The two, peanut butter-loaded mouse traps that I put in the brick farmhouse’s old-fashioned back porch last night were nowhere to be seen. Arnie, my husband was in the house. I yelled, “Honey, did you get rid of the mouse traps I put out here yesterday?”
Arnie’s bellowed answer, “No I didn’t” made me closely examine the green indoor-outdoor carpet. The traps were gone, and there wasn’t even an oily smear left behind on the artificial grass.
Yesterday, I’d noticed chew marks on the outdoor toys stored in a box below one of the porch windows. Today, the toys looked even worse. I assumed mice were doing the damage. Our farmhouse had a long history of rodent visitors.
My husband stepped into the porch with a half-eaten sandwich in his hands. He looked in the toy box and exclaimed, “Mice can’t do that kind of damage! I think a rat has been getting into the porch.”
Clumps of green blades dotted the flowerbed. Some of the leaves obviously belonged to crocus and hyacinths that were soon to blossom. Other clumps belonged to either daffodils or mystery lilies. I wouldn’t know for sure until the daffodils sent up stems and buds.
This flowerbed had looked completely dead when the winter snow melted. Then the first small green shoots pushed their way up through the cold, wet ground. I marveled at this miracle despite having seen it happen each spring of my life. How tenacious the small bulbs were! How badly they wanted to live! How inconceivable it was that they were able to wake up and start growing again after having been frozen solid for months on end!
Flower bulbs were not the only things growing in the yard. Swollen red buds tipped the maple tree branches. Despite a chilly spring, leaves were sure to follow soon. Blades of grass in the lawn were pushing up through last year’s brown thatch. The lawn mowing people were sure to follow soon, too.
I went to sit in a chair on the deck to muse the endlessness of household bills. My daughter Tammie was sitting at the table across from me. She looked up from her phone as I complained, “In the winter I pay for snow to be removed from the driveway and buy fuel for the furnace. In the summer I don’t pay for those things, but then I pay for someone to mow the lawn and have higher electric bills for using the air conditioner.”
The pinball machine in the corner of the bar suddenly began to play a tune and lights flashed in its backglass. Turning slightly on my barstool, I looked at the machine and mused, “That’s pretty cool. No one has been playing with it for a while, so it plays music like the pied-piper to attract customers.” The come-hither tactic worked, I sipped some beer from my glass and slid from my stool at the bar. My scant experience with pinball machines meant a low score, but I decided to try my hand anyway.
My first pull on the spring-loaded ball launcher was so weak that I thought my ball wasn’t going to make it to the playing field. But then it touched a mushroom bumper and sprung to life to bounce rapidly between all the bumpers. The machine’s backglass showed the number score rising quickly. Each point was celebrated with flashing lights and a noisy, “boing, boing, boing!”
As suddenly as the scoring spree started, it ended. The ball slowly began to roll down toward the apron. The only defense I had to prevent losing the ball were the two flippers guarding the drain. Timing was important, but even knowing this, I didn’t wait to properly bat the ball back into play. In my excitement I vigorously and indiscriminately pressed the buttons to make the flippers wildly flap. The entire game table bounced under my hands. Someone watching laughed and said, “Be careful. You’re going to make it go ‘tilt’.” That gave me pause. When a pinball machine goes ‘tilt’, it shuts down. Despite my efforts, the ball slipped between the ineffectual paddles and disappeared.
The second ball managed to stay in play much longer. I even saved it from going down the drain a couple times by delivering well-timed blows with the flippers. When hitting the bumpers, the ball displayed a fascinating amount of energy. It seemed to have a mind of its own, so the resulting score didn’t really feel like mine. A player is just a witness, and my only influence on the game rested entirely on stopping the ball from going down the drain.
Potatoes on the oven rack beside the roasting pan were not soft in the center yet. Poking a fork into the browning chuck roast revealed juicy meat that would melt-in-our-mouths after another hour of slow baking. While closing the oven door, the kitchen light dimmed for a few moments. Tossing the potholders onto a counter next to the stove, I left the kitchen.
My husband Arnie was in our Quonset shed working on one of his special projects. I knew that when he used the welder, the power it drew made the lights in the house dim for a few seconds. Curious to see his work and needing to tell him supper would be ready soon gave me a good reason to leave the house. The chilly morning had turned into a pleasantly warm spring afternoon.
The Quonset shed was one hundred yards from the house, but I took the scenic route that took me around the house, past a flowerbed, a bed of chives and rhubarb. A radio in the shed was tuned to a country western music station could be heard all over the yard.
Arnie had just finished laying down a new bead with the welder and pushed up his eye shield to inspect the work. Spotting me at the door of the shed, he smiled and took off his welding gloves and helmet. He proudly questioned, What do you think?”, motioning to the metal frame he’d made.