Life in Kickapoo Center at the Turn of the century
First, it's leg cramps. Then, that old familiar feeling of a spider crawling up your nose. I pinch my nose, hoping to ward off the sneezing fit. I get up and walk to the bathroom. It helps to relieve the leg cramp but not the asthmatic seizure. By now I've alerted El Gatto that I'm up. He climbs the bed and settles next to my face. Purring. I'm allergic to animal fur. He's allergic to me. The other night, sleeping peacefully(him, not me) next to my head, he sneezes. It startles him. I don't know why he flails his paw when he sneezes, but he does. His paw catches me across the face. I feel my lip bleeding. I already have a cold sore. Now, I have a thin red scar from the corner of my mouth.
I mark Thanksgiving as the start of the kitchen renovation. To save money, I have begun removing inexpensive paneling from any wall in or near the kitchen. I've hired someone for the tricky construction. Although I was raised in a Polish family, I will not allow three different kinds of paneling in the same kitchen with new birch cabinets. At the foot of the stairs, I removed one segment of paneling exposing pink fiberglass insulation around the downstairs bathroom. Must have been cold in this place when they added the paneling, I muse. There's tufts of fiberglass on the floor. Guess who? I've already had to yell at him several times with a sharp " No" as he chews on the Christmas light around the window frames.
Aw shucks, ain't he cute.
On Sunday morning I change the routine and take him for a walk. True to his name, I stand and wait while he takes a pee in the snow. Further down the lane toward the river, I wait again while he takes a dump. It is required on every walk. He bounds over the snow, sniffs deer tracks and climbs tress for a better vantage point. There may be lions, tigers and bears out there. The June flood washed whole, burned dead trees up on the south bank of the Kickapoo. The Pooch uses one as a run and bridge over high grass and weeds. He's interested in something in the river.
When I catch up to him, I see tiny pairs of long underwear hanging from a branch over the river. Four little men are standing on the thin ice near the shore, splashing water on their faces. I call out, "Hey you there." One looks up at the giant on the river bank. "Hey you there yourself," he says. I guess gnomes don't like to be disturbed when bathing.
"Whats your name?" I ask. "None of yer bees knees," he retorts. The little fellow next to him stands up. He straightens his cap. Gnomes, you know, never remove their caps in front of strangers.
He looks up at me. "Do ya have a pool?" he asks. We're out of work pool cleaners from California. We work hard and charge little," he says. "I don't have a pool," I respond. His Norwegian accent sounds funny. I wonder what people in California think of gnomes that are pool cleaners.
The gnome next to him is rubbing his face with a towel. " Where do gnomes buy face towels?" I wonder. There's no suitcase, no luggage on the banks, only red union suits hanging from the branch over the Kickapoo. This is getting weird.
"What are your names?" I ask.
"We can't tell you that," they all reply in unison.
One of the more swarthy gnomes explains.
" If we tell you our names, we'll be your servants. We are required in the Big Book of Gnome Rules to work for a term of no less than one month and no more than one year, if you learn our names!"
Several guesses come to mind immediately. What the heck, I can use some help around here. There's firewood to split. The house always needs cleaning. I hate doing dishes, too. I wonder if gnomes do drywall? Oh boy, gnome more housework.
Fred, Ted, Mek, Wilbur, Teddy, Knute, Lars, Sven, Ole. Delroy, Red, Dom...
Yeah, one of them has to be named Ole. Mel, Elmer, Sigmund, Hamid, Lester, Jorge-this could go on forever, couldn't it?
"Nice try Bubba, " he says. Bubba? "That's not my name." I tell him. He says, " I guess you're lucky then. You won't have to work for us."
to be continued