Monday, July 13, 2009

Dangerous Book - Episode 6

Long after the croquet

It’s very late and all my windows are open to the cool and damp river air of this beautiful star-filled Alabama town. Across the courtyard Mrs. Moth paces behind her open blinds and closed windows. It’s late, and she is pacing and I am dancing. She is angry, Phoebe told me tonight, because their minister is quitting Calvary Baptist (our landlord) and joining the big church downtown where there is better parking and “greater opportunities.”

My dancing ritual is a ritual for man wishing. In my remaining pair of four-inch heels to an inspiring aerobic ballad, I dance to a choreography of images. Where we met –– in an infant garden introduced by an elderly fairy godmother — where he included me in his plans (an ordinary Thursday evening of croquet and drinks, a lingering conversation among friends and neighbors), where he suggested a private meeting (lunch next week) where I gave myself away to the delight of his smile, where words and a quick kiss up between us like wildflowers after a rain. I danced.

April 13 Good Friday, traditional Southern planting day - heavy clouds

It is mid-afternoon and I am writing at my desk in the office. Something bad happened early this morning.

Although I’d been careful with my plant arrangements yesterday, the garden’s design had become, during the course of the croquet game, a source of amusement and speculation to my neighbors and new best friends.

Everyone had an opinion about the layout. Everyone re-arranged the plants, as if the garden were a kind of board game. At one point, I was so confused I cleared the space, intending to lay them out fresh before going to work this morning. I did all this while Peter and Allen cleared the croquet field and Billie broke down the bar. Then we all said good night and I went in with Juniper to dance in my living room and write the entries above.

I wrote till past three finally falling into a light sleep. A prowling tom cat and a restless Astible woke me and Juniper three or four times. Just before dawn I heard Astible barking. Juniper joined her in this. Then they stopped suddenly and I fell back to sleep and into dreams of digging graves in the courtyard and rolling giant croquet balls into all of them.

In the dream, B., the man I left behind in Atlanta, was seated on one of my lawn chairs, drinking gin and tonic and watching me. He was dressed in the green work shirt that he wore on his mother’s farm and a loose pair of khakis. The blood that had matted his hair had been washed away, but he still looked broken. Just as he was about to say something, perhaps forgive me, I turned away. It was 8 a.m. and I was going to be late for work.

I took Juniper out the back door and let her pee, then shut her in the kitchen.

As I debated whether to call the office and feign a sore throat, I heard sobs coming from out front.There in my garden plot lay poor little Astible, right at the center. Beside her, Professor S. was kneeling but crying so hard and so obstructed by the pile of plants, he could hardly lift her. I ran to him, pulling the overturned pots out of his way. He was hysterical.

“Be careful of your plants,” he sobbed. “Your plants, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry,” he cried, trying to reach his dog. At last she was in his arms and he wept, a heartbreaking sight.

Seconds later, he bundled her into his car and disappeared. To the vet where Dr. Sothern can tell him how Astible died. I hope she can tell him it was quick.

The poor plants were still in their containers, ready as ever for final planting, but it didn’t feel right some how so I lined them up along the veranda and prepared for the office.

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