No news is good news on the Homer front. There’s been no contact, nothing since the rucksack came. But Homer was right about his wife’s financial charms – a feathered nest ain’t in it! She’s that well off. So much so, she went so far as to offer me accommodations in an apartment above her vast stable of cars. I spend my days puttering about with putty knife and duster, taking down the screens and putting up the storm windows for winter. There’s sanding and priming to be done, and I know Homer would have gotten to it if things hadn’t gone strange and he disappeared.
The views from Homer’s place are pleasant enough with plenty of woodland hillsides sweeping down to a little village surrounding a golf course where I take my exercise in the yard above this view, using the block-&-tackle from Homer’s rucksack, like one of those rope pulls they feature at all the nicer gyms. It’s nice enough, up in the coastal breezes but you have to forego all the hunks and babes in Spandex exercise togs!
Homer’s wife, whom the locals refer to as the Duchess, does an amazing amount of shopping, both online and off, and the volume of parcels and crates arriving can be overwhelming. But this business (of signing for deliveries) has put me in contact with a vast workforce of delivery drivers and, man, these crews are made up of fit, tough, strong individuals. I asked one the other day if he’d help me move a thick carpet, long in disuse and full of stains and smells (the Duchess is something of a cat lady) – a thick heavy thing – I could barely drag it a few feet. The guy rolled up his sleeves, revealing his tattooed muscles, and flipped the thing over his shoulder like a sack of feathers and jogged off with it, as elegantly as a lay-up Golden State Warrior by Steph Curry, and I applauded enthusiastically - as any sports fan should.
The Duchess also has a stable of jumpers. These animals have come under my care as groom and stable boy, in return for my rather sumptuous lodging. I saddle ‘em up after they eat their rations of oats, and give the Duchess “a leg up” before she takes her favorite Moab (a cross between a Morgan and an Arabian), “Le Beau,” through his paces. When she’s done, she trots over to where I’m waiting, tosses me the reins, swings her leg over the beast’s head, jumps down onto my chest, and slides down me like I was a fireman’s pole. I then rub Le Beau down, tether him to a merry-go-round walker, and go muck out his stall.
Still, it’s not so bad.
Still more, I’ve nothing definitive to report on whether or not Homer’s wife is being unfaithful to him. She entertains a huge number of people under ordinary circumstances, but even with social distancing we all observe nowadays, she seems to enjoy the company and adoration of a great many people, who come and go with every propriety. Face masks, de rigueur, six feet or two meters distancing, as they gather for tea and crumpets in the Duchess’s sumptuous gardens. Nothing untoward between any would-be suitors and the Duchess (if you’re reading this, Homer, rest assured that there is none of that going on), despite a good deal of hand wringing over your fate, Homer, as they all are so very anxious for your remains to be discovered, since they all appear to resolutely believe that you are in fact dead, so they can have what they call “closure.”
That being said, your absence goes unremarked, as though your presence was never particularly required for any of the daily duties, such as legal documents being signed – the Duchess has an impressively astute secretary, a young Italian gentleman, and there’s nothing he and the various lawyers can’t sort out for themselves.
One curious thing happened, though, Homer. The neighborhood health-food co-op, nestled in a picturesque grove you are probably familiar with, I say, as I happened by yesterday to get my usual pint of tea, I noted the proprietor was setting up what must be his usual autumnal decorations. There was a faux bale of straw, a child-sized scarecrow, and a number of crows roosting both on the hay and on the scarecrow.
The proprietor said to me, “It’s about this time of year every year when the songbirds suddenly go south. Funny thing,” he mused, “it almost seems…like, well, it seems like the songbirds have to wait until we’ve put out the symbols of fall before they fly south.”
It could also be that the songbirds are terrified of the crows (and the decoys he was setting out were pretty convincing), which eat their young and despoil their nests, but I didn’t say anything except to ask if there were any deliveries for the Duchess since I was going up to the manor anyway.
“Yes,” said he. “There’s this big white cake and a magnum of Scharffenberger bubbly, if you don’t mind taking it up.”
“No problem,” I assured him as I climbed back up to the manor house with this fabulous repast …wondering whom it might be for, and for what event it was intended…