Hog Wild

... Deer Hunt Texas, Hunting Texas Deer, Hogs, Turkey, Quail, Lodge, Bucks

Men and women from all around the area converge on Red River County the first weekend of March to participate in the annual Wade T. Witmer Memorial Hog Hunt. Started six years ago to honor the memory of the county’s 2009 #1 Hog Hunter, the event serves two other purposes—to reduce the feral hog numbers and to award large cash prizes and honor to the hunters. This land is where Annie grew up. She went to school with Wade’s grandfather who is a really special man.

Hunters must have a valid hunting license, although feral hog season is any day of the year. Registration, via the web or in person at Clarksville, the county seat, requires a $200 fee for each hunter. The money funds the three prizes–$1,000 for the largest (measured in pounds) dead hog, live hog, and the heaviest combined weight of five hogs (dead or alive). Hunters may hunt alone or in teams of no more than four. If a team enters the competition, and it is a grueling one, an elected team captain coordinates its activities and all submissions.

Hogs are weighed Sunday 12 noon until 2:00 PM at the Red River County Fairgrounds. It does not matter if the feral hogs are dead or alive, but live ones must walk onto the scale under their own power. Disposal of all hogs after the hunt is the responsibility of the hunter(s). None are released back into the county.

Texas’s feral hog population is in excess of 1.5 million, according to Texas Parks and Wildlife biologist Rick Taylor. The hogs came to America with the Spaniards over 300 years ago. Some escaped from farmers, took to the woods, and interbred with the wild ones.
Fully-grown hogs range in size from 150-400 pounds with two four-inch tusks on the bottom and another two tusks continuously growing on the top of their jaws. Sows mature at six months and can give birth to two litters a year with four to 12 piglets in each litter. When born the piglets have coarse reddish hair that turns black or dark brown as they age; however, if descended from wild domestic pigs, the hogs may have white, brown, and black markings. They travel in groups called sounders and are enemies of farmers.

Feeding at night on farm crops, being especially partial to corn, soybeans, peanuts, and milo, the hogs can destroy a crop in a night. What they don’t eat, they root up. In addition to farmers’ crops, the hogs eat acorns, small animals, carrion, and even their own young. Gifted with keen senses of smell and hearing, but poor eyesight, the cunning hogs are a challenge to trap or shoot; however, hogs stink. Think dead possum under the house or dead rat in the wall. A hunter can smell a feral hog before it comes into view.

Any reduction of the county’s feral hog population made by the hunters is welcome relief to its economic health. In fact, the hunters are the hogs’ only enemies, unless the wildcat or bobcat that catches an occasional piglet is counted.

Three days before Sunday’s weigh-in, hunters go to the woods and fields to strategize and scout their prey. Since the hogs usually follow deer trails, the hunters set up blinds from which they hunt near the spots the hogs are known to travel or feed. Often, a hunter will seed a site with corn, scattering it around a blind, hoping that the hogs will find it and make a habit of coming every night to an easy smorgasbord. This practice is illegal for hunting animals other than feral hogs.

If a mechanical trap is deployed, it must be set in an area accessible to motor vehicles. Getting a live angry 300-pound feral hog, trapped in a heavy metal cage, out of the woods, loaded onto a truck or pickup, driving to the Fairgrounds, unloading, and weighing the tusker takes a lot of doing. Nerves of steel and muscular bodies are needed to deal with a squealing, struggling, stinky hog.

Last year’s first place “live hog” winner was the Hog Mafia Team with a total of 1068 pounds. The team also won the heaviest single hog that weighed in at 279 pounds. The Tactical Sportsman Team won first place in the “dead hog” category with 914.5 pounds. All in all, dead hogs weighing 5610 pounds and live hogs weighing 6325 pounds were killed or captured.

Next year’s hunt is now accepting registrations. It’s an extremely competitive event that contributes to the reduction of the feral hog population in Red River County and gives hunters a splendid opportunity to pit their brains and brawn against wily beasts. Everyone is a winner, except the captured or killed hogs.

Annie Ambles avoids the piney woods and its feral hogs

Haiku, Tanka, and Cinquain

... Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens - The Japanese Garden

Are you thinking that I’ve recently taken up Japanese? Not entirely correct, but I am taking another creative writing class at Tarrant County College’s Northwest Campus. My assignment is to write three poems, but using different styles. Here are my creations that I hope you enjoy. Amateurish? Quite, but it was fun trying to fit the correct number of syllables on each line. Hopefully, you won’t judge, but will enjoy the images.

Rippling water,
wind stirring waves over fish,
Neptune surfaces.
(Haiku)

Stark, leafless branches
Gloom extinguishes our fire,
embers hide below.
I hear your laughter intact
in my frozen heart.
(Tanka)

Sunny.
A bud opens.
Spring brings new joys.
Golden opportunities here.
Surprise!
(Cinquain)

Annie Ambles waxes poetic

Calling a Truce

This is probably not the best time of year to share this bit of Annie’s poetry, but it may be that you, too, fight the battle of the bulge and keep a fat dragon. It’s fun to play with words and concepts, don’t you think?

Consolations After Another Failed Diet

My scale is shouting aloud to my sweats

both rejoicing in my defeat.

Forever, it seems, they will remain together.

I find comfort in fickle books

That fling themselves at me as I pass.

They would gladly rush out to other arms,

For neglect is harder to bear than overuse.

Like me, they have some tattered pages with few new covers.

I do not nurture the many,

yet I cannot part with any

novel, biography, poetry, or travel guide,

just as I cannot torpedo the pounds.

My dragon of fat snuggles closer and closer

Like a kitten, ever purring, licking, scratching, consoling.

Even now I taste pizza and pecan pie.

Ever imprisoned in the recliner, sharing a book with my fire-breathing pet,

I wave the white flag, signaling a truce.

Compromise, for a time, is better than total defeat.

Annie writes in downtown Fort Worth

“Nothing to Fear”

Hi! By now you know the drill. Please read a short story Annie submitted for her creative writing course and leave a comment. Enjoy! Thanks so much.

Nothing to Fear

The unrelenting pain was eased by the flow of morphine dripping into her vein. Sue was seldom conscious, but when she was, she found it difficult to speak. And, why would she want to talk? She had much rather stay in that dream world where mostly happy memories kept her sane. Her brain was being consumed by a cancerous tumor that grew larger every day and couldn’t be controlled by surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation. Her doctors did not say, or wouldn’t, but she knew she didn’t have much time. It was touch and go.
But for the moment, Sue left her pain and thought about her earlier years, those happy days of childhood. Growing up in a small Texas town, population 4,368, she knew happiness as only a child can. With all due apologies to Hillary Clinton for stealing some of her thunder, Sue believed that it takes a number of individuals—a village–to raise children. Her parents would probably say that they raised theirs on their own, thank you very much, but, in fact, her neighbors, family friends, and even the weird characters who lived in the town where she spent her childhood, also helped raise her. Sure, Sue gave most of the credit to her mother and daddy, but they had help from the other town folk. Growing up there in the small community, she had nothing to fear. Life was gentler then.
She spent her childhood in the town without mosquitoes. Yes, that was Clarksville’s motto. It was painted in big letters on the four signs that marked the town’s boundaries. Even though her family’s house backed up to a big creek—Langston Creek, a concrete drainage ditch—where she and her younger brother played, Sue didn’t ever remember being bitten by a mosquito. What she did remember were the big city trucks driving through the neighborhoods, loaded with DDT, spraying it over everything and everyone who got in their paths. She would sometimes run into the street and through the spray. She shudders to think what that toxic chemical spray did to her genes. Where were her parents? Why had they allowed her to be outside when the trucks were rolling through the streets? See what this means? Where it goes? Parental neglect or willful child? She wondered if the cancer could be traced back to the DDT.
Sue opened her eyes to see her brother standing by her bed. He leaned over, kissed her on the cheek, and said, “Hi, Sis. I’m here. Things are going to get better.”
She smiled, remembering their early years together. Her baby brother Thomas Richard Johnson was born when Sue was three. Her life changed. Rickey, as he was nicknamed, took over the house. Soon after his birth, she was enrolled in Mrs. Spence’s kindergarten with children a couple of years older. She always held her own ground, but wasn’t too happy about this banishment. At playtime when the children were herded into Mrs. Spence’s shady back yard for playtime, she would make her escape as soon as her teacher’s back was turned.
“Mrs. Johnson, Sue isn’t here—again. Did she come home?”
“Let me look. Yes, Mrs. Spence, I see her walking down the drive. Thank you for calling. I’ll talk with her again.” Click.
You don’t want to know what her mother said to her every time Sue walked the four blocks from Mrs. Spence’s to Main Street, crossed busy US Highway 82, walked another three and a half blocks, and pranced onto the family home’s covered front porch. Just imagine the traffic on that highway with its heavy trucks and numerous cars. Think about a three-year-old girl walking four blocks, standing on the side of the highway, waiting for a break in the traffic, crossing three side streets, then running the last half block to home. There was nothing to fear.
Her escapes didn’t get her freed from Mrs. Spence’s clutches; it was the whooping cough, brought home from one of her infected playmates that spelled her freedom. Yes, Sue got very sick, coughing her head off, but her baby brother got it, too, and almost died. She was reminded that she nearly killed her brother whenever her mother got mad at her, and that was pretty often. She didn’t say anything to her mother about the fact that neither of her babies would have gotten the whooping cough, if she’d just let Sue stay home and not made her go to Mrs. Spence’s. In those days before vaccines and inoculations were part of a child’s growing up, children had little or no protection against disease. Sue’s parents were there and did their best to protect their offspring, but they couldn’t protect her now, nor could her brother.
Why couldn’t she just go home? Have hospice come stay with her? It was just like when she was a child. What Sue wanted to do was stay home and spend time with her picture and storybooks. There was not a time when she went to bed without being read to or hiding a book under her pillow to look at after the lights were switched off. The streetlight outside her window provided some light needed to see the pictures and words she later learned to read. She didn’t even think about what reading in low light would do to her eyesight. After all, she was a kid and wasn’t afraid of anything. Now she was afraid with every waking hour.
She couldn’t hold a book, much less read. Reading had been her pleasure all her life. Sadly, there was no library in the small town where she had lived as a child, but she somehow learned that the school district’s textbooks were stored in the county courthouse basement. Her daddy got permission for her to go behind the judge’s bench in the courtroom, take the steps down to the quiet basement, and read to her heart’s content. She’d walk to the courthouse a couple of times a week and make the solitary trek down to the treasure trove of books. How Sue enjoyed those hours she spent alone with all those books. No matter that they were textbooks; some had great pictures. She loved being alone in the quiet space with no one around to tell her to make her bed, dust the furniture, practice the piano, or feed the pets. She was totally free and alone. This would not have happened today. A nine-year-old girl going into an isolated basement without adults around to oversee her selections and her safety. Even walking home alone after dark, she saw no lurking pervert in any alley or in the park. What’s a pervert anyway to a child?
Sue sensed rather than heard the minister approach her bed. She knew he was praying for her as other ministers had prayed with and for her. She came from a family that had attended the First Methodist Church every Sunday morning. Her daddy would polish all their shoes on Saturday night, and her mother would starch and iron their clothes. Sue’s favorite preacher was Rev. Richard Ervin. He made a fuss over the children, inviting them to come down to the front of the church to sit on the floor, stare up at him across the altar rail, and listen to Biblical stories he modified especially for them. Those children’s sermons are pretty commonplace today, but they were rare in the ‘50’s as Sue was growing up. Afterwards, she would return to the pew where her parents sat.
Sue recalled that church was a place where misbehavior was simply not tolerated. Sorta boring for a child who didn’t know about adultery, jealousy, and covertness. She thumbed through the hymnal, searching for new words and guessing at their meanings. Did all adults sin? The preacher seemed to think so. Was she a sinner, too? It seemed that her mother might think so as she seemed to be constantly saying, “You behave yourself, Sue.”
She should have been saving her admonishments for Rickey, the brother who now stood beside her hospital bed. When he was old enough to drive, he and his best friend Don Winbrook would go into the sanctuary; sit on the back pew, making sure that their daddy saw him. As soon as he sat down, a little more to the front, the boys would leave the church to scout the parking lot for a car with a key in its ignition. Finding one, they would joy ride until 11:45, come back to the church lot, park the car, and sneak back into the church before the service ended at 12 noon. They never got caught! The boys seemed to have carte blanche in their actions. Neither one had a driver’s license. Think about having a wreck in today’s society with its subsequent lawsuits, damages, and forever debt. The boys joked about their prank, and thought nothing of it.
Sue, on the other hand, was caught every time she did something wrong. Every single time she broke the rules, she got caught. Carpe diem could be her motto for she was no angel. Sue got punished a lot. She pushed the edge with her family, but not her friends or teachers. Wonder why? Maybe she felt safe enough at home that she could misbehave, but not with her friends or at school with her teachers. At home, she thought there was nothing to fear.
Her older brother Robert gave her his old ’47 Chevy when she got her license to drive. However, with car ownership, there were a few restrictions. She was told that her car was a town car. That meant that she wasn’t allowed to drive it outside the city limits.
Restrictions and Sue have never been compatible. One hot May day, five friends and Sue decided to drive the 25 miles north into Oklahoma and go swimming at Beaver’s Bend State Park. They’d been there a couple of times on Girl Scout camping trips; they knew the way. They would get to the park, have a swim, buy cokes and chips, and get back home before anyone knew they had taken a little road trip. Thirty minutes over there, an hour to swim, and thirty minutes to drive back home. A piece of cake. Really, nothing to be afraid of.
As it turned out directions and time were not their problem. A flat tire was! Sue was undeterred. Before he let her have the car, her daddy had taught her how to change a flat tire. In fact, he had watched as she changed a perfectly good tire, taking it off and putting it back on, in their driveway. Changing a tire–no sweat. In no time at all on that narrow Oklahoma highway, she had the trunk open, the tire tool and spare tire out, the jack in place, and was using all her teenage strength to undo the lug nuts. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a car pull up behind them. A man got out. Nothing to fear, just some kind gentleman, stopping to help a carload of helpless girls.
“Here,” he said reaching for the tire tool, “let me do that for you.”
“Oh, thank you so much,” gushed her friends, almost in unison.
“No trouble at all. You girls need to get on home.”
A warning bell went off in Sue’s head. This man looked vaguely familiar, but she just couldn’t place him. His car had Texas tags, but she didn’t recognize him.
“Yes, sir, we’re on our way.”

They got back to town without any more problems—at least no more flat tires. Sue dropped off her friends at their houses, pulled into her driveway, parked the car, and walked into the house, heading for the kitchen where her mother was fixing supper.
“Hi, Momma.”
“Hi, Hon. Supper is just about ready. Wash your hands and sit down. Are you planning on going anywhere tonight?”
“Yes, I thought I’d go to the youth meeting at church and stay for the service. Why?”
“You’d better pray really hard because you’re not going anywhere else for two weeks. Mr. Bonham called a little while ago to ask if you’d gotten safely home. He said he stopped near Broken Bow and changed a flat tire for you.”

Sinking in her stomach. No discussion or argument. Sue knew she’d done something wrong. She wasn’t sad that she’d broken the town car rule, but that she had gotten caught. She accepted her punishment. Every teenager’s nightmare—grounded. It didn’t dawn on her until after she had children why her mother was so mad at her. Yes, Sue knew the dangers of an open highway and the crazies that might be driving it. She thought she had nothing to fear, but her mother knew better. Her mother would be waiting for her on the other side. Of this, she was certain.

In her drugged state, Sue had a nightmare, as she dreamed of someone who wasn’t nice or helpful, or even normal–Charlie Hill. He terrorized the children until they learned that they could call his bluff by standing their ground and refusing to be intimidated by him. As they got older, they would just look Charlie in the eye and say, “Get lost. Leave me alone.” And, he would step aside to let them pass, but it was a long time before they could do this. He never did anything bad to Sue or anyone else, but he scared the devil out of her each time their paths crossed, which was as little as possible. Charlie was probably mentally challenged, or at best delusional, as he thought he was one of the town’s law officials. It didn’t make him any less certain that he was a deputy constable when Mr. Limes, one of the town’s constables, took him for rides in the police car. He even gave Charlie a fake constable badge and identification card. Charlie would stop children on the street, flash his badge and ID card, and threaten to take them to jail. Their parents told them to just cross the street when they saw Charlie coming their way. Sue got pretty good at crossing streets to avoid him. She now, in her unconscious mind, tried to make excuses for his behavior by thinking that he was probably lonely. She never heard of any molestation, but then she was young. Parents would sometimes stop talking when kids came into the room. No more scary memories, please.
Pain. She wanted release from it. Why did she keep thinking about Pie Kiddsel? Pie was probably middle-aged when Sue was a kid, but he was too colorful to have any spirit, other than that of a teenager. It seemed that everything he had or wore screamed, “Notice me. Look at me.” Sue thought he was pretty cool.

Pie, that was his real name, had a pride and joy—a big black, powerful motorcycle. He decorated it with strange items. Wires were fastened to the decorated hand-tooled red leather saddlebags from which dangled Christmas ornaments, Easter eggs, movie star pictures, and American flags. Between the handlebars was a large reproduction of da Vinci’s famous Last Supper. Okay, maybe Pie was religious, but in his painting the disciples and Jesus were black. Sue didn’t understand why.

She asked her daddy, Why is Jesus black? Doesn’t Pie know Jesus is white like us?”

Her daddy didn’t hesitate as he replied, “Hon, not everyone is like us. In Pie’s church, all the people are black. His Jesus and God are black, too. God appears to each person in a way that the person is comfortable seeing Him. God is powerful enough to be all things to all people.”

On Sunday afternoon, Pie parked his motorcycle on the town’s square, standing beside it with pride. He always wore a suit and with a colorful matching shirt, tie, and shoes—blue, green, red, orange. As the family drove past the square after church, Sue leaned out the window to admire Pie’s outfits, which were certainly more striking than the church clothes her family wore.

Pie’s mother was an invalid, a rather large lady, whose 265 pounds were distributed on a 5 foot frame. He cared for her as best he could. Maybe he rode his fancy motorcycle to escape his home responsibilities. Sue didn’t know. One fall afternoon as Pie raked and burned leaves in his yard, the fire got away from him and their house caught on fire. The small wooden structure was blazing as Pie rushed to the front door. He entered the house and was able to wheel his beloved motorcycle out the door just as the roof collapsed. Before he could get further into the weathered wooden house, the flames had consumed it. Burned about his face and arms, Pie was taken to the emergency room, treated, and released. His mother was not so fortunate; she perished in the inferno.

Sue wondered a little about how Pie must have anguished over not being able to reach his mother, but, after a while, she didn’t give either of them much thought. After all her house hadn’t burned, and she didn’t go to Pie’s mother’s funeral. Sue would always remember Pie, a fixture in her hometown, riding his decorated cycle through its streets. Even as a child, she thought about his loss. She knew that if her house caught on fire someone would save her. Her confidence kept her from being afraid, but now with the cancer growing in her brain, she had lost it.

Certainly, there were good things and bad things about growing up in a small town. Sue and her friends experienced many of them. For example, everyone knew everyone else’s business. That was one of the bad things. On the other hand, when there were problems and troubles, everyone banded together to help. She thought back to the time when her Granddaddy Taylor had died. Friends and relatives immediately came to comfort her mother and their family. All of them brought food in labeled dishes that would require thank you notes and calls as well as the returning of the empty, cleaned plates and bowls to their rightful owners. There was no need to cook for three days in a house of sorrow as they feasted on funeral food. Then, too, before his service, the family sat down to a lunch prepared by their church family with the church ladies offering hugs along with the ham, vegetables, and rolls. Comfort took the form of pies, cakes, and cookies, translating subsistence into love and vice versa. That was one of the good things. Nothing to fear, not even Death. Just have to remember that. Don’t have to stay strong.

Yes, it takes a bunch of people to raise and care for children. Sue knew that, but in the back of her mind, she still had that lingering question, “Was there, really and truly, nothing to fear?” As she slid into the final coma, a smile lingered on her lips. No, now and forever, at last she knew there was nothing to fear.

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Annie Ambles writes in downtown Fort Worth

Repairing A Heart

Annie needs to post some of her writings on Annie Ambles as part of her TCC Trinity River Creative Writing II. class. She hopes you enjoy this short story about a heart in need of repair.

Repairing A Heart

      Kay was, in her own mind, both a winner and a two-time loser. Married twice, twice divorced, she moved in a small circle of friends, insulated by a demanding technical job. Her two daughters were now adults, having achieved both financial and emotional freedom and living on their own. Now alone most evenings, she used her home as a barrier to shield her from the perceived dangers of dating. Yet, she felt that she wanted to meet a man who would add to, not detract from, her adventure-less life. She wanted someone to help mend her cracked heart, to love, to travel with, to share her life. She did not want the permanent commitment of marriage or the instability of a live-in. It wasn’t too much to ask. He didn’t even have to be good-looking or rich. She wanted a friend first—a male friend with whom she could generate romance.

      She had been burned, and her spirit and mind did not encourage venturing out into the world of singles. Kay vacillated between reaching out and maintaining the status quo. When it came to traveling for work, she had no qualms about going solo. She needed to draw on that part of her ego to get herself back into dating. It was tough. Was her heart beyond repair?

      The Sunday newspaper had a section on singles seeking singles. She toyed with the thought of responding to some of the gay men’s ads. That would be safe, but the thought quickly passed. Okay, she’d go for the “men seeking women” batch.

      What would dating bring? Probably physical intimacy after a while. The thought of taking off her clothes in the presence of a man her own age (56) and the thought of his nude body were both rather appalling. Oh, well, she rationalized; one shock would cancel out the other. Her body, as she viewed it in the full length mirror, wasn’t too bad. At 5’6” and 128, her chin and throat were still firm as were her stomach and waist. Her boobs were another story; gravity would have taken them almost to her hips without help from Victoria’s Secrets. The short brown hair didn’t have much gray, thanks to L’Oreal. Scrutinizing her face, she noted a few new lines, but none deep enough for Botox. Overall, she was a pretty good package.

      If she were going to answer an ad, she’d need some new clothes. Her wardrobe dollars were spent at Talbot’s or Career Lady’s buying the classic suits, blouses, and shoes she favored for work. Dressing for success was her mantra. She didn’t wear flashy items that called attention to her sexuality. Better to win promotions with her brain than her breasts. Attracting a man would require another type of garment. The clothes would be bait, expensive colorful lures.

      As she reread the ads, she circled three with red ink, ones that had e-mail addresses. The men presented their attributes in words that spoke to her head and her heart. “Searching for a soul mate”—how many times did she center in on that? What did it really mean? Limited imagination and vocabulary for sure. “Trim and active”—didn’t want someone fat and sedate. Exercise freak who consumed only power shakes and fruit smoothies? No. She needed a thick, juicy steak once in a while. “Interests include walking, attending theater and movies, dancing, and dining”—what about reading, travel, and swimming? Not a single individual was a perfect match, but she was tottering on the edge of writing one man who conveniently lived in a neighboring community.

      Torn between contacting the man and facing rejection, or contacting him and scheduling a meeting, she put the ad away. As was her custom, she thought about the pros and cons of putting herself out there. She was feeling like a fresh apple at the grocery store. Comparing herself to a piece of meat was not her thing. Would this man respond to her e-mail, reply, and set up a date? Would he read her e-mail, evaluate her response, and delete it? Chances. It was a big risk.

      Knowing this e-mail was a first step, she set a three-day deadline to make her decision. In other words, she gave herself some wiggle room. Just do it!

      Day One brought optimism, a draft e-mail, a smiling selfie. A piece of cake. Yes, she was getting back into the dating game. Then, she remembered how she hated games–not competitive enough. Even when she played tennis in high school, she didn’t have that killer instinct, that relentless ego needed to win every match. Would she hook-up with a gamer? Was it worth it?

      Day Two gave her even more second thoughts. She trashed the e-mail and thought about something a longtime friend shared with her that very morning. “Men our age want either a nurse or a purse, or both.” Thinking of the men she knew from her volunteer and church activities, she had to agree with her friend’s assessment.

      Day Three began with driving rain, just the thing needed to douse the fire of her adventurous quest. Not today; not tomorrow, not next week. Ever? When? Her tentative search ended as it had begun with a chilled spirit and no hope. Guess the cracks would remain in her heart, in her life.

      Maybe she would later experiment with an online dating site. More than likely not. Sigh. Gotta get out there someday soon. Why? When? Again that dirty little four letter word. Maybe, like Scarlet, she would simply wait for tomorrow. And, that is precisely what she did.

Annie Ambles writes in downtown Fort Worth

 

Let’s Do Nothing

Yes, you read the blog post title correctly. Today, November 30, the last day of the eleventh month of the year, let’s, the two of us, just stop and do nothing. Put our lives on hold for a time. How long? It’s entirely up to you.

Can you do it? Turn off the TV, radio, phone, and anything else that makes or creates noise. Just sit for a few moments, or longer if you like, and do absolutely, tee-totally nothing.

Impossible? Not so. Take a few deep breaths. Maybe mentally go to your favorite spot–a warm beach, a calm lake, a beautiful mountain top. Get the drift? Stay there as long as you like. Later, you can return to real life, to your reality, but for now, do absolutely nothing.

Free Clip Art Beach Beach Scene Royalty Free Stock Images Image

Things are probably going to get pretty hectic in December with all the cleaning, decorating, cooking, shopping, entertaining, partying, eating, drinking that we do to celebrate the holidays. But, for now, let’s make an investment in our peace of mind. That’s free. Put all those plans and busy thoughts on hold. I’m with you. Let’s do nothing!

Annie Ambles does nothing

The Sign

Prepare yourself! As you may remember from my first blog post, I told you about creating this blog as part of a creative writing course final exam assignment. An additional part of the assignment is the requirement to post at least two of my own works, so here is my first one. Hope you like the short story. Please post your reactions and comments. Thanks!

First United Methodist Church of Fort Worth - Fort Worth, TX, United States. One of the most beautiful churches here in FW!

The Sign

The wedding ceremony came to a wrenching halt, when Alvin’s face paled, and he vomited on his soon-to-be bride Vanessa, the long-winded preacher, and their best man. It just came out of nowhere, this gut-churning mix of gastric juices and partially digested food. Its projectile force stunned even Alvin.

The minister signaled to the organist to play something, anything as the ceremony stopped.

All three men quickly retreated to the small church parlor situated to the right of the pulpit and the disaster scene. They had to regroup and perform damage control.

The bride and her attendants made a beeline for the bride’s room at the opposite side of the sanctuary. Vanessa’s expensive, custom-designed wedding gown was stained by Alvin’s vomit, but not so much that the residue could not be cleaned off with water and paper towels—for the time being. The stain would remain even after numerous cleanings.

Vanessa cried as she surveyed the damage, while her six best friends tried to comfort her.

“Why did this have to happen in front of God and my family and friends? My wedding is ruined. I can’t go back and face all those people. I’m going to kill Alvin.”

It was almost as if a hive of bees had taken up residence in the room. Each attendant, without waiting for silence, began to comfort the bride, trying to reassure her that her dream wedding could be salvaged.

“You’ll laugh about this someday, Vanessa. I just know you will. You and Alvin will have something out of the ordinary to share with your children. Please don’t let this unfortunate incident spoil the beginning of your marriage.”

Back in the sanctuary, the church, filled to overflowing with flowers and guests, hummed with muted voices and some laughter.

The debacle was forever preserved on videotape. The camera just kept rolling, capturing the actual incident and the wedding party’s retreat. Nothing like this had ever hit the socially prominent, wealthy community, assembled to see one of its own wed.

“I saw Alvin turning green. Didn’t I tell you something was wrong?” Alvin’s cousin Robert said to his wife Bettie.

“Yes, you certainly did. I could see that something wasn’t quite right. Most grooms have smiles on their faces—but not our Alvin. He looked terrified,” Bettie said, trying to repress a giggle.

Most of the wedding guests knew that Alvin and Vanessa had been childhood sweethearts, dated all through high school and college, and now worked together in their own business. Their company specialized in antique auto restoration, with Alvin doing the mechanical and body work, while Vanessa designed and beautified the interiors. Their business lives seemed successful and productive, as did their personal lives.

The couple had been living together for two years. They finally agreed to marry after bowing to parental pressure.

Vanessa’s mother, a former runner-up Miss Texas, frequently lamented to her only daughter, “I am really ashamed that you and Alvin are living together without the benefit of holy matrimony. It is so very embarrassing for me and your father. Our church friends and Reverend Johnson have been calling me for years, asking when you two are going to marry.”

“Alvin, you need to do the right thing by Vanessa. I’ll give her a big fancy church wedding and, as a wedding gift, I’ll buy you all a house in the best part of Fort Worth,” promised Vanessa’s dad, who had been captain of the Texas Longhorns’ football team back in his college days.

Even Alvin’s mother had begun to pressure the couple to tie the knot. “Your daddy wanted to see you married before he died, but it didn’t happen. Son, you may never get another chance to marry into such a prominent, wealthy family. Your dad would have loved to have seen his grandchildren. I do, too. All my friends have at least one. I want one, too, and you’re not getting any younger, my dear.”

These conversations were running through the groom’s head as he stood in the small church parlor, trying to quell his nerves and sort out disturbing images of the past few minutes.

Alvin P. Worthington threw down his glove. “By God,” he cried, “I can’t go through with this.”

Ed, his best man was in shock. Jed Johnson, the wordy preacher, was at last speechless, and his mother Jane was furious.

“By God, indeed,” snapped Alvin’s mother. In less than ten seconds flat, she had made her way from the front pew in the sanctuary to this small room to confront her only child.

“What on earth has gotten into you, Alvin? This marriage is something you’ve wanted ever since you were a teenager. You cannot back out now. It’s only an upset stomach, just something you ate.” She dabbed a moistened handkerchief on Alvin’s soiled tuxedo, trying to make the damage disappear.

“Oh, yes, I can, and I am. I need time to think; to be sure that this is a marriage of love, not just convenience. Will I look back years from now and see this puking as a sign that I needed to stop the whole thing?” Alvin was adamant.

“Well, son, let’s just clean up a bit more and go back and finish the vows. Can’t disappoint the little lady, can we?” crooned the celebrity TV preacher Jed Johnson, nationally known for his evangelistic tours. He had more than a little snake oil slipperiness about him and was performing this ceremony only because Vanessa’s parents made huge monthly contributions to his media ministry. He felt obligated to get this wedding completed as soon as possible, without further delay. He would just have to limit his planned remarks, and he hated that. Maybe if he had been a little less wordy, the ceremony would have concluded without this embarrassing incident with the nincompoop groom.

“Yes,” Alvin thought, “I need to get out of here. I don’t want to hurt Vanessa, but I think this projectile vomiting came from a higher source.”

He felt smothered, sick, and almost psychotic. The primitive fight or flight instinct flickered for an instant in a distant part of his brain, but was almost immediately extinguished by his mother’s voice, “Alvin, you get yourself back in there. Right now.”

There was no escape. Alvin was trapped, and in that moment, the strong young man withered, replaced by the obedient small boy. As organ music filled the church, he hung his head, turned, and without a backward glance, slowly walked back into the sanctuary, surrendering his life and soul to the great god Obligation.

Annie Ambles at Tarrant County College, Trinity River Campus