Variations on a Theme

I’m going to give you advance warning. My thoughts are pretty scattered today. Hence, the photo. Case in point, the title. It’s the second title that popped into my head. I’ve rewritten this installment more after I posted it than anything I’ve written in the last year. My new title vaguely hints at what I’m about to write. And, it’s also the title of a musical arrangement…

I’m going to guess I have a specific something in mind that I want to say. I have at least one sentence I know I’m going to work into the story.

I’m just not sure how I’m going to get there yet.

* * * *

It’s a cloudy day here in the Lakeside Area. The weather app on my lovely supermodel wife’s phone says it’s supposed to rain on and off all day. But this is Mexico. Forget what I said in my last post about the weather being predictable. La clima no siempre sigue las reglas. The weather is about as predictable as a Mexican driver, unless you assume you have no idea what the other guy might do.

Then you’ll be correct every time.

It’s not just the rainy season in Mexico. It’s also the election season, for a few more weeks, I think. I know it’s a big election for a lots of high profile positions. President, governorships, stuff like that. There’s been a lots of campaigning in the Lakeside Area; rallies, informative lunches and brunches, billboards, TV and radio ads, and the megaphone mobiles.

The specially equipped, audio-enhanced vehicles drive around the village blasting political messages like unto the megaphone cop on TV telling the suspect to drop the gun, and come out of the house with your hands up. There’s no escape, you’re surrounded.

All of these messages are directed at the locals who will be voting in the elections. The candidates here all claim that they’re the only hope for a better Mexico, much like any other election in any other part of the world. Unlike other parts of the world, the politicians that actually are the only hope for a better Mexico have as good a chance of getting killed to death as they do of getting elected.

Quite a few candidates want to make Mexico a better place, and the drug cartels are getting nervous. The best way to make Mexico a better place is to get rid of those sons of bitches.

So far, none of the presidential candidates have been killed to death, nor have any of them proposed rounding up all of the American ex-pats and locking us up in internment camps.

See? I told you most of the people here are very polite.

* * * *

We are still supporting half of Mexico’s hummingbird population with the three feeders in our backyard. Lea calls them her babies. It’s so cute! It’s kind of fun to watch one hundred million hummingbirds in action. They buzz all around our patio from early dawn to dusk.

I have a memory. It happened at least twenty years ago. Lea and I were driving to Ettrick, WI to see our in-laws, Bill and Leslie Pfaff. I can’t remember if Andy, their troubled teenage mutant miniature horse was still alive or not. I’ve written about him before. You can look him up in my archives if you’re interested.

I remember it was winter. It might have even been Christmas. At any rate, the road we were driving on tended to follow the Mississippi River. The river was mostly frozen over, but somewhere around Winona, MN there were several vast open spaces dotting the ice. And around these open water spaces, hundreds of bald eagles had congregated.

Some of the eagles were flying lazily/gracefully in the gray sky, circling the open water. Others were sitting on the ice, starkly outlined near the open water. More were perched in the leafless oak and maple trees lining either side of the road.

It was breathtakingly beautiful and cool.

Seeing one eagle, in my opinion, is an event. Seeing hundreds of eagles at once is like unto seeing a dragon. It’s one of my favorite best all time memories.

* * * *

My praying mantis, Ferngully, has gone missing. I knew I should have taken a picture of her! Now I won’t be able to make one of those Missing/Reward Offered posters…  I guess that’s one of the hazards of having an insect for a pet.

I’m pretty sure my mantis decided to leave our patio because of Victor. He’s our exterminator guy, and he sprayed the patio the other day. Actually, he sprayed the entire house and the front and backyard, too.

Victor uses a combination of garlic, cayenne pepper and vinegar solution to get rid of insects, and it certainly seems to have worked on them.

Oddly enough, it also worked on squirrels. There have been zero squirrels eating the plants on our patio since Victor was here. They would scamper across the stone wall in our backyard, but they wouldn’t come into the yard. It seems that squirrels hate cayenne pepper even more than I hate squirrels. You can buy cayenne pepper by the ton down here for next to nothing. I sprinkled that stuff on all of my plants, and on the top of the stone wall.

I have seen zero squirrels since.

However, if this interdict ever stops working, El Walmart merely moved their display case of air rifles. I found it the other day when we were shopping there. That made me smile.

Mischief managed, for now. And, Plan B is still an option, you know, just in cases.

* * * *

It’s only through hindsight that we’re able to see where most of the paths we’ve chosen in life have taken us. Maybe some of you are able to visualize this without hindsight. I never have. I’m not that intuitive. I’ve always needed time and perspective to understand these things.

I need to do that even with simple things, like movies. Therefore, it’s a good thing I didn’t become a film critic. It would take me thirty years to write a decent review. Who needs to read a movie review three decades after the fact?

Take, for instance, Star Wars®. I’ve written about at least one of the movies before, but I have a plot twist that you probably haven’t considered this time.

I’m a big fan of the franchise. There are a lots of us. Some of the superfans know all about the Star Wars® universe, and are able to see plot holes and continuity lapses as they occur. It has taken me forty years to figure out that The Force isn’t anywhere near as cool as it was originally portrayed.

See? I told you I wasn’t very intuitive.

Obi-Wan Kenobi introduced all of us to The Force this way: “It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us; it binds the galaxy together.”

Not only that, it was the source of power for the Jedi Knights, and all of the spooky stuff they could do. Move objects, influence thoughts and behavior…  You know, things that here in the real world only women can do when they use a certain tone of voice.

Yet for all of the vaunted power of The Force, the Jedi appeared to be unable to figure out who their real enemy was until they openly revealed themselves. Count Dooku. Emperor Palpatine/Darth Sidious. They remained hidden from the sight of the Jedi until they chose not to be.

If The Force binds everything together, you’d think an adept Master trained in its use would have been able to discern another someone trying to, you know, un-bind everything with it.

Apparently not.

Nor was it true when Obi-Wan said this, “You can’t win, Vader. If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.”

Yeah, that didn’t happen. Obi-Wan got dead and essentially became a bodiless entity that occasionally reminded Luke to “…use The Force!” And that appears to be the extent of his lame-ass unimaginable power.

Finally, there was this: “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.”

Obi-Wan uses that Jedi mind trick on a couple of Imperial Stormtroopers to make them go away and then gives this explanation: “The Force can have a strong influence on the weak-minded.”

Big deal. You know what else can have a strong influence on the weak-minded?

EVERYTHING.

Seriously. Why else do we call stupid people stupid? Because they’ll believe fucking anything! Go ahead, try it. You’d be surprised how easy it works.

And that revelation led me to believe that Donald Trump must somehow be a twisted Jedi.

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Darth Ignoramus. As kooky as it sounds, it’s the best explanation for his Presidency I’ve been able to come up with.

Andy

Before I get started, a couple of things.

I need to fill in the back story about my lovely supermodel wife’s family dynamics before she shoves a garden hose down my dick and makes me cry a lots.

As you may know, my wife is the baby of her family. Her sister, Leslie, is eight years older than her. There was a brother in between them, David.

He killed himself when he was twelve.

Leslie and Lea were never best friends when they were young, simply because of their age difference. Leslie was more of a surrogate mother to her little sister than she was a friend, or even a sister.

I’ve made some references to the fact that my father-in-law wasn’t any easy man to like. He had a short fuse on his temper, and was prone to fits of rage, which I attribute to his untreated PTSD.

Dave had mellowed somewhat with age by the time I met him, but my wife told me stories about what he used to be like, back when she was a girl. Dave was downright mean and scary. He yelled and shouted, a lots. He broke stuff, on purpose. And he punched people, mostly his wife. And his son.

My parents spanked my ass a lots when I was young, but that was the extent of their discipline when I acted out.

Young David probably wouldn’t have dared to act out. A simple mistake would result in a beating. The penalty for intentionally misbehaving might well be death. And that’s probably what led to his decision to take his life at the tender age of twelve.

Lea and her family were living in Cannon Falls, MN when it happened. Dave and Wanda had gone to work. Leslie was fourteen at the time. David was twelve, and Lea was six. I can’t remember the circumstances, but they were all at home on that winter’s day.

The kids were horsing around as kids will do, and as is often the case, a piece of furniture sustained some damage in the process. The coffee table in the living room. It took me at least fifteen years of almost begging before Lea agreed to let me buy the table we now have in our living room.

David knew what was going to happen when his father got home, and decided he couldn’t take one more beating. He got his .22 rifle out of the closet, loaded it, and pointed the barrel at his head.

Lea sat next to her brother on the couch and pleaded with him to stop. Leslie stood on the far side of the room and said nothing, watching.

I didn’t think he’d actually do it, she would say during the one and only time I remember the sisters discussing what had happened in my presence.

And I knew he would, was Lea’s response.

I can see her, almost as if I had been there myself, a terrified little girl running through the snow in stocking feet, running down the street to flag down the first passing motorist she saw, tears running down her face.

And there was blood.

I may have fallen in love with Lea the first time I saw her, but it was the stories she told that sealed the deal for me. That she could pass through a fire so immense, a storm of such intensity, and survive…

* * * *

When viewed from this perspective, the weird dynamics of Lea’s family don’t look quite as weird. The fact they had any dynamics is probably some kind of miracle.

I would be remiss if I failed to mention while my wife was fighting her lengthy battle with Crohn’s disease, Leslie was also fighting for her life against a different opponent. Breast cancer.

Those Covington girls. You don’t want to mess with them. They are survivors, and so much more.

Lea and Leslie have grown much closer since the death of their mother, and father. They’ll never be best friends, and they both know that, and they are both at peace with that. But they are sisters now, and they call each other from time to time.

We used to go Bill and Leslie’s farm on a semi-frequent basis before they sold it, and before we moved to Arizona, then to Mexico.

Bill and Leslie came to visit us once in Arizona. I hope Bill and Leslie decide to visit us down here in the beautiful Lakeside area someday.

I can show Bill where the goats live.

* * * *

Okay. Where was I?

This happens to me more than I would like to admit. Last night, I walked into the bedroom to help Lea turn down the bed, and I forgot why I went into the bedroom before I got there. I went into my closet and started changing into my pajamas.

“Hey! Aren’t you going to help me?” Lea asked. So I went back to the bedroom to help with the bed, then forgot I had been changing into my pajamas.

So. Where was I?

Oh yes. I had helped my lovely supermodel wife escape from the local hospital where my father-in-law lived, down in the bottom of Texas. She had survived her bout of the Philadelphia flu, and she had survived the doctor who couldn’t believe she had Crohn’s disease, despite the fact she’d had four major abdominal surgeries, an ileostomy, and least two doctors in Minnesota that didn’t have any questions about her diagnosis. And she had also survived the fat slob of a nurse who had been too busy to take care of her.

There would be no adverse reactions for Lea from sneaking barefooted out the front door of the hospital in broad daylight, wearing little more than an hospital gown. Once the stomach flu passed, all she needed was her regularly scheduled meds at the times she was supposed to regularly receive them, and Lea could do that without any assistance from anyone.

Lea told her family what had happened to her during her brief but endless stay at the hospital while I more or less told the hospital administrator to go fuck himself, and then it was Leslie’s turn.

She also had a story to tell.

At the time my wife started feeling the first assault of the Philadelphia flu, my sister-in-law had been on the phone with her husband, Bill, the man who would unintentionally infect us all with the GI bug he had picked up on his last business trip to the City of Brotherly Love.

I’m not sure just where in the world Bill was when he called, but he wasn’t on the farm in Wisconsin anymore. And that was why he had called. Something had gone terribly wrong, back on the farm.

And that something was Leslie’s once cute miniature horse, Andy, whom was no longer cute, nor even remotely miniature anymore.

Andy had inexplicably morphed out of being a darlingpreshadorbs little horse about the size of one them Buttweiler dogs, into a bad tempered teenaged mutant medium-sized thug of a horse. Andy grown to roughly the size of an adult deer, and probably weighed close to three hundred pounds. And to prove how much of a badass he’d become, Andy had killed a goat just before we jumped in the car to start our trek to the bottom of Texas.

Bill figured Andy’s sudden behavioral changes could be attributed to the fact that he was transitioning from a colt into an young stallion. What Andy needed was the calming presence of an older father figure horse that could kick his ass when he got too boisterous. Or, he needed his balls cut off.

Unfortunately, there was no such horse living at Pfaff’s Happy Acres, just a bunch of dwarf goats, and they were clearly no match for Andy when he decided he wanted to be a bully. Nor was there any time to have Andy gelded. Bill was a business consultant, and he had consulting to do.

Bill had made arrangements with one his neighbors down the road. They had a teenage farmer’s daughter, I’ll call her Muffy, who was on spring break from college or something, and for a few dollars a day she would swing by the farm and take care of the tiny goats and the mutant miniature horse, and the cats that lived in the barn, and the mangy looking dog Bill had adopted.

It was only for a week. Bill would be back on the farm on Friday or Saturday night.

I don’t think I ever met Muffy, but just because I can do this, let’s say Muffy looked like Christina Aguilera, back when she was a genie in a bottle. And because Muffy was so cute and adorable, Bill warned her in all seriousness to be careful around Andy, given his predilection for unpredictable behavior.

That last part really did happen. And then Bill flew off to go take care of business.

Earlier on the day that Bill called, as Team Covington was returning from Mexico, Andy had somehow gotten out of his pen in Wisconsin, and had trotted down the driveway into the road. And he decided he would claim that part of the road as his own.

There wasn’t a whole lots of traffic on the road that ran past the farm, but there was some, and on that day, a school bus full of students needed to drive past Pfaff’s Happy Acres to drop off some kids a bit further down the road.

But in the middle of the road, stood a horse. It’s not an uncommon occurrence in the country. Livestock get out of their pens all the time, and the locals know how to deal with it. The bus driver honked the horn, that usually worked, but Andy shook his head and stood his ground.

As in all small towns, the bus driver knew Bill and Leslie, and everyone else up and down their road for that matter. She told her passengers to stay on the bus, then went out to put Andy back in his pen. She was a middle aged country gal, and she knew how to handle large farm animals.

Andy allowed her to walk up to him and grab his halter, and he even cooperated with her when she started leading him back to his pen.

And then, he changed his mind. Andy had evidently grown tired of the whole domesticated horse thing, and decided to become a lion, a tiger and a bear, all at once. And he became fierce!

I’m a little uncertain about the details, but Andy knocked the lady bus driver off her feet, then tossed her around a little as she struggled to regain her footing and keep her grip on the halter. As she regained her balance, Andy pushed her up against a large fence post with his not so miniature body. Forcefully. By the time Andy was done showing the bus driver where she could get off, he had broken her hip and one of her legs in two or three places.

The kids on the bus had all been raised on farms, and they raced out of the bus to save their driver, but Andy chased them all back to the bus, and he wouldn’t let them leave.

More vehicles arrived to find themselves stuck behind a school bus being held hostage by a terrorist horse. The sheriff and the fire department were called to save the kids trapped on the bus, and to rescue the bus driver whose leg had been broken into several pieces.

It’s hard to negotiate with a terrorist, but it’s impossible to negotiate with a terrorist thug horse, straight outta Oshkosh.

The sheriff couldn’t get anywhere near the bus, or the horse. Andy had no intention of peacefully returning to his pen, and charged the sheriff when he approached. He chased anyone away that tried to approach the bus, or the injured bus driver laying on the ground nearby with one leg bent in at least two impossible angles. Andy had taken prisoners, and he wasn’t willing to let any them go.

The sheriff had a dilemma. Neither Bill nor Leslie were home, and he had no idea how to contact them. Their horse had become a menace to society. It had taken a bus full of children hostage, and had seriously injured the bus driver. He had to act, and he had to act quickly.

He got his shotgun, and walked toward the renegade horse. When Andy charged the sheriff, the sheriff pulled the trigger, and a shot echoed loudly across the fields and woods surrounding the farm. The children ran out of the bus. The fire department flew into action and rescued the bus driver. And some scientist guys from Madison showed up because the sheriff called them after he killed the psychotic terrorist horse. By Wisconsin State law, any crazy horse had to be tested for rabies.

And then the scientist guys had a dilemma. The rabies virus lives in brain cells, and nowhere else. The scientist guys could have taken all of Andy’s remains, but they didn’t need all of Andy to run their required tests, just his head. And Andy, well, he wasn’t a small horse anymore.

Seeing how Andy was dead and wouldn’t be needing his head anymore, and that was the only part of his body they needed…  It’s much, much easier to transport the head of a dead horse than it is to transport the entire dead horse, so that’s what the scientist guys decided to do. They left most of dead Andy laying in the driveway, and then drove back to Madison where their tests would eventually reveal Andy did not have rabies, nor did he have the Philadelphia flu.

He was just a misunderstood youth, an over-amped adolescent, a rebel without a cause. He was the Headless Horse of Trempealeau County.

And that would be the end of this story, except for a few small details.

You may remember that Bill had hired Muffy, the perhaps cute and adorable college coed farmer’s daughter that lived down the road to keep an eye on the farm while he was out of town.

I’m not sure where Muffy was on that day, or what she was doing, but she was nowhere near the farm when Andy decided to go rogue and terrorize the community. As she was driving home, cute and adorable Muffy decided to drop by the farm to check on the animals entrusted to her care, and found the headless body of a dead horse laying in the driveway. She pretty much shit her pants.

I don’t think she went back to Bill and Leslie’s farm. Ever. Her dad ended up taking care of the goats and cats and dog, and he probably made the arrangements to have the rest of Andy’s body disposed of.

I’m not sure if Muffy called Bill first, or if the sheriff did, but one of those two called Bill and told him about the demise of Andy the militant mutant miniature horse, and then Bill called Dave’s house to let his wife know her wicked horse was dead.

As for the bus driver whose leg had been broken into several pieces, she ended up having several surgeries to put her back together again. And that was good. However, she had no health insurance, and that was bad. She ended up with a whole lots of medical expenses she had no way to pay, and ended up sueing Bill and Leslie for an enormous amount of money.

It would take a few years for all the legal wranglings to sort themselves out, and as both parties were walking into the courtroom, a settlement was reached.

Bill had wisely added an umbrella policy to his home owner’s insurance when he had purchased the farm, and the however many hundreds of thousands of dollars they settled on was paid by his insurance company.

Lea and I would also incur some medical expenses while we were deep in the heart of Texas. Our health insurance covered the majority of it, but we were billed for the balance. And Lea was given the opportunity to tell the hospital administrator to go fuck himself, too.

* * * *

“Sonuvafuckinbitch!” I probably said something like unto that when Leslie finished telling us about Andy. And the bus driver. And the kids. And the sheriff. And the fire department. And the scientist guys. And Muffy. And her pants. It was probably the most exciting thing that had happened in that part of Wisconsin in the last fifty years. “Man, I told Lea I had a bad feeling when Andy killed the goat, but I had no idea it’d turn out this bad!”

See? Not a prophet.

To say our plans would require some renovations would be an understatement. Leslie had to fly back to Wisconsin as soon as possible. She would not be able to drive our car while I drove the truck we were going to rent to get all of Wanda’s stuff back to the top of the country from way down at the bottom of the country.

“I’m really sorry.” she said.

“Don’t worry about it. We’ll figure something out.” Lea replied.

There was one bright spot. Leslie and Lea had gone through Dave’s house like a pair of stormtroopers, and everything had been sorted, separated and mostly packed. Lea and I would finish that, and load everything in the truck we would rent. We would take care of the stuff to be sold or donated. Leslie suddenly had more than enough stuff of her own to deal with.

* * * *

Leslie flew back to Wisconsin the very next day to take care of the shitstorm of events related to her mutant miniature thug horse from Hell, and all the havoc he had unleashed.

We rode along as Dave drove her to the airport. Leslie and Lea went through a checklist to make sure they hadn’t missed anything. The last thing either of them wanted to do was make another trip to Texas.

We drove back to the house afterwards. I was going to miss Leslie. She had a way of handling Dave that neither Lea nor I possessed, not that Dave was a terrible management problem anymore.

But he did have his moments still, and Lea didn’t have the same technique her sister did. I was a pysch nurse. I wasn’t yet the elite nurse I would eventually become, but I was confident I could handle Dave if I needed to. And the tall Texas blonde ER nurse had just shown me a new intervention…

“Man, I still can’t believe what happened with that crazy horse!” Dave said, as he drove. He spoke for all of us. That was pretty fucking wild, no doubt.

“It’s been quite a trip so far, Dave. I think I’m going to need another vacation to recover from this vacation.” I said. And we all laughed.

Yeah, it was funny then. But in less than a week it wouldn’t be. Remember that thing I said about life? There might be times when things can’t get any better, but things can always get worse.

Yes. They could.

And, yes, they would.