Month: June 2017


The Anyway Worthless Commute


Ma, Daryl’s o’ me agin.”

“Dar’l, git off yer sister. Whachu think dis is, some sorta royal rumble?”

“She started it. She always does,” drawled Daryl. He climbed off his sister, Beulah May.

“I donne care if she starts a fire in yer britches, boy! She got one arm, plus she’s a gurl. You ain’t no man a’tall if you beatin’ on no one armed girl, even if she is bigger’n an ox.”

Daryl shrugged at this, and moved to his side of the bench seat. And Beulah May smiled, pleased at the compliment.

“Why we gotta go anyway, ma?” Daryl asked from the backseat beside his sister.

The old blue van rattled down the road like a sack of rocks flung down a mountainside. It made each curve a treacherous exploit, all rattle, no brakes, daring fate to end the anyway worthless commute.

“Youse gotta go because I said youse gotta go.”

“I thougt we had to go because that True Ants Officer told you we hadda,” Beulah said as she itched her stump.

She thought about that day over at Laverne’s farm. Laverne was always showing her and Daryl how all his second-hand machines worked. Each week he had some new “big city intervention,” as he called them. One thing was certain about the gaggle of gadgets he laid claim to—they couldn’t make his crops grow. If his land or any of theirs had been worth two nickels, the government would have seized them long ago. But that’s the thing about Hell, no one fights you for it.

That day, a few months back, Laverne had been especially proud of the wood-chipper he’d finally rigged up to work. He displayed it to the children, usual visitors to the “farm” for the open air of it. They loved it out there, and Laverne loved having them. He lived alone, except for some cats and the giant rats that chased them. He always talked about his wife coming home someday, but even the children guessed what he surely knew. He’d die with those cats and those rats and not much else.

“Thing is, it’ll chip up jus’bout any ole thing,” Laverne told the children that day as he fed a plastic sled into the slot. The machine groaned its dismay, smoked, churned, shook, and eventually spit out shreds of ruined plastic.

“See!” Laverne smiled at his wide-eyed audience. “I fixed her up speshial. It’ll chew through jus’bout any old thing, I’ll tell yens!”

“You think it’ud chaw through an arm?” Beulah May barked. She barked everything, like a cough—it hurt but she had to. She liked to talk too, obviously unaware of the sound of it.

“Shu’up, Beul,” Daryl snapped. “Don’t be stuupid.”

“I’n’t being stuupid, Daryl. Youse the one being stuupid anyway.”

“Dis stuupid?” Daryl put his oversized sister in a headlock—indeed, no small feat—and Laverne saw his audience slipping away.

“Hey! Chil’ren! Lookee here!” they both glanced as if he had a treat for them.

He did.

Laverne took up an old broom and fed it through the chomping machine.

“See there!” he piped as wood chips stumbled from the gnawing beast. “Yens wanna feed her?”

The children nearly cried. It was seldom they were given anything at all, and opportunity, well that was the rarest of things.

“Go on, walk the yeard and pick you all out each one it’m.”

Daryl and Beulah May were frozen.

“Well go on fore I change my minds!”

They quickly thawed right out, and, excited but focused, they set off combing the litter-strewn dirt patch Laverne called a “yeard.” It was a large enough patch, and they wondered each inch of it—unwilling to waste such a chance.

It was hard to say who enjoyed it more, the children or old Laverne, leaned up against the remnants of a dead Willow Tree. He watched the children study the ground, occasionally one or the other would pick up an item, inspecting it with their crossed-eyes and dirty hands, weighing it and imagining the magnitude of its destruction. They’d toss it aside—a rake, an old, rusty lawn chair, a brick, some guttering, among other things—and move on to the next sordid treasure.

They searched for their happiness while Laverne found peace. He looked on, at first hoping certain items would be spared, but after a few minutes, he ceased caring. These precious moments were the nearest he had felt to love in some time, and it was worth having even his most prized possession chipped up to sustain the perfection of this moment. He leaned his head back against the rotting wood, soft and sweet, and, soft and sweet, he smiled as his muddy eyes gently shut.

Soft and sweet faded in a blink as Laverne was awakened to a hyena. His first thought was that the children had put one of the cats in the chipper. He ran toward it instinctively, and noticed Beulah May writhing on the ground as the chipper oozed a spray of red.

His shock was broken not by Beulah May’s hideous moans as she lay there clutching a bloody mess where her right hand used to be, but by the shrill yells of Daryl:


Laverne ran in and got his one good bedsheet and half a carton of milk. He poured the milk on the stump slowly, trying not to pass out.

“I gotta git my water from the well . . . dis milk’ll havetahdo in a pinch.”

“I like milk,” Beulah said softly, full of the sweet whimsy of shock.


“Dar’l, you think you can keep dis from your ma?” Laverne asked nervously.

“How we gonna keep dis from ma, Laverne? Beulah hain’t got no hand!”

“I just thought she could keep it inher pock’t or Sumthin’ . . .” he seemed to catch his own ignorance when voiced aloud. “Oh ri’t. Dar’l, run along up the road. Ferguson’s gotta phone. Git us an ambulance.”

“Really! Can I? Beulah, you hear dat! Laverne gonna let you git a ambulance! Whoo boy!”

And with that Daryl hauled over to Ferguson’s and dialed up the ambulance, just as excited as he could be for his sister and her opportunity for an ambulance ride—sirens and all, it turned out!

And after the hospital stay is when the “True Ants Officer” showed up. Officer Parker was as cordial as his job would permit, and he informed Ms. Tamms that if her children were not cleaned up, put into school at the end of summer, and cared for like children and not beasts, that the State would have to intervene.

“Youse know why yens gotta go, Dar’l,” Ma Tamms answered back from the jouncing driver’s seat. “Cause youse and Beulah May went stickin’ your arms in Laverne’s machines, dat’s why.”

“But Beulah did it, not me. I tolt her she bett–”

“Dat’s enough, Dar’l. Youse think I want yens in dat fancy school all day gettin’ all educated and leavin’ me by myself all day long?”

“Sorry, ma,” Beulah said, still itching her stump. “I didn’t mean no harm.”

“Well, sorry’s idn’t gonna change dat True Ant Officer’s mind none, is it? We’ll git by, we always do.”

With that the van shimmied its way to the front of Jefferson Davis Elementary and Junior High School. It was a squat, brick building, and from high enough in the sunny sky, probably looked a fair bit like Laverne’s old wood chipper.

“Yens git on now. Yer ready real late. Git on now,” she coaxed her terrified children from the car.

“I’d rather put my handin another chipper,” Beulah said with watery eyes.

“Well we don’t ‘av dat choice now, do we?”

The children walked toward the glass front doors, and Daryl grabbed hold of Beulah’s stump. Ma Tamms watched for a second longer, then drove off, fear forming in her eyes. She went down the road about a half mile, then parked on the street, facing the front of the school, waiting till three o’ clock or whenever it was that school let out. “We’ll git by, we always do,” she murmured through the sobs.



How Not to Get Lost in the Woods

How Not to Get Lost in the Woods

I read a story the other day about a guy who got lost in the woods and ended up living on a diet of squirrels until his owner found him. Wait, no. That was about a dog. The dog got lost in the woods, and the owner lived on a diet of squirrels till the dog turned up. You know, that doesn’t sound right either. But I guess what I am getting at is this: Getting lost in the woods stinks.

First, it can stink in a literal sense, if there are a bunch of skunks around or something. But it can also stink in a, “Boy, there isn’t much to do in these woods and I could die out here” way too.

If you’ve ever been lost in the woods, you know what I’m talking about. If you are lost in the woods right now, then you should probably stop reading this blog post and get yourself found—people are probably worried. Plus bears. Just do the right thing and get found, okay?

Often, when people are lost in the woods, they don’t have computers and the like with which to find themselves—in a literal or existential way. So here is a quick list on how not to get lost in the woods ever again.

1) Keep a compass.

A compass is a thing which lets you know where north is. Based on that, you should be able to navigate any of the four cardinal directions. This is helpful because a thing is always found in the last place one looks. Like my pen. The other day I couldn’t find my pen anywhere—and it was the black one I really like too. I looked under the bed and looked under the car seats (and over them too for that matter), and then finally found it in the little pen holder on my desk where it always is. Then I stopped looking—the pen being found and all. The same is true with you and your compass. You can start trudging off north, figuring you will eventually hit some sort of discernible thing—like your home—but the odds are against it because it is the first thing you try. So where a compass really comes in handy is by letting you try each of the four cardinal directions—order really doesn’t matter—till you land on the one (usually the third or fourth one) that leads back to your yard where this whole mess began. Who knows? Maybe you’ll even find the Frisbee you were looking for too!

2) Don’t Go in the Woods.

I’ve been lost in all sorts of places. In fact, I was in the womb for eleven or so months and everyone teases that I must have got lost in there. I’ve sort of been lost ever since. But in all my hapless wanderings, I’ve found the woods to be one of the absolute worst places to be lost in. There are no signs, no fridge, no television set. The woods are actually pretty terrible, all in all. I stay out of them as much as possible. These days, a stray Frisbee, the stray cat, stray dog, or the stray game of Lord of the Rings are the only things that can lure me into the treacherous forest. Well, those and hikes. But I have found, without a doubt, that one of the best ways of not getting lost in the woods is staying well away from the woods in the first place. In this way, it is a lot like the Atkins Diet, but replacing the bread for trees, and not eating either.

3) Don’t Go in the Woods.

The #2 example should probably read “Don’t Go into the Woods” because “Don’t Go in the Woods” sounds like I’m talking about using the bathroom. But, let’s face it, the woods are one of the best places to use the bathroom when one is out-of-doors or out-of-toilet-paper (leaves are nature’s Charmin, after all). So we may have well included this one as: “Don’t Go in the Woods.” Not because it is wrong or weird—like my neighbors seem to think—but because you can get turned around pretty easy.

4) Tell Someone Where You are Going.

If you are going to disregard #2 and #3 and you go in the woods (whether to go in the woods or not), it is a good idea to tell someone you are going into the woods (but not such a good idea to tell them if you are going to go in the woods—bathroom talk creeps people out). It is good to tell a loved one, but if you are like me, your loved ones never seem to be around and don’t ever have their phone ringers on, so I tend to just tell the first person I run into. Sometimes it is a passerby—“Hey, I’m going into the woods, okay?” I’ll yell as they just drive on by. Then we’re good to go and the chances of getting lost for long are pretty much shot.

5) Carry a Gun.

How Not to Get Lost in the Woods

Speaking of shot, I think it is a good idea to carry a gun. Sure, it is best not to get lost in the first place, but let’s be real here . . . it is probably gonna happen. So I like to tote a rifle along when I’m out for a walk, just in case I meander into some woods and get lost. I can use the gun to signal for help, shoot animals, and keep one bullet just in case. (You know, for the vampires.) Also, a lot of times the cops will stop you if you carry around a rifle, and if you are down at the jail, guess where you’re not? Yep, the woods.

So there you have it–five ways of not getting lost in the woods. Honestly, I have about a dozen more, but I’m feeling a bit stuffy here in the old office. The great outdoors are calling out to me, so I will answer their call with the shuffle of my own feet. I’ll try to avoid the woods, but this imaginary ring isn’t going to take itself to Mordor now is it? Plus, I sort of need to go . . .