Summer has crawled into life once more; its arrival causes the living to slow down, to catch their breath, and the dead to rot and decompose exponentially faster. I place the dustpan next to the dead bird. It weighs more than I expected as I brush it up along with the spilt cat food in its midst. Still in my jammies, I rise from my squatting position only to stand silently watching and listening for something I can neither see nor hear just beyond the backyard porch. I move out into the wet uncovered patio, dust pan still in hand, and sit on the wrought iron rocker. I notice the wetness seeping through my jammies too late, and resign myself to the moist soggy feeling, not that different from the hot humid air’s effect on the rest of me. The night is dark; no moonlight penetrates the heavy avocado and mango canopy. Beyond the cover of the tall trees a dark starless sky has given way to a patchy and puffy ceiling of various shades of grey. Was it only yesterday that it all started to go wrong?
When I left work unusually early I wasn’t expecting a 2-hour traffic jam to get home. The expressway on ramp was covered in spent wet flowers from a silvery branch of a Royal Poinciana. The regal centerpiece of a lushly over landscaped FDOT highway swale, the tree spread its orange-red canopy over the spiral road.
I struggled to not dwell on the day’s event as I drove north on LeJeune Road which had only recently been released from a two-year stint in construction purgatory. Below tall live oaks that lined both sides of the ten-lane boulevard and its center median a variety of ground cover species weaved a tricolor path in and out between the oaks completely litter free. I rolled down the window and tossed out the “Notice of Furlough” slip sitting on the dashboard. I had been staring at it since I left the office-parking garage, and I was starting to feel it was looking back at me.
Furlough, budget cuts, political promises had been the buzz that had spread through the hallways all week-long, and today it had knocked on my door.
I’m almost home, I told myself as my gas guzzling pickup inched its way north on Red Road straddling the dark murky water of that 10-mile canal. A manatee, six iguanas (two of them, road kill), four egrets, and one hour later I had moved three-quarters of a mile; progress!
I arrived home, fixed a drink and shed my business attire. In the covered porch out back I sat and watched the shady yard grow darker as the clouds got ominous and a distant rumbling seemed to come closer. The first drops bounced off the wide bird of paradise leaves and gently landed on my cuff-less wrist as I hung the parakeet cage outside for a while. My thoughts wandered off in search of why’s, how’s and now what’s.
A loud boom and a bright flash brought me back out of my stupor and into the pitch black. As I got up to go back inside I tripped over the cat’s dish. Inside my search for a broom and dustpan was interrupted by four phone calls from well wishing co-workers happy they were not the ones let go. Defeated, I showered and went to bed.
I thought I woke at the sound of the pounding rain meeting the roof, but it was not that sound that actually drew me from my sleep. A commotion, a squeal and a loud thump reminded me of what I had forgotten. I threw on my robe and ran outside but it was too late. The rain had stopped.