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.

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

“What?”

“I have a son.”

“Where?”

“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.”

“Fuck.”

“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.

“Georgia?”

“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.”

I see your dreadlocks and raise you a cat…

“Why does he act so weird?” Ruby asks me. Ruby, Trey, Stan—my husband—and I went to brunch together that morning. I’d noticed her glaring at Trey throughout the meal.

“Who?” I ask stalling for time.

“Trey. Why does he act so weird?” she asks again.

“He isn’t acting.”

“He didn’t use to be like that.”

“When has that child ever been normal? You remembering some shit I don’t?” I ask trying to remember one normal day with Trey.

“He wasn’t that weird when he was little,” she declares.

“Oh, you mean when he was little and refused to wear Nikes to school? He had to have wingtips. Or when he wouldn’t wear t-shirts, only dress shirts? Or when he wouldn’t play with toys, but chose to copy the dictionary instead. Or do you mean when he wouldn’t play sports and was obsessed with chess? Yeah, I remember his normal period now.”

“Well, I want to have some kind of relationship with him and I can’t when he acts like a retard,” she says walking back into the bathroom to finish putting on her make-up. She posted a picture on facebook earlier today and got 362 likes in forty-eight minutes. Ruby is “normal”, but exceptionally so. She is the most beautiful normal thing this family has going for it.

“Then you don’t want a relationship with him, you want a relationship with the person you want him to be. When he isn’t that person you get mad at him for being who he is and not who you want. That is unfair.”

She doesn’t respond. I didn’t think she would. They are different. They have to love each other, but they don’t have to like one another. That is easy to say, but a difficult concept to actually practice. Especially when you are a beautiful princess and people pretty much do what you want most of the time.

He usually stays at our house on weekends. Then, on Sunday night, he will say, “Well, back to my real life,” and he will head out for another week. He will stay at his dad’s house, which is closer to his job, or at a friend’s house. When he arrived this Friday he said he paid rent to stay at a new place. His friend Simba lives with a couple who has a baby and they said he could crash there, too. Trey sells siding, roofs and windows door to door. He sold a lot this month, he is a great bullshitter, and thinks he will have enough money to rent a studio apartment soon.

So, on Fridays he comes to my house and I wash his clothes, he eats well and rests up for another week of survival. I am always worried when he leaves. I worry if he will have enough to eat and a safe place to sleep.

It’s 10:00pm on Sunday. Stan and I are watching TV. and relaxing. I hear a banging on the front door. It is loud and demanding, it almost sounds like a police knock. My husband gets up and opens the door. Trey comes bounding in the house. I am shocked, he usually doesn’t come back till Friday. He says hello and rushes past me. My husband and I both watch him as he walks to a closet where he stores his extra clothes and books.

“What are you doing?” I demand.

“I just need to grab a few things. Well, four things actually,” he says. He walks back into the living room carrying three pillows and heads to the front door.

“Wait, stop…WHAT ARE YOU DOING?”

“Basically, I am going to live in a car,” he says smiling.

I look at my husband. He folds his arms, sighs and leans back against the wall. He is getting comfortable. He knows this is going to get weird. Either I am going to cry or yell or try to talk him into letting Trey move back in.

“What? I thought you already paid rent to stay somewhere this week. What happened?”

“I did pay. It’s about freedom really,” he says. Janis Joplin’s song goes through my mind; freedom is having nothing left to lose.

“Freedom?”

“Yeah, Simba and I are going to live in the car until I can get a place. No rules. I only sleep for short periods of time anyway. We got the cat in the trunk. That’s the only problem. Simba doesn’t want to leave it. But, I hate it and don’t want it in the car, so we cleared out the trunk for him. He keeps meowing, but we’ll figure something out.”

“Where are you going to park?” I ask. I can’t believe he’s serious.

“In the country so we don’t get robbed,” he says, walking out the door with the pillows. I look at Stan, he looks at floor and doesn’t say anything. Trey walks back in and heads to the closet. He grabs a comforter and starts to head out the door again.

“Umm, no. That was grandma’s comforter. Hell no, you aren’t taking it,” I say.

“Really? It’s cold.”

“Really.”

He walks back to the closet and returns the comforter. He grabs some sheets instead. I sit down in the chair and start laughing. I laugh from my gut. I snort laugh. He looks at me surprised.

“What are you laughing at?” he asks, smiling.

“You. Ok, good luck, son. I hope it works out.”

“Thanks, I love you,” he says, walking to the door again.

“And I love you,” I say. And I do, I love him. Every insane part of him.

I sit and I think. What was I doing when I was 18? I was living in a commune in Oklahoma. My parents had no idea where I was. I took off with a backpack and no plan. I had dreadlocks and crystals in my hair. I was high on acid and pretty much anything else. He has a hundred bucks, a cat, three pillows and sheet—he will do just fine.

Strong Armed Confusion

“See? That’s what the fuck I’m talking about,” Pumpkin yells as he throws his cell phone onto my dashboard. His phone bounces and hits the windshield. He tries to get out of the car before I’ve completely stopped in his Dad’s driveway.

“Will you wait till I stop? What’s wrong?” He doesn’t answer me. He exhales loudly while I stop and put the car in park. Once it’s stopped, he springs out of the car and heads to the halfway house next door.

I watch him as he walks and then I see what’s gotten him so pissed. Jim, his ex roommate, is standing in front of the halfway house talking to about four guys who are sitting on the porch smoking. I think he has on Trey’s leather jacket. I sit in the car and wait for him to handle it. I am not too worried. Pumpkin can take care of himself. The residents of the house won’t get involved, they have enough problems. If they do decide to play hero, I have my miniature yellow bat tucked under my car seat.

My son met Jim while he was a resident at the house. Jim ended up there after he got out of rehab. He lost everything he had to heroin. Anyway, Trey and Jim became friends. Jim would complain to Trey about living in the halfway house. He said they had too many rules. Unlike some of the men there, he wasn’t court ordered. If he could find somewhere to live he could move out.

My son, the other hater of all rules, talked his dad into letting Jim move into their house. Trey thought they could share his room and split the rent he pays his dad. Like most things, it looked like a good idea on paper.

Their friendship immediately went to hell once Jim moved in. Pumpkin said Jim stopped taking his meds and that he was for real crazy. He further clarified the crazy as “not the fun crazy kind either.” Pumpkin said Jim turned out to be a slob, he wore his clothes without asking, he ruined his computer battery trying to cook meth and he played bongos all night. I can understand how a crazy meth head playing bongos all night could be irritating.

Pumpkin told him to move out a couple of days ago. And yet, here he was. I recognize the coat Jim has on. Pumpkin had it on a few weeks ago. I know my son is doubly pissed; Jim still hasn’t moved out and he has his coat on? Yep, it’s all bad.

I watch them exchange words for a few minutes. Jim is nodding and Pumpkin is yelling. Then, my son turns and starts to walk back to my car—without his coat. What the hell? My momma bear instincts come out and I’m not about to let Jim’s crazy ass keep my son’s coat. So, I get out of the car and start walking over to him. As soon as Pumpkin sees me get out of the car he stops and says, “Mom, no.” He has seen my bear instincts before. I ignore him and walk over to crazy.

“Is that my son’s coat, man?”

“Huh?”

“You heard me,” I say as I move closer. I repeat my question louder and slower. He looks at the coat and doesn’t say anything. Then he starts to remove it. Pumpkin is by my side.

“No mom, just come on. You don’t know what I got going on. I took care of it.”

“No, fuck that. Is that your coat?” I repeat, still looking at Jim who has suddenly frozen with the coat halfway down one arm. He is looking at us, waiting to see what he should do.

“Mom, just come on. Jim, get the fuck out of here and don’t come back,” Pumpkin says trying to turn me around toward the car. Jim takes his escape quickly and walks away.

“Your just gonna let him take your shit?” I ask as he propels me by my arm to the car. Pumpkin’s Dad must have heard the commotion and came outside. He is standing in the driveway watching us.

“What are you two doing?” he asks as we approach. He asks us that often.

“He let that goofy mother fucker take his coat,” I announce squirming out from Pumpkin’s grip on my arm.

“It’s not my coat, Ma!”

“I saw you in it last week.”

“I borrowed it from him. You always do that, get involved in shit when you don’t know what’s going on. I just wanted him to leave. I told him before; if he comes around here I will beat his ass. He almost blew up the fucking house trying to cook meth. I don’t want him here.”

“Wait, that’s not your coat? Jesus Christ. Then why did he start to take it off?” Pumpkin doesn’t answer me. We just stare at each other thinking what a moron the other one is.

“I told him to come over,” Pumpkin’s dad says breaking our staring contest. We both turn and look at him.

“Huh?” we ask in unison.

“Yes, I called him. I told him he still had a few things here he needed to move and if he ever gets hungry to stop by and I will feed him.”

“Fucking Buddhists,” Pumpkin says walking into the house and slamming the door.

“So, you told him to come over and when he does Pumpkin threatens to kick his ass. Then I demand he gives me his coat. He probably thinks we were setting him up in order to beat his ass and take his coat.”

“Yes.”

“If you aren’t crazy when you get here, you are when you leave,” I say getting in my car.