mr. mcgregor & me
grrrrr, was mostly the sound rumbling ‘round the garden.
it was rising from me. i happened to notice, once i saw what someone had done to my cloud-seeking missiles of yellow and red, and just-barely-brush-stroked-with-pink.
at first, as i galloped down the path, late to the train one morning this week, i saw only one. stopped me cold in my tracks, though.
clipped at the neck, the red beauty lay there, gasping.
its last futile breaths reached my ears, then my heart. my own gasp echoed the one that rose from the slack-jawed tulip, her petals all splayed, her innards stripped bare.
no time to attend to this merciless maiming, only to pause and mourn in double-time, make note to call back-up gardener and tuesday-afternoon nanny (aka my mama), ask if maybe just maybe, when she arrived at the scene, she’d rescue the poor decapitated darlin, swoop her up from the mud and lay her to rest, and maybe resuscitate, there by the sink in a stretcher of waters.
and so the day unfolded, certain was i that all would be well once the rescue ensued. i muscled on, didn’t give it even a wisp of a worry. figured that one random loss was hardly a crime spree. maybe merely my cat acting naughty. or just out-and-out hungry for whatever it is in a tulip that makes a cat go utterly bonkers.
why, i’ve seen that cat leap to the counter, just when he thought that no one was looking, and chowdown a feast of a dozen fat tulips that someone had generously, innocently, not-knowingly brought me.
see, thing is, i learned long ago to make do without tulips. in the acreage that is mine there is no tepid coexistence of cat and tulipa major or minor.
the only tulips that come to my house, more often than not, are ones handed to me by unsuspecting folk who’d have no reason to think that to bring in a tulip is to unleash the lion that lurks in my voracious striped cat.
and the ones that grow in my garden are ones that somehow, mistakenly, got there by accident. before i realized i had no future in the tulip department, and buried the bulbs back in the day when hope was my middle name.
either that or the squirrels here in the ‘hood noticed the absence and set out to fill in the blanks. impolitely and unceremoniously (i’m certain of that) pawing the dirt in beds down the block, and, under cover of darkness, they did what squirrels do: buried a mid-winter snack, then promptly forgot where they put it.
so every spring, a scant crop of tulips erupts. and love them i do. marvel at the gentle curves, the slim cup of a profile. wait for the day when the petals let go, ease back a bit, let in the sun. open their mouths, say ahhh, so tulip-mad mamas like me can gaze down their throats, count all the tonsils.
mostly, when that fine week of tulip eruption arrives, i hold my breath. try to coax the cat away. fill him with tuna and handfuls of treats. anything to steer him clear from the few brave stems that rise from my dirt, dare show their colors, dare toy with my heart.
so far this season, except for that one, i’d noted not a single gnawed-off stem. not a head dangling. i was dumb-founded. and truly delighted. perhaps the cat had moved on to a new garden fixation.
but then i rounded the bend. loped into the garden, from a long day at work. and there before me, the horrors.
here, there and everywhere except for on stems, there were tulips in shreds. their bright shining parts all askew, and every last one piercing my heart.
oh, i gasped, all right. let out a yelp.
then came the grrrrrrrr.
but before i could mutter a long list of swears (as my little one calls those words that shouldn’t be heard), i glanced at the face pressed up to the panes of the doors at the kitchen.
there, wearing his please-let-me-out face, was my dear gentle cat.
hmm. i thought, if he is inside, has been cooped there all day, who in the world was out wreaking havoc here in the once-tulipy bed?
without nod to the puzzle, i swept through that garden, gathered petals galore, and the few intact heads that i managed to find.
i carried them in, the near-dead and hopeless.
and that’s when my mama, she let the cat out of the bag.
turned out the cat was not the culprit here. fact is, she said, she’d just been out in the garden and those tulips were right where they belonged. doing what all good tulips so often do: they clung to their stems, they grew toward the sky.
but then she mentioned there had been a rabbit, a cotton-tailed fine one, hopping around in the yard down the way.
seems that when my mama turned to come in the house, that smart little bun, he made for the cafeteria that is my garden. started with a mouthful of reds, moved onto yellows, wound up with a whopping morsel of pink.
somehow, though, he left untouched a last batch of yellows.
maybe he had every intention of retracing his hops, in time for a bedtime refueling.
well, i’ve never let an angry thought cross my noggin–uh, ‘scuse me, correction: okay, not in the nature department, and not unless you don’t count the cussing i’ve done when a hawk eats a bird, or a someone eats a nest full of babies…
but i’m tellin’ you, seein’ those scattered petals of tulips. lookin’ like someone made salad of my vernal bouquets, well, i channelled my inner mr. mcgregor, and i remembered that page of the book, beatrix potter’s original peter rabbit, and i thought of that watering can, the one old peter got caught in, and the way mr. mcgregor chased ol’ pete with a hoe, and then the poor dear got his blue blazer caught on the fencepost, and well, after i thought through all that i was calmed down just a bit. and i never would hurt any rabbit. not even one who made porridge of my petals. but i did suddenly remember that deep in my cellar there was a bottle, a spray bottle of some organic rabbit chaser, and before i could kick my clogs into the next yard, i was down in that cellar, and i pulled up the bright red, the stop-sign-red bottle, and i spritzed every last still-standing tulip–alas, there only were five–with that mix of whatever it is, some sort of herbal concoction that apparently works.
it’s been three whole days now. and i still am the proud protector of my rather pathetic patch. i’ve got five yellow spears, pointing straight for the sky, opening soon at a theatre out back.
and i’ve not seen the hungry rabbit.
but if he comes anywhere close, i’ve hatched a bit of a plot. i’ll make a trail of carrots and lettuce. lead him straight to the kitchen where i’ll sit him down for a rabbity feast. and a very long talk about leaving my tulips alone.
or else, i’m calling mr. mcgregor.
this has been one stop-and-start meander, as i am in the thick of an all-family reunion. spent the afternoon with my baby girl, met my oldest brother’s everlasting girlfriend. oh what a day. kinda hard to think straight, let alone type. but type we must to keep these fingers from rustin’…..
anyone had to chase any critters from your springtime beds? the ones where the flowers grow, or to turn up the interesting meter, how bout the one where you sleep? i’ve got a tale there too. but i gotta run, as babies and girlfriends are waiting….