Scritch—scrape, scritch—scrape. I paused, sweating, and stretched my aged spine upwards. It popped loudly. I gave my neck two stiff, sideways jerks, cracking it resoundingly. Upkeep at 99 Pine was a travail for a plump old wife and a Parkinson's ravaged husband.
Gazing up at the church steeple for several reflective moments, I joyously re-lived my fortuitous Hula-Hoe find. I had discovered it two weeks prior, while shopping at the Spare-Time Nursery on San Francisco Street and had nabbed it for thirty-two-bucks. I gulped a cold, February snort of air and resumed my lichen attack.
The Hula-Hoe was, and always has been, my yard tool of choice. A swiveling stirrup-on-a-stick contraption, it had been invented by my Papa Johnston in Ojai, (well, actually Oak View) California in the 1950's. Papa had cleverly named his device after the recently invented Hula-Hoop. I once had one of the prototypes, with which I hacked away until it broke. The shards probably lay hidden somewhere in my garage.
Of course, Papa Johnston was not my real grandfather. He was my mother's preferred stand-in for Thomas Albert Hersey the Third. And no, Papa never patented his inventions, even when begged.
Scritch—scrape, scritch—scrape; my Hula-Hoe vibrated with a hollow, empty tune. Directly over-head hung an intense, yellow sun. Looking south, the windless sky was spooky-dry; not normal. It was bright blue; a purple-blue; a dough-boy-pool blue. Some would have called it earthquake blue. However, turning north, the sky looked a normal brown-aqua, iced with billowy grey clouds. The contrast was creepily eerie.
Suddenly the dirt shifted on its own. The ground jerked east and west, north and south, with snarly, giant groans. Lightning streaked through the sky. Vertigo encased me. A furiously spinning orange-red vortex slashed through the air above the church.
In amazement I beheld a Divine Messenger. Down and down through the swirl he plunged, a great heavenly creature, circling, rodeo-style, on a wildly flaming steed. Was he Gabriel? God? Thor?
"Yea-ah Haaaah," he hollered as he descended and hovered above the steeple. His voice was a booming blast; his whipping hair locks were lashes of flame. Thunder exploded with each buck of the animal he rode. Was it a buffalo? A mighty mammoth? A flaming Thestral? (I have witnessed death first-hand.)
No, not Gabriel, not Jesus. It was Thomas Albert the Third's Great-Grandfather, Daniel Hersey; wild, furious, and tall as a redwood. His eyes were the blue of the south sky. His red hair flamed around his massive head. He spoke, he yelled, he shrieked with a bullhorn blast.
“I AM THE GREAT AND POWERFUL DANIEL!” his words howled over the roaring storm. Then he added in a more polite tone, “I just love Frank Baum, don't you? Would this be a Primitive Methodist Church?" Daniel (1797–1879), had been an ardent Primitive Methodist.
Too stunned for fear and too petrified to think, I rocked for an eternity of two minutes, able only to bob up and down with mute, awed curtsies.
"God-A-Mighty,” I finally managed to cry out in abject fear, and crumbled to my knees. I felt it only respectful to add “Ah, no, it’s just um … a plain ... United ... Methodist Church.”
Daniel was silent for a few seconds, perusing this info. Muttering mainly to himself he mumbled, “Jehovah and I must have a little 'one-on-one'. Looks as if He'd better hurry up that Return of his.”
He turned his attention back to me and indignantly screeched, “THEY’VE UNITED? NEVER!”
With horror, I beheld Daniel's next movements. His long-left arm stretched out. His huge granite fist swung. I feared an Almighty Smite. Then I realized he was merely attempting to pass me a smoking parchment scroll.
"Well, never-mind the Methodists for now,” Daniel said excitedly. “I have come with The Plan! The Plan to build The Three Pyramids of Giza! Right here! In your corner lot!"
I responded with a dubious, fat silence.
Mindful of my humble position, I stood, obediently, with violently shaking hands to relieve Daniel of the scroll. His after-worldly massive paw jolted and sparked. I cowered to avoid the burn. The parchment, a mammoth, billowing streamer, threw me off-balance, lifting me, kite-like, from the ground. With arms a-flail I wrestled the unwieldy roll.
The scroll gave a great, shuddering spasm and erupted into a gigantic, three-dimensional scene. It hovered in the air; filling a space twelve yards across from the picket fence to my wrought-iron cow, and twenty feet from the moldy lichen up beyond the top of the electrical wires.
In wide-eyed amazement I beheld The Plan: it was indeed a magnificent design to construct The Three Pyramids of Giza right there; right in my scrubby corner lot. Without warning, a torrential hot wind re-invigorated the swirling maelstrom. My head reeled, a-buzz in an ecstatic vertigo of gestalt and comprehension. I fell again to my knees, arms outstretched against the squall, as if to touch the phantasm.
With three enormous whips, Daniel conjured a blazing parting lasso. Pulling at the tether of his beastly ride, and with a ground shaking "Yea-ah-haaah", he prepared for Ascension.
"Wait, wait! How do I do this?" I yelled, pleading to Daniel through the whirlwind and thunder.
"Oh yes, I almost forgot,” he said coyly, and tossed me a walnut-sized granite chip.
“You have The Plan. Here is your pebble. YOU GO GIRL!!!"
In an explosion he was gone.
Yah. Yard work. That’s how I feel tackling my scrubby corner lot with a Hula-Hoe.