And I'm not even the one who found it, Chris did, in our dog's mouth, of all places. I'm glad I didn't see that. I've been somewhat psychologically raw lately, like a walking emotional Indian burn for some reason, and I don't think it would have sat well for me to see my dog eat a fetus, even if the fetus wasn't real. The image would have been real enough, and you don't want that in your head.
By the time Chris got it out of Cookie's mouth there was nothing left but the head, a fleshy little head from one of those lifelike baby dolls. "Hey, Hollis, take a look at this," he called as he came through the kitchen. He had the head in a hand towel, wiping the slobber off, then he unfolded the cloth and it was staring straight at me. "Jesus God!" I said, "That looks real."
"It's just a doll's head," he said, and then he stuck it on a stick in his garden.
There are a lot of odd things in Chris' garden, many on sticks. There is the upper torso of a plastic alien, a large metal dragon fly, the head part of a lizard hand puppet, a ceramic head I bought him at an art fair, and then the baby's head, among other things. A stroll through our backyard is like walking the drawbridge to the castle of a medieval Hun who kept the severed heads of his vanquished enemies on poles lining his property.
I guess they're his medals of accomplishment, the heads, for having tamed the yard. When we moved here the back yard was a clotted mass of crab grass and stray dog crap interspersed by a prickly-leaved tree in which there lived about a billion big-butted spiders. Those spiders could build a web the size of a soccer net in a matter of minutes, and Chris would walk in front of me flailing like Michael Stipe in a music video, clearing the path so I could get to the car without spiders landing on my head and laying eggs in my hair. Now the tree's gone and it's rather nice back there in Chris' severed-head garden.
And he used to have bowling trophies out there as well, but he sold them to Grant, who will eventually use them for his next art-car project. In addition to the dozens of old trophies, Grant has 12 vintage bowling pins he plans to place on springs on the car's trunk somehow. It doesn't sound plausible, but the project is still in its blueprint stage. When finished the piece will be a rolling billboard for Grant's new venture, a business in which people pay him to ... I don't know, create stuff.
His latest creation was for his friend Keith, who asked him to hang 18 paintings throughout his home. Grant ushered Keith out the door and told him not to come back until he was done. When Keith returned Grant had hung all 18 paintings -- in the same room. Floor to ceiling.
"It's fabulous," Grant says, but as of this point Keith has not spoken to him. "He's probably in awe."
Grant is also creating the atmosphere for my wedding reception, which Chris and I are celebrating 18 months late. Grant picked the place, the Radial Cafe in Candler Park, and so far the motif will include bowling-trophy centerpieces, shopping carts, mannequins, a canoe and a bowl of metal egg-beater attachments.
"You better know what you're doing or I will personally rip out your kidneys with a rusty crowbar," I shriek at him.
But Grant's excited now, with a smile the size of a solar eclipse. "Can't you see it?" he says. "Trophies everywhere."
I close my eyes and what I envision is Chris and I dancing to "At Last" by Etta James, with 1-year-old Mae in our arms. It's an image I would have been incapable of picturing a few years ago; the little home with the severed-head garden, Cookie the incontinent pit bull, the conquering Hun of a husband who is afraid of nothing, who took my hand 18 months ago and said, literally, "Hollis, I will provide for you," and wasn't even afraid of how corny that sounded.
I keep my eyes closed and picture the beautiful baby that makes my soul swell until it literally leaks out of my eyes in salty drops down my face every day, and I see my sisters and a gaggle of beautifully peculiar friends who were capable of keeping me from defeat when I wanted nothing more than to roll over and play dead for the rest of my life, and then all of a sudden it appears. I see it.
Grant is right. There are trophies everywhere.
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