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Looking out my back door: Fantasies of Phenomena


Last updated 4/29/2021 at 8:57am

I was going to write about the morning symphony, featuring “Variations on a Theme at Sunrise” with Bell-ringing Bird on timpani. This music assured me that the huge black cloud in the western sky was not a slow-moving tornado but a cloud of smoke coming from the landfill, recently plagued by brush fires.

I was going to write about “The Rule of Three,” a phenomenon in my family that mechanical failings trundle down the line in triplicate, always. This past week my washing machine broke down. My blender began emitting a stink similar to that black cloud filling the sky. My sewing machine, a cheap piece of plastic garbage I bought seven years ago, broke down. I signed its death warrant and destined its useless hulk to the landfill to add to the black cloud stink.

I was going to write about another family phenomenon, some would call karma, but I choose to call instant psychic feedback. With malice aforethought, I killed a spider. I know you find this difficult to believe.

That spider, the size of a flattened tennis ball, had lived in my shower stall a week plus days, sharing my morning ablutions, each of us warily eye-balling the other. I got to speculating it might be a female and soon my house would be overrun with cookie-cutter images of mama. What would you do?

I awoke three days later with a spider bite on my inside arm, an inch above the crease of my elbow. I watched the bite site expand, thicken, turn deeply red with a white pustule in the center. To the best of my ability, I kept my hands off the bite, slathered it in Bag Balm, and pretty much, took to my bed for three days. I still have a red circle but it no longer itches, burns or hurts. Debt paid in full.

Instead, I’ll tell you about my morning surprise. I got shot.

Oftentimes we don’t know what is coming until it comes. I’d been waiting eagerly for vaccination news for two months and a week. I knew Mexico had a huge vaccine shipment from Holland. But when would it be divvied out? Would our little municipality get the goods?

Leo showed up, pronto. “You can get your second vaccination today or I’ll get you a number for later in the week.”

“Let’s go now.” I grabbed a bottle of water, my paperwork and my green card. Off we went, John and Carol right behind us.

Hordes of masked neighbors and townsfolk gathered to be quickly sorted into lines, each of us issued a number. Those who were unable to be vaccinated today, were given a number for tomorrow or later in the week.

I don’t know if it was the lack of advanced warning, the rush of getting ready, the excitement, the anticipation, lack of breakfast or what, but by the time I presented my documentation, I could barely sign my name, I was so shaky. Leo kept saying to me, “Breathe.”

I quickly advanced to the nurse with the needle, sat in the chair and realized my body was one gigantic tight muscle. That would not do. I issued a quick order to my body, “Let go.” Amazingly, it let go. My entire body became as water, all that useless energy puddled at my feet. I got shot, and went to the back courtyard area to wait out my required half hour and sip water.

Once I got home, I stripped, scrubbed in the shower and threw my mask and clothing into the laundry, a practice taught me by Michelle and Ana, who go out into the community more often than me.

Residual nervous energy eventually translated to elation. Yes, elation.

I had reacted to the crowds of people like a sheltered child, taken to the State Fair, overstimulated by strangers and colors and voices and rides and games and other unusual activities, but without benefit of hot dogs, cotton candy, and stomach-roiling rides.

I need to get out more.


Sondra Ashton grew up in Harlem but spent most of her adult life out of state. She returned to see the Hi-Line with a perspective of delight. After several years back in Harlem, Ashton is seeking new experiences in Etzatlan, Mexico. Once a Montanan, always. Read Ashton’s essays and other work at http://montanatumbleweed.blogspot.com/. Email [email protected]


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