I Am Isabel the Storyteller

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#21. Another person gets added to my complicated life.

#21.   How am I supposed to know how to seek vengeance? I have no models for revenge except from books. I may need help.  But who? So, when a new human shows up in my life like a mystery bird slowly kicking back from leaf and grass clippings, if this were a book?  Well. If  this were a book, the two would be related.

I’m doing the daily e-Bird count when I get a first sighting. First the bird:

I’m a birder who IDs the species by looking for clues.  So, I think I recognize the hop-scrape-backwards behavior in the leaf litter. I get a better look when he flits to a fallen log in our shrub pile—a bird-refuge shrub pile which Pop deliberately adds to. I know for sure what I’m seeing when it cocks its tail, bobs it slowly, and flicks his wings. I write, HERMIT THRUSH in the notebook.

In contrast, I’m less certain about the next set of clues I see. First I notice Miss Mary’s mule—Sir Isaac (Newton)—coming out of the cow and calf pasture gate, leading a human, or so it seems. Since when does Miss Mary have any helpers besides us? Nobody tells me anything.

Never saw this person before, but it’s difficult to actually see much of him. Sir Isaac is a huge guard mule and the guy has a slouchy barn hat, flannel work shirt, Duluth multi-pocket pants, huge work boots, and gloves. He’s yodeling Good Moooooooorning, Captain from Mule Skinner Blues, the Bill Monroe song. I watch as he brushes Sir Isaac all over and checks his hooves. He laughs when the mule nuzzles his neck. I  spy a Golden Crown Kinglet in the aspens and that Hermit Thrush in the blackberry thicket again.  The guy puts Sir Isaac back in with Molly and Millie and their calves.

The next day I spy him out of the corner of my eye while I try to locate where a Carolina Wren’s “teakettle teakettle teakettle” is coming from. He (the guy, not the wren ) is weeding Miss Mary’s fall spinach and kale. Same clothes. I hear him humming while I fix my binoculars on a mixed feeding flock of Chickadees, Titmice, Nuthatches, and (tahdah!!) White-Throated Sparrows in the Crab Apple trees, all of which silences the pretty brown wren.  I cup my hand behind my ear to try to catch what the guy is singing today. It sounds like Let the Harvest Go to Seed.  He finishes with, Darlin’ please remember let the harvest go to seed, so the wild birds and critters will have enough to eat. He looks up from the kale, watches the mixed flock, meets my eyes, and laughs out loud.

I get my first look at his face. He’s like me; not a grown-up. You can tell.

Today I don’t spy him right away (not that I’m looking) but I do witness a Cooper’s Hawk clear the entire South backyard (the area with the raised beds and feeders). Then up on Miss Mary’s porch I see Miss Mary in her chaise lounge. He’s reading the papers out loud to her.

Finally! The mystery is solved when the two of them come for supper. “Oliver” is Miss Mary’s grand-nephew. For some reason that is not discussed, he will now be living with her. He’s just turned 14 and going into 7th grade. He’s talltalltall, but without the barn clothes he’s merely a very skinny kid with big feet.

At supper, Mimi, Pop, Miss Mary, Clyde, and Sam either converse or repeat sentences twice (if you’re the twins) while Oliver and I say nothing. Then Pop asks us to do the dishes even though it’s my chore anyways. Sam and Clyde ferry plates and forks and bowls and even the centerpiece (!!!) to the sink counter then disappear with their trucks.

This is how our first Oliver-and-Isabel conversation starts: He polishes a glass he’s drying, holds it up to the light like the bartender in Cheers, and asks, So what ARE your plans for that Preliminary Hearing? 

# 22 WorkWorkWork: I’m babysitting the twins and weeding Mimi’s garden AGAIN. And seething about the TV in the closet. Seriously, Isabel? That’s what I’m really fuming about?

Metaphor alert! I’m spinning three plates right now.

Mimi  asks me to keep track of Sam and Clyde while they play in the sandbox. (Each twin counts for  two plates.) AND, while I keep an eye on the twins I have to weed Mimi’s garden. Again.  In particular, Mimi said to  find the weeds I missed yesterday. So. Lots of plates.

Oliver walks down the hill from the barn. Want a hand?

I know he thinks this as a chance to talk Preliminary Hearings, but I’m too steamed to plot and scheme. I yank weeds and blurt out, We don’t even have TV anymore.

Hmmmmm? Oliver murmurs and re-plants a weed I’ve just yanked.

I give him my one eyebrow-raised look.

Wow. How do you do that, Isabel? Then he picks up one of my “weeds.”  Isabel, this is a baby Boston lettuce. It’s a late season crop Mimi started in between the pole beans. He points to a plant that I haven’t yanked. This here, though? This IS a weed. Curly dock weed. See, jointed stems?

I sniff and we work together for a minute, replanting the lettuces. Yikes, I think to myself,  yesterday I must have pulled out a bunch of lettuces. 

Suddenly we’re attacked. The twins crowd into the row with us. We do too have TV!  We do too have TV!

Oliver looks at me for clarification, but, before I can explain the twins do it for me.

They race back to the sandbox, calling over their shoulders, It’s in the closet! It’s in the closet!! Come build roads! Come build roads!

Oliver guffaws—yes “gawfgawfgawf” like some big happy Scotsman—and goes over to the sandbox to play with Sam and Clyde.

Plate-spinning, but I’m not steamed anymore.

Maybe during birding, Oliver can come back to explain what  he knows about Preliminary Hearings. (I’m not sure a big happy Scotsman will know anything about revenge though.)

Isabel Scheherazade, story-spinner


(sketches by my friend Ryan)

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