Friday, July 26, 2013

A Moment When Everything Seems Fallen into Place

Jenna laying out her peach harvest to ripen

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Wet Weather Chronicles, part 1

Jill and Larry sat on the back stoop of their single wide. Larry fired up a Pall Mall stub that some guy in gold-rimmed sunglasses and a clean, white wife beater had chucked out a truck window into the thigh-high grass last week. As he puffed the rest of its damp nub, they both silently reveled in their luck. Ever since those weird people failed at their stupid attempt to paint the singlewide like a log cabin and make it into a mountain retreat, the place had stood empty and had acquired that stale, musty, abandoned mountain house quality. It smelled of mold and mildew and animal urine, but no raccoon that I ever met minded those things a bit. Jill and Larry were tickled as could be to have stumbled upon such a castle.

And stumble is literally how they arrived a year ago. It was a week to the day after their mother had died suddenly, electrocuted on top of a transformer to be exact. Jill and Larry were shell shocked, young from a freakishly late in the season birth into a wet Appalchian summer. They were too young to be left alone, not yet weaned from their mother's teats and untrained in hunting and foraging for themselves. Either because of the trauma of the event or because of their young ages, neither of them acutely remembered their mother. They shared foggy shards of memories of the sonic buzz that blasted their mother into blue and white flames and the subsequent week of stumbling through the epic rains, cold and starving, just narrowly missing several flash floods. They don't remember arriving at the abandoned trailer or the unlikey feverish victory over a young black snake, which not only provided their first meal in over a week, but also eliminated the competition for the endless buffet of small rodents and other critters thriving in the vicinity.

Now, a year later, they sat, fat and comfortable, listening to a distant rumble and watching the sky darken. Any human who might have happened upon them would probably have been amused at the sight, two overweight raccoons lounging around, one smoking a cigarette and the other filing her claws on a torn off scrap of sand paper. They would have assumed them to be a mating pair, although the truth was that due to the childhood trauma, neither of them was inclined to reproduce yet. And the truth of that was that, while all their neighbors were busy parenting their younguns this 4th of July, Jill and Larry actually found themselves quite bored. Fat and bored.

They had already gorged on the Rice's cat's food just before dawn, just for fun. They took turns- one holding off the wailing cat with a fly swatter, while the other demolished some of the Laura Lynn brand cat food. They didn't even like the dry, cardboard-textured sorry excuse for food- it gave them the bloat and mild constipation- but they found the mangy, cross-eyed tabby's effort to claim her territory just amusing enough to make it worth the trip across the creek and the quarter mile down the windy road.

After a somewhat gassy nap, they had entertained themselves for a few hours at the creek, snatching up crawdaddies and making them fight. When they got bored of that, they ate the poor fellers and lazily loped back to the trailer, escaping the wet heat of the afternoon in the shade of the crooked, half rotten back porch.

Larry deeply inhaled the last draw of the moldy Pall Mall. "Hey sis," he said, "Reckon it's 4th of July tomorrow." He leaned over his groin, snapping at a flea but missed. "It'd be funny as hell if we put up a flag. Sons of bitches wouldn't know where the hell it came from. They'd be ghost stories all up Sodom in no time flat about some tragic dead patriot haint puttin up flags on abandoned buildings."

"Hee hee, " snickered Jill. Though she was but 5 minutes younger than Larry, she looked up to him with as much adoration as a little sister could look up to a big brother. She fancied him a genius and knew that deep down, he relied on her approval about as much as he relied on the next meal. It just worked out that way. The two of them spoke surprisingly little due to the silent bone-deep comprehension of each other. They knew each other in the way that conjoined twins do, practically sharing a psyche.

A fly droned its way around the porch area. It landed on a little gash on Jill's back that she had acquired a few days prior while shimmying her fat self under a chain link fence. Larry dropped the cigarette butt, and swiped at the fly with his paw.

"Ouch!" Jill complained as Larry managed to miss the fly and whack her cut.

The fly buzzed about, and everything else was quiet for a few minutes. After the next rumble of thunder, Jill spoke, "You reckon Brice and them's AC in that Jetta's still out?"

Larry pondered a moment, "Yeah, I reckon."

"You reckon they prolly left their windows down again?" Jill asked. Jill and Larry had taken refuge in the Brandon's car during several sudden downpours in the past couple weeks. They learned from the scolding of his wife, Kristen, that Brice frequently forgot to roll the windows up when he got home from his daily trips out. Larry and Jill still hadn't figured out exactly where Brice went every day. His departures in the Jetta seemed to hold no kind of schedule or reason, and his returns, though always on the same calendar day, occurred at various hours of evening or night.

Larry looked at Jill a good few seconds before a big, classic toothy raccoon grin broke out on his face. "I see where you're going with this. As of about a half hour ago he hadn't left yet. I bet wherever he's goin we can find us a right nice flag and be back with plenty of time to get that thang hung. Let's ride, sis!"

It was mid-afternoon by the time Larry and Jill were comfortably hidden under the passenger seat of the Jetta in Brice and Kristen's driveway. Fortunately, as the groans of thunder became louder, the sky darkened and a breeze from the west drove some of the stuffy hot air from the car, replacing it with the kind of charged, cool air that preceeds a mountain storm. They had curled themselves amongst some clutter under the seat- a mildewy towel and a tee-ball jersey shirt. They folded themselves together to make a surprisingly small bundle of hidden furry softness, which would very likely go unnoticed by even the most observant of humans. Lying there like that, still, they waited.

It wasn't a quarter of an hour before Jill and Larry heard the house door slam and the sound of a female voice approached the Jetta. " You can just drop me off at Ingles real quick and I'll get a few things for tomorrow while you go deal with Farm Credit." Then a male voice, "Whatever. I just hope we miss this storm. I'm damn sick and tired of driving around with this AC broke."

As Kristen seated herself in the passenger seat, Jill and Larry stiffled groans. They hadn't accounted for the possibility of a passenger, much less a 9-month pregnant one. What was a tight squeeze to begin with became a nearly impossible fit. The mid-summer weight of mother and baby sagged the seat so low that the underneath seemed to compress the raccoon siblings to the size of opossums. Neither said a word, but the discomfort was tangible. They were both silently astounded that neither human could sense the presence of suffering mammals in such close quarters. Brice fired up the Jetta and commence up the pot-hole infested driveway.

That bumpy ride under the pregnant woman's seat in a tiny sedan riveled Jill and Larry's orphaned childhood in pain and misery. It seemed to go on FOREVER, and they were both sitting there squished into an impossible wad of raccoon believing that they were in the gruelling process of being smothered and crushed to death. Once the Jetta hit the blacktop 90 seconds later, the siblings found themselves not only alive, but relatively unscathed- Jill's tail had been broken and one of Larry's teeth had punctured his lip. He frantically attempted to lick the blood back into his mouth as it flowed, terrified that it would pool up and slosh out onto the visible portion of the floorboard. Of course it didn't, and in a few minutes the puncture had clotted. He thought to Jill, "Don't even be thinking about that joke about how I probably just gave myself rabies." She always made that joke whenever he accidentally bit his lip, which, he was just noticing, he did with annoying frequency.

The duo of humans and of raccoons travelled down the paved road with such relative smoothness that all four of them experienced the illusion of comfort and spaceousness. It was just about the time that Jill became aware of the throbbing pain in her tail and that Larry was starting to privately wonder if it was possible that he had indeed given himself rabies that Kristen suddenly let out a startling cry. Brice swerved as he exclaimed, "What the crap!!" He had been quietly daydreaming of a design to build Madison County's first eco-friendly putt putt course using only foraged and salvaged materials.

A warm delightfully scented fluid began dripping down in front of Jill's nose right as Kristen declared, "I think my water just broke!"

He was beginning to say, "Are you sure?" when Brice glanced down at the small pool beginning to accumulate around Kristen's Birkenstocks. Instead he asked, "What do you want me to do?"

Kristen was silent for a few moments before replying, "Well, I don't feel any different. Let's just go get the stuff at Ingles and you can do your stuff and we'll go back home and get organized before anything really gets going."

The Jetta rolled down Lonesome Mountain, cool breeze whipping the Brandon's hair and giving Larry a tickle in his whiskers. It was all Jill could do to refrain herself from lapping at the puddle in the floor. Suddenly, she was very hungry and thirsty. She wasn't sure if the whole flag prank was worth this miserable trip. Just then, Kristen yelled out in what surely must have been some sort of primal human pitch. "Aaaaaahhhhhrrrr!" Then she started panting like a coyote. A few moments later she howled like a wolf. Brice engaged the petal to the floor and exclaimed, "Crap! Hold on honey. Don't you have the baby in this car, ya hear! I'm-a get there in no time flat!"

A half hour and about 1,000 primal screams later, Brice screeched the Jetta into the Emergency Room drive loop, and as he was half lifting, half hoisting Kristen into a lone curbside wheelchair, Jill and Larry crept out of the driver seat and scuttled underneath some dense shrubbery nestled against the building. Once no one was around Jill turned to Larry and said through clenched teeth, "I'm gonna.." Larry interupted her, "You'd never kill me, sis. Now let's find us a flag."