[lit-ideas] Hereabouts

  • From: david ritchie <profdritchie@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sun, 27 Dec 2015 12:02:59 -0800

Proof that all is right with the world will be found in today’s paper, which
publishes a photo of an island that is so flat and low it will be over taken by
the ocean when the waters rise. And yet people attempt to live there. What is
this island’s name? Ejit. You’ll find it in the Marshalls…if you hurry.

Explaining Christmas to chickens, well it takes effort. “See there were these
three humans. Two actually. One was pregnant.”
“Humans or gods?” Mimo wants precision.
I prevaricate, “Hard to say. The parents were human. Not all the parents, but
the two human ones. Anyway, because there was no room at the Inn…”
“In what?” Appenzeller.
“Yeeees,” said Cheddar, eager to agree, “'No room at the in what.'” Makes
sense to her.
“No room where these two—Joseph and Mary-- would normally stay.”
Rocky, “They must go there a lot. I mean if they *normally* stayed somewhere
inference suggests that they’d been there before.”
Pecorino nodded, “Stands to reason."
I forged ahead. “And so they had to pass the night in a stable, with an ass.”
Pecorino, “Was there a perch?”
Mimo, “Asses don’t perch.”
Pecorino wanted to know how Mimo knew anything about asses.
“All they had for the baby,” I said, “was a manger.”
“Baby?” said Mimo.
“Manager?” Appenzeller didn’t like the sound of this.
I decided to skip to the point of my visit, which was that I’d brought the
chickens a Christmas gift; moldy bread.
“Breeeeeead!” Mimo said, her mouth full, “Keep it from the squirrel!”
We’ve been troubled by a squirrel, who has discovered where the chickens’ food
container is kept. The other morning he (or she) broke through Fort Squark’s
perimeter defences and tucked in. The girls expressed displeasure noisily. E.
rushed down, thinking a predator might be the cause. The squirrel ran off. E.
took the food inside, which meant that when I came to look out my office
window, a delegation had gathered to nod, blink and gesticulate.
“Fooood!”
The other god was by this time off at brunch. On their side of the window the
chickens were giving it the old border collie try—staring long and hard to see
if you can get food to move through a window. No luck.
“Leave it to me,” says Mimo, “I can get in. Ahem?”
In response to her tapping I opened the door. She put one foot across the
threshold, “Always willing to go the extra mile.”
I stopped her with my foot and shooed her out. “But…!” she complained. I
lifted the food container out, or attempted to. The handle collapsed, spilling
everything all over. The girls rushed forward.
“Allow us to help,” Rocky.
“Piece of cake,” said Appenzeller.
“Done in no time,” said Pecorino.
“Caaaaake,” said Cheddar, dreamily.

I was not in my right mind. Quite the nasty bug had crept up and whacked me
flat. “Needs must,” was my guiding phrase, which I think means that you adapt
to circumstances. The week's epic adventure was a trip to the library
bookstore where I bought all remaining presents, including some for myself—Mr
and Mrs. Browning’s collected works, for example, with letters sent between
them and an introduction by Christopher Ricks. In leather. At a cost of
pretty much nothing. Also among my finds was a book on the Bearded Collie,
which is not a breed I know. Very beautiful. Not sure if I’d want one—they
bark more than I’d like—but the puppy photos alone were worth my fifty cents.
That store is a miracle. Towards the end of the expedition I was beginning to
get that fading signal your body gives, the corporeal equivalent of the
flickering you get when the electricity is about to go out. I had just enough
energy to cross to the library itself and pick up some DVDs Running my eye
along the shelf, I paused at a title and couldn’t believe what I was seeing.
In Beaverton’s library—which is a good library, but Beaverton is not New York
or London—here was a movie titled, “The Wipers’ Times.” The Wipers’ Times was
a newspaper produced during the First World War. I’ve seen lots of references
to it and an occasional facsimile but could there really be a movie about that
thing? And a copy of said movie in Beaverton? Yup. I have no idea how it
will play with people who don’t know the war—I watched the movie with J., who
has been with me to the locations mentioned so she’s not a fair sample—but I
was delighted.

Merry Christmas and a happy New Year to all who dwell far from the past,
Wipers, the Ejits. And to those beset by squirrels, bugs and narrative
questions, my good wishes also. May your handles never break.

David Ritchie,
Portland,
Oregon------------------------------------------------------------------
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