and large, her life was good.

 

 

Joke of the Day

Nutsrok

A blonde had just totaled her car in a horrific accident. Miraculously, she managed to pry herself from the wreckage without a scratch and was applying fresh lipstick when the state trooper arrived.
“My God!” the trooper gasped. “Your car looks like an accordion that was stomped on by an elephant. Are you OK ma’am?”
“Yes, officer, I’m just fine” the blonde chirped.
“Well, how in the world did this happen?” the officer asked as he surveyed the wrecked car.
“Officer, it was the strangest thing!” the blonde began. I was driving along this road when from out of nowhere this TREE pops up in front of me. So I swerved to the right, and there was another tree! I swerved to the left and there was ANOTHER tree! I served to the right and there was another tree! I swerved to the left and there was ….”
“Uh, ma’am”…

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Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore – New on the Shelves – Doll God by Luanne Castle

Smorgasbord - Variety is the spice of life

Welcome to the first of the New on the Shelves posts this week and today it is poet Luanne Castle and her debut collection, award winning Doll God that explores the emotion that we invest in inanimate objects, some of which have been created in our own image.

About Doll God

Winner of the New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards, Doll God, studies traces of the spirit world in human-made and natural objects–a Japanese doll, a Palo Verde tree, a hummingbird. Her exploration leads the reader between the twin poles of nature and creations of the imagination in dolls, myth, and art.

“Every day the world subtracts from itself,” Luanne Castle observes. Her wonderfully titled collection, Doll God, with its rich and varied mix of poems part memoir, part myth and tale, shimmers as it swims as poetry is meant to, upstream against the loss.
Stuart Dybek, MacArthur Fellow and author…

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Charley’s Tale Part 6

With Cora to champion her and her brothers for company, Charley thrived..  Her father is pleased to see his daughter is smart and active.  When Ellen has been gone a month, he called her.  “Ellen, you need to come home.  Your children need you.  I need you.”

“Oh Charles, I don’t feel well enough yet.  I have been taking the hot baths daily and am just starting to put a little of the weight back on I lost when my nerves were so bad.  The doctor here thinks I would benefit from a longer rest.  He told me today I should plan on another six weeks.  I was going to call tomorrow and let you know.”  Ellen had a tremor in her voice as she bargained for more time.  She hadn’t even asked after the children.

“I am sure that doctor’s pocket would benefit if you stayed.  Ellen, I am your husband and I am telling you.  Come home tomorrow.  A month is time enough to rest up. You have responsibilities.  The baby is sleeping nights and trying to take steps.  The boys need their mother.  You can’t expect Cora and me to manage any longer.  Edna Jones has brought casseroles over twice.  The neighbors have been asking when you are coming home.”  Charles wasn’t leaving her room to argue.

Ellen was miffed at the mention of Edna Jones and the casseroles.  “What business does that hussy, Edna have sniffing around my kitchen?  She claims to be so Christian and she’s after you with her husband not dead a year!  I’ll catch the train tomorrow.”  It was one thing to be a delicate doctor’s wife needing rest and another entirely to have a woman after her husband.

Ellen caught the early train and was home by afternoon.  She dumped the leftover casserole in the trash, dish and all.   Charles and the boys were ecstatic at her return, but Charley clung to Cora, not remembering her mother.  Ellen was not pleased to hear the boys referring to their sister as Charley, but decided to leave that matter for tomorrow.

 

 

Charley’s Tale Part 5

Ellen’s disappointment in her child grew apace with Charlotte.  Charlotte was a big baby, bigger even than her brothers had been.  Ellen had expected a dainty, quiet child, not this bawling, thrashing baby Charlotte became.    She screamed with colic from six in the evening till after three every morning, spitting up till she ruined all her mother’s gowns and wraps.  Neither Ellen nor Charles could console her.  During the worst of her colicky spells, her belly became rigid and thrashed her arms and legs wildly.  By morning, Ellen was exhausted and gladly handed her off to Cora and headed black to bed.  She insisted Cora put the baby on the bottle, saying the crying had spoiled her milk.  Typically, as colicky babies often do, she slept deeply and well, off and on all day.  Finally, in desperation, Charles started giving her a drop or two of paregoric, an opium derivative, to ease her agony.  She developed a tolerance for it and Ellen increased the doses with the unavoidable side-effect of constipation.  Despite intractable colic, she grew like a weed and looked like a short, fat bald man at three months, a fact that did not endear her to her mother. Over time, it reached the point that Charlotte required a daily enema.  Charles told Ellen to  limit paregoric use, but Ellen said she couldn’t bear to see the child in agony, so the dosing continued for months until Cora appealed to Dr Evans on the child’s behalf.  “Dr. Evans, if we don’t get this youngun off that stuff her bowels ain’t ever gonna work.  I don’t believe no nine month old baby still has colic.”

Dr. Evans obviously had left matters regarding the children to his wife.  “I didn’t realize she was still getting it.  I’ll talk to her mother.”  He also told the pharmacist to discontinue its sale to his wife.

Without the paregoric Charlotte, spent a miserable week or two, hardly sleeping and crying continuously.  Ellen pleaded with him, insisting the child needed medicating.  When he refused, she accused her husband of being heartless and fled to spend a few days with a friend in Hot Springs, swearing she couldn’t bear the child’s misery .

Cora moved in to care for the children and run the household for the duration.  Charlotte recovered and woke to the world around her.  She discovered her brothers, doing her best to toddle behind them.  They were delighted with her in turn, dubbing her, “Charley.”

 

Charley’s Tale Part 4

Geneva’s reference to Cousin Jean was the last thing Ellen wanted to hear.  Her cousin had been a frequent presence in Ellen’s young life. Once Ellen was old enough to dread her friends’ criticism, she cringed when her mother championed Cousin Jean at family events, making it clear Cousin Jean was dear to her heart.  A masculine-appearing woman, Cousin Jean wore dark tailored suits with brown oxfords and beige cotton stockings when society demanded at weddings, funerals, and christenings.  Otherwise, she caroused with her young cousins clad in overalls, men’s shirts, and brogans.  Though her own girls were beautifully dressed, Geneva made no reference to Cousin Jean’s unusual wardrobe.

As a young child, Ellen, along with her mother and sisters, spent wonderful times at the farm where Cousin Jean had raised Geneva after she was orphaned.  They fished, did chores, and worked on the farm, right along with Cousin Jean, who farmed as well as any man.  They spent long summer days playing outdoors and balmy summer nights sleeping on her screened back porch. As Ellen approached puberty, she felt embarrassed confusion at Cousin Jean’s differences in the company of her friends, while being torn for her love for her “odd” cousin. She felt so free in her love for Cousin Jean in Jean’s territory, the farm.  It was only when she saw Jean through the eyes of her friends that her affection waivered. She loved and wanted to be a part of Cousin Jean’s life at the farm, was miserable at seeing Jean through her friends’ eyes. Why couldn’t Cousin Jean just try to be more like everyone else?  When questioned about Cousin Jean, Geneva excused her with “That’s just Jean.  She’s the only mother I never knew.  I won’t hear a word against her.  Don’t ever forget that!”

Ellen resented her mother’s excusing Cousin Jean’s eccentricity while diligently pushing her daughters conform to society’s expectations, never realizing her mother must have struggled with the same issues until she eavesdropped on a conversation and learned her mother had rebuked a friend who’d spoken snidely to Cousin Jean.

“I could have slapped her face for that.  There’s no need to be so hateful!” Geneva spewed.

“Geneva, I learned a long time ago not to waste time on small people.  I can’t change who I am for anybody.  If you and the girls love me, that’s enough.  Some people go through their whole lives with nobody.  Don’t concern yourself on my account.”

From this, young Ellen knew Cousin Jean knew how “odd” she was, and resolved to love her, but felt Jean could fit in if she tried a bit harder.  I would have made life so much easier for everyone.

As an adult, she’d conveniently catalogued Cousin Jean as an eccentric, and was genuinely glad to see her on the rare occasions their paths crossed. She was much more comfortable not seeing her on a regular basis.

 

Charley’s Tale Part 3

 

They named the baby Charlotte for her father.  Though Ellen did her best, she didn’t bond with the little girl as she had her two boys, rarely changing or bathing her.  In addition to her concerns about her daughter, she suffered from baby-blues, as post-partum depression was known then.  Her own mother, Geneva, came to stay for a few days and recognized Charlotte’s ambiguous genitalia immediately, having given birth to four girls.  Ellen was appalled when Geneva expressed her concerns.

“Charles said he had to a little growth off her bottom, but she’s fine now.  He said if she has any trouble when she gets older, we will take her to a specialist then.  Charles doesn’t ever want her to know.  I can’t talk any more about it, it gets me so upset.”  Ellen broke off crying.

“Ellen, this might be more than that.  My cousin, Jean……….” Ellen cut her mother off sharply.

“Now, Mother.  Charles is a doctor.  He says there’s no need borrowing trouble.  He’s not going to like it if we discuss this any more.  Please don’t mention Jean ever again, especially to Charles.” Ellen was clearly agitated at the mention of Jean.

“Ellen, I am not about to go around telling your business, but I am going to talk to Charles about this.  There might be a specialist she can see now.  If money is a problem…………….”

            “Mother,  please stay out of this.  Money is definitely NOT a problem.  Don’t you think Charles would move Heaven and Earth if he thought she needed to see another doctor?  How could you bring Jean up to me?   My head is just throbbing.  You and Cora will just have to manage while I rest. Please tell Charles I am going to take something for my headache and will see him when I get up.”

               “Cora, I need you to bring up my tonic and pull the curtains for me.  I feel like I am dying of headache. Dust a little talcum on my sheets and bring me that silk throw before you go.  You have to take the baby downstairs and keep the boys quiet.  Maybe you can take the baby out in the carriage and walk the boys over to play with Mrs. Barnes boys, but don’t let anybody else change her.  Do you understand?”

                “Yes, Miz Evans.  I knows how to take care of things.  You git some rest.”  Cora hurried to get out of the room.  She’d seen lots of headaches and tonic since little Charlotte was born.