Tuesday, November 30, 2010


I have a confession to make. Come close. No closer. I had never been shopping on Black Friday. Never. I swear. I just didn’t see the point in it. Think about it. You get to Wal*Mart at 0:darkthirty and camp out in front of the store in your beach chair wrapped in 14 Snuggies. You huddle under the wrap of fleece and squint trying to watch The Office on your I-Phone.

Your left ear bud pops out just as Pam says something and you get it plugged back in just as Michael says “that’s what she said.” WHAT is what she said? You search the crowd looking for someone who might of heard what Pam said only to be shushed by the 300 pound Samoan watching football in the group next to you and a 55” big screen T.V. he has lugged out there along with a tent, generator, satellite dish, full camp stove and electric blanket. You look longingly at his bag of freshly popped microwave popcorn and wonder once again why you are sitting outside in the freezing weather waiting for a store full of things you really don’t need or want. The poor store is getting ready to be ransacked by a group of eager shoppers thinking they are getting a good deal.

Finally the magic hour arrives and a skinny 16 year old boy who volunteered for duty because he was promised hazardous duty pay sneaks to the door. The crowd pulses like the Tell Tale Heart.

The pimply faced lad flips the lock and opens the door and runs like his ass is on fire toward the back of the store. The crowd surges like the tsunami waves hitting the beaches in Indonesia. It spills over the threshold and pounds through the aisles flooding the store with the insanity of frenzied shoppers trying to get their hand on the one and only $198.00 big screen television. Seven hundred people converge on the one box trampling small children and squashing little old ladies. A fight ensues which would make Ultimate Fighters seem like sissies. There is hair pulling, clothes tearing and name calling and that is just by the store employees. Finally a winner is declared and the 85 year old lady with the walker wins. As she drags the tattered box toward the checkout counter she leaves a wake of bloody bodies with tennis ball impressions pressed into their foreheads.

You make your way past the injured and dying and work your way toward the small home appliances with dreams of snagging that espresso machine that you really don’t need. You step over ripped boxes of Rubbermaid Containers and broken Corel Dishes. There is a crowd of people hovering over the one and only Mr. Espresso left on the shelf. A man in a striped shirt and hockey mask blows his whistle and the game begins. There are elbows flying and kicks landing.

You dodge left to avoid the woman in the stilettos shin scrape only to meet the soccer mom’s right elbow with your bottom lip. Next thing you know your lip is swelling up bigger than a basketball and you look around for the foul. The woman looks at you and declares “oh that will heal up before Christmas, get back in there.” You reach for the box and your fingers touch it. You try and grip it only to have it yanked from your hand by the large Samoan from the outside queue. You realize your nose is situated at an inconvenient height with his rearage. Just as you stretch for the box he lets loose with a bout of flatulence that would singe the quills off a porcupine. You retreat trying to catch a whiff of fresh air only to run smack into a large hairy person’s arm pit. You mumble scuze me and run for the exit.

The store is so full it’s impossible to maneuver through the aisle. You have to just go with the flow of traffic and hope that it will eventually eddy and spit you out at the door. It swirls and circles and finally you are caught in a rip tide of activity. You realize somehow you have been sucked into the toy department and there are thousands of over stimulated children under the age of 12 who have been dragged out after midnight to shop for their own Christmas presents.

They are glassy eyed and cranky. You bump into one of these Children of the Corn and jump back at the electric shock he puts off. His face crinkles up in a smile as he moves through the crowd rubbing his feet on the carpet and lighting others up with static. You can only hope he doesn’t meet up with the large Samoan.

You push your way past the toys and head toward what you hope will get you out of the building. You strain and push until you clear the garden department. You stand in the empty aisle looking for the exit when you realize it’s a dead end. You must push back through the maddening crowd and try to escape this aberration.

You see the exit ahead and continue on in your pursuit of freedom. You find yourself throwing elbows and stepping on toes. You no longer say “pardon me” or “excuse me”. All manners are out the window; this is a fight for your life. You in fact begin enjoying hearing the crunch of toes and the smack of flesh meeting your boney appendages.

You march forward to reach the door and out into the cold dark night. Happy to finally be outside you draw in a deep breath only to find you are in the middle of the crowd who escaped to smoke. You cough and sputter as you walk the 37 miles through the parking lot to your vehicle.

Once there you pull out your journal. You turn to the last page that is labeled BUCKET LIST. You find it half way down the page in capital letters BLACK FRIDAY SHOPPING. Sighing you take the lid off your black Sharpie marker and mark through it so many times the page tears. You pull down the mirror and take a look at your busted lip, black eye and ask yourself “what was I thinking?”

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Meal to Kill

In the spirit of my previous post and as my participation in Theme Thursday’s Food theme I am here to give you one of my best food stories.  It is one I wrote sometime ago but I’m replaying it for your enjoyment.  Now read this then go over and join Summer, Kate and Halfmoose over at Theme Thursday.  Frito Pie to Die From

Sometimes I get a hankering; you know a craving, for this food or that dish from my childhood. I do this even though I know that my cholesterol and my derriere do not need to eat anything but salads and drink water. Be that as it may I will invariably get out iron skillet and other assorted cooking utensils and assuage my urge. I know I have no self control.

I had one of those cravings recently and I did not control myself nor did I protect Kahuna from it either. I broke down and broke out the Fritos, wolf brand chili, and a package of chicken tamales. I lined my pan with foil I stripped and laid my tamales in the bottom of the pan already laden with Fritos. I then opened the chili, spread it all over the tamales letting it drip down to the Fritos and covered all of this with onions and grated cheese. I then lovingly and reverently slid this concoction into the 350 degree oven and let it bake until the cheese was a golden color. We then partook of this scrumptious meal. Oh it was so good and cheesy and frito-ey. It was so warm and yummy. About an hour after said dinner I began to feel warmth in my chest and a pain in my arm. I looked over at Kahuna who was squelching a belch. It was revenge of the Frito-pie. You see Frito-pie is what got Trooper Bob banned from cooking for his children.

One time Trooper Bob was left at home with his three children. The three well behaved polite children became hungry and pled with Trooper Bob to make his specialty. Trooper Bob never used a recipe. He would just start throwing things together and usually it turned out edible. This cold winter afternoon he decided Frito-pie was just the thing to warm up his adorable little children. He looked in the pantry and low and behold there in all its glory was a big can of Wolf Brand Chili with beans. The with beans is very important when making Trooper Bob Frito Pie. Then he spotted a can of Hormel Beef Tamales and he thought now that looks like a nice addition to my recipe so he grabbed that can too. He then employed his young daughters to chop up some onions, and grate a big pile of good old rat cheese. (I’ll tell you a little secret here. I was sixteen years old before I knew that rat cheese was actually called cheddar cheese.) Then he took a can of Ro-Tel tomatoes. I must tell you if you have never had Ro-tel tomatoes go buy a can mix it with a block of Velveeta and you will have the best queso you’ve ever had. He then added that into the mix. With the finesse of Bobby Flay he added a dash of cayenne and a smidgen of cumin and finished it all off with the cheese covering the concoction. Then he hefted the big casserole dish into the hot oven and let it brown.

My siblings and I sat salivating at the kitchen table anxiously waiting our tasty dinner. The timer bell chimed and Trooper Bob removed the heavenly Mexican themed concoction out of the heat and onto the table. We had sat the table with our best Chinet paper plates knowing that the regular Dixie plates would be eaten up by the tamale juice. We wolfed down our food like we had been stranded in the Andes Mountains with nothing but snow to eat. We ate our first helpings and went back for seconds, thirds and fourths until there was nothing left of the Trooper Bob Frito-Pie. We wiped our faces on our paper towel napkins and burped ready for our ice cream desert.

Later that afternoon the first pains started. Then the urgent trips to the bathroom came next. Pretty soon there wasn’t a toilet or a waste basket in the house that wasn’t being utilized. There was a retched and fetid smell in the house that was emanating from our feeble bodies. We were weak and pitiful when my mother, Meme, got home from her shift at the hospital where she had just spent 15 hours tending to the wretched and feeble. She looked at her poor wasted children and at her husband sitting in his recliner biting back indigestion and said “What did you feed them?” We all weakly and breathlessly croaked Frito-pie. She looked at Trooper Bob and said “what the hell did you put in the Frito-pie? Ptomaine poisoning?” Trooper Bob huffed indignantly and went on to tell her his list of ingredients. It was then that my mother took all kitchen rights away from Trooper Bob. He was no longer allowed to cook for the children in the house. She figured they were better off fending for themselves with a box of cereal and a jug of milk

Friday, November 19, 2010

Gladys Has Hell's Kitchen's Random Thoughts

It’s Friday and Fragments over at Mrs. 4’s Half Past Kissing time and I thought since it was the weekend before Thanksgiving I’d share some recipe’s with you. These are not just ANY recipe’s. They are from my dear departed mother’s, Nurse Meme, cache’ of recipes. When you finish cooking with me go on over to Mrs 4 and have a gander at the other Friday Fragmenters.

I feel I need to tell you she collected recipes from everyone and every where. I have a box that has scraps of paper with recipe’s written on the. Well sort of… What I mean is she would scribble down a few ingredients and then she would instantly know what it was when she saw it. Unfortunately I never learned her code.

I wanted to share some of these with you and then maybe we can decipher them. I will also try to decipher her or other’s handwriting and tell you what I think they are. Ready?

Yes that says:
Flour, beer, salt, tabasco beat and cover sit for 2 hours.  Now I'm not sure if you are supposed to sit for two hours after you have drank the beer thrown the salt over you shoulder, sipped the tabasco and then beat the flour or if you are supposed to mix these ingredients together and let them sit for 2 hours.  The big question what the hell was my mother making?
The next one is:

That says:
8 oz of cream cheese
2 cups of powdered sugar
1 cup of whipped cream - whipped.
Now if it's whipped cream why are you whipping it again?  Was it extraordinarily bad?  Maybe she meant whip all of the ingredients together and then do what?  Sit and eat it out of the bowl?  Did she wish for me to get "the sugar diabeetus"?  I ask you WHAT THE HELL IS THIS?

Time for a confession.  This MY handwriting from 5th grade.  I recognize it.  What in Sam Hill was I making? Oh and as you can see this nut didn't fall far from the tree Oh and what is marjine?  Is it something like margarine?  Do I let it sit in the frig or fridge?  Does it bake for 30 minutes or sit in the frig?  I am so confused!  I am amazed I was allowed any where near an oven!  .  
Alright move along nothing more to see here...
This says 2 Eagle Brand Milk
6-120 cans Orange Crush
1 crushed Pinapple
Strawberry Shasta

Whoa there Nelly!  6-120 cans of ORANGE CRUSH?  I hope there is more than 1 bathroom in the place.  And do you peel the pinapple before you crush it?  I am sure this is a punch for a Baby or Wedding shower but honestly what good sourthern woman would make a punch without lime, orange or pinapple sherbert in it?  I just wouldn't be fittin.
The next one was just too worn out to even try and scan so I will just have to share it with you by typing it.

2 Cans Eagle Brand Milk (yes we liked the canned milk in our house)
Pie Crust (this looks promising)
Sliced banana (okay, I'm still with ya)
Cool whip (I prefer real whipped cream but okay)
Boil 4 hours - put in pie crust cut banana over the top and finish with cool whip.

Wait if we boiled the cool whip for 4 hours along with the Eagle Brand Milk and the Pie crust and banana how are we going to separate out the banana, pie crust and cool whip after?  I'm confused. 


And Finally:
1 C Eagle Brand (Yes my family single handedly kept the company going)
3 Egg Yolks
1/2 Cup lemon juice
Beat egg whites put 1 tablespoon sugar per eggwhites and brown in oven.  Use graham cracker crust in the pie pan.

Ok where did the egg whites come from and what do I do with the rest of the ingredients? 

Anyone want to come to my house for pie?

Remember Thoughts become things so think good ones.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Ceasar, Goldman and Me

I have always been a little odd. There is an old southern saying that states there are always a few nuts in every family. Look around and if you don’t see them, then it’s you. Well I look around and I don’t see any nuts, maybe a few fruits and a couple of mules but nope the nut must be me. Now in the south eccentricities are excused, heck they are even admired at times.

I once had an accountant who hung upside down from the magnolia tree in his front yard like an opossum. I have to believe if he had lived anywhere else, the first time one of his clients found him hanging by his knees from a branch they would have excused themselves and taken their business else where. Not in the south. Nope that’s how he got to be known. “Can you recommend a good CPA?” The question would be posed. “Why sure! Why don’t you call my CPA, Freddie, he hangs upside down from a branch of his magnolia tree down there on Cross Creek Road?” He was the busiest accountant in town not to mention admired by all the young kids for his ability to hang upside-down for hours at a time. But, I’m not here to recommend accountants or hanging upside-down from trees. I am here to talk about me.

I have a pretty open mind when it comes to life. A couple of years ago I went on a sojourn. I was determined to become a better me or as Oprah would say “the best me I can be”. I have always read self-help books and have always loved the study psychology. I was invited to take some classes on the interaction of sound and your emotional state. When I saw the topic of the class even my mind doubted the validity. I pulled out my big chief tablet and my number 2 pencil and set down to see what Mr. Goldman had to say about sound.

He spoke of the vibrational effects sounds have on our psyche but more importantly on our physical well being. The lecture was fascinating but I wasn’t sure how I could ever apply any of his instructions in to my own life. He spoke for hours about the fact that just the sound of our voice has calming, relaxing and healing properties for all of us. I took my notes, closed my book and went home. I wasn’t sure how what Mr. Goldman had said applied to my life but I loved learning new information.

I have three wonderful dogs, there is a boxer, a lab-mix and of course the Boz. They are normally well behaved and obedient except… You knew there was going to be an except didn’t you? Yes, except at breakfast and dinner time. The minute I walk into the garage and gather up their bowls my life becomes pure chaos. The boxer begins jumping up in the air and bouncing off the walls directly into me knocking me this way and that. The lab butts me with her head and leans all 100 lbs of her weight against me pushing me this way and that all while Boz runs in and out between my feet yapping and nipping at my feet. Oh and did I mention this also happens when it’s time to go for a walk? I have been beaten black and blue.

As luck would have it when I returned from my class it was dinner time for the three amigos. I walked into the garage to be assaulted by all three. I was dressed in nice clothes and the boxer drooled and slobbered on my favorite shoes, the lab wiped her face and head on my light colored trousers and Boz decided that I needed muddy foot prints to finish the decoration. I took a deep breath and started to chastise them for their actions. An image flashed in my mind of Caesar Milan, The Dog Whisperer, calming a pack of rabid dogs by deep breathing and being calm assertive. I wondered if I could master this. I tried to do what Caesar does. I made myself calm, or so I thought. I took a deep breath and relaxed my shoulders as the dogs performed Cirque Due Soleil’s Ka in the 3 ft area of space around me. The dogs were having none of my calm. They instead were marching to their own drummer and he was evidently playing Wipe Out.

I felt like a failure. I was sure Caesar would tell me “Eet is not jor dogs that need help. It is ju. I rehabilitate dogs, I train people.” Well Mr. Caesar, I needed re-training bad! The dogs had me trained and they weren’t in any hurry to change. I picked myself up off the floor of the garage looked at my dirty pants and feeling a blob of dog slobber sliding down the side of my hair and onto my cheek I said out loud “there has got to be something easier.”

I turned to set the bowls on the ground when they clanged together. All of the animals stood absolutely still. They didn’t move. They just looked at me. Then I remembered what Mr. Goldman said in his lecture. He spoke of the soothing effect of sound. The different vibrations had different effects on specific actions. This must be a mesmerizing sound. So I clanged the pans some more. That is when all hell broke loose. The boxer jumped over the lab who slammed into the wall and bounced off it and into me, Boz ran in circles barking like the house was on fire. Evidently they weren’t feeling the Good Vibrations.

I also remembered Mr. Goldman saying that your voice just humming could have a healing effect. Well I figured my dogs were sick with stupidity so I would try that. I began to hum. I hummed so that it reverberated through my body and tickled my throat. I closed my eyes and hummed. I opened one eye and looked to see the lab lie down on her bed and take a deep breath. Then the boxer joined her, letting out a deep sigh and resting his head on his paws. Even Bozley wiggled his way between the two big dogs and lie down in complete relaxation. I was amazed! I couldn’t believe my eyes so I shuffled my feet which normally would have caused them to have gone into frenzy. They remained in their relax state so much so that one by one they began to fall asleep.

I clanged the pans as I continued to hum and they didn’t move. I sat the food bowls down and waited for the charge but it didn’t come. I stopped humming and they looked up at me. I motioned for them to go to their bowls and one by one they calmly advanced to their bowls.

I stood there in total disbelief. This must be a fluke I mused. This can’t happen twice. I told no one and went inside to ponder what I had just witnessed. I slept on my miracle and convinced myself it must have been they had just grown tired and it had nothing to do with the humming.

Morning arrived and with it was again time to throw myself into the breach. I gathered up their bowls and filled them with kibble. I stepped through the door and was once again assaulted with their usual actions. I brought my knee up in defense and twirled to miss the labs nose in my crotch. I didn’t shout like I normally would. Instead of tensing up in frustration I tried it again. I began to hum. One by one they calmly and serenely went to the bed and lie down. Each one let out a sigh and rested their head on their paws. I could feel the calm descend upon them. I could feel the calm coming from me. I knew I was onto something.

I repeated this routine every time I went out to feed the pups. I hummed. I hummed songs. I hummed notes. I hummed whatever made them calm. I decided to share this with my family. One by one they watched this phenomenon take place. Each one looked at me with a skeptical eye and a doubtful mind. They all came away with proof that it worked. They were amazed.

I can’t tell you how it works; I can only tell you that it works. So if you need me, I’ll be hanging from the magnolia tree out front and humming to the dogs.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

That's How You Build A Sand Castle

I am submitting my Theme Thursday at the twilight hour.  No really it's twilight, not like vampire and werewolf Twilight, but in that it is dark outside.  Also it is right before the Theme Thursday theme changes again.  This week's them doesn't have anything to do with vampires or werewolves but with Sand.  I offer my submission to this week's theme.  Go on over and check out Jeffscape, Wysteria, Califoria Girl and the rest of the gang after you read mine of course. 

She had only been to the beach once before. She had been young and Trooper Bob had taken her and Matilda to the beach. They had been attacked by a crab and sun burned to a crisp. There hadn’t been sand castles on that trip. That had been years ago and she was ready to try it again. She grabbed her hat, towel, pale and shovel and headed out the door with her baby girl in tow.

Taddy was about 2 years old and had never been to the ocean. Now they lived less than a mile from the crashing waves and mounds of sand. She sat the little girl in the back seat strapped her in and settled herself into the driver’s seat. “You want to go build a sand castle” she crooned to the toddler who had busied herself with her doll. The happy little face looked up and cried “me wanna bwuild a caswell. Can I be de pwinncess?” Gladys smiled at her beautiful daughter and replied “you already are.”

Gladys had plans to build a big sand castle and run around in the surf with her little girl giving her the opportunities that she didn’t have growing up in the middle of the country. Oh sure there were rivers and lakes but they mostly had rocky or muddy bottoms and no sandy beaches on which to build reputable sand castles. She was convinced she would build a proper castle with turrets and moats. She would teach Tadpole how to mush the sand into the bucket and turn it over onto its base to form the four corners of the castle. She had it all mapped out in her mind.

They arrived at the parking area and started unloading their paraphernalia. Cooler, buckets, towels, umbrella, stroller, tote bag, hats and magazines all loaded together and piled high. Gladys reached down “Taddy, hold my hand. No sweetie you HAVE to hold my hand. I know you can do it by yourself but this is a parking lot and there are cars so you have to hold my hand. HOLD MY DAMN HAND!” Gladys righted the stack of superfluous beach goods and teetered in her white 5 inch Candies’ platform sandals. She felt the umbrella slipping from under her arm and clinched down tighter pulling her little girl off balance. Tadpole went down on one knee which caused Gladys to become unbalanced. This in turn caused the cooler laden with magazines and pales to pitch. Suddenly everything was in the center of the aisle of the parking lot.

Horns began honking and a man yelled out at her. Gladys embarrassed and a bit frustrated picked up her child and dusted off her knee, then began gathering her paraphernalia and stacking it into a reasonable pile all the while trying to pay no attention to the man in the Ford Fairlane calling her unspeakable names. Suddenly Gladys missed the chivalry of Southern Men. She managed to once again gather up her items stick her umbrella under her arm, hoist her tote bag and grab hold of Tadpole’s hand. “NO! MAW-MEEEE! You herting me!” Gladys realized she had a death grip on her child and loosened it a bit. “Sorry sweetie, Mommie is just trying to get this stuff to the beach without us getting run over.”

Tadpole looked over at the man in the Ford and shouted “Keep you pawnts on! We goin!” Gladys smiled weakly in the general direction of the car and shuffled across the tarmac balancing her belongings. “Thank you honey, but we need to be polite.” Tadpole shook her head “but he wadn’t poh-wite”. Gladys sighed heavily and replied “yes, but we need to take the high road.” Tadpole looked around and stopped pulling back on her mother “I don’t see no other woad.” Gladys grimaced and made a mental note to explain it in two year old terms once she got to the safety of the sand.

The sand on the asphalt crunched beneath her feet as she eased onto the edge of the beach. She stopped and scouted out an open spot just past the rocks and headed that direction with determination. She hadn’t thought about the impossibility of treading through sand in 5 inch platform heels until she was stopped dead in her tracks. She tried to kick off her shoes but they seemed to be stuck. She swished and wiggled and finally worked her feet from the shoes only to find that her daughter was also frozen in place.

Tadpole’s eyes were huge and her face was contorted into a pre-scream. Then it happened all at once. Taddy let loose a blood curdling scream and began contorting her body in ways a gymnast only dream about. She was all but balancing on thin air. This began the domino effect of the items layered in Gladys’ arms. First the pales went one way and the magazine the other. The cooler became unbalanced as bottles of soda and sandwiches shifted from side to side. The umbrella shot out from under her arm like an unidentified missile. Then Tadpole literally climbed up Gladys’ body and wrapped her arms around her neck.

Gladys grabbed her child turning her over and over in her arms looking for fire ants or scorpions that had to have been stinging her child. “Tadpole what is it? What is biting you?” The little girl sniffed in a big snot bubble and cried “I no like. It feel icky!” Gladys looked around for the offending substance “WHAT? What feels icky baby?” Taddy pointed at the ground and said “whatevah dat stuff is feels icky”.

Gladys peered at the ground mustering up her x-ray vision hunting for some type of subterranean offender. She saw nothing but the glittering particles of silica. She bent down with Taddy holding on as if the Sandworms of Dune were going to break forth and swallow them. “No Maw-mee, I no like it!” Gladys picked up a hand full of sand and held it in front of her child “It is just sand. This is what we are going to use to build our castle. We will mix a little water with it and shape it any way we want. See it’s harmless.”

Tadpole eyed the material and stuck a finger into it. Then she took her hand and hastily swept it all out of her mother’s hand “durtee!” Gladys grinned and said “exactly it’s just dirt. So you ready to try it again?” Tadpole looked at the ground with trepidation. She took a deep breath and announced “okay maw-mee.” Gladys lowered her child to the ground and dug her shoes from the sand. She piled the stack of items back on the cooler handed the buckets to her child and once again headed for a sunny spot where they could rest.

Gladys planted the umbrella in the sand, spread out the towels and arranged the cooler. She stowed the magazines where they wouldn’t blow away and breathed a sigh of relief to see her child sitting straining the sand through her fingers. “You want to go feel the water” Gladys asked the pensive child. Tadpole looked up from her investigation of the sand “does it feewl wike sand?” Gladys smiled “Nope, it feels like water.” The little girl reached up and grabbed her mother’s hand as they headed for the foaming edge of the waves.

Just as they walked into the surf a large wave crashed in upon itself and swept both mother and child from their feet. Spitting and sputtering they crawled out of harms way clinging to each other. “Maw-mee, dat water got sand in it.” Gladys wiped the salt water from her toddler’s eyes and said “it does? How do you know?” Tadpole pulled her bathing suite bottom down and dumped out a load of sand and replied “cause it fwilled up my pawnts”. Gladys grabbed the wet sand and replied “This is PERFECT for our sand castle!”

Monday, November 8, 2010

Gladys is Unbearable

I have been remiss lately in my story telling.  I have felt constipated, literarily not literally, in my thoughts.  I have written volumes in my dreams but have put nothing down in print the last several months.  I feel backed up and irritable.  This morning at 4 a.m. my mind would not stop yelling at me and I got up and spit this out.  I feel much better now.  I warn you, since I have not written in a while so this is sort of long.  So grab a cup of cocoa and curl up for the duration.

Gladys did something very dangerous. She didn’t think before she did it. She didn’t weigh out the consequences. She just raised her hand and it was done. Everyone in the room looked at her wide eyed and aghast. Who would be so foolish, they wondered? Who was this woman who put her hand up and was smiling about it? Who was this impetuous foolhardy woman?

The tall thin haggard looking woman at the front of the crowd leered at Gladys like a spider at the fly in her web and asked “What is your name dear?” All eyes turned and looked as Gladys told her name. “What was that dear? I can’t hear you and I want to make sure I get your name right” croaked the woman in the green dress. “My name is Gladys McGuillicutty and I am Taddy’s mother.” The corners of the woman’s mouth began to lift and a grotesque smile came to her mouth. Gladys looked around to see who else had volunteered but found her hand the only one in the air. “Mrs. McGuillicutty, you will report directly to me. You will find your kit on the table at the back of the room and you will need to purchase an outfit. You will need to study the manual completely and adhere to every aspect of the directions. Do you understand?”

Gladys turned and looked at the books on the folding table in the back of the meeting room and then back at Mrs. Haversham swallowed hard and replied “Yes, ma’am.” Penny, Gladys’ next door neighbor, leaned over and whispered “why did YOU do THAT?” A horrible screech came from the front of the room and Gladys looked wondering who was torturing an animal. “Mrs. McGuillicutty! DO YOU HAVE A PROBLEM?” It was Haversham. The noise came from Haversham. Gladys took a deep breath and squared her shoulders “No Ma’am. I’m just wondering. Will there be any other scout leaders or will I be the only one?” Mrs. Haversham narrowed her gaze on Gladys and in a heinous and guttural voice hissed “Captain, my dear. You will be a Captain. Oh, there will be more. They just don’t know who they are yet.” A chill ran the length of Gladys’ spine and she looked down at her hands wondering “what have I gotten myself into? Then thought, CAPTAIN! I’m going to be a CAPTAIN!”

She clutched the book in her hand and made her way to the car with Penny yabbering in her ear. “I can’t believe you just did that. I mean what were you thinking? Now you have to work with Haversham. I promise nobody else is going to volunteer to be a Girl Scout troop leader. They are all scared to death of her. Have you ever spent anytime around her? I swear she is the devil’s sister.” Gladys opened her door and sighed “A CAPTAIN Penny. I’m going to be a Girl Scout CAPTAIN. My mom was always too busy to be anything and I was only a Brownie for one year. I think I got one badge on my sash. This is something I want to do for our girls. I want to work our way through the badges. Will you help me? You don’t have to deal with Haversham.” Penny shook her head got in the passenger seat and said “Okay, but don’t expect me to be around when Haversham is. That lady scares the bejeesus out of me.” Gladys nodded in agreement and pulled from the parking lot.

“Okay, now you take the rope and loop the free end through the looped end and tighten, no dear the free end” Gladys was trying her best to teach a room full of 7 year old girls how to macramé when she herself hadn’t a clue. She walked around with the book in her hand and checked each girl’s mangled mess of knots. “Penny, go get the library book and make sure we are doing this right” Gladys conspiratorially whispered. Penny hurriedly left the meeting room and went toward the foyer. She turned white faced and wide eyed and mouthed “HAVERSHAM”.

Gladys turned to see the starched green dress, the badge covered sash and the perfect pitch of the green beret come into the room. “OH GIRLS! Look who has come to visit us!” Gladys tried to chirp happily. The girls looked up from their tangled webs to mumble a greeting. Haversham looked around the room and then to Gladys “is that the BEST they can do? Have you not been teaching them deportment?”

Gladys glared at Mrs. Haversham as she adjusted her badge laden sash and then absent mindedly ran her hand along her own empty one. “Of course I have. The girls are just a little pre-occupied with their macramé project” Gladys rationalized. “Girls, let’s give Mrs. Haversham a more resounding Bear-cub welcome” she urged the group of girls. There was a mass of heavy sighs and a round of eye rolling but they all piped in with “Hello, Mrs. Haversham!” Gladys smiled proudly hoping that this would lead to a hostess badge for her sash. “Mrs. McGuillicutty, I need to speak with you, in private” Haversham hissed in her ophidian way.

Gladys followed Haversham to the vestibule of the meeting room trying not to visibly shake. A thousand thoughts ran through her mind. She wondered if she were to be court martialed, de-sashed; before she even had one badge to sew. Her knees wobbled and her breathing became hitched “Mrs. Haversham, they really are trying to get their Art’s badge. They have completed their papier Mache’ project and I just know they will get the macramé with a little more practice” Gladys stammered. Mrs. Haversham lifted one thinly penciled in eyebrow and cleared her throat “yes, I’m sure they will, although they will need much more practice from the looks of that mess” she retorted as she cocked her head in the direction of the girls tying each other in knots in the other room. Haversham smoothed her severely coifed hair and looked down over the tops of her cat-eye glasses “we must plan the annual wilderness trip soon. We must have it complete before winter sets in and it becomes too wet and cold for the girls. I have the maps and the instructions; I believe the first weekend in October will suffice.” She thrust a neatly bound one inch thick stack of papers at Gladys and turned to leave. “Oh, one more thing” she said as she turned and looked over her shoulder “they must complete the whole of the requirements in order to earn the badge.” She paused looked Gladys up and down and finished “and so do YOU.”

Then as if she were magic, Haversham was gone. Gladys stood with the manuscript in her hand. She had read the handbook. She knew that the girls had to identify plants, animals, set up camp and cook out of doors in order to qualify; but this was full of additional requirements. It was as if they were studying to become foresters or botanist. Gladys sighed and looked around for Penny; this was going to take some work.

Gladys and Penny had worked hard to gather all the necessary equipment. They had begged borrowed and well borrowed some more in order to get all of the girls outfitted. Gladys had pulled her own tent out of storage and had borrowed her husbands “pack”. She had found a knapsack at the Army Surplus store and had packed it with all the essentials. The day had arrived. They were as ready as they would ever be. Gladys and Penny waited for the girls to arrive. One by one mothers drove up to the Community Center and unloaded their daughters. Each one with their own array of camping gear.

Gladys surveyed her crew and realized how unprepared they all were. Little Abigail had her Strawberry Short Cake backpack full of candy and chips. Eileen’s backpack was so heavily packed with clothes and shoes that she could barely lift it. Gladys decided the only way they were ever going to earn their badges was to take the girls inside and repack their bags.

They were finally outfitted to the best of their abilities and it was getting late. They loaded up in the borrowed vans and headed to the other side of the Marine Corps Base where they would be earning their wilderness decoration. Gladys began singing “I love to go a wondering along a mountain track….” And the girls piped in “and as I go I love to sing, a knapsack on my back…” Gladys smiled knowing that she had prepared them to the best of her ability; after all they all remember the “Happy Wanderer” song.

They arrived at the campsite just as the sun was setting behind the hills. Gladys was a little worried but figured she and Penny could help the girls set up camp and they would be settled in before dark. The girls unloaded from the van and began to unload the gear or so Gladys thought. She looked up and realized they were instead running around chasing each other and poking at something in a hole in the ground. “Girls! Come on let’s get camp set up before it gets too dark. Maryanne you get the tents, Suzy you grab the food and remember we HAVE to put it in the tree so find a rope. Tadpole you and Jessica go get the cooler and put it under the tree” Gladys barked as she tried feverishly to figure out how to put the tent together.

The sun set and darkness settled on the campsite as Gladys and Penny reworked the canvas configuration and repounded in steaks. “I’m hungry” cried Abigail. “I’m cold” whined Eileen.

“I’m bored” cried Tadpole. Gladys took a deep calming breath and replied “I know you are but let’s try to get this finished. Girls stay within the lights of the van and gather some pine cones and firewood, Okay?” This time she was certain she had the tent set up correctly. Penny pulled on her side and secured it to the stake and breathed out in relief “I think that does it!” Gladys looked around at the tents set up in a circle around the haphazard fire ring the girls had built from stones and rocks. She went too the van and took out flashlights and kerosene lanterns and made her way to the center of the camp. “It is getting late, so we won’t try our wilderness cooking skills tonight, instead I brought pizza, it’s a little cold but hey, who doesn’t like cold pizza.” With that three or four little girls raised their hands and Gladys rolled her eyes. This was not working out the way she had planned.

In her mind Gladys had seen this going much differently. She and Penny would arrive with their charges in tow. They would all pile out of the vans, run around like a bunch of elves setting up camp and gathering firewood. They would have a roaring fire and dinner cooking over the open flames before the sun even thought of setting. Instead they were huddled around a barely smoldering fire inhaling copious quantities of smoke, eating cold pizza and hoping their tents wouldn’t collapse in on them during the night. Gladys shook her head and wondered “what HAD she gotten herself into?”

The girls were exhausted and Gladys even more so. They cleaned up their dinner put the cooler away in the van and tied their food stores up in the tree. She had made sure each girl had brushed their teeth and had made their way behind the tree to prepare for the night. Penny took her group of girls and crawled in the tent to a chorus of “I thought we were going to sing camp songs” and “tomorrow night can we make Some-mores?” Gladys heard the same as she settled each girl into their bedroll for the night. Then exhausted she curled up on the hard ground and tried to sleep. She closed her eyes but her ears wouldn’t rest. She heard rustling and twigs snapping. She heard screeching and howling. She heard every little tiny sound in the forest. She listened to the breathing of the girls and tried to will herself to sleep until at last close to dawn she dozed.

She awoke to sounds of pots clanging. She jumped up and looked to make sure her girls were still situated behind her in the tent. She surmised that Penny was making breakfast. She felt a bit guilty and started to rise and go to help. She unzipped the tent and peered out into the center of the camp. She froze as she looked almost face to face with a bear. The bear seemed not to notice her but was enthralled on trying to get the rope unhitched that held up the food. Gladys sat frozen unable to close the tent but wanting to protect her girls. She looked across the fire ring just as Penny unzipped her tent and looked out onto the destruction of the camp and the sight of the big brown bear. She formed her mouth into a scream. Gladys sucked in her breath and waved towards her friend. She mouthed “NO!” and made the sign of stop by slashing her finger across her throat. Penny snapped her mouth shut. The women watched as the bear managed to free the sack of goodies and tear into it taking away bags of chips and cookies. The animal shredded and chomped then grew weary and lumbered away.

Gladys could feel the fullness of her bladder and the scream lodged in her throat. She turned and looked thankful to see her girls were all still sleeping soundly. She looked across at Penny and motioned for her to wait. She did not wish to exit the tent only to have the bear return. After a long while she determined the bear was gone for good she threw herself from the tent. Penny met her in the middle and they hugged one another as they surveyed the damage. “What should we do” Penny questioned. Gladys started picking up their gear and threw it in the van. “We are leaving! Get the girls up and in the van. I’ll get all this stuff gathered up and then we are going HOME!”

Penny stood stunned for a moment. She looked at Gladys with consternation and asked “what about Haversham? What about our wilderness badges?” Gladys stopped in mid-stride turned and grabbed Penny by the shoulders “BADGES??? WE DON’T NEED NO STINKIN BADGES!”