by Audrey Y. Scharmen
Winter has swept the last traces of color from the creek shore, and the view is a mere negative of autumn past. A lone mute swan bobs ghostlike in a setting of skeletal trees and black water.
A new scarecrow stands now beside my front door in a cloud of scent amid the rosemary bush that defies the season. She is Oracle 2, a replacement for the one who was my voice of dissent until she fell prey to storm and stress. The successor already shows the scars of Halloween and Election Day, two equally scary occasions bravely endured. Her campaign poster is gone, and she bears on her burlap breast a red, white and blue badge proclaiming Proud to Vote. A crumpled Santa hat perches atop her yarn curls. Her broad smile denies the bitter disappointment of defeat. There is still the gaudy ritual of the inauguration to endure, and I sense a subtle slump of her thin shoulders.
Winter days are dusk barely diluted, and I peer through the gloom and down a narrow lane where bright banners wave from the porches of neighbors. Cocktail glasses and confetti embossed on rippling silk are little icons announcing the new year. A rumpled campaign poster peeks from beneath a bush, and a faded turkey banner hangs limply from a post nearby.
The perennial icons blossom with the changing seasons. There are bunnies for Easter and flowers for Mother's Day and birthday cakes for family members. Appearing sporadically on the same porch is even a special silhouette of a kissing couple on a flag.
"Look at that," I exclaim to my dog. "Nobody in this community has a raggedy scarecrow as a spokesperson. Our PR is a flop. No one pays attention. We need some of those banner things to spread our message." The dog nods agreement and goes back to sleep.
These people are talented, I muse. They make these things. I can do that. I have a sewing machine - if I can find it. I am a faithful fan of Martha Stewart, and I follow her reruns. I really miss her since she went away. But I never got around to doing any of her projects. They all look so hard. Being a homemaker is really hard.
Besides, I am more a Phyllis Diller type left over from the 1950s. (Anyone out there remember her? I wonder where she is. Was she spirited away, as well, to that place where audacious females who dare to become rich and famous CEOs are taken?)
We were inventors - scientists - Phyllis and I. We did hydroponic gardening in our refrigerators long before Disney discovered the process. And didn't we find the very first deadly strains of Ebola in the dark corners of a common laundry hamper? Of course we did. But others took all the credit. Life is unfair.
I sigh as I see all the windows on the lane twinkling clean in the gloom. Mine are plastered with leafblow. The banner ladies' chrysanthemums are properly plumped in uncluttered yards and still abloom. Mine sprawl like drunken strumpets beside the mossy fence. (What the heck is a strumpet? I must look it up someday.)
So I resolve to become organized. I will change my values, my morals and my politics. I will wash my windows and plump my posies. I will sew. My banners will spout reality. They will be beautiful but practical. I will have one to herald each new war. One to announce the first winter blizzard. One to represent the debut of hurricane season, plus satin portraits of each name. Lifesize? I see commissions. I smell money.
No flowers. No bunnies. And you can forget about that hokey kissing couple. That's not gonna happen on my front porch. Look for our website: badnewsbanners.com. Happy New Year from me and the Oracle.
Scharmen, of Lusby, has taken first prizes two years running in the Maryland, Delaware, D.C. Press Association editorial competition for her reflections in Bay Weekly, where she has written for each of our 13 years.