There’s a freeze warning on for tonight.
I live in central Florida, so a freeze warning is not unheard of. It usually happens once or twice a year, but last year we didn’t have any. I put that down to global warming, as I do most things, but I could be wrong. It’s supposed to drop to thirty degrees Fahrenheit tonight, which may not sound cold if you’re from Boston or Chicago, but it’s cold to a Floridian. So my wife is concerned for the Areca palm in our backyard. It’s a tropical palm, and could be damaged from the cold.
She’s already covered every plant in the yard that has any kind of sentimental value to her, whether they were cold-sensitive or not. These include specimens transplanted from her childhood home in Alabama (where they’d survived uncovered for decades in colder temperatures than we ever saw), plants taken from every botanical garden we’d ever visited from Miami, Florida to Victoria, British Colombia (she’d take a cutting or pull up a choice specimen while I nervously kept a lookout, acting casually by whistling a tune with my hands in my pockets) and even plants taken from our trips overseas, including Hawaii, New Zealand, Australia, Jamaica, Mexico, Spain, Thailand, France, etc. How she was never caught smuggling them back into the country, I couldn’t say.
It was something I found impossible to understand, her compulsion to steal plants. For that’s what I thought it was, stealing, and of course she couldn’t understand why I wasn’t more understanding.
“You smoke dope, don’t you?” she asked sarcastically. “That’s illegal, isn’t it?”
“Yeah,” I answered. “But I don’t dig it up from my dealer’s front yard, do I? Besides, it’s not whether it’s illegal or not, it’s the morality of it.”
“You read too many books!” she snarled. That was her answer for everything. Like I was a fool for reading books in my attempt to wise up and not be a fool.
“Why don’t you just buy them?” I asked her. “Why steal them?”
“It’s only a plant,” she answered. “I’m not hurting anyone. Nobody will miss it.”
“What if everybody did it?” I replied. “There’d be no plants left.” I looked around the botanical garden she was pilfering from and gestured, adding, “This beautiful garden we’re standing in would be reduced to rubble.”
“Oh, you’re being silly.”
“How would you like it if someone took one of your plants?”
“It’s not the same thing!” she insisted.
“What about the golden rule?”
She had no answer for that, not believing herself bound by anyone else’s rules, golden or not, but I knew what she’d do if she caught someone digging up a plant from her yard. She’d kill them! Then she’d hang the mutilated body in a prominent place as a warning to others. Her yard and garden, unlike everyone else’s, were sacrosanct. You should have heard her tell off a neighbor who had dared to let his dog do some business on her grass! (The grass which I tend and mow, by the way.) After discovering some droppings, she’d got down on her knees, inspecting and counting them, noting how many times some dirty rotten so-and-so had allowed his mutt to despoil her property.
“I know who it is!” she told me. “It’s the fat guy with the big Alsatian.”
“Are you sure?” I teased. “Maybe it’s the old lady with the Dachshund. Or the kid with the Yorkshire terrier.”
“Don’t be an ass,” she accused me. “No Dachshund poops that big!”
She was scientific about it, I’ll give her that.
Then she’d lain in wait, getting up early to peep through the curtains at any passersby, hoping to catch them in the act.
“There he is!” said called one morning a week later. “See! I told you!”
“Where?” said I, sipping my tea. It was early in the morning. She pointed through the window. It wasn’t the guy with the Alsatian or the kid with the Yorkie, but our new neighbor, a thin, quiet young man with a Dalmatian on the end of a leash. Sure enough, about two feet from the sidewalk on the grass of our front yard was the Dalmatian, hunched over and straining, crapping it’s heart out.
Why do they name dogs after regions, I wonder?
Boy, did she tear him a new one! Our new neighbor I mean, not the Dalmatian. She rushed out in her housecoat and slippers and scared him half to death. I stayed inside, too embarrassed to show my face, peeping through the curtains and drinking my tea.
Afterwards the neighbor slunk away, turning back occasionally with a quizzical look. His dog apparently couldn’t have cared less, and trotted merrily along at his side.
“See! I told you!” said told me when she returned. She was proud of herself to have caught him, and happy to have the chance to give someone (other than me) a piece of her mind.
As I mentioned earlier, it’s going to be cold tonight.
So she wants to cover the Areca palm. It’s a big, clumping palm with many trunks, and impossible to cover with just a sheet.
“I know you don’t want to help me,” she said. She’s always telling me what I am or am not, or what I’m thinking or feeling. But she doesn’t know. We’ve been married fifteen years, and I believe she knows less about me now than when we began.
“What?” I answered. “Didn’t I come out here and ask if you needed any help?” That was true. From my office window I’d seen her struggling with it by herself, and had come out to help. “You certainly didn’t ask for help, did you? No, you’re too proud for that.” She really is proud. And stubborn, too.
“I know you don’t want to help me,” she’d said. This was after an hour of us pulling and lifting and climbing and cursing, without result. She had no plan as to how the palm might be covered, and so we had had no success. As my old boss at EMI Records in South Africa used to say; “To fail to prepare is to prepare to fail.” He was full of sayings like that. But that’s another story.
Regarding the Areca palm, I knew enough to keep my mouth shut. My wife hates being told anything, even if you’re trying to be helpful.
The only note of levity all afternoon was when I fell off the ladder and knocked over a bird feeder.
You should have seen her rush to see if the bird feeder was alright!