REPORT A PROBLEM
Although their appearance may terrify you at first, moties are quite gentle and when properly domesticated they can make useful pets. They have very large eyes, four of them, and large interlocking tusks. But they are basically cuddlers. Proper domestication includes a familiarization routine that requires them to be kept close to you from birth. They are able to tell when someone is about to have a significant medical event such as a heart attack, stroke, or seizure. To do this they have to become tuned to the individual. This is the person who domesticates them in the first place.
The cordon bleu was just O.K. tonight. The problem was the dining room. The sewer pipe running overhead was leaking a viscous dark brown substance onto the floor. Maybe I just imagined the odor, but it sorta turned my stomach. I should not have bothered to order. I should have left as soon as I saw the pipe. But I didnít. For some reason I went through with it. I did point it out and mention it to the waitress. It was not her fault, and the manager didnít want to come over to talk with me for some reason.
There is a ladder leaned up against the wall in the hallway. It is a seven-foot fiberglass ladder, three-hundred-pound capacity. It is orange. It is a great ladder. Is was delivered today by a UPS truck and wrapped in thick plastic. The plastic was padded somehow. I researched ladders before I bought this one. I measured how much space I had to use it. I wanted more than a six-foot ladder, but an eight-foot was too much. The seven-foot ladder was perfect. I think the first place we will use it is to get into the attic above the garage.
The next door down the hall was on the left. It had a frosted window like all the rest. The carpet was commercial grade, and well used. In some stage of its life it had been grey. It would be hard to the touch and stiff against your bare feet. The hall was lit with overhead fluorescent fixtures, four-footers. They were evenly spaced down the hall. Each door had a neat name badge to its left, each badge was at the exact same height as all the others. This door also had a piece of paper taped to the window.
There were little pieces embedded in the carpet. Some of them were shiny, like glitter. Some were long and thin, like pine needles. What were these pieces from? There was something else on the kitchen floor. It was not shiny. It looked like dirt or coffee. On the far side of the kitchen, the window was broken. There was a large hole in the middle of the window glass. A brick with some dirt and loose concrete on it lay on the floor near the corner of the room. A cold breeze was blowing into the room through the hole.
The window was not going to be fixed soon. I needed to cover the hole up with something. I thought about cardboard, but it would likely get wet. How long would it take to get the window fixed? I couldnít fix it myself. It was one of those newer double-pane windows. I knew of a place nearby that did glass work. Plastic. I needed to put some plastic over the window. I thought about going down to the lumber yard and getting a piece of plywood to cover it. But I wound up using a garbage bag and duct tape.
People always said my father knew more about wood than anyone they ever knew. He would give extemporaneous lectures on types of wood, grains, and parts of grains called grooves and lens. Iím not even sure myself what some of these things are. Iíve tried to look them up, but they seem to be beyond the ken of Google. I think of his grey wooden tool box. I think of the nicks and dents in the paint. I think of the handmade saws stored in it along with the Distons. I think of the smell of sawdust and wood chips.
So I will start with something else. I will start with a blue canvas binder. It has a lever to pop it open. I am not sure yet what is in the blue canvas binder. There are some loose-leaf pages that have been three-hole punched and put in the binder. Someone has written something on the cover of the binder with a black binder. It says í86 and has a cube drawn around it. The edge of one of the binder covers is frayed with a few strings hanging from it and a small hole worn through to the cardboard beneath.
What do we know about these kids? They were all from good homes. They were good students. They were never in any trouble at all. They spend a lot of time together. During the summer you could see them riding around town on their bikes. On some days they would ride out to the lake together. During the winter they would play outside together, building snow forts or snowmen. That was the one thing that was unusual. No one really remembered ever seeing any of them alone. The same age, they were always in the same classes at school.
Itís dark. Iím not sure what is in the dark. It really doesnít matter. I donít know why people are so obsessed with stuff in the dark. *Goes out on the deck. Reaches as high as I can in the sky and grabs the end of the zipper and pulls it down. Stuff starts falling out all over me. There are gift-wrapped boxes and potted plants. There are squiggly little rubbery animals skittering away as they hit the ground. There are softball-sized balls of tar and moss, rubber bricks, and old shoes. There is a Jack-in-a-box and a tennis racquet.
Can I say itís night time? I donít know whatís out there. It may be a man with a gun. There may be a basketball player in the park, thinking about taking a shot when he cannot really see. There may be a person walking their dog. A butterfly. Could there be a butterfly out there in the dark? It doesnít seem likely, but itís something I can think about. It is about 15 degrees. It is a frost butterfly. They are bright blue with yellow markings, and they are rarely seen because they are only out during the night.
I have said it is dark outside. It usually is this time of night, even in the summer. In the summer it can be dark outside and still warm. There are things living in the grass. Now it is cold out there. There are most likely things living out there too. In the summer, at this time, the lightning bugs are out, blinking across the yard. The circles of ice in the dark are puddles in the summer. What if there was a fifth season? What would we call it? What would its characteristics be? What would the weather be?
The fifth season is Oonsted. It includes the two months Unodecember and Duodecember. The earth now takes two months longer to circle the sun. Maybe it is moving slower now, or perhaps the orbit is larger. But then I would have to explain away the difference in temperature. During Oonsted the magnetic poles of the planet reverse. North becomes south. South becomes North. East and West remain the same. On interesting days refrigerator magnets fall from the sky. They have little messages written on them. Eat candy. Walk in circles. The language used for these messages is rarely the same.
It was a day like any other. Now itís dark outside. Actually it was not a good day. It was a bad day. It was a nightmare. I told the dentist I was not ready. She seemed to hear me. That was before I panicked and ripped the armrest off her chair. I think I might have scared her. She seemed to be happy to make me an appointment to see another dentist. There have been other times; other things. They all happen in the dark, often when Iím asleep, like a sunflower seen in the wrong kind of light.
Itís evening again. Itís another day like any other. They say it will snow this weekend, but right now itís still quiet. There was some kind of weather advisory on the TV a little while ago. Iím not sure what it was about. Things are changing in the skies out there. Thick clouds hover around the moon. Dry leaves skitter across the porch. There is a sheet of ice over the puddle out in the road. If you stand out in the dark by this puddle, you can hear a faint tap, tap, tapping against the thin sheet of ice.
Itís dark again out there. The temperature is falling and the snow is coming tomorrow. If there is anything out there that isnít frozen already, it will be by morning for sure. Iím looking across the room over at the piano. I had a lesson at the music store today. On the right side of the piano is some trinket Suze bought home from the consignment shop, a stature of a bass fiddle. I was going to say violin, but itís not a violin. They did have a real violin for sale at the music store hanging on the wall.
Well I could say itís dark outside, but I think Iíll skip that this time. The snow showed up this afternoon, but there wasnít very much of it. Itís not like Iím going to break out my new snow shovel yet. Have I told you about my new snow shovel? I found it on the sidewalk outside a small-town hardware store. I spotted it from the car, and right away I knew what it was. It was solid steel, not one of those aluminum ones with the reinforcement strip riveted on. You can split firewood with one of those shovels.
Tonight the mattress got up off the bed and walked out the door. It stood up, the covers sliding off and awkwardly stepped off the bed frame. It stood there on end for a moment and then it walked out of the room, out the front door and into the street. There it was joined by other mattresses coming out of countless doors in countless homes. They lined up one behind the other and marched down the street to the railroad track. There, pausing briefly to look both ways they continued marching, left corner, right corner, down to the park.
I went out to shovel snow today. It was cold out, 19 if I remember correctly, so I bundled up. I thought there was maybe two and a half inches of snow out there, so I actually put on my hiking boots. Turned out there was closer to four inches of snow. I used the plastic shovel. The snow was mostly light powder. I shoveled the walk first. Then I shoveled the neighborís walk. Just being neighborly. Then I shoveled around my car. Then I swept off the car and shoveled off the driveway, and a path to the mailbox.
Itís dark out. Thereís supposed to be a blood wolf moon tonight, a big red moon. They say the next one we will see will be in two years. It may be that this one is also to be an eclipse. But it is also close to zero out there. The moon is cool about it. It is riding out there, high in the sky, watching us down below. I think the moon is taking notes. Jean and Mike left the house at 1 PM today. Mildred went to her mail box about two PM, getting three pieces of mail.
The carpet is looking nice tonight. I ran the vac in here last night. I did a very thorough job. Vacuuming the carpet is a lot like mowing the yard. You go back and forth and you pay attention to the lines you make with your tool. You are careful to not make lines that look unpleasant. You can even draw pictures. After a suitable interval, you have to empty the clippings, or sweepings as the case may be. When you are done, you have to put the kit away. You wind up the cord; you put away the gasoline.
There is a cucumber in the kitchen, in a basket with two apples and an orange. Still life with chrome and fruit. In two days the cuke will go onto a salad replete with ham strips, slices of one of the apples, cheese pieces, and walnuts. The other apple will be sliced up and eaten with p-nut butter. By then six more apples and five bananas will have been added to the basket. The orange will be sliced up and eaten tomorrow morning after breakfast. O.K., that and one of the bananas. That leaves just four bananas and five apples.
It was warm enough and wet enough today to melt most of the ice on the roads. In some places, hidden under the snow were the unfinished business of miscellaneous pieces of ice. Up in a flowerbed full of lava rock lay the welcome mat, still crusted with a thick layer of ice. The runoff from the roof had been hitting it since the gutter froze over. Out beyond the mailbox the road was still a slick of frozen mud. The construction at the end of the street has been tough on the road. Tomorrow is supposed to be colder.
Out by the mailbox, when I was a kid a long time ago the mailbox was at the end of the road, on a row of many mailboxes. That row of mailboxes is gone now, gone to rust, to splinters of wood. The posts have been pulled. Maybe the houses have individual boxes. I used to walk down there to catch the bus. I was very young then. This is about the evening I took the mail out of the box on the way home. I must have dropped a piece of mail. I got into trouble later at home.
Out at the mailbox, the wind was blowing. It was in Ohio. The wind was always blowing in Ohio. The trees swept back and forth scraping the sky, showing the undersides of their leaves. The mailbox was under one of those trees. It was an oversized mailbox. My father had picked it out. He bought two of them, one for him and one for the neighbor. He wrote our last name on a slat of wood on the mailbox top. My father is gone now. I think the mailbox is still there. I donít know who lives in the house.
The willow tree grew up by the road. It was huge, the biggest thing around. They told me my grandmother had planted it. It grew there in a monstrous bush tangled in the wires overhead. The trunk split close enough to the ground that we could climb up into this tree easily, and we spent summer days there. Mike McKenzie lived across the street and he would climb fastest and highest, farther than any of the rest of us dared. One day he fell out of the tree, past me, through several brittle branches and crashed to the ground motionless.
The storm is coming tonight. It is bitterly cold outside. Weíve locked the doors and shut the blinds. Weíve loaded the guns. We are, after all, a violent people. The storm is moving now, in the next county. It is capricious. One minute it moves one way. The next minute it moves the other way. But slowly it moves this way, rolling across the sky. Now we wait for it as it bears down on us. You might think this is not the correct strategy, but the storm is huge. It is irresistible. Something dark is blotting out the moon.
Now I begin again. I have finished my first and my second hundred words, and I really didnít care for either. I hope it will go better this time. The day was a whitish fog of drifting snow, and now it is dark outside. The snow lays out there on the ground in the cold that is so rigid and hard that it is like a solid itself. The night is a solid hard thing made out of cold. If there is an absolute zero, this is it. It is a black that swallows all the light. It is cold.
Another day, another fifty cents. The fireplace is covered with an oversized plastic bag which is duct-taped into place. It is really dark in there behind that bag and no doubt it is getting cold again. There might be some ashes in there too, but probably not so many. It gets cleaned out pretty often. The construction down at the end of the road is coming along. They are putting the walls up. They are standing there in the dark, facing in different directions, like a pressboard Stonehenge. Everywhere around us buildings keep going up. People need places to live.
The horses are out in the cold. They may be sleeping. Itís been cold, but they are in the barn and it is not cold enough to make them uncomfortable. One of them is eating and tossing his head to get the hay out of the manger. The horse next to him is down, getting some heavy dream sleep. Itís dark in the barn, but not so dark for the horses. They see much better than we do. They can smell and hear better too. Add that they can run twice as fast as we can it makes you wonder.
The room was purple and some close friends of purple. At one end were three levels of risers with wide steps. They were purple too, three shades of purple. Flood lamps in the ceiling bathed the risers and the walls. On the wall over the risers was a large logo, with writing on it. Perhaps it was a logo. You had to look at it for a while to realize that the printing on it wasnít really letters, at least not in any language you had ever seen before. It was purple too. Like I said, the room was purple.
The Tip Jar