The Death of a Grasshopper.

“Hey Mom! There’s a hurt Grasshopper out here!”

Noah had gone to the front porch to feed the neighborhood cat that is known at our address as Thomas.

(Thomas has many names – many more than we probably even know. He works the feline benefits system well, just as his predecessor Fred, ingratiating himself to (or guilting handily) all of the neighborhood in order to eat as many meals as possible.)

“Is he dead?”, I asked Noah.

(Back to the grasshopper here – not Thomas. Follow my train of thought, people!)

“No – he’s just hurt. He’s still wiggling.”

Based on where Noah was standing – right in front of the door – I knew the grasshopper had to have been a special delivery from Thomas himself. A thoughtful gift for us in exchange for our feeding efforts.

But we were doing school and I had no time to inspect my gift at that moment.

We found ourselves on the porch later in the day, doing our read-aloud and other subjects that we do as a group. Somehow I’d missed, yet again, properly appreciating this gift, so Noah picked him up on a leaf and brought him to me to inspect.

It was pitiful.

The lovely Grasshopper was confined to his side, clearly having lost one of his jumping legs and bleeding a brownish liquid from his Thorax.

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He looked at me imploringly, while focusing on his labored, slow breaths. It was almost as if I could hear his thoughts.

My dear lady, I apologize for the predicament in which I find myself. It appears your cat has made the attempt to make a gift of me. I hope you find me a worthy gift, but it is rather inconvenient that I am mortally wounded.

It was just terrible. I didn’t have the heart to tell him it’s not even my cat.

I am personally not nearly offended enough by Thomas’ outright-dead gifts – in fact, I have memorialized more than one:

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But there was something about this nearly dead gift that broke my heart. I just wasn’t sure what to do. Maybe he would recover somewhat, and slink away to heal – or maybe not.

Ah, my lady, I would love nothing more than to ease your discomfort by dragging my damaged exoskeleton into the bushes and die in peace, but alas, my limbs do not appear to be useful at the present time. Perhaps you could –

But we had school to do.

I do hope that Mr. Grassy enjoyed the reading of a chapter of “The Incorrigibles of Ashton Place”, and then a chapter in our Chemistry and Physics textbook. I ruminated over the possibility that at least, in his last moments of life, he could increase his knowledge and understanding of the cruel world that had murdered him.

Fascinating, So the electrons revolve around the nucleus? Who knew?

But…he didn’t die.

By the end of the reading, his breathing was even more painful to watch. More labored, more heaving. You could nearly hear him gasping and groaning. And he now lay in a small pool of his own bodily fluids.

It is most unfortunate, madam, that due to the physics of your cat, my personal chemistry is leaking onto your porch. I am most embarrassed. Perhaps now might be a good time to –

So I texted Chris for moral guidance.

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Chris has always been a freeze-er. Anytime he finds large spiders, he captures them carefully in my Tupperware and puts them in my freezer. Something about the violent crunching of stepping on a living being is more than he can handle.

(Obviously I draw the line at cockroaches entering my freezer. So he’s a flush-er of those.)

I am not a freeze-er. I find this somehow more cruel. Or at least me thinking about that gasping Grasshopper becoming colder and colder in his last moments was too much for me.

I wanted him to go out with his new education, not wishing he had a scarf.

Oh, thank you. I do hate to impose, but it would be most helpful if you could end this unfortunate situation.

So I folded him up in a piece of paper, added two leaves in for a further wall between him and my foot, took him out to the sidewalk (as Noah tailed me, asking if Grasshoppers go to heaven and how do I KNOW they don’t have souls?!?), and I stepped on him.

I picked up the paper and peeked in.

HE WAS STILL MOVING.

MADAM, this is most unhelpful. I am trying to maintain my dignity and composure, but this is quite unpleasant. Could you PLEASE try again?

This was the worst execution I’d ever been a part of. I felt sick, evil, and an all around persecutor of grasshoppers.

I quickly sat down the paper and thoroughly ensured his death.

The next time I fed Thomas I made sure to tell him to please be sure and leave only completely dead things in the future.

Well, if I was really your cat, you might get better gifts. Kiss my tail.

Moments of Vacation.

We’ve been on our annual double-family vacation, during which I took a writing hiatus. I’m still gathering and editing my photos from the trip, but here are a couple of stories from my favorite moments.

The Ghosterhood of the Traveling Skirt.

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All four kids shared a bunk room for the first time this year. It was the most generous bunkroom I’ve ever seen – two sets of double-bedded bunks. I was somewhat afraid that Noah would be a hindrance in this arrangement – either not letting the others go to sleep, or being in general boyish and naggy. But he was not. He fell asleep instantaneously every night and slept deeply, never waking up in the middle of the night.

Except for that one night.

Noah awoke to go to the bathroom at 4am. And some strange things occurred. Strange things for which he was very anxious to tell me about the next morning…

”I can’t go up the stairs to your bedroom anymore because when I woke up in the middle of the night, I saw a teal skirt floating at the bottom of the stairs! It was just hanging there – floating!!!!”

Ali: “Yeah! He said it was just like mine and AJ’s swim skirts!”

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Me: “Did he wake anyone else up?”

Tessa: “He woke me up because he was going through the suitcase and throwing clothes out and GASPING!”

Throwing clothes around and gasping, y’all. At 4am. Naturally, I found all of this extraordinarily amusing (only because all children went back to sleep after The Skirt Situation), but Noah was quite serious. There had FOR SURE been a floating teal skirt and it was certain that STRANGE THINGS were going down in this house. Apparently the suitcase rummaging had been his attempts to find Ali’s teal skirt – and gasping when he couldn’t find it.

(It was in my room hanging up to dry, but I suppose could’ve floated down the stairs…)

The mystery was thrown around all morning, us trying to convince Noah that he had probably just been half asleep or maybe even sleepwalking.

The older two girls asked gigglingly if they could prank Noah with other ghostly occurrences. We assured them that no good could come out of that plan, so no – no more ghosts were necessary.

Ashley (AJ and Tessa’s mom) mentioned that she’d heard someone get up to go to the bathroom, but missed the rest of the commotion.

Then I looked at Ashley’s shorts…and a theory began to form in my mind.

“Wait a minute. Did you sleep in those shorts?”

“Yup.”

“And…did you open your bedroom door and look out when you heard someone get up to go to the bathroom?”

“Yes, I did.”

SHE WAS WEARING TEAL SHORTS. That were very flowy – just like a skirt.

I informed Noah that he had seen Ashley’s bottom half in the dark (her room was at the foot of the stairs he was now terrified of), and had associated it with the swimsuits the older girls had worn the day before. And we all laughed that there had, actually, been a Teal Skirt(ish) Situation after all.

Noah was insistent that this is not what had happened. It was NOT shorts and it HAD been floating. But by the end of the day, Ashley somehow convinced him.

“Maybe strange things aren’t happening in this house after all…”, he surmised.

And I kinda felt like this whole ordeal was payback for him ghosting me with my keypad a couple weeks ago.

Karma’s a ghost, kid.

 

Frogs, Frogs Everywhere.

The frogs were deafening at night. There were multiple lakes and swamps and ponds and puddles near our rental house, and therefore were significantly more frogs per square mile than humans. Tree frogs and bullfrogs were most plentiful – I caught one of each to hold (and to allow them to pee on me.) (Frogs get such joy from peeing on me, and I consider it the price of the thrill of holding a frog.)

The day after the first wave of rain from the tropical storm (more about that later), the kids finally caught a break and were able to go swim in the pool. (Certainly not the ocean – double red flags were in abundance.)

The neighborhood pool was always in possession of some leftover toys or floats from the neighbors, so it makes perfect sense that, upon seeing a large frog-shaped shadow on the bottom of the deep end of the pool, the kids assumed it was a dive toy.

They quickly added doubts to the mix and decided that instead of diving down and picking it up, they’d dive down and investigate.

I was pretty sure it was not, in fact, a dive toy.

After a few unsuccessful kid missions, I got the giant pool net.

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They all crowded around as I went fishing for a giant dead bullfrog.

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I pulled him up, and everyone took a moment of silence for the sad frog (who was accidentally not included in the photo of his funeral. Or maybe not accidentally. Corpse selfies are, after all, bad form.)

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Then I carefully posed him on a beach chair for his last photo, memorializing him forever. As one does.

IMG_8678That feeling when you go to the beach on vacation and your arch-nemesis {Tropical Storm} Cindy follows you there.

But the most important educational moment of this trip is when I realized that bull frogs apparently have saggy man boobs.

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Frothed Frog Milk Espresso, anyone?

The next day, after Wave Number Two of Tropical Storm rains, there was another bullfrog – an even bigger bullfrog – swimming desperately in the out-of-order hot tub. I was able to rescue him as well – but this time, before death.

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As his facial expression implies, he was eternally grateful for my efforts.

The Robin Hood of Animal Memorialization.

There’s been a serious dearth of opportunities for roadkill kit utilization lately. And it wasn’t for my lack of looking for those to memorialize eternally – I had been keeping my eyes especially alert for a rabbit all through March and April, as I had a set of tiny Easter Eggs that really needed a job. The only rabbit I saw took five careful drive-bys to determine that he was missing his head.

Seriously…where is his head? Is it curved under? Turned funny? Under his stomach? Okay there’s his neck nevermind.

So Easter passed without me being able to get a festive photo with which to celebrate. I tried to justify my failure.

At least I got St Patrick’s Day pictures

I was super happy for the Animal Kingdom, as it appeared that the tide had shifted and they were beginning to win The War on Cars. So there was that. But my alt-dead Instagram account had been sitting idly by…sad, lonely, and feeling all the feels.


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Finally, on the day we were leaving for the beach, I got a text from neighbor Not-Crazy-Renee. She’s always good for a tip. And this one was better than most – there was an opossum within walking distance of my house – one who died on a hill (as usual.) ‘Possums take that metaphor very literally.

I quickly grabbed some supplies, my rubber gloves, and my camera, and went on a walk. I decided that, since it was only 5 days past Easter, I could still work the holiday into my theme.

I quickly scattered the eggs, looking right and left, worried that my neighbors would see me. I didn’t want to get called out on the Next Door forum with a passive-aggressive note about “people who leave novelty items by dead animals.”

I wished I’d brought a tiny Easter basket along, but snapped my pic anyway and as casually as possible, walked back to my own house.

Alabama-Easter-PossumIn case anyone was wondering why their baskets were sparse this year, it looks like the Alabama Easter ‘Possum got a bit…waylaid.

Just a couple hours later we left for the beach, and I about flipped with paranoia when we passed by and all the eggs were gone, but the possum was still there.

WHAT HAD HAPPENED TO THE EGGS.

Do I have that tidy of neighbors that went out and carefully collected the tiny Styrofoam eggs because they prefer their neighborhood roadkill to be free of extraneous objects?

Just before I had a mini panic attack, I noticed bright colors in the gutter. The eggs had been blown and scattered by passing cars.

Sigh of relief.

There were no acceptable animals on our way to the beach, but just as we were almost home, I spotted what I’d been awaiting for so long: A fresh, uncrunched armadillo.

Although he was kindly on the side of the road and there was plenty of margin to work with, he was beside a busy road. And I really do prefer to work in solitude.

I nervously got out of the car and pretended to be taking pictures of the extremely unremarkable bushes behind him until there was a break in traffic. I decided to attempt a literary prop first.

Armadillo-Livin-on-a-PrayerLivin’ on a prayer.

But the wind was high and quickly knocked the book over. And it just didn’t quite portray the aura that this particular Armadillo was giving off. He seemed to be more of an outlaw than a man of the cloth.

So I grabbed my second prop, waited again for traffic to stall out, then set up my next pose with great speed. I’m a freakin’ Olan Mills when it comes to scene changes.

Desperado-the-ArmadilloDesperado the Armadillo has been out riding fences for so long now….he’s a hard one…
…but he’s got his reasons.

Yes. This was what he was meant to be. I left the gun with him (for protection from roadkill snatchers, obvs) and sprinted back to the car, hoping to jump in and have Chris gun the engine before I was spotted.

And, as it turns out, my paranoia was totally on point, because I had this conversation with another neighbor, let’s call him Freddy-The-Neighbor (because his name is Freddy) later that week….

 

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I seriously better lawyer up. Because apparently, I’m the Desperado here.