I am struggling with fear and concentration. I’ve inched up to 109 pages on this book.
Oh boy. It’s like pulling teeth – hello there, cliche.
It doesn’t help when I see my adult kid’s facebook feed where he’s playing spider man at the top of a bridge in downtown Los Angeles. I try to not to study the angle and be a complete ‘mother’ about it, because there is NOTHING I can do.
I used to think when they grew up I would not worry so much, but it’s the opposite.
Again, riddled with cliches here.
I do have some good news – an editor at a publishing house would like to work on “Ernestine’s Milky Way” with me – a picture book set in Maggie Valley. No promises but it’s something – a very sweet something. I’ll do revisions as she suggests and we’ll see what happens. In the years of “NO THANK YOU,” I’m mightily relieved and grateful.
Here’s a memory and possibly another character I’d like to squeeze in somewhere into this novel or maybe into a short story…I haven’t decided.
But back in the spring of 2010 there was a retired gentleman who advertised a house for rent. I decided to go look at the place to check it out. I had spent the first year in Birmingham alone in apartment, but the second year Norah was going to be joining me, and to ease her transition into sixth grade in Homewood, we needed a place for her and her cat, Daisy.
(This was when we thought it would be a good idea to transport Daisy, an aged cat with a swinging belly, across the country.)
I thought it was asking a lot of Norah to leave Los Angeles at age eleven to move to Birmingham, so I wanted a place where she could bring her beloved cat. (We solved the problem a year later by adopting Olive from “Peace Love and Dog Paws” in Birmingham, and we hit the dog jackpot with that sweet girl.)
Anyway, it was in the time before Olive. And I didn’t want to stay where I was living. I lived on the second floor of an apartment building, and I’d receive notes from a lady downstairs and she’d sign them “Margaret Downstairs.”
Her real name was not Margaret.
Her complaints? I ground my coffee, I dragged my suitcase across the floor when I had to catch an early flight. Anyway, I got on her nerves and I had no idea – I began walking in socks after that first letter, but when Norah visited she liked finding the squeaky parts of the floor and testing them out until I’d chase her off of them.
I was terrified of Margaret Downstairs. I think I was depressed, too, and watched so much “Deadwood” that I’d look out my window into the courtyard and think – where’s the sheriff? Where is Al Swearengen and Calamity Jane? I truly expected them to show up walking along the path under a crape myrtle tree.
So I needed a new place since I didn’t want to live above Margaret Downstairs another minute. I found an ad for a house to rent in Homewood, and when I got there the man said right away, “No animals. NO ANIMALS.”
I said, “Not even an old cat? My daughter – ”
Then he said, “Where would you like to start? Which room?”
I said, “It doesn’t matter. Living room or kitchen.”
“Ladies LOVE the kitchen! Let me show you the kitchen. I want you to see something. See the fridge? Open it but just for a second. No more.”
“Just do it. Open it. You’ll be amazed.”
Uneasy, I did as ordered and the refrigerator was jammed full of food.
“Shut it! Shut it. Quick. That was all from the last tenant.”
I shut it fast. “When did she leave?”
“About a year ago.”
I’m sure I gasped. “Why did she leave all the food?” But what I wanted to ask was – why in the world did you keep it, but I didn’t.
“I don’t know,” he said. “Makes no sense. I figured she’d come back and get it and then she didn’t. And well…”
He turned to other matters and said, “I believe in cold showers. No need in wasting hot water. You can turn the water heater up or down easy. Turn it up for laundry if you want but down for showers.”
I said, “I don’t really know how to do that.”
He smiled big and yelled, “Live and learn, live and learn!”
And he demonstrated.
Then he took me outside to a scorched/hardscrabble patch of a backyard. The woman with the abandoned refrigerator had left in a hurry with her three big dogs.
“Those dogs tore up the backyard – so, no animals,” he said. “Who needs three dogs?”
“I would just bring a cat,” I said, though I knew I would never be bringing anything to this place.
He showed me the rest of the house, which was beat up and sad. I’d had enough, so I said, “Well, my kid really wants her cat to come to Alabama, so thank you for showing your house to me, but I think I’ll have to look elsewhere.”
He paused and said, “Well, if the cat dies give me a call.”
But a few days later, he did call to tell me that cat could come after all.
I never returned the call and Daisy never did come to Alabama. She is happy today right where she is in Los Angeles with the man of her dreams.
Kiffen and Daisy
* * *
And Olive is two-state wiener dog who flies Southwest several times a year.