18. Laura

There used to be a house on Old Glenrose, just across the train tracks from the big field behind Woodbine Baptist Church. If you have seen this field in the summer, it’s hard to forget it, since there seems to be often fifty sweaty men playing soccer in it at any given time.  Men who are stripping off shirts with pin-prick holes where their name tags go. Other men who are switching from dress shoes to sneakers as fast as they can in their cars. Other men who sometimes reach unconsciously to cover tattoos they’re not sure they want the other men to see.

Where else can you see such a wide mix of men all enjoying the day?

You used to be able to sit on the porch of the house on Old Glenrose and watch them.  When Laura was first born, before her mother had to go back to work, her mother would stand on the porch, a towel over her shoulder and then Laura draped over the towel and her mother would pat her back and watch the men.  Her mother had this fantasy, which she told no one, of one day going over there, in her sneakers and shorts, and she imagined how all of the men would laugh and tell her to go home or frown and tell her that this was no place for a woman, but then she would somehow get the ball.

And just like they could be on that field and it didn’t matter if they were lawyers or gang members or dishwashers or what, it wouldn’t matter who she was, when she was on the field, she would be a player.

Laura grew up in the little house on Old Glenrose, until she was four, when it burnt down.

The fire spread quickly and Laura’s mother and father nearly died. Laura did die.

The firefighter who carried her out said only one thing about it, ever, to anyone. One day, when he was sitting on his riding lawnmower, not moving, his wife came out to check on him, and he turned to her, and said, “She should have had a whole life.”

Her parents were still at Vanderbilt when the first 911 call came.

“911. What’s your emergency?”

“Hay un fuego.”

“Darlene, I’ve got a little kid speaking Spanish. Can you take it?”

Darlene got on the line while the other operator worked frantically to try to figure out where the little girl was calling from.

“Ola. ¿Qué usted dijo?”

“Mi mama está dormida.”

And then nothing. The line went dead.

“What did she say to you?”

“En fuego?  That’s fire, right.”

“What’s that address?  Did we get the address?  Dispatch, we’ve got to get trucks to the 700 block of Old Glenrose Avenue. 712 Old Glenrose Avenue.”

There is nothing worse, you can imagine, than getting a 911 call from a child who is obviously in trouble, whether she knows it or not.  And so the 911 operators sat for the nexttweny minutes, checking the clock and waiting to hear something, anything from 712 Old Glenrose Avenue.

After about a half an hour, their supervisor came in.

“We’re going to need the tape of that Old Glenrose Avenue call.”

“Oh god, did someone die?”

“Yeah, two weeks ago.  That house is burnt to the ground.  Don’t worry.  Probably just some asshole kids gave that address just because.”

“No, that’s the address the system gave us. That’s the house that call came from.”

“Well, it must be a glitch in the system, then, because there’s no house there anymore.”

Of course, they checked for glitches. Even sent an AT&T crew out there, but nothing.

And still, the calls come.  Not very often, but often enough that every operator is warned about them. And folks have quit after taking them.

“Here’s what you’ve got to understand,” Darlene said to me.  “This isn’t an easy job as it is. You’re hearing people at some of the absolute worst moments of their lives, either because it’s happening to them or because they’re seeing something terrible happen to someone else, but you know you’re sending help.  You know you can send someone to help.  No, it don’t always work out, but at least there’s something you can do.

“Who can you send to that poor little girl?”

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“Please take your gravesite refuge home with you!”

Not-So-Bright Moments in Gardening, Brought to You by B.

So, I had let the weeds on the south side of the house get out of hand. I don’t say that mildly, completely out of hand. The poor hostas were having to battle with all kinds of privet and holly and oak and rose of sharon seedlings just for what little light gets over there. (I know the south side is usually the sunny side, but ours is in the shade except first thing in the morning).

Well, after suffering through two bouts of “The Mysterious Rash from Hell,” I wasn’t about to get in there with my hands, so I struck up this brilliant plan to just take my shovel and turn the whole bed over and then rake everybody who came loose out. Holy shit, this was so much easier than picking weeds by hand.

But today, I can barely move, my back is so stiff.

Anyway, I have also decided that, if you live within driving distance of me, please don’t bother to ever pay for a rose of sharon. I will give you seeds. I can probably give you seedlings (even though I have done my best to get them all out of my flower beds). These are not plants that are hard to propagate from seed. I may even start to curse my enemies with them–come too near me and end up with rose of sharon seedlings everywhere.

I’m excited about the bluebells.  We ordered them from the same place the College Professor got those daffodils for me.  There’s a lot to do around the yard this winter, but I’m already excited for spring.

A Question for Gun Nuts

Okay, I live in a fairly rural part of Davidson County. Not rural rural, but rural. We have deer and wild turkeys and coyotes in our back yard regularly and a big cow pasture behind us. Directly in front of us is Clarksville pike, then a row of houses, then Dry Fork Creek, then Dry Fork Creek Road and there are houses on the other side of Dry Fork Creek Road and some roads off of Dry Fork Creek Road that dead-end in deep hollows.

So, when I hear gun fire during the day, especially if it’s three or four quick shots followed by long bouts of silence, I think nothing of it. I assume it’s hunters up in the hills.

Last night, I heard fifteen or sixteen shots.  I was more annoyed than anything at the time, because I had just fallen asleep on the couch, but now that I think about it, I realize, I don’t know how to tell what gun noises are nothing to worry about–just hunters going about their business or someone trying to get a coyote that’s come too near the house–and when I should call the police.

Is there some common-sense guide to “Oh, that’s nothing to worry about” v. Oh, that’s not right”?