Thursday, May 22, 2008

Maybank's Pond (Sept. 2006)

I awaken and lazily look out the shuttered window past the porch rail to the pond beyond. A piece of grace upon first opened eyes.

I got back from rehearsal at 11 pm last night. Was wise enough to leave a lamp burning in the house, how else would I ever put key to lock in the gorgeous utter blackness of my first night here.

Worked on my script while cooking dinner, during the eating thereof, then after as digestion took place. The crickets paid no never mind to my rantings. They just sang their hearts out while a distant dog barked.

To sleep around 3 am - a note left saying as much to SHE, who had worked for Mr. Maybank for 42 years was it? and was due at 8:30 the next morning.

The pungent scent of Lysol assaulted my nostrils around noon, I guess. Time has no sense when you’re rehearsing a play. I shuffle out and there’s Wessie in the middle of the kitchen ironing Mr. Maybanks’ shirts.

I make some coffee while she makes talk. She is not a silent one. She gives me lessons in more ways than I can name. Deep learning of the soul variety that’s far from mundane.

But that came later. First was: “Is that your raft?” Not her words exactly, I can’t remember them, only the feeling of them. I had brought my blow up raft with me, for I was told by both He and She that swimming was de rigeur in the “Lake.”

“You’re not going out there with that raft, are you?”

“Well, uh, yes, I had planned to.”

“Uhhh huh, you don’t wanna go out there alone, you might get a cramp.”

I told her that I was a very good swimmer, was used to swimming across lakes.

“You shouldn’t go out there alone!”

Then she regaled me with horror stories of BIG fish - big bass and big carp. If THEY didn’t eat me, there were water moccasins and terrapins as big as cahrtahrs. “Terrapins?” She had such a thick accent I had her repeat that one several times. Actually I had heard her correctly, just had never heard that word before. “What’s a Terrapin?” I asked.

“There’s one on the dock,” she replied. My brain went scuttling. I had walked down to the dock yesterday before rehearsal. There was a metal sculpted turtle on it as I recalled. Ah! “You mean a turtle?” Oh yes. But not just little ole painted turtles - these were as big as cahrtahrs. “What?” “Cahrtahrs!” Ohhhhhhh, car tires.

Ooooohkaaaaay, so if the carp and bass and moccasins and turtles as big as cahrtahrs didn’t get me.... “Don’t walk down there in those things,” she admonished. I had on my flip flops. “You gotta watch out for those fire ants. They kilt a cow in Greenville. One bit me right here...” and she proceeded to show me a rather nasty scar on her wrist.

Yes, Wessie was full of horror stories. But also stories of angels. But more on that later.

Now I’ve been here a week and have paid a certain amount of attention to what Wessie has said. I’m sure there are carp and bass and turtles - moccasins...well, fire ants - yes...but...

So I spend a glorious hour or so in the morning floating on my stomach on the raft. I’m toward the far side when I notice some movement at the pond’s edge. OH MY. Is that? ... Yes. There is a VERY LARGE turtle lumbering into the water. VERY large. Not quite cahrtahr size, but maybe a mini spare tahr size. To give an example, place you hands on your elbows and make a circle with your arms. Uh huh, that’s the size. Oohkeeeydokey. Terrapin. I hope. Let’s hope it not a snapper. I know from snappers.

I watch him/her go into the water on the fahr sahd and then he/she bobs back up. Big head. Big body. Uh huh. Ok. I think, since I just put nice bright nail polish on my toes this morning, I’ll just keep my feet out of the water.

Time for lunch. It’s a bit windy. Not stupid me, I don’t leave my raft on the dock where it might get blown off into the water. No. I lay it carefully up on the lawn. Go up to the house, am eating my sandwich looking out the window and see something odd in the pond. What is THAT? Oh. Dismay sets in instantly. I know what THAT is. Oh swell. Yes, indeedy, THAT is my raft which has blown into the middle of the pond.

After lunch I go back down and sit longingly on the dock in my bathing suit gazing at my raft, trying to will it back to the dock. Where’s Uri Geller when you need him? The wind is blowing it hither and yon. Mostly yon. I have my script with me and am going over lines as I send silent wishes for the wind to change direction. My prayers are unanswered. The raft, most of the time, is hovering right where that terrapin entered the water.

I am beyond frustration. I make a determination. If that raft has not been blown over to my side by 4 pm I’m going to swim out and retrieve it. Gulp. With moccasins and carp and bass and Big Turtles. After all, Frank has said he’d swum in the pond. And when I’d asked the Mrs., “Can you swim in the lake?” she’d gleefully said, “Oh yes!” YES? At this point I suspected both of them probably swam in that “lake” MANY years ago, perhaps when it was first dredged, before the carp and bass and moccasins and terrapins.

The wind is increasing. The clouds are scuttling and that damn raft is NOT moving in my direction. And tomorrow is my day off and I’ll want to float and it’s now 4 pm.

OK! I put my shower cap on because I don’t want to get my hair wet. So now I’m standing on the dock in a bikini and a shower cap and my accursed raft is not far from where that terrible terrapin tiptoed in. But This is IT! I’m going in no matter WHAT!!

I ease myself down the dock ladder, knowing there’s a spider under one of the rungs because I saw it earlier. I do not like spiders. Yup...there she is. She tries to melt into the rung but I see her.

The rung beneath the water is slippery with algae and mung. Yeah, right, y’all have been swimmin’ in the “lake” a LOT have you? I don’t think so. If people had been going up and down that ladder on a regular basis - no mung on the rung.

I thrust myself away from the spider and the mung into the TERROR. Noooo, I will not let my feet go down any length. Please, God, do not let me touch bottom. Bottom. Oh God. Who knows what lurks on the bottom beneath me? Carp and bass and water moccasins and....

I kick hard, plunge my feet into the murk, hands and arms flailing, creating as much noise and disturbance as humanly possible. No graceful crawl is here, no gentle backstroke, just plunging loud terror. A pterodactyl startled by my noise takes off from somewhere nearby. Well, I suppose it might have been a heron. Who knows what Wessie would name it.

It seems to take forever to get across the pond and the amount of energy spent creating such a disturbance is enervating. I reach the’s up-side-down. I curse it and right it and desperately attempt and finally achieve getting my body onto it. All limbs out of the water - nothing available any longer for munching creatures, thank God! My heart is exploding in my chest, my breath hard to catch. I’m not in my 20s any more. Double it. No, almost triple it. Am I really that old? Yeah. Pant, pant. But extremities are out of the water. That’s the most important thing. Who cares if I have a heart attack.

Finally my heart returns to normal. The wind picks up, the sky darkens. A storm is coming. OK. Fine. So much for floating blissfully in the lake. Excuse me. No. POND. But...there’s a bit of smugness too at my self proclaimed bravery.

Oh, and yeah, Wessie of course was right about almost everything. I went to snip some pretty wild flowers in my flip flops and suddenly felt nasty stinging on my feet. Yoweee! Ants. And they’re red. But small. Ok. I brush them off. Both feet have been bitten. No big deal, they’re just ants. Mmmm, noooo, these suckers really bite. Fine. I put some antibiotic on them and on the bottom of my foot where I had removed a one inch piece of the dock which had splintered off and lodged itself under my skin.

So we’ve seen the terrapins, experienced the red ants, I’ve watched the fish jump - but please, I don’t need to see the moccasins.

But my this is a glorious place. There’s a lizard that makes his home under the ceramic fox on the stoop where the “not so secret” key is hidden. How do I know? Because whenever I go to the door he scurries under it. And there’s that magnificent heron. Is it? Or could it be some delicious pre-historic pterodactyl that abides in the area Wessie told me the bass spawn. And if Wessie tells me something - I believe her. Because I have seen the terrapins and felt the fire ants. And she has told me stories of love and kindness that have made me weep. And her own struggles she shrugs off emotionless. Even the story of the angel at her hospital bed. It had a skeleton head, but a normal body - with wings. And she recognized it as an angel and knew God was protecting her.

We are given these moments in time. I have been given this play, this cottage and this Wessie. And I am grateful for them all.

Tonight as I left for rehearsal seven wild turkeys fled across the driveway into the field. How precious they were to me in their terror. Reminding me of my own in that pond and the Northern life I left two years ago where the wild turkeys also roamed.


Dan said...

Bass and carp and fire ants... OH MY!

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post. I was on the edge of my seat as I read about you going down the ladder and into the water... such anticipation wanting to know if you were going to be assaulted by some creature in the green lagoon.

Great read!

Giulia said...

It was a mighty scary experience, I'll tell you. Major EEEK factor.

Debi Kelly Van Cleave said...

We had a pond in Oklahoma and one time I saw a turtle that big. From a distance, I was like, what the heck is that? Looked like a big helmet. But the dog was barking at it. When we got closer, we realized what it was. Amazing.

Yes, you had me on the edge of my seat also. But I knew you were going to make it because you don't smoke, lol.

RebJam said...

A metaphor of life? noo?