While you were sleeping

Pinetree at nightRemember the dancing baby in Ally McBeal? The same thing is happening to me, but it’s an incredibly gifted circus animal. Twice now, right at bed time, I have caught sight of an animal that defies gravity. It appears to be a 26 pound Rat-Terrier. It walks along the top of my privacy fence.

I know. I should’ve given up wine for Lent again this year. Instead, I gave up, “staying up past 11 p.m.” Hey, it’s not as easy as it sounds. In fact, this very night I was staring into the darkness of my side yard, imagining the glory that Dewayne, my genius landscape designer, would bring forth, when I heard a bunch of rustling around. Naturally, I thought it was a burglar. I waited and listened, careful to scan all dark shapes for movement. It came from behind the privacy fence.

Maybe it’s somebody looking for a place to sleep for the night, I thought. I do live in the Historic District.

I waited, almost holding my breath. Everybody in my house was asleep. It was so quiet, I could even make out the sounds of Garry’s level 1 snoring.

I considered the family of ducks that moved in last spring. Either, the person passed out or the ducks are asleep, I thought.

And just as I was about to  go to bed, I heard, “Hiss! Hiss! Hisssssss! Hisssss!” The homeless person had stepped on four cats.

Got to be cats. A bunch of mean, fighting cats. But then, silence. My eyes watched the tree trunk and the yard and the blackness. Nothing.

Almost a whole minute later, there was a tiny scratching on the fence, followed by a pointy nose. It poked up and over. An over-fed roundness balanced itself and waddled away, an ottoman off to find it’s sofa. The delicate silhouette appeared and disappeared as it left, never wavering. Graceful and moonlit, it was fatter than my seven year old Sheep Dog/ Basset mix. And it was trotting on a one-by-two. Nose down, tail out.

He turned the corner toward the back wall and I went to bed.

Last night I saw him again. This time he was on my other neighbor’s roof, two stories up.  It was already midnight. I woke up my 13 year old.

“Come look, a magic dog is on Sonny’s roof!” I said.

We watched as the wire hair caught the light from the Georgia Power pole. It tiptoed across the very top of the roof like a witch wearing it’s hat for a nose, crawling on it’s belly and scaling the thirty-degree slope. More deft than the Great Wallenda. Up and back again. Head down, tail out.

“Dang,that thing can get in our house!” I looked at Theo.

“Mom, it’s way past eleven.” he said.

 

Big Hair Days

win-pictures-aquanetOne of my earliest memory is sitting in the hallway leading to the bathroom, saying, “Mooooooommmm, come on”. At least that’s how I remember it. My mom’s particular about her hair and in 1971, she had a lot of it and it took a lot of fixin’. She didn’t have long hair back then. It was short, black and big. Yes, she’s a white woman and we were in Cullman County Alabama, freshly divorced from my dad, with a red pontiac and big sunglasses, bigger than 80’s sunglasses. I think they had to tone them down for the 80’s. People started to take stuff a little more seriously 10 years down the road. But there I sprawled, across the hardwood floor in white tights and white patent leather shoes and a red and white polka dotted bow, tied to the top of my big red hair. But my mom and that can of Aquanet were one wih the mirror. And I remember, it involved a bunch of teasing and maybe a pick, but I’m not exactly sure about the pick part. The rest of my life, say, after age 10, it was more of hot rollers and a big brush kind of hairdo. Anyway, I waited. And waited and waited and waited and waited… And finally, it was deemed acceptable enough to sit on top of her head at the Cullman County Courthouse, until, sometime midday, she’s push open the enormous wooden door, marked, “ladies”, set the enormous black purse on the counter by the sink and pulling her pocket mirror out, check it from all points, refreshing where neccessary with adequate amounts of Aquanet, in the red bottle.

Uniform courtesy Little Joe’s Package Store

aaa_approved_logo_50pxls  The AAA inspector comes roughly, the same time every year. And it is always a little nerve-wracking, whether we were trying to get our 4 diamonds, or trying to hold onto them.

It was one such attempt, a AAA inspection, around 1998, that I’ll never forget. We’d finished serving all our guests breakfast and one man was left, sitting at the table. He was offered the twelfth cup of coffee, he refused, went to his room, (all part of the ruse), and then returned 20 minutes later.

“I’m from AAA,” he says, thumbing his card onto the table.

“Oh, so nice to meet you,” I reply. I’m thinking, I should have known. None of our real guests would have asked for jelly on their pancakes but I smile, hopefully conveying the calm of a genuine, hospitable host.

He has his official nondescript black plastic/faux leather folio and his ink pen, which he snaps into service, simultaneously smoothing down his abnormally long moustache and clearing his throat. His tie almost is choking his neck and his pants a tad short.

“Please sit down.” I offer the dining room table.

“Thank you”, he manages. I can tell that he’s been to a lot of Holiday Inns, that he actually prefers them, and that he has been yelled at, a lot. It’s not easy telling someone they can’t have 4 diamonds, again.

About this time, the office door opens. I am facing the door, the inspector’s back is to it. Out walk my two maids. Now, I should preface this whole chain of events with the fact that during the “inspection season”, I made sure all areas were in tip top shape. And I had many, many meetings with the staff, to impress upon them that they would be miserable, if they didn’t take it seriously. This meant wearing their uniforms, without fail, which they hated, beacuse they were black dresses with frilly white aprons. “Is it okay if we wear pants sometime?”

“Is it okay if we wear pants sometime?”, Kay had asked.

And I replied, “Sure, as long as they match. I’ll see if I can find some uniforms with pants.”

So this particular morning, I’m sitting there and the office door opens and I’m chatting up the inspector. And Mattie and Kay walk out, just having arrived for work. They are both wearing “matching uniforms”. They consist of black pants and bright pink t-shirts. On the front of each is a big cartoon Mercedes and a cartoon African American woman, wearing a bikini, surrounded by dollar signs and in quotations, “I can’t stand No Broke Ass Man”, in BIG letters. Big PURPLE letters. They’d gone to Little Joe’s Liquor Store and Clothing shop and purchased “uniforms”, with pants.

They paused, right behind the inspector, who is consternated over his moustache and his folio. And they waited.

Mattie and Kay are beaming, obviously proud of the matching ensembles. Kay’s right hand rests on the back of the inspector’s chair, a white unbrella hanging from her wrist. Mattie’s arms are crossed at her waist, just a dollar sign and a big bouffant hairdo visible across her chest.

I consider knocking the leftover scones into floor to create a diversion. “Oh, ya’ll can start in the kitchen!” They turn, a little disappointed, I can sense because I hadn’t mentioned their matching shirts.

“So, did we make 4 diamonds?” I ask the inspector after they left, with the most sparkly, sparkle, upbeat innkeeper voice I could muster.

“”Not quite.” He’s staring at his plastic black thing and I’m looking at the top of his skinny, already thinning head, bent over to avoid my eye.

“Well, it seems that you have a chandelier in the cottage that some of my inspectors would find, well, sub par”.

“That is an antique. It has been in my husband’s family for four generations.”

“Well the AAA guidebook inspections code requires all light fixtures to have been purchased at Lowe’s, Home Depot , Sears, or likewise similar faux home store, and must be comprised of faux brass or faux copper and installed in the last 12 months.”

“And, at turn down, you placed the pillows facing up, not out.” He scratched his head with his pen.

“It says, ‘turn the pillows up’ ‘” I say. “Yes, that means down,” he says, writing in his black plastic faux piece of propaganda.

“Pardon me?”

“The pillows must be down. On the bed.”

“Okay, I see,” I said. “Well, there’s always next year, I guess. Any advice?” I offered him a scone, which he took and dribbled crumbs on my “assessment”.

“Just change that light fixture out and you’re pretty much there, and oh, the pillows, and oh yeah, next year, all bathrooms have to have marble floors and countertops”, he mentions.

“But they didn’t use that stuff in 1870, this hexagon tile is perfectly appropriate and it seems so wasteful…,” I say.

“Well, you know those big chains, they set the standard. Marble baths used to be considered 5 star. Now it’s standard, even for 3 diamond.” He rocks back on his heels, one hand in his polyester pocket. “Even Embassy Suites have marble now”.

As he gave me a copy of the year’s inspection, I noticed 2-3 crumbs of Lemon-Ginger Scone, half hidden, like so many diamonds, in his red-brown moustache . And  we said goodbye, until next year.