Don't touch it! DON'T TOUCH IT!

by Andrea Mulder-Slater

Jan, the 4 year old and I were in the car - approaching the stop sign at the end of our road - when a dark roundish object in the middle of the pavement caught our attention.
We're a gang. We solve mysteries. What?

Me: I think it’s a baseball glove.

Also me: Or, half a watermelon.

Me again: Maybe it’s a giant cow patty.

Jan: We don’t have cows on our road.

She was right, of course. We may have three hundred and fourteen chickens living amongst us in our little rural neighbourhood (yes, I’ve counted them). But cows? Not so much.


The 4 year old: There’s a cow?! On our road?! Where’s the cow?! Stop!!!! I want to seeeeeeeee it!

Since it was garbage day, it seemed reasonable that a chunk of something or other had fallen out of the truck that dutifully hauls away whatever the raccoons, coyotes and feral cats haven’t claimed.

It wasn’t until we came to a full stop at the end of the lane, that we realized what was lying in the center of the intersection.

Me: I think it’s a turtle.

Jan: I think you’re right.

The 4 year old: It’s a turtle! I can’t believe it’s a turtle! Can we take it home?

We pulled off onto the gravel and turned on the hazard lights. You know, to investigate.

"Is it dead... I mean, sleeping?" I corrected myself as soon as I remembered I had a 4 year old daughter squeezing her fingernails into my hand. 

The three of us tiptoed up to the prehistoric looking creature. Slowly. There had never been a time when we were more like the gang from Scooby-Doo - minus a few key characters.

I was Velma Dinkely. Obviously.

The turtle's eyes were closed and it didn’t appear to be moving. One leg was contorted, the others hidden beneath its shell.

The prognosis appeared grim. And so, I did the only thing I could do. I stood on the road; blocked oncoming traffic, looked worried and shouted, "Don’t touch it! DON'T TOUCH IT!"

Jan, on the other hand was a little more proactive. Grabbing a leaf-covered branch, she proceeded to tickle the turtle. Because, why wouldn’t she?

The turtle opened its eyes and performed a half-assed snap at the irritating clump of leaves dangling in its face.

I was reminded of a story Geoff once shared about when, as a child, he poked at a snapping turtle with a stick. The creature had lunged at him, mouth open, biting his front bike tire in the process. The tire popped and Geoff ran home… his damaged bike hoisted over his shoulder.

Again, I offered some supportive advice, “Don’t touch it! DON’T TOUCH IT!”

Then, I called Geoff, who happened to be working at a local conservation organization. He asked around and came back with this helpful information from the scientists: “It’s probably a female looking for a place to lay her eggs. Don’t move it, unless it’s injured, in which case, bring it here." 

"Bring her there?" I asked, "We can't get close to her! She's enormous! She's angry. Jan's tickling her right now. Can you come and do it?"

That last sentence is why Geoff leaves his phone in the truck more often than not.

He agreed to drive over and that's when IT happened.

A local lumber delivery truck came barreling down the road, headed right for the possibly injured, unquestionably irritated snapping turtle.

I immediately channeled my inner Tiananmen Square “Tank Man” and stood tall on the middle of the road with my enemy - the Kent truck - in my sights.

My grip on reality is a little like a clumsy toddler holding a soap-covered cat.

“Sooo. Whatcha doin?” drawled the driver as he slowed to a stop beside me.

“It’s a turtle.” I gasped. “She’s pregnant. Or sleeping. We’re not sure.”

“Uh huh."

Keep in mind, the delivery man was no stranger to my antics, having dropped off numerous building supplies to our home while we were under construction - often while I was in my pyjamas, climbing on dirt piles with my daughter, convinced I had just spotted yet another ostrich in the woods.

Just then, our neighbor, Jay, came around the corner in his truck.

“I’ll just pick her up and move her off the road.” He said, in a matter-of-fact way. Jay keeps chickens. Jay must be fearless.

While Jan chatted with the truck driver about our delivery, I crouched down at the tail end of the critter - a good distance away, with my daughter beside me - and settled in to a good cringe.

I was hoping Jay wouldn't get hurt - or worse - that he wouldn't wound the beast.

“Hey there little fella” he whispered, and with that, the turtle lifted her head, glared at Jay and his incoming arms, stood up, twisted around and came running… straight at me.

Now, you may think that turtles don't run and if you do think that turtles don't run, you would be wrong. They do.

The four year old and I got the hell out of the way and let that little bugger whoosh her way past our car and into the ditch. I called Geoff - who was now on his way - to let him know the ordeal was over.

"I hope you had your camera," he said, turning the truck around.

Um, yeah. I did. Unfortunately, I was too busy chasing after my imagination to take pictures. Except for this one.

No, really.

Coffee Paintings

by Andrea Mulder-Slater

This summer, Geoff, Jan and I were commissioned to create a number of paintings as prizes for a local sports event. I worked on six paintings - three of which were coffeecolours.

Coffeecolours are images which are painted with coffee on watercolour paper. No paint is used -- just intensely strong coffee and water.

Here's a peek...

Stage fright

by Andrea Mulder-Slater

For those who don’t know me, I’ll let you in on a little secret.

I’m terrible at small talk.

The thing is, I’m actually quite shy, plus, I misunderstand people. Constantly. It’s not so much that my hearing is poor, but more the fact that my fear of talking to others often manifests itself in an outrageously short attention span. The words I hear, and the words I comprehend don’t often meet up in the middle of the diving board that is my brain.

Someone will begin talking to me and in an effort to try to stay focused; my mind will do the opposite.

This is what’s going on inside my head during a conversation with a stranger at a dinner party:

Ok Andrea, relax. Smile. Good. Now pay attention. Wow, her eyes are blue. Are my eyes blue? No, my eyes are hazel. Who came up with the word hazel? It’s a weird word. Hazel. Haze. El. I wonder why witches are named Hazel? Do witches really exist? They must. People can’t be making that shit up. Hey, who’s that guy over there? I’ve seen him before. He looks like my 4th grade teacher. Wait, wasn’t my 4th grade teacher a woman? What was her name again?


HER: “I stubbed my toe the other night.”

ME (filling in the blanks hoping I heard what I think I heard): “I know, it was beautiful, wasn’t it?”

What I thought I heard: ("I loved that rainbow the other night").

You can see the problem. Trust me, it’s embarrassing for all involved.

The trouble is, I’m not at all fast on my feet and on-the-spot chitchat allows no time for preparation. No time to draft a plan. No time to create an air of confidence. Stick me up in front of a big crowd with a prepared speech, and I’ll be fine, but if you ever want to torture me, throw me in a room with another human being, and ask me to repeat every word they say.

But it’s not just conversations I misunderstand. It’s gestures.

Because I’m like an old, half-blind horse wearing itchy blinders, I rarely see people I pass by on the sidewalk. They think I’m ignoring them. I’m just uncomfortable, and therefore - oblivious.

It’s how I got the nickname: That Snobby Bitch.

Sadly, when I consciously try to unleash the friendly, I inevitably go overboard. For example, I wave back at anyone waving at me. Whether they are actually waving at ME, or not. This creates a good deal of confusion in stores, the post office and on the sidewalk. I’m a bit of a freak show.

Recently, I took my confusing behavior to the next level. The results were predictable.

At a musical event the other week, I was asked by the conductor (a friend) to place the evening’s sheet music on the music stand. The orchestra was already seated, as was the audience. It was just a few minutes to show time.

Because my memory is as short as a piece of hamster poo, I was wearing the same one-piece, lightweight fabric pantsuit I had worn the year before – to the same event, forgetting entirely that I had made a mental note to not do that again. Visualize an outfit designed to be worn only by women with personal trainers or Shapewear. I was also in high-heeled shoes.

Once again, I made a mental note not to do that again.

As I stepped carefully into the auditorium, the loud and boisterous crowd instantly grew silent. The only sound was the click, click, click of my poor choice of footwear.

I walked over to the conductor’s stand, smiled at the orchestra, placed the pages carefully and turned to walk out of the room… away from the uncomfortable silence.

That’s when it happened.

The applause started softly but grew loud, quickly. I looked to the doorway, expecting to see someone important entering the space. But there was no one. I looked behind me to see if the orchestra was doing something interesting. They were, as before, still seated.

Then it occurred to me. The crowd was applauding for ME.

Maybe this is a thing, I thought. Maybe people clap when the sheet music arrives. Nevertheless, there was no good excuse for what I did next. Except anxiety.

I turned to the mob and bowed. Or curtseyed. Or maybe I just lifted my arms up like I had just belted out an aria. I really can’t remember which humiliating enactment I performed.

What I do remember is what happened next.

My flailing arms nearly hit the sound guy who was right behind me, heading to his post. I hadn’t seen him entering the auditorium. He looked at me – confused - and smiled. It was the kind of smile one normally reserves for toddlers, just after they pee their pants in excitement at a birthday party.

My mind raced:

Oh shit. They weren’t clapping for me. They were clapping for him. Were they clapping for him? Who is he? Is he important? He must be more important than me. I’m just a girl in a pantsuit, acting like a freaking diva. What is wrong with me? Wait, they’ve stopped clapping.

Once the silence hit, I did the only thing I could do.

I ran, full speed, out of the auditorium. Clickety, clickety, clickety, click.

Which is how I got my new nickname: Jiggles.

No, really.

Big bag of what?

by Andrea Mulder-Slater

I was online today - using my matronly arms to comparison shop - when Indigo giggled like a schoolgirl and suggested I join him and his friend Nappy in the alley. Back behind the gas station. Where the night people eat Cheetos.

Hell. I was just searching for a science kit for my kid.

You're drunk Indigo. Go home.

No, really.