Story Time

Each new day in our lives begins on a fresh clean piece of white paper, a new tale waiting to be told.

Barbed in the Holler October 18, 2011

Filed under: STORY — Marilyn Denny Thomas @ 2:54 pm

Moonlight in the Holler

This little misadventure took place during a weekend trip to Jonesborough, TN, to attend the International Storytelling Festival with three of my friends–Christmas, Suzanne and Rabbit. I realize my friends have strange names but you should meet them and then you would understand.  The festival as well as the oldest town in Tennessee—decorated with hundreds of hay bales, pumpkins, corn stalks and chrysanthemums—turned out to be purely delightful. However, due to my being the wimp of the crowd and Rabbit’s need to study, she and I left Suzanne and Christmas in town one late afternoon and headed back to the house in the holler to rest my weary body.

As we turned and twisted through the pretty streets and set the GPS for Malone Holler, we recalled the need for breakfast supplies for the next two days. For future reference, let me warn you that the lady in my GPS does not know that Jonesborough boasts a large and modern Food City within one quarter mile from the school yard in which we parked. She thinks the closest grocery store is at least three miles away. So much for modern technology.

She also pays no attention whatsoever to the fact that one’s vehicle is in a parking lot and gives directions from the road outside the parking lot. We didn’t know she didn’t know that so Rabbit and I, led by Lucy Arnez in the GPS, circled Food City a few times before we decided we were not getting anywhere and then ignored Lucy like the plague. It’s amazing what one learns about an area when one is lost. Fortunately, I find getting lost an interesting activity and Rabbit joined in like the cool trooper she is.

Eventually, we invited Lucy to join in our search for our lovely house in the holler and just before dusk, we turned up the narrow path between horse and sheep pastures that led to friend Ellen’s amazing Serta Sleeper mattress. By this time, my body was screaming for a bed as well as the ice pack I had left at home in eastern North Carolina.

Malone Holler Lane is interesting in that it is firstly a narrow paved road which soon becomes an even narrower path and then, way up the mountain into the holler, the way changes to an extremely narrow gravel path. At that point, one’s vehicle tilts, front up and back down and the motor says something that sounds like, “I don’t want to do this.” Thankfully, my Honda van boasted a little extra horsepower which encouraged it, and us, to continue on up the mountain…howbeit slowly.

Now, just before we reached Ellen’s house (which sets atop an extra hill just for additional fun), I caught sight of a flock of plump white sheep nibbling peacefully in the back pasture to my left. I yelled to Rabbit, “Oh, look at the pretty sheep!”

“Where?” Rabbit turned her head this way and that and saw no sheep. That was due to the fact that now that the van was on a roll, it had moved on up the path a few feet where the woods blocked the view of the sheep. I must make an interjection here. The beautiful sunny day was close to the state of twilight, at least up in the holler. But I did so want Rabbit to see the sheep so I suggested that we drive around the narrow curve just past Ellen’s house in hopes that the sheep might be more visible. However, as we rounded the curve moving at about one mile per hour, the path ahead was filled with people who looked as if they were having a party beside two pickup trucks. Obviously, we could not go that way.

Now, at that point Lucy and I had no choice but to back down the tiny gravel path although I did have a choice to forget the sheep and reverse the van only a few feet so as to then put the van in drive and jerk up the hill to Ellen’s house. Still, being a person who enjoys the enjoyment of others, I was determined that Rabbit should see those darn sheep. And so, after looking carefully in all rearview mirrors as well as the backup mirror Pete bought just for me, I continued to back a few more feet around the curve. All of a sudden, while Lucy was recalculating, Rabbit and I felt and heard a tiny little crunch.

I asked, “What was that?”

Rabbit stuck her head out her side window and replied, “It’s a barbed wire fence.”

“Ohhhh, poor Pete,” I groaned. Did I mention this was my fifth backup incident in the past few years?

But don’t forget that twilight falls fast in a holler and by now it was almost dark. That is my one and only excuse. I still couldn’t see the barbed wire in the backup mirror. The sheep were forgotten as I eased the van from the barbed wire while Lucy said with a rather devil-may-care attitude, “Unverified territory.” We crept up the hill to Ellen’s welcoming door. I opened my door, which was very difficult because the hill leaned to the passenger’s side, and said, “Oh, I hope it’s not bad,” as Rabbit jumped out and said, “It’s bad.” The bumper looked as if it had been cut in streaks with barbed wire which it had.

Now, like dear, wise Scarlett O’Hara, I said to Rabbit, “I’ll think about this tomorrow. Just let me get to the bed for a couple of hours before we have to go back to Jonesborough and collect Suzanne and Christmas.”

Rabbit retrieved the house key from her jean’s pocket while I looked about my picturesque surroundings, admiring everything in sight. The moon shone through the trees and the night breeze had just arrived to cool off the warm sunny day. Lucy and the wounded van were hiding around the corner where I couldn’t see them and all was well. That is, until I heard Rabbit say, “This key won’t open the door.”

Well, I did that thing all humans do and said, “Let me try it.” The key went into the lock but refused to turn. We set our bags down to think —groceries, remember?— and Rabbit came up with the idea that perhaps the key was to the front door of the house. While she traipsed around the house in the almost dark, I perched my weary body on the lone seating place on the deck, a bench with no back. Before she returned, my back had begged me to lie down on the bench thereby relieving the weight of gravity so I did.

My problem-solving friend had not solved our problem. The key may have been for the front door but we’d never know because the storm door was locked, too. Rabbit said the only thing to do was for her to walk up the mountain behind Ellen’s house to Ellen’s son’s house where Ellen was staying and ask for another key. I’m sure she took one look at me and knew I wasn’t going anywhere. After working through the anxiety of whether or not unfriendly dogs might come charging down the mountain as she got closer to the house, brave Rabbit scooted up the mountain.

I thought she would never come down. To this day, I don’t know what she was doing that entire time. It seemed like hours. I closed my eyes for quite a while but sleep did not come. The bench may have been half my width and hard as a rock, definitely not Ellen’s wonderful mattress. I got so bored and the moon looked so lovely shining through a leafless tree that I struggled to balance my body so that I could take pictures lying flat on my back. It was a bit difficult but I must say that I came home with a few awesome pictures of a harvest moon in the holler, peeping shyly through the trees.

Finally, Rabbit appeared and that’s another thing I don’t know. How she got down that hill without me seeing her. Anyway, the story was that our key actually was the key to the front door but we had locked the storm door from the inside of the house that morning making entry impossible. And so, Ellen would now drive through the holler and down the mountain after her son hoping to get another key so that we wouldn’t have to camp out which, had I been younger and less in pain, might have been an exciting adventure on such a lovely moonlit night in the holler.

Rabbit informed me that Ellen would be back in about twenty minutes or so if she could find her son. I wondered if I would be able to get up by then but I kept that concern to myself. My friend had done a good job of taking care of me and I was reluctant to cause her more concern. And so, we both took pictures of anything and everything until the wonderful sound of Ellen’s tires was heard coming up the driveway. Rabbit took off around the house to get the key while I struggled to get off the bench before anyone had the pleasure of watching me.

We had forty-five minutes to rest before joining Lucy in the van and driving back to Jonesborough to get our friends. Christmas and Suzanne may have never known about the barbed wire had we not told them but being the blabbermouths that we are, Rabbit and I could hardly wait. As for Pete, that was another story, one I might tell another day.


A Bit of a Misadventure

Filed under: STORY — Marilyn Denny Thomas @ 2:19 pm

Sometimes Pete and I start out to do one thing and end up doing something totally different. Not by choice, of course. Somehow, life just happens. One perfectly beautiful October day, I packed up to head to Kure Beach and Pete said, “Meet me in Wilmington at the jewelers and you can get your wedding ring re-sized while I take care of something else.”

Now, I must regress a bit here just because, even though I’m right brained, I prefer to tell a story in chronological order. It may be my only left brained activity. Anyway, many years ago, I woke up in the middle of the night in great pain. We were staying at the beach and Pete had gone to sleep watching a ballgame on TV. The source of my sleep disturbing pain was obvious. The third finger of my left hand was swollen to incredible proportions. My wide gold wedding band looked like a tourniquet, causing my finger to look like some type of red sausage about to burst from its casing.

Let me tell you, I tried everything imaginable to get that ring off my finger from peanut butter to olive oil to soap. Nothing worked. In fact, the pain grew worse and I began to worry that it might explode. All the while, Pete snored away on the couch. Finally, I knew I had to get help and Pete wasn’t it. I said, louder than usual, “Pete! I’m going to the hospital to get this ring off my finger.”

He said, “Okay.”

Throbbing in pain, my finger held gingerly in the air, I drove the twenty miles to the hospital praying that I wouldn’t be forced to have my finger amputated. I wasn’t sure what the ring finger on my left hand did for me but I was certain it served a much needed purpose as did all my parts.

I learned a lesson that night. If one is forced to use emergency room services, it’s much better, and quicker, to walk in with a really strange problem rather than something normal like pneumonia or a gall bladder attack. It was a fairly slow night in the ER and that helped as well. For one of the very few times in my life, I was the woman of the hour, the star of the show. The entire staff of the New Hanover Memorial Hospital ER joined in the search to solve the mystery of how to get my wedding ring off my finger before the finger started turning colors other than red. Not one soul offered me a pain pill but I quickly gained such camaraderie with the staff that I almost forgot the pain in the delight of solving of the mystery.

Soon after each nurse or whatever used his or her own tried and true method of ring extraction, a nurse who was standing by said, “You know, I was just reading a story in a magazine about this very thing. Now, where did I put that magazine?” She wandered off with her forefinger on her lips and came back reading as she walked. “Okay,” she said to me, “stand by the wall and raise your left arm as high as it will go. Let your arm lean a little on the wall to give support. Then just stand there.”

I obeyed. By then, I had begun to focus on the pain again. It was unavoidable at that point in the evening’s activities. I can’t remember the time it took, but before too long, we all checked my finger and voila! One of the guys pulled my ring off as easy as pie. (Have you ever wondered about that phrase “as easy as pie”? I don’t really get it but it fits here so who cares?) Now that I recall that harrowing night once again, I think that might have been one of the most enjoyable moments the staff of our hospital ever experienced. I know I was one happy camper and after a few hugs, goodbyes and no charge, I whisked back to Kure Beach and to my waiting king-sized bed.

Pete was still asleep on the couch.

Now, one must remember that I said all that to say this: I was never able to get my wedding ring on my finger again and being one who has hardly ever visited a jewelry store in her life, I continued to forget to have the ring resized. For years. That is, until last Christmas when Pete left a note in my stocking asking me to please give him the gift of wearing my wedding ring again before one of us died. And that’s why I drove into Wilmington to meet Pete at the jewelers.

Alrighty then.

Pete called to give me an address for the GPS and I obediently punched it in. However, because my husband speaks multiconversationally (the ability to carry on five conversations at one time), I was a bit concerned he might have given me someone’s phone number so I very carefully drove west on Market Street looking for the store. I think I was almost there when the blue lights started flashing. I looked into my rearview mirror into the eyes of one of Wilmington’s finest and wondered what on earth he was stopping me for. I had never gotten a ticket in my forty-eight years of driving, a record of which I was extremely proud. Well, except for once when I was taking my little girls to my sister’s house in my bathrobe because I was sick and the speedometer was wrong. But back in those days they had this process in which one could plea to Jesus and the whole deal was wiped from my record. I’m sure that would be politically incorrect these days so I was on my own.

The very polite, shaved-headed policeman—aren’t they all?—said that my vehicle license expired last December and it was now October of the following year. I said, “Oh, my goodness. I didn’t know that.” After asking for my driver’s license and registration card, he went back to his car to “call it in.” In the meantime, I called Pete and asked him, “Do you happen to know why we don’t have 2011 vehicle license on the van?” He had no idea and replied, “I’ll be right there.”

I have no clue how he found us on that heavily trafficked street but he did. Pete happily showed the quiet cop a paper that proved we had a license and the unemotional guy said, “That’s the form to send in for your license.” Somehow, because the thing looks exactly like a registration card, either Pete or I had stuck it in the glove compartment. More than likely, ‘twas I. Pete studied the card again and laughed out loud. The polite policeman did not laugh. He had no sense of humor whatsoever. He did, however, add to the conversation. It just so happened that when he “called it in” he discovered that our vehicle inspection was way past due and, guess what? So were my driver’s license. They were to be renewed by September 15 and it was now October 15.

Pete said, “I remember bringing that notice home.”

I said, “I do, too.”

The policeman, who must have had some type of deformity in that he couldn’t smile, handed me a citation and drove away.

I must say here that my husband is a miracle man, a problem solver of the highest order. Within an hour, we had picked up a form at one DMV office, driven to another DMV office where I got my license reinstated, had the van inspected at another place and had driven back to the first DMV office to get the vehicle license and then stopped over at the jewelry store to leave my wedding ring. The only holdup was deciding whether or not to be an organ donor. When the guy asked me, I replied, “Would anyone want my 65-year-old parts?” He had the same deformity as the policeman and with no personality whatsoever, he said, “I can’t advise you on that.” I said, “Okay, make me a donor. They can browse through and see if anything is usable.”

In the parking lot after all was said and done, while Pete stuck the sticker on the license plate, I said, “Bye, shug.” He gave me a quick hug and I could tell his mind was already working on the next problem and I might as well have been Nancy Pelosi.

It was a beautiful day at the beach. The next day, I mean. That particular one was by then pretty much yesterday.