Jim and I like to entertain, so when he volunteered to have the Volvo club over for burgers and hot dogs this past summer, I said no problem. Any chance to enjoy good food with good friends is always a pleasure. Perfect time as well to show off the garden (me) or the cars (him).
It was a merry crowd that happened on us that day. People brought the side dishes while Jim cooked up a storm on the grill. Men and grills are something to watch. Not sure what it is, but they sure pair well together. Anyway, we put Tucker in the side yard because he is so big and gets so excited we are afraid he will knock someone over. We let our 10 year old Corgi Sophie hang out, and because he was new to the brood, we let Merlin hang with us as well. It was his first real party.
I was busy in the kitchen making a nice big fresh salad loaded with greens, cucumbers, carrots and onions. I planned on tomatoes too. I bought them earlier that day and put them on the counter – big beautiful rich red cherry tomatoes that I intended to throw in the salad bowl at the final moment.
A group of us started to lay out the sumptious potluck spread. Merlin and Sophie, sitting eagerly by the kitchen, looked up spellbound by our antics. We humans laughed, shared the wine, talked up a storm, as we focused on our task. At some point, I turned to get those tomatoes, only to discover they were gone. Who took the tomatoes? I ask. Not me. Someone replies. Others shrug their shoulders and look at me like they have no idea what tomatoes I am referring to. Did anyone see where the tomatoes went? I ask once more. Again, blank stares. Maybe it’s the glass of wine I had, but something was amiss and I sure hoped it wasn’t me.
I looked in the fridge but the tomatoes weren’t there. I began to question myself, like I seem to do all the time the older I get. Did I really buy those tomatoes or was it just an imaginary thought? Okay, maybe I dreamt it. Or, perhaps it was a memory from the past – another salad, another party, another time. God help me. I finally gave up and served up the salad without the tomatoes, deciding my confusion wasn’t worth the fret.
It would be another two days before I found them. There they were, on the hill, among the ice plant. The basket of beauties still in tact. Waiting for me to discover them. Merlin!
That’s right. I knew it was the little sneak. Tucker was getting too old to scale the counters despite his size and Sophie was way too short. It had to be Merlin, the most agile basset hound I have ever met who can contort his body in any number of ways to get exactly what he wants. Never mind the innocent brown eyes and how he leans his body backwards with such loving abandon, like he were some kind of yoga master. He’s a thief, I say. Thanks to Merlin, on any given day, I can go up to the garden to find Jim’s hats or an empty can of tuna or dog food or a t-shirt among the roses, beneath the crape myrtle, behind the Adirondack chair.
The other day Merlin grabbed a bag of lily bulbs from my hand and proceeded to run all over the yard with it. Merlin! No! I yell. I might as well get a recorder so often I repeat those words. Merlin laid the bag down but as I inched closer he would pick it up and run to another terrace before he laid the bag down again. He sat quietly, watching me, watching the bulbs, watching me again, waiting for his moment to take off once more. He was having way too much fun.
I refused to give in. I chased the little bugger all over the yard. He had my lily bulbs and I wouldn’t have it. I was in control, right? Finally, after several more runs, Merlin relented and laid down the lily bulbs, tired maybe, bored perhaps. I picked them up quickly, letting out a chuckle, convinced I had the upper hand. Merlin looked at me, turned, peed on a plant and walked away. He couldn’t care less. The boy had me doubt myself, question my memory, run after him like a raving lunatic and for some insane reason I thought I was the boss? What a joke.