Mimi’s hanging out the clothes. I watch her from the dormer window seat in my bedroom where I’m painting my toenails black. I read in an old Reader’s Digest that the color black represents authority and assertiveness and black nails announce I mean business! I don’t think I’d be mistaken for a Goth or a Morticia Addams wannabe; but would that be so bad, I wonder?
But back to my story: what’s the opposite of black nail polish? The sun-bright memories I have of “helping” Mom at the clothesline: I was the socks expert. She taught me how to stretch and drape each sock over the wooden rods of a little drying rack I thought she’d bought just for me. Suddenly I hear the twins calling to Mimi from behind the Trumpet Vine trellis. I lean out the window to see what that’s about.
‘Bye, Mimi! We’re running away now. They have backpacks full of comics. I can see this because they haven’t secured the openings. Mimi has two clothespins in her mouth and is arranging their favorite “blankies” on the line. Holding the blankies in place, she takes the clothespins out of her mouth, giving the twins her full attention.
Like Buddy the Beefalo?
Of course! Buddy the Beefalo! Mimi chuckles, waiting for them to reveal more.
Many months ago, Buddy—a cattle/bison hybrid raised for his meat—had been brought to a small, organic meat processing business to be slaughtered. But he escaped and went on the lam all around us, with an occasional, tantalizing sighting at the end of pastures or in meadows in the midst of forest. People left food for him, feeding him throughout the winter, and tried to lure him with an especially pretty cow, that sort of thing. When he began wandering out of the woods onto a major thoroughfare, efforts to capture him increased. I don’t think Sam and Clyde know he’s been captured.
Okay, Sam and Clyde, but first do a little job for me, would you? More clothespins? Under the sink in the mudroom?
They slip their packs off their shoulders and trudge into the mudroom. Mimi probably can see them bend over and drag the clothespin bag out from under the utility sink. They go out onto the side stoop where the clothesline starts and hand the bag to Mimi. The blankies catch their attention. Are they dry? Sam asks. Clyde looks like he’s checking to see if he has room for blankies in his backpack.
Mimi shakes her head no and then says, Boys? One more little job? She shakes one of their socks. Could you get me the little wooden drying rack? She smiles down at them from over the clothesline. Her face looks like a full moon peeking over a hill.
The twins drop their packs again and march back inside. They know where to find the little rack.
I wonder where they think they’re running away to. Maybe they’ll walk to the end of our road and go to Ye Old Coffee Shoppe. (They wouldn’t hit much traffic if they did that.) They might sit on the stools and spin around, maybe get their favorite sundaes: ice cream with no cherry and no hot fudge. Silly kids.
Clyde sets the rack up in the sun next to Mimi.
How will Mimi nix this plan?
Just as they’re about to leave, she says, One more little job? They slip their thumbs through the backpack straps, just to let her know this better be the last job. Could you hang the socks before you go?
They shrug and say, Okay, Mimi.
First, they pull the sock right side out; then, shake it so the wrinkles smooth; lastly, they drape the sock over the wooden bar so it hangs evenly. I’m shocked; Mom taught them the little rack, sock-hanging moves too. While they work, Mimi tells them stories, but I can tell they feel tired and hungry. In fact, Sam yawns as Clyde curves the last sock over the rod.
Mimi says, I know! How about this? Why don’t we go inside and have a little reading time? With a snack maybe?
Hmmmm, Sam says, but after a little reading time and snack it might be too late.
Too late to run away, explains Clyde, just in case Mimi has forgotten.
Mimi puts the empty basket down. Better yet, she says, taking their hands, let’s go to the coffee shop. We can sit at the counter and get sundaes. Your favorite? No cherry? No hot fudge?
They perk up like puppets on the same string. And maybe you could read some of these? Clyde pulls an Unca’ Scrooge out of the backpack.
Mimi catches my eye as I lean out from the dormer; we give each other a wink. I hear her telling them how they actually caught Buddy, did you know, and he lives in a sanctuary in Florida. And we live here, says Sam, our sanctuary!
Mimi is a genius. It reminds me of a story Zia told Oliver and me the other day. She likes to watch us from her little back porch while we “work the cattle” at the end of the day. Here’s the story:
Back in 1949 (do the math, Zia is no Spring chicken) Zia was reading a Scientific American article about chickens and eggs. I forget where the hens were, but this farmer’s wife had 50 eggs that needed to be incubated. Her husband was sick with a fever and lay listless in bed. She wrapped each egg and placed them one by one along his entire body. (I also forget how she ensured he wouldn’t roll on them, but needs must, I have a deadline and can’t go over to the farm for this detail!) After a few days, 49 of them hatched and they were able to go to where she’d prepared bedding and a few willing hens to chicksit them.
Zia came down the porch steps and took Sir Isaac from me at the end of her strange story. Mimi, Pop, and I are like that feverish old man: we’re the warmth and security you kids need to get you where you need to go. Needs must! (Zia and I lovelovelove Agatha Christie’s mysteries, where Miss Marple is always and forever saying this phrase.)
So to pound this point home? Mimi’s ruse with the twins was an action example of brooding the eggs with the feverish man…
Cross that out; my readers aren’t numbskulls.