Why Everyone Needs a Friend Who Has a Pet Leech

Before I begin, I just have to say, this whole moving to Mars thing has really given me a new perspective. About everything. I can't quite tell if people living in the suburbs are living in an entirely false bubble that will one day pop, allowing the real world to ooze in around, or if I have walked onto the movie set of a flick that I am pretty sure will go straight to reality TV; I can't say just yet. But my eyes are wide open. (Mostly because I need to duck in case of stray bullets from illegal hunting…. No, seriously. Please recall the place down the street where we oft see a guy jump out of his vehicle in full camouflage and a rifle over his shoulder; to which Solomon excitedly exclaimed the first time: "Hey, Look! My Friend!"……"Why is he your friend Solly?"….."Because he has a pewer!"…..I am pretty sure he rolled his three year old eyes at me and murmured "duh" too. So apparently, where we were worried about Liam's potential for someday walking off with some stranger because the entire world is his playmate….no, not THAT kind of playmate, sheesh!….we will have to keep an even closer watch on Solly who apparently has at least two expectations of his friends: Ammo and Camo.)

At any rate, I have made two friends here. And really, they are the same two friends I seem to make everywhere I go before filling in the space in between these two extremes. (Please excuse my overgeneralizing and for those of you who know me, feel free to try and figure out where you fit in.)

The first is a neighbor; an exceedingly smart (majored in math at an Ivy League) stay at home mother of two children, who, from what I can gather, will be my responsible friend; the one who will make me laugh with her dry, witty humor, and who will laugh with/at me (and my folly) yet will also help me clean up the messes. Because she realizes she will be considered an accomplice otherwise. And her good record is so far unblemished. But I love her anyway. And bonus! She has agreed to walk with me once a week because apparently it is very, very lonely out in the country and I will just have to do. (She happens to have the same name as my last friend who fit this role so it has been a VERY easy transition from that standpoint.)

The second friend is like looking into a mirror….if that mirror reflected the me that would have existed if I hadn't married someone who was a little more like friend number one: responsible and somewhat normal. (Yes, I just called Kurt normal. Just roll with it here.)

You see, friend number two is like me outfitted with a hyper-drive (yes, it is possible to be more hyper than I already am…..I am guessing if you gave me some sort of illegal stimulant, and then doused me in caffeine and lit me on fire, then you would come close to the energy level of this friend.) She lives in a little tiny farm house on 100 acres with her three kids. And she has a scrap yard. (With a big metal cow out front.) And drives a dump truck. (Which she has promised to let me drive as soon as the snow melts. Watch out Mars!) And she loves God as if He were her best friend (and perhaps weekend drinking buddy) so I am pretty sure this is my in y'all!

Her house is like a museum of artifacts from the late 70s and early 80s: think Fisher Price as it used to be, with the big red barn, the yellow house that opened in the middle, the airplane, the choking hazard people with which our parents used to knowingly let us tempt fate each and every day. She has every lunchbox, metal and otherwise, that I owned as a child. Some would say she is a wee bit of a hoarder, I call her a brilliant historian and an innovative business woman! (Hey, that junk relocation thing she's got going is a HUGE success in the summer time!)

So we were getting ready to make lunch for the kids the other day (venison that she may or may not have accidentally killed and then processed in her own yard with or without a permit) and mac-n-cheese, when I caught site of a bowl of water on the windowsill.

"That's my pet leech," she said plainly. "I think it is dead though." I looked closer and saw that it was belly up and obviously not showing the least bit of interest in the struggling fly floating on top. Then it occurred to me that leeches probably don't eat flies and that all I really know about leeches I learned from that one memorable scene in Stand By Me. Oh and whatever little bit we learned about ancient medicine in elementary Social Studies, at least, I think we did as I probably wasn't paying much attention.

"Really? You never told me you had a pet leech!" I said, brimming with excitement. "What do you feed him?"

Seeing that I was truly interested, she lively told me all about this particular leech that she "had never seen laying on his back like that" so she was pretty certain he must have died. But she was keeping him a little longer to make sure. Because that's what caring people do, Kurt! Stop judging us!

"I have had this one since September and he has survived on a mix of fish food and turtle food and an occasional slab of raw meat," she said. "I got him out there in our pond." I made a mental note not to go swimming in her pond, but to consider throwing in one of the kids if they ever cross that line…..

"And this, my new friend, is why I TOTALLY LOVE YOU ALREADY!" I said. "Have I told you about how I almost had a pet vole?" After sharing with her my story of woe (thanks to my exceedingly rational husband who doesn't understand the life lessons our kids would benefit from by learning to take care of, um, something more needy than themselves, like voles and leeches, you know, nature) and upon getting to the part where Kurt said I couldn't bring it home, she simply nodded in understanding and then asked, "Did you take it home anyway?" I will have to just stop here and admit that she is no longer married and I can only imagine that perhaps that is the difference in our fates: I, albeit begrudgingly, will walk away from my crazier ideas knowing that some of them may cause irreparable harm to other adult-types in the house….like the time (yesterday) I almost bought a peacock….and it almost gave Kurt a heart attack….

Anyway, after talking leeches she took me on a show and tell adventure where I learned all about her Death Tree, that is, the tree they hang their dead animal finds on during the year, kinda like a really morbid Christmas Tree, if Christmas was all about death instead of birth. (Not the tree you want to happen upon while lost outside on a dark and stormy night, might I add.) You see, you can't just leave the dead critters on the ground because they will rot. By hanging them from the branches of the tree, they will simply dry out and then you can put them in your display case (yes, she has a display case that is, at once, totally awesome and completely incredible….incredible in the way a Southern Belle might describe a gruesome train wreck anyway.) It has one of the most well preserved, taxidermied (which according to my computer should actually say taxidermic but I don't trust my computer because I am pretty sure he is just angry that I allowed Solomon to damage him with a screw driver earlier today….like it is MY FAULT that three year old is a destructive beast who searches out ways to give me headaches every possible waking moment, wait, where was I?) oh yeah, the most incredible taxidermied turtle I have ever seen, a small snake frozen in a stretched out crawling position like it died choking on a candy bar mid-stroll, a jar with three different deer fetuses in various stages of pre-birth doing some sort of sad, shoulda-woulda-coulda dance, almost like the deer version of The Three Graces only grosser and less artsy, various bones, a dried gator head (bought at a flea market because obviously she didn't find THAT in her pond), a really cool Great Blue Heron skull (which you totally can tell exactly what it is when you see it which makes me feel like my mom's persistent and unintentional bird identification lessons really paid off) and so on and so forth.

She is the type of friend that, when it was time to go, sent Liam off with a little bug catcher filled with leaves and a dead wooly caterpillar, because it was only fair that Liam had something to play with since Solly was going home with a broken toy car that had Woody at the steering wheel. You know, dead Woody, dead Wooly, same difference.

And that is why I love my husband so much: because he has made it possible for me to finally have a friend who is as screwy as I am; one who is not afraid to be herself, pet leeches and all.

Thanks sweetheart! (Please remember that moving was your idea, not mine!)


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