We all know how strong words can be. Especially during the stress of this present time with our normal routines upset and often more people in our homes than we’re used to. In my family, we don’t often have issues with anger, but words still jolt us sometimes.
Usually into laughter.
When my family gets together (or has an online Zoom party as we’ve been doing through much of March) we’ll chat and play games until the wee hours of the morning sometimes. It’s during those hours that one-liners and jokes and teasings are thrown back and forth, often without thought.
My family has dubbed this “droobling,” and I’m quite experienced at it! Last weekend, there were ten of us hanging out on a Zoom meeting and playing Dominion, one of our favorite strategy games. My daughter’s boyfriend commented that he liked playing online best because the computer counted up all his cards for him.
I laughed and shot, “Why? Having trouble counting that high?”
At which point, we all split, including him. Since he’s a math tutor, he knew I was joking. In fact, my words were more due to the set-up, like a fish dangling in front of a seal’s mouth. Truth is, when the droobling bug has me in its power, I’ll toss out one-liners without hardly thinking. Like my mouth has a mind of its own.
Also while we were gaming, my daughter, who was in the room next to mine, muted her microphone and started singing. Well, I didn’t notice any of that. I only heard some high notes that I couldn’t identify. Confused, I asked online if any of the others who were actually in my house (there were four of us) had heard a car alarm. My daughter’s eyes got big, and she put her hand over her mouth. Her boyfriend started laughing and shared that she’d been singing. My cheeks heated up, and I apologized through hysterical laughter. I’d been completely sincere about the car alarm because I was only catching a couple of tones through the wall, but my daughter has an amazing voice, so I knew she hadn’t taken the words to heart.
Have you ever done that. Said something in all innocence that proved embarrassing? Even when I’m not droobling, I’m a master of it without even trying. Years ago, I was directing a musical at my church – all adults dressed like ants. During a scene, the ants were carrying food across the stage (French fries, carrots, watermelon rinds, and peas.) The peas set up a difficult choreography in the song, one that took several (SEVERAL) run-thrus to make it work right. So as we rehearsed, I would always tell the cast to start in the pea-line. After saying this in front of about thirty people including my ministers several times, my senior minister started chuckling and said, “Marji, do you know what a pee-line is?”
One of the ladies explained it to me, and I must’ve sunburned in a matter of seconds. No, I had never heard the term before. Thankfully, I did know how to laugh at myself, and after being instructed in the actual meaning, I began calling it the green veggie line!
When I wrote my Grime Fighter Mysteries, I couldn’t resist endowing my main character, Dani, with the ability (or rather disability) of blurting out her thoughts, usually at just the wrong time. This trait gets her in some sticky (and sometimes funny) situations. Let me tell you, she’s worse at it than I am!
How big is your world these days?
My, the world has gotten smaller lately, hasn’t it? A few weeks ago I said goodbye to my third grade students and wished them a happy weekend. Little did any of us know that none of us would be returning this school year. Within a matter of days, it was decided that schools would close and our district of 30,000 students would be transitioned online, post haste! How would that be accomplished? We teachers plunged immediately into a full schedule of online classes to figure out how to implement distance learning for our kiddos. I am still trying to figure out Google Meet, Flipgrid, Edlearn, See Saw, and a raft of other techie type things. What a shock! We have done our best to deliver a school-type experience, with no school and no face to face with staff or our students. Three ring circus? Yep!
I, like you, have had to figure out how to supply groceries since the bear cubs have been sent home from college. There have been some glitches. For instance, I ordered two ten pound bags of flour…..and I received 100 pounds of flour! Two enormous sacks, people! I am still trying to find an organization who will accept this honkin’ supply of flour!
My other job in the writing world has been smoother, but not without adjustment. I have set up an office in the wee corner of the bedroom to take conference calls, pound away on those word counts and conduct social media activities. You know what I discovered? This nutty pandemic has made me very appreciative of my social media community! Woo hoo! Am I thrilled to do Facebook live now and hear from real live people out in the world! I have even started a “car chronicles” segment where I am doing an adult read aloud. Together, me and my virtual peeps, are enjoying Journey to the Center of the Earth! Exciting, huh? My precious people are encouraging each other with prayers, hints, tips, recipes, folk wisdom and all manner of funny material. So there it is…the good that has come out of this pandemic…realizing that I am part of a global community and we can still love, support, share and encourage from afar.
So how are you feeding your soul and your heart these days, peeps? I would love to know!
Julie B. Cosgrove
The Highway Chair
I don’t quite understand how I got here. I recall a bump, and then I wobbled until another bump catapulted me over the rail. Thunk.
I tipped over backwards and rolled down the hill, landing upright by some bizarre quirk of gravity. And now here I sit with the buzz of traffic whipping against my sides. A sharp ache crawls up my spine from being whacked several times as I tumbled.
Everything is blurry.
I think part of me is missing.
My skirt is torn.
Someone, please stop and help me. I may be old, but I could still be useful.
Come on. Don’t zip by. Back up, get out, and look me over. See if I can be fixed up.
I wait. The day lingers. The sun beats down on me.
The cars just zoom past. No one cares.
Please, this is not the way I want it to end…
* * *
I remember my delivery day. Yes, I absolutely do. Brand new, fresh and smelling wonderful. Quite a cute one, if I do say so myself.
Sure, there were hundreds similar to me made that year, but I think I stood out. Maybe it was my color—harvest gold. Very popular in 1968. Not too long after they released me from the plastic wrap and wheeled me out to the showroom, a nice young couple bought me.
Jim and Jocelyn. Yep. Those were their names. I will never forget them. Jocelyn was about to have their first baby and Jim thought an upholstered rocking chair would make her life easier. I recall her clasping one hand over her heart as the other stroked across me―her touch softer than my fabric. Love eked through her fingers and sent a chill through my frame.
Water dripped from her eyes onto my arms as she eased into my soft cushion. The liquid felt surprisingly warm. At first I worried she might have leaked, which would mean they’d probably throw her away. Jim apologized to the salesman that she broke down like that, yet she seemed fine to me. Jocelyn would leak a lot from her eyes that first year. I later heard women with babies do that sort of thing.
With two quick rocks, Tim helped her up and they gave the salesman money. Two men lifted me into the bed of their truck and off I went to my new home, the wind whistling through my springs. My pride soared. I belonged to someone. And in less than four hours of being displayed on the showroom floor, too.
The couple placed me in a room with a box on legs. They called it a changing table. I’d never seen anything like it before. That weekend she rocked in me and tried to read a piece of paper, which she kept rustling and refolding as Jim sat on the floor creating a crib from pieces scattered across it. He never uttered a word, but his face would become red now and then.
Two months later another face appeared. A very tiny one. It often turned red as well. That’s how I knew it must belong to Jim. The resemblance, you see. And loud? Oh, my. That doesn’t begin to describe the wails that blasted from its mouth. But it also had a soft gurgling coo that soothed my heart. They named it Joey. Sometimes Jocelyn would hum or sing as she rocked Joey.
He leaked, too. But not always from his eyes. Guess people do that. Little wonder with all the liquids they drink.
After Joey grew bigger, he’d sit on her lap as she read stories. I loved those times because I could listen, too. Her voice rivaled the birdsong outside the window.
Joey’s legs became stronger and longer. He often climbed into me. He would bounce and throw his weight against my back to make me rock. I tried to help out because I knew it made him giggle. Joey had a wonderful laugh.
After two years, they moved me down the hall to what they called the den. Another box lived in that room along with a leather chair called “Easy.” When Jim and Jocelyn came in the room to sit down, they would click on the box. It would begin to glow and make wonderful sounds and pictures. Voices, music and nature scenes emitted out of it—sometimes quiet, other times loud. The box made them happy, so I liked it, too.
I stayed in that room for several years. One day Joey spilled grape juice all over me. Jocelyn scolded him, sent him to his room, and then scrubbed me down so hard it hurt. She cried as she did it, but I don’t think it was because I looked ugly, all purplish yellow. Eventually most of the stain came out. One spot toward the back seam of my cushion never quite vanished. They hid it with a small pillow.
I stayed with Jim and Jocelyn for nineteen more years. They had two other children, Jamie and Jesse, who loved to be rocked in me as well. Those kids crawled all over me as they chased each other. I can still hear their laughter. I never told them their shoes hurt.
One by one the boys left the house. I guess they grew too big and tall. The house became very quiet.
Then, Jim took me outside. I sat on concrete along with other items. Chairs, tables, old toys, and various household items surrounded me as people weaved in and out. Some punched me to see if I felt soft. I didn’t mind. My cushions had been pressed in and thumped a bunch over the years. I’d gotten used to it.
A woman bought me and Jim helped load me into her van. My sides scraped as they angled me in, but with a few tugs and grunts, I eventually fit. It hurt to be jostled with my sides pressed like that against the metal, especially when we went over holes in the street or around curves.
At last the vehicle stopped and another group of hands tugged me out. They carried me into a little gray house with blue shutters. It smelled like lemon wax and cinnamon…and something else old and musty. A gray-haired woman with a sweet, wrinkled smile told them to set me near a window. She brushed me down with her hands and rocked in me. Her voice shook but it still contained an almost melodious tone. “Yes, dear. I like this very much. Thank you.”
The woman who purchased me gave her a hug and called her Granny. Other people who visited her referred to her as Irene. She often hummed like Jocelyn had, but to different tunes. And she’d knit for hours on end as she gently rocked back and forth. Sometimes she laid a warm pad at my back. She told me it helped her sciatica, whatever that is.
Irene sat in me for fourteen years. Then one day she didn’t get up. Her body became cold, heavier than usual, and very still. The woman who bought me came to visit two days later and wailed louder than Joey, Jamie or Jesse ever did. It broke my heart.
One more time men loaded me into the back of a truck along with Irene’s couch and other things. I went to a place called a shelter. For twelve more years many different people sat in me. They came and they went. Men, women, young, old. Some slept in me. Many didn’t smell very good. A few threw up on me. But I rocked for all of them. It’s what I was made to do, after all.
Then, two days ago a huge man sat in me. Oh, how he strained my fabric. I heard the creak, and then part of my frame gave way. Crack! Off he tumbled.
I couldn’t help it. I am old, you know. They no longer let me stay there. They carried me to the curb. I sat in the sun for two days wondering who my next family would be. I got used to the pain.
Once again men lifted me into a back of a truck, but this time they wedged me on top of stinky trash and twigs. Until the vehicle hit one those bumps and I tumbled out. That had never happened before. It shocked me.
* * *
And now, here I am by the side of a busy highway. Guess no one cares to sit in me anymore. I have been here for close to a week. Abandoned.
Today, the sun has disappeared. Now I hear rumbles. Rain. I know that’s what is coming but I’ve never felt it before. Only seen it and heard it pelt against the windows in the places I’ve lived. It patters on me—cold, damp and sharp. My fabric becomes soaked. I shiver.
Nobody will want me now. How useless I feel.
Something tugs at my skirt. A small grayish animal with whiskers and a fluffy tail scurries under it, followed by her three babies―two gray like their momma and one yellow. Hey, the same color as me when I was new. I wonder, will it fade as it ages like I did?
They cuddle between my four legs. Soon, I hear a soft whirring sound. Rhythmic, steady. Then a few tiny mews jitter my old springs as her children settle and nurse, safe and dry. I remember that smacking sound. Jocelyn’s boys used to make it.
Somehow, knowing that I’m keeping them dry makes me care less that I am getting drenched. I’ve served others all my life. Almost fifty years. It’s what I do.
Perhaps, just perhaps, I am still useful after all.
The mother and her kittens live under me for several days, but then they move on. Who will need me next? A buzzard perches on me, waiting no doubt for small animals to be squashed by the cars. I’ve seen several of them die that way. Eventually he flies away.
Another week passes, during which two more rain storms saturate me. But nothing takes shelter under my skirt. The grass grows up and tickles my rockers, though.
Wait. Here comes a huge truck. Men with bright orange vests jump out and lift me. They swing me back and forth and let go. I sail into the top of the truck and land on…oh, no.
Trash bags and twigs again. I jostle inside for hours as they stop, grab more unwanted items along the side of the road, and toss them on top of me. Finally the vehicle slows down, and backs up with an ear piercing series of beeps. I feel the top end rising and…whoa.
I slide out the back and land on top of more trash. Stinky stuff. It disturbs a myriad of flies. They buzz and land on me. Yuck.
So this is home now? Am I to rot here, alone and unwanted? Peeking through the bundles of bags and tree limbs I see other sticks of furniture. Also an old refrigerator, tires, and some of those TV boxes with cracked or broken glass. I’ve never felt so distressed in my life. I can’t even move to rock.
I can’t do what I was designed to do. And I stink.
* * *
Three weeks go by. Then I hear voices and a man pulls me out of the heap. He flips me over and shakes my broken frame. Ouch.
I hear him say, “I’ll give you twenty bucks.”
He and the owner of the junkyard toss me into, yep—you guessed it. A truck. Off we go. I don’t want to get my hopes up, but a smile eases across my fabric. I won’t miss the flies, roaches, or the stench.
He takes me into a garage and sets me on a table. Then he begins to rip my upholstery away. Hey, stop that.
Each tug pops out more staples. I try not to scream. He couldn’t hear me anyway. Humans never have been able to.
Now I’m naked. The man shuts off the light, closes the workshop door, and leaves me in the dark―shivering, bare. I have never felt more humiliated and exposed in my life. Oh, dear. What’s next? Can life get any crueler?
I wish I could leak from the eyes like the humans do. It always seemed to make them feel better. Wait, I don’t have eyes. Oh, well.
Four days later my new owner returns with sacks. He begins to rub my frame down with sandpaper. In a way it feels rather good. I had developed a few itches around the holes left by the staples. Next, the man sets my break with glue and a few nails. Yes, it hurts as he pounds them in, but my hope begins to revive. I think they call this being repaired.
The next day, white fluffy stuff is wrapped around my back and arms. He staples it on with loud bangs and pops, but the pricks tickle more than cause pain. New foam is fitted for my cushion. Then he drapes me in the prettiest fabric I’d ever seen. It is striped in pastel colors but it has flowers as well. It takes the man two more days to finish my renovation. He stands back, nods with a smile, and loads me into the bed of the truck again.
Where are we going? Surely not back to the dump…
We arrive at a brick house. A young couple hurries to meet us. When she sees me, the woman squeals as she bounces up and down on her toes. They carry me inside and place me in a room. She sits in me, rubs her hands over my arms and softly cries. Could it be?
I gaze around the room. Stuffed animals, fluffy curtains in the same colors as me, and a crib share the space. That confirms it. A new human life is coming.
And life for me will continue. My heart swells. I almost sense a tear emerging.
Now, I know why sometimes my owners weep. It’s out of pure joy.
For weeks, as I commuted to work, I passed a dilapidated, harvest gold chair on the shoulder of the highway. Not something you see every day. It intrigued me. How did it get there? Who had sat in it over the years? If only it could talk…
Then one day it was gone. I’ll never know what happened to it, so I decided to write a story about it. And of course it had to have a happy ending.
I hope my highway chair’s did as well.
We all have a purpose, no matter our age, physical condition or talents. Never think you are not useful to others, you are. Your life has meaning.
Julie B Cosgrove