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Friday, Jan. 06, 2006
There’s not a lot happening here in the bleak of mid-winter, traditionally the slow time of year for us carpenter schmoes. You can only spend so much time sharpening chisels, reordering the back of the truck, cleaning the garage. Then before you know it you’re spending a lot of quality time surfing the internet and cramming snack foods into your maw.

Most of my surfin‘ online research has been focused on real estate. We’ve got a years lease on this rental house, the year started at the end of May. I’m amazed that we’re already working’ on our 7th month here.

Ally and I kidnapped Middlest Daughter Maggie last week and made another trip to the west. It’s literally due west from Swampland (which would make it Central Virginia for those of you playing at home), out in the lake country known for rolling hills and big freshwater and large fish who want to come home with me.

Other than being in her first trimester of pregnancy and making me stop for food every hour, Maggie was pretty quiet about the trip. She wants to move somewhere, have the adventure, but she’s in that young and aggressive mode. Wants to make money! Have kids! Live in exciting times! Whereas Ally and I want to go out to the woods and hide. Listen to crickets. Fish from a boat in quiet coves.

I dunno, maybe we can find a common ground for both. Still looking.

Yesterday being the day before trash day, I was looking out the window, first thing in the morning, at the 3 million leaves still laying on the front lawn and mocking me. The final offering from the big oak tree.

I know it’s a rental house but I can’t stand to see leaves laying there and rotting the grass, such as it is, that makes the yard look nice come spring and summer. I’d like to think if I was the owner, and somebody was renting from me, that they’d be classy enough to take care of my shit at least as well as I would. It’s old fashioned, I know. Little bit of the old Boy Scout thing, the “Leave it better than you found it” thing.

So I groaned and moaned and got out the big rake and the bags and spent all morning on the lawn. Periodically I’d roam into the garage to observe the level of the beer in the refrigerator out there, crank up the kerosene heater to take the chill off my bones and listen to a little music on the boom box. Rake for twenty, rest for ten. Takes a while but who am I trying to impress?

Around these parts they won’t let you burn your leaves or yard debris. Only way to get rid of ‘em is to put them in bags and set ‘em out by the curb. Oh, and they must be clear bags, so the city workers can spot and set aside bags of leaves and grass and sticks, grind them up into mulch and sell it by the cubic yard. Enterprising bastards that they are. I piled up twenty bags by noon.

Noon was my signal to hoof my way to the Watering Hole so I could complain to my fellow man about leaves and cold weather and slow work habits in January. There being not a few construction types up there in the same fix I’m in guaranteed a common ground and a slow perusal of the news on TV along with my sammich and pickle.

And I came home and it wasn’t ten minutes before some ancient reprobate drove by in a pickup and hollered, “Hey! Can I have your leaves for my garden?”

It was the most exciting thing to happen all day, I tell ye. Bleak, bleak the mid-winter in Swampland.

I came home form the Hole the other afternoon (gee, there’s way too much Hole and beer going on around here when work is slow) and noted that Ally’s car was already there, a little early for her. Now that’s all well and good, but I try my best to beat her home on days like these. To wash dishes and maybe start dinner and otherwise prove my worth in the absence of anything constructive to do. It’s an unspoken agreement we have. Ever since that time she said, “Damn, guess you got all the time in the world to hang around the Hole in the afternoon but no time at all to vacuum up this sty.” Yeah, it’s been unspoken since then.

So I figgered she’s be in that mood that wives get into when the vacuuming isn’t up to par and cold cuts are on tap for dinner. But she surprised me. Was actually smiling when I strolled in, sitting in her recliner and grinning and calling out “Hi honey how was your day?” in a friendly manner.

“Fine thanks, I was gonna do the dishes but . . .”

And then I spied it. Oh lord, not again.

She had this thing curled up on her lap. Yet another babysitting job from her insane employer, the Zoo Woman. Six inches worth of pure ugly.

I blanched. “She’s at it again, isn’t she.” No need to even ask the whys and wherefores. Last month it was a guinea pig and a pet mouse. Month before that, another miniature pooch. All of whom took great delight in behaving just as they would at the Zoo Woman’s house, which is to defecate as frequently as possible and bark/squeak/run-on-the-mouse treadmill at odd hours.

Zoo Woman can’t turn away the animals. 3 dogs, 4 cats, guinea and mouse, a couple of longhaired rabbits and a dozen fish. She’s got a houseful of em’, who spend their days in cages or holding pens, awaiting the evening arrival of Zoo and Husband. They then romp joyously for a couple of hours before getting on Husbands nerves and being shoved unceremoniously back into confinement and bedded for the night. In order to carry on the tradition of stuffing their house with more poop machines, Zoo has taken to acquiring the animal, loofing them on Ally for a week while she preps Husband for the new arrival, then making the grand presentation on a weekend. Ally plays along by bringing the animal home at night, hiding them at work during the day and generally pissing me and the Lab off in the process. The Lab being an elderly and jealous type.

But this one. “Isn’t he cute honey?”, Ally cooed. “Zoo Lady calls him Wookie, cause he looks like a Wookie, just a fuzzy wittle Wookie thang . . .” and she snuggled and held the dog to her face while four pencil thin legs pin wheeled in mid-air and a tiny tongue lashed her face.

The Lab and I exchanged glances, the resigned and grumpy sort of looks between two old war horses. “Oh he’s darlin’, Ally. How long for this one?”

“Oh just the week, she’s softening the Husband up. Something about some silly rule he made about no more pets. We’ll get him worn down by Friday.”

The dog (it is a dog, isn’t it? It’s even smaller than the guinea pig from last month) came complete with a travel cage and a sack of food. Zoo Lady doesn’t mind spending money on her pets. Hell, she didn’t mind paying me to replace all the carpet in their house with laminate flooring last summer, either. Carpet so nasty it was all I could do to refrain from soiling myself while pulling it up. All part of the Zoo plan. Everybody needs a hobby.

So all this week the mini-Wookie traveled to work with Ally, spent the day hiding from Husband, traveled back, ran in circles and shat the rug at our house for a few hours, got stuffed back in the cage at bedtime, got up for breakfast in the morning and then started all over.

The Lab and I are both exhausted. Me from hollering “Shit alert! Shit alert!” and the Lab from making wide circles around a yapping ball of fur. Ally toted him out to the car this morning and requested of the both of us, “Say bye-bye! Wave to puppy! Won’t be back!”

You’re damn skippy he won’t be back. Carry your Wookie ass.

Gads, won’t somebody give me a nice happy little deck to build? I’m getting stir crazy here. That Wookie has worn me to a frazzle.

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