July 31 by Abigail Thomas

The dogs are both asleep. My telephone hasn’t rung in two days. There is a lone fly drifting aimlessly around the room, when it isn’t banging itself against a window. There is nothing I can think of to recommend a fly. There can’t be much nutrition there, and its wings are nothing special, except to the fly. Viewing them under a microscope might reveal more, so I google fly wings under a microscope and find barbs on the edges and hairs all over. The only thing I admire is the simplicity of its name: fly.

There is a pile of clean laundry on the sofa where it has lain untouched all week. Maybe learning how to fold a fitted sheet will rouse me from this stupor, teach me something useful. My friend Eva does it perfectly, and I want to do it like her. Paying close attention to the Google video, I try to neatly pack one fitted corner into the opposite fitted corner, but there is such a commotion of wrinkles and ridges, it’s like trying to stuff one ear into another and I give up. The sheet returns to the pile. Next I switch on the radio and catch the tail end of a conversation about slugs. I am late to this party, but it seems scientists can teach something to one slug, don’t ask me how, or what, then feed its RNA to another slug who suddenly knows what the first slug learned. This is very interesting. Next the speaker makes mention of a slug who learned something I can’t quite catch, it all goes by so fast, then it died and part of it was fed to another slug who learned what it was the dead slug had learned and all I want to know is if the second slug can now remember dying or even better, being dead? This sends me straight to googling Yeats’s “Leda and the Swan” because of  the line “did she put on his knowledge with his power,” although it has no bearing on slugs. Still, it’s a plus, because Yeats, and because the days are slow and so uneventful that the only news is that I’m falling in love with three dying hydrangea blossoms. I picked them ten days ago before the deer could eat them.  I put them in a small vase because they were small, filled it with water and set them on the counter. Their slender stems were frail, too frail to support even these small blue blossoms, and they collapsed over the rim of the vase, like a newborn slumped on a mother’s shoulder. I can’t bring myself to toss them out. They aren’t garbage.

Bears can’t get in my garbage cans anymore, since my daughter did something tricky with a dog leash I can’t explain, although a neighbor thought it was my garbage bears had spread in his woods and left me a cranky message suggesting I spray my cans with ammonia. I took my trusty cane and waded through his woods to prove it was not my garbage, I don’t eat chicken tenders, do not have small children who wear diapers, and I do not live at number sixteen. I am number eleven. I called my neighbor back to explain this and tell him whose mail I found there and have completely forgotten his response.

Yesterday I repotted the tiny eucalyptus tree my daughter gave me and placed the pot on the windowsill next to my chair where it gets a lot of light. According to Google the five inch tree needs full sun and nitrogen, and I’m not to water it until the top third of the pot goes dry. A eucalyptus will grow to six feet in the blink of an eye and when that happens I will have to donate it, but Google doesn’t say where. The biggest leaf on my plant is the size of a fifty-cent piece. It’s been years since I saw one of those. So far it doesn’t smell like a eucalyptus, maybe it’s too young, but it is one of five indoor plants that can suck toxins out of the air, which is nice to know, but I don’t feel like googling the other four.

Outside my window everything is alive with blooms and bees and the occasional small rabbit for whom I can leave some disappointingly mealy nectarines. Finally, something I actually want to do! Fruit in one hand, cane in the other, I manage not to fall down the porch steps, not to trip on the uneven flagstones, not to step on any living thing, and successfully drop the nectarines next to some flowers whose name I forget. Now I can watch the action from my chair by the window. I don’t expect company soon, but  rabbits show up in the evening. The eucalyptus is still leaning toward where the sun used to be because now not only is it suddenly raining, but the sun is headed across the street toward Pennsylvania. Rainbows are good luck. Tomorrow is August first. Maybe I will get some writing done.

Rabbit Rabbit.

Abigail Thomas was asked to leave Bryn Mawr in 1959 because she was pregnant. She left and never looked back. Thomas has written eight books. The first three were works of fiction, the last three are memoirs: SafekeepingA Three Dog Life; and What Comes Next and How To Like It. She has published poetry and prose in a wide range of magazines, and a chapbook of poems, under her then married name. She lives with three dogs, a daughter, a son-in-law, and twin boys in Woodstock, New York.

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