It wasn’t the first dark day, but it was the first the owls stayed out hunting until it seemed to them that they’d stayed too long. The yellow cast to the sky reminded them not of moonlight, more like cool firelight. But the silence gripping the countryside made them think again. Eerie and quiet. Cool and gliding from one tree to the next, over meadows where mice dodged into holes between stones that marked a boundary from one farm to the other. But the birds had eaten their fill. Dusky day turned to dusky night. The world turned upside down.
Convinced that the New Yorker publishes only depressing fiction, Homeland Security missed the monsters landing in Manhattan. The administration got involved when their Russian counterparts cited a credible report from The Onion. But, it was too late. Soon monsters were cavorting with city rats. If you think the aliens were big before, OMG. Hybrids the size of Teslas literally popped from the sewer grates.
Fortunately, the White House saw the situation as an opportunity. Democratic mayor plus vermin problem equals election year coup. It might have worked, except the whole thing was a set up. The rat-monsters wore MAGA hats.
An innocent mistake, pressing the camera button. The Welcome Gnome on the front steps stirred, his soul waking in the hot California sun.
“Water. Make it a spray, a spate, a mist. Elsewise, you’ll suck the life from this old soul.” The gnome skittered into the shade of an overhang.
The hose sang clear wet.
He wavered, quivering silver like a heat mirage, so that she queried, “Are you okay?”
“Delete the picture.” He hovered, real and unreal. “Stuck in a camera, I’ll shadow to dust. Resting, must, in the garden. There’s a spot for me. I’ll find my way.”
There was a fight about money after my father’s funeral, though money played no part. The details don’t matter. Proximity: same car, same hotel, same any building and we erupt. It would have been a ruckus except our husbands intervened. My sister pushed a finger at my chest. Ghosts burned through me. We could have been scrambling over sharp-edged furniture into the emergency room.
The argument was predictable, something to schedule for a convenient time. A time free of hot flashes and cold stares. After forty years of not settling things, the fracas was expected, even anticipated. Not an emergency.
— E-mail. God sent me a cease and desist order. It’s here somewhere. Oh, maybe it got trashed when I ran out of space in my Yahoo account.
Were you surprised?
— Yeah. He doesn’t know me from Adam.
No idea you were evil incarnate until God got in touch?
— How would I know? The Biblical criteria are all over the map. Nero, half the Popes, fictional characters, even cardboard reality TV stars qualify. Another reason to quit.
I’m hearing that presenting as a sympathetic character is important?
— More like well rounded.
So what’s your next gig?
— Fairy tale villain.
The gnome winked. “Disturb you, did we? Meant to, didn’t we?”
Annoyed, I watch the ivy root I’d been hacking slither into the ground.
“Burrow they do. Like rumors they monger, multiply.”
I slump in the dirt. “It seems hopeless.”
“Then what, let them take over?”
“Nae, ye be between Odysseus double monsters. Then strap yourself down and through it ye go.”
Churning waters, sailor’s oars pulling strong. A group effort. Is that what he means? “I don’t understand. Is it restraint or escape that let us resist the siren’s song?”
“A bit of both. Then dig in.”
Despondent when fashion shows were cancelled, Barbie longed to buy Capri pants, sexy PJ’s, and thong swimsuits. An action figure with years of experience, Barbie leapt to the rescue. E-mail sped to the White House offering a line of summer designs that included matching masks.
Convincing Ivanka to market the clothes and Melania to model was a piece of cake. Both had their original Dream Houses. And Trump’s campaign needed more than MAGA juice.
With the promise of a rollout in August, Barbie said, “Perfect. September is the new June.” Then she relaxed at Malibu, assured she could shop later.
– We can’t hug? Can’t touch?
– Too close. It’s not safe. We still can talk through masks.
– So I drive three hours and that’s it?
– That’s love. The point is… listen. Find the balancing point between desire and friendship. Then sit with me. We’re close enough.
– And watch the sunset. With two lemonade glasses. Wait for dusk and twilight and stars.
– Think ahead, days and weeks and months.
– Make a wish for time to stand still until we find ourselves together.
– A wish on a promise, on an anniversary candle, a wish for the world.
– The stakes are high for us.
“Donald Trump: the most powerful man on the planet.” The president rinsed his toothbrush. With a lockdown in place, the mirror shot was as close as he could get to a rally. “Don’t you forget it.”
Knotting his robe, The Donald ran ten short feet to bed. “You’ve still got it, baby.”
Picking up his phone, he got to work. Fox News flashed on the TV. His fingers flew, red hot tweets stacking up like dollar pancakes on Sunday morning at HoJos. Invoking emergency powers, he had invalidated the election, clinched by a 5-4 ruling from the Supremes. Now that’s Justice.
I’m very picky about my okra. So when my daughter tells me to keep what I touch at the Farmer’s Market, I tell her she’s crazy. I will stay picky. The only way to know okra’s good is to touch. Some big ones have the velvety feel of tender youth. Some small ones are hard and almost prickly on the fingers. They are okay in soup or gumbo. But not dipped in batter and fried in the wok.
People look, pull up masks, move. I know, virus. But nobody eats okra raw.
College educated daughter. They don’t teach cooking there.