My education does not help me at all. The third world farmer bounds down the quebrada. I balance rickety and put one foot haltingly down. Cooking with firewood I almost burn the rice. He is there to save it – “clear the wood to coals!” he says exasperatedly. I can’t cut trails through the woods like he can, making big broad sweeps with my machete. I get a painful blister. It takes 2 weeks to heal. My foot is a scab of mosquito bites. I might be ‘prepared’ for the outside world but not for this one. Here I am inept.
Archive for July, 2012|Monthly archive page
“Are you questioning freedom?”
Jonathan looked at his uncle, a watermelon rind dripping down his wrist. Uncle Mack must have been saving that one.
“Yes, I am.”
“I’m a novelist. I question everything.”
Uncle Mack’s beery, confrontational tone snapped into condescension. “Let me tell you something about freedom. Your grandfather wasn’t raised in a nice home like you were. America allows citizens who work hard to take what’s theirs. That’s what he did. He worked hard. Because of freedom.”
“Did you like the book?”
“No it pissed me off. Interesting characters, but your logic needs some mechanical work.”
The next time I’m walking down the street, I’m going to follow that guy I find totally cute for a couple blocks and yell not-so-harmless compliments at him, like:
“Hey cutie, where you going?”
“Nice jeans, they hug your ass just right!”
“Whoever is your girlfriend is a lucky, lucky woman.”
The next time I’m at a bar or a club, I’m gonna corner a cute guy and flirt really aggressively. I’ll make sure he knows he doesn’t really have a choice in the matter and inappropriately touch him.
The next time, I’ll equal the playing field. That’s fair, right?
I decided in Madrid to get a pair when my friend told me Clarks last forever.
When I got back to SF, I bought a pair and wore them with jeans.
They’ve seen the coast, from Eugene to San Diego. I wore them across the boats and beaches of Sydney, sticky humid sidewalks of Manila, and throughout Vietnam.
I’ve walked across Manhattan and back, I’ve walked late nights and early mornings in Chicago.
They don’t last forever. The hole that’s finally forming in the bottom tells me I’m going to outlive this pair. But to me they’ve lasted a lifetime.
“Let me see,” said Sanford Barkley, patting the charred tree trunk that filled a corner of his inherited house. He didn’t notice the sooty stain left on his palm. “The artist was named Something Dale, and he burnt trees as art. Like Yellowstone, you know? Except since a human burnt it, it represented the human condition too, plus nature.”
His guest examined the geometry of charred wood segments minutely.
“Of course,” said Sanford, lowering his voice, “for quite a while now I’ve been chipping off the back and using the charcoal in my smoker!” He laughed. “My kind of art.”
Today is the one day I get to feel not completely hated by everyone in this city. Today is the one day I feel like I can blend in, maybe even feel normal. This is one of those rare occasions. Ever since the state banished certain holidays from mattering, I have resigned myself to the fate of my mundane existence. Day after day, I make people unhappy. And most of the time they won’t even know it was me.
Today, I don’t wear the uniform and get to agree with everyone else, “yeah, parking in the city is such a bitch sometimes.”
The day’s heavy humidity culminated at dusk in a lightning storm bigger than any the residents of Vermillion could remember.
Pinpoint fists of lightning pounded out of surging clouds, searing certain elements of the town – the shingles on Mark Boldquist’s car repair shop, the Elks flagpole, Alda Jackson’s prized cottonwood, the Haggards’ metal chimney, an abandoned cement mixer, several silos, a Custard Burger sign, Doctor Greer’s smokehouse, and Jim Parson’s backyard coop of breeder pigeons.
Miraculously, no fires broke out. The citizens waited behind their half-shuttered windows like imprisoned, bewitched royalty for the weather to spend itself and pass on.
At 11:11 a.m. on the morning of her eighty-first birthday, Alice Bowry folded her papery hands around a lukewarm cup of tea and shut her eyes against the sight of the clock.
One lucky wish now, she thought to God. Yes. A birthday wish. The only one I have now is I wish that I can live one more year.
Around her, the kitchen waited noiselessly. She nearly opened her eyes, then squeezed her hands to her face and added: A happy year! A good, happy year.
She looked up, neck ratcheting, and saw that the clock already read 11:12.