You might not be able to see it, but the crack between the concrete and the dirt behind the sign holds the entrance to a beehive. On warm mornings they are busily flying in and out, pollinating, gathering, doing their bee business. The people who live there put the sign up a couple weeks ago, and I think they absolutely mean to leave the bees alone long-term since they’re not harming anyone. Which makes me feel good; every time I pass plenty of the little fellows come to say hello and play tag with Miss B.
When I’ve felt like humanity is a shitshow not worth saving this week, I’ve thought of this–people quietly leaving the bees alone, merely putting up a sign to protect both the hive and passers-by. And somehow, it makes the rest of us worth fighting for.
We don’t have to be awful. And really, most people aren’t.
Oh, nothin’ much, just scavengers making sure the sloughed detritus of humanity doesn’t choke the globe. It’s a livin’, ya know? Over on the right there, that’s Fred. He thinks he’s a crow when we’ve got food, and we let him think so because honestly, there’s only so much of this we can eat and he’s a bottomless pit…
They said Taliesin could understand the speech of birds, and I’m here to tell you that was probably just like the internet–a whole lot of weird unusable shit, with maybe a piece of necessary information buried in a random, moving place.
Anyway, let’s spare a thought for Nature’s cleanup crew. They’ve a huge job on their, uh, their wings (or paws, or whatever passes for hands among maggots) and not much time to get it done.
I was up at 5am after a restless night worrying about parking, and consequently I need more coffee if anything is going to make sense today.
That’s right, chickadees. I was on jury duty this fair misty morn.
The dogs were a little bemused at being yanked out of bed for predawn walkies, and despite napping while I was performing my civic duty they’re as worn out as I am.
I scored a reasonable parking spot (that meant walking only a few blocks) and made it there before the jury room opened. Brought plenty of books, snacks, had bottled water, a five-subject notebook in case the Muse bit while I was waiting, and everything I could possibly need packed into trusty old Herbert1. There were two trials, so after a short video on unconscious bias, half the jurors were randomly selected for the first and the rest of us waited.
And waited. I knocked off about twenty pages of my book before the jury coordinator came out with her microphone (the jury waiting area even had a kitchenette, it’s amazing) and said, “Well, they settled at the last minute, which sometimes happens. So you guys are free to go and you don’t have to call in the rest of the week, you’ve done your duty. Thank you.”
It was nice to be thanked several times for showing up. Also, somewhat ironically, the fellow making the loudest stink about hating jury duty (despite this being only his second time called) was in the first group, so the rest of us didn’t have to listen to his bellyaching and got to leave while it was still morning.
Some days the Universe hands you a break.
Nevertheless, I am somewhat at sixes and sevens. I had forgotten all about jury duty until my phone calendar reminded me after dinner last night, which was why I’d put the damn reminder in but was also an unpleasant jolt. Staying up almost all night worrying about parking didn’t help. I fixate on something different every time I have to leave the house for a new location, I swear. Plus, it’s kind of stress-inducing to EVER go to the courthouse.
Right next to the jury room was a Family Law counselor; that particular office dispenses protection orders all day too. There was a woman there with three small children filling out paperwork, looking harried and sleepless, and I longed to tell her I’ve been where you are, it gets better, I’m so sorry.
But I couldn’t, and when I left the jury room she was gone. I hope she and the little ones will be all right. I drove home through mist, seeing traffic heavy in the opposite direction, and stopped only to pick up milk.
You’d think my own adult and almost-adult child would back off on the cow squeezings, but I guess not. Their bones are FANTASTIC, thank you.
Now I’m home, hungry, and cross-eyed with lack of sleep. It’s a good thing they didn’t put me on a jury, I probably would have dozed sitting up during opening arguments.
I was struck, sitting in the waiting room, by how… well, how cooperative and civilized the entire group was. There was some grumbling about the hour and the parking, but everyone was mollified by the illusion of special treatment and the several professions of gratitude, especially in the video played for us. It was interesting to see the appeals to vanity clothing the lesson about unconscious bias– “most people want to make fair, just decisions, and this is a way you can do that, even by doing something so simple as recognizing you have biases because your brain needs them to make sense of all the information it’s soaking in!” I had positioned myself under a television screen, not wanting the damn thing nagging at me while I read, so I watched the screen far across the room and the expressions flitting over people’s faces as they watched and listened.
It’s all material, for a writer. Everything goes into that giant hopper in your head, ready to be plundered for a telling detail or a lifelike setting.
Anyway, appeals to vanity work wonders, I’ve done my duty to the body politic today, and I have a fresh cup of coffee. I won’t get a lot of work done, but I’m free for the rest of the week, so I feel unexpectedly liberated.
And very, very tired.
All in all, a productive morning, albeit in ways I wouldn’t have chosen. At least I know I’ll sleep tonight. Frankly, I’d better. Feeling this woolly-headed and lethargic is unwelcome indeed.
It’s been the kind of weekend that reminds me of going into the Rifts, frankly. Everything seems a little bit askew–probably from lack of sleep–and the danger won’t kill you instantly, it’ll kill you three steps ago or an hour from now.
So to speak. Good news and terrifying news has abounded, and now I’m blinking on a holiday Monday, with wordcount ahead of me, a Soundtrack Monday post to write, and I haven’t run in three days.
You can tell I’m a little twitchy.
At least the wind is moving a bit and we’ve had some rain. Well, more like condensation inside Mother Nature’s mouth1, but it’s cleaned some of the particles from the air and made it slightly easier to breathe. The dogs are content with walkies instead of jogging, probably because Miss B is becoming an elderly statesdog.
I am reminded, seeing the grey on her muzzle and how she is a little less bouncy, how little time I truly have left with her. It’s going to be devastating when she has to leave, and I can’t brace for it.
But that’s borrowing trouble. For today, she’s quite happy, having had half my morning toast. She knows what comes next–I stare at the glowing box on my desk for a while, until her staring at my profile becomes a weight I can’t ignore and I take her and Lord van der Sploot for a morning ramble.
At least, she’s very certain it’s her gaze that finally drags me out the door, and I’m content to let her think so.
I’d write more about the weekend, but I can’t for privacy reasons. Suffice to say there’s a brand new human I share some ancestry with in the world; it’s a reason to celebrate even if said brand new human arrived on their own schedule–as brand new humans are wont to do.
Happy Monday, my friends; may your Veteran’s Day pass exactly as you wish it to, and may said veterans find some peace. Later today I’ll have a song for you.
I wouldn’t have morning glories in my yard (mostly because I spent too long with toddlers roaming around) but fortunately, some of my neighbors do, and I get to admire them. Especially when the color is so achingly vibrant.
Sometimes the smallest beautiful thing can save an entire day, week, month, year. Never underestimate the tiny beauties. They can even save a life.
No turkeys were harmed in the course of this entire thing. Inconvenienced, maybe, but that’s it.
I know you guys are wondering what happened on my last turkey-wrangling day, but it’s entirely anticlimactic. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
The Princess, a little concerned for my safety (or maybe my sanity, since I was returning home almost prostrate with heat and muttering about turkeys), decided to go with me on the last day. “I could hold the shovel,” she suggested, with a glint in her eye.1
“No way,” I said, immediately. “If that fucking turkey comes at you I’m going to have to kill it, and I want to avoid killing *friend name*’s turkey if it’s at all possible. You can stand outside the coop. With Shirley.”
“You’re a good friend.” She hopped off to get ready for the expedition.
I suppose I should add that my children are well used to Shirley, since she sits in the dining room most days, keeping an eye on the dogs while they’re at their bowls.
Anyway, we got there–I did not have to wrangle goats that day, thank the heavens–a little earlier than usual, and after dealing with all the other livestock we headed down to the coop. It was a bright, very hot morning, promising a tar-softening scorcher of an afternoon.
The Princess had seen Heloise and the chickens before, but never a turkey. “That’s… a really big bird,” she said, clutching Shirley to her chest.
“Just keep his attention.” I cast a critical glance at the coop fencing, which appeared to be holding up. “Wave Shirley around or something.”
“Yes ma’am.” She set to with a will, performing what I can only describe as a very slow interpretative penguin dance.
I tossed in scratch, glanced nervously at Turkey Boy, who was strutting back and forth with his tail high and his wings down, and backed cautiously out of sight.
I got in and out of the egg room, blocking the opening with the shovel, and found a paltry three eggs for our trouble. I did not, however, heave a sigh of relief until I was out of the egg room, the door firmly shut, and further firmly out of the coop itself, with the antechamber door closed as well.
“He’s really quite stunning,” the Princess said when I rejoined her at the fence. She had ceased her dance and was staring in rapt amazement. “And he looks calm.”
“Uh, not really. See the way his wings are down? That’s part of the mating dance. He’s not stomping, but he’s close. Plus, see how his snood’s getting red, and his throat too? He–“
I might have continued to lecture, but Turkey Boy made a short dash for the fence. Both the Princess and I stepped back in a hurry, and I almost turned my ankle in a rathole. Shirley swayed, and Turkey Boy stopped dead.
He might have leapt for the fence, but I think he saw Shirley and the Princess as an unholy cryptid of some sort, a terrifying amalgamation of young woman and flightless bird. He stopped, staring at us, and his throat vibrated with loud gobbles. Goose Girl had already nipped into the egg room to get at the kibble before her midmorning bath.
“Let’s not push it.” I grabbed the Princess’s sleeve and all but hauled her away.
I’m glad of two things: that someone else saw the sheer size of the bird, and that Turkey Boy didn’t come through the fence. If he’d gone after my child, she might have had to fend him off with Shirley before I arrived with a shovel–or before I grabbed him with my bare hands. Those spurs are deadly and only God knows what the resultant wounds might have been infected by, but I’d wring that bastard’s neck if he came at my baby.
We locked everything up and got in the car, and I didn’t quite spin out of the gravel driveway.2
We drove in silence for a short while, and finally the Princess turned to me from the window, her eyes gleaming with mischief. “Are you feeling relieved?”
“No more turkey,” I muttered, with feeling. “Thank gods.”
“Don’t worry,” she said. “They’ll go on vacation again next year. By then you’ll have forgotten all about this.”
“Oh, fuck,” I muttered, knowing she was right.
It took a good hour before she stopped giggling.
ANYWAY, that was the last day I had to wrangle a turkey, and it passed without incident. Except for the rats, of course.
So there I was, amid scurrying rats with an upside-down plastic penguin and a galloping heart, gasping for breath.
…maybe I should back up.
So, I was taking care of livestock for two separate out-of-town friends. This particular day I’d already whistled a bunch of goats into behaving and had a flock of geese very curious about me and whatever snacks I might be carrying. Then it was another half-hour in the car to get to my second livestock babysitting job, and I was about to face Turkey Boy once more.
It’s not that I dislike him. It’s just that I had a job to do, and he seemed very determined to interfere. And really, I was the source of fowl kibble, and it was in his best interests to leave me be while I filled the trough–but good luck explaining that to a puffed-up, very angry turkey just entering his first mating season.
Anyway, I carried Shirley down to the coop, braced myself, and went around the side to prop her on a yellow rain bucket. I was greeted by the chickens, who had figured out my arrival meant food of one type or another and were very excited, and Goose Girl, whose honking started pretty much the moment I opened my friend’s back door to go down the coop hill.
And, of course, Turkey Boy strutted into the covered yard, gobbling once or twice and eyeing me with beady impatience.
Now, the day before had brought an unwelcome development or two. First, Turkey Boy had figured out that I had to remove the shovel from the egg room entrance as I retreated; he was bound and determined to keep my rearguard engaged, hoping to force a battle upon familiar ground. It’s no secret that the hardest maneuver to pull off is a fighting retreat, but so far I’d managed. And if the gods were willing and the two-foot plastic penguin could distract Turkey Boy for long enough, I could be in and out in short order, and retire safely.
I’d been doing some thinking, and instead of putting Shirley on a concrete stepping stone, I decided some altitude was necessary. (She is, after all, a flightless bird.) Fortunately there was a yellow rain bucket at the far end of the covered yard, so I propped her there, careful to point her beak away so she would appear to be eyeing the yard sidelong.
It seemed to work–Goose Girl and Turkey Boy took turns yelling at the interloper, while the chickens, almost unconcerned, watched me for any sign of scratch grain. I tossed in their daily ration and tried not to scream when I saw a flicker of tail and beady eye well across the yard. The rats were keeping a low profile, since Schrodinger Roy had followed me down the hill.
Roy’s an interesting case. He’s actually two smoke-grey cats who could be twins, or, like Olsen Twins, one cat vibrating so quickly he appears to be in two places at once. If I hadn’t been possessed of absolute proof, both photographic and direct, that they were a pair, I’d’ve thought my friend had a teleporting cat outside as well as in. (Long story.) Anyway, Schrodinger Roy does a great deal of ratting down at the coop, and I am sure pickings are quite good.
Anyway, I gathered the kibble, got the trusty shovel, and managed to get in the egg room and block the door as usual. I think the chickens had pecked an importunate rat to death, since I had to also use the shovel to get a rag of fur and bones out of the egg room and one of the fresh-laid eggs had been destroyed, poor thing.
Turkey Boy was gobbling loudly, letting everyone know that there was an observer he didn’t care for. And then, as I dumped the kibble and began loading the can with unsmashed hen fruit, a deadly quiet descended.
Uh-oh, I thought, but had to finish my work. It was another feat of agility and flexibility to gather the eggs while keeping the door blocked, and suddenly the shovel was almost wrenched out of my hand again.
Turkey Boy had decided on a surprise attack.
Once more, I retreated with shovel in one hand and a coffee can of eggs in the other. Once more, Turkey Boy threw himself at the egg room door, and I heard his claws scrape wood suspiciously near where my head would be.
Did I mention turkeys fly for short distances, since they like to roost above the forest floor? Yeah, I found that out.
I braced the egg room door and had to outright tell my fingers to turn loose of the shovel. Then there was tidying the small antechamber with the galvanized bins of kibble and scratch, as well as transferring the eggs to a plastic bag for carrying up the hill. When I was done, I closed the coop door with a sigh of relief, and almost jumped out of my skin as Schrodinger (or Roy, who can tell, although Roy is usually the more vocal of the two) mewed slightly to let me know backup had arrived.
“You missed the party,” I told him, sotto voce, and his tail flicked. Then I realized something that made my heart plummet into my guts with an almost audible splash.
It was, again, quiet. Too quiet.
I rounded the corner and hurried along the coop wall, reached the fence, and stopped, somewhat confused. At first I thought the damn turkey had exploded out of sheer spite, and then I thought he had melted like hot wax.
Apparently, Turkey Boy had figured out I wasn’t in the egg room to punish, so he chose the next best thing, the tuxedo-clad interloper. I’m not quite sure how it happened, but…
Apparently Goose Girl had been attempting to snake her neck through the fencing and get to Shirley. She might have succeeded, being a creature with no little cunning and quite a bit of persistence, if not for Turkey Boy catching sight of this and deciding, in truly male fashion, that he could do it better.
Especially if he stood on a goose.
“Oh shit,” I said, and Roy mewed again, taking off at an angle along the coop fence. Now, the cat was supremely unconcerned about Shirley or me. What he was really interested in was a rat, and I suppose he’d seen one.
Feathers flew. Goose Girl honked like a bagpipe in the squeezing arms of a murderous clown, and Turkey Boy attempted to climb her in order to reach Shirley, who floated serenely above the fray.
Or, she appeared to, because she was teetering on the rain barrel. Motion communicated through the fencing couldn’t tip over the small barrel, but Shirley, though large, is also hollow.
I am almost certain I teleported across the intervening space, because if I had moved in the usual manner I’m sure I would have punted a cat. I had the hazy idea that Shirley might be injured if she fell from that height, but also, the fencing was beginning to look a little like it might not hold up under Turkey Boy’s assault, and poor Goose Girl, stunned but not yet down for the count, still had her neck through it.
Things happened very quickly.
I got there just as Shirley toppled, grabbed her head–look, it was the only handle I could be sure of–and raised her aloft. Turkey Boy beat his wings, gobbling and making a noise I can only describe as a rattle, and Goose Girl began to curse him with the fervor of a Roman matron warning an entire temple about the approach of the Gauls. Chickens scattered, Roy leapt on a hole–just missing a long naked tail–and, true to form, I was swearing.
At the top of my lungs.
I finished by holding Shirley aloft like a war club and screaming, “GODDAMN YOU, [turkey name], THAT IS E-NOUGH!”
It was the same tone I’d take with a bus full of misbehaving third-graders, and while it didn’t dent Turkey Boy’s enthusiasm, it startled Goose Girl into retracting her head through the fence, clearly grasping this was a higher priority than getting the dumbass Meleagris off her back. Which was, frankly, all to the good. But if the damn fence came down, I was going to have to fight a pitched battle with the fucking turkey.
So that was how I came to be swearing at top volume, waving a plastic penguin at a turkey while rats fled a teleporting cat.
At least I was wearing shoes. (Small mercies.)
Goose Girl reared, spreading her snow-white wings, and I would have been lost in artistic appreciation if the situation hadn’t been so dire. Turkey Boy sailed backwards, since he had not–thank the gods–been clutching with his spurs, and he landed with a feathery oof that would have been funny if I hadn’t been so, well, out of sorts is the only way I can describe it.
I checked the fence, left Roy stalking around and waiting for some quiet to entice his prey back out, and hoped Goose Girl hadn’t been injured. (She’s fine, don’t worry.) I carried Shirley up the hill, cradling her somewhat tenderly, and I realized halfway that not only was I apologizing (aloud and repeatedly) to a plastic penguin…
…but I had dropped the eggs. Fortunately, I was able to scurry back downhill and grab the plastic bag without incident, since Turkey Boy had decided to nurse his grudges and look for scratch in the wider, fenced, but uncovered yard on the other side of the coop.
That was my second-to-last day of turkey wrangling. And you know what? I hadn’t cracked a single egg.
Goddamn turkey. But at least Shirley–and Goose Girl–were uninjured.
And I still had one more day of turkey wrangling to go.