Daniel Menaker


Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Maxwell and I were watching “Marcella” on Amazon Fire last night (well, Maxwell was watching if your definition of “watchng” includes “sleeping”)with Nature outside the Farmhouse quiet except for cicadas and their Philip Gla ss-esque single-note trilling. But then it got much less quiet. Amazingly, I heard this–https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aqClZLE9X5U (wait a few seconds for the loud thing)–before Maxwell did. However loud you played that, in real life, as we refer to the bizarre happenstance of being here, it was, like, ten times louder than that, and it sounded as close as a smoke alarm inside your house. Maxwell registered it a few seconds later and of course started barking his head off. Me not being a rugged outdoorsman–not hiking here and there and always sleeping under covers rather than the stars–and Maxwell not being a rugged outdoorsdog, we both freaked. It kept on going. It sounded much more feline than avian, and at the moment, long before I was able to Google the call, I thought it might be a wildcat (we have them) or a vocally anomalous coyote (we have coyotes).

We devised a plan, the two of us. Well, not really a plan–more like just a thing we would do. We would go outside and frighten whatever it was off. [Anticlimax spoiler alert: we never got so much as a glimpse of this thing, so if you want to stop reading now, I would understand.] Maxwell would usually be champing at the bit–to misappropriate a zoological cliche–to get out there. But not this time. He hesitated when I offered to hitch him up to the leash and held back as we approached the door to the porch. He had stopped barking, so his head was back on and he seemed really spooked. Don’t forget that the eldritch call was continuing, every few seconds.

I turned on the porch lights and the big overhead light that shines down on the lawn and the driveway from the top of the house, and we went outside. The Bengal tiger or whatever it was stopped its awful threats. For a minute. We were about to go back in the house when the cry came again, this time seemingly somehow even closer–just up the hill from the house.

Maxwell found his bark and really let it go. The Thing answered. Maxwell barked–another wild cry. I found myself suddenly shouting, as loud as I could. Max looked up at me. I swear he seemed surprised. I stopped yelling, Max barked. Yell, bark, yell, bark. We were a team! Kind of a first. It was highly unusual for Max, our diffident, independent fellow, to stay so close and act in such a coordinated fashion.

Oh–I forgot. I had also had gotten a big metal collander out of the kitchen and and a big metal spoon and was clanging away among the barks and yells. Whatever this creature was, we were showing HIM, weren’t we? Though he kept up his fearsome call.

We began to move slowly, and I would also say “atavistically,” if it weren’t so bathetic and pretentious, toward the noise. Right near the old apple tree, right at the bottom of the hill behind the house, the caterwauling stopped. And didn’t start again, even when Max and I stopped barking and shouting and clangng.

Victorious, we returned to the house and “Marcella,” with the cicadas trilling away outside. I sat down, and Maxwell (full name William Maxwell) lay down beside me. Before putting his head down to resume his favorite activity, he looked up at me with what you cannot convince me was not camaraderie.

In our yard in Canterbury New Hampshire. Everything is so loud when your trying to be quiet! Loud chickens, dog, whispers and then the freaking door!!
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