Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Happy Halloween From Leon Ray Livingston

Halloween was different when I was a kid.  I remember being a Hobo  three years in a row because it was a cheap costume comprised of items we had around the house.  A pint-sized Leon Ray Livingston if you will.  Wait!  What?  You don’t know who Leon Ray Livingston is?  He is the most famous of Hobos.  If you had been a Hobo for most of your trick-or-treating career, you would know this.  He became a Hobo at eleven years of age and Hoboed the rest of his life, stowing away on ships and hopping trains.  He wrote journals and became somewhat famous.  I digress.

            Nurse Meme would drag out the Maybelline black eyebrow pencil and draw big thick eyebrows on us, then she would smear it across our jaws and cheeks making little five-year-old Gladys look like she hadn’t shaved in a day or two.  Then she would dress me in Buck’s old flannel shirt and a pair of jeans that were twenty times too big, cinch them up with a swath of rope and hand me a bandana tied to a stick for a bindle.   That was it.  That was the costume.  It was in this fashion I would tag behind my big brother, Quirky Cousins, and Matilda going door to door begging for candy. 

Buck of course was Superman, Matilda was a movie star, the Quirky Cousins always had some kind of imaginative and quirky costume and then there was Gladys the Hobo.  Oh, don’t get me wrong, I didn’t care that I was a Hobo, it was just that I watched other kids in their store bought costumes with their plastic jack-o-lanterns full of Dum-Dum’s and Tootsie Rolls.  I envied their polyester Casper Costumes with the plastic mask with eye holes but no way to breath.

  I would long for the Cinderella costume that tied with three ties in the back and had scratchy netting for a skirt and again a plastic mask with huge eye holes but no nostril holes. This costume always flummoxed me, if you didn’t wear something underneath it you have a draft in the back, but if you did wear something underneath well then it just wasn’t Cinderella like.   We would pass each other on the street, little Johnny in his Casper costume complaining to his mom “I can’t breathe!” as his plastic Jack-O-lantern full of candy swayed this way and that spilling out little pieces of Bit-O’Honey and Laffy Taffy.   I would pause, stoop, and pick up the stray pieces only to find that Casper had melded into ten other Caspers none of which knew they were leaking Nik-L-Nips and Candy Cigarettes. 

            House by house we trudged up and down our neighborhood, ringing door bells and yelling the same old spiel “Trick or treat, smell my feet, give me something good to eat.”   Every house on the block would have the porch light on and some kind of goody.   The elderly lady on the corner always had candied apples and popcorn balls wrapped in cellophane.  The old man that lived at the end of the road had rolls of pennies.  My favorite house was the big house half way up the block who always gave out little packages of suckers on a string, candy corn and Double-Bubble gum with the cartoon wrapper. 
            We had to wait until dusk to make our rounds and before we went we had to eat our dinner.  ALL of our dinner.  Nurse Meme was no fool. She knew that if she wanted us to eat liver at least once a year, then Halloween was the night to cook it.  We would never miss trick-or-treating over liver.  We would try not to gag and choke down our strip of organ meat smothered in onions and gravy, slog down our helping of spinach and head out the door.  Buck pushing back his red satin cape, Matilda fluffing her hair and checking the mole she had painted on her face and little Leon Ray Livingston in her too big everything. 
            I guess I’ve come the long way around to tell you Happy Halloween.  Today’s Halloween are much more sophisticated with costumes that look like they belong in the movies and decorations that equal those of Knots Scary Farm.  I don’t ever remember adults dressing in costumes but today everyone was decked out in some type of get-up from Freddie Kruger to a life-sized singing Elsa.  Everyone was in the spirit from the guy at the DMV dressed as a sloth to the cashier in Wal-Mart dressed as a giant Snicker’s bar.  I don’t know if Halloween is better today or if nostalgia skews my view.  But I kind of miss seeing a bunch of kids using their imaginations to come up with original costumes.  Or even some who ended up being Leon Ray Livingston three years in a row.

Thursday, October 25, 2018


 Her appointment was for seven thirty a.m.   Gladys fluffed her hair and applied her Burt’s Bees to her overly dry lips.  Gladys checked the clock and knew she had twenty minutes.  Her appointment was only five minutes away but if Gladys was anything she was punctual.  She firmly believed if you were on time you were late.  She drove up to the Laboratory and noticed there were several other cars in the lot.  Walking up to the building she realized there was a line already stacking up in front of the still dark doors.  She took her place in the que and waited for the lights to come on and the door to open. 
A light in the back illuminated the front office and a young woman dressed in scrubs made her way through the building turning on lights and adjusting the temperature until she finally made her way to the front and unlocked the door.  Now honestly, Gladys had never seen so many people in a hurry to get into a building to pee in a cup or be pricked with big silver needles with blood-sucking vials on the other end.  Yet, here were a group of overly anxious men and women fighting to be first in line. 

They all signed in the sheet to solidify their place in line to be poked, pricked or drained and then fought for seats nearest the space heater and positioned optimally to watch the morning news.  They waited as the weather showed less rain and more sun, they waited as the white toothed, too tanned anchor talked about the lastest crisis, they waited as the voices in the back ebbed and flowed and the smell of coffee brewing wafted through the ducts and into the waiting room.  They waited. 

Finally, after twenty minutes or so a young fresh-faced woman opened the door and called for the first victim.  “Pat Robinson?” she paused “Pat Robinson?”  The room was silent each of the patients looking from one to the other.  No Pat Robinson spoke up.  Perhaps it was trypanophobia or perhaps Pat was hearing impaired but no Pat Robinson claimed the spot.  She stood looking at the room then looked at her paper and called the name again.  An elderly man spoke “my doctor’s name is Pat Robinson, but I don’t think he’s here.”   The young woman looked at her paper again and went back behind the door.  A few minutes later she returned “Mr. Warren Jones?”  The elderly man raised his hand, leaned heavily on his cane and stood up “Called the wrong name, did ya” he asked.  Sheepishly she led him back to the chamber of blood and torture.  A few minutes later he exits, rubbing his arm and rolled his eyes in way of saying “Oh boy!”.  The young woman again appeared in the doorway and called “Estelle Grossman?” silence again befell the room each patron looking at the other asking “Estelle?”  Yet again, no Estelle.  She disappeared and resurfaced “Ruby Grossman?” To which a woman stood and followed the phlebotomist back. 

None of this was assuaging Gladys’ anxiety; yet she sat reading her book and listening to the ambient conversation around her.  “Well that doesn’t bode well” said Mr. Red Jacket.  “No, not at all” replied Mrs. Fuzzy Scarf.   “I hope she doesn’t mess up my urine sample with someone else.  I can’t imagine having them call me and tell me I’m pregnant at my age” said the octogenarian with the purple hat.  “I wish they would hurry, I need my morning tea” said Mr. Grumpy. 

Tea?  Oh, my GAWD!  Gladys panicked.  TEA!!!  She had made herself a cup of hot lemon water before she left the house, had she remembered to turn off the tea kettle?  She went through her morning in her mind.  Making the bed, drinking her first cup of hot water, then taking her little dog outside, gathering up dirty dishes and straightening up.  Had she turned off the stove?  Had she actually drunk her second cup of hot water?  Now her heart was in her throat.  What if she had left the stove alight?  How much time did she have before the kettle would be dry.  She did the mental math in her head.  She left and seven-twenty, they had waited outside and inside, it was now eight fifteen, the kettle had been full.  She took that and divided it by the number of people who had signed in before her subtracted the amount of time she had to drive home, check the stove and drive back subtracted three and divided by four.  Could she make it?  It was possible
In a panic, heart racing and head pounding Gladys jumped from her seat just as the young woman once again appeared in the doorway and announced the next winner. Mrs. Fuzzy Scarf rose slowly from her perch and headed to the back.  Gladys lunged for the door and hit the parking lot pavement in a smooth jog, okay maybe not so much smooth, more of a spastic lurch.  She jumped in her car and drove like a mad woman over the bridge and through town.  She stopped at the only traffic signal that stood between her and what she was convinced was her house on fire, the guilty tea kettle whistling its happy tune in the middle of yellow and blue flames.  Just as she reached the signal it switched from amber to red.

 She sat at the light panic now oozing from every fiber in her being, convinced that she had burned down the house and her little dog was trapped inside.  She could see it now, the fire department already there, nothing left but a charred shell of a house.  She makes her way to the fire men shaking their heads holding a half-melted tea kettle.  She hears a bark and there is her little dog in the arms of a fire-fighter.  “Is this your dog ma’am” He asks.  Make-belief Gladys reaches for him and the fire-fighter says “He is a true hero!  He ran down to the fire house and led us back here.  We are going to give him a medal.”  

A horn honks and Gladys is pulled from her horror story in her mind and races on through the morning drizzle and traffic.  She slides to a stop in front of the little cottage and runs inside.  There on the couch lies her little dog asleep not even realizing he is in mortal danger.  She runs to the kitchen where there on the stove sits a cold and un-whistling kettle. 
With a sigh of relief, she realizes the tragedy was all in her head and she, with a much lighter heart, kisses her furry companion goodbye and heads back to the laboratory.  She sails through traffic with ease, no lights to impede her progress.  “I am going to make it” she tells herself as she slides into a parking slot by the front door. She storms up the steps and into the waiting room just as the young woman appears in the door and calls “Gladys McGunthry?   Gladys?” 
“I’m Gladys McGuilicutty” she states breathlessly. 
The young woman looks at her paper and motions for her to come to the back. 
            Gladys sits in the chair as the young woman pulls on a pair of pink rubber gloves and lines up vials on a tray.  “Hi, my name is Bella Swan and I am a student at VSU and I will be your phlebotomist.  Is it okay if I draw your blood?”
            Gladys put her arm on the table “sure you have to learn somehow, right?  Did you say your name is Bella?  Bella Swan?  Like in the novel?”
            The young woman struggled into her gloves, tied a piece of rubber around Gladys’ arm and nodded “yeah, I get that a lot.  Now I need to take about 10 vials of blood so this might take a bit.”  She started feeling around for a vein.  She searched and searched.  She squinted and palpitated then she smiled and excused herself. 
            An older more seasoned woman came into the room.  They whispered conspiratorially then moved toward Gladys, whose arm was now numb. 
            “Always remove the tourniquet[BL1]  before leaving the patient” she admonished.  She released the pressure from the arm and felt along the inside of Gladys’ elbow. Then she searched the other arm, wrapped the tourniquet around the other bicep and stuck a needle in a big pulsing vein.  She drew blood quickly and adeptly until each of the ten vials was complete.  She picked up the order and looked it over once again “oh, wait, I need two more vials.  Is that okay?”  The young woman stood behind her watching as Gladys nodded affirmative. 

            Finally, all the vials were filled and the doctor’s order complete.  Gladys tried to stand but with the panic of a burned out house and melted tea kettle and the twelve vials of blood found herself a bit light headed.  She sat back with a thud.  “I think I may have stood too quickly” she sighed. 
            The older woman patted her shoulder “would you like a cup of strong tea with some sugar?” 
            The vision of the whistling tea kettle came to mind; Gladys responded quickly “No, thank you!  I will grab a cup of coffee on my way home”.