Odd, all these years, up and around these parts, I never noticed the church. I had heard there was a food pantry. I had inquired about the ‘free’ meals. I came very close to needing the services given out to the needy. Who knows, I may still need them, again, at some point.
I say,’odd’ because the Unitarian church happens to be the place to be. That is if you are in need of needs.
After having a few years of sobriety under my belt.; after giving up on the idea that blackouts are a necessary evil if I wish to live; after all the mistakes and mistaken identities, church basements continue to amaze me. Who would have known that all these quiet little buildings with their religious icons, held so much good stuff below the surface. The rooms are usually the same. Square and structurally, not sound. Past that, every church basement offers its own unique twist on the after life of an addict. Some have sayings like,”easy does it” and ” one day a time” all over the walls. Others are filled with smoke and Dunkin Donuts coffee cups and farmers that appear dead, until you poke them or ask them to pass the bucket.
Tonight, there would be no open meeting of “As Bill Sees It.” That is a meeting I didn’t even realize existed until I found the church schedule on the bathroom wall. Tonight is ‘Take the punch out of your lines’ anger management class.
The stairs leading to the basement, in any church, however, are all the same. They remind me of what the catacombs under the Pope’s house in Rome would look like- dark, skinny and scarey! The only well- lit item I could see had been the whiter- than- white hand that came out of nowhere to shake my hand.
“Hi, you must be, Stella. My name is Instructor Poe. Let me tell you how I know that your name is Stella. Everyone else is here! First rule of my class, Ms. Dewey- punctuality! Nothing angers me more than a person who thinks so highly of him or herself by wasting other’s time by being late!”
For fuck sake! I hadn’t even entered into the den of tranquility and the asshole had marked me as the class ass! And, what had been with the Instructor Poe? Near as I could tell, Mr. Poe had been a drop- out part time teacher from the nearest community college!
“Well, it just couldn’t be helped. I had been aiding a three legged dog across the street and you know how long that can take!” had been my retort.
The next twenty-six weeks would be 6 months of trying to not be angry when I really am in living Hell.
As I took my metal seat and glanced about the room, it occurred to me that my town must be a very angry town. Twelve of the most despicable and undesirable persons one will ever meet sat around me .It seemed much like knights of the round table. Less knights, more psychos. Less round table, more like overly used desks from the nineteen-seventies. The kind of desk with the little metal chair attached.
There had been Al. I had met Al once. He worked up at the transfer station. Recently, he had been fined for looking at people’s private information. The kind of information found on old prescription bottles. The kind of bottles that have refills on them. Al, I guess, took the whole situation in stride by taking a shit on the mayor’s lawn.
Ruth, approximately, 150 years old. Ruth lived down at the home where I would be doing my community service. Ruth did not like string beans touching her mashed potatoes. Ruth alerted the staff to this by hitting the night shift security guard over the head with her newly purchased oxygen tank. I guess it’s true what they say, the elderly have the strength of ten men when they don’t get what they want.
For the most part, my little group angry person’s gone astray, were just everyday citizens that I had come across at one point or another.
That is, other than Kennedy, Kennedy. What a strange name for a woman. What a strange woman for an anger management group.
She sat there stoic and a step above the rest of us. Her rich bitch attitude glowed with every name brand article of clothing that she wore. North Face jacket, L.L. Bean duck boots and Gap hoodie- neon green! The more notable distinction about this woman? Her name! Kennedy Knight!
Joking, as I sat myself across from the new kid on the block. “So, is that a stage name?”
The thing with my humor? It is strictly designed for my consumption only. Kennedy had not been impressed with my sophomoric behavior. As the chairs scuffed their way into place, as the pecking order made itself without help from the ‘Instructor’, it soon became apparent that life would be very, very, very long. At least for the next six months.
Instructor Poe handed out the ‘I fucked up and now I’m stuck in this stupid class’ pamphlets. The first one had a full length picture of the human body. No fancy Latin names for body parts. No arrows pointing at private parts. Nothing but a sketched out anonymous image of an unknown human being.
The usual came along with the nondescript paper. A cheap, fill it in yourself, name tag. A list of all attendees, their names and their phone numbers. Dos and don’ts of class. And, our first writing assignment.
I wasn’t sure how I felt about the list of private information being handed out amongst Skanklin’s ‘not finest”. We had been told it was an emergency contact list. It was not to be shared with anyone outside of the room we were currently in.
The do and don’t list was fine. The needing to ‘leave personal space’ at the front door, motto, was not so cool.
Instructor Poe believes that the invasion of personal space; an overt intrusion are the cornerstones of our current society. So rather than fighting it, he believes we, as a whole, should succumb to it!
WTF? Part of the function my father used in his dysfunctional discipline had been standing over my shoulder.
“Where’s your father? Have you seen him since he got home from work?”
My typical response, “He’s right there. Over my left shoulder. How can you miss him? He’s the one with a scowl and swearing, lazy bitch!”
Instructor Poe Poe went so far as to put chalk marks on the floor. Each chair placed exactly one inch from the other.
The photocopy of the unknown naked person? One of the assignments had been to ‘picture’ the person in our family that angers us the most. We are to than take that picture and draw ourselves that angry asshole. Along with that, in our journals, we will be taking a look back. A look back into our family history.
The whole shitty situation just went from solid stool to runny poop! The lonely little peckerhead, Poe, even went so far as to sign us all up for a free trial offer with’ My Pedigree-tree’. MPP.com is an online service dedicated to telling you just how fucked you really are. They not only tell you that you have no chance of leading a normal life, they offer online newspaper clippings, birth certificates and arrest warrants, confirming that you bloodline never had a chance. Right from the moment your ancestors got off the boat from Bosnia and/or straight from the time when your great, great, great, Cherokee Uncle took a shot at Custer!
Something happens to me in times of difficulty. It feels as though my ass is on fire. Not fire from a bad case of tacos. Not the burning sensation one gets when eating sardines and pepperoni on Ritz cracker. It is more like an external tingling burning sensation. Usually it leaves me feeling like I need a oil drum filled with ice. My sobriety coach tells me time and time again:
“Fool, you’re having a fucking anxiety attack. Get to a meeting. Do you feel like drinking? Have you said the Serenity Prayer? Have you asked for help?”
Bruce Lee, funny name huh? I wonder what his parents were thinking. Anyway, Bruce believes all adult stress is directly related to not following the rules of sobriety. Maybe, maybe not.
I felt clean. In a spiritual sense. I am mindful to the others, to the best of my ability. An Alcoholics Anonymous meeting would not cure the situation. I suppose breathing would. But breathing is difficult when you are not able to breathe.
This too, shall pass. And, if not a cigarette, usually takes care of the situation. The Buddha believes that one should be mindful constantly. Mindful and aware of others. Continually respectful of how our actions and thoughts effect others.
That perhaps, the customer ‘not at your’ service representative who always refers to you as sir, has no medical coverage. And, maybe, the lack of medical coverage and poor wage has caused the young adult to upgrade and/or refurbish their grammar school eye glasses. Which would make sense because not only do they mistake your sex, they have an enormous capacity for spitting. Not an all out wadded up piece of liquid comprised of breakfast and post nasal drip. Just little drops of drool. Enough to water the customer down. Not enough to cleanse the soul of the forgotten customer. Anyway, Buddhism tells us that this little pimple head with legs and arms could easily have had a devastating morning. And, with just one wrong word from the practicing human Buddha, the Thrift Store Savant, could call it quits. He or she is now willing to take leave of this world just because you told them to.
‘Get a vasectomy and help the world!’
I am so trying this philosophy. I am really working the awareness idea. I had been doing well. I cut the sarcasm down to just jaded retorts on rare occasions. I leave the idea of getting my way, no matter what, at the cat box door. Particularly when planning a day trip to any government service agency.
There are five places of interest in Skanklin. The eat while you watch cinema, the two dollar store .
Two dollar stores are real! I like real. Let’s face it. Nothing useful is made for the cost of one single dollar. It takes at least two bucks to purchase a high quality vitamin!
Beyond the cinema and the ‘store’, there is the Gandhi-Mart and Catholic Used and Cheap thrift store, there is, Mr. B. Got. Mr. B. Got is a liquidator. If you need a magic eraser, a door stopper or a can of beer from India, the B is the place to go. Of
course, there is the other ulterior motive. There is Angel! Angel is no an angel. She is coarse like a piece of fine sandpaper. Her voice? Like a drunken sailor on leave. And, her smile tells of a life lead by lust and cookie dust! I have been in love with Angel since the day she rolled into town. Or, better put, got towed into town. Her Harley up on its pegs, looked like a jaded and broken mechanical horse. Angel, and her bike, had blown a gasket. And, until the day comes when the one only bike shop in town locates Angel’s ancient Harley and it’s blown part, the angel will remain in my heart and in Skanklin.
Glorious day! Angel provided me with not only a notebook. She provided me with the most sought after item in my world, her phone number.
I easily could have gone to the cheaper store. I most likely could have found a couple of pieces of slightly used paper within my house. But once smitten twice pushy! I jump at every opportunity I can to witness the Angel in action.
“Is that it, honey? Whatcha planning on writing?”
Words dripping with confidence and sex. I had been ridiculed by many friends. Harassed and bullied by acquaintances who knew of my crush. Every single one of them pissing in my Wheaties with,
“She ain’t no dyke!”
I have been known, back in my drinking days, to turn many a straight gal. I have also been seen running nearly naked through a few bar parking lots. Running like there would be no tomorrow from the irate husbands. All it takes is time and patience and I will get me a live Angel.
“I’d like to see your number in there, but I don’t see it. How much more for the notebook with the number in it?,” had been my reply.
Of course, Angel had smirked that knowing and self confident twitch of the lip. She took a pen from her breast pocket, nodded at me and jotted something on the inside cover of my newly purchased notebook:
“For a good time, call, Angel, 604-369-1289”
Fuck those townies. Screw all those straight and straight- laced pinheads down at Bunny’s Shave’ n Wet. I got the coveted number!
That friggin’ class. Tonight should be the night for learning about ridden hard and hung up wet women named Angel. Tonight should not be the night to stuff the mounting sexual frustration. The same frustration that tends to pent up bad thoughts. The same boxed negative feelings that, you guessed it, causes, anger.
I kissed Towanda good- night, I told Bogart he was to be in charge of the feline brood, kick started the ancient moped and headed down to the Unitarian church. Right around dusk, my town is different than any other town in the States. It glows neon and fades a dusty red in the rear-view mirror. The patrons of Skanklin stroll by holding hands and reminiscing about recent factories that have shut down. Out of nowhere, my small town is bearable and bright and something you dream about.
Judge ‘Flash’ Gordon, the town calls him. Flash has always had a thing for Linda Lou. No one understands it. The time she took the town’s fire truck out for a joy ride. Insisting that it had her tax dollars that paid for it. The day she decided to tie herself to the town’s only dump truck. Insisting that the one and only paid ‘garbage man’ who happens to be a woman named, Bee, had been going through L.L.’s trash. Sniffing her used panties and putting on her old and gently used nylons. All these times Flash, let Linda Lou off on her own personal recognizance. One day in court, I heard tell, he even asked her, ‘do you need help in getting your can down to the curb?’
What public servant does such a thing? Most of the townies believe he once dated Linda Lou and that she has some iffy photos of the two of them playing naked Twister.
I suppose it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that the cat is back. Linda Lou has a restraining order keeping her from the other side of the house. I am, for the first time in six years, alone but not lonely. The sad thing is that I am now court ordered to do community service and anger management classes. L. L. gets to go live with Mommy Dearest and I get to drive old people to and from doctor’s appointments. Oh, and I get the privilege of spending an hour a week with Skanklin’s most upset and therefore, most wanted blue collar individuals. Twenty six hours of my life will sub-come to hearing about other people’s problems and their inability to deal with them. I have so much of my own shit to deal with. I really do not have time to help others with their lack of common sense.
When I had been a child, I chewed my tongue. I had been instructed by Mother to chew my tongue instead of suck my thumb. Sucking my thumb would cause buck teeth. And, as it was, I broke a tooth, smiling and diving, at the local community viral pool. The dentist bill had broke the bank and the gnawing on the digit, caused my dentist to have a heart attack. Right there in between spit and swish, he went down like a teenage boy on a first date. Dr. Bear! What a horrible, horrible, man! All smiles, body odor and halitosis. The parents had asked for a discount due to the traumatic experience. The parents had blamed my continued, sometimes out of my control, antics, on my original sin at the dentist office. The original sin? Not taking my thumb out of my mouth long enough for the ‘Bear’ to add a cap to my mouth of jagged teeth.
The poor man grabbed for the drill, pulled on the spigot and grasped his chest. In times of trouble, I will scream like Weird Al on acid. In the dental electric chair, I had encountered one of my first times of trouble. Screaming, grabbing, and some sort of post heart attack gizzum, ensued for what seemed hours. In actuality, the poor Bear went down in five. I left with half a tooth and to this day, I chew the tongue instead of suck the thumb.
The day I believed Towanda had left me. The minute I broke into Linda Lou’s house. The second Judge Gordon’s gavel came down, I have been chomping at what little is left of my 48 year old tongue.
No time like the present to get to work. Done with the piss pot. Done with the whining to persons and jaded authority figures who wear their sexual frustrations on their badge. Time to get to work and pay some bills.
My job, of late, cleaning up after the beyond, dead. Nothing too fancy. However, I work for myself. Which is the only way to go. The B’ yond Cleaning Co., established, 2010, is my baby. She is my brainchild.
One late spring day, shortly after my grandfather had decided to give Lucifer a run for his money, I lay back down on the grassy moss of the lawn at Sunnyvale Gardens. Sunnyvale is a wrought iron, overrun with weeds, cemetery. Quiet and filled with Irish cops that have died via a toxic combination of Hep C and a poor liver. Dead Joe came to an end the day before St. Patrick’s day. So appropriate for a guy who went face down into a bowl of Cheerios with a lit Winston in one hand and a can of Coor’s light in the other. Family rumor has it that Joe had been getting all dressed up in full, blow the dust off, beat cop uniform. He had plans to attend the Woburn St. Patty’s Day Parade. Stroll down Main Street with the rest of the retired, now in motorized Rascals and still smelling of last night’s whore. Jugheads with a father’s complex, cops!
As I recall, the cemetery had been nothing but brimstone built upon granite rock of Irish dead. Quinns in one corner, O’Shaughnesys on the left and Fitzsimmons down by the Port A Potty. What a cluster fuck! If I hadn’t been sober that day, I would have easily ended up at the Dougherty’s pot luck and yearly celebration of their dog dying. The grounds seemed to be a sad combination of ‘let’s get drunk and terrorize the dead’ and a convention of P.P.A (Pedophile Priests Anonymous). You would be hard pressed to pay respects to the dear departed, particularly if time had been of the essence. That particular spring day, I went back to find Joe. There had been too much yelling, screaming, swearing and praying, for anyone to speak at the funeral or wake. Too many angry Irish- Poles looking to blame God for their problems while lying about how much they loved my grandfather.
What a mess that place was. Plastic dollar store flowers on the stones, broken and stolen Mother Mary’s chipped and tipped on donated benches. I felt sick. Sick from the stories that filled my grandfather’s passing. Stories of his dedication to serving the public. Tales of his bravery while cooking for the masses during WW II. Sick from the trash he left behind. Even sicker of the rubbish mourners produce without forethought to how they are going to get rid of it.
Than it occurred to me. Trash, Irish, dead and me! Why not make a stand? I’d always been outspoken on the ‘use and abuse’ of Mother Earth. Here had been chance to make things right and make a little money at the same time. Sure, most of my clients were catholic churches. Indeed, it had been a perk knowing that I would have the first hand privilege in making the eternal lives of drunk priests, angry nuns and occasional bloated “Mick” housewives, a non living hell. But it was a dirty job that needed to be done. Day in and day out, I get to taunt all those who had come before me with the Grateful Dead cranked while quoting from the Big Book.
It may not seem like much to anyone else, yet, I am a firm believer in limbo. That many of us aren’t bad enough to go to Heaven and most of us haven’t seen the best of Hell, yet. Therefore, the pieces of property I clean, mow, pick a part and put back together again are filled with souls that can hear every word spoken. And, everyone knows that the Irish are as fearful of sobriety as they are of paying taxes and going to church on Sunday after wild Saturday night.
I love this job. Today I have Bloomer Hill on the schedule. Nothing much. Just a quick wipe-down of the stones, an update to the cemetery map and a quick trip down to the woman made pond filled with Coy. That one had been my invention. Who doesn’t like a free fishing hole after a day of mourning?
The Coy had been an easy purchase. Ding Dung’s Buffet had been recently foreclosed and right before the ‘man’ from the bank came, I paid Ma Dung a visit. Offering to help her with the influx of stray cats before the PoPo came down on her, she quickly offered up her farm of Coy.
The cats had been not a problem at all. I live alone. My dog needs company and obviously, Towanda needed someone or somebody to keep an eye on her. Currently my abode is a quiet happy home of 15 semi feral cats, one domesticated cat and a dog named, Bogart. Thank Christ the state has a free spaying and neutering program. The only problem had been in borrowing a few acquaintances Social Security numbers. No matter, I prefer my animals over people anyway.
Right here, right now, is just the beginning to the ‘shit’ one recovering addict will go to to right a wrong.
After having finished a day of putting a high gloss finish to Mrs. Urknot’s stone. The Urknot’s grandchildren had emailed my website to inform me of their trip into town. They were planning a get together/seance over the plot: B.Y.O.B and potluck supper, they informed me. Good thing, too. That family is known for not only trash talking their own, but trashing up the whole town.
After the stone refurbishing and my new household task of emptying ten cat boxes, I sat down with an O’Douls and a hand rolled cigarette. Closing my eyes to mindful thoughts, nearing a Zen moment, the portable rings.
“Is this Ms. Dewey?” inquired a haggard voice.
“Who else would be answering her phone?” I had asked.
Sometimes these telemarketers, appointment setters, the persons who live their lives on the phone, can ask the most obviously stupid questions!
The long and the short of it all? My first class in managing my anger with another person’s idea of how it should be done, would be starting tonight. I paid fifty dollars to be taught a new way of looking at my asshole neighbor. It will cost me time out of work. Gas for the moped isn’t cheap. And, to top it all off, I need to buy a notebook! Or, so I am informed by Madam Anger Manager! MAM, as I like to call her.
So much for self medicating via meditation. So much for slow cooking the corn dogs in the oven. So much for the one night a week dedicated to shaving the legs. Everything goes out the window when bad tempers are involved!
Nothing really to point out but the obvious…we have become a stagnant nation. Living life in quotes. Enjoying our bling while poising for…none other than…ourselves. Selfie nation with no idea of how bad the shit really is.
Towanda knew my secret, long before I had any idea of what had occurred. I am not a philosopher, I am a bad poet and I have been told that…living with me was like being a participant in a Three Ring Circus.’
However, I am a lesbian, therefore, fully schooled on how life really is when you are an outsider. This read is for the freak. The uniquely agile person practiced in the art of ‘I choose to embrace difference…for indeed, it is all that allows to stand out from the pack.
Enjoy, participate, and above all, believe that there is a little Towanda…and a big, Stella, in all of us.
“I like being myself. Myself and nasty.”
― Aldous Huxley,
If there had been any other way to get my point across, let’s assume that I had already tried it. I attempted the ‘out of court’ mediation. That proceeding lead to my being falsely accused of having looked at a two hundred fifty pound woman with a page boy haircut through a bathroom window. Other options that had been looked into? The silent treatment, a vow to myself, stating non-verbally, I will not let that Jehovah hick ruin my day, again. And/or I will not let that wanna be religious Rosanne Barr rent space in my head, again. That chant became my daily reflection. Spoken hourly, sometimes every minute and often every second, those were, long term kind of days.
Nothing, absolutely nothing fit the glove. No tune amused the psychotic band. And, if you haven’t guessed by now, I hate my neighbor! My neighbor is the embryo to the sack that encompasses puss on a scab that has gone and got itself infected. Linda Lou Sweetland is the handmaiden to Lucifer’s Higher Power. There is no nice way around it. The woman is a bitch. And, this last time, this last, Pow Wow for persons with ‘not’ diagnosed brain disorders, had sent me over the edge.
How in the world could that have been, someone else’s cat? I had heard the faintest meow. I had been encouraged, yet somewhat dismayed, by the scratching that located itself outside my interior support wall. Encouraged because I had just recently misplaced my precious calico, Towanda. A difficult thing to do since she had been an indoor cat. I looked in the breadbox, the crisper and the ancient hat box that houses my used batteries. T-wa, as I playfully called her, had gone and disappeared. Though saddened, I did what any good mother would do. I called 911 and left a description with an obvious animal hater. I posted T-wa’s selfie on every leftover phone booth I could find. I cried and played, Angel by Sarah McLaughlin over 1000 times. Literally, no stone or cat box, had gone upturned!
Had the scratching at the interior wall been a bad flashback from too many times passing ‘Go’ during Bongopoly games in college? Well, duh, that is always my first consideration. The visual hallucinations are less intrusive now that I consider them real. After all, everything is real as long as the internet tells you so. Web MD is a wonderful little helper when it comes to those little delusional dilemmas.
However, this noise had not shown itself. It was not the pink cloud that often hangs above my thoughts. It hadn’t been the shadow of Bob Marley. An illusion that only comes out when I am playing slot machines at the local Belmont-Not Really-Stakes. This sound had been more consistent and somewhat annoying. Not only that, the meowing began shortly after that peck, peck, peck, scratch and tear, at the wall.
Hence, I had quietly resolutely asked Linda Lou,
“Hey, have you seen my cat?”
No worded response had been gurgled from the two legged upright Neanderthal woman. The friggin’ bitch did grunt something, though. A distinct groan between the sounds of hmm, and Ha, Ha! I did what the local Scanklin P.D. had politely, but with little belief, asked me to do.
“When she gets in your face, call us. It will take two days, but we will get to you.”
Two days had come and gone. 48 hours of knowing in the pit of my stomach that Linda Lou Who had kidnapped my cat. 49 hours went by. 55 hours, 7 minutes and 56 seconds went by. No P.D., no squad car of clowns in drag. No nothing.
On the 56 hour I made my own law. I aptly called it, Stella’s Revenge! The plan had been simple. Wait until Linda Lou goes to her weirdo Wednesday night meeting of even weirder religious beliefs. When she puts that fat ass in her neon sea-foam green Sentra and tucks, All along the Watchtower, above the visor, I will slip in via her broken basement window. Recently broken due to a bizarre windstorm where large rocks flew about the lawn. I only know this because I share a Condex with Linda Lou. An old Carriage House divided into two. Each section unto it’s own island. A good deal during a short sale. A bad deal during Linda Lou’s moments where she does not believe medications are for the taking.
Long story short, some J.W. took it upon himself to flush a rainbow flag down the commode. The whole temple looked, from what I am told, like a family of ants in polyester running from God. Needless to say, as soon as I managed to pry myself up off the basement floor, I Frankensteine’d my way up to the first floor. Just as I spotted my little four legged bitchy diva, the lights went on, the curtain goes up. I say, curtain because she kept my poor cat in her awful bathroom. The beady- eyed female Satan came at me with a whisk broom.
Somewhere I had learned that if you hit someone in the throat, there are no marks. There is no bruising. The pain is maximum for the minimal effort put in. With a punch to the throat, lard ass fell like a bowling pin after a strike has been made. It is kind of sad to see. She did bounce though. That made me feel a little better about the ‘leaving evidence behind’ concept. With Towanda wrapped in a decorative dish towel, I took a quick Linda Lou ‘selfie’ and got the hell out!
My mother has always told me, ‘Stella, it will be your pride that gets you in the deep shit!’ My mother had her own box of psychological diagnosis. My mother was always good at pointing out the obvious.
I had mistakenly put the “ Linda Lou Takes a Tumble photo on Instagram. It became an overnight sensation. Tagged and re-tagged. It was uploaded and sent to friends of friends of friends of the chief of police.
I have been in the ‘program’ for 19 years. 14 of which were and are continuous sobriety. I had heard that same old Stepford Wife saying, ‘self will run riot!’ Chanting without thought and brainwashed via cliches, ‘do not think less of self. Think selfless.’
Yeah, right! Those weird little old school sayings were fine back when people called dollar bills folding money. That shit does not work in today’s world.
Caught red handed, had been how one cop put it. Another cop, we told her we were on our way. Really? Had they planned on taking a slow boat from China?