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Well, it is nearly that time again. My piano teacher has come out of quarantine and is looking for me. I could hide under my desk for a while, but she would find me there. The problem is that I like playing the piano. The problem is that I find that I am very busy during Covid. I find I am busier than BC, Before Covid. The problem is that I do not have enough time to practice enough. The problem is that I don’t play very well anyway. The problem is that I may need more time to write.
Yard Bird was writing again. Well, sometimes he called it typing. He would call it typing when he didn’t want to admit to himself that he was trying to write, when he didn’t want to admit to himself that he had not yet figured out exactly what writing was. He knew—he was pretty sure he knew about the “books” that got published ceaselessly—more books than any one person could ever possibly read. He was very sure he did not want to write like that. He wanted something more. Something direct. Something deeply personal. He started keying words again…
Balu was writing too. He was having his own problems. It seemed that every time his attention strayed from the page, his fingers would start typing on their own. Sometimes what they typed out didn’t make any sense. Other times, reading what he had typed while staring into space, he was astounded by it. Just now he is looking at an otherwise blank page where he has typed, “You didn’t hire me to write the explanations.” What does this mean, he asks himself. Where did it come from? With an exasperated sigh he deleted the line with the backspace key.
Chase is not writing just now. Sleeping, wandering in a dream perhaps. It is a murky landscape loosely based on high school, this much is evident from the rows of padlocks and the shining tile floor. It is evident from the sense of acoustics in the hall, the sounds shaped by the length of the hall and by the glass doors on either end. Graduation had been before the active shooter drills started and you had to wonder how different things must be now. Were there still dandelions sprouting through the sidewalk out to the practice field? They were obedient.
Lily woke up to a mosquito bite, a particularly viscious one. She swatted her arm, clamping her hand around it and felt the grit between her palm and the arm signaling that she had connected with the mosquito. It also felt slick and damp. Either the mosquito was filled with a lot more of her blood than usual, or she was wet with sweat. It did feel damp inside the tent. It was as if the dark air were filled with a vapor. She got up, unzipped the door and stepped outside. The sky was a dizzying array of stars.
Dana really couldn’t focus this morning. There was the familiar crush of the pillow beneath her head, the too familiar ache in her back and shoulders from lying in the bed. The light seemed too harsh. Rolling her eyes, she tossed her feet over the edge of the bed and landed, toe-deep in the carpeting. She had left the blinds open the night before. No wonder the light was so bright. Stretching for the ceiling she squeezed her eyes tightly shut for a moment, feeling her body begin to wake up. That was when she heard the mower start up.
Dan was dancing. He didn’t need his eyes anymore. He was music and the movement of his body to the rhythm of the party. He heard a voice yelling at him across the room, “You’ve got it! Don’t let anybody take it away from you!” He was expanding into a star-filled sky. The top of his head was already piercing the thin layer of atmosphere around the planet. He had a moment to wonder what kind of god he was becoming, to marvel at the doors opening simultaneously to the doors of his consciousness. So many stars, and far below.
Chase is coming through the dream now. Reluctantly she begins to feel a breeze brushing her hair. She is reaching back for the dream. There was something about it, something soft and belly-sweet and she did not want it to go away just yet. She wanted to take it with her. By the time she woke up, the dream was completely gone, and all that was left was a vague wanting for something. She could not remember what it was she had wanted and it confused her. Then there was the awareness that she had to get ready for work.
Edgey had first painted the wall blue, a sky blue, carefully edging it into the corner so as not to get any blue paint on the adjoining wall. Then she had done the rainbow. It was a huge rainbow, an 8-foot rainbow. She had had to google the darn thing to get the colors right. And it hadn’t gone as easily as she had thought it would. She had expected to do it with a roller, one clean swath fir each color. But the swaths were not clean. Sometimes the roller didn’t leave paint and she had to go back.
It was Kat’s turn. No, that’s not right. It IS Kat’s turn. There, that’s better. She is 10, and is visiting her friend’s house. She is looking for something called a “comfort room,” and to be honest, I have to look that up. I think I know what I will find. I think I will find it is a euphemism for bathroom. I am right. She is going down this hall, all these doors. It is overwhelming to be in a strange house with so many doors. She opens one and the man is there, in front of the TV.
Dan was done dancing for a while. He had to sit down. His clothes felt damp. He must have been dancing for a long time. He thought about the cells in his skin releasing the moisture in a desperate attempt to cool themselves off. So many cells, and they were so tiny! He thought about all the individual chemical reactions going on in each cell, molecules jammed up against other molecules, exchanging electrons, parts and pieces even smaller and more, more, so many more of them. There were More stars in the galaxy than grains of sand on the earth.
As Dana passed a window she caught sight of the neighbor mowing. He was wearing carpenter pants and a white t-shirt. He was pushing a small green mower that balanced on two fat tires. The neighbor seemed to be intent on what he was doing, and he seemed to be happen. Suddenly she was struck by a memory from the night before. It washed over her: the same feeling she had had then. She was drunk. Dana was drunk on love for her books, all of them, every one. The poetry, the prose. Even the pile of little Golden Books.
Balu had taken a break from the writing. It was really starting to get to him. This automatic writing that went on every time his attention strayed was starting to make sense, and it was getting in the way of his own composition. He was forgetting character and place names and mixing them up. More and more he was having to make use of the collage he was constructing on the 4x8-foot sheet of plywood over his desk. It was covered with pictures and names of characters. It had pictures of the places they would visit and of impossible cities.
Today Lily is considering herself. She is considering history and the sins perpetrated in that dark place, human against human. It disturbs her. It is like a particularly gruesome mosquito bite in her brain. It is the mosquito bite that hits a nerve and will not let go. She remembers a time as a child when the boy showed her how to pinch her arm when the mosquito bit. She remembers how calm he seemed and how he did not seem to feel the bite. She remembers the mosquito swelling, turning bright red, and then bursting across the boy’s arm.
I was relieved to see Meredith here. I was afraid it would be Badu again. Badu is dark and reminds me of my friend Matthew. Matthew and I would compete at poetry slams together. He was steeped in Hindu mysticism and so was his poetry. Others found it fascinating. I found it hard to follow. There were too many references to other cultures and other people. I don’t know. Maybe he was Jung to my Hemingway. He died quickly after they diagnosed him. Three months I think. I was angry. I was hurt. I loved him. I think everyone did.
It was obvious we weren’t talking. That seems to be what we prefer. I don’t think there is any harm in picking one or two or three of you up and moving you about in my own entries. Actually, it feels safe. I am sure that most of us do not read one another’s entries. Since I have started reading them myself, I have noticed personalities coming forward. There are the personalities you present, and the ones I create when I read you. They are not the same, and that is not my fault any more than it is yours.
What Meredyth first noticed about the horses was the smells: the smell of horse manure, everywhere, the smell of the horses themselves and the smell of gear, all horse and leather mixed up together. There was the smell of the hay, and the bedding, of the summer sun on the top of your head. There was the effortless power and the size omygod the size of those things and whoever thought they would have been that big? There was something there between them, something understood in the human and the equine mind simultaneously. And sometimes it was the good thing.
Dana was early this morning. She was talking to Yard Bird. Maybe it was more of a rant. “What’s with this?” she asked. “A fucking drive-up kindergarten graduation?” Yard Bird looked away. He wanted to finish mowing his lawn before it got too hot to do so. “It’s what’s happening,” he said, hoping to find a way to move the conversation to an ending point. “I used to be drunk,” she said out of nowhere. “I was drunk on poetry. I was drunk on love.” “Maybe you were just drunk,” he says to himself, but he says nothing to her.
The banging gate had finally wakened Meredyth. She was nursing her first cup of coffee and looking out the kitchen window when she saw Dana and Yard Bird across the street. She felt a little jolt of adrenalin as the whole thing came back to her. She stuffed her hair into a ball cap and was out the door and down the steps with her coffee, still in her bunny slippers, in an instant. Yard Bird was first to see her coming. He felt a twinge of disappointment deep in his gut, but was not sure where it came from.
Edgey was listening to a TED talk. Part of her was falling back asleep. It was a dreamy TED talk. She was sure of that. She was watching Dana and Yard Bird talking. Dana was doing most of the talking, and Yard Bird kept touching his head and his arm. He rubbed his hands together. He looked so much like a small animal who just wanted to run away. She felt sorry for him. That was when she saw Meredyth burst out of her front door and make that quick walk down the steep hill in front of her house.
Jack didn’t feel good. He was being unnerved by his roommate. His roommates name was also Jack, so friends just called them Jackone and Jacktwo. He was Jacktwo. The roomie was Jackone. Jackone had been acting erratically lately. Well, Jacktwo had to admit that it was not unusual for Jackone to act odd. In fact he often wondered why he didn’t just pack up stuff and move out. Maybe it was because there was too much stuff to pack up. Maybe it was because after abandoning so many relationships in his life it didn’t make sense to leave one more.
Kat didn’t have much to do with any of this. She remembers being confused, and she is a little confused about this memory. She was writing again because she was confused, because the confusion was physically painful for her. The writing banished the confusion for a short time. Perhaps that was because it forced her to focus her mind just for a little while, forced her to organize her thinking. Or was it forcing her to focus her mind on the organizing so that She would not have to feel the pain. The sky was blue. The sun was shining.
It had been a long week. It had been a week full of death, and while it seemed as if the death had not touched him, he did find himself crying for no apparent reason at all, twice. And then there was the long drive he had taken, yelling, cursing and pounding the steering wheel, feeling it bend under his fists. Still, it was not clear that the deaths had affected him that much. It wasn’t as if he could feel them or anything about them. He was still Dan; just now he was Dan without so many close friends.
Balu could feel the mist on his face as he walked to the mail box. It felt good against his swollen eyes. The sun was starting to come up, but the sky was still overcast. It was a cool morning. Down the street he could see Yard Bird walking past his mail box. He was heading out for his daily walk. Balu knew this. Yard Bird was predictable in most things. What he was not predictable in was this damn law suit. What had happened? How could things have gotten out of whack so quickly? Things had been going fine.
Things were beginning to narrow down to a point. Somehow Michael had not anticipated this. Now he was cleverly wrapping himself around this point, trying to find ways to say something while committing himself to having said nothing at all. The trick, he thought, was to seem as if you had said something and let the others figure out what was to be said by themselves. After all reading was a creative act in itself, one as equally valid as the writing. Indeed, writing required reading, was predicted and informed by reading. It sprang complete from what it had been.
Coming home from an early shopping run, Jack saw the small group of neighbors gathered along the street. He noticed that none were wearing masks, and this annoyed him. Then he realized he had not taken off his mask after leaving the store. He freed one of the ear loops while he continued driving with the other hand. Then as Meredyth waved at him he waved his mask at her before hanging it on his rearview mirror. He thought of the other things he had hung on the rearview mirror in his life. This was just one more or those.
Dana saw Meredyth coming down the yard, already letting her coffee cup tip and spill onto the grass. Meredyth on a mission, she thought. Meredyth still in her bunny slippers. “Did you get your mail yet?” she called hitting the subdivision road without breaking stride. She kept walking without looking for traffic. Dana looked at Yard Bird as she answered. “No, why?” “That son of a bitch Badu has put a lien on our homes. Go look for yourself. I cannot believe that fucker.” Dana was leaning on hers, so all she had to do was pivot to open it.
Dana pulled the envelope from the mailbox. She looked at the return address. It was that slimy lawyer Badu had working for him. She was not too very surprised. Tearing the envelope open, she pulled out two pieces of paper, one of them legal-sized and dripping with seals. She started reading but her mind quickly became entangled in the convoluted verbiage covering the page. It was legalese, she realized, a language designed to exclude people. Her eyes shifted away from the text to the words, “Lien” and “Condemn.” She inspected the seal more closely. It was from a different county.
Yard Bird’s left arm suddenly started itching uncontrollably. He reached across with his right hand to scratch it, searching through the dense hair for the itchy spot. Listening to Dana he was getting that sick feeling in the pit of his belly. He didn’t know where it came from, but he knew it was going to get worse. Maybe if he could lie down for a bit. He thought about his bed back in the house, thought about his body on the rumpled sheets, thought about the pieces of cut grass rolling off his legs and out of his hair.
Jack pulled into the long steep uphill drive to his house. Perhaps, he thought it was good that it was getting to the end of the month. Things were getting to be too complex for him to manage and he felt like everything needed to be hosed off, flushed out. Mostly though, he needed to get the groceries into the house before they were spoiled in this heat. He was still angry from his trip to the store. The sign out front had said no one would be allowed inside without masks, but the place was full of bare faces.
The Tip Jar