Kitchen Duty

A house isn’t a home until the kitchen is established. The baking dishes tucked into their cupboard, the dishes stacked neatly, the silverware drawer filled with its gleaming contents.

Jacob stood in the center of the bright, sunny kitchen and stared at the waiting cupboards and drawers.  The empty counter tops were a blank canvas just waiting for the imprint of their new owners. It was intimidating; he couldn’t help feeling like the kitchen expected something from him.

“Oh boy.” He turned in a slow circle, fighting to breath deep and slow.  It was working until he saw the stack of neatly packed boxes in the corner. They seemed to be waiting impatiently to have their contents removed, and he could feel his heartbeat accelerate.

“A house isn’t a home until the kitchen is established.”

Laney said that every time they moved – and they’d moved a lot in the last twenty-five years. The Navy had given him a great career and a good life, and in exchange he and his wife had packed up their home without complaint.

The first thing his wife did in every new place, no matter how big or small, regardless of the state or country, was unpack the kitchen and get all of her baking and cooking tools organized.  She had it down to a science.

He hadn’t studied that science.  Laney had always handled this part, and he’d never paid that much attention. No matter how different each house or apartment was from the last one, he’d never had to search for anything.  It hadn’t occurred to him that a significant amount of work might have gone into making that possible…until now.

Complicating matters was another detail: this was the first permanent home they’d ever had.  Now that he was retired, the Navy wouldn’t be moving them again.  It had to be perfect, he wanted it to be perfect.

“Alright, let’s get this show on the road,” he muttered, squaring his shoulders.  “You survived Boot Camp, training, deployments, and retirement.  You can do this.”

Moving with the purpose his training had instilled in him, Jacob opened the top box. Glasses.

He pulled two glasses out of their honeycomb packaging and turned back to the waiting kitchen. Indecision held him in place while he scanned the cupboards and tried to decide where they should go.

Finally, he opened the cupboard next to the sink and slide the glasses in.

Jacob stepped back and looked at the two glasses. A sigh of relief escaped, and his shoulders relaxed from the unconscious parade stance he’d taken.  A glance at his watch reminded him that he only had a few hours before he needed to leave. He moved quickly to empty the boxes and fill the cupboards.

Laney wouldn’t have the energy to do this when he brought her home from her chemo treatment, but with the kitchen established he’d be able to make the tea and cookies she swore settled her stomach.  She’d be home, and so would he.

This is my post for this week’s prompt from Write On Edge. We’ve moved a lot.  Not because we’re in the military (although our oldest son IS in the Navy), but because we rent, and our lives have been pretty mobile.  The kitchen is always the first room to get unpacked – it just doesn’t feel like our home until that little job is done, because the kitchen is the heart of our family life.

What about you?  What room in your house is the center of life?  If/When you have moved, is that the room you set up first?  

Thank you for visiting – please tell me what you think in the comments!

Towers and Trepidation

The towers and spires of the house pierced the sky like spears, standing guard over the orderly rows of windows and carefully groomed gardens. If the architect of this…Ian hesitated to call it a home…this building, had intended it to loom menacingly, they’d succeeded.

Lizzie moved closer to her brother and let her left hand join her right in gripping his fingers.

“It’s watching me, Ian.”

The lanky boy smiled and didn’t mention the numbness spreading in his fingers. “It’s waiting to welcome us, Lady Lizzie.”

The nickname failed to bring out the smile he’d hoped for.

He held back a sigh and crouched on the gravel drive so that his pale blue eyes met her bright green ones. Lizzie had a vivid imagination, and as the older of the two by nearly eight years, it was his responsibility to rein it in.

“Uncle Niall is in charge of this…” He hesitated, trying again to find the words to describe the place their parents’ unexpected death had brought them to.

“…home. He runs it, and you like him well enough, don’t you?”

Lizzie’s eyes shifted from his, to the militant towers, and back again. “I liked Uncle Niall in our home. He’ll be different here.”

Ian glanced at the words carved above the door – “The Odd Fellows Home For Orphans, Indigent, and Aged.” Well, he thought, there’s little doubt which category we fall in.

He met his sister’s knowing gaze and felt the fingers of anxiety slide down his spine as he led her toward the steps. An imagination she had, to be sure, but she also had a way of knowing the truth of things.

“We’ll be right as rain here, you’ll see,” he assured her, but her eyes showed him the lie in his words even as she followed him through the door.

This post was my submission for Flash! Friday #42 . Our prompt was the picture you see above, which really is The Odd Fellows Home For Orphans, Indigent, And Aged.  Please let me know what you think in the comments!

Memories of Hunger


Our family struggled financially early on, and we relied on the food stamp program to buy our groceries.  Our family of four qualified for $75-$150 a month (circa 1996), depending on our income.  At the time, food stamps came as little booklets of bills that looked a great deal like Monopoly money – right down to the different colors for different denominations.  That’s pretty much where the fun stopped.
My husband had a college degree, but jobs were scarce so we were doing exactly what so many pundits say you should – working wherever and whenever there was an opportunity.  As a result, we both worked at jobs that paid just a few cents over minimum wage and had no benefits: no health insurance, no paid sick days, no vacation days.   
Although the food stamp program was intended to supplement our food budget, all too often it was our entire food budget.  That’s what happens when you don’t have paid sick days – if you get the flu and can’t go to work for a day or two, you just decimated your paycheck.  Savings is a mythical animal you’ve heard about, but never seen.
We almost never ate meat.  Fresh fruits and vegetables were in the same category as Baked Alaska – a walk through the produce department was a kind of sick torture.  Healthy food options for four ate up too much of the monthly food budget, so to make sure our kids were able to eat well my husband and I ate a LOT of beans and rice…or just didn’t eat at all.  It was common for us to eat one meal a day.   
Even the mildest illness was devastating because we didn’t have the reserves to fight it off.  Every cold became bronchitis, and each bout of bronchitis flirted with pneumonia. Our kids were covered through the state health plan, but we weren’t.  The sound of coughing in the night still has the power to illicit extreme anxiety.
I became very skilled at keeping track of how much everything cost, and if there was something special coming up in a few months (like a birthday), saving just a little each month so that we would have enough to buy ingredients for a cake.  But that was fraught with hidden dangers, too.
One event still stands vividly in my memory, even now, close to two decades later.  My oldest son’s birthday was coming up, and I’d carefully saved a few food stamps each month so we’d be able to have a little birthday party.  The day before his birthday I took both of our boys to the grocery store (we walked the two miles there and back – our car wasn’t working…again…and we had no money to pay the $50 to have it fixed).  I shopped carefully: a bag of confectioner’s sugar to make the frosting, a container of six eggs to make the cake (I already had the flour, sugar, and oil), a small package of hot dogs and a small bag of frozen french fries (the meal our son had requested), and the big splurge – a container of chocolate ice cream and a small bag of M&Ms.  The whole thing came to just under $10 – a significant portion of our monthly food budget.
We got in line, and I could feel my anxiety rise.  I’d traveled this path before, and I knew what was ahead.  I put our groceries on the belt and pulled out the food stamps I’d hoarded.  Immediately, the cashier frowned.  Then she sighed loudly.  The customer behind us clucked her tongue and shook her head.  I waited to see which one would speak.  It was the customer…this time.
“You know, my tax dollars are paying for that crap.”
I froze.  My boys froze.  Helpless humiliation rose and stained my cheeks red as I silently handed the brightly colored currency to the waiting cashier, who rolled her eyes and sighed again.  I’d learned through hard experience that trying to explain would be useless.  This woman, with her grocery cart full of name brands and non-essentials like fruited yogurt and grapes, would never understand the world we lived in.
My oldest is serving in the Navy now.  My youngest will graduate from high school this year.  And I still find myself carefully vetting my grocery list, conscientiously comparing the costs of different versions of the same food, and having to convince myself that it’s OK to buy fresh green beans instead of frozen.  My husband and I recently signed up for a service called eMeals (see the banner at the bottom of this page – feel free to click it and explore) to help us plan our meals and eat more healthy foods – particularly fresh fruit and vegetables.  The biggest struggle I’ve had with this program is accepting the cost of healthy food.  After all this time, it’s still difficult to pay for fresh food that’s good for me…even though I know that if we don’t spend that extra money at the grocery store, we’ll be spending far more at the doctor’s office when our health suffers for it.
Poverty leaves behind wounds that do not fully heal, and the callous judgement and disdain of those in the community who have never struggled to that extent simply pours salt in those wounds.  I love the SNAP challenge, and I truly appreciate everyone who takes part in it, but I believe it is important to realize – there is a light at the end of your tunnel.  You know that this will end, and when.  For those truly dependent on the assistance these programs provide, there is no light, no guarantee of an end.
We have to find a solution, and to do that we have to give up our inclination (as a society) to believe that people need to “deserve” assistance. In order to make a real difference we will have to be willing to accept that there will be some who take advantage of the system, and consider that cost cheap in comparison to the benefits reaped.

Chicken Scratch

Adrian stepped out of the house and into ankle deep mist.

It had been raining for eight days – he was counting – but this morning had dawned clear and cool. There was a bite to the air that suggested a wave of cool weather was headed their way, which should mean an end to the rain. The chickens would appreciate it, he knew. Feathers aren’t that comfortable when they’re wet, judging by the stink-eye the hens had been giving him.

His mind was full of the things he needed to get done as he walked to the coop. Saturdays were his honey-do days, and his wife had given him a list of things to do that was just slightly longer than his arm. He didn’t mind; there’d been a time when he thought a wife and family were far beyond his reach.

The hens flapped eagerly through the little door as soon as he lifted it, clearly eager to get started on their day.  Rosie, the biggest of the hens, flapped to the top of the metal bin holding their pellets.  Her look quite clearly indicated that he wasn’t moving quickly enough for her taste.

“Alright, I’m getting to it!” He laughed and waved a hand to get her to move off the lid. He filled their feeder and checked that the watering unit was flowing freely. Some of the hens followed him out of the chicken run to start checking the yard and adjoining woods for the bugs they loved to catch.

Adrian was nearly to the door when an outraged squawk had him looking back.

Rosie was puffed up to almost twice her size, her wings half-spread, and the rest of the free-ranging chickens ranged behind her in an odd kind of chicken formation.

“Rosie?  What’s up with you girls this morning?”  Unease shivered down his spine, and he paused long enough to grab the broom they kept on the patio before he walked slowly back to where the chickens were apparently facing off with a cluster of trees.

There’s probably a raccoon or something in there, he thought, trying to convince himself that he was overreacting.  As he reached the chickens they parted to let him through without taking their eyes off the woods.

Adrian stood next to Rosie and stared at the woods, debating his next move. If it was an animal, he’d feel pretty stupid…but he didn’t think it was an animal. He shared a look with the hen next to him and stepped closer to the line of trees.

The clear, cool morning froze in an expectant silence.

“If I come out, you’re not gonna brain me with that broom…are ya?”

Adrian lowered the broom and his head, relief and anxiety warring for control.

“Bri?  Jesus, Brian!  What the hell are you doing in my woods?” He watched his childhood friend make his way out of the woods with all the grace of a man born and raised in the asphalt jungle. Burrs stuck to his pants and there was a small branch dangling from his hair.

Brian shrugged thin shoulders and grinned, shooting Adrian back to high school in an instant.  “You know, thought I’d look you up. Haven’t seen ya in a while.”

Adrian leaned on the broom and shook his head. “I’m not buyin’ that ‘old home’ crap Bri.  What’s up?”

“Well, shit. You always were quick.” He looked around and stepped a little closer. “I gotta job and I could use your…talents.”

“No.” His response was instant and unequivocal. “Dammit Bri I’m retired.  I got a wife and a kid.”

“And chickens.”

A laugh escaped before Adrian could stop it. “Seriously Brian. I’m out of that for good, whatever it is. And don’t tell me what it is!” he interrupted as his friend opened his mouth.

Brian tugged at his lower lip and frowned.

“Come on Adrian.  You’re raisin’ chickens here.  Seriously?  What you got here is actual chicken shit!  I’m tellin’ you I can get you a lot more than this.”

Adrian stepped closer to his old friend and slung an arm over his shoulders. “What I’ve got here is a lot more than anything you got in the pipeline, Bri.  I got a family…a home. And that ain’t chicken scratch, believe me. Come on into the house and meet the wife – she makes a mean waffle.”

Brian shook his head and stepped back, and Adrian saw regret flit across his narrow face. “Naw, bro.  I gotta jam, but thanks anyway.”

Rosie and the rest of the chickens had gone back to their fowl pursuits, ignoring the man walking back toward the woods. Adrian watched his friend, and wished he didn’t feel relieved that he was watching his past walk away.

Are We There Yet?

In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Philippians 1:4-6
When I was growing up, our family took a lot of car trips.  We drove all over the state of Wyoming for camping trips, to visit family, and to attend swim meets.  Back then seat belts weren’t really a big deal, so my sister and I just rolled around the back of my parents’ van like badly behaved puppies.
On one memorable trip to Disney Land, my mother bought a foam bat.  Whenever my sister and I got out of hand she’d just reach back and smack us with the bat.  It didn’t hurt, but it got our attention!
Of course, the most common question of nearly every trip was, “Are we there yet?” 
In a desperate attempt to keep us from asking that question over and over again, my mother made up games for us to play.  Back then, playing the license plate game or the alphabet game didn’t work very well – Wyoming and the surrounding states weren’t very well populated so there weren’t a lot of cars and you could drive most of the day without ever seeing a billboard.  One “game” she came up with was counting the posts on the side of the road.  She told us there were a certain number of posts per mile, and that if we counted the posts we could tell how far we’d gone and then we’d know how close we were to “being there.”
With our recruit at boot camp, I find I’m back to asking that question, “Are we there yet?”
We expected gaps in communication – and we have not been disappointed!  After the initial, 30 second phone call to assure us he had arrived safely, and that first letter, we have heard…nothing.  We keep reminding ourselves that no news is good news, but it makes the waiting harder.
In a little more than four weeks, we will getting in the car to make the long trip up to Great Lakes for Pass In Review, and all I can think of is, “Are we there yet?”
I want to see the great work that has been completed in my recruit!  I want to catalog the changes and rejoice over how he has grown.  I can only imagine how I’ll be once our car is on the road and pointed north!
My scripture for today is Philippians 1:4-6 – because I KNOW that God has begun a good work in my recruit at boot camp, and He will be faithful to complete it!
With that in mind, this is my prayer today:

Loving Father, I know you understand my heart right now.  You have experienced separation from your Son, and eagerly anticipated his return to you.  When I am driven to ask, “Are we there yet?” and worry for my recruit threatens to overwhelm me, help me remember your promise to complete the work you have started, and your peace will help me carry on.  Amen.

Waiting…

Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming.  See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains.

James 5:7
I am not a patient person – my husband can attest to that!  And yet I find myself waiting.  And waiting.  And…well…waiting!
My son flew up to boot camp on November 1, 2012, and we immediately began the waiting process that seems inherent in parenting a Sailor.
We waited for the “Kid in a Box.” The little box full of clothes (Pants, and socks, and underwear, oh my!), his cell phone, and the two books he took with him for the flight, was both funny and a little sad.
Then we waited for the form letter to tell us what address to send letters to and give us all the other information we needed – like his Pass In Review date for graduation! 
Worst of all was the wait for the first letter.
I told myself every day, “No news is GOOD news.”
But I still checked my mailbox every single day, and grilled everyone in my house if someone picked the mail up before I got to it.
When it showed up on November 9th, I was THRILLED!  I had resigned myself to waiting as long as it took, understanding that someone had to be trained to handle the mail and then the recruits had to have TIME to write a letter…but it was only 8 days.  There was a mix of happy and sad, excited and anxious.  And oddly, that mix made me feel better.
Now that I’ve received that first letter, I find that I’m greedy as well as impatient.  I want another letter!  And I’d like it RIGHT NOW, please?
We’re also waiting for a phone call, but we’re not holding our breath.  OK, we’re not holding it MUCH.
Repeat after me – No news is good news…No news is good news…
That’s why I picked James 5:7 for my scripture today.  I’m waiting.  I’m waiting for the valuable crop of Sailors the Navy is busy creating right now.  I know that, like most things, the wait will absolutely be worth it.
My prayer for today:

Loving Father, I thank you every day for the blessing of my child.  I take comfort knowing that although he is far from me, he can never be far from You.  Ease my heart and give me the patience to anticipate the growth I’ll soon see in my child, without allowing anxiety to overshadow its value.  Amen.

Love Or Money


“Not everyone can be bought,” she said.
Mark frowned and rubbed his forehead, where a headache was brewing.
“Gloria, that’s not what I’m doing and you know it.”
Her thin shoulders rose and fell and her gray eyes tracked away from his to scan the tiny kitchen.  Her leg was jiggling as she sat, rattling the dirty dishes stacked haphazardly on the sticky surface of the table.
The restlessness, the jerky movements, the inability to make eye contact: he’d lived with her schizophrenia long enough to know what they meant.  Mark sat at the table, careful to move slowly.
“Gloria, we’re worried about you.”  He linked his hands and rested them on the table, ignoring the likelihood that his suit would be irreparably stained by whatever coated the table.
When she just stared at the far corner of the room, he continued, “We just want to make sure you can get your medication.”
She jerked at the mention of her medication, and a quick grimace contorted her face.
“Is…is there a problem with your medication?” He fought rising frustration when she didn’t respond.  “You can talk to your counselor.  Maybe there’s something else they can suggest?”
Her eyes flashed briefly to his, and in that moment he caught a glimpse of the Gloria he used to know. 
The older sister who told him stories in the dark to help him fall asleep, who’d made up games to entertain him on long car rides. 
He remembered her laughing encouragement as he pedaled away without training wheels for the first time.  And only a few minutes later, her gentle hands were smoothing a Band-Aid over his scraped knee while tears rolled down both their cheeks.
That person had been stolen away. 
It was the memory of the person he remembered that compelled him to keep trying.  It was the memory of the sister he’d worshipped that nourished the hope that someday they’d find the perfect blend of treatment and medication that would bring her back for good.
“Gloria, I’m not trying to bribe you into doing something you don’t want to do.  I want to give you money for your medication, so you can feel better.”
“No, you want to control me.” Her voice was sullen, and she picked fitfully at her fingernails. “You want me to be someone else.  Well I’m not someone else, I’m me, and you can’t buy a different me!”
Mark winced as she shoved away from the table and stormed to the bedroom to slam the door.  The snick of the lock carried clearly across the small apartment, the all-too-familiar ending to an equally familiar conversation.
He let the money fall onto the table and walked out.
This post is my response to a prompt from Write On Edge – we were supposed to write a story of 450 words, beginning with: “Not everyone can be bought,” she said.  And ending with: He let the money fall onto the table and walked out.
Thank you for stopping by, and please let me know what you think!

Felonious Intentions


Rene Descartes famously said, “I think, therefore I am.”
I would like to add a corollary to this: “I read, therefore I write.”
When I read, I am pulled into whatever world the author has created.  Every story, even if I’ve read it a hundred times before, becomes an out of body experience for me. Even mediocre stories can take me out of reality for a while in a way that the most immersive movie experience can’t.
My mind is trudging along next to Sergeant Vimes, feeling the cobblestones of the streets of Ankh Morpork under my thin-soled shoes, when I read Terry Pratchett’s Guards! Guards!
My heart tumbles right with Eve and Roarke’s when I read J.D. Robb’s Naked In Death.
I’m reading over Candy Foster-Smith’s shoulder as she writes in her journal about post-apocalyptic America every time I open the cover of David R. Palmer’s Emergence.
My pulse pounds with fear and excitement during that final battle for Gondor as I devour J.R.R. Tolkein’s Return of the King—a book I’ve read at least once a year since I was ten years old.
And that’s why I write.
It’s not because I have a million and one stories bopping around in my head like kids jacked up on Mountain Dew and Pixie Stix…although that is a factor!
I’d like to be published.
I’d like to be one of the few authors
who “make it” and become seriously rich.
I’d like to make it a career.
But I don’t need those things.
No.
I write because I need to recreate
that feeling of experiencing a different reality
vicariously through the characters on the page.
My goal when I write is to draw others,

          willingly or no,
into the world I’ve created.
I’m a wannabe literary kidnapper.
This post is my response to a prompt from Write On Edge to write about our writing goals.  Sure I want to be published.  Sure I want to have my writing on the New York Times Bestseller List (although the shine is off that one a bit ever since I saw Twilight up there, I have to admit).  But mostly?  Mostly I’m looking to abscond with your mind, your heart, and your soul. 

Umbrella Of Hope


“Damn Mark, try to miss a few, would ya!”  Ellen rubbed at the elbow that had slammed into one of the cupboards in the back of the old ice cream truck.
The suspension was completely shot, and every bump or pothole Mark hit bounced Ellen around the back like a pinball.  It didn’t help that the roads down to the shanty town weren’t a priority for maintenance, so there were more holes than pavement.
“Nearly there, Ellen.  Just hang on!” Mark called back in his perpetually cheerful voice.
When the truck finally rumbled to a stop, she couldn’t wait to pop open the door and jump out.  The sad little cluster of makeshift houses had grown since they’d been there last.  The area was a patchwork quilt of materials—everything from sheets, to cardboard, to scavenged wood and metal had been pressed into service.
Ellen reached back into the closest cupboard to pull out her immunization kit.  New houses meant new residents, and they’d need to be inoculated.  When she turned around again, she caught sight of several wary faces peering at her through cracks in temporary walls.
Mark was more popular.  He’d be handing out food and water vouchers from the window that had, once upon a time, been used to dole out ice cream to excited children. 
“I’m gonna hit the new places.  See ya in a bit,” Ellen waved back at Mark and got an absent wave in return.  She checked to make sure the batteries in her radio were fresh, and then turned down one of the narrow alleys.
She’d learned how to knock on doors that didn’t exist, scratching at a sheet or strip of fabric, rattling a curtain of cans, or flicking a finger on a sheet of corrugated metal.  The occupants appeared reluctantly, if at all.
After several stops, she hadn’t managed to immunize a single resident.  That wasn’t unusual—the people living here looked at government-sponsored healthcare with distrust, at best.  What was unusual was the lack of children.  A feeling of unease followed her between the eerily silent homes.
Coming around a house made entirely of cardboard, Ellen stopped and stared at the structure in front of her.  She pulled the radio out, and fumbled for the call button.
“Mark…Mark! Come down to the new section, by the river.”
His reply came quickly, “Why?  What’s wrong?”
“Just get down here!”
She heard his shoes slapping against the dirt a few minutes later, and then he was standing next to her, gaping.
“What is it?” he asked.
It was larger than any other structure in the shanty town, and it boasted a collection of wood and metal walls.  There was a makeshift fence surrounding what looked like a play yard filled with children and old toys.
But what had captured Ellen and Mark was the roof.  Umbrella after umbrella, in every color and style imaginable, had been overlapped to create a colorful cover for the building.
“It’s a school,” Ellen whispered.
Image courtesy of treborwilson via Flickr CC2.0. Click image for source.
This post is my response to a prompt from  Write On Edge to write a 500-word short story using the picture above as a prompt.  I was sorely tempted to write a piece from the novel I’m planning for Nanowrimo (Mary Poppins & The Zombie Apocalypse), but I resisted!  Thank you for taking the time to read my story, and please let me know what you think in the comments!

Rodeo Reverie


I’m in the backyard I’d spent my childhood in.  I can hear the buzz of mosquitoes in my ear, and feel the cool breeze that carried the scent of bovine flatulence on my face.
The lucid part of my brain—the part that remains separate even when dreaming—notes the lack of cicadas.  For better than ten years I’ve lived in North Carolina, where the cicada’s metallic buzz provides a never-ending counterpoint to every other night sound.
But right now, in my dream, I’m back in Cody, Wyoming. 
And I’m listening to the rodeo.
In a few years the rodeo grounds will move to the edge of town, but right now it’s just a few blocks away from my house.  Its lights create a false sunrise over the tall fence surrounding our yard, and the sounds of excited people and irritated bulls carry clearly. 
I’ve been to enough rodeos that I can close my eyes and picture what’s happening.
Attribution
A dip in the crowd noise means the next bull rider is in the chute—a tiny metal cage just barely wide enough to accommodate the two-ton bull.  The rider’s lowering himself onto furious animal, wrapping a thick rope around his right hand.  Things can go wrong badly and in the blink of an eye in that cage. 
A sudden rush of noise from the crowd means that the gate has opened. 
Attribution
The bull is out, throwing the back end of his body high into the air, twisting wildly, bucking with the single focus of throwing the rider onto the hard-packed dirt.
I can judge how the ride is going by the noise.  High volume and lots of excitement means the bull is bucking and twisting for all he’s worth—it’s a good ride.
An extended “oooh” means the rider has come off the bull, whether he hit that magic eight seconds or not.
Silence after that means the rider came off and the bull stomped him or got him with those blunted horns.  It means the rodeo clowns are out there distracting the bull so the rider has a chance to get out.
It’ll stay silent until the rider stands up and waves his hat to signal he’s OK (even if he’s got a few broken bones he didn’t have before), or until the rider waves from the stretcher. 
If it stays silent too long…
Time to wake up.
This post is my response to a prompt from Write On Edge – we were supposed to write something in which a local item or industry plays a role.  Where I grew up, rodeos were a part of life.  One of my first (unofficial) jobs, was climbing all over the stands with a friend of mine, selling programs.  I chased sheep in the center of those grounds, watched barrel racing, and closed my eyes a lot when those brave men strapped themselves to two tons of pissed-off bull.
Thank you for stopping by, and please, let me know what you think in the comments!