Thursday, February 4, 2010
Cue background music reminiscent of Slipknot’s “Sulfur” without the scary men in masks.
Cue scene: Old rickety house. Old Fogey Michelle is kneeling by flower beds snagging her silvery beard on the bushes as she rips out the live flowers and plants plastic ones. Four kids walk up the path and stand behind her . . .
“Hi, Ms. Michelle!” Dennis, Lucy, Orphan Annie, and Opie shout. The bull terrier barks.
“Ack . . . ” I tip over while grabbing my chest. One leg lifts up in the air, twitching. “My heart! Ya’ll give me a heart attack! Call the paramedics and get off my lawn.”
“You tried that last week, Ms. Michelle,” Dennis yawns. “And we got the paramedics and police and television news crews. Remember how everyone yelled when they found out you were fibbing. Deputy Fife was awfully bent out of shape and told you not to did it ever again.”
I push myself from the ground and rip out another flower. I toss it over the fence onto Dagwood’s lawn. “Bent out of shape? I can tell ya’ll stories about how bent Fife can get. Saw him questioning Dagwood’s wife, Blondie, in the back of the police cruiser at midnight behind the local Waffle House.”
“What were you doing eating waffles at midnight?” Lucy shakes a pebble from her shoe.
“Keeping my girlish figure, ya’ll ragamuffin. Get off my lawn!”
Opie breaks a dead branch off the bush and plays catch with his dog. “Ms. Michelle, is Timmy still your servant locked in your basement after he got stuck in your chimney?”
“Ya’ll right tootin’ he is! Fire department had to tear down my fireplace to get him unstuck. He’s paying for all the damage ya’ll caused by slinging him up there.” With one mighty tug, I rip a rose bush from the ground. My feet creep toward the fence as I see the neighbor sleeping on his hammock. I chuck the bush over.
Screams come from the other side as I run back across the lawn, laughing. From the wicker basket I pick up a fake flower and give a sniff. “Ya’ll should’ve heard that boy cussin’ and fumin’ when those firemen tugged him out. Never expected to hear a foul mouth like that on him. It even caused his dog Lassie to run away. Reminds me how ya’ll can’t always tell a person’s real demeanor just by the way they look. Innocent Timmy swears like a sailor on shore leave arriving late at the closed bar. The deputy and Dagwood’s wife writing out naked citations while steaming the car windows. Yup, people can fool ya’ll. Found out that the hard way during my younger days.”
Annie sits on the grass while fixing the wrinkles in her skirt. “Tell us about it, Ms. Michelle.”
“Yeah, tell us.” The three other kids plop themselves onto the lawn.
I sniff at the plastic flower again before taking a seat while surrounded by the kids. “All right. Ya’ll listen good and take heed. Don’t ever judge people by how they look. It can surprise ya’ll like a flower having no scent . . . ”
I sat in the bus seat on my way to work. Cold day. Everyone had their winter coats on while trying to get warm from the bus heaters. So it was expected to see a few people shivering and stamping feet getting the circulation unfrozen. Yet there was a bit of nervous twitching as a few of them threw glances at a man sitting by himself on one side.
He was a big man. Blocky would best describe him, shaped like a wide square yet his tall height made him appear forbidding. He sported a rough goatee and a long ponytail reaching down toward mid-chest. His dark sunglasses reflected the faint light as it flashed whenever he swiveled his head to study the passing buildings. He reminded me of a tough biker who must’ve blown a tire on his hog and now had to take a bus to his motorcycle gang’s initiation routine where they would bite the heads off rabid weasels.
Everybody kept their distance, wanting him to have as much room on the bus as possible. No trouble. No worries. Let the man be by himself until he gets off the bus, was everyone’s thinking. A few people sighed in gratefulness when he pulled the cord to signal that his stop approached.
The rough-looking biker stood and grabbed his backpack off the floor. He made his way toward the front as he slung his bag onto one shoulder. I smiled at the sight.
He had a pink and black Powerpuff Girls backpack.
The man allowed an older woman to stand from her seat and disembark before him. He paid his fare and began his long hike up the street with his cartoon bag sitting confidently on his shoulder.
The kids laugh. Lucy nods her head. “I have that same backpack!”
I sigh, “Ya’ll see? Just because someone looks dangerous doesn’t mean they really are. It also goes the opposite way. Never think a person who looks sweet and innocent has a friendly mentality. Something evil can lurk beneath . . . ”
The woman was seen as an amiable person, someone who wouldn’t hesitate to lend a hand or a bit of money to help someone out. She always gave a listening ear to a person’s woes and everyday advice on numerous topics. A homemaker raising three children, she appeared the perfect loving, caring mother.
Or so she appeared to everyone outside of her immediate family.
She refused to show the basic affection to her own family: no praise, no encouragement, no love. At every opportunity, she demeaned everyone behind closed doors. This woman had a mental problem she didn’t want to admit. A pathological liar with delusions of superiority. She wanted to be the center of attention for everything, and had a chip on her shoulder when other people wouldn’t give in to her sick games. And when the time came where she fell into financial problems, she did a most heinous act.
She committed fraud under her own children’s names so she wouldn’t have to admit to her own mistakes. Then, when confronted, she denied everything. She instead claimed that the accusers were mentally unstable, all because they wouldn’t allow her to control the situation.
To this day, she still believes she is the perfect mother.
All four kids gasp. I sigh and hand each a flower, encouraging them to take a sniff. The plastic plants holds a whiff of lavender perfume I sprayed on that morning.
“Ya’ll understand. A biker can have a heart of gold, or a mother can have a head full of mud. It all depends on how we get to know the real person underneath the pretty packaging or rough masks. And despite a flower having a fragrance, it doesn’t make it real like what’s growing from the earth.” I stand and dust off my sweat pants. Then I wave one hand toward the porch door.
“Get off my lawn and come on inside the house. I baked cookies this morning. Can’t have swearing Timmy eating them all by himself. He’ll get a stomachache.”
All the stories within the parentheses are true.