Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Electric Dog Intervention

I came out of the shower this morning and heard a tearing sound. I immediately assumed my dog was up to something as he is prone to during fits of angry boredom.

I wrapped a towel around myself and stuck my head out in the living room. Mahoney was not ripping the stuffing out of the chair I found at the thrift store. I glanced in the bedroom. He wasn't eating one of Jazzy's shoes or flip flops.

I checked the guest bedroom/office. He sat quietly on the ground by the desk looking up at me, big brown innocent eyes, tail wagging. I look down at him with suspicion.

"What did you do?"

Tail stopped wagging and he tried to army crawl backward away from me.

"Oh did something really bad, didn't you?"

I reached under the desk with my damp fingers. Zapping sounds and sparks greeted me as I screamed like the very manly man that I am. Yep. My dog ate the power cord for the computer I use to write and draw my little comics. comics today. Sorry. I don't have the battery power and my other computers just don't cut it for my drawings.

My dog is fine...even if the ripping sound had actually been him shocking the crap out of his face.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Hot Dog

My grandparents had a dog named Tina. Tina was unusual. We don't really know what breed of dog she was, but we imagined her to be some sort of straight haired poodle crossed with a chihuahua, a rat, and something similar to a dodo bird.

Tina had white fur that resembled long stringy feathers. This "fur" barely covered her anorexic frame, exposing pink and grey skin beneath like a bad comb-over. She did not like to be held by anyone beside my grandparents. She hated children. She snapped at us when we tried to pet her. She shook on her spindly legs as though she would fall down any second.

This in no way does Tina justice.

Despite all this, my grandparents loved that dog more than anything else on the planet. Their love somehow sustained Tina. The poor creature defied its dodo roots, living to be around 157 in dog years. She lived long after she had lost the ability to hear, see, and bark like other dogs.

One winter, while we visited, crashing on the icy floor in the outer living room, my grandma mentioned she had not seen Tina in a while.

We searched everywhere, calling out the dog's name, even though she could not hear us. My grandparents became more frantic as they worried for their lost freak show of a dog. We assumed she snuck outside into the cold where her feathers would not offer much protection. We did not stop looking though. Tina was their precious extremely elderly baby. We could not give up hope and destroy our grandparents' hearts.

Someone heard a faint raspy bark, then another. At least she was in the house and not frozen in the snow outside. The barks seemed to come from nowhere, everywhere, the ghost of Tina calling from the walls in every room. I followed the sound as best I could, leading me slowly to the source, the heating vents. My grandpa had removed one of the grates to let more air flow out in order to heat the small section of the house we could use and occupy.

Tina was in the vents! She wandered around lost, blind, and alone, only able to move forward in the narrow ducts. We called to her down the open vent, but her barks came from a great distance. She would not return the way she had gone.

My father raced to the scary basement where the fruit room resided. He followed the little tik tik sound of Tina's footsteps. Her destination was not pretty.

My father heard the barks from just outside the furnace. He acted quickly, pulling the the ductwork apart with his hands.

Soot fell from the gaping hole.

Tina fell into his arms, exhausted, covered in soot, but alive. She had been inches away from a very messy and bar-b-qued end. She was around 102 in dog years at the time. She lived a good many years after. She was too frail to give her a bath in the middle of winter, so the soot stayed, became a part of her, yellowing her fur...even more.

We then endured several days of my grandpa repeating the joke, "We almost had ourselves a HOT DOG!" to everyone he saw, including those of us who had heard him say it 79 times already. We pretended to laugh for him every time.

My grandparents and Tina will be missed. Wherever you are, I love all three of you.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Newspaper and Bathtubs Do Not Mix

When I was around four or five I caught a bit of wonderful 80's television. I managed to see a man with a mustache reading a newspaper in a bathtub while smoking a cigar. For some reason this image stuck in my young brain, teaching me that real men did such things. I'm pretty sure it was Magnum PI, but after scouring the whole internet for about an hour I could not find a clip or a pic to support my claim.

I did not have access to cigars, thank goodness, or a mustache, but I did have access to a bathtub, water, and a newspaper. Can you guess what I did next?

Okay, I know I draw myself in the bath a this post about my lovely wife and this post about joyous bum warmers. I have good reason to draw myself in the bath. I love baths. I always prefer them over showers.

I think it goes back to coming from a large family and not always being able to take them. I also have fond memories of long days picking blackberries in the Louisiana woods, dodging water moccasins, slapping away mosquitoes, and watching the fireflies blink in and out of existence in the thick night air. These days always ended with me tromping home slick with sweat, covered in mud, and dripping purple juice from my mouth. My mom always sent me to bathe. There is something about the hot water hitting aching muscles and tiny scratches that exhilarates me. Did you know blackberry bushes had thorns? Now you do. It is a good pain, like the ache after a good exercise. You know the hot water is doing its job.

Or, maybe, it goes back to when I was sick. I'd eat a huge bowl of tomato soup, take a crazy hot bath, and then crawl into bed. Worked every time. I would sweat the cold out while I slept and feel so much better in the morning. Maybe it goes back to the time I lived in Mexico where bathtubs are very rare and the showers are infested with worms and the mother of all cockroaches. That is a different story though.

No matter the cause, I like baths. I will continue to draw them...back to my story at hand. I dragged a whole newspaper into the bathroom, ran some hot water, and climbed in.

My little four or five year old hands didn't hold the paper very high.

The paper touched the water and started to get soggy and leak a little ink into the bath. I continued reading, despite the fact I could not really read yet. I was being a real man. I did not need to read to be a real man, just sit in the tub with the paper and grin at the world like I owned it.

The ink spread further and deeper into the water and the paper soggified even more. At some point my wet fingers could no longer grasp the paper and down it went, bubbling up ink as it sunk.

I had planned for this contingency. I reached for another page.

This page also refused to stay out of the water. The ink swirled around me and my page got soggier and soggier.

Can you guess what happened next? I dropped that page and reached for another. That one got wet and I grabbed another. The cycle continued for some time, each new page releasing more ink like some perpetual squid kicking machine...I may have to invent that. I was oblivious as I struggled to fulfill the task at hand, read a stupid paper in the bath like a freaking man. Maybe I would grow a mustache right there and then. I didn't know! Thank you, Tom Selleck!

Each time I reached for another paper I left dark smudges. I wiped the steam from my face. I smoothed back my hair. So, this is more or less how my mother found me.

I do not recommend you attempt this. Tom Selleck was wrong. It is not cool to read newspapers in the bath. It does not make you a man and it does not grow mustaches...unless you are happy with newspaper smudge mustaches. All it does it leave you an inky mess with a very angry mother. Don't live with your mother? All grown up? Doesn't matter. Wherever your mother is, she will be angry with you, and Tom Selleck for gifting it to the world, and me for bringing it up. Just say no!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

How I Almost Got Shot

My friends and I drove out to the Spot. You all remember the Spot from this post. We always seemed to be heading out there when the sun was about to set. We weren't camping, just looking to be away from the city for a bit and hike around. We made the long drive and found that our little escape had been discovered, a mess of people camped out on our bit of paradise drinking, laughing, throwing beer bottles out into the desert, and all around annoying us.

Nothing we could do about it though, so we drove back a couple miles to a scenic overlook of a ravine. We got out and my friend, Andy, took advantage of the light we had. He pulled out his pistol and started shooting stuff. He had just gotten his concealed gun permit and enjoyed the novelty of being able to carry the thing around with him all the time. Any excuse to actually use it was even better.

Andy had some new, low caliber bullets he tested out. They made almost no noise, sounding more like a firecracker that failed to fully go off. Tiny pops. He shot a couple things, a knot in a post, a rock in the distance. Fun and all, but we came to hike and sit out under the stars to complain about girls. That is how we spent a lot of our time...stars and complaining about girls. It made us feel better. It was the glue that held our friendships together. We kept dating real winners so plenty to talk about.

So, we wandered up the trail while Andy stayed behind playing with his new toys. Don't worry, Andy is a smart guy. He wasn't shooting in our direction as we climbed up the hill. He is all about safety...unless there is a cockroach on the ceiling, but that is another story.

I am know for scaring people. I enjoy it. There is something to making someone squeal in terror that makes me intensely happy. Call me sick, twisted, disturbed, or what have you, I don't care. I will keep loving it and keep doing it forever.

My friends have come to expect it. It gets harder and harder to do now. I have to think of new hiding places and crazier sounds to make. They know that if they haven't seen me in a couple minutes to be on the ready. They keep tabs on me while camping. It really is annoying how distrustful they are.

This moment gave me a perfect opportunity. A couple friends wandered up the hill. They knew Andy stayed behind. Andy would not suspect me. Problem...he carried his gun on him at all times.

I decided to go for it anyway. The sun set as we walked up the trail. I let my friends get further in front of me while I curled up next to a bush.

I am very good at hiding. I grew up playing capture the flag at night. I know how to make myself look like just another rock or bush in the moonlight.

The trick is to curl up in a ball and lay perfectly still. Tuck all your exposed skin close to your body and avoid looking toward the person you are hiding from. Eyes are easier to spot in the darkness and people tend to sense when they are being watched. Control your breathing and listen to the footsteps. Think "I am a rock" over and over again.

I could hear my friends on the trail ahead of me. They climbed higher and then sat on a rock to wait for Andy and I. I could hear them joking. "Where's Charlie? Hiding again. Well, you won't scare us!" They tossed pebbles out into the night to keep me away. To their credit, some skittered past me or bumped into my shoes, but I wasn't after them. They were safe...for now.

Andy continued up the trail, unaware of the ambush. He could hear our other friends laughing and throwing pebbles, but could not make out the words. I kept forcing myself to be a rock.

I waited, breathed, and listened to his footfalls. "Closer...come closer. I am a rock. Ignore me." I needed him closer than I would normally wait. He had a gun at his waist. I knew he wouldn't just randomly fire into the night with his friends out there, but if something attacked him (like me) he wouldn't hold back. I needed him close enough to scare him and stop him from shooting me.

"I am a rock. You will see nothing. Come closer. Closer my prey."

And closer he came.

I waited until he was maybe a foot and a half away before I rolled out of my tucked position and jumped at him.

Something else you should know about me, I do not say "BOO!" That is for amateurs. In order to truly scare someone you have to push yourself to the point where you almost scare yourself. I make screeching dinosaur noises and I run at people hunched over and off balance like a hungry velociraptor. I have made someone (you know who you are) scream and run around her car terrified in the broad daylight when she knew what was coming. I want you to imagine velociraptor sounds coming toward you out of the desert night. How would you react?

Andy reached for his gun.

I kept going, screeching at my loudest. I knew he needed time to get the gun out, cock it, and aim...time he didn't have. I had been patient, smart, there was no escape.

I did bear hug him as soon as I could, pinning his arms to his side even as he tugged on the holster. I'm crazy, not stupid.

 You should have seen his terror filled wide eyes as they focused on me and filled with clarity, understanding, and bewilderment. So funny.

My friends came back down the trail laughing as they listened to us.

"I could have shot you!"

"No. I waited too long for you to be able to."

"You're crazy!"

"Um...yes. You should have seen your face though."

"Anyone else would have just said BOO like a normal human being and been safe, but you come out of the bushes sounding like some rabid wild animal! Seriously, I could have shot you!"

"Nope. I'm too fast and sneaky. Bullets can't find me. It did help that the bullets you are using are barely above bb's."

"Yeah...still! I could have shot you!"

"Worth it."

I have been punched by Adam, smacked by Nate, kicked in the face by Chad, screamed at by my wife, and nearly shot by Andy. Every scare is priceless and worth the risk...I may be an addict.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Why Skunks Love Me - Part Three

The greatly anticipated Part Three is here! If you have not read Part One or Part Two, you should. I also recommend you read the post that got the skunk thing going.

This story happened when I was much older...around 22 or 23. We decided to go on a camping/paintball extravaganza. It was going to be epic and in many ways it was. We gathered a decent amount of interest, gassed up our paintball tanks, loaded up on paint, food, supplies, and headed off into the wilderness. We drove up into the mountains to Kolob reservoir which sits above Zion National Park and shares borders with this most beautiful area in the universe.

Yes, I took this pic. The hike up there just about killed me, but so worth it.
 We found a nice spot next to the reservoir, water lapping softly against the shore feet away. We pitched our tents, cooked food, laughed, and told stories, but not these stories. Soon darkness fell. We continued talking as the fire died. Soon someone yawned and the contagion spread through our camp until we realized we had to sleep.

My mom and a few siblings took the tent. Mark, my older brother, and I thought it would be a good idea to sleep outside. It was a beautiful warm summer night. We unrolled our sleeping bags and crawled deep into them, still one of my favorite sensations as the crisp air washes over my face, cooled by the lake, while the bag warms up to a toasty level.

Why did we sleep outside? Anyone who has looked up at the night sky from Southern Utah doesn't need to ask this question. The stars are so bright and numerous, it would be a shame to ignore them. I also like to see one or two falling stars before I drift off to sleep. Camping tradition.

Kolob sits over a thousand feet above Zion. The air is thinner and the stars even closer. You can practically taste the milky way in the air and almost hear the stars sing their lonely songs as they spin and dance in the emptiness of space. The stardust in your blood from ancient supernovas picks up the song and hums back to distant relatives. You feel connected to the universe for a few moments before sleep folds you down into oblivion and dreams.

I don't remember my dreams while camping. I sleep too deeply and well. I awoke with a pressure on my chest. For a fraction of a second I thought of my little brother's dog, Puppy (Real original name, I know), and I thought of pushing him off.

I have always been a spacial person. I have never been one of those people who wakes up unsure where they are, forgetting where they fell asleep for minutes until the memories flow back. The reality of my location in a sleeping bag on top of a mountain spiraled back into my mind before I even opened my eyes. I was NOT home! That was NOT Puppy on my chest!

I had a creeping suspicion what I would find as I cracked open one eyelid, carefully controlling my breathing and movement.

Yep...just what I had expected...a skunk lay curled up on my chest, sleeping.

I know, right? How do they find me? Is there some skunk social network with little black and white posts? "Hey, my skunk peeps. If you run into Charlie, he's cool. Totally hang with that guy! Feel free to let him scratch your head, give you some gum, or just take a nap on his chest."

Whatever the reason, they know! I had to lay there frozen as the little guy snoozed soundly on my chest, like the family cat on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Then Mark started to snore...loudly. It is the only way he knows how.

The skunk started awake and gave my brother the dirtiest look I have ever seen a skunk give.

It stood up and paced back and forth on my chest, raising its tail at my brother. I could do nothing. I just watched as it puffed out its fur and kept making angry faces at the noise emanating from my brother. This is it, I thought. This is the time I'm going to get sprayed. Thank you Mark.

But then the skunk turned, looked me in the eyes, and waddled off into the woods. I breathed a sigh of relief and then started laughing. I woke up my brother and told him how lucky he really was to have my silent communion with skunks save him. Then my mom started snoring.

 My mom's snores put my brother's to shame. Her snores rolled across the lake, echoed off the hills, woke up slumbering chipmunks miles away. A bull on the other side of the lake must have thought the deep thrumming sound was a mating call of some wild cow, sorry mom. He took to answering her snores with deep lowing. This went back and forth for several minutes as we giggled outside the tent.

When the bull, bulky black hide and long pointed horns, started making its way around the lake to us, we woke my mom up. Didn't want to find out what a lonely bull would do when it found out it had been duped.

We then played paintball. Mark plays like Terminator. He walks through the forest, paintballs bouncing off him left and right. If you spot him first, you better not miss or you are dead.

This was the first time I remember getting him out. I was cowered in a bush waiting. I heard him take out four or five people, their screams as paint tore into them...or at the injustice of paint bouncing off my brother. I knew he headed my way. I breathed slowly. He came over the rise, making his way toward me. I resisted the urge to just shoot. I had made that mistake before. I waited. I breathed. He walked closer. I waited. He looked toward my hiding spot and I knew he saw me. My finger reacted. POP! He could no longer see me, pink paint blocking all view as my first shot splattered across his mask. One of my happiest moments...ever!

This is my last skunk post...until my next skunk encounter. I am going to build a teardrop camper though so, hopefully, I can keep the things from sleeping on me again. Love them, but enough is enough.
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