Tag Archives: Ed Staskus

In the Doghouse

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 “I think we are drawn to dogs because they are the uninhibited creatures we might be if we weren’t certain we knew better.”  George Bird Evans

I thought I had seen the last of Jimmy, but then he called me from jail. It was the downtown jail. It was the Cuyahoga County Jail, or the Corrections Center, or the Justice Center, depending on who you talk to. Everybody you talk to says you don’t want to be in that jail.

Last year a U.S. Marshals Service report detailed “inhumane” conditions in the center. There is an ongoing investigation that has so far resulted in criminal charges against a dozen-or-so jail employees, and there’s an FBI civil-rights probe going on, too.

The last time I had talked to Jimmy, months ago, was when I found out, two weeks after it happened, that his mother had died. We didn’t talk long that time.

Jimmy and his mother never got along. Whenever he was in AA, he worked it, but she was in AA for life, always preaching to him about it. He always said he didn’t have an addiction, but he was wrong.

Jimmy’s dad was a Cleveland Police Department detective. He used to sit outside Brian’s family home in Little Italy off Mayfield Road and spy on his father, audiotaping everything that went on, and photographing everybody who came and went. He followed him all around town. Wherever Brian’s father went, Jimmy’s father followed, like a faithful dog, keeping him under surveillance. Brian’s father was one of the lawyers for the Mob.

Brian and Jimmy grew up together. They were friends. They were best friends.

When jimmy’s mother was on her deathbed, she asked to see him. He went to the hospital. When I found out she died, I immediately broke my vow of silence with him, and texted him, saying I just heard about your mom, I’m so sorry about sending my condolences so late.

He texted me back. It was a meme from “Friends,” of Joey Tribbiani, shrugging it off.

“Oh, fuck you, back to silence with you.”

When Jimmy called me from jail, he called on a telephone that’s made available for jail bird use on a daily basis. The phones are coinless collect phones. No incoming phone calls or messages are accepted for inmates, for any reason, ever.

“What did he do?” I asked JJ, one of his kids.

“He’s an idiot,” said JJ.

JJ is in the Marine Corps, the same as his brother, Alex. Their father wasn’t in the armed services. He was in the brig, though.

“I know that, but what did he do?”

“He said he’s been trying to call you, but you won’t take his calls.”

“First of all, he’s an idiot. Second of all, I didn’t not take his calls. Third of all, what number is he calling me from?”

I don’t pick up most numbers that I don’t recognize. That’s just the way it is. Who needs the aggravation?

I found out it was a number ending in 0000. I went to my phone and checked. There were a ton of calls from that number.

For a long time, Jimmy wouldn’t take a lot of jobs, because they didn’t pay as well as the jobs he did for the union. If they didn’t pay, he went his own way. I told him, “Some money coming in is better than no money coming in.”

He said, “No.”

He finally went to work for a local landscaper. But in no time, he had the brilliant idea of stealing all the equipment, mowers, blowers, hedgers. He tried to sell it all to Freddie, Brian’s brother.

“It’s got to be hot, no thanks,” said Freddie. He hung up on him.

Jimmy didn’t even try to ask Brian. He knew that wouldn’t have gotten him anywhere.

While Jimmy was stealing the stuff, he was being caught on surveillance video, and then he was being caught by the real thing, the police.

Jimmy always claimed his family life was horrible. Except it wasn’t. I was telling everyone what Jimmy was saying about his family, and I don’t think his family appreciated it, at all. They were, like, “He’s an addict. He’s full of shit.”

Of course he is.

Jimmy’s dad’s partner on the police force, who is my girlfriend’s father, said “Jimmy was coddled his whole life.”

I had been waiting to get a phone call about Jimmy. When it was JJ on the phone, I thought, he’s either in jail, or he’s dead. Those are the two only things I expected, because I am the closest thing he has got to family.

“Dad’s in jail,” said JJ.

“At least that’s a better place for him than the grave,” I said.

“I’m going to be coming into town, can I hang out with you?”

“Of course.”

But he was all over town, found the pick-up truck Jimmy had stolen from him and his brother, sold it, and we didn’t see him in the end.

“Don’t worry, I’m coming back,” he said.

He’ll be coming back to see his dad, sooner or later.

Jimmy’s brothers are sick of his shit, he comes from a big family, and one of them, a prosecutor downtown, got down on Jimmy, and had him locked up on the roughest floor of the Corrections Center. “Let him sit there and rot.”  Then he piled it on, trumping up kidnapping charges against him. Some young kid was helping him, and the video shows him getting into Jimmy’s truck, then getting out, walking around, and then getting back in, all on his own.

Somebody said the brother was going to find a way to add on armed robbery, although I don’t know how that would be possible, since it wasn’t like that.

Brian said Jimmy should just sit there until they bring everything down to a misdemeanor and plead.

Before Jimmy finally got me on the phone, from jail, I got a letter from him. He wrote me about where he was, what had happened, and then threw out that God had moved into his life.

He threw a curveball at me.

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Click here to see more writing between fiction and non-fiction by Ed Staskus.

Wear and Tear

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“The old saw about old dogs and new tricks only applies to certain people.”  Daniel Pinkwater

All hairdressers at all salons break down, sooner or later. Some hairdressers break down earlier than others, but it’s taken me more than thirty years to break down, for the work to take its toll.

I have bursitis and tendinitis in both shoulders. When you’re working your arms are always up around your shoulders. It hurts. I wake up dreaming that somebody is twisting my arm off. Sometimes I dream they’re twisting both arms off.

I got pain shots, since it started running up my neck, but my doctor was just guessing.

“Am I hitting your bursa?”

“I don’t know.”

“How does that feel?”

“Yow!”

I got shots twice until my doctor said, “I think you need to see a pain specialist.”

“Really?”

“Yes.”

“OK”

“Did you bring records?” the pain specialist at the Cleveland Clinic asked.

“No.”

“That’s all right, you’ll get your shots anyway.”

He was definitely not the shot Nazi.

But it freaked me out a little. I thought I was just going to pull my shirt down and they were going to put a shot in me. Instead they gave me two gowns, told me to take everything off, and get into the gowns. I had to wear the blue hat.

“I’m just getting s shot in my shoulder, right?”

“Right.”

“So why am I getting naked?”

“Well, you are going into surgery to get the shot,” the nurse said.

I was a little paranoid going in. I had to get an IV stuck into my arm.  They told me I wouldn’t remember anything. But I remembered everything. I sat up and talked the whole time. I remember watching the video screen. I remember him hitting my nerve. I jumped.

“No, no, no,” he said. “Sit still.”

“OK, but I need more juice.”

They gave me more the second time I went, and I definitely don’t remember much about that time.

After he stuck the needle in me, and did the procedure, I thought, are you kidding me? The preparation took much longer than the shot itself.

“You freaked me out for a couple of minutes of shooting?”

I had my right shoulder done first, and my left shoulder done two weeks later. It worked, although I think the second shot worked better. I was more relaxed. There were some side effects, though.

I’m the kind of person, if there are going to be side effects, I’m going to have them. For two weeks after the shots I had horrible side effects. They’re shooting in cortisone. It’s a steroid. Whenever you get steroids injected, you risk getting hungry, getting ‘roid rage. I got hungry and got ‘roid rage. I got heat sensitivity, too.

I was flushed all the time. I was crazy emotional all the time, whenever I wasn’t eating all the time. What the hell is wrong with me, I wondered.

At the same time, I started sleeping in positions I hadn’t slept in for years. I used to always sleep with my arms up over my head, but I hadn’t been able to for a long time because of the pain in my shoulders. I couldn’t sleep on my face because my shoulders hurt. I would wake up wimpering. The pain was so bad, rolling over didn’t help, nothing helped. My arms would go numb. The pinkies on both my hands would go numb. Laying in a beach chair, whenever Brian and I went to Mexico, nothing was comfortable, even though it was the most comfortable place in the world.

For a long time, there were no comfortable spots. Time goes by, you forget about it. After the shots, I’m sleeping with my arms up again. Everything is a comfortable spot.

The pain starts to come back after a month-or-so, but you can’t get a shot every month. You can’t have more than four of them a year. It’s not good for you, even though they’re good for me. Too many shots will deteriorate the muscles around where the steroids are going. The big question is how long will the cortisone stay in the nerve and block the pain?

When the pain comes back, I start having a hard time turning my neck. When I’m driving, and I try looking behind me, ouch! I already am having a hard time turning to the right. Don’t be coming at me that way! I would like to not feel anything from the neck up, I told my pain specialist doctor. That would be wonderful. He just laughed.

Hairdressers always have lower back and hip and foot problems. They’re always on their feet, leaning over their clients, twisting a little one way and the other way.

Everybody laughs at my platform flip flops, but I’ve never had any foot problems. Walking in them is like standing on my rubber mat. When I walk in them, it’s like I have a platform mat for shoes. When I first started, I used to wear high heels. I learned very quickly that was a dumb idea. A woman I worked for, for a few years, who also cut hair, always wore high heels, twelve hours a day. She destroyed her feet. She can never wear high heels again, even though she’s twenty years younger than me.

I don’t have any lower back or hip problems. I don’t have varicose veins. Francie has plantar fasciitis. Mel has bad varicose veins. I don’t have corns or bunions or gross looking feet. I have nice looking feet, not like many hairdressers, at all. The feet on some of them get all gnarled up, pinched, ugly.

Anybody can say anything they want, make fun of my platform flip flops, I can take it. I’ve been wearing them for twenty-seven of my thirty-two years on salon floors, and I‘ve made it this far without breaking down too much. Although, I might fall off of them and break my neck someday.

If only there were platform flip flop things for my shoulders. That would be a new trick.

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Click here to see more writing between fiction and non-fiction by Ed Staskus.

Crack Corn Popcorn

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“If you don’t own a dog, at least one, there is not necessarily anything wrong with you, but there may be something wrong with your life.” Roger Caras

When Jimmy broke up with Lynn again it was because he told her that her addiction to pain medicines and her drinking weren’t any different than his smoking crack cocaine. So, he decided he was going to smoke crack on weekends, and that was that. When Jimmy gets it into his mind that that is that, that’s the way it goes. Lynn thought it was all too trashy for her, and they got into a fight.

“I’m never coming back,” he said at the end of the fight, and left. He walked out of the Florida mansion, gave his pick-up truck, which was her truck, back to her, and left with a suitcase, his phone, and his wallet.

“I dropped a truth bomb on her,” he said.

“I’m going to drop a truth bomb on you,” I said. “You’re homeless, you’re living out of your son’s pick-up truck, and you don’t have a job.”

“I’m trying to find work,” he said.

JJ and Alex, his sons, who are both in the Marines, have a house in Colorado. They invited him to visit them, with the intention of doing an intervention on their father. They didn’t say anything about it to him.

He got fucked up on the way, lost his phone, lost his wallet, lost his way, but somehow made it there. When he found out what they were up to, he got his hands on Alex’s pick-up truck, and beat it.

“How dare they pull that shit on me!” he said.

Trying to get Jimmy to do something he doesn’t want to do is like trying to dam up Niagara Falls with toothpicks.

“Oh, Jim,” I said.

“Don’t you take their side.”

He somehow made it to Georgia. He called me. He had gotten another phone, somehow.

“I’m coming up to Cleveland.”

“Why?”

He showed up a week later. He didn’t have any money. He stole his whole way up from the south to here. He would go into Walmarts, steal food and alcohol, go to gas stations, steal snacks, connive gas for his truck.

“I have a Home Depot gift card,” he said. “Can you buy it off me?”

“I guess so.”

“You know it’s stolen, don’t you?” Brian asked me.

“Oh.”

Jimmy steals stuff from big stores, returns it later on for a refund, and gets gift cards.

We met him for breakfast when he got into town.

“I don’t have any gas,” he said, wolfing down ham and eggs and coffee.

“I’ll fill your tank up,” said Brian.

He was hoping we would ask him to stay at our house. I could tell. I brought it up to Brian later at home. But, buying him breakfast and filling up his gas tank was as far as it was going to go.

“He’s not sitting on our sofa, much less staying at our house,” he said.

Jimmy called me again about buying the Home Depot card.

“How much is it?” I asked.

“It’s $186.00, but you can have it for a hundred.”

I knew it was throwing money away. We would never use it. It would just be something to help Jimmy out.

“I have to get out of Cleveland,” he said.

“Who did you piss off?”

“Nobody,” he said.

“Did you steal some drugs?”

“I just need to go,” he said.

“You are such an asshole.”

“All right, but are you going to buy this gift card, or not?”

“OK, I’ll come and get it. I just need to stop at an ATM.”

“No, I’ll come and get you,” he said.

Like an idiot, when he came over, I got into his truck with him. He went flying down Detroit Road and sideswiped a parked car. He didn’t stop. He just kept going.

“Stop the car,” I yelled.

“I’m sorry, Jewel,” he said. “I didn’t mean to scare you.”

“Stop the car!”

The whole side of his son’s new, very nice pick-up, on the passenger side, where I was sitting, was bruised and dented and scratched up. There was food scattered everywhere.

I was pissed.

“Do you know you just smashed your kid’s truck? And you drove away. And you almost killed me.”

“I know, but I promise I’ll be good.”

“Did you steal all that food?” I asked.

“A guy’s gotta eat,” he said.

The next day, JJ called.

“Alex is in Cleveland,” he said. “He’s gone up there to get the truck back from our dad.”

“JJ, why didn’t you tell me he was coming? Jimmy was here yesterday, but now he’s gone.”

“We called him and said we were coming.”

“That was a mistake,” I said. “He’s gone to Canton.”

“Why Canton?”

“Because Alex isn’t in Canton, that’s why. He’s hiding from you.”

They finally found him by phone, and Alex went to see him. They met in Canton. But Jimmy parked the truck a couple of blocks away, so Alex wouldn’t see it and take it away from him. They talked, but Alex never got the truck back. He went back to Colorado and Jimmy went back to living in the pick-up.

Jimmy thought I had led Alex to him. He thought I was scheming with them to take the trucj away from him. He called me and called me every name in the book.

“Even though you do what you do to your kids?”

“That’s right,” he said.

“You treat them worse than junk yards treat their dogs. Have you ever even had a dog?”

“No,” he said

“The only way you’ll ever get that truck back is if you report it stolen,” I told JJ when I talked to him afterwards.

“No, I can’t do that,” he said. “My dad would go to jail if I did that.”

“Maybe that’s what he needs,” I said. “Maybe he needs to be in jail for a while.”

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Click here to see more writing between fiction and non-fiction by Ed Staskus.

 

Ping Pang (At the Ready)

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“No matter how you’re feeling, a little dog’s gonna love you.”  Waka Flocka Flame

When I took Ping Pang in, I thought, I need another dog like I need a hole in the head. But I did take him in. I still say we have seven dogs, but it’s eight, although he’s more like a gerbil than a dog. He doesn’t take up much space, at all. He’s a Min Pin, a Miniature Pinscher.

Our other dogs could care less. They ignore him, but Jack, our Blue Nose, loves him. They are wrestling buddies. They wrestle all day long.

He’s a little dog with a giant personality. He’s always on the move. I call him Ping Pang, after Ricochet Rabbit.

Ricochet Rabbit was the cartoon sheriff in the town of Hoop ‘n’ Holler. Whenever he had to draw his gun and blast away at bad guys, the ricochet of the gunfire always sent him flying. He would bounce off one thing after another, yelling ”Ping-Ping-Ping!” as he bounced around.

Sometimes he yelled “Ping-Pong-Piiiing!”

Our Little Man does the same thing. He ricochets off everything, table legs, sofas, TV stands. My mom and step-dad call him Little Man, which is the first thing they called him the first time they saw him. Brian sometimes calls him Little Shit.

Ricochet Rabbit’s deputy was Droop-a-Long, who wore a big slouchy hat and a low-slung gun belt and could never do anything right, although at the end of every show the right thing always got done. Ping Pang is sometimes Little Shit because he doesn’t always get things right, although his heart is in the right place.

I didn’t plan on taking Ping Pang in, only help rescue him, but things didn’t work out that way.

I had just gotten to work when I got a text. I didn’t look at it right away because just a couple of minutes earlier I had been looking in my rearview mirror just in time to see somebody in a car hit a bicyclist. It was at the crosswalk outside the hair salon, at the entrance to the pink hotel.

“Oh, my God!”

I stopped in the middle of the street, not even bothering to close my car door, and ran back to see if the kid was OK. He had landed on his shoulder. He said, I’m scared. I said, don’t be scared. He said, I need to put my shoulder back in place.

There was something about him. I think he might have been slow. I told him to sit tight.

The driver who hit him had stopped, too. She was a young girl. She was upset, very upset.

“He was in your blind spot,” I told her. “You didn’t maliciously run over the guy. That’s why they call them accidents.”

The Rocky River police and an EMS showed up. That’s how my day started. I got back into my car, drove around the corner, and parked in the lot at the corner of Lake and Depot Streets, walked past the Eternal Salon and Loft, and into the Kameryn Rose Salon.

When I checked out the text it was from an acquaintance of mine, someone who knew I help rescue dogs, who said friends of hers in Sheffield Lake had picked up a puppy on the street. They checked around, looked for a microchip on him, and even called the police, who told them no dog fitting that description had been reported lost. They had taken him to vet, had had him for more than a week, but couldn’t keep him because their pit bull hated him.

That turned out to be a twist, because our Jackie is a pit bull.

“Can you help us find a home for him?”

I called the folks in Sheffield Lake. Brian and I were going out to dinner with our friend Dell that night, in Avon, like we do every Sunday. Avon is just down the road from Sheffield.

“Can we pick him up after dinner?” I asked the lady who answered the phone. “We should be able to find him a good home.”

She said, “We are driving back from the east side of Cleveland with the dog right now.“

“Oh, did you find him a home?”

“We tried,” she said. “My daughter’s friends wanted him, but when we got there, their parents said, no way.”

“Where are you now?” I asked.

“We’re on I-90, coming up on West 140th.”

“Well, I live off of West 140th,” I said.

I gave her our address. Ten minutes later they pulled up to our house in a Porsche SUV.

“Holy shit!” I thought. “Nice car.”

They handed me the dog. We were standing on our front porch, she and her husband and me.

“Oh, my God, he’s so cute,” I said.

He had some road rash, which meant they had found him in the street, because somebody had thrown him out of their car. He limped a little, where he had landed on his hip. When I took him inside the house, he ran right at my husband, barking up a storm.

“Hey, call off your dog,” said Brian.

Ping Pang was less than a year old. He wasn’t barking mad at women, only at men. So, obviously, a man abused him.

To get him over his fear of men, every time he barked at Brian, I picked him up and handed him to my husband. He would hold the Little Man until he calmed down.

He now loves Brian, although he bit my step-dad a few times. I told him, if he tries to bite you again, you have to hold him. Once in a while he will bark at him, but now he’s mostly cool.

Even though Ping Pang loves Brian, he still barks at him sometimes when Brian is coming into bed.

“He is guarding you,” says Brian, and then he leans down to the Little Man and says, all right, let’s get richocheting off my side of the bed.

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Click here to see more writing between fiction and non-fiction by Ed Staskus.

Talk of the Town

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“Talk about life, talk about death, talk about catching every breath, talk about when, and talk about why, talk about do, and talk about don’t.”  Don Williams

Does everybody talk to me when they’re in the chair in front of me at Kameryn Rose? Does everybody talk into the mirror on the wall that is in front of us?

Yes, they do, unless they’re the silent type. They’re not allowed to turn their heads, because I’ve got sharp scissors in my hand, which is why both of us talk into the mirror, unless they just don’t want to talk.

What do they talk about?

It depends on what day they’re having. Sometimes people tell me about what book they’re reading, about a restaurant they were at, about something that happened at work. It could be about the hot topic of the day. It could be about the Cleveland Browns.

“Did you hear about who just got traded to the Browns?”

“It’s off to the playoffs we go!”

When I was cutting the hair of two girls, whose mother belongs to the same Bay Village church as I do, they wanted to know all about the St. Patrick’s Day parade downtown. Brian and I always go because our wedding anniversary is on St. Patrick’s Day.

“Is it crazy?” one of the girls asked.

“No,” I said. “There’s definitely a drinking party side to it, but there’s a kid friendly side to it, too.”

She had straight hair, but said she wished she had curly hair. I told her, as soon as you have curly hair, you’ll want it to be straight again. That’s how women are. But I took off four inches and curled it, anyway.

A lot of women read books, and we talk about them. I don’t read many books because I almost always hate the endings. I hated “Girl on the Train.” It was great until the ending, but the bad guy, the guy who caused all the trouble, should have gotten his ass kicked a lot more than he did. He was awful. He got off too easy. I would have tortured him for a while. When he got stabbed in the face and died fast, that was getting off easy.

I watch murder shows all the time, especially “Dateline on ID.” It always starts with a murder and the rest of it is how they catch the person. There are the background stories, interviews with everybody, the people who were involved, the killer and the victims, at least the victim’s family.

They call us ID Addicts, because we sit at home and watch murder mysteries on TV 24/7.

“Have you figured out how to get away with it, yet?” Brian asked me one day.

“I’m getting there,” I said.

Most murders are made up of the oldest reason in the book. It was a love triangle. Someone is trying to get rid of their husband or wife because they have a new boyfriend or girlfriend. They want the life insurance money, too, so they can live on that with their new lover.

There was a guy in Colorado, married, with two kids, living in a big house, who killed her and his kids. She was a social media darling, people followed her on Instagram and Facebook. She filmed her own life and posted it.

He was a chunky guy, but all of a sudden, he started working out, started jogging, and lost a ton of weight.

“That’s trouble,” I thought.

Sure as shit, he was having an affair.

One of the last things his wife posted on Facebook was her breaking the news that she was pregnant again. His reaction wasn’t the greatest. He strangled all three of them. He claimed someone else did it, but the police said, we know you did it. Then he said he killed his wife because she had killed the children Everyone knew that was a lie. He finally fessed up and pled guilty and they put him away for three life terms and no chance of parole ever.

Or it’s revenge, or it’s money, or they’re crazier than even that.

There are some people who kill because they are rapists and don’t want you to be able to identify them afterwards. There were some kids who killed a babysitter because they wanted to see what it was like to kill somebody. They knew she would be all alone, and they got her out of convenience. Some people kill to see what it’s like to take a life. It’s fucked up, but that’s what they do.

Murder never takes a vacation

We talk about vacations in the chair, places to go, where they’re going, where I’m going, what they did when they were there, what I did when I was somewhere, like Mexico.

“Melanie tells me about her family,” said Meg, looking up from a magazine, her hair in rollers, sitting in a chair next to my chair.

Either we’re telling them about our families or they’re telling us about their families.

“She told me about her husband’s arm surgery,” said Meg. “We talk about our sons and their girlfriends, the ones we don’t like.”

“You hear it all,” said Francie, working at her chair two chairs up from mine.

“We were just talking about the cheating scandal,” said Meg.

“Exactly,” said Francie.

“The college thing,” said Meg.

“Isn’t that disgusting?” I said.

“It’s horrible.”

“I’m sorry, but they all deserve to go to jail,” I said.

We talk about what’s going on in the world right now. We talk about who we dislike in our families, the family dysfunctions, all of that. We talk about recipes, what people are having for holiday dinners, who’s hosting.

“Who never hosts,” said Meg.

“That comes back to the family dysfunctions.” I said.

I have people who have literally sobbed in my chair. Someone is on drugs, or gotten sick, or gotten cancer, or died. You hear it from the happy to the terrible. One of my clients told me that a friend of ours from high school had committed suicide. It was sad. I wasn’t able to go to his wake because I had to work. I couldn’t get off. It was the same day Luke Perry died.

“52, that’s young,” said Meg.

“He was good,” I said. “He wasn’t all Hollywood. The good die young.”

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Click here to see more writing between fiction and non-fiction by Ed Staskus.

Gone Kirby Gone

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“Does not the gratitude of the dog put to shame any man who is ungrateful to his benefactors?”  Saint Basil

When Kirby left, moving down the street into Greg’s house, after a year of living in our basement, after a year of getting him back on his feet, after a year of spending ten thousand dollars on the kid, he said he hated us, we were horrible people, and we had just been using him. When he left, he took his bulldog Louie with him. When he left, he left a godawful mess in our basement, too. He didn’t bother cleaning up after himself.

Greg is a friend of Brian’s, from way back when, just like Kirby. At least, they were friends of Brian’s. Greg’s is where Kirby went to smoke pot, while he was living with us.

Greg is half Greek and half American Indian. He was married for 5 minutes, but that’s over. He’s the kind of man who is always yelling. He will come to my house and start yelling.

So, I yell back, “You’re yelling at me in my own home? Why are you over here? Why do we have anything to do with you?”

“Make me stay cool,” he says.

He is re-doing his two-family house, where he lives upstairs, and he decided free labor would be better than paid labor. The free labor is Kirby. He started in on Kirby’s ear, telling him we were horrible people, and that he should move into Greg’s first floor suite. He could have the whole first floor in return for working on the house.

What an idiot! Kirby is not supposed to even be working. That’s why he’s on disability.

When we first took Kirby in, he slept all the time for a couple of months. Now he sleeps all the time because he’s exhausted.

“You’re going to kill him,” I said.

“What business is it of yours?” yelled Greg.

“You talked him out of living with us, where he was being well taken care of, where he was getting everything he needed.”

“I don’t understand,” said Greg.

“Let me tell you why I’m mad,” I said. “For such a good friend of Kirt’s, like you say you are, what you’re doing means he’s going to lose his disability, maybe lose his health insurance, lose his monthly payments, lose everything, because you don’t really care.”

Once Kirby had gotten his big back payment disability check, we were going to pay back our expenses for the past year, put in a new floor and kitchen appliances in his basement suite, and carpet our living room, so he wouldn’t have to hear us walking around upstairs. But Greg got into his ear, telling Kirby we just wanted to take all his money.

Kirby started to believe him.

We had been getting monthly checks for a few months and there were a few thousand dollars piling up. I sat Kirby down and told him we needed to open a bank account for him. He jumped up and started swearing up a storm.

I have told Greg that Social Security has been calling, they haven’t heard from Kirby, they want to know where he is, he needs to go and check in.

“I don’t care,” said Greg.

“What do you mean you don’t care?”

“I’m not doing that shit,” he said.

“I hope you’re happy with the decision you’ve made,” I said to Greg. “You’ve taken him away from people who actually cared about him, who weren’t going to work him to death.”

“This is my fault?” he asked loudly.

“Whose fault would you like it to be?” I asked. “Would you like to blame someone else? You just tell me, and we’ll go talk to that person.”

“I don’t want to fight with you,” he said.

“I don’t want to fight with you, either. Nothing more to say.”

I’m nervous for Kirby. He’s only got a few months to make it back to the Social Security office. You have to check in, you have to show receipts for rent, you have to prove you are alive. I feel bad that he’s too stupid to know better.

Thanks to Greg, he’s completely screwed Kirt over. All the rights we fought to get him, all the lawyers we talked to, all the offices and courtrooms we took him to, but Greg won’t do anything for him

Even the lawyer went to see Kirby, told him he needs to pay us back, but Kirby said no.

“They’ve taken everything from me,” he said.

He’s about to lose everything and all we can do is stand by and watch.

I don’t think Kirby’s in his right frame of mind. He’s gone off the rails and he’s getting sick living at Greg’s. He’s back to doing nothing else except lying in bed. I don’t think he’s doing much work there.

Brian went to Greg’s to talk to Kirby, to try to get him to go to the government offices, and get his food stamps card.

Kirby just screamed and went the other way.

I asked Brian about Kirby coming back.

“He can’t,” he said. “He had his opportunity. He’s not welcome back.”

“What if you see him on the street?”

“I’ll give him some money if he asks. But he’s not coming back here.”

“He’s going to lose everything,” I said.

“I can’t squeeze water from a stone. I can’t make Kirt do what he doesn’t want to do.”

He decided he was going to go see the lawyer we had gotten for Kirby and take our names off everything. We won’t be able to help him legally anymore. Brian doesn’t want the responsibility anymore.

He hurt Brian bad because Brian always considered him like another brother. In the meantime, Greg called to make an appointment for a haircut.

“No, you piece of shit,” I said.

“Aw, pookie,” he said, because we always called each other pookie. “I don’t know why you’re mad.”

“Pookie’s dead,” I said. “Lose my phone number.”

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Click here to see more writing between fiction and non-fiction by Ed Staskus.

Too Many Hairdressers

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“Did you ever notice that when you blow in a dog’s face, he gets mad at you? But when you take him in a car, he sticks his head out the window.”  Steve Bluestone

Anybody who says, you’re going to be my eighth hairdresser, you know they are very hard to please, and probably nuts, besides.

Not too many guys come in for a consultation before their first haircut. Basically, no guys do that. But many women do. They come in before their first color and cut. It’s not a bad thing, either. They come in, spend some time with me, show me what they want, what they like and what they don’t like. It puts us on the same page.

The woman with screwed up colors and too many hairdressers freaked me out from the get-go. She went to Bay High School, like me, but was three grades younger than me. Someone mentioned me to her, that I worked at Kameryn Rose, and the next thing I knew she was scheduling a consultation with me.

Brian walked into the salon the afternoon she came in. She was waiting in the lobby. Brian saw her, recognized her, stepped over to my chair, and in a quiet singsong voice said, “Crazy, you know, crazy.”

He need not have bothered. I could already tell she was neurotic.

When she sat down in my chair, she got even crazier.

She had come in to get her hair done for her 30th high school class reunion. Back in the day, back in the 80s, Bay High School was known as Glenbeigh High, because everyone had drug and alcohol problems. I was a Rockette, a good girl, but I knew what was going on.

Before she came in, she had called me about twenty times. I know because I told the receptionist the last fifteen times to tell her I was busy, her appointment was confirmed, and I would see her on the appointed day.

The first thing she said when she sat down was, “I’ve been sober for five years now.”

I barely knew her, hadn’t seen her in about thirty years, but now I knew she had been an alcoholic. Even though she was three or four years younger than me, she looked twenty years older than me. It must have been some hard drinking she had been doing.

Her hair was a mess. She looked like a messed-up game show host. She had been moving among stylists, even though most people stay with the same stylist year after year, looking for some fanfare that wasn’t going to happen.

I wasn’t going to have to worry about screwing up, trying to fix anything in the backwash. What I was going to have to worry about was her talking too much. A lot of clients talk about their family, their jobs, their problems, their personal lives, and their health, among other things. I was worried that she might talk about all of it, everything.

“You’re going to be my eighth hairdresser,” she said.

My first thought was, number nine is right on the horizon.

“I had another appointment with another one, but I think I’m going to try you,” she said. “Because we both went to Bay.”

She was looking through swatches when she pulled out a color.

“I want that one,” she said.

I looked at it.

“I don’t even know where you got that color,” I said. “It just says ‘Gray.’”

“I want gray hair,” she said.

“You want gray hair?”

“Yes.”

Even though she was sitting down, I sat her down.

“I know you probably like ash, not gray, exactly, but part of your hair is bleached out white, part of it is highlighted, and if I were to put ash color in your hair, like you want, your hair would turn to green mud. I am going to have to put a red base in your blond, which is what your hair is lacking. You’ve got a yellow green base. I have to add red to make it happen.”

“I don’t want red,” she said.

“Well, you know what, right now you don’t have a whole lot of choice.”

“I want the top of my hair blonde and the underneath dark,” she said suddenly.

“Hold down,’ I said, “because that is a whole new thing you just said. What do you mean you want the top all blonde and the bottom dark?”

“I want to see it a little darker underneath and a little more platinum on top,” she said.

“Oh, so underneath the crown of your head you want to see some dark?”

“Yes.”

“OK, but that is not going to happen the first time, or anytime fast. You have spent years bleaching it out and now it looks like a crooked toupee. It’s going to take a lot of hair cutting and depositing color to get you what you want.”

It is called color correction. It takes a bucketful of money. Many people will wear old clothes, drive old cars, but they won’t skimp on their hair. She liked what I had to say. She was on board for it.

“Thank you thank you thank you,” she said.

I hadn’t even touched her head, yet.

I see drama on the street, I’ll look to see what’s going on. Crazy me, I will try to break up a fight if I walk up to one. I’ll jump right in. Crazy me, I was willing to jump right in on her wrecked head of hair.

Hairdressers aren’t miracle workers, not the first one or the last one or any of them in between. Some are definitely better than others. I’m one of the better ones, especially when it comes to color.

In the end she liked how it came out. She looked good and I’m sure she looked good at her reunion, although how she’s going to look whenever her ninth hairdresser gets done with her, that’s anybody’s guess.

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Click here to see more writing between fiction and non-fiction by Ed Staskus.