Shrimp Tails

This morning I woke up and looked out to see green on green, fields disappearing to a green tree line on a familiar mountain ridge. There is a muscular bay in the front yard grazing on the early summer grasses, his tail and ears flick at the occasional fly. I’m in Tennessee-I put everything I owned in my car, and whatever didn’t fit, stayed. I moved to Knoxville.

I creep down the stairs to the kitchen to put coffee on, and realize I’m the first one awake. I feel a cat intertwine between my legs, and look down to see bright green eyes on a black and white face. I turn and see a half-eaten mouse on the kitchen floor: apparently she only had room to eat the front half. The angora cat purrs and meows and struts around the carcass, tail curling into a question mark.

I wrap the remains into a bag and take it outside to a trailer where an overturned love-seat waits to be taken to the dump. This farmhouse holds more memories and lifetimes than I can imagine, but bringing my carload of clothes and books in means my Aunt and I have determined what stays and what goes.

Last night we went to Food City to get groceries and sat in the parking lot, snacking on garlic shrimp and tossing the tails out the open car window. We took the saddles out of the front room and plan to recover the couch. Sadie moved a table in front of the window for me to work on, and I am excited to get unpacked and decorate with books and pictures of the beach.

It’s amazing to see it come to life: We spend part of the day at Lowe’s buying paint for the front room (Sigh Blue) and new welcome mats for the door (Wipe your Paws), and part of the day pulling weeds and wines from the front beds to plant roses and hang bird feeders and wind chimes. The kittens born in my Nana’s fireplace moved to the barn, along with their mouser mother, and we plan on repairing the wire on the coop before getting a few more hens.

We turned the horses in the front yard after running electro-braid around to keep them from exploring, and the new donkey follows them from patch to patch. He’s the sweetest one I’ve ever met, always meeting us at the fence and resting his head against whatever body comes close enough – those long, dopey ears love scratches, and he snuffs at your pockets, hoping for treats.

Tonight we had cube steak, creamed potatoes, field peas and sweet corn on the new kitchen table, and I snapped a picture before everyone dug in. Nana came downstairs to join us, her snow white hair pointing in every direction, blue eyes twinkling as she laughed. Now we sit around the table, the dishes cleared, while my aunt reads the paper, glasses perched on the end of her nose. I watched the moon rise over the ridge, peeking between trees and giving all the clouds those elusive silver linings. I can’t see my horse anymore, but I hear them tearing at the grass and envision the smooth, round jaws working under sleek coats.

And tomorrow is the best part of all: I may saddle that bay and take him up the mountain, or through the woods to the empty silos standing by the old dairy farm. We may plant herbs in the front bed and pull weeds from the orange clay, or finally unpack my car and see my anthologies and novels mingle with cookbooks and farmers almanacs. Or, we might have a ‘gown day’ and catch up over coffee and old movies. There are fields to be mowed and an arena to build, and I might venture out to the next county to pick up feed and extra panels.

The house is quiet now, the dogs dream under the table, and my new bed is calling to me, where Sadie is just down the hall and I can hear the hum and hiss of Nana’s oxygen tank. In the morning, she will make sausage and pancakes, and I made sure to throw both cats out, so any mousing can be done under cover of darkness.


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