I should’ve seen it coming.
Falling down the stairs at 4.2 weeks pregnant with my last child meant exactly one thing: every time I tried to get treatment for it, the doctors ran out of the room, shaking a bottle of Tylenol in my general direction, because OMFG the PREGNANT LADY we can’t TREAT the PREGNANT LADY – THINK OF THE LAWSUITS IF SOMETHING GOES WRONG WITH THE BAY-BEE!
(the ironic thing is that there was STILL something wrong with the fetus that had been written in her genetic soup well before I hurt my foot).
By the time I was able to get treatment for my foot, it was well past the “we can do shit about it,” and “WTF were your MD’s thinking?” which means precisely one (okay, two) things: I can, upon occasion, pull Das Boot from the closet and tromp around in it when it’s particularly narfy, and I can generally tell you when the atmospheric pressure is changing.
(in my best yokel accent) I gots a trick foot, y’all!
So that’s why I say I should’ve seen it coming.
Which is why I hadn’t bothered taking any precautions. One minute, I was cuddling up my sweet daughter who’d been tearfully showing me her blister – which had popped – and the next minute, the room was practically pitch black. We’d not bothered to turn on any lights, because, well, it was 11AM and summer in Chicago, which meant it was balls hot with a side of armpit-level humidity.
“Mama,” she asked, her arms woven upward and snake-like, entangled with my own, “why’s it nighttime?”
“Storms a-coming, Baby Girl,” I told her as I kissed her curls. She nestled into me like a baby for a moment, her sleep-filled eyes betraying her as she tried desperately to stay awake.
The wind began to howl, as I moved into the kitchen to light some candles, should the power go out. I could hear my eldest screaming his frustration at me into his pillow – I had put my foot down to him going out in the storm; it was too dangerous. He seemed to think, which he often does these days, that I was full of the bullshit.
I paused a moment at the back doors, staring outside at the wind whipping past, the sky full of bits of trees that had been caught up in the strong winds. I looked down and happily realized that I’d managed to put my sparkly red Uggs – at least I’d wind up in Kansas (or was it NOT Kansas? I can never be sure) should the winds opt to take my home. The streets filled with water as I heard a distinct thunk as one of the trees went down nearby.
Shit, I thought, that Ass Tree with it’s Ass Boner is going to come down on top of the house. God, I hope I look glamorous at my funeral. Shit – I forgot to write down my weird funeral demands and have them notarized – I hope my Pranksters will tell anyone who brings baby’s breath to my funeral to fuck off – I’m so not into filler flowers.
As abruptly as it began, the storm blew right on by us, on to torture our neighbors in the east – perhaps THEY’D wind up in Kansas; it became clear that we were going to be staying right here.
The sun, shining blithely through the trees as though our world hadn’t just been rocked, and made the puddles on the side of the road shimmer and sparkle; shining like diamonds, I noted happily, as I walked outside. My neighbors emerged from their houses one by one, each of us standing at the sidewalk, looking back at our homes, inspecting them for damage. Carefully, slowly, I heard the sound of a lone chainsaw come to life, as we began to rebuild our lives, branch by ever-loving branch.
Like we always do.
Because we must.
Last night, after a “particularly grueling day at the office” (read: being unable to determine a) the source of that smell and 2) why I felt like crying – I’d suppose the two were related), The Guy on my Couch and I took the kids out to the backyard, where they immediately began squalling about who got to swing on the swing. Apparently I need an additional swing since *all* of them are now able to swing by themselves; well, that or a kid-sized muzzle – I can’t be sure.
I sat down on my lawn chair after carefully inspecting it for earwigs (it’s Earwig Time in Chicago. I’d say we should throw a block party or at least dance to some funky fresh beats, but I have a phobia of earwigs, so I’d probably be hiding somewhere earwig-proofed), and prepared myself for some Tiny Motherfucking Tower.
Some time between “Mom, why can’t we fill up the pooooooool?” and “Mooooom, can we make cuppity-cakes so I can eat them?” the kids stopped, looked around, and began to shout, “MOM, MOM, MOM” as they piled off the swing set toward what appeared to be a moving bundle of feathers.
Hop, hop, hop, went The Baby Birdie. He hopped is ass right on over to me, and I felt my heart sink. Shit. A baby bird. I’m gonna have to call a wildlife rescue and shit, none of them are open.
I popped inside as The Guy on the Couch and the kids guarded the baby birdie (who I’d named Wilber) to call around to see what kinds of wildlife rehab facilities were around and/or open. Yes, apparently wildlife get addicted to drugs and have to go to rehab, too. Who the fuck knew?
Anyway, 5:30 in Chicago means “fuck off I’m outta here so I can sit in gridlock traffic,” so everywhere I called was not open, their numbers out of service, or, in the case of one particularly memorable instance, answered by a very angry Hispanic woman, who yelled at me in Spanish – the only words I understood were “puta” and “malo.”
I locked my cats, who were intently circling the back door, more awake and alert than I’d ever seen those fat bastards, in the bathroom and grabbed the nearest shoebox. Back to the yard I went, ready to rehab the FUCK outta that birdie. We put him in a box and took the box into the locked upstairs bathroom, waiting for the wildlife rehab to open. I knew I couldn’t live with myself if Wilbur was reduced to a carcass the next morning by the family of raccoons that live somewhere in the area, all of whom I’ve named “Walter.”
Kinda like George Foreman, but Walter.
Of course, having an unfamiliar delicious scent in the house, my cats were all, “where the fuck is that bird?” and “I smell bird, you malo puta.” In this way, I learned that Chloe, my brain-damaged cat (who you may recall from my tips for photoblogging post) is actually the smartest of them all. Goes to show you never can tell.
I happened to walk past the backyard patio on my way to watch some Numb3rs where I noted the two doves that live in my tilted pine tree, hovering above the patio area, clearly looking for something.
Their baby. The Mom and Dad were looking for their Wilbur.
My heart grew about 10,384 sizes.
I decided we’d take our chances and let Wilbur out to his family. I didn’t particularly relish being the home wrecker to a nest of birds who have the capacity to poo on my head every time I walk outside, and I knew if I went to a wildlife rehab, I’d walk out with three dogs and an abandoned grey parrot because that’s the way I roll*.
It took a couple of minutes of Wilbur sitting underneath my deck table before he realized that the shoe box was, in fact, gone, and that he was now, in fact, back outside. Mommy and Daddy bird sat on the fence nearby watching, as Wilbur made his way back to the tree; his tree, waddling and doing this weird thing with his neck that’s probably the sign of bird flu or something else sinister-sounding.
The last I saw him, he was sitting on the low branches of the pine tree, his mother about 2 feet above him, as she watched Wilbur climb back up toward home.
It took him some time, and a couple of falls back to the ground, but he made it home.
And as for me, I’m just glad I didn’t have to perform An Intervention with Wilbur – falling out of the tree was a wake-up call for him.
(I can’t wait to watch him grow)
(and if I go out back and he’s dead, I’ll never forgive myself)
It was a Friday night. It had to be a Friday night.
I know it was a Friday night because there was a big hollow place in the bottom of my stomach where my son was supposed to be. When you get pregnant, you don’t think about what’s going to happen years down the road. You think about the cute rattles and which brand of car seat and do I *really* need baby bottles when I’m going to nurse the wee bay-bee? You don’t think down the road apiece, when custody is split and parenting is a weekday thing, and what does my kid do on the weekend anyway (besides play World of Fucking Warcraft) but you can’t DO anything about it because, well, it’s not your turn to raise him.
You don’t think about that stuff. No. Not at all.
But there we were, two of the gloomiest people on the planet, trying to fill a hollow void that would remain empty until Sunday.
“Let’s grab some dinner,” Daver offered. I nodded, my heart wearing a sad face.
“Thai okay?” He asked, staring at my face intently, knowing that I probably wasn’t really okay.
“Sure,” I replied. “I love Thai food. Remind me not to get anything spicy. That shit BURNS coming back up.”
He nodded, the two of us both playing a role, our hearts not really in the game.
I waddled through the crisp January air and maneuvered myself into the passenger seat of the car, carefully buckling myself in. The moment the seatbelt hit my abdomen, my second son, another boy, began to furiously kick at it for daring to interfere with his space. I smiled a bit, rubbed my son’s head, nestled firmly in my ribcage, and said in my very best (worst) Adam Sandler voice: “He’s gonna be a soccer player.”
We both smiled a bit, each of us lost in our separate galaxy as we tried to not notice that the backseat was missing one occupant, our hands stiff and cold, as we tried to warm them against the sputtering warm air vents of our Pilot. It had been a bitter winter and there was no hint of spring on the horizon. Just dark cold days spent huddled under blankets.
We pulled up to the Thai place and I slithered out of the car, bumping my burgeoning gut on both the door and the car as I tried to maneuver my way onto the sidewalk and into the restaurant. I laughed a bit as I grabbed Daver’s hand, “Wow, it’s busy tonight,” I noted as we wandered through the front doors, “Mmm-hmmm,” Daver replied. “Glad we came when we did.”
The tiny Thai waitress who delighted in my belly every time I saw her (I learned through another waitress that the woman had been trying to get pregnant for many years) greeted us with a, “Hi there! How you doing? Table for two?”
I smiled and said yes, making my way through the maze of tables and trying not to bash someone into their Pad Thai with my belly, which I knew was no easy feat.
We made our way to a tiny cozy table against the wall, a deuce, and we sat, removing our jackets and shaking off the smell of cold. I knew what I wanted to eat, so I didn’t bother opening my menu to peruse the selections I could probably recite from heart if asked. I left the menu closed as Dave opened his, pretending he wasn’t going to order the same thing he always ordered – creatures of habit like to pretend we’re not sometimes – and I began to look around the dining room. People-watching is especially fun while at a restaurant. Maybe it’s the false sense of intimacy, I don’t know, but people tend to behave as they really are while dining out.
My eyes bounced from table to table as my son tap-danced on my bladder, making damn certain that I’d pay attention to that half-an-mL of pee currently sitting in there, until my eyes rested squarely upon another two-top who was…wait. They were both staring at ME!
She was sitting facing me, and he’d swiveled around to face me and they were both staring at me…except they weren’t really STARING so much as murdering me with their eyeballs. Four eyeballs trying to murder me.
I quickly turned my eyes back to my table. That couldn’t have really happened. I mean, I wasn’t DOING anything. It’s not like I’d come in with my pet monkey, Mr. Pinchey, and starting flinging poo around the place.
Shit, maybe I was under-dressed – I was so tired these days, I wouldn’t have put it past me to have gone out wearing a Shut Your Whore Mouth shirt, except this was before I had this blog or a shirt. No, I decided as I looked down, it wasn’t the shirt. And I’d managed to put on pants, which was a plus, so it wasn’t that my wobbly ass was hanging out.
Whew, I breathed a sigh of relief. I was appropriately dressed.
And it’s not like they could’ve known me from my other blog, Mushroom Printing. I’m pretty sure the only picture of me on that blog ever was this, which my co-blogger had put up as a representation of me:
They weren’t Internet People, so what the hell? What gives?
I felt chastised, like I’d done something wrong. The couple were still swiveled around, murdering me with their eyeballs as I tried to figure out WHY.
Finally, I whispered to Daver, “I think those people are staring at me.” Dave’s accustomed to playing the devil’s advocate, so I expected him to say something like, “they’re not staring at you murderously; they’re looking at the statue over your head and trying telekinesis.”
“WOAH,” he said, upon inspection. “What did you DO to them?”
“I have no idea,” I said, pretty shaken. I cross-indexed the Rolodex in my head to see if I could make a connection. Nope.
“I’ve never seen them before in my life,” I whispered in the crowded restaurant, now so acutely uncomfortable that I realized I was on the verge of vomiting. Everything (including air, sleep and pants) made me want to vomit, so this was an unsurprising reaction.
I dashed off to the bathroom to heave as Daver ordered for us.
I stood in front of the mirror as I washed my face, making sure my nose wasn’t bleeding and that I hadn’t gone out accidentally wearing a Swastika or something. I sturdied my legs which were quivering beneath me, ready to face this couple. I was going to find out why the hell they wanted to ruin my dinner. Maybe it was a case of mistaken identity that could be cleared up over some spring rolls or something.
Taking a deep breath, I marched back out into the dining room, veering sharply to the right to confront them.
They were gone.
And they took with them the answers to a puzzle I’ve been replaying in my head for years. I cannot, for the life of me, understand what had happened that night.
Six years later, I’m still confused. I still wonder what had happened to that couple; what made them so full of hate.
I’ll probably never know.
Has anything like this happened to you, Pranksters?