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These days that I go to work at the video store are crowded ones where I am unable to do the things I want to get done. But when I re-evaluate working at the video store, I find I am reluctant to quit. Why is that? I don’t need the money. If I did, I’d work somewhere else. Maybe it is the connection to human industry that I don’t want to break. While it is totally impossible to work a full-time job and live a real life, it is possible to work a part-time one and approach a real life.
I got up too early. I didn’t want to. My body wasn’t ready. But my brain was beginning to wake up. Not all of it, but some part of the brain was being child-like, creeping from its bed in a yellow fleece sleeper zip up the front with plastic feet. You cannot lie in bed Saturday morning and let the children run around by themselves. So I had to get up, find out what this part of the brain was doing, put the screws and nails back in their boxes, and make oatmeal for it. Be a responsible brain parent.
We got more. More bloody snow. It is not uniformly bloody. It has spikes of blood in it as if it had been poured in, but there is no melting or deformity of the snow as you might expect if blood had been poured, or even dripped on. Furthermore, the blood seems to fall with the snow, the puddle or patch widening as the snow deepens. Puddles of blood in the snow randomly placed, but no more than five feet apart. The largest one is nearly seven inches wide, but it appears to be three that have joined one another.
A neighbor called the police. They came to look at the bloody snow, hands on knees, black shoes buried in snow. An unmarked van came with the man in the environmental suit and a plastic bag to collect some. He was very professional, very mind-your-own-business. You see those environmental suits on TV and don’t think what it would mean to have one in your neighborhood wandering around when you don’t have one to wear yourself. I mean if they think there is something that bad out there, where does that leave you? It leaves you alone, naked, with bloody snow.
I had a dream. I was writing in this dream. I think it was this morning, the writing, not the dream. In the dream an envelope was flying in the air. I had an epiphany. I don’t remember the details of the epiphany, but I was writing in the dream. And In the dream I stopped writing, I believe, or at least I stopped writing something ad a result of the epiphany. I remember consulting The Crone in the dream. The Crone was either in agreement or was horrified. I cannot remember exactly which. What good is such a dream?
I was talking to my guitar this morning. Guitar said I needed to trim my fingernails, but I couldn’t find the clippers. They weren’t where I had left them when I last used them, on the coffee table with all the other guitar paraphernalia. I went to my tool box and got out a pair of curved pointed-nosed side cuts. They did the job very well.
I’m taking a trip soon. I would like to take Guitar with me. I am taking computer, although I should back it up first. I am afraid the baggage handlers will despoil Guitar, however.
I didn’t go to Florida. I didn’t want to go to Florida. I had been saying so for days to anyone who would listen. So I got sick this morning, ralphed up my grapefruit breakfast, and didn’t even go to the airport. I was feeling better this evening and went to the grocery store for some dinner. It was beautiful. I was home. I wasn’t in Florida. I was in the snow and slush with chapped lips and a cold. I was happy. I had never seen such a beautiful parking lot. No, I didn’t want to go to Florida.
My daughter Amanda gave me the Aloe plant. I remember when it was a baby. It is large now, with a span of three feet and reaching nearly that high. It is off-center in the pot, but has done well in its new home in my apartment. One of the limbs is broken off near the base. It is the one that was used for first aid on my son’s back the day he spilled boiling water over it. Normally it is a quiet plant, singing softly to itself. It is no more trouble to care for than a cat.
It is Saturday, and I am not sure what happens this Saturday. I still have a cold. I still have not gone to Florida. They may put me on the schedule for work next week. I don’t know. Several people have suggested that I did not go to Florida because I did not want to face people, to go out among people. I don’t know how much truth is in this. I know I am afraid of some things, but I don’t think any of them are specifically Florida or people in general. Still, I do stay here a lot.
I am in the restaurant with Amanda and Ben, the one we usually go to. The Mexican restaurant Ben found last week did not work out. They tried to kill me there. I am in the usual restaurant raising my voice. “I do not want a turtle,” I am saying firmly.
Amanda is confused. “Of course you want a turtle. You love turtles.”
“I do not want a Turtle”
Ok, I used to keep box turtles as pets. But I don’t want a turtle in this phase of my life. Maybe a dog. I might be talked into a dog.
I bought the two-pound bag of cashews on sale for $7.00. I love cashews, but I suspect they cannot be good for me. I like them too much. Then too, I have become suspicious. I have never seen a cashew in the hull. I grew up cracking nuts. Gathering nuts in the fall: black walnuts, hickory nuts, hazel nuts, beech nuts, filberts, and pecans, I learned that nuts had hulls. Nuts had all kinds of crazy hulls. Designed to be attractive food for animals, they were also designed to be hard to eat. So what was the deal with cashews?
With the internet, the secret life of the cashew is not such a secret. I was suspicious about this ubiquitously naked nut and investigated, finding that it does have a hull. The hull is filled with a caustic fluid, one reason we may not see the hull very often. This fluid appears to be more valuable than the nut, a second reason we may not see the hull very often. According to one internet article there are over 200 industrial patents on this fluid which is used for everything from brake linings, to paint thinner to curing leprosy and psoriasis.
I hear hammering on the roof outside. There is a foot of snow on the ground, and it is well below freezing. Someone’s roof must be leaking. I had a leak two winters ago in a large window seat over my bed. The apartment has been painted so often that the walls are covered with a thick layer of latex. This leak created a balloon in the latex on the top of the window seat, filling it with four quarts of cold water. It let go all at once a cold slap in the face for two otherwise comfortable people.
Once again, it is noon and I haven’t eaten yet. I haven’t had time. It is Valentine’s Day. Perhaps I shall celebrate this day by eating chocolate.
A sheet of snow slides off the roof, slamming onto the balcony, compressing sideways and becoming something else. Still it is snow. Perhaps I shall celebrate this transformation by eating … what?
Who am I kidding? There is nothing in the refrigerator and no food in the kitchen. I’ve got to get up and go buy some food.
Maybe some fruit. That would be nice. Some bananas or oranges. An apple. A pear.
Guitar leans against the couch. She seems stressed out. We have been struggling this morning. I don’t think it is her fault. She is in clean tune. She is receptive. I feel clumsy today trying to talk to her. Everything comes out wrong. She says my touches feel mechanical, as if I am doing them by route with no feeling. She says my nails need clipping. And she wants to know what made me think I could try THAT without asking her first. I don’t know. I didn’t get much sleep last night. The sun is very bright this morning.
I take my watch off as I begin work here. It is bulky, and gets in the way when I lay my arms across the laptop to type. I take it off and lay it on the table next to my chair. I forget it, leaving it there. It is a self-winding watch. It runs slow because it spends too much time on the table and the night stand and does not get wound enough. When I was in high school, I had a self-winding watch that quit working. The jeweler my parents took it to said it was over-wound.
It is raining, cold and lazy, softening the snow, and clarifying the hard ice hanging long from the eaves. Out on the pond the ice has become a thick glassy layer you can see through to the water below, clear through to the muddy bottom where the carp are working, plowing long furrows, and digging up frogs.
Sleeping, the frogs are dreaming of spring reeds and warm nights. Now their dreams are shifting, shifting to cold water spines, whiskers, and full-body hungry muscle twists. Their dreams are shifting to cold water gulps and the soft muddy taste of dreaming frogs.
People do not ask me where I get my ideas for this stuff. It is what I am for. I don’t know about the other writers, but I grow my words in a large planter box out on the deck. In summer, I just trim words off with a large pair of library scissors. In the winter, I have to dig down through the snow for the potato-like nodules on the roots. Sometimes, I have to chip ice. Sometimes the dirt itself is frozen hard. I’m particularly not looking forward to spring and mucking through the mud for prepositions though.
Blow Job tried leaning into the wind, but it just made him bow in the middle. Things flew out of his pockets; ink pens, notebooks, letters, loose change, and a pocket watch, streaming down the street behind him. His coat threatened to fly off his thin body. Holding onto his hat, he ducked into the recess of a store front, and then went in, levering the door open with the heavy brass handle, and fighting the wind to close it behind him. The wind whistled out of his ears. Papers whisped to the floor. He was in a word store.
He stood swaying on the wooden floor, the boards creaking with his movement. A woman on a ladder behind the counter sorted words into boxes on shelves. The boxes, identical except for width lined nearly all the shelf space in the store. He looked over a low shelf to the wall on his right, catching his breath from the wind. Each box was labeled with a black pen in identical script, “Yoke,” “Yodel” “Yosemite.” The woman turned on the ladder, greeting him. “Looking for anything special?”
“No, just getting in out of the wind to tell the truth,” he said.
The inside of his coat still felt cold from the wind. As he was stooping to pick up some of the things that had blown into the shop from his pockets, she stepped down from the ladder, smoothing her hair. Walking out from behind the counter, she knelt to help him, picking up a badly chipped word, “Uniquity.”
“That’s not one I don’t think I have in stock,” she said.
“I…uh...ah, made it up,” he said, retrieving the word and stuffing it into his breast pocket.
She extended her hand, “My name’s Innuendo.”
He paused. “My friends call me BJ.”
I’m sleepy, nodding off, my guitar in my lap, and there is a knock at the door. “Come in,” I prompt, but the knob just rattles. I hear a tiny voice through the door. It comes through like a dream and I wonder if I am really awake. I get up, but I almost fall down. My left leg has gone to sleep on me. Staggering and limping badly, still holding the guitar, I open the door. It is the maid. Of course. She only uses her key when no one is home. Otherwise she pretends she doesn’t have one.
There was something in the clanging of the hardware against the flagpole that caught my memory, something perhaps in the frequency of the beat, or in the note given off by the long metal bell. Lodged in that memory was the same wind velocity and temperature, the same humidity and the same color of sky. Looking up to find the pole, I expected to see it empty; that was part of the memory. But it was flying a large flag. Also the pole was black rather than silver, and it was much larger in diameter than the one in memory.
The fever may have come back. I can’t seem to get warm, and I sweat when I sleep. Maybe instead of a continuation of the old cold, I have a new one. Maybe I am dreaming the whole thing. I was wondering this as I stared at the back of the bald man. The dent in his head sitting at the end of the long crease reminded me somehow of a baseball and bat decoration in a boy’s room. It would have been the kind of decoration a mother would have put in your room, for her, not for you.
I’m watching the bald man. I am scruting him. He is wearing a pressed shirt with a tie. I can see a slip of the tie beneath his collar from the back from where I sit. He wears jeans and tan ankle-high work boots. He has a dent in the back of his head the size and shape of a baseball. I am thinking, wondering what kind of work he does that allows him to wear jeans and work boots, but still requires a tie. Perhaps he is a construction site manager. Then it hits me. He is a systems programmer.
I went to Quiznos for lunch. I had decided that I would eat a different sandwich every day for a week there. Today was Tuesday, the Classic. The woman at the register recognized me. They were already on to me. I wondered if this would alter my plan. I was already having doubts about Day Five, the Vegetarian.
I sat at a table behind two men of a certain age. The one with his back to me had his head shaved. His head had a deep crease in the back with a large dent to one side above the crease.
I am thinking. I cannot be thinking that many things because I cannot hold that many things in my head at one time. If I were to close my eyes, then I would shut out the visual stimulus that would tempt my mind to wander elsewhere. If I were to stuff my ears I would shut out the sounds that would likewise add to my thoughts. I am left with very little distraction after that: my posture, the feel of the kyes against my fingertips, and the ringing in my ears. True, my toes are cold, but I was thinking.
I was thinking of those things that gather to form my world, those five stones in a field. They are large stones, much taller than I am and somewhat wider and thicker. Three of them form a doorway of sorts, with two vertical ones supporting a third horizontal one aloft. It could even be an upper bunk for me. The other two form the two back corners of the defined space. This space, this room, this place is my mind. In this metaphor I can enter it at will and leave whenever it gets to be too much for me.
It is a cold and bleak morning when I have come to enter my mind for the first time. My shadow will enter before me. I should have waited until evening, leaving my shadow outside, I think. I consider this, standing outside the doorway, my shadow leaning against one of the pillars. The shadow fades. I look up. A cloud is passing the sun. The wind picks up. I’m looking through the arch to where the ground has a tuft of light brown grass plastered with snow. Inside the room, the grass is green at the roots, but not outside.
The Tip Jar