Monday, January 25, 2010


I brought home this contraption from storage a few weeks ago and put it in the garage. It was made of metal and kind of looked like a giant slingshot, or some kind of torture device.
I forgot all about it until about a week ago, when I lugged it into the living room and asked my husband what it was. The expression on his face showed no sign of recognition.
Finally, he said, "I think it's a skeet launcher. You know, one of those things that launches clay pigeons into the air so you can shoot them?"
"What was it doing in our storage unit?"
"I've had it for years," he said, "from way back when Mike lived across the street and we used to go shooting."
"Well, Mike hasn't lived across the street since Nixon was president," I said. "This thing must be an antique by now. Can I sell it on Ebay?"
He shrugged. "Sure. It's been so many years since I've shot a gun, I'd probably be as bad as you are at hitting anything anyway."
He never was going to let me live down that one time, back when we were first married, when we went target practicing together in some sandpit out in the boonies. He'd set up a target against a tall mound of sand and then handed me a .22 pistol.
I shot the gun several times, assuming my best Annie Oakley stance. Not only did I miss the target, I actually shot a branch off a nearby tree.
"Stop!" my husband had shouted at me. "Squirrels are scampering for their lives!"
Needless to say, he never invited me to go skeet shooting with him and Mike. He probably feared I'd be a threat to low-flying aircraft.
"I have a couple full boxes of clay pigeons in storage somewhere, too," my husband's voice brought me back to the present. "If you can find those, you can sell them with the skeet launcher and get more money – you know, like a package deal."
So the next day, I tore through the storage shed, searching for the boxes of clay pigeons. I found them buried underneath some of the world's heaviest boxes. After I moved those, and several of my vertebrae, I lifted one of the boxes of skeet. Noises like corn popping came from my back. Even worse, the minute I stepped outside the storage shed, the bottom fell out of the soggy old box and all of the clay pigeons went crashing to the ground.
I finally found all of the pieces, which wasn't easy in the snow, and loaded both boxes into my car, then headed home.
During the drive home, I noticed that every time I made a wide right-hand turn (not a sharp one) my car made a loud, grinding sound.
"That can't be good," I said out loud, imagining all sorts of terrible things that could be causing the grinding noise…from the wheels being loose to the axle breaking in half. I found myself trying to mentally map out a route home that would be all left turns.
When I finally pulled into our garage, I grabbed a flashlight and checked the underside of my car, as if I actually had a clue what I was looking for. Unless I spotted something blatantly obvious under there, like a screwdriver rammed into the tire or a dead body wedged up under the axle, I'd have no idea if something looked out of place.
I opened the car door on the passenger's side and checked everything there. That's when I spotted a big spring lying on the floor under the dashboard. Panicking, I picked it up and rushed inside to show my husband.
"I have no idea what it is," he said. "Was it lying on the ground under the car?"
"No, it was inside on the floor, under the dashboard on the passenger's side. And my car was making a terrible scraping noise all the way home."
He looked thoughtful for a moment as he more closely examined the spring. "There's nothing under the dash that would use something this big. But just to be safe, show it to Elias (our mechanic)."
I made an appointment to have my car checked out. When I dropped it off, I showed the spring to Elias. "I found this under my dashboard. Is it some major part my car needs?"
He looked at the spring and shook his head. "You'd be in a lot of trouble if was! This isn't anything that came from your car." He set it down and I didn't reach for it. I figured if I didn't need it, then he may as well get rid of it for me. For all I knew, it could have been lying on the floor of my car for years. I mean, I never look down there.
The scraping noise in my car turned out to be the front brakes, which urgently needed to be replaced.
"Well," I said to my husband when I later got home with my freshly repaired car, "I'm definitely going to put the skeet launcher and the boxes of clay pigeons on Ebay. I'm broke after paying for my car. Every penny will help!"
I went out to the garage and carried the monstrosity of a launcher inside so I could photograph it for the auction. "How does this thing work anyway?" I asked my husband.
He came over to examine it. "You put the skeet here," he said, "then you have this cord you pull back to release the tension on the…"
He stopped talking and suddenly looked a shade whiter.
"Release the tension on what?" I asked.
"The spring," he said.
I looked at the machine. "I don't see any spring."
My mouth fell open and my eyes widened as reality struck me. "The spring I gave to Elias? Was that the spring?"
He nodded. "It must have fallen off the launcher back when you brought it home from storage."
The next morning, I called Elias and asked him what he did with the spring.
"I threw it out," he said. "Why?"
"We found out where it goes! And now we desperately need it for my husband's skeet launcher."
"Skeet launcher?" he said, his tone teasing. "Are you sure it's not for something else? Something kinky?"
You wouldn't believe the visions that went through my head when he said that. I burst out laughing.
"I'll dig through the trash later and see if I can find it," he said.
Even if Elias does find the spring, my husband's not even sure how to put it back where it belongs on the launcher.
I guess it doesn't really matter anyway. I checked the clay pigeons that fell in the snow and most of them look more like…well, pigeon feed.

Monday, January 18, 2010


One thing I've noticed about packing and moving is that you find a lot of things you haven't seen in years…things you don't even remember having.

Even though we've already moved, I still haven't packed up everything in our former home. In fact, it probably will take me another year or so to finish going through everything. My problem is that instead of just packing, I sit back and read every old card or letter I find. And if I come across a box of photos, I have to study every one of them.

And speaking of photos, while cleaning out my file cabinet the other day, I came across an envelope of photos I'd taken years ago during yet another diet. Before I actually began the diet, I'd posed for a "before" photo while wearing a sleeveless blue leotard.

Then, every time I dropped 10 pounds, I'd pose for another photo. There were nine photos in all, beginning at 231 lbs. and ending at 145. They reminded me of that old movie, "The Incredible Shrinking Woman."

The photos, however, also made me look like the Incredible Aging Woman. The more weight I lost, the more my face sagged, until I pretty much resembled a basset hound in a leotard. My knees also looked like a couple of deflated balloons.

It was enough to make me want to rush out and buy a box of Twinkies.

I also found my senior prom photo. Immediately my thoughts drifted back to that night - one of the worst in all my years at school.

The guy I was supposed to go to the prom with, George, called me a few days before the prom and said he wouldn't be able to go because his parents were splitting up and he had to move out of state with his father.

So that left me with a gown, matching shoes, new jewelry, a satin purse, and nowhere to wear them. I did manage, at the last minute, to find another date for the prom, but let's just say he wasn't the man of my dreams. He was 18 but looked about 40. He'd already lost his driver's license. And he was loud and obnoxious.

Yes, I was desperate.

As I studied the prom photo, I had to chuckle at the expression on my face. It was similar to the look someone might have during an acute attack of appendicitis. Not surprisingly, I think I was the only person at the prom who was home long before midnight.

Packing also has led to the discovery of some of my husband's things, many of which are puzzling.

For example, I found eight wallets, all worn out, with long-expired credit cards and driver's licenses in each one. One wallet was so old, it still had a photo of his ex-girlfriend in the photo section…his petite, slender, bosomy ex-girlfriend.

Funny, but she didn't look too great and her body parts not so perky after I shoved her photo through the paper shredder. The way I figure it, if my husband ever wants to see the photo again, he can try to glue it back together. Ever since he retired, he's been complaining that he needs a hobby, so I think I actually did him a favor and gave him one.

I also found keys to every car he's owned since his 1969 VW Beetle. Why he never tossed out any of them after he got rid of the cars is beyond me. Maybe he intends to buy one of those big key rings and hang it on his belt so he can look like a mall security guard.

I doubt it word work, though. All of those keys would weigh so much, he'd have to wear suspenders to keep his pants from falling down around his ankles.

Then in his closet, I found a big, puffy fur hat with furry ear flaps. It was made of some kind of real animal fur that fell out in clumps the moment I touched it. The hat looked like something Russians would wear in Siberia.

I thought it was a strange thing for my husband to have because he's always hot. I mean, he currently is still wearing his thin, spring jacket because he doesn't think it's been cold enough yet to dig out his winter one.

So where or when, I wondered, would he ever wear this Grizzly Adams hat? Heck, if he ever did put it on, our dogs probably would catch a whiff of it and attack him.

So, solely for the purpose of saving his life, I decided to toss it out.

You know, I've discovered an interesting thing about packing. Most of my stuff is nice, valuable stuff that's being carefully transported to the new house…while most of my husband's stuff is just junk that's heading straight to the dump.

Funny how that works.

Monday, January 11, 2010


I haven't figured out yet why my dogs are shedding in the middle of winter. I mean, I would think they'd still need as much fur as possible, considering all of the cold weather we've been having lately and probably will continue to have until at least the middle of June.

As a result, my house constantly looks as if I'm trying to insulate it with fur. By the end of each week, I probably could stuff a mattress with it, or at the very least, a pillow or two.

But I've been fighting a neverending battle with fur ever since I've had dogs, about 35 years, which is the reason why I went to Sears and bought a turbo-suck vacuum cleaner three years ago. I also bought the service contract to protect my purchase, a major investment.

Prior to that, I had a vacuum cleaner that cost about $59.95 and constantly struggled to suck up anything. I'd have to run over the same piece of lint a dozen times until it finally just surrendered and climbed up into the hose by itself.

So last week, because a houseful of company was coming over on Saturday night, I decided to do a thorough vacuuming – not my usual "vacuum only the areas that show" kind of vacuuming, but underneath the beds and behind the sofa.

I dragged out my trusty Sears vacuum cleaner, plugged it in and pushed the "on" button. Nothing happened. I tried again. Still nothing. I plugged it into a different outlet. It was deader than dead.

I shouted for my husband.

He checked the vacuum cleaner and noticed that a permanent ring around one end of the hose had broken off. Unfortunately it was on the part of the hose that connected directly into the electrical part of the canister. No connection, no power.

Just a few weeks before, I'd received a call from Sears, telling me that my service contract was about to expire. They asked if I wanted to renew it. I said no.

Naturally, as it happens with all appliances, computers and even cars, the minute they hear the words, "No, I don't want to renew my service contract," they cackle maniacally and plot ways in which to explode, leak, catch fire or commit suicide.

I phoned the parts and service department at Sears and asked them if they had a new hose in stock, and if they didn't, if it would be possible to order one before my company arrived.

I had visions of my guests sitting in our living room and trying to enjoy their cups of tea while clumps of dog fur savagely flew up and clung to them until they all looked like cavemen. A sense of panic overcame me.

The service technician told me to bring in my vacuum cleaner and he'd see what he could do.

I never realized how heavy that vacuum cleaner was until I had to lug it halfway across the mall parking lot and all the way through Sears. That's when it dawned on me that maybe if I'd taken out the bag with 10 lbs. of dirt in it, it might have been a little easier to carry.

I also wasn't aware that the service department closed at 5. I got there at 4:47.

The news wasn't good. The part had to be ordered…and it was expensive. Labor was even more expensive. And even worse, nothing could be done before Saturday. I was doomed to have fur-covered guests. I figured I'd better call them and tell them not to wear anything black.

The service technician must have sensed my panic because he suddenly said, "I can get you a loaner if you'd like."

"You'll actually let me borrow a vacuum cleaner?" I asked, surprised.

"Well, if you go to the vacuum-cleaner department and tell them I personally sent you to get a loaner, you'll get one," he said, smiling.

He didn't have to tell me twice. I was off and running (mainly because it was 5:00 by then and I had no choice but to leave the service department anyway) to the vacuum-cleaner department.

The lady gave me a really spiffy-looking vacuum cleaner that had a lot of fancy features, such as a signal that lit up when it located dirt. She even threw in three spare bags. The price tag on the machine was over $400, which made me uneasy.

"Um, if I break it, do I have to pay for it?" I asked, fearing that the machine would choke and die from a giant fur ball.

She shook her head. "All we ask is that you tell us what's broken. Otherwise we'll never know the difference and it won't get repaired."

So I carried the loaner vacuum all the way through the store and across the parking lot to my car. I swear it weighed about 50 lbs. more than the one I'd brought in…and it didn't even have a bag in it. I was hoping that meant it contained about a 100-horsepower motor that was so strong, it could suck the wallpaper right off my walls.

As it turned out, my company called and canceled until next Saturday night.

I won't even need the vacuum cleaner by then…because at the rate my dogs are shedding, both of them probably will be completely bald.