Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Appointment

He was careful not to speed. He had a lot of ground to cover and not a lot of time to do it in but waiting for a cop to write out a ticket would definitely cause him to miss his appointment. He could not miss this appointment. He had one chance, one very small window of opportunity. He could not be late.

The drive was only twenty minutes and his appointment was still just shy of an hour out. But he had two stops to make on the way that could easily eat up the extra forty minutes. He looked at the clock in the dash. Thirty-seven minutes. His original plan gave him plenty of time to prepare. But circumstances change. Plans change.

The house was on top of a hill at the end of a long dirt driveway. Certain the driveway was uninhabited by over-zealous ticket writing cops he mashed the accelerator allowing the rear tires to slide as he took the soft dirt curves going up the hill. He knew this was silly, no more than a few seconds would be saved by speeding only in the driveway but it at least made him feel like he wasn’t wasting time.

He threw the truck in park before it was even close to a complete stop causing the body of the truck to lurch forward over the now stationary tires. Just seconds later he was shedding the clothes covered in the evidences of his days work and fumbling through the closet for something more appropriate. Something casual but not too informal. Something inconspicuous but not too ordinary. Inconspicuous. He laughed at the thought of the word.

Two minutes later he was out the door again. Wearing nice jeans, deck shoes, an un-tucked polo shirt and wool jacket he wouldn’t exactly match the standard attire of his destination – most would likely be wearing dress shirts and slacks or at least khaki pants – but he wouldn’t be underdressed enough to draw attention to himself. Besides, he was comfortable and there’s something to be said for that.

As he rounded the corner of the house into the driveway, the truck sat waiting for him, door open, engine still running, Alabama serendipitously singing “I’m in a hurry to get things done” on the radio. That last part wasn’t exactly true but entering the truck to the sound of a GEICO commercial just didn’t seem to fit.

Precious seconds were made up once again as the truck sped back down the driveway to resume the speed limit once back on the main road. One more stop. This time the clock read 3:56. Thirty-four minutes.

As luck would have it there was an open spot just a few spaces away from the doors. He whipped in and quickly hopped out of the truck. This time he turned off the engine but left the keys in the ignition. He would only be a minute and he wasn’t the least bit worried about someone driving off with the truck. This was Oxford after all, not Memphis.

The layout of the greeting cards was definitely not conducive to quick searching but he still managed to make pretty quick work of it. He found the card and its corresponding envelope and headed towards the registers. Apparently everybody thought this would be a good time to check out.

“You’ve got to be kidding me.” The words came out loud, though he had intended them to remain in his head. “I’m never going to get out of here.” These words he was able to keep contained.

Just as despair was beginning to set in, he noticed the Self Checkout lines were all empty.

“Perfect.” This word too was audible although considerably more under his breath than his previous statement. Still he couldn’t help but point out to himself that he was basically talking to himself. Himself then retorted with the fact that by pointing that out to himself he was again talking to himself.

He scanned the card, put it in the bag and pushed the PAY NOW button on the touch screen. As a payment method he chose CASH, using his debit card would leave evidence of his plans. Was he over thinking this? He feed the twenty dollar bill into the slot half expecting the machine to spit it back out because of some small crease on the corner much like every Coke machine he had ever tried to give his business to. He never understood that. “I’m trying to give you my money,” he would tell the machine. “Why won’t you take it?” It can’t be good business to turn down people’s money just because it has a few wrinkles. The machine did not spit his twenty back at him. It also did not spit his change back at him. That can’t be good business either. The screen now read, “Please see cashier for your change.” So much for self checkout.

“Just a minute,” the cashier responded when the impatient man forwarded the machine’s message to her. “I need to get a manager.”

Seconds were turning into minutes. Minutes seemed to be turning into hours. After the third time she paged a manager another person in a blue vest finally started walking their way. Meandering, strolling, not quite at a walk speed. She obviously had no idea how pertinent his not being late was.

She fumbled with her keys and punched in some secret code on the keyboard (it was 69734 she didn’t bother hiding her keystrokes). When the drawer opened her hands just rested on top of it. She didn’t reach for the change. She just stood there staring at the drawer. Everything inside him wanted to shove her out of the way so he could count out the change himself. He didn’t have time for this.

“It looks like all I have are ones,” she finally said with a sheepish smile. “I’ll have to go take some to another register to get you a ten and a five.”

“Ones are fine, ma’am,” his tone was short and he added ma’am to the end hoping it would add some politeness to what he knew wasn’t.

“It’s no trouble…”

“Ones are fine,” this time he said it with a forced smile and not quite as short of a tone. Realizing he had cut her off he added “Thank you” to make up for the offense.

She slowly, painfully slow, counted out seventeen ones then started trying to figure the change. She held onto the ones as she fumbled with the change trying to use the pinky and ring finger of the hand that was holding the ones to slide each coin from its compartment. He again fought the urge to help. Briefly he contemplated explaining his rush but figured that the explanation would only distract her from her obviously daunting task and therefore decided that keeping quiet would likely lead to the quickest recovery of his change.

His toe began to tap. He was using every bit of his will power keeping his hand from hijacking the change recovery effort and therefore had no will power available to keep his toe from tapping. She didn’t notice. It took all of her attention to meticulously remove each coin from its compartment using only the pinky and ring finger of her un-free hand and therefore had no attention available to notice his tapping toe.

Finally the change recovery challenge was complete and she turned to hand it over to the toe tapping man. He imagined her trying to recount the change one bill at a time, one coin at a time as she laid each of them in his hand. He wasn’t sure if his will power was strong enough to endure that. She didn’t. The entire wad was handed to him with a satisfied smile. He took the change and quickly headed for the door.

Unsure if he really wanted to know at this point, he glanced at the clock on the dash as he backed the truck out of the parking spot. 4:16. Fourteen minutes. Not as bad as he had thought but possibly cutting it close. His destination was no more than a mile up the road but traffic at this time of day was unpredictable and so was parking.

He made it up University quick enough but was stopped by the red light at the top of the hill. Using every second wisely, he removed a pen from his coat pocket and wrote a note inside the card. No sooner had he finished his note, the light turned green. The two cars in front of him continued across the intersection but he turned right heading toward the Square.

The Oxford Square consists of four things: banks, bars, law offices and really expensive places to shop. In the middle of the Square an old fashioned court house sits surrounded by a wrought iron fence, walking path and a few park benches. All the buildings around the Square are two stories with balconies on the second story. The stone and brick buildings, many with columns out front, have a high class look but still remain small town, country, inviting. In front of each of the building are an inadequate amount of parking spaces. Even if you found an open spot, the likelihood of it being on the same side of the Square as your destination was rare. Because of this, the employees that worked the many banks, bars, law offices and really expensive places to shop on the Square generally parked behind their respective banks, bars, law offices and really expensive places to shop.

Half way around the Square he spotted his destination. Southbank sat on one of the corners of the Square and he noticed a back alley that ran behind the bank and its neighboring shops adjoining University on the opposite side of the Square from where he had entered. He turned into the alley and slowed the truck to a crawl scanning through the cars parked by the back doors of each building as he went looking for her car.

He found it nosed up to a small open staircase with no more than six steps leading to the back door of the bank. The back of the bank did not protrude into the alley as much as the two buildings beside it forming a small alcove that the bank employees used as a parking lot. There was another small car parked next to hers. Both cars were blocked in by SUV’s, presumably driven by fellow employees. The back of the SUV’s lined up near perfectly with the corner of the neighboring building. Metal emergency exit stairs with a dumpster tucked underneath sat to the right of the SUV parked behind her car. The building across the alley had a loading dock height concrete porch with wrought iron railing. The porch faced parallel to the alley toward a larger open parking area.

The truck slipped into the only available parking spot in the lot. There was no view of the door from this spot but it was the only spot available so it would have to do. This time he removed the keys and slipped them into his pocket as he walked towards her car.

There was only one window on the back of the bank. It appeared to be the bank’s break room. It was less than ten minutes to closing time; nobody would be on break right now. With the card resting on top of the driver’s side windshield wiper he quickly walked across the alley to the loading dock porch. There was no one else around that he could see but he still felt as if a million eyes were watching him. He stood as casually as possible against the tall concrete porch watching the bank door to his left out of the corner of his eye. A large metal beam at the corner of the porch blocked the upper half of his body from view from the bank. The concrete porch blocked the lower half.

He pulled his cell phone from his pocket to see what time it was. Seven minutes to closing time. As he put the phone back into his pocket a truck pulled down the alley and turned into the lot right in front of him. It stopped abruptly just past him. The brake lights extinguished but the truck didn’t move. It was in park. It was nowhere close to being in a parking spot. In fact where it was parked was blocking at least three other vehicles from being able to back out of their spots. The driver remained in the truck. Unsure if the driver had seen him, he now felt uneasy standing this close to the vehicle. He didn’t want the driver to suddenly see him and wonder what he was doing standing so close to his vehicle…or wonder what he was doing watching the back door to a bank. He realized he was being paranoid. There was no reason for the driver to suspect anything. Still the more he tried to act like he wasn’t up to something the more he felt he looked like he was up to something.

The driver finally exited his truck leaving the engine running and walked over to a car parked just behind the truck. It became apparent that the driver was just changing vehicles. As he approached the back of his truck he noticed the man leaning against the concrete porch. Now it seemed the paranoia had shifted. The man appeared to be wrestling with the same thought that this at first unseen stranger might think he was up to something even though he obviously was not. This realization made the man who was up to something smile. The other man pulled a car out of a parking spot, replaced it with the truck and then drove off in the car leaving the alley and its small parking area empty once again.

The next five minutes crawled agonizingly by. He began to wish he hadn’t rushed so much to get here. But then again he couldn’t risk being late. The sun was beginning its afternoon decent and the air was becoming noticeably cooler. Any minute now.

Suddenly out of silence came chaos. The back door to the bank as well as the back door to a neighboring building opened and a handful of employees spilled out into the alley. She was out of the door before he was able to react but she didn’t notice him. Her gaze was fixed on the envelope on her windshield. The diversion had worked.

He crossed from the concrete porch over to the small lot and walked behind the first row of cars until he came to the metal emergency exit stairs. The SUV behind her car was already pulling out paying no attention to him. A self thought overworked employee worried about nothing but getting away from work. He moved quickly but quietly under the stairs, around the dumpster and behind the car where the SUV was just parked. She had just sat down in the car and not yet closed the door her focus still on the unexpected card that she was now reading. She reached out for the door to shut it, her eyes still focused on the card. But as she pulled it shut his hand grabbed it and yanked it open out of hers his head quickly filling the space next to hers. She jumped back with alarm and a squeal that brought obvious joy to his face.

“Hey baby.” He said with an obnoxious smile.

“You scared the mess out of me,” she scorned swatting at him playfully. “You’re lucky I didn’t punch you in the face.”

He just smiled even bigger.

“Happy anniversary, baby,” he said through his smile. “Come on. Let’s go get some dinner.”

Friday, November 06, 2009

No Wrinkles Available For Bad Memories

They say that every time you learn something new or make a new memory you form a new wrinkle in your brain. If that’s true then I must have a little OCD midget in my skull with an ironing board because my memory is terrible. The little overachiever is up there smoothing out all the wrinkles and doing his best to keep things clean and organized. Not organized like a vast library full of endless knowledge with a card catalog to easily retrieve said knowledge when needed; more like a house that someone just moved out of – there’s no clutter or mess but there is also a very noticeable lack of stuff. An old couch that wasn’t worth moving, a half eaten carton of ice cream in the freezer and one of those ink blot pictures in a broken frame hanging crooked on the wall that looks like something different depending on whoever is looking at it or whatever your current mood or state of mind is – today it looks a lot like a monkey in a row boat with a banana shaped oar wondering whether he should keep fighting the current or just give up and eat the least that’s what it looks like to me.

I’ve gone lately to keeping my thoughts as disorganized as possible thinking that if I make the midgets job miserable he’ll eventually quit and my memory will improve. I would just fire him but I can hardly justify firing him for doing what is obviously his job. Plus he probably has an OCD midget wife and three little OCD midget kids that he needs to keep fed and I don’t want to be responsible for the starvation of an entire OCD midget family. So I’ll stick with the disorganized thinking and the hope that he will eventually get fed up with the over abundance of work and the total lack of appreciation and go off looking for employment between someone else’s ears. Still, I remain careful not to be too disorganized in my thinking. If I push the little neat freak too hard he might fill my head with embarrassing false memories before he leaves and I’ll walk around for the rest of my life remembering the joys of my short term stint as a nun in my early twenties and making claims about how I invented the internet. It’s a theory anyway and I’ll keep you updated on how it’s working out.

Anyway, until I run off the midget, I’ll have to contend with my memory shortfalls. To list a few: I am completely inept when it comes to remembering people’s names even just moments after I’ve been told; I’ll tell stories to people completely forgetting about the fact that they were there with me when it happened; and people often remind me of events that happened when we were together that I have absolutely no memory of whatsoever. These are all things that would be nice to have stored neatly in my brain’s computer filing system for quick access in individual folders labeled “People’s Names”, “Who was with me”, and “Fun things I’ve done that people will remind me of later” respectively. However they seem to have been moved to the Trash Bin (My brain is Pro-Global Warming so it still uses the old Trash Bin rather than the now common Recycle Bin) or misfiled someone amongst all the 1’s and 0’s along with the memory of what exactly all those 1’s and 0’s mean.

Now I’ve completely lost track of the point I was trying to get to…oooh, look, something shiny!

So with my brain having about as many wrinkles as an infant’s fart maker on which to store memories I can’t waste valuable storage space on bad memories. When I say “can’t” I really should be saying “shouldn’t” because I do even though I shouldn’t because I can’t can’t. If there was anybody still reading after the first three paragraphs I probably just lost them with that sentence.

I’m not haunted much by bad memories of personal failures, bad decisions or embarrassing moments. I live my life with no regrets save one and that’s words for another ramble. The memories that seem to plaque my thoughts, rearing their spiteful head just when I thought I’d gotten over them are those where I feel I was wronged in some way. Saturated in bitterness the events replay themselves over and over in my head. With each replay my brain adding to them a last word on my part that went unspoken during the actual event…one last zing to put the perpetrator in their place, forever proving that they were wrong and I was right. If you were to produce an action movie based on the poison my mind feeds itself it would end with the hero and villain locked hand to wrist while the villain dangled over the edge of a bridge the hero’s weakening grip the only thing postponing the villains pending judgment. The villain’s hardened eyes finally begin showing understanding of his wrongdoing. As the hero’s grip slips the words “I’m sorry” trail off chasing their body of origin both growing farther and farther away from me and closer and closer to the judgment below. But this isn’t a movie and since I’ve yet to get any of those staring in these memories to hang from my arm over a bridge I guess I’d better find a better way to deal with it.

Truth be told no one has ever wronged me enough to warrant the fantasized retribution that my mind, poisoned with bitterness, bestowed upon them. To be even more truthful, I’ve probably done more harm to myself through my own personal bitterness than all those that wronged me before. I don’t want to be bitter. I don’t even want to think about the events. I just want to move on, lesson learned, stronger. But just when I think I’ve gotten over it the vindictive memory cunningly attaches itself to another pure memory and jumps out into the forefront of my thought dragging the happiness away and replacing it with frustration. As many times as I’ve snatched that bitter weed from the ground the root remains and it continues to come back choking out the good memories and spreading to take over my thoughts.

I plea with the Lord to take the memories away but He doesn’t answer. He doesn’t answer because He’s already told me once and confirmed it and He’s not going to say it again. I ignore the silence with defiance. My plea continues. Help me move on. Help me get over it. Just make it go away. Give me back my joy and direction. I’m willing to go anywhere, give up anything, do anything, anything, anything…anything but that. I’ve tried. I can’t. The thought makes me nauseous. There’s has to be another way. Of course there’s another way. Can’t there be another way? Silence.

I don’t want to call him.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


Every other Monday night Amber makes a batch of something yummy that I’m not allowed to touch. Cookies, muffins, cupcakes...for the sake of this story we will categorize them all as masterful creations of yummyness (By the way, I have added “yummyness” to my Microsoft Word dictionary so that it will quit showing up with a red underline. Therefore “yummyness” is now officially a real word and y-u-m-m-y-n-e-s-s is its official spelling). I’m not allowed to eat said masterful creations of yummyness because they have been set aside for the girls in her MOPS (Mothers Of Preschoolers) group of which I am not a part. Not being a part of this group apparently means that not only am I not allowed to have one, I’m not allowed even a sample taste of said masterful creations of yummyness.

Still, because instinct forces me to, I ask every week. And every week I get the same “I’ll bring home what’s left and you can have it” answer. She has yet to come home with any “what’s left’s” for me to “have”.

This week Amber made a batch of cupcakes that were so moist that even gently picking them up to move them left soft little finger indents on the side. Only a thin layer of icing topped them as to not take away from the flavor of the cake. They were decorated with a ring of sprinkles around the edge that, though looked very attractive, I’m sure my stomach wouldn’t notice. I had to have one of these cupcakes.

Knowing what answer would come from straight forward ask approach, I decided to try a different approach. I counted them...17 cupcakes. That’s an odd number and just doesn’t look right. 16 cupcakes would look much more presentable. So, armed with this information, I approached the creator of these masterful creations of yummyness and with all humility pointed out the only flaw I could find in them...their number. And it worked.

As a dog that’s been chasing cars down this street for a long time, I really wasn’t sure what to do now that I’d finally caught one. I couldn’t just giddily skip into the kitchen and grab one. Before I’d have a chance to stuff it in my face the kids would see it and then they’d want one and the ensuing toddler begging would likely lead to me having to put my cupcake back and I wasn’t about to not have a cupcake now that I finally had a cupcake. No, I’d have to wait until later. Be patient, eventually the little likely cupcake spoiling critters would go to bed and then I could have #17.

The next morning I awoke and immediately remembered what in the midst of putting little likely cupcake spoiling critters to bed I had forgotten the night before. #17. Now the conundrum; If I wait until this afternoon there won’t be a #17; If I eat it now, I would be eating a cupcake for breakfast and cupcakes aren’t exactly breakfast food. As my mind continued running through my current options it stumbled across a memory of a similar situation faced by Bill Cosby.

The child wanted chocolate cake for breakfast! How ridiculous! And I said... and someone in my brain looked under chocolate cake and saw the ingredients: eggs! Eggs are in chocolate cake! And milk! Oh goody! And wheat! That's nutrition! "What do you want?" "Can I have some chocolate cake?" "Chocolate cake coming up."

Thank you Mr Cosby. Breakfast was wonderful.

Saturday, April 18, 2009


It was a day just like any other day. Work was work. The drive home was uneventful. I was mentally exhausted and was preparing myself for the upcoming physical exhaustion brought on by the two boys that are too young to realize how important they are to me.

I pulled into the driveway, checked the mail, put my key into the door and braced for impact…wait, something wasn’t right. I slowly opened the door careful not to knock the boys over. The boys…where were the boys? I smell dinner, they must be home. That smells really good, where are they? A strange sound filled the air. I know that sound. Where do I know that sound from? It’s been so long. Has it been long enough for me to forget? Come on, Josh, you’re not that old…remember. The last time I heard that sound had to have been three or four years ago…yeah, before Caleb was born. That’s it! It’s quiet, that’s the sound…quiet. Funny how something that was once so ordinary can now seem so strange. …Why is it quiet?

My eyes followed my nose to the kitchen and that’s when I saw her. Absolutely stunning. My mind searched for words but was too busy forcing my jaw to drop and my eyes to bug out to come up with any. Her soft hair was gently swept past her eyes…those eyes…they drew me closer…I couldn’t get past those eyes. She smiled and looked away shyly releasing me from the trance. It was then that I noticed the dress. I bought it for her last Christmas. She was absolutely beautiful in it. It gently hugged her body. The sleeves lay softly half way down her arms. The neck was lower than normal but modest. She wore her original wedding band on her neck, our two boys’ birth stones set inside. The boys? I wasn’t too worried about the boys at this point. I was sure they were okay...pretty sure...sure enough.

We ate dinner and carried on a normal conversation. After dinner we cleaned house. At least I think that’s what they call it these days…you know, when you pick things up, vacuum, that sort of thing.

I had a wonderful evening, Amber, my love, thank you very much.
Your Joshua

And thank you, Madye, for watching the boys for Amber. We really appreciate your friendship.

Monday, April 06, 2009


We came home from church tonight and I gave the boys a bath while Amber got ready for bed. After their bath, I took Caleb up front to get dressed and Taylor sat in the back with Mommy.

“Aaaahhh!” A quick, distressed cry from Mommy…then silence.

I hurried to the back to find Taylor sitting in Mommy’s lap. Spaghetti rings are all over the floor…all over Taylor…all over Mommy. Funny, the last time I saw Spaghetti rings was dinner time when Taylor was…eeewww.

Guess it’s time for shower number two for Taylor. Mommy, I think you ought to join him this time.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Watch Your Mouth

The boys and I were playing in the shower tonight when I made the statement, "Alright, it's time to wash your hair."
Caleb said something smart about not wanting his hair washed to which I gave the fatherly response, "Watch your mouth."
His eyes got big. Fear came over his face. "No, Daddy, don't wash my mouth."
"Don't wash my mouth," he said, lip quivering a bit.
"I said watch your mouth like with your eyes."
Even more fear. "No, Daddy, don't wash my eyes."
Sigh...light bulb..."Okay, I won't. Can I wash your hair?"
With a head nod and a look as if he'd just won a battle, "Yes."

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Lemonaide Anyone?

When life gives you lemons you're supposed to make lemonaide. But sometimes you just feel like shoving the lemons right up life's nose then tearing life's head off and placing it on a pike. How do you like those lemons, life?

Oh well. Guess I'll go make some lemonaide.


Thursday, January 22, 2009

My Last First Kiss

Seven years ago today I had my last first kiss. She was the sweetest girl I'd ever met. There was something about her that drew me to her more than just her looks, or her heart, or her personality. This wasn't the puppy love or the close feelings I had felt with others before. This was something different, very different. It was frightening and freeing at the same time. Two weeks later, I told her that I loved her, a gift I had never given another. Two weeks after that I put a ring on her finger. Now seven years and two kids later, I still can't get enough of her kisses. And even now, I still get giddy and can't help but smile after each one. I love you, baby. Here's to seven more.
Your Joshua

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Still Funny

I’m lying next to Caleb in his bed with three books in my hand.
“Which one first?”
There is a moment of silence as he contemplates his decision as if the fate of the world depended on it.
“That one!” He enthusiastically points to his first choice.
I read through it with as much enthusiasm as I can muster and then lay it on the floor next to the bed and hold up the remaining two.
“Which one next?”
His finger floats back and forth between the two books and then quickly lands on his choice.
“That one!”
He leans in on my shoulder as I read his next selection to him.
Finished with his second choice I lay it on the floor next to the other and pick up his third and final book.
“Which one next?”
He looks up at me a bit puzzled. Slowly the puzzled look turns into a smile.
“You think you’re funny.” He responds.

Now every night when we get to the last book he instructs me, “You have to ask me which one.” So I do. He smiles and responds, “You think you’re funny.”