Categories
Little Bits of Stupid Photography

If a Car Hits a Tree in the Forest…

If a Tree Falls in a Forest
Will My Dad Find Out?
Taken August 9, 2008 with Canon PowerShot A550

Of course, my Dad found out. He always found out everything I was up to, and he always gave me a chance to own up to it, relating the dirty deed to me in a manner designed to make me believe he really didn’t know who had done it. You know, in case I wanted to get it off my chest. Which I never did. Even though *I* knew that he knew…. nope. Wouldn’t admit to it. Never.

Like that time when I was five, and the kids up the street and I set fire to the empty field behind my house. Somehow we managed to stomp it out before it got away from us, and we all went home for supper, absolutely certain we were in the clear.

And then, my Dad read the “Police Report” out of the newspaper (yeah, the one that had been printed before we found the matches, but I was five and that was beyond my scope) out loud….

“…The POLICE are VERY worried about the three children, 2 boys and a little girl, who were playing with matches in the long grass, today. They are VERY worried that these three children don’t know any better and could have been BURNED TO DEATH, because they don’t seem to understand that fires can very quickly get OUT OF CONTROL and BURN CHILDREN TO DEATH before their parents can get to them. ESPECIALLY if their parents believe their children SHOULD KNOW BETTER. The POLICE hope these three children, 2 boys and a little girl, have LEARNED THEIR LESSON, and NEVER DO SUCH A STUPID THING AGAIN…”

And he turned to me and gave me that chance to own up: “Do you know who those three children are…?”

Me: “No,”

“Well what do you think of what those three children did …?”

Me: “I think they’re very lucky they didn’t get caught and go to jail.”

Right up into my teens, I would stubbornly stick to the “Wasn’t Me” defense, even when handed unequivocal evidence that it was so me.

Like that time when I was 16, and was accused of stealing a magnum of Champagne out of the wine-cellar, drinking it, and hiding the empty bottle under my bed, I said, “Wasn’t me.” Even though the evidence was found under my bed… with the date of the crime etched on the label… along with the signatures of myself and the friends I passed it back and forth with.

“Wasn’t me.”

But about that tree….

When I was growing up, we spent almost the entire summer on the boat. We traveled all over the Great Lakes on one boat or another – at first, sleeping on the boat, which was cool, but then my parents built their camp on Cockburn Island (That’s pronounced “Co-Burn”, remember. Suzi, stop laughing.).

By the way, a “camp” is what Northern Ontarians call “The Cottage” – for those of you who might picture tents, or a lumber camp. The “camp” is now owned by my sister Tootie and her family, and it’s a bona-fide second home. It ain’t “camping” by any stretch of the imagination.

It was a slow build, though. The first year, we lived in the woodshed (huge by woodshed standards) while the main house was being built. We had an outhouse, kerosene lamps, and a woodstove. The refrigerator was a propane unit, and my Dad built a pump system for the water that pulled it from a cream can under the sink with the push of a button. He didn’t think my mom should have to lift a pail to the sink. He was a nice guy, my Dad.

Everybody on Cockburn drove old beat-up trucks and cars. When you bought a vehicle for “The Camp”, you either had it ferried over on a barge in the summer, or drove it across the ice in the winter. These old things could live forever over there, it seemed. Didn’t need a safety, either, although that was still illegal, but since nobody was gonna check…

And it was on Cockburn Island that everybody learned to drive. The unspoken rule seemed to state that once you hit the age of fourteen, you could drive on Cockburn. Everybody did it. That was my argument to my parents, anyway, when they wouldn’t let me drive over there. Their return argument was… well… inarguable: “Well, YOU’RE not gonna.”

But I was determined to be like everybody else and drive, dammit.

So, I went to the camp across the road and lamented to the Neighbour-Lady all my woes. Neighbour-Lady was a nice gal. She always had her long blonde hair wrapped around her head with pins in the mornings after she washed it, because she didn’t like the natural curl it had. She always wore green eyeshadow. And she always had a beer open.

Neighbour-Lady had cancer, but wouldn’t take treatment. Much of the time, she was “tight”, as my mom would say – not “falling down drunk”, but she generally had a buzz on. I guess it was one way to deal with cancer.

Anyway, I was over there complaining to Neighbour-Lady, and smoking her cigarettes. She wouldn’t give me a beer, but she gave me cigarettes all the time. And that day, she solved my “can’t drive” problem for me, by loaning me a car.

Now, to this day, everybody in my family thinks I stole that car. I did not. Neighbour-Lady loaned me that car. Never mind that the car did not belong to her. Or that I didn’t have a license. Or parental permission to drive. She handed me the keys and said, “Take it. Don’t smash it up.”

I was half-way up the road while she was still popping open her next beer.

Ahh…. the freedom! I drove up the long side road and turned right on the “main” road that would take me down to the Government Dock. There was a guy on the Island that summer, that I had a crush on. On the Mainland, this guy ran in a different circle, and wouldn’t give me the time of day, but on Cockburn he would talk to me. Probably because there weren’t many teenagers on the Island at a time. And I was there. So…

I decided to go to the dock, because he would likely be swimming there. I had to sort of “happen to run into him”, of course, so he wouldn’t know I had that crush, you see, or I would have gone to his camp to find out where he was.

As I came up the road, it was fairly obvious that the dock was deserted, so I decided to make a left, and go to the other side of the Island to the sand beach. Maybe he’d be there. And I could drive there, because I had a car. I was cool.

I was so cool that I could light a cigarette while negotiating a left turn, having never driven a car before, and not end up in the ditch.

Or not.

It worked out okay, though, because the ditch was adjacent to a government building where large logging machines and road-maintenance equipment was stored. I found a guy with a grader that yanked me out of the ditch, and promised not to tell anybody. Oddly, I don’t think he did, either, because no one has ever brought the ditch portion of this story up to me.

So, on the road again, I re-lit my smoke without incident, and drove to the beach. And, oh joy! My crush was there! With his entire family and then some.

We swam for a bit. Talked for a bit. And then I tried to convince him to let me drive him back home. Because I had a car. I was cool.

But he would not get in that car. I think his reasons included the phrase, “death wish”, and the fact that he didn’t have one.

I’m not sure how I finally convinced him, but he did reluctantly agree to a lift. Apparently, it was just so he could wax derisive of my driving skills, though, because he wouldn’t stop wincing, advising, and clinging to the dashboard.

I finally got tired of the exaggerated terror he was exuding and decided I’d show him what scared was, and floored it. Of course, I chose to do such a thing while going up a steep hill, forgetting about the curve in the road on the other side of it.

For the record, I missed the tree the car was trying to hit. But I over-corrected, and hit a tree on the other side of the road, dead on. Very hard. Poor tree.

And poor car! The front end was smushed in. The driver’s door wouldn’t open. I still have a faded scar on one elbow – the only injury sustained in the accident – unless you count the car. Or the tree. And I’m sure my crush didn’t speak to me for years after that. He probably felt bad, because it was his fault I hit that tree. I mean, if he hadn’t been putting down my driving in the first place…

And what are the chances that the first vehicle to drive up that lonely road to happen upon us would be my father’s truck…?

Pretty good, as it turns out. He didn’t speak to me for a while, either.

When I turned 16, though, the first thing Dad did, was register me in Driver’s Ed. I passed, and got my license. And not once would my father loan me his car – not even when I was grown and on my own, and had a perfect driving record.

Except for the tree incident.

Which happened on Cockburn.

And what happens on Cockburn is supposed to stay on Cockburn, dammit!

But still my Dad always said no. Followed by, “Remember that tree you hit on Cockburn…?”

It’s the only time I couldn’t get the nerve up to try “Wasn’t me.”

Random Song-for-the-Day: “Cannonball” – Damien Rice

Categories
Gift Shop Short Fiction Stories

The Waitress, the Whiskey, and the Handcuffs – Part III

The Waitress, the Whiskey & the Handcuffs
The Waitress, the Whiskey & the Handcuffs
The Waitress, the Whiskey & the Handcuffs
Part 1 of The Ruby Chronicles

Ruby Daniel is a 30-something widow trying to get by in a small backwoods Northern town in the 1950’s. Her chicken farm is failing, and she takes a weekend job as a barmaid at an illegal drinking establishment run by a crooked police officer, hoping the extra income will allow her to keep her farm and raise her kids.

When her crude and offensive employer plays an embarrassing prank on her, Ruby gets revenge with the help of her mother, whose devious tactics and unrestrained glee in the details of retaliation leave Ruby in awe, and a little fearful of the woman who raised her.

This comedic short story will leave you laughing out loud and cheering Ruby on, as she learns that standing up for herself can sometimes backfire, but revenge really does taste sweet – and an indignant mother is a surprisingly fierce force to be reckoned with…

[downloads]via PayPal

Categories
The Landlady

Blackberry Summer

Taken May 2, 2007
with Canon PowerShot A550
©Les Becker, 2007

I have a “Landlady” excerpt. No, I still haven’t got my first funny Landlady Story written yet, but that’s because I’m going to end up with a based-on-a-True-Story kind of piece; which pisses my landlady right off, to tell the truth.

I told her my plan, to take her funny memory of her barmaid job of fifty-odd years ago, change her name and the rest of the characters (to protect the stupid, mostly), and change the ending. Her ending was too boring; it just was. She will, henceforth, be known here as “Ruby”.

Tonight, the crossword puzzle was too difficult for either of us, even armed with two different dictionaries. It was hot, it was humid, and we were almost out of cigarettes. We had no beer (I was pleased to learn, a few months back, that Ruby is not adverse to a cold beer or two on a hot summer afternoon. It’s gonna be a good summer.). So, Ruby did what she always does when we run out of crossword: she started to talk.

I don’t have a story tonight; just a little bit of a memory, but it’s a nice way to introduce her to you, I think…

“Must have been in the 30’s, I guess – I was just a little wee kid anyway – my mother and I would walk up the railroad track to pick blueberries…”, Ruby said.

I reached for a notepad and a pen. Ruby scowled at me and stole a cigarette from my pack.

“I’m gonna quit talking to you, if you’re gonna make fun of me on the internet!” she said, and lit the cigarette. “There! I forgot what I was gonna tell you!”

In her own words, Ruby has “no use for computers or the dang internet, whatever that is. Invasion of privacy, that’s what that is.” I pushed the pad of paper away from me, wishing I’d brought my digital recorder. She doesn’t mind the recorder so much, maybe because I’m not scribbling furiously, instead of listening raptly, laughing in all the right places. I think she might even forget it’s there once she gets talking, even though it sits in the middle of the table, blinking at her; silent witness, non-interrupting.

“I know, I know – I was telling the wrong story from the start. It wasn’t about me and my mother picking blueberries up the railroad track at all. It was about my brother and the blackberries.

Every summer, my mother went away for a few weeks to a month to visit her family. The blackberry summer, I was about 11 or 12, and I was the one in charge of the meals while she was gone. That’s where my hate of cooking came from, I think. Isn’t it a hoot that I grew up and ran a restaurant for all those years?

That year, there were more blackberries than anybody had ever seen. They were everywhere! Well, every dang day on his way home from work, didn’t my dang brother pick his whole lunch-pail full of blackberries?! I swear, his fingers were purple all summer! He did it on purpose, too, the bugger, ‘cuz he knew I’d have to put them up into jelly. It was the only dang thing I knew what to do with them! I was only 11 or 12… but I could make blackberry jelly, I’ll tell you, and just as good as my grandmother made it.

Well, one day he comes home, lunch-pail just all a-brim with blackberries, and I was sick to death of blackberries, and blackberry jelly, and my brother, the bugger. I was half set to pitch those berries out the kitchen window, but I thought better of it. We didn’t have much back then, and most times we didn’t even realize it, but I knew I’d feel pretty bad if I pitched those blackberries, so I just set to work on that jelly.

By the time the jelly was in it’s pail and setting, I was still slamming around the kitchen and stomping my feet. I was probably swearing under my breath, too – I was that ticked at my brother – and I turned too quick and knocked that pail of blackberry jelly right off the counter! I saw all that hot work turned to nothing, and was wishing I’d just pitched those blackberries out the window after all, but wouldn’t you know it? That pail of jelly landed flat on it’s bottom, right-side up!

And the whole batch of jelly flew straight up out of the pail and hit the ceiling! I swear, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry!

Well, by the time my mother came home at the end of the summer, I had more blackberry jelly put up than any one family would ever use up in two years! No preserves, no jam, just blackberry jelly. She was some mad! She’d have been a lot more mad, let me tell you, if she’d looked up at that ceiling. If you went in that house today, I’ll bet you two cents you could still see the blackberry jelly, even now.”

Well, whad’ya know…? There was almost a whole story in there, after all. Almost.

Random Song-for-the-Day: “Chasing Cars” – Snow Patrol