Jul 212008
 

My parents were in the process of having a back porch built onto our house. This was a big deal for my brother Ryan and me, because stalking one of the workers became the sole reason we got out of bed each day. I mean really, who wants to swim and lay out in the sun when you can be violating someone’s privacy?

There was no real reason why we felt so intrinsically drawn to the sweaty laborer. He wasn’t good-looking, he didn’t sport a peg-leg, he wasn’t albino. He was just your average forty-something year old porch-builder with tinted eyeglasses, a farmer’s tan and a bushy moustache. I don’t even think he ever spoke to us. I mean, would you?

We would run from window to window, snapping pictures of him. Pictures from the kitchen, pictures from our parent’s bedroom, pictures bent around tree trunks. One day, Ryan even chased his truck up the street as he departed for home after a long grueling day of hammering nails and chugging Schlitz under the shade of a maple. I often wondered if our porch-builder had a good broad with a nice plump behind to nail, maybe cook him up a nice thick stew.

I’ll never forget the day we discovered his name was Gary. We ran into the house, erupting into shrieks and giggles. Our mom’s reaction was something akin to “Yeah, so?” accompanied by an eye brow raise. She always raised the eyebrow that bore a scar from when she was a baby and rolled off her bed, banging her face off the corner of the nightstand. I still can’t believe she never made up a better story, like how she was nicked by a gypsy’s butterfly knife the time she tried to steal cantaloupes off their wagon. When I was fourteen and viciously mauled by our psycho rabbit, you better believe I went back to school with a yarn about getting stabbed during gang initiation.

After a week of wasting film on this fine craftsman, we decided these clandestine snaps weren’t providing enough of a sociopathic rush. We needed more thrill, something that provided more of an instant gratification. When you’re young, you want souvenirs for everything you do: pocketed sugar packets from a truck stop diner, pebbles from the parking lot of the first sex shack your dad made you wait outside of, bloodied gauze from your first tooth extraction.

So the next obvious step clearly was to collect Gary’s cigarette butts and beer cans.

We waited until he’d go to his truck, then sprint out in the backyard like scavengers, picking through the grass in search of a butt or two. Once we accumulated enough to satiate our pursuant appetite, we brought our treasures in the house and stowed it underneath the couch in the family room. Like chipmunks storing acorns, crack heads hording rocks.

Stalking Gary consumed so much of our summer. So much that it infiltrated the summer of my friends, as well. My best friend Christy was out of town for some sort of academic camp. I wrote her a letter and enclosed one of Gary’s cigarettes butts for her to cherish as well. I just wanted her summer to be as rich as ours had become, thanks to Gary. I wrote letters to every one of my pen pals, detailing Gary’s every action and movement. Everyone clung to the Summer of Gary with bated breath.

Unfortunately, the fun and games ended when my dad unearthed our stash of purloined memorabilia under the couch. Now, any other dad would have rightfully accused us of smoking and drinking. Luckily for us, my dad recognized the extent of our weirdness long before this incident, so he believed our tale and we escaped punishment. The downside was that he forbade us to continue our game and pitched our pirated keepsake, muttering something about how we were embarrassing him or something.

I often wonder what Gary is doing these days, and if he knew he was being stalked. Was he flattered? I asked my mom: she said probably not.

Jun 102008
 

Friday, June 6, 2008

Morning

Today I was looking for Chooch’s juice cup and thought perhaps he left it on the window sill. When I pulled back the curtains, something small and grayish in color hit the floor with a plop. I screamed and jumped back. A few seconds later, I saw it jump underneath the TV stand. I called Henry immediately and reported to him that we had in the house what I assumed was a toad. “It’s definitely something that makes a plopping sound when it hits the ground, so whatever that is, that’s what’s in the house.” Happy birthday, Henry!

Chooch stood by the TV for awhile, lining up some of his cars on the shelf. Looking at his bare legs and feet, I figured it was probably not the best idea for him to standing so close to our house guest (whom I lost sight of). What if it wasn’t a toad at all? I entertained the idea of a brand new species hulking around back there in the corner, perhaps something with tentacles, venom, and red pubic hair. I pulled Chooch away from the TV and made him play somewhere safer, like near the basement steps, and continued flirting with that thought.

I kept my feet tucked underneath me on the couch for the rest of the morning.

Afternoon

Henry came home from work and pulled the TV back. “It’s a mouse, you retard.” Then he left to get sticky traps, because I was adamant about not killing it.

Evening

People at work have informed me that those sticky traps kill mice. “Sometimes a mouse will chew its own foot off to escape from those traps,” my boss said. I texted Henry: ABORT, ABORT. Henry says mouse removal is officially my responsibility.

“Tell me you’re not this worked up over a MOUSE,” Eleanore said disgustedly. I ate a good almond cookie.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Morning

Diary, it is 1:00 in the morning and the mouse is perched above the screen on the front window! He’s really cute; I’m talking to him and feeding him shredded cheese. I don’t know what his name is yet so I’m just calling him “Hey little buddy.”  It reminds me of when I was in elementary school and I taught a Praying Mantis how to count change. Henry said he’s a field mouse. “Like Secret of NIMH?” I asked. “Yeah, like Secret of NIMH,” he said, sounding a bit impatient. We’ve been watching it intently for fifteen minutes now. It just scratched himself and then stepped on the cheese I sprinkled. Every time Henry gets too close, the mouse tenses up and makes like he’s going to run — I’d get tense too if I saw a big bearded douchebag approaching me  — but when I approach, he is calm and we make casual eye contact.

I’m thinking of the cozy house I’m going to build for him, with a little chimney and fresh daisies in a tiny vase, but then Henry just tried to catch him with an empty iced tea canister, causing the mouse to attempt suicide by leaping to the floor. Look Diary, that mouse is cute and cuddly, sure, FROM AFAR. But I guarantee if that thing starts scampering around my feet, it’s going to get booted into the wall. Losing sight of it, I tug on Henry’s shirt and hug him from behind and I bet he wishes I was wearing a strap-on. Henry is mad now because he “could have had it” but he couldn’t bend down with me grabbing at him like that. He was all, “GO STAND OVER THERE,” and if he had it his way, “there” would be at the bottom of the ocean with a few cinder blocks and a chain.

The mouse ran back behind the TV.

Evening

Hey, I haven’t seen that mouse in awhile. I can only hope it’s off making hundreds of babies somewhere in my house.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Evening

A few minutes ago, I was treating my brain to some quality reality TV programming, as you do, when I heard a strangulated growl coming from the dining room. I looked up and saw Nicotina (aka Speck, Breakfast Nook, Pickles) with my little buddy IN HER MOUTH. At this point, I don’t know the mouse’s status (breathing, not breathing), but my rescue mode is activated and I start screaming bloody murder for Nicotina to release the damn mouse. Henry and Chooch are upstairs and probably think the house is on fire or there’s a hatchet lodged in my head with the way I’m flipping out. I yelled up to Henry what was going down and heard him mumble, “Jesus Christ.”

Cornering Nicotina on the back porch, I grabbed her just before Marcy came stalking through the kitchen to get a piece of the action. Marcy does NOT need to be involved in this. She scares me. Nicotina looked highly confused, her eyes said, “Is this not what I’m supposed to do?” I held my breath and snatched her, mouse and all, and keeping her at arm’s length, I ran with her to the front door. Before I had a chance to pull the door open, she spat the mouse out onto the couch and he scurried behind the pillows.

Henry and Chooch are downstairs at this point, and Chooch started crying; probably because he didn’t understand why Mommy was raving  with bugged-out eyes like a woman scorned. I ordered Henry to help and he reluctantly grabbed a diaper and held it open like a catcher’s mitt, muttering under his breath about how he should have just killed the fucker on Friday. I put aside my desire to donkey kick him and focus on making it through the night with no casualties. The mouse ran off the couch and fell into one of Chooch’s toy bins. “PICK IT UP AND TAKE IT OUTSIDE! WE STILL HAVE A CHANCE!” I screamed. Henry threw the bin on the front porch and said, “YOU go out there and YOU dump it out.”

So I did. And the mouse ran to freedom. Nicotina wouldn’t look at me for the rest of the night.

I was so amped up after that, that I couldn’t sit down. Fuck, Diary, I wish you could have seen it; it’s the most amazing feeling to save a life. I highly recommend it. I kept wanting to talk about it with Henry, but he was thoroughly unimpressed. “Normal people would have killed it, but not you. You have to turn it into a Thing.” He won’t admit that I deserve to be knighted. I called Christina and she said the whole time I was telling her about it, she kept envisioning me as Dog the Bounty Hunter.

I think I want to do this for a living, this saving mice thing. I want to be on Animal Planet.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Evening

I’ve been telling everyone about my rescue success, about how valiant I am. Kim and Collin said something about me needing therapy, but I know they’re really just trying to downplay their awe. I showed Kim the picture of Frederick (that’s the mouse) and she admitted he was really fucking cute.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008 TODAY

Morning

Chooch just pointed to the floor in the living room and innocently asked, “Whassat?” A dead mouse, that’s what. Shit, isn’t this chapter closed yet? I’m trying not to panic, trying not to wonder if it’s Frederick. Maybe he came back for more shredded cheese. All I know is that he wasn’t there five minutes ago when I walked across the room to the couch. I asked Chooch who put it there and he said Speck. That bitch.

I called Henry and yelled SOMETHING TERRIBLE JUST HAPPENED. He told me to throw it outside, then hurried up and made sure I knew not to touch it with bare hands. So I wrapped it gingerly in a paper towel and placed it on the front porch.

Afternoon

THE MOUSE IS GONE. A FUCKING BIRD TOOK IT. I called Henry and, in quick-speak, relay to him the latest development. “….and so I had it on the porch so that you could bury it when you come home—” Henry interrupted me with genuine laughter. “–and now it’s GONE.” Henry gave me a talk about nature.

Evening

Bob told me there are probably a hundred more mice in my house.

I don’t want to do this for a living anymore.

Apr 292008
 

 

 My crazy aunt Sharon offered up my grandma’s porch for Chooch’s birthday party. Of course, she was in charge of the guest list, which she was adamant about keeping short and sweet. I was afraid to invite Henry’s kids for fear of suffering her impatient huffs and sighs. In fact, I was afraid to even invite MYSELF. But I kept my cool because the whole point of having it there was so my grandma could attend.

However, Henry was so turned off by the whole thing that he just had his mom and sister come over our house Friday night for cupcakes. (And also because we segregate our families. Completely not normal.)

In the end, I demanded that Janna and Christina at least be able to come. They’re my best friends and it would have been weird without them.

 And of course, at the last minute, Sharon called me to see if Henry’s kids were coming.

"No, I didn’t think I was allowed to invite them," I said, slightly snottily. Christina was sitting next to me and her eyes kind of widened. She told me later that she was afraid I was about to ignite some sort of family warfare, moments before the start of Chooch’s party.

"Of course they’re invited!" Sharon said sweetly. "You guys will only be here for an hour, what do I care who comes?"

Oh did I mention that? The party was only allowed to be an hour long. I joked on the way there that probably we’d pull into the driveway and Sharon would hand us cake slices in to-go bags and send us on our way. But I wasn’t really joking.

 

 

In typical Sharon fashion, she gifted him with a bunch of stuff that no kid would ever want for his birthday: A cars wastebasket and shower curtain complete with cars shower rod hangers, and a bath mat with…blue daisies on it.

Oh.

"Does he like flowers?" she asked.

Don’t all two-year-old boys like flowers? Like any other kid, he demands no less than five Lalique vases in his room, filled with the most pungent bouquet of daffodils. In fact, we just had him at the hospital last week, having a bunch of lilacs extracted from his nose.

We all kind of glanced around the table at each other, slinging "WTF?" expressions every time Sharon would turn her back. I mean, for a two-year-old? Home decor?

My grandma ended up having a bad headache (or so Sharon says; I think she’s holding her hostage), so she was unable to leave her bedroom. Chooch went in to visit her, and I gave him a dandelion from the yard to give to her, which Sharon took credit for. Then after meeting her socialization quota for the month, my mom wandered off into the den  to watch the Pens game. (Yay, Pens, btw.)

 

In the end, all that mattered was that Chooch had fun, Sharon was actually personable and didn’t kick us out after one hour exactly, and there was good cake, of which I ate plenty (with the Pennsylvania Vanilla ice cream I bought all by myself and with my own money!)

 

 

Apr 142008
 

Holy shit, sad!Eleanore’s not here tonight, which is a blessing (it’s quiet!) and a curse (it’s quiet!) all at once. I’m not missing the way she tapdances upon my nerves, but now there’s NO ONE sitting near me so I can’t swivel in my seat and start talking.

Except to myself.

So I took a picture of myself which I’m going to print out and tape up in front of me to make the conversations more legit.

My friend Amelia sent me a surprise package today which completely made me squeal. It came at the best time, too — I was just leaving for work when the mail girl hurled it upon my porch. Asshole.

I dare you to pull out my crown, Gummi Heart.Hidden under a mound of that sparkly silver ribbon stuff that my cats love to eat then regurgitate was pretty much a mother lode of odds and ends; in other words: stuff that someone weird like me would covet. In addition to a black baby doll, a pair of doll arms, a roll of b&w 120 film (which I needed!) and two small handmade notebooks (scribbling has already commenced) was a giant gummi heart, the kind of delicious treat that I’ve always wanted a Valentine to place into my outstretched hands, perhaps with a pack of Garbage Pail Kids for that extra special touch.

The back of the package says:

THUMP THUMP BEAT BEAT

MY HEART FOR YOU

THAT’S OH SO SWEET.

Who doesn’t want that?? Skinheads, animal sacrificers, and Kathie Lee, that’s who.

So now instead of doing actual work, I’ll be overdosing on candy organs and sticking doll parts in things, which is much better than Thursday night, when I listened to Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge* for six hours straight and dreamt of slowly draining the blood from my veins. Thanks, Amelia!

(*I know, what the fuck, right? More proof that I’m secretly sixteen.)

Mar 052008
 

The first time I was there was the summer of 2000.

“There’s this Quaker cemetery out in Perryopolis. Supposed to be haunted or some shit. We should go.” It was one of those glimmering moments of spontaneity that, on a boring summer’s night, sounded a lot more interesting that the usual routine of getting drunk on my porch. I was a little wary that the person hatching this plan was my friend Justin, who had a bad track record of insisting he knew the exact coordinates of various haunted hot spots, and then like a bad repeating record, we’d inevitably wind up lost  with the gas tank on E and a few empty bags of Corn Nuts.

Our friend Keri wanted to accompany us, so I felt a little better because she was always the responsible one. If you were going to get lost, break down, get a condom lodged inside of you, Keri was the girl you’d want with you. She also didn’t scare easily, so I quietly planned to wedge myself between the two of them once (if) we arrived.

Perryopolis is around 30 miles south of Pittsburgh, but the trip didn’t take long in my Eagle Talon, considering my propensity for driving it like a dragster. As we approached the town of Perryopolis, I silently hoped that we would be unable to find the cemetery in the dark, of that it didn’t exist, or that the Earth opened up to engulf it every night after midnight. Maybe there would be a fence too dangerous to scale, Hounds of Hell snarling and tied to posts at the entrance, an after hours admission fee implemented by Satan.

The area was rural. We coasted past a few farms and even fewer houses. The uneven asphalt was littered with loose pebbles and sticks, which  clinked and snapped under the tires. The streetlights did little to alleviate my uneasiness. Unfortunately, Justin must have polished his navigational bearings, because after having me make a few turns, he told me to pull over.

“This is it,” he said, leaning in between the front seats and looking out my window. We kind of just sat there, real still, not speaking, until Keri finally went for the door handle. We all filed out and crossed the dark, quiet street. It was too dark to see the cemetery from where we stood, and after hesitating to see who would step up to lead us, we finally took the plunge in tandem and began climbing the slight hill before us.

Halfway up, we could make out a wrought iron fence, the kind you would expect to wreathe an old, small town cemetery. My eyes searched for the tombstones, the meat of the graveyard. That’s when I saw it, my first glimpse of the old stone house in the middle of the small plot of land. Suddenly, it wasn’t what lay beneath the ground that frightened me.

“I don’t like the looks of that place,” I whispered hoarsely to Keri and Justin.

“What the fuck is it, a church?” Justin asked no one in particular, squinting his eyes to adjust to the darkness.

“I’m not climbing no fucking fence,” Keri spat, arms crossed. She was always the kill joy of the group. Me, I’d go along with just about anything, no matter how terrified I was, mainly because my adrenaline would overtake my common sense every single time. But Keri, she’d get so far and then stop. Or conveniently conjure up a head ache. That girl has headaches more often than Seattle has rain.

Just then, the dull roar of an engine resounded from further down the road. We all turned to look. Headlights eventually appeared over the crest in the curving road, and the car began to decelerate. We continued to watch as it approached the base of the hill and slowed to a complete stop several yards away from my car, parked along the shoulder.

“Is it a cop?” Keri whispered.

The driver flashed the head lights. We were stapled to the soft ground under our feet. The driver blew the horn. We jumped. The driver laid on the horn, sending an atmosphere-rippling siren through the once-quiet night. All three of us screamed and turned to run back to my car. We shoved each other ruthlessly, none of us daring to be in the back.

My car was parked directly across the base of the hill. The rogue car still idled in the same position a few yards away on the opposite side of the road, continuing to blare the chilling horn. We made it to my car, slamming into the side of it. I fumbled for my keys. I dropped them on the road as I tried frantically to sort through the menagerie of plush over-sized key chains. Keri and Justin were swearing and screaming at me. I was crying.

The bully car continued to intimidate us with the horn-blaring while I unlocked my door and reached across the inside to unlock the passenger door. Keri and Justin both tried to get in my uterus-sized two-door Talon at once, prolonging their success. Once they were in, I gunned it, not even bothering to steal a look at the driver of the opposing car as we squealed past it.

We drove in silence until the poorly-lit country roads spilled us out onto the highway where we took refuge among the traffic.

Only then did anyone dare speak.

“I don’t know what you guys were so scared for. It was probably just some teenager having some fun, trying to scare us,” Justin said, leaning back with his fingers laced behind his head.

*****

The weather was unseasonably spring-like on Sunday, so Henry, Chooch and I piled into the car and drove south to take some pictures and enjoy the rare opportunity to drive with the windows down. Our plan was to go out to Uniontown, a small town at the base of the mountains, and get some nice country photographs.

We took Rt. 51, which leads straight from Pittsburgh to Uniontown. It also passes through Perryopolis on the way.

“Hey, there’s this old Quaker Cemetery out here. We should try to find it,” I casually suggested, recognizing that the right hand turn into farm country was coming up. What better way to spend a beautiful Sunday with the kid and manservant? Field trip  the haunted cemetery! C’mon boy, let’s get our desecratin’ on, I should have hollered to Chooch.

Henry found it without mishap (evidently the road it’s on is called Quaker Cemetery Road, so Henry figured it was a safe bet we were on the right road). When I reached the crest of the small hill, I spotted the stone house with it’s corrugated tin roof, ominously gaping front door and windows that stared out like empty eye sockets.

I wasn’t scared this time, finding bravery in the sunlight, and I marched right through the archway and started taking pictures. Probably, if I was someone other than myself, the first thing I’d do, I’d go straight inside that stone shack and start poking around. But I was cautious. I let Henry go inside first while I admired the various hues of beer bottle shards as they sparkled in the sun. The shards wrapped around the front of the house, like a moat in front of an alcoholic’s castle. I was sad that no one ever invites me to party in creepy cemetery houses.

Henry went inside first, getting some digital shots of the interior. I asked him if he felt scared when he was in there and he gave me that “don’t be an asshole” sneer. Still, I lingered near the door while Henry and Chooch retreated somewhere in the back, behind the house. I thought I heard shuffling coming from inside the house, but I shook the idea out of my mind and went in.

The inside was sheltered by a roof made up of thin wooden slats. It looked unstable, like I could be buried under it at any given moment. The walls were mostly blue and covered in graffiti. I tried to read it all, as much as I could before my bravery reserve was drained, but there was nothing very interesting. No Hail Satans or Human Sacrifice FTW!s to be found; just an abundance of generic “_____ was here”s and ambiguous initials.

Each end of the room had a fireplace. Henry said later that he had wanted to get all up in it and see what was going on in the chimney’s guts, but he never said why he didn’t follow through. Because he was scared, that’s why. I can only imagine how much clenching he had to do to keep from shitting his pants when he was in there alone.

Still afraid of the being impaled by a collapsing slat of wood, I started to walk out. Henry completely doesn’t believe me, and probably no one else will either, but as I started to step through the doorway, I heard a chorus of whispering coming from \the left corner of the room. I SWEAR TO GOD. I swore to God when I was telling Henry about it too and he was like, “You can’t swear to something you don’t believe in” so I changed my pledge of honesty to Satan instead and Henry started in on that bullshit about how you can’t believe in one and not the other and I was like, “Shut up, stop acting like you’re religious” and he said if there was no God and just Satan, then the world would be way worse than it is now and I said, “No, Satan’s just lazy is all” and that’s about as deep as the two of us get into theological debates. Our next one is scheduled for 2030. As if Henry will still be living then.

After the whole whispering episode, I was pretty much in a huge hurry to leave. If you buy into legends and ghost stories, it’s said that the meeting house was where witches were taken to be killed. I really hope the whispering I heard belonged to Glinda.

Later that day, I was reading a website about the cemetery and it says, “There are also stories of certain graves being cursed, meaning that if you stand at them, or read the writing on the head stone, you could have bad luck or die.”

Click for more

Awesome. Nice knowing you, Chooch.

Oct 272007
 

I’ve been fighting with a new neighbor over parking courtesy. I realize it’s a trivial thing to risk stroking over, but I have pent up anger and agression and the situation presented itself as the perfect way to let it all out. She and I had a very strained discussion about it last Sunday, but I sort of kept my cool, as I was holding the hand of my toddler and he sees me ranting and raving enough as it is.

The gist of it is that the landlord told her that the center space is hers, but I’ve been parking in that space for eight years. Typically, when I come home from work and wherever, she’s in that space so I have no choice but to park in  the one next to her.

This morning, when I was leaving for school, she was also in her car, about to leave. However, I gunned it and shot out of the driveway before she had a chance to blink, totally cutting her off. Dumb fucking bitch.

Then I stewed about it all during my Calculus class.

When I came home, she was still gone, so I shot down the driveway into my old space.

A few minutes ago, she came a’knocking. Henry answered the door, but she requested to speak to me personally. I joined her on the porch, after Christina gave me a sad glance, silently pleading with me to be nice.

And I was nice. Sort of. Through gritted teeth. We hashed out our differences — I told her I wasn’t happy with the way she came at me last week without even introducing herself, and she countered with the fact that when she first saw me a few weeks ago, I was slamming my front door and yelling about how I always get screwed with parking. ”

I mean, I saw that and thought ‘A-ight, she’s pissed off at someone, maybe me.’ Of course I’m not going to come up to and say ‘Hello, my name…’ at that point.

Henry and Christina were listening to the whole thing from inside, and when I came back in later, Henry said, “You DO have an attitude, you know” and Christina quickly echoed his sentiment. Then they talked about how I get so unnecessarily angry over nothing, simply because I crave tension and conflict. I know, and then I wonder why every muscle in my being is taut enough to snap.

Anyway, the neighbor explained to me that the only reason she’s been making a big deal about wanting to park in the middle is because the landlord has been drilling it into her head. Apparently, he keeps dumping all these rules on her without telling the rest of us (she said he also told her that none of us are allowed to park on the road, but we all do it because she’s the only one he told), and by doing so, he’s effectively pitted us all against each other. Realizing that it’s the landlord on which I should be directing my hostility (I know where I’ll be on Monday), she and I started over by going through friendly motions of introducing ourselves.

Her name is Toya, and I guess she’s not too bad. I still hate Ruth though, who hasn’t been talking to me for a few weeks now, god only knows why. Fucking fake nurse.

From now on, I’ll be parking my car on the street, to push my landlord’s buttons.