The Manic Cleanse

Every August for the past five years, I am reminded of the burglary of our cabin. We had built the cabin the previous year, and it had soon become our happy place. The break-in happened in the wee hours of the morning on a Wednesday, and was discovered by our tech who was there to work on the internet. We had a call from the County Sheriff at about 11 a.m. My husband was leaving on a business trip, so I decided to go up north and assess the damage.

The sheriff met me at the cabin, clearly shaken. He had the looks and mannerisms of Barney Fife from the The Andy Griffith Show. His voice quavered as he explained the burglar had cut the line to the alarm, the internet, and the phone line. (At that time we were unable to get cell phone service.) The thief had thrown a rock through the glass door in the porch that lead to the kitchen. Once airborne the rock bounced across our new wood floor. Barney the Sheriff, put a hand on my shoulder, assuming I was trembling with tears; it was rage not tears. Tiny shards of broken glass were embedded in our beautiful, new wood flooring, the rock had gouged the kitchen cabinetry as well. Our television was ripped from its brackets. The stereo wiring hung sadly from the wall. The computer was gone. As I walked around the cabin I began to notice that my favorite accent pieces were also missing. What would a guy want with my Qtip holder, my jewelry bowl, my new bedside clock, and several knickknacks? By the time I finished my tour of the destruction, I was boiling mad.

The Sheriff had boarded up the glass door and said he’d keep an eye on the place, assuming I was about to leave. When I told him I was staying the night to clean up the broken glass and the purple finger-print ink that he had so generously applied to every surface, he was aghast. I assured him I’d be fine, I had the dogs with me. He glanced doubtfully at Ole, my Golden Retriever and Lucy, my Yorkie; I could read his mind: stuffed animals. “And really, what was left to steal if the motherfucker wanted to return?” I said,”In fact, I’d really like to meet the motherfucker, and strangle his motherfucking neck. How dare he break in here and steal my fucking shit! Motherfucker!” Reluctantly, the Sheriff left. I think my lavish use of the word motherfucker put him off, either that or it reassured him I wasn’t afraid. 

I set to work on my hands and knees with a hand brush and broom; vigorously thrusting the weapons of mass perfection (my pet term for cleaning tools) under the stove, fridge, and sink. Every surface was covered with broken glass and every item on those surfaces needed to be thoroughly washed. Cleaning up all the the glass shards was like a bad joke: the more I collected, the more I found. Tiny shards of glass wedged into my knees and the soles of my feet. I didn’t care. I filled a bucket with water and Murphy’s Oil Soap and attacked the woodwork with a sponge. Cleaning can be cathartic, especially when you’re angry. Scrubbing and mopping never felt so good!

With sweat pouring from the roots of my hair and my T-shirt soaked through, I finally got to my feet and felt somewhat relieved. Upstairs I showered and then took a tweezers to the embedded glass in my knees and feet. By now it was getting dark. I walked outside with my dogs for their nightly potty break, making my way around the cabin. Two plastic chairs from our garage were set out front overlooking the lake. This was odd since we never use those chairs anymore. As I approached the chairs I noticed several empty beer cans (not our brand) strewn about in the grass. Shit! Two motherfuckers! There were two thieves who had a party after they stole our stuff. Motherfuckers! I was angry all over again. Then I saw the shotgun shells. For the first time I was worried…

I’ve often thought that in a previous life I must have been a big burly man since my reaction to conflict is always to fight back. Here I am, a hundred and twenty-five pounds of thunder, some threat to a motherfucker with a shotgun. I called the dogs and went back into the cabin to go to bed. Needless to say I couldn’t sleep, the shotgun shells played with my mind. What if the motherfucker came back? I still had plenty of knickknacks he hadn’t taken. Within minutes, Ole was sprawled out on the floor snoring. Lucy was curled up next to me on the bed. Every sound the cabin made was amplified; water running in the pipes was a truck coming down our road, the wind chattering the windows became someone breaking in. Why had I stayed? What a fool!

Then I sat up. The crunch of tires on gravel was unmistakable. Lucy growled, Ole snored uninterrupted. The flash of headlights had me on my feet, running down the stairs, with Lucy on my heels. Downstairs I groped along the wall for the weapons of mass perfection: with broom in hand I waited by the door, out of sight. He got out of his truck. The motherfucker was coming back! I wiped my feet on the rug since, once again, I had stepped on shards of glass. Lucy growled and then barked savagely as I kicked open the door (channeling a Bruce Willis move.) She had her jaws snapped onto his pants leg while I thrust the broom handle into his midsection. Oh, we were a force to be reckoned with. The motherfucker said, “Whoa, what you got there?” I poked his gut with my weapon. “My weapon. You better get back in your truck.” Meanwhile Ole joined our surprise party and was burrowing his nose in the guy’s crotch, Lucy’s jaws were still firmly planted on his pants leg. “Mrs. Baker,” he said. “I’m Deputy Carlson, I just come by to see if you were alright.” I poked him again. “Sure you did. Forget a knickknack or two?” He faked confusion, and said, “Look I have a badge and a uniform.” I shook my head. “So do I. Unless you took it.” Then he laughed. “Have you been drinking?” I gripped the handle of the broom. “You’re the one who’s been drinking! I found all your empty beer cans, loser.” He held up his hands in surrender. “Okay, I’ll leave. Just checking on you.” With that he got back into his car and drove off. I patted my two sidekicks and went inside feeling victorious.

EPILOGUE: The two burglars, a husband and wife, were caught robbing a Spur Station with a sawed off shotgun. The wife was our cleaning lady. I never did get my knickknacks back.

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Fillies Race for Hope

Last Sunday I had the opportunity to attend the Fillies Race for Hope at Canterbury Downs, a benefit given for Hope Chest for Breast Cancer. I have never been to a horse race, so it was with great anticipation that my husband and I arrived at the track. I had expected excitement, good food, a glass of wine, but what was unexpected was the event itself. The lead horses and their jockeys were all decked out in pink headdresses and costumes. The stands filled with women in flamboyant pink hats and outfits–what an incredible representation of support.

What struck me the most, however, were the stories. Cancer is not only terrifying, it is costly. Many women lose their jobs since chemotherapy can take from six months to a year to complete. Unable to work they find themselves unemployed and broke, on top of being extremely ill. Some of these women even lost their homes. I had the honor of meeting Barbara Hensley who is the founder of Hope Chest for Breast Cancer. After her two sisters died from cancer, she quit her job and started this organization. They provide help for whatever need arises with this disease, from paying the heating bills to paying the mortgage, bridging the gap for thousands of women and allowing them some peace of mind.

I felt humbled. The strength of these survivors is amazing. The generosity and compassion of those involved in Hope Chest for Breast Cancer is also amazing. My thanks and gratitude goes out to all of them.

Poop in the Shoe

I have recently been picked up by a new publisher, Calumet Editions. It’s been an exciting few weeks preparing my first two books, Magel’s Daughter and Magel’s Ghost, for re-release in September. But also, hectic. I work from the study in my home and typically I’m at my desk writing most of the day. And so are my dogs, Lucy and Ole. Ever loyal and accustomed to my schedule, they curl up and nap while I write. After about an hour I usually become stuck on a phrase or concept. This is a good time to change the laundry or empty the dishwasher; nothing like housework to jog the mind. When I return to the study, the dogs wait expectantly for their treat which I’ve deliberately slid into my pockets. This back and forth continues throughout the day.

My schedule changed when I began editing the Magel manuscripts. I did not leave my desk for long stretches of time since editing requires intense focus. The dogs were not happy about this no treats, no attention schedule. Four hours went by before I remembered an errand I had to run that day. Feeling guilty, I called the dogs to the back entry to come with me. Tongues and tails wagging, they happily jumped into the car. I went back inside to the closet and slipped my bare feet into my Sperry Topsiders. There was something in the right toe, something squishy. I removed my foot, toes oozing poop. I hobbled into the laundry room to wash my reeking foot. I then dug out the poop from my shoe with a paper towel and washed it as well. Back in the car, my feet in flip flops and still reeking of poop, I glared at Lucy. Her tiny black nose twitched, sniffing my foot. She looked up at me and hung her head– guilty as charged.