I took a nap this afternoon. It is not a full custom of mine, yet it is something that comes to me easily: setting a timer for one hour, sliding back into my big writing chair with the warm computer on my lap. I can hear myself snoring as I let loose and drift out on the current. My mother had suggested it this morning–that I take a nap. I know I get tired in the afternoon, but I just ignore it. Like a child, I resist sleep. Yet it seems to be something my body wants to do.
I have a quandary. It is a problem that does not exist if I ignore it, so it is a problem of my imagination. It starts with my other PC, the one I bought for work. I am hooking up a music system to it. This is always how these things start. I have a reasonably serviceable Bozo System III hooked up to it that works fine, actually. It hisses at me occasionally, but only in the way of character. I found this recently and it may “solve” the issue, leaving me with several thousand dollars worth of surplus “gear.”
My phone rings. I fumble trying to get to it, spilling my drink out onto the carpet and dropping the phone. By the time I retrieve the phone it has stopped ringing. I look at the call history; it was my father. A call message pops up on the screen. “Hello,” he begins. “This is your father. I wanted to talk to you, but if you don’t want to talk to me, the hell with you.” This is the extent of the message. Well now I know where I get it. I realize I don’t want to talk to him.
I have fallen asleep again. I do this almost every day when I sit down to write. I know part of the reason—the first part. I do not know how many parts this reason has, how many arms or legs. I don’t know if it has webbed feet. I do not even know if it weighs more than a duck. It is simply that the place where I write is so much more comfortable than the place where I do my other work. I could write there too, or I could accept the extra time, the small side trip.
It asks if I want to save a blank document. One may as well be asked to save a blank life. You have reached the end of your life. Do you wish to save this life (Y?) (N?) Such an ending would answer a few questions. It would also beg a few questions. “Excuse me, how much time do I get to think about this question?”
“Move along. There are people waiting behind you.”
“Hey buddy, what’s the hold-up?”
“What’s the default value?”
“I don’t know. Now make a choice and please move along.”
“What happens to a saved live?”
You get shoved rudely from behind causing you to fall into the woman in front of you. She turns to look at you. She is tall, wearing a red suit and full dark black hair. She also wears a look of disgust which loses something as part of her face is missing. Above the missing jaw and upper cheek, her eyes are clear blue. Not an eyebrow or lash is out of place. Pieces of meat and bone are clinging to her perfect hair. You apologize and she turns back to her place in line. You have pushed a button.
Recovering from your shove, you wonder which button you have pushed, “Saved” or “not”. You begin to wonder if “Saved” has any ramifications other than saving a file that probably cannot be retrieved when you want it anyway. Could it have some religious significance? Could it be that easy? No, it did not say “Soul.” You are quite sure it said “Save this life, (Yes?) (No?). Or was it (Y?) (N?). This is how mistakes get made. Your group is passing single-file along a wide dirt path and up a short steep set of stone steps passing through a wall.
The wind is tossing the giant cottonwood tree out by the road up and down, up and down. At least the part I can see is going up and down. I suspect the tree in the main is swaying back and forth only giving the appearance to the part I can see of going up and down. Perhaps. Perhaps not. It is all a game of probability and perception, and the probability is very high that the entire tree is not leaping up and down, roots ripping out of the ground, bouncing against the asphalt.
“You saw that, eh?
Well, yes I’m having an extra mug of coffee this morning. I probably shouldn’t. I should probably allow the nap that usually overtakes me here to have its way instead of medicating it away. It is easy for me to argue either way. There are so many sources willing to argue any side to a point that it is almost impossible to decide what one should really do, how one should eat, or sleep, or breathe or sex one’s self up appropriately. Or should one be appropriate? Is that indeed the thing to do? Should one even bother to consult others?
Hello 100 words. I have been leaving little muddy footprints here for seven years. Seventy-one batches, although the counter doesn’t’ work well, and they have lost batches. I hope this doesn’t shock anyone reading this. But if we assume seventy batches for the number, and 30.5 days per month, then I will have contributed over 200,000 words so far. I began my 100-word career by vilifying my wife. It was interesting, because I subsequently divorced her. The power of 100 words. Who would have guessed? Certainly not the crone, who was suggesting that I write nicer things about my wife.
100 words are little packets, and while there is always a temptation to put them together and make longer things out of them, I seem to lose interest in the longer things, becoming distracted instead by the packets themselves. I find a packet tucked in a culvert beside the road while walking the dog. I almost don’t notice until I go back to see what she is sniffing. I find a tasty bundle of 32 words in a child’s wagon on an otherwise empty driveway, and I am torn whether to leave them or to bring them home with me.
Now, I can feel myself stretched somewhat as I write with one foot in 2004 and one foot in 2011. There is a sawing of timbers in my mind, one against another, and dust dribbles feebly down the dark hollow surrounding my spine. I am startled by a sudden vision of splinters going this way and that, but always some terribly wrong way. It was a special year. I wrote hundreds of thousands of words in 2004. I was surrounded by my children and my friends. Loss is not so much what happened after 2004, but 2004 itself I suspect.
I will not say that 2004 was perfect. There were times even then that the creepy diffused smog of pain starting to shuttle through my body, soaking up through my arms, into my chest, lodging in my brain. Back then I still thought I could call someone for help and they could do something. I didn’t realize that it wasn’t like getting a flat tire or running out of gas. It was not the kind of thing that help would help, even though it might leave you with that sense. Perhaps I tried calling from instinct as much as anything.
Still there is something about 2004 that I keep going back to. It wasn’t that special. Yet it was a year of tremendous activity for me, of overwhelming change, and a year of unbounded creativity. I wrote as much that year as all others put together. My marriage really started falling apart that year. My children bloomed into adults. I was running three miles a day. It was the year I learned new dimensions of the concept of manic. It was the year I found I didn’t need to sleep. It was the year I broke and couldn’t get fixed.
Remember when phones used to work? Maybe you aren’t old enough. There was a time … Hey, I’m not one of those “good old days.” kinda guys. I am thankful they do not make cars like they used to. That is probably the subject of another 100 words though. But phones…when you dialed them, you didn’t have to worry about being in a service area. You didn’t lose them. They were always in the same place. The battery didn’t run down. You didn’t have to buy a new phone every two years. They lasted forever. No…I am not putting you on!
Every time I see a man mooning over some classic car, all I can say is, “Thank God they don’t make them like they used to!” Here’s the dope on your classic cars. Your 1957 Chevy Impala V-8 made 185hp. Your 3800 V-6 makes 225hp and gets much better mileage. It has electronic ignition, and actually starts when it’s cold. Your older tires were good for 15,000 miles. You had vacuum wipers that quit working when you stepped on the gas. What miserable brakes you had, needed replaced every 15,000 miles. A total re-build at 80,000 miles was standard.
The cottonwood leaves are lazily sweeping the breeze, and the spruce nudges ever closer to the window, one more thing pressing impatiently against my consciousness. It seems as we get older our brains become more brittle, the way we complain bones do, and like these bones that seem to break for no reason, we often turn on people close to us saying and doing odd things. I don’t know; is this just something I am more aware of? I wonder this now because I more often aware of it in other people, and it seems to be independent of age.
It seems these days I have to read before I can write. I know. I know. There’s that boy again. He’s leaning over his desk waving his arm wildly. The other students hate him for his knowing. Can’t he see that? His need to know is so sharp that it overpowers the odor coming from John Henly in the fourth row.
The snow is starting to fall now. The ice is building up quickly. Night is racing over the soft blue landscape.
I am doing too many things. I have to read to re-orient myself. I need to consider this.
Now it seems I can move
It is as if something
Too heavy to lift
Too dense to breathe
Has been taken from the air,
To condense over rocks below.
I can see.
I am allowed to feel.
To take that sweet breath.
And I sit here
In this forest cool
The stream and mossy broken stone
And I know this is where I belong
Just as I knew the first time
Well, it was you,
A human being complete
With essential impossibilities.
How does that work?
A thing so obviously meant
So terribly torn?
She is slow to come to life. The marble does not quicken easily, and the process is quite painful. Fortunately, it also took some time for her to become aware of the pain, of the paralysis, and then the delicacy required. The terror in that first breath. The feel of blood pulsing in too hard veins. Surely something would break. Stepping off her pedestal, she crashes to the floor. She is out on the steps, out sinking in the sod on the lawn. She is so heavy. She turns her head in the morning mist, feeling it against her eyes.
Actually, you can write ahead. There is no penalty, no enforcement. You can write as far ahead as you want. You can even write behind. I could show you how. In fact – oh – should I say this? The rule about the 100 words? Well I do dip in and read and I see that broken frequently. You can throw in two words and roll on to the next day and no one says boo. What do you say to that? The fact is, in here, there are no rules. There is no enforcement. Now about this catch and release stuff…
It has happened before. It has been while though since I have made the walk down this tiled corridor dribbling my fingers along the painted concrete walls. It is surprising how clean they keep it. Not a single light bulb is out. There is a polished dark wooden half-door at the end, where I make a right, and then I stop at another about 20 feet down the hall, 201. I knock, and the top panel opens. A woman is there, a woman wearing no glasses and no expression. “Yes?” she says. “I’d like to get some words,” I say.
The woman hands me a carbon form. “Fill this out,” she says. Two more people have appeared behind me. I recognize one from the 100 Words lounge. I move over for them, holding the form against the wall to fill it out against the concrete that makes my letters and numbers all lumpy. “I’d like to get some words,” the woman next in line says. Of course. This is the only thing you can get in Room 201. Three more people have queued up. I don’t understand this process. Why don’t they just have a fish bowl full of words?
The fishbowl full of words for Room 201:
No I didn’t think I was being clever listing those seemingly random words yesterday. I know people have been doing that in here for…well, years. Unfortunately, the story I’m telling seemed to require it at the time. Story will often write itself no matter what your intent.
Truth be told, there is very little that goes down here or in any collection of words or letters or books by now that is very original. It is disturbing to me the more I read the more I find that people have been stealing my stuff, sometimes even before I was born.
My mother is at the kitchen sink
Cleaning a rabbit.
And It lies naked
And skinless in a pan of water.
It is not that I mean
To think of you.
You are there carried
like a color whispered in the light
And the rabbit floats there
Beneath the fawcet drip
A kind of salmon pink
Tiny broken ribs reach for
Some kind of meaning
I will not find.
There is no meaning in color
It simply is part of what you are
The rabbit I most likely
Didn’t want to shoot
Tried to hide; Didn’t wanna find
The work is harder than it should be today. It is because I did not sleep last night. That piece is buried in the cycle that plays itself out and I have learned that it is useless to batter against it, that it is best to accept it, to get up and read or write, or just quietly work on some project. Last night for some reason, I forgot to turn on the lights before getting up. My mind was occupied with something else, I don’t know what, and I quickly tripped over a fan and sprawled into a wall.
Tom moved in this morning about 3 AM. If there was an award for brinksmanship, he would get it all the time. I suppose that is the reason they don’t give it out. It would not be fair to the others to have to compete with him. If the house seemed full of stuff before, it feels like a consignment shop now, with treasures tucked in every nook and space, and some just laying out to trip over. I suppose I could give up my attempts to make things fit for now. Clearly there are just too many of them.
Now sleepy, and tired of life.
thinking I may just as well go quiet.
but the poet wants to go on
into the dark riot,
to draw down into the poetry well tonight.
Climb down the stones into that cool place.
down where the mossy liquid seeps,
into that hole in the ground,
through the clay into the creek,
down into the words tonight.
Flinching as the bucket slaps the water's cheek,
where now I can see my eyes
dashed against the surface of the sky,
already pulling over to scoop liquid to light
drawing from the poetry well tonight.
Somehow it has gotten to be too late too quickly. I spent too much time working the Tut. That is partially true because I took on a couple evening students to help out and the evening tut is always a bad idea for me. It is the whole two-shifts-a day thing. I just don’t have that much time in a day. That extra twenty minutes teaching costs me another two hours at least and throws a wrench into my schedule. I sit down at the Coney, eye the waitress and order a mug of ale and a lusty crescent wrench.
Can you see the sun sparks
into the throat of darkness
that will swallow them
no matter what we can think
nor what we do about these things
that splash against our hearts
like sweet petals paddling--
wind chimes against my brain
tinkering, touched, fingers dipped licked,
taken by these flights
Sweet apples in the fall:
the grass is browning and
it seemed my feet were bare.
I could feel the rough bark
of the tree as I climbed her and
the warmth of her web as she cradled me
and I tasted her moist fruit.