Mary V. Welk writes the award winning “Rhodes to Murder” mystery series, including A Merry Little Murder, The Rune Stone Murders, To Kill A King, and The Scarecrow Murders. Her short stories include “Code Blue” in Chicago Blues; “The Case of the Fugitive Farmer” in Missing; the 2007 Lovey Award winner “A Family Affair” in Deadly Ink; “Murder Most Politic” in Blondes in Trouble and “Hickory, Dickory, Doc” (Amazon Kindle shorts). Her essay “Emma Lathen” appears in the 2007 Anthony Award winner Mystery Muses (Crum Creek Press). A member of Sisters in Crime, Mary is a former columnist and feature writer for Mystery Scene Magazine.
www.marywelk.com and www.myspace.com/marywelk
The Ides of March - - - Maybe
by Mary Welk
It’s March 15—the Ides of March—and I know what you’re thinking.
Right now the unspoken words tumbling madly through your brain sound something like this:
‘Oh, please. (dramatic eye roll) Not another lecture on Julius Caesar and his good buddy Brutus. (heavy sigh) We all know Caesar was assassinated on this day back in 44 B.C. (even heavier sigh accompanied by a semi-eye roll) And thanks to Shakespeare, we’ve all heard the words “Beware the Ides of March” and “Et tu, Brute?” at least a hundred times, if not more. (VERY heavy sigh accompanied by hopeless shake of the head) And if it’s not Caesar, I suppose you’re going to tell us about the Hash House Harriers who commemorate the Ides of March each year by running around Rome in togas (snicker, snicker), or the Dagorhir Battle Games boys who dress as medieval warriors and celebrate the day by whacking away at each other with foam swords and shields (snicker, snicker, snort). Or if you’re really out to annoy us (slight growl in the voice accompanied by marked frown), you’ll explain how the Temple Hill Association holds a dinner every March 15^th to honor George Washington who, through cleverness and attention to his enemies—the main one being Continental Army General Horatio Gates; also known as “Granny” Gates for his reluctance to attack the British army (snicker, snort, giggle)—managed to quell an uprising of Continental Army officers on the Ides of March, 1783; credit must be given to the said Temple Hill Association since it manages the historic Edmonston House in New York, headquarters during the Revolutionary War to the aforementioned and rather ineffectual General Gates (scratch of the head and shrug of the shoulders). And then…”
Okay, already! You can stop now; I got the message! I will not—and I repeat, WILL NOT—mention the present month or day again, nor will I utter the words ‘I*** of M****’ at any future point in this blog. Instead, I will share with you my thoughts on spring in general and seed/bulb/plant catalogs in particular.
Spring officially begins on the 20^th of M…. er, I mean, on the 20^th day of the month following February. But it seems to me that spring actually arrives weeks earlier and comes courtesy of the U.S. Postal Service. In short, it arrives with the delivery of the first garden catalog. And this, for me, is a real problem.
You see, I have a rather large garden. It extends down one entire side of the backyard in a six-foot width, crosses the rear of the yard in a slightly narrower swath, then jumps to a ten-foot diameter circle near the pussy willow tree before edging back up toward the house next to the garage where it ends at a small pond. Another three-foot wide track follows the opposite side of the garage. Gardens also occupy three areas in front of the house, some parts of them in shade and some in sun. All this garden space makes for a great many plants, 95% of which are perennials, some of them dating back to when we moved into our house 30-plus years ago. The one thing I do not have room for is more flowers.
But the catalogs arrive, and I am tempted by the latest hybrid lily and hardy geranium. I argue with myself as I consider the “No Strings Attached!” and “Double Your Money!” coupons displayed on the catalog covers.
ME: If I divide the hosta under the birch tree, I’d have room there for a bleeding heart.
MYSELF: You planted a white one by the hosta last year and it didn’t take, remember?
ME: White ones are probably more delicate than the old fashioned pink ones. A pink bleeding heart would take under that tree.
MYSELF: Don’t kid yourself. The only thing that soil is good for is hostas. And you already have two bleeding hearts under the pussy willow. You don’t need another one.
ME: Well, I love this pink Razzmartazz coneflower. You have to agree, it’s beautiful.
MYSELF: Beautiful, smeautiful. You’ve already got three patches of coneflowers.
ME: None like this. All mine are purple, while this one…
MYSELF: …is too pricey. Besides, there’s no room for it in the garden. Chuck the catalog and save your money.
ME: But the coupon…
MYSELF: Don’t talk to me about coupons! They never cover the cost of the plants, and by the time you pay the shipping…
ME: You’re an old grouch. An old, CHEAP grouch.
MYSELF: I prefer to think of myself as ‘thrifty’. You, on the other hand…
And thus my mental argument continues until the day when I pick up the catalog and discover I’ve missed the coupon’s cut-off date by twenty-four hours. By then the snowdrops and crocuses are in full bloom, the tulips and daffodils are several inches above ground, and there’s a hint of green where the Virginia bluebells are just now returning to life. I look at the yard and realize I couldn’t squeeze one more plant into my already overcrowded garden. And that really doesn’t bother me because I love it just the way it is.
And if I didn’t, there’s always another catalog on the way.
Thanks to Kaye for giving me this opportunity to be silly in print. It must be spring fever catching up with me. Since I can’t mention the dreaded I*** of M****, I’ll simply wish you a happy two days before St. Patrick’s Day!