No one here but us and a whole school of goldfish. And that heron. … And those mice…
Well, it’s been a busy week here in Lake World-be-gone. I believe I neglected to mention last week that we’d been pulled over on New Years Eve after dinner with friends, by Herb—one of Orcas’ delightful sheriff’s deputies. Happily, I am Shannon’s perpetual designated driver, so I had not been drinking. Therefore, when Herb walked up and asked if I knew why he’d pulled us over, I was able to plea cluelessness with complete sincerity. “Your right taillight is completely out!” he informed me cheerfully, then ducked down to peer more carefully into the darkened car, and waved. “Hi Shannon! Happy New Year!”
Herb had taken Shannon on a ‘ride-along’ two years ago when she was doing research for Orcas Intrigue—the first book in her collaborative cozy mystery series (as one half of ‘Laura Gayle’) set on Orcas Island. I’d had dinner alone at Hogstone Pizza that night while they were out law-enforcing. It’s a very good, but rather small and crowded restaurant of distinction in town, so when Herb—an imposing fellow, especially in uniform—and my lovely wife came by and squeezed in halfway through my meal to say ‘hello,’ people noticed. And because the confined space is also rather loud when full, it was impossible for most of them to hear what was being said by any of us. All they saw was a sheriff’s deputy and a pretty woman interrupting a suddenly self-conscious man’s dinner, to talk with him about...some marital dispute, perhaps? A purse-snatching? I remember Shannon looked very pleased that they’d caught me there. ‘Yessir, officer. That’s him all right. I’d know him anywhere,’ for all the deafened crowd could tell... I think Herb knew it too—playing impishly, if ever so slightly, to our unwitting audience. By the time he and Shannon left, everyone was pretending not to look at me. I turned immediately to the pleasant-looking couple sitting at my elbow, compelled to explain—to them, at least—what that had been about. Bryan and Rochelle were fascinated, and we quickly fell into pleasant conversation—like old friends. Which seemed to answer everybody else’s questions.
But back to New Year’s Eve. Herb didn’t give us a fix-it ticket, just told us with a smile to get the light repaired, and wished us a happy New Year. We wished him the same—and continued home.
‘Phew!’ you’re thinking. ‘Bullet dodged! ’ :] ... But no. A speeding ticket might not have cost us much more. You see, several years ago, in a devil’s deal with their dealerships, Subaru began constructing their Outbacks so that you can’t reach any of the light bulbs without disassembling half the car. That way, one must take them in for service whenever a light burns out. But there are no Subaru dealerships on this island. Just a very friendly local garage—that often has to go all the way to America—sometime next week—for the parts you need—after they’ve fit your appointment onto their crowded calendar, in a week or two. The last headlight we lost cost us $200. This one only $100—and there were actually SIX bulbs burned out back there. So a pretty good deal—even with half the day spent driving back and forth to the garage. Which we did all over again Thursday, because Shannon’s Mazda convertible has no heater all of a sudden. Her windshield was covered in ice the morning we drove the Subaru in—and she couldn’t defrost it the easy way... Turns out the local mice have been eating her soy-infused wires and hoses—while huddling on the warm, cozy little platform Mazda has thoughtfully built into her engine right next to those tasty rubber snacks—complete with a little ramp for them to walk up. Such gentle souls, these car companies. Gordy’s garage was kind enough to rig up a temporary fix for her (thank goodness, ‘cause it’s COLD up here this time of year). But we’ll be going back again next week—after they’ve been to America for the parts they need to fix it for real. They’re thinking of putting name plaques on our chairs at Gordy’s.
Perhaps you’re asking, What’s with all this ‘going to America for parts’ stuff? Isn’t Orcas an American island? Well, yes. ... Technically. But did you know there’s not a single stoplight anywhere in the San Juan Islands? Not one. The county tried to put one here on Orcas once—at Eastsound’s one real intersection. We’re told it stayed put for all of two weeks before some locals pulled it clean up out of the pavement and walked it down to a local pub two blocks away, stood it in a corner, and wired it up again to blink proudly above the patrons’ heads. The county never tried again. So, yes. We are certainly within the USA, but those who live here do talk about ‘going to America’ for doctor’s appointments or big-box shopping trips. It may be the same country, but it’s a different world across the water.
We’d have taken Shannon’s car in earlier, except that she and I had to go to America ourselves on Wednesday—for medical tourism. Shannon needed a mammogram done—for which no equipment exists on Orcas. And I needed...to deal with...well, with a... Oh, never mind. Turns out the problem I’ve needed looked at for at least a year now is ‘a dermatological expression of chronic stress,’ if you can believe it. I can’t imagine why. Can you? But enough about that... Believe me, you don’t want to know.
In other news, we’ve had a Great Blue Heron stalking gravely about our front yard all week—like a Windsor Palace guard—when he isn’t standing by our pond, puffed and huddled against the cold, waiting for one of our black goldfish to swim by—which, I have to say, does not seem to be happening this time of year. The other morning, ‘Dumb Bird,’ as we’ve fondly taken to calling him, surprised us by arriving with a second heron—to show her, I believe, the awesome nesting site he’d found. It was a brief, and pretty comical visit. Birds—especially big ones—are much more expressive than you might expect. Their conversation seemed quite clear from our living room window:
“Look at it, dear! Perfect size, pleasant little shoal of cattails, no ducks to speak of—today at least. No one but us and a whole school of goldfish!”
“They’re black,” she croaked, stalking around in an obvious huff. “Practically impossible to see, and they’re not coming anywhere near the surface in this weather.”
“But there’s frogs too!” He emoted, hunching along behind her. “And no predators anywhere! I’ve been hanging out here for weeks now. If there were, I’d have seen them.”
The female swiveled toward him with arched brows, incredulous. “No predators?” She turned to look straight toward us across the lawn. “Has that house escaped your attention, moron? Who do you suppose is in there—looking at us right now—sharpening their guns? This is someone’s yard, fool!” She literally shook her head, spread her wings, and flew off, croaking, “Come on, dummy! I’ll find us a workable nest site.”
He watched her, ruefully, then took one last, regretful look back at our pond full of black goldfish, before spreading his wings, and following her. We haven’t seen them again—until this morning, when Dumb Bird returned to huddle by our pond once more, puffed against the cold, alone.
On Friday night, some friends from America came to dinner here while vacationing on Orcas. Bryan and Rochelle. Remember them? That nice couple I met two years ago at Hogstone pizza—after Shannon and Herb made me look like a felon? They live in Seattle, where, by coincidence, he works at one of the biggest Subaru dealerships in the country. (Boy did I have an earful to tell him about Subaru’s take on head and taillights.) We’d never met before that night at Hogstone’s, and would likely never have met again, except that just a month after Shannon and I first moved here last year, some friends took us to a spectacular dinner at Red Rabbit Farm, where 40-some people sit together at one long table, in pre-assigned seats, to enjoy a multi-course dinner by Christina Orchid, one of Orcas Island’s most fabulous chefs. And who was sitting right across from us—again—but Bryan and Rochelle—a year after we’d met at Hogstone. Twice is destiny, no? So now they visit us on purpose when they come to the island. That their latest visit should happen just a week after that same officer pulled Shannon and me over on New Year’s Eve is just one more coincidence. A lot of those seem to happen here.
Last night, we saw The Favouriteat our local movie theater, which features one movie a week—one 7:30PM showing on Friday, and another on Saturday. ... Here’s my take-away from that film: Women’s clothing used to have LOTS of pockets. Really big ones! And now I understand why they so seldom do anymore. If you’ve seen it, I think you’ll take my point. If you haven’t, well...maybe you will later.
My goodness, where has all the time gone? I was going to discuss something really weighty in this post. A topic that Shannon and I both find ourselves addressing these days in all kinds of ways. But if I’m to keep the other half of last week’s promise—about ‘something shorter’—I guess that’ll have to wait ‘til next week!