A MR. MOSQUITO RID sign has appeared in my neighbor’s property. “I’ve reclaimed my garden!” she said one gorgeous afternoon last week as we sat over coffee in her cigarette-musty living room. She’s rarely out there in the garden, though she hires a guy to come by and mow the lawn, and occasionally a team of inepts materializes to thwack back the wisteria.
Last week I caught a glimpse of Mr. Mosquito (not his real name, we don’t need to be sued), in full hazmat suit, eyes obscured behind the tiny window in his hood, sweeping his toxic wand over the azaleas and honeysuckle.
Not at all, by the way, as he is caricatured on his sign; like Fabio of the Flies, all flashing teeth and brawny forearms, manfully ridding the garden of blood-sucking pests.
The neighbor pays $400 or so for the season, and we appear to be receiving a residual benefit; our back porch, a good hundred yards from her garden, has been curiously mosquito-free since the spraying started. Let’s see what else drops dead.
I’m wondering if the spraying has anything to do with the departure of the birds that began to build their usual nest in the chandelier on the porch. They apparently have slightly tacky taste, as do I.
Each year they arrive, swooping in with their twigs and cellophane wrappers and shreds of paper and build as I sit on the sofa beneath them with my newspaper. In short order there are eggs, and mama and papa bird appear to take turns sitting, unless they’re lesbian birds. I know nothing about the distribution of labor among male and female birds. Nor do I know what kind of birds they are. I suspect, doves?
This goes on for weeks, with whichever bird is tending the nest getting more ruffled at my presence as the day of hatching approaches, scrawing when I appear. And I twit back, If you don’t care for company, why the hell do you build here?
It is queer, isn’t it?
When the birds hatch, watching them grow is a lovely activity. Last year there were two, one feisty and brave, the other a little chicken shit. The brave one flew first, perching on the edge of the nest and giving his wings a few pumps up and down before gliding four or so feet to a ceiling-fan blade (no, it was not on), cawing at his sibling to join him, which wasn’t happening. He sat for a bit, then with more confidence flapped back to the nest.
The next morning he coaxed his timid brother (or sister, or maybe he was the sister, who knows) to join him on the fan blade and his poor sibling remained there, seemingly traumatized by the effort, for most of the day.
And then they were gone, and I was pulling out the nest and washing bird dreck off the chandelier’s crystals and beads.
This year a nest was begun, then abandoned. Coincidence, Mr. Mosquito Rid? I think not.
Next week Gardener Cavanaugh turns to her indoor environment. And we meet The Prince a/k/a her husband. Stephanie is currently working on a book about urban gardening.