Tuesday, June 27

Battle Fatigue

My grown, married, new father son turned away from his duty as a man. He said he was "afraid" of it. So was his wife. When I looked at it, so was I!Without emotion he replied he doesn't do spiders or roaches.

It was huge - and frolicking round and round inside our pantry sink, his prickly feet creating that familiar staccato that sends a chill down my spine. The irrigation had come today, and sewer roaches sometimes follow. We do live in the desert where water is the gift of life. If, however, the life has 6 legs I would prefer it remain outside. This guy looked like he had acclimated to being indoors. Since my son refused his manly duty, I prepared myself.

Years ago we lived in a double-wide mobile home with evaporative cooling, which is just the perfect environment for truly amazing sewer roaches. They were a hybrid species from some post-holacost society that could resist any and all forms of standard poisons and efforts to repel their entry. Daddy worked late. We were home alone. The roaches would begin their assault after the sun went down on humid, hot summer evenings. You could hear them scratching around inside discarded coke cans in the trash. Their scuttling generated real horror in my heart. The can had to be removed from the trash. This simple procedure might take 3 or 4 attempts - none of us wanted the beast to jump out onto our hand. Once the can was safely out on the kitchen floor, the kids and I were armed with brooms and a breathless few moments of waiting. Eventually the long, probing feelers would gently twitch at the flip-top opening of the coke can. The roach then boldly declared himself by rushing lightning quick out of the can and across the floor.

Batting furiously with our brooms we jumped and screamed like banshees. If we were not successful in beating it to death, it might take flight - there's nothing worse than having a sewer roach fly into your neck. Really. Sometimes the advent of the intruder was only announced by a scream somewhere in the house. We could count on each other to rally to the defense; upending furniture or poking underneath the refridgerator with a yardstick until at last the enemy was exposed and dispatched. The fear of the moment was not as motivating as our desire to protect each other and see it through together.

I never thought I'd look back on those experiences with any fondness, but I did today. The children and I were really a team; all for one and one for all. Sometimes when it was all over we'd just stand over the kill sweating and gasping, our throats sore from screaming, the gross-out factor right off the chart...but we got him. That was all that mattered.

I approached the pantry with a can of bug spray and a feeling of abandonment.

Wednesday, June 14

Smelly Ellie

We had been meaning to go for months and months. It is called, "Smelly Dog" - a do-it-yourself dog wash business off 7th Ave. The concept was as catchy as its name; no more nasty bathtub at home to clean after giving the dog a bath. Ellie is an outside dog, and she was really over-due for a good bath. After a vigorous brushing in the far corner of the back yard, the girls and I put her in the car and we headed out to 'Smelly Dog'. I was nervous, because Ellie is afraid of new people and sometimes acts aggressively towards other dogs. We didn't know what to expect about the place or how Ellie would react to it.

Inside we were enthusiastically greeted by half a dozen fluffy, happy dogs of all different sizes, shapes and colors. 3 or 4 human faces looked up and smiled as well. I swear they greeted our dog first. Lovely doggie treats were displayed everywhere in large, open bins and plastic containers. (I felt personally tempted by the ones that looked just like chocolate cookies with rainbow dee-dees on top). Two handsome young gay guys ran the place. One of them was lathering a big hairy dog, and the other squatted in front of the now cowering Ellie who had plastered herself flat against the tile floor. He put out the back of his hand to her nose, and spoke directly to her. "We're a little scared, are we?" he stroked behind her ear. Asia was explaining how Ellie isn't around other people or dogs very often, and that she was especially afraid of men, but none of that didn't seem to bother this guy one bit. The young man directed us to stall #3.

To our surprise, they supplied everything we could need, and more than I knew even existed for a dog bath. We each put on plastic aprons, and watched as our host deftly removed Ellie's collar for one that attatched to the front of the elevated tub. She submitted to the warm water wand, the 'no tears' shampoo (lots of it), the conditioner and the doggie spray-cologne that smelled like flowers. All the hairs fell into a little bucket under the drain. We toweled her and blew her with a hair dryer that was a long vacuum-like tube from a little plastic red dog house. We combed and brushed her blonde fur, and dabbed the inside of her ears with a cotton ball dipped in 'ear-refresher'. It was funny to be part of 6 arms and hands busily working over one dog.

The end result was a beautifully scented fluffy Ellie with freshly clipped toenails at no extra charge. She seemed to enjoy the whole thing, in a reserved way - it was actually kind of hard to tell because she still cowered and cringed with ridiculously sad eyes. She tentatively touched noses with some of the other furiously wagging dogs without incident. They made a little index card for our return visits, and filed it under Ellie Tanner. Our 6th visit would be free. Outside, we praised her for her good behavior. She looked like a different person entirely. We were damp and spitting out hairs while our dog looked like a canine queen. At home, I worried about the dusty back porch getting her dirty. I swept it and hosed it and spent half an hour making it spic and span. We kept her inside until the 111 degree heat outside dried the porch completely, and when I let her out, I ruffled the silky scruff of her neck and took extra time petting her again and telling her how much we admired her new look.

As soon as I was in the house and shut the door, I could see her through the window watching my retreat. After 5 immobile seconds, she ran to the middle of the yard and skidded her entire right side violently across the ground. She clawed like a mad badger as she plowed her body forward, making grass, dirt and pebbles fly. I yelled at her through the glass, but it was too late. She only paused long enough to switch directions and repeat the violation to the opposite side. Tongue lolling stupidly from her grinning mouth, bits of lawn and leaves delicately settling on the tips of still fluffed fur, I realized that now I was looking at a truly happy dog.

Monday, June 12


I know they find me puzzling...a Mormon who agrees with most of their basic message, and who thanks them for their time.

The two women are always impeccably dressed, their cheerfulness and sincerity are truly admirable in the late afternoon heat of a Phoenix dog-day. Their visits follow a pattern. After a little chat, one will offer to share a scripture. It is intended to present something new and tantalizing. However, while it may seem foreign to mainstream Christians, it is not unfamiliar to LDS doctrine. This surprises them. A lot. The topic today was that the Lord promised to extend the life of this earth forever. "Yes," I say, "we are really looking forward to when the earth is restored to it's paradisciacal glory." (Articles of Faith, #10 Joseph Smith, Jr.)

Predictably at this point, they lose their cool slightly and both of them trip over each other trying to ask me a question they presume will stump me...letting me know that at one time one of them lived in Payson where there seemed to be a lot of "us".

The one in the background steps forward and fires away: "How do you feel about all the negative publicity your church has been getting lately?" She is openly smug behind her broad smile and arched eyebrows. "What negative publicity?" This is going to be good. I continue, "In fact, we are enjoying greater respect and influence from the media than at any previous time in history." During their stunned silence, I give a brief over-view of the world-wide humanitarian effort and the universiality of our support to it and our fellow men.

Oh, the 'fundamentalists' - now they're on track again. "They're not and we don't call them that, either." Now the first sister pipes up, "So you believe they are apostates?" I do not ignore the key word 'believe'. I explain that they have been for over a 100 years. I wonder why they don't notice my modern rhinestone-studded jeans and tailored blouse as they are speaking to me about a whack-o cult who prefers calico, braids and 13 year old brides.

I say goodbye because they are backing away and making a friendly exit. As I close the door, I wanted to hear what they were going to say to each other. I wished I was my oldest daughter, who is a brilliant missionary and disarmingly young and beautiful and articulate. They would have had something to talk about had she been the one at the door instead of me.

I wonder what motivates them to beat the sticky pavement like they do, making repeated return visits to someone like me who will not yield. It makes me wish I had something profound to say, so what faith I had to offer would be the new and tantalizing thing.

Thursday, June 8

Running On Empty

I was feeling very educated to listen to "Founding Brothers", a New York Times best-seller book on CD - all 11 of them as a matter of fact,including a final CD number 12 which featured a fascinating phone interview with the author.

Listening while finishing two sewing projects and a big art project satisfied my desire to accomplish some things that needed to get done, and a craving to learn more about something - anything - almost.

Returning the CD set, I recognized a title as a famous book, although I couldn't recall any specifics about the story or the author. It appealed to me nevertheless and I happily checked it out. This morning I put the first of 7 discs into my daughter's portable CD player and programmed the eliptical machine at the school gym. I was smug to know I was once again being so incredibly productive with my time.

After about 40 minutes on the eliptical, 15 min. on the stationary bike and maybe half-way through the 4th chapter of the book, I could hear my conscience literally yelling at me to do the right thing; I turned off the CD.

A clever title like "Running With Scissors" should have been so much better than this. It was disappointing that skillfully crafted narrative would yield to the 'honesty' of being really gross.

Millons of people much more educated than myself had clamored to praise this book. It was a waste of a really great title. Then I remembered I had forgotten my glasses when I was at the library, and could not read the fine print on the CD jacket. Imagine my shock and surprise to read later that this was a non-fiction memoir.

Now I have a new question; who - having apparantly survived the mother of all dysfunctional childhoods - would want to tell everyone all about it? Some things really are best left alone.