Saturday, October 15, 2011

Unforgettable Irene

As published in the Pickens County Progress

Natural disasters aren’t funny, but I had to smile just a little at hurricane Irene. As newlyweds, we lived next door to an Irene. She was the type of older lady who wore a bathrobe as a dress. Well, Irene had a thing for my husband. When I was at school, she’d knock on our door, wearing her bathrobe, to borrow a cup of sugar. (I’m proud to report he never gave her any).
One day, Irene and her husband, Mr. Irene, got into a brawl. She left him, but didn’t go far. The condo above theirs had long been empty so she went there without asking anyone’s permission. Mr. Irene wasn’t happy. Every week he bought a googly-eyed fish from Harry’s. He fired up the grill and smoked the fish Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Then he chopped it up to mulch the bushes. The smoke wafted up into Irene’s place, compelling her to lean out of her window and scream down at him.
This went on for about a year, until the bank who owned the condo succeeded in getting her out. Actually, it was the Sheriff Department who knocked on her door with a battering ram. It took six of them to hog tie and carry her to jail, and guess what she was wearing?
Ah, memories. But that season of my life is long past. It recently became necessary for me to move from the “rich side” of Jasper to the “poor side.”  It was a healthy decision, though. The house I left was too empty and creepy. The new apartment is cute and easy to clean. Almost everyone in my building is young.
 The other day I was headed out to buy groceries. Out front, there was a car covered in toilet paper and shaving cream. The windshield said, “Git her done.” So somewhere in the building, we must have a pair of newlyweds. Folks think I’m embarrassed to use food stamps at the grocery store. I tell them, it’s not embarrassing when you’re hungry.
Think of those widows of Afghani soldiers on TV, be-shawled and begging for food. Their government is too young to have anything in place to help them. We may not be perfect, but God bless America! On my first grocery trip, I worried that Uncle Sam wouldn’t let me buy Kool-Aid with food stamps. It’s not really food, is it? If you sprinkled unsweetened Kool-Aid on the sidewalk, would it even draw ants? But the electronic EBT card (which is really what “food stamps” is nowadays) approved it.
I’m glad I remembered to buy sugar. The world doesn’t need any more Irene’s.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Be kind to your fair-weathered friends

When my stories are printed in the Pickens County Progress, my suspicious friend Donna asks, “Did that really happen?” Yes, ma’am. True life is much stranger than fiction and needs no embellishment from me. The job market is so competitive right now, that getting a job, and keeping it, is a whole other job in itself.
Yesterday, I was down to my last $30.00 and decided to finally apply for food stamps. At the DFACS office in Jasper, the doors were locked. The sign said they were “closed for furlough.”  Another sign said to apply for food stamps online, at the local library. But before I could use their computers, the library lady said I must pay a year-old fine. (My daughter’s kitten had delicately nibbled around the edges of her library book on Aviation, more specifically “U.S. Fighters.”) It cost me $30.20, with fees.
Libraries are supposed to be quiet, but I kept on hearing a loud tapping sound. The culprit was a red bird. Outside the big picture window, from a high perch in the crepe myrtle tree, he kept flying straight into the clear glass. I walked over to get a closer look. Someone had hung a big fake owl in the tree branches. Worried, I alerted the library lady. She smiled a tired little smile, as if this was the ten-thousandth time someone had mentioned it. “We hung the big fake owl there to make the red bird go away. It worked for about five days, but he came back. ” She explained, “He sees his reflection in the window and thinks it’s another male bird in his territory. Then he lunges at it.” She leaned in and whispered, “You know how men are.”
Then last night, a bird-brained solution came to me: The library lady could open some smelly cans of tuna and set them around the base of the crepe myrtle. After all, if a tiny kitten could keep me away from the library for a solid year, think what a contingent of starving cats could do to clear the airspace of one red bird. I’ll suggest it to her today when she lends me a glorious, towering stack of books. God bless the public library! In good times and bad, it’s free …if you borrow responsibly. Now, that’s food for thought.