Dear neighbor Eloise, self-quarantined with her two cats and separated from her beloved Beauregard, writes to him (almost) daily to keep him abreast of the news from home.
She has agreed to share her dispatches here.

WEEK ONE

 

Day 1, March 14—

 

Dear Beauregard,

 

My soul is sore conflicted. The Orange One continues to dolefully read words telling us there is no danger from the viral asteroid that is hitting our planet in slow motion; however, dear neighbors have been observed snatching packages of tissue (meant for purposes not plainly referred to by one so delicate as I) out of the hands of the elderly—those our beloved government now defines as citizens who have passed more than sixty years in our Lord’s gracious world, even as official dictati and other vaguely Latin-sounding words say no one shall access a national pension until having attended their four full-time minimum wage jobs until age ninety-seven.

I continue to defend the battlement of our home with the protection of bottle rockets and cats as I anxiously await your return.

 

Please bring toilet paper.

 

As always,

Your loving Eloise

 

 

Day 2—

 

My dear Beauregard,

 

As is often the case in times of crisis, I fear that punctuation most quickly is becoming the face of casualty. Gravity seems to have become capricious, with unnecessary apostrophes (tragically at times labeled “apostrophe’s”) becoming unnecessary commas and vice versa, making your “you’re” into “your” and, quixotically, “its” becoming “it’s.” Capital letters have become UBIQUITOUS, and exclamation points are flying off keyboards nearly as quickly as hand sanitizer is disappearing from store shelves!!!!!!!!

 

I pray, my beloved, that you are well, or—at the very least—are surviving our separation with a healthy semi-colon.

 

The cats and I endure, but we beseech the heavens to hie thee home as swiftly as possible. And, as always,

 

please bring toilet paper.

 

Your loving Eloise

 

Day 3—

 

My dearest Beauregard,

 

The nights are growing shorter, the days long. I spied my first cardinal today—at least, my first since the season of baseball was canceled/postponed. His cheery red feathers were a delightful sight in stark relief against the begrimed snowbanks that are receding to reveal mountains of canine fecal matter left on our lawn by those neighbors to the west who continue to earn the moniker you bestowed upon them in what nearly seems like a former life. Yes, my beloved, “The DogShit People” continue to be a thorn in our side yard.

 

Another sure sign of spring—that dreadful woodpecker has returned to drill away at our humble abode with his face-sword. Today I flung a cat at him and, while this action did not deter the rascal in the least, I was able to pass the next few lonely hours bandaging the scratches upon my arms and countenance. Such is life. I prithee return soon and, as always,

 

please bring toilet paper.

 

Your loving Eloise

 

 

Day 4—

 

My Beauregard,

 

I write this missive with a heavy heart and trembling fingers—fingers I fear I soon may lose. Today, after an unsuccessful attempt to engage the cats in a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors and then spending hours pondering the question “Who put the ram in the rama lama ding dong?” without reaching a satisfactory conclusion, I happened upon a stack of quizzes I had collected over the years from magazines in medical offices and hair salons—tests I now had enough free time to complete.

 

Even though the global plague has (so far) passed by our door, my brow now furrows with concern that my tenuous health may take me from this world before you return, in which case I would not only be dead, but sad.

 

There is no way to break this to you gently, so please brace yourself before reading on. It seems I unknowingly have been suffering from halitosis, alopecia, ambidexterity, gangrene, gingivitis, melanoma, and gout. And I fare even worse in the psychological realm. Apparently, my infirmities include superstition, Tourette’s syndrome, low self-esteem, delusions of grandeur, addiction to various comestibles and celebrity gossip, frigidity, nymphomania, and something called OCD (which really should be referred to more tidily, in alphabetical order, as CDO).

 

Most heartbreaking of all, my love, it appears I have testicular cancer.

 

Hurry, hurry home. And, as always,

 

please bring toilet paper.

 

Your loving Eloise

 

 

Day 5—

 

My dearest Beauregard,

 

The cats awakened me in the pre-dawn this morning singing the song of their people, and it has been thus an excruciatingly long day of missing you.

 

I am hungry to gaze upon your visage, hungry also to feel your hand in mine that we may thumb wrestle once again. Overarchingly, I find myself simply hungry. I was convinced I had purchased sufficient Small Deborah snack cakes to last into the next century, but somehow they are all gone. Vanished! I visited the pantry at the usual foraging hour of two into the new day, and the only thing on the snack cake shelf was an empty, crinkly wrapper greatly reminiscent of your Grandmother Walker in her later years. I suspect the cats of gluttony, but—after being so vocal in the earliest part of the day—they remain tightlipped and somewhat disdainful when I ask. I suppose I shall move on to snackage of slightly less desirability. Just another necessary sacrifice, I tell myself.

 

I pray you are finding ample nourishment and a swift journey home. And, as always,

 

please bring toilet paper.

 

Your loving Eloise

 

 

 

Day 6—

 

Beloved Beauregard,

 

The sun was shining brightly today, and I ventured outdoors for a constitutional. I am not completely clear on the rules of this new existence and had not heretofore practiced the art of social distancing, so I was forced to extemporize. Unable to locate our canister of hot jiminy pepper vapor, I sallied forth with a fire extinguisher and the bear whistle from your old camping gear.

 

I must say, both worked exceedingly well. The whistle seemed to convince the younger set to flee before they could achieve an unhealthy proximity, and the elders not deterred by that shrill clamor were duly convinced to keep their space after receiving a face full of foam. I walked the distance of several hectares and not once was in fear of being infected.

 

Would you not know, when I returned home and was unbundling, I spied the canister of pepper vapor on the shelf in the foyer hat cupboard. Silly me! I hung it from its chain on the coat tree next to the front entry so I could avail myself of it before my next excursion.

 

And so it was easily at hand when a forceful—nay, angry—knock came and then persisted on the portal to our abode. When structural damage seemed imminent, I snatched the vapor canister, opened the door, and fired a steady stream for five full seconds.

 

One might suppose that an officer of the law would be understanding of a distaff citizen’s fear for her wellbeing and safety, but I learned it is possible one could be terribly wrong in this assumption.

 

I do hope the authorities will release me tomorrow, as the cats will be hungry and confused. In closing, my love, I must report the one bright spot in these proceedings—the appearance of a Small Deborah snack cake on the tray of swill provided for my evening repast. Do hurry home, dear. And, as always,

 

please bring toilet paper,

Your loving Eloise

 

 

 

Day 7—

 

My dear Beauregard,

 

The authorities released me at dawn and I hurried home to nap, as sleep mostly eluded me amidst the din of snoring and harmonica music that polluted the fetid air of what I learned is referred to colloquially as ‘the joint.’

 

Upon reaching the milestone of one week in relative isolation (if I disregard the exception of this past night, and disregard it I shall!), I find my wandering thoughts seizing upon the existential and philosophical questions of the ages. I have barely stirred today from the nest of Sir Fig Newton wrappers in our bed as I ponder secrets of the universe.

Do I know the way to San Jose? I know of no simple way to verify that knowledge. Does anybody really know what time it is? This seems somewhat quantifiable, and yet I am at a loss to aver a personal position on the matter. And where is the party at? These are only a few of the mysteries that have left me daunted this day.

 

The oddest thing happened, beloved. I did not know that the timepiece you purchased at Nöel for my nightstand had the capability of emanating music, but indeed it does. And apparently, one of the cats walked across it in the early morning hours today and somehow initiated this function. When first I awoke, I feared I was deceased! But after only a few seconds, I realized it was unlikely angels in heaven would engage their harps in a rendition of some boisterous etude that asked repeatedly who was responsible for having let the dogs out.

 

I have no inkling what music I may have slept through, if any, before that rousing chorus.

 

But the shadows grow long once again. I suppose there would be no advantage to changing out of my nightgown now. Soon I shall sleep, perchance to dream of you, my prince, and I can only hope to learn soon it is you who knows what love does got to do with it.

 

Hasten your return as quickly as you can safely do so. And, as always,

 

please bring toilet paper.

 

Your loving Eloise

WEEK TWO

 

Day 8—

 

My dear Beauregard,

 

I have never understood the meaning of the phrase ‘cabin fever.’ As you know, the closest I have ever come to one of those wretched structures was running full scream from the room when you asked me to gaze upon the photograph of one in a magazine. But I now suspect the phrase might have little to do with that architectural abomination or a physical illness so much as feeling stir-crazy—although, now that I think of that, I wonder what someone first stirred that made him lose his sanity, and why enough people followed suit to make that a nom de catchelett, as the French may have said at least once.

 

I find my hands with far too much time on them. Today, I actually followed Cassius down to the basement instead of standing at the top of the stairs shrieking the naughty kitty’s name until he reappeared. You know, my beloved, how long that can take.

 

Do not fear for my safety. I armed myself with a broom, swinging it side to side, high and low, to scare away any creepy-crawlies and their nests, or webs, or cabins—whatever horrible things they build. I broke several lighting fixtures, but those will be easy enough for you to repair when you return.

 

What an odd little room, this area in the basement that must be what your Aunt Canasta called her “root cellar!” Imagine my surprise, after occupying her house for the full five years passed since the porcine stampede that took her life, to find rows upon rows of conserved food in glass jars.

 

I brought up an armload, and I am almost afraid to make sound with my pen dragging across paper lest the neighbors hear and intuit I am hoarding precious and special food.

 

Peaches! My darling, peaches! Beautiful orange-hued halves, with a little ribcage of red in the center of each, suspended in sweet elixir. I confess, I opened the first jar and devoured its entire contents like a starving cormorant and made to open a second before catching myself. “You have not even undertaken the composition of your daily dispatch to Beauregard!” I said. “Whatever will he think if a day passes without word?”

 

To report in full, the first few bites possessed a certain ‘whang’ in flavor but, as I had never consumed peasant-preserved fruit, I assume that is to be expected. The rest went down so early. I mean fastly. I easy. Of sudden, fingers feel like nose. Remember when we with Aunt Canasta  a mighty wind expelled her backside with such it blew her skirt out? She swatted dog and said. What was? A miniman collier. I mean shitz-you. Hahaha! No. Name was… some odd. I wanted say Sammy Hagar, but that can’t. Look. Now Cassius is stop! Sotp thet. I dan’t

 

Tired. You soon. Bring.

 

E

Day 9—

 

My dearest Beauregard,

 

Such a day of hope and disappointment! Happiness and despair! Hoi and polloi!

 

I am resigned that I may be forced, at some point, to find an alternative to the preferred tissue for powdering one’s po-po, but yesterday it struck me that the cats may not be so accommodating should I run out of the simple, basic clumping sealable no-fragrance multi-cat pebbles I put in their feline waste receptacle. Aye, I do believe Bruté has been eyeing your finest footwear, lined up inside the back portal like soldiers toppled by artillery, just the way you left them.  

 

But as first I began to despair, what should I hear but the bell and the voice of the town crier, drawing closer to our abode? It seems the management of the local A & Ellemenopea provisions market has offered to set aside one hour in the early a.m. exclusively for the elderly to procure necessities and to need not mingle with the common plague-carrying hordes and, I suppose, that one Sullivan boy.

 

As quickly as my hopes were raised, however, they were dashed. Even if I did qualify for the ridiculously low limit of years our beloved government has set as the qualification for “elderly,” I would not want to shock any of the neighbors, most of whom (so I have been told) think I am probably around thirty-eight, tops.

 

I hit upon an idea. Under cover of darkness and a moonless sky, I crept out of our abode dressed in my blackest pantalons, blouson, and headscarf. I know there is a loose ventilation grate at the back of the A & Ellemenopea building, ten feet off the ground, never mind how.

 

I stacked empty wooden crates until I was able to step up onto the metal trash receptacle and remove that grate with my pink power screwdriver. I hoisted myself up, and all was according to plan until my pantalons caught on a nail and, of a sudden, I felt a cool southerly breeze. I huffed and heaved but managed only to wedge myself at the middle, unable to pull myself in or out.

 

Before I could manage a prayer to St. Dick, patron saint of Bad Ideas, I felt a warmth on my backside that could only be light from a high-beam lantern. At that moment, I was overwhelmed by a sense of relief that I had donned my Hello Kitty bloomers that day, as they are not only stylish, but somewhat opaque.

 

A saw was found, the building’s aperture was enlarged, and I slipped backward straight into the arms of the same constable who had come to our door three days ago. He dropped me like a hot tuber, muttered about something “not worth it” (I suppose he meant exposing me yet again to the germ-filled environs of ‘the joint,’), and told me to scamper home. Something was said of ‘community service,’ but I am sure you can take care of that upon your return, which I hope will be soon.

 

Please bring kitty litter.

 

Your loving Eloise

Day 10—

 

Beloved Beauregard,

 

Sacrifice and duty. Those are the thoughts that have crowded out all others today as this forced separation drags on. I must accept the fact that no matter how many times I stamp my foot, it will not hasten your return. Also, my bunions are revolting.

 

I try to console—nay, bolster—myself with family lore of the sacrifices endured by those who came before. My dear mother oft recounted the disdainful mien of shopgirls on Fifth Avenue in employ of the Saks dynasty, regarding her with one raised eyebrow that diminished her self-esteem when she dared asked for assistance. Your Grandfather Walker unspooled stories of educating himself to make his own “hooch,” I believe he called it, during the days following the passage of the 18th amendment to our beloved national Constitution. Did he not develop a proprietary recipe with peaches as the main ingredient? I do not recall. But I do remember your Grandmother McCoy, dried as a corn husk and shriveled nearly to the size of one, shouting (as she did once her hearing took leave) about feeding your father and his thirteen siblings with what game she could procure with her bolt-action musket. Watermelons. Acorns. Squirrels, a meat she convinced her offspring was merely “chicken of the tree.”

 

I have tried, my love, to tell the cats these stories in order to impress upon them the need to make do with what we have, but they distress me with their disinterest. As I spoke to them this morning, each lifted one leg, pointing toward the sky in unison like members of a ballet corps, and they proceeded to clean themselves in an area that decency would mandate stay private. 

 

This afternoon, I caught Cassius eyeing me with a lean and hungry look, and Bruté looked as though he wouldst stab me in the back if not for his lack of an opposable thumb. I shall sleep with one eye open until your return, which prithee will be soon. As always,

 

please bring toilet paper.

 

Your loving Eloise

Day 11—

 

My beloved Beauregard,

 

Assuredly, you remember recounting tales of your youth, when James Butler and Jim Butler, no relation, lived next door to your Aunt Canasta and directly across the street, respectively. Your voice trembled as you spoke of those men and their hatred toward one another… how mischief turned to aggravated mischief and then into felony arson and grand theft buggy.

 

Those accounts were horrifying then but are even more so now that we inhabit your late aunt’s home. The most outrage I have witnessed in this neighborhood is the aftermath of two bringing the same Jell-O salad to the church basement luncheon when, apparently, everyone had been given strict instructions.

 

You are aware that James moved back into his family home next door when his mother went to live at Sundown Days, and that Jim’s mother still occupies her house across the street. Oh, but what has transpired since your absence!

Sundown Days has been ‘locked down’ due to the plague and, rather than leave his mother there in isolation, James has brought her home. Across the street, Jim has returned to the house of his childhood. Both men declare their actions came with the intent of caring for their aged mothers, but I have my doubts and so do the cats now I have told them the entire story and given them time to consider it.

 

Last evening, just before dusk, a terrible racket brought me out to the veranda. There was James Butler next door, and Jim Butler across the street, each using his mother in a wheelchair as a living shield as insults were hurled like arrows. “Mom, he’s looking at me! Make him stop!” James shouted.

 

“Mom, he started it!” Jim bellowed back.

 

Then each man let go his mother’s chair in order to shake his fists and point to the other, and both mothers started rolling down the steep decline of their front lawns and onto the avenue. A refuse-gathering truck rumbled down the block toward them.

 

Despite the fact that I was not wearing lipstick, I ran into the street, stiff-armed the two chairs to a halt while they were still a safe distance of six feet apart and shrieked “STOP!” to the driver of the truck, who then did so with barely six safe feet to spare. The transport’s operator then dismounted the iron steed and, unbelievably, was revealed to be not only a woman, but one who declared herself a third mother grateful for my bravery!

 

And then, my love, a muffled “huzzah!” could be heard coming from behind the shuttered windows of houses nearby. I pray it is not immodest to tell you that for one golden moment, I was a hero in our region of nextdoor.com.

 

Of course, I hope that anyone in my unique position would have saved those mothers and saved that mother trucker as well.

 

Prithee soon you will return and we shall rejoice together. The cats insist on pretending they are unimpressed. As always,

 

please bring toilet paper.

 

Your loving Eloise

Day 12—

 

My hand trembles as I write. Today I heard—from the kitchen, near the back of our abode—the town crier approaching. From that distance, through numerous walls and past the sound of the cats’ daily performance of the opera She Loves Me More, it sounded as though he was shouting, “The authorities say we should die!” over and over.

 

But that cannot be, I thought. I ran to the veranda, leaving the front portal to bang against the wall behind it.

 

The crier, instead, seemed to be shouting, “The authorities say we should buy!” again and again.

 

I am still not certain which I heard.

 

I must take a day or so to gather myself, beloved. Be well. I shall be restored to my usual good spirits soon, most assuredly. Return to me when, and only when, it is safe to do so.

 

Your loving Eloise

Days 13 and 14 were days of much-needed mental rest for Eloise.

WEEK THREE

Day 15—

 

Dearest Beauregard,

 

Please forgive my silence of the last two days. The town crier kept me awake consecutive nights with naught but the echo of his pronouncements in my ears. But after some time in a darkened room with a cool cloth acrost my brow, I am vertical again, newly determined to face this plague and, in what I believe is correct usage of the lexicon of the young, “go all medieval on its ass.”

 

One thing I learned during my brief forays to the kitchen to feed the cats, who seem wholly adaptable when it comes to spending days in a darkened room but incredibly inflexible when they deem it time to open a can of Friskies, was that the elixir in your Aunt Canasta’s jars of preserved peaches is a pleasantly effective tonic for the nerves when sipped in moderation.

 

As I write this, beloved, I hear through a window the rumble of a new unrest between the Butler boys, James and Jim, neither of whom seems to have learned one blessed thing from the near-death of his mother. James, the one nearest and therefore loudest, hast fired the first volley with “Yo mama so fat, when she sits around the house, she SITS AROUND THE HOUSE.”

 

I shall end this note with wishes for your good health and safe return. Then I shall pour myself a healthy dram of peach elixir, take my glass and a handful of bottle rockets, and repair to the rocking chair on the veranda.

 

I expect, after a brief kerfuffle, an evening of calm in the neighborhood. Be well, return soon, and as always,

 

please bring toilet paper.

 

Your loving Eloise

Day 16—

 

Beloved Beauregard,

 

This morning I awoke to snow! SNOW! I should hasten to add it was out of doors and not inside our humble abode, but still! It is as though our Creator hast lost his calendar. Perhaps the citizenry should draw lots, so that some pray for an end to the plague and some for clement weather, that at the least we may feel the sun on our faces when we stick our heads out the window to see what is causing a racket now.

 

Shelter we must, but surely our God does not wish for us to turn into the mole-like creatures portrayed in that frightening kinescope production we attended last year in the hope of being entertained. Remember? The denizens did nothing but stay indoors, growing more pale by the minute, their muscles atrophying until they were forced to slink upon the floor like slugs in order to reach the kitchen and the various screens they stared at through all waking hours. What were they called? Oh, yes. People.

 

Wherever this may find you, love—as the dispatch messenger assures me still that you are receiving these at a location known only to him and his ilk for reasons that make sense to me at the time he is explaining—I do hope you are in a favoured land where the sun is shining bright. I pray that bands are playing (with a safe distance of six feet between musicians), and that your heart, my dear, is light. I hope that men are laughing and that children quietly shout, for there is no joy in Snowville, darling;  it is too cold to go out.

 

Please come home when you can do so safely and, as always,

 

please bring toilet paper.

 

Your loving Eloise

Day 17—

 

Beloved Beauregard,

 

I confess to being a bit wistful today. As your favorite flautist Lizzo says, “That’s the human in me.”

 

I am well, love, but the plague draws closer and touches nearly every facet of life—and death. One of our dear friends lost her mother last week for reasons that have nothing to do with the plague—and yet because of it, she was unable to orchestrate a gathering for a proper memorial. Such are the long tentacles of this pestilence.

 

I am sure you remember the task of painting our dining room that I have been far too busy to get to any day in the five years we have lived in this abode. Today, I found my hands with time on them. In the shed on the back forty, I found the can of pale taupe paint we chose (or rather, I chose knowing that you would agree as you always do, and you did because you never, ever disappoint me), but I also uncovered a small can of cherry red paint that must have been purchased during your Aunt Canasta’s tenure here. Without really knowing why, I brought that paint into the abode as well.

 

It had never been opened and required a good stirring once it was. Without forethought, almost as if guided, I took up my favorite paintbrush and painted a heart on the dining room wall. Then I painted another beneath that. And a third under that.

 

I stood back and regarded this strange artwork and thought of our friend’s mother, and all the people I do not know but still love, and you. Then I opened the pale taupe paint and painted a stripe down the wall that covered the hearts. I do not need to see them to know they are there.

 

I put away my painting accoutrements for the day and left the rest of the room white. Without doubt, there will be need for many more hearts before this is all over.

 

But darling, after yesterday’s abominable snowfall, this day the sun is out and hinting of springtime! I shall venture out for a constitutional now, carrying my six-foot distancing pole for protection. The local constable confiscated my canister of hot jiminy pepper vapor after that one unfortunate incident, and a replacement is not to be handily found.

 

I am confident the fresh air and warmth upon my face will restore the sunshine that usually resides within me. Do be well, dear heart, and, as always,

 

please bring toilet paper.

 

Your loving Eloise

Day 18—

 

My dear Beauregard,

 

The oddest thing happened today. (I know I repeat that phrase in these missives, but the well of oddities appears to run extremely deep these days.) I heard the bell of the town crier and ran to a window to better hear as he drew near.
 

But even as I recognized this voice was not that of our trustworthy crier but some pretender, his words became clear and I understood he was pronouncing all manner of tomfoolery. First, he declared the end of the plague and exhorted, “Everybody in the pool!” When no one appeared, he implored everyone to admire his hat, which appeared to be fashioned from something shiny and metallic. Then, apropos of nothing, he screamed something about George Washington. It sounded like “dude looked like a lady.”

 

It was clear he had taken leave of his senses and they of him. Of a sudden, from somewhere in the general direction of the Sweeneys’ back acreage, an insect the size of a small radar range oven swooped into view, paused above his head, and BOOM! There wast a mighty explosion. T’was such a surprise, I nearly lost full control of my feminine decorum, if you know what I mean and I think that you do.

 

When the dust settled, the faux crier had vanished! The only remainders of his existence were one shoe, still in the center of the street, and a few white feathers floating down to the ground in a lazy dance.

 

I have not heard of the plague creating mutant flying terrors, but nothing truly surprises me at this point.

 

All has been quiet for the rest of the afternoon. The cats, I suppose, will come down from the ceiling in their own good time.

 

Please come home when you can do so safely. And, as always,

 

please bring toilet paper.

 

Your loving Eloise

Day 19—

 

My dearest Beauregard,

 

Once again today the sun was shining brightly, and I felt obligated to undertake another constitutional. I do hope it rains soon, as I fear I am developing muscles in my legs.

 

Now that the plague is keeping all but our brave essential workers at home, all sorts of wonderful and/or strange sights can be seen as people flee the close quarters they share with family members every possible second they can.

 

Today I saw a little girl teaching her father how to jump rope, which was adorable—although I do wish he had taken her advice and donned a bicycle helmet before undertaking the lesson. By the creek, a mother was teaching her two young sons how to fish—or rather how to remove a fishhook from her hair, monofilament line from tree branches, and worms from the baby’s grasp after taking her eyes off him for 2.3 nanoseconds.

 

I walked past our country club—shuttered—and the golf course that has brought you so many hours of frustrating leisure—gated. Nary a soul dotted the perfect green landscape but for a man near the 16th hole who was availing himself of the ball washer. It struck me as unseemly, but I know not his circumstances and so merely averted my eyes and continued home.

 

As I hope you will do, beloved, as soon as it is safe. And, as always,

 

please bring toilet paper.

 

Your loving Eloise

Day 20—

Darling Beauregard,

 

I know not if the Teddy Bear Project is being ballyhooed in your sequestery; in case you are not familiar, many of the citizenry have placed teddies in their front windows so children may watch for them and possibly whine and scream and cry less when forced to accompany their parents on constitutionals.

 

Most of our neighbors are participating; others have drawn in chalk on their sidewalks and added encouraging messages or have placed colored hearts fashioned from various materials in their windows.

 

This morning on a short jaunt to lighten my heart with these displays, I found it worrisome that the only unadorned abode in our hectare was that of Mrs. Boomslang. As you assuredly remember, she has lived on her own since Mr. Boomslang perished after hitting a deer in the fall of ’17. Why he punched a deer in the jaw with no regard for the possibility of rabies is still beyond me.

 

Anyway, I approached the house and peered in to look for signs of life. Seeing none, I circumnavigated the house, pressing my nose against window after window and becoming more concerned by the minute. I started trying doors but found the back and front both locked. Just as I tried the side door, WHOOSH! I was knocked off my feet and carried several feet in the air before landing a-thump, wet as a duck’s behind, if you will pardon my swearing.

 

When I parted my veil of wet hair, what should I see but a fireman with a hose attached to the hydrant by the avenue and pointed in my direction? I am certain his assault was an accident, albeit one with unfortunate timing. The local constable standing next to him was at that very moment responding to a joke he had just heard. Any witnesses might have come to unsound conclusions.

 

I am home and dry, my beloved, but my hands still tremble from disconcertment. I believe I shall allow myself two drams of peach elixir this eventide. I so hope you will be able to return and console me soon. And, as always,

 

Please bring toilet paper.

 

Your loving Eloise

Day 21—

 

Beloved Beauregard,

 

What a splendid day! The weather has been absolutely ghastly, and not a second passed when it seemed even a remotely good idea to go outside!

 

I returned to my to-do list. After “knitting project” was “thorough cleaning, room by room.” And while my knitting project is not finished, I am most certainly done with it, so it seemed time to move on.

 

After several hours of overwhelmination and attempts to self-soothe with internal screaming exercises, I decided to start with baby steps, the first being to ready those items in your closet that are due to visit the chemical cleaning shop when they re-open.

 

And, my love, what I found! Nearly every pocket of your every jacket held a slip of paper with the name and electronic address of one of my closest friends. You were planning a surprise birthday party for me, were you not, before all of this Armageddon folderol started?

 

Oh, what a grand man you are!

 

I must tease you a bit, though. Ann’s name does not include an ‘e’ on the end. Gloria’s last name is spelled “Jansen,” not “McGivernson.” And Susan was most definitely having a joke at your expense when she told you her nickname is “Hot Buns.”

 

What a disappointment this separation must pose for your plans! I hope you are somehow finding consolation.

I steadfastly await the day you walk through our door. As always,

 

please bring toilet paper.
 

Your loving Eloise

WEEK FOUR

Day 22—

 

Dear Beauregard,

 

I miss you more than ever, my love. Your kind company, your masterful card shuffling and, at this specifically current time, your fire building skills. Yesterday was so chilly, I made my second attempt at a fire—this time in the fireplace, but with little more good fortune.

 

What is this “floo” or “flew” the fireman was going on about? He refused to explain, as though I should be familiar with the esoteric terms of his trade. I attempted later to look the word up in your Uncle Cistern’s massive dictionary, but it wasn’t there—which leads me to suspect the man in the silly yellow hat was having me on.

 

I declare, the man has a bad attitude. He remains entirely unrepentant for his error outside Mrs. Boomslang’s house, and his tone with me in my own abode (and yours) yesterday bordered on disrespect. Before the smoke had cleared, literally, that—that—constable showed up as well. And he refused to take my side against the miscreant in the knee-high rubber boots. Rubber boots, inside! On your Aunt Canasta’s rug handmade by Swedish orphans and sled dogs!

 

Civil servants, my foot. Their mien is neither civil nor that of servants. I have half a mind to write a blistering letter to the mayor. I think I shall, using your name instead of mine, as I think their disregard for my intelligence is pure misogyny. I shall give them what for, my love. NO ONE treats the wife of you in that manner.

 

Oh, that you were here to speak for me, for us, and to help me find the cats. I have seen nothing of them since I struck the first match last eventide. Do hurry home when it is safe to do so. And, as always,

 

please bring toilet paper.

 

Your loving Eloise

Day 23 —

 

My dear Beauregard,

 

I must confess to a mood fair foul this day. But I shall not burden you with the details, as I know not what hardships are muddying your path during this separation. Let this haiku suffice:

 

The DogShit People

Would be the world’s worst neighbors;

But… there’s the Butlers.

 

I will write again tomorrow, love, when my outlook will doubtless be brighter. Please, when you come home, do bring bottle rockets. My supply is perilous low. And, as always,

 

please bring toilet paper.

 

Your loving Eloise

Day 24—

 

Beloved Beauregard,

 

It is Sunday, and I hear the hush of the world around me. In the quiet, I hear the voices of so many who are not here—those loved ones who are with us always if just we listen.

 

I hear you in the silence, my dear, and know you are in my heart.

 

Oh. I just realized it is Monday. I think. No, wait. Is it? Never mind.

 

Your loving Eloise

Day 25—

 

My dearest Beauregard,

 

Such a storm last night! Such thunder! My dear mother used to say it was the sound of angels bowling, and I know your Grandmother Walker said it was the sound of them emptying wheelbarrows of potatoes into the bin. Last night, I believe they were throwing wheelbarrows full of bowling balls at one another. Such a racket!

 

Our electric lights ceased working; I could not remember where you keep the battery lamps, so I dared not brave the staircase to the root cellar in the basement. In the fear of the moment, I grabbed the cats and ran to the bathtub for shelter. One of them, Cassius I think (it was very dark), accidentally (I think) stepped on the lever that operates the cascade feature, and in no time we three were all wetter than a mad hen and madder than a wet hen.

 

The storm now has ceased; electric lights illuminate our abode once again. I have nearly stopped the bleeding on my arms and visage, and I have remembered that it is tornadoes, not lightning storms, that call for sheltering in the bathtub. I expect the cats will stop hissing and baring their claws when I glance their way any hour now.

 

I soldier on, but please return the moment you can do so safely. Do bring bandages and, as always,

 

please bring toilet paper.

 

Your loving Eloise

Day 28—

 

My dearest Beauregard,

 

Forgive my silence of two days, love. My time has been dominated by a contemplation of grief. To wit, is it something one ‘earns’ by proximity to the tragedy at hand? Of physical distance, emotional connection, or blood—is one more important than another? Can grief be judged or allotted by any standard?

 

I have concluded that we all are entitled to grieve for any reason that chooses us. My heartbeat means little to anyone else (except you, dearest!), but it is of vital importance to me. And such is grief. We each have a right to our feelings, whatever their depth.

 

I have been painting hearts on the dining room walls again, and these I have named. Sam Stone. Donald. Lydia. Sabu. Abby. Barbara Lewis Hare Krishna Beauregard, which of course reminds me of you. On and on… so many.

 

Someday soon, my grief will recede to a point that allows me to paint over them. They are not meant as memorials for people who have died, after all; these people will live forever. And as with the first three I painted then painted over, I do not need to see them to know they are there.

 

I will write on favorable days; some likely will hold more light than others. Do come home when it is safe to do so, and please bring John Prine LPs. Ours have fair been worn smooth.

 

Always,

Your loving Eloise

WEEK FIVE

Day 31—

 

My darling Beauregard,

 

What has become of time, love? I lay down for a nap, and apparently I slept through the rest of spring, all of summer and fall, and have awakened during the following winter. I gaze out our front fenester, and beyond the veranda is nothing but an expanse of snow!

 

The calendar has not changed since I closed my eyes, but without you here and the cats still using the excuse of no thumbs in order to avoid any chores, that is to be expected. One wonders how they fed themselves. I shudder at the possibilities.

 

It seems I became, for a time, a veritable Rip Van Winkle. Speaking of which, do you suppose Mr. and Mrs. Van Winkle had a discussion along the lines of “If it is a girl, I should like to name her Mary Elizabeth; if it is a boy, I am favoring Rip?”

 

All I have is questions, my dear. I await your explanation of a world gone mad. Please hurry your return and, as always,

 

please bring toilet paper.

 

Your loving Eloise

Day 32—

 

Dearest Beauregard,

 

Such a day! The sun was shining brightly, and so I made my way to the veranda as soon as my morning ablutions and the ceremonial Feeding of the Cats had been completed. But I had barely rocked forward then back before I heard an earsplitting wail emanating from the other side of the avenue. Mistress Buckthorn had come bursting out her front portal and collapsed on the stairs, head in her hands, sounding most despondent.

 

This came as a huge shock; as you are aware, that woman normally considers herself all that and a price club muffin. My curiosity overcame the better instinct of fear, and I ventured to the middle of the avenue and called out from a safe distance, asking the matter.

 

“Everything!” she sobbed. “The plague! The in-fighting and the out-fighting! The isolation!” She flung her hands about as tears ran down her blotched face, rendering her quite satisfactorily unattractive. “I can’t do this anymore!”

 

And I was reminded for the first time in years of my late mother’s alter-ego who was responsible for handling her overwhelmination whenever it came along. Mother would shut her eyes tightly and declare, “This is a job for Capable Woman." And when she opened her eyes, they would be filled with determination as she set about doing whatever needed to be done that had seemed impossible just moments before. Never once did I see Capable Woman fail her.

 

Well, love, I risked being treated to a view up Mistress Buckthorn’s nostrils and told her that story. And would you believe it, she slowly quieted and began to nod, and she actually thanked me when the tale was all told. She even managed a wan smile before rising with a familiar steely look in her eye and returning inside her abode.

 

I am so grateful to have remembered this story from the past. As the days grow long and more numerous in our separation, and the realities of this new existence start to feel more like the rule than the exception, I myself may have a few jobs for Capable Woman II. I feel certain my mother, smiling down, will assist her in assisting me. In fact, it would seem she already has.

 

I send you my love until you can come home. As always,

 

please bring toilet paper.

 

Your loving Eloise

Day 34—

 

My dearest Beauregard,

 

Such exciting news! Today, I entered your Uncle Cistern’s study for the first time. I meant to find some literary work to help while away the empty hours, and what should I find but so much more… a clue to your heritage!

 

Nearly all the books in your late uncle’s library have one thing in common. Regard the names emblazoned upon their spines: Stephen King. Ellery Queen. The Earl of Scruggs. The Dukes of both Ellington and Earl, and Count of Basie. Some royal who must be more important than all the others, as he is known only by the single name Prince.

 

You sly devil. I always thought your eyes were just a teensy bit close together and your ears set just a smidgen back further than the norm. And what should those particular hallmarks indicate? Why, families that have been just a bit more tightly knit than most for generations. Royalty!

 

Oh, my dear Beau! Ours is a story right out of Shakespeare! The Winter’s Tale of our Discontent, I believe. Although now you have won my hand, I understand not why you wouldst continue to withhold information about your heritage. Or the location of the family jewels. Or wealth of any manner. Or even decent grammar and punctuation.

 

But rejoice, love! Now that I have uncovered the truth, our celebration when we reune shall be one for the ages. For planning purposes, do send word about the jewels, will you not? And the wealth, if you would. And as always, when you return,

 

please bring toilet paper.

 

Your loving Eloise

WEEK SIX

Day 37—

 

Beloved Beauregard,

 

Ah! The feel of sunshine upon my face once again! I had nearly forgotten how much I hate it. But it has, with my gratitude, served to eliminate the remains of the three snowfalls of the past week.

 

The detritus left behind is another matter altogether. Did you know, love, that a carefully aimed and timed bottle rocket can explode an arrangement of canine fecal matter on the ground to create a distasteful but entertaining volcano?

 

Neither did I.

 

Return when it is safe, love. And, as always,

 

please bring toilet paper.

 

Your loving Eloise

Day 38—

 

Dearest Beauregard,

 

The Stephen Miller Orchestra once noted that “time keeps on ticking ticking ticking into the future…” but in this unparalleled epoch, one must consider this was an opinion formed in the past. ( I can fair hear your Uncle Cistern saying that technically, all opinions were formed in the past, and I do wish he would stop being quarrelsome now that he is ten years deceased. But that is not my point.)

 

I think this is today but am not certain. It could be tomorrow. I make hash marks on the bedroom wall with a piece of charcoal from the 2120 X-El Char-Bunny Grill on the backyard plank platform with my best effort to do so every day yet only once per diem but, as the great philosopher Brian Wilson once posited, God only knows.

 

I wonder if everyone feels like a modern-day Solomon Grundy during this quarantine.

 

Solomon Grundy, woke on some day,

Showered on two days,

Whimpered on whine day,

Slept through Blursday,

Pied on pie day,

Sat on sitter day,

And snacked on sammie day.

Time has no end for Solomon Grundy.

 

Forgive my wistfulness, love. Some days I miss you even more than others. At least, I think some days are other days. Do return when you can and, as always,

 

please bring toilet paper.

 

Your loving Eloise

Day 40—

 

My dear Beauregard,

 

My heart is full. People are good.

 

The town crier has, on several occasions in the past few weeks, reported communities around the world throwing open their windows, stepping out onto balconies and verandas, and joining their voices in song… and each recounting brings forth lovely mental images of camaraderie in the beauty of art.

 

I know not who organized such, or if spontaneity somehow reigned, but last evening such a display of love sprang forth right here in our own quiet corner of the hamlet we are fortunate to inhabit.

 

At first, I supposed I was merely hearing voices again but, as individuals joined in one by one, the sound of music was unmistakable. I ran to the front portiére and threw open the sash.

 

Such inspiration! I had never thought of our neighbors as a worshipful sort, but indeed they are. I know not if their singing hearkened back to a time before the plague when they were allowed to congregate for services, but they all seemed familiar with a spiritual that was new to my ears. I ran for pen and paper and notated this hymn quickly. Regard, my love:

 

Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz;

My friends all have Porsches, I must make amends;

Worked hard all my lifetime, no help from my friends;

Oh Lord won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz?

 

There was another stanza that mentioned Dialing for Dollars, but I was unable to capture all the words. This first and foremost verse was repeated as a coda, and I was thus able to verify these solemn and holy words.

 

Isn’t that lovely? When you return, I shall teach you the melody that we may have our own services at eventide. How happy we shall be! As always,

 

please bring toilet paper.

 

Your loving Eloise

WEEK EIGHT

DAY 53—

Beauregard, my love,

I beg your indulgence for my recent silence. I have been so occupied, the passing of days has continued largely without my notice. Here is a (partial) list:

—Writing a novel
—Learning to ride a unicycle
—Playing the accordion
—Learning to play the accordion while unicycling
—Building a pergola
—Writing an opera about murder hornets
—Designing a line of women’s clothing with no fewer than 18 pockets per piece
—Rock climbing
—Teaching the cats ballet
—Painting the house, within and without
—Memorizing the lyrics to every song Roger Miller wrote

Yes, love, I have thought about doing ALL of those things.

Meanwhile, did you know there are 20 recorded seasons each of the video programmes Gunsmoke and Law & Order? 19 each of Lassie and NCIS (which I believe is an acronym for Nice Chaps In Serge)? Not only that—every so-called “episode” of these serial productions is available to be viewed on handheld cinemascope! If the mind were only partially boggled, this would certainly complete the task!

I promise to write again soon, love, but I simply must continue anon my war of wills with the cats. They are stubborn, but I am determined to convince them the refined gentlewoman Carole Baskin did NOT kill her husband and feed him to the tigers.


Oh, that you were here to help plead my case! Soon, perhaps. As always,

please bring toilet paper.

Your loving Eloise

WEEK NINE

Day 57 —

 

My beloved Beauregard,

 

Dare I say spring is here, at last? We know how fickle Mother Nature can be—especially this time of year, when she favors her brother by making all of us yell “Uncle!” on a regular basis.

Things are green as far as the eye can see, my love—at least out of doors. Moreover, trees that were barren two weeks ago are now in bloom, in preparation for the annual Running of the Bees. Life has returned to the earth despite the plague and, for a moment, life is good. I took a constitutional today and drank in the loveliness. Down by the lake we call Number 9,999, a goosely couple shepherded their downy little ones toward the water. A pair of redbirds exiting a lilac bush caused me to creep near and spy their nest holding five perfect speckled eggs. A tiny baby rabbit ran from beneath the veranda of a lakeside mansion before deciding the world was a little too large at the moment and perhaps he should cotton-tail it back to the family warren.

 

Of course, I was wearing my protective Howdy Doody mask and carrying my 6-foot distancing stick, but nearly everyone else wore their own mask and kept their space. It did sadden me that on such a glorious day, we could not share a grateful smile over our fortune at being out and about.

 

Only one short moment was marred by a woman stomping her way toward me with a countenance free of mask and burdened by scowl. As I raised my distancing stick, she trained her beady eyes on me and loosed a string of profanity unparalleled since that unfortunate day your Uncle Cistern mistook a hornet’s nest for a piñata.

 

Even so, her outburst caused but a second of consternation, as it gave way to an epiphany; to wit, just as my smile had been hidden, so was the fact that I was now silently mouthing the words “Go frankel your dillywomption, you old mollywanker.”

The natural world; it is all about balance. I do hope to discuss it with you soon. As always,

 

please bring toilet paper.

 

Your loving Eloise

Day 59— 

 

Beauregard, my dear,

Yesterday was Mother’s Day here, and perhaps where you are as well. The occasion had fairly eluded my attention until I went out to the veranda to check for cobwebs and murder hornets and, while there, saw a man on a dangerous-looking extension ladder leaned up against the Strongthall house down the block. You remember Widow Strongthall, love, who resides one house west of the Dog Shit People.

 

I stepped out onto the lawn for purposes of research and saw it was Lucifer Strongthall, errant but now presumably prodigal son of the family, who had ascended said ladder.

 

The town crier warned weeks ago of convicts freed from their confines over concerns about the plague—I believe the term “petri dish” was used—and there was the edict, manifest in the form of a pasty-faced middle-aged child in an orange jumpsuit (years out of fashion), with some sort of childish scrawlings in ink over all of his exposed skin.

 Curious, I tiptoed (VERY carefully choosing my steps) across the lawn next door to see what the miscreant might be up to, both literally and figuratively. And I spied Widow Strongthall for the first time in years. She was there, on the opposite side of a second-story fenester from her son. Each had a hand pressed up against the window, and tears glittered in the sunshine on the old woman’s face. I wondered if they might each feel the warmth of the other through the glass. 

 I repaired to the rocker on the veranda with a healthy dram of peach elixir. People were promenading down the avenue, and I pondered the notion that each of them started life as some mother’s baby, naked and helpless no matter their family’s fortune or social stature. Might the world not be a better place, my love, if we were all mindful of that humanity each in the other? Might there not be more kindness, more acceptance and generosity? As long as that Strongthall thug keeps his distance from our doorstep, of course. I made mental note to keep a handful of bottle rockets in the pocket of my pinafore for the foreseeable future.

 Upon re-entering our humble abode, I discovered the cats had prepared nothing—NOTHING!—with which to honor me on this holiest of family holidays. I am seriously considering downgrading their provisions to 8 Lives brand cat food. We shall discuss my list of grievances against them when you return. As always,

please bring toilet paper.

Your loving Eloise

Day 61—   

 

My dearest Beauregard,

 

Today, while out of doors screaming at dandelions in an attempt to frighten them into propagating no further, I heard the unmistakable putt-putt of a propeller plane; so prevalent during my early years in the southern North Dakota town of Hoople and so rare now that I reside in a beautiful metropolitan cesspit of humanity.

 

I shaded my eyes to regard this relic of an earlier time and, to my utter surprise, saw a banner streaming behind the plane. You remember advertisements of yore such as “Coka-Cola, now somewhat cocaine-free!”

 

My dear, you know I hate disappointing people by marring my beauty with corrective eyewear, and so I simply could not make out the words on this banner. But I grabbed my pocket-camera and snapped a photograph, thinking I could perhaps later enlarge the letters enough to be readable.

 

Well. It was after vespers at eventide before I remembered. I commanded the photo to the forefront and was able to “zoom in,” as the scalawags say these days. The banner read “GIVE A CRAP ABOUT OTHERS.” I must say, I have never been quite so inspired and offended at the same time.

I know not who would sponsor such a message. Perhaps the toilet paper industry? I would scarcely think they need to advertise at this time, but the grist of capitalism is, as you know, beyond my mien. I shall ponder the message, from whencever it came, as I return to the task of teaching the cats hopscotch. I prithee return soon, with or without you-know-what.

Your loving Eloise

Day 63—  

 

Beloved Beauregard,

 

I do believe I finally have been inspired with a thousand-dollar idea! And yes, love, I will acknowledge that I famously have no head for business. You need not remind me of my entrepreneurial blunders of the past. I surely should have better researched harvesting hops before announcing the opening of a frog brewery, and I will concede that, after careful consideration, the plan for building a municipal squirrel hostel was pretty nuts. But this—this—is truly original.

 

Although there are shortages of all kinds during this trying time, it seems that a vast majority of the people whose paths I cross these days (at a safe distance, of course) are noticeably out of sorts. I think we should discuss opening a Sorts Store. We could sell all sorts of sorts!

 

Yet one more reason to be excited for your return! I fair wriggle in anticipation of hearing your assured praise. Also, if you can find some,

 

please bring toilet paper.

Your loving Eloise

WEEK TEN

Day 65—   

 

Dearest Beauregard,

 

I am sore worried about recent developments. Having heard nothing from the town crier about this, I fear I may be pioneering the recognition of a newly developing threat to society, and I know not where I should report it. Perhaps you can advise.

 

Sitting on the veranda watching the world go by, I see a startling trend amongst women who live in the neighborhood and others who may well be marauders from a different borough. Some of these women are now wearing their hair very dark with a white stripe on top, adjacent to the part; others are now wearing their hair very blonde but with a dark swath delineating the part.

 

I can only assume they are organizing into street gangs and these are their ‘colors.’ Each time I see one approaching another to pass, I fair hear Leonard Bernstein music in the air and expect them to fall into a crouch and start snapping their fingers menacingly.

 

They would not be the Sharks and Jets; not in this metropolis. Judging by their hair, I assume they must be calling themselves the Skunks and… I don’t know. Badgers? Chupacabras?

 

I am making an attempt to replenish my supply of bottle rockets on the black market, but still I fear for the safety of myself and the cats and wonder if I should notify that horrible magistrate and explain my advanced recognition of human behavioral patterns, for which I rightfully should be regionally famous by now.

 

Come home carefully when you can. And as always,

 

please bring toilet paper.

 

Your loving Eloise

WEEK ELEVEN

Day 73— (Memorial Day, May 25)

 

Dearest Beauregard,

By either coincidence or divine plan, last night—the Eve of Memorial Day—an album heretofore unnoticed fell into my hands while I was exploring the massive bookcases in your Uncle Cistern’s study.

On a related unrelated note, were you aware, love, that your uncle collected Nancy Drew mysteries? 

The album I speak of, however, was quite different from any published tome. The first two pages held but photographs—a young couple wearing uncomfortable wedding outfits and frightened smiles; the young man dressed in the uniform of an American soldier; the young woman holding a baby in a christening gown, her face wide eyes in a bereft countenance.

The following pages were handwritten notes with only a few interspersed photos, and it took a moment to realize this was a diary of sorts composed by your Uncle Cistern’s mother, who would have been your Grand-Aunt Cerise. But “diary” does not accurately reflect the nature of this journal; most of the entries were written in the form of dispatches to Cerise’s husband, your Grand-Uncle Cucurbita, though none were meant to be read by the man to whom they were addressed.

It seems Cucurbita, a young soldier aged twenty years, succumbed to the so-called 1918 Spanish Flu after traveling overseas to serve in the Great War—the one so hopefully and foolishly called The War to End All Wars. His son, your Uncle Cistern, came into a world in chaos two weeks after notification of his father’s death arrived on American soil.

And through the years, Cerise wrote to her deceased groom about the life he was not living; the child he never met, the milestones he never witnessed; the joy he never knew and the burdens he was unable to share. She described in meticulous and devastating detail the soldier-shaped hole forever left in the family.

Please wear a mask, beloved. Keep your distance from others though you may be weary of doing so. Wash your hands often while singing two verses of “You Are My Sunshine,” and I shall do the same. Come back to me safely when that is possible.

Your loving Eloise  

Day 74—

My beloved Beauregard,

Sigh. I loll about today with little energy to do more than compose a haiku for a Tuesday that feels like a Monday that feels like a Saturday that feels like a Thursday.

Yo! DogShit People!

Gather thine act together;

harvest thy land mines.

I do hope you will come home safely and soon, dear; these turf wars most definitely are not metaphorical, and it would appear they are not going to mitigate themselves. As always,

please bring toilet paper.

Your loving Eloise

Day 77—

 

My dear Beauregard,

 

What a year this week is turning out to be.

 

Please let us stay safe. Let us stay kind. Let us stay responsible. It is another way, love, we can keep together while we are apart.

 

Your loving Eloise

WEEK TWELVE

Day 78—

My Beauregard,

“And so, as Tiny Tim said, ‘… God bless us, every one!’”

                                                                ~Charles Dickens

The cats and I wish you a safe and peaceful evening, dear.

Your loving Eloise

 

Day 81—

Beloved Beauregard,

And tonight, an old-fashioned thunderstorm: that most peaceful of violent weather. For a moment now, the air is still.

Sleep well, my Beau, and dream of coming home. And, of course,

bringing toilet paper.

Your loving Eloise

Day 85—

My dearest Beauregard,

Please do not take my lack of communication for an absence of wistful longing to be reunited with you. That is far from the case.

But do not either mistake my quiet for quietude, my silence for serenity, my stillness for tranquility. For the time being, love, I find more value in the oft-ignored art of listening. 

I shall return to my usual buoyant self at some time; perhaps when there are fewer plagues to fight. For the meantime, I remain

Your loving Eloise

WEEKS THIRTEEN AND FOURTEEN (AND MORE) WERE SPENT DOING JUST THAT—LISTENING.

WEEK FIFTEEN

Day 105— 

 

My dearly beloved Beauregard,

 

There have been a few beautiful days here. Not on the whole, of course, but on balance.

 

Flowers are blooming. Almost all of the things that are supposed to be green are compliant. Ducks are ducklinging and geese are goslinging. The creek nearby is babbling as we have never seen during our tenancy as families send their children down it in droves, most in some sort of oversized inflated plastic donuts, possibly for entertainment purposes and probably to get them away from home for a few blessed hours.

 

In short, there has been a chance to spy beauty through a pinhole in the darkness... and sometimes that is enough to let grace shine through.

 

I hope you will be here soon and that you will, of course, remember to bring toilet paper.

 

Your loving Eloise

WEEK SIXTEEN

Day 111— 

Dearest Beauregard,

I am sore reticent to burden you with concerns, my love… but I have no one else in whom to confide unless I shout from the sidewalk at Mrs. Boomslang or one of the lesser neighbors.

The cats, dear. They worry me. Whenever I enter a room in recent days, Cassius and Bruté look quickly away in feigned nonchalance. Their acting skills are amateurish at best, and these shenanigans cause me to fear they are in conspiration. I have experimented with leaving then re-entering swiftly to surprise them, but so far have only been ‘treated’ to a display of them inspecting parts that should rightly remain private.

Today there was a thud on the veranda, and I opened the door to see an express delivery rider scurrying back to his metal steed after depositing a large box on our step. I dragged it inside and found it filled with cat treats, cat toys, and a kilo brick of catnip. According to the packing list, $276’s worth of cat accoutrements.

The paper showed payment by a number that coincides with my plastic money card. I ran to my pocketbook hutch… and my card was not there! I know it has not been left behind somewhere, as I have engaged in no outing that involved shopfoolery.

By the time I returned to the parlor, the cats were stoned out of their gourds on ‘nip and cared naught for the brisk verbal what-for I gave them.

I am peeved, love. I need you here to aid in the discipline of these burdensome beasts, as I have nearly depleted my store of peach nectar nerve tonic. As always,

please bring toilet paper. 

Your loving Eloise

WEEK SEVENTEEN

Day 116— 

 

My beloved Beauregard,

 

I am wracking my brain to remember a favorite inspirational saying of yours, that I may use it to cheer myself and also shout to others from our veranda as they meander down the avenue. Everyone seems in need of encouragement these days, and you know I do like to help others.

 

It isn’t “extemporize until you manifest,” but something similar. Contrive until you create? Bluff until you accomplish?

 

Now that I have thought more, I seem to remember it rhymed. Expectorate until you generate? No, not that—“spit and get off the pot” would be a more direct version of that command.

 

Con until you spawn? Dream it until you can scream it? Shake it until you can bake it?

I am so close… assuredly, it will come to me. As I pray you will soon. As always,

 

please bring toilet paper.

 

Your loving Eloise

WEEK EIGHTEEN

Day 122— 

 

My dearest Beauregard,

 

This morning, as I approached the western border of our homestead to scream at the last recalcitrant dandelion, a black cat I am certain has never crossed my path heretofore did just that. Startled, I ran—with sudden capabilities both willy and nilly—through the lawn of the DogShit People and, before I caught myself, under the ladder leaning against the Strongthall home, which I suppose has been there since that miscreant Lucifer came to visit his mother on her holiest of days.

 

Well, my darling! I gasped for lack of air and tolerance and scampered back to our abode. In the vestibule, I somehow knocked into the elephant’s leg that holds our bumbershoots and tipped it over, spilling out all its contents, and I stumbled across the stem of my favorite parasol in such a manner as to cause it to whoosh! open, whereupon I grabbed it up in a panic to hurl it away from me and managed to strike the mirror in the foyer, which smashed into a million pieces.

 

I have spent the remainder of the day in darkness provided by closed curtains in our back parlor pondering one question and one question only: how does one determine if one is superstitious, or simply just stitious enough?

 

Oh, that we could discuss this throughout the evening! My love, how I do miss you (and toilet paper)!

 

Your loving Eloise

Day 127—  

 

My dear Beauregard,

 

What an enchanted neighborhood we inhabit! I am so grateful you insisted we move to your Aunt Canasta’s abode after her unfortunate death in the talons of impatient vultures. I apologize for all the hissy fits I threw before conceding the issue. Most, anyway. At least that one when the cast iron skillet slipped out of my hand during my gesticulationing and caused a rude purple protrusion on your beloved noggin.

 

The neighbors, my love! They have been serenading again at the hour of vespers. Just a bit ago, once again, they stuck their heads out open apertures in their homes and joined as one, singing yet another hymn unfamiliar to me but which they all seemed to know. I wrote down the chorus to share with you:

 

One toke over the line, sweet Jesus;

One toke over the line.

Sitting downtown in a railway station,

One toke over the line.

 

So simple, yet so lyrical! Oh darling, that you were here with me to enjoy their worship. Soon, perhaps. As always,

 

please bring toilet paper.

 

Your loving Eloise

WEEK TWENTY-FIVE

Day 171— 

My beloved Beauregard,

Darling, you must be frantic at my silence! I can only imagine you are fair prostate with worry. The last month and a bit, my life has comprised rather an oddyssey. Here is the briefest of recountings:

You know that panel of lighting switches on the landing at the top of the basement stairs that we have never schematized to know what function each has. Well, I undertook to do just that one evening, flipping one switch at a time and running about to see which fixture was affected.

After a mere thirty or so trials, there came a sudden crash at our front portal. That unholy warrior of a constable came smashing into our abode, henchmen following. And before I could scream more than seven times, I found myself displaced and sitting on a bunk behind bars in a concrete cubicle, wearing a garment in the most unflattering shade of orange.

This was the excuse I was afforded: apparently, the lights flashing on and off exhibited a sequence of Morse code, and I was unwittingly transmitting a message saying “the poodle sings at midnight.” I was accused, love, of being a domestic terrorist. Me! As you well know, I have never been a domestic ANYTHING.

I have languished in that drab cell for over a month, and let me tell you, I think there is a lot of process still due. This morning, with no forewarning, I was told I had been ‘cleared’ and was released upon my own recognition without so much as the benefit of a mirror.

Something is definitely askew in the world of law and order, my dear. Upon returning home, I found our door repaired, the cats fatter than ever, and the refrigerator empty but for a metal tin of something called Pabst Blue Ribbon. I had been here less than an hour before a ragged ruffian approached the front portal looking for someone named Shizzle Boy. The visitor insisted this creature had resided here as recently as yesterday. When I pressed him for a surname, I was left with the impression this apparent squatter was somehow related to the constable.

I barely know where to begin to unravel this mystery, but I shall consider my options during a long, hot bath with a tumbler of peach nectar within reach. I declare, the only thing that preserved my sanity during this trying time was the Small Deborah snack cake that accompanied every meal. I expect you, upon your return, to give that constable what for, and possibly what five, for visiting this travesty upon the wife of you. Also, it would seem that someone, likely Shizzle Boy and his compatriots, thoroughly depleted our store of toilet paper.

I am beside myself and wish you were as well.

Your loving Eloise

WEEK TWENTY-SIX

Day 178— 

 

My dearest Beauregard,

 

Will people who are not you ever cease to disappoint me? I fear not. Today, I noticed Mrs. McGillicuddy in her yard across the avenue, repeatedly peering up into her giant Netherlandish elm tree and then down at her feet. As you well know, love, there is no one less nosy than I—but after a time, I became sufficiently concerned to approach and ask, from a safe distance, what in the Samuel Knoll she was doing.

 

She pointed to a fledgling at her feet and then up at a nest in the elm. “He fell, and he’s not ready to fly. I’m worried. I bet there are at least four more up there.”

 

Well. Having learned quite a lot about wagering from fellow hostages of the law during my recent stint in ‘the joint,’ I leapt at the offer. “How much?” I asked. She looked confused. “How much would you bet?”

 

“Oh. I don’t know. A dollar?” she said.

 

“Certainly!” I rejoindered. “What is the spread?” She looked stymied. “You know, oleo or butter?” She shook her head. “Mayonnaise or mustard?” She merely blinked.

 

“Well then, what manner of odds are you posting?” I asked, and she cocked her head like a pup. “All of them?” I continued. “Three, five, seven, and so on? Or just prime numbers such as three, seven, and eleven?” She began to frown.

 

“All right,” I said—starting to exasperate—“but at least give me the over and under.” The furrow in her brow merely deepened. “Over the breeches, or under the covers?” I demanded.

And at that, dear, Mrs. McGillicuddy gathered her skirts and sprinted for her front portal, closing it so severely from the opposite side as to leave the screen door swinging.

 

I felt badly for a moment, but what could I do? She had more than ample reason to be so embarrassed. I will never understand why people feel compelled to hold forth on subjects they are ill-informed to discuss. I returned home desolate with disappointment and fervently hope you will do the same soon,

 

preferably bearing toilet paper.

 

Your loving Eloise

WEEK TWENTY-NINE

DAY 200—

My beloved Beauregard,

 

I have tremendous news, love! The Dogshit People in the house next to our abode have headed for parts unknown with all of their detestable trappings, including those excrement factories they call pets! Oh, the quietude! The freedom to walk through the side yard without a pocketful of bottle rockets! The very tenor of the neighborhood once again reaches a high C, in a return to Classy.

 

And this accounts for my silence in the three weeks past. The unexpected turn of events rendered me so giddy, I fear I tore into the store of canned peaches in the root cellar with abandon both wild and fearsome. Awakening three days later in a nest of empty, sticky jars, I found the shelves to be as barren as a steer rooster, as Grandmother Pierce used to say. Then the better part of two weeks was spent searching for your ancestral recipe folder on the computing machine, which repeatedly distracted me with depictions of cats not even our own. Recipe located, I procured by remote effort fifty pounds of sugar and enough yeast to raise the Hindenburg. The only remaining need was peaches.

 

On a hunch, I called out to one of those feisty Wheeler boys as he slouched down the avenue, and I asked for his assistance. Would you not know, he and his brother stopped by but an hour later with two bushels of fruit! They ran off without so much as the benefit of payment, as they were in a hurry to go somewhere and watching for their ride, I suppose, repeatedly looked over their shoulders as they approached the veranda with their baskets. I shall have to reconsider my skeptical opinion of them.

 

And now the lard is in the larder afresh, so to speak. Forty-two vessels of peaches are now curing on those cool basement shelves, and I have time enough to tell you how crushingly I miss having you here to handle all our household responsibilities. I imagine the days are equally trying for you. Please return safely and soon, my dearest, bringing love and toilet paper.

 

Your loving Eloise

WEEK THIRTY

DAY 208—

Dearest Beauregard,

 

I have made the most delightful discovery. Did you know that the computing machine contains abbreviated cinematographs that can be called forth at random for viewing? It does! And while a nearly satisfying number of them portray cats in leading roles, there are others on nearly any topic one desires to explore in a manner that does not soil one’s shoes nor conscience. Many appear to be intended as educational, and this has inspired my newest venture.

 

You well know how I always have been admired for my inventive rug-cutting abilities. Many express pure astonishment upon first witnessing my flair on the dance floor. Well, love, I have decided that I shall share my talents and instruct others in the fleetness of feet.

 

Drawing upon my vast knowledge of popular culture, I have so far created cinematographs depicting dance steps I call the Jedediah Clampett, the Michael Jagger, the Charles Berry, and the Popeye the Sailorperson. Many more soon shall follow.

 

Prepare yourself, darling, for the fame that is born of proximity to genius. I can only imagine how proud you shall be, at least until you return. As always,

 

please bring toilet paper.

 

Your loving Eloise

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