View From the Back Porch
A Play of Many Characters
By Nita Wilson
Dedicated to the memory of my friend Amelia Stebly
In the town of Hattiesgulch, in the State of MisStepisi, in the very southern section of the Untangled Escapes of Americals there dwells a small group of animals, birds, reptiles and fish who live out their lives with the same drama and passion as any human in any of the largest cities in the world. They fear Hurricanes and wild beast. They fear being eaten by the large owl that visits nightly and they fear the humans who live around and among them. Maybe fear is too strong a word for these creatures as they don’t dwell on fears as we humans, not at all. They go about their daily lives in their relationships and friendships as happily as can be, but they are cautious, yes that’s the word, cautious… these creatures are cautious. They know when ‘Big O’ the old battle scarred yellow cat comes into the yard it’s time to visit themselves elsewhere. At night when the “whoo, whoo” of the big owl comes from the neighboring yards it’s time to run up the tree and pull the big magnolia leaves over the nests and… when the big winds bend the trees in half, it’s time to hide under the eaves of the back porch and wait it out. The players in this story are real and at this writing are busy preparing for fall. The squirrels are sitting in the big yard on their little hind legs, tails curling up and over their backs looking all the world like little brown teapots as they gather the acorns given freely and generously by ‘Bill’, the big Chinquapin Oak. The corn and sunflower seeds I threw to them this morning have already been stored in nests so far up in the trees only the wind knows the hidden places.
I consider these beings my friends; they consider me a nuisance. I respect them; they tolerate me. I would be lying if I said I didn’t buy their friendships, I do. I buy their affection with seeds and nuts they can’t find in my back yard and they provide me with hours of entertainment and a random stare on a bright sunny day. This is a story of an event I witnessed.
THE CAST OF CHARACTERS
Bull, Precious and Lil’ Bit
Precious would be the death of Bull one day, he knew it, he hated it, but he couldn’t help it. He was smitten with her, crazy about her, he thought she was about the cutest thing in the whole yard and the danger she invoked kept him on his mettle and he liked that. Bull hoped she was watching. Did she see him, one foot closer to the human? He stopped and stared at the tall figure holding the plate of seed. His heart might explode if he didn’t get a sunflower seed soon, not that he could eat it, the fear tied his soul in knots and his stomach was tangled somewhere inside those knots and would be for some time to come. He intended to get a seed, offer it to Precious and enjoy watching her take it. Even if he didn’t offer, he knew from many seeds before, she would badger him until she got it, but this time he would offer it without the nagging.
Precious was the devil in a little fur coat and Bull’s forever torment. She had something that compelled him to play her silly games and stick around for the good times. Maybe it was knowing she could never be tamed, maybe it was her prowess in the nest or maybe it was just old fashioned chemistry between them. Whatever it was, he was powerless against the awesome feelings that kept him in her nest doing her bidding.
Bull had once courted, Lil Bit, the dainty pretty thing with large soft eyes and slim flanks, demure in his presence and always ready to be led and loved. He would’ve been a lot better off had he chosen her, but his life would have lacked the sauce and spice of the chase that Precious offered.
Once, a long time ago, Lil Bit tried and worked for days building a courage that wasn’t in her. She had approached, soft eyes half closed and wanting, trembling in fear and excitement, but Bull took one look at her flirting eyes thought she’d gone crazy and ran away across the roof and into Cyril, the tall cypress tree on the other side of the house. This as it turned out was a good thing for Lil Bit, seeing as how Precious was waiting to kill both parties of this silly tete-a-tete, and would have… easily. Instead Precious used it for days, to goad and make fun of Bull. “Bull and Lil Bit sitten’ in a tree, Kiss-ing.” Precious barked from the nest as all in the backyard laughed. Bull got angry and kept all of his sunflower seeds to himself. Precious, seeing her free meal ticket in jeopardy smugly stopped the torment and things went back to normal. Lil Bit would wait, her day would come, she could be patient. She was good at being patient. Her mother told her... “Patience means waiting gracefully.” That was Lil Bits true talent.