Time passes differently here on the farm. Sometimes I have dreams where we still properly live in Minneapolis, where the duplex is still full of its furniture, and sometimes I’m convinced that we’ve lived here forever, that we’re in fact haunting it, Beetlejuice-style.
We have, in fact, been here for three weeks, which semi-shocks me. Mary, Miles’s mother, assures me that such time-slippage is normal. “You won’t want to leave,” she says. I’m surprised to find that I don’t.
The days all begin with the kittens gamboling impishly over the duvet, begging for Outside Time. We caffeinate; I go to my writing studio (upstairs) and then down to my talking-with-students studio (downstairs). Miles does elaborate things outside with wood, occasionally teaming up with his mom to paint an entire outbuilding while I sit inside, making words at my screen. We eat erratically but cook all our meals ourselves. At night, we have lengthy phone calls with friends or grip each other on the futon, pleasantly terrorized by the next episode of Lovecraft Country, which is so good I just can’t stop talking about it. Then we go to bed, and the next day begins.
I always sort of thought I’d mind it, an unbroken stretch of days like this, punctuated only by a pleasant visit from friends or the changing colors of the trees. It’s nice to find that I don’t.
This isn’t to say, of course, that things aren’t happening all the time.
In no particular order, here are some that have occurred.
The other night, we were sitting out to watch the stars when we saw a ghostly little shape in the trees. Cutely, it rustled. “It’s her,” Miles said giddily, the way he might if (say) Janelle Monae showed up at a bar by surprise.
This is a cat farm, of course; Miles’s mom has a twenty-year history of feeding any strays that arrive at her house across the road, which is how she now owns (I think) nine cats that all circle her in a rambling mass. She is the sun and the cats are the moons.
Still, I didn’t think that we, across the road, would merit such visitors; we feed our cats inside, since it’s often the only way to get them in at night. But there she was, a teeny calico, sniffing about. Miles, being the more outside person of the two of us, had seen her, but she was new to me.
He got a dish of our cats’ abandoned pate, set it down on the concrete walkway, and we waited.
Within twenty minutes, she’d shown up to wolf it down, her little hunched back guarding herself against the world. And I thought that was the end of her, until I came out later to check on her and holy shit, there she was, just sitting at the end of the porch. I sat down, started making kissing noises, and sooner or later she was curling against my hand, letting out little impatient mows. When I glanced up, Miles was open-mouthed in the window, hands pressed against the glass. It reminded me of when I’d tried to introduce him to David Sedaris when I ran his reading, and Miles said, “Oh, gosh, no. Oh, no. I couldn’t,” and scampered.
We have named her Kelly, because she seems pleasantly basic.
Another nocturnal visitor was less pleasant. On Sunday morning, we woke up to find that in the night, someone had snipped the zip ties on my mother-in-law’s massive Biden sign and carted it away. She was, to say the least, vexed.
We golf-carted over and the plot thickened: at the edge of her land, there was now a tiny Trump sign.
Bum bum bum!
Miles was just getting out the requisite equipment to use it for target practice when a pickup rolled up. “I hear someone yanked your sign!” said the man driving it.
Mary said, “Was it you?”
“It really wasn’t,” he said. “You know how I feel, but I’d never take a sign.”
The two of them named likely suspects together for a while. Then he pulled out a replacement Biden/Harris sign and handed it to her through the window, winking. “Though, I might just add one.”
She smacked him on the arm through the window as the Trump sign in question rested next to the pile of rifles.
“I was wondering when you’d notice,” he said. “It’s been up for weeks.”
Mary whapped him once more for good measure.
And then he went off on a mission to find her stolen Biden sign, returning eventually with an even more massive one in the bed of his pickup.
I’ve already written on Facebook about turning up at what I thought was a liquor store to find it instead a bar jammed tight with the great unmasked masses, but I thought we’d be safe in Cottonwood, as that gas station is a stringent requirer of face coverings. It was not to be: on Wednesday night, Miles and I, sick of cooking for ourselves, ventured to the bar there in pursuit of a dirty chicken sandwich, and found that it was also packed with people who looked at us funny for wearing masks. The complicating factor was that Miles knew lots of them from high school.
We scuttled to the porch and sat feet apart from the other people there, all of whom Miles of course also knew. Eventually the conversation veered, as it will, to politics. Everyone on the porch declared themselves an independent, saying “I’m not voting for either one of them, I’m writing in Van Halen,” which I guess is preferable to one alternative, but I was surprised that all of them believed this and were our age.
One guy, however, said, “Man, FUCK Biden,” and drew breath.
And Miles, who is always quick with this sort of thing, said, “Dude, do we really want to go there right now?”
I said, “Yeah, man. You know what we believe. I mean, look at us.” I gestured to Miles’s techno sweatshirt and my embroidered Keds. “Didn’t you just hear that we moved here from Northeast?”
There was a moment of tension, and then everyone started talking about the puppy instead.
I did regret, later, that we hadn’t used the moment to Open a Dialogue, but I really don’t think anyone has ever been successfully canvassed by a righteous lefty while sitting on the patio of LeRoy’s. Perhaps it was enough that we were there, stuffing chicken in our faces Just Like Everyone Else, while being our openly leftist selves, every cell of us vibrating with fuck Trump, fuck that fucking guy.
Two weeks ago, we met a guy who’d lost his finger in a workplace accident – the right ring, just below the knuckle. He’d watched it actually travel away from him on a conveyor belt, sailing off to where the boxes were packing themselves, and thought it’d end up in Florida (the destination of the materials) until a colleague further down the line found it, fainting in the process.
And now here he was, sitting in our clubhouse, 5′ up on a ladder, helping Miles put in a 2×4 to stabilize the TV that plays VCRs.
Where, I asked him, was the finger now?
He jerked his bandaged hand, balancing the TV with the other. “Oh, it’s in my car.”
“That car,” I said. “The one that’s right there.”
“Yup. In a paper bag.”
I now know how much begging is polite when asking to see someone’s severed finger, and the answer is: none. You just have to sit there, knowing it exists, and be glad that at least dude can still play guitar.
Miles is currently in the Cities helping his dad pack up their house, and I’m home alone, which is why this blog post is so long. The cats are good company, especially Kelly, who showed up last night, prancing over with an entitled air to eat more Wet Food. I sat on the porch with her, stroking her little curved back after she’d eaten, and then went inside, leaving her some dry food too, just because she is good.
A bit later, in between episodes of Pen15, I wandered by the door and looked out.
Kelly had transformed.
She was still eating; she’d splashed her water bowl everywhere, even. Only now she was massive, and dark-furred, and stripey, and… ominous.
With shaking hands I captured a picture of it, the skunk that was just going to town on Kelly’s food. I didn’t realize until later that Kelly had not in fact transformed: she was instead curled on the porch loveseat, bravely watching Antifa Skunk destroy her land and livelihood. We both froze, not wanting to startle it. I think I actually hid under the window so I couldn’t watch it happen.
But eventually I looked up, and Bad Boy Diva Skunk was gone, and Kelly was sitting there, and we conversed, shaken, until I was ready to go to bed.
That’s the news from Wood Lake, where all the women say that you don’t have to wear your mask in this bar, all the men drink either Miller Lite or Bud and have strong opinions about the differences between each, and all the children are cats.