Ms. Gray visits.
| November pulled into the driveway this past Saturday and took her luggage out of the back of her SUV. She was only twenty-three days late. She said she had been in the vicinity, but had been disguised as golden October. She wanted to fool me and had slipped the sun some baksheesh, some 'vig' as they say downtown, to stick around a while. Four days after arrival her head still feels warm, but the clouds that punctuate every November have moved in for the duration. The backdrop is now painted gray. My wife would be pleased.
My wife was a colorist. She taught me to see November in hues of grays and browns while driving the New Jersey Turnpike between Exits Four and Eight. Gray skies and brown fields with some hint of gold turned beige where corn had been cut, these were the emotions of the month that she loved. She would point out the black of the trunks and branches of the bare trees and the contrast they provided with the gray sky. I now carry this baggage forward just as I tote my guest's luggage into the spare bedroom.
At lunch Sunday I asked my guest about the anachronism of green grass filling the back yard when the calendar said it was after Thanksgiving. She told me not to worry. It would be brown soon. In the meantime, she suggested that I stack the wood; rain would be coming this week after a long hiatus.
I'd forgotten the man and his red dump truck that pulled in Friday, the last of the golden days. He dumped two cords near the half-dead birch tree. Suddenly where there was grass is now an Everest of wood: brown wood, red wood, tan wood, wood with holes in it and wood with black bark clinging to it, holding on for dear life. The wood must go under the deck to protect it from the worst of the elements that the Furies of winter will bring.
I spend ninety minutes a day filling a canvas satchel with eight to ten pieces at a time, picking the bag up by the straps that form a handle, and lurching twenty or so feet with it, between the arborvitae and the quince to the cement pad under the deck. There the great stacks mount, and sometimes topple over.
Stacking wood was not my major in school. I fly by seat-of-pants as I place each piece in its appointed space. Across the street from the post office is the neatest woodpile I have ever seen. The builder has crosshatched his wood. I never thought of that. I would have awarded him first place in a wood stacking contest, but I noticed that he used a pallet for a base. Is this cheating?
The most discouraging part of this chore is that the original pile has not diminished. I suspect wood elves come around at night and add more to the pile. I considered sitting on the deck all night and watching my horde, wrapping myself in a few quilts, but realized I had better things to do. And what would I do if I spotted elves? Fire the pistol I don't own? Sic the dog on them? As dusk fell yesterday I put a curse on the woodpile. Woe is to he, she or it that attempts to interfere. My guest heartily approved.
I found Gray November reading my feeble efforts at writing. She was very enthused after reading one of my purported stories. She pushed me to enter it in a contest on an Internet site devoted to writing. I laughed at her and asked if the site was devoted to the babbling of idiots. She assured me that she was dead serious. I pulled out a manila folder and held it upside down. Rejection notices from many sources littered the floor of the room. I snarled, "Now I am going back to stacking wood" and I left via the deck door.
After she was asleep that evening, I went on line to check my Email. There was a message from OtisFergusonRedivus:
"I tried judging this for the contest, however I got so confused, yes it is 2 AM, but I can still do trig in my head so it isn't me..."
She had entered that nonsense after all. I felt like grabbing her luggage and throwing it in the back of her SUV along with her. Then I came to my senses and a transferrence of anger commenced.
Where did they find this blockhead judge? Who is he? How big is his rejection folder? 'Confused', huh? I'll show you confused. My life is pure unadulterated 99.44% confusion, and I wouldn't even know what 'trig' was if it bit me, or careened into my driveway in a pickup truck. This person may be able to do 'trig', but can he 'tote that barge, lift that bale', or stack wood? I'll let him try the simple way. He doesn’t even have to crosshatch it.
Humph! 'Trig', huh? Short for Trigger. Yodeling "Happy Trails to You", I rapped hard on the guest room door. "Get up, Ms. Gray and see what your meddling in my affairs has done." The light went on and after a minute the door opened. My guest had on a terry-cloth robe and a pair of mules. She had taken off the Veronica Lake wig that was her disguise for the early part of the month. She ran her hand over her short gray hair and read the message on the screen.
"Boy, I did screw things up, didn't I? I'm so sorry. I only brought you unhappiness. I guess I'd best be on my way. I'll leave you the gray days your wife so loved."
"But wait Ms. Gray, I knew I forgot something. Where's my 'gusty gale'? I must 'spout hot soup' and 'be a whale, spouting once, spouting twice'. You know what I mean? You didn't deliver the wind this year so I could have my 'Chicken Soup With Rice'."
"Oh my friend, that's not my department, and I don't stack wood either. Anyway, you like good thick tomato rice soup. You hate the taste of chicken, remember?"
Apologies to Sendak lovers and Mr. Sendak himself for the misapplication of his magnificent doggerel.[DJL]