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He fires up his joint and takes a deep inhale.

She watches, a little afraid and a lot disappointed, as his eyes go flat and boring.  It’s stinky and smoky and dark and she’s cold.  She doesn’t like it here.

He is usually so much more fun than this, especially when they watch Saturday morning rasslin’ together. Between commercial breaks he roars and picks her up over his head like he’s Jerry “The King” Lawler and she’s Junkyard Dog.  He turns in a slow circle showing his imaginary audience how strong he is while she clings to his wrists for dear life and screams, “No! No! Put me down!”

“Down?? You want down?”

“Wait! No! Stop! Please! Maaaaamaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!”

She screams in terrified delight as he body slams her down on the couch.

She lies there stunned for the 3 count while he flexes and makes his face look mean like he’s the Incredible Hulk. Then he lumbers off to the kitchen to get a Coke out of the ‘fridge.

Momma always yells at him at this point in the routine, “Stop doing that! You’ll break her ribs!”

“Well, I have to win the match somehow,” he replies.

“I mean it. Don’t do that. You could make her lungs collapse and kill her.”

“Nah, I’m just toughenin’ her up.”

Saturday morning rasslin’ is the real He-man rasslin’ and definitely not to be confused with that “kissy face” wrestling that they do in the Ol’-limp-kicks.  She is still trying to work out what exactly the Ol’-limp-kicks is.  It is a sports thing, she knows. They’ve explained that it happens every 4 years.  She is 4.  It is something to do with her birthday?  They said no. They said it happened even before she was ever around – before she was even thought of.  There is something deeply suspicious about this.  How could things go on without her around? The question makes her head feel funny, so she thinks about something else.

She wishes it was Saturday morning.

But it’s not Saturday. He passes the joint to his friend, who takes it, glances at her, then back and him. Between hits he asks, “Do you think she knows what we’re doing?”

Of course she knows what they’re doing. They’re being bad.  Momma would be so mad. Daddy smokes Lucky Strikes, which is bad Momma says.  But Daddy doesn’t smoke “wacky tabacky,” which is way more bad.  She doesn’t say any of this. Even though she is looking at them, they are looking through her and talking about her like she doesn’t understand English or like she is deaf.

She knows about being deaf because a really long time ago, when she was 3, she lived in Texas and her best friend in the whole world lived next door and she was deaf for real.  Daddy had explained it all to her then. He told her that her best friend was deaf and dumb.  It’s not nice to call someone dumb, she told him.  He said he wasn’t being mean – it wasn’t that kind of dumb.

He said, “You know how some people can’t hear and they’re called deaf?”

Well, no, in fact, she didn’t know anything about that. How come they couldn’t hear? What did they hear if they couldn’t hear?  Was being deaf like when the wind blows everybody’s words away? Or did they not even hear the wind? Do deaf people’s ears ever ring when nothing is actually ringing like hers sometimes do? Does being deaf sound like the way you hear under water? Do your ears feel full of water when you are deaf?

Sometimes Daddy seems to know a lot and sometimes he doesn’t seem to know much of anything at all. She sorta-kinda got the idea, though.

Daddy went on, “When people can’t talk they are called dumb. It’s just a way to describe someone who can’t talk.”

Dumb isn’t a nice word, Daddy,” she reminded him again.

Besides, she understood everything her best friend said.  Her best friend didn’t say things the way everybody else said things, so you couldn’t listen with just your ears.

She misses her best friend. When her family moved back to Memphis, her best friend stayed in Texas.

She remembers Texas and the night they met.  She was outside her new house with Momma and Daddy. The sun was about to go to bed for the night when the neighbors came out of the house right beside theirs.  And there was her best friend.  They both squealed and immediately the chase was on.  Running, running, running. Cool grass on bare feet. Lungs aching with the effort of breathing around giggles, squeals, and exhaustion. The sheer joy of having a friend. Of being seen!

That night as she scratched at her berjillion mosquito bites, her parents murmured in sad, serious tones things she didn’t comprehend.

“… woman in a child’s body”

“Can’t imagine…”

“…must be hard.”

“What a shame.”

She didn’t understand her best friend was “different” until one day during another endless game of Chase, she tripped over a broom in the driveway. Face slides across bumpy concrete. Pebbles scrape tender skin on palms and knees.  Best friend sees her fall and panics, collapsing to the ground beside her. Hands flapping. Moaning. Best friend didn’t fall, why is she crying? Oh, oh, face on fire. It hurts. Best friends crying together. Blood-curdling screams.  The scene strikes fear in the heart of both Mommas, who rush out to fix their injured children.

Mercurochrome is dabbed on her scrapes – even on her nose.  “Hey Rudolph, what happened to you?” Daddy will say when he gets home from work.

Momma decides it’s better for her not to play with her best friend, who is so much older. She might hurt her, accidentally.

Bruises and scrapes will heal in a few days.  Other kinds of hurts take much longer.

Kozo at everyday gurus has issued June’s Monthly Peace Challenge, the topic of which is Peace at Home.  This is my contribution.  I hope you enjoy!

~~*~~

I’m currently reading Eckhart Tolle’s book The Power of Now.  How this book wound up in my life is its own story of synchronicity. After I was hired sight-unseen for a teaching gig I hadn’t been seeking,  I discovered this book was on my predecessor’s syllabus. I mentioned this a few weeks ago to a friend who had popped in for lunch.

“I think I need to read this book.” I said.

“Oooh! Goosebumps.” she said, ”  I have that book in my car right now. I knew it was meant for donation — I just didn’t know it was meant for you.”

She had planned to run a few errands following our lunch, which included dropping off a few items in donation.  The book was in her donation pile.

Let me tell you, I am learning that now is very powerful indeed.

So this week I was reading a chapter about using and relinquishing negativity. Early on in the chapter Tolle discusses the problem of negativity,

Negativity is totally unnatural.  It is a psychic pollutant, and there is a deep link between the poisoning and destruction of nature and the vast negativity that has accumulated in the collective human psyche. 

You might imagine my delighted surprise when I came to a passage about ducks.  When I read what Tolle had to say on the topic I had to laugh.  He starts with….

Even ducks have taught me important spiritual lessons.  Just watching them is a meditation.  How peacefully they float along, at ease with themselves, totally present in the Now, dignified and perfect as only a mindless creature can be. 

–Eckhart Tolle

This man has obviously not met my ducks, I thought and closed the book.

You see, earlier this week we had a duck fight.   One of the bad boys, Myrrh, started it.  He grabbed ahold of poor Hiram’s neck with his bill, forcing Hiram to retailiate by grabbing Myrrh’s neck and the two side-stepped back and forth like they were slow dancing.   It was really ridiculous.  Myrrh then joined his juvenile deliquent brother, Frankincense, in bullying their sister Mistletoes.

Frank & Myrrh

Frank & Myrrh

Finally, after one Mistletoes rape too many, I tossed both Frank and Myrrh out of the pen and chased them to the pond. Aside from the departed baby Penguin, none of the ducks had ever been out of the pen in the great beyond. I told El-D I didn’t care what happened to the hooligans, which was almost true…

…until the next morning when I went outside to see if they looked ready to atone for their ruffian behavior and sexual shenanigans.

The boys were nowhere to be found.  I called El-D to whine about it: I didn’t mean to sentence them to death!  I just thought a little overnight banishment into the great beyond might do something to improve their disposition.  El-D joined me in the search for the missing ducks.  We found them…in the pen. In my indignation the previous day, I had absently left the door ajar and the little jerks had snuck back in. All ducks were present and they were laying around murmuring to each other about whatever ducks murmur about.

ducks 005Ok, so I was happy to see them.  Besides, their little adventure did seem to have a positive effect – they were definitely more subdued. There was no aggression, just companionable communication. I guess a day of swimming and doing duck things in the great beyond wore them out.

So….we decided to experiment. El-D wrangled the guys again, which was quite a show. Each one struggled to get away as El-D carried them out of the pen and up the hill.  As soon as they caught another glimpse at the pond, they became still and quiet.  When El-D released them, they went flapping to the water. At the end of the day, they were easy to herd back to the pen.  The next day, when I opened the pen door the bad boys ambled out on their own…followed by Mistletoes.

When I next opened Tolle’s book, this is what I read:

Occasionally, however, two ducks will get into a fight — sometimes for no apparent reason, or because one duck has strayed into another’s private space.  The fight usually lasts only for a few seconds, and then the ducks separate, swim off in opposite directions, and vigorously flap their wings a few times.  They then continue to swim on peacefully as if the fight had never happened.  When I observed that for the first time, I suddenly realized that by flapping their wings they were releasing surplus energy, thus preventing it from becoming trapped in their body and turning into negativity. 

—Eckhart Tolle

What a lesson in forgiving and forgetting.

june 6 032

Today all seven are playing outside in the great beyond. At sunset I will go out there and they will make their way to the pen for their cracked corn dinner.  They are as just fancy about this routine as you please and as well-behaved (at least for now) as the Peabody ducks. All they need is a little red carpet.

Watch any plant or animal and let it teach you acceptance of what is, surrender to the Now.  Let it teach you Being.  Let it teach you integrity – which means to be one, to be yourself, to be real.  Let it teach you how to live and how to die, and how not to make living and dying into a problem. 

–Eckhart Tolle

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