I’ll Be Giving Birth To A Book Soon

If you’ve been wondering why my stories have not been appearing as frequently as usual over the past few months, it’s for a good reason:  I’m working on a book that will be published this year, titled, Taking Out the Trash: Everyday Stories of Life, Loss, and Laughter. It’s a collection of 50-55 of my stories.  My artwork will also be included, as I am creating small illustrations to hint as to what each story is about. (Below, see low-quality photo examples done by clueless author himself. But good enough to get the ideas across…or at least he thinks so.)

Gathering everything that is needed to be sent off to the publisher is nearing completion.  It won’t be long before I’m posting more stories about such critical topics as cereal boxes, dental appointment freebies, and bug people.

Until then, it’s—literally—back to the drawing board.  And, not to forget, it’s Wednesday night…time to take out the trash.

 

Ros

“Super Tiny Little Bags of Peanuts”

“The Bathtub”

“Fixing Monday”

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Drool King

Who are these people who can so easily put their fingers in their mouths and send out a loud and high-pitched whistle? It leaves you wondering if it’s more of a trick than them actually doing it.

The other day, Jane, a 78-year-old friend of mine, stood next to me as I attempted to get someone’s attention in the distance. Not exactly knowing what I was doing, I shoved my two pinkies deep into the sides of my mouth.  I’d seen people finger-whistle many times before, and I felt like I was doing what would create the right sound.  Unfortunately, instead of a seasoned whistler, I think I looked more like a fish caught on two lures. But that wasn’t nearly as bad as the sound I created—like the muffled hiss of an angry raccoon.  And though hissing raccoons don’t drool, this one did.  Like a Saint Bernard, I drooled down my chin only to make the mistake of quickly whipping my head away from Jane, which only guaranteed slobber slinging across my face.

I get frustrated when I fail at something that seems so simple…like the skateboard.  It’s a piece of wood on four little wheels, four inches off the street.  What could possibly go wrong at four inches?  My tailbone, wrists, elbows, knees, hips, chest, and back is what.  I’d probably make a full-body lift-off into the air like I had been ejected from a race car.  And then there are the jugglers—those kids in the park who talk to you about whatever it is you want to talk about as they juggle four, five, or six tennis balls.  Could there not be a more deceptive skill than juggling?  Two tennis balls, and I can juggle with the best of them.  Add one more and I’m fumbling around in all directions like I’m dodging a swarm of bees.  I know, I know…these things that people do…they just make it look so easy.  They’re not world-class athletes.  They’re just average Joes and Janes.  And that’s the thing that kills me…if they’re average, then what am I?

As my daughter, Bailey, would often remind me throughout her sarcastic childhood…I’m a loser.

Certainly I’d perform the whistle on my second attempt. I put my pinkies back in my mouth, but this time not so far that it looked as if I were probing for my tonsils. I set them in half-way, then blew out the same repulsive sound while spilling more spittle down my chin, understandably causing Jane to shudder and squirm.  I mean, I was an analogous disaster at work:  part fish, part raccoon, and part dog—a hybrid mess gone wrong in the animal kingdom.

“Is this what you’re trying to do?” says Jane, putting her two index fingers in her mouth.  Jane sends out a whistle that pierces my ears with a sharp delivery.  I’m awed by how easy she makes it look.  How many years had it taken her to perfect this penetrating shrill?  The person, whose attention I had been trying to get, turns immediately. I wave to him, and he waves back.  Just a friendly hello was all I was after, as I take full credit for the whistle.

“Really?” says Jane.

“Really,” I say. “Now watch this…”

I put my index fingers in my mouth so they’re positioned in a “V” with just a small space between the finger tips.   IT WAS THE INDEX FINGERS!!…NOT THE PINKIES!!…HOW EASY IS THIS!!!???  I am doing exactly as Jane did.

One deep inhalation, and then I blow air forcefully through the gap.  Such power. Such precision.  Such slobber stringing over my lips.  I’m a disaster.  Even the raccoon hiss is gone.  It sounds more like a suction device during a dental procedure.

“That’s pretty bad,” Jane says chuckling. “Prehhh-ty bad.”

I look at Jane and her god-awful righteous smile.  I want to say “to hell with it,” and push this near-80-year-old woman off her feet.  I want to tie her to a skateboard and send her speeding down a hill.  And though admittedly ill-behaved, before I do that, I want to spit on her feet and tell her, “Farewell!”

But I can’t.  There’s a bit of a problem…I’m out of saliva.

 

Copyright Ros Hill 2017

Five Mississippi

On September 11, 2001, America united as a single population.  We put aside our differences, and patriotically held hands. The color of our skin and our political views mattered none. When was the last time you saw that many flags proudly waving in this country?  There were no reports of Hollywood celebrity marital dramas. No one gave a damn about them.

That was until time passed.

We certainly don’t need another catastrophic terrorist attack to realign ourselves. But seems to me that we do need something. Let’s face it—we’re bickering, screaming, tweeting, snapping, posting, and walking against anything and everything.  And the enemy? Ourselves.

We are entertaining the world with our discontent.   It’s about time that we sought a little reprieve.

*          *          *

It’s funny how time—the most available commodity of all—is, quite often, hard to come by. We all wish we had more time all the time, but apparently time, which never ends, is in short supply…at times.

The other day, as I was at the gym, I watched a repair man standing on top of a ladder, replacing the batteries in a wall clock. The clock had been slowing down, its hands lagging to keep up with regular time. Almost as if it had been conserving energy in an effort to stay alive, as if it knew its time was almost up. But it was soon to be powerless as he unscrewed the cover of the battery compartment.  I found it ironic how he had to stop time in order to keep time going.

In an attempt to open a new package of four batteries with a screwdriver, the package shifted in his hands, and the batteries toppled and clanged down the ladder’s aluminum rungs before hitting the floor and scattering in different directions, like mice evading a cat.

“I do not have time for this!” he vented in frustration. “My time is too valuable!”

His time? I thought. What makes his time different from my time? I mean, don’t we all share the same time together?  At any given moment we all share the same duration of time.  And if you look at shared time as shared moments, the perspective shifts from objective and scientific to connective and personable.

Regardless of our differences and disagreements, we share the same moments at any given time.  Imagine if the entire U.S. population decided to acknowledge five seconds together.  Five seconds of time. Or better put, one moment of shared experience.  There are over 31 million seconds in a year. Am I to believe that it would be nearly impossible to get everyone to set aside their troubles for five seconds? Certainly it’s possible.  We’d call the event “Five Mississippi.”  It could be a sort of truce to show that we can, in fact, collectively share a moment.  And if, by some miracle, we should pull it off, then who’s to say the following year we can’t shoot for…hold on to your seat!…ten seconds?

It shouldn’t take a couple of skyscrapers collapsing to the earth or a careless and unforgiving hurricane named Katrina to wake us up and unite.  It’d be nice if we took it upon ourselves and made a conscious effort to find some middle ground where all of our angst and criticisms could be set aside.  Acknowledging five seconds together as a nation could be a start.

And just what would we do for five seconds? That’s easy…we’d go silent and recognize that for the first time in history (without the nudge from a crisis), Americans agreed to make time for one another. Now that’s something to entertain the world with.  Lord knows we have the technology and resources to make it happen.

Seems to me it’s just a matter of time.

 

Copyright Ros Hill 2017

The Tree

I was getting ready to swim at the city pool, when I noticed a little girl in a stroller. She was parked next to her grandmother who was sitting on a bench. The girl’s sister was in the pool practicing with a swim team. It was a perfectly normal setting, with one exception—what she was doing with her hands. She was tapping, scrolling, swiping, and expanding the screen of an iPad.

Or perhaps this was normal—the new normal. I can remember when cell phones first hit the market, and how astonished we were when learning someone had bought an iPhone for their 8th grader. Seriously!!!?? And now, twelve years later, you’d be hard-pressed to find a 6th grader who doesn’t have one.

I was amazed by this little girl in the stroller—her fingers nimbly operating the iPad.

“How old is she?” I said to the grandmother.

“She’s—”

The girl beat her to the answer by quickly punching two fingers into the air. I had to chuckle at this inaudible interjection, as I was fascinated by the immediacy of her emphatic sign language. There was almost something mature about her action.

“You’re two years old?”

She looked up at me with a smile and said, “Yep!” Not just a two-year-old yep, but a confident yep—a confidence that showed in the way she adeptly worked the iPad. And as unbelievable as it may seem, she displayed something that comes with the air of confidence: the telltale signs of impatience when the iPad’s internet connection responded slowly to her touch.

Two years old. How quickly they learn. How quickly they master. And so easily distracted. She should be watching their sisters swim. There was an engagement that was missing. The well-crafted lure of technology had stolen her attention. The spray of water from the swimmers’ flip turns that occasionally hit her bare feet, and the coach’s raised voice giving instructions to the busy swim lanes did not grab her attention in the least. At two years of age, she made me wonder about the future….

*        *        *

“Mommy…what’s wrong with it?” said the five-year-old girl, pointing upwards at a large tree. “It doesn’t do anything.”

“What do you mean it doesn’t do anything?” Replied the mother, kneeling next to her.

“I swiped it. Nothing happened.”

“Oh, that’s because this is a real tree. Out here in the park things are different. This tree not only provides shade, but it’s a place for animals and insects to live.”

“The trees in our backyard don’t have bugs or animals?”

“No,” said the mother, putting her arm around the girl’s shoulders. “Our trees are iTrees. They’re different. They’re interactive smart trees. You can learn everything about nature from an iTree’s trunk touch screens.”

“But no bugs or animals?”

“On the trunk screens, yes.”

The girl looked at her mom with a perplexed face. “But no real ones, right?”

The mother paused for just a moment, then said, “Yes, that’s right.”

“But why?”

Turning her daughter so they were face to face, the mother put her hands on the girl’s shoulders, then said, “Because iTrees use the latest technology. Nothing provides as much information. And nothing entertains you like an iTree.”

She went on to tell her daughter about the iTree’s Labyrinth Limb System, a technological breakthrough that bore edible, imitation hybrid fruits. LLS did this through a conversion process whereby 3D imagery became 3D Sculpt—the quantum next step beyond virtual reality. “In fact,” said the mother, “we’ll have our first non-pollinated fruit soon, after ArborTech installs our apple iTree next week.”

As her mom continued, speaking far beyond her daughter’s grasp, the girl’s attention waned when she spotted a blue jay flying overhead, then disappearing inside the tree’s canopy. “Our iTrees don’t have birds,” she said.

“That’s true,” replied her mother. “But they’re working on that. It’s only a matter of time until they figure out the necessary technology to attract them. Let’s be thankful the trunk touch screens can tell us anything and everything about birds.”

The mother stood up and took her daughter’s hand, telling her it was time they headed back home. But there was a slight resistance as the daughter pulled back. “Look, mommy! Look!” A second blue jay flew into the canopy, and moments later the two birds could be seen, appearing to dance in flight as they sprang in and out of the tree.

“They’re playing. Possibly courting,” said the mother.

“Courting?”

“Yes, like they’ve found each other. Like love.”

“Ha!” The girl laughed. “Like love birds!”

The girl slipped from her mother’s grasp, and walked up to the tree, where she reached out and let her small fingers travel along the rugged crevices of the tree’s bark. Her nails skimmed through and collected fragments of small patches of soft, verdant moss protruding from the wood. Traveling up along the trunk, she saw two ants, a beetle, and three ladybugs. “Mom, where are these bugs going?”

Her mom walked up next to her. “I’m not sure. I suppose looking for food. Let’s go home and ask the iTree.”

She grabbed her daughter’s hand, but she resisted again, then slipped free. “Honey, we should really be getting home. It’ll be dark soon. And you know how pretty the iTrees glow at night.”

“Mom, do you think they’ll marry?”

“Will who marry?”

“Them.” Her daughter pointed at the two blue jays continuing their flight dance.

“Silly. You know birds don’t marry.”

“Do the iTrees know it?”

“I seriously doubt there’s any information about birds getting married.”

“So iTrees don’t know everything. They don’t tell you about birds in love either, do they?”

“Well….no, you’re right.” The mother looked up into the tree’s canopy, as a small cluster of leaves fell towards her. She extended her arms, then cupping her hands in hopes to catch one, and caught two. She sandwiched the leaves together and gently massaged them between her thumb and index finger. They were textured and firm; fresh off the vine, so to speak. Above her, the blue jays chirped in their playful chase.

Her daughter took her other hand and placed it on the tree’s trunk. “Mommy, feel how rough the tree is.” The girl pressed her nose against the bark and took a deep whiff. “Smell it, mommy…it smells nice.”

Her mother did just that, closing her eyes as she inhaled—the aroma of a moist forest. When was the last time she had smelled this? When was the last time she had roamed in the woods? Years? Decades? Yet how quickly her memory recalled the tree’s scent. Experience, she thought. It was everything. The iTree was smart, but could not relate to experience. It couldn’t evoke the feeling a child gets watching two birds dancing in love. It couldn’t capture the essence of this moment.

She looked down at her daughter who was watching a ladybug crawl on the tip of her finger, her eyes full of fascination. “Honey,” she said, “my mother once told me about a time when I was a little girl. She said I was about two years old when I was at my sister’s swim practice.”

“Aunt Jessie was a swimmer?”

“Yes she was. And a good one at that.”

“That must’ve been neat watching her swim.”

“Well that’s the point of my story. For so long, I really never watched her much. My mother said I was always playing games on my iPad, which was a big clunky computer-like device they had back then. Anyway, she said one day she took it out of my hands and said ‘No more!’ She said I needed to watch my sister swim, and that I wasn’t the one to blame, but rather it was she who gave me the iPad to keep me occupied. She said it was a big mistake on her part, that I wasn’t noticing what matters.”

With slightly squinted eyes, her daughter tilted her head and asked, “What matters?”

There was a brief pause as she looked at her daughter whose attention was back on the ladybug, watching it now crawl up her arm. Her mother cracked a smile and said, “What matters…is this tree.”

“But mom, you said it’s getting late. Shouldn’t we go now?”

Her mother’s smile widened a bit more. “No,” she said. “I think we’re perfectly fine right here.”

Copyright Ros Hill 2017

Power On

It’s December 31st in far north Texas, just south of the Oklahoma border. As I drive, I think about Alicia and all that she’s been through.  How do you even begin to cope with such an ordeal, let alone comprehend it?

My thoughts are interrupted by fifteen motorcyclists merging onto I-35—all riding high-speed, aerodynamic sport cycles known as “crotch rockets”.  The moment they hit the highway is the moment all of us driving south become part of their lawlessness.  Two lanes become four lanes as they pass cars and semi-trailer trucks on both shoulders.  One motorcyclist is laying horizontal on his seat as he speeds between cars, riding along the broken white line lane divider. His legs are outstretched with one hand on the handlebar and the other pumping a fist in the air as if declaring some sort of victory.  Another cyclist is riding a wheelie at the same speed traffic is moving.  To play in this game of highway anarchy means you have to be invincible, indestructible, and lucky this isn’t your day to die.  Whether you’re lucky or not is something Alicia is all too familiar with.  She understands a 20-year-old’s thrill to play with speed, but one careless mistake could easily result in a jack-knifed semi, a 10-car pile-up, and who knows how many fatalities and life-threatening injuries.  But what do you care?  After all, you’re going to live forever.

It’s one thing to live in the moment; it’s another thing to want to live beyond that moment, and to know why.

Alicia knows about the fragility of life and how quickly it can end or be permanently changed. Recently she’s been the recipient of far too many unbearable moments. Heavy moments where many of us might have said, “No more,” and surrendered the fight. But if you’re fortunate enough, you might get to see things as Alicia does.  Put one foot in front of the other. Keep walking. Power on.

Alicia shows up in an email from your sister-in-law in Michigan, sent to you the night before encountering the motorcyclists. She’s her co-worker. Just when you thought that long line of holiday shoppers was enough to inconvenience your day; just when you thought the crust you burnt on the edge of the pumpkin pie was enough to kill Christmas dinner; just when you thought your sore hamstring muscle had dealt you a losing hand, you sit speechless, having read about Alicia’s year. Life is full of unwelcome events and circumstances.  But sometimes the load can be so overbearing, its weight just stamps you into the ground.  And there you remain, unable to rise because, quite simply, it’s just too much to handle.

Alicia thinks otherwise.  Her past two years…

March 2015

Her younger sister, Leanne, commits suicide from an overdose of Xanax in her mom’s house.  Her mom blames herself for not checking on her. Alicia had been working with her sister to overcome depression.  Alicia’s reaction is extreme anger at Leanne for having done this to her mom, let alone in her house.

April 2016

Alicia’s newly married daughter, Kendra, goes unconscious at the wheel, causing her car to run against a concrete divider, shredding her tires in the process until her car comes to a stop.  A virus had set up camp in her heart.  The entire incident is witnessed by a fire chief and a construction worker.  CPR is administered immediately, but the virus is stubborn and unwilling to give her a pulse.  The EMS station is nearby which makes the ambulance’s arrival within minutes.  Three electrical shock attempts later with the defibrillator and she is revived. Who are these people?  Where am I? What the hell has happened to me? All questions to be answered by the attending physicians.  But for now, time is of the essence.  Kendra goes into surgery to have a pacemaker/defibrillator installed.  And just when she thinks she’s heard it all, she is informed that due to her condition, she will never be able to give birth.

May 2016

The ailing heart theme is unrelenting (and will return). Alicia’s older sister has a heart attack and stroke.

June 2016

As her daughter recuperates from surgery and adjusts to a changed life, Alicia is diagnosed with Stage 3 rectal cancer.  She goes through rounds of chemotherapy and radiation, but due to intense burns, the radiation is stopped early.

October 2016

Alicia’s mom suffers complications from a compound vertebrae fracture, leading to abdominal hemorrhaging, and then dies from cardiac arrest.

November 2016

Alicia has surgery for a permanent colostomy bag. But the procedure leads to a handful of problems, most notably is a nerve that has been “disturbed” in her bladder. Catheterization is required for weeks until the urologist can figure out the culprit.

December 2016

Alicia’s older sister dies from a second heart attack.

Alicia has a permanent port installed for future chemo infusions. Every two weeks she undergoes hours of treatments to allow seepage to enter a bag attached to the port.  The permanency of the port means for the rest of her life she’ll be required to have contrast X-rays to make sure the cancer doesn’t spread any more than it already has.

2016 was a year to forget.  Adding insult to injuries, ailments, and suffering, there is the laborious necessity of dealing with her health insurance coverage.  Though the Obamacare plan did not offer her a renewal, she would not be where she is today if she had not had it. She has since spent endless hours trying to find an insurance company that will approve the doctors and specialists she has had.

It wasn’t until I gave Alicia a phone call to ask about the details of her past two years that I felt the weight of her anguish.  I had already written a part of this story based on my sister-in-law’s email. I read it to Alicia to see if she approved of its direction.  When I finished, there was silence.  The emotional chord I had touched was, understandably, deeply sensitive. She didn’t just lose her sister to an overdose, she also lost her in all her attempts to show that this world is worth hanging around for. She did her best to keep Leanne from going the wrong direction, but in the end it was her sister’s will to release herself from this life that proved too strong.

Here was a woman I had never talked to, but as I listened to her and as I shared what I had written, I couldn’t stop thinking of my very first story called “Sterling Spirit”. All of the emotions that poured from me when I wrote about the tragic death of 7-month-old Sterling Archer Nesbitt had surfaced again. All I had intended to accomplish calling Alicia was to gather the facts. I had no idea how the depth of her story would affect me; how I would be so drawn to the magnitude of her exhausting two years.

Tragedy is inescapable amongst us all. It harbors in the darkest corners and often shows no warning. Those who can rise up against tragedy intrigue me more than anything, and I could tell Alicia possessed that quality. There were telling signs in her voice—cadence, inflection and, believe it or not, humor—that indicated she was a fighter. It’s rare that you meet someone who has had the type of year that Alicia has had. It’s even rarer for that person to maintain a positive attitude. Despite the chemo, radiation burns, bladder issues, colostomy, insurance hell, and family deaths, her level of optimism remains high. The doctors and nurses who have had her as a patient couldn’t agree more.

Before our conversation ended, I had one last question: “How have you been able to handle all of this?”

“I have my kids, and my co-worker Patt, to thank for helping me get through everything, though it’s hardly over.  My family has been my greatest support.” Her voice paused with emotion before gathering herself, then said, “How did I get here? All that has happened—how did I become a part of this? I guess it doesn’t matter since I really have only one option, and that is to power on. It’s really all you can do.”

Alicia’s prognosis is good. The doctors feel confident her treatments will be successful, and that she’ll begin to see some daylight. And, who knows, hopefully 2017 will be a year to be remembered.

 

Copyright Ros Hill 2017

The Lot

There was a time when weather forecasters were called weathermen. But, as women entered that industry’s workforce, the occupation’s title no longer worked, so a change was needed.

And that’s where I get curious…

Why are meteorologists called meteorologists? Why aren’t they called weatherologists? Biologists study biology. Physiologists study physiology. Psychologists study psychology. It would certainly seem logical that meteorologists would study meteors. But they don’t.

The weather forecasting industry snagged the meteorologist name first, leaving the real meteor scientists with “meteoriticist.” Takes me about four times to finally pronounce it correctly. And even then, I sound like I’m calling someone a “meteorite racist.” “HEY, YOU!!! YOU’RE NOTHING BUT A BIG FLYING SPACE ROCK HATER!!!”

I mean, if there was a choice to decide between weatherologist or meteorologist, how difficult could it have been? I can only imagine the weather forecasting powers-that-be, formulating the identity of their industry as they sat around a solid oak conference table in their think-tank room…

Genius #1: “These people who will study and forecast the weather…just what shall we call them?”

Genius #2: “Weather trolls?”

There are 18 geniuses in the room. (Yes, it’s a very big table.) None of them chuckle at weather trolls, as they discuss its possibilities. Except for genius #9. He gives it a big thumbs down, but is immediately swatted on the top of the head by genius #10 (who, by the way, is a much larger genius).

Genius #9: “What was that for!!?”

Genius #10: “You’re acting like a child.”

Genius #9: “I’m acting like a…we’re discussing ‘weather trolls’, and I’m acting like a child? Seriously…weather trolls!?”

Genius #1: “Alright #9, calm down. Any other suggestions?”

Genius #4: “Weather puppets.”

Genius #9 stands up and shouts, “THIS IS THEEEEEE MOST ASININE MEETING IN THE HISTORY OF CIVILIZATION!!!!” As genius #10 raises his hand, threatening to swat again, #9 cowers in silence.

Other geniuses give more ideas…
“Weather cops”
“Storm wolves”
“Masters of Prediction”
“Humidity hounds”
“Climate clowns”

Genius #9: “Who the hell suggested ‘climate clowns’? #4 was that you again?”

#4 proudly raises his hand and nods.

Genius #1: “Perhaps, #9, you have a better suggestion than those already proposed?”

Genius #9: “I do have a better one.”

Genius #1: “Which is…?”

Genius #9: “Weatherologist.”

Genius #10: “That does it!! Enough of your smart mouth!!”

#10 yanks #9 up out of his seat, then puts him in a headlock before delivering five stinging swats and a scalp-burrowing knuckle rub.

Genius #1: “Weatherologist!!? WEATHEROLOGIST!!!!? #9 this is preposterous!!! Out to The Lot!!!”

Genius #9: “Noooooo!!! Not The Lot!! Please, I beg of you!!”

It is all too late. #10 grabs him by the shirt collar and, with the assistance of four other geniuses, he is escorted down a long hallway to the front glass doors of the building. There, he looks out at the cold, snowy January day where a sharp wind cuts through some barren trees. Genius #1 walks up to his side and hands him a snow shovel.

Genius #1: “You know the rule: Act like a child, pay the price.”

Genius #9: “Seriously, sir…you guys were actually discussing weather troll as a possibility? Was weatherologist was really that bad of an idea? I mean, seems like the obvious choice to me.”

Genius #1: “Preposterous!”

Out the doors he went while they threw his coat and gloves at him. He and the seventeen others had been called to the emergency meeting on a Sunday morning. The building was normally closed on the weekends. But on this particular day, the geniuses had convened to make history by name-branding the weather specialists.

The Lot—the building’s parking lot was covered with ten inches of snow. It would take #9 the rest of the day to shovel it. If he declined the job, he would forever be stripped of his genius status. And that, he knew, was simply not worth it. After all, he’d been in this situation before, when, in the spring, he had to mow the perimeter lawns. Weather trolls. Climate clowns. Good lord, what will they ever think of next?

As #9 shoveled into the night, the geniuses settled into the trenches of their marathon meeting, deliberating over more identity suggestions. “Storm troopers” was at the top of the list, until genius #1 mentioned it might have a slight copyright conflict with Star Wars.

Genius #4: “Then what about Darth troopers?”

Genius #1: “Darth troopers? Are you serious? I mean that has nothing to do with anything. That doesn’t even make Star Wars sense. #4 you’re getting real close to a snow shovel.”

Genius #10: “Shall I swat him?”

Genius #1: “No, not yet. But what you can do is give me a winning suggestion. No one’s going home until we finish what we set out to do.”

As another hour rolled by, appetites grew hungry, and pizza was delivered. Crusts were tossed out to Genius #9, who was nearing completion of his back-breaking punishment. It was customary to be fed like a dog when working The Lot.

Gnawing on a crust with the hint of pepperoni, he saw a streak of light cut across the night sky. He knew shooting stars were more common in the summer months, so it was a bit of a surprise. Could this be a sign?

And then it hit him: Meteor!! He quickly finished his last few feet of shoveling, then ran inside the building to rejoin the meeting….

Genius #1: “Welcome back #9. Finish the job?”

Genius #9: “Yes, sir. And thank you so much for the table scraps. Delectable.”

Genius #1: “Do I detect a hint of unnecessary childish sarcasm?”

Genius #9: “My apologies. Sir, if I may…I have a revelation to share with the group. I believe I have a worthy identity suggestion.”

Genius #1: “Then proceed.”

Genius #9: “Let me ask all of you: What single force of nature has the ability to alter the Earth’s weather patterns? And I’m talking about a global scale.”

Genius #4: “Hurricanes?”

Genius #9: “Nope.”

Genius #10: “Such a stupid question. Blizzards.”

Genius #1: “Blizzards? Global blizzards? How might that be possible #10?”

Genius #10: “I dunno.”

Genius #1: “You know #10, sometimes I really wonder how you ever achieved genius status. I swear you’ve got a lot more brawn than brains.”

#9 couldn’t help but smile at this little beating #10 was finally getting.

Genius #1: “Ok, # 9…cut to the chase. Enlighten me.”

Genius #9: “Meteors, sir. A giant meteor could generate global climatic changes. And only one person could forecast it all. Get where I’m going with this?”

Genius #1: “Are you suggesting…meteorologist?”

Genius #9: “Yes I am, sir.”

Genius #10: “He’s an idiot!”

Genius #1: “He’s a GENIUS!!!”

Genius #10: “WHAT!!!?”

Genius #1: “Absolute genius!! And you #10, you big thug….to The Lot!! All that snow #9 shoveled—I want it back where it came from!”

It would take #10 well into the early morning hours in order to finish the unprecedented job of putting the snow back from where it had previously been shoveled. Not long after he was sent outside, the remaining geniuses had voted unanimously to go with “meteorologist” as the title to call anyone who studied or forecasted the weather. Of course, Genius #4 strongly suggested they vote for “meteorologist Darth trooper dude”—a suggestion that caused Genius #1 to lose his patience, sending #4 out to The Lot as well.

Genius #1: “It’s hard to find good geniuses anymore.”

Genius #9: “Well, I’m glad I could help”

Genius #1: “And to think that you actually considered weatherologist as a possibility.”

Genius #9: “Yeah, just what was I thinking?”

Copyright Ros Hill 2017

Living in the Moment

So that you don’t get your hopes up, let it be known that my daughter did not get the puppy.

Now, let’s begin…

Bailey is a sophomore at St. Edwards University, where she’s a shooting guard on the basketball team.  She was recruited for various reasons: ball handling, a high basketball IQ, game swagger, and she can drain 3s from downtown.

It’s a sweet sight watching your daughter’s 3-point shot sail through the air with such accuracy that you can predict the oncoming swish solely based on its trajectory.  But even sweeter is when she plays for Division II St. Edwards and her opponent is Division I Texas State University, and that 3-point shot rains down with victorious redemption.  After all, she didn’t return to Texas State’s home court just to put on another 0-11 shooting performance like she did the year before.  Besides, this was her hometown, and she was determined to not let people walk away with another memory like that one.  After she made the game’s opening basket, she began positioning herself beyond the arc and sank three 3s.  One shot in particular was a quick release that she nailed after a stare-down into the eyes of her defender. The ball appeared to cradle itself in the net—a perfect swish that silenced the home crowd.

After St. Edwards’ opening 10-0 lead, the closest Texas State would come was nine points. Midway through the fourth quarter, the Hilltoppers led the Bobcats by 20.  In the end, it was St. Edwards upsetting Texas State for the first time in school history, 65-51.

The stars were lined up for Bailey. So many parts of the game were markers of success, and would solidify themselves as everlasting memories for her. As a parent, and being someone who had played basketball for a large part of my life, I lived vicariously through the game. I felt just as much a part of the victory as she did.  Of course, her team could have lost to Texas State, and I would still be the proud father as I am at all of her games. Pride isn’t easily removed after you’ve coached your daughter since she was a 5-year-old.

I envisioned her riding on the bus back to Austin—celebrating the defeat of a Division I opponent. Bodies bouncing in their seats to the catchy rhythms of hip-hop. These kind of victories don’t come often. What else could possibly be on her mind? I texted her to say congratulations.

Me: What a game! You played great!

Bailey: Thanks.

Me: Your three ball was on.  That must have felt so good, especially on Texas State’s home court.

Bailey:  It was pretty awesome.

She sent another text directly after that one. It was accompanied with the photo of a puppy.

Bailey: Will you get him for me for Christmas?

Me: The puppy’s for sale?

Bailey: Yeah! My friend’s mom is selling him. Isn’t he cuuuuuute!!!?

Was I missing something here?  Was there a gap in time that I had skipped over? Was Einstein’s theory of general relativity at work? Could this be the first ever “telephonic wormhole” whereby our conversation entered a shortcut in a space-time continuum, and all permanent basketball dialogue had been sucked into oblivion? Thirty minutes ago she had quite possibly experienced the biggest victory of her collegiate career, but now she was asking about a puppy?  I wanted to talk about the two steals she made, the offensive charge she took, and her invaluable shooting contributions. It was time for a phone call. She answered with instant enthusiasm.

“Can we get the puppy? Isn’t he cuuuuuute!!? Pleeease, Dad, can we?”

“Bailey, you’re in college.”

“Isn’t he cuuuuuute!!?”

“Bailey, you’re—”

“He’s adooorrrable!!”

I had to speak quickly or I was neeeeeever going to get a word in.

“You’re a college student. You’d see the puppy only on the weekends. We’d be the ones raising it.”

“The puppy’s a he, not an it,” she said assertively.

“Okay, a he.  You wouldn’t see him much.”

“But he’s adooorrrable!!”

“Yes, he is. I can’t deny that. But, Bay, if you’re going to get a dog, then that dog needs to bond with you. Seeing him only on the weekends isn’t going to cut it. Wait till after college before you get one.”

It was the first quiet of our conversation.  I imagined our local newspaper’s game coverage headline:  ST. EDWARDS UPSETS STATE. BUT PUPPY HAS NO CHANCE. FATHER KILLS MOMENT. “There he is!!!!!!!” the townsfolk would angrily yell, brandishing battle axes and torches to guide them into the night. “The puppy hater!!! Do not let him flee!!! Off with his head!!! He is no father!!! He is but evil’s rot!!!”

“Bay, am I making any sense?”

The excitement had drained from her voice.  She had conceded to my suggestion. “Okay,” she said. “I guess I see your point.”

Before we hung up, a curiosity loomed in my mind.  “I got a question. This game that you just played, this incredible win—are you excited about it?”

“Of course I am, why?”

“Oh, I don’t know. Guess I’m just a little surprised about the puppy.”

“What about the puppy?”

“Well, that you’re mentioning him like the game didn’t even happen.”

“Dad, it was a great game, but it’s over. I mean, yeah it was a huge win, but…isn’t he soooo adooorrrable!!?”

Our conversation ended soon after.  I couldn’t help but smile as I now understood the simplicity of her mindset. The game was over. She had given it her full attention. There was no puppy out there on the court, nor part of any discussion on the bench or in the locker room. But on the bus ride home, as they shared the highlights of the game, the normalcy of their lives returned. Snapchat, Twitter, music, homework, life’s dramas, what to eat, and a puppy all surfaced amongst their discussions.

Here I was though, talking to my daughter whom I had coached in basketball leagues and tournaments for so many years. My mind was cemented in a vicarious state.  I wanted to talk at length about nothing more than the memorable details of the upset over Texas State.  This kind of victory doesn’t come often.

And neither did those moments with your daughter, when—little did she know—she inadvertently taught you that there’s really only one thing sweeter than victory…

Living in the moment.

 

Copyright Ros Hill 2017