Category Archives: Everyday Miracles
When every single one just wants a little tiny bit more then what I am offering… Read the rest of this entry
When I was small there was a farm next door to the house where I spent every other weekend, alternating holidays and one terrifying summer. That farm had aggressive geese, pigs, a large barn where a mishap on a rope swing landed me with a large sliver in my ass, and horses. I remember riding with the kids over there, always bareback because the tack was too much for us to wrestle at 7 years old. Read the rest of this entry
One of my grandfathers was the sheriff of Tacoma. He was stern, awnry or cruel depending on who you talked to. Folks tried to kill him or at least scare him in a drive-by shooting at his home in the early sixties. My mother was the only person downstairs and to this day won’t sit with her back to a window. My grandpa was not scared or dead.
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I am 28 years old and I sleep with a stuffed animal. Fortunately, I don’t have trouble sleeping without him, like if I am sleeping elsewhere or if there is an actual four year old in the house that needs him. I don’t know if he is restless when I am away, we have never talked about it.
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The feeling of being loved or not being loved is not circumstantial.
I can feel alone anywhere in the world, in any crowd, in any set of eyes or arms.
Most of the love that has been here for me in my life has not been translatable. I haven’t received it, haven’t felt it or believed in it. I am having specific kinds of memories lately, sudden flashes of times when people have been showing me they loved me and I have missed the ball completely.
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Was it the skunk spraying my dog or the dog chasing the skunk that saved my life that night?
The dreams were awful under that bridge.
We had been hitchhiking since dawn out of Portland. We were headed east, headed for Denver, for rivers and inter tubes and 40’s getting warm too fast like they aught to in the summer but never do in Washington. We barely made it 40 miles and I swear we walked most of it.
We were at four corners. Four corners is a place out of place. You can find it in any state, several times some of the time. A place where two freeways cross each other and a truck stop is sitting at each cardinal point. It’s a place made by concrete and named for how square it is. There are other types of four corners but this one is the most commonly known to many a modern american.
It had long since grown dark. We bought a couple of beers with a pile of coins that the cashier didn’t bother counting. That was good for us because it included some Canadian and at least one chucky cheese token, may have also been where my lucky bingo chip ended up.
We walked south down the smallest road leading out of there. We were looking for a nice bush, nothing fancy, just cozy. We saw a string of lights outlining a bridge not to far down the way.
Under it we found nothing too strange. There was a fire pit with the last occupants empties in it. There was a line of bushes where water used to be; the brush was thick past there. We drank and rolled out our beds. My dog, Skrap, was tied to my backpack. It wasn’t heavy enough to stop him but it slowed him to just less then my speed. This was important if a cop was to come down. I agree that it is very rude to wake people up but, in my dogs’ best interest, I still had to be able to catch him before he mauled an officer of the law.
I fell right to sleep.
The sleep was strange; something was strange.
There was something on top of me in my dream, something choking me, my eyes were open but I could not see anything but the bottom of the bridge. I couldn’t breathe. I was panicked.
I woke to Skrap taking off running faster than ever into the bushes. He was hollering loud, the kind that is reserved for real danger. The leash snapped and he was gone. My partner was sitting up, scared. I was aware of this all happening before I sat up because I couldn’t move for a little too long. I was awake but my body wasn’t responding to me telling it to get up.
He turned to me and shook me and with that stimulation my connectors kicked back in. I sat up. He said we should get out of there. I said why. The dream was already fading. He said we should get out of there.
I yelled for Skrap so much. We could hear him tearing through the bushes but he was not listening. My friend was shaken up. I was very groggy. I tried to convince him we should go back to sleep. Skrap would leave whatever it was alone eventually and we could leave at first light.
My friend was pale.
I started to lie down again but Skrap came back. He had been skunked. Fuck. There was no sleeping in that smell. Even under an entire bridge it was suffocating. Not to mention the fact that we would never get a ride farther east with him like that.
We packed it up and walked back to the gas stations. We had to go back to Portland and stick Skrap in a vat of tomato juice or something. There was still something going on with my friend but he was not saying anything to me. He found a guy headed back west willing to put us in the back of his open pick up truck. The sun came up in the gorge as we rode snuggled in our sleeping bags. Bless him; he dropped us right on the doorstep of the Garfield House.
We put Skrap in the tub. There was no tomato juice but there was ten years worth of roommates leaving half full bottles of smelly shampoo. We covered him in everything. By the end of it he still smelled like a skunks ass but more like an elite skunks ass.
We stayed another night. We went to a party with all kinds of cocktails. We drank a glass of water between each of the twelve we both drank. We were pretending that would help us still get an early start.
He told me about the dream his third or fourth drink in. He had a dream that he could not tell was a dream, everything was just like it was when we went to sleep except in this dream he woke up and where I had been was only a small pool of something like water. He said it was the scariest dream he ever didn’t know he was dreaming and that is when Skrap woke him up.
The next day we left, midday and we got a few very smooth, very long rides and we were in Denver in no time.
I don’t want to know what was there besides the three of us.
Thank you Skrap. Thank you skunk. Thank you for every time a person is protected before they know well enough to protect themselves.
Whidbey Island until the End
Somewhere in there Otay had reached sexual maturity and night time cages became more necessary when we were outside or in dilapidated houses that were less like inside than a tarp. His testicles, which were as big as his torso called him to wander in a way he was less likely to return from.
We moved to Whidbey Island in the spring. Otay met a lot of goats and passed the time tearing keys off laptops that were left open and unattended. Sometimes he could get one off while a person was just a few steps away from their computer.
We hopped around to Olympia a little, and sometimes stayed over in Port Townsend, me in a bed in the back of a box truck and him leaving pee trails on the front seats.
These were the days when he took up a rather curious hobby of chasing Skrap (or any other dog I trusted not to eat him) and trying to nibble at their penises. He was dedicated and would not give up the chase until such time as I took pity on my patient dog and picked up Otay and tucked him in my shirt. Tucking Otay in my shirt was like putting a towel over a birdcage and he would go right to sleep.
Otay lived nights in a condo built from an old rabbit hutch so that Skrap could rest a few hours in the evening unmolested.
When we moved back to Olympia it was summer. We bounced around for a hot minute and then moved into a little house made of windows in a luscious backyard. It was a place I had seen in my dreams and not surprising to me that it showed up physically.
Otay took no time finding an escape under a gardening drawer; at least I think that was where the hole was. Truth be told it was months of me plugging up holes I though were ‘the one’. Eventually he could only be off me when I was right there and even then sometimes he would disappear and materialize outside in the tall grass.
Once he escaped for less than five minutes but I found him covered in leaves as though he had fashioned himself clothes chewing on the bark of a tree he was clinging to. It was as though he had been on his own, surviving in the wild for months. This was Otays only foray into re-wilding.
In October that year I put together an art instillation at a hall just outside of town. My dear friend watched Otay for a few days so I could work around the clock without him leaping off of ladders or chasing raccoons to try to taste their junk.
That was our first time apart. I would not have thought it was possible but when I would walk into a room after being separated from him for any length of time he would scamper to me as fast as his little legs would go, or he would sneeze to me where he was until I picked him up.
When we cleaned up the show we had a load for the dump. I was heaving bags of non-burnables and smashed toilets down about twenty feet into the otherwise empty bin. I was just about to throw down a very heavy object when I spotted none other than Otay at the bottom of the bin sniffing broken glass, wading in dumpster soup.
I nearly had a coronary incident. I put down the heavy object and ran to the lady in the booth where the dump handled money. Like a cartoon, 8 very buff men showed up quickly like they just hid all day, polishing their muscles, waiting for someone to rescue. They talked about trajectories and strategies and action plans. I offered that someone could put the ladder they had brought down into the bin. Then that person could climb down, pick up Otay and climb back out.
I was told to keep quiet and let the professionals do their job. Twenty minutes later one of the men put his ladder down into the bin. He then climbed down, picked up Otay and then climbed back out. The team left Hi-5’ing each other and talking about God’s grace in the face of such adversity.
It was a good summer for Otay. We did not know it would be his last. He rode with me on bicycles, went to the beach and the river, and ate everything his mouth touched. He spent more and more time on the bodies of other friends. My roommate learned the hard way about his computer key habit, three times.
We went to New Mexico in the winter for our first trip to the little round trailer I have since lived in twice a year. The folks in La Madera had never heard of a pet rat, and wanted to hurl when they saw how he drank. So Otay stayed in the trailer and ate avocados and drank water with Osha in it to fix up what seemed like a urinary tract infection. This was the only time Otay was ever sick. When he was healthy we went back north to our glass nest.
These final months he had a more active social life than myself. We would go to a party and people I had never met would stick their hands in my shirt to flirt with him and coo about some recent adventure they had shared. These people would regard me about as much as the chair a friend is sitting in gets regarded.
Otay was a man about town. He had many more girlfriends than me.
One day we went to Elma to see the horse that had recently become the newest member of our family. Otay stayed in the van because when he rode on me during manual labor, my neck would look like a scratching post afterwards.
He had never escaped from a car. After work we got back in the van and drove the 40 miles home at 65 miles per hour. I did not see Otay but there was any number of places I figured he was hiding.
When we got home there was still no sign of him. We searched and searched. I called his name 1000 times. We called Elma so they could check their own driveway.
Eventually we all sat crying on the porch, wondering if he had escaped or if he had gotten into the engine somehow and fell off on the highway. I had a strong feeling that he was alive but in danger. We went back to the van. My friend checked the back again. I sat in the drivers seat and closed my eyes. I called his name and spoke our secret clicking language and then I listened, hard.
Then suddenly, a sneeze!!!!! Halleluiah! From inside the dashboard. Behind the steering wheel, so many sneezes then. 16 screws, a lot of prayers and a dashboard removal later he was free. As near as we could figure, Otay had crawled through the gas pedal hole up to a tiny platform in the dashboard where he had clung on for dear life, surviving high speeds and bone rattling pop music.
In spring a trip to California brought Otays first stay in a five star hotel. On our way back north we were stopped at a friends place and I put a watermelon rind in his cage. In the morning he was scratching like wild at his bars. I looked and it was like a horror movie, everything in the cage was covered in ants so thick it was all you could see. There were two lines marching out of the wall right into the cage with no sign of stopping. Otay was rescued in the nick of time.
In retrospect this was the closest he ever came to being eaten.
In Portland we met a rat named Augustine Octavius who was being called Cointel-pro, living a lonely life in a basement. He was not older than Otay but he was bigger and paralyzed from the waste down. He was supposedly a biter.
We learned that Oggy (as we called him) was a sweet flower waiting to blossom with love and avocados. We adopted him as a pet for Otay who had been lonely in his cage when I found steady work.
They were quick cuddle buddies. Oggy was the only rat Otay had ever liked. Oggy thrived in Olympia. Otay on the other hand began to wither. It was too much time in his cage and not enough on my body. Even with Oggy as a pet, I believe his heart was broken.
Two weeks later he got sick. It came on fast, a matter of a day or two. By the time I noticed he was not well he was hardly moving and not eating or drinking by himself.
For two days we sat watching him. I fed him nettle tea in an eyedropper. I had seen nettle tea bring goats back from the gates of death. I also fed him pedialyte and at one point he ate applesauce and we thought he would recover.
It was not so. He passed away, cuddled between our greatest friend and me. It was the early morning of June the 8th. We wrapped him in lace like the sweetheart of Mel Gibson in Brave Heart. We had a public viewing for the entire day and then he was buried by a parade of children who loved him, in a bed of flowers and stories and a boat made of flute melodies created for his journey.
In a world where complacency can take us over so quickly Otay was a living and constant reminder of lifes’ magic. Though he may be sitting on a golden throne eating dog dick in rat heaven, we are hear missing him and forever listening for his sneeze.
It is a story best told by Grandpa, but I will do my best to give the gist of it. Grandpa had been pretty sick ever since we had left the bay. Various symptoms digestive and otherwise had afflicted him. These symptoms were above and beyond what was common for our kind of diet and alcohol consumption. They included tremors, fevers, flashes and all kinds of not funs but none of them in any order or pattern that was familiar to me.
One night, in the bus, as Grandpa and Otay hung out alone, the sickness came worse than ever. Grandpa seriously thought he might die, like he had been poisoned or possessed or something. He was laying there, to sick to get help when Otay crawled onto his chest. Otay proceeded to do an elaborate dance that Grandpa later described but that I believe is best left unpublished. The dance took place down the length of Grandpas body and he said he could feel the sickness moving around, following Otay.
When Otay reached his feet he shook the sickness right out of them. A very tired Otay then came to Grandpas lips and drank drank drank.
That mystery illness never came back after that night.
The woman in front of me easily had thirty years on me, she had pushed her cart in front of mine in a flurry of curses and jolted motions. She threw her items onto the belt dramatically, roughly, one at a time. A pink toddler sized hat, an aerosol can of something, batteries, a couple of greeting cards, ribbon, and a measuring cup. As soon as her fit had the full attention of the clerk, who I had at least five years on, she started yelling. “You people are awful! Every time I come here you mess me up with these stupid horrible awful lines. Why can’t you just have one line and then call each person in order like at the fabric store! It’s a mess! I hate it! Never again! I always say it and then I come back and then you mess me up and I hate you!”
I got angry inside, the kind of angry I get when someone in a service industry is being shat on. The kind of angry I get when people feel like their opinions are important enough to share with innocent people. The kind of angry I get when jerks think that something like the line at a department store is a real fucking problem. I barely held onto my tongue. I wanted to defend this young cashier from the wrath of someone who in a different world would be in a position to teach me how to act right.
But the cashier listened thoughtfully with an occasional, “I am sorry you’re having a hard night.” She wrung up the lady, bagged up her goods and said genuinely, “I really hope your night gets better.” It was 8 pm on a Sunday , this person had been behind a register seeing people like this all day.
When she smiled at me I saw that not one bit of that customers rage had stuck to her. She was herself, unshaken. I said, “You handled that so much better than I would have.”
She said, “Sometimes people just need to be listened to.” I left with my scarf and a dream of who I might become.
I was leaning on a brick wall smoking a cigarette. My friends were getting a jump outside of the burger stand. I felt something at my left shoulder and when I turned a man with very big eyes and a stocking cap was walking toward me. Something was off, I couldn’t peg it but I put up a great old That-Is-Close-Enough field. He stopped and sat on a ledge some ten feet from me.
I did not want to deal with him, or speak to him or acknowledge he existed. I had just waitressed 8 hours, I was sad in love, I was about to squeeze into a car with two little kids who really like my attention, I was in no mood to find out what he was so hungry for. I had real problems.
A very old woman shuffled out of the burger place. She had condiments all down her front and a smile on her face. Her eyes met mine and she said, “Oh hallo! I always make such a mess don’t I.” She looked down and made a futile attempt to brush herself off, she looked back into my eyes, “but I guess it is worth it isn’t it?” Smile.
She walked by me and when she was about to pass the man on the ledge she paused and put her face close to his, “Are you okay?” He seemed shocked that anyone could see him. “Yeah I am fine,” he said. “Well okay then,” she didn’t move on right away. When she did he got up and followed behind her chatting.
She was not worried but I was. I watched them. He shut the door for her. She drove away slower than she walked and he left a little taller, like he was not invisible.
I was surprised to find a smile on my face and a vision again of whom I could be if I could just get out of my way.