[lit-ideas] Hereabouts

  • From: david ritchie <profdritchie@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sun, 25 Oct 2015 13:56:01 -0700

Back to crabbing, huzzah, huzzah, in a new boat which is called, for the nonce
(which itself wouldn’t a bad boat name would it—“For the Nonce"?), "The Free J
and J.” This choice was made because the boat came to us free and is powered
by two outboard motors, both Johnsons. It may be that a certain “three-sector
health care" company might have objections.
When I write “new boat,” I mean of course that it was made after B and I were
born, but not *long* after those dates. It floated, which is good, went a lot
faster than “The Quite Vincible” and turned in tighter circles. The sun shone.
All we missed were “Big Erics,” which is our fond term for large male crab.
They have apparently gone walkabout, exited the bay one way or another. We
finished with a catch that allowed everyone to have some, which is the goal,
and drove home listening to a mix cd compiled by E. for Father’s Day. “You
Can’t Always Get What You Want,” starts it off. We played that twice through.
When we reached Creedence Clearwater Revival I went spinning back to my
childhood, when I marveled that you could rhyme, “Come on the rising wind,”
with “We’re going up around the bend.” Can’t do that in English English.

Earlier in the week I went out to enjoy a late afternoon cup of coffee and the
waning sun. The chickens wandered over to see if by chance I was bringing
food, but they were not demanding. This was grazing time, when the flock moves
as one, scratching here and there, content to find a mouthful, no competition
involved. Cheddar was with them.
“You know,” she said suddenly, when they were within six feet of the water
bowl, “I feel thirsty.” Over she went to drink. First in line!
“I feel thirsty too,” said Appenzeller.
Without wanting to provoke a scrum—it’s a small bowl—Pecorino followed at
sedate pace.
Rocky was nonchalent. The move hadn’t been under her leadership, and she is no
kind of follower, so pure coicidence or convenience was the spin she tried to
mime. I was reminded of Mr. Bean.
Appenzeller began the molting season but has now recovered her good looks and
so aims to climb back up the pecking order. She went next. Mimo’s internal
clock recently kicked in and her feathers are falling out. Scruffy in the
extreme, she and Cheddar are close at the bottom of the order; she brought up
the rear, “Yup, I think I’ll have a drop of water too. Since it’s so handy.”
Pretending to be cool with her new status.
I said, “Birds of a feather flock together.”
Mimo gave me a withering look. How dare I mention feathers.
Cheddar came over. “What’s that supposed to mean? ‘Of a feather.’ We’ve
plenty feathers you know. We’re not just ‘of’ one.”
Mimo, “I will concede that I am currently feather-challenged but I am 'of
feather*s, in the plural.”
I held my hands up, “It’s not my expression.”
Appenzeller, “Is it on loan?”
“I mean I didn’t make it up.”
Rocky, “That’s hardly an excuse for saying something that doesn’t make any
sense. A god should make sense.”
I asked whether that was their general experience or a state to which they
This was the cause of detailed debate, the details of which we’ll skip. When
they realized that gods in fact can be hard to parse, they went quiet.
Presumably to ponder the theological implications. I broke silence, “I think
the expression means that beings of one type or kind tend to hang out with one
Pecorino stated the obvious, “But we hang out with one another and we’ve all
got different kinds of feathers. Cheddar’s yellow, Mimo some sort of russet,
and then the rest of us...best of us... are black and white or merely black.”
Mimo tried to fluff herself to bigness, “What do you mean, ‘best of us’?
Surely you’re not equating feather color and character?”
There was general tut-tutting. “No, no. We don’t mean that.” Chickens don’t
like to be caught saying an impolitic thing.
Cheddar, “He’s right, though. I mean I’m golden and I tend to flock with
myself. It’s my nature. Or character. Character or nature.” By this time
she was waggling her head from side to side and soon she had a little dance
going, “Nature or character, character or nature.”
Rocky set off in new direction.
The others followed with good infantry-patrol spacing. Cheddar persisted.
When they were out of earshot she stopped.
“That went well,” she suggested.
“Maybe the adage should be,” I said, “birds with different kinds of feathers
may well will drink and eat together if there’s plenty water and food
available, but they become irritable when asked to confront philosophical or
theological issues?”
Cheddar nodded. She’s aimable that way, “Not very catchy, though, is it?”
“No,” I conceded, and returned to work.

David Ritchie,
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