Two Cats at the Window

It’s spring.  There are trees wearing pink lace even before they get their leaves.  Birds are pecking grubs from the grass here.  My partner’s cat, Pan, watches from the window.

Pan is a fat orange tabby, a 14 pound cat who seems largely unaware of his size.  He sits right up against the glass, his breath making clouds on the window pane, and ignores the pink trees, and is held captive by the small creatures moving in our yard.

Pan used to be a cat that went outdoors.  Before I moved in with my spouse-creature, Pan didn’t have a litter box.  Instead, he was let in and out whenever he me-yowled at the door.  Now, he stares out the window, his little butt wiggling in readiness for the pounce whenever those little birds peck, hop, and flutter close.  It doesn’t take long for Pan to start dancing with the window, baffing his paws against it, halfheartedly attempting to lunge through it.  He never asks to go out, now.  He has a litter box, and running water to drink from.  He’s off his kibble addiction.  But I wonder sometimes, watching the way he watches the world outside.

I used to ride my bicycle everywhere.  South Florida was a flat, flat place, and I am a heat resistant creature.  All summer long I could ride for miles and miles.  I rode from Aventura to Islamorada, 90 miles down US 1.  It was a 34 mile round trip from home to work and back, and I covered them daily with my thin road bike tires.  But now I sit indoors with a fat orange cat, gazing out the window because I’m bookended with steep hills, and down slopes all speckled with red lights.

It’s okay, Pan.  I know how you feel.

Local Lore

February for planting potatoes, I am told by my spouse’s ex, who is herself a gardener, and has lived here long enough to know it well.  I have never grown potatoes.  They’ve always intimidated me.  Like rhubarb.  It’s the poisonous leaves.  Yes, I’m the one who will go to the woods and hunt down chanterelles, I will dig up bitty bunches of wild onions, and forage for wild blackberries.  But I fear growing potatoes.

I’ve grown other root crops no problem.  Stubby little carrots in soda bottles on a balcony.  Tubs of sweet potatoes while I lived in my studio apartment—but those leaves you can eat.  Regular old potatoes?  The kind you say “I’m a meat and potatoes kind of person” about?  I can’t grow those.  Growing those is devilry, I tell you!  Besides, they don’t grow in Florida.

Except they do.  We have commercial potato production all throughout the state.  Unlike the rest of the country, just not a whole hell of a lot of Russet potatoes (they mature too slowly, where slowly means in summer, during the heat, when bugs and disease will kill what they can).  There goes that theory.

So I went to the local nursery and bought seven pounds of Red Pontiac potatoes, a variety which was developed in Florida.  I would have bought less, except this was the smallest amount they carried.  The potatoes came in a brown paper bag, which I eyed dubiously, and cradled in my arms like a small child with an enormous stack of forbidden books of dark magic.

When I got them home, I cast skeptical glances over at their corner.  The rain helped me prepare the garden beds.  Sort of.  You know how rain is.  Don’t have to water, don’t have to worry about the sun hurting my spuds and their little eyes.  So many eyes.  It also kind of allowed me to delay planting the tubers, which looked like an army of tentacled Cthulhu acolytes reaching out of the sack.  Some of them would have to be chopped into small pieces.  I figured I would do that bit later, because it intimidated me.

I dug the little trenches lined with compost for my small foot soldiers of Cthulhu, and then buried them over.  Thirteen of them, a devil’s dozen.  I still have so many more potatoes to plant, big hulking seed potatoes waiting for my knife, waiting for a black loamy cavity in the earth.  Creepy.  I can’t help but prefer the little started slips of my sweet potatoes, leaves all happy and green… and edible.

So now I wait for the poisonous shoots to come up.  And for the tiny tubers to get bigger.  Witchcraft, mark my words.

For Names Are Dearer Than Roses

So, I haven’t been getting name change questions a lot.  Most people I run into are connected to me via some online community where I post things, and so they already know my spouse-creature took my last name, instead of the other way around.  When they don’t know, and I end up telling them, the response is overwhelmingly positive.  But there are one or two that have been kind of bizarre.

For instance: a woman overheard me telling someone else, gasped, and asked, “Isn’t that illegal?” 

I replied, “No… no, it isn’t,” eying her with that why-are-you-butting-into-my-conversation look. 

“Well it SHOULD be!”

A younger Story might have been outraged.  I just giggled and told her, “Maybe you should go write your congressman.”

The best positive response came from my cousin’s grandmother, who is in her 90’s.  When my aunt reintroduced us (the last I had seen her, I’d been a very very little girl) and explained how my spouse and I had arranged it, her face lit up in a delight that washed out the sun.

Neither of these encounters happened particularly recently, but the hour’s early, and while cleaning I dug up a congratulations card addressed to the happy couple using Mr. & Mrs. his-old-last-name, and I realized that my husband’s other relatives had just assumed, because “that’s what one does.”  That made me giggle, too.  Like I’d pulled some kind of vast trick on society, and stole the candy of my identity from the grinding wheels of propriety.  Like I was wearing green and orange mismatched socks under my shoes, and I was the only one who knew.

Because I’m the only one who can really know how attached I am to that family name, “Boyle,” and how strong and solid it made me feel to offer as a gift to another a share in that identity, and how thrilled I was that that gift was accepted. 

The Storm Rolls In

I don’t like driving long distances.  It’s not the trip; I like being carried over that ground, watching the land pass by.  I don’t like being the one to drive it.  It’s because I’m pinned in place.  The terrible thing about driving those miles is that you can’t reach for your notebook when the storm hits. The ideas are enough like a storm, yes?  The okra open-mouthed, empty-handed, cupping the sky. I am like those squash vines. I am like those blackberry brambles. Thirsty, thirsty, but planted in ground so hard that I cannot drink the rain.

The seat does get hard after a while.  There is no support for the back.  I am an untrellised tomato, slumping in my bucket seat, my lower back screaming while my spouse creature reclines passenger side, all sleepy-eyed.  I had wanted to read.  I had wanted to scribble.  And then this storm rolls up, filled with ideas like lightning flashes, words like rain, like hail stones, and I can’t catch any of it, hands glued instead to the wheel.

I ask him to take dictation, but he smiles sleepy-eyed, “sure,” and rolls over.  I will never know what that poem was to be.  Rolled through me while I was helpless to catch it and keep it.  I will never get to taste its words.  It’s gone, the rain receding.