Wednesday, September 14, 2011


The Man Who Swallowed a Basketball

The relentless sun glared down upon the scorched earth with a vengeance. A hot breeze rustled the newspaper of a man sitting alone beside a hotel pool. His hat tipped low, he appeared absorbed in his reading material, oblivious to the carnage occurring directly to his left.

The desert bunny had been minding his own business, intent on chewing the leaf of lettuce that had recently escaped from an unattended sandwich. High in the sky there appeared a dark shadow, followed by the fierce beating of wings, suddenly the bunny was ripped away from his afternoon snack. He put up a fight, and soon the beast of the air gave up and dropped him back to the earth. Not two seconds after he landed, the dust rose and from the tussle, a Beaded Lizard emerged victorious with his OWN afternoon snack. Goodby little bunny.

The tinkle of a delicate bell gained the attention of the man and his head rose at once. Glancing toward the noise his eyes squinting against the glare of the pool water, he appeared at first alarmed, but this was soon replaced with a look of relief, as he realized the source of the sound.

Ch 2

Today Ruthie is sitting by the couch in the family room where the TV is blaring "Who wants to be a star". Her eyes are closed and she is clasping her hands together under her chin. Her clothing is askew and there is a large stain on her new bright yellow shirt. The residents are no longer allowed to wear clothing protectors at meal time. People were referring to them as 'bibs' so the facility director deemed them undignified.

An aid is speaking to a resident in another corner and suddenly Ruthies eyes fly open. "Chickie Chickie Chickie!!!.. here Chickie chickie chickie!!!" she yells! Just as suddenly her head droops back down and her hands resume their position under her chin. Today her son will visit her on his way home from work. His 10 minute visits are the only times she will respond to other people. Later when she is being prepared for bed, you can hear her yells down the hall. Her cursing would make a drunken sailor blush. Ruthie hates to be touched, and worse yet hates to stand up. After the fray dies down, lights are out and off in the distance the ringing of a tiny bell can be heard. Ruthie glances in that direction with a rare moment of coherence in her eyes, then drifts off to sleep.

ch 3

The second Dibs butt hit the chair the phone was ringing again.  He rolled his eyes and reluctantly picked it up.  His lunch had already been cut short by a call from the healthcare facility where his mother resided.  Apparently a room change had been necessary after a particularly nasty outburst the previous evening.  His mother Ruthie absolutely hated being messed with.  Getting her in and out of her wheelchair was sure to bring violent outbursts, swinging arms and cursing a blue streak at the top of her voice. Her roommates son was not too impressed with this the previous evening and requested she be removed.

Dibs answered the phone and heard his sister Eileen on the other end.  Eileen, or Leen as they called her sounded like she was in a hurry, as always.  She was the youngest of the three children, married to a wall street broker, lived in downtown Manhattan and had two children of her own.  Her children were cared for mainly by a nanny, and there was constantly a problem or issue of some kind. If Leen spent half as much time parenting her kids as she did yakking at her shrink and filling prescriptions they might not be half bad.

It was time for another family meeting and Dibs was obligated to call, even though he knew his request would be met with reluctance, excuses and an eventual decline by his sister to show up either telephonic-ally or in person to the meeting.  Out of all three of the kids, Leen was the most self absorbed, spoiled, and flighty.  Her mothers favorite, she now showed her gratitude by conveniently ignoring the fact she had a mother who was still breathing.   Dibs would give a half hearted attempt to get her commitment but he would always give up and often times too easily.  Today was no exception and after listening to her prattle on for five solid minutes, he mumbled something and hung up the phone.

He sunk his head into his hands and sighed.  The responsibility of overseeing mothers care had fallen upon him, almost immediately after her diagnosis and acceptance that she was too much of a burden for any of them to care for in their homes. The decision to put her in assisted living had been left solely up to him after numerous futile attempts to engage his siblings input and help.  Now he was facing the most difficult of decisions since this entire mess began, and all he was getting was flak.  Although talking to his older brother Shane was even more useless than Leen if and when he could even find him.

ch 4
Somewhere in the recesses of his mind an alarm clock rang.  Of the old-fashioned type, it clanged it's way to the forefront of his thoughts, burst through, forming it's way into a memory,  The memory at once took on life and lurched out of the shadows on wobbly legs.  A struggle ensued as current time and place attempted to squelch this unwanted visitor.  In the end the memory won, sat down and demanded a cup of tea.

Every person has a soft underbelly, at least they had one.  Some are better at hiding it, while there are those who beat it relentlessly until it retreated to the basement to await that special moment.  His moment was now, at 3am while getting up to pee and have a glass of water.  Why is it people awake in the middle of the night, or early morning as it were with minds that insist on board meetings with past events?  If he engaged in this now, he could forget about going back to sleep.

He was taken to a time in the distant past when nothing much mattered except putting one foot in front of the other and trudging through another day.  There was something very wrong with Mother that no one wanted to talk about.  Acting as if things were normal had become the status quo, even though none of them really knew what normal was.  Oh, the younger two might have some sort of clue, but him not so much.  It was as if he lived in another dimension and viewed his family from afar.

Was he really a part of this motley crew?  The shrieking girl, and the boy with an oddly shaped belly?  The stoic father and a mother whose mind seemed to have bought round trip bus tickets and left on a whim?  On this particular day, Mothers mind had decided to stay home which resulted in a party that was not very fun. Mother kept chickens that were mostly like pets, but on this momentous occasion had decided that one of them needed to become the next meal.   Since Father was currently at work, the job was bestowed upon the eldest.  He was given an ax and commanded to take it to the neck of a chicken.

When Mother was having one of her parties, you did not argue you simply did what you were told.  Things went according to plan, the chicken was presented plucked and cleaned and Mother baked it in the oven.  When father arrived home the family sat down for dinner.  It was actually a pleasant enough time, with conversation swimming around the table making little splashes on their day.  The chicken was delicious as Mother was an excellent cook.  After the meal was over, the dishes were rounded up for the kids to wash and Mother went outside to put the chickens away for the evening.

What happened next is the reason for the 3am medley of peeing, water drinking and meetings of the mind clashing with a memory long suppressed.  Mother had forgotten she commandeered him to kill a chicken.  All Mother knew was one of her prized chickens was missing, and when she discovered the carnage in the trash can she put two and two together, as she was still able to add.  Unfortunately for him, that added up to a show of whose proportions had thus far been unmatched.

When these things happen to a kid it's as if the rug is yanked out from under the feet.  One never knows where the next blow will land, or what will set Mother off.  You do what you are told, and then later on you are chased by a crazed woman holding an ax threatening to do to you what you were told to do to the chicken.  There was no winning with Mother and he had come to the end of the line.  He went upstairs, packed some things in a duffel bag and left the house.  He did not look back.

Ch 5

When Dibs was just a young child, he was diagnosed with a rare form of pituitary gland disorder that affected his weight.  He had began to grow rather large in the stomach area, and fearing a tumor, his mother had rushed him to the doctor.  After many blood tests, the diagnosis was leveled, a prescription was written and Dibs was told he would have to live with this for the rest of his life.  Eventually his stomach developed to the point where it appeared as if he had a basket ball under his shirt.  His brother rallied around him in support, the form of which consisted of constant mocking, ridicule and incessant corny jokes at Dibs expense.  Dibs was never much of a fighter so he just let it go, held it inside and eventually learned to ignore it.