You know, Hobbes, some days even my rocket ship underpants don’t help. ~Calvin
Ever have one of those days when you get up on the wrong side of the bed and then it all goes downhill from there? ~The Unknown Witch
October 2nd 1997
Lake Wappapello, Missouri
Scenario: I was in hiding from my second husband. He’d done something heinous to my baby girl. Family services demanded that I allow unsupervised visitation for him with my daughter any way because there was no physical proof. I refused and wound up on the run. No job, little money, only a ratty old log cabin out in the woods.
I got up that morning. That’s a success story all on its own. I am not, nor will I ever be, a morning person. Dragging my ass outa bed is a major undertaking for the ole Witch. So. Where was I? Oh yeah, I got up. Big mistake.
In my normal morning routine I head first for the bathroom. If I make it there without pissing myself I consider it a good omen. I made it, this time. Omens just ain’t what they usta be. Huh? If I’d known what was in store, I would of just stayed in the bathroom till bed time. But I didn’t, so next stop, kitchen.
Coffee. Must. . . have. . . coffee. . .!
Unfortunately, the kitchen wasn’t there. I forgot. The old log cabin we moved into just yesterday didn’t have a working kitchen so my poor coffeemaker was on vacation. No kitchen, no ‘lectric, no furniture except for a couple of beds and some cheap plastic lawn chairs.
Hell, the only reason I had an indoor toilet was because I’d come over a couple of days before and installed one myself. Thank Goddess the copper scavengers hadn’t ripped out the water lines in the bathroom like they’d done in the kitchen. All I’d had to do was set the crapper on its new seal and bolt it down, then hook up the water lines. It was a bit rickety due to my inexpertise, but hey my motto is, “A Witch gotta do what a Witch gotta do,” and it worked.
Where was I again? Keep getting sidetracked. I remember.
Gotta. . . have. . .coffee. . . With no water in the house except for what was in the toilet bowl, I had to go next door and get it from the little camper that also belonged to my landlord. Why didn’t we move into the better equipped camper instead of the cabin, you ask? Probably because a large tree had fallen across the center of its roof and it leaked like a sieve. At least the cabin was dry.
I’d go get the water as soon as I picked up some firewood from the thick woods that surrounded us and got a fire going. Yes, I was going to build me a campfire out in the yard to cook on. That was the plan, anyway.
I walked into the woods, cursing because I’d been too exhausted to have all this done and ready to go as I usually would’ve the night before. Luckily there was no one to hear my horrible language except for Mikey, the neighbors black Lab who’d followed me into the trees. Leaves crunched beneath our feet as Mikey danced around my ankles and I transferred my cussing to him. “Get outa the way, you @#$%^! #$%&* #$@%^%$ dog! You gonna make me fall!”
I fell. I tried to catch myself on my hands, but I fell down hill, with enough force to break the lock on my elbows and slam face first into the forest floor. Ordinarily this wouldn’t’ve been too bad falling into soft forest loam, but this is Missouri, people. The land of rocks, rocks and you guessed it, more rocks. My face kissed a rock as I landed and I very nearly knocked myself unconscious!
By the time I managed to drag myself to a sitting position, I could no longer see out of my right eye. I had the makings of a beyooteeful shiner. I rose wearily to my feet and cussed some more. Then I staggered off to find my wood. I NEED COFFEE! Dammit!
Finally. My fire crackled and popped as I stood and reached for my battered old coffee pot. It was a relic from my homeless teenage years. We’d been through a lot together, me and ole Pot. I was glad I hadn’t ditched him, because he was all that was standing between me and a coffee-less morning.
I headed next door, squinting through my remaining eye. The yard there hadn’t been mowed for decades and the weeds and grass reached all the way up to my neck. I was glad it wasn’t tick season. You know, the days in early spring when microscopic baby tick hatch out and burrow into your skin sending you into itching hysteria? So glad.
I waded through neck high weeds toward the outside faucet with one goal in mind. Water. For coffee. I was so single minded, I didn’t notice the basketball-size paper sphere hidden in the grass beside the water spout until I felt a series of stabbing pains in my ankle. I looked down.
Now yellow jackets don’t usually build their nests above ground. Apparently no one told these yellow jackets that so there they were. Attacking my foot. No! No! No! This couldn’t be happening! I retreated. I could be strategic, when I wanted to. It was chilly so the yellow and black meanies were sluggish. They didn’t chase me as they normally would’ve done. Lucky me.
My eye throbbed. My ankle throbbed. My fury throbbed as I stood there indecisively, wondering what the hell to do. But no one stands between the witch and her coffee, not even yellow jackets, so I sneaked back to the faucet. I turned the water on just a trickle to minimize the noise and filled my pot. I sneaked back to my fire. Only then did I remember I needed water to cook breakfast and wash up. Sighing, I grabbed the handle of a five gallon plastic bucket and headed back. I should get it before it warmed up and the wasps became more alert.
It took forever to fill the big bucket. I didn’t dare turn the water on full blast and by the time I returned, mercifully without any more stings, my fire was out. Dead. I built it again. Dammit! I’d dug a firepit and covered it with an old rusty oven rack I’d found in the huge pile of garbage behind the cabin. It was on this that I set my filled coffeepot. I dropped coffee grounds, tied inside a paper filter into the pot . I sat back and waited.
The liquid finally began to bubble and turn brown. Ahhh, coffee. At last. I grabbed an old rag to shield my hand from the smoldering hot handle and lifted the pot. The end of the rag trailed down into the coals, smoked a bit and burst into flames which raced up the length of the rag and scorched my hand. I dropped rag, pot and all. the pot tipped over, spilling my precious coffee into the flames, drenching my fire. No fire, no coffee, and a burned hand. Dammit!
My eye throbbed. My ankle throbbed. My hand throbbed as I slowly raked the wet ashes and wood from my firepit and for the third time that morning rebuilt my fire and made my coffee. Again. Fortunately I didn’t have to brave the wasps and go back for more water. I had a whole bucketful.
Coffee, coffee, beautiful coffee. I settled back with my well-earned reward of luxurious brown gold, anticipating the first rich hot sip when I saw Mikey. Mikey was slipping out the door of my cabin which I’d left open. Mikey had my walking cane clenched in his teeth and was scurrying into the woods. Dammit, Mikey!
I started to set my coffee down and give chase, then I sighed, and sat back down. I already knew how this would end. I’d scramble after Mikey, yelling and cussing and falling, while Mikey frolicked just out of reach until he got bored with the game and ran away to settle into the bushes and chew my cane into splinters and I gave up and returned to my cold coffee and dead fire. I wasn’t a complete idiot.
I sat there in my ancient lawn chair, watching the remainder of the sunrise and sipping my coffee, finally waking up. I drank the whole pot. In a bit, I’d have to fix breakfast and get my daughter off to school. In a bit, I’d have to mount my trusty old bike and pedal the fifteen miles into town to get money out of the bank to pay bills and buy supplies. In a bit.
For now I was happy to sit here, enjoying the sunrise and my coffee and just breathing the cold crispy air. If you can’t be grateful for what you’ve got, be grateful for what you’ve escaped. It could have been worse. Much, much worse.
And my lovely black eye? I told everyone I ran into a door, so of course they assumed my husband did it. Heh! Heh! Heh!