“Look at this house. I have never seen so much clutter in my life! That’s what comes out of bringing illegals in here. Everyone knows they’re messy and dirty.”

“That’s crazy even for you, Aussie, and you have a high bar for craziness. These are all Henry’s toys.”

“I saw you pick them up and put about fifty of them back in the box, and in two minutes he dropped 20 back all around, in your bedroom, your office, on my bed—”

“Beds. You have lots of beds, Auss.”

“On all my beds, kitchen, living room. It’s like he makes those messes on purpose.”

“Aussie, Henry’s human is in the hospital. It’s been almost 2 weeks since her terrible accident, and she’s now doing a second bout of hospitalization.”

“Isn’t she coming home today?”

“Maybe, maybe not. Things continue to screw up, given the extent of the damage to her body. Last night Green River Zen had its monthly council, and the question people addressed was: How do we meet the moment in times of high stress? It was a small, intimate and very moving council. The point is, Aussie, that Henry may be meeting this raw moment by sprinkling all his toys around the house.”

“Illegal meets the moment by creating a mess?”

“He needs to surround himself with things that comfort him. Don’t we all do that?”

“You mean, all the chocolate you eat whenever you go crazy”?

“I don’t go crazy, Aussie. Let’s be more precise with our language.”

“Okay. When your voice gets louder and higher, when you fold your hands under your chin and look despairingly at the computer screen, when you rush off to the kitchen for another cup of coffee or scramble in the cupboards to check what sugary things are there, when you yell: Aus-sie! because I ran far away from you, or: Henry, shut up! because Illegal is yapping like crazy. Precise enough for you?”

“And what do you do when you’re stressed, Aussie?”

“I go out to the back and lie there. I don’t scream at anyone, and I don’t mess up the house with stuff. That’s the trouble, isn’t it? The Illegal Chihuahua surrounds himself with stuff: Llamas and alligators and kangaroos and a dozen monkeys. That’s so materialistic! Obviously, he’s trying to prove he’s really American, but he don’t fool me. Why can’t he just meditate?”

“Material things are very important for wellbeing. Look at how you need marrow bones around you.”

“Bones are NOT clutter.”

“Humans like a cup of coffee or tea, some Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream.”

“A whole pint?”

“We’re material beings, Aussie, not clouds in the air. Did it ever occur to you, Auss, that Henry’s toys are his furniture? They’re his way of making his home, like I have a bed and a desk and a nice chair with blankets. Look at the mohair covering I have for the rocking chair, I got it from a dear friend 20 years ago and it helps me feel at home. That’s what Pinky and Llama Louie do for Henry.”

“I’ve heard you give dharma talks about home. You say nothing about Pinky and Llama Louie, you speak about going inside. Why can’t Henry go inside and shut up?”

“Here’s a Mary Oliver poem for you, Aussie, and don’t groan:

I know, you never intended to be in this world.
But you’re in it all the same.
So why not get started immediately.
I mean, belonging to it.
There is so much to admire, to weep over.
And to write music or poems about.
Bless the feet that take you to and fro.
Bless the eyes and the listening ears.
Bless the tongue, the marvel of taste.
Bless touching.”
“Does she say to bless the dozen monkeys and chipmunks in the bedroom?”

“All of us live in the same house, Aussie: two women, two dogs, Lori’s sister coming in, mice in the basement and in the garage. Soon the ladybugs will come, then the moths and spiders, then—”

“But they’re not stuffed animals, they’re real!”

“We’re all equally real, Aussie.”

“I’m realer.”

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