Hop to It!


The day seemed normal enough for the Curtis family as they made the trek to a Saturday afternoon birthday party. The kids were tucked in the backseat of the truck as they ambled down the country road, and Shannon sat in the passenger’s seat, giving the three girls a rundown of the upcoming phone call. No one had any idea that they were moments away from a vicious attack.

“Now Uncle Rusty may not be home, but we still want to leave him a happy birthday message on his machine.”

“Don’t you think it’s funny that we’re going to a birthday party and Uncle a Rusty is having a birthday in Louisiana?”

“Umm huh,” Shannon replied as she scrolled through her contacts. “Now wait for my cue, girls, before you start singing.” She half turned in her seat. “It’s ringing.”

“What time were we supposed to be at this party?” Nathan wanted to know. “At this rate we won’t get there before . . . Whoa!” He suddenly slammed on the brakes and threw the front seat as far back as it would go. “What in the devil?!”

“What is it?” Shannon demanded as she watched her husband start a swatting frenzy. “Is it a spider?”

“My lord!” Nathan yelled as he attacked his jeans with gusto. Shannon still couldn’t see the assailant, but Nathan flailed as if he’d kicked over a hornets’ nest. The girls joined the screaming enthusiastically, and suddenly an inch long grasshopper appeared, bouncing across Nathan and ricocheting around the dashboard. It was at this moment that Uncle Rusty’s voicemail picked up.

A real killer ...

A real killer …

“Hey there, Rusty! It’s Shannon, Nathan and the girls.”

“I see him, Daddy! He’s on the gear shift!” shrieked Savannah.

“Now he’s on the window!” yelled Sadie.

“Don’t kill him! You’re going to kill him with your palm!” wailed Sydney.

“We were just calling to wish you a happy birthday!” Shannon said, holding the phone in one hand and clamping her ear to her head with the other. “The girls and I want to sing to you just as soon as we get our act together.”

“Get this bug out of here!” Nathan bellowed as he punched buttons for the windows. The grasshopper had now made it to Shannon’s side of the truck, and as soon as he landed on her collarbone, she pinned him with her free hand and prepared to return him to the wild. She would have sung “Born Free,” but they were supposed to be cueing up a different ditty at the moment. Nathan stomped on the gas right as Shannon got the prisoner’s discharge papers in order, and this unfortunate burst of air rushing past the passenger’s window caught the little hopper right as she made the toss and propelled him right through the girls’ back window in a marvelous boomerang effect.

At this point it’s just hard to describe the joy that ensued, but Shannon said she’s pretty sure Uncle Rusty’s birthday well wishes sounded like something out of a Stephen King movie. I’m picturing the one with Kathy Bates and the sledge hammer. I guess you never know when terror may strike.

Happy birthday from The King of Horror!

Happy birthday from The King of Horror!

© 2014 – Traci Carver

Go Fly a Kite


I used to like kites until the day one tried to kill me. At this point, you’re imagining a Ben Franklin experiment involving a thunderstorm and a key, but it was nothing so glamorous or so foolhardy. I was simply trying to buy a loaf of stale bread.

I had been living in Indonesia for more than two years, and I knew that the only place in town to sell bread was a tiny store on the outskirts of town. I was out of flour to bake my own, and the purchase of more meant a trip up the coast along a winding road that hugged a cliff. It was only 50 miles, but by the time you dodged goats, cows, chickens and people who sat their fannies on the actual asphalt of the highway, you had two hours invested in the venture. So until that monthly trek rolled around again on the calendar, I had to content myself with bread that did a marvelous imitation of bleached cardboard. I had just such a loaf of this striking wheat rendition in my motorcycle basket as I whizzed along through the village at the speed of baked beans.

The other thing you should know is that not only is sitting on the highway after dusk all the rave, but flying kites before dusk is also one of the more popular hobbies in a small fishing town. It falls somewhere between cleaning your day’s catch and beating a ridiculously large spider to death with a machete. If you’re between the ages of 7-14, then it’s pretty much all you do unless it’s raining.

So on this ordinary day, Wonderless Bread in custody, I was puttering along when I noticed a young lad not far ahead, standing beside the road holding a kite string. I immediately scanned the sky for the kite. Not because I wanted to ooh and aah over it, but because its location was mission critical to my journey home. Kids flew those blasted things in the road all the time, something about parents not wanting their cherubs to get swallowed up by lurking pythons in the rice paddies, and if you weren’t careful, you could run through one of those lines with your scooter. So I swiveled my head back and forth trying to find that kite. I shouldn’t have bothered because the string found my face instead. Did I mention that they use twine for kite string? I’m not sure what test it is, but I think you could land Moby Dick with it and he’d feel like a guppy.

A picture of real, honest-to-goodness, Indonesian twine

A picture of real, honest-to-goodness, Indonesian twine

So I’m still riding my scooter as twine slices across my face. You’d think survival skills would kick in at this point and I’d hit the brake, but there’s something about searing pain and panic that short-circuits my brain. I clawed frantically at the demon burrowing with the vigor of a groundhog on crack until the twine won its game of tug-of-war and pinned me right there in the middle of the street. Ever been snatched backwards off a bike doing 25mph? It makes one grouchy to say the least.

So I lay there in the street, staring at the sky and hoping that Jesus was going to appear and just take me on home to glory, but my scooter, a real go-getter by nature, went another 20 feet before falling on its sword out of respect to its felled rider. By this time a crowd of thirty or so people had gathered. No one offered to help me get up or even checked to see if I could. The kite owner was so overwrought by my near demise that he stood calmly aside, slowly wrapping up his kite twine, no doubt checking it for blood stains that could impede future flights. This is the only time in my life that I’ve ever considered throwing something at a teenager. Like my scooter.

One man finally broke the code of silence and picked up my bike and rolled it over to me. At this point I knew my bones were still intact, but my pride lay shattered in pieces that even an atom couldn’t see.

I drove home more slowly than usual. I stood in front of one of the few mirrors in my house and surveyed the burn marks across my face and throat. I have to say, it’s one of the most painful sandwiches I’ve ever made.

Why Build Less When You Can Biltmore?

Just another one of my options for places to rent

Just another one of my options for places to rent

“So did you ladies see the bear?” The grey-headed shuttle driver peered at us in his overhead mirror.

“Bear?” I said. “We could have seen bears?”

“You just came down from parking lot A6, didn’t you?” I nodded. “Well, half the security guys are headed that way because of a bear sighting.”

I looked at Mom. “I wonder how much the tickets cost that included the bears?”

“Whatever they cost,” she said, settling her purse in her lap, “I’m glad we didn’t get those.”

After touring such opulent establishments in France last year such as Chenonceau and Villandry, I knew that no trip to Asheville would be complete without a perusal of the Biltmore Estate.

The shuttle twisted and turned as it made its way to the grand house, and all the while the driver spouted interesting details about the history of the estate. “Forty-three bathrooms, ladies. That’s how many are in the house, but you can’t use a single one of them. You’ll have to make the trek back outside if you need facilities.”

No bears and now no bathrooms? What kind of scam were they running in this joint? Fifty bucks couldn’t even get you a decent potty break? And how cruel to show someone indoor plumbing and then tell her to hoof it back down four flights of stairs. Thank goodness we didn’t have a toddler with us. They have a bladder the size of a pistachio and it’s extremely vulnerable to the power of suggestion.

The inside of the home was lavishly decorated, but at times the lighting made it hard to see certain pieces. This was of little consequence to me; but for Mom, whose love of antiques has burrowed so deeply into the marrow of her bones that she bleeds mahogany wood stain, the visual handicap was borderline criminal. She stood over one piece in particular, squinting at the intricate wood design, murmuring, “I wish I’d brought a flashlight.”

Of course, the afternoon was filled with adrenaline surges as Mom, in eager anticipation of the antiques around the next bend, tried to fall down a small flight of stairs. Twice. So between lunging, yelping, and losing a few years off my life, I walked around the mansion with my eyes peeled wide for a number of reasons. Ooh, look, an indoor bowling alley. Ooh, look, an indoor pool. Ooh, look, Mom’s about to crack her thigh bone and need an ambulance.


Once outside, the gardens were just as impressive as the house, and for the 6,000th time, I wished I could grow something other than mildew on a shower curtain. But we all have our skills, and mine seems to be keeping septuagenarians out of trouble. Or at least the ER.

gardens 2

© 2014 – Traci Carver