by Robyn Parnell
Sunday, May 30, 1999
You have time to think, riding the bus. That says something for an activity most folks take for granted. I ride them all the time back home and for most of the time that I do, I am thinking. I’ve ridden two busses out here, the one from the Portland airport across the river to Hazelton, Washington, and now this one, which is going back to the airport. They have been quite nice, both of them, with clean upholstery and what look to be fresh tires. They’re certainly newer than the busses in the fleet we have out of Tiptonville. Still, the thinking quality and opportunities are the same, once you get past the seat cushions. And you can’t beat the scenery on the route past Reelfoot Lake and on up to Union City.
Ciela warned me that there would be no lake views but she promised I’d get to see their big river again. The Columbia is a sight prettier than the Mississippi, although I’ll keep that opinion to myself. Folks expect me to sing the “everything is better back home” song, and I kindly oblige. The Big Muddy is aptly named, if you ask me, which you didn’t but I’ll answer anyways. It may have the history and such but it is red-headed stepsister homely, at least where it runs by my part of the country. “The Mighty Mississippi.” I could never see what the fuss was about.
Ciela told me she takes the bus quite a bit since her accident, which I know I am not supposed to call an accident but no one gave me a primer so I slipped up once or twice. She’s still getting used to being a passenger, I can tell. She looks around, mostly at the other riders, and can’t decide whether to keep looking or not. Me, I like to look out the window. I like to watch the road and the countryside, so as to notice my surroundings. I notice that these drivers in Washington have their lights on, in the broad daylight. Cranky fools don’t care how much gasoline they burn.
I can see Ciela’s eyes through the edge of those sunglasses, which hardly flatter her, but she says flattery is not why she wears them. She’s nodding sideways, likely to doze off. I can get by with less than six hours of sleep; she’s used to more, it would seem. She said we needed to have ourselves a sleepover party since I was only visiting for one night, and who actually gets any sleep at a sleepover? We stayed up late in our PJs, playing Scrabble. I don’t think I have ever seen anyone so excited to spell a big word. I’ll admit I had been gloating but who wouldn’t, getting to play their X on a triple point square? Ciela looked to be pouting at my good fortune. Then she cackled like the Wicked Witch of the West and used all her tiles along with my X. I’ve heard of quixotic, but from what I understand it’s not a real word used in conversation, outside of Spain or other Mexican-speaking countries.
There are bus-riding tricks you learn in time, such as the makeshift pillow. Take your jacket or sweater, fold it twice and it’ll soften the seatback or cushion the windowsill for you. If I wasn’t so chilled I’d give her my sweater for her head; she left the one I made for her back at her house. She and JD must have the warmest blood, or a person gets used to it, living out here.
It nips my ears to think of JD when he came back from his meeting yesterday afternoon. He was wearing short pants and sandals, even though it had been drizzling when he’d left that morning! He went back again this morning, only in longer pants. I watched him from the window; he didn’t see me or he surely would have waved back. JD’s a waver, like Ciela. It’s nice that they found each other. It would try your heart, to be a waver and be married to someone who didn’t wave back.
He went back to the park, the one Ciela says he used to walk in every day, only he was going back to that food conference, not to do his walk. I have to admire his dedication but it must be wearisome to talk about people starving, and to listen to people who are trying to get you to think that you can be responsible for the miseries of foreigners. You can help, but only a little. The world will always have poor people—that’s straight from Jesus, in the Bible. God knew it then, and I think most people know it now, even if they don’t admit it. But you do what you can do. JD didn’t look like he wanted to do what he can do. He got to the end of the driveway and jumbled up and down on his feet for a spell and clutched his hands to his tummy, as if he were talking himself into going where a bucket of cold cod liver oil was awaiting him.
I wish I’d had more time to visit with him. Jordan David Himmel; I don’t think I’ve heard his full name spoken since the wedding. It’s a stuffy-sounding name for such an unstuffy man, which is likely why he’s always called JD. Ciela caught a good one with JD. At their wedding I properly expressed, in the presence of others, that the catching was the other way around. JD replied to me that it wasn’t catching, it was “convincing.” I don’t know if he was teasing, which he likes to do. Why he would have to convince Ciela to marry him, I can’t see it. He is the sweetest soul, gentle, smart and patient, with a fun to his eyes when you least expect it. He’s not the kind to act his height, like so many men do when they know they’re tall and they parade it. These are not common virtues in a man; I hope Ciela appreciates them. I’m sure she does, even if she doesn’t always act like it.
There are times when your own children can seem like aliens from North Slovenia, and then there are times you plainly see the parents in the child. Ciela gets her stubborn from Charles. She’s her father’s daughter in that way; I could tell when she was a freshly born baby. Jan got her sweet from her momma—bless her heart and split my hairs, Lord, but you took Lena Marie Booker too soon. Ciela can be as sweet as Jan when she wants to, which is mostly, but our Ciela can put her foot down like nobody but her daddy.
Ciela could have said no and I would have respected that and not come up to visit. Nobody can make Ciela say yes if she means no; Charles made sure to remind me of that. My only living brother came into this world a man and still acts like one, telling you things you already know.
Interrupting JD’s conference was not my idea, but I got the feeling Ciela didn’t mind. She wasn’t really taken with it but she did the right thing, to go with him for a small portion of it. It’s something a wife does for a husband. A good husband.
I told Charles not to fuss; I told him plain and short that I understood why Ciela and JD couldn’t come down to Sacramento this year. As long as I have my health I’ll be back next year, same as same can do. Recent times have not been kind for Ciela and JD; they’ve had a pint past a gallon of sorrows. Even so, Ciela won’t stand for anything but “everything’s fine” if you’re talking about her neck. And you won’t be talking on that, seeing as how she wants to keep pretending it is “no big deal.” She’d never sent a picture of what it looked like. I didn’t think it fitting to ask, and was a bit concerned about my reaction, as I didn’t know what to expect. Turns out it was a needless worry. It’s not near half as bad as a person might think; truly, not bad at all. She’s closely the same as ever, except for a more stretchy look to her neck, which I suspect most folks don’t pay much heed to. But the doctors still don’t know what caused it or if it will ever get back to normal. You can’t tell me that doesn’t keep her wheels spinning.
I think they gave up, the doctors she saw. They’d never admit to it, because that would put them out of balance, which they don’t understand in the first place. The kind of doctors who work with a body’s balance don’t make the bigger money like the so-called medical doctors do, and so they don’t have money to spare for the fancy licenses and doing their own drug studies.
If you work with what’s natural, you get natural results. Ciela will listen. I truly believe she’s like-minded, deep down, if only to a point. That’s a start.
They had me in the next-door room, the spare bedroom, they call it. Which I don’t know why they don’t call it a guest bedroom. A bedroom shouldn’t be spare, it should be filled. Seeing as how it was the same distance to their bathroom as the “spare” bathroom I used Ciela’s and JD’s bathroom, which she told me I was welcome to do. I found not one of the supplements I’d sent to her in the medicine cabinet. None in the drawers or kitchen cabinets, neither.
Fresh off the bus yesterday afternoon she let me mix up a tonic smoothie for her. She and JD keep a good stash of beneficial ingredients in the house. I even found carrot tops in the icebox, only I found out they were for the big blender only. That gorgeous, enormous blender on the counter, as sturdy as you’d find in any professional cafeteria, and she uses it to grind up all the goodness and feed it to her plants! I had to use the hand mixer for my tonic.
What she needs to let me do is clean out that blender and show her how to whip up a tonic for JD. It’s not healthy, his chugging the bismuth like I saw him doing, and when did that start? If you come across a mushroom or a beetle or a frog with that intensity of pink coloring, you’d know it’s nature’s warning: “Don’t eat me—I’m poisonous!” Ciela didn’t seem to know anything about it when I mentioned it to her. This notion of privacy between people who live together can be an excuse for neglect; in my day, if you loved someone enough, you cared enough to snoop. I found six bottles of it in his bathroom drawer, along with a carton of antacid packets. One part raw cabbage to two parts water; blend until you get the puree, boil down to half, and drink twice daily—two weeks and that’ll do the trick. And stop listening to tales of deprivations of starving folks halfway up a tree on the other side of the world, that’s enough to tear up anyone’s belly.
It’s setting to drizzle again; now all those headlights make sense. Ciela and JD don’t seem to mind the weather here, but you wouldn’t know it was spring if the calendar didn’t say so. The smell isn’t the same as back home. That would be a fine project, to keep track of rain-smell. In Sacramento, the parts of it I’ve seen near Charles’s home, it almost never rains in the late spring, when I visit. It did once, must have been five years ago, and it smelled like rice. The air or the rain, I don’t know, but I smelled steaming white rice. The smell of rain in West Tennessee is a boost to the soul, like a tonic tea of grass and dark earth. It steers one’s thoughts to rest on the kindness of friends, and the security of old land and new-ploughed fields. I didn’t think to be missing it so soon.
Ciela and JD say I am welcome anytime, and I know I am. Still, it was a fool idea, too much fuss to come up for one overnight stay, but Charles insisted. I understood that Ciela and JD would miss my visit this year; I made that plain. Then Charles off and got me the ticket—here’s your hat, what’s your hurry? Brothers act like brothers no matter their age; they boss you with a smile and expect you’ll show gratitude.
That man across the aisle three rows up on the left could be JD’s brother, if he had one, bless his heart. At least JD’s brothers died when they were day-old babies, which is easier on the parents and the surviving child. You can’t ache as much for what you didn’t really know. JD would have made a fine brother and it’s a shame, him having no siblings. You might think he’s a solitary soul when you first meet him but he is most definitely not. Friendly as all get out, even as he seems to stick to Ciela for his company. He chose to teach, which says something about a person. Ciela says he’s thinking of quitting teaching, to go back to college to become a professor of education. His aim is to start up a special program that makes it seem attractive to become a middle school teacher, which is sorely needed, they say. No jaw should drop at the news that a certain group of students might be the hardest age to recruit teachers for. You might as well let them run wild until the hormones settle. JD surrounds himself all day with the manner of students you couldn’t pay me cash money to babysit for one hour, much less try to educate.
It surprised me that Ciela didn’t last long, after getting her credential. I can’t recall if she ever even had a proper classroom of her own, after her student teaching shifts. She would make a fine teacher, the kind who would be mentioned in a valedictorian’s speech, the kind of teacher a child, turned adult, would look back on and say what an influence she was. She couldn’t stick with it. I think she compared herself to JD, which is foolish. When it came down to managing a class she saw something in him that she didn’t see in herself, even though she’s funny and whip-smart and likes kids, no matter what she says. It’s a classroom’s loss, not to have Ciela in it.
They both seem older, somehow. JD is forty-one. How did that happen? That’s the way of the world; like the rest of us, they are getting on. They are still too young for such a load of tragedies as they have recently had. Ciela would not abide with the idea of her having tragedies—she’d say it’s overly too much of an exaggeration, to call it that. But there’s a truth there, if you poke at it.
Forty-one and thirty-eight. They’re still young enough to forget, if they even knew it in the first place, that the thing about life is death. A dear friend’s death is a wound that, if you’re not watchful, will bore a hole in your heart. As soon as I heard the news from Jan I said to her, “Jan, your baby sister”—and that’s what we are, when death strikes; we’re like a baby—”your baby sister just lost her best friend, and she and her husband should stay put and think of themselves.” Jan, sensible as always, agreed with me. Said she’d put the word to Ciela, and I trust she gave her a good, “Don’t you even think to come down here at this time!” Charles, of course, knew better. He sent Ciela an email letter first, before he telephoned. That, in his mind, is knowing better.
They laugh about me because I won’t do the email. Not so much to my face and I know it’s meant to be gentle, but they get a chuckle thinking ’bout old-fashioned Betsy-Bug. Even Jan does. I could get the pictures of her children much quicker, Jan says, if I had the email. She tries to sound helpful. And now that they have the computers, which are supposed to be such a time-saver, they don’t have a minute to drop a photo in an envelope? The fact that two days going through the post is considered a waste of time nowadays jangles my spine. There is no joy quite like that of opening a letter from family or friends, unfolding the creases and turning the pictures this way and that to catch the light.
Even my lady friends back in Tiptonville brag to me about the “updates” they are getting, now that they got the computers from their grown children and have learned to use the email and the Internet. You can get the news as it happens, they crow. I can’t see as that’s anything to boast about. Where on dry land does an interest in as it happens come from, especially when you’re referring to what passes for the news nowadays? Why would I take notice of that pathetic Lewinsky girl’s shenanigans, or want to know about what any snake-in-the-grass politician does with his weinus? People will keep on having sex as if the world is going to keep turning; men will keep thinking with their weinuses as if they’re important for that reason. None of it is news to me.
I do have to wonder about that sad Lewinsky girl. It goes to show you that there are people like that. She is someone who just didn’t turn out right. I have to think that things could have been different if she’d had a good friend standing by her side. Or any kind of friend, no matter where they stood.
Ciela wouldn’t say much about her friend Cheryl, although she thanked me each time for asking. She did say that Cheryl loved to hear stories, and that she felt bad about how she’d never gotten around to telling her some of the more important ones, such as the one about her momma dying. I try not to judge Ciela’s way of looking at things but it was hard to hear that Lena’s death would fit into the “some” of her important stories. I don’t see what could be more important than your momma dying, even if Ciela and Jan were already out of the house and in college, thinking they’re adults. Because you aren’t, at that age. I do understand why Ciela might have waited on telling that story. You think there’s time; you always think there will be plenty of time.
Hold on to the good; that’s what Ciela remembers. Which is a fine quality for a person. Surely there are worse memories a daughter could have, than having the last words from her momma be spoken in affection and with laughter. “I love you, now stop howling and go to sleep!” Ciela and Jan had been howling in the tent—that big tent all four of them still slept in when they went camping, just like when the girls were in grade school. Charles said they’d heard the call of a faraway wolf. Likely, it was just a coyote. Whatever it was, Ciela was determined to answer it back. Ciela howled and howled while she and Jan lay in their sleeping bags and giggled, like they were little girls instead of college ladies.
I can hear the phone call like it was yesterday, that slice of dread in Charles’s voice. It was the summer after Jan graduated from college. The next year it would be Ciela’s turn to graduate, and who could know if their schedules would allow for another family camping trip, all four of them. They’d gone somewhere in the Sierra foothills, in the old gold rush area north of Lake Tahoe, which surprised me as I thought they’d want to go to one of their favorite spots, Yosemite and the like. Lena’s tummy had been acting up again. Jan said Lena joked about it, said that it was from eating too many s’mores that first night around the campfire and that she’d learned her lesson about over-celebrating. Sure enough, Lena felt better in the morning and had no complaints for the next three nights. But Charles told me that Lena had been feeling poorly for several days before they’d left. Two days before the trip Charles was near to the point of insisting that Lena see a doctor. Then they went out shopping for camp groceries and Lena told him that she felt fine, and that whatever it was must have passed.
You wouldn’t have looked at the woman Charles married and thought she was prone to a delicate constitution, but Lena always had the fussy stomach. Charles said that there was no connection, that your appendix is not related to your stomach, it just happens to be in the vicinity. He said the doctor explained the autopsy to him, which showed that the peritonitis had set in and that her appendix had likely ruptured before they’d even left for the camping trip. I say you never really know if something could have been done. All those years she’d feel fine and then she’d get the pains, and Lena wouldn’t do anything about it. She refused to “fuss” the doctors. That I can understand, but she wouldn’t try the vitamins or tonics, neither. What I cannot understand is when people don’t try to help themselves.
Ciela says she can look back and be thankful that her mother went to sleep and simply didn’t wake up the next morning. Seventeen years can bring that kind of observation, although I’m doubtful that Ciela can be as accepting as she thinks she is without knowing where it comes from. If you don’t credit the Lord then where’s the credit?
Ciela can’t help but regret that she’ll never get to tell that story, in whatever way she would have, to her friend Cheryl. I was surprised she’d let on to that, in front of me. I have been around the block and it’s a long time since I fell off the turnip truck; I know people can change, and change back again. You can feel close to someone, and then not. Although my feelings for my favorite nieces have not changed I suspect Ciela doesn’t tell me much of importance, not like she used to. She did say one thing, right before dinner yesterday, after JD had left us and gone back to the park. She said that JD had stopped going to the bookstore. He doesn’t bring her books, the books that, if I recall correctly, she didn’t ask for and rarely got around to reading. Which I don’t know is anything to complain about, because people getting you things you didn’t ask for is presuming on their part, if you ask me. And I didn’t wait for her to ask, I told her so. I don’t know why she thought that was funny. Then she stopped laughing, and said JD also doesn’t get himself books anymore. It made her sad to say it, and me sad to hear it. I told her it’s the kind of sad that’s best not to dwell on. This too shall pass.
I’d like to have seen more of JD. Yesterday he showed up at the house after lunch time. Ciela had met me at the bus stop in Hazelton and we’d had a nice walk back to her house, and it was only fifteen minutes or so and JD showed up. The conference gave him free time in the afternoon, so we had an hour or so to visit. Ciela gave him a video to take back to the conference; she said it was about a refugee camp. It had been shown the first night of the conference and she watched it in the morning before I got there. She’d wanted to see it again, for some reason. I assume there was a reason; she didn’t tell me, and I didn’t ask—I was relieved she didn’t suggest that we watch it together. It seemed more like JD’s interest, but when someone latches on to a new cause they can develop the zeal of the convert, which can turn them toward pestering everyone else.
JD was back that evening, a bit after ten, which was later than when Ciela had said he’d be back. A man isn’t as concerned about walking home after dark, and Ciela didn’t seem worried about him. They have a good marriage, but the way she speaks to him, sometimes. He said he’d lost track of time, and that he and several others had got to talking about what leads to problems with food getting to the places relief workers try to deliver it to. He said Thomas—an African who is some kind of relief worker; Ciela seemed to know who he was—had told of the old men in a refugee camp who prayed for rain, which never came. Then this Thomas told them about a convoy that was attacked by marauders, and how one of the convoy’s drivers began to pray in whatever language he spoke, and when the attackers heard him praying they went away. Those people who stuck around began to share other stories about when prayers worked or didn’t, and what they thought about such things.
That sounded interesting to me. Certainly more interesting than talking about starving people. JD was only two minutes into telling us this before Ciela made a most sarcastic comment: “The efficacy of prayer and belief, that’s a fresh one.” Too late, when it was all the way out of her mouth, I saw her glance down sideways, at me. I didn’t let on that I’d seen her do that. I remembered what Momma used to say: “You’re about to shit and fall back in it.”
Not to be remembering my mother as a cusser, because she wasn’t.
JD, he grinned at me and said I was about to be treated to Ciela’s account of how both sides in the Crusades prayed for the destruction of the other side, and that if Ciela was considerate she’d give her guest an abridged version of why religion is responsible for most of the world’s miseries. Ciela smiled at JD, smiled at her husband in the way a cat smiles up at a caged canary. She said she didn’t need to reference the Middle Ages, the Crusades, The Inquisition, or “endless lists of historical atrocities.” I remember her exact words.
“A quiet toss-off of the cruel absurdities of the present will do: Over fifty percent of Rwandans are practicing Catholics.”
It’s JD who’s the teacher, yet Ciela is the one who comes up with such a load. A quiet toss-off of cruel absurdities. She’s always been a smart girl, but I don’t understand why she sometimes complicates her vocabulary, other than to show off.
Every now and then a person can bring lightness to a conversation that is starting to weigh you down, and I thought such a time was called for and that I was that person. Ciela probably thought I was trying to witness to her, but it was in the newspapers, which everybody reads. I asked them if they’d heard about how “The Last Supper” painting had been placed back on display in Milan, after being taken down for twenty-two years of restoration. I am no fan of the Catholics or their ways of thinking and don’t care much to visit Italy, but you can’t help but be inspired by Leonardo da Vinci. The first time I saw that picture a little prayer flew out of my lips, like it had wings of its own. But I didn’t say that. I simply mentioned that there had been bigger prayers in my life, and that Ciela knows about my sickness, and how it went away.
She doesn’t have to call it the power or spirit of Jesus, or even God, if she doesn’t want to. It’s the same, whether she realizes it or not. Although it would be better for her soul if she did. Still, when you don’t try to understand the mystery, then you are left with just half of the details of the story. You need the mystery to get to what the story is all about.
I wonder what would Ciela think if she knew that, at the very moment I had those thoughts I was also seeking counsel through a quick prayer, during which the good Lord convinced me to keep my thoughts to myself?
JD took our dinner dishes to the sink. He was thoughtful as always to clean up, even though he had eaten at the conference and so the dirty dishes were our doing. He asked Ciela if she ever prayed. It was casual, like he was asking her if she wanted him to run the dishwasher. I couldn’t help but think they must have discussed this before, and that he was asking it for me, so I could hear her answer. Such an easy, familiar question, and private at the same time. It is a credit to our relationship that he would feel comfortable to get into such matters when I was there. They feel easy around me; they always have. Still, I was almost embarrassed to hear it, and thought I should excuse myself to use the biffy or freshen up.
I’m glad I stayed put because Ciela’s answer surprised me. She didn’t say it with any shift or explanation like some people do, when they claim they’re not religious but are “spiritual,” or that they don’t pray but they do “meditate.” She said one word: “Yes.” JD wiped his hands on the dish towel and asked her what she prayed for, or to. And she said, “None of your business.”
I still don’t know what to think of that.
Ciela’s far out to nap-land; the bumps of the bridge don’t even wake her. Something about crossing a big old bridge over a big old river—even in a motor vehicle, it makes you feel like a pioneer. Years ago, I would have woken her up and insisted she look out the window. I suppose this is nothing to her, but this is the mighty Columbia River, from Lewis and Clark stories, and it’s the first time, for me. Second time, counting the yesterday’s crossing.
“None of your business.” She didn’t say it to him in a nasty way, but she did say it. JD didn’t take it as if she’d meant to be mean, so I had to feel it for him. And I did, which is why I excused myself out to the porch to stretch my legs. Ciela gave me a minute or two until she followed me out. I didn’t mean to give her the snap-eyes but it threw me for a spell, to think that I might not be able to tell when she’s joshing, what with her head raised like that. Funny, how such a little change…it’s probably nothing but my imagination, and perhaps I should have apologized, but it got me to thinking, and that made me sad. That flash in her eye and the tilt to her chin—it’s what she used to do when she was being sarcastic, and now, even if she wasn’t being sarcastic, that’s what I’d thought I picked up from her. And if I could be wrong, what about folks that don’t know her? Is this what it will be for her: a life of misplaced sarcasm, sentenced to that tilted chin? Ciela has the rest of her life—and I know it is her life—to do…what?
But she got us on to a different subject. She strolled out beside me, bringing the cup of tea I hadn’t asked for, and out of the clear blue—or in their case, gray—sky she says, “I’m doing a survey.” I knew I was supposed to ask, a survey about what? She waited for it, and when I didn’t, she asked me what I thought about the idea that “some lives are worth more than others.” I don’t think it’s much of an idea, more like a peculiar notion that’ll get your head spinning if you try to make sense of it. She was smiling, but also had that cloudiness to her eyes. I supposed she might be pining on her friend, even while trying not to. It could be that she and Cheryl had been talking about it for some reason, right before she died. For Ciela’s sake I decided to give the idea some thought. I looked through the window to the kitchen, trying to focus my mind, but all I could focus on was JD. He was standing at the sink, still as a stone, staring down. There hadn’t been many dishes and he’d loaded most of them, so what was he staring at? You’d have thought he’d discovered Jimmy Hoffa’s body down in the drain, with the intensity of his watching whatever he was watching.
I asked Ciela what JD thought, about some lives being worth more than others. She shook her head and the clouds dropped out of her eyes and made it all the way down to her mouth. But just for a moment, and then that smile returned. She said she thought he disagreed, but that he had stopped going for his walks in the park, like he used to. Which didn’t make sense to me, to put the two together. There probably doesn’t seem to be a lot of making sense for them, right now, in this time. Ciela’s best friend passes so suddenly, right as Ciela might be adjusting to this medical condition that comes out of nowhere, and then she loses her job—which I did not bring up or even let on to knowing about (for once I think Charles was right in his advice, although I can’t help but be concerned for her plans, and don’t think it’s a crime to mention the obvious).
I let it be.
There’s been not a sound out of that dog across the aisle, which serves me right for thinking poorly about the driver letting folks bring animals on the bus. There I was, telling Ciela we should probably get a seat further back from the lady with the little poofy dog, because they always get to yipping. She must have given it the doggy tranquilizers you can get from the veterinarian, for when you travel. I won’t do that to my Beau; I think it’s best for a dog to stay home, where it’s safe and familiar. Whatever happened to your neighbors watching your dog? A good neighbor will do that, will do anything for you, but some folks won’t even ask, nowadays.
It is a nice carrier, I’ll give her that. Fits snug under the seat and looks like a piece of New York designer luggage with windows, until you see that furry face poking at the air holes. That contraption plus the dog must have run her over a thousand dollars. A purebred Yorkie costs real money, and I don’t think you can get them mixed or half breed. Other than for the issue of portability I could never see the appeal of a dog the size of a squirrel, and with a nervous system to match. A dog should be respectable dog-sized, like my Beau. For what that lady paid for that runty creature she could have saved five Beau-hounds from the shelter.
All those pets they had, when Ciela and Jan were children! From turtles to hamsters, even snakes, Lord help me, and then all kinds of tank fish and those mangy, shrieking parakeets. The summer Charles and Lena surprised their girls with the mutt brown puppy and the black kitty, I thought I might extend my visit until the end of summer. There’s nothing cuter in the world than watching a puppy and a kitten playing together. And when they grow up like that, raised together, it makes the cat a little more like a dog, which is nice.
Children should have pets, especially puppies. The only thing cuter than puppies playing with one another is children playing with puppies.
Don’t you go asking them about having babies.
I’d bet cash money on what’ll be the third thing out of Charles’s mouth. He’ll meet me at the gate, arms waving like a windmill. First up: “You have a nice trip?” then, “Let’s get a move-on; I found a spot by the curb.” Charles always finds a spot by the curb, whether or not it’s legal to park there. He thinks that a lifetime of parking in NO PARKING PASSENGER LOADING ONLY zones without ever having gotten a ticket is a seal of approval from St. Peter.
“You didn’t ask them about having kids, did you?” He’ll wait until after he loads my suitcase in the trunk and we’re about to pull away from the curb, with him fiddling with the radio, acting casual as corduroy. Just because you love someone to death because he’s your brother—and sometimes only because he’s your brother—doesn’t mean you don’t want to slap him every now and then from forever to kingdom come.
It surprises me that Ciela and JD don’t have a houseful of animals. They moved around when they first married but they’ve been settled for some time, so it’s not that. I’ve never heard a mention of allergies; that couldn’t be Ciela’s excuse. Although JD might keep it private if he had them. No, it can’t be allergies. You can tell the sort; JD and Ciela are not the fussy, allergic kind of people. Ciela might be concerned about her garden, thinking a dog might dig it up or do its business in her pepper patch. Dogs do take a bit of care but they return it tenfold. No children yet, and yet may lead to never, the way they’re heading. Most people would fill the gap with a puppy or another animal, but they have not one pet, not even a cat. Which is fine by me. I could never cotton to the feline personality. I certainly had enough exposure to it, what with Momma feeding all those strays, and in all those years I think that’s the only thing she ever lied to Daddy about. I do not like the way cats slink around, staring at you with their unblinking, slit-eyes. They look at you like they know five of your six secrets and won’t let on which one is safe.
We’re getting closer; here’s the first exit warning sign. I do like the airports, and Portland’s is one of the best I’ve seen. Spanking clean on the inside, and its runway running sideways along the river, which I thought for a moment the pilot was going to land in it! They have so many rivers out here, which reminds me of home, although the ones back home, not counting the Mississippi, are more like streams. Ciela and JD have a creek that starts at the end of their street and empties into a river in that park, whose name I can’t remember. Rivercrest Park? That might be it. JD’s park, Ciela calls it.