CHEAP EATS In the morning I dropped him off at the bus stop and he jumped out of the car, a big meeting at nine. Work. I smiled and waved through the window, blew him a kiss that I don't think he saw, and pulled away.
Went to Crawdad de la Cooter's to see her baby and her, but they were on their way out the door. Inside, her man was in bed sick. I should have stayed and made him soup, or something. We talked a little through the door, and I got back in my car and went.
Stopped at my favorite dumpster for firewood, and the gate was closed. I lingered, looking through the chain-linkage at an inviting overflow of sawed-off two-by-fours and scrapped corner cuts, all with everyone-else-in-the-world's name on them, not mine.
It was a long drive home. And cold. Oh, the sky was sunny and brilliant, but all that was, like everything else in life, on the other side of my windshield. I turned the heater on and my chest tightened. My breathing became irregular. Goddamn, I hate these little heart attacks. I turned the heater off and rolled down my window.
At the Ping-Pong table in my mind, nothing and Nothing were duking it out, and no one was winning. I was dripping sweat, gritting my teeth, stomping and grunting, darting and lunging. Takes me an hour and a half to get home to the woods. That's a lot of Ping-Pong. Final score: 0-0. I made a mental note to call my therapist.
Inside my shack it was in the mid-40s. I resisted the temptation to go to bed. Let me rephrase that: I went to bed, but first I got a fire going and only slept for a couple hours. Then, instead of my therapist, I called the feed store. It's not the next best thing; it's better. I may be hopelessly hopeless, useless, clueless, and gutless, but I'd be damned if I was going to stay chickenless.
"Got pullets?" I said. And for the first time in six weeks they said yep. So I called Mountain Sam'l. "Mister," I said, "your chickenless chicken farmer is about to be chickenful."
We met down at Western Farm, and after, while the new girls peeped and pooped on my passenger seat, we stopped for my favorite antidepressant, duck soup.
What friends are for: Sam'l talked to me, long after our noodles were all slurped up, and, with poetic patience and kind, country eyes, he reminded me How To Be Crazy. That's golden. It's practical, realistic information, especially compared with How Not To Be Crazy. And after way more than an hour, he not only didn't charge me $60 or even $25 but even insisted on picking up the check.
Next day we went for a hike. He showed me some things you can eat, like cattail root, acorns for mush, and madrone bark for tea. Mountain Veronica made a pot roast and we watched A Beautiful Mind.
The chickens were not still in my car. They were digging their new digs in the redwoods redecorating, unpacking: you know, settling in. On Sunday I drove down to the city, played three consecutive soccer games for three different teams, then, lunch-breaking only for a slice of pizza and a glass of water, I went and played baseball. Caught four innings, pitched three, and never knew the score, but it was a nine-to-five sports day. Imagine my soreness.
I could barely shift gears on my way back to the Mountains' for salmon, mashed potatoes, and green beans. When I hit their hot tub at 11 that night, the cure was complete. But Mountain Veronica, ever the big sister, wouldn't let me drive home.
In the morning, Monday morning, I would go to work: I would sing to and sit with my chickens. Help them paint. I would cook them a coop-warming corn bread with the buggy cornmeal and stinky flour I'd been saving. Welcome home!
And this, from Mr. and Mrs. Mountains: me!