tremble clef

Monday, June 26, 2006

Handsomeboy Technique, "A Walk Across The Rooftops" (2005)

Tee woke me early yesterday, telling me there's something in his backyard I needed to see. Groggily and grudgingly I stumbled to the sliding glass door, where he indicated to me, through a series of complicated hand gestures and base-stealing signals, the need for us to be cautious and tip-toey. I stuck my sleepy head a couple of inches out the door, and turned it to the left. I heard it before I saw it: a series of high-pitched squeaking, wailing sounds, all emitting from a raccoon.

He was not exactly a baby, but certainly a youngster -- only slightly longer than a foot -- and he was hurdled in a corner of the deck. We immediately named him Zorro. Zorro kept up his whimpers, and showed no inclination to move, even though by this time we had inched closer to him.

Actually, Tee and I had to take turns inching closer: a concern was that Heather, Tee's dog, not catch wind of what was going, so one of us had to guard the back door at all times. Heather usually bolts to the rear of the house the moment she hears the click of the glass door opening; but at that moment she was in a lazy Sunday kinda mood, perhaps nursing a Saturday night hangover, and thus napping on the couch. But, like any good dog, she normally loves the backyard and being in it. Maybe more than what is normal: a couple of days ago I had dropped a container of shredded cheese in the kitchen. Between curses, I cleaned up the stuff that had fallen on the floor, and then shook out the rug, on which the rest had landed, in the backyard. Heather loves cheese (along with peanuts and popcorn), so the next time she went outside she immediately picked up the scent and headed straight for the relevant flowerbed, where she proceeded to do some serious hoovering. With the result that Heather now thinks that cheese magically grows in the garden, which further cements her love of the backyard.

Anyway, we didn't want Heather running out to the deck and yard and tussling with Zorro. She's a small little Westie, but labors under the illusion that she's a strapping heroic dog. Except when there is thunder, but that's another story.

We watched Zorro for a while, and started to think that he was hurt. Yeah, the crying tipped us off. These suspicions were confirmed when Zorro finally moved around on the deck -- slowly, and with a noticeable limp. Tee now remembered that he had heard a thud right before Zorro started crying; his theory was therefore that Zorro's mom had taken the family out for a walk on his rooftop, and poor Zorro had fallen and broken his leg. I had no theory of my own, and I didn't like Tee's, but it certainly seem like it might be what happened.

Tee has always been convinced that his backyard is like the Garden Of Death. Oh, the plants and flowers are all fine -- Tee has green fingers -- but it seems that animals who visit are accident-prone. Numerous birds, it hardly needs to be said, have flown into the glass door. Though I think the neon sign we have put up on it, saying "SEEDS AND FREE BEER HERE!" doesn't help. Then there was the time Tee discovered (and thankfully freed) a feathered friend with his head somehow stuck in the feeder. Not so lucky were the birds -- six or eight of them over the years -- that Tee has found drowned in his fountain. They lean in for a drink of water, ignoring the perfectly good bird bath that's been set up elsewhere in the yard, underestimate the depth of the water, and fall in. If the birds had only read their Greek classics carefully in school, they would have avoided their grisly fate. (I asked Tee what he does with the bodies, and he said that he throws them over the fence he shares with his neighbor; I'm not sure if he's kidding.) By way of comfort, I pointed out that the garden has played host to new life too -- there was the baby kitten he found in it one time and thus had to place with a good home. Later, an adult cat, whom he nicknamed Kitty Carlisle, who may be the mother, started coming around, and recently has in fact looked threateningly pregnant. I reminded Tee of these, and then did my best Jennifer Hudson and launched into a verse of "Circle Of Life," but Tee remained a bit glum.

With good reason. Even as I was singing "Siyo Nqoba!" Zorro had continued -- or possibly increased, go figure -- his crying. And even while singing, I was thinking about some story I once read, by either David Sedaris or Augusten Burroughs, in which he had to drown a rabbit to put it out of its misery. Zorro at least had, by this time, made his slow, crippled way across the deck and tucked himself into a crevice formed by the edge of that deck and a flowerbed. He put his little snout on the deck, and the crying became much softer.

Tee and I decided that we couldn't watch any more, closed the door, and went back to the living room to sit down. Tee begun to talk himself into believing that perhaps Zorro's leg wasn't broken after all. "Maybe," he said hopefully, "he fell and was just dazed, and crying more because he was out exposed in the open." "He did stop crying, more or less, once he managed to take cover in the flowerbed," I added and abetted.

To not do a good job off taking our minds off Zorro, Tee talked about another raccoon that he misguidedly tried to have as a pet as a kid. He also told me about the time when a very young him found some birds that had landed on a freshly paved road. The tar stuck to their feet, and they couldn't fly away, and instead flailed about helplessly and in great agony on the ground. Tee tried to get most of the tar off, but too much of it had dried. Tee's mother took him aside, and explained how the thing they needed to do was put the birds out of their pain. Which she did, making sure that Tee went with her to watch her do so. "And I was very grateful she did," Tee said. There are so many lessons we learn from our mothers, not least the difficult and essential one about compassion, and at that moment Tee was thinking, as I was, of his late mom. Later we went back out to the yard, and Zorro was nowhere to be seen. Perhaps he was indeed merely dazed, and once he shook it off, was able to scamper away. Perhaps he had crawled under the deck, where he would get better, and then eventually crawl away. In my mind, of course, perhaps he even finds his mother again.


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