Degrees of Separation

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Bright peppers rojo peek from verdant plants rooted in la tierra. A pair walk past in awkward silence. ¿Cómo se dice? To describe the spicy fruit and the heat of the day, they point, fan tongues, and wipe sweaty brows in meaningful pantomime.

Limited vocabulary. Both. Hard to find a phrase that describes the immersive experience. Physical. Emotional. Mouth, eyes, throat. The searing, roasting, blistering of flesh. The fiery, pungent, sharp of taste. Sexy feelings, burning desire. As many varieties of heat as the colorful peppers picante growing in the garden where they stroll, close together, under bright sol caliente.

Rescue Gnome

Picture by Ryan Kessler

We suspect there is a magic passage under our redwood because the garden gnome who guards the tree by day disappears at night. Important forest matters require his attention. Animals trapped in fire ravaged landscapes. Small fawns and mountain lions equally threatened, equally important to the health of a recovering ecosystem. He treats them all with the utmost care.

By daybreak, our gnome has returned. We see an article in the morning paper. Ten small pumas rescued. Feet wrapped in gauze socks. You wonder how they keep from biting through. Probably the influence of our gnome. His voice is hypnotic.

The Donnie Show

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The show was conceived to unload MAGA hats. No one wears them anymore. Full hazmat suits are de rigueur.

Whatever, no one really cares. They’re all home watching the president.

A sprightly octogenarian, Donnie as his fans call him, bounds on stage. He’s surrounded by hats. Sean throws them in the air and tosses them to the audience. Donnie dramatically draws a slip of paper from a black box decorated in crux gammata, Celtic runes, exclamations, and dollar signs. For the price of a meal at a Trump restaurant, you can submit a question. But you won’t get an answer.

Needed Break

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Books stacked to the ceiling; new, old, hard cover, all colors,
smelling of cinnamon, cloves, and musty spider dust.
A woman whirling like a cyclone, her arms extending.
She brushes the walls, her eyes shut.
She chooses. The overstuffed couch swallows her and she reads.

Sips of hot tea, cold tea, cider, coffee, one after another, 
the light changing through the day from powdery gray to melancholy green,
at noon quite bright yellow and then white.
Straining, she escapes into history, imbibing the past. 
Seeking perspective, finding a foundation to understand the moment.
Respite. She girds to return to earth.

Baby Gift

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Trying to cheer me up, a friend said, “Imagine a start-up selling a flying car. A guy named Tad, with genius hair and cargo shorts, runs things. Like Icharus, he falls to earth. Landing in an old growth forest close to the coast, he’s looking for a mechanic when Chloe comes along on a breath of pine and salt water.

“They marry. They’re happy, too, despite the devil on Tad’s shoulder teasing that he could have had the world. Tad pays that devil no mind. A new dad, now he’s flying by the seat of his pants.”

Me too.

Gnome Repairs

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When five hundred naked gnomes turned up at the Felton Auto Body Shop, the whole town was busy spraying water on their houses and trimming dead grass and trees. Everyone but Fred Hale missed the dispirited group straggling along Main Street.

He expected the little people since they’d phoned. Ready with brushes and gallons of paint, he covered over smoke damage, painting each gnome in traditional red, blue and green colors. Boots were all black. It took a few days, but Fred felt a certain pride. Especially when the freshly painted group appeared on talk shows advocating for prescribed burns.

Owl Sun

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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.

Make American Gruyere Again

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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.

Welcome Gnome

Photo by Monica McHenney

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.”

Not An Emergency

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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.