Waiting

It really is a strange thing, if you give it some thought, that we take animals into our homes and treat them like family. I don’t know if any other species in the world exhibits the same behaviour. My childhood was littered with the comings and goings of many creatures furred, feathered or scaled. For several glorious years we shared a house with a beautiful budgie named Blue. At the time I did not know that Blue was the name of many different budgies. My mother had taken it upon herself to replace the predecessor with a bird of the same colour when age or misfortune in the shape of a cat or front door left open had occurred.

When my son was small he laid claim to an albino long haired hamster he titled Sir Putsy Tootsy. Putsy Tootsy was subjected to Lego mazes, Matchbox hot rod tubes and pocket journeys here and there. My son still has the pictures from the trip to the photo booth at the mall and he keeps a clipping of white hair in his desk drawer. When Putsy Tootsy passed away he received a state funeral with all the trappings. He was laid to rest in a decoupaged shoe box that had been lined with a soft blue cloth. We sang Amazing Grace and placed a cross on the spot where he was buried. Today, a grouchy hedgehog that goes by the name of Joe MacHedgie inhabits my son’s room. As cute as he is Joe will never take the place of Sir Putsy Tootsy in my son’s heart.

 I wait.

She was my husband’s “divorce buddy”. A sympathetic ear, it was her that he talked to in those difficult days of separation and anxiety. His confidante, she learned to voice her needs from his confessions…or maybe there’s some Siamese there. Such a small thing, if she were to leave, his loss would be monumental. We didn’t start out on the best of terms. He was her man and I was an interloper. She was herself and I was myself but we found an uneasy balance through the years.

I wait.

It’s not me she wants but life being what is, I’m what she’s got. Something is broken inside her. Blood stains her lips. She doesn’t smell right. For the first time, in all the 11 years I’ve known her, she is quiet and that is the worst thing of all. She doesn’t seem to be in any pain but I don’t think the medicine is helping.

So we wait, her and I, together so she doesn’t have to be alone.

Somber sleep embraces her in arms of velvet dark. She seems so delicate and frail; maybe he won’t let her go. I touch her side to feel the faint spark of life rise and fall. Who knows what tomorrow will bring?

We wait.

The Kiss

Dog-day cicadas join in a tumultuous chorus as the summer blazes into the first days of August. Thankfully only the males of the species produce that ear splitting vibration that inspired the writer Xenophon to remark, “Blessed are the cicadas, for they have voiceless wives.” The cicadas are much heard but not often seen despite their stature. Perched in their leafy boughs they are witness to the cycles and struggles of a secret world. The ebb and flow of dissonance accompanies the play of dark and light.

Here, like everywhere else, the world is a two-headed ogre. Each face is turned to the other, comedy and tragedy, bloody lips pressed in a sensuous open mouth kiss full of sharp teeth that bite and grind. Equally balanced, each would devour the other seeking the right of survival.

In this jungle of sweet blossoms and verdant branches death walks on eight legs. The dark disciples are shy secret creatures of many shapes, sizes and colours but all of one race. No beings of flesh and blood, this race, vilified and worshiped in song and story. Skinless warrior bodies, armour clad, house a heart a swim in haemolymph not blood. Arachne’s children are skilled in their art. Myriads of fabrics are spun with silken threads on nature’s looms. Sun prismed, moonlit ghost or bathed in morning dew danger wears beauty’s face.

The prey is at bay. The cicadas fill the air with a chorus of cacophony and chaos. Lace delicate, strong as steel the Judas threads show no mercy. The cicadas scream an earsplitting crescendo and then silence falls. The empty hush trembles in anticipation. Hungry mouths and sharp teeth are momentarily stilled as ogre eyes watch the panorama unfold. A quick embrace and a white shroud, a silken chalice holding all the world, beginning and end, intertwined. A toast then, in honour of the watchers… To the first kiss and the last kiss, one in the same.

The chorus begins again.

Distances

The sky is big here and the fields are wide. Lawns can be measured in feet but most commonly are more likely to be measured in acres. Still time and some far distant industry has caused a small settlement to spring up, the houses within calling distance if you wished to raise your voice.

It didn’t take long; maybe a month before a local gossip filled us in on the most scandalous community items…(sometimes it doesn’t pay to try to listen politely). Some was common knowledge such as the mother under house arrest for committing vehicular manslaughter while DUI  (unknown to us only because of our recent move to the area). Others were more speculation than anything else; a death ruled a suicide that might have been something more sinister, forbidden love triangles and arson accusations. I would imagine that’s pretty standard in a small community where everyone knows everyone else’s business or at least thinks that they do.

People being people, life goes on despite wagging tongues and prying eyes. Tragedies on a large scale seem to send those tongues into overtime. Everybody loves a shooting star as it burns bright and then dies. Scandal always makes for a “good story”… garish explosions as lives go down in flames, burn bright and then fade. The community at large is not interested in lives of quiet desperation. The stories of those who measure out the hours of their days holding close some horror or fear don’t make you tsk or draw a laugh. They thankfully go unnoticed by the watchers and gossips.

We live amidst unfulfilled dreams.

He is tall and pale with winter blue eyes set off by the salt and pepper beard. I watch the small dogs trail after his contradictions; a man’s voice and a boy’s gaze.She is slight of build with a pixie face framed by dark hair. A sweet sprinkle of freckles fall across her cheeks and I hear the soft accents of the Maritimes in her voice. He trails after her contradictions; a smile on top hides the ache underneath. Under the bluster they dream a dream to love, to wear his or her face.

I have only to turn to see the others. He’s a mystery. Her sorrow is open. Small and faded red scotch with back rubs for the sheep and hugs for Scotty the collie. The old red brick Victorian with the backyard pool mocks the dreams of visits, walking the fields, eating the apples from the orchard. It’s time to move on.

So much love to give and each the universe denies.

Not newspaper or gossip worthy really…over looked in even so small a community as this. Like the widow a month after the funeral; Her husband is buried, the casseroles are all eaten, the flowers have faded and she’s left alone with her grief, to live day after day carrying the horror of her sorrow and her fear.

We live amidst these unfulfilled dreams, within calling distance of both. Although they might be happy to hear my voice it is not the one they listen for, hope for and dream of. Some distances cannot be measured in feet, acres or even time itself for that matter. Some distances must be measured in the hopes, fears and dreams of those living lives of quiet desperation.

The Prodigal Returns

Cheque please.

Everything comes with a cost.
Sometimes it’s nothing much. The bill is paid willingly with a simple gesture or a pittance that exacts no great effort.
The best things… well those are the things that devour your world. The cost is onerous. It is excised by a paper thin knife honed to a brilliant edge laying open sinew and bone while the payment is lapped up in excruciating measures of blood, self and soul.

Yes I still want it. I’d like to charge it if you don’t mind. The percentage of interest is a delicious insult added to the injury and I’ll pay the bill in full, time after time.

 

The Summer Wind

Green as far as the eye can see.
Green trees, green weeds and acres of farmer’s crop that edge the sprawl of lawn.
The summer wind so free in the sky touches the land and becomes a snake. It writhes and twists in rhythmic waves across the fields, a dangerous riptide of currents and green crests in its wake. A quick turn, crouched down and lazy, the summer wind plays at hunting. The wind has warm hands that slide round my legs and lift my dress. The wind has hands that smooth my shoulders and linger in my hair. The wind has lips that kiss me quick before it swims away.

Left Alone

     The sun is bright outside in a yard full of flowers. Pass through the shaded sun room into the back of the house and step up into the kitchen. Gleaming white porcelain and faded wallpaper sprouts copper moulds in the shapes of fish and pineapples. Mary and Jesus live here. Their pictures are on the wall. The sacred heart burns bright behind the glass below the sign of the benediction. Palm leaves valance the kitchen doors.

     There’s ice cold milk in glass bottles and fresh bread from the nearby bakery. The sharp tang of homemade garlic dills mingle with the salty aroma of chicken soup simmering on the gas stove. The hallway floor is waxed to a high sheen, perfect for sliding. Listen to the tick tock of the mantel clock, the dial a yellow faded face that watches. The shrill ring of the old black dial phone shatters the heavy air. Rest a hand on it to feel its weight, its chill and its foreign hardness. Taste the forbidden sweetness of the hard candies hidden in the dish shaped like a lady that sits on the table in the living room. Silent, heart stopped, breath stilled, feel the caress of a sinister regard.

     Cold black, empty eyes set deep in the caiman’s leather dry head. He lies far from home, a wizened and arid husk. Needle sharp teeth fashioned for the flash of bright silver scales and the cold-hot wine of life will now only taste the dregs of dust. He will never know the cool waters of the bayou again, relegated now to keeping guard from a narrow darkened perch on the television room shelf.

Here on the edge of the world

Smell the sweet sting of wood smoke. The world is lost, dark behind the fire’s blaze. Isolated, we are small perched here in the cradle of the sky. All eternity is a bewildering array laid out on heaven’s bosom. An emerald streaks across the velvet expanse, so much brighter than its brothers. Blossoming in death and devoured in that dark sea.    

The Good Mother

     One of the good things about having a big back yard is the opportunity to hang your wash out on a line. My childhood was, as I’m sure everyone else’s, a combination of good and bad. Nothing takes me back to those good memories quicker than the aroma of baked bread cooling on the counter and the fresh smell of linen that has been line dried. My mother would hang linen all year long, even in the dead of winter. On the coldest days she would bring the sheets in, frozen stiff, and hang them over the rails of the loft where they would send wafts of winter kissed air across the house as they thawed. I’m not as ambitious as my mother. I usually start hanging out the sheets after the spring mud has dried and give it up around the first autumn frost.

     I’m a live-and-let-live homeowner when it comes to bugs in the yard. It’s been my experience that for the most part bugs are important members of the garden cycle. This couldn’t be truer when it comes to the much-maligned wasp. Wasps are responsible for the demise of a variety insects (through some very unpleasant methods) that include flies, ants and grubs. Although wasps have a very nasty sting (burning fire under your skin) they are actually quite peaceable unless they or their nest is threatened.

     There is an old mailbox bolted to my clothesline post that serves to hold my clothespins. For several weeks a yellow jacket had been doing her best to build a nest in that metal mailbox. On the advice of Internet authorities, I had been waving her away and removing her attempts at building a nest. The outcome of which, according to those same experts, should have been her desire to relocate to a new area. They were wrong.

     I had gotten a bit behind in the laundry and she had taken the opportunity to get settled in the mailbox. A single female wasp can create a legacy nest with the potential to house anywhere from 1,500 to 15,000 members (depending on the species). Common sense would advise to simply stay away from an established nest if you can. I could just buy more clothespins and not use the box for the rest of the summer. Unfortunately its close proximity to the clothesline (being actually bolted to it) would bring me perilously close to the nest every week. As the summer unwound the nest would grow larger and an ever-increasing number of wasps would become more aggressive in their defense of that nest.

   The nest was just started but she had already began to lay her eggs. A simple wave off was not going to scare her away. Believe me I tried. I had the utmost respect for her loyalty and bravery; her babies were in that box and she wasn’t backing down. I suppose I should have found some way to block her access to the inside of the box. I really thought she would give it up and go look for another place. Hindsight, as they say, is twenty-twenty.

Friday afternoon, high noon…the train has pulled into the station but I don’t feel much like Gary Cooper. Reluctantly I head inside to get the Bug-b-Gone. She is still on her nest when I return. I think regret is a pale term to describe how I feel as I raise the can. It’s over quickly. I know she saw me. I must have loomed absolutely huge as I stood over her but she didn’t move, resolute to the end. I push the button, her thorax stabs down, she stiffens and then she is still.

I had expected her to die. What I had not expected was for her to continue to cling to her nest even in that death. Her essence is gone but her empty husk remains as a testimony to her will and her heart. Three days later and she’s there yet with her babies lying still in her arms; now and forever. It would be the picture perfect definition of hubris to believe that the human species is the only one to cherish their offspring beyond life itself.

 

It’s dark now. Here and there out in the yard. They aren’t alone though and they never will be.

 

God bless the good mother.