The Cucumbers are Multiplying

cucs

The air has a chill to it this morning and the sun has yet to break through the darkness of night.  Fall is coming, slow and gentle, like it does every year to ease us into the misery of winter.  Soon it will be time to put away tank tops and shorts, swimsuits and flip flops in exchange for corduroys, sweaters and waterproof boots.

It is a problem that Midwesterners understand all too well, how to maintain two totally different wardrobes with only undergarments being seasonally interchangeable.  Residents of Hawaii, California and Florida, you have no idea what you are missing out on.  Unless of course, you escaped the weather of your home state after declaring to anyone who will listen, “This life of grey skies, chapped hands, and constant scarf wearing is no longer tolerable.”

I am nearing that state as my tolerance diminishes with each year.

Yet, I stay and dream of escape and an ocean breeze to cool my sun-kissed face, not ready for the change that a move would require.  And I work, like the rest of the sheeple that I know.  I work to pay utility bills and a mortgage, to buy food for my cats, husband, and self, and sometimes, I work just to get through to another season with the promise of better days.

As an offshoot of this working, I recently found myself as a defacto dog-sitter.

It started out as a one-time only situation, out of sheer necessity, and has since turned into a routine as natural as picking up the mail from the mailbox after work or taking out the trash on a Thursday night.  Whenever the owner of the hound leaves, he stops by the office with a leash and a bag of snacks.

“These are just in case she gets hungry.”

Gee, I thought they were a present for me.  I nod and wave the man off, I know the deal.  Take her out for a walk when she whines at the door, give her treat whenever she asks for one.  Easy.

The dog entrusted to my care is a mixture between Rottweiler and German shepherd and woe to the fool who messes with her.  Actually, she can’t be left alone without howling and trying to escape by hurling all seventy pounds or so repeatedly against the door which is how I ended up as her temporary custodian.  In summary, she is an emotionally dependent, fatty girl with missing teeth and bad breath, loyal to bacon strips and strangers who might be carriers of her beloved bacon strips.

Not that I mind her company.  After she gets dropped off, she flops herself down at my feet and patiently waits for a treat or for her owner to return.   The former always occurs before the latter.  When her owner does finally return for the beast, it is always with a generous payment in hand and gratitude.

Lately, I have been paid in cucumbers. Extraordinarily large, garden fresh cucumbers.

A worthy payment for services rendered and in the customary Hoosier spirit, he has given me more than I could ever eat.

Generosity: it’s one of the good problems that Midwesterners are all too familiar with, right after mastering the fine art of small talk about the weather.
Learning

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the price of eggs

chickens

A quick Google search revealed that I was headed to decent house in a nice ‘hood.

Four bedrooms, three bathrooms, and an in-ground swimming pool.

I breathed a sigh of relief and assumed that bedbugs, wild dogs, armed men and drunken neighbors would not present as issues.

A woman met me at the door and a gust of cold air slipped past her slender figure.

Wispy strands of gray hair escaped from her long pony tail.

She pushed a strand back from her face with a weathered hand. Her nails were short and black with dirt, meant for function not fashion.

“Come in.”

Not a woman of many words, I thought, and followed her inside.

She ushered me through a dark, cluttered living room. She led me to a mostly cleared off table with a few letters and papers.

“Please sit.”

As I sat, I took a quick glance around the house.

Green, winding plants were crowded on stands in front of the living room window.

A large bag of chicken feed leaned against a recliner. The seat of the chair was filled with boxes, hangers, a lamp and shoes. Books, binders and craft supplies were stacked on the kitchen counter. An empty bucket and rope, gloves and three boxes of plastic wrap were piled by the sliding glass door.

“I am sorry for mess,” she spoke with a heavy accent.

“My kids move out and leave me with all this. I have no chair to sit in. What I do with all this?” she asked in exasperation and threw her hands up.

“I will get paperwork,” the woman said. She walked to a filing cabinet and started rifling through the contents. I took the opportunity to look for the swimming pool.

Stacks of wood and an old grill were haphazardly placed in the backyard, where the grass was even higher than in the front yard.  A little beyond that was the pool, as promised by Google, filled with a black sludgy water.  I later learned it was reserved for the ducks, not swimming. Silly me.

Suddenly, a reddish brown creature charged towards the sliding glass door in an exaggerated waddle.

I shrieked, forgetting the glass door between us.

The woman stopped looking through her files and giggled like a little girl.

“My chickens have to say hi.”

She laughed in delight at my shock.

“Very curious girls,” she said and craned her neck around the corner.

More chickens gathered outside of the sliding glass door, fussing and discussing the stranger.

“That reminds me, I have something for you.”

She made her way back towards the kitchen and came back with a half a dozen eggs.

“For you.”

That night, it was announced on the news that there was a possible outbreak of avian flu in urban backyard chickens.

“Wake up you idiots! Whatever made you think that money was so valuable?”
-Kurt Vonnegut

Where to sit: The importance of a chair.

Image

Sitting near an elderly and most demented man, I cringed at having to readjust my bottom in the cracked and newspaper lined chair.  While at the same time, I knew the old man’s brother had dragged out their best.  He dropped it off in front of me with a smile and indicated that I was to sit.  There was no shame in his face, just pure generosity.

He was a perfect host, offering me the only chair in the home and then sitting on the edge of the only bed in the small home.  I leaned on the armrest of my chair as the demented old man rambled about his aches and pains through gums and thick lips with occasional interjections from his brother.

I panicked when the arm rest nearly gave way underneath of my elbow.  Shifting from one side to the other, the chair creaked like a limb about to break from a tree.  Naturally, I then sat as still and straight as possible to prevent the chair from completely cracking into a pile of dry sticks.

The three of us laughed when the old man said things that neither his brother nor I could understand.  And the men laughed when I nearly fell out of the chair.   We shook hands as equals and in friendship before I headed out the door.

I left feeling itchy, perhaps from flea bites?  However, I also felt the beauty in living simply and holding unconditional positive regard for others.  The very definition of hospitality was embodied in that stuffy little house by those men, despite their lack of possessions or faculties and with the sound of rats rooting through the trash in the background.  It doesn’t take much to show kindness in welcoming a stranger into one’s home and it starts with a place to sit.  Hospitality really is as simple as a chair and a warm smile, toothless or not.

hospitality [ˌhɒspɪˈtælɪtɪ]

n pl -ties

1. kindness in welcoming strangers or guests

2. receptiveness

Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003

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