I hated to admit it, but for once my husband (to my everlasting annoyance) had been right.

“Those shoes look absolutely ridiculous with that pair of jeans,” he had told me while brushing his teeth. I looked at him with horror as the foamy tooth-paste spit rolled down his awkwardly extended little finger and dripped on my carpet. “You should wear boots or something … maybe your loafers!”

I rolled my eyes. Men knew nothing about fashion or how to stand over a bathroom sink and brush. Mine chose to walk around the house doing menial tasks while he brushed his, like flipping channels on the TV, finding a pair of socks, or telling me what I should-or-should-not-do.

“How about you just keep your spit in the sink and keep your fashion advice to yourself,” I’d said with a stomp. Besides, these were an absolutely fabulous pair of high heels that I’d purchased on QVC for only twenty-nine dollars! Supposedly all the movie stars back home were wearing them, and since my know-it-all-husband had moved me from California out here to “Hooterville” North Carolina, I knew I’d never find anything like this in Helen’s Bait Shop & Clothing on Old Riddle Mountain Road.

I looked down to admire my shoes. These were beautiful … black suede, peep-toe wedges with a very narrow 6″ heel, and tiny golden rivets sprinkled down the back heel of the shoe like shooting stars on a deep dark sky. How could anyone not look at these and be impressed?

My husband could, that’s who.

“Bye,” I called as I pulled on my heavy winter coat, grabbed my purse and the leash of our Basset Hound, Bert.

Bert was given to me as an anniversary present from my husband. Actually, Bert was more my husbands dog, but he’d played me like a fiddle that day and tied a little red bow around his neck and placed the incredibly cute five pound Basset Hound puppy in a picnic basket four years ago. I admit, Bert was an adorable puppy … big sleepy eyes, long droopy ears … he was the perfect example of a postcard puppy.

As he grew, however, he’d become a chewing machine and when left alone, he was absolutely determined to destroy anything he could. Our two year old sofa looked like a Salvation Army reject, and my husbands recliner hung in shreds from about a foot down.

Now at a whopping 69 pounds and with a broken leg, unable to walk, he was a little less than “adorable”. I wrapped the leash around my hand and lugged the big gravity-sucking creature up into my arms and carried him out to our garaged car for our trip to the vet. “And thanks for the help,” I called sarcastically over my shoulder as I let the back door slam shut.

It was a one mile drive down the mountain to Dr. Willards Animal Hospital and the part dirt, part gravel road was practically frozen solid all the way down. Luckily our car was equipped for weather like this, and it did a fine job gripping the icy road. Bert lay quietly in the seat next to me, occasionally stretching his neck to peer out. It broke my heart that he couldn’t hop up on the window sill to see the icy woods he loved romping in so much. I patted his head, “Don’t worry buddy, Dr. Willard will fix you up and we’ll go for a walk in a week or two, alright?” Bert looked at me with trusting eyes and then lay his chin on the seat as if he’d understood perfectly what I’d said.

Right then, I heard an unfamiliar thumping beneath my car. Bert raised his head and began to softly growl. What on earth? Since the drive was only a one-lane road, I simply stopped the car and climbed out to see what I’d hit.

Nothing. Instead, I realized that my front tire was completely flat. Great.

The one thing my father had never taught me to do, was change a tire. I could build a potting shed, fix the refrigerator, change the oil, but I had no idea how to change a flat. Climbing back in the car I reached for my cell phone in my purse and then remembered I’d left it charging on the table by the back door.

I knew my husband wouldn’t be coming down the road a while, and honking would do no good. It was over a half mile back to the house. He’d never hear it, and if he did, he would probably never put two and two together. Besides, today his college football team was playing in the playoffs and it could be DAYS before he missed us. I imagined him, eating leftovers for the second day in a row and saying, “Hey honey, when are you going to cook and do some dishes again. Honey? HONEY? Now where the devil did she go?” then looking around puzzlingly at the unfolding mystery of my sudden disappearance.

“Darn it!” I yelled as I slammed my fists on the steering wheel. Bert jumped a bit and dipped his head as if he thought I were about to smack him for some unknown reason. “Bert … we’re stuck old boy and it’s either up or down.”

I crawled out of our warm car and went around to his side to lug him out. It was 21 degrees and if I left him in the car, I was afraid he’d either freeze to death or rip the entire interior of the car to shreds. “Come on you big galoot … let’s get you back to the house,” I grumbled while trying to balance on tiny heels and carry Bert at the same time.

Little by little, Bert and I made our way up the drive, my ankles twitching and wobbling under the weight of each step. Several times my foot would roll completely over and Bert and I would tumble down, both of us wide eyed and panicking. Thankfully, my heavy coat absorbed most of the impact and we’d get up and start all over again … me standing in my fabulous heels, bending over, lifting sixty-nine pounds of dead weight and taking that first precarious step, then another, and another.

Bert seemed to love the whole idea of me getting all dressed up, driving half way down the mountain, and then carrying him back up! His eyes sparkled as he looked around as if he’d never seen our mountain from this angle before, and occasionally he’d give me a little lick on the cheek as if to say, “Wow, thanks Mom … this is wonderful!” … all the while I’m on the verge of double ankle failure as I wobble, stumble and cuss my way steeply towards home.

Finally we made it to the base of our yard, where road turned to concrete. I was certain I was within ear shot of my husband who was undoubtedly engrossed in his game by now, so I yelled, “HELP,” at the top of my lungs.

I paused a moment waiting for the front door to open, but after a moment when nothing had happened, I yelled again a bit louder. Still nothing. So we continued while I shouted the most profane slurs I dared at my husband, happy now that he couldn’t hear me!

Finally we arrived at the foot of the porch steps and had only nine precarious steps to climb. Home at last!

I angrily turned the door knob and kicked open the door. It sprang open like a trap and banged into the wall behind it, causing my husband to practically jump out of his skin and spill his tea all over our shredded sofa. There I stood before him breathing heavily, my light beige coat torn and dirty, globs of mud on my face and arms, my hair hanging in stringy strands all over my head, and my beautiful QVC heels scratched and muddy. “What the devil have YOU been doing,” he shot at me as I stood there looking as if I’d spent the night in the city dump, “I thought you were taking Bert to the vet?”

I lay Bert in his recliner and kicked off my once-beautiful shoes … my feet throbbing from the walk and my toes nearly frozen from the cold. Breathlessly I managed, “We had a flat. At the bottom of the hill. I had to carry Bert. All the way back.”

My husband stood up and jumped into action. If there’s one thing he loved more than football, it was playing the part of the hero. “Leave Bert here,” he said as if he actually thought I were stupid enough to carry him back down the mountain,”We’ll go down in my truck, change your tire and then drive back up for Bert.” I nodded, still out of breath and still somewhat annoyed at my husband for whatever reason.

I was just about to go in the bedroom for warm socks and boots when my husband turned and all-knowingly said, “I told you not to wear those stupid shoes. You should have worn your boots like I told you!”

The January ice entered my very soul as my stubborn I-will-not-be-wrong attitude gave birth to misery right there in my living room. I walked over to my QVC heels, smugly slipped them back onto my sore, cold, aching feet, and on now quaking ankles, precariously followed my husband out into the garage.

-Lynn Hamilton Rutherford c2017


How My Career as a Child Outlaw Began …

In my basement there is a cardboard box filled to the brim with Blue Willow china. Place settings for ALMOST sixteen are wrapped in newspapers dated September 13, 1995 … almost two weeks to the day after Mom passed away. 

Now before you stop reading, thinking “here comes a depressing piece, written by a down-in-the-dumps writer”, I need to tell you that this is anything BUT a depressing piece, and I am anything BUT down in the dumps.

This little tale begins around fifty years ago in 1966 when I was a mere six years old.

We, meaning my Mom, my Dad, and myself, were wrapping that Blue Willow china for our move from Macon to Savannah, Georgia. Dad was unpacking the china cabinet and handing the beautiful blue plates to me and mother, and we would wrap them in newspaper and stack them in a cardboard box. At the time, there were sixteen place settings along with assorted matching bowls, pitchers, and tea-sets. Mom was desperately proud of that Blue Willow set, because she had saved up Octagon Soap coupons and ordered the entire set through the mail.

I know this because every time we used that china, Mom would regale us in how she purchased that Octagon Soap for everyone she knew, just so she could earn enough coupons for the set. In other words, if you had a birthday coming up, more than likely you would get a bar of soap … well, a bar of soap along with a half of a pound cake or maybe a coconut cake.

Mom would tell this story with a lot of pride, and when she got to the part where she sent off the “bulging packet of Octagon Soap coupons“, she would ALWAYS be laughing at the idea that she bought soap every week for nearly two years, just to get that set of Blue Willow china. My Aunt Ruth would chime in, “The people at that grocery store must have thought you lived with the filthiest bunch of people!”

It was was her favorite “hard times” story to tell, and truthfully, I loved hearing it even though I didn’t have a CLUE what Octagon Soap was. 

So anyway, there we were … wrapping her china, when Dad suggested that he and Mom have a cup of coffee. They vanished into the kitchen and I was left at the dining room table wrapping plates.

Don’t ask me how it happened … what strange event happened to cause the Earth to shift and yank the plate from my hand … I haven’t a clue.

But whatever it was that happened in that split second turned me from a cherub into an outlaw.

When I looked down and realized that the plate was broken almost perfectly in half, my heart plummeted like an elevator down to my toes. Since Mom and Dad were in the kitchen, I did what any normal six year old would do … I wrapped both pieces in a piece of newspaper, smuggled it down the hall to my bedroom and stuffed it between the mattress and the boxed springs.

Fast forward five more moves and it’s the late 70’s. I’m nineteen years old and Mom was unpacking her Blue Willow dishes and the one she had JUST unwrapped magically fell perfectly into two pieces in her hand. She looked at the plate as if she were wondering what strange event had caused the earth to shift and break one of her plates perfectly in half.

It was then that I spilled my guts, and since it was years and years later (and Mom hadn’t even missed the stupid plate), we both shared a good laugh until we had tears streaming down our cheeks.

So where, you might ask, had the Blue Willow plate been all that time?

Well, after unsuccessfully gluing it back together with school paste, I decided to bury the thing in the back yard once we were moved into our new house in Savannah. However, the ground was so hard, I could barely dig a hole big enough to bury a pecan, much less two broken halves of a Blue Willow plate. So, I hid it in the garage in a box of my toys I no longer played with.

During the NEXT move (when talk of a yard sale put the fear of God in me), I decided to try once again to hide the evidence by burying it in the only soft spot in our back yard. Almost a dozen months later a torrential rainstorm washed the dirt from around the buried plate (I was the only kid alive who routinely watched rain in a terrified horror), so I had to bring it back in and hide it once again. It stayed hidden in my Barbie Doll case until 1976.

I was sixteen and a glorious invention called Super Glue saved my life.

Late one night I covertly glued the plate back together and let it dry in the back of my closet.  Several days later, at long last, it was slipped back into the china cabinet when no one was looking.

For thirteen long years that stupid broken plate had followed me around. It had been buried, hidden, smuggled, glued, and stuffed into a Barbie doll case. It had made my life a living nightmare at every dinner Mom decided to use the “good china”.  I held my breath during every move, and once when the box of china slipped out of Dads hands and hit the corner of the table, I PRAYED for a few broken pieces! I surmised that maybe I could somehow slip that stupid broken plate into the box before anyone “outed” the missing one. No such luck. Everything survived.

I was bound for hell.

So, today the box of Blue Willow china is in the basement. On the very top of the stack of plates is a wrapped plate that is very clearly broken exactly in half. On the back, there is a tell-tale line of dirt mixed with school glue from one of my many attempts at repairing the plate … a plate that no longer “haunts” me, but rather comes along for the ride as I tell MY kids the story of that plate …

… that stupid blue willow plate that Mom got with Octagon Soap coupons.

Writing Under the Influence …

ONE. I’m ONE measly DEGREE over the normal temperature. Incredible.  One degree … yet I can feel the skin on my cheeks twinkling like Christmas lights.  It’s currently snowing here in Atlanta, at least I think it’s snowing.  In my state it could very well be ping-pong balls raining from heaven, but I’m pretty sure it’s snow.  Or just ping-pong balls.

It’s the bronchitis season for me and thanks to my doctor, I’m armed with antibiotics and a miracle prescription drug I’ve heard some people refer to as “purple drank”.  Even at only a quarter of the prescribed dose, not only does it do wonders for a cough, but it has caused me to grow an enormous pair of berries I suddenly became acutely aware of the very second I hit the “SEND” button on my GMail.

I was aghast.  What had I done?  I could never go back to my pharmacist again.

The thank you note I had just “carefully” composed and sent her was peppered with phrases like “my cough is fuzzy memory” and “flying the purple haze”.  Is there an international watch list for people sending email when they have a fever? … I’m bound to be on it by now.

Three o’clock.  Time for another dose.  Which reminds me … I need to write the in-laws …