Adventures in station wagons

We had two station wagons. I mean my brother, Jeff, had two station wagons. One was green and one was black. Old ones. Crappy looking ones. The green one was nicer than the black one. A little. Station wagons were popular at that time. Mom also drove a station wagon, one of those kind of two tone ones with the wood-look panels. Popular.

I was a junior or a senior in high school. I had an appointment at Regis in the mall for a perm. Because why the hell would anyone want to have their normal hair? Why not chemical shit storm it so it would curl like a pig’s tail. 

My appointment was at noon. It was a Sunday. I had to work at 3 pm at Sooper Dooper. The dreaded 3-10 shift. Three hours was plenty of time to get a perm. Or so I thought… 

I needed a vehicle to drive to my appointment. It was winter, like it always is around here for about 6 months of the year. I don’t know why my car wasn’t available. I don’t know if it was getting worked on or what. I just know it wasn’t available. It was a better can than the station wagons though. Just sayin.

I was going to take the green station wagon. It was more reliable than anything else parked at the house. It wouldn’t start. I had to take the black one. Sketchy at best. It started. Awesome. I mean that sarcastically. I hated that boat. It was a boat and it was a piece of crap. The seats were ripped and I don’t even think it had seatbelts and the door was messed up. I had to get in on the passenger side and crawl over to the driver’s side. Like I said, piece of crap. 

I got in and got myself up to the mall. We lived in the Prospect House at this time. I’m surprised my brother let me take it. He wasn’t a good sharer. He probably didn’t know I took it. I’m pretty sure I just stole it. 

The appointment was taking forever. How could a perm take this long? I kept thinking something must be messed up. It had to be going wrong. Right? Glass half empty. It was my hair, my glass could be half empty. 

It was getting past 2:30 and I was starting to get worried. I had never been late for work in my life and I didn’t want a hair appointment to make me late. That would be a lame excuse. 

Finally, it was about 2:45 p.m. I had to work dammit! I was going to be late! I was very worried about being late. I wonder if I had a problem in my past life with time or with being late or missing something. Ha. Who knows. 

The hair was done. The hair was fucking ugly. The hair was like an afro. Seriously. Not even kidding one bit. I think she used the wrong size rods. I think she used the old lady, blue hair rods. What the???? How??? I was devastated. Not only did I not have time to go home and wash my hair 100 times with the strongest chemical shampoo I could find to try and relax this fricking nest on top of my head, I had to go to work this way.  How could I? Oh Em Gee!!!

I had to. I had to suck it up. I had to get my butt to work. I ran out to the parking lot and found the black bomb. How reliable was the wagon going to be? The streets were snow packed and slick in spots, but I had to hurry. It started. Awesome. I mean that sarcastically again. I tried not to speed. I pulled out of the mall parking lot and headed south on Harrison. The fastest way was going to take a right on Church street and then haul ass over to Highland. Once on Highland it was a crap shoot of whether going to Capitol and heading west, or up on Broadway to Euclid and then to Capitol was faster. Who cares? I just had to make a decision and stick to it. 

I was going fast and the turn onto Church Street was going to be hairy at best. I pumped the brakes a little because it was snowy. I didn’t want to slide all over the place. As I was making that treacherous turn, the stupid driver’s side door decided to start working and flew completely open. I about crapped my pants. Remember, no seat belts. I can’t believe I didn’t fall out. Here I was making a sharp Starsky and Hutch turn and thinking I was going to die. I didn’t die. I made it, but I had to pull the damn door shut and hold it the rest of the way. It wasn’t latching. It just kept flying open unless I held it. The next five minutes was exciting, to say the least.

I arrived. Crazy hair and piece of crap car. I made it. It was exactly 3 o’clock when I punched in. It was exactly the worst hair experience I have ever had. It was exactly the scariest car I have ever driven. 

 

It was “this” big

“That rat was huge,” he said. “It was THIS big without the tail,” he said as he held his outstretched hands in front of his chest. 

It was the Prospect house. It was warm out. I remember not wearing coats.  I remember it being nice outside.

There was a big brown house a few blocks away. It was being moved to about a block away from the Prospect house. It was a beautiful old house, with stained glass windows and amazing woodwork. We used to go to that house to be babysat by Gayle Garber. Someone bought the house and now it was being moved. 

That may be where the rat came from. I’m pretty sure it came up the toilet though. 

Mom picked us up from somewhere and we walked into the house. She was in front of us, walking in with her purse hanging in the crook of her elbow. I recall the purse being a kind of green blue color. I also recall she was wearing a dress. 

Next we heard a loud scream, blood curdling, in fact. When I say we, it was Sherry and me. The inseparable sisters, the one year difference sisters. The no choice, you are playing with your sister, sisters. We heard the scream and wondered what had happened. Hopefully there wasn’t an axe murderer in the house.

When we came in behind her, she was on the table in the kitchen, she then stepped over to the counter and then we heard the basement door slam shut. It was loud. The loudest door slam a person could make. The kind you make when you want to make a statement. Usually a pissed off or mad statement. That was it. That kind of slam. 

After the door was shut, I mean slammed, we asked mom what happened. She could barely speak. She told us it was a HUGE rat! How could a rat get in our house? It was disgusting to even think about it. I couldn’t stand it. I was afraid to go in any room. How? Why? Where did it come from? How long had it been roaming around our house. Had it been in our room? Yuck!!

Immediately after dad arrived home, he was filled in on what had happened and was ordered to go get a trap. Have you ever seen a rat trap? They are giant. They look almost comical. Almost fake. Almost. 

Dad set the trap in the basement. I declared I would not step foot in that basement until that rat was taken care of. I didn’t care that the washer and dryer were in the basement. I didn’t care if I had to wear dirty clothes. I would not be subjected to the horror of a giant rat stalking our basement. 

It took two nights to catch it. On the second night, in the middle of the night, Sherry heard it. She heard the trap snap. It was freaking loud. Finally, the beast had been killed. Finally, peaceful sleep. Finally no more being stalked by a rat. 

The next day, the salt guy came to deliver salt. He came in the back door and then down the basement steps to take the salt to the softener. He would carry one bag on his shoulder and another in his free hand. It didn’t take long. We heard a kind of grunt or a kind of scream. The kind of grunt or scream a guy doesn’t want to sound like a full-blooded, crap your pants, scream. He didn’t want to sound scared. Of course, we thought it was funny.

After he dropped off the salt, he came back upstairs and told us there was a sewer rat in the trap. Like we didn’t know there was a rat in our basement. Seriously?

He said, “That rat was huge!” Yeah, we know. 

City Pool, Chicken Shack and Suckers

It was the summer. It was the Prospect house. Could have been the in between house, the Central house. I can’t remember for sure. It doesn’t really matter. It may have been 4th or 5th grade. 

Summers were hot when we were kids. Extremely hot. We went to the City Pool a lot. The water was blue and the sunburn was free. It was basically the only pool in town, unless of course your parents were members of the Elks Club and then you could go swimming there.

That pool was a really nice pool. We used to go there with the Kleins, Barb and Cindy. Luckily our uncle was a member, so when we said the name Friman, they let us in. Thanks Uncle Bob and Aunt Sandy for helping out your nieces with our summer shenanigans. 

The city pool was far away from our house. Not like Narnia far, just far. It was about a mile probably. Sometimes we rode bikes, but most of the time we walked, towel wrapped around our shoulders, wearing our swimsuits and clutching our money in our hands. It was all downhill. The best kind of walk. It sucked going back home after swimming though. Being dead tired from swimming all day and then having to walk home all uphill. We went swimming with the Klein girls, Barb and Cindy, a lot. They were our best friends. They were awesome summer friends. 

It cost 15 cents to get into the pool. It probably still does. I know it was not very expensive at all. The pool opened at 1 and closed at 5. The line would be long waiting to get in. We would try to get there early to be the first in line. 

The pool had a slide and a diving board. In order to use the diving board, which was in the deep end, you had to demonstrate to a lifeguard that you could swim across the pool and back. They obviously didn’t want any kid to drown. I would test it once in a while. I would go jump off the diving board in the deep end. Sometimes they wouldn’t ask me to test it. Sometimes they would. I remember it seemed like it took forever to do it. We never had swimming lessons, so it was just kind of a learn to swim on your own type of thing we did. I could dog paddle and I could American crawl, kind of. Finally, one day I did it and I didn’t die. I then had the blessing, the lifeguard blessing, to go off the diving board and to be in the deep end of the pool. Legally. My summer was made. 

When swimming time was over, every single time we walked out of the pool and down the street on our way home, we stopped at the Chicken Shack. Chicken Shack had amazing food. Chicken of course, but it was broasted chicken. The super crispy on the outside and yummy and juicy on the inside. You know, the full of grease, which made it taste even better. I don’t remember getting to eat out as a kid, but I do remember our parents getting Chicken Shack chicken. The smell was always amazing. The building was painted bright yellow. It was on the corner of Crow and Dakota. Everyone knew the Chicken Shack. Everyone went there to carry out broasted chicken and broasted potato quarters. In case you were wondering, the best way to eat broasted chicken is by peeling back the skin and shaking some Lawry’s Seasoned Salt on the meat. So delicious. Chicken Shack was the busiest place in town once the pool closed. Every single kid was in there buying something, anything, to eat, because we were starving after a long afternoon of non-stop swimming. 

We usually got suckers. That’s what we had enough money to buy. Once in a while we had enough for a candy bar, or a Chick-O-Stick. I always remember the suckers though. We would buy those Charms suckers. They were decent sized and cheap. A good treat for the long haul home. There was also another kind of sucker we would take our chances with. If you bought this sucker you could sometimes get another one free. It was a Tootsie Pop. If you found an Indian on the wrapper shooting an arrow at a star, you could get another one free. Score. Jackpot. We always tried it. We didn’t always win. 

Our adventures at the pool were always fun. We got sunburned and then the next day would have to wear a t-shirt in order to protect our skin. Apparently we never had sunscreen. We also got green hair out of the deal. Because our hair was so blonde, the chlorine would turn it green.  Green like slimy kale, not a pretty green the way everyone dyes their hair now. We were always so embarrassed, even though we didn’t need to be. We just hoped the green faded before the school year started…

Those were good kid times. We squeezed every single drop out of those hot summer days. 

Buddy

I caught a glimpse of the man up on the road. I thought nothing of it. I actually thought he was taking pictures. I could see there was a pickup by the mailbox, black I think. The man was wearing a tan shirt and it looked like he was wearing glasses. I thought it was some type of survey crew. 

I was home at lunch. I had just gotten done working out. I always let the dogs out while I am drinking my recovery smoothie. Jack came back. Buddy did not. That was not unusual. Lately he has been staying out longer than usual. Lately he has been going up to the front of the house, by the mailbox. Lately he hasn’t been able to hear well. 

We live out in the country on the highway. The traffic is pretty heavy and the speed limit is 65 by our house. 

About six months ago, we were told there was some problem with Buddy. Something neurological. His limbs didn’t work the way they should, so he trips sometimes when he tries to go up steps. He was taking Prednisone for his medical condition. He has been getting worse lately. I think he has been getting lost and we know his hearing had gone way down hill. 

We got Buddy from the local humane society. He was the “Pet of the Week” about 8 years ago. He was two at the time. His name was Rusty then. He was a little Jack Russell mix. They said he was a runner. When we got him home, he constantly took off running. Until one day, John yelled at him. I mean really yelled. Buddy came running back and stood right beside him. From that day on, he never ran again. We could leave him in the house all day. He never got into anything and never had any accidents. He was the perfect dog. The perfect companion. Such a good boy. It took him a while to let us get close to him. If we did, he would growl. After a while he completely trusted us. We could lay our faces on his and he would be perfectly content. He trusted us and we trusted him. 

After I changed clothes I came back downstairs and was expecting to see Buddy at the door on the deck. He wasn’t there. I thought it was weird. I went out looking for him. He wasn’t anywhere in the back. I started getting a feeling. I knew something wasn’t right. Something was wrong. I kept yelling and yelling for him. 

As I was coming up to the front of the house, I saw a vehicle pull away. I thought to myself it must have been the guy I saw earlier up on the road. I walked a little further up the driveway and saw Buddly lying on the side of the road, on the shoulder. I walked over. His mouth was bloody, but otherwise he just looked like he was sleeping. He moved his head a couple of times, which made it worse. I’m pretty sure those were his last breaths. I was sick to my stomach. I felt like he wouldn’t have been coming across the road if I hadn’t been yelling for him. I felt terrible. I don’t know if that is true or if he could even hear me. But, it’s my guilt. Mine. Poor Buddy. I wasn’t sure what to do. John was out of town working, so I texted Rick, his boss. Little did I know that Rick was out of town too. So here I am standing up on the highway, tears running down my face and a billion cars flying by, hoping none of them run over me and Buddy. 

As I was standing up on the highway I got a call from Chris, my business partner. She asked if the dogs were okay, because her son had called her. He wondered if we had dogs because he said a dog had gotten hit by our house. He was very upset. I told Chris Buddy had gotten hit. 

I then got a call from the Animal Clinic. They told me the person who hit Buddy had been trying to get a hold of us. We disconnected our landline phone and that is the number on Buddy’s tags. She was very sweet and said she was sorry and said if we needed anything to let them know.  The person who hit Buddy had left a message on John’s phone and he said that Buddy had just come out of the weeds and he was really sorry. We know it wasn’t his fault. We know. I feel so bad for him. 

Next John called, so I told him I couldn’t touch him. He knows I can’t touch dead animals. I just can’t. He was upset that I had to be there by myself. He said he would get one of the guys who was working in town to come and help me. I felt like I waited forever. In reality it was about 30-40 minutes. I stayed up on the highway. I didn’t know what else to do. I didn’t want him to get hit again. I just couldn’t walk away from him until Ryan came. There was already a turkey vulture flying around. I was disgusted. 

It was like everything was in slow motion. That weird queasy kind of feeling. Just slowed down. Suspended. It felt like everything took forever. 

Once Ryan got there I came back to the house and got Buddy’s red plaid blanket that he slept on. We wrapped him up in his blanket and Ryan carried him down the driveway into the garage and gently laid him in the freezer, patted his head and closed the lid. 

Even though I feel like I am tough, today was one of those days that I couldn’t do it by myself. It was one of those days that I couldn’t help but feel vulnerable. It was one of those days that I really needed people. Today, when I needed people the most, they were there. I was so grateful for help today. Thank you Ryan Fischer. 

Rest In Peace Buddy boy…

June 3, 2000

I went there today. I went and looked at the lone tree standing on the property. The maple tree. I looked at the river and watched it flow. I could feel you there. I could sense you. I miss living in the house “on the river.” The river is such a beautiful place. The water is calming. The years have been good to the property. The lot is empty, except for the tree.

The tree looked healthy. The broken spot had healed after all these years. Did you break the tree? We think you did. We were all sitting around talking about you. We were drinking white russians, laughing and telling stories. We had been out in the sun porch for hours. It was dark and slightly windy. All of a sudden we heard an extremely loud crack. It scared us all. It was so loud. We looked out the window and noticed that the tree, the maple tree, was split almost in half. We couldn’t believe it. We think you did it. 

This place was the last place and the last time I saw you alive. The last time we saw you alive. The last time we had dinner with you. The last time you saw John. The last time you played with Tayler. Oh you were so protective of her. You doted on her, even though you only knew her for about 9 or so months. She was very special to you. We often wonder what it would have been like if you had lived. I’m sure you would have taught her all kinds of naughty things. But, you would have also taught her to be independent. You would have taught her to work hard. You would have taught her to be brave and strong. All the things you taught me. 

You said you were tired. You had spent the day in your yard doing yard work. You told mom you just wanted to go home. You were tired. I can still see you standing at the door getting ready to leave. Saying goodbye. 

That was the last time I saw you.

The next morning mom called and told me you were gone. I was in shock. How could that be? We went over to the house right away. I looked at you in your bed. You just looked like you were sleeping. I touched your hand and kissed you on the forehead and told you goodbye. June 3, 2000.

There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of you. This time of year I don’t even have to look at the calendar to know it’s here. I just know. I can feel it. It’s there. I can’t help but know. 

I know you visit often. The cardinal lets me know. He’s been here all week. Continue to Rest In Peace Dad.