Ever since the snow melted, I had been eyeballing this jar of pickles at the bottom of our street. It was a litre jar of bread-and-butters lying on its side next to a cedar hedge right there by the stop sign. The pickles looked fine, but then pickles are already green, so that’s an assumption on my part.
There was no label on the jar, so either they were homemade pickles or the jar had been there for so long that the label had disintegrated. But really it doesn’t matter; it was a jar of pickles where a jar of pickles had no reason to be.
Day after day I walked by expecting someone to have picked up the pickles, but day after day the pickles were still there.
“The pickles are still there,” I would tell my wife.
“You’re not bringing them home,” she would say.
Why would I bring them home? It’s not like I wanted to eat them, although I was curious whether they were still good. Pickles are, after all, the hardiest of all the preserves. In my fridge, I’m currently working on a jar of homemade zucchini relish labelled “Sept 04/11.” I have two more jars just like it in the basement. It’s up to me to eat them because obviously we can no longer give them away as hostess gifts – except, perhaps, to hostesses we don’t particularly like.
(By the way, if I’m ever found dead in my house under mysterious circumstances, check for evidence of hot dogs.)
Really I was more curious about how the pickles ended up there in the first place. Pickles are not your common roadside garbage. One doesn’t generally misplace pickles. You’re not likely to leave a jar of pickles on the top of your car and drive off.
Maybe someone got mad at her spouse. “I’ll show him,” she said, and then she threw away his pickles. Gently. Underneath a stranger’s hedge.
And then there was the other mystery: why were the pickles still there? There’s a family who waits for the bus stop on that corner every morning. Didn’t they see the pickles on their property? Was there some kind of pickle-related standoff? (“I’m not picking up the pickles. You pick up the pickles.”)
Life is full of such mysteries — mysteries one could probably solve if it weren’t simply easier to just wonder about them.
For example, about a week ago, a cat started hanging around our property. It was hanging around other properties as well but of course my wife is the one who put food out.
“Wait, we’re feeding it?” I complained.
“It’s obviously hungry,” Deb said.
“Well, obviously if you give it food it’s going to come around looking for it.”
Where had it come from? I later learned the kids had named it Nancy and that Nancy is a boy.
“We’re naming it now?”
Monday night, I went out to the porch and the cat was sleeping there. It took off when it saw me coming.
“You scared off Nancy,” Deb scolded.
“I walked out onto my porch. Why is the cat sleeping on our porch?”
“Don’t worry, I won’t let it inside the house.”
“Sure, you say that now. But when winter comes you’ll be saying, ‘We can’t leave him out there in the cold…!’”
Deb just smiled.
Then there was the other day when Deb and I were walking home from the store, just around the corner from the pickle place. A squirrel came running towards us. Then we realized it was running at us. We froze. It stopped right at Deb’s feet. “It’s going to climb my leg!” she cried.
A woman on a nearby porch said into her phone, “Une seconde,” and then she called, “Charlie! Viens ici!” She flicked her fingers at the squirrel, who turned and scampered back to her, up her arm and onto her back. The woman went right on talking on her phone, not even an apology for the squirrel-related trauma.
Unsolved mysteries. How do you train a squirrel? Who owns Nancy? Does he mind being called “Nancy”? Why didn’t anyone pick up the pickles? Why didn’t I?
“You’re not bringing them home,” Deb reminded me.
“But what about when winter comes?” I said. “We can’t just leave them out in the cold…!”
But then, Tuesday morning, the pickles were gone. So who picked them up?
It’s a mystery.