Tuesday, June 23, 2009


She speaks to her mother on Tuesdays, but today her mother is in Eau Claire with her garden journey group.

Her mother knows that Mill has met Carlisle in person, but certain others in Minnesota suspect that she has never even seen him. They quiz her during return trips on his appearance: Is he tall, broad, handsome, good-natured, good-looking, older, younger, available?

"He's my boss," she says, or "he is he," when cornered.

Carlisle asks for discretion in relating details of her position to anyone except her mother, whom he has judged (without meeting) to be of the older generation, from the set who survived the Great Depression and World Wars, who preserves homegrown tomatoes, who is old school. Mrs. Mill is all that, and she is also a modern.

Mill misses the wildlife of her home in Wayzata: the rabbits at the birdfeeder, the deer in the woods, the gardens and wild leeks. She misses the moths and butterflies, the frogs that climb and toads that crawl. She misses Tilly Artaud, an American toad who sat at Mill's glass door every midnight for a summer, as if she had swallowed a Timex watch battery. She misses her cat, The Doctor: his bushy gray tail and Roman nose, his pacing the hallways at night as if carrying transcripts of her speeches to Congress.

Carlisle has urged her to get a dog to walk in the morning. If she gets a dog, his name will be "Johannes." If she doesn't get one, she'll consider a bird.

No comments: