Mint 'n Mulberries

I've been in this house for four summers now, long enough that you'd think I'd know there was a mulberry tree in my yard.  It's not that I hadn't been put on notice; one of my neighbors pointed it out the first summer I was here.  

And then, with the seamless grace of a practiced comic,  he transitioned from mulberries to a story about the Air Force landing a fighter jet on the highway to medivac him from a bad car wreck.  His hand --the one he is using to make the gesture of a plane landing -- was torn almost completely off.  Fortunately for him, he tells me, the Air Force commanders wouldn't have him sit on the interstate and just die when they had skilled pilots that could race him to the hospital and sew his hand right back on.  So the jets were scrambled, the finest surgeons assembled, and the hand was salvaged.  Good as new.  

Needless to say, I figured the mulberries were part of the same tall tale and, each season, the blossoms seemed to fade directly into dried husks.  No mul.  No berries.  

A few weeks ago I put out a half-dozen bird feeders for the sparrows and a pair of mourning doves that camp in my lawn.  Little, winged hippies, they crash on my grass, eat my food, and leave their shit all over the place without so much as a thank you.  

This afternoon I came out to find the the birds perched in their usual spots, taunting the cats behind the windows using nothing but the power of crass indifference to rile their feline counterparts.  The birds, unlike the cats, seemed to understand the concept of glass, the smooth, clear pane that served to separate predator from prey.  Perhaps something like a zoo for birds.  

"Look, darling, in the display --a cat," one dove says to the other.
"Yes," she sneers her best Gsa Gsa, "I've seen them in the Audubon.  We simply must have one."  And, with that, the dove drains the last of her ice tea, slurping her straw momentarily before pushing her sunglasses up into her feathers, waving one wing over her head like a half-inflated windsock.  Pouting her beak, she snaps her fingers.  "Garçon? Garçon!"  She snaps again.

The dove, I gather, is trying to attract my attention.  I look at her and, before I can say anything, she waves her glass over her head, signaling for a refill with her index feather.  I pretend not to notice, turning and walking towards the other side of the yard.  My feet, both bare, step through something sticky.  Something that pushes through the webbing between my toes like meat through a sausage maker.  It is warm, the kind of warm that makes you wish you had shoes on.  I look down at my feet and discover, to my surprise, that I am not standing in a pile of dog shit, rather on a pad of fallen mulberries.

Peering up into the tree I see, at each bifurcation between the branches, long, raspberry-like fruits dangling improbably like some kind of mythical, deciduous unicorn.  The birds, apparently kept at bay by their new feeders, have spared the fresh berries for the first time since I moved in.  I suddenly have a change of heart about the dove's ice tea, wondering to myself how, exactly, a fighter jet would look landing on the interstate.

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