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THE OWL AND THE FICUS
While we were living in the house on Caswell, Craig and I visited Katie together, too. We had Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners with her more than once. I would roast the turkey and Craig would carry it across the street. Katie would supply the side dishes and set the table in the kitchen.
Craig and Katie would talk afterwards while I cleaned up. They’d offer to help, but I wouldn’t let them. I liked to listen to them, and I liked putting things away and looking through the cabinets in Katie’s little kitchen.
We watched football when Bum Phillips coached the Oilers and the rivalry with Pittsburgh was fierce. Katie liked Earl Campbell and Dan Pastorini and Bum. We were Steeler fans. She liked Tom Landry and Roger Staubach, too, but we all boo-ed the Cowboys. Sometimes we watched Monday Night Football. Katie had a soft spot for Dandy Don, but none of us could stand Howard Cosell.
We watched elections, too. We saw Jimmy Carter voted in at Katie’s house in 1976, and we saw him voted out in 1980.
We took her places now and then, too. We took her to a couple of movies: Raiders of the Lost Ark and of all things Blazing Saddles. You may think these were strange choices of movies to take an old lady to, and maybe they were, but she enjoyed them both hugely, so I guess we knew what we were doing.
We took her to a hotel on North Lamar to see a belly-dancer who performed at happy hour, and she liked that, too. It was her idea to go to Fredericksburg to see the wildflowers one spring, and it was her idea to sit down in a field of bluebonnets and have her picture taken.
Sometimes we’d go a few weeks with just maybe a wave across the lawn and a holler. Then Craig would go to South Texas for a few days, and Katie and I would sit on the back porch and drink wine and talk.
Katie liked to tell me I was as beautiful as a movie star, like Jean Harlow, she suggested, only prettier. I told her she was crazy.
“Yes, you are, too,” she would say, and I would wave her off.
We would talk about the state of the world and about animals. Katie thought the way things were going, someday there wouldn’t even be any squirrels left.
She found the body of a little screech owl.
“What killed him?” I wondered.
“I don’t know. Old age, I guess.”
We sat for a moment in sorrowful silence over the little owl’s death.
Finally I said, “What did you do with him?”
She said, “Threw him in the trash.” Then she cackled long and loud. We both did.
“I got a ficus,” I once told her smugly.
“What is a ficus?”
“It’s a plant. You don’t know what a ficus is?”
“No, I don’t know what a ficus is. What kind of a plant?”
“It’s a kind of fig.”
“Does it have fruit?”
“Does it have flowers?”
“What is it like?”
“Well,” I floundered. “It’s a plant...”
“How big is it?”
“About this big...”
“What color are the leaves?”
She said it with me: “Green.” And again she cackled long and loud.
Once she said something about wondering why young people (I was not the only one) would come to visit an old lady like her.
I said, “You don’t know how much fun you are.”
That pleased her.