Tick Tock

Robert McGuinness has lived a long, full life.

He stormed the beaches of Normandy and was honored with the Purple Heart for the bit of Nazi shrapnel he still has in his ass. He’s seen sixteen presidents serve his country, some rather poorly if you were to ask him. He’s lived through recessions, depressions and economic downfall. He can tell you exactly where he was when Martin Luther King, Jr., President Kennedy and his brother Bobby, and that one British fella that was in that band. You know, the ones with the long hair that all the teenagers went nuts for in the 60’s. He was never a fan of long hair on men and made his four sons keep short hair like proper gentlemen. He recalls with clarity the day the Challenger shuttle exploded and while a little difficult to recall since he was 83-years-old, the World Trade Center bombings.

Today, at age ninety-four, he is lying in a bed in the hospital with tubes coming out of his arms for medicine and out of his pecker so he can pee. He’s surrounded by his family, or what remains of them, anyway. His wife, Marjorie–may she rest in peace–has been gone for nearly ten years, and his second-born son, Peter–may he also rest in peace, for twenty years. The Cancer got both of them. Now who’s left are his three sons and their wives. All are crowded in the tiny room, waiting for Robert to be taken away to surgery. They have been assured the procedure will be simple and quite routine. Pacemakers are minimally invasive and he’ll be back to running around with the grandkids and great-grandkids in no time. Robert guesses he should be glad his ticker has held out for this long, but it is starting to show signs of wear-and-tear.

One day, he was out in the garden pruning back the rose bush Marjorie had planted years ago, and the next thing he knew, he was in the hospital and told he had passed out and his neighbor had found him. While in the ER and hooked up to an EKG machine, his heart beat had slowed to 23 beats a minute and that’s why he’s getting this little metal gadget in his chest. At first, he protested the idea; he’s 93-years-old, for chrissake and he’s made his peace with his Maker.

“Dad, please. We wish you’d think about this.”

“Son, I’ve lived my life.”

“Yes, but we’re not ready to have you out of ours…”

The doctor came into the room to speak with Robert and his sons. He was a tall, thin man in his mid-forties and his hair was peppered with strands of silver. He is soft-spoken and his deep baritone voice is somewhat of a comfort to the McGuinness family as he explained the surgery and what to expect after Robert was finished.

“We’re going to place two wires into your heart, Bob, and the device itself just goes under the skin right above that. You’ll have some weight bearing restrictions afterwards, so no Strong Man competitions for a while.”

Robert chuckled. He liked this kid.

The anesthesiologist came in next and injected some sort of medicine into his IV. His family left the room, but not without each giving Robert a hug, kiss, or hand squeeze and encouraging words.

“See you in a few hours, Pop.”

“Don’t give those nurses too much trouble, Dad. They have razors. I’m sure they won’t hesitate to shave your balls.”

And with that, Robert was wheeled down the corridor to the the surgical suite and prepped for surgery.

As the kind doctor said, the surgery was very routine and all went smoothly. The pacemaker was in place and beating his heart at an even 60 beats a minute.

Robert came to and looked around the room, blinking his eyes slowly. He heard the soft blips and beeps of the medical equipment around him. To his left was a tray with food on it and to his right were flowers, balloons and homemade cards from his grandchildren. He smiled at the crayon drawings and shut his eyes to get more rest.

The next day, he was released from hospital and taken home. His chest was sore, but he did have a chunk of metal in his chest. “”I’ve got metal in my ass and now in my chest. Just call me the Tin Man,” he laughed in spite of himself.

Days, weeks, and months passed. Robert celebrated his 95th birthday with much fanfare from his family. He saw two great-grandchildren graduate from college and one grandchild get married. During these happy occasions, he starts to think of Marjorie and misses her something terrible. He wants to join her in their Heavenly Kingdom so they can be together for all eternity. He regrets this lump in his chest for keeping him alive. He never should have agreed to getting the darn thing.

During his visit to cemetery to visit his wife and son, which he’s done every week since they both passed, he sits on the cement bench overlooking the cemetery and starts to think.

He decides he’s ready to die, pacemaker keeping him going be God damned. He plots his plan. He has six days to tie up loose ends, to prepare for his departure.

Once everything is squared away and all is in order, he visits the cemetery once more, this time, with no plan on leaving.

He dressed in his finest suit, a dark grey wool number with thin maroon stripes. As he’s dressing himself, he looks at his reflection in the full length mirror behind the bedroom door. This suit has a lot of miles on it. Weddings, baptisms, graduations…funerals. He straightens his maroon tie and makes sure the knot is neat and tidy. This simple act makes him miss Marjorie even more, as this was usually her job.

“Soon, my love. We’ll be together once again.”

He places a handkerchief in his left breast pocket and his hand rests there for a moment, feeling the apparatus underneath his skin, tick-tocking away. Tick, tock, tick, tock…like his own personal metronome, keeping biological rhythm. When he got out of the shower this morning, he looked down at his once full and muscular chest, and saw the still angry red snake of scar from the surgery.

Dressed and ready, he made his way down to the giant old Cadillac in the driveway. He prided himself that he still had the mental capacity to operate a vehicle. Many of the guys at the Legion Club had be revoked of their privilege years ago and claimed their jealousy for Robert’s ability to drive. Sometimes, he’d round up a bunch of them and they’d cruise around town, much like they used to do when they were younger.

Robert turned the key in the ignition, gave a longing glance at the house he’s lived in for sixty years and backed out of the driveway onto the street and drove to the cemetary.

He liked it there. It’s quiet and peaceful and despite the death that lives there, the birds seem to take no notice to this and chirp away happily. He walks to the graves of his beloved and second-born child and painfully kneels down on his knees between them and rests his back against his own headstone. When Marjorie died, he went ahead and had his made up; one less thing for the family to worry about when his time came. All that needed to be done was have the date etched into the marble.

He opened up his suit jacket and reached for the small object he had placed in the inside pocket. He took off the jacket and neatly lay it across his headstone. He then started unbuttoning his dress shirt, his old arthritic fingers fumbling every now and again over the tiny pearl buttons. Once undone, he slipped it off and he sat bare-chested as the midday sun beat down upon him. He took the object and held it in his hands.

It was a Swiss Army knife he got when he enlisted in the Army some seventy-five years ago. The blade sparkled in the sun, momentarily blinding him. Robert reached up to feel the pacemaker under his skin. He ran his finger over the scar.

He brought the knife up and dug the blade into his skin, tracing the scar with the tip. He winced in pain and felt the blood start to trickle down his chest. A single drop landed on his trousers, leaving a dark spot.

Once the wound was made, Robert set the knife down on the grass and reached up with both hands and opened it wider, exposing the pacemaker underneath. He could feel it and was taken aback by how warm it was. He grasped on to it and with one swift motion, ripped it out of his chest, the wires along with it. They dripped with blood.

He wasn’t sure how long it would take him to die. At a recent doctor’s visit to check the device to make sure it was functioning properly, he was told he was dependent on his pacemaker.

“If this quits, so will you, Mr. McGuinness,” said the chubby brunette doing the test. He liked her because she looked like his Marjorie. They had the same kind grey eyes that lit up when she smiled.

“Well then, let’s keep this thing in tip-top shape then, young lady. This darn contraption will probably outlast me, I reckon.”

She smiled at him and his heart ached. My Marjorie…

Robert was oddly at peace, sitting against his grave, half-naked and bleeding.

A few minutes passed and he began to feel fuzzy and light-headed. He decided to lay down to ease the dizziness he felt. He could feel his heart beat hard every few seconds, it obviously struggling to work without the aid of the pacemaker. He closed his eyes to keep the world from spinning around him and his head was filled with visions of Marjorie. The first time they met…their wedding day…the births of all of their children.

His beautiful Marjorie was the last thing on Robert’s mind as he slipped out of consciousness and died.

He was found a few hours later by a maintenance man out to mow the grass. He let out a yell as he came closer, seeing Robert blood-soaked and lifeless on the plot. He got close to Robert to check for signs of life, but there were none. It had gotten eerily quiet in the cemetery, except for one sound:

The pacemaker, tick tock ticking away.

Close To Heaven

Jean felt a white-hot fiery pain in her left leg. Looking behind her, she sees her ankle protruding and twisted and she knows it’s broken. Sweat is forming on her brow and she bites her lip to try to distract herself from the intense pain. A puddle of blood is spreading quickly across the basement floor. The limp and lifeless dead man is bleeding from a gaping head wound and she kicked him in the ribs with her good leg.

“Bastard,” she spat at him.

He deserves to be dead. He tried to kill her. She had been doing laundry in the basement, off in her own world, focused on getting her whites white and colors bright, so she didn’t head the man quietly slink down the stairs until he was behind her, breathing heavily into her ear.

“Make a sound and I’ll slit your throat,” he growled as he held a knife against the soft flesh of her neck.

His breath was hot but it sent cold blades of fear down her spine. He overpowered her slight 5’5” frame and Jean’s mind raced for ways to escape. He had his big, tree trunk-like arms wrapped around her shoulders to keep her from getting away, but the more Jean tried to writhe around, the tighter his grip got and the blade of the knife dug in deeper, threatening to puncture her skin.

Panic set in; visions of her life flashed before her eyes. She did not want to die this way, not by the hands of this man. She began scanning the room for anything that could help her overcome this beast. Then there, propped against the folding table, she spied the croquet mallet. She silently thanked God for her children not ever being able to put their toys away and vowed that if she survived this, she was going to take them out for ice cream and maybe even buy them the puppy they’ve been asking for. Hell, she’ll get them two puppies.

Jean was also grateful she was wearing her high-heeled shoes; something about wearing heels while doing laundry made her feel like June Cleaver. With a deep breath and a sudden rush of adrenaline, she brought up her right knee and slammed her stiletto-ed heel down on the man’s foot. He howled in pain and in the surprise of the attack, he loosened his arm around Jean’s shoulders, causing him to drop his knife.

Jean felt her ankle pop, turn and snap as she tried to dig her heel out of the man’s foot and lunge for the mallet. She picked it up, turned around and swung it around her head. A primal scream ripped her throat raw as she connected the mallet to the man’s melon of a head. She was surprised how easily his skull gave away and he fell silently to the ground.

Jean had to get out of the basement and call the police but knew she’d never make it up the stairs on her ankle. She tried walking but instantly crumpled to the ground, yelping in pain and frustration.

Jean began crawling toward the stairs, her useless leg trailing painfully behind her. She looked longingly up at the door. The light from the kitchen was shining through the open doorway and to her, it looked like climbing the stairway to Heaven, and once she reaches the top, it almost will be or something close to it.


I am thirty years old…at least that’s what my birth certificate claims, at least. I don’t feel thirty. Mentally and physically, I seem much younger, say early twenties. You’re only as old as you feel, or so I’ve heard.

In the grand scheme of things, thirty isn’t “old” by any standards, unless you’re talking to a child and they think anyone over the age of sixteen is old.

I’ve written about this topic before, my age. If the good Lord and genetics enables me, I hopefully have a long life ahead of me. The world is my oyster. I have time to well, take my time for certain things, with the exception of being a cast member on The Real World, sadly whose cut-off age is like, 27 I think.

I’m getting off topic. I tend to do that.

I recently found out a good friend of mine is expecting her first child at the age of 31. I’m so happy for her and her husband, yet I’m insanely jealous for a number of reasons on which I will elaborate.

I’ve known this woman for years and years. We grew up together, spent hours upon hours doing all sorts of things: playing in her basement, recording our own radio talk show, co-writing a story together, getting into general mischief…you know, the basic childhood activities. It’s just that I always envisioned myself having a family before she did. She beat me to it. I’m displeased by this. Stupid my life, messing shit up.

At 21, freshly married, my now ex-husband and I talked about having kids; two, maybe three. Due to family history, I’m next in line for having twins since my grandmother was a twin. We started thinking of baby names for our would-be children. I started buying baby clothes and had my mother keep them in her cedar chest. However, we decided to spend a few years as a couple before we started makin’ with the babies, so 25 was the age we decided upon.

Well, twenty-five came and went, and we decided twenty-seven was the age. Yep, twenty-seven. I hadn’t been taking any form of birth control for several years and we’d use profilactics…when we remembered. I’ve also spoke in earlier posts about this and how there had been some close calls, meaning I think I had been pregnant twice, but due to incompatible blood types (me O negative, he…well, I don’t know what he is, but he must have rH positive blood, otherwise, I’d have some kids now), nothing happened.

Twenty-seven came and things started changing for us as a couple. Tensions were building and some circumstances brought a distance between us. The talk of kids was no longer a subject, which I guess is moot now considering we’re no longer married, but I still would like kids.

But then, true to form, life never goes as planned, which is half the “fun” of life.

Medically, I’m kind of a wreck. My limbs are betraying me (thanks knee and foot) and over the past few years, my menstrual cycles have been interesting, to say the least. They have become more frequent, as in a “normal” cycle comes on an average of every 21 to 28 days. Me? Ten to fourteen days. Yep. Ladies, I have two, sometimes three periods a month. How about THEM apples? I can hear your all shaking your heads in sympathy now.

I’ve been tested for numerous things and it’s been discovered that my hormones are wonky. I don’t mean to get gross here, but I’ve got to explain this medically: due to my frequent cycles, the lining of my uterus doesn’t completely shed. A recent ultrasound showed that a normal uterus should be 5mm thick by day 5 of a period; mine was 10mm thick. Also, I have a fibroid tumor (benign) that has grown considerably and cysts on my ovaries. See? Medical freak.

What does this all mean? Well, I get to start a super fun cocktail of hormones this week that will hopefully get me back in sync hormonally and get things somewhat normal again. The cysts are relatively harmless, so that’s not a big deal.

The fibroid, however, is.

This thing is big. Enough that the ultrasound technician told me after my procedure that “your doctor will be calling you because this is definitely an issue.”

Neat. Thanks. Word of advice: don’t tell this crap to hypochondriac.

So, true to form, I’ve been researching and this thing can prevent pregnancy. I could have to have a hysterectomy.

My body is betraying me.

To tell a woman these things, that she is doing a terrible job of being a woman is not an easy pill to swallow. As little girls, we all have the same stereotypical dream: get married and have babies.

Well, I did the marriage thing and fucked that up and now it looks like I’m fucking up on the second part, too. Typical Erin.

I’ve tried to not let this bother me, because I’m in no place to be bringing a life into the world. I can barely take care of myself let alone a helpless infant, so I have tried to keep a positive attitude towards this, but I gotta tell ya, I’m failing at it.

I can hear my biological clock and if I may use a nerd analogy here, it’s five minutes till midnight (everyone loves a Watchmen reference, don’t they?).

I feel…useless, like I’m defective.

I know that maybe having kids isn’t in my grand scheme of things. It’s not the end of the world, even though it kind of feels like it. There’s adoption as an alternative, which I’ve considered before, but selfish me wants a child of my own. One that I created. One that will maybe have my grey eyes or silly nose or long fingers. I’ve never been much good at anything, but I like to think I’d be a great mother, showering my kids with all the love and affection they deserve, but I sit here with a mass in my uterus and I think I here it laughing at me, mocking me in a way.

“Nice try, lady! Think again!”

Fuck you, too.

I found out all this information last week and then to hear my friend was expecting kind of slapped me in the face, so please forgive my sour mood as of late.

But, like I said, what is meant to be will be and I’ll have to accept whatever is given to me. I also have to be grateful that all these issues have prevented me from having kids so far, as I wouldn’t want to put kids through a divorce. Sorry, little Henry, Owen and Lily, but your daddy is too busy playing video games and ultimate frisbee this weekend, so you don’t get to see him. I know, babies, I know you’re sad, but Daddy made some bad choices and I’m so sorry it affects you…

See? I’m sitting here whining when things could be so much worse. I’m not a big religious type. I have my doubts/concerns/etc, but there was definitely something bigger than myself preventing me from getting pregnant with my ex, and as difficult as that is to accept sometimes, I’m humbled by it, too, because I know I would be in jail now for trying to murder him with my car.

That’s a different blog post for another day.

So. That’s all for now. Again, not a religious person, but if those of you could maybe throw in a good word for me with the Big Man, that’d be super. Oh, and one for my friend, too, and hopes for no complications during her pregnancy.

Thank you.



William Michael Parker, or Billy as he was known, was born to an average family, who lived in an average house in an average town.

Billy’s parents did everything right by way of raising him. They had all the parenting books, DVDs and CD-ROMs on the subject. Dr. Benjamin Spock was their God. So, imagine their dismay when Billy announced one spring day as the family gathered around the breakfast table over a meal of pancakes and scrambled eggs that he wanted to be a garden gnome.

Billy had always had an odd fascination with the statues he’d see in the neighbors yards, and when asked what he wanted for Christmas or his birthday, he undoubtedly would ask another gnome to add to his growing collection. Quite frankly, the boy’s obsession was very troublesome to Mr. and Mrs. Parker, but they wanted their son to be happy and well-adjusted, so they would give in to his desires. But this was just silly.

His parents begged him to reconsider; “what about a state senator or a lawyer, son?”

“No. Mother, Father–I want to be a gnome.”

And with that, Billy Parker began his attempt. He rummaged around the area and neighbor’s trash bins for items he could use to create his gnome attire–a traffic cone for his hat, Mr. Rimmel’s old faded gym shorts that his wife threatened him with divorce if he did not throw away in the garbage as his trousers, his father’s now too-small suit vest as a shirt. He shimmied up a light pole and carefully walked across the electrical wires to retrieve the pair of shoes flung up there by some teenagers, and perhaps the most disturbing aspect of his costume was what he used for his beard: used cotton balls.

Billy diligently constructed his outfit and admired himself in the reflection of a bird bath, adjusting his cone hat and smoothing his cotton ball beard.

He would stand for hours in his own backyard among his mother’s azaleas and rose bushes, as still as can be, until his mother would yell at him to come inside for dinner.

“For God’s sake, William, take that ridiculous garbage off and wash up. We’re having pork chops.”

“Mother, gnomes do not eat pork chops,” Billy retorted. “They eat mushrooms, berries and grass.” This would evoke an evil look from Mother and her muttering under her breath about wishing they had a little girl instead.

As time wore on, he began venturing to other backyards and standing among other rose bushes.

“Martha? The Parker boy is in the yard again. He just isn’t right in the head.”

Despite his family’s embarrassment and shame, they grew to accept Billy as the gnome he is and loved him regardless of his bizarre ways.

So, if you’re driving through the neighborhood and see a very life-life gnome, tip your hat and wave. Chances are, Billy will wave back.

Four Is Now Three

She used to have four children, but one of them is lost.

Not in a wandered-away-while-Mommy-was-shopping-for-purses-in-the-department-store sort of lost, but more in the metaphorical sense.

He thinks he’s done wrong by his family, so have sequestered himself from them, avoiding contact; not returning phone calls, emails, or other attempts to reach him.

His family is distraught and heartbroken over this. They miss their son and brother and want to know he’s safe, but more importantly, that’s he’s loved, despite what he has done. This is unconditional love, but he doesn’t seem to understand this concept.

They hope that soon he will make the effort to reach out to them, but know not to hold their breaths for this. So until he makes the step, he will continue being lost to them.