Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Menagerie

Two of my 'essay/tales' are being published in a book from Temnous Publishing for 'Tales of the South.' The only stipulation is the stories be true. I thought you'd enjoy reading them, so here is #1...


One afternoon this summer I stepped into a jewelry store and ran into an acquaintance from high school. I was embarrassed she remembered me, calling out my name, because while she looked familiar, I couldn’t quite place where I knew her. But she had been in a different graduation class, and we had never known one another well, so I didn’t feel too awkward when she re-introduced herself. Besides, high school was more years ago now than I care to remember. We passed the time chatting about this and that, and then I told her about the ‘wild bunch.’ My husband and I live on Wye Mountain, in the countryside near Little Rock. We are caregivers to a small herd of mustangs across the road, having saved them from slaughter, and we starting a nonprofit sanctuary for their care. When I tell people this, they are invariably curious, and want to come see for themselves. When my old high school acquaintance heard about the mustangs, she let out a whoop -- “My son loves horses!” she trilled, “he’s absolutely crazy about them; we’d just love to come out!” She seemed so eager we consulted the calendar on the spot, and made a date for the first available afternoon.

I was raking leaves the afternoon the car pulled in the drive. ‘T’ jumped out, crying greetings, followed by a young boy and then yet another boy. I was a bit startled by the sudden on-rush of bodies pouring forth, and noticed more passengers still in the car. My mind flashed to those clown cars at the circus. “This is Braxton, my son, and his friend, Jack Russell. When Jack found out where we were going, he insisted on coming along.” “Hi,” I said, walking towards them. “Jack, you’re named after one of my favorite dogs.” I cringed when I heard the words come out of my mouth, but since Jack Russell stared at me blankly I assumed he didn’t know the breed.

“What’s that smell? I’m allergic to hay!” whined Braxton. ‘T’ whirled around towards him. “Stop it!” she said. “We’ve heard it driving out here four times now; you’re allergic, you’re allergic! You’ve had Benadryl, you’ll be fine!” she glanced towards me with an apologetic shrug. Just then, I noticed a woman climbing out of the driver’s side of the car. She trudged forward, glaring at me. I wondered briefly if I knew her, as she seemed to know – and disapprove -- of me – but her face didn’t ring any bells. “This is my friend, ‘T,’” said the first Ms. ‘T,’ “and she brought out her friend, Mimi, who wanted to get out of the nursing home for the afternoon,” said the first ‘T.’ By now I really was thinking this was a clown car. The passenger door cracked open and a wizened woman with a deficit of teeth popped her head out. “Hello,” I said, walking over to her side. “So glad you could join us…” “SHE CAN’T HEAR YOU!” shouted the second Ms. ‘T.’ I took a step backward. Mimi couldn’t walk, either, and a wheelchair was hauled out of the trunk. “Sorry about the gravel, but you can drive the car across the street to see the horses in the pasture,” I said. “That’s fine, I’ll just walk her around the corrals over here,” said ‘T-too’. Mimi settled into the wheelchair. She glanced towards ‘T’. “Who’re you?” she asked. “Why, you know me, Mimi, I rode out here with you,” replied ‘T.’ “You’re FAT,” Mimi said. ‘T’ stood shock-still. “I’m fat?” she echoed in a small voice.

“Do you have any other animals?” asked the boys. I told them we had three cats in the house, and they asked to see them. ‘T’ said she also wanted to see the house, so we left Mimi and T-squared on their walk to the corrals and went inside. Once in the house, however, the boys proceeded to run through the rooms, down the hallways, and into the master bedroom, racing after one of my now-terrified cats, which had been dozing peacefully on the couch in the living room. By the time ‘T’ and I walked back to the bedroom, all three cats were cornered on the screened porch, teeth bared and claws extended. Fearing for their safety, as well as the boy’s skin, I quickly suggested we go back outside.

By this time, my husband, Excy, had driven up in our 6-wheeler. “Hello, boys,” he called out, “Who wants to load a bale of hay and go see some horses?” “Oh, boy!” crowed Jack Russell. “I’m allergic to hay!” whined Braxton. Braxton eyed the 6-wheeler dolefully. “I wanna ride in the car with you, mom!” The two Ts climbed in the car where Mimi had been deposited, having seen the horses in the corrals over here and gotten back in the car while we were still inside the house. “I’ll just stay here,” I said weakly, glad of the opportunity to be alone again. Excy and Jack Russell led the way across the street and through the first gate. But the car had stopped and sat at the gate. And sat. And sat. And sat. Finally, Braxton and his mother climbed out of the car and strolled back towards the house. “I have ‘ta use the bathroom!” shouted Braxton. I gave them directions to the hall bathroom and continued raking yard debris. Fifteen minutes rolled by. Just as I was considering going in to see if they needed anything, they came out the front door. “We’re just like a circus!” ‘T’ sang out merrily as she and Braxton joined the others. “Uhm,” I replied.

They were across the street a long time. Then I saw the car exit the pasture lane and drive off. Guess they had to get back to town, I thought, not at all upset they were unable to say goodbye. Shortly afterwards, though, Excy drove up with Jack Russell, Braxton, and ‘T.’ “What happened?” I asked. “Mimi had some ‘health issues,’ and she didn’t want to miss dinner at the home. They serve at five,” said ‘T.’ “But don’t worry; she’ll be right back.” “Right back,” being a 45-minute trip one way to the edge of west Little Rock. I quickly calculated another hour-and-a-half of visiting. “Can we see your horses over here?” she asked. We walked over to the corrals by the house. Excy dropped the boys off, and without saying a word, drove down to his studio, where he disappeared for the rest of the visit. ‘T’ and I sat on the porch of the tack room and watched the boys toss a rubber ball from the horse corral back and forth, dirt rising like mushroom clouds that enveloped them in greater circles with each throw. “I’m thirsty!” said Braxton, as he walked over to grab a ‘Big Gulp’ cup out of ‘T’s hand. “Where’s your drink, mother?” he added sweetly, taking long sips through the straw. ‘T’ ignored the query.

“I’m bored,” wailed Jack Russell. “Can we go watch cartoons inside your house?” “No,” I said. “I just had the house cleaned yesterday, and ya’ll are filthy; besides, you freaked my cats out.” Both boys frowned. “What if we take our shoes off?” said Jack Russell. “What good would that do?” replied ‘T,’ saving me the trouble. “I don’t know,” he grumbled. “I’m sorry…” I began. “Don’t worry about it!” replied ‘T.’ “I make Braxton strip before he can come inside the house all the time!”

“Let’s go sit on the back terrace,” I suggested, leading the way through the yard. Braxton plopped on the chaise lounge beside us. “Look,” said ‘T,’ “I’ll give you $50 dollars if you catch a lizard – but you have to show it to me.” “Geez, ‘T,’” I said. “For $50 dollars I’ll find a lizard!” Jack Russell jumped off the terrace wall. “I’m gonna go find me $50 dollars,” he said, ambling off. Braxton didn’t move. Ten minutes later, Jack Russell was back. “Couldn’t find one,” he said, his voice trailing off weakly. “What??” I said. “I just saw three sitting here!” He went off to try again, this time with Braxton in tow. But they were soon back, having exhausted all possibilities of capturing an allusive lizard. “What’s in there?” asked Jack Russell, pointing to the goldfish pond, and he and Braxton, without waiting for a reply, were soon merrily trying to capture the fish with their hands, splashing and dislodging plants and the filter. Relieved they were briefly preoccupied, I didn’t bother telling them to stop, though I know the fish were mighty disturbed, and that Excy would be spending the early evening putting the plants and equipment to rights again.

Just then, ‘T-too’ drove up and joined us, and some the foursome were on their way back towards the car. “Thanks a lot,” said ‘T,’ as the boys huddled together and giggled, no-doubt complaining to each other about what a Nazi I had been about not allowing them back inside the house. Without saying a word to me, they climbed into the car. Without a further word by anybody, the car disappeared down the road. When I told the story to a friend, she laughed so hard she snorted. Wiping tears from her eyes, she said, “Braxton? Are you sure it was Braxton? Maybe his name is Brat-son.. You were a free afternoon’s entertainment!” I laughed, and made a mental note to find a different jewelry store to frequent.

11 comments:

Ms. A said...

I don't have patience for bratty kids. I commend you for not nailing them to a tree.

Belle said...

Wow! Great story and so funny, although it must have been painful at the time. It is amazing how people act sometimes.

Arkansas Patti said...

Congrats big time on being published. What a great story to read, not sure I would have liked living it.
That is why I won't join Facebook. I feel that if people are not in my life now, there is probably good reason.
Very well done.

Peruby said...

Oh my good god! How awful for you. What a sad, pathetic family/group of people.

Retired English Teacher said...

Oh my gosh, what an experience you had. Thanks for sharing the story you got published with us. Congrats, by the way.

Elliot MacLeod-Michael said...

First off, you're an excellent writer and this was a fabulously entertaining story, and secondly, congratulations!
+followed

ReformingGeek said...

I love your story. I wanted to slap those kids.....and the mom.

Bless your heart!

e said...

You had more patience and grace in this situation than I would have. I commend you for that and congratulate you on the publication of this story.

Lois said...

I've had 4 children but have to admit that I don't like them much. Incredible patience you showed that day! My sympathy to your cats. I remember having to rescue my cats many times in the past when visiting children went insane. Lois

Lois said...

Oh and I forgot to say how much husband and I enjoyed The Thin Man on Sat night. Clever humour, we're going to get another from the library soon! L

kden said...

Oh my, how patient you are! I see why she wasn't worth remembering in the first place. Great story, and thanks for stopping by my blog earlier today.