Friday, March 30, 2012

All Summer in a Day

I drove down the pollen covered streets with a hundred pounds of cow shit weighing down the trunk of my car.  Well, composted manure.  Poo.  A trunk full of poo.

I walked through the dark, foreign home and back to the "bird room" of my neighbor.  I dodged attic stairs and boxes, but didn't want to turn the lights on, though I had never been in her house before.  We have a bird room too.  Momo's cage is in there, some of Alec's guitars and his desk.  As I approached the back of the dark house, the room came into view.  A large, white bird stood on top of its cage, wings spread, in a rather Christ-like, yet intimidating, pose.   I stepped into the room.  Several huge birds stared at me from atop the twenty-odd empty cages of birds that were being taken care of in others' homes.  The "amazon", a large green parrot thing clutched the top of the cage with his human size talons.  This was not a bird room.  It was a pet store.

"You're a hybrid!" one the kids exclaimed.
"What do you mean?"
"You're English and Spanish" he beamed back.
I liked that.  I am actually neither, but it sounded nice.

My sister and I stared out at the trimmed and poo covered flower beds.  It was twilight and I was pretty proud of the homeowner-style work I had done in the yard.  A women with a large butcher knife crept through the weeds and beside the fence of the condos next door.
"Just checking things out" she called to us, casually.
The knife shined in the moonlight.

"You have to pick the color of shingle you want" our roofer informed us.
"They come in different colors?" I asked.
"Oh yeah" he said, producing a huge book of various colored shingles.
I have no idea how to pick a shingle.  

"I have something serious to tell you." kinder Serena said solemnly.
I braced myself.  Death.  Divorce.  Molestation.  Or something I couldn't imagine.
"Last night, I almost threw up in the shower" she continued, eyes wide. 
"You know what, Serena, I actually did that once.  Cheetos, so the, you know, was orange" I laughed.
Multiple hands shot up.
"I threw up in my mom's car!"
"I threw up on my mom!" another kinder added.
"I saw a baby throw up.  It was white".
"Sometimes I throw up and swallow it".
"In your mouth?" I asked.
"I threw up in the middle of a restaurant once".
"So did I!  Golden Corral!"

They left fifteen minutes later, after exploring every possible way to throw up.

I love my job. 

*Title lifted from Ray Bradbury. 

Friday, March 16, 2012

Green Grass

I sat on the floor of my classroom at seven at night, watching fifty-odd kids rampage through my room.  I was surprised that I was enjoying myself.  George read Green Eggs and Ham out loud to me and to his little brother, in Spanish.  It calmed his little brother down, who had been screaming for his mom.  It calmed me down too.  I saw Emily walk in, trailed by her mother.  Her mom had a concerned look on her face.  There was a lot of action in there, a lot of chaos.  I called to Emily to sit by me and she came.  I was happy that her mom looked relieved.  And I was thrilled to have thirty whole minutes to play with Emily, unobstructed.  She looked a little anxious.  I set her up with a clipboard and paper and she feverishly started drawing.

"Excuse me," another teacher said impatiently.  Emily's clipboard was on top of a board game that no one was playing.  Emily didn't even look up.  It's hard to get her to move once she has found a spot.  And it's her nature.  And her disability.   I was just glad that she wasn't hustling people out of her two reserved seats that she sits in everyday in Spanish.  That was a huge step.

"Emily's in the zone" I said, laughing, in an attempt to soften the situation. 
"Well she needs to take the zone somewhere else" she responded, curtly.

I grabbed her by the throat.
"Don't you EVER speak to her that way again, you silly old cunt" I hissed, inches from her face.
"Get away from her".
People stopped and stared.  It got quiet.  Suddenly, a crumpled up piece of paper flew at the wicked one.  There was more where that came from.
Stuffed animals, puzzle pieces, finger puppets.  Pencils.
"Get out!  Get out!  Get out!" they chanted, lifting Emily on their shoulders and chasing the mean old thing out.   Emily's eyes gazed at the thing, not even knowing that someone had been awful to her. 
We slammed the door behind the witch, and celebrated our success.  

"Come here, lovely," I said in reality, picking up her clipboard and moving her to the rug.  "Let's draw here".  She came.  And we played, and other kids joined us.

"I think there's going to be a lot of changes next year" I said to Ms. Super Lovely, my confidant. 
"Yeah....I'm afraid to leave though.  You know how the grass always looks greener from the other side....then you go over there and find out it's brown".

I laughed.  She had that right.

I've been in so many shitbox schools that I don't even know what's right.  They're all right, in one way or another, or so wrong, in  a million ways.  

It is just how it is.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


The brown men are back.  They tore the Boo Radley house completely down to its foundation and then disappeared for a few days.  Early in the week, the Norteño music returned and the house had brand new beams to hold a floor within a day. The walls took an additional day to be framed in.  After one more day, men were yelling to each other in Spanish from the second floor.

"¿Cómo estás Harry?" I asked the the quiet boy that endeared himself to me when he started wearing sweatbands on his head like a seventies tennis star.
"How do you say nervous in Spanish?"  he responded.
"Estoy nervioso because tomorrow I'm doing my first reconciliation".
 The kids looked at him blankly.  I knew what he was talking about.  When I was little, it was called our first confession. 
"What is that?" Christy asked, confused.
"Well, I sit in the back of the church with Father Jenkins and confess my sins".
Hmmm.  They do it in the back of the church now.  Not in a closed room, alone?
"Your what?" she asked. 
"Sins" Harry answered.
"What's that?" Christy asked, incredulous.
"Bad things I have done".
"What if you haven't done any?"
"Oh I have," Harry answered solemnly "I have".

"We call that the doll house" a weedy, blond southern man that I had seen around my street told me.  I was speaking to my across the street neighbor and the guy fixing the next door fence.
 "Really!" I exclaimed, "I call it my princess house!"
"I lived there a while and helped restore it.  It's solid, you got a great deal, I looked it up on the internet" he told me.
"Everything seems great, no surprises" I responded.
"I painted it two years ago," he continued "Victorian".
"I love it".
"There's some extra trim paint in there, you should re-do the dark touches on the porch.  Realtor made them cover it up, said it was too much".
"There is no such thing as too much" I responded.
"I think I still have keys to your house," my across the street neighbor interjected "I'll give you keys to mine".
"I've got some too...." the blond man continued. 

I remember my first confession.  I racked my brain trying to figure out what to say and worried that I would never be able to remember the order of the prayers and things you had to say to the priest to get things rolling.  I remembered them at the time, but feared my future as an old, decrepit, church-less sinner that would see the light and want to confess, wander into the church bent over like a witch, but couldn't remember the order of the things you had to say to get in the door. It didn't take long as child Catholic to decide I was already wrecked.  Going to hell.  I had done bad shit, like not cleaning up after myself or fighting with my siblings.  Actually, that was the stuff I told the priest about.  I could never say the real things that worried me.  It was too embarrassing.  And I was going to hell anyway. 

I emerged, green faced and carrying my home-made flying monkey.  I have always gone to the auction that benefits my job, first as an auntie and now, as a worker.  A costumed worker.  That is the main reason why I do it.  All you have to say is 'costumes' and I am there.  I was wasted.  For some reason, it has been an annual event for me to be an absolute mess at this auction.  For like, nine years.  A sinner.  I heckled the parents and stuffed money into my Home Depot belt, then dumped it into a large paper bag.  Our luck bag.  Our no job cuts bag?

"Don't be nervous, Harry.  As long as you haven't killed anybody, I bet you have never done anything that even qualifies as a sin".

He smiled.