The Night Garden

night light in garden, photo by Karin Todd
night garden light, photo by Karin Todd

A digression out of On The Knowing Of Cats;

He lets Dance direct him, pretending that he doesn’t already know where the man lives. He’s intrigued to learn about the place and its neighborhood through the younger man’s comments.

Dance does not give him the usual quick, careful glide into the front door to avoid nosy neighbors, in the kind of ingrained caution that gets trained into experienced younger gay guys by their elders, the survivors. Dance doesn’t seem to care if the neighbors might be watching him.

Instead, he’s passing through the front yard, running his hands over shapes, knowing where things are in the dark, pulling off the tips of herbs and holding them up for Drin to smell as Drin walks on the slower way up the sidewalk toward the porch light. The running commentary he hears is soft, offhand, as expert as Dance’s remarks about the symphony. It’s not a big house, nor a big yard, but Drin begins to understand that Dance commands the space with his spading fork in a thoroughly competent way that would drive off all but the dimmest of the local drug dealers.

It’s gawky and endearing when Dance can’t help but pause in the dim light of the front porch to exclaim over a new flower bud on a plant that Drin has never heard of, and to explain excitedly that he’s been waiting for two years to see if it came true to the rare color it was promised to be.

“Two years?” Drin says, blinking. Faith, he thinks, amazed all over again at his musician. Then Drin is simply forced to point at another plant that is even more bizarre and astonishing beyond it, eyebrow raised. “What is that?” he says, knowing exactly how this will set off the younger man.

It turns out the noble and intimidatingly huge sullen purple globes crowding into the front wall of the house are another rare plant, grown from divisions that Dance got from a fellow gardener in the Symphony’s charity organization. Dance is excited enough by Drin’s interest to gesture over it, to explain how he will be dividing it with two sets of pitchforks in the fall, so he can hand along more chunks of it to others. He laughs, a flash of white teeth, and says that’s a sweaty job, while he unlocks the front door. Drin is blinded by a vision of him bent over in the sun, frowning in concentration, grappling with all his muscles to master a plant nearly as big as he is. All that effort, to give it away.

“Of course,” Dance says, blinking. “Plants that grow well have no shortage. And we all want to pass it on, to make sure somebody else will keep it going, away from disasters like freeze or virus or bug pests. Very like copying scores correctly and pass them along, so if there’s an earthquake in Italy we all don’t lose everything written for the viola da gamba, say.”

“You’re very generous,” Drin says.

Dance looks at him under the porch light, blinking in surprise. “Well, not in the sense of giving away with no answer, because people will give us other things. More like trading. Like passing it forward, mentoring other people, making sure some of those modern composers get heard.”

Mr. Kent

Dance had no trouble handling the batch of gangbangers on the bus with their boombox turned up too loud. The brown kids were bored, arguing and scuffling with each other. The dred-wearing girls kept slapping each other in sudden gunshot smacks, yelling. At first they sashayed up the aisle, looking for somebody amusing, and they ignored Drin and Emma in favor of a friend nearby. The least-respected one kept standing with her hip propped out contemptuously into Emma’s face.
When some movement drew their attention to Emma, it was Dance, sitting in front of them, who distracted them. He held up a scavenged newspaper and turned the pages noisily, rattling nervously, as if he was hiding behind it. It drew the girls away from peering at Emma.
When they responded by gathering around him, poking one another and laughing at the sight of him, he shrank behind the paper and made himself look very small and not very smart. While Dance pretended to be incapable of speaking English, Drin and Emma sat on the seat behind them, staring up with wide eyes, sitting together petrified, like some lost Midwestern tourists. Emma made sure to blink widely, and smile a lot.
As the boys came up, trailing after the girls to find the amusement, the girls hung over the grab rails and made faces at Dance, laughing, while he spoke in some language Emma had never heard from him before. Sputtering something about “hangooks,” with all the English words nearly buried in a thick staccato rude-sounding accent. He was very convincing, with his hair all messy and his legs at awkward angles crammed into the bus seat and all of his body language that of some poor guy right off the boat who’d bought all his clothes at a thrift shop, terrified of getting into any trouble with the authorities.
He was noisily relieved when they got off at several stops in turn, too.
Drin had eventually dared to lean forward and murmur, “You’re having way too much fun, Mister Kent,” which made Dance chuckle somewhere down in his chest.
“What about Missus Peel there?” Dance murmured, laughing at her over his shoulder.

Freudian Lingerie

Grace really loved her new house. Though it wasn’t large, it was comfortable and snug, and well, cute. She especially loved her wood stove, a beautiful, elegant piece of antique technology. She was standing in front of it now, admiring the cream and gold enameled finish as she scrambled eggs and fried bacon on a cast iron griddle.

The french windows over the table were open wide, admitting a fragrant summer breeze and the sounds of birdsong and cicadas. Sunshine poured through the windows, falling on a beautifully set breakfast table, complete with a ceramic vase of wildflowers and a pitcher of fresh orange juice. A bay pony stuck his head in the window and nickered. Grace smiled at the animal absently before going back to the stove, looking out the window over the sink at the hummingbirds at the feeder, dancing around like so many fairy jewels. “Good morning, honeybunch.”

She heard an odd ripping noise, and looked down toward the sink. A large black goat was standing there, contentedly munching on a dishcloth. “No,” Grace cried, “stop that! No eating the dishtowels! Breakfast will be ready in a few minutes! So please — just wait!” With that, she pushed the horned animal out the back door and shut it decisively. The goat gave her a wary, wall-eyed look before wandering off into the yard.

The dishware on the table began to rattle rhythmically to the sound of several loud thuds coming from upstairs. Grace scolded, “Stop shaking your head, dear, and come down for breakfast. I have some Tylenol down here for you next to your plate. And watch the tusks, or we’ll have to repaint again!” A large tusked creature in round eyeglasses came downstairs, carefully wrapped one large clawed hand around the enormous fork she handed him, and took a plate of food with the other. He peered owlishly through the spectacles to find his seat at the table, and dutifully swallowed the painkiller and a vitamin.

The pony neighed excitedly and began to eat the wildflowers. She whisked them away just in time, setting them out of reach and giving the pony a bowl of oatmeal. He dove right in, shaking his head and splattering the window with oats.

Just then, a enormous black rabbit with a giant bow tie and a bowler hat came downstairs. Grace handed him a plate as well, and he looked at it with horror. “Is this Fred the Pig and Henrietta’s latest brood?” His whiskery voice sounded just a tiny bit hysterical.

“Oh, sweetheart, I’m so sorry!” She whisked the plate away and handed him another, which was mysteriously full of carrot salad. He sighed happily, relieved, and went to sit next to the goblin. “How are the kids this morning?” he asked.

They were fine the last time she checked on them. She pulled a blanket off a wooden box near the stove and peered at what was inside. She has named the three girls Flopsy, Mopsy and Cottontail. Their little black-furred brother has been named Peter, of course. “They’re fine, their eyes are almost open.” They grow up so fast.

A big black dog opened the kitchen door, jumped up onto a kitchen chair, and waited for his food, ears pricked and eyes shining. He gets a plate, too, and he licked her face enthusiastically, making her chuckle. “Now, eat your food before it gets cold.”

Then Grace heard an odd crunching noise from outside. She’s forgotten the goat! She ran outside to find that the outside of the house was made out of gingerbread studded with gumdrops. The goat was eating the siding. “I’m so sorry, I’ve forgotten all about you,” she cried, “please stop eating the house and come inside.” She opened the door, came in with the billy goat, and gave him a plate of eggs and bacon on the floor. He began to eat.

Friesian stallion on road
Stallion in Halter

They all turned and looked as a toy car rolled into the room, honking its horn. The little doors opened and Hal and Lucas step out, dressed in full clown gear, honking horns and spraying each other with seltzer. “What’s for breakfast?” they asked in unison —

Grace wakes out of her doze with a start. She’s laying on a blanket on the floor in Pen’s living room, Lucas tucked into the small of her back, snoring loudly. Her head is pillowed on Hal’s arm, and he’s snoring too. How they all fell asleep in the middle of a hurricane is anyone’s guess, but the perfect little house and the menagerie were definitely a dream. A really strange dream, maybe even a prophetic dream. Well, she’ll never be bored, not if she lives to be a hundred.

Hal wakes and stares at her blearily. Looking at him just makes Claudia laugh harder.

===

a bit of fantasia here from googledocs by numaari.

Attn: DRIN

Just making sure your little…surveillance problem…got sorted out. Your friends seem like lovely people; would hate for them to have any trouble.

As for the other matter…well, I’ll be in touch.

Have a nice day.

with a nod to Kiyakotari

“Can’t,” Auren Han said.

“Auren.”

Can’t get it in words.

“Auren.”

Han, on his back, clothes almost shed, light dappling him, closed his eyes, not sure why this guy just didn’t get it, didn’t get that that was enough, more than enough, more like too much.

“Auren.”

Something brushed against his closed eyelids. A flower petal, maybe.

“Auren.”

“Yeah,” Han said, finally.

“When you were little,” came the voice, absurdly, deliriously happy, “they called you Auren H.”

“Yes,” Han agreed softly.

“You were smart. You were the smartest one. You had bangs and you had glasses and you collected stamps and you showed me the square root of 2. You were Auren H. Auren,” something finally, finally bubbling up in that voice, “do you remember me?”

For god’s sake, god’s sake, to have to answer, Yes, I remember you, as a matter of fact you are what I remember, you are all I remember, now.

To drop the blinds, kill the light, and turn over flat on his side in his bed, empty.