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Mrs. Beeton (my pink parakeet) has made her spring debut on the deck. After a cruelly long winter, it was finally warm enough for her to venture outside without her parka and boots. And if Mrs. Beeton was going out, so was I…with my lunch of smoked salmon and cream cheese on rye. My large straw sunhat in place, my trashy novel at the ready, The Pig (the beagle) lashed to the deck by my side, and the official season began. All that pining, gazing out the window of her room onto the deck, finally paid off. Mrs. Beeton was able to get the winter stink blown out of her feathers and practice her arias with the outside birds. She was a vision of unrestrained joy. I almost wished I had purchased an Easter bonnet for her.

L’il Sis checked us out and took pictures to send to Gill. No explanation was needed. Gill commented immediately: “I see you’re enjoying your usual summer lunch of salmon, Ma. Summer has indeed happened!”

Of course, when I was out there, I couldn’t help but notice the work that needed to be done to make the deck presentable. (I don’t know who I’m expecting to entertain — except the chipmunks and squirrels that have trashed the area all winter. For sure The Queen ain’t coming…) The beasts broke the bird feeder, chewed the deck railing, and ate so much seed (and then shit it back out) that it really isn’t much more than a toxic waste dump at this point. Oh, and with the rain and snow on the seeds, the black mould. An allergy sufferer’s delight.

Seeing how bad a state the deck was in, even I couldn’t ignore it. Out came the bucket of hot water and bleach, the hard-bristled brush, the butter knife and rubber gloves. I went to work…first removing the sprouting seed from between the planks with the butter knife (an invaluable tool and one I recommend to every householder), then getting down on my hands and knees to scrub. Whilst there, I happened to check out the inside of the barbecue. Big mistake. As I lifted the lid, what did I see but the most perfect little nest with several tiny eyes staring up at me. “Eee-eek”, I screamed. They were just deer mice…very sweet but still a version of ‘ratty’, your common everyday generic rodent that has no business being in a house.

What to do? I needed them gone but I couldn’t do it. I didn’t want to kill them since I had no personal grudge against them and besides, I was terrified of them! It was fine if they disappeared (think Jimmy Hoffa) or turned up dead somewhere else at someone else’s hand, but the carnage couldn’t be on my head. I left the barbecue lid open while I whisked Mrs. Beeton inside for her own protection. (I was not about to have a repeat of The Chipmunk Incident when Gill’s parakeet Newton was bitten by a chippie and almost died on my watch. Word might start to get around that I have a curse…

When I returned to the deck minutes later, the mice had fled the scene so fast they must have had a getaway car waiting for them. I scooped out the nest and began de-toxing the barbecue. Crazy Dave saw what I was doing and offered to help–he didn’t say “so it will be done properly”, but I knew that was what he meant. He donned his rubber boots, baseball hat and yellow rubber gloves and took over in a manly way. He even disconnected things so he could get into every nook and cranny where the mice might have been spreading disease and pestilence. I never disconnect anything. Or if I do, I use my handy butter knife. Crazy D wouldn’t allow me to do that. I’m also the type who leaves electric wall plates on the walls and paints around them — being too lazy and slap-dash to do otherwise.

In the end, the barbecue looks good as new, the deck is scrubbed and bleached, the furniture scoured with an old toothbrush and bleach. Mrs. Beeton looked worried that I was about to take the toothbrush (or the butter knife) to her plumage…but that would be stupid. She had to be content with the gentle breezes wafting through her feathers. Everyone needs a good ‘airing out’ come spring.

L’il Sis sent a bevy of pictures to Gill, documenting our day’s activities. Her comment was, “Ma! How come when I lived there we never did that stuff? Those two are getting a lot of stuff done!” This was said with awe, surprise and I suspect, a certain degree of jealousy. She worries that her stint as ‘the resident adult child’ (and thus the Favoured One) is being usurped and that her glory will fade in comparison. From my perspective, it helps to keep them all on their toes.