Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Busy Season

emails and holiday cards.
new touchscreen laptop.
new job description.
cumulative four point oh.
woot woot.
unwrapped presents.
snow boots.
scholarship applications.
writer's critique group.
light gazing.
family dinners.
dirty dishes.
shopping sprees.
homemade fudge.
beautiful faces.
food allergies.
cooking tips.
short story contest.
hot cocoa.
netflix marathons.
Green Eyes.

Friday, November 15, 2013

100 Words: David

The boy with the mohawk, tattoos, safety pin in his ear called yesterday from his cousin's cellphone. He's stuck in Nebraska, no ticket home.

He's called a few times, so I know he's desperate to get back where he belongs. Usually, I get a quick message on Facebook. “Hi, mom. I’m still alive!” When he calls, he knows I can hear the homesickness in his voice. I'm no rookie. This is a tactic to get money.

In my mind, he’ll appreciate being home much more if he has to work a little harder to get here.

It's a tough call.

Friday, October 11, 2013

That's Her.

Whoa! It's been nine days since I posted here!
That seems impossible, since I have been reading and writing like crazy.
I've been saving all my fiction for my creative writing class this semester.  I feel as if I'm depriving my Blogger friends of  the terrifically horrific "October Specials" I've scrawled in my notebooks, but it is for a good cause, I assure you. ("Good Cause" amounts to me getting an 'A' in writing class, and that's all there is to that.)

You may or may not know that October is the month of my mom. Today is her birthday, and twenty short days from now will be her "deathday." Most of the shorts I've written lately have centered around motherhood, but none of them have been about my mother. I wrote a little bit of a shocking impromptu story in class the other night, and now my entire class probably thinks my mom was some horrible bitch who didn't love me, but that's not true. (She loved me.)

You want to know a little secret about our family? We like purple spiders. They mean love.

When my mom was alive, she would watch that TV show "Crossing Over, with John Edwards." In the intro, he explained that his dead mother would communicate her love for him with white birds. My mom decided our talisman would be purple spiders. (This decision had something to do with her sister and thrift store shopping, but that is another story.) So now, every time I see a purple spider, I think of my mom. (Did she know ahead of time that she would die on Halloween--a time of the year when purple spiders seem to be everywhere?)

I remember when she was in the hospital. Toward the end I was spending all my spare time camped out in her room. She tried to stay awake, but she slept most of the time. For some reason, I felt like I needed to be there for every waking moment. I guess I was trying to hold on to her as much as possible. I knew I'd have to let her go eventually, but I was going to soak up every tidbit of time I could get with her. She was dying, there was no denying that, but I'd be damned if I was going to sit back and wait for a phone call from some disembodied voice of some indifferent doctor. I needed to be there with her.

One day, I went down to the gift shop for a little while to stretch my legs and take in some different scenery. They had a string of the large, scary-looking purple spiders on the clearance rack. I snatched them and took them up to her room. Carefully, while she was sleeping, I arranged them so it seemed the spiders were crawling across her feet.

The nurse accused me of wanting to kill her with a heart attack, but my mom smiled when she opened her eyes and saw them.

"So you like spiders?" the nurse asked, dryly.

"I like purple ones," my mom said with a smile and then slipped back into sleep.

In the months after her passing, we would actively search for the purple spiders. We'd see them, and one of us would shout it out, as if we'd come across some rare artifact never seen before by human eyes. The fact is, there are more of them around than I realized. They're on greeting cards and in cartoons and on posters. For a while, it seemed we couldn't get away from them. Even our friends started bringing them to us in the form of jewelry and hair clips and decorative knick-knacks and what-nots. There was a huge, fuzzy, bendable spider perched in the back dash of my car for about a year. (His name was Hector, and I have no idea where he went. I only know that he's gone.)

Nowadays, we're not so quick to scoop up the spiders when we see them. We just smile to ourselves and move on with life, knowing that my mom is out there, somewhere, still loving us. I like to think it's the completely unexpected sightings that are truly messages from her. The ones that throw me off a little, you know? Like that purple car I saw on Georgia Street, the one called a Spyder.

That's my mom. That's love.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Look Away, Ye Nosy Bosses

It's too bad I can't talk very much about the politics at my job. I'd have a book-length blog-post, and you'd be riveted to the screen, laughing your asses off about the crap I have to put up with most of the time.

I'd tell you how I nearly got fired a couple of weeks ago because a little old lady complained that I was physically aggressive with her (thank Big Brother for video cameras). I'd tell you how the same customer came in a week later and complained to me that one of the other workers was the rudest man she'd ever met (even though he wasn't rude, not even a little bit).

You'd hear all about how one of the assistants was sent home for sleeping in the meat cooler, and later returned with a "doctor's note" stating that he should be excused from remaining in a state of wakefulness while working in the meat market, where we use knives and saws all day.

I'd tell you all about how one assistant manager accused another assistant manager of popping hydros all day, and that's why he was able to work so fast (even though hydros are downers?).

I'd tell you so-and-so's wife calls the store every day to make sure her husband is actually at work, and not somewhere else, messin' around with someone else. (My personal philosophy is that any man who needs to be kept on a leash isn't worth keeping, but to each her own, right?)

I'd tell you how it's best to have an escape plan if you ever find yourself in conversation with a certain someone who is known for talking for forty-five minutes without saying anything of consequence whatsoever.

I'd tell you all the nicknames we give to the regular customers. Rug-man, Juan Valdez, The Red Baron, Nosy Rosie and Spot.

I'd tell you about the guy who kept sending nudie pics of himself to all the girls, even the lesbians, because he was pretty sure he could turn 'em straight.

I'd tell you about the infamous five-dollar-foot-long, and you'd spit coffee through your nose, because that shit is hilarious.

I tell you who does a SPOT ON impression of the big boss, because what kind of boss would he be if we didn't do impressions of him every once in a while?

Maybe I should write the stories anyway. One day, when I've escaped the company, and there's no threat of backlash, I'll publish those embarrassing, revealing, ridiculous sagas, and your sides will ache from all the guffawing, and you'll beg for more, and you'll read them aloud to your friends around the lunch table at your jobs where you wish you could talk about work politics.

But for now, I suppose I'll have to keep them hidden away, and you'll just have to wonder what the hell I meant by "five-dollar-foot-long."

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

One Table Over: I-HOP

He has his food. He has his food, and he's almost finished eating. That is how long he's had his food.

I got here first, but he got a waitress before I got a waitress. He got his drink
and his food, and, now that I'm looking, he's gotten his check as well!

I got a cup of coffee.

I ordered some chicken strips, but I haven't seen them. Neither have I seen the perky blond waitress who took my order.

My menu is still sitting on the edge of the table awaiting removal.

I've checked Facebook and Blogger and started browsing Pinterest, and he's over there trying to decide how much tip to leave.

Do you know what they do at I-HOP? They leave a thermal pitcher full of coffee at your table just in case you drain your cup before you see your waitress again. I've had three cups of coffee.

Oh, yippee. There's my waitress. She's coming up the aisle. She sees me looking, but she avoids my eyes. And there she goes...

He's gone. His table has been cleared and wiped and reseated. she is! With a plate of...(drum roll, please)...somebody else's food! Oh, honey, that's not mine. I ordered chicken strips. (You did?) uh huh...

The new folks over there are passing the time telling lame jokes as they nibble their appetizer.

A three-legged dog walks into a bar and says, "I'm lookin' for the man who shot my paw."

Hahaha! Hilarious.

How does a man on the moon cut his hair? Eclipse it!

Wait. I got one.

Where does a one-legged man work?


(I crack me up.)

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Match the Symbols to Win the Prize

Matthew, Slave #4, moved out, yet again, and I am alone in the house.

Empty nest. (Empty refrigerator, empty closet, empty garage...)

No kids, no grandkids, no roommate, no lover. (Nobody to wash the dishes or mow the lawn either, 'cause you know I ain't doin' that shit.)

All alone (at long last). To celebrate, I hauled all the couch pillows out of the closet and put them back on the couches, just so, and there they have remained, because there are no hoards of teenagers moving things to the side to make room for popcorn and PS3s.

The place is a mess, and it's desperate for some attention, but my priorities are elsewhere. I'm supposed to be writing in my journal for my Creative Writing class. My Dystopian Lit professor wants us to be writing a chapter of "fan-fiction" for Orwell's Animal Farm. I need to read three chapters of U.S. Government, and I need to study for my Spanish test that is taking place today.

On top of that, I need to educate myself about the wonders of dry, aged, prime beef, because my job description may finally be changing at work. I heard a rumor that I might have to buy a knife. (They're going to let me play with the knives, people. Don't try to say you haven't been warned.)

Here's a dilemma. Yesterday, I found some trash on the floor at work. I slipped it into my pocket, because it wasn't nasty, just a slip of paper-like stuff that didn't belong on the floor. Hours later, at home, I pulled it out of my pocket and realized it was a winning scratch-off lottery ticket. FIFTY BUCKS.

 I called the manager to see if anybody had reported it to Lost and Found, but, to his knowledge nobody had. Now I'm stuck here with Bad Karma on my hands, knowing that some poor soul is out fifty bucks because I was too stupid to realize what it was when I saw it lying there on the floor. I need to find a place for it. I need to give it back out to the universe in the form of Good Karma, but I'm not quite sure how to go about it.

Should I give it all to one person? Or should I split it up into two, or maybe five little prizes for the first people I see today? Maybe I'll give it all to the clerk who cashes the ticket for me? Maybe I'll give it as a tip to a waitress somewhere? AUUGGHH!!! There are so many people who would truly benefit if they just had fifty extra bucks in their pocket. (I know the feeling. I used to be one of those people.)

Now I'm on the other side of that fifty bucks, and I have no idea how to behave.

It doesn't matter right now, though, because I have to study for that Spanish test...right after I mow the lawn.

Additional note: $20 to the clerk who cashed the ticket. (I didn't watch her expression. I just walked away.)
 $20 to the guy with a bucket on Bell Street collecting for Human Trafficking Prevention.$10 to St. Jude's Children's Hospital when I ate lunch at Chili's.

Friday, August 30, 2013

If I Can't Have Vonnegut...

Twenty novels, twenty students.

Pick one, she said, and hands started shooting up all over the classroom as students began shouting out their preferences. I wasn't quick enough to get Cat's Cradle or The Giver, so I snagged The Stand.
One of the other students had already scoffed at it, claiming it was too long and wasn't the best Stephen King choice for a Dystopian Lit class. I agreed with him, thinking The Long Walk would have been a wonderful choice, but he countered with The Gunslinger. I still think I'm right, but it doesn't matter because neither of those books are on the list.

He opted for The Stand in the end, not realizing I'd beaten him to it, and I felt a little childish  popping off and saying, "Too late. I already got it, so HA!"

I've already read The Stand about five times, maybe more. I could write a twenty page analytical paper on it right now without ever opening the book or looking up critical research, but those aren't the terms. Dr. Dodson wants four pages, typed, double spaced with at least two outside critical research sources. Darn those college professors with their ethical research and their proper MLA style.

I pulled my old paperback copy off the bookshelf. It's like saying hello to an old friend. I first read this book when I was pregnant with my third child, Jacob. I was a shift manager at McDonald's and I was temporarily separated from the kids' dad. I had that two bedroom apartment with the bright red carpeting and the swamp cooler that had to be manually drenched with a water hose because the pump was broken. I don't know how I found the time to read this enormous brick of a book with a full-time job and two toddlers running around my swollen feet, but I did. And then after that, I found time to read it again and again and again. I guess I liked it.

This copy has been used and abused, and today I have discovered why I shelfed it and forgot about it. It's covered with candle wax on one side, is stained by a coffee spill on about thirty pages near the middle, and the last three pages have been ripped halfway out. The spine is broken; it's dog-eared, full of margin notes, and it smells slightly of oranges. (I don't have an explanation for that last thing. Maybe the candle wax is scented?)

Sadly, I realize I'm going to have to get a new copy. I've opted to get dressed and drive myself to the bookstore rather than to click through Amazon to have one conveniently delivered to my door. As I slide my old friend back into his home on the bookshelf, I understand that he should not be so easily or nonchalantly replaced.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The only serious writing I'm going to get done this morning:

A Family Drama, written especially for Lyric Cole:

The house had been declared an official  disaster zone once the infamous Lyric Cole had spent a solid hour in it. Grandma Nessa was frustrated with the situation, but not necessarily intolerant. She was, after all, the grandmother and (luckily for everybody involved) not the mother.

Go Fish cards had been scattered across the living room floor, under the couches, and well into the kitchen. Tiny, green, army men had fortified the reading nook, and bits of an abandoned PB&J were finding comfort in the cozy spaces between bare toes.

Lyric kept asking whether or not Little Cousin Damon was going to show up that day, claiming there was nothing to do. He needed a playmate. Grandma Nessa had a sneaky suspicion that if Damon had dared to make an appearance, Lyric would have found a way to blame that tornadic mess on him.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Dream: There Won't Be Clean Panties in Hell

We knew we were dead. You and I had been standing in line for a hundred and fifty-seven years at the checkpoint where the dead are admitted to the non-living world .  You busied yourself smoking cigarettes, and I busied myself wondering about the children- yours and mine, both.

Some stowaways from the living world were always trying to sneak in, so everybody had to be looked over and checked off the list before they could enjoy one moment of the afterlife. I complained that it seemed to be taking forever, and somebody up ahead warned me against advertising those types of opinions. If the souls in charge heard me, they'd bump me to the back of the line, and I'd have to take you with me, since you were my "afterlife buddy," whatever that meant.

Once we were approved, we began to understand the differences we were facing. We had our bodies and our personalities, but little else. The living would fade in and out. We might see a glimpse of them at the strangest moments, but for the most part, they remained obscure.

I have an eccentricity about clean underwear. I must have them at all times. Even in the living days, I spent far too much money maintaining a certain level of newness in my panty drawer. The problem with the non-living world is that you have to scavenge for the items you want to hold on to. New panties...not easily found.

You followed me around, teasing me about my craziness, but I located a chest of drawers, and the top drawer was chock full of  pressed, white bikinis. I thought I had hit the motherload, but as I pulled them out, I noticed a stain on each and every pair. I tossed each to the side, and when I reached the bottom of the drawer I turned to you and declared that we must be in Hell.

"We're not in Hell," you insisted, your Green Eyes twinkling. "Not if we're together."

My heart started beating in my chest, and I had to look away from you to hide my face and the realization that nobody had ever said anything so sweet to me until just that moment. I collected myself and thanked God that he had stuck me with you for the duration of Eternity, but even in Eternity, I couldn't openly commit to an attachment to you.

"Well then... I must be in Hell," I told you matter-of-factly, pointing to myself. For a half a second, I wanted to retract those words, but you being you, they slid right off. No worries.

"You're so full of shit," you told me as you spun me into your arms. "You know you're loving this."

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Ten Pounds

I went to Walmart and bought one of those digital scales so I could weigh myself, get depressed, then eat my weight in ice cream. (Yes, I can spell "counter-intuitive" just fine, thank you.)

Truth be told, I think the scale might be defective. I've been staring at the picture on the box, and there seems to be a discrepancy. The digital display in the picture doesn't match the one on my scale at all.

I need to quit buying cheap shit at Walmart.

I need to quit going there ever.

The last time I went there, I was accosted by the seventy-year-old, one-armed door greeter. I defended myself by shoving him backward and telling him if he touched me again, he was going to draw back a bloody stump. (That's probably how he lost that other arm to begin with. Some people just don't learn.)

side note: I felt like an idiot later, pushing a helpless, little, old man around, but seriously, he needs to keeps his hand off me.

Did you know that Walmart doesn't sell tiramisu? They don't even sell everything to make tiramisu. I had to go to the liquor store and spend twenty bucks on coffee liqueur. (and also vodka, because, let's face it, there's going to be some Kahlua left over, so we might as well make bulldogs, right?)

 Every time I go to the liquor store (and it really doesn't matter which one) I see somebody I know. Every time! It's  awesome how they giggle and snort when I try to convince them I'm just making a cake.

(They know me too well.)

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Five minutes earlier...

One glance out the window had me straying outdoors to take in the bold view of the western sky. The afternoon sun cast an ethereal glow across every surface, slipping over puddles and crawling up fences. The varying greens and yellows of trees and grass seemed enhanced and alive. Surreal.
I stepped back into the house just long enough to grab my camera for a quick snapshot of this unbelievably cartoon-like world, but by the time I returned the sky had deepened to a cold slate blue. The clouds upon clouds raced one another across the expanse. Gusts of chilled wind blew me backward, perhaps in warning, but I persevered to the end of my driveway.
The black silhouettes of three small birds above me caught my eye. Their little wings flapped with such intensity against the force of the wind, but they remained stationary. Eventually they gave in and swooped sideways and then back around to return to some safe, dry place nowhere near their intended destination.
The white cracks of lightning and simultaneous rumble of thunder reverberated just under my skin. Something omniscient hovered over me in the form of a darkened raincloud. I looked to the sky and thought of demons.
Whether or not they were there, whether or not they intended to have me for a light afternoon snack, I did not know, nor was I about to stick around to find out. I headed straight for the house, calmly, so as not to attract their attention. Strong, insistent gusts pushed me over the threshold. As soon as I slammed the door, they began knocking on the other side.
Tap. Tap. Tap.
Or maybe it was just an ordinary, violent, summer storm.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Dream: Heavy

I guess something had happened between us, something had bonded us together. We were spending all our time doing the mundane things with each other, driving through traffic, grocery shopping, eating, reading-- your general passing of life, and dragging the kids along, which somehow made it seem like we were all united as a family.

You, me, and all the kids.

But not really all the kids. Just your kids and my kids crossing over and matching and switching ages. My two boys who have the same names as your two boys were my boys, but they were the same age as your boys, and they were your boys in the dream, not mine. And then my other two were babies again, instead of being grown kiddos like they really are. And for some reason, that made more sense than what goes on in our real lives, because I always feel like I'm just starting out, and I haven't had enough experience to know anything about parenting.

But, then again, do any of us have any experience parenting before we become parents? Of course not.

We're all just kind of "winging it."

So there we were, in the grocery store, moving down the aisle of the store together with the kids in tow. You were holding my hand, and I kept looking down at our joined hands in bewilderment.

Those other girls were flirting with you, the way they always do, and you were dismissing them, the way you always do. You're too cool, or too busy, or too bored for the flirts.

But they're so assertive, and I'm rolling my eyes, because I know these girls are knocking on a firmly bolted door. You smiled at me and whispered, "I'm going to tell them."

And I said, "Tell them what?"

You turned with your hands held up to get their attention and announced to the entire store that we had gotten married.


I didn't remember getting married, so I tried to deny these horrendous allegations. You looked into my eyes with your bewitching eyes and smiled that mesmerizing little smile, insisting that we were indeed wedded.

The ring on my finger was your proof, and suddenly, I couldn't even lift my hand from the massive weight of a wedding ring on the left finger, right where it really shouldn't have been.

When the hell did that happen? Who put that thing there, and why did I agree to it?

Assuming that I did, that is.

Even in my waking state, even in the clear light of day, I say you must have tricked me into it somehow...

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Hip Stir

This was the plan:

I was going to grasp my new found (if only temporary) freedom, jump in the car and go see the fam bam up in Dumas. After a day of surprising folks who might not necessarily want to shift their Sunday plans just for me, I was going to head over to New Mexico and check out some of the scenery there. I've got a couple of friends over there who might've sat with me for a drink or two, and then I was going to go from there in no specific direction-just blow with the breeze, you know?

My school work is all caught up, and I don't have to go back to work for another week. I haven't had two minutes to breathe for a solid year, so I intended to enjoy this particular vacation as if it were the only one I'll ever have.

But of course, as Robbie Grey's always reminding me, if you'd like to make your deity laugh, just make plans.

This is what happened:

I got the call yesterday afternoon. Grandma (the one in Dumas, the one I was planning to visit today) broke her damn hip.
So the hospital there decided to send her here to Amarillo for hip replacement surgery.
So that's what we're doing now.
Waiting for the surgery.

I just live a couple of blocks from here, so I hopped in the car and came right over. Aunt Brenda's here, taking care of things as usual, because she's the one in that immediate family who does those things. She's a real trooper, but she's starting her Pre-K summer school class tomorrow, so somebody else is going to have to step in for the morning shift.

That would be me, because I'm so handy living here, and I'm the one in my immediate family who does those kinds of things. I don't really mind. It's not like I had any plans or anything.

I imagine my Great Aunt Sherry will make it over here some time tomorrow, and my cousin Christy will also make an appearance. She's cool like that. I saw my uncles yesterday in the ER for a few minutes, and my cousin James is the one who let me know which hospital to invade.

I guess I'm getting the family visits after all.

I just wish I had a margarita too.

Friday, July 5, 2013


I think I deleted one picture too many. My photo has disappeared from comments, and therefore, in the sadness of my lonely imagination, I must have disappeared as well. I waved some magic cyber wand, chanted a quiet invisibilty spell, and slipped away without a peep.

Or at least my picture did.

There's a certain anxiety that emerges when I see myself displayed as a blocky negative sign. What does that really mean, anyway? Do I take away instead of giving? Am I losing? I put one of the old photos back up, just in case you folks forgot what I don't actually look like.

Of course, it is me in the pic, but it's misleading. I'm usually make up free, sporting a frumpy mess of a bun and wearing jammies. Glamor Girl, all the way.

I didn't quit my job...yet.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Don't read this. I've ranted.

Today, I decided to quit my job.

Actually, no. I just lied to you. Today, I decided that I can no longer go on in life having any respect for myself if I continue working in that noisy, testosterone-scented, caveman-filled, bad-attitude cesspool of a cutting room.

Not that I hate my job. I rather like my job. It keeps me mobile, and I like doing hard work, and the guys are pretty funny most of the time. Actually, most of the guys are pretty great almost all of the time. We got a couple of bad apples, but it's nothinng I haven't been able to handle up until now.

There's lots of reasons for me to stay: my sweet morning shift, my four weeks of vacation, my eighty hours of personal time, medical, dental, vision, 401k. Need I go on?

But sometimes the guys are also pushy, mean, and disrespectful, which makes me want to be pushy, mean and disrespectful right back. Well of course I have to be the best at everything that I do, on account of that competitive streak I have, so naturally, I become the pushiest, meanest, disrespectfullest bitch in all the land!

And that's not who I want to be.

I want to be pleasant,  and want to be liked by people, and I want to be able to leave my job with some sense of empathy for the rest of the human race. I want to be part of the world that celebrates things, anything at all, even if it's just that I made it through another day.

I can't do that these days. I leave work every day in the most furious rush to get home, slam the door and forget about everybody I came in contact with all day. BECAUSE THEY ALL SUCK ALL OF THE TIME!

(do you see how I get caught up in a continuous loop? "They're cool, we get along--->that guy was rude---->They're all horrible jackasses---->I hate everyone!---> nah, it's not that bad--->That one guy's okay. We get along.")

So when my boss came back from vacation today, I told him I think it's time to redefine my position with the company. There are many different positions I could handle, but I don't think he's taking me very seriously.

I might have to just quit my job.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Eye Contact

She had that look. I've seen it before-shoulders hunched, arms crossed over her chest with a plastic shopping basket hanging awkwardly off her elbow. She was scanning the pork counter for good deals, and I was stocking nearby. I tried not to pay attention, but some internal instinct drew me to her.

She reached a slender hand toward a thrifted package, and then the husband walked up behind her.

Another person might have believed he was loving and kind, but I could see the grip he had on the back of her neck- so casual, yet so firm. She cringed, not so much that it would be noticeable, but I noticed.

I've been there before. I've been the one under that icy grasp (not his, but someone like him). I know that feeling of helplessness and fear. I know that trick he's playing, making everything seem cozy and sweet.

I suppose I blend into the scenery at my meat counter. He didn't seem to notice me. Either I am invisible, or he is not threatened by the presence of a little girl like me. He was smiling, but his stinging words defied the expression on his face.

"You buy that fucking pork, and I will shove it down your throat whole, bone and all."

She gulped and withdrew her hand. He patted her back in that loving manner and stepped away, whistling.

I moved down the counter and locked eyes with her. A wordless exchange between us revealed a bond that neither of us wanted to claim, but couldn't deny. That kind of sisterhood is never welcome, but sometimes survival and sanity depend on it.  There are others like me. I am not alone.

She moved away from the counter with a silent nod, and I haven't seen her since.

Friday, June 7, 2013

One Table Over: Party at the Playground

            “Hey ya’ll!”  A skinny, blond woman waves cheerfully to the small party gathered at the covered picnic tables.  She makes her way across the grass from the parking lot. The folks in the group look up in unison but do not reply. They look back at one another and murmur amongst themselves. “I didn’t think I’d ever find ya’ll!” she hollers to them as she approaches. She’s walking determinedly, her flip-flops flapping, her jaw yapping. She pushes her sunglasses to the top of her frizzy, bleach blond head in a well-practiced move so they can get a better look at her, as if they have forgotten who she is.
            They are silent, immobile, and ashen.
            One brave soul breaks away from the group and moves to block her. He is the patriarch of this small family, if that’s what they are. He alone will protect them if he has to. He holds his hands up, signaling her to stop where she is.
            “You can’t be here, Rhonda,” he states boldly.
            Her jaw drops, almost comically. She stops walking and clutches a bony hand to her freckled chest. “What?” she gasps. “Why not?” She shifts the bag over her shoulder to a more comfortable position. The strap of her hot pink tank top falls casually off her shoulder.
            “One hundred yards, Rhonda,” he says pointedly.
            “But it’s her birthday!” she squeals. “You won’t keep me away!”
            “One hundred yards,” he reiterates. She stomps her foot like a child and stands her ground. Another member of the group, a young woman with nothing but a camera approaches them. She holds the camera up, a poor shield, but a powerful weapon.
            “What the hell are you doing, Amanda?” the blonde demands to know. Receiving no answer, she tries to swipe the camera away, but the man steps in her path. She huffs and retreats a few feet. She adjusts herself as she thinks of her next move and then reaches into her bag. When she pulls something out, every person in the group gasps and sinks to the ground to avoid the imaginary spray of bullets.        
            “Aw, COME ON!” the woman howls, exaggerating her dismay. “Do you really think I’d bring a gun to a birthday party?” She throws a small wrapped package on the grass at the man’s feet. “THERE!” she screams. “I hope she likes it, ‘cause I spent all my money gettin’ it for her!”
            She turns and stomps away, but she does not leave the parking lot. She props herself up on the hood of her dented Cadillac and smokes a cigarette. As she watches them, they pack up their party and grumble. When they approach the parking lot, she hops off the hood and backs away, giving them their space. They try to ignore her, but she throws a lit cigarette toward them as they climb into their van. The woman named Amanda starts to say something, but the man pulls her by the elbow into the van. They drive away slowly, leaving the blonde alone with her fury.
            She never goes back for the package in the grass.