Wanda is my octogenarian neighbor who brings such cranky joy to my life.
She turned 86 recently.
I visited her a bit in the Michigan room* overlooking the patio and the garden. The dogs wanted to play with me, but Wanda shut them out in the yard. The old pitbull is a dear; he would be content to put his head in my lap and let me stroke his neck and ears. The bulldog pup is a menace because she cannot contain herself. She wants to taste every visitor’s hands, jump into the first available lap, and then put her front paws on my shoulders, the better to lick my face and snuffle my hair. She’ll jump down if scolded, only to run circles around everyone until she forgets and returns to being an unwanted lap-dog.
Wanda took more than one look at me and asked if my feet hurt. I assured her they were fine. (I withheld the fact that I was on crutches the last couple weeks and the fun that will ensue next week…)
She gave me a beautiful pottery bowl full of dirt and red-veined plants. Prayer plants, she called them. The leaves fold up against the stems at night.
“Thank you,” I said.
“Don’t say that – they’ll die!” This is a superstition from olden days, she says. I tell her that I can kill plants without the help of supernatural forces.
The only thing I can’t kill is slugs. Yes, yes, I’ve heard that you can drown them in beer, but it seems a rather stupid thing to do since the slugs have attracted SKUNKS. So I will have drunk skunks lounging on my walkway. A couple weeks ago, I nearly walked into one, but it was shy and ran away.
The last thing I want is a coating of eau d’peeyuuu.
Wanda commiserates about slugs and skunks and persnickety legs. She’s using a walker and tells me she hates it. It gets stuck in the soft dirt in the garden. And it’s sloooow. I offer to send her some slugs to keep her company. She laughs.
*A Michigan room is a room like an enclosed step-down porch, usually with at least two walls of windows and/or sliding doors. It’s rather like a Floridian’s lanai, except that there’s usually an independent heat source (especially if used as a place to keep potted plants through the winter).