What Scares Me

I started exploring the characters from An Old Chair, An Old House. It’s looking like the main character is a teenage boy.

Country kids are different than city kids. We learn about work sooner. We know about finances and being poor. We saw sex at an early age…among the animals. It didn’t mean that we were having sex. It just meant that we didn’t need the birds and bees explained to us. We’d seen it many times in real life. In some ways, we grew up faster. In others, we lagged behind. Cities made me crazy. I couldn’t understand them. It took too much effort to keep track of everything in a city.

The girls that we hung out with were friends though not girl friends. I’d known them as long as I could remember. Their mom and my mom were best friends. Some folks didn’t understand this. They didn’t think that males and females could just be friends. They thought that there was something going on with Katie and Ellen. I didn’t think of them like that.

We took that old chair to Gran’s old house. We’d have to find more. But there was one place to sit. It would be nice when I was there alone. I liked being alone. Or at least I didn’t mind it like some people. Some people just can’t stand being alone. It scares them. I don’t know whether it’s because they think something will get them or if they think they are unloved because there’s no one with them. What I find interesting is that those same people lock the bathroom door when they are there with the people who are keeping them from being alone. They say they are going to the bathroom so everyone knows the bathroom is occupied. So I guess they are just scared when they are alone.

I don’t scare too easy. Not at night in the woods, especially not during the winter when all the snakes are gone. Snakes bother me. OK. Snakes scare me. I jump at garter snakes and black snakes. But have you been snake bit? It changes how you feel about snakes. When you live where there are poisonous snakes, you are taught from birth to avoid snakes. As most snakes in my area are poisonous, lots of snakes are killed. Even the harmless black snakes get killed if they become a nuisance. Black snakes like to swallow eggs. They’ll swallow chicks and even hens. Mother hens will defend their nests so diligently that they’d rather be eaten than leave their nests. I know that there are lots of people in the world who grew up with poisonous snakes and live with them and love them, I’m just not one of them. So yes, there is one thing in this world that scares me and I’m not afraid to admit it. You might as well know that I’m not going to react well if your practical joke involves a snake. I won’t find it funny. I’ll probably try to punch you.

Copperheads and water moccasins were the stuff of nightmares for me. Brown snakes in general were scary. Where I lived, brown snakes were generally copperheads or water moccasins. A brown snake was generally treated as poisonous. You didn’t pause long enough to consider the shape of the head. Most often when you discovered the snake you were about to step on him or he was in your space. A black snake, you’d stop and evaluate. Water moccasins are almost black, a deep grey sometimes. Water moccasins live near the water, creeks, ponds, springs and ditches where there is water. Water moccasins are also called cotton mouths. They have a tendency to open their mouths really wide. The inside of their mouth is cottony white. It’s a bit like a cat hissing to scare away predators. The cotton mouth raises it’s head up high and shows the mouth.

©  2013 Nancy Sparks

An Old Chair, An Old House

An old wooden chair with dust in the crevices. The fabric turned smooth from the touch of human hands. Course cotton turned to oil cloth by touch of those hands. The oil from our touch is the evidence of our passing. Others would call the gross, tattered, unsightly and throw it out. To us, it was beautiful. It was ours. That they’d called it ugly and thrown it out had made it ours.

Sure we looked silly dragging that rusty old formerly red wagon down the street. Two girls and a couple of teenage boys balancing a tattered wing back rocking chair on that wagon. We drug it over to the feed store and talked Bob into letting us leave it on the loading dock until Dad came in for a load of feed. I think they’re going to miss our chair. Bob seems to like sitting in it while he waits for the next customer to be loaded. He pulls out the stuffing while he’s sitting there. I want to slap his hands. Our chair has little enough stuffing as it is.

We took the chair to Gran’s old house. It wasn’t a house you’d want to live in, at least not in winter. There wasn’t any insulation. There was an old wood stove but we were afraid to use it without the chimney being checked. It was just an old house in the middle of forty acres where my dad kept some cows. The barn was better. It had been a new roof. It was important. It sheltered hay for the cattle. This was just an old house that was too barren for anyone to want to rent.

It had been good enough for Gran but she’d died when I was five or six. What kind of family leaves their mother in a house with no insulation? I know it sounds bad but they felt it was more important to listen to Gran. Gran wanted to stay in her house. She wouldn’t even move out so they could know the walls about and put in proper insulation. She was afraid to move out of that house. It was the only place she’d lived since she came to these hills. So in spite of what people said, they left Gran alone. They didn’t send her to a nursing home. I think that’s why no one bulldozed the old place. They just wanted to leave Gran’s house and memories alone.

©  2013 Nancy Sparks

Bits of People

I should be meaner but I’m not. I should just be mean and tell the little girl that she can’t have a cookie. No one invited her to have a cookie and it’s rude to insist on having a cookie.

A little red haired girl in purple and pink. She’s wearing a short skirt and high tenny boots. She’s trying to ride the skateboard. She hasn’t got the balance down yet. She never will on that little toy skateboard. It’s not long enough to get both feet onto it.

Gads, this kid irritates me. I know I should be more tolerant but damn, I’m tired of always being the nice one. It seems I’m nice and everyone else always gets what they want. It’s my turn now. What I want is to be left alone. I want them to do things for me. Isn’t turn about fair play? It’s an old saying but one that seems to be forgotten in the modern world. Looking out for number one seems to be the new mantra. Getting ahead….this is not what I want to be writing about. I need to find a character somewhere in all of this people watching.

That little girl will be trouble when she’s older. There’s something that sets my teeth on edge. Perhaps it’s the way she keeps shouting, ‘Hi, James!’ to the guy across the street. He’s older than her father. His kids babysat her. It’s too familiar, too begging, too ‘I have a crush on him’. My own kids call our friends by their first names but not when addressing them directly. No, they don’t call them Mr. Johnson or Mr. Thomas either. They tend to just et on with what they want to say. When asking if Steve and Jessica are coming to the party they will use their first names.

Perhaps it’s the girl’s petulant sulking lips and sullen attitude that combine with the desperate need to be noticed by the guy across the street that cause the warning bells to go off. These children seem foreign to me. So little adult. It’s scary. Children should be shy but curious. Goofy. Caught up in their own world. They are supposed to be innocent. They are not supposed to be looking for a man at in second grade. What makes these little girls call out to men this way? Do some of them truly have lolita syndrome? But how does the lolita develop? Where does this knowledge and desire of the sexual come from?

© 2013 Nancy Sparks


Lillian has blonde hair, dirty blonde hair. She was a bright-white blonde as a child but it turned darker as she got older. Her face is all angles, high cheek bones and a sharp pointed chin with sunken cheeks. Her eyes are hollow, deep and sunken. She looks halfway to a skeleton.

She stands in the grocery line with a kid on each leg, one in the cart, one on her hip and another pushing the cart. She is tall and thin with jeans that barely hang on her hips. She’s staring disinterestedly out the windows at the parking lot.

© 2013 Nancy Sparks