I don’t know how much time the neighbors spend watching us – I suspect they spend as little time as possible, given that they have their own lives and all – but if they ever glance over this way, I’m sure they’ve seen a round or two of what I like to call “Pantomiming Idiots.” Since I spend plenty of time at my computer, which looks into the back yard, and Fred spends as much time walking around the back yard/ garden/ shed area, it’s a given that there are going to be times when he wants to communicate with me without having to come all the way to the house.

There are the simple, obvious ones – when he’s ready for a turn around the back forty, he’ll wave ’til he’s got my attention (or sometimes he just stands and stares at me, and I feel the weight of his gaze and look up to see him staring creepily at me), then he uses the index and middle finger of one of his hands and “walks” them across the air.

Last month I was sitting (where else?) in front of my computer when Fred appeared in front of the window. He put an invisible pill in his mouth, and then mimed wiggly things coming out of his butt. Immediately I knew that Newt was in the back yard and needed to be dewormed (we’d dewormed Maxi the day before, but – as usual when something needs to be done to both of them – Newt was nowhere to be found).

There are the ones where he can’t come up with a pantomime, so he just points and mouths words at me. Yesterday he was mowing the lawn* and he had just entered the back yard and cut the wire to the electric fence that keeps the cats in the back yard (three times he’s mowed the lawn in the last month; three times he’s cut the wire, each time in a different spot. Home run!) when he realized something. I was sitting at my computer and glanced up to see him, driving slowly along on the riding lawnmower, waving at me. When I shrugged a “What?” at him, he pointed at a corner of the yard and mouthed something.

“What?” I shrugged.

He pointed and mouthed. I thought that perhaps Maxi or Newt needed out of the back yard, so I put on my boots and went outside. No Maxi or Newt anywhere in sight.

“What?” I shrugged at him.

He waved ever more broadly, pointing at the corner of the yard near the laundry line. I looked and saw no cats. I went over, picked up a piece of what looked like shredded white denim, picked it up, and sniffed it.

It smelled like mushroom.

I turned around and held it up to him, shrugging.

He shook his head and waved and mouthed some more.

I got tickled and grinned, finally giving up. I walked toward him, and he stopped the mower and put it in neutral.

“It’ll get all dusty and grass all over it,” he said.

“What will?”

“Your laundry.” He pointed toward the laundry line.

“Do you think maybe mouthing ‘laundry’ might have worked?” I offered.

“I was SAYING ‘clothes line’ about a hundred times,” he said. “Can’t you lip-read obvious, simple words like that?”

“Oh, go run over the wire again, f**khead,” I said, and went to get my laundry off the line. He responded by riding past the window a few minutes later and giving me the finger.

Now THAT is a signal I understand.

Later, he stood in front of the window. I shrugged a “What?” at him.

He pointed at the side stoop. I nodded. He held a hand in front of his face and tipped his head back.

I pretended not to understand. “Sunscreen?” I mouthed, holding my arm out and rubbing it like I was putting sunscreen on.

He shook his head, and repeated the motion. He mouthed a word at me.

I held up my bottle of water. “Water?” I said.

He shook his head and mouthed the word again.

“Diet Coke?” I suggested, miming opening a can.

He shook his head and held his arms out to either side. “T,” he mouthed clearly.

He made an “e” with his body. He finished up with an “a.”

I nodded my understanding, grinning. “How many Splenda**?” I asked.

He shook his head to indicate he didn’t understand, and I was about to write “SPLENDA, MOTHERF**KER?” on a piece of paper when the light bulb went on over his head.

He held up fingers indicating the number of Splenda packets he wanted, and I went off to get his tea.

He waited at the side stoop for his tea, and when I went outside I said “You do realize that every word you mouth looks exactly the same, don’t you?”

“What does it look like I’m mouthing?” he asked.

“Wuh-whaaa,” I said.

“Wuh-whaaa this,” he said, and gave me the finger.

He handed me his empty cup and went off to hook the mower to the tractor so he could begin mowing the back forty.

“Hey,” I said. He stopped and turned around. He was close enough to hear me, but I believe I’ve mentioned I think he’s going deaf, so I pantomimed drinking a bottle of water. “Can you bring me a case of water?”

He mocked my drinking-water motion. “Yes. I. Can.”

“Thank you,” I said, giving him the finger to get the point across.

* I’m pretty sure the deal was, when we first moved into this house, it was to be my job to get the front, side, and back lawns mowed and Fred would take care of the back forty. However, Fred has some military-base idea of how the lawn should look, and if he determines it’s looking “ratty”, he agitates until it’s mowed. I’m not unwilling to mow the lawn, I just need to do it on my own timetable, and if he decides on, say, Saturday that it needs to be mowed and I have stuff to do and decide to wait until Tuesday to mow it, the very idea of waiting drives him nuts and he mows the lawn himself. Which is FINE by me, I’m not dying to mow the lawn, believe it. He can do it every other day as far as I’m concerned.

** The Firefox spell-checker wants to change “Splenda” to “Splendor” or “Glenda”, among other suggestions. One of these days I’m going to go through an entry before I post it, and follow every one of the spell-checker suggestions.


When not working hard in his position as Bathroom Ambassador (“This is the way to the bathroom! Let me rub upon the wall to show you! Let me walk slowly and stretch and get in your way! And this is the water bowl in the bathroom! Some people like to sit on it, which is funny! Ha! Ha! No, if you need to sit on the water bowl, that’s fine! I’ll just sit right here and watch! Hey, whatcha doing in my water bowl? What… why would you do that in my water bowl? That’s my WATER BOWL!”), Lester J. Spankenstein likes to hang out in his box. Which his Daddy bought just for him. Daddy had to move the boots out of the box, but now it’s just the way he likes it. Bootless and roomy and comfy. He will stay here forever – or at least until his next shift as Bathroom Ambassador begins. Whichever.

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