Story

She sat in her room staring at her AC/DC blacklight poster, waiting for the inevitable. Her disassociation was wearing off, letting the sheer panic seep in to her consciousness. She had been caught smoking pot in the school bathroom and her father had picked her up at school. It hadn’t seemed real, sitting in the office with the silence broken by Dawn’s crying. She had worried more about Dawn than herself, and had taken all of the blame, telling them that it was hers and asking them to let Dawn go. In reality, Dawn had come to her at lunch in the school smoking lounge and asked her to get her high. That didn’t absolve her guilt, but Dawn was far from innocent. Regan had always been her best friend’s protector though, and she so had tried her hardest to protect her even then. Her father’s appearance in the principal’s office was like one of her night terrors, her altered consciousness trying to make sense of him in this setting, where he had never been and did not belong. Her mind tried to go away to shield her self and for a little while it worked. The drive home had been silent, Regan staring out the window as she dissociated further, none of it seeming to be real. It was 1986 and she had just started 11th grade. She wasn’t sure she’d make it to the 12th.

The front door slammed, shaking the house, and he came running up the stairs. As she stood and started backing up he shoved the bedroom door open and came for her.

“I am sick of this shit! You are going to straighten up. You are going to go to school and back and that is it, IF you don’t get expelled. ” Regan had backed up against the wall as he advanced. Her father cleared her desk with one angry swipe, strewing her things across the room.

“I am tired of all the black clothes and moody lights and the crap on the walls.” Regan had her room decorated in black light posters and psycho lights above her record player. She felt a pang but knew better than to speak. “You are going to get rid of all of it. You’re a fat slob and all this shit is going to go.” His voice had been rising to where he was almost screaming. Regan had seen this before, many times. He would start off angry and work himself up to violent fury.

When she had come in, she had dropped her belt on the floor. It was her favorite and she had saved up from her job washing dishes to buy it. It was thick leather with a double row of spikes, and the front of it hooked together with a pair of working handcuffs. He picked it up off the floor and doubled it. “You’re going to get rid of this bondage crap too! You’d better not let me catch you smoking cigarettes, let alone pot!” Never mind that he had smoked pot for as long as she could remember.

He advanced on her, beating her with the belt. The metal cuffs struck her arm as she tried to block him, making it go numb. Then he threw them at her, striking her in the chest before descending upon her.

He tossed her to the bedroom floor as she screamed, hitting her with his fists. Her world became broken snapshots of pain and terror as he grabbed her by the throat. Now he was on top of her and she wasn’t sure how exactly that happened, but he was strangling her, his fingers digging into her throat as she tried desperately to pull his hands away so she could breathe, terror infusing every part of her, no longer able to scream as tears ran down her face into her sweaty hair and she couldn’t breathe, eyes wide, the face of her father huge above her as he choked the life out of her.

He released one hand from her throat, but it didn’t help. She still could not breathe and now things were going black and her struggles had lost all strength. Her hands weakly fluttered at his iron grip on her throat, fingers digging into the soft flesh of her neck. He held his fist back, about to punch her in the face before she died, his fist shaking, face red, and suddenly her bladder let go. She was sixteen and she would later be mortified, but she was losing consciousness and she had no control over it.

He released her. She rolled over, choking, gasping for air, instinctively rolling into the fetal position before he could kick her. He did kick her, but it landed on her leg instead of her stomach. She was gulping air, harsh against her bruised throat, but so sweet. Her eyes closed as she sobbed, rolled into a ball on her bedroom floor with her father standing over her. She heard him leave.

“If I don’t get out of here he’s really going to kill me,” she thought as she crawled across the floor, shaking, beaten and in fear for her life.

 

Missing t

T has been on my mind a lot. I miss her badly and wish I could talk to her. I’m also seriously pissed off at her. She was the closest person in the world to me, including family. She was my family as far as that goes, and I would have done absolutely anything to help her. From the time we met I was looking out for her, whether she knew it or not. I have no idea how many times I had to stand up for her when we were teens-20s. When I was still scrappy, I suppose. Any time she needed anything I did it for her. I’m the one she called in the middle of the night when something was bothering her. I’m the one who would drop everything and come over if she needed me to. She always had two best friends, me and the other J, but I’m the one she talked to more, saw more, and who was always there. I was the only one at her first wedding, and I did everything I could to make her second special. That’s not putting down J in any way… she lived further away and had kids to deal with. But it remains that it was me that was always there. So when she said I had never done anything for her, I was stunned. I know she’s parroting some bullshit someone must be feeding her, but she should have given it some fucking thought before she repeated that shit. Besides being a damn good friend, I got her a job when she needed it, a place to stay when she needed it, lent her money when she needed it, brought her things she needed, and on and on…. And for her to forget or to dismiss all that I’ve done for her is just appalling.
I hate what alcohol turned her into. It broke my heart. When she started putting the kids in danger, enough was enough. Driving drunk with the kids in the car, leaving them to fend for themselves, leaving them at sleazy motels while she went chasing after her ex… Just not acceptable. When she decided she was going to try to get Jason back after what he did to R, I could not be a party to that in any way.
Still, I thought eventually we would work it out. I thought she’d sober up and realize how she had been behaving. That’s what other people thought too. I was the fourth person to call about the kids. I hated to do it. I cried for two weeks before I gave in and did it. That was after talking repeatedly about it to various people who encouraged me to do so. I know it was the right thing to do but I still felt bad about it. Still, we had been friends a lifetime. I didn’t think anything could break that.
Then damn if she didn’t move in with my ex, of all people. I know she has a problem being alone and God forbid she actually has to work or something, but that was really fucking low. He let her drink so she stayed, and in doing so, made it clear that she did not think we would reconcile. I was already pissed at her, but she still threw away our friendship for a place to drink.

Then to find out that she somehow thinks her fucked up life is somehow my fault, is just too much. She’s the one that ruined her relationship with her kids when she chose her child’s molester over her child. She’s the one that ruined her relationships with her friends over drink. Then her drunken ranting on facebook about how “I’m evil” and to “give her back her daughter” like Raven was a thing I had stolen. She did apologize for that and her excuse was that she was drunk. But I am sick of being blamed.

I was so angry over this the other day I started to log on just to say “fuck you, Tara, you broke my heart”. I managed to control myself, but I tell you, it took both hands to grab hold of myself. I’m so lonely I could die sometimes, and I miss talking to my friend. So many things remind me of her. The memories of 25+ years are wrapped up with her. When she messaged me recently I laid into her. I was still furious. I am still furious. But underneath that I’m just really hurt and I miss my sister. I keep telling myself that she has shown that her friendship is no longer worth having. She has shown how easily she will turn on someone if it is to her advantage. It makes me wonder if she was always such a shitty person or if it’s just the booze. I want to believe it’s the booze, but I honestly don’t know if there is any of her left in there.
I just wish I could go back in time and stop all of this.

Hedgewitch’s Garden

As early as I can remember the woods were home. They were my safe place, they were where I played, and I knew every inch of my domain. I knew where certain plants grew and at what time of year. I knew where to find chinquapin trees and berry bushes when I was hungry, and I had hiding spaces all through the forest. When I was eight we moved away from the woods to a development. I remember buying a plant at the community yard sale there not long after we moved. Before long, I had a whole windowsill full of potted plants that various people had given to me. I was a child and didn’t realize it, but I know now I was homesick for the forest. When I was seven I got a set of children’s books for Christmas – “Alice in Wonderland”, “Little Women”, “Black Beauty”, “Treasure Island”,  “Heidi”, and others. I understood Heidi. When they took her off her mountain to civilize her and she became ill from being away, I empathized. I was Heidi.
We moved again when I was fourteen and I was surrounded by woods once more. Woods and the river, so I had my soul back. When I began driving I could drive to the State Forest nearby and get lost in the woods. In my 20s I had an apartment in the upstairs portion of an old house. I had a porch, and soon had the porch filled with various plants. They were potted, but I could still dig in the dirt and grow things, and I could run to the forest whenever I needed. Then, finally, I bought a house. I wanted to turn my entire yard into a garden! I had visions of magazine spread gardens with gates, arbors, pathways, all filled with an abundance of flowers and fountains. Unfortunately, it was just me and I soon found that doing a single bed was a hell of a lot of work. Still, by the time I sold the house, I had multiple garden beds in different parts of the yard, a variety of trees and bushes, and a vegetable garden as well.

I was born and lived most of my life in rural Maryland, where nature is always nearby. Wildflowers, creeks and the Chesapeake Bay live alongside Maryland State Parks and Forests. When I got married, I moved to South Carolina, and quickly found that gardening here is quite a different matter. There are swamps here instead of deciduous forests and rivers, and the sun is brutal. It’s a different climate; it’s much hotter and the UV rays are much stronger. I can’t be out in the worst of it. Different plants grow here. Plants that behaved in Maryland get invasive in South Carolina. Other plants take one look at the sun, chuckle weakly, and wilt over to die.
This blog will cover a variety of gardening and plant related knowledge. It’s not just growing things, it’s also the medicinal properties, the magical properties, the folklore attached to plants and how we use them. I’ve had a lifelong love affair with plants and everything related to them, from companion planting to which plants attract the faery folk to your garden. If this were a couple hundred years ago, I would have been a hedgewitch living on the outskirts of the village, treating people’s illnesses of body and mind with plants and a little bit of magic. I hope this blog is interesting and helpful to whoever is reading. As for myself, I hope this blog will aid me in getting back on a writing schedule, and help connect with other gardeners. It’s a little rough right now, but it should be fun. I’m not abandoning this one, but I’d like to keep the gardening one separate. So here it is at Hedgewitch’s Garden

The Hanging Man

Her mother was sad, and sent Reina outside to play. She was filled with anger and helplessness, powerless to help her mother and to fix what was wrong. She ran past the willows and down the overgrown driveway. There was very little pavement left, only crumbling patches here and there among the tall weeds. The Thomsons used to live here with their twins, but after the darkness they had moved away and their house had been torn down. Reina raced up the drive and past the flowering lilac to the old oak. She threw herself down on the carpet of haircap moss that surrounded it, clearing the green of leaves and twigs that had accumulated since she had been here last.

She lay on her back on the plush moss and watched the branches overhead move in the wind, listening to the sound it made as it rattled the leaves. She was not aware she was crying until the acrid tears ran into her ears, wetting her hair where it lay spread across the ground. She dug her fingers into the thick moss, feeling the cool sponginess of the earth beneath. She worried about her mom a lot, and she tried to make her laugh, but sometimes nothing she did seemed to help. During these times, her mother didn’t seem to be all there with her. She was preoccupied and didn’t really hear what Reina had to say. Reina remembered telling her about seeing a snake in the woods and her mother’s disappointing response of “That’s nice”. Reina had thought it was exciting. She had almost died and her mother had been unimpressed!
She rolled over onto her tummy and watched a beetle trundle across her carpet. She moved a twig out of its way absently. She was only six so she didn’t think she was big enough to help her mom out. Reina got to her feet and walked over to where the Thomson’s house used to be.

Her uncle had driven her up here on the back of his dirt bike after the Thomson’s had moved out but before the house was torn down. The front door had been standing open and her uncle stopped the bike across from the house. The front door opened onto a small landing, and stairs led to the upstairs of the old farmhouse. He told her that the man who lived there had died and it was now haunted. Reina, staring wide eyed into the abandoned house, saw the outline of a hanging man through the open doorway. He appeared to be hanging from the unseen upstairs, dangling over the front door landing. She couldn’t see any of his features. She couldn’t see what he was wearing or what his face looked like; she could only see the black man-shape. Reina had been filled with dread and had started to cry. It wasn’t that she couldn’t see his features, it was that he didn’t have any. The hanging man was just a negative space shadow, and the figure of him hanging there through the wide open door was somehow obscene. Her uncle laughed at her, teasing her, but she begged him to leave, half hysterical until he drove her away from the house and sped her through the woods to get her laughing as she clung to his waist.

After that, she did not go to the house again until after they had torn it down. Thinking it safe, she had gone excavating in the demolished house’s basement. It was full of broken brick and beams, and was irresistible to an adventurous six year old. She was down in the basement, pleased at having just found some blue chalk, when she felt she was being watched. She looked up and saw a man standing on the ground above, watching her silently. He did not make a sound, and she did not recognize him, but Reina knew instinctively that he was a ghost. She scrambled to climb out of the ruined foundation while he watched. He did not speak, or threaten her in any way, just gazed at her sadly. Once she extracted herself from the ruins, scraping her leg on a nail as she did so, she ran like a rabbit, hiding in the forest until her heart quit pounding against her chest. After that she was cautious, sneaking around the old property and keeping clear of the ruins until they were filled in.

Today she was preoccupied and was not thinking about the hanging man or the ghost. The cliffs were on the other side of the property, and they fell steeply down to the gravel pit where small pools were filled with tadpoles and snakes hid in the red clay cliffsides. She was not allowed to play down there, but she had been down there often, although normally with her cousins.

Planned Parenthood

I was raped as a teenager. I had just turned seventeen and was a senior in high school when I found myself in a very bad situation. I do not want to go into what happened that night. It is enough that you know I was raped and terrified. I was from an abusive home, and there was no way I could tell an adult. However, I knew I needed help. The rapists were not kind enough to use protection, and I was afraid I might be pregnant or have gotten an STD. I was seventeen, had been traumatized, and my boyfriend, who I loved very much, had decided to blame me for what happened. Suffice it to say, I was not in a good place emotionally.
I did the only thing I could do – I contacted my local clinic. I remember calling them from school, using the payphone out front. This was when payphones were still a thing and before everyone had cell phones.  I made an appointment and the lady asked me what I was coming in for. I told her I needed to be tested for pregnancy and STDs. She asked if I had reason to believe I may have been exposed, such as having sex with someone who was a known carrier. I didn’t want to tell her, but I did. I told her I had been raped and that I just didn’t know. I remember the woman was horrified and asked if there was someone I could talk to about it. She wanted a phone number, but I told her I was calling from school and did not have one  to give her. I told her I was fine, I just needed to make sure, and no, there was no wonderfully wise and compassionate adult I could speak to about the issue. I made the appointment and held my breath.

The day of the appointment, I had to get to the next town over, where the clinic was located. It’s been some years ago since this happened and I don’t remember how I got there, but it would have been complicated. I did not have a car so getting there would have been a real problem. It was a rural area so there was no public transportation available. No taxis, no buses, no trains. I may have hitch-hiked, but after my recent rape I rather doubt it. At any rate, it would have involved some planning to get just to the next town over. Thank God I didn’t have to go to another state. To get to my appointment, I would have either skipped school or taken time off of my job. At that time I was working 4-12 after school, full time, trying to save up the money to escape my miserable home existence.
I don’t remember getting there, but I remember the appointment. The lady I spoke to was the one I had spoken to on the phone, so she knew what had happened. She was compassionate and concerned for me. I was seventeen, isolated, had serious trust issues, and was highly independent. I often adopted a tough attitude as protection, hoping my prickly exterior would keep people at a safe distance. I had not cried over what happened since that night. I had been trying to pretend like it hadn’t happened. Until that appointment. The lady at the clinic was gentle and she was so genuinely concerned about me that I started crying. I don’t remember what she asked me, but it came out that it had been two men, which made it that much worse. She examined me, tested me for STDs, spoke to me, gave me a bag full of prophylactics and a referral to see a therapists, all for free. This is what Planned Parenthood did for me.

Her compassion was what broke me. I had expected her to blame me, to think it was my fault, and that I was a horrible person. She didn’t think any of those things, and she helped me feel a little less tainted. My results came back negative and I went on with my life with one more scar, but I have never forgotten the kindness of that unknown clinic worker.
The current attack on Planned Parenthood by a bunch of old men is unacceptable. Planned Parenthood does so much for so many women. If it hadn’t been for them, I wouldn’t have been able to be tested. They do cancer screenings, pap smears, give classes, and give prenatal care, among many other services. Providing safe abortions when necessary is just a minuscule part of what they do, and zero funds from federal money goes towards that. Planned Parenthood clinics help millions of girls just like I was. These old men would have demanded that my father was told right off the bat. That would have gotten me beaten and more, and it would have made the whole experience a lot more traumatic. My story is just one, and it happened long ago, but it mattered. Planned Parenthood matters. Abstinence education doesn’t work… teenagers will do what teenagers do. When provided with birth control and protection, unwanted pregnancies and STDs drop dramatically. When you take them away, they rise dramatically. It’s really not a difficult concept. If you want less federal money spent on supporting unwanted children and their woefully unprepared young parents, you spend a little up front on prevention. In my case it wasn’t even a matter of teenagers doing what teenagers do – it was rape. And Planned Parenthood was there.

I don’t think a bunch of old men have any business deciding what woman do with their bodies. Demonizing an organization that does so much for so many is self destructive and it’s just plain stupid. With our current administration, Planned Parenthood is going to need the support of individual people, even if you can only donate a little. It won’t replace the money lost through federal grants, but it might help keep them afloat for a little while. We don’t need more nuclear weapons. That’s ludicrous, dangerous and expensive. But the same old men who don’t think any money should go towards health care are fine with spending money on war toys. They should not be allowed to feel self righteous. They should be called out for the bitter dinosaurs that they are.

You can donate to Planned Parenthood here. They will even let you donate in someone else’s name, so that person gets a nice little thank you note. I, and thousands of other women, have donated in Mike Pence’s name, just because he’s such an extreme miserable example of an old man mucking about in matters that he should have no say in.

Just a suggestion.

Mother is the name of God

“Mother is the name for God in the lips and hearts of little children.”
 – William Makepeace Thackeray

There is a single shining memory she holds close. She protects this memory like the ephemeral thing of beauty that it is to her, only bringing it out in her darkest moments. She was nine, and it was just her and her mother in the bench seat of the old pick up truck. She loved that the beat up old truck sent her bouncing off the seat whenever it hit a pothole, and sent her into giggles while her stomach did flip flops. It was a sunny Spring day and her mother’s hair shone pale blonde in the light. She thought her mom was the most beautiful woman she had ever seen, and the love she felt for her filled her so that there was barely room to breathe. Her mother was laughing and she just wanted this time with her to stretch out, closing a bubble of euphoria around them that would protect them from the world.

Her brother was just a baby and she held him close. He too was laughing at the bouncing truck. She could smell the clean baby scent of him as she stared at her mother. The visits with her mom always went by too fast and she never wanted to go home. Growing up, she had always worried about her mother, as she knew her mom was unhappy. She would hear her mom crying in the bedroom and run out of the house to hide. She had special places in the forest, and she would go there and sit thinking about her mom. Things had changed since her mom had moved out. Her mom was happier and that made her happy, but her mother’s new friends scared her sometimes. Sometimes she was angry that her mom had left her with her father, but she would quickly push that down. None of that mattered at this moment. The Rolling Stones song “Beast of Burden” came on the old radio and her mother sang along, turning up the volume. Holding her baby brother close, watching her mom sing, she wanted everything to stay like this forever.

It was the last precious memory she had of her mom before she died.

Not my president

Right now I am stunned and absolutely sickened that Trump is being declared president. Fuck the electoral college. Hillary was far from perfect but I trusted her not to start a nuclear war or to ruin the environment. Trump’s anti-science stance is unacceptable. We have been making tremendous progress on renewable energies and now his plan is to send us back to the 1970s. The man is putting a climate science denier in charge of the EPA. This is unacceptable. Scientists have pretty much come to a consensus that climate change is driven by our activities. I read an article on National Geographic a few days ago that sourced multiple major science organization studies. Across the board, 97% of scientists agree. I don’t care if it’s inconvenient. It’s the truth and we are already seeing the results of it.

Nature and the environment are critically important to me. They are a big part of who I am, and have been throughout my life. I have always had an affinity for and a connection to the natural world, more so than to humans. To see this man reverse what little progress we’ve made to mitigate climate change is abhorrent. Other countries are ahead of us on renewable energy and it’s something we should be leading the way in, but our country has been dumbed down so much that they will gladly let other countries pull ahead of us. “Make America Great Again” is utter bullshit. It’s already great. He wants to undo any regulations put on he and his cronies businesses. Fuck the environment, our water, other species, the ocean, they want to use it up for a quick buck and let someone else worry about the consequences. It breaks my heart.

I’ve seen multiple articles about emboldened racists chanting about white power and the wall (which is never going to happen) in high schools, while there has been an outbreak of racist graffiti including swastikas boldly paired with Trump slogans. This is what Trump has created with his unadulterated hate. I hate to think of the damage this man can cause in four years. Not to mention the supreme court. I wish Democrats had won the house so we could be as obstructionist towards Trump as they were towards Obama, but we are always the party to try to play nice. Well we need to quit playing nice and fight back the way they do. Supreme Court nominee Garland has been waiting 215 days now for approval. That is unacceptable. Republicans are not the only ones to get to nominate judges. No. I am glad there are protests all over the world over this orange piece of shit taking office. There are multiple petitions to use the electoral college to put Hillary in office using the popular vote. I doubt they’ll go anywhere but it’s worth a try.

Meanwhile, Trump has multiple court dates coming up. So if he gets convicted of fraud and racketeering, then what? We just ignore it? They tried to impeach Clinton, who was a damn good president, for lying about his sex life. That’s somehow worse than this misogynistic, racist, illiterate, incomprehensible old fat man who can’t speak without lying? I don’t think so. He’s a fucking con artist and nothing more.

I have seen multiple people on facebook that are worried about their kids. Their kids are scared and they don’t know what to tell them. At first I thought this was maybe a bit overkill, but after giving it some thought, I can sort of understand. They are trying to teach their kids to be good people, what’s right from wrong, and then this man gets elected president? No wonder they’re confused. God forbid if you aren’t white. Then I have LGBT friends and relatives who are devastated because Drumpf and Co plan to roll back the equal rights gained under Obama. I am so very demoralized right now and needed to vent. I could go on but I think I’ll go pet a kitty instead.