I'd meant to plant garlic today, four inches apart, blunt end thrust down into friable soil, with all the compost, fertilizer, neutralizer, catalyzer and eveything else garlic requires to keep vampires away from the garden.

A vampire has already gotten my cabbages: deep teethmarks at their throats. And when I went out tonight to dump the compostables and to cut rhubarb chard for our supper, suddenly a great flapping of wings descended upon my shoulders. I threw my old onion peels and coffeegrounds at the thing, and it backflapped quickly. But I could see it hovering just above the ten-feet-tall Jerusalem artichoke stalks, and I swore I'd not do any more night havesting without an amulet of garlic around my neck. One night last fall I went out to pick the last tomatoes, fell down a woodchuck hole, and by the time I'd worked my way through that underground maze, there was snow on the fields above.

In any case, it's November. According to all my authorities, garlic should be in the ground by now so we can harvest in August. Garlic is good for the heart, and by the time next August rolls damply around, who knows how many flipflops mine will have made?

Garlic also keeps away bugs and unwanted suitors, and my father claims that in old Cicero days, Al Capone's boys used to rub it on their bullets to ensure poisoning of the blood if the mere bullet didn't suffice to rub out the opposition.

I'd meant to plant garlic today, for everything from salad to le grand aioli to a Distant Early Warning (DEWline) Maginot Line against vampires, squash bugs and whatever enemies real or imagined I can conjure paranoia to conjure. But it's raining.

And, finally, because all our IOUs have come due and we have to rent the summer house down in Eel Country, belatedly, now we do our spring cleaning.

I hate cleaning, at any season, and so does my Cousin Henry, but being Tauridian he goes at it bull-headedly and gets it done. So he bulldozes the kitchen, while I clean the fridge. . .

After a summer of young, the fridge proves an interesting archeological site. Among moldy yogurt, forgotten crabs, ineffectual bloodworms and enough cans of soda pop, diet and not, to produce diabetes and bladder cancer in lab rats, was also a bottle of Great Aunt Emma's elderberry wine. And enough vials of our homemade vodka (flavored with brambleberries, blackberries, cherries, peaches, apples and pawpaws, according to the progression of the seasons, with persimmon vodka coming up after the frosts) to cure any ailments the mold at the edges of the fridge might overlook.

Not supposed to keep garlic in the fridge, but it might keep the vampires out.

I fear our tenants won't like our mice. Garlic is supposed to scare mice: we could stake the house with a fairy ring of garlic buds. But our mice, Cr.epes and Suzettes, and all their progeny with pink-lettuce ears who slalom on toothpicks among the cats sacked out on the floor, immunized themselves by getting into our garlic vodkas and dancing kazachkas over the counters. It left them breathless.

Cousin Henry, his silver hair strung with spider webs, is down on his hands and knees washing floors. Now I'll have to wax, wisely. As he scrubs, he whistles all the parts from Schubert's Trout Quintet. Is he hinting that he wants me to go out in the leaky skiff, in the rain, to follow the gulls in pursuit of a bluefish for supper? If I weren't waxing floors, I'd be fishing, and planting garlic. Or is he implying that if he weren't scrubbing floors, he'd be playing his violin?

If I weren't washing these walls, I'd be fishing, and playing, and planting the garlic. But now the walls are so bright they'd blind any peeping vampires, no garlic needed.

If I weren't cleaning this closet I'd be--happier, but ten springs have trickled by since it was tackled. This excavation produces five pairs of unmatched shoes for each foot, plus ice skates, jungle boots and silky slippers that have served as bassinets for generations of mice. And here's Great Aunt Emma's silk parasol, her lace shawls and more elderberry wine; some dandelion brandy; shoeboxes spilling fossils, shells and arrowheads; boat hooks, torn sails, slit snorkels, trapless masks; moth-eaten, mouse-eaten quilts and clothes; an unstrung guitar, an iron to heat in the fire; crates of last autumn's pears hidden to ripen forgotten by all but the mice; mousey manuscripts of unfinished books -- If I weren't cleaning the closet, I'd be planting garlic and finishing books.

First time since spring we've had to close windows. Is that a layer of onionskin over the panes? First time in ten years, I wash the windows. As he pours vinegar into the wash water, Cousin Henry talks of mixing a better vinegar with olive oil and sea salt, basil and mustard, and garlic. If he weren't washing windows, he'd be making a cabbage salad. Or writing his book. Or playing his violin.

I'd be planting garlic.

But now the rain has stopped, must chop deadwood for tonight's final fire, sweep porches for tenants, harvest the last tomatoes, peppers, onions and squash. At least the house is unbelievably clean. And the rent from our tenants will pay our own rent. Solvency, cleanliness--

Later, when the late harvest moon slices the sky, tilting with vampires, I will plant the garlic.