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With men out of my life for the time being, the house clean and papers graded, I have no excuse to prevent me from doing yardwork. I put on my yardwork clothes: Daisy Duke shorts in case any cute guys drive by, a tight tank-top in case any cute guys drive by, and the big white high-top sneakers I always wear when I work outside. Falling and breaking a bone or getting ant bites all over your feet is not sexy.
I exit the garage with shears in hand but am gone only thirty seconds before remembering I need gloves. I turn around, walk back in, and glance down: there lies a pile of fresh cat shit. Where did that come from? I think. Is there a stray cat living in my garage? No way did a cat have time to run in here, shit on the floor, and run out. That shit sure is square. Why isn’t it round? Hold on!
I check my sneakers and sure enough, the pile has fallen out of the treads of my left shoe. It’s like a crossword of cat shit.
It has been years since I’ve stepped in shit, maybe since I was a child. I think I’ve forgotten what to do, but I immediately start looking for a stick, almost instinctively. Unable to find one, I use the thick shaft of a pigeon feather to dig the cat shit out of my right shoe. I do the best I can with my sneakers on, then consider slipping them off to wash the bottoms with a hose. But I can’t bear one more second in such close proximity to so much wild raw shit, so I leave my sneakers on and call it good enough.
Soon I am standing precariously on the top step of a folding kitchen stool that rocks back and forth with my weight. I reach as far as my arms will allow—shears in hand—and chop the bushes, deep in thought. Why am I doing this when my neighborhood is getting overrun with stray cats who shit all over my yard and spray urine on my doors? Where is everybody—owners or renters or banks?—who should be looking after these properties. Not only that, I paid that Noah’s Ark guy $125 two weeks ago to prune my yard, so what the hell am I doin’ up here cuttin’ off the top of these bushes? I pay money and expect something to get done and it doesn’t.
I climb down from the stool and go to get the rake. I round the corner of my house, look up and nearly have a heart attack: There sits the large owl I have hired to scare away the herd of pigeons that graze underneath my birdfeeder. “Jesus!” I say, my heart rate soaring. In the next second I realize it’s the plastic owl I have purchased, not a predator. Be nice if I could get that reaction out of my pigeons. Owl scares me to frickin’ death and they peck around it, shit on its head. Stupid owl…good thing it’s returnable.
I retrieve the rake from the garage and start walking back to the bushes, all the way on the other side of the house. I have given up cleaning cat shit out of the treads of my sneakers because my gravel-filled yard has apparently become the world’s largest litter box. I’m thinking of my shit-embedded shoes when I round the corner to the back of my house and a herd of pigeons explodes around me. “Jesus Christ!” I say, flapping my wings while my heart beats out of my chest. I am left in a flurry of feathers. When the feathers settle, I come out of my fetal position only to see the plastic owl, which I momentarily mistake for a stray dog. My heart beats even faster…stray dog worse than stray cat…but then I recognize my owl. He's big and dark with round yellow eyes, and I had a nightmare about him. I don’t understand why the pigeons don’t fear him.
Hours later, tired from pruning and raking and fertilizing—and shaken to the core from running into the owl at seemingly every turn, shocked every time—I decide to call it a day. I put my tools away, go sit on the front walk, and take my sneakers off. Using another big stiff pigeon shaft, I clean the cat shit from my sneakers, pushing it out of the treads and leaving it in little piles of four-cornered logs next to the front hedge. I cover it up with gravel. They are teaching me well.
My sneakers get the hose, and I feel their pain.
I close the garage door behind me and go inside the house, trailing fluffy white pigeon feathers behind me. I stand barefoot in front of the patio door, which looks out into the backyard directly at my scary owl and the herd of pigeons I have accidentally raised. Many of them are bigger than the stray cats who lounge on my walls and drag their names into my gravel with their testicles.
My own two cats start rubbing against me, sending more feathers to the floor, and I wonder what it would feel like to molt. I bet it would feel pretty good.