It is morning time, just getting light; I’m still in bed. My eyes are still closed when I hear a thud and the tinkling of glass close to my head. I imagine that one of my cats must have knocked over a picture frame on the dresser, but since it’s over there and I’m over here, spooning with my oldest cat Sara, I don’t get up; we fall back asleep. A short time later I wake again and look around: sure enough, there’s a broken glass on the carpet next to my bed and water pooled on the nightstand. I move Sara, still in full-spoon position, to the other side of me, but before I can sit up and get all the covers off, a sharp pain stings my foot. I yell and move my leg, but it seems like something is biting me—something that won’t let go. What could be in my bed? I rip back the covers and bring my foot as close to my nose as possible: there, sticking out of my heel, is a dagger of glass, a miniature icicle buried deep in the sand of my skin. I howl a little more, then slide the glass out; I look at the mess of broken glass on the carpet, hoping my other cats had the sense to stay away from it. I half-sit on my mattress, leaning down to pick up the larger pieces when I notice dark spots on the carpet nearby. I finally turn on a light and see that blood is dripping down my foot and pooling on the carpet underneath. I grab a t-shirt as a compress and hop into the bathroom, where I am soon cleaned up and bandaged. I return to the bedroom, blot the blood and spray the stains, pick up the rest of the glass, throw it out, vacuum, then strip the bed and take the sheets out front to shake them. It is 6 a.m.
I make coffee and wonder if my foot injury will prevent me from working outside later; I have ten tons of crushed granite piled in the driveway that needs to be spread evenly over my 4000 square foot yard. The whack I gave myself across the forearm a couple weeks ago with the sharp side of my saw resulted in a trip to Urgent Care and a tetanus shot, so at least I don’t have to worry about lockjaw. I stand at the open front door, looking out; I bounce up and down a few times on my toes, coming down firmly on my heels, especially the punctured one; it doesn’t hurt that much. I’m sure that many people far worse off than me practically forget about smaller aches and pains when really big ones come along. Slaves come to mind, then soldiers, then I turn to something else before I make too big of a deal out of nothing again.
Four hours later I am standing in my back yard surrounded by mounds of crushed granite. I have worked out a deal with my neighbor, Nabe: for a reasonable sum, he will use a shovel and a wheelbarrow to dismantle the huge pile of rock in my driveway, distributing it throughout my property. My job is spreading the rock with my hoe. Nabe is wearing ear buds and singing, hardly breaking a sweat and not getting dirty. He occasionally switches from listening to music to chatting with friends, responding kindly to questions and gently offering his wisdoms as he dumps load after load and returns for more. I am smudged with red dust and streaks of sweat where I have scratched at new mosquito bites; I’m sunburned and bruised; there are ants on my ankles and rocks in my shoes. I suck down warm water from a plastic bottle covered in bits of gravel; Nabe’s roommate drives to Circle K to get them each a fountain drink. I am asked if I would like one, but I stick with the warm water; it’s more in keeping with my pioneer mania. I veer in and out of foliage, spreading the granite with my hoe and feet, occasionally washed over with waves of remorse for chopping down my oleanders an entire month after prime pruning time. If they were children, they would be taken from me. I push gravel up next to a flower bed and notice a beautiful moth I raked to death last week, its body still perfect, its wings crushed and bent.
The idea of living in this house for the rest of my life—as in, not planning to move anywhere else and calling this house and this yard my home for good—is finally sounding right to me. That’s my mailbox out front where the IRS can always find me; that’s my female Brazilian Pepper, considered a nuisance tree in Florida; that’s my fruitless olive, the one with all the fruit. This is my tenth year here, and on my sentimental days, when life seems better than good, I start feeling like I should commit to this place, like we’ve been together for so long that we might as well make it official. I dally in one of the far corners of my yard where a bush I neglected for years is now high-fiveing the breeze with a few red blooms. I admire the way the small bushy part sits on top of the many bare stalks, a green afro with delicate red blossoms. This is not in any way what the bush is supposed to look like, but this is what it has become under my care, the sun and the water I was able to arrange for it when the need crossed my mind.
My back begins to send out warning signals, so I prop my hoe against the house, brush off, and head to the patio door. I’ve locked myself out again, so I walk around to the front, where the garage door stands open. Nabe is in the driveway, shoveling more rock into the wheelbarrow. He has noticed that the piles he was making for me earlier were too big, necessitating my use of another shovel to break them down further before using my hoe. I watch as he pushes what must be 200 pounds of gravel across the yard, tips the wheelbarrow, and makes his initial deposit. Then he pulls it back and tilts it again; he repeats this three times to make three easily spreadable small mounds. He smiles at me on his way back for another load. “Teamwork, right?” he says. I smile and nod. Nabe has been on my team for ten years. We’ve seen each other at our worst. We are finally at our best.
I tell him I’m hanging it up for the day; he stays to work a little longer. I head inside and close the front blinds so I can peel my clothes off immediately. I dump them all in the washer on my way down the hall, including one bloody sock. I’d forgotten about the glass. I’d forgotten about hurting myself at all.