Little Old Woman

by Brian

At a house at the edge of the woods a little old woman throws out seed for the birds.

She sends the seeds out in wide arcs, making a carpet of cracked corn and sunflower seeds. Some of the corn seed will become little corn plants that the little old woman will remark about to her husband, who peers at the plants outside the window over his glasses and says, “Oh.”

The little old woman fears birds but loves animals. She shrieks when a titmouse, arriving for the feeding, swoops in. She stocks the squirrel proof feeder with sunflower seeds. The feeder keeps out the gray, but not the red, squirrels. She scolds the “greedy squirrels” that gather up the seed in bulging-cheek increments.

You could say that the little old woman is at war with the squirrels—the squirrels and her husband, who takes no joy in the pleasures of country living. He, to borrow a metaphor from Robert Frost, would never stop by woods on a snowy evening, she says. And furthermore, how anyone could regard that particular Frost poem as being about suicide was beyond her.

The little old woman decides that the land smells like a No. 2 pencil.

Dead leaves crunch crunch crunch under the feet of the little old woman as she throws out the seed. The seed pitter patters on the desiccated leaves, brown and dead after their colorful zenith of red, orange, and yellow. The little old woman takes a good sniff of the warm fall air, full of the scent of organic rot, and decides that the land smells like a No. 2 pencil.

A leaf falls right on the nose of the little old woman as she’s sniffing the air, and this tickles her fancy enormously. For her, it’s moments like this that make a retiring life in the country worthwhile. She imagines all of the busy people rushing to and fro, putting pictures on the Internet (which she doesn’t use or understand), saying “look at me” to the world while the world never says “look at me” in reply, but only goes on shedding its leaves—which she’ll have to rake (because that damned husband of hers will do a half-assed job, anyway)—and smelling like a No. 2 pencil, here at the edge of the woods, where the titmice swoop and the squirrels are greedy and her husband notices nothing and the silent snows are most definitely worth a moment’s pause.