You can decide to be happy. I read that. I decided to try it. I awoke one morning. Sat up. Decided to be happy. I smelled coffee. A good start. Jim was up. I tied my robe belt, slipped on my backless slippers, stepped carefully down the two front steps, and shuffled the 100 feet up the driveway to the gate to pick up the morning newspaper.
I looked right, left, and right again.
I shuffled back to the house. Jim was pouring coffee into his Grand Canyon mug with the beautiful bald eagle illustration on one side. I live in fear that I’m going to accidentally break it one day.
“No paper,” I said. He looked as if I’d said, “The dog died.”
“I’ll call,” I said, and riffled through the drawer for the delivery woman’s number she’d thoughtfully provided. “Penelope,” I said (not her real name). “We don’t have a paper.”
“I delivered one,” she said. I could barely hear above the sound of her car engine.
“Take another look,” she said. “When I tossed the paper a gust of wind came up and it traveled a ways.”
I relayed the story to Jim. “I doubt it,” he said (Jim doubts everything). “There was no wind.”
“I believe her,” I said (Pauline believes everything).
I stepped out of the front door and look around and up. Half-way up the hill facing the house, I saw something white. I called Jim for a second opinion. “Looks like the paper,” he said, “but I can’t climb anymore.”
The paper was 30 feet up, caught on the branch of a manzanita bush. I knew I couldn’t manage the climb up, but I could climb down from the upper road. I swapped my slippers for snow boots and tightened my robe belt.
I strode to the front gate, turned left, and began walking the upper road. Coming towards me, socially distancing the other side of the road, was a man I’d seen around the neighborhood. He nodded a greeting. To his credit he showed no surprise at seeing a woman of a certain age (beyond that really), hair in disarray, clad in a burgundy chenille robe and snow boots (it’s July and it’s California).
I spotted the newspaper and surveyed the situation. The hillside was covered with enough brush to help with my descent. I hesitated. Did I really want to risk life and limb for a newspaper? I did. There are few pleasures more precious to me than a newspaper and coffee in the morning.
Slowly I inched my way down clutching every twig within reach. I grabbed the newspaper. I could see Jim below standing on the front steps drinking from his Grand Canyon mug. The hill was too steep for me to continue down to where he stood. I turned, carefully. The way up looked more difficult than the way down. I shoved the paper into my robe pocket and grabbed the nearest branch.
I climbed a few feet then stopped. I froze. It froze. I was face to face with a furry grey creature. A squirrel had decided to see what this unfamiliar animal was doing. I tried to remember if I had read anything about squirrels attacking people — specifically biting off noses. I remembered reading that when confronted with a wild animal, make yourself bigger. I was already bigger than the squirrel. I did read that predator urine keeps squirrels away. I wasn’t going there. Sound. That was it. Squirrels don’t like noise.
“Are you all right?” Jim yelled from below.
My furry friend fled.
I hoisted myself up the last few feet and stepped onto the road. I turned to face Jim and gave the Rocky Balboa victory pose — arms aloft. My robe flew open. Jim put down his mug and applauded. You can decide to be happy.
Pauline Nevins lives in Colfax.
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