A Hairbrush Named Grief

One night when I was a kid, I was watching The Dukes of Hazzard with my mom and sister. A tangled mop of Yorkshire Terrier was burrowed into each of our laps. My sister and I were sitting in our matching brownish orange flannel nightgowns that my aunt had made, on our brownish orange couch, that sat on our brownish orange shag carpet, wrapped in our brownish orange afghans. My mom was in the brownish orange recliner to our right. Most of my memories from the late 70’s are bathed in an amber shellac glaze.

Just as Boss Hogg and Rosco were chasing Bo and Luke Duke to the Hazzard County line, we saw a dark figure flapping over our heads. It was a bat, which shouldn’t have come as a surprise. We lived in the woods. All sorts of things happen in the woods that don’t happen anywhere else. I’m not talking Deliverance, but I am saying I’ve seen some things. Like  a mouse shot through the eye with a BB Gun, dropping dead next to our toaster. And a possum that was shot 10 times from our goat turd covered porch, run hissing and growling from under the rusted car that lived in our front yard (I’m pretty sure it flipped us the bird as it ran unscathed into the woods). And a woman in waffle stomper boots and a nightgown, wading through a foggy swamp in the pre-dawn hours, as she ran coyotes from her chicken house, with a .22 shotgun. I’ve also seen a spider the size of my palm build a web over my bed in the night, and I’ve seen carpenter ants as fat as my pinkie, decimate the center beam supporting the log barn (that doubled as my bedroom…..) Even so, we grabbed each other and screamed “BAT!” as if we’d never seen anything like it. The dogs yipped, my sister and I hid under our afghans, and my mom picked up the closest thing she could find and flung it through the air like an abuela throwing her chancla. She was known for that. And also for being a damn good shot. My sister and I both had the knots on our heads to prove it. What her hand grabbed this time was a hairbrush. Not one of those flimsy ones that came 3 to a pack at Rite-Aid. It was the heavy kind, with a big flat head and a thick plastic handle that made a hollow whoosh-snap, whoosh-snap as it clawed it’s way through our hair. All I remember next, is seeing it tumbling like a Ninja’s Nunchuck—and when it hit it’s mark, that bat dropped like a rock and landed on the ground. Not dead, just stunned, as the three of us towered over it with wide eyes, tangled hair, and a yapping Yorkie tucked under each of our arms.

If this were a present day story, I’d probably have to lie and say that we wrapped it in cashmere and took turns breast feeding it back to health. But this was thirty some years ago in rural Oregon, so nope. That’s not what we did. We toed it into a dust pan with the frayed end of a BiMart slipper and flung it into the woods. I still remember it’s eyes, blinking up in stupefied desperation, as if it would have given it’s left fang for even the slightest connection between it’s body and it’s brain.

Fast forward to 2020. The year that has used absolutely no lube. We’re less than a month into this so-called “new reality” of financial ruin, unemployment, hoarding, food rationing, long lines to satisfy basic needs, supply shortages, sheltering in place, a medical community in crisis, desperate pleas for PPE and ventilators and standard supplies—and guess what? I’m not nearly as ok as my Facebook persona likes to pretend I am. This morning I made peanut butter cookies for breakfast. As I was standing at the kitchen island, stirring the batter with a smile on my face, not even those who know me best would have guessed the fantasy that was playing through my mind—of throwing the entire bowl through our glass slider just to watch it shatter. 

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