BY Michael

06/01 Direct Link
The house continues to close in on me this summer. Belladonna vines swell and creep across the back deck and shrubs and trees outside seem determined to swallow the entire structure. Weíve entered another of Michiganís mini-rainy seasons, so it is dark and wet outside; everything dripping and spongy, everything alive and growing. The air conditioner is the only thing that stands between you and the jungle, and sometimes it is just too cold to use it. When you turn it on you wonder if it is going to work this time, or whether some exotic plant has eaten it.
06/02 Direct Link
My morning is a little out of whack. There is little reason for my morning to be out of whack. The delivery Iím supposed to wait for today doesnít happen until a timeframe between noon and four. My morning should be completely in whack. I should be running the errands I cannot run this afternoon when they are supposed to be delivering the dishwasher. Well, not quite. The internet is down and they are sending someone out for that and I have no idea when they will arrive. So I am stuck for the day most likely. Good old AT&T.
06/03 Direct Link
Since my internet was down, I thought The Crone would worry about my disappearance, so I signed on to my email on my cell phone. There I picked up an email from AT&T thoughtfully telling me they would be here to fix my internet between 8 AM and noon, and giving me a URL I could access on the internet if I had any further questions about my internet outage. I did have further questions. I really did. I had questions about the incongruity of them sending me emails when they were supposed to be fixing my email delivery vehicle.
06/04 Direct Link
I am still sleepy. I get up too early. I wake up automatically in the mornings, it seems. Iím sure itís the dreams. They get me moving in my sleep, and I wake up with my heart pumping and mind racing, but Iím not really ready to get up. Sometimes when I am thinking clearly, I simply go back to bed and let myself fall back to sleep. I go for that golden eight or even nine hours of sleep that is so nice to my body. But not today; I will stumble through the day wondering what is wrong.
06/05 Direct Link
It is a donít open the curtains day. These are days that there is more than I can wrap my brain around inside the house without looking out the window. And then there are those who would suggest I should actually step outside. There are also people who advocate immersing your entire body in water, and say it can be done with no ill effects. I have done it twice today. Once this morning, just to make me feel better. I did it a second time after exercising pretty much for the same reason. I look at the dark curtains.
06/06 Direct Link
She told you to study as you drove to work. This perplexed you since you commuted in some of the most vicious traffic in the country. She said that if you read two pages a day you could finish in no time. This perplexed you because you had nearly 600 pages to read. You felt she didnít have a realistic gasp of your problem. The last time she worked, she commuted on a train. You felt she wasnít taking you seriously. I wanted to tell you that the situation extended way beyond your study habits, but knew that wasnít appropriate.
06/07 Direct Link
You donít believe in it, so you are protected from it. The boogey man, aliens, drive-by shootings, true love, dire warnings from an angry God that you are not performing actions that are a vital part of his plan. But, you protest, you donít exist (the boogey man). You got bored with us and moved on to the next planet (the aliens). You only happen down town. (The shootings and the true love). You died. You gave up on us. You got bored and gave us free will and went away. ďYouíve been reading too much existential crap,Ē He says.
06/08 Direct Link
I knew I was taking a chance when I bought the can of Meijer coffee. Some Meijer stuff is good. Some Meijer stuff is not so good. Meijer graham crackers are the best graham crackers you can buy. Meijer dish soap is terrible watered-down stuff. But the Meijer coffee was cheap, so I tried it. My first thought was that it was just weak, that it had no flavor, so I made it stronger, and then stronger yet, but it just tasted peculiarly stronger with no flavor. Iím going to have to dump it and go buy some real coffee.
06/09 Direct Link
I havenít heard from my children for a while. It is coincidence. They move about me randomly with respect to one another most of the time unless I do something to cause concern. Then I am likely to hear from all four of them in a single day as one of them contacts the other three to say, ďDad is acting weird,Ē or whatever it is they say. Lately their individual orbits have taken them all into distant paths, away from me. They have had no crisis requiring my contact. They have had no sudden impulse to reach for me.
06/10 Direct Link
I am washing the cottonwood seed off the air conditioner when I am approached by another neighbor. Bill Fear does not recognize me and introduces himself. We talk and I tell him I am thinking of selling the house. I know he is a real estate agent. He suggests hanging onto it a couple more years. I think it is going to be more than a couple years, but I donít start that discussion. I do not know where I would go if I did sell this place, and that question would be thrown into my face at that point.
06/11 Direct Link
Two birds glide to a landing across the meadow. The wind picks up, flipping the leaves, making me think of rain. It may be that the trees are merely washing themselves this morning, but still I think of rain. I rest a moment, letting the colors still, and the rain begins to pound in the darkness, stiff heavy drops beating into dirt, into mud, into dark water. I catch a smell, something floating. The sun comes out. Slowly I wake, the sun licking my face. I have to find the leader. We need to move to higher ground before tonight.
06/12 Direct Link
Tomorrow I start my new job. (You have a job.) ((Yes, I know I have a job.)) (Well what is this talk about a new job?) ((It is not really a job.)) (You said it was a job. You said, ďTomorrow, I start my new job.Ē) ((Yes, I am a little confused. I am trying to get my arms around all this and sort it out.)) (Is this a job?) ((I am not sure. I think it is an evaluation. I think I will be ushered toward a job if I do ok on the evaluation)) (You have a job.)
06/13 Direct Link
I was shaking hands with someone. I remember the other hand, heavier than mind, the fingers thicker. I remember the blue sleeve, linen, with the thread hanging off it. Was this yesterday? Did I meet someone yesterday? Did I agree to something? I cannot remember shaking hands with anyone yesterday. Was this something I dreamt? I was thinking I should maintain eye contact, but I couldnít. I couldnít take my eyes off that blue thread hanging from the sleeve. Why would I have a dream like that? What did I agree to yesterday? What have I gotten myself into now?
06/14 Direct Link
There is a knock on my front door. I go to peer through the frosted lattice. I can make out the figure of a young man with a finely chiseled face. My eyes are not working well today. I open the door. He has a clipboard. He is wearing a necktie and a name badge, and he is already backing down the hill away from me. He says something I cannot understand. I give him a look. ďAre you into casual golf?Ē he asks, continuing his retreat. ďNo,Ē I say. I donít think he hears me. He is already gone.
06/15 Direct Link
The Frankenstein lawn mower has finally given up. I hit a huge stone with it, bending the blade at a forty-degree angle down. It makes squiggly patterns in the lawn and digs up roots and ant hills that it normally left alone. Turning it over, I survey the damage. Itís bad. I no longer have the tools to fix this kind of damage. My anvil and vise disappeared when I moved to the apartment, but I remember having some spare blades in the storage shed. It is getting dark, but in the dim light I make out their rusty shape.
06/16 Direct Link
Iím in the dark storage shed picking up the rusty lawn mower blades. In the dim light I can see the ant colony that is hidden beneath the blades to boil up them and along my arm. Carpenter ants. Ants carrying eggs. Ants running for their lives. Ants screaming. Ants attacking. Flinging the blades across the yard, I stomp a pile of ants and eggs and roll out of the shed. One of the defenders is clinging to my leg with all his might and I cannot dislodge him. It is a battle to the death. His was certainly honorable.
06/17 Direct Link
The blades from killer ant farm were rusty, but they were straight and still had an edge on them. They were also the wrong size. They were 22-inch blades. The Frankenstein was a 20-inch mower. I took the old mangled Frankenstein blade and headed for Meijer. Rounding the corner in the garden department I surprised a group of young teens. One of the boys asked if I needed help. ďI needs me a new sling blade,Ē I said in my best twisted Billy Bob Thornton. The rest of the teens tittered and the boy helped me find a suitable replacement.
06/18 Direct Link
The blade went on, and Frankenstein started on the first pull just like always. I had suspected that if I dared replace anything, that the mower would quit out of spite, but the bagger works now. I am thinking I should put the carburetor back on. It shouldnít be able to run without the carburetor, and will undoubtedly stop any day. Or did Michael Jr. jury-rig some substitute deep in the bowels of this twisted piece of Toro metal that keeps it running anyway? As usual, I find the best course of action is to let the thing just run.
06/19 Direct Link
Itís time to replace the door out to the garage. It has been sticking, getting to where you have to put your shoulder against it to get in. I have found it convenient to leave this door open, rather than open it once it gets shut. Fortunately, there is a storm door there too. I will not replace the storm door when I replace the entry door. I was glad I had left a claw hammer on the table last night. I absent-mindedly closed the door and when I tried to open it the knob came off in my hand.
06/20 Direct Link
I am told that fatherís day is not as important as motherís day. A friend tells me this, looking at me and explaining that fathers arenít very dependable and disappear as quickly as possible. I am thinking ďWhat kind of father did YOU have, and what was so hot about your mother?Ē My daughter calls explaining that she didnít call her mother either. But you are calling, I protest. ďWell, yes, do you want to get together for dinner tonight?Ē Michael Jr. calls after that. He doesnít have any money, but agrees to join us after I offer to pay.
06/21 Direct Link
Iím unsure what to tell people I do. In our culture, it is a defining question. We are a class conscious. In personalís ads people make sure to state they are 42-year-old ďprofessionalsĒ, so we know that they belong to a certain class of people. In this world I am neither white collar nor blue collar. I am not academia. I am not even comfortable saying I am retired because I am too damn young to be retired, although thatís what I am. I once thought I was a writer. But I am not so sure about that any more.
06/22 Direct Link
It was the second day of the door install. I had successfully ripped out the old door frame. I had prepped the door sill with a tube of silicone caulk and was seating the new frame. I know I was tired. I had worked all day. To be sure, the steel door was heavy. I donít know what happened. I donít know exactly why I pulled it out of the wall and dropped it on my car. I donít know how I got so much calk smeared over so many things. I do know why I called the handy man.
06/23 Direct Link
Iím not sure about what Iím doing. I keep wanting to ask someone if Iím being punished for something. But this is not the first time in my life Iíve had this feeling. This is not the first time in this past ten years, in fact. The job search agency I was referred to spent several days testing me. Then they decided that it would be best for me to get some experience in the real work world, since I had been out of it for ďso long.Ē I was sentenced to six weeks hard labor in their parts factory.
06/24 Direct Link
Iím not sure about what Iím doing. I keep wanting to ask someone if Iím being punished for something. But this is not the first time in my life Iíve had this feeling. This is not the first time in this past ten years, in fact. The job search agency I was referred to spent several days testing me. Then they decided that it would be best for me to get some experience in the real work world, since I had been out of it for ďso long.Ē I was sentenced to six weeks hard labor in their parts factory.
06/25 Direct Link
After a couple days, working in the parts factory has an odd affect. It begins to rearrange the pathways of my mind, like extended meditation, like deep sleep. I stop having seizures. The unreferenced screaming stops. After a week the unreferenced crying stops. The pain goes away.
I get up in the morning. I fix breakfast. I pack my lunch. I go to work and do repetitive movements until three oíclock every day in a noisy factory. I go home and sit down, and promptly fall asleep for an hour. There seems to be something in the factory I need.
06/26 Direct Link
The handyman struggles with the door for two days. It is the door from Hell, he reports. He has never installed a door this difficult. I already knew this. It was why I called in a professional to screw it up. He pours a new concrete sill, cuts an inch off the top of the door, and seats one of the hinges an eighth-inch deeper into the pre-hung frame to get the door to close properly. As I suspected, I had purchased a defective pre-hung steel door. I want you to all know I got this item at Home Depot.
06/27 Direct Link
Time is wonky in the factory. It passes in slow sips and gulps. I am learning things. I have, for example, already learned the value of Friday. And I had grown to think there was nothing left to live for. Wait until my therapist hears about this. I suspect this is something I knew in an earlier life, but have forgotten. In truth I was a little afraid of the weekend. Being a drone at the factory has been so positive for my brain, that I am leery about leaving it. But part of the factory ďthingĒ is the weekend.
06/28 Direct Link
My son Tom thinks that the new job has been good for me. He thinks I am doing more things around the house. I am a little confused about this. I think I am actually losing ground in keeping up with the housework. The weekend has become a concerted effort to clean, cut the grass, and work on the latest home improvement project. I am actually losing ground. But I was losing ground before. I think some of the things he is referencing are some projects I completed before starting the job. Wait until he sees what happens next month.
06/29 Direct Link
The factory I work in is very progressive. They pride themselves on this. Quality is a word posted on every wall, and uttered in every meeting. It surprises me that I continue to be surprised that we are unable to do the Quality Dance properly without tripping over our outsized greed. We are, for the most, an automotive supplier. I remember enough from my former life to know what Quality is and how it is circumvented. Quality is not a policy. Properly implemented, it is religion. It takes faith. You have to believe this path will work. You cannot flinch.
06/30 Direct Link
The noise in the factory one day becomes music. I find myself paused, caught by a repeating two-note passage from what I later find is a copier. This is answered by a rhythmic clatter from steel parts being thrown into bins by sorters. The base line is carried by the rumble and snort of the forklift engines, each with its distinctive horn. Iím hearing another rhythm, a distant clanking from the paint line, and these sounds become more intricate as I listen, and it seems as if the workers are in their parts deliberately timing their movements to this music.