Monday passes slowly. Old songs play in my boombox head. "There's a hole in my heart..." and "To love someone you must set them free..." The best remedy: dig red potatoes. The Pontiac reds have been ready for several weeks. Directly behind them another variety of red-La Rouge which the seed catalog claims to be the most prevalent red potato on your kitchen table-is overgrown with weeds. I consult the seed catalog. La Rouge are a mid-season. Ninety days after planting puts them in the middle of July. It's the end of July. I begin by pulling weeds which uncovers bright scarlet spuds. It's partly cloudy. When the sun's out, it's hard hot work. With a breeze and a cloud cover, it proceeds nicely. I break for lunch late afternoon. There are three cardboard egg boxes full of tubers. Close to a hundred-weight.
When Dawn gets home from the retirement home, dark clouds are threatening. She tells me the weather warnings are out. Severe thunderstorms, hails and possible high winds. Her first question: Still no Pooch? Glumly I reply, "No." We discuss a replacement for the cat. The Amish have puppies. In a visit in which I bring garlic for them, everyone's gathered around the table on the porch. The Patriarch refers to this area as his Amish air conditioner because of a frequent breeze blowing across the hilltop. The two youngest Amish children put puppies on the table. Most are combinations of black and white. They're Blue Heelers and a Border Collie mix. Prices are discussed and I offer to trade my Great Uncle's tackle box filled with pristine fishing gear for a puppy. The Patriarch chuckles. He likes to trade. I'd already traded two brightly colored lures in the original boxes with the price tags from 1966 still visible for a half gallon of milk. I let them get the better deal.
It's beginning to rain. Dawn and I decided to can three bean salad when she got home. The pole beans, a variety called rattlesnake beans because of blue striations on the skin, are ready. The first 10 foot row of wax beans is loaded with long, yellow beans. I don a blue and yellow slicker, my blaze orange vinyl hunting hat and walk to the bean patch. At first the rain is slight. Sweating under all that rubber and vinyl, I toss the hat on the grass. I'm watching the sky in the north. The cloud build up is very similar to the tornado clouds that ripped down the main street of Viola four years ago. Almost black at the top, charcoal gray closer to the ground and dark wisps of black trailing clouds have me worried. I pick faster. Sirens wail in Readstown. The puffy cumulus clouds appear to be passing underneath the wall of black in the north. I scrunch up my bifocals in a sneer to see which way the storm is blowing. It's coming right at us. With a plastic colander full of green beans, I trek back to the house. By now the rain is falling in drops as big as a quarter. Dawn is preparing the brine, chopping celery, opening cans of kidney beans and garbanzo beans. I think of the poor Pooch out in this mess when a particularly loud clap of thunder and lightning booms overhead.
We can eight pints of bean salad. After the deluge, the sun comes out before dusk and I take the step ladder and free clogs at the downspouts in case of heavy nighttime rain. We leave all the windows open because it's warm and humid in the house. The curtains and blinds in the bedroom are up and the windows open. Before we go upstairs both Dawn and I call the Pooch. She's calling him in a barely conversational tone. "Poochie are you out there. Time to come home now." I bellow at the back door, "C'mere Pooch. Here boy." No cat.
In a dream I walk out the back door. Pucci comes bounding across the back lawn like he always did, happy to see me. At five am I wake up. I have to pee. When I crawl back into bed, I think I hear his plaintive meow. "Probably a robin," I tell myself. Still, I haven't given up hope. I walk downstairs, open the deck door and whistle. Three times I manage a feeble tweet. On the fourth try it's a passable, shrill Tweeet. I stand there looking at the fog. The windows are covered in mist from the fog. The screens are loaded with raindrops. "Mrrrt." "Pooch? " More mrrrt. Oh Poochie, you've come back. I open the door for him. He greets me with several passes, rubbing his body on my legs. While he grabs a bite of dry cat food, I walk in the downstairs bathroom and grab a green bath towel. He's spikey wet with an oil slick down his back. I wrap him in the towel and carry him upstairs. Dawn is sound asleep. I make a mooching noise to wake her up. "He's back." Oh Poochie," she says.
The rest of the story is so smaltzy, you'd think I made it up. I brush his back fur to remove some of the oil slick. He looks at me, his mouth half open with that, "Oh, that feels really good," look. He jumps down, grabs some more food-he hasn't eaten since Saturday night and jumps back on my lap. I defrost some raw ground pork and he eats the whole dish. Then I go back to bed, thinking he'll lick and groom and nap in his favorite chair. Dozing off, I hear him calling us upstairs. Dawn says,"C'mere. Jump up." He jumps on the back of the bed and curls around her stomach with his paw draped over her leg. My arm is over Dawn's back. We're one happy family again.
Before I sit down at the computer, I lift the lid on a stainless steel pot next to the stove. "Mmm. Bean Water." My only description is that it smells like country goodness. I pick large dill heads and put them in a pink, miniature water bucket for the smell of dill in the kitchen. To keep the air circulating in the basement which remains a cool 67 dgrees, I have two window fans set to the slowest speed. The smell of fermenting cabbage wafts up the cement basement stairs. If Dawn were standing there she'd ask, "Who farted." Like the smell of manure, it's a cultivated goodness. The Pooch is sleeping in the cool basement on the laundry table. I walk past and mutter, "You little @#$%, you." I couldn't resist.
Later on we'll have a talk and he can tell me of his adventures with raccoons, possum, and as one lady at the library maintains-a mountain lion. She says pets are disappearing all over the county because of this big cat. "Oh boy," I tell myself, something more to worry about. Dawn makes a disparaging remark about her qualifications as a wildlife expert. Most afternoons you can find her at a computer in the back of the library. Her son sits adjacent to her and disapears when the school busses drops kids off in the afternoon. He has a weight problem and fears the cruel taunting from nasty urchins.