Y’all! I figured out how to make this whole email thing work again! And it only took two months and somebody else to do it! But I finally did it, if you don’t count somebody else doing it as not me!
Since selling Elmer’s I’ve been working back-to-back festivals and then wrote the signs for the Cummington Fair, but the last few days have been a whole new world – similar to my whole old world before I bought Elmer’s but very different with time (thirteen years later,) place (every moment of my time in Ashfield until now was spent either buying Elmer’s, developing Elmer’s or working at Elmer’s) and back to time, the shortage of a day now that wasn’t then.
Remember how back, thirteen years ago, in a day you could fit several days in, and by night you’d gotten so much done that your bed barely seemed like the same place you’d left it, just 14 hours before? It don’t go like that anymore. And I’m trying to figure out why.
But here’s the main thing I’m trying to figure out:
You know how, when you’re driving to Shelburne Falls from Ashfield down Route 116 and you pass that barn on the left that has the cows on the right (I’m thinking they’re related) and half of the barn is red, and half of it’s kind of gold? Well, 78 out of 100 times you pass it there is some kind of bird noise surrounding it, loud – either scary bird noise or sweet bird noise, but always very loud. And always very similar. And almost always there.
Now, you know I am not a farmer, so I don’t know what the story is. The story I have in my mind is that those are bird recordings set up to be an avian scarecrow. The scary noises would be Alfred Hitchcock zombie birds that eat crows and the sweet bird noises would be to say, “No, we didn’t do that, crows; why do you think we would? It’s all fine.” And then the crows relax and come back, thinking there’s nothing odd going on that should be ignored. Then they (the farmers, not the crows) turn on the scary bird noises to scare them away again. Because crows are smart and they would recognize an unrelenting, unchanging scary bird recording and figure out a way to break in and turn it off. But what I really wonder is, don’t all of those loud bird noises all day long annoy the bejesus out of the cows and is that why they stay across the street all the time and never come home?
I always want to stop and ask but I’m scared of the loud zombie birds just in case they’re real.
Want to read a story? I wrote it back in the year about 2000 or so, when I lived in New Orleans, on Solomon Street, three houses down from my friend Tracy, who you may remember came up from New Orleans with me back all those years ago when I first showed up. It’s relevant to the situation or I wouldn’t tell it to you at all. Here it is.
Rock, Paper, Scissors, No Phone
The good thing was that, of the three, it was the wolf who liked me.
The wolf, whose duty it was to protect me as we marched around a two-block rectangle nightly was neither an Alpha nor an Omega; she was kind of a Theta wolf, neither leader nor follower, but old and fat and rather on the lazy side of the wolf kingdom anymore. In her youth she lay in the cool, cool bathtub and growled at anyone with a need to Go, which made them Go faster, if they dared go at all, or Stay if they didn’t. Now she no longer cared to crawl into the tub and so instead reclined spread-legged on the tile bathroom floor like a wolf rug one might still carefully step around on the way to Going.
But it was she who liked me now and it was she who howled her greeting howl (as opposed to her ambulance howl or her “Little Dog Mikey needs me! I must go to him!” howl) when I let myself into Tracy’s house to take her wolf for a walk. Tracy works a lot and long, and so I return favors in advance of needing them by walking the wolf while Tracy works. And there I was, howled at by the wolf as I gathered her leash and a plastic bag on Sunday night last.
There was no adventure in the walking. We trotted around two blocks and smellt many places dogs had Gone before, saw the Black Dog Who Loves Her, But Whom She Spurns for Mikey, and three guys in a Sewerage and Water Board truck, for whom we crossed the street and we didn’t eat them as we once would have. She would have. I would have had to watch, as I don’t like to get between animals and their dinners any more. Portention gathered.
We skittered up the back steps, two flights and I opened the back door with the hidden key, gave the wolf her dry dinner and a pat on the head and turned to leave when I saw the bird dressed in green feathers doing a little soft shoe dance just inside the back door.
I knew that bird and I knew that bird would bite me like a wolf on a city employee if I tried to go near it. His name was Luka and he entertains Tracy well, while scaring the crap out of me. I knew he belonged in his cage, but I also knew he was safe from the wolf, who, like me, seemed a little respectful of him and his beak. So I cut a wide path and opened the door to leave and the cat ran in. Whose cat? The old neighbor’s cat. Tracy’s inherited cat, the cat who demanded – and got - food from me from time to time. But not my cat. I thought it was my cat once until I picked him up to put him outside and he buried his claws so deeply in my face they got stuck and I had to remove them finger by finger while I wore him around my house for a hat. Now the cat was inside the kitchen and the bird was still tapping around on the floor.
As far as my feelings for the wolf, the bird and for the cat ran, it seemed that nature and its natural course could be justified. The mean-spirited bird would be eaten by the evil cat who would be disemboweled by the pleasant and deserving wolf and I could go home and watch The Sopranos. Except that Tracy would probably eventually come home from work and not want to do me any more favors. Could I stage it to look like an accident? Probably, except that the cat could have only gotten in the house through me and so my linkage to the incident would be undeniable, and most likely, unforgivable by Those Who Cared.
I looked for the phone and found it, dead as a banana on the dresser. I put it back on the charger but knew by its laconic attitude that it would not support a whole cry of help for at least an hour. And Sopranos would have started by then.
I paced, thinking there should be another phone between the cat in her corner and the bird on his floor.
“Fly!” I yelled at Luka. “There - is - a - cat!” using simple words loudly as if he were a foreigner. But he didn’t care and mocked me with a shrill whistle and a desultory laugh.
I looked for another phone in the bedroom and when I came back, the cat had assumed the feeding-tiger position, low and staking. Nothing in my reptilian brain moved me to lay hands on that cat – or the dancing bird as I remembered the gorges inflicted upon my self by each of them earlier in their lives, but I could clap my hands and shout, “Git!” to the cat, which worked, immediately, anyway.
I tested the phone and found a feeble dial tone. Quickly I dialed the first two numbers of Tracy’s cell phone and it went dead again; the clock slouched toward The Sopranos with the closest HBO hook-up four houses away.
“The wolf ate the cat and the cat ate the bird all up;
Would you like some butter from the cow for your bread?”
It would have made a good AA Milne poem, but it was getting dark and in the airy house designed for freedom and light, there were no doors to close between any of the animals, I noticed. I noticed around some more and finally found a computer! A computer hooked up to the Internet! And . . . it . . . was . . . a . . . . Macintosh!
How do you turn these things on?
I used to have a Mac, where is the button? Press any button? No. The button! Oh for crying out loud, why DON’T you have Windows XP that boots up rather quickly I now come to realize compared to Mac OS version 9.5? First we have the Happy Mac, then we have a long, long, time of booting in which time the cat may have eaten the bird, I’ll be right back – CLAP! Stay away from that bird!
I scampered back to the study and watched a blue screen do nothing and ran back to the kitchen where the bird was into a disco trot, shockingly unaware of the cat sliding across the floor in his bobbing direction. I slapped the air again and the cat retreated angrily. Sullenly. Bullying. Snarling cat, snarling at me.
At great length, the little Happy Mac smiled upon me. Oh WHERE is the INTERNET on a MACINTOSH! They didn’t even have the Internet outside Redmond, Washington the last time I owned a Macintosh.
How do you say, “Programs” in Macintosh?
Yes! And she has Earthlink . . . . how do you say “AOL” in Earthlink? Oh wait – run back to the kitchen to wave at the cat and the waltzing bird and run back to find Internet Explorer and click on it just as the boulder is rolling down the cliff right in my direction. Earthlink suddenly yawned and recognized AOL thank you Baby Jesus, so I raced through the log-in, my name, my password, “Are you sure you have the right password? Please re-enter” and “What would you like to see? Mail? Stocks? My AOL page?”
No! I would like to see some form of communication in the 21st century work before the laws of Darwin take over and there is only a big, fat wolf left in the house!
AOL finally permitted me to WRITE AN E-MAIL MESSAGE and so I did, in large bold letters that wouldn’t catch her eye unless she actually opened it, titled, “SAVE ME!” so she would for the love of God read the thing:
Help! I am trapped inside your house!
The bird is out, the cat is in and I can not leave until you come home and save us from each other!
And sent it. And then remembered she, being of stout heart might not realize my extreme urgency, so I sent another one:
And I am scared to pick up the cat or the bird!
And then I ran out to save the bird who was by this time doing the Pony. I panted back and forth to refresh my e-mail in the study and then save the bird in the kitchen, watched through one eye by the wolf in the bathroom who, full of dry food and exhaustion, wasn’t much interested in any of us. –But who could decide that an unsupervised cat would be perfect (and deserving) dessert.
Refresh! No reply. Refresh! No reply. Stay away you murderous cat! Refresh! No reply.
By the time Tracy got home, The Sopranos were over, the cat was in the front room and I was tapping the bird on each shoulder with a stick I had found in an orchid pot to make him look, which he did, over and over and never saw it coming even though I had turned on the light to give him a fighting chance. Stupid bird.
The cat was tossed outside without any dinner, the bird was lifted to his cage without any biting, and I was walked home by Tracy and the Wolf without any fanfare, a little of which, I believe I was due. And so I wrote this epic: Ode to me as Protectorate of the little animals, who probably don’t even care what could have happened had it not been for me, Saint Nannie of Solomon Street.
The other thing I want to know is why your fingernails change as you get older.
But I don’t have any stories to tell you about that.