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I started the leaves early today. I have been running out of daylight before I run out of energy. I hauled them up the hill in large wheeled refuse cans (four garbage cans per refuse can) to dump in the woods. I burned them by the road. I have lost count of numbers of cans. Looking out the window I see a leaf spin by on its way to earth. There must be a reason we do this leaf thing. They kill the lawn. There must be a reason we grow lawns. We are emulating European gentlemen from centuries ago?
Daughter Amanda called. She was lonely. That is what she said. Ben was on a dig somewhere west of here, I don’t remember the state exactly. It may have been Indiana. Her homework load was light for the coming weekend. Would I be interested in lunch or dinner? Sure. We decided on dinner because that is what we always do. I am not sure exactly why. I know I mumbled something about having more daylight to work outside, and that seemed to be the deciding factor for her. I have some apple jelly my mother made to take to her.
I was trying to sort out the basement. I had two boxes. One seemed to be full of baby blankets and the other seemed to be full of baby toys. I put an ad in Craig’s and someone agreed to come pick them up. Then I began going through the box of blankets. That may have been a mistake. There were some pads with stains on them that were obvious throw-aways, but then the memories began floating out like soft aromas. Hand-made quilts and buntings, pillow-cases and sleepers crawled over the sides of the box. These had been my children.
I got a text message from Michael Jr. He needed twenty dollars. The message was garbled with words like food and jail. I responded with one word, “come.” He came with girlfriend who had hurt her hand at the bottling plant. They had just come from the doctor where she had gotten the stitches out. I gave him his mail, forty dollars, and a pint of grandma’s apple jelly. He explained about his sentencing and said he was still under a restraining order and could not legally see me. He said he was sorry. The whole thing made me cry.
I had dinner with daughter Amanda at the Chicago Pizza place. She is telling me about the kinds of lady bugs, and drawing pictures on a napkin. They have real eyes and fake eyes, she explains. The first one she shows has a checker-board pattern on its wings and anime fake eyes. A second one has dots for its fake eyes and polka dots for its wings. Still a third one has a parenthesis on its wings and an obviously alien symbol for the eye decoration. The last example she draws has plain wings and goggles for its fake eyes.
The man was up to something. He was overheard in the store ordering a pound of purple. He was being careful, but still he was overheard. Someone was standing behind the potato chips. The man behind the counter stooped and returned after a bit with a cloth-wrapped bundle about the size of a small shoe box. Setting it on the counter, he tied a brown string around it and rang up a no-sale while taking twenty-five dollars from the customer. He double-bagged it, handed it over, and the man left, looking both ways, and walking away from the store quickly.
The man who was standing behind the potato chip rack approached the counter. The proprietor was now reading an Auto Trader paper. “Excuse me, I’d like a pound of purple,” the man said. The proprietor’s eyes glanced quickly up from his paper. He looked at the man, evaluating him. “Do you have a license?” he asked quietly. “I didn’t know you needed one. Your last customer was not asked to show a license.” The proprietor looked around the now empty store without dropping his paper. “For purple, you need a license,” he said, and returned his attention to his paper.
My lunch smells like cat food as I open the can. It is chicken broccoli cheese soup. Campbell’s. Cream of. It appears to have cauliflower in it rather than broccoli. I put it in the little red dish a friend gave me for baking apples. The lid is gone, but the dish remains, and I use it frequently; just not for apples. As the soup microwaves the cauliflower florets explode—little mines showering the microwave with thick cream and pieces of cauliflower. I look for a suitable plate for a lid. As I recall, I have two that are perfect.
I got the leaves done. I don’t think you can ever say you have the leaves done if you live with trees, and I live with enough trees that I don’t know how many there are. More than 100 I know this, more than 1000 possibly…but probably 100 or so shedding where I have to clean up after them. But most of them are bare and I have made a complete clean sweep of the lawn area. I have a couple curb carts full that I have not disposed of yet, but I am calling this job done for now.
I am not sure what my next general project will be. Most likely a mowing and a general house cleaning and dusting. These are not projects in the sense of do them and they are done though. Next project feels like it will be a garage cleaning. When I moved in I cleared just enough space to park my car. Cleaning the garage means I will have to move a lot of things around and go through a lot of scary stuff that I have not looked at since I moved in. I have no idea what is out there.
The pile of debris used to be a large home with an Olympic-sized pool. It boasted a front porch with four bricked arches fifteen feet wide. The owner would ride his lawn tractor around the yard every day, mowing, picking up leaves, or pushing snow. The attack on the home lasted less than a minute. It was described as an accident, and the details were not completely clear. Nothing is ever completely clear around here. It is unknown if anyone was home at the time, but the owner is seen almost daily riding his lawn tractor around the front yard.
The destruction of the home on 8685 Downey was the first of a series of seemingly unrelated events that were not connected until later. Even after the events were tied together, it was not clear how many incidents might have been overlooked. Even after the events were tied together and the single link between them was shown to be a single man, there was little that could be done about it. There was no known way the man could have done these things. If he had been seriously suspected, he would have been taken away by the government for study.
Amanda calls. She wants to know if I am still going to fix her dryer. This is her way of reminding me I have not yet appeared to fix her dryer. It is, after all, a 50-mile drive each way. I re-affirm my promise to come fix her dryer. I think it will be Monday. It is a gas dryer. If I am lucky the pilot light has blown out. If I am not lucky it will require me to take it apart and install a new igniter which I will have to find in a strange town on Monday.
I called my mother. I call my mother every weekend. She asks about the kids and I tell her that they are ok and that Tom is working too hard. I tell her Amanda’s car is broken, that she is working two jobs and riding a bike. My mother tells me she is going to walk the dogs, or she tells me she has refused to walk the dogs, but we know she will walk the dogs anyway. She will take them to the cemetery where much of the family is buried, and walk them, a mile each time around.
I saw the movie “Hardwired”(Cuba Gooding Jr. and Val Kilmer.) It was not so good. It was sort of a low-budget “Matrix” plot-wise. Val has found a way to implant billboards in people’s heads. They will not go away until you either buy the product or steal it. He is a bad man and according to the rules of cinema it is ok to kill him. He may also be a zombie. It was hard to tell based on his performance. Cool parts of the movie were getting to see corporate logos impressed on Stonehenge, Mount Rushmore and the moon.
I decided to replace the door handles on the downstairs bath vanity last night. One of them was broken when I moved in. I bought the replacements and this afternoon started to put them on, but the screws that came with them were too long. So were the screws that were on the old ones. Now I need to either buy some new screws or cut the old ones. Normally cutting the screws would not be a problem, but I don’t have the tools I used to have. For one thing my vice disappeared while I was living across town.
I washed my wallet this morning. I didn’t mean to wash the wallet. My intent was to wash pants. I missed the wallet in the pocket as I was loading the pants into the washer. They were cargo pants. Many pockets to check. The wallet itself looks good. Washing your wallet is an opportunity to go through all those papers and sort out the crap you don’t need, the receipts, and the expired credit cards. My kitchen table is now covered with drying pieces of paper, my Social Security Card, my driver’s license, and a note someone once gave me.
I find I struggle against the limits of consciousness that I perceive. Perhaps I struggle also against those I don’t perceive. I struggle against the limits of my mind to organize and to hold concepts…here, hold this thing still for me while I look at it, while I understand it. Do not let it slip away like that. Many would suggest that it is better to rejoice in the scope of consciousness we have than to struggle against the walls that restrain us. Still, it seems to be the nature of at least some of us to do just that.
I finally called the doctor’s office. My friends and family convinced me I was sick enough and that I might even have the killer flu that was going around. The receptionist/nurse asked me a few questions, and said the doctor would call me back. That was about ten in the morning. About 6 that evening she called back to say they had sent prescriptions to my pharmacy for me. The doctor had not called himself, and she didn’t know what the prescriptions were for, or what the doctor had decided was wrong with me after not having talked with me.
The door is watching
A pretty light blue jacket.
The jacket knows he is there,
but pretends she doesn’t.
Lifting her collar,
she braces against the breath
of an anticipated nuzzle.
She feels the shadow already on her neck.
It is so close,
that when he finally touches
she is left gasping at the wall,
pinned there by the cold brass knob.
She is fixed
between his hard gray surface and the stained
She lifts her chin as she feels his caress,
shoulders and lapels dropping,
and a wall rustles against the falling nylon fabric.
I remember to check the softener salt this morning. It is very low. A few lonely crystals sit in the bottom of the water tank. I wonder how much salt I am using and I check my expense log, finding that I bought 160 pounds of salt a little over 8 weeks ago. That is about 20 pounds of salt a week. It is not as bad as I had feared, but it is still not good. I imagine all this salt going into my concrete septic tank, slowly dissolving the concrete, tons of salt seeping into the ground water.
The land slid off into a long valley to the west In winter we could see the tops of the mountains there through the bare trees on the hill. The rest of the year, there were no mountains, only forest as far as one could imagine, and a slope that went on for a day before it reached the river at its bottom. Behind us and to the east, the land continued to rise to another mountain, and this one we could not see at any time of the year. This not being seen is in the nature of mountains.
I have traveled enough to know that mountains are of several types. Perhaps the most striking are the solitary ones that seem to have shoved themselves up out of the earth on their own accord and sit there on an otherwise flat plain. These too have a way of disappearing once you get close to them, once they begin to absorb you into their own idea of being, their own fogs, ravines, snows, forests, and sudden drops. From a distance, they look like you could hold them in your hand. Come close enough and they will crush you in theirs.
I start to put on one of my favorite shirts today. It is a flannel shirt, but it is not a flannel shirt. It is made of that warm soft fabric but does not have that awful checked pattern associated with such shirts. Instead it is a light tan with mild yellow and light blue vertical stripes. Unfortunately I notice that the top fold of the collar of this shirt has completely worn through. The only thing holding it on is the lining and the button in the back. I wonder: the rag bag, or do I wear it anyway?
The sun has gone down in an odd way tonight. There is little light in the sky. The town is in dusk with the exception of a cupola of an unremarkable house. Its frame is lit up a bright white in contrast to the dark wood below, in contrast to its own dark windows. It is as if there were a spotlight shining on it, but it is only some defiant ray of sunshine escaped somehow over the lip of the earth, somehow through the dense clouds, and in a way that we can’t tell from where it has come.
I finished watching the third season of Stargate Atlantis. It ended, of course in mid-story, and Hulu now doesn’t have anything until Season Five. This means I need to buy season four if I wish to continue. To complicate matters Season ten of SG-1 has been released and I am thinking that since I got hooked into this stuff I have watched close to 300 episodes of this stuff. Yes, it is decent science fiction, but a steady diet of this stuff can alter your perception of things. It has already had an impact on the nature of my dreams.
My Thanksgiving dinner worked. I fixed spaghetti, although it has been so long since I have done so I had forgotten how. Tom brought Heather and two pies. Amanda brought two dogs, Dallas and the crotch-butting Australian Cow dog whose name I can never remember. Dinner worked out though. The kids had a good time talking to one another, and I managed to keep the dishes cleaned up. The salad was a hit even though the spaghetti sauce turned out a little lame. And despite being sick, I maintained good energy through the whole thing waiting until today to collapse.
I spend a lot of time these days trying to figure out what I am going to do with the rest of my life. This is, to be sure, time I could be spending doing the life, but it doesn’t seem to be coming that naturally. I seem to be caught here at a fold, a crease, at a turn in the page, and the transition has become awkward. It has become so awkward that the whole story has become this one transition, and any good editor would just chop it off after the last episode and be done with it.
It is later than I had thought. I am walking down the side of the four-lane to the grocery store. The sun is dropping along with the temperature and the wind is pushing against me, finding my inner being, chilly fingers wrapping around my bones. I am thinking it is good this wind will be at my back as I walk home. I am watching all the traffic on the street, and I notice I am the only person of the hundreds passing here who is on foot. It is just another way in which I don’t fit this place.
I am taken by how compact November has been. 30 days. Yes, but it felt more like 20 days. More like 10. Was I asleep? What happened in November? I now live here alone. This house feels like a city. There are rooms I never go into and beds that are not slept in. I stumble into areas that I don’t recognize and find things that I have either not seen for years or that I have never seen at all. I buy a new pillow only to find there are five more neatly stacked in a forgotten linen closet.
The Tip Jar