BY Michael

05/01 Direct Link
It didnít take as long as I thought it would. We backed the truck up into the back yard, the grass taking an impression of the tires. We had decided to bring the piano in through the back porch. I still think that was a mistake. The front door was a clean shot. But that was the decision we came to. I think if the piano man had known how wet the back yard was he would have voted a different way. We almost ended up with a piano permanently mired in the back yard, slowly sinking into the earth.
05/02 Direct Link
I heard myself whimper as I looked out into the back yard. The day was murky. The sparse pine trees climbed awkwardly to the sky. My legs still held the scars from the broken limbs on those trees. Of course I had been wearing short pants when I went up that tree. It seemed necessary at the time. We were not familiar yet with the long dark hounds that would prowl the countryside. We would never learn where they came from or why we got so many at once. They liked to eat squirrels. The squirrel population was quickly decimated.
05/03 Direct Link
Meanwhile the piano was stuck in the muck. I went out and tried to play it but it was sinking at an angle and I kept sliding down the bench. I decided enough was enough and called my son to come and help me. I bribed him with the come along that I bought to do the job with. He was helpless about tools. I roped the piano and attached the come along to one of the larger trees. It was surprisingly easy to pull the piano out with the come along. We moved it to the deck on boards.
05/04 Direct Link
There came an intermission. It came before I expected it. I was drowsy. It would have been easy to go to sleep. You were talking about the gap in your knees, about whether it was there or whether you had just imagined it. You were talking about what we would have for breakfast. I said a hard-boiled egg was fine with me. I didnít want you to have to cook anything. I offered to fix breakfast, but you didnít want me to cook either. I was sleepy. I must have mentioned that earlier. I thought it wouldnít be long now.
05/05 Direct Link
I remember talking to Mike about the squirrels and the long dark hounds. We had not missed the squirrels as much as we thought we would. Meanwhile the hounds had taken to hunting feral cats. Well, they would take pet cats too if they were left outdoors at night. The hounds obviously couldnít tell the difference between a feral cat and a domestic pet. We wondered what the hounds would start taking when they had eaten up all the cats. There had already been a couple stories about homeless people going missing in the night. It was a chilling prospect.
05/06 Direct Link
Mike lives next door, of course. I am lousy with names. I was able to remember his name because it was the same as mine. He had come over to help with the piano. I had my son Michael Jr. here to help too. So we had three Mikes working with the piano. And the come along. We had to take part of the rail off the deck to get the piano onto it. Once we got the piano on the deck, I offered Mike a beer. I had been wondering what to do with that last beer I had.
05/07 Direct Link
Mike sat in the corner of the deck drinking beer while I put the rail back together. I was using carriage bolts in the corners because I thought it was better than the nails. There was just something satisfying about using the carriage bolts. Michael Jr. had left as soon as we got the piano on the deck. He wanted to be home with his woman. He was anxious. He did not want to risk making her angry. He came by this behavior honestly. I was a lot like that too. Mike sipped his beer and talked about his garden.
05/08 Direct Link
We had thought that with the squirrels gone we could feed the birds in peace. We had not accounted for the grackles. Last summer a few grackles had shown up, maybe only one or two. We were fascinated by this new bird species and thought them lovely. This year they showed up in larger numbers. It had been a good year for the grackles. Before the squirrels had monopolized the bird feeders, aggressively running birds away. The grackles were a match for the squirrels however and often ran them away. Now with the squirrels gone the grackles monopolized the feeders.
05/09 Direct Link
So now we had a grackle problem. The grackles were everywhere. We gave up feeding the grackles. But they would not go away. They sat in the trees watching us. They sat on the deck rail. They sat on the plastic-wrapped piano on the deck. They would fly at the window and peck at it angrily. I was reminded of the horror movie, ďThe Birds.Ē I had never seen it. I tried to get a copy at the local video store but they said they had only one copy and it was checked out and they had a waiting list.
05/10 Direct Link
Cleaning up the piano was a bigger job than I had thought it would be. It was covered with mud half way up its left side, and a quarter up its right side. As the mud came off it took the piano finish with it. I realized I was going to have to paint the piano. The original finish to the walnut was ruined. I decided to paint the piano a flat black. I pondered for a moment the fact that the first four letters of the word ďpaintĒ spelled ďpain.Ē I didnít think about the mud inside the piano.
05/11 Direct Link
There have been stories on the internet of the dark hounds leaping through windows and ripping the tender citizens of the town apart. The city council met and discussed the problem. They decided to remedy it with the time-tested method of putting a bounty on the hounds. To receive the bounty of $200 you had to present a pair of ears. The hounds were larger but their ears were small and they had the coloring of a Doberman. Consequently, a number of Doberman owners complained about their dogs disappearing. The dark hounds themselves turned out to be dangerous to hunt.
05/12 Direct Link
My honey dew list has been revised to include putting bars on the windows. I pointed out that the door wall would be difficult to bar because of its size. I was told to find a way. The local Home Depot had a nice selection of items in stock. It seems they were in fairly high demand. To date the dark hound attacks have been only at night. The hounds traveled in packs of twelve or so, so it was difficult for a single person to take them on with a gun. They were also adept at avoiding any traps.
05/13 Direct Link
Scratch the night only dark hound attacks. It seems they are getting hungry. They have been taking cattle down in Ohio and the incidents have been statewide here in Michigan. The National Guard has been tapped by the governors in both states. Apparently the problem is much worse in Detroit where the hounds have taken up residence in the many abandoned homes. This has caused the number of abandoned homes to increase as the Detroit residents are starting to flee. I went out this morning and bought myself a 12-guage shotgun. I was unsure of my ability with my 30-30.
05/14 Direct Link
Martial law! We are only allowed out of our homes on designated days of the week depending on our last name. We are allowed out between noon and 4 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday. We keep our car in the garage and pop out to get food and gasoline. The National Guard patrols the grocery store and gas stations. We still take the trusty shotgun with us. I stand guard with it while my life partner pumps the gas. How did we get this bad this quickly? Where did these hounds come from? They must reproduce at a frightful rate.
05/15 Direct Link
I see Mike is outside working in his garden today. I suppose things may be improving out there. Still they have not lifted the martial law yet, so Mike is running the double risk of both the martial law and the dark hounds. I look again to see if he has a gun parked up against a nearby tree, but no he is naked against the risk. I look at the piano out on the deck, still wrapped in plastic. At least it may not be getting any worse. Some of the keys didnít work last time I checked it.
05/16 Direct Link
I saw a squirrel this morning while I was working. Up in the trees, moving across the branches from one limb to another. Here I had thought the dark hounds had gotten all the squirrels. It was a busy day. I had fourteen students this morning, and went to Planet Fatness in the afternoon. You didnít go to Planet Fatness with me because your back was bothering you. You pulled a muscle in it out gardening before the martial law. There were only three people at Planet Fatness. I suppose they donít care because they collect their monthly fees anyway.
05/17 Direct Link
I remember a time when I was very young, a preschooler even. We were still living in the garage. My father built our house himself, building the garage first. We lived in three rooms there while he built the house. The neighbor at that time had some goats. My father had a cherished Airedale hound mix. Somehow the goats got loose and wandered into our yard. The dog started chasing them and one jumped through the living room window. I remember standing on the couch while the goat stood on the coffee table. My mother was screaming from the kitchen.
05/18 Direct Link
Right after the first goat came through the window the second goat jumped through the broken window with the dog right behind it. There were two goats and an Airedale running in circles in our little living room. My father came running out of the bedroom in his underwear. He had stayed home sick from work that day. He went back and got his Marlin .22. He picked up one goat and threw it out the window and shot it. Then he threw the other goat out the window and shot it. We had broken glass and busted furniture everywhere.
05/19 Direct Link
I donít know. We went to work in the horse barn yesterday. I wondered about the horses and the long hounds. They havenít started bothering the horses yet, but I wonder. Maybe the National Guardís work is finally starting to pay off. They have made it pretty far down into Ohio. When I spoke to my mother yesterday she was talking about them. She was worried about her dog and her cat. It had not occurred to her to worry about herself. She used to talk about how many squirrels they had down there, and, indeed, they did have them.
05/20 Direct Link
I donít know. We went to work in the horse barn yesterday. I wondered about the horses and the long hounds. They havenít started bothering the horses yet, but I wonder. Maybe the National Guardís work is finally starting to pay off. They have made it pretty far down into Ohio. When I spoke to my mother yesterday she was talking about them. She was worried about her dog and her cat. It had not occurred to her to worry about herself. She used to talk about how many squirrels they had down there, and, indeed, they did have them.
05/21 Direct Link
I was thinking about the horses and about how maybe a hundred years ago there were no cars. People went everywhere with horses. Or they walked. The cities were full of horses, and people on horses, and horses pulling wagons, buggies, and carts. The smell of horse and horse shit were everywhere. I think a horse runs on about a bale of hay a day. That is about six bucks at current prices. That is about enough to buy two gallons of gasoline. That might be an average of 40 miles. A horse can go about 40 miles a day.
05/22 Direct Link
Of course there are other expenses for both horses and cars. A good horse can cost thousands of dollars. A good car can cost forty thousand. A horse requires oats or feed and a stable. A car has its garage and requires oil changes. A horse needs new shoes periodically while a car needs tires. Todayís tires are good for a lot more than a set of horse shoes though. That is one thing about modern cars. They are much safer and require much less maintenance than they used to. Thank God they donít make them like they used to.
05/23 Direct Link
You had taken a notion to power wash the horse barn floor. You had enlisted my help, me in my muck boots. Muck boots are actually pretty good for real muck. Theyíre good for mud and snow too. They are not much good for working with water sprinklers as I discovered this morning when the sprinkles filled my boots with water. Your daughter had asked us to let out a couple of the horses. These horses were very big horses. Ollie didnít want to go out though. Fire was more agreeable even though I had heard bad things about him.
05/24 Direct Link
I was thinking about something regarding the comparison of horses to modern cars. On a horse it would take about five days to travel to my motherís house. In a car I do it in three and a half to four hours. On the horse I would have to stop every night and find lodging or sleep outside. I would have to procure lodging and feed for my horse or let him graze somewhere near the road. Life was very different back then. A back then that barely brushes against my memory, my understanding, but one my parents talked of.
05/25 Direct Link
Bringing Fire back to the barn wasnít too bad. I had worked with horses when I was a boy and a teenager so I was somewhat familiar with them. I remembered walking along side of them and bumping them with my shoulder when they started crowding me. Fire was ready to come in. He met us at the gate. He was wearing some kind of translucent coat and a separate hood over his face. I tried to get it off in the pasture, but I couldnít figure out where the Velcro was. I worked it out back in the stall.
05/26 Direct Link
You went out for bagels this morning. We pooled our cash and sent you out with fourteen dollars. You came back with two bagels, a quart of orange juice, and a watermelon. I got a cinnamon-raisin bagel. You got some kind of cheese bagel. We both put cream cheese on our bagels but you added sliced onions and capers to yours. The capers look like miniature olives or peas. You said they have a partly sour, partly bitter taste. You also said they were salty. They come in a spice-size jar and are packed in some kind of watery liquid.
05/27 Direct Link
You put the watermelon in the sink and washed it this morning. Apparently you like the way I cut it up. I thought I just did what you did, but maybe thatís what you liked about it. I just cut it into sixths, and then slice the meat out. First I cut in in half, head to tail. Then I take one of the halves and slice it into thirds, again head to tail. Doing that twice I end up with six pieces. These I slice the meat crescent shaped from the rind and then slice the meat into wedges.
05/28 Direct Link
A jet passes overhead. I rub my right hand with my left. My hands ache. The pain radiates from my shoulders, down my arms, over my elbows, through my wrists and into my hands. It stops at my hands and does not go into my fingers. As I rub the back of my right hand I feel tiny bumps on my hand like grains of sand. Those have been there for years now. It is all part of the process of aging that my body is going through. Nobody ever explained what an integral part of growing old pain was.
05/29 Direct Link
The long dark hounds are gone now. I think they completely exterminated them. There were a few stories of them crashing through picture windows and carrying away little old ladies. I donít know how true those stories were. It is safe to go back outside now. The squirrels are still gone, but you see one in the tree tops every now and then. I only saw the hounds once. A pack of them came by in the night as I stood at a window. I could see their shapes in the moonlight coming down the railroad tracks. They were big.
05/30 Direct Link
As the hounds went down the tracks one swiveled his head in mid-stride to look in my direction. I donít know if I had moved or made a sound to attract his attention. I could have sworn he had red eyes. It was as if there were hot coals burning deep within his skull. He then simply swept his head back in the direction the pack was headed, north, the direction the trains came from. I wondered if the hounds had the sense to get off the tracks for a train. I thought of the pack parting around the train.
05/31 Direct Link
A small bird has moved into the red and yellow bird house hanging off the deck. She has brought her mate with her and they are noisy little things, calling to one another through the day. I donít know what kind of birds they are, maybe some kind of little brown wren. The flowers shout in noisy confusion out there, mostly pansies. There are some bright orange poppies up closer to the railroad, and as I listen I hear a dove calling. My eyes are hot and tired. I donít think I have much longer to go before I sleep.