Seems like only yesterday — but — Kookaburra was just a puppy — when the neighbors told me about their Just in Case Supplies.
They were wearing matching purple sweatsuits — No, they’re violet, she insisted — because — violet is the highest frequency. Their amethyst amulets were opulent in an understated way. The gold chains were excessive. A distraction. I thought. I did like their sneakers — Reeboks, I think. Puffy like marshmallows — high tops.
Criss-crossing each other like automatons — inspecting and reinspecting — they were putting all sorts of numbers — codes, he said — on boxes — lots of boxes — piled up way too crazy high — in their jam-packed garage.
I asked — just in case — if they would share their supplies — Just in case?
Get your own, she snapped. Sounded like a growl.
When he died — not that long ago — those boxes — the ones filled with their Just in Case Supplies — started disappearing — one by one.
His — not mine.
She still wears the purple sweatsuit.
Chop the head off — real good — or — you’ll be sorry, said the know-it-all handyman from across the street. He was waving around a drippy, sloppy sandwich — talking to us — over here — about snakes. His dribble-drabble-koo-koo-talk was heat induced — I’m sure.
Looked like hummus with alfalfa sprouts and a ton of fermented vegetables on some kind of thickly sliced nut bread — not sure if those were sesame seeds or sunflowers seeds — but it was definitely homemade. Why not just make it into a salad, I blurted out — covering my mouth with my hands — like I was 6 or something — about to get in trouble in class — about to stand in the corner — all because that girl Augusta wouldn’t give me my new silver crayon back. And my dress was too short — on picture day!
My twin sister just stared at me — like I was the crazy one. I wanted to leave — but didn’t — especially since the handyman was so super proud of that severed snake head — acting like he saved us — saying he could save the whole universe — from something — inaudible sounding — if only they’d listen, he said.
You should get back to your work — OVER THERE, I said. Telepathically.
Then he starts pointing out these little white snake eggs. Have to be careful with these eggs. These eggs are already sending signals to their mom.
Too bad you didn’t put that in the ground last week, the handyman said — noticing the tomato plant — I just dropped.
Wrote my name in neat little block letters on the professor’s attendance sheet — making it look like I belonged there — like it was meant to be. Just wanted something different — an escape from poly-sci and econ. Plus — I really liked the smell of turpentine. The whole art department reeked of it. And I loved it.
Second semester — sophomore year — I followed some paint splashed, costumey-looking students into a very large, open studio. It was freezing in there — never could figure that out. But it had huge floor to ceiling windows — that let in the most exquisite natural light. I had to stay.
When the professor sat next to me — pointing to the DIY name on his list — I started gathering my things.
Stay, the professor said. Nice name. Stay.
I was the only one oddly giggling — when this guy and girl — I called them Adam and Eve — started taking off their clothes — the girl kept her socks on — always.
Draw what you see, the professor said.
By the end of the semester — I had quite a collection of very highly detailed, anatomically correct renderings of mostly apples and carrots.
Leave them alone, my mother said. Let them be.
But I couldn’t. My great grandmother’s crystal balls — needed to be cleaned. Cleansed is a better word — I think.
Mother Adams — my great grandmother– Frank and Lucinda’s daughter– was clairvoyant and worked as a medium. Smoke and mirrors, my mother says.
Mother Adams had nightly seances and redeemed spirits in her basement church. A racket — a scam, my mother says.
But — ever since the cleansing — things are different — quieter even.
It’s a good thing. I am happy about it. Truly.
But — I do miss those orbs of light — especially the demurely lovely, serenely beautiful purple ones — the ones that would just show up — gently floating — unannounced — out of nowhere — at any time — but, mostly at night or when people came over.
Everything ok? My mother would say — with a wink.
My eyes always popped open whenever I’d see one. But — not now — not after the cleansing. Now — we just have feathers showing up — unannounced — out of thin air. Should probably clean Mother Adams’ china cabinet.
It doesn’t need to be cleaned, my mother said. Let it go.
Cleansed is a better word — I think.
It wasn’t the snickerdoodles — it’s just — the wording — Cookies for Satan — on those big, giant, huge posters — gave the wrong idea. We didn’t sell any. But — at least — that homeless man standing next to us — on the corner — near the bus stop — had a nice snack. And — at least — that reporter lady — getting off the bus — stopped — and talked to us. Thanks to her — two weeks later — in rural, southern Maryland — Satan was saved.
Nobody will know, my twin sister said. Could be fun, I said.
We were both wrong.
Not about the whole twin-switcheroo-thing — that’s just what twins do. It’s a fact! It’s just — we should have started with something simpler, less complicated — something that would not make the evening news or the morning paper.
Satan was an unbelievably HUGE-GIANT-ANGRY-MEAN former Park Police horse. Probably should have warned my twin sister about that triple bolted gate. But — my 8th grade Work Internship — at the stables — did not normally involve cleaning the stalls or the horses.
Metal does not belong in the microwave.
Trust me — it doesn’t.
Not sure why I thought that can of Beefaroni was different. That’s how the microwave — in the kitchen– at the nursery school — where my twin sister had her 8th grade Work Internship — went — KABOOM!
I was spying on the handsome new alley cat — while listening to a redbird — singing. Sounded like the blues to me — only because that song left me feeling sad.
That’s when I noticed another redbird limping — underneath the peonies — the pink ones. All the petals have already fallen off the white ones — from the rain last night.
That handsome new alley cat was still at the neighbor’s house — crouching low — on those crumbling, old steps — watching a huge black bird — maybe it was a crow — eating french fries out of the dumpster. The dumpster that gets filled and hauled away on Tuesdays — since last November.
I knocked and knocked and knocked — on the window — when I saw that alley cat — his name should be Houghton — such a haughty, snobby boy — getting closer and closer to the peonies — the pink ones. He stopped and looked at me — in the way that only cats can.
I should know better by now — should’ve just turned away.
One look into those crystal cat eyes — and I was lost, for sure — nowhere to be found. Next thing I knew — that alley cat — named Houghton — had that redbird in his mouth — and he was still staring at me — underneath the peonies.
Every time I make this shrub — especially cherry shrub — I think about my great, great grandfather — on my mother’s side — grandpa Frank.
I bet it was a night like this — around midnight — when grandpa Frank ran away. Looking up at that moon — so huge and so full — it was probably, nearly, almost close enough to touch — if he reached for it — if he stretched — a little. And with all those stars so bright and so big — I know it was easier to see — just had to be.
Maybe he planned it that way — maybe he didn’t — don’t know for sure — but either way — my great, great, great grandfather Ambrose owned a lot of slaves — fathered quite a few — including grandpa Frank. It was a crazy, tangled business — that Kentucky plantation.
Eventually — grandpa Frank went back to that same plantation — back to his father, Ambrose — who then hired him to run the plantation. Grandpa Frank was always good with money. He could read and write. His father taught him — early.
Grandpa Frank was in charge of the slaves — on the plantation. He even bought some of the slaves — for his father — for the plantation. It was a crazy, tangled business — but grandpa Frank knew it well. He married one of the slaves — on the plantation. She was my great, great grandma Lucinda.
She liked strawberries. He liked cherries.
Bet they were married on a night like this — around midnight — somewhere — on that Kentucky plantation — moon so bright — stars so big — it was probably even easier to see.