Sunday, May 26, 2013

Tool of Choice



It’s shortly after sunrise and I’m in my front yard, under the pine tree, raking together a medium-sized mound of pigeon droppings.  My pajama bottoms are rolled up and I’m wearing a pair of wedge sandals that I found by the front door.  Already this morning I’ve made the mistake of throwing some organic fertilizer down near the base of this tree and leaving the hose to trickle on it because I was trying to be a good farmer, so not only have the pigeon droppings—reminiscent of bottlecap candies from my youth, lime and rootbeer—dampened and released their odors, but fresh cow-smell fills up my senses like a thousand splendid dungs. 

My nose remembers a barnyard with the funk of fresh chicken poop, except this is rehydrated pigeon poop, but it might as well be the same thing.  The urine of stray cats also gets reactivated as the little stream of garden-hose water trickles down a small slope; my eyes sting for a bit.  The whole scene—the very early morning, the dry air, the fresh manure, the shade tree, the barn cats, the silence except for my raking—brings me back forty years to my childhood summers in North Dakota, when my family would drive from Minnesota to stay on farms with our cousins and aunts and uncles. When I was maybe ten and nobody else but me wanted to go anymore, I never minded being sent there, or anywhere, alone on the Greyhound.
When all data is gathered, a wet pile of poop is going to weigh a lot more than the same dry pile, so finally I move the hose from the pine tree to another plant and continue raking, shoveling damp poop into the Hefty bag, raking, shoveling damp poop into the Hefty bag, a thousand splendid bottlecaps gone wrong.
*
It’s not yet 7 a.m. and—done with the milkin’—I am already sitting on the back patio, coffee in recently washed hand, reading and research materials spread before me so as not to waste time while I soak my feet in yet another representative of the filth on my land: the old cat litter box that I never completely cleaned out, but still use sometimes for home pedicures.  The water in it now, from my backyard hose, is warm enough to melt some of the leftover cat litter into gray swirls.  I’m sure other leftovers are also melting and swirling, but I don’t care.  My feet are already polluted this morning, and disfigured enough (I would say) to require a good soaking in an old cat litter box before getting to be soaked elsewhere.

It’s not my feet’s fault.  It’s just that they didn’t get reined in enough the last time we went to the salon…and neither did my eyebrows, and neither did a couple other things.  It definitely felt like everything was going the way a pedicure and "other treatments like that" should go—good feelings at the appropriate times, bad feelings at the appropriate times—but you’re always so swollen afterwards that you can never tell if the job is truly a good one until you get home, or even the next day.  

I went through all of these procedures to please Ares, of course; he came calling again last week.  But by the time I realized my eyebrows had not been properly trimmed, Ares was already here and it was too late.  By the time I realized everything else, it was I who could no longer hold back and finally voiced what I’m certain was Ares’ thought first, “Oh my God, look at my big toe, it looks like there’s a bunion on it!”, while we breakfasted on icky Nutella toast and coffee outside on this very patio.

Of course I knew it wasn’t really a bunion, but Ares took me seriously and made a face.

Why I didn’t stop the madness immediately and take care of what, obviously, the salon technician had missed on her first swipe through still escapes me.  I was young and in love and Ares was here; that’s my only excuse. 

But this morning, my feet soaked and my calluses whitish, I have the pleasure of raising a newly-purchased, never-used, recently-assembled pedicure tool to the ball of my left thumb-toe and actually shaving off pieces of flesh, like you would cheese with a one-piece-at-a-time grater.

I do this and wonder, When I paid extra to have my calluses removed, did she somehow not notice this one?  Did I only pay to have my calluses massaged?  I don’t know why she’d want to ignore this one anyway; it shaves down nicely, uniformly.  You’d think she would’ve closed right in on this puppy; I would have, if that was my line of work.  I couldn’t have helped myself.

But even more fascinating to me is that I had been so comfortable with Ares—even unguarded at times—that I had knowingly sported this callous, and I didn’t care.

I cared more about Ares. 

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