By Robert Stanhope
It had been a long time since anyone had visited the attic. There was an exterminator that Dad hired from Craigslist to remove a rat and her babies. If memory serves me correctly, his name was “Vermin Vernon”. I’m not sure what odor was worse, his body or the rat’s afterbirth. He wasn’t a clean man, but he was efficient at removing rodents. Plus, he was affordable. Mom offered him fresh meatballs and he accepted, refusing cash for his services. I remember him carrying a closed cardboard box of rats in one hand and a Ziploc bag of meatballs in the other as he walked across the front lawn, his ass crack showing as his pants slipped without a free hand to pull them up.
Dad passed a couple of years ago and Mom’s mind isn’t too sharp these days. Now it’s my responsibility to rid the attic of a rodent. I’ll see if “Vermin” is still on Craigslist. I’ll search “pest control” under the services section. Only three results. “Got a rat? Let’s Chat!” is the first post. “Have a Rodent Problem? We have a Potent Solution.” is the second result. Do these guys go to poetry school? Ah, this one must be “Vermin Vernon”, “A Man Has to Eat, I’ll Remove Your Critters.” Click. Sure enough, a short description of service and a phone number to call Vernon.
“Go for Vernon!” said a raspy voice on the line.
“Hi Vernon, I’m Valerie Moses. I don’t know if you remember me, but you removed some rats from my parent’s attic a few years ago.”
“Sure do, Ms. Moses. Your Mom makes a mean meatball. Sure am sorry to hear about your Dad passin’.”
“Thanks, Vernon. We sure do miss him. Mom isn’t cooking these days. The reason I’m calling is because a neighbor saw a raccoon crawling into the attic. We hear him scratching and making a ruckus. Can you remove it for us?”
“A raccoon, huh?” asked a hesitant sounding Vernon.
“Yes,” I replied and asked, “Is that beyond your services?”
“You mentioned your Mom isn’t cooking these days. How are your meatballs?”
“Vernon, I’d be happy to pay you cash.”
A disappointed Vernon replied, “I think I’ll refer you to “Rascal Rick” for this one.”
“I saw his ad on Craiglist. Is he a good man?” I asked.
“He’ll get the job done and treat ya fair.”
“Okay. Thank you for the referral, Vernon. I need to tend to my apple pie in the oven now. Take care.”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa! Did you say apple pie?” exclaimed Vernon.
“Sure did,” I replied.
“I’ll be right over to take care of your raccoon problem, Ms. Moses.”
Doug the bug needed a hug. He lost his friend June in a horrific accident. June crawled under a rug and was squished by the foot of a man drinking hot coffee from a mug. Doug was traumatized by the negligent homicide. He needed a hug from another bug. He buzzed from room to room, nearly swatted by a woman wielding a broom.
In the kitchen, he landed on a dish. He took a deep breath before he heard, “Hi, my name is Trish.” Startled, Doug buzzed in a circle around Trish before landing back on the dish. Staring into Trish’s big round eyes, Doug replied, “Hi, I’m Doug.”
“You are sad. What’s wrong?” asked Trish.
“My friend June was killed by a human and I could use a hug,” whimpered Doug.
Trish spread her wings and hugged Doug. “I’m sorry for your loss.”
“Thank you,” sighed Doug.
Throughout our lives, we experience seasons, some are planted with seeds that we harvest quickly with a joyful crop. Others, we wait through seasons, and more seasons. The seeds are buried deep, forgotten, not nourished to surface. Satan fights to keep them buried. But, the light of the Lord always surfaces the seeds even though the waiting may be long. We must remain faithful that He will provide. The seeds will break free from their shells, their hiding places. At which time, He will walk with you through the vines that fight to hold you back.
I went to my favorite doctor today, you know, the dentist. The staff is quite friendly, all smiles. The dentist then greets me with a needle and a, "Good morning!" As the treatment progressed and my entire face numbed, I thought I was quite special when he paused and said, "Excuse me for a moment, I need to get a diamond. Of course, that spoils the surprise. And honestly, being a taken man, I wouldn't accept his proposal. Being crowned is quite enough and what I was expecting. But, I had no choice in the matter. Before I knew it, the diamond was in my mouth. Wait! What? Diamond and gold? "We need to smooth things out before we can place the temporary crown," says the dentist.
I guess my royalty is in question. I get a trial run to see if I'm worthy of a permanent crown? His assistant then leaves me with these parting instructions, "Nothing sticky, chewy, or crunchy." They must be optimistic. They want me to look good when I get my permanent crown. Though, I didn't know there'd be such pomp and circumstance. I hope my insurance provider is covering the cost of such celebration. I wonder if it's proper to invite guests.
They were on a collision course, neither aware of their surroundings, only the distraction in their hands. He was peddling feverishly on his bike, down a narrow street, talking on his phone. She was juggling books in her arms while trying to read emails on her smartphone. As they approached the intersection, a four-way stop for vehicles, only the screeching of tires and blaring of horns caught their attention before colliding.
They both lied motionless in the middle of the street, books scattered about and gawkers taking photos of the scene with phones. Traffic came to a standstill as drivers of two of the vehicles went to aid each of them. Miraculously, they were both stunned, yet uninjured in the collision.
He rose to his feet and said, “What the hell happened?”
“I’ll tell you what happened,” she roared as she brushed herself off and started at him with a raised hand.
“You weren’t paying attention and almost killed me!”
He was speechless with a smile, ear to ear.
“Are you laughing at me?” she snared.
“I, I, I’m sorry,” he stuttered out. “No, I’m not laughing.”
She continued with her rant, “What’s with the smile? Do you think this is funny?”
Still smiling, he gently whispered, “You’re so beautiful.”
Shocked, she poked his chest and said, “You better get your head checked!”
He started to apologize, “I’m sorry that I ran into you and I’ll replace any of your books that might be damaged, but I’m not sorry that you’re the most beautiful woman that I’ve ever seen.”
She was speechless. Her anger began to subside and her face became flush as a smile appeared.
They were distracted momentarily as a police officer demanded they gather up the books and bike and move their conversation to the sidewalk.
He refused to allow her to gather her books and suggested she have a seat on a bench while he collected things. After giving her the books, he asked if he could get her a cup of coffee while she checked for damage. She stated that she was on her way to the coffee shop when they collided.
As they began to walk, he asked, “What’s your name?”
“Julie. And, yours?”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you Julie. I’m Jeff.”
Jeff purchased two coffees while Julie inspected her books for damage.
“As I said, I’ll replace anything that’s damaged.”
“They’re fine. Don’t worry about it,” smiling at Jeff.
They continued to chat when the conversation led back to the accident.
Julie asked, “How did we happen to meet this way?”
“Well let’s see. I was riding down Duval, talking to my buddy.”
“I’ll admit it. I was on my phone too,” said Julie.
Then they both paused, distracted as they felt their pockets.
“Our phones!” they shouted as they darted to the intersection that brought them together.
Prancing through the streets, each step in the dirt, the mud, the puddles, and the grime, track to the next. Treasure found in the trash at a seafood restaurant, a sweet confection at a bakery, and sour milk licked up at a fudge shop.
This lifestyle isn’t easy. The weather is extreme. The hurricanes, the lightning, the afternoon downpours, all dampen the day with heavy humidity to wear into the night. Heat intensifies the weight of a coat, missing in patches, yet still sturdy enough to shield against a chilly breeze from a rare cold front.
There are few to trust on these streets littered with vagrants. The homeless, the pimps, the dealers, and the tourists seek survival, a trick, a deal, and a thrill. Screams in the night prevent a pleasant rest. Life has no value on the streets.
A glance inside windows of a home filled with smiles provides hope. A fresh meal, conversation, a warm bath, and an embrace from a loved one, provide the stories shared with few friends. A litter bound by dreams and experiences, often nine lives is too much to consider when the challenges of each day seem a lifetime. If only a door would open, an opportunity present itself, a spotlight shining to share. Only then would a return to the stage be possible.
A cat’s eye view in the darkness is not a trait shared with a broken down, homeless ballerina shadowed in the alleys of a tropical oasis of broken hearts. The dance continues until the day the dream is no longer a flutter in the heart, a sparkle in the eyes, and while feet sing a silent tune of graceful flow. The dance continues until the last curtain call.
Writer and photographer.