Still life with dust bunnies

Thursday, November 9, 2006

Nov. 9, 2006

Dear Julie,

Ten women are coming for dinner. While eating they'll dissect the book "Still Life with Chickens." Chicken isn't on the menu.

The annual arrival of DC's book club is our version of spring cleaning. Weeks of preparation precede the event. The white paint on the sleeve of my windbreaker testifies that DC is painting walls and touching up woodwork. She has been on her knees scrubbing the kitchen floor. I'm scheduled to join the cleaning detail this weekend and make dust bunnies disappear.

DC has prevailed upon our friend and neighbor Frank to refinish the front door and fix the doorbell that hasn't worked for nearly 10 years. The button is missing. You don't want a party guest getting her finger stuck in the hole where the doorbell is supposed to be.

One summer years ago, bees began entering the hole. We discovered they were making a nest in our wall after the doorbell began ringing crazily and no one was there. The bees somehow were closing the circuit.

We finally had to do something about the bees after they began chasing the postman. When Frank removed a board to check the wiring, he uncovered the skeleton of the colony's nest. It was beautiful in its way, like Pompei.

Most of the women in the book club live in Better Homes and Gardens homes. I assure DC they probably go through the same stress she does making their homes look grand for entertaining. Saying that doesn't help a bit. Neither does having to compensate for three dogs, six birds and a slovenly husband.

The club member who plays host to the dinner chooses the book to be discussed. "Still Life with Chickens" is a memoir by a woman whose divorce leads to a dramatic change in lifestyle. She and her angry 12-year-old daughter leave their upscale life in New England for a ramshackle house by the sea and begin raising a tiny brood of chickens that helps them begin again.

"I did not have a year in Provence or a villa under the Tuscan sun," the author writes. "I did not have a farm in Africa. Instead, my diminished resources dictated a move to a rundown cottage in a honky-tonk town where live bait is sold from vending machines. But as luck would have it, in a town where houses rub elbows, I came to live at the edge of a pond beside a small forest. I came to a place where dragonflies the size of small birds fly over my yard in the summer. In a town where everyone knows everything, I came to a place no one knows exists."

When the book club visits, the dogs will go to our bedroom to watch the Home Gardening Channel. I will be out of town.

One member of the club told us the woman in the book reminds her of DC. DC has always wanted to have chickens.

Uh-oh.

Love, Sam

Sam Blackwell is managing editor of the Southeast Missourian.

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