Tag Archives: autumn

The Invitation

Somewhere in the dark hollows of my disoriented sleepy brain, I hear a car door slam.  My eyes adjust to the dim room and I take out my earplugs. What was that?  What time is it?

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Another slam, and my eyes are wide open.  It’s 5:23pm.  Dusk.  Someone is in the driveway.  Well, okay.  We’re not expecting anyone, but this happens even out in the country.  Deliveries, politicians, clean-cut-polite-young Mormons.  How do they find us?  The Bearded One is downstairs in the deep end of his own late-afternoon autumn nap after working on the road all morning, filling the first potholes of the year.

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I’ll just peek out the window.  No need to sound the alarm, but I need to check.

I squint through the branches of the cedar tree that hides our bedroom window.  It’s a silver minivan parked at the end of the driveway.  Our old neighbors!  I see Batman circling the van, urging his parents out.

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We knew they might drop by sometime this week from an errand they had close by.  We invited them.

“They’re here!” I shriek to the Bearded One, but it comes out garbled.  I take the little nightguard out of my mouth, wipe my sleepy spit, and quietly shout “They’re coming up the driveway!”  I slip out of my warm bed and hobble to the bathroom.  I clip my wild hair into a ponytail, and look into the dim mirror. What day is this?

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The Bearded One moans.  “Whaaaa?”

I bump into the bathroom doorway to holler down to him.  “Hansel, Gretel, and Batman!”

“Huhh?”

“Honey, get up!”

The Bearded One mutters something, but I can tell he is up now because I can hear his belt buckle jangling.

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I find my socks and slippers, and yank them on as I peek out the window.  “All five of them are in the driveway!” I call out.

We love these kids — ages 9, 7, and 5 — and have missed them since they moved away this past June.  We saw them for the first time in 4 months last week — was that just last week?  They stopped by after Batman’s dentist appointment, and we took them up the trail to Jake and Ruby’s grave.

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They marveled at the dark autumn forest, the branches and logs they had earlier hauled to line the edge of the trail, artifacts from ancient times.

I hear the toilet flush downstairs and I know that the Bearded One is functional.  Garfield looks at me from the bed as if I’ve gone insane.

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That’s when I wonder why I haven’t heard a stampede up the front deck steps, or even voices.  I decide to check their progress one last time before going downstairs.  I look out the window.

No van.  No people.  The driveway is completely empty.  I heard nothing.  This is impossible.

They must have decided we were napping, I think.  One of us is usually outside or in the kitchen and greets them, and they are very thoughtful and know I sometimes take naps, but wow.  It’s like I imagined the whole thing.  I was pretty deep in sleep.

“Sweetheart?”  I’m at the top of the stairs now, staring down at my half-awake husband.  He has one boot on and has just tucked his own wild hair into his hat to greet our friends.

“I’m sooooo sorry,” I say.  “They left.”

“Left?”

“But they were here!” I say.

“A dream?” he says and smiles a little.

He will milk this for days….

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Look What the Cat Dragged In

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“What is going on?”  Garfield freezes and looks at me from the far end of the living room.  It’s early evening.  He is in mid-stride, and has just come in for the night of his own accord without me calling.  Something feels off.  This is not normal.

“I’m thinking,” responds the Bearded One, who studies his cards across from me at the kitchen table and assumes I am talking to him.  We are playing ritual evening card games.

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“Garfield just came in,” I say and put my cards down.  I get up and close the front door.

“Hm.”  The Bearded One never looks up from his puzzling hand of cards.

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It’s just 7pm, but it’s dark and rainy.  Of course that is why the cat came in so early, I think.  I sit back down, pick up my cards, and look into the living room.  Garfield is gone.

“Any day now, Honey Darlin’,” I say to the Bearded One who is taking too long to play.  This faux grumpiness does nothing to hurry him along, of course.  This time of year is all about slowing down some.  And being indoors more.  And being nice.

I cross and uncross my legs, which are tired from harvesting raised straw bed potatoes.

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My fingernails, which I examine at length, are stained yellow from the wet leather gardening gloves.

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The table and kitchen counters are cluttered with seed jars from my seed collecting operation,

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bowls of apples and pears and zucchini, and a pile of peach leathers I just took from the dehydrator.  It’s over.  The harvest is over.  Settle down, I tell myself.  Shift gears.  Be sweet.

Finally the Bearded One discards and I immediately draw a card and am studying my options when — THUNK!

The Bearded One looks beyond me to the living room and says, “What is the cat doing?”

“Sounds like he’s in the bathroom,” I say.  Garfield sometimes explores the lower bathroom cabinet, and he’s adjusting to autumn, too.

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We continue to play.  The Bearded One with an ice pack on his sore lower back, me feeling like the hens that are molting — prickly feathers sticking out, bald spots, ragged and not laying.  We raced for days to beat the weather and are beat up.

WHOMP!  WHOMP!

“What in the Sam Hill?” I snap and turn around.  I don’t see Garfield, but there are several more whomps and I get up.

It’s dark and I’m tiptoeing in my socks and calling the cat when I see his cute little face under the stairs where Ruby’s hidey-hole bed used to be, behind the little liquor cabinet I moved from the kitchen.

“You silly kitty,” I say.  “What are –”

And then I see the foot-long rat tail and the rat ears and waves of horror roll across my every nerve-ending, sparking a soul fibrillation and forcing a ghastly, unworldly shriek, “YEEEE-IKES!!”  I run into the kitchen.

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I can handle spiders, no problem.  But rats, especially big forest rats that grow fat in the aviary and move about on rafters in the barn, these are the creatures of my nightmares.  This one is quite a fine trophy for Garfield, but he has never before brought one into the house.

The Bearded One pulls out the cabinet and reports that the rat, and it is indeed a big rat, is dead.  “Garfield’s eating the head,” he says, completely nonplussed.

Was the rat dead or alive when Garfield brought it in?  We ponder this briefly — surely it was dead — but mainly I want it out of the house, and I want to be the one to do it.  I’m not so afraid of dead rats, and it’s my rat somehow.  “Out of my way, Sweetie,” I say, with love.  “I’ve got it.”

I grab one of my yellow rubber dishwashing gloves, and stand before Garfield.  “Thank you very much,” I say as I take the headless corpse and march out the door and into the dark, wet, cold night.  I look into the even darker forest, which is solid black under the full harvest moon.

“Ah-woooooooooo!” I howl.  I throw the rat as far as I can, deep into the woods.  I hear it fall into the leaves.  Whew.  It’s over.

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Autumn has arrived.  Time for me to come indoors.  I think we’ll start shutting that front door from now on.

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