Secrets from the Closely-Guarded Girl Manual


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what's left of the rosebushSure. I could pay a tree service. Or whoever you hire to take down a massive rose bush with thorns the size of my thumb that one neighborhood kid has already gotten himself snagged on.

This rose bush – less than a foot tall when I naively planted it – has mushroomed to mammoth proportions, as if some evil fairy I neglected to invite to a party has cursed me and now is attempting to surround my house like Sleeping Beauty’s castle.

The leviathan is, now nine feet tall, extending numberless barbed branches like seven foot-tentacles, searching for victims as it waves in the wind like deadly chimes.

We’re all afraid of it.

It’s already injured a neighbor’s kid. Diving for a stray ball, this 11-year-old boy slid like a prince diving for rescue under the horrid brambles. Got snagged by these malignant, inch-long thorns. On his face, no less. Nice kid, too. Even nicer parents.

“Don’t worry about it,” they said, blithely attributing his carelessness for throwing himself into what is obviously a Hansel-and-Gretel child-catcher.

No roses on the diabolical thing, either.

Really. No roses. Well – it actually DOES blossom – tons of them, white, perfect, with a fragrance that would make you lift off the ground with pleasure. It would be a stunner, except for a beast more evil than the rosebush.

Deer – actual, living, tick-infested deer, in this actual city.

These skinny, spindly-legged monsters flock the very day the roses bloom, devouring every one right down to the petals, save for a few lonely, lingering blooms teetering at the top to taunt us.

Fearless, despite their flinchy reputations, nervy enough to high-step their pointy little hooves right up to my front porch and munch their wicked little hearts out.

(So that makes, what? Kittens and deer that I don’t love? Wait, who’s the monster? I really AM much nicer than I sound, I swear.)

So: here I am, facing this titanic mass of thorns, a menace to the neighborhood, which attract even more menacing deer, dropping ticks on my lawn for my children to contract Lyme disease.

At last I find the hedge clippers, which is a small miracle of hope in itself, since Peter won’t be back for another two weeks.

Despite my nine-year-old’s frantic warnings for me to stay the hell away from it – after all, if I am successful in chopping the damn thing down, think, woman, think! It will fall on you, stupid – I nevertheless am desperate enough to try, even though all I am wearing is a tank top and short shorts.

Ow. Ow. Yikes, ow. Now I am bleeding. “You’re right,” I agree. Not only am I stupid, this is not working. Hedge clippers are not the thing. I need a chainsaw.

And Peter.

But since Peter is not here, and neither is a chainsaw, I need to rely on the only tools I have.

The tank top and short shorts.

Hence, The Closely-Guarded Secret Girl Manual, given out in the nicotine hazed girls’ rooms in every middle school across the country, filled with secrets like: Never Call First; Don’t Tell Him Why You’re Mad; It Drives Him Crazy When You Won’t Talk To Him; The Less You Seem Interested, The More He Will Want You; etc.

There’s a whole chapter on how to get work done for you.

It goes sort of like this:

You have a rosebush you hate and want to get rid of, but the thorns are really sharp, and it’s going to be a real pain in the ass.

And Peter is away, or he would totally do it for you, because he has the energy of a small steam locomotive, and besides, he would probably simply pull out his Leatherman, take two swipes at the thing, and it would be gone, leaving you feeling both foolish and full of admiration at the same time. “Rosebushes?” Peter would say. “Easy! You just do this.”

If his arm was hanging off when he was done, he’d just snap it back into place and sit down for dinner without another word.

Instead, I see, far up the street, jogging along, at a nice little amble, my kids’ dad. My head flips through its mental rolodex and I rustle up said chapter in The Closely Guarded Secret Girl Manual, and I begin hacking away at the rosebush randomly, violently, and with some bloodshed on my part. Within minutes, my lawn is covered with thorny stalks.

He stops. Anyone would, really. I look like a madwoman, my shirt half up my belly by now. This is intentional. A pretty, blonde, madwoman.

“What are you doing?” he asks.

“I can’t stand this rosebush any longer. I have to get rid of it.”

“Do you need some help?”

“I really, really do. I think I’m overheating,” I say.

I hand him the hedgeclippers, and head into the house, where he, at least, manages to get rid of most of the stalks I left on the lawn, and defenestrate the bulk of the bush.

He doesn’t complete the job, of course – I know him too well to expect miracles – but Peter will be home soon.

“What the hell happened to the rosebush?” he’ll ask.

“I tried to get rid of it,” I’ll say.

“Rosebushes? They’re easy,” he’ll say, and in a fit of testosterone, he’ll whip out his Leatherman, and take care of the rest of it for me.

And I’ll put away The Closely Guarded Secret Girl Manual until I need it again.

(photo © elizabeth williams bushey. it’s what’s left of the rosebush.)

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