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              It was a blustery weekend in Muskrat Flats. The wind was conducting a symphony as the poplars bordering the vineyard...

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Career Day

              It was an interesting week in Muskrat Flats. Everyone was preparing for Graduations, Proms and Christenings. The Odd Fellows at the corner of Petersen and McKernan streets were doing a brisk business selling decorated tins of Iva Bartelby’s famous blueberry muffins from the recipe her grandmother had used when she owned the Muskrat Flats Mercantile over a century ago. The muffins were a  tradition as old as the town itself. This time around Iva made a hard decision to do a baker’s dozen because of the size of the tins. Unable to get the tins they usually used, in a timely manner, twelve muffins just didn’t look right so Iva instructed the guys in the kitchen to “Just give ‘em thirteen, boys. Just give 'em thirteen."  

Across town, a family new to Muskrat Flats was waking up, prepared to participate in career day down at the middle school.

Through Skype Cassidy McFarland grinned at his wife, Tina, from her computer screen. After challenging him not to watch any porn on his trip to California, She directed the lens of her computer toward the bed and began batter her eyelashes and teasing him unbuttoning the top button of her silk pajamas. 

    “Where are you from, Ohio? And you’re going to California? Oh you turned your camera on I guess you find me interesting? Say, you’re kind of cute, what do you do handsome? Cassidy smiled and said,

    “I’m a consultant. I’m a software designer.”

    “Cute and smart, maybe you can design an app for me big boy.”

    He blushed “Tina, knock it off, I love you, stop teasing.”

    “Love you too, Babe. You  gonna be able to hook up with your Dad?”

    “Yes! All he talks about is Shannon. He can’t wait for Summer vacation. .”

    “It’s going to be nice having him back in the area. It’s been a long 18 months.” Tina said.

Cassidy sighed, “You know him, work, work ,work.”

   "Yeah, like father like son. Anything I should know about for later? I haven’t met Mrs. Hardwick yet."

    “Yeah that. umm … She’s pretty conservative for a progressive school. I wouldn’t be surprised if she voted  for Trump. Thanks for covering for me.”

    “It seems like the only thing she knows about me is that I travel a lot. What did you tell her about me during your conference with her?” 

    “Well, she just kept asking about what I do … Sorry honey, I gotta go.” the window with his image closed.

    Tina simply said, “Hmm?” She quickly changed and went down to make breakfast and wake up the kids.

    Shannon McFarland sat at his laptop flipping through slides on his power point presentation. It was career day at his new school today. His mom, Tina, stood in the doorway of his room drying her hands with a towel, having just cleaned up after breakfast. She mused to herself, that her fifth grade Projects used to involve poster board, magazine clippings and multi-colored construction paper. But, "the times they are a changin’" aren’t they? Shannon looked over his shoulder and asked,

    “Mom, do you think this is going to be alright? I told them that I was going to bring Dad in for Career day.” Tina smiled and said,

    “It’s going to be fine honey. I talked to Daddy this morning he’s bummed he couldn’t be here. I know you wanted to have Daddy there, but he got called away to for a last minute consultation job in California. Besides, my job is pretty cool isn’t it?"

    “Yeah, you can say that.” He replied with a smirk.

    “Hey what’s that supposed to mean? I don’t hear you complaining in the summertime when we are traveling to different cities and different festivals.” Tina said, with slight aggravation in her voice.

    “I know mom, I’m not complaining, It’s just that …”


    “Well, my teacher really was looking forward to having Dad come in, cuz he is the only father in the class who works from home.

“Oh, excuse me. And mothers don’t work from home?”

“Mommmmm … She thinks it’s cool he can do that cuz you travel for work so much.” He looked away from her and back to his laptop screen, His voice softened a little as he finished the sentence. Tina’s Mom radar went off. She knew he was lying about something and her husband was in on it. She said,

    “Shannon?! What part are you not telling me? It would be nice if I found out before I got to school.”

    “Daddy didn’t tell you?”

Daddy told me that Mrs. Hardwick probably voted for Trump. But I'm pretty sure he left some information out, which you are going to tell me right now.”

“If I had to guess, I'd say I'm  pretty sure Mrs. Hardwick doesn’t know what your job is.”

“What? How could she not know, your father had a conference with her recently. They must have talked about it.”

“Actually … Mrs. Hardwick kept asking Daddy about what he did and working from home. After he left, she told me she forgot to ask what you do.”

Annnnd?” He looked down at the floor.

“I told her I wasn’t sure, but you travel a lot and you make a lots of money.” Tina began to protest. Shannon cut her off.

“Mom, she’s a weirdo. I didn’t tell her cuz I didn’t think she would understand. She always so uptight.”

Tina thought to herself. “Fucking, boys! It’s bad enough I have to deal with this shit in the band.”

It was the Wednesday before Mother's Day. Tina and Shannon McFarland traipsed into Samuel Coleman Hawthorne Middle School hand in hand encountering a beehive of activity. A lean blonde haired girl wearing a sash indicating she was part of the Student Council handed Tina a program of the day’s events. This, fortunately, wasn’t a surprise she knew she was going to be there for the duration of the day.

Tina perused the program. It all looked pretty straight-forward, a typical middle school event except for the part which read “Student Presentations -  Shannon McFarland Auditorium.

Tina had dressed in business casual with cotton blouse tucked neatly into a navy skirt. She had pulled her long auburn ponytail tightly back. She was wearing a tiny pair of hand crafted dream catcher earrings with a hand blown, heart shaped cobalt orange and purple dichroic glass pendant which hung below her collarbones nestled in her slightly exposed shallow valley. Even in this type of environment Tina always felt more at ease with the top two buttons of her blouse undone.

As they walked through the crowd Shannon unhitched himself from his mom’s hand as a girl he liked came into view. His amorous thoughts were short lived as Mrs. Hardwick stepped right in front of him.

“Hello Shannon, and this must be your mother, Tina?” She stuck out her hand.

Tina accepted her hand, smiling and shaking it firmly.

“Mrs. Hardwick, I’m pleased to meet you, I’ve heard so much about you.” She noticed Mrs. Hardwick break eye contact as her eyes darted down to Tina unfurled second button.

She smiled and giggled in a nervous staccato manner clasping her hands together, “Well that’s not fair because I know so little about you. It’s a shame your husband couldn’t be here. I had a fascinating conversation about his work during our conference. He mentioned you were out of town on the East Coast working in Boston or Northampton, Massachusetts?” She delivered in a sing song voice.

“Both actually. When I travel, I travel.”

“Well, I can’t wait for Shannon’s presentation and to hear about - whatever it is you do. I’m looking to the question and answer period to discuss the nontraditional roles you and your husband have assumed. You must be doing something right, Shannon, he’s one of our brightest students!” Oh! There’s Jimmy Shumway, his father is a Federal Air Marshal. With more nervous giggling, she trotted over to meet him.

Tina looked down at Shannon who was looking up at her with pleading eyes.

“Mom, If I told you about her, I didn’t think you’d do it.”

“She’s a handful. Are you sure she’s married?”

Shannon just shrugged his shoulders.

“Honey, of course I would do it. I’ll do anything for you. Notice I didn’t ask her who put Ritalin in her Fruity Pebbles this morning, right?” She pulled him in for a hug. He squirmed away.


“Casey is over there watching, Mom. Be cool.”

“You’re telling me to be cool? I sing in a Grateful Dead tribute band to sold-out audiences over 150 times per year. It doesn’t get much cooler than that.”

Mrs. Hardwick was at the lectern. She was brightly illuminated by one spotlight on the dimly lit stage. She had shoulder length blonde hair, unlike Tina her white frilled silk blouse was buttoned to the collar and she wore a matching pastel pink blazer and skirt. A gold crucifix dangled by a thin chain in the sloping expanse of her cloistered bosom. She cleared her throat

“I want to thank everyone who has made career day such a wonderful success. Thanks to Principal Daly for allowing us to expand the program. Thank You to Coley Blackstone and the Hawthorne Foundation for their generous donation to help us upgrade our audio/visual and IT department.

Tina and Shannon sat behind her as she droned on with adulation extending thank yous and acknowledgments. Tina began to quietly mimic the sing song meter of her voice as Mrs. Hardwick continued. Shannon squirmed and shushed her.

“And lastly we would like to thank, in absentia, the person whom our next student Shannon McFarland was going to present for Career day, his father Cassidy. who worked closely with the Hawthorne Foundation providing software specifically for the new IT equipment. But since his father could not be here today Shannon is doing a presentation with his mother Tina.”

Someone in the darkened auditorium shouted, “whoo hoo! Tiiiiiina!”  Others in the audience made a little bit of noise. Tina smiled and downplayed the accolades, gesturing to the audience with open hands to quiet down.

Mrs. Hardwick looked at her puzzled, giggled some more but carried on.

“I present to you Shannon McFarland and His mother Tina.

Shannon stepped up to the microphone with his mother looking down at him proudly.

“My name is Shannon McFarland. We moved here from San Rafael, CA about 18 months ago.” He flipped to the first slide which shone on the large screen. It was a picture of his father and mother in San Rafael with him and his sister.

“My dad is a software designer, he is pretty successful and enjoys what he does. He left the company he worked for a number of years ago so he could work as a consultant from home and take care of me and my sister. This allowed my mother to work as much as she needed to because as he says,” Shannon flipped to the next slide and a close up video of Cassidy’s face who was staring into the crowd. 
“Son, economically, it was a sound decision.”

“Even though my Mom travels for her job, I get to see her a lot. It is cool having both my parents around so much. So when I hear people say it is nontraditional I say our situation is about as traditional as a family can get.”

Shannon flipped through pictures of clans of nomadic people, gypsies, Native Americans; old pictures of Family run businesses from the early 20th century.

We are here to talk about my Mom. When we were first talking about career day, Mrs. Hardwick asked me what my Mom did for a living and I was embarrassed to tell her cuz she was so hung up on what my dad does.  I just told her that she travels a lot. But, I’m proud of my Mom. She has the coolest Job in the world. My Mom, Tina McFarland.

On the Screen flashed - Tina McFarland - Professional Musician.

Salary Range $120,000 - $175,000

“This is  my mom when she was in college. He showed a 45 second clip of Tina at Hart School of music where she was a vocal major singing “Ave Maria”  Tina looked at Mrs. Hardwick who was beaming with a big smile. Shannon flipped to the next slide and Mrs. Hardwick’s expression changed from one of spiritual wonderment to one of horror.

The next video was a compilation. Strains of Grateful Dead music were playing behind a graphic of an animated skeleton hand which shattered into millions of luminescent diamonds, as the band name Glass Hand Dissolving scrolled across the screen. There was more cheering and shouts of “Tina!” from the audience. Mrs. Hardwick looked around distractedly,  

The video prominently featured Tina. who was on stage with a group of musicians who bore an uncanny both in sight and sound to the Grateful Dead.  The guy playing lead guitar, sounded and actually played guitar like Jerry Garcia, they all did, they were masters of their instruments. The camera panned across the crowd at the show. There must have been 20,000 people out there, The video had been shot at a music festival. The band was playing a funky, mellow version of the song Scarlet Begonias. Tina was wearing a purple top with spaghetti straps and a flowered skirt. Her long hair was flowing. She was dancing side to side, a little more seductively than was appropriate for a mother, Mrs. Hardwick thought, as the band jammed. Tina began singing her extended vocal jam at the end of the tune.  The video jumped to another venue, this time it was a clip from a theater on the East Coast where Tina was introducing Bernie Sanders to a cheering crowd. Another video popped up and showed the dramatic ending to the song “One More Saturday Night.”

There was a standing ovation from the crowd at the school. Tina hugged Shannon and gave him a kiss on the head. Mrs. Hardwick applauded politely with a forced smile on her face. Tina winked at her, flashing a peace sign.   

    Just another day, just another Odd happening. With principles like Peace, Love and Friendship, the chain can never be broken, no matter what you point of view may be. Right now my point of view indicates it is time to be -

Running Hard Out of Muskrat Flats.

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