Monday, August 31, 2009

Hen Pecked

A predator of some sort got to our hens two nights ago, killing one of them and leaving her beheaded body on the bottom of the pen.

Corrine found the hen and the evidence of the break-in: the top of the screen door was shorn away, and there were claw marks on the ground where the infiltrator tried to gain access by burrowing under.

Our hens are not in a top-level security facility here. It's an 8-foot-by-8-foot square pen made of strapping and chicken wire. It's placed on the dirt ground up against the back of our barn.

I popped out a window in the barn and built a wooden box that acts as a sort of passageway between the barn - where they sleep at night - and the pen.

Two weeks ago a neighbor complained of hen shit on his apartment building porch, so we stopped letting them range. We're nothing if not polite and conscientious neighbors.

But the fact that an animal of some sort tore into their home and assaulted one of the hens is a bit unnerving. What's worse is that the dead hen's sisters thought nothing about surrounding her body and pecking the hell out of it. Gross.

I know of only raccoons capable of scaling an 8-foot door, tearing open the screen and ripping the head off a hen. Skunks won't do it. Foxes won't.

So of the 17 original hens, we're down to 15. One having been killed by a stray dog. And now this one.

I'm actually at a loss as to what to do. There is no way to protect them, really, unless I seal off there sleeping quarters and manually let them outside during the day. That's a hassle. Ever try to round up a bunch of scared-shitless hens?

On another note, we bred our border collie with a female a few months ago and the result was a litter of 12 puppies. The owner of the bitch sold all but four, and then called Corrine last week asking her if we could puppy-sit while she tries to find a new place to live.

So we've had four tireless pups bouncing around the house, pissing and shitting everywhere. Corrine penned them on our deck, which now looks like the bottom of a kennel.

The back hallway is where they sleep at night, and that too is rank with the effluvium of dog urine and excrement, not to mention the little fuckers are chewing the hell out of anything.

Right about now, I hate dogs and hens.

And neighbors.

But I love you. So relax.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Fragon Slayer

Well, well, well, if it isn't me? I don't blog all week, except Fridays it seems. That will change this week, as I return to my regularly scheduled programming.

Friday Fragments are an illusion, wrapped in a mystery, doused with a splash of guile and buttered with condescension. They are a weekly delicatessen of odd ball observations by a miscreant 41-year-old who can't mate socks because he's colorblind. But don't hold that against him. You can blame it on Mrs. 4444 at Half Past Kissin' Time. Well, the Fragment part, not his colorblindness.

FF We keep hens. 16 of them, in fact, and all spring and summer they have free-ranged around our property, hunting and pecking everything in sight. They have even ranged all over our neighbor's yard, and he doesn't care. They do eat ticks, don't ya know? Two weeks ago a wiry, scruffy man who looked like someone had pissed in his mouth, knocked on my door. Asked if we had chickens. I said yes, of course. "Well, they're shittin all over my porch." I asked where he lived. It happens that he owns an apartment building two houses down from us. "I think you should have to come down and clean it up." I told him I would come down and take a look. I changed my mind though. He didn't say hello, he didn't shake my hand or introduce himself. Just dragged his sorry ass up onto my porch fuming and swearing and sputtering and making demands. This apartment building is a slum. The police have been called numerous times for some of the tenants fighting in the street, squealing tires, etc. Chicken shit goes well with his gray flecked faux paint job, I'm thinking.

FF The kids started school this week. Am I going to hell by saying I'm grateful for the sound of silence?

FF I have college orientation tomorrow and Monday. I have made it my secret mission to attain nothing less than a 3.8 GPA. Why, you ask? Because someone once told me I couldn't. And when you tell me I can't do something, I instantly hate you and your family and put curses on you.

FF Gabrielle had a virus last week that created sores in and around her mouth. A virus. That's all the doctor could call it. A virus. With all the advancement in medicine you'd think they would be able to at least give my daughter's infliction a name. All she could take was ibuprofen. She didn't eat for four days. She cried in the middle of the night because it was so painful. And we paid a doctor $1,456 for her to tell us Gabi had a virus. I'm changing my college major to become a doctor.

FF The last couple of weeks have been glorious. Mid-80s, sunny, summery. Beautiful. Last two days, I've had to wear a sweatshirt and long johns to bed and woken up with frost on the insides of my eyelids. Fuck Maine. I'm moving to someplace where it's warm. Like Canada, maybe.

FF We still have not repaired the porch roof. I tore up a third of the shingles in the corner where we've had leaking. That was two weeks ago. One time, when I was a kid, I dismantled an electronic toy I had been given for Christmas because I wanted to see if I could put it back together. I failed. I hid the toy in my closet because I was afraid my dad would kill me. My folks called the other day to say they were coming over and for a split second I actually considered hiding my porch. How lame is that?

FF No dear, I don't agree with you. I can't keep my hands or my eyes off of you. You must be doing a whole lot of something right...

Friday, August 21, 2009

Friday is For Fragging

Friday Fragments?

Friday Fragments are my way of imparting to you a certain twisted wisdom. Read these little snippets of goings-on, and it shall set you free. Mrs. 4444 over at Half Past Kissin Time is to blame for this. She is the Fragment Zen Master. Please pay her homage.

# I got changed in the bathroom after a short swim the other day and as I reached the door to leave, realized something was amiss. I looked down and saw that I had thrown on Corrine's tan skirt, the kind with the shorts in them. I felt so...liberated. And then I got my period.

# Corrine and I are second-act parents, in that we both had children, raised them out of infancy and into their teens and then had children together of our own. We both, it has become obvious, forgot how much infants can absolutely kill a romantic relationship. Plans to go out together fall through; plans to snuggle on the couch together are interrupted by the 1-year-old needing a diaper change, or the 3-year-old wanting to be between us. Recently we were sitting on the couch talking about watching a movie since our older kids were at their other parents' respective houses and the little ones were asleep. As we sat there, flipping through the movie channels we pay for but never use, it was 7:30, the sun had not yet set, neighbors were barbecuing. Two hours later we both woke up and went upstairs to bed.

# Speaking of parenting. I made it a mental mission to never disparage my ex-wife in front of our children, no matter the temptation. I wish she had gone on the same mental mission.

# I'm a week from college orientation and do not have a second-hand car yet. Like all things in my life, I must wait for money. The college is cutting a check for the difference in financial aid. (Aid includes housing and travel, and since I am not living on campus, I will get cash instead) Anyway, part of the money will go toward a used car. The check has not come yet. My dad went to the University of Maine at Orono, some two-plus hours away. This was when he was a young pup married to mom. He used to HITCHHIKE to and from college just to be with my mom. And people ask how the hell does a couple last for 50 years? There's your answer. I, on the other hand, can't fucking wait for that check.

# Gabrielle, our three-year-old, has been potty-trained for some time now. She still announces when she needs to go, but she can climb up and do her thing all by herself. The other night I was watching her and Griffin while Corrine was at play rehearsal. Gabi went to the bathroom and trotted back afterward, exclaiming she had pooped. In the most genuinely impressed voice about pooping that I could muster, said "Wow, that's fantastic!" To which she replied, "Yeah, I did a baby poop, a mommy poop and a daddy poop." I asked her what that meant. She took me to the bathroom and showed me. There were little turds, medium turds, and one really large dad-looking turd. I think she's gonna be a writer, what do you think?

# Corrine and I took Fallon, my oldest, for her senior portraits this week. Corrine had found a beautiful spot in town with these expansive views, rolling lawns, gardens, picket fences and even a Japanese waterfall. The woman who owns the property gladly let us stroll around with the photographer. It was a gorgeous summer day. One I have already stored in my Fallon Memory Bank. Watching her pose, I could not help but feel ... well, you probably already know how I felt. The girl used to fall asleep in my arms, for chissake.

# My cousin, Matthew, came up from North Carolina this week. He's in the Marines and will be shipping out to Iraq in September. The Turner clan gathered at my parents to wish him well. It was nice seeing my father's brothers all together, talking about growing up. It's the way families should be when they gather. I wish there was more of it. As for Matthew, I wish him well and know God will go with him.

# I have this recurring dream that Corrine is pregnant. There's no chance in hell that she could ever get pregnant, of course. not by me anyway. I had the old cables snipped. No, this is not a dream of lament, or wish. I think it means something else, but I'm just not sure what.

# I'm replacing the roof on our porch with metal. That is to say, I'm putting metal over the existing shingles. The corner where the roof meets the house is an ice trap and leaks every winter. I pulled up the shingles there to see what damage there was to the wood. Like I know what the fuck I'm doing, you know? Anyway, the wood looks remarkably good. No rot. What I discovered was that the previous owner had had it re-roofed and left gaps between it and the abutting house, through which water can naturally flow. Okay, I'm no carpenter, but even I know that gaps mean trouble. And that's my metaphor for the week: gaps mean trouble, folks. Fill the gaps in your life, don't just shingle over them. That and wear old sneakers because roofing tar sucks, man.

Deep huh?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Nearness of You

It's not the pale moon that excites me
That thrills and delights me
Oh no
It's just the nearness of you
It isn't your sweet conversation
That brings this sensation
Oh no
It's just the nearness of you

When you're in my arms and I feel you so close to me
All my wildest dreams came true
I need no soft lights to enchant me
If you would only grant me the right
to hold you ever so tight
And to feel in the night
The nearness of you

~Norah Jones

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Gabrielle is THIS Many: III

Gabrielle turns three today. And to honor her, I've selected some photos I consider my favorites.

Corrine took this and it's one of my absolute favorites. Big eyes. Fat cheeks.

A completely candid shot. She found an old pair of glasses and put them on. Corrine took the picture just as her daycare friend, Ty, looked at her. Is that not a cute shot or what? And it PERFECTLY captures her and him. I've told you here before. Boys better watch out, because she's not gonna take prisoners.

She loves her Fiffin ... and chokes him and kisses him and knocks him in the head and hugs him and takes his toys from him and tells him she loves him. You know. The usual sister-brother thing.

Do I have to say anything more? This, my friends, is Gabrielle Marrae Turner.

Photo I took for her first birthday card invitations. Great expression.

I have very little hair. And I've lost most of it because of her.

My favorite, probably. No feeling surpasses that of your child sleeping in your arms. None.

She's actually playing, and winning. Something she has always been able to do.

She loves it when other people read. She also loves chewing the bindings.

I was in The Nerd as the title character. Gabrielle is actually making fun of me here. What, you can't see it in her eyes?

Ahoy! Shiver me timbers! Walk the plank!

The cake-eating champ of 45 High Street. Arrrrrgh!!

These are MY boobies, Nana!

She will always have the love and support of her brothers. Because they are afraid of her.

Don't recall what she's dressed as, but that's beside the point. She's stylin in whatever she wears.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Two Weeks and Counting

Corrine bought me a backpack for college this weekend. In two weeks I start. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Four classes in History, Algebra, Philosophy and English.

I went online to see what textbooks are required and the total came to nearly $300. Do you know how many cheesy $5 movies I could buy at Wal-Mart with $300?

This whole college thing better be worth it.

On the other hand, I subscribe to Writer's Digest and in FOUR articles I read where first-time published authors went for degrees in creative writing. And they swear it made the difference between being an aspiring author, and an actual, published one.

The thing is, I consider myself a published author already. Self-published, to be sure, but published nevertheless.

It was still heartening to read that these authors went for the same degree (well, technically it was an MFA, not a BA) as the one I am striving for.

If they allow me into the program, I should say. I have to ace my remedial algebra and do well in my other classes before I can petition the creative writing department. Then they take my writing samples and decide if I'm worthy.

Wouldn't it be the cat's balls if I was rejected? A 12-year journalist, published novelist, and one helluva cute 41-year-old man, and I get a thumbs down.

I shiver just thinking about it. What would I do then? Major in physics? I suppose I could go for English or History. But, you know, I'm doing this college degree thing so that I can mingle with writers. So that I can improve my writing by being under the tutelage of published professors. So that I can engage in a worthy dialogue about writing with someone other than myself and my dog, Sammy.

I did make a decision last week that I will go for a double major. I'm split, though, between philosophy and theater, with a writing emphasis.

I like philosophy because of its focus on the human condition. I think it would go well with writing. I mean, it's all about people, right, and what makes them tick?

Theater is a hobby of mine, though. And Farmington allows for self-designed majors. Theater with a writing emphasis makes sense because playwriting is an interest I have. But it may be too close to creative writing.

A third option would be history, which I love. Hmmm. I'll have to weigh a lot before I decide.

Anyway. That's a cart-before-the-horse debate for now. I'll wait to see how well I do my freshman year before I expand into another degree.

I have a backpack, a Dayminder calendar for class schedule and assignments, a box of my favorite uni-ball pens, with the micro tips. I will purchase my books probably at the end of this week, and the first week of September buy a used car for $1,000 that's great on gas but probably no larger than a locker.

I'm not sure if I'll get new clothes. No need right now, where it's still summer. When I went to college the first time, my mother harped on me the entire summer about what to get me for clothes.

"What are the kids wearing now?" she would constantly ask me and I had no clue. For my entire life my mother bought my new school clothes for me, which was basically whatever was on the racks at K-Mart. Corduroys, Oxford shirts, and Wranglers. Hush Puppies for shoes.

I didn't care. I had...and still fashion sense whatsoever. I was more psyched about getting the new Bionic Man pencil case.

I go into stores now for my OWN kids, and Corrine has to guard against me picking something that will get my son's ass kicked.

"Honey, it's velour. Don't be that guy."

I imagine college to be filled with kids wearing jeans and t-shirts, the boys letting their hair grow long and not shaving; drinking coffee for the first time in their lives and having no clue what the real world is like but pretending they do.

I don't want to be 18 again, but I sure as hell don't want to stick out either. I'm fairly young looking for my age. If I wear jeans and t-shirts, Birkenstocks with wool socks, and lose the glasses, then I will be fine.

Have you seen the movie Never Been Kissed, with Drew Barrymore? She's a reporter that goes under cover at her local high school to write an expose. Her first day she dresses the way she did in the 1980s. Flaming pink boa and all.

That can't be me.

I have it on my checklist as "Look at your high school senior picture, and make sure you're NOT HIM"

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Mr. Snuggles

My youngest son, Griffin, cannot get enough of me, so it seems.

When I come downstairs, he's at the foot of them yelling my name.

When I go into the bathroom, he's pounding on the door yelling my name.

When I go outside, go into the kitchen, go into a deep thought ... he yells my name.

He toddles up to me, his arms raised, monkey-like, throws his head back and pouts.


It's not anything I am used to, I have to tell you. My oldest children were loving. They still are, in fact. It's not that. It's that they were more apt to chase their mother around and cry for her to pick them up. Not me. That's just how I thought it worked. I mean, since the womb these children have been attached to Mommy. They come out and are first held by her, breastfed by her, and more than likely, diapered by her.

If I deny Griffin, he plops down on his bottom and cries the cry of a ruined man. Decimated. Destroyed. All that he believed in has come crumbling down. Might as well jump from his crib. It's all over.

How the hell can I do that to him?

I do walk away some times. Only because, the kid needs to learn that he's not going to get picked up every time he wants something. But I always come back to him. I'm a sucker. One of these days I'm going to get a picture of his face when this happens. And I would defy you to walk away too.

I have come to crave hearing him yell my name. I have to be honest. And I feel a lift when I see his face light up when I enter the room and he throws his arms up. To be wanted so demonstrably. It's something I am not used to.

I have become accustomed to being the one with the arms raised, and toddling to my children for a kiss and a hug. (And they have gladly provided me that, don't get me wrong.)

But Griffin... Griffin is a snuggle monster. And I like that.

Friday, August 7, 2009

I Spy Friday Fragments

Friday Fragments?

Friday Fragments are brief bouts of blogging flu in which I enumerate things that have happened these past few days - or weeks - that are too small to stretch into a full-blown blog. Mrs. 4444 over at Half Past Kissin Time is to blame for this. You should check her out. I mean that in a blogging kind of way.

I dedicate this week's fragments to spying.

- This morning, a child care dad dropped off his infant son. He gets a ride with one of his construction buddies in a white, nondescript, construction site sort of van. The same kind Buffalo Bill the serial killer in Silence of the Lambs lured his victims into.

Anyway, while the child care dad was busy downstairs talking to Corrine about child care stuff, I observed Bill the Driver press a finger to his nose, lean out of the window of the van, and blow snot all over the place. The van, his arm, my driveway. I even think hit a sparrow in flight.

He then wiped his finger on the door of the van, then checked his nostrils in the driver's side mirror.

It blows its nose with a tissue or it gets the hose again!

- At Borders in South Portland this week I was in the Reference section looking for books on the writing craft when I spied, over in the Romance section, a woman with her back to me. She was, um...full figured. And apparently having problems with the tag of her underpants because she reached behind, dug deep, and yanked that fucking thing out like she was weeding a garden.

How she didn't give herself a bleeding wedgie will be one of those universal questions that will stay with me forever. I will, however, use it in a novel.

Carla reached around and sunk her fleshy arm deep, up to the elbow, fishing, fishing, her fingers grasping at air. Until, at last, they fell upon the offending tag and with one Herculean heave, tore it free. She studied it for a moment, near to her nose the way a boy considers an ant before burning it with a match. She then promptly discarded it by placing it between the pages of I Was a Middle Aged Virgin

- We have two dogs. A pug and a border collie. Just the other night I was watching television and, from the hallway, I heard the pug grunting, as if he were lifting weights. A rhythmic sort of expression of air, short and ... well, obscene like. So I peeked around the corner and found the collie mounting the pug. They're both males.

And I swear to God himself, all I could say was "Oh! Sorry!"

- I drove into town recently and, as is the norm, began talking to myself. For miles. And then it suddenly dawned on me I was having a discussion with myself. I looked in the mirror and said "Are you talking to yourself?"

Now, that's just really psychotic on so many levels, isn't it? Talking to yourself, then catching yourself talking to yourself and then asking yourself if you're talking to yourself, as if it were unclear to you that you were indeed talking to yourself and needed to be reassured.

- Is there any person on earth filled with more self-importance than a construction crew flagger? They rule the universe don't they? Standing out there in their steel-toed boots, greasy jeans and Motley Crue wife-beater on. Holding a sign that has two sides: SLOW and STOP, nothing more apt at describing the speeds of their brain activity is there?

Anyway, I came upon a line of traffic and watched one such road nazi as he did his thing. Eventually, after oncoming traffic was bled through, our line was allowed to go. He flipped the sign and stepped out of the way. The guy first in line didn't move.

The flagger/parolee pointed his walkie talkie at the driver and gave him a "fuck ya waitin for, dumbass?!?!?" look that all construction flaggers are trained to perfect, but the driver didn't move.

The flagger - who moonlights on the midway of your local county fair - tapped the SLOW sign heavily with his hand and waved the driver forward. The driver still didn't move.

At this point, the flagger raises both hands and starts yelling. What he was saying I could not tell, but I'm sure it included Bitch and Pig Fucker.

At which point the driver of the vehicle poked his head out the window, spewed a colorful epithet of his own and pointed demonstrably down the road - at the two large construction vehicles heading our way.

The slacker ... er ... flagger backed off, to the side of the road, and waited for the trucks to barrel on by.

The driver then sped away, but not without first flipping the flagger off.

Maine. The Way Life Should Be.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Kids Keep the House

Corrine and I bought our house in the summer of 2006. She was working full time at a bookstore, but 7 months pregnant and therefore contemplating staying at home - whatever home turned out to be. I was working full time at a nonprofit as its web developer. Talk about job security. I was making enough money to support Corrine and I, who were just starting out as a couple.

We went house searching that spring and looked at half a dozen places in and around western Maine, which is where we are both from and where our families still live. The idea was that we needed a place big enough for our four children, and the one on the way. Corrine decided to stay at home as a child care provider, and to pick up her love of horses. We found a couple of beautiful places with attached barns, but needing renovation to fit our family.

They both fell through.

Finally, we found this colossal 1850s farmhouse in Buckfield with three stories, seven bedrooms, enormous dining room, living room, kitchen and two bathrooms. Not to mention a three-level attached barn, a sprawling deck and three acres.


We made an offer, the owners said yes, and after giving them a month to move (big house=lots of shit) we moved in.

Corrine quit her bookstore job, Gabrielle was born and we were ripping up carpets and painting like bastards.

And then I got laid off.

Out of the blue.

As in, no warning. Not even a hint.

There goes $40,000 a year.

Three years later, and months and months of agonizing and nightmares of the mortgage company showing up with an eviction notice - we learned this month that we qualified for a loan modification.

Not a hand out. Our loan was pushed back, of course, and the interest rate adjusted upward. We will pay more for this house, in the end, than what we originally agreed to.

But we keep the house.

There were many nights - countless, in fact - when I would be awoken from nightmares that included finding one of those FORECLOSURE SALES signs stuck to my lawn. Or locks on the doors.

Foreclosure has been a very real thing. In fact, a sheriff's deputy showed up with court documents to which I had to write a legal reply and take it over to the county courthouse explaining that we were in the midst of negotiating with the mortgage company.

There is nothing in this world I hate more than money. And the thing is, since high school, I have had full time jobs and made the most of my talents without a college degree, working my way up through the ranks of journalism and then taking a leap of faith and moving to Minnesota where I was making more money than I ever thought possible - for me anyway.

And you know something, I hated money then too.

I'm not good with it, I'm not satisfied that it's the be-all and end-all to happiness and I'm convinced that it truly is the root of all evil. And yet, in order to give my family what it needs, money is almost always at the center of the equation.

Everyone I know is driven by this and it's infuriatingly unfair.

But there it is.

The kids keep the house after all, despite every indication that we don't deserve to.

I sound happy about it don't I?

I am.

But there will always be a large part of me that feels there's gotta be a better way. A newer living equation that eliminates the need to prove oneself with a yearly salary.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Thank You Marc

Apparently it is the expectation of your Internet service provider that you pay your bill, which in turn encourages them to allow you to have Internet service.

What a crock.

I thought the Internet was supposed to be free.

Anyway, Corrine and I are relegated to scoffing wireless from our neighbors. We're not sure which neighbor, all we know is that if we sit in a particular spot, with the computer facing a particular way, the screen tipped to a certain degree, then we can get one bar of Marc's Wireless.

In this manner, we are capable of surfing the 'net, but it's a tenuous arrangement at best. At any given moment the connection can be lost. A rain storm, a truck passing by, Marc walking in front of his wireless router.

So this is why I have not blogged. A. Because I didn't pay the bill; B. Because in a Free Market economy, it's more about Market than Free; C. Obama's push toward a complete Socialist state continues to be derailed by the GOP; D. Marc's Wireless is not very dependable but I have no one to complain to because I don't know who the fuck Marc is.

It has proven what I already knew: nothing in life is free, but you can't fault me for trying to work the angles.

Which reminds me. When I was in college the first time my roommate and I opted to split the cost of cable. We got sent one of those little boxes dropped off by the cable folks and told to just screw it in and we were good to go. It was a college and therefore no set up was necessary.

Anyway. We quickly found out we had all the movie channels, including the naughty ones. My roommate was gay and therefore did not give two shits about the porn. The movie channels he loved, however, and for an entire semester we feasted on free Premium Cable.

Did I mention this was a "Christian" university in Texas?

My point is, FREE PORN. Woo hoo!

That was before the Internet, by the way. Now, if you're paying for boobies online you're an idiot.

But I digress.

Eventually we will reconcile with the ISP and pay the damn bill. I can't stand this. I need Internet in my office again, where I can have some privacy. You know, for research on my novel.