Mildew Lisa

[Originally published in the “Maelstrom” (letters) section of The Skateboard Mag.]

Dear Dave,

I remember reading a while back about that time you went to a dog hotel and your dog went to dog prison. That was pretty cool. And Salope Canard too, pretty intense shit. Do you think the sky puma and salope canard and your dog would ever start a band?

Carl Sagan

Yes, Carl, we will start a band. With the addition of one more band member: Mildew Lisa. She’s the front man. Front woman. Whatever. Mildew Lisa is the hummingbird my cat Lobster dragged in the other day. The name Mildew Lisa comes from Finnegans Wake—Joyce was fucking with “mild und liese” which is German for “mildly and gently,” the first words in the final aria in Wagner’s Tristan Und Isolde. Smarty pants hummingbird. The cat is named Lobster, just because, although when he’s bad I call him Robert. Like when he brought a live hummingbird named Mildew Lisa into the kitchen and plopped it down on the kitchen floor right behind me. I was making dinner and the Talking Heads’ “And She Was” was playing on the stereo, so I didn’t realize there was a murder being committed right behind me.

“ROBERT!” I squealed as I almost stepped on the tiny creature.

Fuckin’ cat. We think he’s mildly retarded. I know cats, and this one’s got a touch of the stupids. It’s amazing that he can catch anything, lizards, moths, but a hummingbird was astounding.

“How the fuck did you catch this?” I asked Lobster as I beat him off—yeah, I beat off the cat—as I beat the cat off the tiny creature.

I scooped the hummingbird up off the floor and marveled at the magnificent specimen in the palm of my hand. I love hummingbirds. I never thought in a million years that I’d be holding one of the most magical animals in the world in my hand. Her heart was beating like crazy. She looked at me with an eye that was almost human. Her eyes were wise, but consumed with panic. “Get me the fuck out of here!” she seemed to say. Although she wouldn’t have said “fuck.” Hummingbirds would never use such coarse language.

“It’ll be okay,” I cooed. My mother instincts kicked in. “We’ll make you all better.”

Chicken soup? No, that would be weird. As I began to cast about for something that could act as a nest while she was convalescing, she took off. Which was a good and a bad thing. Good that she was alive, bad that there was a hummingbird flying around my kitchen. A hummingbird in the kitchen looks and sounds really weird, by the way. BZZZZZZ! ZOOM-ZOOM! And of course I lost her. Hummingbirds are fast. It took me a while to find her, but she had landed high on the bookshelf. A reader! (I later checked out what author she was interested in: Bukowski? Pah. I was hoping I could report something cool like Barthelme, or Beckett, or Celine.) I tried to trap her on the bookshelf, but she flew off again. And again I was awed that Lobster had managed to nab this animal. Eventually she landed on the counter, face down, wings spread out, exhausted. She looked so sad. I scooped her into a container, she lost a couple feathers in the process, but she didn’t protest. I carried her out the front door. "It's okay," I whispered to her as I mildly and gently placed her infirmary on our porch.

Seeing the dusk gathering in the sky, she pulled herself up and flew high into a tree and alighted on a branch out of sight. And she was. Which will be the first song our new band will cover when Mildew Lisa returns, “And She Was.” If she does.