When I took command of my dog in the presence of men is when I knew I had turned a corner, when I rejected the men who didn’t understand dogs, worship dogs like I did, men who tried to be the alpha to my dog which was easy to do with my small submissive fluffy she-dog. Some men were weird, would treat her like she was their very own bitch. My little darling died of heart failure and after a period of grief, I began to take my vitamins and sharpen my nails. I got me a man dog. Muscled haunches, shoulders, and jaws, bite up to 743 pound-force per square inch, power on a choke collar, loyal to the death, command ready. I loved this dog as much as any other but in a different way. He required I command respect. He required I show who’s boss. Further, he would brook no suitor’s disrespect toward me, not even a hint. That low, rumbling thunder growl was my built-in red flag. The moment Joe shambled into my life, held his hand upside down for Brutus to sniff and approach unthreatened was the moment my life clicked into place.
I had only been in town a year when I was sent an invitation to the Michael Smith Club. I had no idea what it was, but when Julie found out, she was crushed. Each year, she thought she and her husband would become members but they never received an invite. If anyone deserved membership to anything, it was Julie. She was hilarious, well-read, generous. I was a bit of an introverted milquetoast by comparison, though I suspected it had to do with my husband’s lucrative career. I blew off the invitation, didn’t say anything to my husband. Bitches.
Now dogless, unemployed, and frail during the pandemic, Greta found something oddly comforting in the mechanized kitchen trashcan in that it registered her presence. On Halloween, the lid clamped down on her hand and pulled her inside. There was no dog to sound the alarm.
A mental health screening for an appointment required I say how many days of the week I experience each of the following:
I feel down.
I can’t concentrate.
My family is disappointed in me.
I think of suicide.
No one cared, so I said “none.” I was believed (or ignored).
The trees have planned their revolt against a country using them to string up men by the neck until they are dead, the burning cross somewhere nearby or else deep in the heart. It doesn’t take a hurricane to uproot the trees and send them thundering down. It takes injustice.
There was a time before the draining of Florida swampland when giant cypress towered over one hundred feet tall. In the late 19th century, cypress were felled for shingles. Daily I drive over a bridge spanning the headwaters of the Everglades: Shingle Creek. I hear cypress cousins bemoaning lost histories.
Inspired by the BBC select documentary The Pregnant Man, Amazon Prime Video
Respect the woman who became a man who became a woman to carry his wife’s baby and who became a man again. He has lived a thousand dreams of metamorphosis, possibilities curled up inside, waiting for change.
During the Depression, four men took life insurance policies out on drunkard Mike “The Durable.” They poisoned him, froze him, gave him a broken glass sandwich, hit him with a car. Finally, they killed him with carbon monoxide. They were scorched in the electric chair but Mike became a legend.
Swollen white molded strawberries like victims of Pompeii; forgotten raw brisket for marinating, bloodying the sink; neglected half-dry clothes mildewing the wash—the ghost of your mother tisks from the corner. You bristle. She used to say you thought highly of yourself. Now you know you are no one, nothing.
I have two terrible memories of elementary school. One was of poor Leah, large as a whale, falling off the roundabout and all of us flying past, kicking her while she cried. The other was a nightmare around this time of a tiny bird dying because we stoned it.
There was a sadness in Aunt Mary after they gave her the medications. Last fall, I had never seen her happier. She was to fly to Jamaica to marry her fiancé. Turns out, that was all a delusion.
“Why did they do that?” I asked Mama.
“I don’t know, baby.”
Down the center of the peninsular state, the tropical climate briefly withholds its sauna so a few exhausted leaves of august trees may die in their golden glory. Yet the fanfare is ignored amid the ravenous, eternal green, impatient heat, marauding winds—the energy of youth and growth and destruction.
Terramae makes peanut butter chocolate frogs for trick or treaters, but her boyfriend, a chef, uses them for a mole. She yells at him and he says “I wish you would just smoke one big doobie.” She makes a huge batch of frog edibles for his staff. Everyone gets fired.
In the early days of the circus, the 19th century, there was puritanical disapproval because “entertainments” were considered a sinful waste of time and the outfits that performers wore revealed too much. But the animal menagerie that was set up alongside the performance tent was a shrewd move to recruit an audience among the faithful. That is the setting of this mini-story which reveals a child’s dreams. Dreams, I think, are the lure and effect of the circus. (I realize I’m not writing of Halloween or writing spooky yet with the circus theme. I’ve become intrigued by the research.)
Henry Buckland, a religious man of New England, took his family to see the animal menagerie. But Little Henrietta broke away to glimpse a forbidden scene under the big top: the trapeze. She vowed to be a trapeze artist one day and wear a gorgeous, glittery outfit.
Having endured white torture overseas, the journalist returned home. White rooms, chalk floors, soundlessness—the sensory deprivation of his confinement had cast the spell of Lethe. He did not recognize family and yet he panicked at the prospect of being left alone.
Young men of the Ivy League fraternity hosted a “pig roast,” a competition to score high in bedding women. Tie breakers were won using the scale: The man who slept with the heaviest young lady reigned supreme. There was institutional punishment but heartfelt contrition of members was nowhere in evidence.
Tranquil, Jesus-loving hippies, seduced by the revolutionary music of a new religious movement, found themselves engaging in “flirty fishing” for the cause of God. “The Law of Love” superseded “The Law of Moses” said their guru. Years later, former cult members mourn lost innocence. Some don’t survive the shattering.
Coca Cola Vintage by Antonio Marín Segovia, flickr
Florida man, sociopathic genius, Mensa member, chemist, having silenced his neighbors’ barking dogs for good, laces the boisterous family’s soda bottles with thallium. Like the dogs, the mother loses her hair. Her liter are poisoned. The mother dies, but the Florida man is dismayed to find prison especially noisy.