REPORT A PROBLEM
I don’t know why August first was a Sunday The month end has been falling on weekends frequently lately. It makes it difficult to close out accounts. Things have to be kept open. It is amazing how many companies still run their financial systems in batch mode and don’t run anything at all on Sunday’s or holidays. It was bad enough that they slipped 31 days into July. I was waiting for August 1 to begin on Monday, like a proper month. I suppose since Sunday is the first day of the week, it was the proper thing to do.
I have come home from work and taken a two-hour nap. I am about to mow the grass, but Zoe wants to catch frogs. First I have to fish the net from the bottom of the pond where it has fallen into about five feet of murky water. The Crone says Zoe and her mother have picked an interesting time to need a place to live what with my daughter Amanda moving to Western Kansas this weekend. The Crone actually uses the phrase “Human Pets” as I dash out of the house to take one of them to the ER.
Today should have been my last day at the factory, but no one said anything about it. I started on a Wednesday, so I assumed I would end on a Tuesday. The others have been assigned vocational counselors to begin their work searches. I was assigned a stack of 104’s that could not pass inspection. “Please fix these today,” said Mary. It was messy. The original worker had used too much grease and put it in places where it should not go. It took me until 1:30 to sort out the 11 bad cases. Maybe tomorrow I will learn something.
Today is my oldest son’s birthday. He stopped by last night, but didn’t want his birthday present, asking me to wait until Amanda’s party Saturday. I think he wanted me to give him a car instead of the Blockbuster gift certificate. But his son also wanted a car for his birthday and did not get one. He would argue that he did not want me to give him a car, that it was only my own brain working overtime that conjured that up as a thing I needed to do. He would be right. My brain does things like that.
My space key has ceased to operate dependably and this makes it difficult to get 100 words because the computer will not count a new word unless it sees a space nomatterhowmanywordsItype. Time for some compressed air. This is the main problem with laptops. They keyboards are not so easily replaced as are those of desktops, so one cannot be quite so cavalier about eating at the keyboard. It makes multi-tasking more difficult at a time in my life when it seems important to get more done. I am reminded of a saying about moments that take your breath away.
It is Friday; happy Friday. The circus of the factory swirls around me, but with a little less energy than it has in past weeks. There have been fewer people on the floor this week than in past weeks. The air is dense. Managers seem to be carrying an extra weight on their shoulders as they walk. I expect to be called to a meeting any moment to hear an announcement that the building has not been sold. My six weeks passed three days ago. I asked, and it was suggested I work out the week. Someone would contact me.
Tonight my daughter Amanda has her going-away party. She is on her way to western Kansas where she is to be a teaching fellow at Fort Hayes State University for the next few years. She is taking her boyfriend, her three dogs, and the Subaru I bought her. She will not be taking me. I recognize this as normal and appropriate. There are many things in life I recognize as normal and appropriate. I suppose unaccountable sadness and tears at odd moments are also normal and appropriate since the emotional centers are connected cross-wise to the normal and appropriate centers.
I am writing here and Lisa appears on the couch, or perhaps I have become distracted and have gone somewhere else. She is in her nightshirt and pulls the blanket there around her. I circle into the kitchen heating myself a sausage biscuit for a late breakfast. “I applied for a Project Manager position in New York City this morning,” I say, pulling the biscuit from the microwave.
“Why did you do that?”
The biscuit is burning my fingers as I unwrap it. “I was overqualified. I could do the job easily.”
She pauses. “Are you having a rough morning?”
Maybe this is the truly rough morning. I go to work. I don’t know if I am supposed to go to work or not. By now everyone else has been assigned placement workers. Occasionally Sue, my caseworker will come up to me and ask me when my six weeks are up. Yesterday, I say. The day before yesterday. Today I say, “A week ago tomorrow.”
“Why are you here?” she asks.
I don’t know. I don’t know why I am there. I am there because I am stupid enough to continue being there until given further instructions. I don’t know.
I text my daughter Amanda to ask her where she is. The answer comes back, “Iowa.”
“Do you really believe that?” The Work Skills Supervisor is asking me this. I have just said that if I stop working my head will fly apart.
I have a sense that I can substitute writing for work. As long as I keep writing my head will not fly apart; the pain will not return. I know this is a lie. It has taken me down in the middle of a 5k run before, like a hunter’s shot taking a deer down in mid-leap.
Today I wake with a bellyful of fear. It is useless stuff coloring everything I see like a bad pair of sunglasses. This is not a real thing. It is rather a product of a BiPpy mind, a spilled-over chemistry set, so I have to adjust the things I see accordingly. I try likewise to adjust the expression on my face, the set in my limbs as I go out into the world. This is more difficult. All the adjusting takes so much concentration that it is difficult to remember simple things. I use the list: Breakfast, Shower, Get Dressed.
100 Words, you can be maddening. True, there are things, ideas perfect as a fairy I can fit within your space. A fairy caught early morning washing her face on the second rock behind the tiny waterfall in the little pond at the bottom of the hill behind my house, her translucent dragonfly wings quivering and erect behind her, a droplet of water on one of them catching the sun. Her impossibly tiny toes bury themselves in long soft moss. She seems to freeze suddenly. In a small dark dime-sized puddle of water, a wide green eye is watching me.
A pack of wild boars is rooting on the lawn this morning. That may take care of the grub problem my ex used to complain about, although I believe the flowers are long gone. I imagine I won’t get any mail. The lady who delivers it has an aversion to dogs, large cranes, and probably boars. The mail is frequently empty of anything useful since the advent of the internet and the delivery and payment of bills electronically. Occasionally I will get a new Woot shirt in the mail, or something I have ordered from eBay. The boars seem happy.
My toenails need trimmed. They live a life of their own, way down there, living in toenail time. Mine are so far away. I suppose shorter people are in closer touch with their toenails and can perhaps hear their urgent whisperings at night. To me, toenail is a country apart, and aside from the occasional pedicure (in which I take an odd delight), we rarely visit one another. So it is with surprise when they come into sight that I see how they’ve grown over the summer, how they’ve shot up. Oh, one of them has been hurt at sometime.
There are days when the blood level seems to be too low to circulate properly around your body. You are like an old car whose radiator fluids have been neglected for too long. The liquid left is rusty and has spots of oil in it. It circulates through the pump in spurts, and there are periods when the pump turns with nothing at all but air and rust flecks. There is nothing to cool or lubricate the pump, and it contributes its own little metal shavings to the next gush of antifreeze, water, and apple peelings rushing down the line.
“You are my favorite old man,” Zoe assured me solemnly this morning. Then she told me she loved me with the open-faced honesty that only a four-year-old can muster. She was packing her bags as she and her mother were going to visit some friends for the day elsewhere in town. To be honest, I have been living here with my head down, not paying very much attention. I believe I have been self-absorbed to a large extent. I have swerved dangerously close to becoming bitter. Now Caprice had handed me this unearned gift. I am speechless. I am unworthy.
I started this morning’s entry by writing ten different first sentences. Then I went back to each and wrote ten second sentences. By the third pass, I was beginning to delete potential entries as others began to grow and develop. I was surprised at the ones that began to take over, and at the ones that gasped and died. Some, I set aside to work on as other projects in other venues. One had a startlingly powerful image that I simply did not know what to do with. That one went into the WIP file to be looked at later.
I visited the 100 Words Forums this morning, but I cannot seem to get in. I think I was able to get in at one time, but I have either forgotten how this was done, or I have offended someone and have been banished from 100 Words Forums. I consider. I try pasting variations of my various frequently used names and codes in the offered fields with no results. I try pasting them in impresting positions and angles with no results. I look for a way to complain. I hammer on the fairy door in the upper right-hand corner. Banished.
According to Anna, the Finnish woman who sometimes translates my poems into Swedish, she was recently given an interesting choice in translating the word Mausoleum, the actual title of the poem. She comes up with the word “STOFTHYDDA” which is the combination of “hut” and “dust” or crawling on dust or simply the dust and ashes to which we return. So I am left with a vision of moving building, covered with ivy and the dark moss of several centuries. It is slowly moving across the nightscape, crushing tombstones, burning its oily fuel, leaving behind a fine trail of ashes.
Anna writes me to say I got it wrong. When she used the word “STOFTHYDDA”, she was translating “Corpse” and not “Mausoleum.” This takes my mind wandering in at least two directions, none of which is likely what she is intending. Well, to start with, the first draft of my 100 Words had her translating the word “Corpse,” and I changed it. I thought I had it wrong? Stick with your first impression? No, I read her note three times and I was quite sure I changed my mind several times. But the corpse is the crawling hut of ashes?
My first thought was that you got married on your birthday? Isn’t life complicated enough? Or does that simplify things? And then I read on. And I stumbled a bit, or a lot, because when you take on this writing thing, when you take on this life thing that is what you do, you run into life. You run into real life so quickly, so much sooner than you are ready for it, that you have no independent clause ready. I’m sorry. I’m sorry for how not simple your birthday is. I’m sorry for how not simple your life is.
I’m not sure you do get used to being alone. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that I am not convinced that either you or I are used to it. You articulate it so well as a unique state of being. You define it and name its aspects. The way you are familiar with its color, its taste, its smell, and the way it cozies up to you makes me suspicious about your truce, about my own truce with being alone. I expect any minute to upset my table for one and begin throwing plates at the wall.
Anna writes me again. It seems I would make a terrible translator. Possibly even a terrible transcriber. She writes, “A corpse or/and a body are each in Swedish called”hut of dust". Period. No crawling, no ashes...” How could I have possibly gotten all this crawling of Mausoleums over the landscape grinding ancient tombstones into dust? How could I have gotten visions of bags of ashes held together by fashionable clothing staggering onto zombie movie sets? Am I that desperate for 100 Words fodder? Do I like getting emails from Anna reprimanding me for my publishing errors? These are mysteries.
I’ve been toying with the idea of writing somewhere else. I have been thinking about taking it on the road to an office, or a series of offices. I have long been aware that my environment has a profound effect on my writing style and subject matter. The library seems an obvious first choice. I’ve done that before. It is a natural place to go work. I suppose I could work in several places, dividing my time. Coffee shops were made for this, theoretically, although it is surprising how difficult it can be to actually write in most coffee shops.
I am finished now.
Eight fresh loaves of bread sit sweating
in individual plastic bags.
arrayed across the table before me.
Scent carries to me
memories of enamel table tops
and worn lineoleum floors.
These loves contain within
the kneads and baked folds of dough.
like folds in a brain,
the imprints of my fingers
from a thousand different directions, deflections.
The loaves are made with whole wheat flour,
oatmeal, honey, and molasses,
And the endless chemical responses that drive
the yeast through the rise
the muscles through the fingers
the honey across the tongue
the memory through the mind.
Finite number was too short to ask out most of the women he met. He was too skinny to wear rack suits. At parties he would drink too much, so he would be sick when he got home. All those digits swirling in the toilet bowl. There was a limited unlimited supply of them. Some day he would run out. He knew this. He was an angry number. He was angry at a God who would make him and then put a fence around his existence so that he would always somehow be less than everything else. He was finite.
Amanda was on the phone. She was coming to town for another wedding. “I’m bringing the Mixed Numbers with me. Can I leave them with you? It’s just for the weekend.” What was I supposed to say? Leave them in the car? I had visions of the crate in the back of her Subaru bouncing over the highway from western Kansas, a white-gloved hand reaching between the rough-wood slats to open a door as she drove, another to tip over a water dish. “Uhmmm, I’ve got room in the garage. It’s heated. I can park my car in the drive.”
I bought a radial arm saw today. It was at a garage sale, a ten-inch Sears radial arm in good condition, complete with stand for fifty bucks, and the owner offered free delivery. It is easily worth five times the asking price. I know I am also looking for a table saw, one to replace the 8-inch Delta that disappeared from the house while I was living in the apartment, and a bench vise. I have lived with me long enough to know I am already making something in my head, but what? What would I want such tools for?
I rolled over and looked at my clock when I heard them coming. It was 6:30. Good God, it was Sunday morning. I wasn’t sure which was louder, the slamming of windows along the street that marked their progress or their relentless chanting. The Repeating Numbers were out for their daily March. I could hear their drone approaching my house. “One two. One two. Sound off. Sound off. We do what we please. We do what we please. We don’t eat cheese. We don’t eat cheese.” I tried to bury my head in my pillow, but it was no use.
The Whole Numbers are
A stand-up crowd.
Are always dressed appropriately
In clean clothes, they
Drive new SUV’s,
Have the neatest lawns in the suburb,
And the cleanest houses.
They attend regular worship services
And have time to help
The less fortunate:
The fractions, decimals,
The irrational numbers.
Their children are also inevitably
Successfully attending the
And sliding easily into
Comfortable positions in
Whole Number lives.
We don’t hate them.
Truly, they move apart from us
In some rational universe
Where the laws we contend
With daily simply do not apply.
How could they?
This Wrong Number
Is a bit confused.
Is he somehow “wrong”
Or incorrect, or
Is this merely what he is supposed to be?
Is he in fact a model of modern competence?
Is he performing flawlessly the role he was
Something feels not quite right and
Some mornings he wakes up with
A sour belly
Getting up on the wrong side of the bed.
It’s one of the
Many things he worries about,
Lying there in the dim light.
But if he is truly a Wrong Nmber,
Can any side be right?
The Tip Jar