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Still Waters Run Deep


Go with the flow at the drop of a hat:

Since Erma doesn’t have invasive Big C, the four of us, including the kitten, left Baltimore’s cold for Georgia’s warmth last Sunday.  Sister Laura, the navigator, shut her eyes for a few minutes.  I’m the driver with no sense of direction.  We were rounding I-495 for I-95S and saw the Mormon temple’s golden spires.  When we met their sheen a second time, we knew we’d added another 40 minutes to the trip.  Dumb, Dumber, and Dumbest are we.  What goes around comes around.

A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush:

This house where we’re staying belongs to our brother.  When no one’s renting for a week or two or three, because it’s off-season, we can vacation, paying utilities and a housecleaning fee.  All’s well that ends well.

As luck would have it and as beautiful as the day is long:

This particular house is magical. Someone built an addition off the kitchen.  Two bedrooms, two baths, a great room, and laundry room.  This is where Laura and Erma put down their suitcases and the litter box.  So, each evening, after watching bad TV or working one of those cryptic crossword puzzles, Laura’s favorite (she’s Dumb and I’m Dumbest), one of them says, “I’m ready for bed.” I grab my computer and move toward the door that opens into the old section of the house.  Walking across the threshold onto wide plank floors, I enter a different era.  There’s an evocative aroma of wood burned to ash and a stairway that pulls me to the past.  I’m a pioneer woman on the prairie.  Hitch your wagon to a star. You can’t judge a book by its cover.

Look before you leap. When the going gets tough, the tough get going:

Today, I ran the path adjacent to the marsh.  Last trip here, I saw a sign that said, “Don’t feed the alligators.”  Hey, this is enchanted land and nothing bad can happen during a fairytale.  This is my personal dictate.  So, I pretend I’m Crocodile Dundee or Alligator Dundee—that I can stare into the eyes of a reptile and turn that frown upside down.  See you later, gator.

Where the rubber meets the road and when the dust clears:

There’s a truck.  Hiked up and smug.  From its rearview hangs a cross and on the bumper is a Confederate flag.  Paradise this isn’t.  All that glitters is not gold.

The buck stops here. Ask me no questions and I’ll tell you no lies:

But I feel guilty.  Guilty when so many have so little. Guilty when so many are losing what little they have left.   Actions speak louder than words.

We’re not in Kansas anymore:

I think of the years, the stages.   I’ve lived amid love, laughter, sadness, and acceptance.  I have my children.  I’m lucky.  And the experiences—oh, the experiences.  I almost could preach salvation to the lost.  Because I know contentment can change with a phone call, the ringing of a doorbell, or witness to a final breath.  I’ve seen the path from the belly of a whale.  And I’ve emerged. Such is life.  Again, go with the flow.

I wouldn’t kick him out of bed for eating crackers.  Take the bull by the horns. It’s now or never:

The other day, my insignificant other who’s become more significant than I wanted told me his supervisor sent an email announcing cliché day.  Then his colleague wrote, “This will be as easy as taking candy from a baby.”  I related this to Laura and we began a competitive cliché-athon.  All hell broke loose as plain as the nose on your face.  The sky’s the limit.

Take by storm and pay an arm and a leg:

When I came up with what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, Dumber  (Erma) shook her head no and said, “war,” opening a litany of examples to support her point.  The recipients of US militarism.  The wounded, dead, displaced. The dehumanized.  Our troops.  Are they stronger because they’ve survived killing fellow human beings for empire?  Or do they die a little bit or a lot from committing what’s required of them?  Knock ‘em dead for crying out loud.  Sorry about that.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg.  I’ll leave you with something to chew on:

For the next couple of weeks, I’m interluding.  But never am I deaf to what’s being done in my name.   Once you know, you really know.   You can’t go back.  You can play stupid.  You can call each other Dumb, Dumber, Dumbest, and you can laugh, but beneath the surface of that mirth is truth. And right now there’s no exit that allows you to leave it.   An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Missy Beattie is cliché-ing till the cows come home.  Reach her at


Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in BaltimoreEmail:

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