SHIT CREEK SURVIVOR

Let me assure you that I am not capable of being a killer. Unless you count the dozens of spiders I’ve squashed over the years, or the squirrel that ran across the road in front of my car. I make a special effort at not becoming a Dexter imitator. But my neighbor must have thought I had murdered someone the time he heard screams coming from our house.

My firstborn daughter made the benevolent and faithful decision to keep a frog in her room. She called it IHop, a name that came to me after making pancakes. She cuddled that thing like it was her most treasured being, or as if she was expectin’ a prince and planned to elope at the ripe age of three. I figured, what was the worst thing that could happen? She’d want to keep a snake next, or a komodo dragon? Toads would follow and they’d have babies? She would dissect it and I’d find frog guts everywhere? In times of devotedness, she favored it way more than she did me. The worst that happened was when I didn’t see it and stepped on the frog, which made for a dreadful moment when Queen started playing in my head, making their lyrically inspired Bohemian Rhapsody a reality. I wondered, was this real life? Or was this just fantasy? I felt like the thin layer of soil beneath me was giving way and I was caught between a landslide and a Smirnoff supernova.

I never knew what kind of mother I was going to be on any given day. After several failed attempts to restore a healthy rhythm, the frog fell silent and basically croaked right before my daughter’s tender eyes. I went mute while she went into a full-fledged frenzy. She didn’t release just a tiny little wince. It was an impactful blast of tears, and she looked at me as if I had made some fascistic oath with Hitler. After that incident, it was hard for me to shine with flawless inimitable magnificence. I couldn’t very well give my child a binky when I was the one who took it away from her when she was two. I spent the next few moments in fervent prayer and debated what to do with my worst nightmare. I picked up the phone hysterically and began calling God, but realized my mother would be the better one to chat with if I wanted an answer I could actually hear. “Mama, I killed a frog!! My shoe found its head, I lowered my sole, and now it’s dead! Oh mama, life had just begun. But now I’ve gone and thrown it all away!” Mom assured me that this was rookie mistake number one and just the beginning of many screwups. She told me it helps numb those emotional disasters by burying my head in a bucket of vodka and keep reminding myself that I am worth more than just a momster and a cookie provider. She was a little more tactful than telling me I was up a creek. We were mothers who mutually agreed that vodka was a good drink of choice.

I must say that all men aren’t cremated equal. What followed was a weekend filled with making funeral arrangements, constructing a casket, locating formaldehyde, and coming up with an appropriate memorial speech. Along with these preparations came a flood of questions and tears and the lasting memory of me murdering a beloved family member, an image that has been ruminating inside my optic nerves ever since that fateful day. An ostrich would have made an easier pet since they like to bury their own heads in the ground. With pithy intentions, I went into a long narrative about the process of going to heaven. “Just open your eyes, look up to the skies, and see!” Not only was she scared of thunderbolts and lightening that could be very very fright’ning, she wasn’t going to trust me in the future with anything else she loved. I told her, “Look on the bright side. You won’t get warts now!” Her smoldering stare was one I shan’t forget and I was back up that poopy creek. Nor did I get a groundswell of sympathy from my observant neighbor. He also considered me a tyrannical executioner with quite the distinctive smell from embalming fluid and no regard for amphibian life whatsoever.

The problem with pets is that they always start out as living breathing creatures and end up buried in the backyard, or flushed down the crapper. I had to entomb a goldfish once and caught all kinds of hell, since the still little swimmer was really just napping. Given my expert prognosis, I didn’t want it floating aimlessly and into eternity on top of tank water. So I scooped it up and flushed it down the toitee along with turd buildup that no one remembered to flush. Someone sure expelled a lot of food that last sitting because you could hardly even see the little guy.

I figured Santa was going to find out how bad I was and throw rocks down the chimney that year. The universe was certainly looking down on me saying, “There she is, that schmuck who can’t keep animals alive.” Easy come. Easy go. Anyone could see that nothing really mattered to me other than filling the void in my distraught daughter. I painted my face like a clown to create a purposeful look, and also to cover the appearance of wear and tear. Then I tried compensating with a stuffed bear and four more goldfish. It’s pretty hard to kill a stuffed animal, but those goldfish only lasted eight days. I swore the fish tank was jinxed. I usually poured too much food, and mistakenly left my daughter’s bedroom door open whereas the cat was more than happy to have things to play with. There was an ad in the classifieds for a professional apologizer that I should have probably applied for. I was hoping that if my youngster became a parent, there would be no hesitation when she left me to babysit. But the apple doesn’t fall far. She was a child who saw nothing wrong with poking our cat’s eyes with bobby pins. Plus, I thought it was illegal to swipe candy and expose your nipples to people in the supermarket. But my daughter committed that crime regularly. The sexiest trait a female can have, according to the devil, is deviousness and flashing tendencies.

I am a true testament to the setbacks that plague a woman. By the time my daughter was grown, the toilet death toll had reached twenty-seven. Other misadventures included leaving her favorite blankie on the top of the car and losing her at the mall. And one Halloween, I took her to a haunted house and struck a match so I could see in the darkness, and her hair was subjected briefly to the flame. Again, my apology wasn’t accepted and trust was totally denied. Like Noah, I too had a long commitment to a project, and I learned a lot from this man. We are all in the same boat. Plan ahead when it’s raining. And if you’re up shit creek, travel in a pair so you’ll have a pal with a shoulder to cry on.

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