The Back Deck

Where there’s enough for everyone

By Renee Phile

The green, grassy yard is a triangular shape, lots of plants: basil, rosemary, pansies, and other flowers that look cool, but I don’t know their names. Bird feeders — the whimsical ones — are scattered in the yard. The hoi polloi squirrels eat peanuts from kitchen pans on picnic tables. The birds chirp, the highway beside the house roars softly, the wind tingles against my skin. It’s a cool September morning in Nags Head, and I can smell the ocean. My best friend’s grandma reminds me of my own. Delicate but not breakable. I’m sitting right beside her on the back deck. Just the two of us. I hear a buzz. A bee. Then a hummingbird. I see trees full of birds I can’t identify any more than I know the flowers. I hear a car honk. A door shut. She is reading her devotional book, The Upper Room, and I remember my Gram reading the same book. She reads her Bible at the same time, the books balanced in her lap. Flips pages in her Bible. Points her finger along the page like a palm reader tracing the heart line. Reads. Flips more pages. Reads. Rubs her worn, delicate hands together. Flips more pages. Reads. Rubs her wrist. Peers down at a verse. Reads it to herself. The words almost loud enough for someone to hear. Sips her coffee. I sip my own and continue to write in a notebook. A blue jay hops close to me. She looks up. Throws it a peanut. “Uh, oh,” she says as another one swoops down, snatches it, and flies into a tree. She throws a second peanut for the first blue jay, the one that got pushed to the back of the line, but the one in the tree flies down again, and there is a little scuffle. Bird stuff. “There’s enough for everyone!” she laughs. I laugh too.  “This house was built in 1990, and we bought it in 1998,” she explains. I nod. “We have been here ever since.” I nod. She tells me about the house. Two stories. She tells me about her children. Two live close by, they can smell the ocean. One lives on the other side of the world.  She tells me about her husband, who passed away this year. He was a wonderful man. She lays her hand flat on the page of the book. There are doves on the roof of the house, looking like a conference is taking place. Bird stuff. I wonder what they are talking about up there. “The blackbirds eat up everything!” she says as she throws a peanut to a squirrel. It hops up to the deck and devours the nut. She reads, and I write. I breathe in the ocean air. I never want to lose this. Instead I will store it away and come back to it whenever I need it. The blue jay swoops down again, greedy.  PS

Renee Phile loves being a teacher, even if it doesn’t show at certain moments.

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