The Hillbilly Chronicles – Chapter 4

In last week’s chapter I told the story of how my “Hillbilly” neighbors established a three-day bed and breakfast in their back yard. It was a neighborhood curiosity I’m not likely to soon forget!

In this week’s chapter I will share the story of when Dee and I caught Donut talking to the cable guy which sent us both into a mild panic.

The Cable Guy

In the spring of 2012, I started a Facebook page to share the amusing conversations I would have with my 70-year-old neighbor, Dee. I would visit with Dee from three to six days a week, always armed with pen and paper so I could take notes in the event she said something amusing … which she almost always did.

Dee was perfectly aware of our Facebook page. I wouldn’t have dared post our conversations publicly without her permission. In fact, even though she knew very little about Facebook (which she called Spacebook) she enjoyed the attention she received from the page’s followers, many of whom adored her.

On June 7, 2012, Dee and I were sitting on her front porch enjoying the morning sun. I have no idea what we were talking about when we noticed a truck from a local phone, cable and internet provider park in front of the hillbillies’ house.

Donut came out to talk to the cable guy as they both walked around the house talking, pausing, looking at the house and power lines and then talking some more.

Dee desperately wanted to know what they were saying and suggested I sneak across the street and find a hiding place where I could spy on them and report back.

I refused.

That’s when Dee told me about a “super sonic hearing aid” she had seen advertised on television. She claimed, “It’s so powerful you can hear a bird breathin’!”

I didn’t yet have the vaguest idea why Dee so desperately wanted to know what Donut was saying to the cable guy, but it was a valid concern, as I was to find out a few days later.

One morning, between June 7th and June 12th, I crossed the street to visit Dee who had not yet made it out to claim her throne on the front porch. I knocked on her door and let myself in. We greeted one another and I took a seat on the couch.

“There’s a truck over at Donut’s house,” I said.

“What kind of truck?” she asked.

“I don’t know. It has a blue and green logo on the side.”

The look on Dee’s face turned from pleasant to panicked as she exclaimed, “That’s the cable company!”

“What’s wrong with that?” I asked.

“We don’t want them gettin’ the internet!”

It had never occurred to me that they might be signing up for internet service. Phone service I could understand. Even cable would make sense. They seem like the kind of people who would spend $30 or $40 a month to watch Duck Dynasty or Honey Boo Boo.

I turned to Dee and said, “Wouldn’t it be funny if she discovered our page?”

“I don’t think that would be very funny at all!” she said. “They’d be liable to throw rocks through your window and I wouldn’t be surprised if I came out to feed my birds one mornin’ and there was a bunch of chicken heads hangin’ from the trees!”

Then she asked, “Do you think she’s smart enough to run a computer?”

“I’m sure she graduated from the eighth grade, at least. It doesn’t take a heck of a lot of smarts to double-click a mouse.”

“But you have to know how to spell,” added Dee.

“Maybe they’re just getting cable,” I said in an attempt to calm Dee’s nerves.

“I sure hope so! If she ever finds out that she’s Donut, we’re gonna have to move to a different country!”

To my knowledge, they never did find out. In fact, the week before and two weeks after this conversation took place, Donut gifted me with several bags of fresh produce she acquired from local food pantries. She attends every food giveaway at each of the local charities and as she tells it, “We don’t eat vegetables. They’re not good fer ya ’cause of all the poison they spray on ’em, so we just eat outta cans and boxes and we eat lots of meat.”

So in spite of their food pantry habit, the hillbillies aren’t all bad. At least she doesn’t want to see those “toxic” vegetables go to waste.

In fact, just today (March 23, 2017) Donut came by bearing more gifts of produce – cucumbers, sweet potatoes, eggplant and carrots.

When I opened the door, she was standing there with a look of disappointment on her face.

“They’re givin’ away vegetables again,” she said with a sigh. “They must think we’re a bunch of rabbits or somethin’.”

I thanked her for the vegetables as she left to go take stock of her food haul for the day. As I put away my treasured vegetables I couldn’t help but think that Donut must think I’m a rabbit or something.

In next week’s story the laugh’s on me when one of the hillbilly boys catches me talking to a clump of weeds.  As an added bonus I will also include Dee’s story of the “Wiggle-Woggler”, which also relates to my backward neighbors.

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Never Trust a Sleeping Vicki

Death On My Doorstep

One spring day back in the 90s, when I was living in Lake Dallas, Denton county, Texas, we had a terrible storm. I was working as a graveyard shift security officer at the time and did all my sleeping during the day. It was undetermined whether there had been a tornado, but the dangerously high winds caused a lot of damage to the area. When I awoke late that afternoon the storm had passed.

My next door neighbor had a huge old Cottonwood tree that was felled by the storm.    People from blocks away heard the tree meet its end.  My bed was close enough to my neighbor’s tree that I could have been killed or severely injured if it had fallen in a different direction, but it never fazed me.

I slept right through it.

The Barbecue Crisis Call

Several years later I had moved back home to Paris, Texas.  I was working the graveyard shift, once again, but now I was working as a shelter advocate at a battered women’s shelter.  There wasn’t a lot to do during the graveyard shift, as the residents and their children were usually asleep, but one of my duties was to man the crisis line.  We would often go days without a crisis call, but it was important to be at the ready when one did come through.

The night shift shelter employees were allowed to nap and there was a bed available for us in case it was needed.  Being a night owl, I did most of my sleeping during the day but occasionally I wouldn’t get enough sleep and would take advantage of my on-the-job napping privilege.

On one such night, as I was sleeping soundly on the job, I awoke to find the crisis line in my hand.  I pulled it away from my ear, trying to make sense out of the situation, when I heard a woman’s voice say, “Are you still there?”

“Yes, I’m here,” I answered.

“I’m afraid I don’t understand you. You’re not making a lot of sense.”

That’s when I realized I had been having a conversation with this woman … in my sleep.  I had no earthly idea what her situation was or what I had said to her, so my gut instinct was to simply ask, “Are you okay?”

“Yes, I keep telling you I’m okay.  I just don’t understand what barbecue has to do with anything I’ve said.”

Apparently I was either dreaming about barbecue or I was wishing I had some.  Or maybe I thought I was speaking to a barbecue delivery service and was simply placing my order.  Who knows?  I couldn’t very well ask her what had happened during the last ten minutes.  Asking such a question would probably be interpreted as unprofessional, so I winged my way through the rest of the call and always made sure to show up well-rested for future shifts.

Sherlock Brain to the Rescue

Several years later I was living with my late partner, Connie.  I was sleeping and awoke to find her putting something in one of the dresser drawers.

“What are you doing?” I asked groggily.

“Isn’t it obvious?” she answered.

But it wasn’t.

I had no earthly idea what she was doing.  Brainy had not yet remembered that it inhabited a human body that resided on planet Earth, so there was no making sense of such things yet.

I continued to study Connie’s movements as she folded things and put them in drawers.  Slowly Brainy started putting the pieces of the puzzle together until I was given enough information to finally make sense of it all.  That’s when I loudly exclaimed, “You’re putting up laundry!”

Connie was not impressed with my brilliant powers of deduction, but I think I may have startled her with my outburst.

Hamburgers and Monkeys

About a year later I was managing a convenience store in Waco, Texas.  I worked long hours and was always exhausted.  Connie and I both knew I couldn’t be trusted with the telephone on my side of the bed so it was always on her nightstand in the event of a middle-of-the-night call.

One night we received such a call after midnight. My alarm was set for 4:30 am.  I never awoke for this phone call but apparently I had a very interesting conversation nonetheless.

I went to work the next morning, still oblivious to having received a phone call in the wee hours of the morning.  It wasn’t until the end of my shift when Robert showed up to relieve me that I was made aware of the previous night’s call.

“What were you talking about last night?” he asked.

“What do you mean?”

“I called you last night.”

“No, you didn’t!” I argued.

“I was having a problem with the paperwork.  I couldn’t make the money balance so I called you. You started telling me how to make the perfect hamburger.  You went into a lot of detail.  I brought up the subject of the paperwork again and then you started talking about all the monkeys in the trees.  I finally gave up and figured it out on my own.”

I accused Robert of pulling my leg and when I got home that evening, still believing that Robert made up the whole story, I told Connie about it.

“He wasn’t pulling your leg,” she said.  “That’s exactly what happened.”

“Did it ever occur to you that monkeys in trees and perfect hamburgers weren’t exactly store-related topics?” I asked.

“It did seem rather strange,” she said, “but I figured you knew what you were talking about.  Besides I wanted to hear the end of the story.”

Panic Time!

Because that job was so stressful for me and because it required me to work 12 to 16 hour days, I was often sleep deprived and occasionally overslept.  It wasn’t uncommon for me to hit the snooze button repeatedly until the alarm finally woke me up, but occasionally I would simply turn off the alarm clock in my sleep preferring not to be bothered.  On several occasions Connie would wake me up after I had overslept, yelling, “You’re going to be late for work!”

As previously mentioned, Brainy can’t make sense of the world immediately after awaking, so on these occasions when I would oversleep and was startled awake by Connie’s helpful but alarming warning, Brainy would simply alert me that it was time to panic.

I would jump out of bed and in my stupor I would run around the bedroom aimlessly, picking up random objects – thinking I needed them for some reason – and continue to run around trying, unsuccessfully, to make sense of the world with a pillow in one hand and a flashlight and yesterday’s dirty sock in the other.

Connie would usually intervene at about this point and calmly and slowly explain to me that I was running late, that I wouldn’t have time for a shower and that I would need to get dressed and drink at least a half cup of coffee before I was able to leave.  She would then take whatever objects I had managed to pick up during my maniacal run through the house and would introduce me to the closet while explaining that clothes could be found within.  She would then leave me to my own devices as she started the coffee.

My point in sharing these anecdotes was to convey to the reader that I’m a heavy sleeper and generally spend my first 15 minutes of apparent consciousness in a state of delirium.  I hope I succeeded in this endeavor because I have one more story which just occurred this last weekend.

Serial Killer Comfort

I have a relatively new Facebook friend who has been going through some stuff recently.  Friday night I sent her a message inquiring as to how she was doing.  I then took a two-hour nap  and immediately after awaking I decided to check my Facebook notifications.  She had responded to my message with, “I’m alright”.

Anytime I simply answer, “Fine”, “Okay”, or “I’m alright”, it generally means I’m not, so in my sleep-stupor I decided to respond.

I told her I didn’t believe her but understood that she might not want to talk about it.  Then, in an attempt to offer comfort, I thought it would be a good idea to bring up Jack the Ripper.

I explained to her that my listening and communication skills may rate lower than those possessed by the 19th century serial killer but that I have an aversion to blood and am too lazy and skittish to go around killing people.

This was Brainy’s idea of comfort with a dash of humor.  I was barely able to keep my eyes open as I typed the message.  Immediately after hitting “send”, I went back to sleep.

My mind is almost always busy.  It often keeps me awake for hours when all I want to do is sleep.  The only time it’s quiet is after waking up – which simply proves that my delirium is more powerful than Brainy … at least until the former starts to fade.

I awoke again early Saturday morning. I had been up for the better part of an hour and was on my second cup of coffee when my stupor started to leave me.  That’s when Brainy took over and cheerfully announced, “Jack the Ripper”.

Jack the Ripper?  Why am I thinking about him?  Did I have a dream or something?  I don’t remember dreaming about Jack the … OH MY GOSH!  NO!  Please tell me it was just a dream!”

That’s when I started to remember that while most of my body was virtually dead to the world Brainy decided to offer words of comfort by sending a message of blood and murder.

I immediately opened Facebook to see what I had been up to during the night and found my “message of comfort”.

I sent another message: “Please ignore the last message and please just know that I hope you’re really okay. I vaguely remembered writing something about Jack the Ripper and thought, ‘Oh no! What have I done? And why did I think that was okay?'”

I panicked much of Saturday until I finally heard back from her.  Thankfully, she saw the humor in the situation and wasn’t disturbed by it.

But I was!

I now know I’m capable of sleep-messaging and am dreading the day when I next inflict my demented brand of textual terror on another unsuspecting victim.

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The Adventures of a Highly Sensitive Person

My original working title for this piece was, “The Adventures of an Insanely Sensitive Person”. The title was meant to poke fun at myself and not to be insensitive toward other highly sensitive persons, but it occurred to me that using the word insanely instead of highly serves no one in the end. The HSP (Highly Sensitive Person) is still so terribly misunderstood that such self-deprecating humor would only serve to encourage more criticism.

HSPs are gaining more and more understanding due to increased awareness but there’s still a huge stigma to overcome.

Traditionally we’ve been called too or overly sensitive, cry babies, too/overly emotional, touchy, thin-skinned, etc.

We’re accused of not being able to take a joke, of not knowing when somebody was “just kidding” or “being playful”, of taking things too personally or of not being able to recognize sarcasm.

The truth is that a HSP is the one who is least likely to laugh when you fall, the most likely to respect your dignity when your crooked toupee falls off your head at the Dollar General store and the most likely to empathize with you during a moment of humiliation or pain.

I would venture to say that most of us regard the janitor with the same level of respect as the CEO. We’re not easily impressed by titles, fame, wealth, physical perfection or nice things. We’re impressed by and value integrity, authenticity and fairness.

We rarely have to be reminded to “walk a mile” in someone else’s shoes. We live our lives constantly trying on other people’s shoes and are deeply affected by it.

Our feelings get hurt – personally – when we see a disabled person being mocked and ridiculed – especially when there’s an audience of spectators looking on – or when we see anyone being treated unfairly or inhumanely – especially as the result of prejudice, arrogance, sheer hatred, etc.

We despise those who consider themselves to be superior or chosen and therefore “more deserving” than others “beneath” them.

Cruelty, insensitivity, egotism and narcissism are our kryptonite.

We just want everyone to be kind to one another – to work out differences calmly and peacefully. We tend to have extreme negative emotional reactions to name-calling, fighting, screaming, bullying, etc.

Thus is the plight of the highly sensitive person.

To give a real-life example of how such a sensitive nature affects a HSP, I’ll use a recent example from my own life in regard to a friend’s misfortune.

I have a friend who I shall refer to as C.F., short for “Canadian Friend”.

But what if I ever decide to mention any of my other Canadian friends in my blog?

I can’t call them all C.F. That would be too confusing to my readers – all ten or fifteen of them.

Maybe I should go provincial.

No, Canadian provinces are pretty large.

Perhaps I should just personalize their secret identities.

Yes! That’s what I’ll do!

On second thought, scratch C.F. I shall now refer to her as L.M., for reasons which will be made clear in the following paragraphs.

L.M. and I have never met in person. We’ve been Facebook friends for nearly four years but have only started having real conversations during the last couple months.


Because I don’t do small talk. I don’t think she does either. I think we both needed a conversation starter, which turned out to be her unwillingness to watch the movie, “Titanic”. I needed to know why, which opened the door to further chats.

Last summer I lost all three of my senior cats – aged from 13 to 15 years old – so when L.M. told me recently that her beloved 22-year-old cat’s health was failing, I instantly empathized.

Her cat’s name was Lassie, which makes my friend “Lassie’s Mom” or L.M.

On March 8th Lassie passed away. L.M. had mentioned that someone in her life didn’t understand the bond between human and furry friend so I wanted her to know that someone did understand. I checked in with her daily, just in case she needed a shoulder. I understood that she wouldn’t feel like chatting but that was okay – I didn’t expect her to.

A side effect of all this is that I’ve been afraid to mention the word “cat”. For the last two weeks I have dropped the word out of my vocabulary in regard to public posts.

Not only have I felt obligated to avoid the word – I have also avoided any posting of cat cartoons, photos, videos, etc. I have them all stored away in my “saved” file for future use. I did accidentally share a St. Gertrude of Nivelles (the patron saint of cats, travelers and gardeners) image on St. Patrick’s Day. I meant to hide it so L.M. couldn’t see it but I forgot to do so and the next day, once I realized she may have seen it, I emotionally punished myself for being so insensitive.

Then, a few days ago on my “Just Plain Vicki” Facebook page, I posted one of a series of fictitious text messages with my imaginary robot in which the robot asked for a kitten. (Side note: I am not crazy! You’ll just have to check out the page to fully appreciate these bizarre texts.) It wasn’t until L.M. made reference to that text that I realized what I had done. Her response to the text was positive, however, and my heart rate returned to normal after realizing I hadn’t destroyed her.

So this is what it’s like to be highly sensitive. In some ways the torture we put ourselves through is somewhat amusing. It’s not all about being a cry baby or taking things too personally. It’s about being wired in such a way that we’re emotionally pained to the core when we feel or sense pain … especially when we’re able to relate. We don’t simply get over things. We learn how to live with the pain inflicted upon us – whether intentionally or unintentionally – and we are changed because of it. It’s not about being thin-skinned – it’s about feeling deeply.

There are episodes of “I Love Lucy” I simply cannot watch, for instance, because of the perceived humiliating situations Lucy gets herself into. The same goes for many other sitcoms which notoriously use humiliating situations to get laughs. Likewise, every episode of America’s Funniest Home Videos features so-called “funny” clips of people getting hurt, falling off of trampolines, crashing into trees, being pranked, etc. I’m aware of the fact that many people find these situations to be funny, but in most cases I simply don’t understand why. Pain and humiliation simply aren’t funny to me.

I used to hate being so sensitive. It was particularly excruciating in my teens. Besides being highly sensitive, I also had an extremely low self-esteem and socially awkward tendencies that made me the perfect target for bullies. It’s not so bad in the adult world, but every HSP has had to deal with the occasional friend, family member or coworker who finds the need to point out that they are sensitive to a fault.

In recent months I’ve been doing a lot of soul-searching and self-exploration. I have come to realize that the sensitive souls in this world are not the problem.

The real problem is that we live in a world that has little tolerance for gentleness and way too much tolerance for hardness, coldness, arrogance, boastfulness, prejudice, insults, the infliction of humiliation and bullying.

This seems awfully backward to me.

Instead of advising gentle souls to toughen up, we should be encouraging the more calloused souls to gentle up.

I have more respect for the gentle soul who’s easily bruised than I have for the calloused soul who thinks nothing of bruising others to boost his own ego.

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The Hillbilly Chronicles – Part 3

The Backyard Bed & Breakfast

Last week I told the story of how some mysterious stranger showed up in a blue van and took Donut, the matriarch of my hillbilly neighbors, to an undisclosed location and returned her a week later.

I ended the story leaving my readers in suspense as to what to expect in the next chapter because I am a disorganized writer with disorganized notes and wasn’t even sure myself what adventure awaited.

That adventure has since been made clear and requires us to travel from May, 2012, back to March of the same year, in a story I have entitled, “The Backyard Bed and Breakfast”.

It all started on March 13, 2012, when I happened to look out of my bedroom window into the neighbor’s back yard where they had a 19″ TV placed upon a rollaway metal TV stand. In front of the TV sat an old computer chair, next to which sat an upside down five-gallon bucket which served as an end table. Hanging from the clothesline was a set of queen or king size bed sheets which blocked out the early day sun.

I couldn’t make sense of the arrangement but at one point during the day I did notice one of their teenage sons making use of the makeshift living room.

The following day, to add ambiance to the setting, a potted plant had been placed atop the television. The bucket-table disappeared, possibly having found a new use elsewhere but was replaced with a microwave oven and a fold-up rollaway bed which had been set up to accommodate a backyard sleeping guest.

I’m not quite sure if they had an out-of-town visitor or if they just got tired of living indoors for a few days, but on the following day, March 15th, everything was gone except the curtains and rollaway bed. That afternoon I noticed the hillbilly patriarch, who I shall refer to as “Jed”, taking a backyard nap on the bed while Donut attended to some yard work while wearing a very tight pair of short shorts.

I don’t mean to be critical of Donut’s weight, as I’m a plus-sized gal myself, but one has to admire how a 250+ pound woman managed to wrangle herself into a pair of short shorts that were intended for someone two to three sizes smaller. I must admit that I watched in awe as she performed her yard duties … until she bent over and practically mooned me as all her private business started oozing out of the legs of the shorts. That’s when I could no longer allow myself to watch the show. I felt, at that moment, as if I had been watching hillbilly porn and decided that my anthropological studies in relation to this three-day affair must come to an end.

I still don’t quite understand the purpose behind the backyard bed and breakfast, but the one thing I did learn is that one can never unsee certain images, no matter how hard one tries. If nothing else a physics lesson was learned that day – one which I could have lived my life never having missed.

Next Friday we’ll jump to June, 2012 when I join my delightful neighbor, Dee, once again to spy on the neighbors in a panic-filled chapter of the Hillbilly Chronicles, entitled “The Cable Guy”.

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The Horrors of Small Talk

I hate small talk. Most introverts do. But the worst kind of small talk, in my opinion, is the kind in which you feel obligated to participate but weren’t prepared for.

The unexpected meeting!

A while back I had gone to Subway to get a sandwich and ran into an old coworker I hadn’t seen in about 15 years. She recognized me, I recognized her, both of our brains kicked in and remembered past shared experiences – so naturally, we both felt obligated to speak to one another.

Commence mandatory small talk!

She: Oh my gosh! It’s been so long! How are you doing, Vicki?

Me: Oh, hey! Fine, and you?

She: Good! What have you been up to?

Me: Not much … and you?

She: What are you doing now? Where are you working? Do you have a girlfriend? What’s been going on?

Me: I have some cats. That’s about it. How about you?

She probably thought I no longer liked her. We were never terribly close but I never disliked her. We simply have nothing in common with the exception of our old job.

If one attends a party, a reunion or some other social affair, one expects to interact with others. I tend to avoid such get-togethers to avoid the inevitable, but if I were to attend such a function, at least I’d know it was expected of me.  The only speaking I was prepared to do that day was to recite my sandwich order which I was busy repeating over and over in my head so that when my turn came up, I wouldn’t hold up the line.

But when I ran into my old coworker, which was a completely unexpected meeting, I panicked. My sandwich order was on a continual loop in my brain and I didn’t have much room left for new thoughts, nor did I have time to construct a mental script for the occasion.

I felt bad that I couldn’t fill my old coworker in on the last 15 years but she was either going to have to settle for a four-hour conversation or “I have cats”. The second choice seemed more humane than to hold her hostage for four hours during her 30-minute lunch break.

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The Hillbilly Chronicles – Part 2

Last week I gave the reader a brief introduction to my hillbilly neighbors, covering the time period of 2011 through May of 2012 and I explained how my neighbor, Dee, had given the maternal hillbilly the name of “Donut”.

This week, as promised, I’ll continue where I left off, in May, 2012, when someone took Donut away in a blue van, leaving Dee and me to blindly solve the mystery.

On May 25, 2012, Dee and I were sitting on her front porch doing what we did best – drinking coffee, griping about everything that annoyed us, solving the world’s problems and talking about our neighbors. It was the latter of the aforementioned topics that prompted Dee to broadcast her news report.

“Oh, I saw somebody take Donut off yesterday. They was drivin’ a blue Sunburn … a blue Suburble … a blurban … they was drivin’ a blue van. It wasn’t one of them van-vans, it was just a van like they drive nowadays. I haven’t seen her since.”

Dee’s news report, translates to English as follows: “Somebody picked up Donut in a blue SUV yesterday and never brought her back.”

And that’s how Donut became a missing person.

Dee and I were sure her family – the other hillbillies – must have known what happened to her because the police were never called, but Dee and I, in spite of Dee being in her 70s and I in my 40s, liked to imagine and pretend much of the time, so we pursued the theory that Donut had been snatched off the street by a blue van-driving, roving hillbilly kidnapper.

Five days later the following dialogue took place on Dee’s front porch:

Dee – I haven’t seen Donut in days!

Vicki – I haven’t seen her in about a week. I wonder where she is.

Dee – I think they took her off in that blue van last week and decided not to bring her back.

Vicki – Maybe they took her off to have her glazed.

Dee – I’m wonderin’ if she’s sitting in a little room somewhere wearin’ one of them shirts with the sleeves sewed together.

Donut was missing for seven days total, returning home on the evening of June 1st. The following day I reported to Dee’s so we could discuss the details.

Dee – Donut came back home.

Vicki – I know. She came home last night while I was visiting with Jackie.

Dee – I think she’s been in the hospital. She lost a lot of weight. I haven’t heard her yellin’, so she must not be feelin’ good.

Vicki – I’ve enjoyed the quiet but I hate that she’s not feeling well.

Dee – Now that she’s back, I need you to go to your house and get your hand saw so you can cut back the limbs on my tree. They’re blockin’ my view. I can’t even see Donut’s front door! I can’t tell who’s comin’ and goin’!

Vicki – They probably prefer it that way.

Dee – Well, I don’t! Go get your saw so I can see what our neighbors are doin’!

As it turned out, Donut had been in the hospital having knee surgery, but stayed a little longer than expected after a request was made for special psychiatric attention.

Anyway, I did as Dee requested and cut back the limbs on her tree so she could have a clear view of the hillbillies’ house. We actually had a relatively good system worked out. Dee was able to see what the neighbors were up to but from her perch across the street, but she couldn’t hear everything they said. That’s where I came in. Living next door to the loud-mouthed hillbillies allowed me to hear much of what they said but I wasn’t able to view their actions. So Dee and I would get together each morning and would attempt to piece together what she saw and I heard. It didn’t always make sense, but that wasn’t necessarily the point of our little game.

Next week I will present part three of the Hillbilly Chronicles. I would love to hint at what the reader has to look forward to, but unfortunately, as I write this, I’m exhausted and my notes don’t seem to be complete or in order. So for the time being next Friday’s story will have to be a surprise to all of us. I believe it will either feature the cable man, a Wiggle Woggler or something totally unrelated.

So make sure to check back next Friday for the mysterious missing plot of The Hillbilly Chronicles!

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The Hellcat

Dream:  I was at my kitchen table reading the paper when I came across an article about a free lecture being given that night at a school near my house.  The article claimed that Paris (Texas) was being invaded by Hellcats and the lecturer would provide information to those who attend regarding what one should do in a Hellcat encounter.

I decided I needed to go to the lecture to find out more about the Hellcat threat so that evening I showed up at the school and was shown the way to the auditorium.

The room was packed but I found a seat in the fifth row while my fellow audience members chatted away.  A woman of Japanese descent, sitting in the third row, was fidgeting and kept turning from side to side, then looking over her shoulder as if she were scared of something or someone.  I leaned forward and asked, “Ma’am, are you alright?”

“I don’t know,” she said.  “I feel like … this isn’t a safe place.  Something’s not right.”

I wanted to help calm her nerves but didn’t quite know how to go about it in a crowded auditorium, so I offered her a piece of cinnamon gum, which she accepted graciously.

Finally a man wearing a pinstripe suit appeared on stage and demanded everyone’s attention.

He began to speak about a number of dangerous women who were living in Paris.

“These women call themselves Hellcats.  They’re some of the most dangerous people I’ve come across in the twenty years I spent in law enforcement.  They have no physical weapons, which is what makes them so dangerous!  Their weapon is magic!  We know of at least a half-dozen citizens who have been turned into tadpoles already.  The only way to avoid the transformation, once the spell has been cast, is to swallow a handful of flax seeds immediately after the witch utters her spell.   This is how they do it.”

I was stifling laughter as the former police officer took off his suit jacket and snapped and flailed it about – as if he were shooing flies off a picnic pie – to demonstrate how the Hellcats turn citizens into tadpoles.

I couldn’t hold my laughter in any longer.  I laughed so loud that it seemed to echo through the auditorium.  The Japanese-American woman, two rows in front of me, stood up and turned around.

“Don’t laugh!  Please don’t laugh,” she pleaded.  “I’ve had this dream before!  If you don’t stop he’ll…”  Then she turned around to face the speaker.  He stood behind the podium, enraged.  He reached over to a small table beside the podium and picked up a mallet and with a wide swinging motion he struck the gong behind him, which I hadn’t noticed until now.

The sound of the gong was deafening.  Everybody in the auditorium covered their ears and the woman who had warned me to stop laughing slumped into her chair like a rag doll.  The lights in the room lowered until I could barely see my hand in front of my face.

I stood up, preparing to escape the auditorium, when I noticed the air had become thick with fog.  I heard a train in the distance, turned around and realized I was outside – alone on a dark, deserted city street.  A few lamp posts lit the street, but the light was rather dim.  A figure moved out from the doorway of an old store across the street.  The figure was dressed in a long, black flowing gown with a tall, pointy black hat.  She slowly crossed the street, walking toward me, as I stood frozen in fear.

As she moved closer to me I noticed she was carrying a small, black kitten.  When I was able to make out her features, I spotted two warts – one on her chin and one on her upper lip.  She stopped, now standing directly in front of me.  I said nothing.

“Well?” she asked.

“Well what?” I replied.

“What do you have to say for yourself?”

“I have no earthly idea what just happened.”

“I have orders to turn you into a tadpole,” she said.

“What are my options?” I asked.

“I’ll spare you if you agree to be my slave for the next seven years.”

She seemed quite serious, but once again I was having to stifle my laughter until I could no longer contain it.

“How dare you laugh at me!” she exclaimed.

“You’re no witch!” I said, accusingly.

She took a step back, spreading her free arm to the side, showing me her costume in an attempt to prove her claim and intimidate me.  Then she began to recite some sort of magic spell, which sounded like gibberish.  I stood there and listened as she slowed down and stopped.

“I just have two more lines to go and you’ll be transformed!”

“Well, please continue.  Don’t let me stop you.”

She continued reciting gibberish – much slower than before.  It had already occurred to me that she was bluffing, so acting on my hunch, I reached for her face and grabbed the wart on her chin.  It fell right into my hand as she gasped in horror.  I quickly reached for her other wart.  They were both nothing more than putty.  Stage makeup!

Her voice trembled as she asked, “How did you know?”

“Because no respectable witch would dress like that unless they were going to a Halloween party.  You’re no witch!  You’re just part of the scam.”

I grabbed her by the wrist and informed her I was going to turn her over to the police.  She begged me to let her go and then showed me the ring on her finger, offering it to me as a bribe, if I would only let her go free.

“I’ve seen this ring before,” I said.

“Of course, you have!” she said proudly.  “I saw it in a vision.  Your mother showed it to me. I had it specially made.”

“That’s another lie!” I exclaimed.  “My mother wouldn’t have shown you that gaudy, bejeweled monstrosity!  She was a simple woman with simple tastes.  Just a few minutes ago you were trying to make me your indentured servant.  Now you’re trying to bribe me with visions of my mother and the ugliest ring I’ve ever seen.  What’s your game?  And what part does the guy giving the lecture play in all this?”

Just then the Japanese-American woman broke through the fog and started walking toward us. The so-called witch fell to the ground, moaning.

“Oh, stop faking a heart attack! I’m turning you in!”

The woman from the third row stood next to me as we both stood over the witch, watching her as she appeared to be writhing in pain.

“I don’t think she’s faking,” said the woman, “I think this is real. She’s been found out. She can’t hurt you anymore.”

“Who are you?”

“My name is Rose. I’ve been in your shoes. I had this dream before but I agreed to be her slave. I was scared. But in my dream she threatened to turn me into a toad. I didn’t have the nerve to stand up to her but I think you came better prepared.”

“Yeah, I think real life prepared me for this one. But what does it mean?”

“It means you’re free.”

She repeated the words, “you’re free” several times, as they trailed off into a faint echo.

End of dream

I awoke with a pain in my stomach – a pain I couldn’t identify and that worried me. For the next couple hours I worried about my stomach pain and finally decided to eat something.

The pain was hunger – a sensation I hadn’t experienced since early in November, in spite of having skipped between ten and twenty meals for every one consumed throughout most of that time.

I reckon I’m healing.

It’s about time!

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