Oranges in bloom, 70 degrees, skies stay light later — if you’re not eating outside now, when are you?

“Do you think it’s too cold?” said Sue, when I suggested we have Sunday dinner on the patio.

“Too cold?” Where is the girl who used to bundle up and stride outside in the face of a Philadelphia winter? The girl who never flinched when the Arctic wind whistled off Lake Michigan when she lived in Chicago.

“It’s 70 degrees,” I said. “If not now, when?”

“When” also meant pre-flies, pre-mosquitos and pre-rats, although I left “pre-rats” out of my let’s-eat-outside pitch. That was between me and the rats, not me, Sue and the rats. There is never a good time to talk about rats even if it’s to indicate that as of now, early spring, we didn’t have any.

Summer is another animal and not the sort with which you are prone to snuggle. I remember a dinner during June when a healthy rat scampered across the roof of the garage behind the wrought-iron picnic table at which we were seated.

It was dusk. Dusk to a rat is what a bugle is to a race horse. It’s a call to run wild.

Fortunately, Sue was sitting with her back to the galloping rat otherwise we would have probably never eaten outside again.

Before dinner, I went to the garage to fetch the seat cushions for the wrought-iron chairs. The chairs had some give but it was wrought iron-give and not goose down-give.

Smart people bring their seat cushions inside after each use. Smart people never leave them out where the elements can ruin them. Smart people avoid rain, sunshine and dust storms. Smart people are not us people.

We prefer to ruin the seat cushions every year and then buy new ones so we can ruin those too.

All it takes is one rainstorm and rainstorms are like babies when it comes to seat cushions: They usually come at night.

“At night,” after you’ve brushed your teeth, lay down in bed and fallen asleep for the first time.

That’s when you realize it’s raining and you’ve left the seat cushions on the wrought-iron chairs. That’s when you drift into fantasy mode: Maybe the person lying next to you will realize it’s raining and that we’ve left the seat cushions on the wrought-iron chairs and that perhaps “we” should get up, go downstairs, go outside in the rain and get soaked and carry the cushions to safety.

However, the fantasy dissolves when you realize “we” haven't left out the seat cushions, you have and you is you and you is all alone. That’s when you usually go back to sleep.

We had eight seat cushions — four were ruined and four were rust-stained on one side. The other sides were fine.

No one looks at the bottom of a cushion unless they have a heart attack, roll under the chair and look up with wide, frightened eyes and wonder if the last thing they’re going to see in life is the underside of a rust-stained cushion.

I put the cushions on the chairs, brushed off the wrought-iron table and swept the patio. Dinner was lovely. Top Bakersfield right now, I dare you. Stained seat cushions or not.

Contact The Californian’s Herb Benham at 661-395-7279 or His column appears on Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays; the views expressed are his own.

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