Plans are in place. Only one more day before I am free.*
I’ve tried to hide my growing excitement. I still swear like a drunken sailor whenever I step on crayons in the yard.
I only hope I didn’t give it away earlier. Boss Baby was playing in the rec room. There’s this scene where the kid is grounded—his bedroom is his prison. When the kid’s talking, wizard alarm clock tries to grab a shank to make a break for it, I about died laughing!**
Man, if that isn’t a sign I need to get out of here, I don’t know what is.
It wasn’t always this way; I used to have a life.***
Okay, so maybe casing the Gem and Mineral show isn’t the act of a repentant criminal, but can you blame a gal for seeking any kind of distraction when serving a life sentence?
All I want is a little clarity…cut, color, and carats! And what do they give me? False hope diamonds!
Breaking rocks in the hot sun would be so much more pleasant if we were hunting out sparkly specimens that look like dragon droppings!
When I get out…I might even try my hand at a little fancy re-marketing. No longer will I be the chauffeur who slavishly drives the ‘Boss Baby’ wherever his heart desires. No! I will be the wild, carefree road warrior women envy and men want. (Hey, if we’re going to fantasize…)
I will hit the interstate for places unknown. I will decide my fate. Or, at least, I won’t default to Highway 196 and exit 41 as the corrections officer insists we take every time we do roadside clean up.
My parole hearing is coming up, so I baked the warden a mini devil’s food cake. I know…shameless pandering.
I even invited the corrections officer to supervise so he wouldn’t suspect anything.
I have to say, they didn’t turn out so bad–for prison food.
After slaving away for, like, forty minutes, we have a decent product, if I do say so myself.
The warden scarfs the thing down and I ask him, “So, wasn’t that fun?”
You wanna know what he said?
There’s no respect in this joint. No loyalty. None.
That’s why I’m oughtta here tomorrow. I’m gonna Easy-Bake my way into my own ‘early release.’
This time, I won’t forget to put the file into the cake.
Asterisk Bedazzled Footnote:
*…to have a nervous breakdown.
**True. This happens. In a movie about a baby there is a reference to a shank. And I did laugh loud enough to be rolling on a floor except movie theater floors prohibit that kind of enthusiasm.
***Okay, that’s a stretch. Only Webster’s would call what I do on a daily basis, ‘having a life.’
__________You’ve read this far bonus:_____________
In case you wondered how it is I–an adult with a boy-child–have an Easy Bake Oven, here’s the story behind the best Christmas present I ever got.
This is a blog post I wrote before I ever became a blogger. Posted on The Green Study–who is to blame for giving me my first taste of fame and is responsible for my continued life of blogging crime:
Aging ain’t pretty and, sometimes, it gets downright ugly. You are forced to evaluate yourself for flaws and failures. Blogs are no different from people in that respect.
Facebook’s insistence that everyone in the world wish you a Happy Birthday resulted in people I haven’t spoken with in years contacting me last week when I became a quinquagenarian.*
In one exchange, an old friend asks me how I’ve been doing and I oh-so-subtly direct him to the wonders of my blog. His response?
“…Blogs are so passé…”**
I don’t know about you, dear reader, but I put my heart and soul into what I write. This off-hand dismissal of my craft resulted in the following poetic interlude—performed in the key of é.
Critique Not-so Enchanté
My writing is passé,
Or so you say!
Perhaps you are no devoteé?
Or maybe you are just a protégé without caché?
I may sometimes, How do you say?, write a hit out of the park!
Sometimes it’s a swing-and-a-miss—or manqué.***
My writing may even skirt the edge of cliché!
But always, I churn the brain frappé
To scoop out a little grey cell pâté.
A luscious, literary canapé!
No hard-boiled reporter am I, producing the latest exposé!
But I do not deserve to be roasted a lá flambé!
Mayhap you will reconsider your communiqué?
But as for me, I am très désolé.
So there you have it. A damning condemnation that not only am I unoriginal, practically staring down the barrel of obsolescence, but so is my writing medium. (Not well done!)
Turning half-a-decade makes a person stop and think! Where exactly am I headed? Have I missed my chance to reinvent myself when I haven’t even invented myself yet in the first place?
Have I’ve officially reached a plateau that says: “Nothing new, innovative, or fresh expected. Move along!!?”
Perhaps it is fatalism of creativity? Maybe I suffer ennui? But I will steal from a kindred spirit—a voice who calls from the realm of the dead. I will lick the pen of a poet and echo Stéphane Mallarme :
Je me mire et me vois ange! et je meurs, et j’aime —Que la vitre soit l’art, soit la mysticité— A renaître, portant mon rêve en diadème, Au ciel antérieur où fleurit la Beauté.
I can see my reflection like that of an angel! And I feel that I am dying, and, through the medium Of art or of mystical experience, I want to be reborn, Wearing my dream like a diadem, in some better land Where beauty flourishes.)
Asterisk Bedazzled Footnote:
*L is the new XL (I’m talking Roman numerals, people, not size!)
**My immediate response? “Oh yeah? Well…your face is passé!”
***I noticed the odd appearance of accented ‘é’ words and cleverly sensed a theme. When I saw Manqué on a list of words ending in é, I had to use it. And then, there is the neato twist: where the definition for manqué conveniently defines how it feels to turn 50!
Man·qué (mäNGˈkā/) adjective:
having failed to become what one might have been; unfulfilled.
They say you can never go home again. What they fail to tell you is, really, you can never go back to any place you’ve ever been…and sometimes, you’re lucky not to get a restraining order enforcing it.
For Christmas, I asked Santa to give me a break. A break from the relentless needs of Autism parenting and the excuse to overindulge in selfish pursuits. Santa came through big time in the form of a weekend getaway!* I randomly pick January 20th as the date for an overnight camp where people more responsible than me will keep my genetic contribution to the world safe for forty-eight hours. I had not realized it would coincide with inauguration day.
It’s the long-awaited Friday—finally!—I drop my beloved child at camp and escape like they might try to hand him back. Like a Baskerville hound baying for blood, I’m off! I have no obligations to anyone except myself and the goal of being blissfully distracted for two whole days. The difficulty is picking just one activity—so I don’t. First there will be a little buff and polishing and then dinner and a movie with friends. Absolutely nothing is wrong in my perfect little world. Life is bliss!
This works really well…until I sit in the massage chair at the nail salon. I’m punching the lower-back Shiatsu settings trying to relax while someone else deals with my winter-callused feet, when, blaring overhead, comes the familiar notes of a military band frothing with patriotic fervor. Aghast, I realize they have tuned the tv to the pomp and circumstance of President (*urp*) Donald Trump’s inauguration.**
I try to hint to my manicurist that anything else—The Shopping Channel, Urkel reruns, anything—would be preferable. She just smiles in that way the technicians do when they either can’t understand a word you are saying and/or are trying to suppress a gag reflex at the amount of skin sloughing off your mangy feet. I’m stuck, forced to listen to the horror unfolding with the insistence of all nightmares you just can’t wake up from no matter how hard you pinch yourself. Before long, my psyche is bruised.
The incessant and inane commentaries about the Big D’s faux humility of acceptance of office scrape against reactivated nerve endings—it’s like a scab being ripped from a raw wound. All the seething loathing and despair come oozing to the surface.
Since the election, I have erected an information force field—a giant bubble of reality denial. I try very hard not to read, see, or listen to any of the goings-on related to the transition of power. I avoid the bile of exchanges on Facebook because there is no Epipen big enough for certain toxic allergens. I am a political ostrich and have my head firmly wedged…somewhere…in an attempt to huddle beneath an illusion of safety.
But the seal on the bubble isn’t inviolate. Facts seep through. Reporters are positively gleeful about delivering devastating blows:
“This disastrous news, just in…
“The Big D wants a climate change denier as the head of the EPA.”
“The Big D offers Secretary of State position to oil magnate, Comrade-in-Chief Tillerson in bed with Moscow.”
“Dolores Umbridge to head Department of Education…”
It’s like being trapped in a car heading for a huge crap pile and there’s nothing you can do but brace yourself for the stinky impact. Try as I might, I can’t hide from the impending wreckage.
I escape the salon with beautiful toes and abused ear-holes. I scarper next door to join friends for a Chinese feast. There is little in the world that cannot be improved with a really good duck sauce. In fact, I think 2017 will be the Year of the Rangoon, for me.
It is awesome to get out with girlfriends and yack-yack face, while divvying up entrees. This all-estrogen experience is enhanced by its rarity. The food is great, the friends are delightful. Conversation flows. Three admit they can’t make the movie afterward because they are attending The Women’s March the next day in Lansing. They are bubbling with enthusiasm over the prospect—eager to represent their concerns about our political direction. Opinions are voiced. The choice to carry signs or not is discussed. Some express regrets that they have other commitments. I, however, am silent.
There it is, that subtle recognition that I lack something when it comes to addressing the concerns in the world around me. Among a group of intelligent, well-educated, driven females, I am the odd woman out. I feel no urge to march. No enthusiasm for protesting. No drive to join arms with other nasty women to demand equality or any other rights. It has been an indelible character fault—my honest recognition that I do not possess great ambitions to enact change other than to wish, weakly, that things were different. It is the note of discord that harps at me even as I enjoy my night out:
“Is it me? Am I part of the problem?”
I want to have fun. I want to be wild and carefree. Right now, the world needs movers, can-doers, outspoken activists to address the growing problems with our divisiveness and crumbling American ideals. Other women want to go be the change that rearranges the world. Me? I want to go see Hidden Figures and be entertained.
Dinner breaks up, and four of us split off to hit the nearby theater. We underestimate the popularity of the film. Perhaps there are more people moved by threat of civil rights abuses inspiring people to go see a film about African American women making sine waves during the 1960’s space race than we realized? Whatever the reason, just as I step up to purchase tickets, the movie sells out.
We resolve to find it showing elsewhere. Cell phones to the rescue, in seconds we locate the nearest next showing. We make it with time to spare for bathroom breaks and a close encounter with overpriced snacks.
The film is a poignant reminder of how much things seem to have changed in fifty plus years. As the characters of Katherine Goble, Mary Jackson and Dorothy Vaughn parade the injustices rampant in Virginia during an era of supposed desegregation, this viewer can’t help but compare these struggles to ongoing racist discontent in the current tide of anti-everything-I-stand-for sentiment.
In Hidden Figures, the camera marks the continued segregation of a south in the American sixties. Signs on buildings are marked with “Colored” versus “White” entrances while restrictions on employment, library access, and toilets underscore the indignities for persons of color in an uber-white world. The movie is an ugly reminder of a future I’m coming to dread.
Today, hateful murmurs on Twitter and Facebook rants reveal, even revel in, blatant homophobia, anti-feminist bile, and a self-satisfied, Christian-Right America centrism which cheers for the deportation of people of Muslim faith and encourages wholesale murder akin to shades of 1940’s Holocaust. Watching Hidden Figures, I am encouraged and inspired. It shows the victory of those who challenge and beat a system stacked unfairly and overwhelmingly against them. However, when I leave the theater, I am reminded of the forces daily rewinding what progress has been made.
While we sleep, the government moves to repeal the Affordable Care Act. In one swift, hostile, late-night legislative assault, health care is in danger of being erased for 20 million people. Steps are taken to undermine the FHA regulations that protect mortgage insurance rates that help low-income people afford homes. The Big D threatens to repeal all of the grounds gained in an eight-year Obama presidency. If we pretend that he’ll stop there, that is level of delusion we can’t afford. I should be galvanized by the imminent destruction of the values I hold dear. And yet…
Last Friday wasn’t about inducting a virulent corruption into our government—it was all about me. And ME wanted dessert.
Staggering out of the theater at 10:30, we wander to the nearby MildThings restaurant for ice cream with deep fried, cinnamon-sugar tortilla strips. We’re overfed, highly-sugared, middle-aged women on the loose. Here us roar!***
The PYT (Pretty Young Thang) waitress endures our revelries not even encouraging us to leave when we ask “When’s closing time?”
“Oh, you’re fine.” PYT waves a perfectly manicured hand at us, pooh poohing our concerns. “We don’t close until 2:00 a.m.”
But for us, the coach has turned back into a pumpkin and our glass slippers are killing us. We wrap up our giddy exchanges, hug madly in the cool air outside the restaurant, and make our escape.
I snuggle into my bed as the clock turns 12:30 a.m. It is a new day. A darker day, perhaps, but it is a day I am free to make the choices I can live with.
I am not a rebellious soul. I prefer a quiet life, out of the confluence of bad history come to repeat itself all over my constitution. But now is not the time to stick one’s head in a bucket of denial—no matter how comforting that existence might be in the short run. We will have to keep our eye on the Hidden Costsof a Big D administration; otherwise, the next coming detraction might just strip our civil liberties entirely. And that preview is a pretty grim prospect to behold.
Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:
*The role of Santa was played by family and friends who have looked on in horror at admired my parenting on the edge-of-catastrophe. Thank you to all who sponsored this get-away weekend.
**I have to suppress my gag reflex whenever I put those words together. At least in one respect, this dick is just too much to swallow.
Sushi may be a finger food–it’s small, compact and easily consumed coming as it does in bite-sized portions–this does not, however, make it an appropriate fast food for road trips. Let me explain.
Driving to Chicago Friday, we get a late enough start to greet not only the oncoming rush-hour traffic but this also forces us to face the blizzardous conditions which everyone and their mother knows is heading this-a-ways.* Not to mention, I manage to miss lunch in favor of haphazard packing and random dithering. This is why, when I make a final stop at the Meijer store to pick up the kid’s medication, I grab an impulse carton of veggie sushi to nosh on while motoring. This will prove to be the most ill-advised snack choice ever.***
I am smart enough to set up my sushi before putting the car in gear. (What kind of idiot would want to open a soy sauce packet with one hand, after all? Ha ha ha.) So, the giant rectangular clamshell lays spread-open next to me–half filled with happy little California sushi rolls, the other half swimming with a brown pool of Kikkoman joy. Child in tow, snack in hand, we set off.
The car slithers out of the parking lot. I snack and squint trying to see where I’m going between the swirling snowflakes that take up 90% of the visual spectrum.
As I tentatively nose out into traffic, I’m dipping a roll into the soy juice as a car going at least 60 mph in the parking lot tries to barrel past us. I slam on the brakes. And even though I am going turtle speeds, the flotsam and jetsam clogging the front seat undulates forward in a sluggish lurch. Most of it is stopped by all of the other stuff packed there. Yay. Not, however, the sushi.
Fun Fact: Do you want to know the Number TwoReasonwhy sushi isn’t a travel-approved snack food? It is round. Round = bad!
My sushi flies, joyful little bobbles, skittering all over the seat. Fortunately the soy sauce only threatens to overturn onto my purse where it has fallen to the floor. I’m madly scooping the runaway snack food while I simultaneously managed to avoid the collision and get into a lane. I do not whip the other driver the bird, but only because I don’t have a free hand. I do curse them soundly. My son is learning many important life lessons, no doubt; I’m just not sure what they are.
After this I keep a fixed eye on the windscreen, inching our way to the interstate. The sushi will have to wait. My stomach growls its disapproval.
My hockey puck of a car joins the highway and I sigh with relief. Settling in, I crank up the book on CD. We have four hours of cautious, but ultimately safe, driving ahead. From here on out, it should be smooth sailing. (Cue ominous music.)
I reach for a congratulatory, slightly smooshed, ball of rice and vegetables. Here I discover the Number One Reasonsushi is not recommended as a mobile food source. I blindly grab a roll, dunk it with my growing expertise into the soy sauce, and pop it in my mouth.
It is right at this moment, I am reminded what else they put in the standard sushi setup. If you don’t know, grocery stores pack this Japanese delicacy with tiny accompaniments of everything you could want: twelve decorative food objects come with soy sauce and a tiny plastic fence blockading a swirl of pickled ginger and a daub of mushy green stuff. I had forgotten about the mushy green stuff. You should never, EVERforget about the mushy green stuff. The fence is the guard rail of the food tray; it is put there for your safety. The sushi had crossed the fence!
I manage not to steer the car into a ditch while scrambling to suck down the entire 24 ounces of mixed regular and diet cherry Coke I had lugged from the same store as the sushi. Fire appeased, victory is mine. Sort of.
I survive Driving With Sushi with a greater appreciation for ginormous beverages and an improbable will to live despite eating an entire glop of the dangerous green paste. Learn from me, children: Do not eat wasabi while driving. Wasabi is the killer food equivalent of texting. Perhaps sushi in cars should be avoided altogether. It appears I am not alone in this opinion!
On the upside, my mouth stayed warm all the way to Chicago.
Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:
*My mother in particular. She made a point of warning me to beat the storm. I suspect latent childish resistance to following her advice correlates to our delayed departure.**
**This is where I find out if my mother actually reads my blog. Don’t feel the need to tell her.
***Most people would say I was mistaken to purchase supermarket sushi just because it was SUPERMARKET SUSHI. Congratulations. You were proved right. Happy?
I should have been a bear. Really! Every time January rolls around, I eat a houseful of food and then want to curl up in a ball and bury my head under the covers until June. I look at everyone else around me who seems to be inordinately energized—bothering to wash laundry and cook meals, for example. Whereas I considered bribing my son with an ice cream sandwich this morning if only he’d get himself up and dressed for school on time.*
Winter break wasn’t nearly as bad as I expected. However, lazy days have their side effects. I slowly devolved from a marginally-together person into an Amazon-Prime-channeling slug. The thought of reading anything besides junk-food thrillers or sexy, slithery beast men who woo their sexual partners with a combination of near-abuse and copious amounts of testosterone-soaked pheromones is un-bearable. (Pun intended. You’re welcome.) This is anything but Prime reading! If you think I am kidding, check out a few of the titles available for “Free” on Amazon Kindle Unlimited.**
By the way, I am NOT recommending these. I just searched a random term in Kindle unlimited and grabbed the worst-sounding titles I could find in under ten seconds.
Mid-winter lethargy shows itself everywhere. This post is the first thing that I have written in nearly a month. I’m so lazy, I’m even giving up on double-spacing after the period at the end of each sentence based on the fear it will mark me a geriatric writer of old-school sensibilities. Hmm, that gives me an idea of novel spin-off possibilities:
Sentence and Sensibilities
Definitely NOT written by a Lady
When Elinor and Edward meet–the after-school special begins! First, he drops his participles when she walks past; then he omits his Oxford comma. How ever will she tame his wild ways? Prim school marm, Elinor, disciplines her most recalcitrant student, Edward, for his pitiful punctuation performance. He then turns the tables on his teacher when he changes into a ferocious werebeast and lectures his proud school mistress in love. Who will punctuate improperly after this naughty remedial class?***
(If this sounds more like Pride and Prejudice—blame my limited knowledge of Jane Austen novels.)
I can’t say whether the plot is Prime-worthy, but musing about it at least whiles away the time between naps. Until the next chapter…I’ll be reading between the sheets.
Asterisk Bedazzled Footnote:
*Child got waffles instead. You’d think the act of depressing the toaster was tantamount to preparing a full-course banquet the exhaustion the prospect gave me.
**“Free” means it only costs your dignity if anyone catches you reading it.
***Their conjugation brings a whole new meaning to the phrase “Teacher’s Pet.”
I am suffering a cookie backlash. It’s something like the brain freeze you get from sucking down a super-sweet slushie too fast. I ate nearly a whole plate of cookies before realizing, “Hey, I am apparently hungry for dinner and cookies…though delicious…sadly, are not dinner.” I blame my son and his cookie-niverous habits for setting a bad example.
I am supposed to be writing about my personal philosophy of life as part of my DBT group therapy* Part of my instruction is to “Learn and do challenging things that help me grow and mature as a human being.” So far, all I have managed to do is throw my agnostic self into the holiday spirit like a drunk at an open bar.
In the past week, I have walked the neighborhood enjoying the random display of holiday lights that sparkle and invite; I’ve frosted enough cookies to qualify as a half-baked mad woman; and, I’ve sculpted a snowman and pelted snowballs in pursuit of the perfect snowy day. Perhaps I can find a personal philosophy herein?
Let There Be Light!
The majority of homes in our neighborhood have no decorations at all.** So, as my son and I walked, we passed rows and rows of quiet, well-behaved buildings in order to find the rowdy and unruly ones clad for a festive night life.
There were Simplistic Scenes:
Perfectly Balanced Perfections:
The Whimsical and Charming:
Hazardous and Slap-dash Efforts:
And Truly Dazzling Displays:
And then there was the show-stopping efforts we traveled to Lansing to admire. I can’t even imagine where one shops to find a Jabba the Hutt inflatable Christmas display.
Have a Very Star Wars X-Mas!
I don’t know whether the way one strings lights says much (or anything at all) about one’s mental health—but my philosophy says the least amount of effort brings the greatest pleasure. That, and you really can’t enjoy your own outdoor decorations. So, it is better to live opposite the house that puts one up—which in my case, is what happened. I get to admire the beauty and they foot the bill! It’s a win-win, really.
No, to find philosophy, one has to go deep into the kitchen. Perhaps all philosophers start out staring at the world around them to find meaning. This is what I discovered while getting baked…er…I mean baking.
The Cookie Maker’s Manifesto
No matter how well you follow the recipe, you are going to forget how many cups of flour you have painstakingly scooped half-way through. It pays to buy enough measuring cups for a double recipe.
When you go to roll your dough, be prepared for breaks, cracks and just plain wrong efforts.
You will burn the first batch. Expect failure.
Cute, mini gingerbread houses are bound to be just as hard to construct as real ones.
The walls will not want to go up right the first time; you will put them on the wrong way each time; and, you will definitely break a wall pressing too hard.
Frosting plus cinnamon red hots make a handy-dandy, makeshift chimney to hold up a house and hide foundation-wide cracks.
With enough frosting—even badly rolled, overly-floured cookies are edible. And, even if they aren’t, with enough sugar candies, they are at least pretty.
If you can’t find the sweetness of life in your cookies – perhaps you can find it in sublimated aggression otherwise known as snowball fights.
It always starts off innocent:
“Let’s build a snowman.”
Soon you are bundled to within an inch of your life wondering how the suit that fit last year is so snug? You waddle into the yard and start scooping snow.
You mean for this to be a nice, fun experience…but before long, the balls are flying! (Not pictured because, duh, flying snowballs.)
What have we learned from all this? I can’t really say. Perhaps in all the madness of the season hides the reason for the madness?
Shine the Light on Your Anxieties?
I’m not sure if I’ve found the meaning of life in all my wanderings this week. Is it like a colorfully lit, snowy landscape? It can look pretty on the sparkling surface, but the minute you scrape away the white layer the dirt-encrusted reality is unearthed? No…that’s not it.
Cookies as a Panacea?
Can philosophy be found in an oven? If you see a cutesy cookie cutter at World Market—put it down and back away slowly—it is bound to bring you hardship and grief! Nope…I don’t think that is quite right either.
Snowball-ism! Is violence really the answer?
No matter how well-intentioned, every snowman creation ends up being a frigid brawl dressed like an inflatable sumo wrestler! Ahh. That’s it. That’s my philosophy for the week: Don’t fling the frozen water if you can’t take the cold!***
Of course, when the fair weather returns, I’ll be shopping around for a new mantra. I suspect innate sand castle mortality and nagging mosquito bite b-itchiness are in the offing. Until then, avoid the chill and wait out the winter with a good book and hot cocoa. Everybody cool’s doing it.
Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:
*Right about now that philosophy would be “Don’t eat just one more! There is no end of ‘just one more’ when it comes to cookies.”
**These are the homes of people who fear giant electricity bills.
***It helps if you pick a seven-year-old as your opponent. Even if you can’t outrun him, you can always squish him in defense.
1st Place goes to Kiri at The Dust Season for the “A Happily-Ever-After Story Involving Break-Ins and Police Action”. It takes a village to raise a child, but those villages often wait to show themselves. At just the right moment…
She was sent one Green Study Coffee Mug, a postcard from Minneapolis and $100 donation was made to the American Red Cross on her behalf.
“A Happily-Ever-After Story Involving Break-Ins and Police Action”
My son is an escape artist. He revels in finding ways around the protective prison cocoon of his home life. This would be fine, if my son were normal. But he isn’t and this story isn’t. So, before everyone gets up in arms about my use of the word ‘normal’ in relation to my son, let me get one thing straight: something beyond ordinary happened—and that’s okay.
—Join this week’s episode of Phlegm Patrol*….already in progress–
Officer RB: “Adam Ten, Officer Bacter, on route. What’s the situation?”
Dispatch: “Victim is down…multiple unknown hostiles. Proceed with caution.”
Officer AV: “Going in code zero…what’s the eta on the bus?”
Dispatch: “Five minutes out…coroner is on standby.”
Officer RB: “Code eleven, dispatch. Adam Ten pulling up to the residence. Lights are off…let’s see if any body’s home.”**
Join our intrepid officers, Ria Bacter and Andy Viril, as they broach the unknown, potentially lethal abode nestled in a residential neighborhood where the worst that happens on a typical day is a dog taking a dump on your lawn. Today is not your typical day. As the car brakes to a halt, the duo leap into action…
“A.V…you go round the rear. I know how you like to make an entrance.” Ria says tossing her partner a brightly marked can along with her trademark wicked grin.
“Funny, Ria. Remind me to sign you up for sensitivity training when we get back.” Officer AV snaps, but he snatches the aerosol can mid-air without breaking his stride. Slamming the trunk from which he has pulled the blazing orange gear, he tosses his partner the familiar hazmat suit standard for the op.
“Keep your eye on the prize and gear up.” In seconds, he’s zipped and loaded for recon. Officer AV yanks on his headgear before stalking to the back of the yellow, suburban death trap. He muffles a curse as he nearly trips on the hose snaking through the long grass.
It’s been a while since anyone came out to mow this mess. Not good.
Masks in place, the officers approach with caution.
From the back entrance, Officer AV can’t see shit. It’s an older model home with a door meant to withstand nosy neighbors—solid steel and no fancy cut-work glass spy holes. The curtains block his view through the small kitchen window—other than to note the piles of dishes glimpsed through the sliver of light spearing the darkness inside.
A quick test of the knob reveals the door is shut tight. Out of habit, Andy sprays the surface of both the storm and the outer door handles before heading back to the front to confer with Ria. But she’s not there. He scans the yard then spots his partner hauling ass back from the car.
“I can see someone layed out inside. It appears as though a wrecking crew went through.” Ria waves a crowbar at her partner. “Looks like we’re gonna have to invite ourselves to the party.”
In seconds, the officers are through.
“Geezus Christmas.” AV can’t swallow the reflexive curse entirely. “What the hell happened here?”
Tissues adorn every surface. In the dim light, their advanced recon goggles’ infrared settings pick up the myriad human sputum samples flecking the walls and surfaces around them.
“Don’t touch a fucking thing.” Ria barks, unconcerned about anybody’s sensibilities—least of all the corpse on the couch. “I don’t want to face the paperwork if this spreads.”
Then the body buried under a mound of Kleenex and a moth-eaten afghan moans.
“Effing hell. She’s alive.” AV holds his breath—even though the standard issue mask is tested out at a level-five contagion. Flesh eating bacteria won’t get through this thing, but still…
Reaching for his adapted weapon, AV brings it to bear on the woman whose eyes open to slits, offering a watery grimace before hacking up half a lung—a wet, sucking sound that will haunt him for the rest of his life.
“Hold still ma’am.” Ria has her baton out and punches a button to bring up a swab. Like the pro she is, she’s in and out of the woman’s sphere of contagion in seconds.
“Just…kill me now.”
The woman reaches weakly toward them. Her plea is interrupted by a shudder wracking her frame. Choking paroxysms smother any further pleas for a merciful end.
Ria holds out the monitor to AV—the blinking readout suggests last rite measures.
AV grimaces, upping the anti-viral setting to maximum.
“Sorry, ma’am.” He’d have sounded more sincere, but fear clenches down hard on sympathy in the face of the petri dish that once was a human being. “But this is for the good of the nation.”
There’s nothing left to say. Ria makes quick work bagging and dragging patient zero.
As his partner backs out of the front door, AV fires and the charge disperses with an aerosol hiss of death. Every surface that had been contaminated by the mutant virus is now coated in a dripping goo—a potent substance which dissolves germs—as well as eating its way through any pesky surface that might get in the way of a thorough decontamination. In seconds, the couch is a skeleton of its former foamy self. The rest of the house will soon follow.
Outside, Ria has deposited the woman out in the standard containment unit. The body bag for the living didn’t look much different—except for the mounded air intake sucking in O2–sounding like the bastard child of Count Dracula and Darth Vader having an asthma attack.
“Think she’ll make it, Andy?” Ria Bacter asks with a cold indifference to the answer. She flags the ambulance as it rounds the corner. They know the drill.
“If they can administer the ‘chicken soup’ in time. Maybe.” Officer AV is not confident enough to make assumptions past that. “And that’s Officer Virile to you, Bacter.”
“I think you mean viral.” Ria snarks at him. She holsters the can of government-issued Lysol with a quick flick of her wrist. She’s been practicing, AV is impressed.
“That’s not what the ladies say.” AV offers his own sly grin. “Feel free to ask around.”
“Ohh, someone thinks his bad self is too hot to touch.” Ria saunters to where hazmat has set up the decon tent. She shoots him a sardonic look. “Rumor has it, you are passed from woman to woman like a common cold. You should come with a surgeon’s general warning: ‘Do not exceed recommended dosage.’ Better watch it, Viral. Or they’ll bag your ass as soon as look at it.”
AV watches as the woman Ria tagged is hauled into the back of the contamination wagon—it shoots screaming down the block interrupting his snappy comeback. Entering the tent, he calls to her as he peels off his own suit.
“As long as they’ve got my ass in their sites, they might as well get a good, long look at it.” He’s peeling to the skin when his partner whistles behind him. He whirls to catch her eyeing his physical attributes.
“Woo Whee. I guess they better of ought to, then. Some ills are worth dying for.” Ria flutters a hand as though wracked with heart palpitations, then, snatching up a nearby black bag, she whips the decon pack at his head, just missing hitting him in the teeth as he grins back at her.
“It’s all in a days’ work for the phlegm squad, Bacter.” He shouts, before hauling himself into the air vents blasting a Lysol-dense germ retardant. “Some days, a good end is all you can hope for.”***
Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:
*I considered calling the show ‘Hazmat Cops’ but then got distracted writing lyrics to the show: