Tuesday, May 4, 2021

The straw that broke.

"God..." Cathy sighed getting out of her vehicle at the Madison High School. The Village Hall meeting had to be moved to the gymnasium due to the crowd that was expected.  She pulled her duster sweater tighter around her as she looked at the nearly full parking lot.  Everyone was here.  She took out a pack of cigarettes and with a shaky hand, pulled one out and lit it.

"We have to stop meeting like this..." Officer Dugan said with a sad smile.

Taking a deep drag, Shelly looked at the ground. "I just can't believe this is all happening."

"I've never seen anything like this in my career... it's been a shock to the entire community." The senior officer ran his fingers through his grey hair and stared up at the sky. It was nearing dusk and the stars were starting to appear. "Let's get this over with" he said, gesturing to the school doors.

Cathy flicked her barely smoked cigarette into a puddle. They made the slow walk to the side of the building.  As soon as they opened the double doors they were met with stale, hot air and the noise of an angry crowd.

"WE HAVE CHILDREN WHO PLAY IN THE SQUARE." Several middle aged women were yelling to anyone and no one in particular. "HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?!"

Others were quiet, but furious, staring at their phones then up at the podium. It was like Mayor Britton to keep everyone waiting. The minutes drug on and finally the members of the Village Council appeared and took their seats at the chairs spread out on either side of the podium. They looked nervous as the energy of the room focused on them. The shouts came from all directions and the thrumming of the under chatter was almost deafening with the gym's acoustics.

Only when the crowd was near a fever pitch did Mayor Britton appear and called the meeting to order, close to 15 minutes after its expected start time. Cathy rolled her eyes. Typical....she thought bitterly.  He'd left her hanging for 15 years, after all.

"OK everyone, I know we're all frustrated and just looking for some answers" the mayor began with a smile that seemed to come too easily. "Let's just be calm and we'll get to everyone's questions and concerns. I have Chief Trux here to confirm the timeline and what we know about the situation.

The crowd settled somewhat as the Chief of Police made his way to the podium.  He adjusted his bullet proof vest away from his neck, an odd showing of force, but perhaps it was worn to settle some nerves.

"As you all know, the...incident..." he grimaced "happened April 14th at about 2pm. We are told by witnesses that the vehicle came off River Street heading north, likely just exiting the highway. The truck and trailer parked next to the Arts center on Park Street and remained there for the...uh...duration."


"Rhonda, no one is monitoring traffic in and out of here" one of the council members stood to address the hysterical woman. "It's a small town.  We weren't prepared for something like this, hell, who could have even predicted this?!."  

"ORDER, PLEASE" the mayor shouted, adjusting a stray hair that fell as he stood.

The Chief took a deep breath and continued. "We have several photographs of the incident and eye witness accounts. We're still sifting through the details."

"What more do you need to put together what happened, Chief?" asked a man leaning in the double doorway. 

"Folks, police work takes time, we can't just...magically fix this."

The crowd shifted and anger crackled in the air. They were looking for some finality, someone to blame, for justice, and it was looking like they might not get it.

The Mayor bounded back over to the podium. "OK, OK, thanks Don. Like Chief Trux said, this will take time and we're working on bringing in those responsible."

"I HEARD THEY JUST DROVE OFF!" yelled someone from the crowd.
"YOU MEAN THEY DON'T HAVE ANYONE IN CUSTODY?!" another shocked voice responded.

The murmurs turned to shouts. Cathy looked nervously at Officer Dugan, who was wide eyed, and his hand hovered above his pistol.

"Everyone needs to calm down so we can work through this..."

"How long was the guy in town for?" asked the man in the doorway again, his voice soft but somehow rising above all others.  The crowd hushed and looked expectantly at the mayor.

"I...uh...we have conflicting reports..." he stammered.

"Bullshit." The crowd followed with a cry for an answer.

"..A...a gentleman told me — he's one of our walkers who is down there everyday — that they were in the park for probably about... an hour and a half."

Shock and awe struck the crowd. Cathy heard someone start to sob.

"And who cleaned up the mess? How many people did it take, Mayor", the interrogator at the door pressed. The crowd's eyes flew to the podium, panicked.

"....We dispatched village Road Department employees and-" shouts and screams interrupted what was said next


"Please, everyone..." they Mayor looked down at his hands.

"Is it true, Mayor, what we heard about the Gazebo?" the man from the door was now stalking closer to the podium.

"YES THE GAZEBO!  WHAT ABOUT THE GAZEBO!?" the crowd hissed.

"...Well, we uh...have confirmed....that one of the scenes of the accident was on the stage. So I called the road crew in, and then we started going through the park. And that's when we  found...more...uh...more than one."

Any sense of control broke down then and there. Screams ricocheted off the rafters. People prayed openly, some even pulling out their rosaries.  A young officer began to throw up in a trash can in the far corner.

"I'm....I'm so sorry..." the Mayor whispered into the microphone.  But nobody heard him. 

Cathy ran out into the parking lot gasping for air.  She bent over, holding her knees, trying to ground herself.

"You know what April 14th was, don't you?" a familiar voice cooed right behind her.

Cathy straightened, the hair rising on the back of her neck. She closed her eyes and braced herself.

"It was...hump day."

Cathy fell to her knees and wailed in anguish.  The Village of Madison would not forget.

                                              For the actual 100% real ass article, click here!

Monday, February 1, 2021

To The Universal Notary

I understand it’s ridiculous to be angry at the contract I signed.  I know I have no right.  I raised a large breed dog who experienced large breed dog problems and passed in a large breed dog way. I saw the path ahead, read the entire thing cover to cover, including the ending, and signed.  Still, mercy is a mean card dealt to the one who administers it. We know it’s coming from the start, it’s written right there. But we forget about it for a decade or so until realizing, too late, that the warranty ran out. But them’s the brakes, right?

I fear I stuffed a hole in my heart and might not have been ready. I worry that I haven’t honored their memory and joy they brought before filling their home.  But it wasn’t a home for me without something to worry about. All the time in the world isn’t helpful if there’s nothing to do. I don’t think I can stand my own company, so I enlisted two others who would.  And, I know I just signed short-term lease that is possibly month to month. Maybe I think this will absolve me of the betrayal of the first two by caring for two others. But I don’t like to think about that too much. When I saw their picture I knew they were mine. So I went and got them.  And I hope that’s alright.

Monday, June 1, 2020

Dear White Claw

Dear White Claw email answer-er,

I wanted to take the time to write and not only let you know how tasty your carbonated alcoholic beverage is (you knew this already), but to also inform you that you are the official beverage of the LEADERship Ashtabula County class of 2020.  I'm sure you've heard of us, but just in case, here's a legit website:  https://www.leadershipac.org/

LAC is a class act of a non-profit, and my class of 2020 made it a hair less so on our retreat this past August.  30 local professionals, strangers to each other, came together for a weekend of trust falls and campfires at a boy scout camp, and emerged friends (or at least we knew who to talk to to get someone out of jail). During the retreat, a campfire of camaraderie was lit one evening and the local school district's athletic director emerged with a gleam in his eye, a few cases of White Claw in his cooler and a challenge for the group:  We were going to have to finish all the Claws the organizers bought for the entire weekend in one evening. All the professionals in the class of 2020, from doctors and nurses, to chemists and tourism specialists, were united under one cause (Claws?).  We nodded solemnly to each other in the glow of the fire. 

Needless to say, our seminar the next morning was a little rough.  And then the pandemic hit and our graduation has been put on hold indefinitely. But we are undeterred, for our bonds were forced in the white aluminum of your cans.  So thank you for gift of a magical beverage that will forever brand our class.

Save the whales,

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Graduate School Nod

Here's to a grad prof, Dr. Carr, who made us all call him Rob, who let me create art instead of research papers for his class.  Here is a rendition of someone from then current events made entirely out of plastic spiders and cockroaches.  Cheers, Rob.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

On Depression

One of my high school English teachers said you can't be a writer unless there's something wrong with you. Maybe not quite like that, but basically, if you haven't been through some really weird shit or have some sort of mild mental illness, you won't have the depth to write truly interesting things.  I believe we were reading Shirley Jackson at the time, and my dude just loved the part in "The Lottery" where they give the little boy a stone at the end and encourage him to throw. Upon hearing his assessment, I was quite bummed out.  I had a pretty well-adjusted life with a loving family and no childhood trauma to spark the fires of creativity. UGH. How was I going to be a writer?

Fast forward to a year ago where I was un-uniquely diagnosed with clinical depression, concluding years of denial, and cyclical self-sabotage. On the plus side, I had found the voice of my writing this past decade and feel I've made improvements (or at the very least, I amuse myself).  I've been published a few times and writing today is a creative outlet and source of joy with the added bonus that I now have the accolades of mental illness to accompany my words. A writer with depression might be an overused trope, but here I am, standing in the proverbial river with the likes of my idol Virginia Woolf (don't worry, I'm not the one with rocks in my pocket!). Gallows humor is fun.

And fret not, I'm too much of a rule follower to ever do anything drastic. I would rather suffer for my entire life than inconvenience anyone or break the law of God and man.  I also prefer to self-harm in the socially acceptable ways of overworking and abusing food and alcohol, hence why the big D went generally undetected for a long time.

So why am I writing this?  I don't know.  I've shared, with the world, where I almost shit my pants and somehow felt *that* was a more acceptable confession....which is wild.  I also haven't annoyed anyone with a personal essay in a while, so here we are.

Perhaps someday I'll write the dirty details of the days I'd hide the fact I stayed in bed until noon, or where I'd be silently screaming at myself to do something, ANYTHING, when I was too tired to get off the couch at 6pm, the unrelenting exhaustion when all I did was sleep, where I'd lie in bed after work and set my alarm to get up 15 minutes before my husband would get home. Or conversely, the days, sometimes weeks, without sleep where I'd wander around the house at night startling my animals, or when I'd eat until I got sick or drank until I blacked out because feeling bad was better than feeling nothing. But with depression comes an assload of shame, and shame demands silence.  This is still a work in progress.

One struggle I have is with talking openly about this with my family, who are the "rub some dirt on it" sort. My father, for instance, severely cut his arm one day while erecting a windmill, or something else equally ridiculous and badass, and POURED GASOLINE ON THE OPEN WOUND. Perhaps not the best way to sterilize, but regardless, letting the likes of them know I've been feeling blue and taking a lot of naps lately seems lame, in comparison.

I started an antidepressant last year and I would like to start a petition that this be used to dose the country's water supply. It was such a drastic change within a few weeks, I dropped weight, had the energy to run again, was able to do my abnormally high level of productivity without being stressed, and even started planning a small business. Since this past December, however, I got the D again (and not the fun kind). It took over, slowly, I didn't even notice until I was in bed more than I wasn't. I know that sounds bullshit, like dude, how did you not know? But I feel it was a boiled frog situation. Suddenly, almost three months went by in zombie mode and I can't even tell you where the tipping point was. Anyhoos, the good ol' primary care upped my dosage and things have been falling back into place.  I'm cautiously optimistic, though, because I'm terrified of going back in the hole, to be so disconnected that I slip into misery again and not even know it. 

I guess that's all I have on that for now.
Take your meds.
Save the whales.

Friday, November 15, 2019

On Advance Directive

Hey still alive people,

It appears I have died or am in the process.  Bummer.  I hope I went out someway cool and not whilst being an idiot.  However, I know myself, and I was likely doing something dumb like trying to pet something I shouldn’t, choked on one too many pizza rolls in my pie hole, or some other mortally embarrassing thing that led to my untimely death. Herein is how I’d prefer you to wrap things up.

Health Care Power of Attorney
Page 5/12 of my living will thing, which asked if I need more space AND INDEED, I DO.
Additional Instructions or Limitations:  I may give additional instructions or impose additional limitations on the authority of my agent.  Below are my specific instructions or limitations.

Gino, if you’re reading this, you were the first pick in the draft for caring for my dying body or burying my already dead corpse.  Sorry bud, that’s in the whole “better or worse” line of them vows. So, I’ll do my best to make it easy for you:
  • Don’t embalm me, ew.  I’ll have enough preservatives from my hair care and horrid eating habits that I won’t waste immediately away.  
  • Don’t get an expensive casket (I’m sure you weren’t going to lol)
  • But for real, I don’t want a traditional casket.  What a friggen waste of cash, I'm literally going to turn into a pile of goo in there.  I’ve rather grown fond of the idea of natural decomposition.  This will be a bit of a pain in the ass because, well, decomposition starts right out the get go, so we’re looking at 3-7 days before things get stinky around here so you can't procrastinate as you normally would.  If we’re still in Northeast Ohio at the time of my demise, here’s a place that looked rad (and conveniently located only 1.5 hours from us: Foxfield Preserve 9877 Alabama Ave SW, Wilmot, OH 44689 (330-359-5235).  All you need is a shroud or a wicker casket, dump me in the ground, throw some dirt on there and let nature do its thing.  If we’re not in Ohio, fire up the old Google machine and search for “big naturals” …I jest!  “natural burials XXwhateverstateweareinXX”.  
  • ALTERNATIVELY, if you want to donate ½ my corporal form to a body farm or bits and pieces to a search and rescue team, that’d be dope as hell.  You don’t get remains back or get to visit, hence why I included the natural burial above, so there’s an HQ to my rotting essence should anyone want to come and sit with me for a spell.  You gotta call and ask ‘em, cuz they fill up and such, but if they could use a femur to watch decompose for the next 40 years, go nuts.  Example:  Forensic Anthropology Center at University of Tennessee (https://fac.utk.edu/)
  • I would like some flowers spread around my angelic form and at my dirt mound, if that’s not too much to ask.  
  • If, for some reason, I die abroad or in a real gross and inconvenient way (first of all, go me!) then you can cremate me for ease of travel, I guess. Please see "Amanda’s preferred hierarchy of ways to dispose of her body" (Figure A).
  • Bury whatever pet ashes we have accumulated with me too, so I can have my thunder buddies with me when it’s lights out.

Diane or Patrick Briggs, if you’re reading this, Gino and I likely died at the same time, probably because he was texting and driving, or we choked simultaneously at AYCE sushi.  Please see above.

James Briggs, if you are reading this, fuck bud.  Life just took a giant shit on you because that means Mom, Dad and Gino are all dead along with me.  Try and get my animals somewhere safe, otherwise do whatever works, man. FERDA.

Living Will Declaration
Page 5/7 Additional instructions or limitations 

Alright, here’s the deal on the harvest of my sweet, sweet organs and eyeballs and how long I wanna be hooked up for:

  • I am not listed officially as on organ donor but feel free, if I’m hanging on the brink and it’s not looking good, to make the decision to slice and dice.  I leave this decision with Gino and the folks.  I would like anything that can be used to go to use, I’m just not officially on the DMV paperwork because I read a conspiracy theory once and BOY OH BOY /adjusts tinfoil hat.
  • I’m not wanting to be a vegetable and draining anyone’s finances.  If I’m a gonner, per what the medical professionals say and what your gut is telling you, pull that plug Steel Magnolias style. 
  • I do not want a showing or a funeral, and ABSOLUTELY DO NOT HAVE AN OPEN CASKET, but if everything is going according to plan I will be in a hole somewhere being eaten by worms and not on display to the public.  If someone was important to me, they’ll get in touch with you. However, if a bunch of people want to show up to throw me in the ground and have a beer after, great. Just remember to pour one out for ya girl. No matter what, don’t let a funeral home take you to the cleaners over little ol me.  I’m not there, yo.
  • Also, delete my Facebook page, that dumpster fire will not be my everlasting memorial.
Thank you for reading my aftercare instructions.  If for some reason you need to deviate from this plan, just do your best, I won’t really know the difference anyways ;p

See you suckers on the other side.

Fig. A Amanda's hierarchy of preferred body disposal methods

Monday, August 19, 2019

Boat for Sale.

I tried to sell our boat on craiglist.  It got flagged and taken down.

Don't adjust your polarized Oakleys - this boat is FOR REAL. Imagine you and your bros (or hauxs) on this Sea Ray of freakin' sunshine. Born in 1993, an excellent boat vintage year, by the way -  the color scheme is like a 90s dixie cup, and she drives like one too!

AMAZE YOUR FRIENDS with things like the radio, the steering wheel, and the table that turns into a super uncomfortable bed (ooooo ahhhh!).  Test your relationships as you scream at your boat guests to assist you with putting in, pulling out, and all the various other annoying tasks associated with boat ownership!  Can't wait to get on the lake?  WELL YOU'RE GONNA.

This baby comes with all accessories like the flamingo lights and the stick-on cup holders...actually we're keeping the lights, Wal-Mart just doesn't give those things away, you know.  We will leave you with the (faux) Little Trees Air Freshener and the boat hook (spoiler alert, it'll collapse on you just when you need it most and test how close your marriage is to divorce when you try and dock!)

We never changed the name because an old timey captain said it was bad luck, but in our hearts we named it "Hall and Boats" and the trailer goes by "Totes My Boats" - we'll need you to contractually agree to keep these names.

Bonus:  Sh*tter's never been used!  You can be the first to drop anchor on this bad boy!

The straw that broke.

"God..." Cathy sighed getting out of her vehicle at the Madison High School. The Village Hall meeting had to be moved to the gymna...