Chickenshit: Crisis #8B Big City Blues

March 9, 2013

I’m going to love working with Chloe. We got to the airport, and everything went smoothly, for once.

When I got off the plane in Sacramento, the sky was a Byzantine blue. I expected to get a text from Mom saying she was running late, but, there she was at the gate, bouncing a small child on her hip. She almost knocked me over with her hug, and I think the kid drooled on my jacket, but it’s always nice to be wanted. Her phone rang, and she whispered, “work,” as she answered and foisted the baby on me. I jostled the kid around until she was in a position that did not feel like my arm was being twisted off. How do people carry them around all the time like this? Mom walked over to a wall for some quiet, and I stared into the little girl’s watery blue eyes for a moment. She looked like she was going to cry, and I found myself doing something I never thought I’d do.

“Hooshie, wooshie. Who’s the happy baby?”

Her fat little cheeks bubbled up with drool. Ugh. But she wasn’t crying.

“Whatsa gramma doing?” I pointed at Mom. So glad I’m not having one of these anytime soon.

Mom walked back over, phone still attached to her ear. “Uh-huh, uh-huh, have you tried calling her emergency contact number?” She pulled the baby blanket off her shoulder and wiped the kid’s mouth, then went back to her wall of protection.

“Weww, gwamma is bizzzzy, isn’t she?” Thank goddess, Liv wasn’t there. I found a bench and dragged my backpack behind me so we could sit down.

I struggled to remember the baby’s name … Harley? Hailey? “Hailey, hay-we, hay-wee.” I bounced her on my knee and sang to her like some Sesame Street reject. She seemed to dig it, though. Mom walked back to me, took a set of brightly colored plastic keys out of her jacket pocket, and held them out to me. “Well, Karen’s name is on the orders, so you’ll have to go to her … I know, I know.” Back to her fortress of solitude.

“So, kid, what do you think of the new iPhone?” Blank stare, more drool. “Yeah, what are you, Mac or PC?”

She reared back and jabbered, “Ay, yi, yi, yi, bababa – bah!”

“Okay, okay.” As a last resort, I jingled the keys in front of her. Hailey grabbed the bright blue one and stuck it in her mouth, drool running in a string from her chin, down my pant leg, and to the floor.

Mom ended her call and came to collect the miscreant. “Everybody okay over here?”

We drove through town, and things began to feel like normal. Mom caught me up on all the latest happenings around here, and I told her a bit about the farm, Elliot, Sheila, Jodie, and some of the locals. She remembered Sheila but wasn’t sure about Jodie’s dad. Elliot’s family kept to themselves during the time she was there, but she kind of remembered them. About two blocks from the house, she pulled the car over.

“Baby, I have to tell you something.”


“Harvey and I are going to get married.”

I let the concept sink in for a second. “Well, that’s great, Mom. I mean, it’s great if you think it’s great. You do think it’s great, right? Or why else would you be doing it?”

“Well, yes, I am 100% on board. I love Harvey, and I want to spend the rest of my life with him. And that would be enough for me, but he wants to tie the knot. And there’s one other reason.” She put her hand on mine. “We’re going to formally adopt Hailey.”

She paused to wait for my reaction. I had no idea what to say. “Oh, well, okay. What about her mom, Hannah?”

“So, the thing about Hannah is she has not gotten her life figured out just yet. She doesn’t know what she wants to be when she grows up, so how can she raise a kid? She can be irresponsible on her own time, but when it effects that baby, Harvey and I have had to step in. Her mother wants nothing to do with her, so that leaves us. Hanna is signed on, too, as long as we tell Hailey the truth and she can still see her sometimes, when she’s straight and under supervision. Anyway, it would be much easier for everyone if Harvey and I were married, so we’re going to do it makes sense to go ahead and do that. I know that sounds romantic, right? I was hoping …” She smiled at me.


“We, we were hoping you would go with us tomorrow to city hall and be a witness. We might do a ceremony in the summer, but right now, we want to take care of the legal side.”

So, Mom was giving up her single lady status for the sake of the bundle in the back seat. I looked at Hailey’s big, bald head. “Sure.”

Mom smiled, “Is that ‘sure, I’ll do this to get you off my back” or ‘sure, I’m glad you waited for me because I want to share the day when hell freezes over with you’?”

I smirked. “The latter.”

“Oh, baby, thank you!” Her skinny arms wrapped around me in an instant.

When we got home, Harvey was his usual jovial, couch potato self. There really was a lot to like about him, even if I didn’t get Mom’s physical attraction to him.


March 10, 2013


This morning, we dressed in our best outfits, and Mom and Harvey got hitched.  With Harvey’s sister, my mom’s best friend, and me and my new appendage, Hailey, witnessing, how could their new endeavor do anything but succeed? Afterwards, we all went to Biba’s (the best Italian place ever) for a huge lunch. Harvey and Mom were beaming. It was actually pretty cool.

Harvey went home, I’m assuming to nap, and Mom and I went to a huge chain baby store to her gift card, a shower present from her work friends. She bought a car seat/jog stroller combo that cost more than probably everything she ever bought me before I turned twelve, combined. Still, Hailey did look like a cute little dictator, ruling from her baby Pope-mobile.

When we got home, Mom fed Hailey and put her to bed, then disappeared into her bedroom with Harvey. About 11:30, she came out and joined me on the downstairs couch, watching reruns of Friends.

“You used to watch this show, waiting for me to get home from work, huh?”

“Yeah, sometimes. I never really got into it.”

“Me, either.”

“So, how are you dealing?”

“With what in specific?”


“Oh, I don’t know. I seriously don’t know how I’m going to sell the place, displace Elliot, get rid of all the animals, let everything Dad built disappear. And I don’t know how I would not sell it, since my whole life is back in Seattle. Maybe I could get someone to run it with Elliot, someone I could trust, while I finish school, but I don’t have a clue how I would find someone. What do you think?”

“I don’t know, babe. I know you’ve always wanted a Masters degree. You love Seattle. Has anything changed?”

“No, I don’t think so. Maybe I appreciate it more, now that everything I own is covered in bird poop. If I’m really honest, this last trip is making me wonder. I mean, work is still great, but the bar scene is just boring now. I ran into Ton-ton.”

“How did that go?”

“About like you’d expect. She’s so fake, I don’t know why I didn’t see it before. I did stand up for myself this time, though. Anyway, I think she has moved on.”

“Well, good. She didn’t really sound like your type.” Mom didn’t know all the gory details, but she knew enough. “Tell me more about this Jodie girl.”

I tried to mute the grin now spreading across my face. “Well, she is beautiful. Kind of a Kelly Clarkson meets Selena. She’s about my age. She’s a librarian, so she’s smart. I went riding, horseback riding, with her a couple of weeks ago, and it was probably one of the best days of my life. It’s not just those things, though. She’s got this way of being, you know, a Zen, but she’d probably make a joke about me using the word to describe her.”

“Sounds like you got it bad.”

“Mom, no. I’m sure she’s straight, and besides, if I leave, then I’d probably never see her again. I mean, I’ll go back to Boise to see Liv sometimes, but I barely know her. She probably thinks I’m an idiot.”

“Have you asked her how she feels.”

“Well, no. I’m sure she’s straight. She’s a daddy’s girl. And if you knew the right-wing assholes she has to deal with every day…” Mom gave me a look that said she wasn’t buying what I had to sell.

“Ask her how she feels.”

“Okay, okay. But it’s moot if I sell the place and move away.”

“You’re seriously considering staying?”

“Yeah, well. I don’t know what Elliot will do without the place, and there’s no guarantee the next owner would work with him.”

“Any way he could buy the place or just lease it from you? You told me his mom was the reason Dan didn’t leave it to him?”

“Nope. I asked him again, and he said he had too much to deal with, already.”

“But, honey, you’re losing focus. It’s great that you’re thinking about all these people, but how do you feel? Do you want to be up to your elbows in mud and poop all the time? Do you want the responsibility of all those animals? Do you want to put your studies on hold for a while? That’s what you need to be asking.”

“You hated living on the farm, right? You always said the farm life was not for you.”

“I’m not saying for you to do one thing or another, but you can’t live your life worrying just about other people. I tried, and it didn’t work for me. I loved so much about the farm. Seeing the baby chicks following their momma chicken around. I loved having the kids scamper around me in the field. I loved watching the sun come up over the hay field. We had this barn cat, a skinny, orange tabby, and she was so sweet. She would bring me dead gophers and curl up at my feet when I would sit out on the deck. There were a lot of peaceful moments there, but I got tired of the constant worry over everything. It just never stops, and with a kid, it was overwhelming. The first year or two was great, almost idyllic, but then we stopped going anywhere, even to Boise. Maybe if things had been different, I don’t know. I think your dad became agoraphobic.”

“So … what happened with Bill?”

“Um. Did he say something to you?”

“Not much. But you named me after him, right?”

“Yes. I love Bill. He was such a great kid. He stayed with us before you were born, and it was almost like he was my first child. His parents kicked him out because they thought he was gay.”

“So, was he the reason you left?”

“Oh, good heavens, no. Look, your dad was bi. It was not a big deal to me, since we were committed to each other. Dan had feelings for Bill, but, as far as I know, he never followed through on them, at least before Bill went off to college. But I think his way of coping with his feelings for men was to try to shut down that side of himself. And I think fixating on the farm may have been another coping mechanism, too. You now have my dime-store analysis, for what it’s worth. When he started shutting down and isolating, I changed jobs. I needed the world outside, too, and I was hoping it might wake him up, but instead he just got worse. By the time you and I moved out, he and I were long past done. I waited for years for him to reach out, but it never happened. Anyway, he seemed happy enough on the farm, with his books and animals. Have you looked through all his little notebooks?”

“Yeah, there’s tons of records. Did you know how much money the farm makes? I could get my Masters paid for in one year, alone.”

“Yes, but would you have the time and energy to go if you stayed there? I mean, you might, if you’re motivated enough, but a farm’s a huge responsibility.”

“I’m starting to get it.”

“Whatever you choose, I will support you any way I can. Harvey, too. I hope you get a chance to know him better. Anyway, I’m tired and I need to get back to bed. They’re not going to let me take another day off, I’m pretty sure.” Mom had been on her phone several times during the day, having to manage a crisis at the office. “Night, baby.” She patted my leg and headed off to bed.


March 11, 2013


At 8:13 a.m. My phone buzzed, and I rolled over and checked it. It was a text from Jodie.


Can you come home early?

I rubbed my eyes and sat up to reply.

Possibly. What’s wrong?

The goats have started kidding, and Elliot’s been up with them all night.

Oh, I didn’t know they’d started. He doesn’t text and won’t call unless it’s an emergency.

Well, not an emergency, but he’s panicked one will need help if he goes home. So he’s been out in the barn for most of the last two days.

I have mostly been dealing with chickens, Elliot has handled all of the goat stuff.

Sheila’s due back, too. I know a little, but she’s an expert.

I will get there as soon as I can. Thank you for letting me know.

Of course! I hope you’re having a good time. Jealous.

I couldn’t imagine Jodie being jealous of anyone or anything.

I went upstairs and found Harvey in the kitchen feeding Hailey. She was doing some sort of Jackson Pollock painting on her high chair tray, only with Cheerios and applesauce.

“Is there some sort of compulsory law that children under five must have Cheerios? I’m just saying there must be some other food they can eat.”

“They get your name and address from the hospital, and they come break your little toes if you don’t buy two giant boxes every month. I was secretly mixing it in with the mulch in the back yard, but I started finding dead birds.”

I laughed in spite of myself.

“You want some people food?” He was grilling a breakfast sandwich in a pan.

“Is that allowed?” He smoothly slid the sandwich onto a plate, the plate onto breakfast bar in front of me, and he went back to the stove to make another.

“Thank you.” I took a bite. It wasn’t bad. “So, do you think Mom would mind if I left early?”

“She already thought you would. Why do you think she took the whole day off yesterday? She would have gone straight back to work after the ceremony if you weren’t here. Thank you, by the way.”

“For what?”

“You know, for not busting my chops over everything. You know, Hannah. For not hating Hailey.” I looked over at the slobbery mess. “I wish you were around more, actually. I think Hannah could learn a lot from you.”

“Well, I don’t know … Maybe she just needs more time? She’s only …?”

“Nineteen. Well, she’s been in and out of rehab since she was seventeen. She was only straight during, unh-unh,” he pointed his head towards Hailey, “because her mother basically locked her in her room for nine months. Her last stunt almost landed her in jail. I may not like her mom, but Hannah has been pure frustration since she hit puberty. She was finishing her GED and gearing up for community college, and she blew it.”

“That sucks.”

“Anyway.” He sat down with his sandwich and started eating. Still chewing, he said, “A non-stop flight leaves around midnight and gets there around 3:30 in the morning, but if we get you to the gates by twelve or so today, you can get a connecting flight in Salt Lake and be there around six tonight.” I gaped at him. “What? Your mother had me check all the options as soon as she found out you were coming.” He finished the last bite of his sandwich and dusted his hands over the plate.

It was overcast when my plane touched down at the Boise airport. All I could see upon approach in the dusk blue sky were the lights from the state prison, twinkling golden in the frost night. I remembered seeing them from Bogus Basin when I went skiing with Liv and Nate, and it seemed like ages ago. From the lobby, I texted Liv I was back early. She said I was welcome for dinner, but I told her I was in a hurry to get home. She offered to bring Frodo back over the weekend, and I was grateful for one last thing to worry about. I texted Jodie I had made it to Boise and would see her in the morning, or the next time she made it out to the place, but I didn’t get a reply.

As I paid for parking, another plane took off on the runway and soared in a straight line, heading west before disappearing into the clouds. The radio sounded harsh on my ears, even when I turned it down low, so I drove back to Milepost listening to the slush and ice under whoosh under the tires. The last bit of orange stretched to the edge of the skyline and melted into a pale gray, then gravel, then slate. It was pitch dark at the farm, but a light was on in the goat barn. I went in the house and made two hot chocolates for Elliot and me, before I changed into my work clothes and coat and headed out to the barn.


Alex’s Dream Interpretation Conclusion

And now … The conclusion of Alex’s interview with  local author and dream interpreter, Merri Halma. You can read it in its entirety on Merri’s blog, Spiritual Musings.



Merri: Fear keeps us from opening up to family and friends. You buried yourself in your schoolwork to avoid feeling your fears and as a form of protection. Now that you’re older, are ready you to get to know your parents? Are you ready to feel your feelings?

Alex: Yes. We have had several talks now, and it is helping me understand on a psychological level what happened. I’m beginning to see them as two different people, not just “the parents,” and they are actually pretty cool individuals to know. My dad is funny, in a dad sort of way, and really easy to hang out with. He knows a little about everything. My mom is a bit harder to get to know, but she is brilliant, snarky (like me at times), and organized. If I ever need help getting something done, she is right there for me.

As to my own feelings, I am always a work in progress. I have a hard time trusting people, so I end up thinking the worst when things don’t go the way I planned. In the past, I have held pretty shallow relationships, where there was no need to develop high levels of trust, really nothing to lose. As things got serious with Kat, I struggled more with the fact that I did have something to lose than anything that was actually going on with her, the bar skanks, etc., although that is what I focused on so that I didn’t have to face my own feelings directly. Now, I see how bad that was for our relationship and my own well-being. It isolated me from Kat, which made me feel even more invisible to her.

Merri: That’s great insight, and shows you are facing your feelings. In the dream, too, you mention a feeling of invisibility. In what way in your waking life now do you feel invisible?

Alex: I haven’t really thought about that. As a social worker, I want to make a difference in people’s lives. When Carla died that brought that feeling front and center. I mean, I oversaw her, and there was nothing I could do to keep her … safe. If I’d just gotten to the phone in time. If I had driven around to all the local bus stops. I don’t know, it just felt like my presence, nothing I could do mattered, but I kept trying. I struggle with it sometimes, but I do believe that I can make a difference.

In some ways, maybe I feel like Kat wasn’t hearing me? She kept everything bottled up inside and then shared it when she’s ready. I like to talk things through, plan things out, so when she doesn’t tell me things, I feel left out of the loop. When she was going through this whole commitment thing, it wasn’t the typical settle down or play the field question, it was how do I settle down? Will I be able to keep my other family back home? I guess she needed to work through that on her own, but I felt left out like she had better things to do.

Merri:  So you felt isolated and alone.

Alex: Yes, that’s about right.

Merri: In your waking life, how are you not protecting yourself?

Alex: Well, for a while I was just flying by the seat of my pants. I was avoiding feelings instead of addressing them. If I had talked with my parents a long time ago, I could have avoided years of lingering guilt over Shawn. If I had faced down some of my jealousy issues, I wouldn’t have had to put Kat and me through the horrible separation that we had.

I am learning, though. My dad got hurt in a car accident, and I have been helping him, but instead of running myself threadbare, I have been writing in my journal, walking, and meditating. Kat and I are learning to communicate a lot better. And I have had learned a lot about forgiveness. My parents for their grief, the universe for taking Carla, Kat for keeping things to herself, and most of all myself, for always feeling like I’ve let everyone down if I don’t do the exact right thing. I think I’m a pretty cool person. Even my cat, Schrodinger, thinks so, from time to time.

Merri: Aren’t we all flying by the seat of our pants? (giggle).  I wanted to get to the dream you had with Carla now.

Alex: The last time was just before they found Carla (a client from the group home where I work). In that one, I could see her at the house next door, watching television, and there was this red shade over the window. What was weird was that I had an extension to that dream, and I haven’t had one like this before. I was lying in this meadow where I like to go, and I kept getting covered with leaves. I don’t know if I believe in precognition, or whatever, but I woke up covered in leaves, and I couldn’t breathe. Carla was found in a wooded area covered in leaves just a few days later.

Merri: That dream gives me pause. Yes, it does sound like you were experiencing a bit of precognition. Perhaps Carla was reaching out to you.

I remember your original dream changed, too, when you burst through the roof of the house, your brother, Shawn, noticed you. He said you didn’t have to be up there, right? What are you trying to get yourself to see?

Alex: I think I was up there trying to see more about Carla, and he told me to get down. When I said I was trying, he asked me why. I think maybe he was saying all my trying wasn’t doing any good, that I needed to stop trying so hard and let some things come to me. He was telling me to get down from where I was so I could see. But I could see better from up there, right? Well, maybe not. Maybe I need to have more than one perspective to really understand things. And maybe I am trying too hard.

Sharon, who is my boss and a good friend, has counseled me to think more of the everyday ways I can affect the lives of our clients, rather than focusing on all the potentially bad things that can happen, the worst all would be a client getting harmed or dying. Certainly, those things may happen and will have to be dealt with, but the day-to-day care is the most crucial thing. In my personal life, I need to come to the understanding that I am not on the hook to prevent all the bad things that happen to the people in my life. I can keep all the balls in the air I want, but life is always going to throw another one in, one that I may or may not be able to handle. And that has to be okay. My brain gets that. It may take a while for my heart to catch up.

Merri: Alex, you are bringing in your own insight to that dream. I’m happy to learn so much from you and look forward to seeing your continual growth. I hope you start keeping a dream journal and learn from your dreams.

Thank you for coming on our show, Alex. And thank you, listeners, for tuning into Dream Interpretations with Merri Halma. Until next time. Goodbye and pleasant dreams.


Merri Halma is a self-published writer, spiritual searcher, and avid seeker of inner wisdom. She is the author of the Indigo Travelers series.

Lookout Butte by Amy Stinnett


Dream Interpretations Interview with Alex Stewart (Main Character from Lookout Butte)

Hello, everyone! A couple of weeks ago, local author and dream interpreter, Merri Halma, asked me if Alex, the main character from my novel, Lookout Butte, would be available for an interview. I thought this was a terrific idea, and so did Alex. Below is an excerpt from the interview. I will post more of it later, but you can read it in its entirety on Merri’s blog, Spiritual Musings.

Merri Halma

Welcome to another session of Dream Interpretations with Merri Halma. Today we welcome Alex Stewart, a social worker at Louis Ellis Adult Group Home.

Alex: Thank you for having me.

Alex has been having a recurring dream of being with her parents and older brother sitting around the Christmas tree. Alex, you mention feeling invisible, as you watch your parents and brother opening presents. He calls for you to come join them, and you try to move to the couch where they are, and then you start growing. They don’t appear to notice, yet you call to them to notice you. Your words fall on deaf ears. You continue growing, breaking through the roof. It starts to snow, so you do your best to protect them.

Let me remind everyone that each item in the dream is symbolic of the dreamer. Now for our interview with Alex.

Merri:  I understand you’ve been having this since your brother’s death, right?

Alex: Yes, well I think so. I always felt like I had the dream before he died, but certainly in the years since then, probably once every six months, at least every year. When I first left for college, I had the dream or some version of it every night for a week.

Merri: What stresses were you experiencing at the time of the dreams?

Alex: I’m not sure about all of them. The last few times, I was stressing over my relationship with Kat. She and I were struggling there for a while, mostly due to my stupidity, but we’re on track right now. It’s funny, the more life throws at us, the better we are, but when everything was going on with school and the new job at Louise Ellis, I was not doing a lot of self-care. I guess the job was also bringing Shawn’s death into the forefront, and I had a lot of unresolved feelings about him. I think about him every day. He was such a cool brother.

Merri: Tell me how this recent dream changed from when you were a child?

Alex: When I was little the dream stopped before I got out from under the tree. I could hear my parents talking from across the room, which comforted me. In college, the dream, it became more stressful when I tried to get their attention and couldn’t. After I started working at Louis Ellis, in the dream I became more protective of my family and Shawn, from the elements, the wind, and sleet in the dream.

Merri: That’s after you broke through the ceiling, correct?

Alex: Right.

Merri: As a child, after Shawn passed away, did you feel lost? Like you couldn’t say what your feelings were?

Alex:  I was lost. My parents were lost, too. I kept my feelings to myself, I guess because I didn’t want to make life harder for them. Our family changed overnight, really. We went from kind of an Ozzy and Harriet existence to everybody for themselves. We didn’t talk about Shawn for a long time. It was hard because, everywhere you looked, Shawn was there. I think we were all scared of making the pain worse for each other.

Merri: You sound helpless, though. Like whatever you do isn’t enough. Is that right? What kind of danger were you seeing in your waking life growing up?

Alex: I guess I was always worried I was going to disappoint my parents. They had already lost one child, and I had to be uber-responsible to make up for that. Even during my “rebellious” phase, where I barely talked to them and got in a lot of arguments with my mom, I was killing it at school, AP Math, Science, and English classes. I won a statewide essay contest. I was on the debate team. And I had a part-time job working at a bookstore. My rebellion was basically being shitty to my mom and ignoring my dad. Also, I smoked for about a year. Stupid, right? Anyway, the biggest fear I had was letting my parents down, but I ended up distancing myself from them in the process. And then I felt more alone because they didn’t see me. They didn’t know me.

Merri: Fear keeps us from opening up to family and friends. You buried yourself in your schoolwork to avoid feeling your fears and as a form of protection. Now that you’re older, are ready you to get to know your parents? Are you ready to feel your feelings?


Look0utButte by Amy Stinnett



Chickenshit: Crisis #8A Big City Blues

March 6, 2013

I got up at 3 a.m. so that I could get to the airport with time to spare. I know it’s overkill, but I wanted to be there two hours early to increase the chances of getting on the early flight. The house was quiet, no roosters crowing or dogs barking. I brushed my good shoes off one last time, grabbed my bag, and headed out the door. As I waited for the car to warm up, I saw little bird feet moving in the chicken run. I thought about my little grey hen from my first real day on the farm. It turns out she was still alive and kicking, and not one of the handful of birds that have died this year. She’s almost like a pet. When the weather gets warmer, I want to go out and sit with the birds. Anyway, it was so peaceful that I almost fell back to sleep but cranked the stereo as I drove away. How fitting, the local station played “Big Ole Jet Airliner” as I hurled my little car towards the Boise airport.

I know I should be jaded by this point in my life, but I am still floored by the views from the plane, seeing the Space Needle against that azure Seattle skyline, and my first glimpse of the big purple “W” on the stadium. They all brought back a flood of good memories, times that weren’t that long ago, but it might as well have been a decade ago. I left Seattle a day or two after New Year’s Day, but when I graduated from UW last June, that’s when things really started shifting. I stayed in town, taking the internship/assistant position, while Liv and some of our friends scattered to places across the country. I felt like I was just waiting for the next phase (graduate school) to kick in, so falling into a relationship with Ton-ton seemed like no big deal.

She and I moved in together after we met at a bar in Capitol Hill and started hanging out. We talked a lot about movies and music, and we just seemed to fit, without a lot of drama or work. I guess I got lonely without my “crew” there to hang out with. Anyway, it didn’t seem like that big a deal, but I guess it meant more to me than I thought. When Ton-ton came home and told me she was going to marry that guy, I just about lost it. It was a few days before Christmas, and I had no plans for going home. I spent the next couple of weeks crashing on a couple of friends’ couches until I got the call about my dad.

Anyway, my travel went off virtually without a hitch. I took the bus from the airport, texted a few people to let them know I was in town, made a few stops, and met my friend, Camela (pronounced like Pamela), at the HUB after she finished her last class of the day. She’s graduating this year and still lives in Kelsey, so after the long day, it was nice to go back to her room, catch up, and crash early since we both had early morning meetings.

Camela’s room is on the third floor. I snuggled up on her couch, listening to the thuds and bass lines coming from neighboring apartments, and stared at the cobalt sky through her window. About two a.m., some guy walked through the courtyard and yelled, “Hey! Screevo!” at the top of his lungs, for no apparent reason that I could tell. I felt like I was home again.


March 7, 2013


I went into the office for our annual meeting this morning. Last year’s meeting was held a couple of weeks later, and I was lucky enough to have come on board, at least in a small way until I finished my year at UW, just before the meeting. I loved the building where their office is. They share a converted Victorian house, a block over from the Queen Anne Public Library, with another environmental non-profit that lobbies for better air quality in the Pacific Northwest.  My boss, Alma, met me at the door with a hug and a cup of coffee.

“My goddess, Billie, it feels like you’ve been gone a hundred years!”

“I know, me, too.” I sipped the coffee and reached across the conference table for a sky blue doughnut with purple sprinkles.

Alma moved on to greet others coming in getting everybody ready for the meeting, while her assistant went about laying packets and swag in front of each chair at the table. Alma came back to me to introduce me to a few people I had not met and a couple that started late last year that she wasn’t sure how our timelines matched up. All-in-all, there were about 15 of us, and a few more speaker phone.

The glossy cover page had snow covered mountain with a royal blue sky, and superimposed over it was a drilling well with fracking tunnels coming out underneath, and one more layer with the no symbol over the top of everything. Strangely, what it reminded me of was the mountains near the farm, Squaw Butte, and even Boise National Forest, where I went skiing with Liv and Nate. Alma opened the meeting with a quote from John Muir, and we flipped through the packets, as Alma went over the progress of the past year, all the legislative battles and town ordinances, new and continuing partnerships, funding sources, and plans for 2014-2015. We had a quick question and answer session before taking a break and separating into our work teams. I sat at the table, still staring at the cover of the packet.

“How long are you in town for?” I looked up to find Alma smiling down at me.

“Just a few days. I have to go see my mom in Sacramento, then it’s back to the farm.”

“Oh, yeah, you did inherit a farm. That is so cool. Sad to hear about your dad.” She slid into the chair next to me. “So, what, are you going to do, lease it or stay or… I don’t know?”

“Well, I have plans to sell it. Everything should be wrapped up by June, July at the latest.” The words sounded strange coming out of my mouth, like a baby falling overboard a ship.

“And then you’re coming back to Seattle?”

“That’s the plan.” I realized I sounded a bit dismissive, so I added, “It’s been great being back. I miss all the sights and sounds of the city. Plus, I’m staying with a friend who is still on campus, so it’s almost like I never left.”

“Still, it must be nice working from home, right?”

“Well, I don’t have internet, so I go to the library. I have to get everything online done before the gamers show up after school. Still, it is kind of fun. There’s a lot of same stuff there or in Boise, like coffee shops, markets, good book stores, pho and sushi, it’s just there’s fewer options to choose from.”

“Well, I grew up in San Francisco, and I can’t even imagine living someplace where there’s no Wi-Fi.” She laughed. “I mean, that’s what we’re protecting.” She pointed at the packet. “I think it’s neat to get snowed in at a lodge, but I can’t imagine having to live and function in a place like that.”

“No, I get it. Believe me, I’d rather …” I had no idea what I was going to say.

“Hey, girlfriend!” Chloe, a rep from Colorado who I spent a lot of time with at last year’s meeting, tapped me on the shoulder and bent down and gave me a hug. “Guess what!”

“Hey!” I stood up and put my knee into the chair. “I don’t know, what?”

“I’m moving to Seattle! Isn’t that cool?”

“Yeah, that’s supercool.”

“Yeah, I’m going to head the grant writing team, and Alma helped me find a place in Wedgewood! Yay, I get to see the ocean all the time now! I was late getting in from the airport. I’ve been sitting in my rental car, listening to the tail end of the meeting.” She laughed and caught her breath. Time was up for us to go to our department meetings. “Hey, we should go do something tonight. You got plans?”
“Not really, just hanging with friends. You want to come with us?”

“Sure, I’m in.”

When I got out of my meeting, Chloe was still busy with hers, so I caught the bus up to Capitol Hill and went to a coffee shop to kill time until time to meet Camela, and possibly Chloe, for dinner. I PM’d Chloe the address of the restaurant near the bar, then absentmindedly tooled around the internet for a while. I found myself on Google maps, zeroing in on my dad’s property. The photo was new! I could see the roof of my little green car sitting in the driveway. There was no little peg man to set down for street view, but I could see the fake well still in place, so it wasn’t within the last couple of weeks. The driveway gate was open and the goats were farther out in the field, so it wasn’t feeding time. I’m guessing about mid-day, so what was I doing?… I scanned over the chicken coops and saw little shadowy dots on the ground. I scooted over to the dog run, and I’ll be damned if there weren’t two figures standing inside the gate. It had to be me and Jodie. Damn! I could see her laughing at me and the tender way she approached Frodo. Hmmm. I tried not to swoon.

Camela bailed on me for the evening, but Chloe came to the restaurant and we had some tapas before going to the bar for a drink. You’d think one of the oldest lesbian bars in the Northwest would be a little, I don’t know, bigger, have more features, but there is usually a good DJ, and I usually run into one or two people worth seeing. I think we were there about twenty minutes, total. We danced once and mostly people watched. I didn’t see anyone I recognized. I tried to picture Jodie in the club, but it only made me laugh. I envisioned her dancing for about a minute before hopping on Sheila’s horse and riding it around the dance floor, lights flashing. In the scenario, she had a lariat like Wonder Woman’s. I wonder what I would tell her if she roped me like that?

Since we both had to go to the office for closing meeting tomorrow, Chloe invited me to stay with her in her hotel room tonight and tomorrow night. Totally platonic, we’re just friends. Plus, she could give me a ride to the airport on Sunday. We swung by Camela’s to pick up my bag, and on the way back, we passed by my old apartment building. I felt a twinge of sadness, knowing that part of my life was completely over now. Some masochistic part of me was tempted to let Ton-ton know I was in town, but I think, just maybe, that part of me is just shut off now.

“Wasn’t that your building before you left?” Chloe slowed her rental car down. “We can stop, if you need to. Do you still have your place here?”

“… No, there’s nothing left there.”

“Oh, okay.” We drove on in silence for a while. “I didn’t mean to bring up anything bad.”

“No, not your fault. I think I’ve grown up a little, that’s all.”

“You had a girlfriend last time, right? Did you have to break up to go back to Iowa?”


“Yeah, I meant Idaho. I get those mixed up.”

“No, it was just before I left, though. I guess it was for the best.”

“It usually is. Still …”


Her hotel room was practically an apartment; it was so huge. I slept on a huge futon that pulled flat. It was more comfortable than my dad’s bed back on the farm. We talked for a few minutes, and I wrote in my journal and went to sleep.


March 8, 2013


This morning, when I finished with my IT group meeting, I met with Alma and my other boss, the IT Director, Vince. The grant I’m working under runs out in June, but they believe I can be covered by a new grant that will fund in September, if I can just hang on until then.

They are really happy with my work, and our group has started a map documenting all the fracking incidents across the US. One of our wish list items is to create an app to help local activists organize and respond to fracking proposals, long before the companies move in and poison the local water supply and destabilize the ground structure. Anyway, enough of my soap box. Alma and Vince want me to stay on, and they said it would be easier if I had the ability to come in to the office at least sometimes, no pressure.

Chloe’s meeting went longer than mine, so I said my goodbyes and headed back to Capitol Hill. I wanted to peruse Ada’s Technical Book store and see if I could find a small thank you present for Liv for watching Frodo while I’m gone. I found an iOS guide that might help me frame the app question a little better. At a gift shop around the corner, I found a little stuffed Scottie for Liv. Knowing her, she’ll be fully bonded with him by the time I get back. Hmm. I wonder if that could solve a problem? Anyway, Chloe met up with me at a pho place a couple of blocks from another bar, where they have a mostly gay night on Fridays and mostly lesbian night on Saturdays. Chloe said she wouldn’t mind hooking up with someone if it was the right person. She’s not a slut, or anything, but she says she is overdue.

When we got to the club, the music was blasting. As usual, I could barely hear anything, but the energy was definitely more frantic than the Wild Rose. We made our way to the bar, Chloe got us a couple of Jell-O shots, and we went out to the dance floor. There was this song playing. I don’t know the name of it or who sings it, but it was almost like a cheer. Something like “everybody get down like that, clap, clap, clap, clap” something about staying up all night, fighting, and then everything disappearing in the morning. It was kind of cool, everybody perked up, anyway. I really got into it.

Chloe headed off to the bathroom, and I found a table with tall chairs that was empty and staked a claim there. The waitress brought me another drink, and I took a sip. I glanced back at the dance floor, and who did I spy with my little eye? You guessed it – Ton-ton. She was slow grinding on a little Bieber clone who looked catatonic in her teal flannel shirt. Was that what I looked like when I was with her?

“Hey, isn’t that your ex?” Chloe showed up with another set of drinks. I finished my last one and started the next. “We can go somewhere else if you want.”

“No, I’m fine.” Across the room, Ton-ton bit her lower lip the way she used to at crucial times during sex. I felt like I was staring into the Grand Canyon, wondering whether I should jump or not.

Someone approached our table, and thinking she was a waitress, I pointed to my drink and yelled, “No, thanks!” But she turned out to be someone Chloe had just met and she either ignored me or never heard me and crossed over to Chloe’s side. She leaned into her ear and said something I could not hear. Chloe nodded, and they laughed. After a few minutes, they moved toward the dance floor. Chloe grabbed my arm. “Come dance with us.”

“S’okay.” I was busy trying to make sense of the vertigo inside my head, and the alcohol was not helping. “Go ahead.”

“You sure?”

I nodded, and they left.

I tried not to stare at Ton-ton, but caught myself sneaking glances her way. It’s hard to pull apart all the feelings that were swirling around me at that moment, but I had almost convinced myself to go talk to her, to tell her I wasn’t mad or hurt anymore, even if it wasn’t all the way true, when Chloe came back and told me she was ready to go. I could either hang out at the lounge of the hotel or she could stop back by and pick me up in a couple of hours. Third wheel status, unappealing as it was, was still better than the thought of being without a place to sleep or missing my flight tomorrow. I opted to go with them.

As we were walking out, we had to stop for a group clustered around the bar. At that moment, I felt a tap on my shoulder, and when I turned around, two lips pressed against mine, followed by a slow-probing tongue. My choice to fight or succumb to the kiss was slowed down a little by the three drinks I’d had. I’m a lightweight, I know. I put my arms up and placed them on her forearms, gently but firmly pushing her away.

“I knew you’d be back.” She grinned. “Idaho’s creepy. I mean farms are cool and stuff, but they’re all backwards there.”

“Sure, Ton-ton.” I saw that Chloe was waiting for me, very patiently considering her prospects. “I have to go.”

“Well, I guess I’ll see you around. Do you want my new number? I changed phones.”

I paused for a moment. “No, I don’t think I do. Anyway, good luck to you. No hard feelings.”

“None for me, either. I’ll see you around.”

I didn’t bother to correct her. Seeing her again was not in my future plans, and if I did, I would not let her catch me off-guard like that again. In the back seat of the car, I stared out the window while Chloe and her distraction did their share of foreplay until we got to the hotel. I tried to wipe the memory of that kiss from my face, but I couldn’t help admitting it felt good to be at least physically close to someone. It has been about four months, and I think I’m starting to attract moths.

I was in the lounge for about forty minutes and had been hit on by two men. I was trying to understand the pattern on the slate colored carpet, when Chloe texted me to come back up.

Knock, knock, knock. “You sure?” I poked my head in.

She was in the kitchenette opening a tea. “That was the worst sex I’ve ever had in my entire life!”


“Yeah!” she huffed. Chloe went on to give me a bunch of way-too-intimate details of her encounter, but, yeah, it was pretty bad. “You don’t want to fool around, do you?” She was half-joking, but I could tell she would have followed through on it. This was my fourth proposition of the night, and the irony was the only person I want to be intimate with right now is far away and is within a 90% certainty of being straight.

“No,” I said, “after being mauled by Ton-ton, I don’t know if I ever will.”

“Figures!” She laughed and collapsed into a chair. Chloe just went up about ten points in my book.

Chickenshit: Crisis #7 One Thing

February 24, 2013

So, I was so hyped up from yesterday that I was not ready to write about my evening with Jodie yet, but here goes.

It was amazing! We talked about all sorts of stuff; farm stuff, things about the area, school (she went to a local community college and BSU), books, movies, the community, and, of course, horses. When we got over to Sheila’s the horses had spotted us walking over and they met us at the barn. Since it was winter and later in the day, Jodie didn’t want to do too much with them. She said Tucker was too much horse for me, so she had me talk to and pet Rosemarie while she put halters on both of them and wrapped their leads around the fence panel.

We went into the barn and pulled out a couple of brushes and some tack and sat them on a barrel outside the barn, then we went back for saddles and pads. Jodie showed me how to brush the horse down and how to clean and place the saddle pad, then she did the same with Tucker. She took one saddle and placed it on Tucker, tightened a bunch of straps, walked him a few feet and cinched up a strap so tight, I’m surprised the horse could breath, and the whole time, she ran her hands all over the horse and talked to it in hushed but cheery sounds. “Good girl,” she said after every adjustment.

She grabbed Rosemarie’s saddle and asked me if I wanted to try. “Sure,” I said, “As long as you finish it. I’ll probably make it too loose and end up riding upside down.”

She handed me the saddle and had me hold it while she folded the straps over the top. Then she showed me the motion to swing the saddle onto Rosemarie’s back. My first attempt almost knocked the saddle pad off, but I managed to pull it back and give it a more successful try. Jodie went around and laid the straps down, then came back and walked me through everything else.

Mid-way through, I must have looked a little goofy, because she stopped and said, “I’m boring you, aren’t I?”

“No, this is great, I don’t think I’ll remember it all, but I really like all the little steps you have to take. You must have done this forever, huh?”

“Pretty much. We always had horses when I was younger. I was a 4-H kid. Don’t make fun of me, but I was a rodeo queen.”


“Well, it was just local, I did it for scholarship money. I took it pretty seriously back then.”

“Like the hair and makeup stuff?” I had never seen her wear any makeup, at least I didn’t think she wore any.

“No, rodeo and 4H stuff. I raised rabbits and broke a horse. In rodeo, I’ve done just about everything, but ride bulls. I don’t really see the point in getting crushed by an animal the size of a car just to prove I can do it. Your dad helped me when I raised a goat one year.”


“Yeah. He called me over to watch a birth, and I got to raise that goat and show it in the summer. Tooney, we called her. ‘Cormallen Tooney.’ She looked like a Tiny Toon. You should have kids coming soon, you know.”

“Cormallen?” I know I have seen that somewhere.

“Lord of the Rings. One of the obscure references. Your dad named the farm Cormallen Fields.”

“Doh. Now, I remember.” I felt like an idiot.

She slipped the horses bridles inside her coat, and we led them along at a slow pace. Puffy clouds hung high in the sky, which was a rare blue, for a change. A slight breeze blew through every so often, sending a little chill over me, but Jodie and the horses did not seem to notice it at all. We walked in a large circle a couple of times, then she took out a bridle and slipped it over Tucker’s nose and arranged it on her head.

“I just want to walk them today. Do you want to give it a try?”

Looking at the stirrup hanging from Rosemarie’s saddle, I felt kind of like a hobbit. “I guess, I’m willing, if I can figure how to get up there. The stirrup is about half-way up my shoulder, and I don’t really bend that way.”

“You can cheat. There’s a mounting block over here.” I followed her over to a little staircase I hadn’t notice before, and she helped position and steady Rosemarie, who was starting to get a little antsy, while I shoved my foot into the stirrup and threw my other leg over.

“It’s like straddling a Buick.” Not ever being a cheerleader, I was not used to an activity that approximated splits.

“Yeah, you have to get used to it.”

She hopped on Tucker as easily as getting a car, and Rosemarie started to move, following Tucker and Jodie a few feet away. Jodie gave me a few tips on how to hold the reins, how to sit and move, and how to turn the horse. It was really cool at one point because we turned both horses to the right in unison, then stopped them and turned them the other way.

“This is the easiest thing I’ve done since I got to Milepost.”

“Well, that is about the best horse you could hope to have for your first ride.”

We ambled along the edge of the field, not going much faster than I could walk on pavement. When I asked Jodie what this was called, meaning how the horses were walking. She laughed and said, “Walking.” Then she told me about horse gaits, beating them out on the front of her saddle. Clop-clop, clop-clop. She pointed to different places around us and told me things, names of mountains, visible to us here and a little farther away, people my dad knew, and all sorts of other things. In between we were quiet, listening to the hooves making contact with the pasture and the horses’ breathing as we went along. When we came up to a group of bushes, about 300 tiny birds began screeching and burst out and above us to the left. We stopped and focused on the reflection of the sun on their wings, as they turned many times in mid-flight, almost hypnotized.

Jodie dismounted and felt the horses’ chests, then led them back towards the barn to get a drink of water. She helped me get down, checked their hooves, and we took off their tack, wiped them down with a cloth, and brushed out their manes. It was so Zen, I almost fell asleep. After a while, Jodie gave them each a couple of scoops of feed and they almost seemed to purr.

We stood at her car talking for a while. I asked her if she wanted to come over and have dinner with me, but she said she had to get home. I thanked her for showing me the horses. She said Sheila, who will be back next week, will be ecstatic to know I can help her with her horses sometimes, she said she would volunteer me. She looked at me really hard for a moment, so I guessed and said goodbye.

I heard her car drive away, and a warmth came over me. I let Frodo outside, rescued a few eggs from the chicken coop, and stacked them in the cartons by the back door. I fell face-down onto the couch, my mind racing with all kinds of thoughts. Jodie is possibly the most beautiful person I have ever met. She’s like a girl scout, an English teacher, and a cowgirl all thrown into one. And that’s probably just the tip of the iceberg.

I rolled over and pulled out my phone and texted Liv.

Me: Would I be crazy if I wanted to stay?

Liv: On the farm? Probably. In class, can I call you later?

I started thinking about heating up something from the freezer for dinner, when Frodo sat upright on my chest. He walked over and sniffed the door. A car door closed outside, boots crossed my back deck, and then someone’s knuckled knocked three taps on my back door. Frodo yipped.

I opened the back door, and there was Jodie, holding a giant bag of chili cheese fries and some frozen coffees.

“Changed my mind. It’s starting to snow like crazy. You want some nachos?”

I looked behind her at the slanted sheets of snow coming down. “Oh, thank god. I was about to cook or something. I think we are single-handedly keeping the convenience store open.”

We finished the fries and half a jar of pickles, watched City Slickers, and talked for hours. I told her how overwhelming everything has been since I got here, how it’s all I can do to hang on until the house sells, and how I can’t even think beyond what to do the next day. But then, what will I do with all the dogs, and what about Elliot?

Jodie listened very patiently to my whining. She’s may be a better listener than even Liv. She told me I needed a little time away from the place to regroup, and I tend to agree with her.  She said she was wondering if I was reconsidering selling, and I had to admit I had thought about it but had no idea how I could run the place long term, even with Elliot’s help. I have really started missing Seattle, missing school, and some of my old friends. I miss walking a few blocks and going to a movie or a poetry reading, something.

“I know it’s not the point, but we could go to a movie sometime. It’s small, but the Emmett theater has something decent on every few weeks. We could go to Boise, too. There’s an IMAX, and there’s The Flix, if you want to see something artsy.”

I thought about sitting close to her in a darkened movie theater, and I almost swooned. That’s a thing, right, swooning? I told her that would be great. Liv and I had gone to The Flix, and I thought it was really quirky and cool.

We talked more about my parents, her parents. I asked her what she would do with the farm if she were me, and she said she wouldn’t touch that question with a ten-foot pole, which kind of reminded me of my mom.  She said, of course, she would put horses on it, if she could afford them. It turns out her dad owes a lot of money on their farm, and that it will have to be sold when he dies, which, of course, he won’t ever do, but would need to in order to pay off all the debt. She started working at the library as an assistant when she was in high school, and she returned each summer to run the summer reading program. She has been there full time since 2011, when she took over her mother’s position, when she became ill and died of pancreatic cancer. She is going back for her masters once she has enough money saved up. She would have to do some online classes and move to a place where the college had a program and live there for a year or two, just until she could finish up. She thought she might move to Boise, Portland, or even Salt Lake for the right position. Until then, she was enjoying spending time with her friends and her dad.

We talked long into the night, and when I asked her about when she had to leave, she asked if I minded if she slept on the couch. She would go home in the morning. She didn’t work on Sundays, and she had called her dad earlier, so everything was cool. We talked a little more, and I thought back to earlier in the morning, when the Elliot and I had found that the well pump was broken, and it felt like days ago. I gave Jodie a pillow and a couple of blankets, and I went to bed. It was so comforting to have someone else in the house, even if a turncoat Frodo chose to sleep with them instead. And even if I tripped and banged my toe on the way to bed.


February 28, 2013

I finally finished my last entry, I wanted to get everything down. Jodie helped me clear the driveway the next morning (there was about two inches that fell the night before), and then she went home. I am having so much fun spending time with her.

Elliot came over later, and we made sure the goats had water that wasn’t frozen. He came back on Monday and found a spare pump that used to run a landscaping pond, one of my dad’s many scavenging finds, and he figured out a way to pump the water out of the hole in the center of the driveway, so we don’t have to use water from the house. Especially with the snow lately, that would make a huge mess. Elliot showed me this cool trick, where you fill a soda bottle with saltwater and it keeps the water in the bucket from freezing. It’s like magic! But the buckets still get filthy. And the area where we rinse them out is so slick, I actually slid to the ground yesterday and landed square on my butt. Dragging myself up off the ground, I had a flashback to my “bucket brigade” days. I was holding the wire handle out from me so I could move along a few inches at a time. The next moment the bucket was disappearing up into the air and my dad was hoisting me into the air and up across his shoulder. I remember giggling with peals of laughter upon becoming airborne. Today, though, with my swollen tailbone, I am hobbling around like I’m seventy.

Bill came over this morning to share a couple of bits of information. He told the agent I wasn’t currently ready to sell, and another one of her client’s, somebody local, overheard her talking about it. This other person actually owns a lot of land around here, and they really want the property for the hay crop. They thought they might fix up the house for a mother-in-law cabin or for one of their kids when they get older. They aren’t really interested in the goats but are considering the chickens. I love these people shopping around my dad’s farm like a dollar store, and it isn’t even on the market. Anyway, Bill said their offer would be much better than the last one, and he had to bring it to me. They would want to get in as soon as spring weather starts, maybe before so they could lay out all their plans. I would have to be out of here in not much over a month, so I would also need to get rolling on it almost immediately.

He asked me a few questions about my job. Or jobs. The Boise radio job is actually picking up. They are using me more than Nate thought, and I got a referral to a real estate office that is trying to dominate the market across the valley. I have been using a different skill set, working with their online listings and imbedding MLS info on their site. My job in Seattle has stayed about the same, and they let me know about a mandatory meeting happening at the end of next week. I may have to Skype it, but I will try to make it if I can. I have to check with Mom to see if she has any miles I can borrow.

In other news, Bill spoke with his friend at the credit union, and they would be willing to extend me a small business loan in order to get the pump fixed. If I sold the house, I would need to ask for an advance payment in order to clear the loan prior to the sale. If I can get an estimate next week, he said he would help me get it all set up either late next week or early the following week. I didn’t know what else to do, so I called and got the repairman scheduled to come out next Tuesday.

March 1, 2013

I’ve been to the library a few times to work this week and seen Jodie there. We went to this drive-in restaurant and ate in the car. The food was terrible, but we talked for a couple of hours before she had to get home. I keep thinking how different she is than Ton-ton, but it still feels so comfortable to be around her. We haven’t broached anything romantic AT ALL. I still think she is straight, but even if she is nothing more than a friend, it would be terrific. Still, I melt sometimes when I look at her.

I called my mom, and she said she did not have any miles left on her plan. She cashed them in on a hotel room when they took Harvey’s daughter and granddaughter to Disneyland over last month (did she tell me about that?). But the good news is Harvey has a couple of buddy passes I can use (he is a mechanic for one of the airlines), so it looks like next week, after I deal with the whole water pump situation, I will be heading to Seattle for a day or two, then home for a few days before coming back here. Elliot says we may be done with kidding by then, and if not, he can stay over. Also, mom says there might be a surprise for me, when I get home. Oh, goddess, I can’t take any more surprises. I do, however, have to figure out what to do with Frodo while I’m gone. Elliot will be around, but it’s still too cold to put the dog outside, and Pork Chop says he isn’t welcome there. I might hit up Jodie.

One of Elliot’s egg customers stopped by the other day and asked him about the farm, I think. I guess word is getting around. He met the guy at the front gate, and I could see the man holding his arms out and pointing around the property. Crap, could they just lay off for a while.

I left Bill a message about finding the right buyer for the place. I would like to find someone who would follow the same arrangement with Elliot, if possible. Despite what he says, I think Elliot would have a hard time adjusting. I found out his place is only about a half-acre, and the other mobile homes were his Dad’s shop and one where his cousin, now dead, used to live.


March 5, 2013


Today was an odd day, all the way around. The pump guy came, and it’s not as bad as everybody thought. It will be about $3,000 to fix it, though, which is bad enough. Bill came over in the afternoon, and he drove me into New Plymouth, to the credit union office, to sign papers for the loan. He co-signed, so now I have to pay it off out of the money I get from the farm.

Before we left New Plymouth, Bill and I stopped at a restaurant and had lunch. I looked around at the Western memorabilia and tried to imagine a place like it in my old neighborhood near U-Dub and almost laughed out loud. And the closest thing Sacramento has to offer looks like a palace in comparison. The guy who took our order was under 60, unlike most of the locals, and the food was okay. Gravy, gravy, gravy.

We sipped our iced teas and talked for a while. I hadn’t actually thought about the fact I would get money from the sale, maybe enough to make a dent in my student loans. Bill thinks it would sell close to $400,000, maybe more, and I would clear over $350,000 after the sale. That kind of blew my mind, but then he told me something even more bazaar. The farm earns more than that in a year! There are costs of business to pay out of it, but the farm clears over $200,000 some years! I had no idea. I don’t even know what to do with that information. Either way, I could pay off my student loans and cover my graduate studies.

When we got back to the farm, he didn’t get out of the car but seemed like he wanted to tell me something. After a moment, I thought I had read him wrong and started to get out. He motioned for me to wait.

“I just want you to know. If you’ve heard any rumors, they’re probably not true.”

I hadn’t heard anything, and I told him that.

“I just want you to know nothing ever happened between your dad and me, even if your mom thinks it did. He was like a dad to me, that’s all. We were all really close back then, and I may have gotten confused about some things, but he and I worked it all out. I miss your mom a lot, even now. And they didn’t break up because of me. I left long before that happened.”

I stared at the dashboard, a couple of goats were shoving each other around out in the field.

“And it wasn’t my idea to name you after me. That was your mom’s.”


“But look. I resolved my feelings over the years. There is no way I could have anything but love for both of them. How could I after all they did for me? Anyway, seeing you brings a lot of it back, both the good and the bad, but I want you to know that if you want to stay, I will do anything I can to help you succeed. If you sell, I’ll do anything there, too, of course. Anyway, I want you have you up to house to meet my wife and kids, after you get back from your trip. Okay?”


Dumbfounded, I got out and waved goodbye.

I changed my clothes and caught up with Elliot, who was pulling some hay off a tarped stack and dragging it over to the buck pen. “Elliot? What do you know about Billie and my parents?”

“Ah, no, ain’t gonna talk ‘bout nobody else’s business. You better talk to your momma on that one.”


I was just finishing up collecting eggs when Liv and Nate showed up. They agreed to take Frodo for the week. I am really unsure what’s going to happen to Frodo if I sell, since he has become increasingly spoiled. Jodie even gave him a chicken strip the other day. Goddess knows what will happen after Liv has ahold of him for a few days. He’ll start snubbing his nose up to tap water, in favor of coconut water. Liv and Nate and I went into Emmett for dinner and ate at a nice little Mexican restaurant, Nate’s treat. He said he is really happy with my work, and I thanked him for a referral he gave me. He said there were a couple of other people he might float my card to if I had time to work for them. I told him I’d know more after my meeting. They have found a couple of places that fell through, but they have an offer pending on a place now, and hopefully, they will know by the end of the week.

I waved goodbye to them and Frodo, who could see me through the bars of his little kennel in the back, if he cared to, and then I went inside and prepared for my adventure tomorrow, trying to get a standby seat on a plane headed for SEATAC.  I searched through my clothes for items that weren’t ripped or stained and found a few things. My poor hiking boots looked like garbage in the mud room. I had scraped off the dirt and bird crap but never fully cleaned them, and I was too tired to do it now.

I shoved my backpack next to the back door, turned the TV on, and fell asleep watching City Slickers for about the thirtieth time. I keep wondering if I’ll figure out my one thing, like the cowboy in the movie talked about. One thing. Is it possible to do that?

Busy Week

We have had a busy week on the farm, getting ready for winter, doing chicken inventory, car repairs, covering the garden, and starting the process of culling chickens. In between, Billie’s story continually plays in the background. Please don’t confuse her life with mine. We may occasionally share the same level of ineptitude, but she, at least, has a twenty-something-year-old body to carry her about her day and rebound the next. If I could trade my current CPU and peripherals for hers without losing the data I’ve accumulated, I would do it in a heartbeat. Until that becomes an option, viva la Aleve!

Chickenshit: Crisis #6 Water, Water Everywhere

February 21, 2013

Emmett Public Library is bigger than you would expect. When you first walk in, there is a vestibule with books and magazines for sale/donation. I found a book on programming (an old edition of Code Complete) and, oddly enough, a copy of a Manga novel I used to read, Death Note. The rest of the building is divided up into several sections for kids’ books, adult books, desks, and computers. The tour ends with a sitting area full of overstuffed couches and chairs. There is an overall homey feeling to it. I bet a lot of cookbooks have been written there.

I have learned to get there early and try to clear out before the kids show up after school. I’ve worked in a lot of busy restaurants and coffee shops, but ten-year-olds playing pew-pew games, all breathy and excited after being penned in all day, are just not conducive to quality work.

Today, before the kids even had a crack at me, I had to listen to a couple of brain dead morons go on and on about Obama being the ruination of America. I had almost tuned them out completely when I noticed one of them looking at pictures of Michele and saying nasty comments, calling her an animal. I’m not very political, but I almost lost it. Fortunately, Jodie was nearby and caught my attention. I saved my work and met her in the front.

“Did you hear what he was saying?!”

“Yes, I did.”

“How do you put up with that?”

“I don’t know. As long as they aren’t loud, we can’t really do anything.”

“Is that what people are like around here?”

“No. Well, there are a lot of people like that. Some don’t know any better; they’re usually older and just believe what they hear on talk radio.” She leaned towards me. “Others, like those brain trusts, are just assholes that don’t know which way to wipe.”

I let out a loud “Bah-ha,” surprising even myself.


“Well, aren’t you the librarian?”

“Ha-ha. How’s Elliot?”

“Doing a little better. He’s back out at the farm about every other day.”

“Oh, good. Hey, don’t you have dogs to take care of?”

“Yeah, Frodo’s actually in the car.”

“Oh, I wanna see him.”

She followed me out to the car and Frodo danced around in the seat, happy to see both of us. I got in and rolled down the window, and Frodo hopped in my lap and sat up on the door. Jodie scratched him behind the ears, grabbed his paws, and stood him up.

“Hello, Mr. Frodo,” she said in a baby voice. I had a fleeting flashback of Ton-ton. “You want to help me exercise the horses tomorrow?” Ton-ton, who?

“I have not really ridden much. Or should I say, at all.”

“No problem, they’re very gentle.”

“Yeah, I’d love that.”

“Early, early?”

“Actually, I can’t get over there until the afternoon. Would that be okay? I could bring some lunch with me.”

I thought about two nano seconds on it. “Okay.”

She stopped dancing Frodo around by his front paws, kissed him on the nose, and put him down. “Got to go. See you tomorrow.” She booped Frodo on the nose for punctuation.

“See you.”


February 22, 2013

It sleeted and snowed last night, so we had a mushy mess to clean out of the driveway and out to the gates. Dad does have a small tractor, nothing fancy. It has a big box attached to it to move stuff, and it was a lot of fun smooshing the snow around with it. Elliot showed me a couple of tricks, and I was off like a mad wombat. He must have thought I was a nut, but he laughed when the tractor lurched forward and I almost got whiplash.

We had lunch, one of my dad’s chicken soup creations, and Elliot asked me to come over for dinner.

“If you don’t mind the place, Sheila’s church folks gave me too much food. ‘Sides, it’s odd not having anybody there all the time.”

“I know what you mean.”

“What, you got me, Bill, Jodie. That’s a lot.”

“I’m used to having a lot more people around.”


“Yeah, I’ll be there. Want me to bring anything?”

He nodded across the room. “You could bring a movie if you want. I used to watch movies ever’ now and then with Dan.”

My dad’s name hung in the room for a minute. I felt a little pang of something that felt a lot like regret.


I got over to Elliot’s house about five. Like a wimp, I drove, because I didn’t want to slog back over in the dark. I gave Elliot the movie I’d picked out, Shane.

He had been frying up some onions and mushrooms, and his trailer smelled amazing. “I hope you like casserole ‘cause that and rolls is what they give me.” He poured the contents of his pan over two plates full of broccoli and casserole. “I’m not complaining. I froze up a bunch of single servings, so I’m set through March, most likely. It dries up like that, and the onions wake it back up.”

He set the pan on the back burner. “Couch or table.”

“Your call.”

We grabbed our plates and both headed for the living area. Elliot set his plate on the coffee table, grabbed the VHS tape, popped it in and stopped it, then sat back in his recliner to eat.

I thought about the few times I’d been at Elliot’s house when his mom was in the hospital. I had not been past the turnoff for the farm before, but after a quick survey, I finally deduced that two of the three trailers in the gravel driveway were uninhabited, and the larger trailer on the end was theirs. The door was unlocked but guarded by a fat tabby cat who rolled over in the floor in front of me, inviting me to pet her enormous belly. While I obliged her, I glanced around at their tidy kitchen and living room, with its huge olive green couch. Next to it was a brown Naugahyde recliner, and a table covered with about six inches of Idaho Statesman and Messenger-Index newspapers. On the wall opposite the couch a portrait hung of a young man in a Marine uniform, the frame had a gold plate that simply read Recon 1992. I examined it more closely. It was Elliot, clean shaven and looking proud and stoic. Wow!

Sitting on the sofa last night, I examined the picture again. It was still impressive, but it just didn’t look like him.

“Is that you?” I pointed with my fork.

“Used to be.”

“Hmm.” Elliot offered no explanation.

“Were you in the service for a while?”

“Marines. A long time ago.”

We were quiet for a moment.

“I went to Panama. I was Recon, and I saw some awful things. I didn’t do so well when I came back. My unit took a pretty bad hit and I kind of got messed up in the head in more ways than one.”

“Gosh, I’m sorry.”

“Oh, I’m okay. A lot of guys I knew didn’t even make it back to complain about shit, so how can I? But for a long time I was scared to leave this house. I’d get where I was dizzy and I couldn’t breathe. I even passed out once. It happened while I was driving. So I just gave up driving. I’ve been doing better for a long time. Working on the farm helps me a lot.”

I let his words sink in for a moment.

“So what would you do if I sell the farm?”

“Oh, I can get work. Don’t worry about it. Somebody always needs grunt work done. I help Miss Sheila. I can keep busy. I have disability, and it’s enough to get by on.” He shrugged his shoulders. “I get a check ‘cause of the …”

Just then, the big fat tabby came scooting across kitchen, flapping her belly and paws across the floor like a mad animal.

“What the?! Pork Chop!” The cat did a stunt roll onto her back at Elliot’s feet, holding a mouse in between her paws. She got distracted by me and Elliot, and the mouse hopped onto my lap. My empty plate clattered to the floor as I hopped up to shoo the thing off me. Then the cat scattered away to parts unknown, with the mouse headed straight for the kitchen.

I looked over at Elliot, still firmly seated in his chair, and he burst out laughing. Still cringing from the up close and personal vermin visit, I began to laugh, too.

“Sorry.” I picked up my plate and fork and took them to the kitchen sink, checking the floor for the miscreant. Elliot was still grinning when I came back. “Pork Chop?”

“She tried to steal my pork chop one time.”


We settled into watching the movie, but I caught Elliot grinning at me a couple of times. I woke up in the middle of the night with a blanket and a shawl covering me. I had missed the iconic, “Come back, Shane, come back” line from the movie.  I could hear Elliot snoring down the hall, and I quickly fell back to sleep.


February 23, 2017


This morning Elliot heated up some breakfast casserole before we headed back to the house to do chores and to let Frodo outside. I put on my yard clothes (still sounds so weird to say), and we got started.

Things were going pretty good until we went to do the horrible task of watering the chickens. These watering cans sit on top of a heater that keeps them from freezing over in the winter. The only problem is algae starts growing in them and they smell disgusting. Also, you don’t really want to pour huge amounts of water into the runs during the winner. It’s already so slick in places that I’ve almost bit it many, many times. Now imagine walking through that mess with a giant watering can, half full of water so that you can dump it outside the pen, rinse it out, then carry it back to fill it with a water hose. Plus, you have to get the water hose from inside the pump house, attach it to the spigot, and drag it over to the cans. When you’re all done, you have to drain the hose before putting it back in. It sounds easy, but my arms feel like spaghetti noodles when I’m finished. I wasn’t looking forward to it, obviously, but what happened instead was worse.

After dumping the waters, attaching the hose, and pulling it over to clean the cans out, I went back to turn the hose on, and nothing happened. I turned the knob back to the right, then back to the left. Nothing, again. I went into the pump house, not sure of what I was looking for, and I found two electric panels on the wall with lights on the front cover. One had a blinking light on it, so I timidly opened it up to find a small motherboard with a few resistors, capacitors, and switches on it. I tried to think back on an electronics class I took a few years ago, but I was nowhere on it.

Elliot came back from feeding the goats and found me scratching my head. He looked inside the pump house and saw the power was on, checked the wires and board. He flipped the circuit breaker in the breaker box on the house, but the control box came back on with the same flashing red light. I checked the house water, and it was fine, but that left watering the chickens and goats. That’s right, the goat waters were on the same line. Since I had just dumped out all the chickens’ water, we were stuck filling the cans by running a hose into the house and carrying the full cans out to the coop. That sucked for me, since one of the full cans equals about a third of my weight, but Elliot carried them fairly easily. Then we got some buckets from the shed, filled them, and carried them over to the gate on the goat field. As ten or so goats crowded around me, I sat the water down and they started drinking like they hadn’t had water in a week. I turned to go get another bucket, when one of them decided to stand on the rim and shoved the bucket over on its side, spilling about three gallons onto the ground. They looked up at me as if to say, “Are you going to do something about this?” I could feel my brain pulling away from my skull just for a moment, then I grabbed the bucket up and started back for the water hose.

“Hang on.” I saw Elliot disappear behind the house and quickly reappear with a tire in each hand. He carried them over to the gate and sat them down where I’d just been. “Try that.”

“Is that why you keep all those tires?”

“There’s about a million uses for an old tire. Usually, you find ‘em when you need ‘em.”

When we’d set up ten buckets. We went in the house for a break, and I found the number for the pump guy, which Elliot said was my only option at this point, and I left him a message. I called Bill Conliff and told him what was going on. He didn’t say much but asked if he could come out in about an hour to talk to me. That set me on edge, but I agreed. Elliot and I went out and fed the dogs. Fortunately, their water was on the same line as the house. Whew.

In less than an hour, Bill showed up, and we all went inside and sat at the table to talk. He smiled and pointed to the loft area. “You know, I used to stay up there.”

“You lived with my parents? Did I know that already?”

“Maybe. I was in my teens. My parents kicked me out, and they let me live here for a couple of years. They’re the reason I was able to go to college, you know … Anyway, a couple from Northern California are interested in the house.

“But it’s not on the market.”

“I know, but the local realtors know about it. They call consider it kind of like an off-market listing. If they have a buyer who wants something they know will be coming up for sale, they keep it in mind. When they heard about your dad’s death, they knew there would be a possibility of the property opening up.”

“Yeah, but there are repairs that need to be done, right?”

“Well, the buyer would cover those if you agreed to the price and other terms. They haven’t made an offer yet. They’re just inquiring, and I needed to get an answer from you before responding.”

“I don’t have any idea of a fair offer.”

“Me, either, but they would definitely offer you below market value. The sale would go through pretty quickly. Your dad managed to leave almost no liability on the place. My understanding is that they would raze this house and some or all of the sheds and build a larger house and garage in their place. They seem happy with the pastures, unsure if they’ll keep chickens.”

I thought about everything my dad had made disappearing in a matter of months. But, really, what were my options.

“And you know, your dad had a few offers from the natural gas companies over the years.”

“Uh, no. No way.”

“Okay. What do you want me to tell the realtor?”

I looked at Elliot, and he studied the grain on the table. “I don’t think so. Maybe later on.”

I heard a car pull up, and there was a knock at the door.

Ugh. I had forgotten about Jodie. How was that even possible? She was carrying a couple of coffees and some sandwiches. She was in good spirits, though, and she handed me my coffee and took a seat in the living room, waiting for us to finish.

“Okay, as to the water pump. Have you checked the power supply?”

Elliot and I both nodded.

“Are there any loose wires? Is there a reset button?”

Elliot shook his head.

“Well, really, the only thing to do is call the pump guy.”

“Great! I left him a message. It’s the weekend, so I bet I don’t hear from him ‘til Monday. How much could this cost, any idea?”

Bill winced. “Well, anywhere from a couple hundred to a few thousand, depending on what’s wrong.”

“Ouch!” Jodie shrugged. “Sorry, don’t mean to butt in.”

“It’s okay,” Bill said.

“I don’t have any money to fix that. Did Dad leave a fund for that?”

“Not really. We could maybe pull some of the tax fund, but then you could lose the whole place if you don’t make it up.”

“Elliot and I found out that it’s a pain to water everybody using the house water.”

Elliot sat up and said, “Be right back.”

I turned to Bill and asked him what to do. He said that maybe he could call around to see if anyone had any spare parts or something. That phrase – “a few thousand” kept rattling around my head. Bill looked out the window, so I turned around to see what was going on.

“What the?”

Elliot was striding across the driveway carrying a brick with a long string tied around it. He walked over to the center of the driveway and hugged the decorative well full of flowers, hoisting it up and setting it aside.

“What is he doing?” Jodie joined Bill and me at the window.

Elliot reached down and pushed away the rocks that were underneath the well, left and returned with a shovel. He dug about six inches down, then you could tell he hit something he found curious. He dug more carefully, to clear a shallow spot a few feet across, then he reached down and pulled up a large board, followed by a pallet. Soon the three of us joined him outside. He dropped the brick down into the hole, and we hear a faint splash. He pulled the brick up, and it was wet.

“Way to go, Elliot.” Bill was smiling.

“It ain’t good for permanent use, but it’d get us through until we can get the pump can be repaired.”

“How do we get the water up?” I asked.

Elliot straightened his pants. “I’m sure there’s some sorta pump around here someplace.”



Bill gave Elliot a ride home, and Jodie and I finally sat down to lunch. The sandwiches were cold, but still tasty.

“Sorry about all that.”

“No worries. What a crappy deal.”

“I don’t know where I’m going to come up with the money for it. Hopefully, it’s not too much.”

“Yeah, hopefully.”

“So, you ready to ride?”

“Hopefully.” I smiled. “Seems to be the word of the day.”

For a moment I became keenly aware that it was just Jodie and me now, alone without her dad, Elliot, Bill, or library patrons or staff. We tossed our wrappers, put on our coats and muddy boots, and went outside. Sometimes, In the winter, it feels like nightfall is always threatening, even at two in the afternoon. We walked down the driveway towards Sheila’s place, intent on making the most of what was left of daylight, with our heads back and thick clouds trailing behind us from our laughter and conversation on everything and nothing.

Upcoming Events

Here are a few upcoming events in my world. I hope you can join me for some of them. Chickenshit: Crisis #6 Water, Water Everywhere will follow in the next post.

Amazon Countdown Sale – Kindle Version

The Kindle version of my book, Lookout Butte, will be on an Amazon Countdown Sale starting this Friday (October 6th). The ebook will have a sale price of 99¢ from Friday at 5 p.m. MST until Sunday (October 8th at 7 p.m. MST). The price increases $1 every few days, before going back to its regular price of $3.99 next Friday (October 13th). To go directly to my book’s page, click here.

Kindle Version Giveaway

Additionally, there is a chance to win a free Kindle copy of Lookout Butte from now until October 10th. Just click here to follow my Amazon Author Page, and you are automatically entered to win. Please share this link with anyone you think might be interested in my book.

Indie Author Day

Finally, I will be at Indie Author Day at the Boise Public Library on Saturday, October 14th from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., with paperback copies of my novel, Lookout Butte. Book sales are on the 3rd floor. This is going to be a great event with lots of creative authors, lively speakers, workshops, and panel discussions. I hope to see you there!