They Came Out of the Sky

By Greg Fuller

Moving to a new town has a sort of Forrest Gumpian aspect to it. You may have gone there – perhaps many times. You may have even stayed there for a few days off and on – weekend-ed or vacationed. Or if not too far away, day trips. But even though you think you are pretty familiar with the outside packaging, well, you know the line.

I may be jumping in the middle of things here. The introduction I had started to work on is still in progress, sidling into the fact that, after almost twenty-two years overlooking the bay in Sausalito, following nine before that just a couple of miles up the road perched atop a hillside in Mill Valley, I have gone “inland” as they say on the local weather maps. Not really that far mind you – less than an hour’s drive if one can squeeze between the commute and tourist traffic. But in many respects a bit of a world away. Not the least of which is our elevation from somewhere between “Coast” and “Bayside” on those weather maps, the cooler often fog infused climate, to the top row, a more plains-like climate – with temperatures recorded more towards, if not at, the ends of the daily spectrum of numbers displayed over the green screen. Lower lows, higher highs. That, apparently, is our new lot.

But in other ways it is not that different. I had originally envisioned acreage, perhaps expansive views looking out over vineyards and beyond. Large house, outbuildings – a barn or multiple garages? For the car collection to be acquired. Room for a winery or distillery onsite? A separate guest house or in-law for Mom’s remaining years?.

But I’m afraid there is a little, maybe more than a little, Green Acres sturm und drang within us here. Going further from civilization as we thought we knew it, well, that might be an acre too far.

Even supposedly moving to the country, or at least adjacent to it, I can’t seem to get away from the pull of the water. Not in exactly the same form, mind you. Throwing other things (and people I’m afraid) aside, I would go further back to my roots of the Jersey Shore – albeit warmer – and be sitting by the ocean. Probably the Caribbean or somewhere close to that. Jimmy Buffet and a pitcher of rum drinks. But in the process of seeking a career, having gone West young man, I rapidly found out sitting by this ocean is not the place to be. It’s pretty darn cold and plagued by consistent and persistent “marine layer” incursions – as they like to say in Southern California. Or as we call it up here, just plain fog. So when settling, I settled by the bay. Otis would approve. Even when heading for the mountains, which in winter is another sort of water world, albeit a frozen one, we sojourn by the lake. And now here in wine country, where I am supposed to scanning undulating rows of vines, I am instead living on the river, watching rather dramatic tide changes and checking hourly flood stage reports in the shadow of El Nino. But we do have palm trees on the horizon and the neighbors’ yards in a nod to my tropical whimsy. And life has given us lemons – rather large ones in fact – literally falling off the bush in the backyard. So – I am planning to make Limoncello.

Ah – the backyard. That is what this was originally about, even though it’s not particularly evident in my beginning musings. Not really a yard, but an extensive two level patio nicely laid out with paving stones and rimmed in a combination of drought resistant and flowing plants – roses included. I will be using my brown thumb to Google a gardener in short order.

The patio is a perfect venue for sitting on warm afternoons overlooking the river, and laying about just about any time of the day or evening by Max. Sun or shade – Max’s choice. He can sniff about, walk around and check the domain, bark at incoming herons or pesky small neighbor dogs across the channel. He can even wander to the far reaches of the lower level and take care of necessities – if needed. And there is a small lawn to roll in out front. All in all, at least up to this point, the grounds have unfolded as a Maxian paradise.

Until yesterday. I was not home to personally witness the event mind you. After a rainy Monday attempting to move my office a few clicks closer to some sort of order and Tuesday chauffeuring Mom around town for banking errands culminating in a BBQ Bacon Ring Burger at Gott’s Roadside, Wednesday was the day to hit the road immediately after breakfast for another day of cleaning out and sale prep on Mom’s former residence twenty-five miles to the west. But, as the texts from Irene successively popped up enrout on my iPhone (mounted and hands free, of course), it was easy to envision the unfolding scene.

Max was in one of his comfortable reclined positions, head up, serenely but attentively surveying the lagoon and his extended hound-perceived estate. Suddenly he jumped up and started to bark at the north end of the patio. A crow, heron or wayward neighbor’s dog encroaching on his view? Perhaps the local wanderer, at fox terrier plus whatever sort of a mix who pokes his manicured nose through cracks in the gate. Max paced. He whined. He barked skyward, but there was nothing in sight. Attempts to calm him were for naught. Likewise admonitions of overstepping his warning announcements – in danger of bordering on the edges of public nuisance – were to no avail.

But there was a sound. A sort of a whoosh. A pause. Then another whoosh. It was unlike any of the road noise that floats over from Soscol Avenue from time to time, invading our tranquility, but thankfully only in an off in the distance kind of manner. Nor did it resemble the whine of an apparently high powered, well tuned and straight pipe exhausted motorcycle running through the gears with a Mitty-esque hallucination of street racing that periodically resounds, particularly late in the evening.

“oh oh first boogeyman on scene,” read Irene’s text.

In Tahoe, when the snow is wet and melting, great gobs hurtle down from the overhanging firs and land like depth charges on the metal roof. Unlike Casey, who was a hundred pound wimp all of his life, shaking in terror about such things, Max was seemingly unfazed for the first few years, Not anymore. But this was not Tahoe in a snowstorm, it was Napa on a clear and sunny day. What could it be that unsettled him so?

“hot air balloon. Max is BESIDE himself. barking, shaking, whining.”

Ah, the power of visualization. First there is Max, serenely sunning and scanning the lagoon. The loud whooshing sound, coming from the north but with no origin in sight. “What the f***?” or whatever the dog equivalent is goes through his head. “I better get with some preventative barking poste haste, before whatever this is gets out of hand. But again, what the f***?”

Barking not working. Will pacing help? “Time for backup”, Max thinks, starting the 911 whine. What to do, what to do?”

And then, like alien robots in a B movie copy of War of the Worlds emerging , a giant multi-colored sphere comes bit by bit over the horizon, belching flame from it’s belly and apparently already having taken some prisoners, who are trapped in a small cell suspended below the flames, a hundred feet off the ground.

A nightmare if there ever was one, at least from the Max perspective. But just as the offending alien airship had passed over as was heading towards the eastern sun …

“oh God here comes another one.”

After being shocked out of my own serenity by an email report the day before of the horrific bombings in Brussels – and resisting my usual new-hungry instincts only to hide at least until the evening news report in the less jarring Napa Register reports of relocation of the Napa farmers market to our nearby shopping center or the latest culinary triumph by a local chef, I wondered to myself “How will Max weather this new threat? Invaders skyward coming out of nowhere? Great orbs blackening the sun? Horrid noises, fire and captives madly waving towards us or taking selfies in a vain attempt to alert the groundlings to their plight!”

“we will see plenty I am afraid….”

came another text as I was negotiating curves through Sonoma.

And so we will. For you know, when you open that box, well, you just never know what you’re gonna get.

March 24, 2016

© 2016 by Greg Fuller

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