Happy Landings

“Man, this is really bad,” Pumpkin said, holding a cleaning rag and a spray bottle of bathroom cleaner. He was standing in the hallway alternately looking into his bathroom and then at me and then back again. I watched him from my chair in the living room. I don’t recall seeing this much amazement shining in his eyes in a very long time, if ever.

“No shit, I’ve been telling you to clean your bathroom for weeks,” I said.

“It’s like, I woke up this morning and just really saw it, ya know? It was bad,” he said, looking back into the bathroom. I think the magic mushrooms he ate for breakfast helped “high def” his vision.

“I think your shirt is on inside out,” I said.

“Yeah, I am pretty sure it is,” he said, looking down at his shirt before going back into the bathroom to continue cleaning.

He stayed in there for another half hour. I could hear him drop the shower curtain tension rod at least six times. Since he didn’t yelp in pain, I figured I would just let it go. He came back into the hallway with a big smile on his face.

“Mom, come see my bathroom!”

I got up and walked over to him. I looked into the bathroom timidly, not sure of what I would find. It looked beautiful, except the tension rod with the shower curtain on it was across the middle of the shower doorway instead of at the top.

“Son, don’t ya think the shower curtain is a little low?”

“Yeah, the shower curtain is way long,” he said, walking over to the stall. He lifted the curtain up to show me how much was lying across the shower floor. “I think I better cut it. Why the fuck did I buy a camouflage shower curtain?”

“I’m not really sure. But, I am sure you need to put the shower curtain rod up higher.”

“No, that’s kinda where it landed, where it wants to be.”

I walked over to the shower and waved my hand in the opening between the curtain and the top of the shower saying, “If you don’t raise the curtain water will come out onto the floor through this open space.”

“Right, right, yeah, ok, for sure. I will fix that later,” he said, staring into the space he created. He took another nibble of pharmaceutical fungi. “Well, I gots lots to do. Some in the house, some out of the house.”

“I think you should just focus on the stuff in the house today. I think tomorrow would be a better out of the house day.”

I sat down in the living room again. His doors of perception were swinging open all right. I remember when I shroomed last. It came on while I was sorting laundry. An hour into the task I realized I had about five piles sorted—not just the usual darks, colors and whites. I was just tossing the clothes and watching the trails. What is it about shroomin’ and cleaning with our DNA? Then, the horrible sound of my vacuum cleaner sucking up something bad shook me from my memory.

“Bring it here so I can fix it,” I yelled to Pumpkin. He’d moved on to cleaning his bedroom.

“I don’t think fixing it is an option.”

“What the hell did you suck up?”

“The blind.”

“Seriously? Pick everything up off the floor before you vacuum!” His blind is often on the floor because he tends to come into the house through his bedroom window instead of the door.

“It was on the window,” he said, bringing the sweeper out with slates of the blind sticking out of it at various angles.

“How? How did this happen? Your window is above your bed for fucks sake!”

“Yeah, I got to go to the math lab,” he said, setting the sweeper down.

“It’s Sunday. The lab isn’t open. I thought we were going to focus on the things you need to do in the house today. Outside is not a good idea. Going to school is certainly not a good idea.”

“Right, I will be back,” he said, heading out the door.

“Your shirt is still inside out,” I yelled after him.

“That’s just where it landed.”





Becky A Snitch

“What I don’t understand is why you waited this fucking long to tell me,” I said, pulling open the heavy door to the mall.

“Cause he’s a dumb ass,” Jesse said, laughing. Really, it’s more of a manic giggle.

“Because I knew you were gonna freak out and I thought I could buy the pills, but I don’t have the money, so I don’t have a choice –I have to tell you,” Pumpkin said, as we walked to GNC.

Pumpkin has been on probation for two years. Part of his probation is drug testing. He never passes. He always pisses dirty. Usually his probation officer will just lock him up for a week or so for a probation violation. This obviously hasn’t been working since the tests are all still dirty. His PO’s new tactic is to test me every time Pumpkin comes up dirty. My test results would be murky at best. I would then be charged for drug abuse. Pumpkin’s PO thinks he can’t stay sober because he lives in a “using” household. I think Pumpkin can’t stay sober because he is a pothead and doesn’t give a shit.

“Umm, yeah, potentially going to jail does cause me to freak out.”

“You’re not going to go to jail, mom.”

“Your yellow ass better hope not.”

“She called you yellow. High yellow, that’s your handle, yo. Cause you is yellow and usually high,” Jesse chortles between giggles.

“Shut the fuck up,” Pumpkin and I say in unison.

We walk into the GNC and find the Niacin. There are a ton of choices, different brands and milligrams.

“Now, what are you supposed to do?”

“The website said..”

“Stuff Stoners Like, that’s what it’s called. They’re serious, Bro,” Jesse says, interrupting Pumpkin.

“Shut up,” we both say again.

“Ok, two to three days before the test you take 1,000 mg and drink two gallons of water. Day of the test you take 1,000 mg and drink two to three bottles of water. Pee two to three times before test. Use midstream pee for the test.”

“We only have two days and you are like 85% THC, we are screwed. I’m going to jail.”

“It will work. Let’s just get it and go so I can start.”

I grab a bottle of Niacin. I get the most expensive one hoping it will work better, but knowing it won’t really make a difference. We walk up to the counter. There is young girl with long blonde hair standing at the counter. Jesse leans over the counter smiling at her.

“Where you from?” he asks, smiling broadly.

“Bro, stop,” Pumpkin says, pushing him out of the way. The young woman looks very uncomfortable. I place the pills on the counter.

“I’m sorry, but I can’t sell these pills to you,” she says.

“Why?” I ask, not very calmly.

“Because I couldn’t help but overhear you are using them for illegal means.”

“Are you fucking serious? Is there like a GNC oath or some shit? Am I being punked? I am going to jail,” I say, while looking around for a camera.

“Duuuude,” Jesse says, looking at the ceiling while turning in a circle.

“Mom, let’s just go. We can go to Rite Aid.”

“I don’t know if theirs are as good.” I notice a tall black man standing off to the side in a GNC uniform. Maybe he will understand, maybe he is from our tribe of dealing with dumb shit.

“Hey, will you ring these up for me?” I ask.

“Sorry, fam, Becky a snitch,” he says.

“Come on, Becky, no one is going to know. Just ring them up. I got a lot going on and this shit is pointless.”

“My name isn’t Becky and you are making me uncomfortable. I am going to call security if you don’t leave.”

“Well, Becky, looks like I am going to jail either way, so I might as well make it worth it!”

“Awww shit, Ma Dukes is about to throw down,” Jesse says, as he begins to shadow box.

“Mom, seriously. Now, we need to leave, now.”

So, we leave. We go to Rite Aid and we buy the pills. Pumpkin doesn’t smoke for two days. He’s an asshole for two days. He takes the pills, he drinks the water. We go down to his PO’s office for him to drop urine. Did you know there are side effects to taking so much Niacin?  Mr. Carrillo did.

“Good Afternoon, young man,” Mr. Carrillo says.

“Good Afternoon, Sir,” Pumpkin says, as he itches his arm, neck and face. He looks flushed.

“You coming down with something?”

“No, I feel good.”

“Looks to me like you might have Niacin fever.”

“Niacin, Sir?”

“Don’t worry, I can test for it. We will find out and treat it appropriately.”

Fuck my life.





















Bob Is Dead

“That shirt is cute,” I say to my husband as we wait to be seated at Bob Evans. But, I can’t buy another t-shirt, even if it has bacon on it, because I already have 487.

“I like the trucker hat with Bob Evans on it. But, $9.99 is too much money,” he says. He doesn’t need another hat, he already has 488.

When we are seated and looking over the menus he says, “Maybe I can talk them down.”

“Talk who down?”

“Bob Evans, on the hat,” he says, still deciding between country fried steak and an omelet.

“There is no Bob Evans, there is no bartering here.”

“Sure there is, that’s what country folk do—they haggle.”

“We aren’t country folk, what the fuck are you talking about? You grew up in the projects; I grew up on the East Side. We might live in a trailer, but we aren’t country folk,” I say staring at him. He won’t look at me, he’s acting like he’s still looking at the menu. He isn’t looking at the menu, he’s digging his heels in. I continue to stare, he won’t look up. Finally, our waiter comes.

“What do you think, James?” he asks our server.

“Jesus Christ,” I sigh and put my menu down. James looks confused.

“You think the manager would come down on that trucker hat over there by the cash register?”

“Come down?”

“You know, it says it costs $9.99. I’m willing to give him $5.99.”

“You can ask him,” James says, shrugging his shoulders.

“No, no you can’t. We are at Levis Commons in freaking Perrysburg for fucks sake! Really?  You want to barter with a manager for a trucker hat? There is no bartering at Levis Commons. There are UPC codes and prices set by corporate, that’s what there is. This isn’t a pickup truck parked at some farmer’s market,” I bellow as James hurries away to get our coffee.

“They have a farm.”


“Bob Evans.”

“It’s a corporate farm, it’s a façade, Bob Evans is dead and that shit isn’t real. Do not do this, it is stupid and embarrassing.”

“Chris never pays full price for anything. I bet they’ll do it.”

“Chris is country folk, Chris does live in the country, he shops at swap meets for real! He lives by a cornfield. We live in Walbridge, we have sewers—no.”

As we walk to the cash register, he stops to talk to the manager.

“I am waiting in the car, I can’t believe you are doing this,” I say.

“I won’t unlock it, nothing wrong with haggling.”

I stand by the register and wait. After a few minutes he stands beside me.


“He said the UPC codes are preprogrammed and they can’t override them.”

I don’t say anything. I actually feel bad for him, he seems kind of sad. When we get in the car he hits the steering wheel and yells, “Pie!”


“Next time I’ll say, ‘I’ll give you the $9.99 for the hat, if you give me a piece of pie and don’t ring it up.’ See, that’s how you get around them UPC’s,” he says, smiling in victory and lighting a cigarette.

“I hate you.”



On The 7th Day The Stripper Got Hitched

Day 1

“Have you seen Pumpkin today?” I ask my daughter.

I hadn’t seen him in over 24 hours. He usually doesn’t wander away from his bongs this long and I was getting concerned.

“No, he was gone before I left this morning at 9:00am,” she replies.

Now I am really concerned. He never gets up that early. I don’t see him the rest of that day either.

Day 2

I get up and there is still no Pumpkin. I text, call, facetime and IM him. Nothing. I IM two of his friends. One doesn’t respond, the other says he hasn’t seen him. I begin to worry he doesn’t know my number and can’t call me for bail.

Day 2 ½

He comes strolling in early evening. “Where the hell have you been?” I ask, loudly.

“I met a girl. You’re gonna meet her really soon,” he says.

His smile is so happy and sweet I decide not to grill him about her just yet. I would only get the happy afterglow of new sex version anyway, so what’s the point?

Day 3

“So yeah, I think you are going to like her. She’s crazy like you, she makes her own Windex,” he says out of the blue.

I nod and don’t say anything. “She has a kid, he’s great. She’s a single mom, she does everything. You should see it,” he continues. Oh, you mean that thing I did for you for 18 years? Yeah, I’ve seen it, it’s fucking awesome.

“She’s a little older than me, she’s 23, and she’s divorced. But, they are real cool, ‘cause you know, the kid.” This just gets better and better, I think to myself.

“I think want I to have a kid with her, too,” he continues.

“Are you crazy? You don’t even know her. You’re temps are suspended for fuck’s sake. Who gets their temps suspended?? You net worth is negative. Literally, NEGATIVE.”

“No, it’s cool. Even if we break up it would work out. She’s like the human I want a kid with.”

“18 years, 18 years you gotta deal with a baby momma! What the fuck? You don’t know her!”

“I see how she is with her kid’s dad. They are divorced and they get along. I think it would be ok. They get along really well.”

Day 4

“You are going to find this out anyway, so I might as well tell you,” he begins. I wait for the bombshell revelation. “She gets naked for her job,” he says.

“That’s fine, you know I don’t have any problem with sex workers as long as it’s their own choice,” I say.

“I want her to quit. My boss saw my girlfriend naked and that ain’t cool.”

“You can’t do that. You can’t tell someone they have to quit their job. If she wants to strip, she should strip. She has a kid to support, you have no right,” I say.

“She’s not a stripper. She gets naked on the internet and people pay to look at her.”

“Ok, well whatever. She’s making money from home, good for her. But, you can’t mess with her pocket,” I continue.

“No, she goes to this place to do it. It’s like a studio. But, she takes Adderall while she works. She has to talk to the people on the computer and it gives her more energy to be, ya know, upbeat. I don’t like that. You shouldn’t have to get high to do your job.”

“Adderall? You know that stuff is evil. With your drug history, do you think it’s a good idea for you to be around it?” I ask, with my heart pounding. Even to an extremely liberal mom, this is starting to become worrisome.

“I won’t take it. Don’t worry, this is good. You will like her.”

Day 5

“I told you she was crazy, I had to carry her out of the 7-11 today,” Pumpkin says.

“Why?” I ask, truly interested.

“The clerk never carded her before and they did today. Neither of us had an ID, but that’s not the point. She thinks he did it because I was with her and I’m black, she thinks it was racist. So, she started yelling and throwing the Skittles. I had to get her out of there.”

I say nothing.

Day 6

“Mom, I love you,” he says.

“What do you want?”

“I’ve been spending so much money getting to Chris’s house I wondered if she could just come and stay here with me tonight.”

“I have to check with your sister. You know her temper. She already had one of your girlfriends hiding in the basement because she wanted to beat their ass. Let me talk to her,” I answer.

Day 6 ½

“Ok, I talked to your sister, she won’t hurt her. Now, you cannot make noise and wake us up. You cannot leave her alone in our house. You are financially responsible for any shit that happens. She cannot live with us, this is a once and a while thing. Got it?”

“Thanks, mom.”

Day 7

I text my husband, “Good Morning.”

“Morning, was Pumpkin still up when you got up?” he texts back.

“No, did that girl come over?”

“Oh yeah, I had a 4:40 am adventure,” he says.

“What’s she like?”

“I don’t know. Pumpkin was up sitting in the living room, said he would introduce us, but she was naked as shit. Those are his words.”


“He told me it might sound crazy, but they are getting married.”

“You’re fucking with me.”

“Nope, I think his bong collection won her over. The guys on the line say they are taking the day off to go to the wedding.”

See? A whole new world can be made in seven days. I think I need to go to church.

Happy Cows

“You awful thick to be a vegetarian, ain’t you?” he asked.

“I just started about three weeks ago,” I replied, without thinking.

I was at Wendy’s ordering a Caesar salad without the bacon bits. The man waiting on me asked why I didn’t want them, he said they were the best part of the salad. That’s when he took it upon himself to look me over from head to toe and pronounce me “thick”. First of all, what gives him the right to asses my body? Secondly, why the hell did I answer him with anything other than fuck you?

The reason I wasn’t eating meat is because I saw a video of a happy cow. This cow was frolicking. It was loving playing in hay. It was nuzzling a man with what seemed like boundless love. It was a happy, happy freaking cow. It ruined my eating. I don’t want my food to have a personality. I don’t want to wonder about the internal life of my cheeseburger. But, there I was.

The first few days were pretty easy. I felt good about my decision. I felt slightly more spiritual and evolved than my fellow bacon eating humans. I swore I could actually smell blood when I walked past the meat section at the grocery store. I thought my cats could tell I gave up meat and were looking a little deeper into my eyes when I pet them. I felt we were truly communing. Unfortunately, my kids didn’t take it well.

“I’m black! I need meat, macaroni and cheese and shit,” my daughter wept as she looked at the eggplant lasagna I made. I wasn’t worried. She worked at Burger King and my son went to his father’s house almost every day. They could easily get their daily intake of carcass. They would be fine.

“I made you mac and cheese last weekend,” I countered.

“Out of cauliflower! That’s not mac and cheese and you know it,” she really looked like she wanted to hurt me. I was trying to eat healthy in general, not just give up meat.

I was a month into my spiritual journey when I began to wane. I really missed chicken on my salad for lunch. I needed protein, I reasoned. Chickens probably don’t experience happiness anyway. Their brains are the size of a walnut. So, I decided I could eat chicken. I decided not to eat pork because pigs are supposed to be as smart as a three year old or something. Fish wasn’t a problem because it’s gross and I don’t eat it anyway. Cows were happy so no beef. Chicken became my fair emotionless game. Skinless, boneless and organic chicken was my new best friend. Kids still weren’t on board as I wouldn’t make fried chicken. I did have some food standards left.

A few days into my chicken phase my daughter brought home a hamburger and dropped it into my lap. It was warm. It smelled so good. It had cheese on it. She sat across the room on the couch in her Burger King uniform holding her breath and watching me. I tried to rise above the aroma. But, my mouth started watering. I couldn’t take it. I unwrapped it and took a huge bite. She sighed an audible sigh of relief, took her Burger King hat off and leaned back into the couch.

“Thank you, Jesus,” she said.






It’s Friday Night on the East Side

How do you relieve stress? I am partial to half a joint and some chocolate followed by a bowl of Cheerios. That’s my sleep aid pretty much every night. But, one Friday I had a particularly stressful day and thought I needed a chaser with my usual cocktail. I should mention I was married to Mr. Sierra #2 at the time. I lovingly refer to him as Dumbass in polite conversation. Anyway, I came home that day to find Dumbass in the kitchen grilling on our outdoor gas grill. I said in the kitchen, did you notice that? Yes, he was INSIDE grilling with a full size outdoor gas grill. It took a helluva an argument to get him to understand that that isn’t safe and he needed to turn it off or go outside. He was pissed at me the rest of the day for ruining his cookout and did everything he could to drive me crazy.

By bedtime I was too stressed for my usual sleep aid. So, I waited for Dumbass to go to sleep and I liberated two of his Tylenol Three with codeine pills. It proved to be quite effective. I was out like a light. I woke in the middle of the night to use the restroom. As I walked to the bathroom I just didn’t feel right. I thought I must be super groggy from my medicinal cocktail. I happened to glance in the mirror above the sink. I couldn’t believe it, I looked like—I don’t even know what I looked like. I was covered in hives from the top of my head to my feet. My face was swollen beyond recognition. My eyes were nearly swollen shut. My lips were huge. I started feeling like I couldn’t breathe. I was certain my throat was closing and I was going to die.

I freaked out. I ran back to the bedroom and tried to wake up Dumbass. Of course, he wouldn’t wake up. I panicked. I didn’t think I should drive because my eyes were nearly closed. I thought my throat was going to shut down any minute. What if I was driving and I passed out because I couldn’t breathe? Luckily, we lived about four blocks away from the Starr Avenue fire station. I decided that was my best bet. I would walk to the fire station and the firemen would help me.

Midway through the first block cars started honking at me as they passed. That’s when I realized I didn’t change before I left the house. I was walking down Starr Avenue at 1:00 in the morning, covered in hives, face horribly swollen while wearing zebra print boy cut underwear with matching camisole. I paused for a second and wondered if I should go home and change then walk to the fire station. I was certain I was way too close to death and that would take up too much precious time. As the cars continued to honk I yelled, “yeah, yeah,” back at them. That’s the only response my brain could come up. I was concentrating on my certain death which loomed so near.

I finally got to the fire station and I started banging on the door. The firemen were all asleep and it took about five minutes for someone to answer the door. A man peered out the window at me. I said, “My name is Libby Sierra and I am having an allergic reaction. I need help.” He simply stared at me through the window for what seemed forever. Then he yelled, “Hey, guys. It’s Friday night on the East Side. Come see this.”

Well, I was indignant at his lack of concern for what I felt was obviously a life threatening situation. I yelled back through the door, “I can hear you!” I’m not sure he could understand what I said as my lips were so swollen it came out with kind of a lisp. He finally opened the door and let me in.

The other firemen gathered around as he gave me an IV with an antihistamine in it. They told me they had to take me to the hospital. They gave me a blanket and I climbed into the ambulance and went to the hospital. Once there, I got another shot of medicine through the IV and waited for the swelling to go down. Six hours later the Doctor told me I was free to leave. Oh shit, I thought. I didn’t have my phone, money or car. I had no choice, I had to do the worst thing ever, I had to call Dumbass to come and get me.

I used the hospital phone and called him. It was about 8:00 in the morning. He answered the phone by yelling, “Where the fuck are you?” “I’m at the hospital,” I said meekly. “You’re at the right place then ‘cause I’m gonna whip your ass when I get there.” He hung up and I wrapped my blanket around me tighter and stood at the entrance to wait for him. He was there in record time. He watched me walk out of the hospital in my underwear and barefoot. He was shaking his head in wonderment. I don’t think he was prepared for what he saw. When I climbed into the truck his anger was replaced with curiosity.

“What did you do?” he asked.

I hung my head and tried to figure out where to start. I just experienced the most shameful walk of shame ever, that’s all.



I’m O.D.D

“Miss Sierra, can you talk to him? It’s getting bad.”

“Put him on,” I say to the teacher. I continue working at my desk. This is not unusual, I get a call about Pumpkin every day. Some days, many more than that.

“Hey, Mom.”

“Look, you got what? Two, three hours left of school today? Just sit down, don’t say shit and don’t move.”

“Got it,” he says, hanging up the phone before I have a chance to speak to his teacher again.

I should have known it was too easy of a phone call. My co-workers are used to coming to my office and shutting the door when they start hearing me yell phrases like, “I’m gonna smack every curl outta your head,” or “I swear before Jesus, I will smack every bit of brown off you.” But, I didn’t realize it was too easy and I kept on working until the next phone call came twenty minutes later.

“Miss Sierra? Yeah, the Toledo Police are on their way. We aren’t sure if they are going to arrest him or release him into your custody, but either way you need to get here.”

“Shit, Shit, shit,” my boss hears me say as I get up to get my coat and purse.

“What happened now?” she asks, continuing to punch numbers into her calculator.

“I have no fucking idea. I will see you in the morning,” I say, heading out.

The receptionist sees me leaving and asks, “Pumpkin?”

“Of course.”

I arrive at the junior high school Trey attends in about ten minutes. The school counselor is waiting for me at the door.

“Hi, I’m really sorry. We tried to get him to move. He wouldn’t and he’s too big for any of us to try and move him. We just really need the money tray for lunch period.”

“The money tray?”

“Yes, it’s in the safe and he won’t move, so we can’t get it,” she says as we walk down the hall. I was about to ask her what—exactly—had happened as we walked into the teacher’s lounge. I didn’t need to. I took one look at him and I knew exactly what happened.

He listened to me. For once, he listened to me. He got off the phone, sat down, shut up and didn’t move. Unfortunately, he chose to do it in the teacher’s lounge in front of the safe that holds the cash register drawers for the cafeteria. He was doing exactly what I said.

“Seriously?” I ask him.

He didn’t say anything.

“I swear to God Pumpkin, the police are coming. They are already taking one person to jail, don’t make me make it two. Talk!”

“Hi Mom, just following directions.”

“Why? Why do you do this shit? Will you move so they can get the money?”

The cafeteria worker glared at me as she walked to the safe. “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, you have no idea how sorry I am,” I say to her as she walks out of the lounge.

“Ok, so why did you feel it was necessary to do this?” I ask Pumpkin again.

“I’m O.D.D. I can’t help it, it’s a disability. I’m powerless. I’m as much of a victim here as all of you.”

That is just one of the many diagnosis Pumpkin has been given over the years. It stands for Oppositional Defiant Disorder. I think it’s more “I’m An Asshole Disorder,” but what do I know. Here’s my big question: If it is a disorder, why does it only happen when he isn’t with me? He can control it.

“You are about to be powerless in cuffs. Mr. Carillo is gonna kick your ass.”

He starts to speak, but the police come into the lounge.

“Put your arms out to your sides,” they instruct.

“Hi, how are you doing today?” he asks as the police pat him down. They don’t respond.

“Put your hands behind your back.”

“Why, Officer?” he asks, still smiling.

“We are taking you downtown, unruly conduct.”

“You might want to call in my name. There are some things, well one thing, you may be interested in,” he says.

“I’m not playing games. Put your hands behind your back or I will.”

“Combative. That’s what they are going to tell you. I’m combative,” he says, smiling broadly.

“Officer, can I just take him home? I will sign the charge. They are going to let him out tonight anyway. Mr. Carillo will be notified. Taking him in will just mean paperwork for you. You have more important stuff to do than this. I’m sorry you had to come out.”

They look at one another and at Pumpkin. They both know he will get out tonight. The officer puts his cuffs back on his belt.

“Thank you so much, Sir. I work tomorrow morning and he wouldn’t get processed till really late tonight,” I say as I sign the paperwork.


“Why do you put me in the position of having to kiss cop ass? You know I hate that,” I say as we walk across the parking lot.

“I coulda dropped him,” he says, shadow boxing.

“Get in the car, Rocky. And don’t listen to me ever again.”



Pumpkin’s Arrival

Pumpkin was plucked from the patch 19 years ago today. Nobody knew I was pregnant, except my best friend Diane. I already had one child born out of wedlock to my undereducated and therefore underemployed self. I survived on Aid to Dependent Children (welfare), under the table wages from a cashier job, food stamps and Section Eight housing. I was the “first” in my family, first to have children while unmarried and first to be on the welfare rolls. I was the first to do anything shameful that the general public could easily witness. I have no illusions, my relatives were not perfect, they were just very good at not leaving a trail of illegitimate children, tattoos and Newports in their wake.

The plan was to give birth, finish my associate’s degree in accounting—I only had six months till graduation—and then tell my family. How could they get mad if I had a college degree and the ability to support myself and my children? It wouldn’t be hard to hide a baby for six months, I thought. After all, I hid the pregnancy and they see me every day. This was going to be a walk in the park.

It wasn’t. I had a four year old that was very excited to have a baby brother and wanted to tell everyone. Also, I am a very bad liar that cracks under the smallest amount of pressure. A week into my supposedly leisurely walk my mom called. I was extremely tired, stressed from school and Pumpkin was awake lying next to me on my pleather Rent-A-Center couch. My heart started beating very fast as I picked up the phone. “What if Pumpkin cries while we are on the phone? What if Ruby comes in and says something about her brother and my mom hears her?” I thought, sweat forming on my forehead. So, I did the only thing I was capable of—I started crying.

“What’s wrong?” my mom said.

“I can’t tell you, you are gonna get mad,” I blubbered.

“It’s ok, what’s wrong? You can tell me,” she said.

“I have a son,” I said, pointing at my son as if she could see him. She paused for the same amount of time it took me to crack, about four seconds.


“I have a son.”


“Right here, next to me,” I said between sobs.

“When? How? I’m on my way.”

I hung up the phone, leaned my head back on the couch and waited for her to come cuss me out. It didn’t take long. She walked into my apartment, looked at Pumpkin and then at me and said, “Well, we have to show grandma.” Great, she was going to tag team me off to grandma. My grandma who talks of walking five miles to buy a pound of hamburger, walking five miles home and realizing the store gave her three cents too much in change, walking five miles back to the store to return the money and then five miles home—during the depression when  sometimes all she had was three cents. My grandma, who never accepted charity of any sort and does not use credit cards because, “If you can’t pay cash, you can’t afford it.”

“No, not today. I am too upset to deal with her right now,” I said.

“I already called her, she’s expecting us.”


“Evidently,” she said, looking at Pumpkin.

I was terrified on the car ride over to her house. When we arrived she was sitting in her big recliner in the sunroom, her hands folded in her lap. I walked over and placed the car seat in front of her, moved the blanket so she could see him and stepped back. It was like placing a sacrifice before the Goddess of Self Reliance’s shrine, bowing your head and slowly backing away. She looked at him for few minutes without touching him.

“There’s another one for welfare to take care of,” she said.

“I graduate in six months, grandma. I will take care of him.”

After I accepted my diploma and walked off stage she gave me a hug.

I did support my family from that day forward.

Pumpkin came into this world with a Maury Povich worthy back story and he has continued to keep it going for 19 seasons. I adore him; he is one of the funniest people I have ever known. He views the universe in a way that is very unique and I am always excited to hear his take. I love you, Son.


Just Like Picking Apples In Nebraska

“Does this t-shirt look like it fits me?” Pumpkin asks rubbing his belly. I turn from the sink to look. I have to chuckle. It’s the middle of November and he has on tennis shoes, a Bob Marley t-shirt—that fits him well—jeans, a tie-dyed bandana wrapped around his head and a Rastafarian skull cap.

“Yes,” I say, chuckling.

“What?” he asks, looking down at his clothes trying to pinpoint the source of my entertainment.

“Nothing. Why don’t you have a coat on? Aren’t you cold?”

“No, I need some socks though,” he says, slipping his tennis shoes off while walking to a bowl of grapes and grabbing few.

“There’s a pair in there on the shelf,” I say referring to his shelf. That’s where I put the clothes he leaves when he showers here about once a week. We recycle: he leaves dirty clothes, I wash them and put ‘em on the shelf.

“Alright cool, I need them for Georgia,” he says walking past the bananas on the counter and picking one up.


“Yeah, me and Simba are going.”

“Simba and I,” I correct him.

“Why are you going to Georgia? What about your job? You don’t have any money. I’m not going to another state to bail your dumb ass out. He doesn’t have a driver’s license. What if you guys get pulled over and the car gets towed?” my worry overflows into a verbal waterfall.

“Moooom, chill,” he says, leaning into the open fridge and coming out with a container of hummus.

Are you hungry!? Jesus, stop eating. I have stuffed peppers in the oven, they’ll be done in 15 minutes.”

“We are going to Georgia to get Simba’s crazy ass baby momma and his daughter. She has a lot of money. It costs sixty dollars in gas to get there. She’s gonna pay me back my sixty dollars when we get there and pay for the gas home. As far as my job; I’m in sales, I set my own hours, no big deal if I miss Monday and Tuesday.”

“So, why you doing all this? Why don’t you just loan him the money and stay here? This sounds like picking apples in Nebraska if you ask me.”

“Mom, trust me I’m not gonna end up having a nervous breakdown in a Burger King parking lot.”

He’s referring to my brief career as an apple picker. When I was eighteen I left an apartment in Chicago, attended a Rainbow Family gathering in Texas and came to a rest, for a while, in a commune in Oaklahoma. The commune was deep in the woods, no bathrooms, no showers, limited electricity and one land line phone.

The standard of living was the least of my worries. The men had total control of the community. They were the only ones allowed to go into town and work. Women had to stay behind and cut wood for the fire we used to boil water. We pumped the water from a well by hand. We needed a lot of water to wash dishes, do laundry and fill the barrel used as a bathtub. We also had to figure out what to make with the mishmash of food they brought back from dumpster diving at grocery stores.  The “foucalizer”, Gypsy, had the final say on all decisions made during our weekly meetings. I had no money and my ego wouldn’t let me call my parents for help. But, I wanted to get out of there very badly and immediately.

So, the day Michael Bird and High Plains—I know, hippies and their goofy ass names—told me they were leaving to go to Nebraska to pick apples, I begged them to let me go, too. They were all for it and we set off with just enough gas money to get there. Once there, they said, we would make thousands of dollars. I don’t know why I thought I could pick apples. I had never been in an orchard, let alone did orchard type shit.

The trip there was crazy. Of course we had to panhandle because we ran out of money. We stopped at shelters along the way to shower. All my jewelry was stolen at one of them. In order to use the shelter’s towels you had to give them something of value to hold. I gave the girl behind the counter my silver rings and she took off with them. We slept under picnic tables at rest areas. One morning I woke up to a whole Mexican family sitting around my picnic table eating. They were talking in Spanish and laughing. I knew they had no idea I was under the table. I tried to ease unseen from the table. When I stuck my head out they all stopped talking and looked down at me. I smiled, said hi and stood up with as much dignity as I could muster. As I turned to run back to the truck I heard one of them say, “Loca chica.”

When we finally arrived at the orchard we walked into an office that was located at the beginning of a long driveway. It led to the shacks pickers lived in and further down was the orchard. There were two young men standing in the office. They stared at us for a few seconds before they asked if they could help us. We were quite a sight. I had dreadlocks with crystals woven into them. I was wearing a white Indian shirt, with no bra of course, and a long tie-dyed skirt. My companions were long haired, bearded and tattooed. We told them we were there to work.

They turned and looked at each other with more wonder than they had eyed us with. Finally, one of them turned and said, “There are no apples. There’s a drought. Don’t you guys read the paper?”

I was heartbroken, tired and pissed off. Why the hell didn’t Michael Bird know there was a fucking drought before we came all this way? We stood in the parking lot and tried to figure out what to do. We decided to just go back to the commune by panhandling our way. What choice did we have? We got back in the truck and started the return journey.

Once we were close to the highway Michael Bird pulled into a store parking lot. I figured they were getting water or something for the truck. I waited outside. Ten minutes later they came out laughing carrying a bottle of Jack Daniels. They spent every last penny we had on whiskey. I was so pissed I refused to drink any as they drove down the highway passing the bottle back and forth in front of me.

It was a small old truck and all three of us had to smash onto one long seat. It was a stick shift too, which meant I had to keep my legs bent toward the passenger side of the truck. And there was no air conditioning. Within an hour they were trashed. Michael Bird was swerving badly. Until that point I had managed to conceal my anger. I couldn’t take it anymore. I started screaming for them to pull over. It scared the shit out of them. They almost dropped the bottle mid pass.

We pulled into a Burger King parking lot. I kicked High Plains out of truck with my fringed moccasin boots and got out as fast as I could. He stood leaning on the truck bed with his hands in his pockets looking down in shame at the ground. Michael Bird turned off the truck and slunk around the truck bed and stood next to him. I had my hands on my hips and stood before them glaring.

“A fucking drought? You didn’t check or call or anything? We don’t have any fucking money and you go and buy fucking whiskey and almost kill me? This is bullshit. I am not getting back into that truck until you two sober up and we figure out what the fuck we are going to do,” I was looking at them waiting for them to acknowledge that they were assholes. They weren’t talking and they weren’t looking at me. Instead, both of them were looking out of the corner of their eye to the left. I slowly turned my head to see what was more important than the situation we were in.

I turned and there stood a couple in their sixties just a few feet away from us. The woman had white hair, she was wearing light blue polyester pants and a matching blue shirt. She was clutching her big white plastic purse against her stomach. Her husband was holding onto her elbow trying to steer her into the Burger King. She was obviously stunned and dumbfounded. She was looking at me like I was crazy! Didn’t she know I was the voice of reason? I was the responsible one? So, I did the only thing that seemed appropriate at the time. I screamed, “What the fuck are you looking at?” as loud as I possibly could. The sheer volume of my voice visibly jolted her out of her stupor and into Burger King.  I turned to the guys and calmly said, “Let’s get outta here. “

They quietly got into the car, drove back onto the highway and I never saw the bottle of whiskey again.

“Okay Pumpkin, here are your stuffed peppers. Eat good. Just make sure you call me.”

“Eat well,” he said, smiling.

“Yes, I hope there are many apples.”