Penny Guisinger

*These two pieces are excerpted from Postcards from Here, a memoir in vignette form which will be released by Vine Leaves Press in February 2016.


My wife catches porcupines with the trash can and the lid the way you or I catch spiders with a glass and a piece of paper. Porcupines are bad neighbors. They let themselves into the garden, and take one bite out of every tomato, every squash, every cucumber. They climb up our ornamental trees and rip off the branches, leaving ugly holes near the top. We can’t decide if they’re brazen or just stupid, they way they ransack the place in daylight, with us standing right there. They know enough to run, though, when Kara bounds toward them with the trash can. I watched her one morning chase a fat porcupine clear across the grassy expanse of our lawn. It waddled as fast as it could, and Kara (wearing pajamas still) had to toss the bulbous, plastic trash barrel ahead of her to capture it. Her aim was good. The barrel landed on the fleeing animal just cleanly enough to halt its escape. I do not support porcupine relocation. I worry too much about babies being left behind or porcupine homesickness, but I have learned to stay out of this. From the porch, coffee in my hand, I watched her wrestle the trash can lid beneath the soft feet of the porcupine, then she rolled the whole package over, sliding the creature to the bottom. She stood next to the barrel, breathing hard, and asked me if I would get some rope from the garage. I hate that she loads them up and drives them down the road. Hate that they are scared and confused and lost — I project too much. I regard her there, in flannel pajamas and a T-shirt. Then I put down my cup, go to the garage, and get the rope.

Marriage Two

He was a super model. A presidential candidate. A porn star. He stood in the field in front of our house, basking in his own light. The spectacle stopped me, quite literally, in my tracks. I had not seen this before, and it took several seconds for my brain to understand the information coming in over the retinal wire. He was as grand as he could make himself — feathers puffed out, almost standing on end, and tail opened like a fan.  Not only standing, but slowly turning himself in place, to show every angle, every facet. He looked like he had walked right off the front of a Thanksgiving card from Hallmark, so perfect was his tom turkeyness. He wanted her to see. She was nearby, pecking at the grass, striding slowly away from him,  wholly uninterested. Undaunted, he began to slowly move forward, as if he walked a thin catwalk, nodding to his fans. Aloof but aware. She was too busy to even glance at him, and that’s when I noticed a slight motion near her long, still tail feathers. Then more. Then the motion took the shape of four gray puffballs that followed her in a perfect line. Babies. He had, clearly, impressed her at one time and now just wanted some of the romance back. She pecked and grazed, keeping one eye on the babies, training no eyes on him. She was done with him, maybe just wanted him to stop showing off and help keep track of the puffballs. He serenaded her with a burst of sound like gurgling water, shaking his wattle. Nothing. She turned away. The puffballs collected by her scaly, yellow feet. She was busy. The tom stopped his pivoting, lowered his feathers, and shrank. He transformed from the rock star to the guy who delivers our mail, the guy with the good job and the steady paycheck.