The House of Mold

March 8, 2016

“I’ve been sick all winter,” Kody says. He is cleaning out his rental house on the river. His arms and neck are tattooed, and a ring pierces his nose. “I woke up one night, and I looked at the wall, and I pulled off a panel, and there was black mold. More panels, more mold. My lungs are pure mold. So Debbie and Anthony and I are moving out to the country. Anthony and me will have our own room.”

“We are gettin’ a present,” Famer Orville says. “A new pup, a herder just like Reba. I hope Reba don’t teach it to swallow voles whole. And it better not mess with them barn cats.”

These are the conversations I have on my walk. There are other conversations, notably among the birds, as the rush to mate is on. Robin males compete with their shouty trills, and Carolina wrens whistle like their heads are coming off. The cardinals preen, the sparrows do that hoochy-coochy dance, their tails fanned and sweeping the ground.

I wouldn’t mind “mating.” I had a blind date on Sunday. She was partially deaf and crammed into skinny jeans, a look which only flatters high school girls. She doesn’t like the country—ugh! She only reads newspapers—double ugh. She generously allowed me to pay for lunch. I had the chicken stir fry, she went vegetarian and eyed my plate as if a murder had occurred. At least I don’t wear skinny jeans. I wear jeans that could fit two quite comfortably. No mating in the Central West End of St. Louis, to be sure.

Me, I have no color, no preening junk, no cardinal’s red robe. I’m the man in black sometimes blue and New Balance walking shoes. Perhaps I am a house of mold.

Near Admire’s Bench, I see the first butterfly of the season, a checkerspot tumbling as much as flying into a gale west wind. The air smells like rain. Yellow jonquils fill the road ditches. Dandelions are abloom. How did the European settlers come to disparage a native prairie plant that makes great salad and wine, provides brilliant color, and makes me so happy? Ach, dandelions, ve must kill!

Europe is a house of mold. Europe needs a good bleaching.

On the home stretch, I see a line of robins running downhill, slaughtering worms as they go. They chatter like first graders. Thought for the day brought to you by Stag Beer: Robins can sing swan songs, but swans can’t sing robin songs, and mockingbirds can sing all birdsongs in a single breath. Song sung blue, Muddy Waters knows one.

The cat climbs on my lap and sniffs my armpits, the whole aromatic walk trapped in there. She loves a dirty boy—the moldier the better. Which is why I’m writing instead of showering. I’ll shower eventually.

Day after tomorrow for sure.





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