The Pied Piper’s Brother

Do any of you remember the children’s story about the pied piper of Hamlin? Well, it goes something like this:

The town of Hamlin is plagued with rats. The townspeople are at a loss about what to do. Then, right on time, a strange young man appears and announces that he can rid the town of the rats for one thousand dollars. The townspeople, though wealthy, do not want to pay his price and instead insult him by offering only fifty dollars. In response, the piper takes out his pipe and begins to play, drawing all the young children of the town out into the streets and away into the mountains, never to be seen again. The end.

Well, I’ve decided in the past few weeks that there must be an unpublished bit of that story – something explaining where the piper came from and how he learned his magical craft. So here is my version of the piper’s background:

The piper learned to play the flute in high school band and started to notice that strange things would happen when he played. Woodland creatures of all kinds would gather around to hear him play, and his classmates began to tease him about his band of furry friends. They never seemed to go away! So one day the piper left town with his flute and went off to make a living with his talent somewhere where people wouldn’t make fun of him. His brother, however, had the same talents, and instead of using them to rid towns of rats and other vermin, he used them to bring such things into places where they were not, and delighted in the fear and disgust of those he claimed to be helping. The evil brother spent his whole life filling homes and towns with rats and mice and then leaving the inhabitants to deal with their unwanted new residents.

Why is this untold part of the story important, you ask? Well, I seem to have married the evil brother.

The Mister has recently acquired a small collection of tiny felt mice – the kind you buy in the cat section at the pet store – and has been hiding them in cabinets, tying them to doorknobs, tucking them into beds and generally causing havoc in his mother’s life.

While I usually know about these things before they happen, I still claim innocence in the overall scheme. I, for one, don’t want to be thrown out on the street when his mother gets tired of finding little mice in her bed. But, the evil brother can’t seem to help himself, so I’m sure the strange appearances will continue.

Do you have any “evil brothers” in your household? What pranks have you pulled on your mother?

The Dynamics of Dog-dom

The Chesnut dog kingdom is an evolving society, played out on a complicated four-legged stage, largely for the amusement of the two-legged audience. Let’s introduce the players:

Rosie – The oldest member of the yard at eight years of age, Rosie is the queen-bee of this society. She knows all the procedures, expects the best of all her humans and does not do anything she doesn’t want to do. She has been known to look down her nose (which is difficult, considering her sheltie head is only about two feet off the ground) at newcomers and still considers herself to be above her boy’s wife (me) in the pecking order. She is dainty and regal and carries herself with an air of authority. Rosie’s primary role in the yard is to patrol for cats and bark at her humans’ cars as they leave. She is the brains of most operations.

Lexie – Lexie is technically the “middle child,” although she is by far the smallest of the lot. This tiny sheltie is about five years old and easily frightened because of her small size. She has as much hair as she does actual body mass and is the primary look-out for the return of the humans’ cars, emitting a squeaky bark to alert Rosie when the people have returned. While never the primary aggressor when cats and other intruders approach, she will run after Rosie and defend her back from 10-15 feet away as a show of support. Lexie is a known thief and her favorite activity is to sneak into closets and bathrooms and steal anything that smells good and hide it around the house.

Meera – Meera is the youngest of the yard at less than two years old, but is the largest and fastest of the group. She is the primary muscle of most activities, using her loud, echoing bark to threaten intruders and birds and surprising them with her incredible speed. She is also the one who creates the most trouble and has made the dainty shelties hear the dreaded word “NO” more times in the past month than they’ve heard in their entire lives. She is not incredibly smart, and the shelties have learned to use this to their advantage.

For example: Meera has a perfectly good doghouse and I’ve seen her go into it – so I know that she knows that it’s there – but she can’t seem to figure out under what circumstances she should use the doghouse (like when it’s raining). [Side note: This gives a whole new clarity to the phrase “doesn’t have the sense God gave a goat,” because the goats next door go into the barn when they are cold and wet, while our dog ignores her dry doghouse and sits in the rain instead.] We had hoped she would eventually get tired of being wet and follow the shelties’ example, but instead the plan has somewhat backfired. Instead of Meera learning to sleep in her doghouse, the shelties have learned that if they DON’T sleep in their doghouses (and instead sit by the back door with Meera and be cold and wet and miserable) we will eventually have pity on the stupid one and bring her inside… thereby giving the shelties a free pass into the big house as well.

Oh how they know us.

Meera has also developed the bad habit of pulling over Lexie’s food barrel and eating to her heart’s content. We fixed the stealing problem with a heavy-duty bungee cord, so now instead of eating the food she drags the can across the yard and chews on the lid in frustration. (She’s not hungry. We feed her well. She’s just bored.) This morning we had to have a come-to-Jesus meeting about that. And wouldn’t you know that not FIVE MINUTES after I came back inside, I looked out the window and saw her pull the thing over again. We had to have another talk about her attitude. And she KNOWS that’s why I’m mad at her! Because she jumps around all happy to see me and then the closer I walk to the barrel the lower she slinks to the ground. She knows!! People who tell me she doesn’t know what she’s doing and doesn’t know why she’s in trouble are wrong, because she definitely knows that I’m going to be mad about the trash can.

Rosie has also trained Meera to chase the cat from the yard behind us. Meera’s never really had a problem with cats before, but Rosie hates cats and Meera is Rosie’s minion. Generally how it works is that Rosie sees the cat first and sends up the alarm; Meera takes off toward the back fence at rocket speed; Rosie observes from the middle of the yard, where she can help and give directions as necessary; Meera eliminates cat; Meera does victory lap around the yard; Rosie goes triumphantly back to her porch chair and goes back to sleep without having had to do very much work. All hail Queen Rosie.

All the while Lexie is dancing around the perimeter barking encouragements and trying not to get run over by the great gray bullet.

Rosie is too old for rough dog play, and quite frankly is too dainty to play even if she weren’t eight years old. Lexie plays primarily by keep-away, both by taunting Meera to chase her and then running behind furniture and by stealing clothing and keeping it away from its human owner. Meera, on the other hand, wants to tackle and tumble and wrestle and basically roll around in a fur-flying frenzy with anything that moves. So, since her sheltie sisters won’t wrestle with her, she tries her best to play with the goats next door. They are of course separated by a fence, but Meera will run along the fence where the goats are eating and bark at them, puppy butt in the air and tail wagging furiously. The female goats don’t seem to pay her any mind and continue their eating, but Meera and the big billy goat have become strange buddies. The billy will come right up to the fence and allow Meera to stick her head through the gap and smell him right in the face, and he will grunt back at her when she barks. It’s an odd friendship, but they seem to make it work.

Meera went from having a tiny strip of grass that she couldn’t roam without a leash because of the gardeners, to having more than 1/2 an acre of open yard with tons of trees and wood piles to smell and places to dig and birds and cats to chase… and yet her favorite thing to do is climb up on the couch and nap with her legs in the air. Silly dog. I guess you just can’t change the court jester.

Where in the world is…. anything?

Ok. So I have realized something very important since we’ve been home. I don’t know where any of our stuff is!!

When we moved out of our apartment in Martin, we brought an entire U-Haul truck back to Spring Hill and unloaded it into my in-laws’ utility room and outdoor shed. I know those things, logically, are all still there, yet I look at the piles and somehow I don’t see a whole U-Haul’s worth of stuff. (Although I’m sure my in-laws would disagree with that statement, haha.)

For example, the Mister and I have a small amount of winter clothing stored in easily-accessible places because we knew we would be coming back for Christmas breaks and would need warm clothes. However, I know there are things that I own – fuzzy pajama pants, warm tights, a large collection of sweaters – that are nowhere to be found. I remember packing them into a box, but that box seems to have vanished completely. Well, that or it’s buried behind the mountain of other boxes currently living on top of our dining room table in their utility room…. which means I’m in for a major excavation expedition before winter officially arrives.

I also know there are boxes out in the shed full of our things, but I can only think of two boxes that we actually put out there. The others are complete mysteries to me. I know we didn’t put clothing or books or other perishable things out in the shed, but I can’t think of what else we would have owned at the time that could have been moved out there. Moving into our own place will be like Easter and Christmas and a hundred birthdays all at once.

Which brings me to something else I’ve learned in the past week: things disappear when you unpack them. The Mister and I struggled and screamed and cried to fit our lives into five checked bags and four carry-ons to limp back home to the States, but then once I started unpacking and fitting things into drawers and closets….. it’s all gone. Somehow. Somewhere. You would have thought this house was filled to capacity with everything my in-laws’ own as well as most of what we own already in it, but somehow we managed to squirrel away another house’s worth of belongings. It’s like Hermione’s magic bag in Harry Potter 7, and if we squeezed this house like a lemon it would probably squish stuff out of every vent and window for weeks. When the Mister and I finally move all our stuff into our own place and have everything we own all in one house again, this property will probably weigh half of what it does now. I’m just hoping the house doesn’t start sinking into the earth under all this extra weight.

We are incredibly grateful for a place to stay and store our things and a yard for Meera to run in. I don’t have the faintest idea what we would have done without such accommodating family. I just have to figure out where everything is before we freeze to death. Haha! Island tank tops and shorts are definitely not cohesive to the dropping October temperatures (or to my mother-in-law’s house, which is always cold).

In other news, I’m told there are only 11 weeks until Christmas, which means holiday music (not played on steel drums) will arrive soon and I’ve definitely got to get a jump on Christmas presents or I’m never going to make it!

Happy Monday to all.

/the missus

Home again, home again, jiggy jig

Acorns are hitting the roof, leaves are turning red and mornings are foggy and chilled. Yup, we’re sure not in St. Kitts anymore!

Meera didn’t travel well at all – the poor thing vomited all over the inside of her kennel and her blankets on the flight to Miami – but has been in good spirits since we took her out of the kennel in Nashville and seems to be adjusting relatively well. Her biggest problem is that she thinks she’s a person and doesn’t think she should have to be outside all day with the dogs, but that’s just something she’ll have to get used to. The shelties (my in-laws’ two dogs) have accepted her pretty well considering she’s a giant, barking heathen compared to their dainty ways. Rosie has started showing Meera where to patrol and what to smell throughout the day to make sure there aren’t any unauthorized intruders in the yard. Meera does not like the horses across the street or the goats in the next yard, but she loves fallen apples and barking at birds on the feeders. At least that’s something.

The Mister and I have been trying to organize what we need from our luggage and store away the things we won’t need for a while. I’m working on applying to a few different jobs and building up inventory for my hopefully-soon-to-exist online store, and the Mister is meeting with various contacts to talk about his potential employment options. Please continue to keep us in mind in the coming months while we’re looking for jobs and, after that, a more permanent housing solution. We are living with my in-laws for the time being but hope to be back out on our own in the not-too-distant future. (Although now that I’ve started cooking several nights a week I’m not sure my mother in law is going to let us leave. Haha!)

If you’d like to see videos of Meera’s antics in America, my youtube channel can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCz6lS8QUcNQ3TBrULF3e8OQ