Poor Man’s Christmas

Valentine’s Day is always one of my favorite times of year.   How could it not be?   All the reds and pinks with some white to set it off.

I remember back in grade school, taking almost an entire afternoon to create some sort of box decorated with library paste and sloppily cut out hearts so in the coming days, we would have some place to put the box of seventy nine cent pre-made valentines in.  Sometimes this project lasted a week or more and to top it off, an afternoon spent opening those cheesy valentines, and getting stuffed full of cup cakes and cookies and candy.    Who couldn’t love missing even one afternoon of math or science?

Selecting my box of Valentine’s was always a good time, then sitting at the table, making sure the right card went to the right kid.   Nope, not that one, (he or she) might think I like them…neutral card.

Going with your dad to the neighborhood drug store to pick just the right box of chocolate for your Mom.   Making sure you select the box that has lots of candies with nuts instead of gaggy lemon cream, because you know that most of those candies will wind up in your own belly.   And, I will say it here and now, Dad was wrong my mom really did want that heart shaped box of chocolate with that lovely doll on top of it, even though she would have given it to me, she really wanted it.

As I grew older enough to appreciate the day of love, I found it wasn’t that monumental, until it started coinciding with tax return season.   I, then began to see the day of love in with new eyes.   For me it was poor people’s Christmas.

“Sorry kid’s I know you wanted that (fill in the blank) for Christmas but tax time is coming so is Valentine’s Day.”

For me it was also the one time of year, Annie wasn’t draining my ‘magic card’ and I had a limited amount of time to drain it before Annie could.    Tax season Annie seemed to have a never ending supply of cash, she had lots of dependents, and write offs, and deductions;  her usual refund was larger than her over all yearly income which was more than six figures.

Since, Valentine’s Day, coincided with Annie’s annual tax refund lottery, she had to follow her traditional, festivities.    Since this was Annie’s Jr’s first Valentine’s Day, she wanted it to be very special.

It doesn’t matter how ‘technically’ rich, Annie is, she somehow feels the struggle of the poor, probably because most of the time she spends her money so fast she rarely has any available liquid cash.    She finds the positive aspects  of poverty, and finds peace there.   So ‘Poor Man’s Christmas’ is a magical event for her, well any event where Annie will get something is magical.

Annie carefully dresses for the beginning of her festivities.   She puts on her wig, complaining her hair is thinning, attaches a dozen hair curlers then wraps it in a scarf.   Next she puts on her face; applying make up without washing the sleep crust and goo out of her eyes is important.    She continues wearing the same plaid pajama pants she has been wearing for the past three days, puts on a hot pink top that says, ‘Kiss my grits!” in sparkly letters.   Then gets Annie Jr. ready.

She messes up his hair, and dresses him in pants that are way too long, and a shirt that is way too tight so it rides over his fat little belly.   No shoes and maybe one sock.  She hands Annie Jr. a bottle of highly caffeinated  carbonated beverage to make sure he is completely wound up.   Then she is ready to go.

Typically, Annie would take the city bus, down to the Walmart, however, after what happened last year, breaking the handicapped lift on the bus because she was hauling 18 shopping carts behind it, she decided a new approach was more appropriate.

She bought herself a car, a station wagon, from the 80’s.   It was a cross between burgundy and brown a dusty sun bleached, kinda color.    The two front doors were different colors one was yellow and one was green, neither of the windows opened.   There was fake paneling on part of the car and real paneling on the other half.   There was a third seat in the back that Annie said was a plus because, not only could Annie Jr. watch the road going by through the big rusted out hole back there, but if the brakes quit he could stick his feet through and stop the car.  It sounded like a machine gun as it roared to life and all four of the bald tires wobbled and looked as if they would fall off any second.   Annie said it was because she was missing a few lug nuts, she had five to be exact.   She purchased it at the local junk yard, she registered it, slapped on a ten day inspection sticker and was good to go.   It had a luggage rack though, Annie justified.   ‘Widder Hen’ was written on the back of it in orange spray paint.   She named her, ‘Carol’ after the Brady’s mom.   The stereo which worked well surprisingly played a continuous loop of the Brady’s greatest hits along with an occasional song like ‘Rocking Robin’.   Annie would pull up along side old guys with crazy hats and long hair, thump her music and make faces at them.

I had planned my own outing that day, keeping the whole thing under wraps, because Annie seemed to always horn in on any plans I had and make them her own.   I was planning a shopping day with my daughters, but, different town, different Walmart, no chance of running into Annie, besides her car wouldn’t make it too far although part of her plans involved getting some parts to fix up her car.

I left  after Annie was well on her way to the local Walmart with Duh-Wayne following behind with his scooter tow truck out fitted with a complete car repair kit.  Annie claimed triple A was too expensive.

Dinyell, Slamma Jr, K8, Phil and I pulled into a Walmart several towns away we even changed our plans twice, we parked and the absolute second we did, we heard the unmistakable sound of Annie’s old rattling death trap pull up beside us and there is Annie in her curlers waving and Annie Jr screaming, “HI SLAM!” from the back.   Old black dusty foam is covering his face because there is no fabric on the roof of the car just the foam and it constantly falls down like a snow storm.   His nose is and has been running and it looks like some weird sort of painting across his upper lip, greens, yellows brown all weaved together and different textures.

“I didn’t know you were coming to THIS Walmart.”  Annie said.

“Yes you did!” K8 said.   “You texted me and asked me.”

“Oh well let’s go shopping,” Annie said, hopping out of the car, shoving Annie Jr. into my arms.   I grab some wet wipes from Phil’s diaper bag and start mopping Annie Jr. face with it.

“Annie for goodness sakes, I have clothes for Annie Jr. that actually fit.   Why do you dress him like a ragamuffin?” I asked, sniffing as she approached.   “And why do you smell like pee?”

“My depend is full,” Annie said pulling a bottle of body spray out of her purse and began spraying it.   “Is that better, Slam?”

“No it smells like pee, what kind is it?  And why are you wearing a depend?” I asked.

“It’s called ‘depend overflow’ from my body smell body spray collection.   That why I am wearing a depend.  I also have ‘dried colostomy bag’ scent as well. ”  Then she lifted her shirt displaying a colostomy bag.

“Annie omg why?” I screamed.

Annie laughed her crazy laugh and said, “You did it.”

“Not by choice!” I screamed.

“Oh Slam,” Annie laughed slapping me on the back.   “I am not pooping in it.  I am just wearing it and drying it out.”

“Annie where did you get that nasty poop filled colostomy bag?   Have you been visiting the hospital dumpster again?”  I screamed stepping away from her.

“No Slam.   Duh, it’s from my colostomy bag collection!”  Annie said.

“You have a collection of crap filled bags in my house, and you probably have no idea whose poop it even is?”  I yelled.

“I have an idea of who it belongs too…I collected all of yours.” Annie laughed.

I shook my head and kept walking.

Annie Jr. couldn’t make up his mind which box of Valentine’s cards he wanted.    He wound up getting 8 different boxes plus 2 boxes Annie felt he needed and since he could not possibly give ‘his’ cards away, he had to get double on everything so he could give some away and keep the rest.   He had to get several new and expensive toys.   Annie tossed several clothing items for him in the cart never bothering to see if they were the right size or even matched anything.    “These are nice!” she would scream and toss in a lilac colored shirt that said, “mommy’s princess.”

Annie’s multiple carts continued to increase, in went a book about the digestive system of the walrus, Annie had on her reading list, it had lots of pictures some of them pop up.   In went the entire ‘it smells to high heaven’ hair care collections and then the matching body wash. Why a cat would need both body wash and shampoo is beyond me; especially since Annie avoided water normally unless she was bugging me for a bowl, (she pours stuff all the time except water) or she is swimming in it cause she loves swimming.

She made sure to visit the automotive department, where she bought a cover for her steering wheel made out of fake porcupine fur (you can’t make this up), an air freshener with a bare chested guy with a beer belly on it, a cup holder and a litter bag; she needed a back hoe to get all the trash out of her car, fast food wrappers, empty cans, old receipts, discarded socks and old shoes (she’d had the car two days).

She was even generous to the pets at home.   She had asked each of them for a list of their hearts desires, promising to move heaven and earth to make it happen for them.   She grabbed a hand full of 2 for a dollar cat toys and one irregular chew toy for the dog and called it good.

We left the store making several trips to the car loading all of Annie’s purchases into the big hay wagon Duh-Wayne had attached to his tow truck tractor.   I am not sure where his tow truck scooter went but obviously it was not capable of pulling a hay wagon full of Annie’s spending spree and he’d exchanged it for something more powerful.

The Annie’s horned in on our dinner out and unfortunately, I was forced to ride home with Annie in the death trap.   There wasn’t room in the car for me, since the hay wagon was not able to carry all of her purchases so I had a choice of standing behind Duh-Wayne on the tractor or being tied to the luggage rack.   “Luggage rack it  is,” Annie screamed before I had a chance to answer.

I was glad the first part of the Poor man’s Christmas was over, however the festivities would continue until Annie’s money ran out.    But I was used to it.   She’d been doing it for years.

When we got home, Annie came and said, “Bought ya a present, Slam.   Happy Valentines Day.”   She pulled out a heart shaped box, on top was a beautiful doll with a stunning lacy dress that covered the entire top of the box.    It was exactly like the one I wanted my dad to buy my mom.   I was so touched, a tear rolled down my cheek.

“Annie, this is wonderful, thank you!” I said.

With that Annie snatched the box from me, ripped the doll off the top tossed it to Annie Jr. and said, “Here son, Slam doesn’t want this.”  Then she began stuffing all the nut filled candies into her mouth as fast as she could working her way down from the top while Annie Jr. ate from the bottom up, smearing chocolate and coconut all over the dolls hair and dress.

Yes, a Poor Man’s Christmas with Annie.





Crazy Little Shack

Despite all of Annie’s protests, Annie Jr. adored ‘fool books’.   He loved having me and, occasionally Janey, reading to him.   In fact he loved stories so much, he began reading on his own even though his attendance at school was spotty at best.

He always was ‘ready’ to go to school on a snow day, then stamping his feet and storming off to his room in a huff when he ‘heard’ that school was closed, putting on a big show.  If there was so party going on he would be occupying his seat next to Phil, making sure he got his fill of treats and prizes, then going home with Phil and driving Slamma Jr crazy until Annie decided to pick him up.   Annie Jr. has been driving trucks, back hoes, motorcycles, scooters, helicopters, golf carts, before we even knew he wasn’t a she, and he needs to wait for Annie to come get him; which could be a few hours to a few days late.

Most day’s Annie Jr was at home and if he wasn’t doing some sort of crazy adventure with Annie and Duh-Wayne which was most of the time, he was either being read to or reading himself.    Annie Jr. was very particular about his taste in books.    His favorite, a prized collection of the Prairie girl series , he had gotten for Christmas.   Annie claimed it was one grinched from me in her time machine.

It was one of the few things Annie kept from her grinching escapes to my ‘past’.   That and the easy bake oven that literally burned everything you attempted to bake.

Annie wanted Annie Jr. to share her love of the Little House show.  Annie Jr. hated the show, although he loved the books.   He was somehow convinced, the girl in the book was not even the same girl on the tv.   The mother and son bonding moment over the show was a goose egg, but the mother and son bonding over the book wasn’t.

The pair of them along with Duh-Wayne (because someone had to feed the live-stock and hack a chunk of frozen bear off with an axe for dinner) spent much of the winter in Waleed’s house on the Prairie.    Waleed had decided to spend the next six weeks in his warm little hole on the golf course, contentedly dreaming of grinding ground.

One of Annie’s favorite parts of the series  was the part about making maple syrup.   For Annie, there was just something alluring about tramping through waist high snow around a sugar bush to tap some maple trees.    The book only gave a limited description of how to make maple syrup.

Annie had employed a flock of wood peckers to drill her trees with holes, since her electric drill would not work on the prairie.    She had a couple reindeer she traded Santa, one of her left over dump trucks for,  hooked to a sleigh.    (I wondered why I got a box of empty jiffy pop pans and a bag of mismatched socks.)

The yoke fit Duh-Wayne perfectly, while Annie Jr. practiced almost a non stop jig getting ready for the dance.    Last but not least, they had built a crazy little shack beyond a track, that they had to add to the back yard.    An entire railroad town in our back yard they called Mankato, just for a crazy shack they needed and called yes, the Sugar Shack.

Beyond that her fully grown sugar bush, right in the ever expanding back yard.   One day it was just there.    Now that Annie had most of her gear she needed some lessons.   So she reached out to Blonda.

Blonda was one of the Grosbeak Clan from up North.    The last name had absolutely nothing to do with their noses, because they all had perfectly normal noses.  Perhaps it had to do with the array of colors, that grosbeaks come in.    The clan  seemed to make the world colorful, with their love of nature.   Blonda would make you see the white and blues and grays on a cold winter morning, just with her words.

If anyone knew all about the makings of maple syrup it was Blonda, so it was she, Annie connected with to get some lessons.   Actually things were quiet while Annie was off learning the art of syrup making, it was when she got back that things got a little crazy.

Annie Jr. had went along and had made a sled while he was gone and he was anxious to try it out.    Annie had been begging me to come along and help her with her syrup business.   I was having no part of it, it seemed difficult and any plan involving Annie was more difficult than I wanted to handle, however, I did give into Annie Jr.’s nagging for one ride on his sled.

I pulled Annie Jr. and his sled, way out to the sugar bush.     I figured it couldn’t be all that big, but after three miles of trudging through deep snow to reach the hill that was just around the corner, I was wishing I had not agreed to this one ride.    We finally made it and I see Duh-Wayne and Annie standing at the top of this huge hill.   They are grinning.   I knew then I had probably made a mistake.

Annie and Duh-Wayne piled on the sled with Annie Jr. getting ready to fly down the hill.   Since there was no room for me, I decided to go back home.   Annie Jr. started crying because he really wanted me to ride down the hill.   I didn’t want to because the hill was huge almost a mile long.

Annie said she had her truck and would give me a ride home and that she had  something I could ride on  down the hill.    She produced a skip jack for me to ride.   A skip jack is  a ski with a seat attached to it, and you have to balance it as you ride, sort of a like a unicycle but with a ski instead of a wheel and you don’t have to pedal it.   On the negative side you don’t have much control over speed and there aren’t any brakes, except your feet.   I’d never master the skip jack so I figured, I would at least fall off so much I would wind up walking down most of the hill anyway.   I agreed because Annie had the truck and she offered to get a pizza.    Pizza actually sounded good, as long as she ordered something I liked.

I lowered myself onto the skip jack and before I could even get my balance, Annie gave me a shove and down the hill I was flying, down this steep mile long hill and Annie’s crazy laugh ringing in my ears.     I looked down the hill, rounded the bend and at the very bottom I see a huge snowman and I am head straight for it.   I tried to turn but hit it head on.   Covered in snow with a carrot sticking out of my ear, I see Duh-Wayne and the Annie’s coming to a stop beside me.

I took my ride, I am ready to go home.   I look around for Annie’s truck.

“Annie where is your truck,” I asked.

“Over yonder a ways,” Annie said.    “We have to get our sap first.”

I knew it, I knew it!  I was going to wind up tramping around Annie’s sugar bush to collect sap.   I always somehow got trapped in Annie’s escapades.   After almost 15 years, I should have known better, but it was Annie Jr. who played me like a fiddle.    He had not quite gotten equal to Annie’s devilment but this put him over the top.

Just a couple of containers, Annie, said.   The containers were troughs, and there were five of them.    It took us several hours to collect them put them onto the sleigh, Annie had dragged out there.    The reindeer she had specifically traded Santa for, were back in Annie’s barn on the prairie.    They’d done their job flying the sleigh out there in the first place they could not be expected to fly a full sleigh through the sky.

Duh-Wayne’s ‘die-a-beat-us’ was acting up he complained as he drank glass after glass of sap slushies he made out of snow and sap, so he was unable to help.   Annie Jr. couldn’t help because his ‘feets’ were cold.   He had lost his boots in some deep snow I had forbid him to enter.   Annie said she was the only one insured to drive the sleigh, although Duh-Wayne flew it to the corner store, several times a day.   So it was me pulling it back, while Annie sat in the seat wielding a whip screaming, “Giddy up Slam.”

It was almost dark when we got back to the bottom of the mile long steep hill.   “How far to the truck, Annie?” I asked.  Figuring there must be some other way out from the bottom of the hill and the truck was parked close by.

“Just around the corner,” Annie said.

“What corner?”  I asked.

Annie pointed to the big bend in the mile long hill.   “That one.  The truck is at the top.”

“Annie I refuse to pull all of you up that hill.   You run up and drive the truck down and get us.”

“Slam I can not drive my truck through all of that snow!”  Annie screamed.

“Where is your teleporter then?” I yelled.

“Home.   There were no teleporters on the prairie.”

“There weren’t trucks either!”  I shouted.

“There weren’t?” Annie asked seriously; doing her blank stare and crazy thing with her eyes.

Of course, I wound up dragging all of them and the sap and the sled up the hill along with Annie and Annie Jr.’s  snow collection which for some odd reason they needed to take home.    The only thing I held out for was a warm truck and a huge piping hot pizza.

We get to the top of the hill, no truck in sight.    We still have three miles to go.   We get thirty feet and Duh-Wayne has to go to the bathroom, a number two and the toilet paper is in the truck and guess who is forced to make the trek to the truck for the toilet paper.   I suggest Annie going along and driving the truck back or letting me drive it back, but of course that would be way too easy.

The truck is a standard which I can’t drive, but my cat can.   Duh-Wayne certainly could not be left alone out in the woods a wolf might get him, Annie claimed and Annie Jr. could not protect him.   It didn’t matter that a wolf might get me.

So I make the trek to the truck bring back toilet paper; only to find all three of them sitting around a campfire waiting for me.    Duh-Wayne only had gas.   I retrace my steps this time pulling the sled, the heat of my anger keeping me warm and going.

Once we got to the truck it was me who was tasked with  loading it, while Annie warmed up the truck.   It was an old model A.   She is in the truck, trying to get it started and I am behind it, loading up the vats of sap.   I hear the truck chug to life, it sounds like a tractor and the next thing I know Annie has backed over me.

“Watch it, Slam!” Annie screams as she pulls forward thus running over me again.  Thankfully the snow was so deep I wasn’t hurt.   The truck is finally loaded but of course there is no room for me inside the truck because no it was would be dangerous for Annie Jr. to sit on my lap and someone had to bring the sled back.

“Annie,” I screamed, “You promised me a ride.”

“I’ll give you a ride later.”   she yelled over the chugging truck.

I really felt like just going home and leaving the sled.   I shouldn’t have to put up with this but Annie had the SPCA on speed dial.   Pulling the sled somehow was the lesser of two evils.

The truck got stuck every 200 feet.   “Thank god I remembered a shovel right Slam?” Annie yelled as she and her comrades sat in the truck watching me eating pop corn and drinking hot chocolate.

Half way home the truck was out of gas.   Annie said not to worry about it.   She would teleport it home the next day, I could just pull the sled home they had sufficiently warmed up anyways.   They were all wearing the Olympic heated parka’s; but of course they only had three.

Pizza dinner kept me going until  we arrived back at Waleed’s Little House and I am expecting Annie to dial her cell phone and order something good and she takes a dried up crust out of her root cellar.   She rummages around and says, ‘Ahh some old tomato peels, and some slimy mushrooms, some cheese and how about tuna?  Any one have a problem with tuna?”

“Annie really?  All that work and a pizza made out of old tomato peels and tuna?”  I watch Annie set the cheese on the table.   “Annie is that mold on the cheese?”

“Just a little, we can cut it off,” she replied.

“Why don’t you just throw it into the sky and call it a moon? C’mon Annie, order a pizza. A good one with stuff I like!”

“You like all of this stuff,” Annie screamed.  “Besides there were no phones on the prairie.”

“There wasn’t pizza either or that tv you have in the corner.”

Annie, shrugged.   “I guess we can make the syrup now, since Slam doesn’t want pizza.”

“No Annie, I am going home.”  I said.

“SPCA lets go to the SPCA they will lock up our Slam for neglecting her cats,” Annie and Annie Jr. sang.   For some reason Duh-Wayne was suddenly wearing a leather coat and caps.

“Alright!” I screamed.   “At least I will be warm.”

Warm I was and best there was nothing for me to do.   Duh-Wayne was fire man and Annie was skimming and cooling it.   Annie Jr was running around making sure everything was flowing.

I tried to help but I was forced to wear a sterile gown, a hair net and a mask to keep any contaminates out of the syrup.   Annie kept screaming about my dust and germs, while eating handful after handful of something crunchy spaying crumbs all over the sap as she spoke with her mouthful.

I finally curled up in a corner and fell asleep.   I woke up after a while only to see Annie, Annie Jr and Duh-Wayne finishing a large meal of subs, soda and chips.   “Where’s mine?” I asked.

“Did you help, Slam?”  Annie asked.  “No you slept in a corner.”

I walked home.   I’d take my chances with the SPCA.


Ground Grinder

Pennsylvania had Punxsutawney Phil, Annie had Waleed Fasili.   She’s had him for years, he lives on Annie’s golf course at her country club in our back yard; where else would it be.    He appeared one afternoon, as wildlife often do; little grey mustache, fedora, a stick with a bag tied to it, walking hunched over.

People in the neighborhood mistook him; often shouting, “Look at that big old chuck dad!” “Tarnation son get the Remin’ton, Maw put some logs on that fire! We eating  ground chuck tonight.”

Then poor little Waleed had to drop on all fours and run for his life.   He lost more sticks that way not to mention fedora’s.   He was more appalled at being called a chuck than being mistaken for dinner.

He wasn’t a prairie dog either even though he was called that on occasion.   Bah, just because he liked living in that little house on Annie’s prairie didn’t make him a dog.  He might have been a dawg but never a dog.

Never never was he a hedge hog, as adorable as they might be he would never hedge.  Hedge he would not!   He was a ground hog.

Annie knew he was a ground hog the moment she saw him grinding ground.   She claimed his curled little tail was a dead give away.   “All hogs have curly little tails,” she claimed.

Waleed confessed once, that his curly little tail came from an incident with  a slinky, rather than genetics.   Every time that sing songy tune came on, even the mere sound of someone humming it caused poor Waleed to tremble in fear.

When Annie saw him one afternoon contentedly grinding ground, she approached him and began to converse.    For years she had been spoiling the predictions of the ginder in PA with her weather machine.   Shadow or no shadow it was whether Annie felt like an early spring or a longer winter, and sometimes she got distracted and just let nature take it’s course.

It wasn’t the weather that bothered Annie.   It was all the money little Punxsutawney generated with his merchandise and it was that and that alone that made Annie need a ground grinder; that and the fact that grinding ground was tough work and she would be getting it for free.

Annie claimed only a ‘wild’ ground hog could accurately predict the weather.   Wild, he was because Annie’s ground hog party beginning promptly a midnight of February 2 fit right in with that type of lifestyle.   Like all of her events, people came from far and wide to partake in the festivities.

Waleed partied all night, and participated in the Battle Rap, the thing Annie had been practicing for endlessly.   With Duh-Wayne on a mic making a loud fart noises into it, occasionally a slurp when he had built up too much saliva Annie would rap, “my name is Annie and I’ll tell ya  why when I was born Slam was baking me a pie.   The name of the pie was fan-fannie that’s why she named me A-Annie.”

“Annie how about bannie pie?” I suggested trying to be helpful.

“Bannie?  What is a bannie pie?” Annie snorted.

“Like a banana.    I called you Annie Bannie sometimes.”

“Who would eat a pie made out of bananas and no one says bannie’s.”

Just then Grandfather came through the door with Annie Jr and groceries.   “We got bannie’s just like you wanted Mom-mom,” Annie Jr.  yelled.    “Slam can make a pie!”

So Annie rapped about her fannie pie…Annie Jr. rapped about ‘Slam eating a fly named bannie.’ Duh-Wayne rapped  making his own fart noises into a microphone that was behind him.

His rap was fairly original with, ‘my name is Duh-Wayne….Duh Duh Duh Wayne.”

Waleed with his rapping rendition of how much wood could a wood chuck chuck if a wood chuck could chuck wood brought the entire house down.

The party ended at exactly 11:59 pm.   Everyone left with their Waleed balloons, shirts, stuffed toys not even knowing if Waleed saw his shadow or not.   He had actually went home around 10:30 and went to bed.   Not because he saw his shadow, but because he was simply tired.

I asked Annie on the morning the of the third, whether Waleed saw his shadow or not, I knew how Phil had fared but I was hopeful simply because my only chance of an early Spring was Annie and her weather machine.    I poured her a cup of her favorite sludge, and a slice of bannie crème pie made with her special mouse crème and set them before her.   I looked at her smiling sort of, with a hint of hope in my eyes.

Annie did her blank stare then began winking one eye and then the other, her eye balls rolled back in her head and she flopped on her back and began to spin.   “Annie, what is wrong?” I screamed.

She stopped spinning and lay flat out, still with her tongue hanging out, her face frozen in a sneer.   “Annie!” I screamed knowing she must have had a heart attack or something.

She jumped to her feet and screamed, “Six more weeks of winter.”

“Annie!” I scolded tears already pouring down my face, in reaction to her playing dead which she did 750 times a day.   “Why do you do that?”

“Cause I need sugar snow!”

“I was talking about your playing…..wait what?  Sugar snow?”

“Yeah for my new business, maple syrup!”




The Flippers

They called her Cherokee.   She was  a Native American  Princess.  Her father thought he might have been German, he wore lederhosen.   Her mom was from the old Country, (Poland) she wore wooden clogs.    She lived a good life and her glass was never empty.   She showed up at our house one day after Asa and Gene brought her home.

They frequented a club on the North Side, called the Gee’ze’ Spot.  Back in the day it was the spot where the G’s, hung out.  The Gee’ze’ Spot became popular; after people found out what it was.    The G’s moved on but always returned to haunt the Gee’ze Spot once they passed on.   Of course, it became a hot spot for all ghosts, and Ghost Hunters and tourists.    That is where they met Cherokee.

There was a Ghost Hunting Event was going on.   Inviting all the local Ghost Hunters to come and capture evidence.   Annie and Annie Jr. along with their camera man Duh-Wayne, went.   Asa and Gene went as ghosts.

A regular night at the Gee’ze Spot, cups would be flying around, ghost would zip out of the toilet bowl just as you went to squat down, electronics would go crazy, cell phones would be prank calling people in power…Don was actually getting mad about answering his cell phone and yelling into a crowd of people, “I need a Drew P. Wiener.   Drew P. Wiener where are you?”

The place was packed every night more so for the ghost activity than for the drinks, as a matter of fact it had gotten so, they only needed a couple vending machines in the corner for refreshments.   People came from all around to see ghosts, and ghosts came from all around to see the people.

However, the second the police got called for suspicious activity, or  a News Crew arrived with a band of reporters and cameras, or ghost hunters came to capture the activity and warn the public, all activity would stop.    Ghosts who could be seen with the naked eye with a glass in their ghostly hand ready to chuck it at the pool table, would suddenly vanish and the glass would return to it’s original resting place.    Voices would become quite whispers with frequent, ‘shhhhhh’ going on and an occasional, “Stop laughing.”  Then quiet.

Reports would be taken, paranormal experts would do their thing and maybe; maybe if they were lucky and the ghosts became bored enough, they might run the battery down on a camera, or  eerily make a door slowly creak closed.    A ghost with a sense of humor might respond on some recording device to be Moe Run.  Of course there was always the typical, icy chill, weird smells, like perfume or cigars or some foul sickening scent.     For the most part, though  the actual evidence was rather small, compared to the reported activity.

Cherokee came from out of town for the event and since she really had no life, she came home to live with us.   It was told that Cherokee was a wizard in the kitchen and Annie adored her because her specialty was roadkill casserole.   Asa loved it too, he said Cherokee could make good eats.  Then he would smack her on the back as she walked by.

“Watch your hands Mister!” Cherokee would say.

“You’re a good woman, Cherokee,”Asa would flirt.

“Kiss my grits, Asa!” Cherokee would yell; her  ghostly voice taking on a sort of a southern accent, which really was part of her heritage, or so she said.

One of her most annoying hobbies besides her home cooked meals over an open fire, was her ‘gift’ of interior decorating.   She pointed out my horrible skills the second she floated through the door with her old battered suitcase covered with stickers from every country in the world she had found for a steal at the junk store.   There was nothing in it but ghosts didn’t really need anything.

So because it was her hobby and her habit, Cherokee began to rearrange our place.   Basically cleaning out and organizing Annie’s hoard and displaying her collections as they were meant to be displayed.    Building shelves and display cabinets out of old lumber in the back yard.

Every day I came home to a home cooked meal of squirrel helper or something equally tasty, and being in a completely different place than the one I left.  I might leave with an entire wall displaying Annie Jr’s toilet paper roll collection to a wall of photo shopped pictures of me every year for the past fifty years with words loser of the year 50 and counting.   Come to think of it, Annie had been taking random close ups of my face lately.

The kitchen table might be a kitchen table when I left and when I returned it would be a tv tray and later maybe coffee table then an end table, only to somehow wind up being a kitchen table again, looking completely different.   The kitchen might look like Beaver Cleaver’s kitchen in the morning and Mel’s diner in the afternoon.

The vacuum  started at 5 am, and ran most of the day.   Just sat in the corner and ran. Cherokee loved cleaning, running the dish washer we didn’t have and washing the walls with a garden house.

Plus she was a crafter, crocheting, knitting, embroidery, needle point, quilting, scrapbooking if it was crafty she was on it and she made her own clothes too.   So room was needed for her stuff.   My bed got moved again, not that I ever slept in it.   There wasn’t any room.   Currently, I had been sleeping in a ceramic kiln.

One day, after waking up with a large vase hardened to my back side, I told Annie, that her friends, at least the ghost ones, had to go.   Of course, Annie had a fit, screaming she could not just kick them out in the street, they would freeze to death.

“They are going, Annie,” I fired back, “Asa and his lawn mower, Gene and his rapping sales pitch, and Cherokee and the tee pee she has set up in the bathroom.”  I paused then stopped and said. “And that Gus in the attic goes too.   He has brought another mouse into the house.   It jumped out of the cupboard at me this morning.”

“Leroy! You found Leroy!” Annie Jr. shouted. “Leroy come on boy.”   A large grey sewer rat came slinking out of the corner and ran to Annie Jr.

“Um no that wasn’t Leroy I saw.   And he is not living here either!”  I stamped my foot and left the room.   Leaving everyone crying and moaning because they knew I meant business.   “I am taking my bed back too!” I bellowed but no one heard.

Duh-Wayne saved the day by suggesting they buy a house and flip it.   Then Annie and Annie Jr. and Duh-Wayne could have paranormal lock downs once the house was flipped and successfully haunted.    Annie was all for combining two of her loves into one, flipping houses and ghost hunting.   So with Cherokee as the head designer, they set out to find the perfect home.

I was thankful their search was being conducted way on the other side of the city.   So thankful in fact I never said anything when Cherokee decided to practice her house flipping skills at my house.    Having a toilet in the kitchen in front of a whole row of windows was not my idea of lovely, but since she and the rest of the haunts were moving and moving far away, I endured.

They wound up buying a house on my street, one that had burnt down and Annie Jr had stripped most of and drug into our back yard.    They built a third story added a balcony and they were in business.   It became a hot spot for ghosts, and tourists, and ghost hunters.   Business at the Gee’ze spot suffered.

Nothing really changed at my house.  Gene popped in every hour seeing if I have canned cheese.   Annie collections are still displayed and she bought the kiln.   Cherokee still cooks every night, it’s too cold to cook in the garage where she  currently has her kitchen, so they come to use my kitchen.   She raves about my kitchen though, how practical it is to have a toilet in the kitchen.

The other night as I settled down to sleep in my kiln, Annie Jr. kneading my front, Annie kneading my back, a ceramic unicorn under my butt, Annie whispered in my ear, “You are so lucky to have me right Slam?”

Rear end Jack

One of our famous neighborhood ‘stories’ was the story of Eugene.    Every neighborhood has them.   You move into a new place and one of the neighbors will go ‘pssttt come here’ and they will tell you some story about the neighborhood sort of sharing the joys and sorrows welcoming you to the family.   Most of the time, there is just a shred of truth to the story depending on how long ago the event happened.    The older the story the bigger the lie.

In the case of Eugene, it was fairly recent, at least when I moved to the neighborhood it was.  But I often felt the whole thing was a big whopper.     Eugene was a salesman, vacuum cleaners to be exact.    His territory was the West side, which included my neighborhood.   It was a large territory if you were selling Avon, or had one of those trucks full of sides of beef and whole chickens, even an ice cream truck would have fared better, I mean how many vacuums can a person use.    But Eugene was no quitter,   and rumor had it he was a successful salesman.

He drove a custom Benz, with a huge pounding stereo pumping out some loud hip hop, the hub caps spinning even when the car was not in motion.    The car was dark blue and the custom plate simply said ‘Big G’.   At work he was Gene but after hours, he was ‘Big G’ because he was a G.    A rich G, a G who made his money square,  and spent his off hours at the club, being a G and attracting the ladies.    I mean he was a typical G.   The swagger, never a hair out of place, smelling like they just walked out of an old spice factory, big smile, kinda short, little bit cocky; they were all the same and that was Eugene or Gene or Big G.

His epic sales skills were what supported his flashly life style.   He sold these high power vacuums.   It was told this vacuum could suck a bowling ball throw a garden hose.  Gene, with his big cheesy ’70’s stash; he wore as a reminder of his father, a Pizza maker from the old country (New York City) would  demonstrate this cool feature of his vacuum.   “This vacuum,” Gene would announce, “Will suck dirt from under your foundation! This vacuum will suck the filth from your house.”

Even with a great product like a high powered vacuum, sales is a hard job, people might like it and might desire it but most times they won’t trade green for it.   But Gene sold them like the ice cream man sold cones out of the back of his truck.   People bought three four, eight, two or three times a week, every time Gene came round they were buying.   Who knows what they did with them because apparently they lasted a life time and beyond, as a matter of fact the vacuum Gene demonstrated with was his grandmother’s grandmother’s.

It didn’t matter because no one in the neighborhood actually owned one now.    Anyway, the story went that one day Gene was demonstrating a vacuum  cleaner at someone’s home although no one actually knew which home.   He had just sucked up a bunch of rat traps showing how they could be sucked up without being sprung.   I am not sure why anyone would need to do that but Gene was the man.   Big G!   His tie somehow got stuck in the hose.   He began to yell and scream but he hadn’t yet got to the part of  how to power the thing on and off, nor how to unplug it, and it happened so quick Gene was in the tank in a flash.   The buyers could hear the traps going off and Gene yelling.   Unfortunately, the vacuum had this cool feature of never having to empty it, as a matter of fact you couldn’t open it.  And it was indestructible.

They said Gene the Ghost haunted our neighborhood.   Moving in with a family for a few weeks and moving in with someone else.  Big G they called him.   I didn’t believe a word of it.

One day I came home from work and Annie, Duh-Wayne, Asa, Annie Jr. and Rov were sitting playing poker with this ghost, a kinda short guy with a swagger shuffle, dressed up hair slicked back…”Hey, I am Gene.   Big G they call me.   I told  Annie, Slam is gonna love me.   I’m her new salesman for the junk yard.   She said I could use your bed.”  Then he gave me this huge hug, his scent was over whelming, I sneezed.   “It’s called Tally Ho. My dad wore it in the old country.   NYC baby.”   Then he started rapping, “My name is Gene and I’ll tell ya why when I was born mom was married to a guy.   The name of the guy was Eugene…that’s why she named me Guh-guh-ene. Guh-guh-ene.”  Rov joined in on his guitar and Annie on her fiddle.  Annie Jr. tooted a horn and Duh-Wayne played a juice harp.  Asa played the bones.

Big G was wrong about me loving him, I can’t even say I totally liked him.   Oh he had his moments.   He really loved his sales job, he always aspired to sell bedding.   Sales were high when Big G arrived on the scene and they picked up even more, it seemed we always had a crowd in the back yard.  Plus Gene gave inside deals to everyone 90% higher than the list price and people ate it up.

I think though it had more to do with Big G, and his stories, all about him often repeating the same ones each time it becoming bigger and better with new details, also his famous hot dog paninis.   Honestly, his kitchen skills were quite creative, he could make lasagna out of canned pork and beans, a bottle of ketchup, and some canned cheese.   Sales had been so good in fact, they were only open for business one half hour a day.

That left a lot of time for a group of rambunctious hooligans.   Annie and her gang of cohorts, were seen leaving the house one afternoon, each with a big pink bag slung over their shoulders.

“Annie, what do you have in the bag?” I asked, I didn’t trust them lately.   The day before they had an egg tossing contest inside the house.

“Balls,” Annie replied.   “We all have ball bags.”

“Where are you going to do with them?”

“Bounce them,” Annie said.   “To the left and to the right.   It’s my belief that my big balls should be thrown at each other every night.”

“Mom-mom said we are going to play Rear end Jack!”  Annie Jr. yelled trying to drag his big bag of balls across the floor.

“Rear end Jack?” I asked.

“Yes, you do dumb stuff.   Mom-mom and me watched it with Big G and Big D,” then he whispered to me, “Mom-Mom is Big A.   And we watched that show funny grandfather and Annie says when you finally kick the bucket me and grandfather are going on a road trip and you get ta ride in the trunk and go swimming at the end.   I wish I was the one who gets to shart on the wall, Grandfather is so lucky!”

Then it dawned on me what Annie Jr. was talking about.   I had been after Annie Jr. about referring to donkey’s by the a-word.   And referring to his rear end by the a-word.

“You are way too young to be watching that.” I said.  “So is Mom-mom!” I glared at Annie.

“Big G says that cats age faster, so I am old enough and Mom-mom is 180.”

“I am not Annie Jr.! I am the same age as Big D, I think!”

“Ghosties never age,” Annie Jr. said jumping up and down,  “Asa is well I can’t count that high.   His room-a-tiz bothers him and his ‘roids.   Big G will always be thirty….”

“Twenty-eight baby.  NYC!” Gene screamed.

“So we are going outside to throw our balls at each other.   If the ball explodes on you, you win.   It’s full of poop.   Then Big G is gonna ride a skateboard with a shopping cart carrying an old freezer on top down a ice hill and over a ramp, over the house into a poop puddle.”   Annie Jr. explained.

“Annie,” I said looking straight at Annie Jr.’s Mom-mom  who was wearing sunglasses,  a pair of Nikes and  NBA shorts and a jersey that said Big A with a pink ball bag over her shoulder.  So much for hating sports, Big G loved sports so at least Grandfather liked him because sports was a popular channel now.   “Some one is going to get killed! With your shenanigans.”

Annie took off her sunglasses and her eyes began that crazy blinking thing as she stared blankly at me.   They all trooped out the door, and I could hear Annie screaming through her bullhorn, “Suck it up looser!”

“NYC Baby!”  Big G. yelled.

“What about me?” yelled Big D.







The Reality Show (LWS)

The one present Annie got for Christmas that she loved more than anything was her wall sized tv 8 feet tall and 40 feet wide.   We didn’t even have a wall where it would fit but Annie made it fit.   Now she had more room for the many collections, her dump trucks full of presents beheld, like her collection of empty trial sized hand sanitizer bottles.

She sat in front of the tv most days watching her shows and assisting Duh-Wayne with their current project.    They were making pillows and beds to sell in the junk yard.   Annie would sew two pieces of moldy  cloth together leaving one end open and Duh-Wayne would stuff it with a pile of lawn rakings, Annie saved all year, dry grass, dog doo, little scraps of garbage like empty soy sauce packets and cigarette butts.   Annie had a tractor she mowed the yard with then raked it up into a pile then sucked it up in the shop vac. She’d bring it upstairs and dump it by the recliner Duh-Wayne claimed for himself; the recliner was shaped like Big Bird.

There was a huge pile of lawn rakings.   Our yard could never generate that much ; Annie Jr. began an after school job (even though he didn’t go to school) mowing peoples yards.  Not only did he earn a lot of spending money but Annie and Duh-Wayne had ample filling for their beds and pillows which they wound up selling.   They could never keep up with the demand.

There they would sit sewing and stuffing, watching TV.   I may have enjoyed the tv; however Annie had full control of the remote and the only thing she would watch was her own TV  station AnnieTV.  As a matter of fact, the only station that would play was AnnieTV on any of the TV’s in the house.   Annie had put parental controls on everything and was holding all other channels hostage.    She charged me extra to watch what she called, ‘fake news’.

Sometimes it wasn’t too bad, Annie watched some shows I enjoy.   But then cat week happened on AnnieTV.    Every single show had a black and white cat in it.   The Brady’s got a black and white cat, Jan became allergic to it so she went to live with Grandma, and the black and white cat replaced Jan.   Ghost Adventures, got a physic black and white cat, and suddenly they were snapping photo’s, having coffee, playing pool and hanging out with ghosts interacting in ways they never knew.   Even Basketball games that Grandfather and Snoopy paid to watch had a new and rising little black and white cat, with Annie Jr. written on the jersey wearing a jet pack who made dunk after dunk.

Every show was all about Annie.   The news station reported on Annie, heaping praise on the gazillionare cat who thought only of others and put her money right back into the economy even running me into poverty just to keep the economy going.   It was a never ending cycle of how beautiful she was, how smart she was, how great she was, a very stable genius she was dubbed by newscasters.   God forbid anyone who crossed her because it was breaking news.

She even had her own shows.    There was a talk show called, ‘This is your smell’ where both Annie’s and Duh-Wayne sat around smelling foul looking stuff in jars trying to guess what the smell was.   I hated that show especially since Annie’s new tv had a smell function, so if someone farted on tv you smelled it, actually you could see it coming out of the tv in like a steam form but it was colored steam, depending on what it was you were smelling.

I forgot about the commercials.    Something Annie, orientated was always being advertised, ‘Poop Factory tours’, ‘Visit the Annie Swanka museum,’ and a hundred other things she was charging admission to.   There was Annie Jr hocking Annie and Duh-Wayne’s  homemade pillow’s wearing a cheesy mustache and Grandfather looking at Annie Jr in the mirror and screaming, “you are that homemade pillow cat!”    Annie Jr. lawn service in the summer and plow business in the winter.   The lawn service one had been running almost non stop since the snow began, the phone never stopped ringing.

One evening, I sat down with Annie and Duh-Wayne.   Annie Jr. was laying on his belly up close to the tv like he couldn’t see it; when you could  from 10 miles away, crunching bird beaks or something.   Annie was tossing a handful of the same thing into her mouth.  Duh-Wayne was eating them one at a time.

I put my ear plugs in because Annie had the volume set to max infinity, even so she had a funnel shaped horn up to her ear so she could hear better and her thick lensed glasses.  Duh-Wayne was wearing his too, but he had his over his head pushing his hair back like a head band.   It was standing up in sort of a fringe over his head.

The show starts and I see three letters come on the screen…LWS…then a cat sitting in a darkened room with only the glare of the computer to lighten things, you see the computer screen and then typing.   It says, “I am Ammnnie.” A picture of Annie flashes and then typing, “Dish is my sun Anmie Jr.” Then a picture of Annie Jr flashes he is wearing a cowboy suit covered in Rhinestones .   His hair is slicked back like Elvis.

‘Oh good lord this is going to be good.’ I think.   Then I see the cat type, “This is my ‘life with slam!'” A hideous picture of me is displayed on the screen.   It’s clearly photo shopped because I don’t have thick eye brows and warts.

Even with my ear plugs in, I can hear the tv, “Hi I’m Annastasia and this is my son Annastasia Jr.” Annie screams on the screen.  “Another episode of Life With Slam the best reality show on TV.   This week I will show you what I have to put up with on a daily basis.”

Annie Jr. is crunching his beaks rapidly.   “I can’t wait to see what happens!” He announces.

A commercial comes on, it is me, holding a tube of preparation H.  “Hi I’m Slammmmmm,” said a voice which sounded exactly like Annie.  “I have ‘roids, die a rear and I wear depends.   Buy a fleets enema!”

“Annie for goodness sake!” I yell.

“The show is back on Slam!” Annie Jr. screams.

“Yeah zip it Slam!” Annie agrees.

“So here we are Woodstock 1969 and look at Slam.” I see myself looking similar to myself in the ’80’s wearing a hat with an ostrich feather and a leather vest and a few hankerchieves, dancing some sort of crazy dance on the back of a wagon being pulled by peace sign painted bus being driven by Rov?   There was Spam and Duh-Wayne or was it Om and Snowfish, filling barrels with shovel’s full stuff from the outhouses, waving to the camera.  There was Tammyroar dressed in a habit flashing a peace sign and was that Morganna selling tie die shirts and candles?  Canned Heat was playing loudly in the back ground.

“Annie none of us were at Woodstock, I was only two and Uncle Rov was not even born yet!”

Then I see myself on the screen saying exactly what I had just said to Annie, except I am wearing so creepy looking glasses and there are maggots in my hair.   How does she do that?

“This is my life with Slam!” Annie’s voice screams dramatically.   “Now lets see tonight’s Tweets. ”

Annie starts posting tweets like, “Life with Slam Sucks.   I feel sorry for you Annie.”  and another.   “How do you deal with her Annie.   Lock her up!”

Annie looked up at me from her sewing.   She was doing her crazy eye blinking thing then she began to laugh, her crazy laugh.

Annie Jr. dumped the rest of the beaks into his mouth and screamed, “That was intense!”

Duh-Wayne sighed, then jumped up quickly and screamed, “Turn it up it’s the Om and Snow fish show!”   Om and Snow Fish came on stage.  Om looked like someone put a bowl over his black hair and cut around it and he had a cheesy 70’s ‘stash, Snow Fish had long black hair.   They were singing, “I got you babe.”

I left the room the reality was way too real.



A January Thaw

Cold weather hit our region, not just a I need a coat perhaps a hat gloves and a scarf; it was all of that, plus ten pairs of socks, along with a couple bread bags in case your boots leaked, and a gallon bleach jug filled with hot water stuck at the bottom of your bed to warm the sheets; kinda cold.   I deal with negative double digits as well as most people, however, my situation is pretty unique, living with Annie.   Of course, Annie insists that I am odd, and our lifestyle is fairly normal if it wasn’t for my idiotic behavior.   At times, I wonder if she is right.

One of the worst things in this frigid temperatures, is hot flashes.   One second you are shivering the next, you feel like Satan is right in front of you inviting you into his lair.   The worst part is that Annie also has hot flashes, until her; I was unaware cats even got them.    Hers seem to run totally opposite of mine.

I will be huddling under the blankets, because Annie is hot and every window is open, multiple fans are running, the air conditioner is running full power, my bleach jug; that I had filled with boiling water is frozen at my feet.   Then it will hit me a hot flash, and I will quickly jump out of bed, my breath freezing as it comes out of my mouth.  I will sprint to the bathroom while I am suddenly, feeling  warm.   Before I am even finished washing my hands, Annie has the heat set at 90, there is a fire burning in the cardboard Santa fire place Annie still has up from Christmas and she is sitting wrapped in an electric blanket, on top of my bleach jug filled with hot water sipping hot chocolate.

Actually the weather had been so cold, I was making sure my hot flashes were coming back to back.  The struggle between,  heat stroke and frost bite was incredibly real.   The bathroom was an escape from the heat.   It was the only cold room in the place.

Every time I went to the bathroom, I could sincerely relate to some old timer sitting on an outdoor commode.    Of course, I didn’t have to get up, get dressed, trek through snow, sit on a piece of wood with a hole in it, with the wind whipping up your butt, and the smell of last weeks pot roast still lingering and to top it all off, no don’t squeeze the Charmin, no Cottonelle, not even a half roll of the stuff you paid $8 for at the corner store that’s quality is ten times worse than that you get at the dollar store, no none of that: You get a corn cob.   I braved the cold, without much complaint, considering I had it easy, even though Annie had replaced the toilet seat with one made of rotted splintered old wood, she says it is her part of her recycling program.

The reason the bathroom was so cold was because Annie Jr. ‘needed’ to practice his ice skating in the bathtub because it was too cold to skate outside and it needed to be cold to keep his ‘rink’ frozen.   Annie and I had actually argued over the whole thing but like always Annie won.

I saw no reason why Annie Jr. had to skate in the house.   There were places to skate, nearby.   Plus Annie could teleport him any place in the world and apparently to any period of time with her time machine.   I mean it would have given me a break and I could have adjusted the temperature to a reasonable level, not scalding or artic zone.

Of course as always when the weather hit extreme levels, it was Annie’s main purpose in life to make me endure every moment of the extreme levels and pushing my thresholds on an hourly basis and then staring at me with that blank look when I start tearing my hair out and screaming at her.   So she rarely left the house, if it wasn’t for bingo, I’d have lost my marbles by now.

Duh-Wayne was currently on restriction for some meme Annie posted on Spam’s facebook page.   He had to go with Spam and play bingo on Saturday’s and Annie went along because it was just too difficult for her to be apart from him for very long, although lately all she asked was, ‘gonna get facebook yet? gonna get facebook yet?’  Duh-Wayne’s defense was he is so popular he would not be able to keep up with the demand of friend requests.  Annie suggested a code name like D. Sanchez.

Anyway, Annie Jr. really liked ice skating which was a good thing because every cat needs a hobby and of course my cats were creative with their hobbies.   Annie Jr. really wanted to play ice hockey but Annie had no patience for fool sports.   Annie Jr. liked football too but Annie kept putting parental controls on the tv so no one could watch sports without paying her.   Besides if he played hockey his front teeth would all get knocked out however the idea of gold teeth paid for with Slam’s magical money card was appealing.

Annie had no problem with Annie Jr. ice skating, but no son of hers was going to play ‘hOCKEEEE’ her son would skate like a real man and so Annie Jr. began  his career as a figure skater.   Annie made him a pair of those sparkly leotards, (pastel purple with bright yellow glitter).  Annie said he had to make a figure  ‘8’ however, neither  Annie or Annie Jr. knew how to make an ‘8’ so Annie got her calculator and told Annie Jr. to do a math problem and people would get it.   She told him to do 88-80.

That is how the problem started.   The bathtub was too small for Annie Jr to skate out an entire math problem.   I’d tried repeatedly to explain  they were already making 3 figure 8’s but both of them stared at me blanking Annie doing that crazy winking thing and Annie Jr.’s tail shaped like a question mark.

Annie was all for ripping down a few walls and half of the neighbors house to make more room.    That part, I did not understand because our house and yard seemed to grow to accommodate Annie’s game room, time machine, tenant housing, junk yard, a fleet of dump trucks full of presents that she was still opening.   Seriously, a bigger bathtub was always a welcomed thing, I mean eventually the ice rink would melt, when summer came, if it came and I could see myself early spring, late fall soaking completely submerged in a hot bubbly bath with a book (and Annie Jr. perched on the edge burping his stench breath directly at me, Annie sneaking in with a cup of ice cold water to toss at me so I would jump out and she would recording it all praying this one would go viral).

Annie refused to venture more than a few feet from the house so she decided it would be a good idea to create a ice rink in the back yard.  Duh-Wayne, drove a back hoe through the junk yard, passed the tenement housing, passed the fleet of dump trucks and went to a relatively level piece of ground and dug a very large hole.   Then Annie cranked her weather machine to snow and snow like the world has never seen.

With enough snow to fill the hole Duh-Wayne dug half way to China, Annie slowly cranked the heat, negative 30 to positive 65 in a matter of days and once all the snow had completely melted, filling that huge whole and the rest of the back yard, Annie zapped the thermostat on her weather machine from 65 to negative  32 in 12 hours.   The back yard froze instantly.

Annie Jr. spends his days in the back yard in a never ending supply of sparkly leotards, topped with a bear skinned coat Annie claims she bought from Davey Crocket on one of her time travel adventures; it smells.   He skates out many math problems, like 888-880 practicing a figure 8 he doesn’t know how to make.

Annie implanted some device into my skin while I was sleeping so she now has an accurate reading of all of my hot flashes.  I freeze and burn all day long.

Duh-Wayne daily resists the facebook movement.   If I hear ‘you gonna get facebook yet?’ one more time, I might create it myself.    Annie is still pushing for D. Sanchez but Duh-Wayne isn’t sure because his last name isn’t Sanchez.

New Year’s Revolutions

Annie was sitting at the kitchen table, a sun visor on her head, a pencil stub behind her ear and glasses perched on the end of her nose, scribbling as fast as she could on a pad of paper.    She was drinking her cup of sludge.   I still had no idea what it actually was, however, it did resemble what Grandfather passed off as coffee, sometimes.

“What are you doing Annie?” I asked dumping sludge out of the coffee pot and making a fresh one.

“Grandfather, just made that,” Annie sneered not looking up from her paper.   “You are so wasteful!”

She scribbled a few more lines, then a few more, before she looked up and screamed, “”See what you made me do!”  she wadded up the piece of paper and tossed it on top of a mountain of crumbled up paper all over the floor.

I had to wade through it to make new coffee.   “What are you writing, Annie?”  I asked, suddenly curious because Annie rarely wrote anything other than illegible text messages.

Annie looked at me like I was the biggest fool in the entire world.   “My New Year’s Revolutions,” her glasses were way down on the end of her nose and she stared over them at me, blinking her right eye rapidly and keeping the left one unmoving, how did she do that?

“Resolutions?” I asked.

Annie looked at me and shook her head.   She sighed and said, “Maroon!”

Just then Annie Jr. came running out with a neatly typed paper.   “All done with mine Mom mom,” he yelled.

Annie took the paper and read, “I will not knead Slam at bedtime? How is that a revolution? ”

“She kicks me out if I keep doing it,”  Annie Jr. explained.

“No no it should be Slam will let me knead as much as I want,” Annie said.

“Annie that is not a resolution!”

“That!” Annie screamed, pointing at me.  “Is why your fool school doesn’t work.   It’s revolutions.

“Look it up Annie!”  I yelled.

“Slam, I am like really smart.   I am a genius.   I make billions off  poop.”

I picked up one of Annie’s crumpled up papers.   “Slam will cook me breakfast every day?” I read.   “Annie I already cook you breakfast every day.”

I picked up another and read, “Slam  will work 8 hours a day raking incoming poop, at the poop factory for free!   Annie resolutions are not about making people do what you want.   They are for making yourself a better you, something positive.”

“If you work at the poop factory for free it is better for me and positive for me.”   Annie hissed.  “And it’s revolutions!   I am smart, Slam.    I made a billion dollar poop factory business on my first try.”

“What about all the Annie’s before you, like Annie Swanka?” I asked.

“Annie’s before me?   Who is this Annie Swanka you speak of?  I never have known no one named Annie Swanka, I have had no dealings with this woman.”  Annie rolled her eyes and moved her arms back and forth like she was playing an accordion, her tongue falling out of her mouth.

“Mom-mom you know Annie Swan….” Annie Jr. began to babble.

“Hush, son hush.   Mom-mom is talking.”

“Annie sometimes, I just don’t know about you.” I said.

“And Slam,” Annie yelled pointing her index claw at me, “I do not like your attitude.”

I walked away because sometimes, there is no arguing with Annie.   After a long day, Annie finally had her list written.   I put all the crumpled paper that was ceiling high into several large lawn and leaf bags and took them to the back yard, and lined them up with the trash.    I saw several of my things on the top of the garbage.   My favorite sweater, a pair of shoes I liked wearing in the summer that were perfectly fine, my brand new dish drainer Aunt Paulie had gotten me for Christmas.   I gathered it all up and took it back in.

“Who put my stuff out in the trash I demanded?”   Everyone shrugged and Annie screamed, “I dunno!”

“I just got this!”  I hollered shaking the dish drainer.

“Oh that stuff?” Annie asked.   “I did it.   You have cupboards to put dishes in you don’t need that.   Besides it was in my way.  I can’t walk over the counter and get a fresh drink at the sink and I am tired of walking over it.”

“You aren’t even supposed to be on the counter’s!  In the past week you have knocked a gallon of bleach on the floor, a gallon of bleach not even opened, in addition, to unopened things, there was Phil’s soap, and  corn syrup. Plus you have kicked the toaster off so many times, it is broken in spots.” I yelled.

“Want me to throw it out?” Annie asked, seriously.

“No!” I yelled.  “Why my sweater? And my shoes?”

“Face it Slam you look like an idiot in that sweater.   Of course you look like an idiot in most everything you wear.   And you haven’t worn those shoes for months!”

“It’s snowing Annie.   It’s below zero outside.   Of course I wouldn’t wear there now!   Why are you throwing my stuff away anyways?”

“We need to get rid of clutter around here,” Annie said.  “So I got rid of a few things.  Actually all that stuff in the garbage is stuff I got rid of.”

“And it’s all mine?” I asked.

“A few things were grandfathers, and I got rid of Janey’s books, Moo’s dog blanket, the floor out of the bathroom.  It was my new years revolution, to declutter.”

“Annie you have a bouillon cube collection!”

Annie stares at me blankly while unwrapping another present from one of her many dump trucks.   “Another bag of ping pong balls for my collection!” Annie screamed.

Annie Jr. came bursting through the door.   “Mom-mom, I was taking Slam’s bed down to the trash, like you told me and I saw all your paper in the garbage!”

“What?” Annie and I both screamed at the same time.

I dragged my stuff back in and Annie dragged all the paper back in, including the toilet paper collection Annie Jr. had been storing in the bath tub that I had taken out earlier.

“Don’t throw away anymore of my things!” I told Annie.

“And don’t throw away mine!” Annie agreed tossing an old chicken bone onto her chicken bone collection that was all the way to the ceiling and spreading like a disease, covered in flies.   I shook my head, trying to rid my mind of the sight, sighed and walked away.

Later on, I came out to the kitchen to see the dog sitting in a kitchen chair licking food off the table.   “Go on get it girl,” Annie was urging.

“Annie why is the dog sitting at the table?”  I yelled.   Why was Annie sitting at the table?  “And why is she licking food off the table?” Why was my cat urging her to do so?

“It’s my New Years Revolution,”  Annie explained.

I was really getting tired of this.   I sighed.   “Well at least you are being nice and sharing your food with the dog.”

“It’s your food,” Annie explained.   “I am not trying to feed her anyways.   I am trying to teach her to be a bit more normal.   I mean she eats out of a dog dish for goodness sakes.   I never do that unless it is something good.”   Just then the dog leaned further over in her chair trying to get a small crumb of food laying her weight on the edge of the table when suddenly it tipped over and crashed to the floor the dog yelped and grabbed the piece of food on the way down.

Annie clapped her paws and yelled.   “Good show!” Then laughed her crazy laugh.   Duh-Wayne came running out and soon began to laugh and clap as well even though he had no idea what was going on.

“Duh-Wayne did you sign up for facebook yet?”  Annie demanded after they had both watched me struggle to set the table upright.
“No,” Duh-Wayne said turning red.

“It’s my revolution! You have ta.” Annie yelled.

“I can use Spam’s account.” Duh-Wayne replied.

“We can’t be bff’s, until it is facebook official and we can’t be official under Spam’s account besides Spam reads all of our conversations.   Remember when we skipped your doctor’s appointment and went golfing and Spam grounded you.   Did you enjoy working in the poop factory for two weeks because I really did not enjoy hanging out with your clone?”  Annie insisted.

“It wasn’t a doctor’s appointment.” Duh-Wayne replied in defense.   “It was surgery.”

“It was fun though,” Annie admitted.  “Those ducks! Quack Quack Quack!” Annie howled in laughter.

“Annie you were driving the golf cart at top speed while blindfolded and scared all those ducks when the pair of you drove into that duck pond.”  I yelled.

“How was I to know there was a duck pond on a golf course?” Annie yelled.

“Because it’s your golf course and you put it there beside you had just finished swimming in it!”

“Well if Duh-Wayne wants to be famous he needs facebook.” Annie said.

“Duh-Wayne wants to be famous?” I asked.

“Yes,” Annie said seriously.   “It’s my New Years…”

“Revolution?” I finished.

“Really?” Annie gasped.

I shook my head, walked away and wished for February.










Winter Wonderland

Annie’s  favorite time of year is winter.    Whether she is curled up on an electric blanket in a heated bed in front of a fire with a cup of hot mouse milk and some crunchy bones or eyes or something weird she eats, or riding her sled down a hill we don’t have in the back yard in a bikini, Annie loves winter.

When the snow begins to fall out comes, ice skates, sleds, toboggans, snow shoes, but all of that stuff comes as each season passes.   Annie is known to go mudding in a snow covered old back road and riding her snowmobile through a hay field in July.   The only thing that changes really is her wardrobe.    Snow suits, odd mittens, hats with ear flaps, long undies, boots, coats all get put away and out comes shorts, tee-shirts, sunglasses, flip flops.

The weather had dipped into below zero temperatures, negative double digits!  I stood in front of the window wrapped in a blanket, a quilt, a heavy bathrobe, a coat, long johns, pajama pants 15 pairs of socks and a pair of snowmobile boots.   I looked for a hat, cause a hat keeps in the heat but Annie had used every single one of them to start her cat nip plants in.   She had even cut the hoods off coats.

The reason it was so cold was because Annie kept opening the windows.   She needed air she claimed; air she was allergic to, this on the day Maddie came for tea, and both of them wearing their oxygen masks  and roasting marsh mellows over lit candles.   I kept closing the windows, and Annie kept opening them.

It was a battle.   Annie nailed them open, I pulled the nails out and shut them.  Annie nailed them open again and hid all the hammers.   I sent grandfather to get a new one and hid it this time.    Annie resorted to gorilla glue.   Currently, grandfather was running an errand to some back woods guy who claimed to have a ‘receipt’ to dissolve it.   Duh-Wayne knew a friend, who knew a friend, who’s uncle had internet, and was peddling it for his brother’s aunt in law’s cousins, great great uncle.  Annie was laughing when grandfather left and screamed, “Have fun Paw!” then slapped her leg and yuck yucked out a laugh.   I was worried.

It was snowing and snowing hard.   Ann and Annie Jr. were loading a snow man they had made into a wagon.   “Is it cooled down?” Annie screamed to Duh-Wayne, who was standing in the kitchen, still dressed in his bathrobe, and hat with ear flaps.

“A yup!” Duh-Wayne yelled his words freezing the second they came out of his mouth.

“Then come help us drag this wagon up the stairs,” Annie hollered.

Up the stairs came , the Annie’s, Duh-Wayne, a wagon with a snowman in it.    “Christmas snow is magical Annie Jr.” Annie explained.  “Watch,” Annie said, putting a flower pot on top of the snowman’s head, because cat nap was growing in every single hat, except for Duh-Wayne’s and Annie was offering big money for it.

“Happy Birthday,” screamed the snowman.   Down the stairs they went, skating and marching around the yard singing.   Annie hooked, Duh-Wayne up to the ramshackle sleigh and quickly planted some more cat nip in his hat when he removed it to fasten on his antler.   Duh-Wayne pulled them all around while they sang jingle bells, then they made snow angles.    Duh-Wayne said his was a snow devil because his antler looked like a horn and angles didn’t have tails.

By the time grandfather returned, the sun was going down.    The ‘receipt’ was two gallon jugs full of aged moose made.    It worked and finally the windows were shut and everyone except me was gathered around the fire drinking warmed spiced mouse made.   I was in the kitchen mopping up buckets of snow man poop.

So they warmed and relax, that night after Christmas til, all through the house not a creature was stirring except Annie Jr. toy mouse.   I, in a snowsuit, with Annie Jr. cuddled to my chest had just settled down to a few minutes nap when out on the lawn there rose such a clatter, I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.    There they all were, Annie, Duh-Wayne and the gang out on the yard, with a snow fort and a boat, launching snow balls at each other.   I opened to window and tossed up the sash, then got smashed with a snowball.   Annie Jr. came laughing climbed over my head and ran out the window and into the crows nest of the ice boat that Grandfather was flinging solid ice balls at Duh-Wayne who was safely protected by ice walls.   Annie used her sling shot to fire something brown and wet at Grandfather, and it froze as it flew and landed hard as a rock on the poop deck of the boat.   Annie Jr. got the bright idea, to turn on the hose and squirt it towards Annie and Duh-Wayne’s fort.    An icy bridge was formed and Grandfather and Annie Jr. were half way to the fort, when Annie and Duh-Wayne decided to light a little fire and get some heat on the subject.   The rest was history.

Annie is charging $45 admission to skate in her junkyard and admire the beauty of her empire and watch her and Annie Jr. continue to open their dump trucks full of gifts.   Yes, Duh-Wayne found the big Mac but there was no meat in it.   He gave it to Aunt Paulie who Annie insists is a vegetablarian.


Christmas with Annie

Four am and both Annie’s are jumping on my bed screaming, “He came Slam he came!”  They have only been doing it for the last two hours.   Then the pig starts oinking and jumping, and the dogs are barking.   Kiko has been here for the past month and all of Duh-Wayne’s old hunting dogs.   I don’t even think he hunts and why his dogs are at my house napping on my bed, sniffing the turkey and drooling, I have no clue.   It’s a good thing Grandfather works over nights or there would be no room for him.  I mean our bed is only so big.   I don’t worry about it breaking anymore.   I mean eventually there is nothing left to break.

Christmas music is playing loudly on surround sound, Christmas lights are so bright the sunglasses and face mask I wore to bed do not even begin to lower the glare.   There are Christmas gifts in every single inch of the house.   All of them say Annie  or Annie Jr. and the back yard is full of dump trucks brimming with presents.   Two trucks every hour for twenty-five days; for each Annie was a lot; plus the several trucks from last year.   Christmas cookies, gallons of milk, hay, carrots and 45 pounds of sugar is cluttering my kitchen. Food for Santa, his elves and the reindeer.

The fire place Annie and Duh-Wayne built just for Santa is burning brightly.   The stockings are hung.   All of them are tiny with, little candy canes coming out the top except the Annie’s which are 84 feet long and brimming over with gifts.   I follow the boot prints to a cage and let Santa out.

She does it every year, traps Santa.   He is used to it and just comes to our house last.   He was early this year.  “Sorry Santa,” I say as I open the lock.  “I didn’t expect you until five. You want coffee?”

“No no,” Santa says pulling his beard.   “I have to get going.   Annie gave me one of last years dump truck and there is a vacation to Hawaii in there, the Mrs. will be pleased.  She needs a vacation after all those chocolate bucket of birds candy she made this year.    Be good cats Annie and Annie Jr.   You get better and better every year.  Merry Christmas!” he yells and he puts his finger aside his nose and goes up the chimney, his rear end totally on fire from the huge blaze Annie has going on.

I figure Santa will stick his smoking butt in a snow bank, I mean he had to had smelled that rump roast cooking behind him or at least felt it.   I head off to the kitchen.   I want to get it cleaned up.   Annie had a 50 pound turkey she was planning on stuffing and deep frying in the fry Daddy.   I have no idea how she had even planned on getting it in there because it only fried a generous portion of fries at one time.   I wanted to get the turkey in the oven while Annie was occupied opening ‘just one gift’ before breakfast, that I was supposed to make.

Several elves are lounging around drinking milk out of shot glasses and eating cookies.   Annie ‘brought back from the past’ my old doll highchair I used to set out for the elves to sit in on Christmas eve,  it sat in the middle of the floor and a couple elves were relaxing and eating.  I still didn’t believe her time machine worked.   I figured she had bought all of it on Ebay, the balance on my ‘magic card’ was as negative as the thermometer outside was predicted to go.

“You didn’t go with Santa?” I asked, tripping over a reindeer.

“Annie said we could stay for turkey dinner, she put it in the deep fryer a couple hours ago.”   they all replied;  well, the reindeer didn’t they were lapping up sugar, carrots and raisins…wait that wasn’t raisins.   I wondered what reindeer poo looked like.

I checked the deep fryer.   Nothing was in there.   “There’s no turkey in here,” I announced.

The elves all laughed.   “A turkey would never fit in there.   The fryer in the back yard.”

Sure enough Duh-Wayne had a huge fire going in the back yard atop the fire was a huge metal drum, he and Annie apparently  filled with oil. Duh-Wayne was frying the turkey.    They were bound to blow us to kingdom Come.

I shrugged and began breakfast.   The elves and reindeer had finished everything Annie had left out for them and were standing beside my elbow at the stove with plates waiting for the breakfast Annie had promised.

With breakfast out of the way we opened out gifts.    I got three coffee cups Annie took out of the cupboard and a little stocking filled with cat food and a tiny candy cane.   Grandfather got the same thing but three plates instead of cups.   He was grateful.   Duh-Wayne got a couple  left  over dump trucks and had a fit about Annie re-gifting.  He was hoping that one of them contained the Big Mac from ’83, though.   He was convinced that Big Macs tasted better in the ’80’s and it was his opportunity to find out.   His face fell when Annie insisted if he found it he had to give it back.    Aunt Paulie called.   She said she had gotten Annie’s gift.   All the boxes in her dump truck were empty except for one that contained a can of pork and beans and in another a disposable enema.   Like the beans weren’t enough to make her poop.   K8, Phil and Morganna got dump trucks too.   They got presents, I had bought and for some odd reason was unable to find on Christmas and some old tic tacs and melted M&M’s.   The rest of the pets got small stockings full of cat food and nothing else.   It was stale.

Annie spent the day slowly opening her gifts.   Hours past and finally she took a break to check her turkey.    She pulled it out and put it on a plate.   It still had it’s head on.   Duh-Wayne was smelling the air like he was in heaven.   At that moment, Duh-Wayne’s old hunting dogs burst into the yard and ate the entire turkey.    Annie shook her first and screamed Duh-Wayne.

“Well we will all go out for dinner,” Annie announced and suddenly we were all teleported to the soup kitchen where a dinner was being served to those who did not have a meal.   “Hi Annie,” They all yelled.

Merry Christmas Annie!