The praying mantis on my hat was the fun part of the day. And I, true to form, barely appreciated it.
I had just come several hundred feet uphill through the woods. There is an old staircase there, that many years ago the city put in for the general benefit of everyone – because of it, you can walk downtown and back up without needing to go around the cliffs. Apparently there used to be one or two more of these stairs in different places on the hill, but they fell into disrepair and were chained off decades ago.
The uphill climb is quite the push though, so I sat for a few minutes at the top to catch my breath– that put me sitting approximately where Mary was standing when she took the photo that appears above as our banner. I texted Mary to tell her when I would be home and concentrated on catching my breath. I wanted to get home quickly because Mary was feeling quite bad with her CFS and, errands or no, I figured having someone around to fetch things, care for Rose, and generally be on call was a priority.
And then a praying mantis peeked over the rim of my hat and looked at me. It most have climbed off a branch onto my hat on the way uphill. Rather than admiring it, I started, swept off my hat and transferred it abruptly to the ground. It looked up at me as if to say, “Mantis of disapproval does not approve of this transfer.”
On to home- where apparently Rose hadn’t cleaned up a few things on the porch and Mary was quite offended that the next door neighbor (henceforth “Miss Manners”) had found a piece of chalk in her yard and hurled it at our front window, accompanied by imprecations. To my mind that is quite an overreaction, but Miss Manners is like that sometimes. I was not in the mood to be patient with Miss Manners.
The reason I was not in a remotely charitable frame of mind towards her was not the return of her sporadic throw-something-harmless-and-cuss-then-go-be-sour-somewhere-else trope, which she’s been doing since she moved in. Instead, it was the way she likes to leave her German Shepherd chained to the very corner of her porch closest to our backyard. This serves the dual purposes of having it do its business in our yard and having a dog nearly as big as I am sitting in my yard barking at me whenever I want to do yard work.
This year’s prize piece of neighborly kindness from Miss Manners had been to send the dog out to bark at me whenever I tried to mow the back lawn until it became hideously overgrown. Then, when I decided, screw it – I’ll start on the other side and maybe she’ll take the damn dog in, the weed-eater broke on the thick stems of the overgrown disaster laughingly called my backyard. End result: She called the police to complain about the overgrown yard and a friend of Mary’s paid a service to come by and blitz my miniature brush field with a riding mower. Miss Manners yelled at them for five minutes for daring to do such a thing. The surly cop who came back to check on the lawn the next week was very offended he didn’t get the chance to “give somebody a ticket” when he came to inspect it, and he said as much.
So I decided I would simply go about my business and ignore Miss Manners. I brought Rose out to pick up her things and clean the food she spilled on the porch, so the ever-tasteful Miss Manners decided to pace back and forth six feet from me, barely on her side of the property line, muttering curses.
Ever ready to abandon the virtue of patience, I then gave up on responsibly ignoring her, and asked loudly, “Excuse me, Ma’am, did you say something to me?” I was then treated to 5 or 10 minutes of her marching back and forth along the side of her yard screaming for me to come over so she could cut me up. Yet the kitchen knife she carried was very obviously sheathed in a colorful plastic cover and she was meticulously storming around exactly on her side of the property line.