The Princess, the Poison, and the Boy With the Pig Nose

The Princess, the Poison, and the Boy With the Pig Nose

Felt like a story this week. This one takes place in a town that might be the one I grew up in, with people I might have known, on an October 31st in the 70’s. Hope you like it 🙂


It’s Halloween and Mama’s in a good mood tonight.

She made tacos for dinner with separate bowls for everything: tomatoes, lettuce, onions, hamburger and cheese. She bought taco sauce in a bottle and when you put that on at the end it tastes like a restaurant.

While I eat, Mama gets dressed in her costume.

She knows all about how to dress up, from being a professional actress in New York. Her costume is always the same: a long white dress like the girl wore in “Let’s Go Scare Jessica To Death,” (the scariest movie in the world), a gray wig, and a homemade noose.

I always make my own costume, like Mama.

This year, I was going to be Super Devil. I made a tail from yarn, and construction paper horns I stick on with bobby pins. I wrote Super Devil on an old t-shirt with magic marker. Mama saw, and she about laughed her head off because I messed up and put an extra P in “super.”

Doesn’t that just beat all?

Well I’m gonna carry a spoon and be a devil who just likes to cook supper all the time and it will be like on purpose, so I don’t even care.

It’s getting late, and I ask Mama if I can leave and start trick-or-treating.

“Sure, go play in the street,” she says, not exactly to me.

I grab my Kroger’s bag and run.

Outside it smells like fire and is so dark you can just barely see the kids in masks going from house to house. Some of them have reflector tape stuck on their shoes.

This year we all got sent home from school with a bag from the fire department, full of stuff that ruins Halloween: reflector tape so you don’t get run over, a list of treats that might be poisoned, and directions to a place where they x-ray your candy because people put nails in it.

Mama threw that bag right in the trash and said we should throw caution in the wind, which I liked.

Here’s my plan:

Start with the first house on the right, the Scully’s, then go straight down Baird Lane, turn on Addison, and all the way around until I get to the Deppings.

I move fast. Miss Depping is a bank teller and gives out whole normal sized candy bars from a fancy bowl.

After about an hour, my nose is running and my bag has a rip.

Right then, I see Kristen Kallenberger’s gigantic glittering wings from a half a block away. I recognize those wings because her father has been working on them with glue and wire at their dining room table since summer. She can barely walk with the weight of them on her back, but it doesn’t matter because her father has one hand and her mother has the other. They take a step and lift her up,

take a step,

lift her up,

take a step,

lift her up.

Is she supposed to look like she’s flying?

Oh brother.

My sneakers squeak in the wet grass when I turn to run. I got my devil spoon in one hand and my Kroger’s bag in the other, praying the Kallenbergers are to busy with their fairy princess to notice me. The tear in my bag is getting worse. Lemon Heads and Now-n-Laters are falling out everywhere.

“Friend!” She calls out.

She calls me that because I won’t tell her my name, which still does not stop her from coming over every day, acting like we’re siamese twins, even though I am nine and she’s in kindergarten. Kristen has every Barbie in the world and a dog named Cocoa who bites.

“Friend, wait!”

Dammit to hell and back.

She breaks away from her parents and runs toward me, her wings falling over to one side, silver reflector tape on her forehead.

“Um, I gotta go,” I call to her. “Mama wants me home before nine since it’s a school night.”

Mrs. Kallenberger catches up to us, all sweaty and shiny in the street light. “Well, we thought you’d be at home, Mae. Kristen says your mother puts on quite a show on Halloween.”

Kristin grabs her mother’s hand.”She dretheth up like a witch and thcareth all the kidth. She giveth out poithoned appleth!”

Mr.Kallenberger runs over, wearing an plastic eye patch. “Aaargh, that sounds scary,” he says in a pirate voice.

“Yeah, Daddy, and she hath  cauldron and everything!” He straightens her wings.

Kristen is hopping around like she has to pee. I can see that her pumpkin basket is almost all the way full and right on top is a whole Hershey bar.

“Well, I still have to get to the Deppings before I’m done,” I say, and start to go.

“Oh, poor Miss Depping just ran out of candy. I hope she doesn’t have any tricks played on her by goblins or,” Mr. Kallenberger winks at me,”Supper Devils.”

Oh brother.

“If you let me come to your houthe and get a poithoned apple, I’ll give you my Hershey bar.”

“I think you’ve had enough, Stinker Doodle,” Mrs. Kallenberger says. “And we still have to run your candy by the hospital. Mae, would you like to come with us and have your candy x-rayed?”

“Um, no thanks.”

“Pleathe, Mommy, pleathe?? Can I go thee the wicked witch?” She’s on her tip-toes.

Mrs. Kallenberger stands there, a big sweaty moon-pie, smiling at Kristen. “Well, since you’re a fairy princess I guess I can’t refuse, right? Give Mommy your candy so we can make sure it’s safe.”

“Tell your mother I’ll be by in a bit to collect Kristen,” says Mr. Kallenberger, and they walk off together with Kirsten’s pumpkin bag. We cut through back yards to get back to my house. Lights are on in most of the houses so we can find our way through sand boxes and swing sets and the Niedermeyer’s broken down Nova.


When we get home I see a crowd of kids around our front door and the point of Mama’s hat. “Now who would like a bite of this delicious apple,” she croaks in her witch voice.

We scoot in for a better view.

“It’s poisoned!” A girl wearing a Wonder Woman outfit under a windbreaker hides behind a chubby Dracula.

“Poisoned? Why, of course it’s not poisoned, silly child. How could you say such a thing?” Her voice is low, like a snake. “Here, try it if you don’t believe me.” Mama knows how to be scary from being an actress, and all the kids are falling for it like babies.

“How about you? Or perhaps you?” When she’s in character she uses words like perhaps.

In front of her is a real cauldron, like a witch would have, filled with vinegar that stinks. Every few minutes she takes some white powder from her pocket and pours it into the cauldron so it fizzes. It’s only baking soda, but Mama says it’s a good special effect, like the red lightbulb she put in the porch light that makes her lips and nail polish look black.

“That’h you Mith —-! I know who you are!” Kristen pushes into the red light and close to Mama.

“Oh my, this potion must be attracting flies! Where’s my swatter?” Everyone laughs a little and Kirsten’s wings slump to the side again.

“You can’t thwat me. I’m a fairy printheth!”

I put a cherry Zot in my mouth and study Mama. She is very in character.

“Well, a fairy Princesssss,”she says, holding out the S sound right in Kristen’s face, like showing off, “is only good for one thing, and do you know what that is?”

Everyone is quiet. I try to stop my Zot from fizzing.

“Well, do you?”

Some kids are whispering, but Kristen stands there like a statue.

“It seems the cat’s got your tongue!” Mama says, so loud that everyone jumps. “A fairy princess is good for nothing but making princess stew.” She leans down to an Abraham Lincoln standing on our front steps and says “Delicious,” just to him. He backs up and his hat falls off.

“But should I bake you or broil you?” Now Mama is leaning over, combing Kirsten’s hair with her red nails, smelling her cheek. “Such decisions. I think baking is best, and you are just the right size to fit in my oven.” She holds Kristen’s face in her hands and pushes her against our front door until her wings are flat.

“You’re not nithe,” she says. Her tu-tu is shaking.

A red-headed cowboy turns around and pushes his way out of the crowd. “I’m telling!” He yells, and runs through the Niedermeyer’s yard into the dark.

More kids follow him.

Kristen is balancing on her tip-toes and the rope around Mama’s neck is dangling into the poison. I think about running, but there’s nowhere to go.

I hear sneakers running in the grass and kids voices growing fainter. Only one boy is left on the porch. His costume is a pig nose held by an elastic string around his head. He looks at me, and I know him.

Tommy Cribs.

Everyone knows Tommy’s mother works in the Coke factory, inspecting bottles. She’s so fat she has to sit on a special stool, or else stay home wrapped in a sheet on the couch. Mama says she can’t even get up to change the tv channels, so Tommy has to do it.

Me and him look at each other. His eyes say I’m one of his kind.

There’s a thud and by the time I look, Kristen is on the ground and one of her wings is bent into an L. Her face is red and crying.

“Oh, my mouth is watering. About an hour in my nice hot oven and you’ll be just right!” Mama thinks she’s so funny and gets herself into hysterics.

All I wish is that my Halloween candy could be filled with razor blades cuz I would eat it all and die and not have to be here with babyish Kirsten and Tommy Cribs in a pig nose who knows everything now.

Our front door is open now and Kirsten is crying, scooting onto the muddy carpet. “Thtoppit. I’m not playing!”

Mama is laughing like herself, not acting anymore.

“Kristen, sweetie??” Grown-ups can run really fast if they want to, and her parents make it across the street and through our front door in two seconds. “It’s Mommy and Daddy, we’re here! Honey, we’re here!” The two of them are on the floor, hugging Kristen like a cocoon.

I watch Tommy Cribs dip his finger into Mama’s cauldron and lick it. Then he’s gone.

“What have you done?” Mrs. Kallenberger gets to her feet. I’ve never heard her yell before. “You are a sick, sick woman, do you know that? A very unhappy, sick woman!”

People always say Mama’s unhappy.

Mrs. Kallenberger turns to me.”Mae, are you alright?”

I nod.

Mr. Kallenberger is holding a kleenex up to Kristen’s nose and telling her to blow, but her mother isn’t done.”We had a child run to our house in tears saying you were going to cook our Kirsten! That you pushed her down!”

“Oh shut up, Mother Goose, she fell,” Mama answers, pushing past her to the kitchen.

Her father picks Kristen up and the three of them head through the Niedermeyer’s yard, toward their house. For a while I can hear her hiccuping in the dark.

I turn off the red porch light and everything seems kind of normal again. There are still tacos on the coffee table, with all the little bowls, from before.

Mama turns on the hot water and stares at the wall where she always wishes there was a window. The steam floats up to her face and, standing over the dirty dishes, her pale make-up drips off, like milk.



Something Borrowed

Something Borrowed

I have no idea where to even start this week.

I mean, seriously, right???

Like many of you, I have my own story of being groped by an asshole. I might write about it, I might not. There a lot of good writers and bloggers out there doing that, so…

And then there’s the feast of human suffering, always, always. No shortage of material in that department.

And we are all, in this country, getting a bit edgy about November 8th.

We’re pretty sure we know what will happen, but we’ve seen some crazy-ass goin’s on in the last several months, so we can’t exhale quite yet.

Maybe some of us who haven’t prayed much in a while are praying real hard right now.img_0996_lhasa_barkhor

Maybe some of us are gorging ourselves on self-righteous Facebook rants that taste great going down, but now we’re not feeling so hot.

It’s for these reasons, and the fact that I’m deeply grateful that you are here, that I’m using the blogger’s equivalent of “Phone a Friend” and posting something I read that made me




The blog is one I don’t know, probably because it is a Christian blog and I don’t usually read Christian blogs. Maybe now I will. In any case, quite a while back she had the good taste and wisdom to post this, from writer Mary Gordon, so I think she’s good people.

Some prayers, for a Tuesday. Don’t be scared, these are good ones 🙂

Peace, you guys.






Eight Little Things That Helped Me This Week.

Eight Little Things That Helped Me This Week.

Let’s just get it out in the open:

I’m still in a bit of a funk.

But I gotta tell you, after dreaming about emptying port-o-potties all night, something does seem to have shifted and I feel slightly better, as of this moment.

But I don’t want to jinx it.

So because I had a Not So Great Week, which resulted in a lot of cracker eating and zero blog ideas, I woke this morning with nothing to post, thus breaking rule #1 of blogging: be consistant!

Well, shit.

Lately, the pressure of having to come up with a readable post every Tuesday has made me feel kind of like this:


Which is why I had every intention of blowing it off this week. I wanted to write in my journal, or work on my other-thing-that-I-don’t-know-what-it-is-but-may-be-a-long-thing-which-I-might-call-a-book-if-it-didn’t-make-me-sound-all-fancy-and-full-of-myself.

But then I had half an idea, and it came to me like this:

Eight Ways To Make Yourself Feel A Little Better When Things Kind of Suck

The following is a list of little things that you can do today, if you’re feeling blue, instead of drink vodka or spend all your money on shoes.

  1. Wash your car. Now, technically, this can cost you money, especially if you live in LA where using water is illegal, but even if you have to plunk down a few bucks, it’s a small price to pay for the lift you get. I took mine in, and the guy even dug out the melted tootsie roll from the back door handle, which revived my will to live, for an entire day.
  2. Make your favorite song into your phone’s ring-tone. I don’t pretend that this isn’t old news to anyone under the age of thirty, but to me, it was a revelation! I knew you could make a song your ring-tone, but I didn’t know that you could use, like, ANY song you want. And I didn’t know that it would change your entire response to a phone call, from an annoying interruption, to a little mini dance break! (Do yourself a solid and find a kid to do this for you. I used tech support, aka, my eleven year old, so now I hear Beast of Burden when my phone goes off in yoga class, which eases the sting of shame.)
  3. Get completely absorbed in a book that takes you somewhere else. You know that thing about “being in the moment?” This is the opposite. This strategy is ripped from my Grammie’s playbook, who may not have been a voracious reader, but she was a big fan of living in denial, and you know what? She seemed pretty happy! Right now I’m reading this, and it transports me to a whole other world, makes me laugh and cry and forget all the shit that needs forgetting.
  4. On the subject of books, put a poetry book in your car. Full disclosure: I actually left the used volume of Anne Sexton poems in my car because I tried to give it to a friend and she was all, “Um, thanks, but I’m not really into poetry,” and so I took it back and left in under the pile of sweaty gym towels and Chipotle bags on my front seat. In doing so, I discovered that the time it takes for my son to go search for his ridiculous $20 water bottle, which I will not replace (do you hear me? I will not!), is just enough for me to read a nice little poem about death.
  5. Clean something dirty and boring. It has to be boring because the last thing you feel like doing right now is thinking, and it has to be dirty because you really need, you desperately need, to feel that you can make at least some things better. I chose to clean the baseboards of our house. By the way, this is something that, at age 50, I have never actually done. I am gross. In my defense, life has gone on just fine, even with dirty baseboards, so if this sounds like something that you have no interest in doing because cleaning shit feels like half the reason you want to eat all the cheese and stay in bed, skip it. I was comforted by seeing my wet rag covered in grime, revealing hope for the future underneath, but you may want to give this idea the finger, which I wholeheartedly support.
  6. Get rid of all your shit that’s broken. I have a necklace that I loved, but which has been tangled up for so long that I finally threw it out. Sure, I could have taken it somewhere to be fixed or buy a new chain, but in the three years it’s been sitting on my bedside table, I never did that. There’s a pair of pants that need new zipper, and a lamp that wobbles so much it falls over every time I turn it on. There’s the hose in the back yard, and my mini-food processor that smells like burning hair when I try to make pesto. Out they go. I had to make peace with the fact that some things just aren’t going to get fixed. That realization alone may have given me my first decent chunk of sleep in a fortnight.
  7. Start back doing that thing that you used to do before, for no apparent reason, you just stopped doing it. I used to wake up and write in my journal every day. I didn’t write anything great and I didn’t write for long, but it was a very civilized thing to do and for some reason I stopped (I blame my dog). So this week I started writing in my journal again. Not blog ideas, not to-do lists, just good old boring blah-blah-blah that goes straight from my heart, down my arm, and onto the page. It feels reassuring that I can go back to something I used to love, and it’s still there. I imagine this could work for almost anything, provided you’re being straight with yourself and you actually liked it and didn’t just wish you liked it. For example, I would never go back to trying to learn how to do this:                                                                                       unknown
  8. Give something up. I am not talking about sugar, or gluten, or god forbid– swearing. Fuck no! I am talking about something you tried on, but that just isn’t you.  Like, I’m giving up having my books arranged by color, as I saw on Pinterest.flickr_color_blocked I also saw it at a very artsy and cheerful friend’s house and I thought, “Oh, how cool! I’m going to do that. I’m going to be neat-o.” Cut to me cussing a blue streak while searching for the book on anxiety that “I could really fucking use right now, but was the cover orange with blue writing or blue with orange writing?!”  You may have something more deep and meaningful to give up, like a whole relationship, but it’s ok to start small, I think. Find something that just isn’t you and scrap it. Its the psychological equivalent of taking your bra off when you get home, and don’t you love that feeling?

Okey-doke, there you have it. Free advice from someone who doesn’t have a single clue what she’s talking about! Why else would you read a blog?

No, wait.

I know why you might read a blog, it’s the same reason I read them, and the main reason I write one: it’s a window. It’s a window into someone’s life, and that can feel kind of nice, or at least interesting. Because we all wonder if we’re super weird, or just a little weird, don’t we? And it’s also a window to see out, to yell across the unkept yard, “Hey neighbor! How’s it going?”

And to answer,

“A little better, today, thanks for asking.”