Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Attack of the Spotted Donkey

Spot went on the warpath. Spot is the polka-dotted donkey next door who has long ears like the dishes for banana splits and round, pink-rimmed eyes like he’s been crying. He’s the one Eldon puts his grandniece on, the little girl who is his pride and joy and whose knees Pearl keeps padded, even when she’s not on her bike—that’s how careful they are with her.

One morning, very early, before I was quite awake, I saw Spot’s long, banana split ears bobbing past the deck. That wasn’t right. I blinked to clear my head like I blinked that time I reached up into the kitchen cabinet to get a mixing bowl and there inside, as casual as cake batter, coiled like a garden hose, was a snake. I screamed even though I’m not afraid of snakes. It was the shock of it.

The dog, AKA the Big Stupid, was as shocked as I was, and he started barking and running from window to window, jumping on the sills, threatening to crash through the glass, spittle flying every which way and then Kurt’s alarm started ringing. I grabbed the phone, slid into my flip-flops, and even though I was braless and still in my guinea tee, hair sticking out all over the place and teeth unbrushed, I ran outside while I dialed Pearl and Eldon.

By the time I got into the yard, Spot was trying to crash through the barnyard fence and the horses, who are unaccustomed to uninvited visitors of the equine kind and especially those who are attacking, crowded around on their side of the fence, the old guy, Doc, in the back, and the little one, Minnie, looking quite like me, with hair sticking out all over the place, behind him. Bullet and Harley were in front. Everyone was screaming—the horses were whinnying and Spot was hee-hawing. In between hee-haws, with his neck stretched out as far as it would go, his jugular quivering, his nostrils flaring, Spot clapped his teeth together and bit the air. Once or twice he made contact and grabbed a hold of the skin on Bullet’s neck. Bullet reared back, releasing himself. I looked for blood. Then they spun around and kicked at each other. Wham! Wham! Wham! Someone’s foot landed on a rail with a loud clunk. But the board stayed up.

“Get back!” I screamed. “Get back!” I waved one hand and dialed the phone with the other.

It rang. And rang.

Com’on, com’on.

I ran to the barn and grabbed a halter and lead rope and ran back out again. I broke a flip-flip. I discarded the good one. It went flying up by the pool and perhaps landed in the water—I don’t know—I never found it.

Finally Eldon answered the phone and I blurted out what was happening, “Spot’s loose! He’s attacking the horses!”

“What’s that you say?”

“Spot’s loose! He’s trying to crash through my fence!”

“Who is this?”

“It’s Debi! Spot’s loose!”

“Alright. We be right over.”

When I got back over to the horses, Spot was on the top rail and it was making a cracking sound like how a log sounds in a wood splitter. I don’t know how he got up that high. He’s only as big as a large pony. But to see him in action… It was pretty impressive. My horses hovered around him even though, fence and all between them, and he was sorely outnumbered, he was getting the better of them. If that rail broke, he’d get in there and he’d kill at least one of them, if not all. I didn’t know what to do! He wasn’t backing off because I was yelling. He was completely oblivious to me. So I took aim and whaled the halter and lead rope. It hit him dead on. Whump! He jumped down off the fence, surprised, and ran back a few feet. Then he turned around and faced me.

Now I had to catch him. He took a couple of steps toward us again, trying to figure out a way to get around me.

All this time I could hear Kurt’s alarm still ringing and the dog barking in the house. Eldon was probably still putting his shoes on. I was going to have to do this myself. But I was barefoot. And I was scared. Spot is a stallion. Now I knew why they say don’t keep stallions unless you’re a breeder. Who would have ever guessed Spot to be so violent? Spot, the one whose pink nose I tickle and who loves to get his neck scratched. Spot, who lives peacefully on the other side of the lilacs along my driveway and gallops clumsily to the fence when he sees me coming with an apple. This was not the Spot I knew. This was more like one of those stallions fighting to the death on a National Geographic documentary, ripping flesh and cracking skulls with flailing forefeet.

I’ve heard stories about stallions. I’ve heard that one will suddenly, for no apparent reason, maybe he smells a mare on you, or you made some sort of an error with your body language, grab a hold of your arm in his mouth and lift you off your feet and shake you like a rag doll. If you are lucky, he will dislocate your shoulder. If not, he will take the whole arm off. But I had no choice. I couldn’t let him get my horses.

I squatted down, and while keeping my eyes on him, I picked up the halter and lead rope. I stood back up. I took a few steps forward, reached out and talked to him in baby talk. But he stared at me, stock still. I didn’t know if he was suspicious because I’d just whaled him, or he was getting ready to attack me. I got closer and closer. Easy. Easy. I could feel his breath on my knuckles. The horses behind me were running back and forth along the fence, still whinnying, they were so shook up.

I slipped the halter over his head. Nothing.

Around that time, Pearl and Eldon appeared. They scratched their heads.

“How in the world did Spot get hisself out? Someone musta left them gates open.”

They were not fazed by what happened. They couldn’t picture it. I knew they didn’t get it because they were too calm, thinking about getting back to their coffee. Eldon slipped a piece of baling twine around Spot’s neck and handed me back the halter.

“Well, thanks a lot,” he said. “Com’on Boy.”

“Sure looks like it’s gonna be a pretty one,” Pearl said, looking up at the sky as they walked across the street.

“No harm done,” I called after them. “I didn’t see any blood!”

Perhaps they think I’m some hysterical Yankee who gets all riled up because of some loose livestock? Spot is as gentle as a lamb! Next thing you know I’ll be complaining about roosters cock-a-doodle-dooing or flies congregating. Maybe they thought I was mad at them and they felt funny? Which I was not. Because accidents happen. Especially concerning animals. My own horses got loose one time and ran down the middle of a highway causing traffic to be stopped in both directions for two hours and damage to the manicured lawns of brick McMansions newly built in the neighborhood. So I know shit can happen.

I just wanted someone to say, “Oh my God! That was close! I can’t believe he did that! You must have been scared to death!” Anything! But only the dog seemed concerned.

A couple of days later, Pearl brought us over a big mess of green beans and we brought them over some watermelon. That’s what you do in the country to make sure there are no hard feelings.

And put up good fences.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

A Crisis

Kurt got fired. I might as well have said Kurt grew another arm, that’s how unbelievable it is. Especially because it wasn’t due to the economy. And certainly not because of Kurt’s performance. Turns out the boss was using him to get his store up and running and then when he thought it was stable, he fired Kurt and hired some hayseed who doesn’t know half what Kurt knows for half the pay. We put our all into that store. I even worked there for free. Who does that?

We all worked there--Kelly came into the store to help me clean

It was a major shock. Kurt has never gotten fired in his life. There was no warning. We had no idea. If anything, we were getting pats on the back. So we weren’t prepared. And we were hurt. How could this guy do this to us after how hard we worked? How could he do this to us after we did exactly what we said we were going to do and ran that store like it was our own? Knowing, knowing his store was our only income (don’t forget, I worked there for free) and we had a child to take care of? He didn’t even have the decency to give us any notice, not a single day’s notice, causing us to be in dire straits. In fact, the day before this happened, we spent Kurt’s entire paycheck, part on work clothes for that place. And I couldn’t even return them because I removed all the tags and washed them.

Everybody got sick from it—there was so much stress. This happened right around the time my mother took a turn for the worse so if you want to look on the bright side, if this hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t have been able to go up there for as long as I did because I was working at the store.

Even so, bright side, dark side, I couldn’t even talk about it on here until now.

The Chinese character for “crisis,” when translated into English, means “opportunity.” Maybe this was the kick in the pants we needed. In Jersey, we had our own company. But when we moved here, Kurt got wooed by a flooring store who heard abut his background and experience. A company van was dangled in front of our faces. There was a 401K plan, health insurance, vacations, raises. Still, we had to really think about it. We’d always been our own boss. But we were scared. Virginia is not New Jersey. Maybe we wouldn’t be successful around here? There just aren’t as many people down here to even buy flooring. And there’s that Yankee thing going on—will they trust me to do a good job for them? It sure would be nice to have a steady paycheck and not always have to worry and maybe even take a vacation like normal people do… And so we took the job.

Does anyone see the irony here? Couple works for themselves and does fine. Couple moves to a new area, feels insecure, and so works for someone else for the security. Ha! The first guy, though not intentionally bad, ended up giving us bounced paychecks because he was a poor businessman. He didn’t mean it. He was actually very good to us. But he put us in a hole. The second guy, who bought out the first guy’s store, had it all planned. He was the bad one. But that’s okay. If there’s one thing I believe in, it’s what goes around comes around. Anyone who has ever hurt me over the years has always gotten bad luck of some kind. I’ve sat back and waited and watched and something bad always happens to them. I don’t have to lift a finger. It’s nature. It’s karma. It’s even in the Bible. Whatever. The point being is if you are a bad person and you hurt people, your time will come. I’m sorry but somehow that makes me feel a little better.

My other consolation is that I know we are now going to be successful doing what we should have done from the get-go—being in our own flooring business—and the guy who screwed us is going to be crying when our company kicks his company’s ass and he realizes he blew it because he had two of the best people in the industry putting their hearts and their souls into his business.

Now we are putting our hearts and souls into our own business. It’s called Shop-At-Home Floors. I admit, it’s going to be tricky. We’re doing this on a shoestring because we’ve had no time to prepare and the economy is really bad, but that’s okay—if anybody can do it, we can.

And so now comes an exciting journey in our lives. The opportunity.