Seven o’clock a.m. For the last couple of hours I’ve been working on my current project, Clarence’s Wheelbarrow. It’s my habit to leave myself something to ponder and a vague plan about what I’ll write tomorrow. Today the prompts I’ve left on the screen are Where is Caroline Rush? and Does Grace really drink too much?
That’s enough to get me started. Hopefully by tomorrow morning I’ll know where Caroline is. Not sure what to do about Grace’s drinking though. The people who know her best tell her she drinks too much but, stubbornly oblivious, she thinks she drinks just the right amount.
Pushing back from the desk, I go into the kitchen and put my empty water glass in the sink. Then I shuffle to the back window to look outside because it’s always best to let the sunrise give you an idea of what the day will hold.
There’s an animal grazing beneath the birdfeeder. Because it’s that time of day when everything is shadowy and gray, my vision isn’t clear. It’s one of the woodland creatures that are of a certain size. Here’s what it could be: skunk, raccoon, rabbit, armadillo, badger, possum, or feral cat. Here’s what lives in this area that it’s definitely not: bird, coyote, deer, fox, snake, feral hog.
I go into the bedroom where David’s just kicking back the covers.
“There’s an animal in the backyard,” I tell him, “and I can’t tell what it is.”
Pulling on a sweatshirt, he follows me out to the living room. Because our house is still torn up from the Shower Disaster of 2019, we must make our way around a dresser, a chest, and a couple of tables. In the murky light we bump into things.
And at the window we stand, squinting.
“I don’t know what it is,” he says. “Let Dilly out.”
He says it to get a rise. He knows I’d never purposely let my delicate magnolia blossom confront a beast of nature.
“I’m going out,” I say, fearful yet brave.
“Don’t let it get you.”
I step out on to the porch, drawing the animal’s attention so that it turns and shows me its face, which is almost elegant. A long snout, markings around its eyes that run up and down enhancing the elongated snout; and an exaggerated widow’s peak that adds to the overall vertical appearance.
“Too bad about your goofy ears and pink nose,” I tell it. “They’re ridiculous.”
I go back inside.
“You didn’t scare it away. It’s still out there.”
“It’s mangy and its tail is hideous.”
Mange is a pestilence I’ve had experience with. There were mangy foxes in England and our then dog, Charlie, got it just from hanging out in the yard. He lost almost all of his hair and was tragically humiliated.
Now I have that to worry about.
I also worry about Grace’s drinking. She’s too young to be drinking so much and so regularly. In her early thirties her favorite thing to do is drink wine while watching her favorite shows on television. She recently resigned from teaching so she no longer has that social outlet. And now, isolated, she spends her days looking forward to her first gulp of Malbec. She’s been depressed and experiencing panic attacks so her few friends think she’s self-medicating; and I agree.
How am I going to find humor in a young woman sinking into the abyss of alcoholism? How could this possibly be funny? For the amusement factor I look to her neighbors, an absurd chorus of elderly do-gooders who are determined to see Grace through.
As her creator the problem I’ve run into is that I must be true to her character. She loves her wine so why would she give it up? Yet giving it up is a must if this story is going to end on a hopeful note.
So I’ve decided to give her something she wants more than wine. Also there must be some sort of wakeup call, a fright of some sort.
But what will she love more than her TV and her drink? And what traumatic event must take place in order for her to realize that she needs to make a change?
This is what I ponder as I glare at the stupid possum who has laid claim to our backyard. He’s out there every time Dilly needs to go out. I have to chase him off just so she can pee and believe me, this backyard thug doesn’t move fast. How do I get it to go away?
Too bad the foxes left. A couple of years ago they were plentiful. I can still remember the heartrending scream at dusk when a fox got the last rabbit. At that point, because the food supply was gone, the foxes moved on. At least the rabbits were cute. Homely and waddling, this beast has an inexplicable sense of entitlement. It thinks it owns Dilly’s backyard.
I am very mad at it.