An every day life short story with hints of sarcasm.


by Hace Williams


A typical weeknight after work -- dinner in front of the television shoveling food from TV trays into faces fixed on reruns of Law and Order SVU. On this evening, the episode revolved around a murder during a religious ceremony by Haitian immigrants practicing Vodou. One of the investigating officers corrects the other on his pronunciation of Vodou ergo voodoo as "vah-doo" churning up a choking laugh from my throat.

"Really? Vah-doo? It's been voodoo as long as I can remember. Who thinks up this crap?" I expounded. Which received the typical grunt from my husband while he calmly continued chewing his food and finishing his meal.

"Oh, by the way, I'm going out to see Karen and Bonnie tomorrow morning. You didn't have anything planned, did you?"

"Nope," was his simple response.

“Okay,” I replied. “It’s a great chance for us to catch up on stuff…”

“Gossip,” he interjected without taking his eyes from the television.

I completely ignored his bit of sarcasm, “…and get some exercise on our little hikes. We do about five miles when we walk together. I always feel refreshed and re-energized.”

My husband smiled as he stood up to transport his empty meal receptacles to the kitchen, “Kinda like the Energizer bunny. Too bad it doesn’t just wear you out so you come home tired and quiet.”

Again, I ignored the sarcasm and responded with, “Was dinner okay? Did you get enough?”

The next morning, I made the drive to the outskirts of Monroe and rolled into Karen's driveway just as Karen and Bonnie were coming out of the house. I parked the car and grabbed my Columbia fleece and knitted gloves wrestling them on as I caught pace with Karen and Bonnie. We headed down the drive to the road for the usual five mile route meandering through a mix of old homesteads and small farms, gargantuan new homes and newly sprouting housing developments. Autumn had overtaken the vegetation. Colorful leaves danced on the breeze and decorated the ground. Blackberry vines drooped with moldy berries. A high mist dipped occasionally through the trees to create a drifting veil across our path and a chill in our bones. So we would quicken our pace, falling back to a slower one when we engaged in conversation of recent events, family turmoil or routine updates.

We made it halfway through the five mile loop and as we retraced our steps back to Karen's place, we could see smoke puffing from a smoldering fire pile near the depleted and autumn ravaged garden. Karen’s husband, Ron, motored around the corner of the garage on a John Deere tractor and stopped as we walked up to the smoky pyre that stood almost the same height as the tractor. He allowed the tractor to idle in swirls of exhaust that mixed with the smoke from the wet fire.

Ron leaned forward against the steering wheel and pushed his cap back from his forehead, shouting over the noise of the tractor engine, "I've just been gathering up the trimmings and branches, thought it would be a good day to burn -- damp, not wet."

"Do you think we can burn the scrap wood from the siding repair at the front of the house?" Karen asked.

"Don't see why not," he replied.

“I just have to drag it all down here, but it shouldn’t take too long,” Karen stated. “It would be nice to get rid of it and not have to take it to the dump. It might help burn the wet stuff. I’d like to get the corn and sunflower stalks out of the garden. They don’t decompose enough by spring.”

“Sound like a good idea,” said Ron in his laid back way and he shifted the tractor into gear and rambled slowly away to collect the rest of the downed branches he had been retrieving.

Karen looked at us and said, “It isn’t a lot of stuff, mostly small bits and pieces.”

"We'll help," Bonnie and I offered in unison.

So we set off to collect the wood scraps in her 4-wheel utility vehicle, a cub, I think. Karen doled out work gloves and we piled the wood scraps in the bed of the little hauler while we chattered away about yard work and home repairs. Once loaded we set off across the yard to the pyre. The fire was struggling to stay lit in the chill, damp air with the bit of breeze that had come up. We poked at it and found a hot spot, putting on some of the smaller pieces and fanning it until it caught enough to make a healthy bit of flame. Soon there was a reasonable blaze and we proceeded to toss on the rest of the scraps. Ron was circling by again on the tractor, but this time didn’t stop. Instead he shouted, "Don’t forget the corn stalks." Then he rolled away behind the garage.

Without a word, Bonnie and I followed Karen to the molding garden and started gathering armloads of withered cornstalks, plucking them easily from the damp dirt, shaking loose the soil that chose to cling to the meager roots. Back and forth, we ferried armful after armful of vegetation -- corn stalks and sunflower trunks the size of small trees -- to the fire pile until it started to smoke more than burn. The pile had grown in size, but the contribution of the heavy, wet vegetation had compacted it and now it wasn’t breathing well enough to truly flame.

"This stuff is too wet," I said. "We're smothering the fire. We're tossing the stuff in on the windward side and should go around to the other side where it's hotter." I took my latest collection and by way of example flung my offering into the face of the smoke -- just as Karen flung a huge offering to the other side.

"Watch out!" Bonnie shouted as the deeply buried heat in the center of the pyre produced flames that shot toward me like ferocious tongues licking the air in a cacophony of hot sparks and cinders. I raised my arm to block the heat and turned my head away to keep the fleeing ashes from my eyes and mouth. As I stumbled, eyes closed, around the side of the pile to where Bonnie stood, she asked, "Did it get you?"

"No, just licked me," I laughed.

“It looks like it did more than lick you,” Karen stated as she walked up beside us. "Your hair’s all frizzled. I think you fried it." And she began to bat at it to brush away the crackled ends.

"I think it's still on fire," Bonnie said giggling nervously. "It's smoking." And she joined Karen in smacking at my hair. Fortunately, I had tied it in a bun at the back of my head before we had started and it was only my layered bangs that had broken loose from the bun that were suffering the indignation of abuse. I shook my head and pushed my bangs back.

"It'll be alright. Let's get the rest of the stalks before the fire burns down."

There wasn't much left and we made quick work of it and then trundled toward the house. Karen offered tea, but I said I needed to get home and polish off my own Saturday chores.

"Oh, wait," Karen said. "I finished the afghan for your niece. You can take it with you." She produced a shopping bag from behind a chair in the adjoining room. Here's what's left of the yarn too," she added.

I took the bag, one of those recycled materials cloth-like shopping things, and immediately jabbed my finger on something sharp, jerking my finger quickly away and plunging it into my mouth with an ouch.

Karen laughed, saying, "I must have left the needle I sewed the pieces together with in top of the bag. I wondered where I'd poked it."

“That’s a big needle for yarn,” Bonnie said and asked to see my finger while pulling her fogged glasses to the end of her nose to examine my wound. "You better get her a BandAid, it's still bleeding," she instructed Karen.

“Oh, alright,” Karen rummaged around in the proverbial kitchen junk drawer, procuring a rumpled BandAid -- Dora the Explorer, I think -- and with Bonnie's help, wrapped it over my wound, which was a pretty good sized gouge next to my fingernail.

"Thanks," I said glumly. "At least I won't bleed to death on the way home." And laughed.

We were examining the beautiful pink, green, and creamy white afghan when Ron came in and Karen announced that I had gotten too close to the fire and burned my hair. Then Bonnie piped in adding that I poked my finger on a needle. Ron shook his head, chuckled and muttered, "Your husband's not going to let you come over to play anymore -- it's too dangerous."

We all laughed.

“I gotta get going,” I said. “Thanks again for the afghan – it’s beautiful.”

They assisted with carrying the afghan, leftover yarn, a couple of books, and a jar of newly canned pickles to my car. And as I got in the car, Karen gave my hair a couple more swats for good measure, saying, “I guess it’ll be okay after you wash it.”

“Use a hot oil treatment,” Bonnie advised. “That’ll help calm it down.”

The gifts and treasures safely deposited in the back seat, I waved my goodbyes as Karen and Bonnie returned to the house. I started the engine, allowing it to idle while I plugged my iPhone into the radio and looking into the mirror. YIKES! My hair was more fried than I had expected and I brushed at it sending burnt offerings drifting to my lap. Each swat offered up more loss and the distinct odor of burnt hair. I pulled my iPhone from the radio jack and dialed 911HAIR -- my stylist.

"Couples Hair Salon," came the familiar voice on the other end of the call.

"Hi Kim. This is Pam."

"Hey, how's it going?"

"Well, I know it's Saturday and you're probably swamped, but I'm having a hair emergency and wondered if you might be able to squeeze me in."

"You called it," she said. "I'm double booked already. You were just in here last week -- what kind of emergency?"

"I caught my hair on fire," I replied.

A moment of silence and then Kim said, "Well, that's definitely one I haven't heard before and something worth seeing. If I get a breather, I'll give you a ring."

"Thanks," I replied and hung up.

I drove home with the music blasting and the window down, burnt bits of hair blowing about the interior of the car and the smell teasing my nostrils. When I got home and entered the house, my husband looked up from the TV and said, "What did you do to your hair?"

"Oh," I said nonchalantly, "we were burning some brush and I got caught in a flare up."

"Sweet," he smiled. "I don't know if I can let you play with those guys again if they are going to set you on fire."

"Ha-ha," I replied sarcastically. "That's what Ron said you would say.”

"Check out the arm of your fleece," he said. "It's melted."

I pulled off the fleece to examine the sleeve and so it was – burnt. Crunchy and pocked with holes where a spark had burned through, no longer soft and fleecy.

“Good thing I had a long sleeve shirt on underneath,” I said.

"I’m more worried about the condition of my hair,” I explained. “I'm going to take a shower and slick down my hair with conditioner," I added as I disappeared into the bathroom with a pair of scissors to try some damage control.

The next day, I was curled up on the couch with my head wrapped in a towel my hair smothered in hot oil, when my brother, Danny, called from California.

"Whatcha been up to?" Danny asked.

"Nothing much. You know, the usual – going to work, coming home, watching TV. Hey, did you know that voodoo is really pronounced vah-doo?" I laughed, throwing the comment in totally out of context.

"Where'd you hear that?" Danny asked.

"On Law and Order the other night," I responded.

"Well, yeah," he said, "I definitely wouldn’t call that a reliable source of linguistic expertise."

I laughed. "Well, at least I didn't say I saw it on the internet. Hey, I should probably look it up on the internet and see what Wikipedia calls it."

"There you go," Danny replied. "Everyone knows that everything on the internet is true. Bon jour. You’ve seen that commercial, haven’t you?"

We both laughed at the reference to the current commercial and then I said, "I went out to see Karen and Bonnie yesterday. They both said to say hi."

"Nice. What'd you do out there? How are they?"

"Good. They’re good. We walked five miles then they lit my hair on fire and poked me with pins."

Silence on Danny's end. Then, with hesitation he asked, "Voodoo?"

"No," I replied without hesitation. "Vah-doo."

Submitted: May 02, 2015

© Copyright 2022 Hace Williams. All rights reserved.

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