Yesterday, I watched my new neighbor spraying his flowers with a noxious agent determined to destroy the ground underneath his sturdy work shoes. My dog Mavis and I hung over his back fence hollering at him to bring his ear closer and let me whisper a few suggestions for an earth-friendly bug repellant. He listened with a deadpan earnestness, which led me to believe he may not be hearing a word I was saying but rather keeping himself in a righteous silence where nothing can penetrate its thin veneer, not even the truth. So, I’m listing all the earth-friendly products at the local greenhouse and even offer to take him there. He studied my face for signs of dementia, and yes, I can understand his concern since I’m nearing seventy where memory becomes faulty and the world a shaky place to live. However, I keep my faculties intact by writing stories
“Sorry for my bad manners. I’m Lily Poe and this is Mavis.” I proffered a slender hand barren of wedding band and slipped it into his large hand, all warm and earthy giving me a feel-good sense of possibility. Wondering if it will last.
My new neighbor Calvin takes me up on my offer. He turns out to be a gentlemanly man and even buys me a small rose bush to put near the rusted bed frame leaning against the backyard fence. Mine’s a romantic garden full of surprises and butterflies. A stone sidewalk meanders around the circular flower beds and leads a wanderer to a lily pond, pink flowers skimming the surface inviting the frogs to sit on their leaves.
I tell him time’s moving faster now than it did yesterday, and he laughs and shakes his head. “You don’t look a day over thirty.” This makes me laugh. He could have said unimaginable cruel things, let his tongue lose to wrap around my insecurity of being closer to the end than the beginning. Calvin seems to understand the arduousness of aging. He puts an arm around me and I fold into his warmth seeking comfort like a moth on a wool coat. I lost my inhibitions around Calvin. Yesterday morning I didn’t even know the man, and now I’m snuggling inside his pocket enjoying the security of being carried by his strength. He is a strong man despite being in his august years sitting next to me on God’s porch swing.
A clerk leads us to the bug spray section and asks us what’s troubling our plants. I turn to Calvin. “My morning glory vines have bite marks in their leaves. Probably a beetle of some kind.”
“What kind of beetle? Makes a difference in what you need to discourage it.”
“I have no idea,” Calvin responds, probably embarrassed over coming up short of knowledge. “A beetle. That’s all I know.”
“Could be the Colorado potato beetle, Eastern Hercules beetle, or a Lady Bug beetle,” the clerk rattles off twenty beetle names, relishing the idea of knowing more than the old people standing before him.
“It’s a Japanese beetle,” I interject.
“Well now, they are the country’s biggest pest, hosting off three hundred species, a veritable gourmand of foliage and a farmer’s nightmare,” the clerk laughs amusing only himself.
I pull a bottle off the shelf. “This will do. Thank you for your help.” I smile sweetly and move us toward the cash register.
“How did you know?” Calvin whispers.
“Because I have them in my garden. Probably crawled over to yours.”
“Or the other way around.” He hugs me tighter, and we move through the line with little fuss.
Later that evening, we sit in the backyard sipping tea through paper straws, Mavis laying on the grass beside us. I can hear the silent sounds of contentment sighing in unison. Mavis rests her head on my foot and stares at me with the adoration of a lover. I’ve never experienced such adulation coming from a man. Now one sits next to me and I don’t know quite what to do with him. Am I supposed to do something with him or let him be to unravel the mystery of intimacy? Will the November leaves shudder and abandon me, naked underneath the moon? Am I too old to know love or will it suddenly happen one day and send me reeling? My mind turns into a flutter of questions that have no answers. My mind is often a messy place to be. While I sit happily in my contentment, Calvin reaches for my hand holding it firmly as though it will run away. Again, I sigh.
This is taken from Bonnie’s upcoming book, Fools & Naked People.
To find out more about Bonnie’s novels and short stories, head to her Amazon page.