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We have taken to building a fire in the portable fire pit (my husband’s “gift” for 25+ years of labor, upon his retirement). A glass of wine, the pop of sap igniting, the sun dipping below the tree line to the west: the garden birds make their last mad dash for the bird bath, freshly filled. We talk about abstract thing, our neighbors, the bees we encourage to live in our yard, the butterfly identification book I lost somewhere and recently replaced, and any news of grandchildren I learned through Facebook or Instagram.

My husband does not have a smart phone. He doesn’t trust Facebook. I am a recent convert to the world of smart phones, and Facebook is my little garden of friends (some real, some imaginary, some I’ve only met online). Grandchildren live too far away for us to see them on a daily basis, so when our children toss out tidbits of information (Korinne wants anything unicorn for her birthday; Eli came in 3rd for his weight division in wrestling), I relay the photos and stories to my husband.

The birds have taken over our lives now that we have no dags to patrol the yard and protect us from these tiny feathered creatures: I change the hummingbird feeders out once a week, usually to the scolding clucks of a female Anna’s: Hurry up, Human, I have babies to feed and bugs to catch! I don’t know where the hummingbirds nest.

One evening, three pairs of spotted towhees entertained us as they made their way back and forth across the yard, chasing each other. Things have settled down now, and our resident nesting pair seem to have chased off the interlopers. Their nest is under the bramble pile where we were going to build a dog run, so very long ago. Dusk falls, and the male hops out from under one of the espaliers to the Spanish lavender, then onto the rim of the concrete bird bath. This is the favored bird bath, and he takes his time, dipping, splashing, shaking out his feathers. A robin scolds from somewhere, impatient for its turn.

One evening after work, I busied myself pulling weeds in the front yard. A white-crowned sparrow scratched the sidewalk under the bird feeder. That’s a new visitor: I usually see them in parking lots, along hedgerows, but not in our yard. But this year, our song sparrow is absent, and perhaps this opened the door for the white crowned? I caught him in the Hawthorne, fluffing out his feathers from a dip in one of the lesser-used bird baths. My camera, however, was not so quick, and I had to follow him to the espalier.

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He made his escape quick, a camera-shy resident.

The Bewick’s wrens surprised us this season by moving into the garage. They built their nest behind the radio, on one of the shelves just above the garden tools. It’s an old detached garage, more of a shed than a place to park a car, and there is a gap between the side door and walkway.

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The wrens come out, hop along behind the garbage and recycle bins, onto the fence behind us. They flit into the Hawthorne and catch bugs. Across the back stoop, down into the leafy forest of peonies, milkweed, asters, and Dragon flowers, and around to the garage door, again. They are easily as friendly as the scolding hummingbirds, but much quieter and stealthy in their coming and going.

Another evening, and it is one of the neighborhood robins in the bird bath, ducking and splashing, and rolling in the fresh water just as the sun sets.

We watch, safe by our fire. Soon, darkness will come, and birds will retire. The swallows make their last dips overhead before they are replaced with the bats. Mosquitoes have not yet hatched out, and so we sit, sipping our wine, watching our birds.

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A little bird came to visit.

My husband and I leaned back in the lawn chairs as the sun dipped below the trees and houses to the west of us and the shadows stretched across the yard. This is the time of evening when the backyard birds return to the fold. The song sparrow will fly from rhododendron to Hawthorne and over the the filbert. The robins will chirp noisily from the giant old tree in the neighbor’s yard, asking us to move so they can come down and take their evening baths.

Tonight, the spotted towhee hopped along under the espalier apple trees, then over to the Spanish lavender, hunting small insects. Some evenings, he will hop up onto the bird bath and take a dip, but perhaps we were too close this evening. He worked his way trough the day lilies and into the Hawthorne before flitting over to the rhododendron. He back-tracked the same way.

The Bewick’s wrens have set up housekeeping inside the garage, and must have little peepers hatched now. We are very quiet when we have to go into the garage to remove or replace garden tools, careful not to disturb the hidden nest on the shelves just above the tools. The wrens hop in and out through the gap in the side door of the garage, safe from marauding cats. They work their way along the ground around the garbage dumpster, then the yard debris bins and the recycle bin, coming out behind us (Oh! So clever! Humans didn’t see us!). They then flit to the top of the fence before dropping back to the ground or flitting over to the Hawthorne to hunt for insects. The Hawthorne is every bird’s favorite refuge.

A little brown bird flew into the yard and landed first on the glass patio table, then on the grass beneath it. Don said, “Hello, little pine siskin.”

It suddenly made a short flight to just under his chair, then up onto his feet and sandals. There, it looked surprised: we weren’t just another set of bushes, but we were flesh and blood, and human! Startled, it flew away to the Hawthorne: a little bird that came to visit.

 

 

Simple words. It wasn’t much – I slapped some craft paint onto some newel posts I bought at a yard sale ages ago, a little craft I have been dabbling at for over a year. It’s not a serious craft, just something I saw on Pinterest, and I happened to have the newel posts, so…

It’s an important step, if a minor-seeming one. I have not painted since just before Christmas (excepting one commission). I have been in a funk, a depression, an artistic hole with no light at the end. I haven’t written much, I haven’t painted much. I’ve slept a lot. I’ve meditated and prayed a lot.

I’ve been here before, but not when I was on an artistic roll, and all seemed to be going smoothly. This came in with the dark clouds of winter, settled over my spirit, and sucked my soul downward. I get up and go to work, come home, play some cards or watch a movie, go to bed. The doldrums of winter? Mourning the dogs? Or just a cycle of the clinical depression I have battled most of my life? Probably the latter, compounded with the lack of a fur baby to comfort me.

It doesn’t matter the cause. What matters is that I painted. I pulled out the color and applied it to a blank canvas (well, newel post), and started to make something look cheery. I pulled out a palette and chose the brightest colors. I found the energy to come back to life.

It’s May Day.

I painted.

I’m far from finished, but – I painted.

(Note: the bird houses were already finished. I’ve just been working on the newel posts. I have no idea what I will do with them… does itmatter?)

Last year I decided to let this pretty – but aromatic <ahem> “weed” go. The flowers are pretty & it makes a nice ground cover.

Later in the summer, I keyed it out and discovered that what I have is “Herb Robert”, commonly known as “Stinky Bob”, and it is a pernicious escapee from potted flower arrangements. It’s a noxious weed that pushes out native wild flowers in Oregon and Washington. Can you hear my heavy sigh?

I hate – HATE – invasive species. European starlings, English House Sparrows, tansy ragwort, Scotch broom, Himalayan blackberries, bullfrogs, pike, bass in native trout waters, nutria… the list is quite long. Some invasives you just have to learn to live with, like Eastern gray squirrels and Eastern Fox squirrels that have pushed our native chickarees deeper into the woods. The eastern squirrels don’t like the deep woods where there are no people, so the chickaree still reigns king there.

I have also had my share of gardening “oops”: planting fireweed, for instance. Lovely native plant. Takes over rapidly – so not a great idea. Fortunately, it’s easy to get rid of, as is the Stinky Bob weed. Both just happen to be a bit labor intensive: you have to get on your hands and knees and pull them up.

I got about 3/4’s of the flower bed cleared tonight before the sky turned dark and I truly had to come into the house. Tomorrow is supposed to be nice, again, and I hope to finish the flower bed. Pulling up the Stinky Bob revealed some plants I had planted earlier that had waned, in part due to the invasive non-native Oregon grape variety I planted some 10 years ago, and killed (for the most part) last fall.

That Oregon grape grew 10-12′ tall and spread. I wanted native Oregon grape, that grows a foot tall and maybe spreads 2′ out – not something that shaded my flower beds and threatened to take over the fence between neighbors. I took a chain saw to it last year and cut it all down. There are sprouts trying to come up this year, but I strip the leaves as I see them. The stumps are covered in black plastic to kill them.

I corralled the Comfrey that I replanted from the wild, thinking it was a native plant. It’s a nasty conqueror, impervious to most herbicides, and highly loved by bumble bees and hummingbirds. I discovered what kills it: vinegar and salt. I still have two plants, but if a runner starts, I cut it and apply vinegar and salt. It might take 2-3 applications, but the runners die and the Comfrey is contained.

I have a cape fuschia that I need to kill. It’s so pretty, but it just takes over. The hummingbirds like it, but… It’s just too large for any place in my yard, sends out runners, and is becoming a pestilence. I hope my hummers forgive me: I will find something of equal value that is less invasive.

Speaking of invasive: my milkweed plants are popping up again – and more of them this year! I don’t much care how invasive this plant gets, as long as it eventually calls to the butterflies I want to attract to my yard. It’s fragrant and lovely. It seems to propagate more by runners than by seed, although mine were originally planted seeds. It doesn’t seem to compete with the peonies and Dragon lilies, or the aster in that flower bed.

I need to find a victim person interested in taking on some divided Dragon Lily bulbs. Mine have outgrown their space by four times. They aren’t invasive, hardy to zone 8 (maybe zone 9), striking purple-black flowers, attract beetles and flies… and smell like rotting hamburger.

But first, I finish pulling up Stinky Bob…

My husband and I sat around our little outdoor firepit tonight, discussing gardening, weeding, and animals I counted at least 22 ducklings in the community pond this morning, and at least five mama ducks. One hen had one duckling. The hen I have been following still had nine (hers are the oldest, hatched Thursday of last week). Three pairs of Rufous-sided Towhees flitted around us, emboldened by the absence of dogs, perhaps. Never have we observed the elusive towhee behaving as boldly as tonight, the three pair!

The sun set, the sky darkened, and the first bat of the season flitted – briefly – overhead. A large bat, at least 8″ wingspan. We both have fond summer memories of bats diving in while we played out our last evening games, and horror stories of bats entangling in hair (my parents discouraged such hysteria). We both tossed rocks to bats in those dusky summer evenings to see if they would catch them: they always did.

Last night, as I took my husband on a tour of the front yard and the weeding/edging I had done on this first absolutely gorgeous Spring day in the Pacific Northwest, we nearly stepped on a small gray animal. It was deep in the moss and grass of the lawn, just a slight movement, followed by a naked pink half-tail. It was oblivious of us standing above it, watching. I forbade my husband from pulling it out by the tail just to see what it looked like: we both know what moles look like. It just wanted earthworms or crane fly grubs.

Burr hurr aye. (A la Brian Jacques and the Redwall series of books. Read them. They are magical.)

I have been in a funk since Christmas. I haven’t created anything new artistically. I haven’t written. I feel dead inside, creatively. My day job is just another place to go to, and make money, but not a place of passion or exciting change. I’ve felt “dead”.

I don’t know what I am going to do with this blog: keep it, practice writing, or… Family history, gardening, grandchildren? I feel as dull as the grey clouds that hover over the earth, promising only rain, and cold rain at that.

It is good to feel Spring is finally here, and that life might be awakening. I spent yesterday working with my hands in the loam, hoping to rekindle a little life in my heart.

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The giant rhododendron on the north… And the broken rain barrel. 😦

 

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The stark differnece between last year’s black-cap raspberry vines and this year’s canes. I need to cut out last year’s canes – nest year’s will go there in less that six months from now, and this year’s canes will be pruned out next spring.

I was going to move this ceramic “bird” house, but there’s a paper-wasp nest inside. I bought the bird house at a farmer’s market… love that the paper-wasps have taken over it. (Mud-daubers, paper wasps).

Finally, tonight we watched towhees – at least three pair – buzz about the yard, gathering sticks and nesting material. Rufous-sided towhees are elusive and secretive birds, more often heard than seen. To have three pair flitting about around us, unafraid, was amazing.

I do not know what I am going to do with my blog. Perhaps it had worn out its welcome and is a thing of the past, and I need to move on. But what if I do not record these seemingly mundane experiences? What if you never learn if the towhees nested and raised young, or the paper-wasps hatched, or the ducklings survived… Or the mole lived happily ever after because we are the gardeners who do not set mole traps or spray pesticides/herbicides?

I don’t know.

You do not want to know how my evening has gone. What started out as a simple post on Easter decorations (because I haven’t the energy to work on writing or any other sort of serious post at the moment) has turned into an hours-long ordeal with tech support, downloads, and overall frustrations. This is probably par for the course as I also have a sinus infection, I haven’t slept well in days, and my doctor hasn’t renewed my meds. Read that last bit carefully: I am off my meds.

That last is a long story. I’ll spare you the details. I just want to put up my mindless post about Easter decorations, in short because my husband really doesn’t want me to purchase any more new bunnies.

I love Easter. I’d put out outdoor lights and decorate the whole house like we do at Christmas, if decorating like that was a thing. I am going to buy a small fake evergreen next Christmas to use as my permanent Easter egg tree, however. I decided that after my yearly fail at creating one from my garden that is large enough and strong enough for all the hanging eggs I have collected all the years.

Those branches planted in the terrarium just aren’t cutting it anymore, and that hokey little egg-stacker only does one-size eggs. I have decided a fake “Christmas” tree is going to become my new replacement. I even wrote a sticky note and attached it to the Christmas boxes so I won’t forget.

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My Easter “illage” takes up the same space as the Christmas village: some thrift store finds, K-Mart buys, yard sale cast-offs, and items placed lovingly into baskets back in the day when my husband played along with me. We don’t do baskets anymore <sigh>.

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I love that sheep.

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I like this one, too.

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This woven wire basket – oh, my!

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Thrift store find – a funky “stained glass” made out of plastic and wire.

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This was my first large rabbit. It was really ugly. I repainted it.

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This hare is just too funny. I thought about repainting it, but the original has so much charm. Those eyes!

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I found these patchwork ceramic bunnies in different thrift stores, years apart. Again – no repainting necessary

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My mother’s Easter bunny. Love. love, love.

I have some styrofoam eggs I will add, if I get my act together in the next two weeks and actually decorate them. I’m debating.

But I have decided on adding this:

Chrystal’s bird house. She was 11 or 12 when she painted it We even entered it in the County Fair and she got a ribbon for it. She didn’t take it when she moved out, o I assume it is mine now. I’ll have to buy some little birds to go with it.

 

Note: Dreams are weird. This is an excerpt from a dream I had a number of years ago. A vivid dream. I embellished it just a little.

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What on Earth!? The Princess stormed down the hallway, her slippers half-slipping on the smooth surface when she came to a stop. Mary, her fluffy Lady-in-waiting, had been hammering on the Panic Button for some long time now. It was quite unlike Mary to get so exasperated, and even more unlike her to persistently irritate the Princess.

That was a lie: it was exactly like Mary to be so annoying.

The Princess slid to a stop at the end of the hallway. The door out was boarded shut! Now what!? There was supposed to be a stair well here and a very useable one at that. She pulled on one of the boards. Nailed, but not firmly. It would take her forever to get through and the crisis could have altered everything in that amount of time.

Damn it!

Lady Mary was agitated. If Her Highness did not hurry up, the stupid thing might blow up and then where would they be? They were stuck in the Continuum at approximately the same point the Dragon had last been located, and Lady Mary had no idea if the slithery thing was still breathing, or not. Sir Brave had chased off after it, swearing to dispose of the sorry thing before it could cause the considerable damage it was wont to. Lady Mary was, of course, concerned about her own flesh here. She was well-rounded and meaty enough to appear as quite a little feast for the sinuous devil and she did not want to confront it in some bend in the hallway!

She lifted the panel on the big box again and sighed. The gauge still registered HOTTER THAN IT SHOULD BE!  And the other arrow was pointing to the bright yellow section marked IT WILL BLOW UP AS SOON AS IT TURNS RED!

What was taking Her Highness so long??

Lady Mary lifted her heavy skirts and pressed her weight against the heavy outer door. She paused in the stair well and listened. Faintly, ever so faintly, she thought she could discern a dull pounding somewhere up above. The light was very dim, and Mary was reluctant to climb the four flights, not because of her weight (for she was considerably more athletic that the fluffiness of her build suggested) but exactly because she was plump, and that darn dragon might be making all the pounding.

Still, because she was the faithful Lady-in-waiting, she felt obliged to go search for Her Highness. She went slowly, peering upward into the grey light. If there was a dragon in wait up there, she hoped she would see it before it pounced.

The stairs were clear of reptilian life, but she had a terrible fright on the first landing. Two boys pushed the door inward, nearly striking Lady Mary in the face. Boys! Teen-aged ones, or almost teen-aged. They all seemed so young nowadays that it was hard to guess how old a child was anymore. These boys were fixated upward. Both carried little torches in their left hands. Their backs were to Lady Mary and she supposed they didn’t know they had nearly broken her nose with that infernal door when they pushed it in.

“You think it’s that guy, again?” the short boy whispered. The skinny one shrugged. They stood still, blocking the way as the pounding above became more desperate. Or furious. Lady Mary could now make out the exasperation in the Princess’ voice, shouting from behind one of the upper doors.

Given the problems with the infernal machine behind her (and its imminent threat to explode), and that she was the Lady-in-waiting for Her Highness, Mary had no choice but to make the decision she did, and to make it on the fly. She was going to have to expose her presence to the gawking youths. She reached out and pushed the pair aside, so she could pass, and then she began up the stairs as quickly as she could run.

The boys let out surprised yelps but recovered much too quickly: she could hear their feet on the steps behind her.

Lady Mary could make out the Princess’ words as they rounded the second floor landing. They were still quite muffled, coming as they were from the other side of the third-floor door, but their meaning was clear.

“MARY! DARN YOU! THIS DOOR IS NAILED SHUT AND I CANNOT PRY THE BOARDS OFF AND IF THIS IS NOT A REAL EMERGENCY OR YOU ARE NOT OUT THERE TO RESCUE ME I SHALL HAVE THE DRAGON BURN YOU TO A BLACK LITTLE CRISP. CAN YOU NOT HEAR ME? MARY! MARY! GET THIS FWEEPING DOOR OPEN, MARY!”

There was more, of course, but Mary had the sense not to listen to the ranting of frustrated royalty. She assessed the situation quickly: The door had been shuttered on the inside with large pieces of wood. Her Highness was on the opposite side of the door, possibly trapped in a dark hallway with that dragon slinking down on her, taking advantage of the situation with a diabolical plan to capture the Princess and hold her for ransom. The door was boarded up with pieces of plywood on the inside, not on the stairwell side. That meant she could not pry the boards back, but she would have to open the door and leverage the plywood outward toward the Princess.

She turned around just as the two scrawny teenagers skidded to a stop beside her. Not big, but masculine. Perhaps clever.

“I have a plan, Your Highness!” she shouted.

“You two. She’s stuck on the other side and you must help me push the wood away. Now.” Her voice carried the authority of one used to ordering lesser around, and the boys skidded to a halt.

 

Charley and John found themselves putting shoulder to plywood and shoving with all their might. They paused and pushed again, when the funny woman in long skirts suddenly lent her heft and the wood squeaked out from the nails by an inch.

“THAT BETTER BE YOU, MARY!” An hysterical female voice screeched from the other side.

Mary (they presumed it was she) rolled her eyes and signaled the boys to push again with her. “That dragon is on the loose!” she shouted.

“Well, I do not see him. Just get the blasted door open!” Her Highness dropped her screams by a notch.

 

The plywood gave way suddenly and clattered to the floor. One of the boys fell in a heap on top of it. The other one barely caught himself from falling by grabbing the door sill. Lady Mary stumbled, but righted herself in time to make a cursory curtsey.

The Princess barely glanced at any of them, but stepped over the fallen wood and splinters. A little black box on her belt began buzzing.

 

John shook his head. Charley was still trying to get up from the floor. The girl who had been locked behind the plywood marched past as if they didn’t exist.

The old woman from another century was dressed in a long, flowing gown that was held at the waist with a wide leather belt. John had seen the flash of pantaloons (he knew what they were because he had taken Drama class in the 8th Grade) when she stormed up the stairs ahead of them. She had plain leather shoes and white socks that had flashed in the gloom of the stair well when she pushed past the boys below. To top it off, she wore one of those pointy hats with long ribbons coming out of the point, like the fairy tale princesses in John’s little sister’s story books.

The girl, on the other hand, was dressed in a pair of tight faded jeans, topped with a dark blue Navy Pea Jacket. She had naturally wavy hair that flowed just below her shoulders, brushed away from her face. John made out a pale blue blouse, tucked in, as she passed She did not hesitate but took the stairs down two at a time, shouting back questions at the personage of Mary. Mary left the boys and hurried after the younger woman, answering the questions almost as soon as they were uttered, their voice overlapping each other. The older woman in the pointy hat, being somewhat heavier, preferred her steps one at a time.

John pulled Charley up and they followed the two women down.

“I just do not understand. It was working fine an hour ago. Whatever could be the problem?”

“I know it was working fine an hour ago, but this is a Continuum and you know darn well an hour ago could be two years ago or three hundred light years in the future.”

“What did you feed it?”

“The stupid Dragon was here, and I thought Sir Brave was after him, but you know how they can mess up things.”

“What is it doing?”

“It is building up pressure and clanging something awful.”

“When was that dragon here? And do not capitalize its name, it’s such a bother… If Sir Brave were here, why didn’t you call on him to fix this?”

“He is a doddering old fool when it comes to mechanics.”

“If it is building up pressure, it must be hungry, and we can just feed it something…”

She stopped suddenly on the first landing. Lady Mary barely slid to a stop, before the princess was out the door into the main hall and turning toward the exit. Lady Mary, Charley, and John were on her heels. It didn’t even register on either boy’s mind that the entrance was suddenly not boarded up, and the doors opened outward easily. They followed the fast-moving girl out into the parking lot.

She paused at the foot of the outside stairs. “Metal. Anything metal and anything big. There should be enough litter out here to work.” She pointed at a discarded shelving unit that leaned against the building. “Let’s take that.”

Her eyes met John’s. “Be a sport and pick up the other end, will you? We need to feed it scrap metal.”

“And quickly!” Mary huffed.

The boys hoisted their rusty treasure and followed the princess back into the south wing of the old warehouse. She took them around to the stair well, again, and led the way down.

Charley hesitated. There was no basement to this building. He’d been in the stair well before. There were no stairs going down. Yet… there they were. He stole a glance at his best friend, who looked back and shrugged. The girl with the curly hair was nearly to the bottom of the flight now, with the big woman on her heels. The boys followed.

Another door opened at the bottom of the flight, this time to the south which put the rooms it opened into under the parking lot.           There was no time to think about it. The boys followed the fat woman through the double doors. She was wielding a fender she’d found on the ground outside. A blue fender, like something off a pick-up truck.

John looked over at Charley, “Basement?”

Charley shook his head. “Fender?”

They were now aware of strange clanking and grinding noises. Low lights hung in the ceiling. The princess (or whoever she was) stood positioned along the wall, holding open the metal front to what looked like an old laundry chute. A red glow emanated from inside it.

“We have offerings,” she spoke into the abyss. “But your chute is too small. You are going to have to make accommodations.”

There was a grinding and squealing. The room shuddered. Charley reached out as if to grab the wall for support. John shouted, “EARTHQUAKE! We have to get out of here!”

Just as suddenly, the shaking was over. The princess was staring at him, as was the lady in the funny hat. “What earthquake?”

“That one, the one that…” his voice trailed off as he looked from woman to girl and over at Charley, who was, in turn, gaping at the wall. John’s eyes followed Charley’s open-mouthed gaze. The chute now appeared large enough to accommodate the entire old shelving unit. Warm, red light glowed from below.

“Um, no, he was just, you know, startled by the shaking.” Charley seemed to gather his wits quickly. “Not used to rooms shaking like that. Are we supposed to put this in there?”

“Well, of course you are.” Mary scowled at them. “And hurry. It is not a patient machine.”

The boys obeyed. Neither one of them said what was really on his mind: they were too confused by the events to formulate any coherent questions. The shelving unit was hoisted into the air, turned and pushed down into the red glow. It dropped noisily.

The fat lady tossed in the fender, “And dessert!” she said.

The princess let go of the handle as soon as the items had been tossed in, and ran across the room where a panel had suddenly come to light with green and blue lights. The strange grinding and clunking changed to a low, humming, vibration.

“There! That should hold it for a while!” She whirled around with a satisfied smile on her face. A smile which disappeared as she saw the boys for, apparently, the first time. She had to look up at John and down at Charley.

“Why?? Who are..?? Oh dear, the thing truly is messed up! MARY!”

“Here I am, m’lady.” Mary sidled around the boys, trying to look surprised and humble, but succeeding in looking rather smug instead. Her face read, I told you so!

The princess sighed. “I suppose I have to go ask for help?”

“Well, they are here. I do not think the machine will drop them off now.” Mary shrugged her shoulders.

“No, no. I suppose not. This is just a terrible inconvenience. It isn’t telling us where we are going – or when.”

“Um, could I say something?” John attempted to get a word in edge-wise.

“NO!” Both females snapped at the same time. The old woman’s eyes practically bulged.

She bellowed, “You may not, you simply cannot, address the Imperial Royal Highness Princess Boo without first being admitted into her court. You must be properly interviewed first.”

John felt like a gnat was buzzing around his ears. These people did not make sense! “Can I talk to you, then?”

The round face recoiled in horror.

The princess, however, seemed to like this idea. “Yes. You speak to him, Mary. I think I will go up and see if the café is open. I am famished.” She made a little bow and exited, stage rightt.

John looked at Charley who looked at John. “Did we just get played?”

“No way am I staying here to talk to her. I’m following her.” Charley made an uncharacteristic first move. John followed him.

The Lady-in-waiting threw up her hands and huffed along behind them, muttering loudly. “No manners. Not that I have answers. No manners. Heathens. Oh, where are we going now?”