This Week at Gatewood: Weekend Wrap-Up for February 23-28
Photo courtesy of MorgueFile.com.
by Frasier MacKenzie
Hello, and thanks for stopping in! We had some really good stuff going on this week, including poetry from Hugh Mitchell and a piece of short fiction by Patrick Redding that I really don’t know quite how to describe. They’re both surreal, and of course Patrick’s is very funny. You’ll just have to read for yourself.
Here are our features from the week of February 23-28, 2015.
Monday: “Choose Your Path,” photography by Boris Brdja
Tuesday: “Dimension Dementia,” poetry by Hugh Mitchell with “Going Swimmingly,” artwork by Zengael
Wednesday: “How to Cook a Piano,” short fiction by Patrick Redding
Thursday: “Three Things Thursday,” post by Johanna Rigby, part of the gratitude/appreciation event started by NerdintheBrain.com. It happens weekly, and it’s open to all, so if you have a blog and want to join in, please do! If you’re on Twitter, the hashtag is #threethingsthursday (with the number spelled out).
This Friday our photographer P.L. Miller tried out a new twist on a regular feature we’ve been doing each week; we’ve usually posted a photo with a quote as a sort of meditative exercise as we go into the weekend. The difference this week is that they’re incorporated together into one JPG file that you can download for your phone (or tablet – we haven’t tried that yet, but the resolution should be fine). If you like, you can print it as a regular 4×6 photo.
Here are some fun memes posted this week by our Special Assistant @docnicholas:
For more fun and the latest updates, follow @docnicholas on Twitter. If you’re on Twitter, say hello and give him a star or RT. You’ll get the purring without the hair on your clothes!
Speaking of Doc Nicholas, he informed me this week that the top search terms typed in by people when they find our site are “sex,” “tears,” and “religion.” We both thought that was just a little bizarre. I’m not sure what’s going on with that but I hope you’re not terribly disappointed if you were looking for one of those things!
That’s it for the Weekend Wrap-Up for February 23-28. Have a great week!
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How My Boyfriend Became a Drug-Dealing Terrorist at Wal*Mart
by Erin Abernethy
A couple of weeks ago – about mid-December – I took my (considerably older) boyfriend shopping at Wal*Mart. Not that I wanted to torture him or anything, but he needed a cold-weather hat. He has chronic sinus and allergy problems, and the doctor had strongly suggested (for about the fifteenth time) that bundling up a little more to go out in cold weather would be a good idea. So I dragged him off to look at toboggan caps and wool hats and so on.
I brought a nice old man out to shop for a hat, and I’m taking home a meth-making terrorist who assaults policemen by sneezing on them.
(Yeah, I know, a “toboggan” is technically a sled, but lots of us grew up calling those ugly little knit caps “toboggans” because we never knew any other name for them. Sleds, on the other hand, have a perfectly good name. It’s not going to kill them to lend their alternate name to a hat once in awhile when we have to discuss things like winter caps.)
My boyfriend was appalled by the crowds (he has a mild phobia about it) so I grabbed his sleeve the minute we got into the store to prevent him from changing his mind and fleeing to the car. “Hats are this way,” I pointed.
“Why don’t we just stop at the pharmacy on the way home and get some super heavy-duty industrial-strength Nyquil and I can sleep until winter’s over?” he suggested as we navigated past the candy, birthday cards, bulletin boards, vacuum cleaners and fishing equipment.
“Because I’ve driven around for thirty minutes to get a parking spot, and you’re already here now,” I said, stopping in the middle of the long, narrow aisle full of winter apparel.
“I’m not wearing those,” he snorted, waving at a peg full of multicolored mittens.
“Fine. What kind of hat would you like?”
“Well,” he hedged, looking over the colorful array of earmuffs, gloves, scarves, mittens, mufflers, wraps and hats. “Something plain.”
Apparently he was traumatized in early childhood by a Hawaiian shirt or something and never quite got over it. I quickly found out that his idea of “plain” meant absolutely no snowflake patterns or dancing reindeer or pom-poms or fake fur trim or dangling tie-strings or – gasp – any color brighter than forest green. This meant that the options were severely limited. (Especially by the time you take into account that his head definitely does not fall into that “one-size-fits-all” category. It’s not noticeably huge, but watching him struggle into a pullover sweater could take the better part of an hour.)
After a lot of hemming and hawing and shuffling around, and being jostled and mauled by those oh-so-cheery shopping mobs, he finally settled on a plain black ski mask. Cover the mouth and nose too, don’t breathe cold air, better for the sinuses, right? Sounds good. And black goes with everything, so it’ll look just as good with his ratty old denim jacket as it will with his too-fine-to-be-legal black raincoat. Perfect.
“Try it on,” I said.
“No,” he balked. “I’m sure it’ll be OK. I’m ready to go. I’ll try it on when we get home.”
“Oh, no, you’ll try it on right here and now,” I insisted. “If you get home and it doesn’t fit, we’ll have to come back into this madhouse to return or exchange it.” He gave up and reluctantly tugged it halfway onto his head. “Well, go on – pull it all the way on,” I prodded. “Make sure you can breathe and all that.”
As he struggled into the thing, a gaggle of shoppers meandered their way down the crowded aisle, followed by a stocky grandmother pushing a snot-nosed child in her shopping cart. The woman was wearing enough perfume to drown three French whores. She stopped beside us, waiting for the group in front to move along – and my boyfriend, getting a whiff of her eau-de-rotting-flowers stink, started sneezing uncontrollably.
This attracted the attention of the snot-nosed kid in the shopping cart, who began pointing and screaming, “Mammaw! Lookit, it’s a robber!”
Within seconds everyone in the aisle was glancing nervously in our direction and murmuring “robber” amongst themselves, and then I began to hear them shifting from the word “robber” to the word “terrorist.”
Between hellacious sneezes measuring about an 8 on the Richter scale, my boyfriend frantically clawed at the ski-mask. I helped peel it off his face as the kid’s grandmother charged determinedly ahead, smacking the boy as he gawked from his perch in the shopping cart. “Sit down and hush up or that terrorist will GET you!” she brayed.
“Wudderful,” my boyfriend snuffled, “all these people – who probably have shotguns outside in their pick-up trucks – think I’m a terrorist.”
“Sure you don’t want the pretty red one?” I teased, waving a very cheery knit cap at him. It had teddy bears embroidered on the ear flaps.
“Bite me,” he muttered. “Got any Kleenex?” he added, just before going into another sneezing seizure.
As I dug some tissues out of my pocket for him, I heard my name being called. “Hey!” one of the sales associates grinned, waving and hurrying over.
“Do you know this guy?” my mortified boyfriend asked from behind his wad of Kleenex.
“I think he was in my American Lit class,” I mumbled as the blue-vested bundle of cheer bore down on us.
“Whoa, that was some final exam!” the goober greeted me. “I’m sure it didn’t give you any trouble, though. So! Out doing a little shopping with your dad, huh?” he asked brightly, reaching to shake hands with my now-thoroughly-embarrassed boyfriend.
“Oh, no,” I smiled, slapping the sticky ski-mask into his overeager hand. “We’re just here to rob the place and plant a bomb or two. Could you see if you have this in a larger size?”
“Never mind that,” my boyfriend spoke up. “Where’s the pharmacy section? We’ll just pick up some sinus tablets and go home.”
The goober pointed us toward the front corner, and I led the way. “Looks like they have plenty of it,” I commented.
“I should probably stock up,” my boyfriend suggested. “The places I usually go always run out of it. I guess it’s the weather. I had no idea so many people around here had sinus and allergy problems.”
I loaded up his arms and steered him toward the front registers, where we waited in a slow-moving line while the check-out lady haphazardly cleaned up after a customer who’d dropped one of her three super-sized boxes of powdered laundry detergent, causing it to burst open and spill its contents on the conveyor belt. In line just ahead of us was an off-duty cop who kept glancing our way.
“Why does he keep looking at me like that?” my boyfriend mumbled in my ear.
“He’s probably wondering why anyone in their right mind would be going outside without a hat in this cold weather,” I replied.
He grumbled and muttered under his breath about Wal*Marters and shoppers and terrorists, and kept making strange faces as he tried not to start sneezing again. Eventually we worked our way up to the register and I unloaded the eighteen boxes of Sudafed he’d been carrying. The grouchy lady wearing the smiley button rang us up, threw the boxes into a plastic bag, and we headed out to the car.
“Hold on just a second,” someone rumbled as we stepped out the door. It was the off-duty cop, blocking our way. “Where you folks goin’ with all that?”
“Taking it home to put in the medicine cabinet with the other six boxes, why?” I shrugged.
“I know what you’re up to!” he barked.
“I’b dot a terr’ist!” my boyfriend protested as his sinuses clogged up again.
“I know all about y’all people cookin’ up that Sudafed in y’all’s methamphetamine labs!” the cop scowled. “You oughta be ashamed, getting your daughter involved in something like that!”
“Come on,” I sighed, tugging my boyfriend’s sleeve. “We need to get out of here. Places to bomb, people to shoot, you know.”
“I’ll be watching you!” the cop warned, getting up in our faces so close we could smell his aftershave.
My boyfriend began sneezing violently.
“I can’t take you anywhere,” I said later in the car as I dug out more Kleenex for him. “I brought a nice old man out to shop for a hat, and I’m taking home a meth-making terrorist who assaults policemen by sneezing on them. What have you got to say for yourself?”
“I say maybe you should listen the next time your ‘father’ says he’d just as soon stop at the drugstore,” he muttered. “Got any more Kleenex?”
© Copyright 2004 by Erin Abernethy. Republished 2007, 2011, 2014.
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Mama Earlene’s Christmas Letter from Shady Creek, Tennessee (2014)
by Patrick Redding
Merry Christmas, y’all! Well, I missed getting a letter out to y’all last year on account of having the swine flu from eating too much bacon. But this year has been pretty good to us and I can’t wait to tell you all about it.
First off, my 27-year-old problem child Haley June seems to have finally got herself straightened out and has a good job for a change. Miracles do happen! Y’all know what she has been through the past several years with her divorce and then losing her job at the massage parlor when the place got raided. Then there was that mess last year with Social Services trying to take her young’uns, and me having to take them in. But things are finally starting to look up for her. She has finished school and got a degree online, with the help of Denver, her youngest (he is 9 now and a real whiz with computers), and we are all just so proud of her!
Now, some people around town have hinted that Denver might have hacked into the school computer to get her that degree, but I say they are just jealous that things are finally turning around for her. And Denver says that he would not do such a thing anyway, because the community college’s computer system is not enough of a challenge. So there you have it.
Anyway, Haley June is now a college graduate and started work at the Helping Hands Nursing Home. Mostly she is emptying bedpans right now. But with any job you have to “start at the bottom,” ha ha. Social Services says that if she does good there, her boys can go back and live with her after the first of the year. I will be sorry to see Denver and Cody go, but I am not getting any younger and it is hard for an old lady like me to keep up with kids their age, even if they do just stay on the computer all the time. They think I don’t know they look at pictures of naked women but I believe that’s better than having them running around the neighborhood and peeping in windows the way their daddy used to do.
Cody is still trying to finish second grade, by the way. He is 10 now. It took him three years to get through first grade, so if he keeps going this way, he will be old enough to drink and vote by the time he gets to high school. That ought to make him real popular with his classmates, I reckon.
Now, as for Haley June’s sisters, Sue Ellen says she and Larry are thinking about having another baby! I think she is out of her mind but there is no reason she should listen to me – after all, I’m only her mother. They already have six. Luke, their oldest, cannot seem to stay out of jail, bless his heart, he is just fascinated by setting things on fire. Maybe if Sue Ellen and Larry weren’t always running off to Niagara Falls or Hawaii to have fun, he might could have grown up to be a fireman or something. But far be it from me to criticize. After all, their other five have done OK. Well, Starla is behind at college because she spent awhile in rehab after she got all whacked out on one of those fancy new designer drugs. But she is getting better, and has met a friend or two in rehab. I hope they are good Christian girls; they are probably not, but I am praying for her anyway, even though she sasses me something awful when I tell her so.
The twins, Matt and Jonah, are both working at the new Wal-Mart. Mostly they stand around in the aisles and throw melons at one another, so we’ll see how long that lasts. The problem with those boys is that nobody ever told them they needed to get good grades or learn how to do anything but play high school football, and they are just not NFL material, no matter what Larry would like to believe. But at least they are working. Josh is a senior in high school this year and is in the Physics Club. He is a real smart one and I kind of worry that he and his friends might build a bomb, but he is anxious to go away to college so maybe we are safe, ha ha. Caleb, the baby, is 8. He started third grade this year and already has a girlfriend! Anyway, that seems like quite a handful to me, and I don’t think Sue Ellen needs to be popping out any more. If you agree, you might say something to her, as she has told me to butt out and mind my own business!
Haley June’s other sister Tina is still married to Harris, so her four kids have not run him off like I thought they might. He has hung in there despite them being a rowdy little bunch of hellraisers. They still go over and shoot pellet guns at Mavis Claymore’s plastic reindeer every year, and every year she calls and hollers at me about it. I tell her she ought to be calling their mama and adopted daddy, and she just tells me he is a pansy-ass lightweight, as if any of that is something I can fix. I would not be at all surprised if she starts shooting back at the little monsters. Harris’s sister Katie is also staying with them now; she looks after the boys in the afternoons while Tina is at work, and does all the cooking and cleaning and so on. I know Tina likes having somebody else around while Harris is out doing his plays and stuff at the college, and the two of them are just as thick as thieves. I just hope somebody in that house can get those little hellions under control so Mavis will stop calling me!
My brothers Cephus and Orly are still in jail for that business with the homemade guns. Cephus got another six months tacked on to his sentence when he got caught making moonshine in a wastebasket. Orly may get out next summer on good behavior if he doesn’t listen to his brother and stays out of trouble; he is a trustee now and works in the laundry. I told him it was about time he learned how to do his own wash. Maybe he will do mine for a change when he gets out, ha ha.
Grampaw Bobby and Grammaw Ida are doing pretty good, I reckon. Thanks to Denver, Grampaw Bobby was able to get hold of that Sterling Marlin shot glass he had been lacking to make the complete set for his Nascar collection. Denver found it for him on something called the E-Bay. I don’t know exactly what that is but I reckon it’s a big old flea market on the Internet or something.
Grammaw Ida had a scare back in the spring when she took a tumble on her back steps; she was letting her little Pekingese out to go potty and I reckon it must have had to go really bad because it just barreled right over her! She thought she might have broken her hip, but it turned out nothing was hurt too bad but her pride. After that she got herself one of those smarty phones to carry in her pocket for emergencies. Denver fixed it up for her and showed her how to use it, and then the dang little genius showed her she had the Internet on it and some kind of website about rescuing dogs. Now she’s got four of those yappy little boogers, so it’s a real good thing she and Grampaw Bobby live in separate houses!
Mama celebrated her 97th birthday this year, and as it was a slow news day, the man from the Channel 9 morning show came out and they tried to interview her but it did not go well. She pitched a fit and called him a little piss-ant and threw a beer mug at the camera man’s head. We took up a collection for him to pay for his stitches, and he agreed not to press charges or anything but the reporter fella got his nose all out of joint about her calling him an ugly name. I told him it was nothing against him, just that she has always said, “Don’t never trust a man wearin’ a toupée,” and he was, but I reckon he thought none of us hicks had the sense to know that. I don’t know if you have seen his show, but my stars, it looks like the man let a polecat curl up on top of his head for a nap! Anyway, Mama sends you all her love and says, “Early to bed and early to rise means you miss Jeopardy and have a bunch of damn fools on your TV in the morning.” Words of wisdom!
Anyways, that is how we are all doing here down in our little corner of the pea patch. Hope you and your’n have a real Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, and as that little ol’ Tiny Tim said, “God help us ever one!”
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by Hunter MacKenzie
She is killing me again
twice-over, this time
Sleight-of-hand, artful, she
dodges, slips her blues for my reds
Feeds my head
Cools my brain-burn
Hazy compliance, digressions of disorientation
flow from my tongue
like blood from a–
Good god, woman, you’ve cut me
(not that I felt it)
and how did I miss that?
and how I did miss you
and this too
in a flash
of light-slivered metallic precision
Anaesthesia and fine blades
How perfect, how did I never
think of it
Of course, you are a goddess
omniscience in the genes
fearsome in your jeans
And it’s all perfectly right
and all perfectly painless
every time she kills me
But where is the blood?
it’s all gone
to my head
all in my
The color of death
is not pitch-black
as commonly conceived
It is fog-silver,
every cloud and casket
As an oyster glimpses its own interior
and thinks it the world
until the shell cracks
the sky opens
and the undreaming begins.
© Copyright 2005 by Hunter MacKenzie. Republished 2011, 2014.
More by Hunter MacKenzie…
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by F.G. Magdalen
One controversial way to treat depression is with ECT – electroconvulsive therapy. Some favor it when nothing else works, while others consider it a closed-skull lobotomy.
Deep and lasting depression had haunted Kelly for quite some time. Suicidal thoughts clogged her thinking like molasses. She felt powerless to do much of anything, much less anything remotely resembling helping herself.
Constant bickering took place. If she wasn’t sad, she was angry – usually at her parents. At one point she boxed up some gifts they had given her, and sent them back. There seemed no bottom to the wretched despair she lived with day and night. It clung to her like the funk from BO but no shower could remedy this.
Every antidepressant had been tried and none had helped. Sleep was all Kelly wanted, and to be left alone. When she wasn’t asleep she’d watch The Exorcist on TV and get some fast food for a meal. Cleaning was unheard of. Neither she nor the cat minded.
Finally she stopped arguing with her parents and stopped speaking to them at all. She did stay in touch with her sister and an aunt. Most importantly, she agreed to ECT treatments.
With a packed bag, off Kelly went to the hospital, though she could never recall who took her. Along for the ride she took three Beverly Lewis Amish books, which she read while there but later couldn’t tell you a thing about.
Kelly got to stay on the open unit as she waited for time to roll around for treatments. That time came soon the next day as all who would receive ECT were rounded up and seated in a white van on a chilly morning. They were then driven to the main hospital.
Kelly took a room with another larger woman who would quickly grab a gown and head for the bathroom. While this commotion went on, Kelly quickly and quietly slipped her gown on.
Kelly had a number of treatments. She could even recall the doc swabbing her head. After the treatments each day they were taken back in the little van.
Kelly didn’t like the effect the ECT was having on her. She was still depressed but forgetting herself. She was having problems knowing who she was. Who did she used to be? She was very upset over losing her identity.
The treatments continued, and Kelly felt scared and alone. She wanted to call her parents but felt like something bad had happened. What, she couldn’t recall. Finally she took her chances, and called and got her mom on the phone. This was the first the family had heard of Kelly getting ECT. Her mom assured her everything was OK, and that when she was discharged, they would come and get her.
The psychiatrist had a good sense of humor and told Kelly jokes when he visited to check on her. Over time, she began to laugh along with him. As a result of this he decided to cut the treatments short and Kelly didn’t receive a full round.
The hospital then discharged her, and her parents picked her up. They went to her apartment, and were doing a little cleaning up when Kelly’s cat made an appearance. She came out, looked at the two women in the kitchen, and howled and howled. She was normally a shy, timid kitty. Kelly’s psychologist had been feeding it while she was gone so it had had the run of the place all to itself. It was hard to imagine what it was trying to say now.
Things stayed confusing for awhile after Kelly’s treatments. One day she broke down and called her sister to ask how she usually paid her bills. Kelly’s mom didn’t think the treatments helped at all. If they did, it was short-lived, as Kelly’s counseling resumed quickly afterward.
© Copyright 2014 by F.G. Magdalen
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Bureau of Truth in Advertising Takes Over the Personal Ads
by Erin Abernethy & Patrick Redding
DWM – 56yo alcoholic ESPN watcher seeks tolerant no-brainer to bring snacks & beer from fridge. Attractive, good personality, exp. a plus but not req. No AA counselors, please.
Closeted GWM – Attending cousin’s wedding in June, need cover story. $$. Serious need not apply.
I AM WAITING FOR YOU – 40ish tall dark SWM seeks attractive ice-cold WF who works at ******** Bank. You know who you are & so do I — been stalking you for past 6 mos.! Call me @ ******* or be prepared to pick up my bleeding corpse from your parking lot. I LOVE YOU. LET’S GET TOGETHER.
I CONFESS I AM A 42yo SWM, former priest, available for dress-up, role-play fun. Seeking SWF, divorced OK. Good w/children.
DWM seeks BiWF. Let me watch!
25yo SWM enjoys model railroads, Disney movies, macaroni sculpture. Seeking SWF my overprotective mother would approve. No dates in 8 yrs! Having your own place a big plus! Call now! PLEASE!
36yo Separated BM seeks SWBBW for fun & games. Hurry up & call before my wife changes her mind & comes back!
21yo SM, short dark handsome little English, seeks SWF for marriage, Green Card. Children OK, I have 3!
54yo computer jockey seeks e-mail pal for hot chats. 18+ ONLY, still on probation from that last incident.
45yo inmate seeks SW bitch w/heavy artillery to make my Valentine’s Day. Bust me out, baby, cuz you know I wuz framed.
I AM A 28yo SF into Oprah, Dr. Phil, reading Cosmo–YOU are a 30ish DM into NASCAR, hunting trips, truck tune-ups! Let’s get together anyway so we can whine and complain about each other instead of how bored & lonely we are!
35yo WF, 42-44-56, still trying to dress like the 36-24-36 size I never was, seeks guy. Any guy. Call me if you think white-glitter eyeshadow works for anyone!
Moderately attractive grad student too busy for dating seeks gentleman holiday escort to silence prying family questions about sexual orientation, marriage, kids, etc.
36yo DWF seeks babysitter for my brats so Mom can go party again!
Good Christian Woman seeks sinner to marry, nag into reform, complain about, and eventually martyr myself to. Call me now, before you are called to account on Judgment Day!
24yo GBF seeks same to go out once or twice, move in with me, fool around with all my friends, then dump me, leaving me a whining, alcoholic bundle of nerves!
Party gal seeks big guy with big truck, big appetites, and no standards!
YOUR WIFE FORGIVES YOU AGAIN, BOBBY JOE, THAT RESTRAINING ORDER DIDN’T MEAN ANYTHING, JUST MY WAY OF SHOWING I WAS MAD BUT COME ON HOME NOW. I PUT AWAY THE KITCHEN KNIVES, I SWEAR.
Petite cute blond with unbelievably low self-esteem seeks big brainless lug! Call!
Bi-curious chick seeks attractive married couple. Let me be the excuse you’ve been waiting for to get those divorce talks rolling!
© Copyright 2004, 2007, 2011, 2014 Erin Abernethy & Patrick Redding
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