While the circumstances leading to my current situation of living in a large empty house but for a dog, a cat, three guineafowl and eight or nine chickens, are too complex, delicate, and likely to incur the wrath of numerous people against each other and ultimately myself to explain, I felt it might be in order to say something about what it is like in itself. That is to say, what living alone with a dog, a cat, three guinea fowl and eight or nine chickens is like.
First, homecomings are interesting.
The moment I step out of the car, hardly one foot is on the driveway when Bella, the black labrador, Jasper, our demon-possessed cat and eight or nine chickens––unnamed due to their expendability––rush at me. When, at a later time, I stroll out of the house into the yard, they all follow me. I'm like their great loving mother, or Dr. Dolittle, which is strange because I really quite dislike them all. Absent from these parades, quite ironically, are my three surviving guineafowl, who have become increasingly stand-offish since I arrived back from the west coast, and now spend their days pensively darting in and out of the savanna-like grass of the 30 acre windrows across the road, digging pits in the yard, and attending a book club that is currently reading through Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. Okay, I made the last one up.
Second, there is lots of drama. Loads of it.
Most of it is related to their apparent misconception that it is my responsibility to provide them with food. In the case of Bella and the guineafowl, that is at least somewhat valid. Jasper and the chickens however, put up more fuss about it than they do. Just this morning for instance, Jasper came out on the deck as I was attempting to water my potted Artemus-absinthium and began meowing and pushing at my hands to the point that I couldn't hold the water jar straight. When I gave him a firm but slow nudge away, the cat, who jumps out of trees, vivisects rabbits larger than he is, and has been rumored to stalk herds of small deer, lurched sideways as if I'd punted him, fell down the stairs banging on every step and landed in a pitiful meowing heap on the ground. I can only imagine that such tactics must have been rewarded for him in the past.
Or take any time I walk to the other side of the driveway carrying anything that vaguely resembles a feed bucket. If you have never had the experience of witnessing eight chickens running at you full speed, it's quite terrifying. Like something out of Jurassic Park, really. Of course, I'm not carrying a feed bucket. The chickens are free range now, and expected to fend for themselves. Rather, what I'm carrying a basket for is to take their eggs with.
That has been another little adventure. While letting the chickens out means I don't really have to feed them, it also means they lay eggs wherever they feel like it. With 8/9 chickens to one person, I could almost theoretically maintain an unhealthy but livable diet off of just their eggs. But that means finding them. It's like Easter everyday. Only not. Not at all.
But seriously, I can't move, and have no privacy. The other day I was trying to do something covert. What was it? Oh, steal potatoes out of my grandparent's garden. I'm on this damned gluten free diet thing, and practically the only carbohydrate I can eat that doesn't have the word "ancient" or "expensive" in front of it is potatoes. So having neglected to purchase any, I did what any self respecting neighbor would, and snuck into the next door garden with a pitchfork and bucket. Everything went well. Until I saw something fly past me and realized it was the dog, who had followed me, and having no regard for my needed level of stealth, was bounding down to make our presence known. Save to say, I had no potatoes that night.
Or take this evening, when I tried to eat outside. I could write a book about how disconcerting it is to sit eating a bowl of tunafish with a demon possessed cat sitting four feet across from you staring you down and making unnatural, deep throated growling noises. But I will refrain.
At any rate, I'm leaving for Texas this weekend.