[lit-ideas] Hereabouts

  • From: david ritchie <profdritchie@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sun, 20 Dec 2015 11:37:39 -0800

“History can be influenced by several different factors…” is the sort of thing
I’ve been reading. For a break I hie’d me to the Aloha Surplus store, which
doesn’t sell surplus aloha, but lies in Aloha—a place-- and is full of stuff
like Swedish military socks. I bought a two-sided sharpening stone for kitchen
knives. The guy beside me was buying, “stocking stuffers.”
“Do you have Mace or pepper spray…for my wife.”
He was very clear on that last part…wouldn’t want anyone to think he was going
to defend *himself* with anything so wussy as Mace. Back on his property he’ll
have a fifty caliber machine gun mounted on the back of a truuuuuuuuck.
Brings new meaning to "the assault on Christmas.”

Yesterday we went our annual Christmas tree hunt. I loaded the SAAB with boots
and rope and…no dog or grandpa (he can’t come this year)…drove out to a
Christmas tree farm and set about selecting the very best tree from among the
Nobles and…other kinds. I’m not good at trees but I swear the woman said one
kind was a Norman. No resemblance to William the Conqueror that I could see.
Abies nordmanniana is what she meant. I looked it up.

We returned with a Noble, as usual, and were greeted by the chickens.
“What you got there, then?” Mimo asked, nodding towards the car, roofrack, tree.
“It’s a tree,” I said, lifting through to the patio the extra branches J.
wanted for a table setting.
“Is there a shortage?” Peccorino wondered. “Of trees? Hereabouts?”
“It’s for Christmas,” I explained.
“Got no roots,” Appenzeller pointed out, perspicaciously. “Won’t grow without
“I’m going to drive it round to the front,” I explained, “and move it into the
living room.”
“Oh good,” said Cheddar. “Preparing us a new habitat.”
“It has been wet,” said Rocky, making her case.
“It’ll be nice to be inside, where it APPEARS TO BE WARM.” Rocky seemed to
think shouting would help.
“Like St. Lucia. Take that up with senior management,” I advised, and closed
the gate.
“Peon,” Mimo muttered.
“I heard that.”

Tax planning, now there’s a subject to draw a crowd. My wife and I were
gathered around a table on Thursday, talking financials briefly (as one doe),
and here, peering through the windo, came Mimo, thinking of applying for a
secreterial position. Or maybe she’s heard of James Bond and wanted a go at
spying. She came right up to the glass and goggled. One eye, and then the
“Tax,” I said, hoping to scare her away, but no. She seemed to think there
might be a possibility of bread flitting through the window.
I gave in and chucked a slice of bread out the door, which was not the right
solution. From a seemingly empty landscape all five fell on the prey like the
wolf on the wotsit. They managed a fairly even distribution by having a kind
of rugby game—the pecking order counts for naught when bread is at issue. When
they were done, they marched up the steps to demand more. Done with the tax
talk, I ignored them and settled to read essays. “History can be influenced by
several different factors…” The chickens began cleaning their beaks on the
window sills.
“Hoi,” I shouted.
They looked at me. “What?” All innocent.
“I need to concentrate. My job is to evaluate what students have written, and
beaks scraping are a distraction.”
Rocky fluffed up in the challenging manner of children, “You and who's army is
going to make us stop?”
I took one step towards the door. She backed off.
“Pardon us for living,” said Appenzeller.
“The weather,” said Peccorino pointing.
“Days are fair drawing in,” said Cheddar.
I chucked out another moldy slice. Bread is clearly champion food, better
than worms and grubs and gravel. If only chickens could figure out how to make
it. Maybe with a little advice from spies, they will.
Coming soon to a movie theater near you, “Tax Factors in History,” starring
Agent M. Also chorus girls with feathers.

David Ritchie,
Portland, Oregon

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