The Mouse in the House

“No mice, no MICE, no MICE!” I screamed as I slammed the door in Smokey’s face.

cats and car 047

Mom sent us to bed without any mouse. Life is tough!

It was early in the morning and Smokey was banging at the door to be let in. When I opened the door, both she and Blackjack were huddled right in front of the metal security door and as I started to open it, I saw they had corralled a little mouse. “No!” I screamed and whammed the door shut on all three of them.

Usually the mice appear in the spring and I wouldn’t normally see them, except Smokey is a hunter and every now and then brings me a present. The little mouse I had glimpsed was very much alive and desperately seeking to escape. The house would have been perfect, I’m sure.

There have been several mouse-bringing cats over the years and my previous girl cat, Minx, was quite adept at hunting and gathering mice and other small creatures like baby birds. I think the idea was that I would enjoy playing with them. At first I actually attempted to catch the mice. Do you have any idea how fast a mouse can move?

My method was to stalk the little creature with a shoebox. I would drop the empty box on top of the mouse, slide a cardboard gently under it, thereby trapping it inside. I would then carry the box outside and free the poor thing to run away and live another day. HAH! 

This actually succeeded one time with a baby bird, but never with a mouse.

And to add to the frustration of a quick-moving mouse, there was the cat in the background urging me on with little whimpers of encouragement, whipping her tail back and forth. “That is not helping!” I yelled at Minx that first time.

Minx was obviously and understandably perplexed that Mama Cat could not do something so basic as to catch a little mouse. Eventually Minx gave up and went to sleep. A bit more eventually, I gave up, too. I found that mouse several days later in the kitchen. Dead. Thank heaven.

Which brings me back to the current mouse. I was hoping that it would not get in the house, but Smokey can be pretty determined. Although I avoided going out the front door (I left the house through the garage), and although both Smokey and Blackjack were snoozing peacefully later on when I got home, I had a bad feeling.

So you would think that at 3:30 this morning when I was awakened by the guttural sound of a cat’s subdued yowl, I would have been wary. Well, no, not at 3:30 in the morning.

Lop Ear — the fur bowling ball — was crouched in front of the dining room curtains. “What?” I mumbled. Silence accompanied by a quick switch of the tail. “What?” I asked again, louder. No answer.

“You think there is something back there?” I asked, reaching for the curtain. Now truly, this is the equivalent of the young woman in the horror movie who hears a noise and trots blithely down the stairs into the dark basement even though she knows there is an ax murderer on the loose. And yes, I pulled back the curtain and — TA-DA! — a mouse! We were all three frozen for about a nanosecond, then the mouse ran, I jumped and Lop Ear looked at me like, “I told you!”

“Go get it!” I screamed at him. “Get the mouse!”

 Wait -- You actually expect me to chase a mouse? And do what with it if I catch it??

Wait — You actually expect me to chase a mouse? And do what with it if I catch it??

“Say what?”

“The mouse! Get the mouse!”

“Why would I do that?”

By this time, of course, it was way too late. The mouse had gone wherever mice go — behind the bookcase, under the refrigerator, or (please, oh, please!) through the cat door to the great outside and back to his little mouse family.

At least it was a skinny little mouse — it did not look plump and sleek like, for instance, a pregnant mouse. It looked like a mouse who was not long for this world. I hope!

In the meantime, Smokey has lost interest, and Blackjack never really had any — he was just going along with Smokey. There is no chance of my catching it and obviously Lop Ear has no intention of doing so which leaves Paddy O’Cat who is something of a fashion plate and I’m sure would never think of dirtying his paws with something as nasty as mouse fur.

So let’s hope the little creature dies a natural death. And soon.

 

 

 

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The Not Very Good Day

It’s summer in the desert. Hot, hot, hot! So when I looked outside and saw a girl sitting on the sidewalk crying, I knew I had to do something. She was in the shade of my ash tree, but even so, when the mercury reaches 113, it’s hot, even in the shade.HotThermometer

I grabbed a bottle of cold water from the ‘fridge and scurried outside. She wasn’t crying so much as howling. Not a girl, either, but a young woman perhaps in her 20s. She was dressed fashionably — after the fashion of young people anyway — in a tank top and jeans that were artfully torn. I proffered the water and she glugged it down.

“How can I help you?” I asked. “Can I call someone for you?” When she looked up at me, I saw she was pretty, but dirty with grime embedded in her neck. It had been there awhile. Her face was marred by a broken tooth. The long brown hair was carefully streaked and the cut obviously expensive. Even in her state of unwashedness, it still swung gracefully when she moved.

She cried some more and squirmed on the sidewalk. “Here,” I said, “let me turn the hose on and cool the sidewalk down.” As the cool water poured out, she put her feet in the water — they were red around the edges black with grime.

“My feet hurt!” she yelled.

“Well, no wonder,” I said. “You’re not wearing shoes and the pavement is hot. Where are your shoes?” She looked at me like she didn’t understand. No question I was way out of my league.

I squatted down next to her, “What’s your name?”

“Misty.”

“Where do you live, Misty? Do you have friends around here?” She babbled something about her sister and a friend who lived somewhere but she didn’t know where.

“I’m going to get the phone,” I said, “and let’s call someone for you.”  She got up and started to walk around, so I went over to turn off the hose. The next thing I realized, she had gone in my house.

“Misty,” I said when I got in the house, “what are you doing?” She had picked up a shopping bag that had snacks left over from Vacation Bible School last week. Blank stare. “Are you hungry?” I asked, taking the bag from her. She shook her head. “Here,” I said, “let’s go sit on the patio.” Thankfullytrader joes's bag, the patio is well shaded and with the trees and grass, the heat was tolerable.

I had the phone and asked who I could call for her. She mumbled a phone number and I called it — got the screech of a fax machine. “That’s not right,” I said and she rattled off another number. “Who is that?” “My mother.” The phone rang and rang and finally there was a click and silence. I called several numbers that she gave me — her sister, her grandma — no answer at any of them. All the time she was walking around, sitting on the grass, sitting, then lying, on the concrete and knocking over several flower pots, moving restlessly from the chair to the swing, moving, moving.

Finally I bowed to the inevitable and dialed the police non-emergency number. I was on hold for nearly 10 minutes when she started howling again. I had been praying while I was on hold and now was trying to talk to her at the same time.

“Misty, are you in pain? Can I get you something?” She looked at me with dull eyes. “Heroin.” Uh, no, gee, I’m fresh out of heroin. “I use heroin,” she said almost apologetically. I offered Tylenol. She shook her head and reeled off a list of things. The only one I recognized was Xantac. “No,” I told her. “I don’t have any of those.”

She began to tell me her problems — she’d lost her baby, she had kidney stones, she hadn’t eaten in two days … This went on until I finally connected with the police dispatcher 15 minutes later.

It took the police another 20 minutes to arrive and I was police carafraid she’d freak at the sight of a uniform, but she was docile and followed him back to the front of the house. “You can go inside now, ma’am,” he said. I spotted the pink tank top Misty had been wearing and scooped it up and handed it to her. She took it without a word. She was now wearing a yellow one — had she been wearing two tank tops? I hadn’t noticed.

What I had noticed when she was prowling around the patio was that something in the pink tank top crinkled — a little baggie perhaps? Whatever it was was gone now.

I went thankfully back inside and watched as the officer and then the paramedics talked to her. A few minutes later I heard doors slamming and looked outside again. The cops were still there — a second car had arrived — but the ambulance was gone and so was she.

ambulance

I thought about it some more. I should have asked her, “Misty, what’s so great about heroin? Here you are dirty, disoriented, sick and lost. Is this fun? is this your idea of a good time because I’m missing something here.”

I sat there mulling it over and Lop Ear, who had been on the patio with us, jumped into my lap and head-butted me. I told him it was a too early for kitty-cat dinner time, but what the heck. It was a good day to kick over the traces and do something crazy.

“Tuna for everyone!” I yelled and within seconds I was surrounded by four cats waving their tails and meowing. “And I think I’ll have a glass of wine,” I told them as I dished out the tuna.

Lop Ear gave me that big grin he bestows on me from time to time. “Wine, mom, that’s good. You deserve it.” Yeah, I do. It was time to settle back in the big chair with my feet up. It was also time to give thanks for all I have; a snug little home, friends who care, a life with purpose and stability. A lot!

Truly, I am thankful.

 

 

 

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Sausage Curls

Sausage curls — no, not something you eat, but a hairstyle. Fortunately, this isn’t something you see much anymore, but you might remember your grandmother or an elderly aunt who would come home from the beauty parlor with little curls all over her head that were about the size of Farmer John’s brown-n-serve sausages. Except the curls were gray. I have no idea if they really thought this was attractive, or if it was just the style back in those days.

tight little curls

What made me think of this is a lady who sits a couple of rows ahead of me in Bible class and she has these dratted gray sausage things all over her head. I just itch to grab a comb and rake it through those tight little curls, fluffing those little sausages into something that actually looks like hair!

Now I do admit that I have sported some odd hairstyles in my life — haven’t we all? Until 5th grade, I wore my hair in braids and then mother decided it was time for me to have my hair cut. It was never very long to begin with and it had no body or curl at all — it just hung there. So it was cut short and brushed back and fastened with bobby pins and for the most part still just hung there.

Then came the home permanent — the Toni! And there was even a Toni Doll that came with its own home perm kit and you could give your doll a perm. (Talk about a brilliant marketing strategy.) All through junior high I suffered with horrible, frizzed perms. But thank heaven by the time I got to high school, the pageboy was in. Okay, a pageboy — I could do that. My hair still just hung there, but I could use curlers and make the ends turn under. Ta-DA! A pageboy!

pageboy

Another hairstyle suited to those of us with straight, fine, limp hair was the pony tail.  And here’s the back-story and inside scoop on the pony tail: it started out being called a horses’s tail. Honestly. Girls like my friend Sharon Carter who had long, luxurious hair could sweep it up into a rubber band or barrette — this was decades before the Scruchie — and have a glorious, long horses’s tail half way down her back. The girls who weren’t quite so lucky in the hair department had much shorter tails and we referred to those as “pony tails.” And pony tail stuck. So now you know. At least that’s the way it was at Hollywood High; maybe your school was different. Or maybe you’re enough younger than I am that the name pony tail was already set in concrete by the time you were old enough to have one.

When I lived in London in the 60s, I went through several styles: a shag — very popular then — a Gibson Girl and a short fluffy style that was easy to manage which I mostly stuck with. My hair dresser, Peter (Oh, excuse me, Peter was a stylist!) refused to do my hair in a Gibson. He said it would look like I had an onion on top of my head, so I learned to do it myself and it was not easy. First, I had to have a “bun” which was a stiff mesh donut shaped thing. I secured that on top of my head with a multitude of bobby pins. Then I pulled my hair through the middle, combed it over the bun and secured it with more bobby pins on the outside. Then once it was all in place, I would artfully pull a few strands loose to hang down around the side of my face, curl them with a curling iron and then spray the whole arrangement until it could withstand hurricane force winds. It was a lot of trouble!

gibson girl

This is not me, but for sure this is the Gibson Girl hairstyle. It was popular for about 16 weeks. Too much work!

And now, decades later, I still struggle with my hair — it’s either too limp to do anything with or if I tease it, it tends to stick out at odd angles. Sometimes in spite of my best efforts, it just lies there looking like I’m wearing a dead tarantula on my head. I hate that.

So I guess I shouldn’t criticize the lady with the sausage curls no matter how silly I think they look. I suppose it could be worse. I just hope someone stops me if I ever lunge for my purse and pull out a comb!

 

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The English House

One of my casual entertainments is to drive around and look at houses. it used to be lots of fun years ago before everything became a “master planned community” where all the houses look the same. No, I like driving in the older neighborhoods when houses were individually built and people got to say what it was going to look like.

I come by this honestly. When I was a little girl that was one of the Saturday entertainments — to drive out in The Valley (That would be the San Fernando Valley where we lived) and check out houses under construction. In those days, the Valley was mostly orange groves, walnut orchards and alfalfa fields. Mother and dad would spot a house that was framed, and we’d prowl through it.

ah yes, a house for us to prowl through.

ah yes, a house for us to prowl through.

“This is going to be a large living room,” mother might say standing in the middle of an open place. Or in another part of the place, “Do you think this is a third bedroom or is it going to be a den?”

They would stroll around and I would trail behind, figuring out that the very tiny room was a closet and the place with the pipes sticking out of the floor would be a bathroom.

Dad would make remarks like “I wouldn’t put the bathroom right next to the living room,” or “It looks like the garage is going to be attached to the house. Look — there’s a door between the garage and the kitchen” (a novel concept in the 50s). “Really?” mother would say, “You think that’s the garage?” “What else would it be?”

And so it would go as they wandered around figuring what went where. It was actually a lot of fun, wondering why people had decided to put the windows so high up or set the house so far back from the street, or myriad other puzzles.

So, as I said, I come by this honestly. Shortly after I moved to Las Vegas, I would drive around the older neighborhoods and look at the different homes. And I distinctly remember a house that was so different and so cute that I immediately wanted to live there. It was like an English cottage — it had a steep, shingled roof and the garden was lush and somewhat wild with rambling roses and other flowers. There was a large tree in the back — maybe an oak — that caused enough shade to make the house look slightly mysterious. I remember exactly where that house was although, strangely, I never went back.

Here? In Las Vegas? An English style house in the desert?

Here? In Las Vegas? An English style house in the desert?

One day a couple of months ago, I was driving down Arville and thought about the little English house that was nearby. On an impulse, I made a couple of quick left turns and went to the end of the block. No house. Well, yes, houses, but not the one I was looking for. I remembered it was at the end of a cul-de-sac on the east side. Obviously, I was on the wrong street.

I have a very good sense of direction and almost always can find my way back to someplace where I’ve been. Of course, this was years — no, decades — ago. It is possible I remembered wrong. I drove around several streets, but none of them seemed right. Many of the houses were the right era — probably the 60s — but most of them were tract houses.

After several attempts to find it, I gave up — at least for the moment. It’s possible, probable actually, that in all those years the house has been sold, re-done, re-landscaped. Or it’s possible that my mind had enhanced an ordinary house with a flower garden into something much more. Maybe the English style garden has been re-done into “desert landscaping.”

I decided not to spend any more time that day trying to track down something I thought I remembered. “I’ll come back another time,” I told myself as I made my way back to Arville and headed for home.

Or maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ll just let that sweet little house continue to live in my mind and hope that it really is there, somewhere tucked back in a cul-de-sac with hollyhocks and larkspur. It makes me happy to believe that.

 

 

 

 

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… and I walked away

As cars go, little Emmerson was a bit timid. My previous Ford, Scout, was a big old Explorer who was brimming with confidence, loved to run, and looked on the highway as his oyster. Emmer, however, was a somewhat different story. Sometimes he got a bit uneasy when we’d be passed by some fool racing on the freeway, whipping from lane to lane, an accident waiting to happen. Whenever we’d pass an crash, I could almost feel him cringe.

And you’ve noticed that I’m talking about him in the past tense. Just a week ago, one of those accidents got him. You’ve heard stories of people who have been in horrendous wrecks, but end up walking away although it looks like they should have been carted off in an ambulance. And now I’m one of those people.

If Las Vegas isn’t the red-light-running capital of the world, it’s got to be right up there near the top. For this reason, I am exceedingly careful about crossing a street. On this day at this intersection, I had a red light. I stopped. A young man on a skate board was on the sidewalk next to me. He also stopped; well, as much as a skateboarder can — he was doing little back-and-forths and quick turns on the sidewalk, waiting for the light to turn green.

When the light changed, I did what I have learned to do in Las Vegas — I looked to my left. I don’t mean glanced or cut my eyes, no. I turn my head and I look. No cars at all. I looked right. Three lanes of stopped traffic. I started out and then like (really I think this expression is appropriate here) a bat out of hell, a car shot through the light and in that instant was directly in front of me.

The next thing I knew, Emmer was facing back the way we had come, there was smoke, the horn was honking and a voice was saying over and over “I’m calling 9-1-1. I’m calling 9-1-1.” Not a voice from above, I hasten to add. Of course, in mid day traffic at a busy intersection, I’m sure there were plenty of people calling 911.

Although I knew intellectually that the smoke was from the airbag, my instincts were screaming at me, “Get Out! Get OUT!” But the door was jammed. I pushed and pushed but it would only open a couple of inches. Suddenly the skateboarder was there and yanked the door open. “What happened?” I asked. “She ran the red light. You hit her.”

He helped me over to the median and suddenly there were paramedics and Highway Patrol vehicles converging. A troop of cadets poured out of the fire station right behind me and someone in a pickup truck pulled up and told me to sit in the back — no, not the bed of the truck, the extended cab seat.

“Are you okay?” he asked. “Shaken,” I told him, “but not stirred.” The cadets were baffled. I guess James Bond was before their time.

I realized that I had not gotten any information from the skateboarder — he saw the whole thing. “Don’t worry,” the Highway Patrol Trooper told me, “we’ve got witnesses.” It was later on that I realized it was God’s grace that I got to her before she got to him. A speeding car, a person on a skateboard — no good outcome.

The trooper sat me in the shade of a tree and asked me to fill out a form. OH — and would you believe the one time in my life I really needed it, I didn’t have my driver’s license with me? How could that happen?? I had gone for a walk in the morning and took my card case with my ID in my fanny pack, but forgot to put it back in my purse when I got home. “Don’t worry,” the trooper said, “we already got it.”

Eventually everything was done. The other driver was taken away in an ambulance, but I doubt was badly hurt — she trotted right over and climbed in, talking on her cell phone the whole time. I had two cuts and a really sore chest, not anything that I thought needed a hospital visit.

I watched as the tow truck backed up to Emmer. Parts of him were scattered all over the intersection — even now as I drive through there I see bits of glass. The driver picked up the front bumper and tossed it onto what was left of the hood. My first reaction was “don’t scratch it, ” but of course that was silly. There was no way my little guy was going to be made whole again.

When the insurance company called me three days later to tell me that the car was totaled, I was not surprised. I called the garage where they had him and arranged to go take my stuff out. I thought it would be difficult, saying goodbye.

The young technician who had done the estimate showed me where the frame was bent — it was supposed to be straight, but now shaped like an “L”. He said  “I’ve never seen a wreck this bad!” I looked at him carefully. 21, perhaps — maybe 22. I was tempted to ask “and just how many wrecks have you seen in your long life?” but decided to let it go.

He unscrewed the license plates as I emptied out the glove compartment and the center console. I had some stuff — why do I always accumulate “stuff”? — in the back: reusable coffee cups, an umbrella, some notes from Bible class, a box of Kleenex. I expected this to be a terribly sad process, but somehow it wasn’t. The ragged edge of the bumper snagged me a couple of times as I passed by much as Lop Ear does when he wants to be petted, but no, I put my hand on the hood to say “goodbye, sweet little car,” but there was no one there. It was just a hunk of twisted metal and broken glass. Emmer had gone. He’d said goodbye to me in the intersection when he said, “I’m calling 9-1-1.”

He did what he had to do — he kept me alive. He went to the car graveyard and I went home. Thank you, Emmer.

 

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The SHRIEK!

Saturday evening I was sitting at my computer when I hear the most terrifying shriek! it brought me right out of my chair. It was followed almost immediately by a second, louder shriek. The hair on my arms stood up — a child was obviously in distress. I raced out the front door and had a quick look up and down the street and there — across the street and up a couple of houses — was a jump house that had suddenly materialized.

jump house

Jump house — you know — the large inflatable thing that looks like a castle. Kids go inside and jump up and down and bounce all around like on a trampoline, and apparently shriek while they do it. At least this one had a shrieking child inside. I watched for a couple of minutes to make sure that was really what was happening until a little girl, probably about 8 years old, emerged. Her mother, perhaps seeing a neighbor standing on the sidewalk watching, said something to her — I hope about not shrieking.

Now in case you are not familiar with children’s shrieking — and I should actually say girls because I don’t think boys make this particular sound — it is similar to when the tea kettle boils. The difference between the two is that you have put the tea kettle on so except for the instant when it first boils, you are sort of expecting it. When a child shrieks, it’s totally unexpected.

The jump house, of course, was for a party, so I braced for a long, loud night. At least the neighbors have finally realized that they have to squelch the noise by 11. It only took three visits from Las Vegas’ finest for them to learn this. It’s not the party I object to, as I told the dispatcher, but the loud speakers that blast the music all over the neighborhood — and on one occasion, a DJ with a microphone who the later it got, the louder he got. I think the beer had something to do with that.

The good news is that these parties seem to be occurring less and less. Used to be every couple of weeks — not it’s every couple of months. Maybe they got tired of the cops coming by every time.

So now it’s Saturday a week later and the jump house is long gone. There is no more shrieking and the only thing that remains is a recycling bin at the curb filled with aluminum beer cans. All I can say is that thank goodness the kids aren’t drinking the beer — can you imagine how loud the shrieking would be then??

girl screaming

 

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How Hand Sanitizer Nearly Killed Me

Three things happen on Tuesday morning around here: the trash is picked up; the street sweeper comes by; Bible study at church. Preferably in that order.

Bible study starts at 10. The street sweeper comes by sometime before noon. The trash truck comes whenever it darn well pleases, sometime between 7 in the morning and 5 at night.

This morning I was backing out of the driveway about 9:30 when the trash truck lumbered down the street. When the trash guys empty the cans, they leave them in the gutter. Why, I don’t know. Maybe to remind themselves — or some roaming trash truck errant — that this street has been done.

Exactly when I turned into “that crazy woman who wants her gutter clean,” I can’t say. But by gum, if the city is going to send the street sweeper by my house every Tuesday, I sure want to make sure it does its job. So if a car is parked there, or if there are trash cans, my part of the street is missed because the street sweeper makes a detour and whatever debris was there is still there for the rest of the week. Drat! To try to stop this from happening, I began pulling the trash cans back onto the curb for the houses on each side of me.

Sometimes I’m outside when the street sweeper comes by in his huge yellow machine. I wave, he waves — sometimes. So I was quite surprised about a month ago when I heard the sweet sweeper on Monday. Now that I’m retired, it does happen that sometimes I get my days confused, but I was pretty sure it was Monday. I checked the date on the newspaper — yep, Monday. Strange. Stranger still was that the machine had stopped and was rumbling right outside my house. Had I entered The Twilight Zone?

I scurried out and found the driver sitting in the cab eating his lunch. I reached up (it’s pretty high up there) and tapped on the window. He rolled it down, took a swig of Pepsi and said, “Hi.”

“Hi yourself — it’s Monday. You’re the sweet sweeper. Your day is Tuesday. Whatcha doing here?”

“Oh, I’m taking a couple of days off and won’t be here tomorrow so thought I’d just run through this neighborhood and get it done before I go.”

Su-weet! “I sure appreciate that,” I told him and then proceeded to tell him how I pull the trash cans out of the street for him. “Hey, thanks. I hate to make those little detours.”

We chatted for about 5 minutes while he swigged his Pepsi, then he said, “Hey, nice talking to you, but I’d better get moving.” I stepped back as he put the monster machine in gear and rumbled down the street. What a nice guy!

So what does the hand-sanitizer have to do with all this? As I said, the trash truck came by just as I was leaving, so as soon as it was gone, I jumped out of my car, grabbed the trash cans lying in the gutter and hauled them up onto their respective properties, one to the east of me, one to the west. That done, I jumped back in the car and headed to church.

Of course my hands felt yucky. I keep a small bottle of hand sanitizer in the glove compartment. I don’t like the stuff, but there are times — and this was one of them — when it comes in handy. There are only 4 stoplights between here and church and you know when you need a red light, you never get one. At the first intersection, I caught the tail end of the red and managed to open the glove compartment and fish out the little bottle. The next 3 lights were green.

clean_hands_3pk

The street outside church is wide and as I turned onto it, there was no traffic — not coming toward me, not behind me. I took that moment to open the bottle and squirt some of the noxious stuff onto my hands. I looked away for just a second, I swear! At that moment, a big black car came out of the apartment complex on my left. Apparently I had veered into the middle lane because he leaned on his horn, scaring the daylights out of me. I jerked the wheel to the right — thank heaven nobody was there — and spilled sanitizer in my lap as well as a big glop in my hands which was then generously smeared onto the steering wheel. The guy in the black car swept past me no doubt thinking, “stupid woman should know better than to text and drive!”

Now my car smells like hand sanitizer. I hate that smell and I’m going to be smelling it for the next few days. It’ll be a reminder that I should never take my eyes off the road!

I am pleased to report, however, that when I got home, the sweet sweeper was rumbling down the block, having cleared my gutter — and not only that, he came back and made a second pass. I was in the house, but I waved anyway.

Thanks, guy!

 

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