uu — 1 (patience and acceptance)

flowers picked for uu

Car in shop. Had to take train in to work this morn­ing. Early early. All those half asleep faces. Every­one avoid­ing eye con­tact. The ride long and dull. Didn’t think to bring head­phones. Don’t need them in the car. Where I get to lis­ten to G’s CD mixes. All by myself. Loud as I want. Helps me for­get the com­mute and keeps me from remem­ber­ing how far we are apart.

Got off the train feel­ing slow and a lit­tle lone­some. Hap­pens now and again. When time slows and the mind isn’t con­cen­trat­ing on what the hands are doing.

If your hands are busy so is your head. One of dad’s old sayings.

The other day he was sit­ting in his lounger mak­ing fists and explod­ing them. I’d brought him a glass of lemon­ade. Watched him make a few fists and blow them slowly apart. I asked if his hands were sore. He said no, they’re idle. I used his say­ing on him. If your hands are busy so is your head. He paused a sec­ond, as if to deter­mine how the phrase was intended, then gave me a bright smile.

Things are get­ting eas­ier. He’s mov­ing about pretty well and doesn’t have too much pain. The hip has healed but there’s a long way to go with physio.

He’s joked that all the mus­cle in his right leg turned into a flat tire around his waist. I tell him he has chronic waist­ing disease.

Such is our approach to deal­ing with the rough spots in his recov­ery. Biggest hur­dles: him hav­ing to let me care for him and him not being able to drive. He hated stay­ing in the house all day. Had to drive him around and lis­ten to him try­ing not to com­plain about this that and the other. Hella that. Being a mother hen to your own father. But we fig­ured it out. Inch by inch.

Patience and acceptance.

Like this morn­ing. At the train sta­tion. Mop­ing to the bus stop. Stand­ing there in an aggra­vated huff. Til I looked at my hands and prac­tised mak­ing fists and explod­ing them. Worked won­ders. Brought a quiet resolve to own the moment. Instead of con­tin­u­ing to stand there wait­ing I chose to walk. Few cars. Not many peo­ple. Good time to be on the streets. Even down­town. Dis­pelled my slow blue mood straight away. And as I got close to the hos­pi­tal saw the half moon low up there in my pale blue sky. Heard G say­ing, ‘When­ever you alight upon the moon I’ll be in your head.’

And he was. All day long. My thought­filled G.

I sent him a text on my cof­fee break. The usual lovey dove good morn­ing stuff. He replied with a pic­ture of flow­ers and a mes­sage: just picked these for u, my wub­bly uu.

My thought­ful G.

Who for Christ­mas gave me two things. A bound and printed copy of a book he’d made of a jour­nal he’d been keep­ing. And a notebook.

He called the book Deliv­ery. It’s the only copy. I almost fell into pieces.

The note­book, he explained, was for me to do some­thing sim­i­lar with. Or not. My choice.

It, the note­book, has been on my bed­side table ever since. Until this evening I hadn’t even cracked it open.

Then today hap­pened. Felt like the kind of day that starts some­thing I want to remember.

Bookshelf — June 2015

IMG_8969

Plants have taken over my life. I get paid to look after the needs of plants in parks. On my own time I’m keep­ing a lit­tle nurs­ery of sorts in the spaces avail­able to me where I live, while at my girlfriend’s house we have a veg­etable gar­den and this year I con­verted a goodly sized por­tion of chafer bee­tle dam­aged front lawn into a flower gar­den. Plants, plants, plants. I seem to have lit­tle time for any­thing else.

In the morn­ings, I wake up with a mod­est han­ker­ing to see how the green babies are doing. When I get home from work the first thing I do is check on the ver­i­ta­ble mar­tians. Every­where I see plants I do my best to name them (in my head), and if I’m uncer­tain I’ll do some research or ask.

Prior to the last cou­ple years flow­ers rarely excited me. Trees were the plants I most admired (qui­etly). But now I’m appar­ently a lit­tle obsessed by all things plant.

Where pos­si­ble I grow from seed. In the veg­gie gar­den, with the excep­tion of cel­ery and toma­toes, I’ve done the sow­ing and entrusted week­day water­ing to my girl­friend and her daugh­ters. This year we have unruly pota­toes grow­ing like mad. A pair of sun­flow­ers sur­vived night crit­ters and are now as tall as I am. Nas­tur­tium, zuc­chini, cucum­ber, car­rots, loads of leafy greens, pep­pers, herbs—all have done well this sum­mery spring.

So well that I’ve started a late spring batch of veg­gies, herbs and peren­ni­als at my place. I shall soon have more leafy greens than I can eat. As well a poten­tially decent sup­ply of starter orna­men­tals that I’ll exper­i­ment with plant­ing out in the fall (shasta daisies, echi­nacea, rud­beckia, hol­ly­hocks, fescue).

Beyond seeds I’ve actively res­cued a num­ber of plants from the scrapheap and accepted orphans from other gar­den­ers. Var­i­ous orna­men­tal grasses are hap­pily respond­ing to my efforts, as are a few gera­ni­ums, three Ligu­laria (two of which are mas­sive and start­ing to show off their bright yel­low spiky flower heads—from bot­tom to top), and a hand­ful of tree seedlings (styrax, Japan­ese maple, golden rain tree, and a cool species of mountain-ash [Sor­bus caloneura] that has sim­ple leaves and in matu­rity pro­duces fruit that are the shape of tiny pears, to name a few).

And then there are the trees. The ones I sim­ply gaze at from time to time. Amazed at how they do what they do with very lit­tle atten­tion. I’ve got red­woods and cedars, a dog­wood and a larch, junipers and cypresses—and I’m keen to expand my scope to include what­ever come my way.

This week­end, at a friend’s place, in exchange for swim­ming in their pool and beers and a huge Sat­ur­day din­ner, I planted up palms and cycads, a banana and a fat­sia, and put together small con­tain­ers of sun-loving growers.

So, yeah, a bit bonkers on plants. Works for me tho.

Per­haps soon the words will return to take priority—I hope so. I miss them. The words. Play­ing with them. Dis­cov­er­ing what sto­ries they wish me to tell and how they would like me to do the telling.

Mean­time, I still man­age to find time for read­ing. Here’s a list of what’s cur­rently on my shelf [L-R]

  • Eduardo Galeano — Upside Down
  • James Rebanks — The Shepherd’s Life
  • Ian McE­wan — Sweet Tooth
  • Tom McCarthy — Satin Island
  • Ian McE­wan — Saturday
  • Joshua Foer — Moon­walk­ing with Einstein
  • Ian McE­wan — Solar
  • Kurt Von­negut — Palm Sunday

Playlist 2015 — 5

IMG_8974

Week­day morn­ings I’m off to work before 6. Just short of 2 weeks ago I sowed a batch of seeds (leafy greens and a few peren­ni­als) in small pots and placed them on the side of a lad­der hung hor­i­zon­tally along the fence by my door. The cus­tom of late is to check how the seeds are doing. If they need water I give them a spritz, if there are any new ger­mi­nants I record on my phone. After that I put on the tunes and make my way.

This morn­ing I checked the pots (it rained last night/no new cotyle­dons) and struck out per usual. Only I hadn’t man­aged to get the music going til on the street. While fum­bling to get the ear­buds prop­erly ori­ented I heard an unmis­tak­ably famil­iar bel­low­ing and of course looked up. There was my buddy Sean, cycling past with a yoga mat stick­ing out of his backpack.

Good stuff.

And a fine way to start the day.

I got my ear­buds straight. To work and back, this was today’s playlist (first lines):

1. Baby will you come home with me. [Matthew E. White — Feel­ing Good is Good Enough]

2. Look for Jane, to call her name. [Ulti­mate Paint­ing — Jane]

3. Hap­pi­ness takes time and time is my life. [Dan Dea­con — Mind on Fire]

4. Hold­ing me down, I can’t believe I am drown­ing some­how. [Archive — End of Our Days]

5. Please don’t stop me. [Archive — Black]

6. You gonna change this world, you wanna change this world. [Bill Fay — Order of the Day]

7. I would do any­thing for you, for you are the only thing good in my life. [Tobias Jesso Jr. — For You]

8. Good­bye to you my trusted friend.… [Yes, you know it!]

9. She sat smok­ing a cig­a­rette. [Bill Fay — Dust Filled Room]

10. You’re like a moon that’s full. [Wilco — I Thought I Held You]

11. I am Super­man and I know what’s hap­pen­ing. [R.E.M. — Superman]

12. I’ve been search­ing and you’ve been gone. [Uncle Tupelo — The Long Cut]

13. Sleep lay behind me like a bro­ken ocean. [The Police — Truth Hits Everybody]

14. Dear god, hope you got the let­ter and I pray you can make it bet­ter down here. [XTC — Dear God]

15. The stars would know to send you the shiv­ers. [Phos­pho­res­cent — Remain]

16. It is time for stormy weather. [The Pix­ies — Stormy Weather]

17. About what I said just before, you know your clothes on the floor. [Wed­ding Present — What Have I Said]

18. Only love can make it rain. [The Who — Love Reign o’er Me]

19. You suck my blood like a leech. [Queen — Death on Two Legs]

20. When I look out my win­dow. [Dono­van — Sea­son of the Witch]

21. The lunatic is on the grass. [Pink Floyd — Brain Damage]

There you go. Wher­ever you are. Enjoy. The weekend.

Arthur, Hero — 7

grey cables

Meet­ing Mar­vin goes as arranged. He’s stand­ing by his open dri­ver­side door. Talk­ing on cell phone. Smok­ing cig­a­rette. Latino com­plex­ion, around 5–10, goodly mus­cled. Con­spic­u­ously styl­ish. Short black hair, expertly tou­sled. Thin metic­u­lous goa­tee. Snug white short­sleeve button-up, mir­ror sun­glasses hang­ing from breast pocket. Black jeans, brown dress shoes. His only vis­i­ble embell­ish­ment a sim­ple band tat­too about an inch wide above left wrist.

I walk toward him. Stop a few feet away. Take off my back­pack. Place it between my legs. Mar­vin shows me his eyes, raises a hand to say he’ll be right with.

The morn­ing is bright and warm. A clutch of new arrivals emerge from the bus depot. Dis­pers­ing every which way, suit­cases in tow.

Mar­vin peaces out. He drops his cig­a­rette and steps on it. Back pock­ets his phone. Extends his hand.

We shake, exchange pleas­antries, get in truck. Very clean, almost no clut­ter. A wooden cru­ci­fix on a beaded cord hangs from the rearview. Col­or­ful minia­ture Mex­i­can tur­tles with wob­bly heads on the pol­ished dash. The stick­shift sur­mounted by an inverted 8-ball (cue ball with white 8 in black cir­cle). Top of the line CD player. House music turned low.

Marvin’s talk­a­tive, end­lessly smil­ing, instantly like­able. Between phone calls, which he keeps short, he touches on an array of light top­ics. The good weather and what it does to make women even more beau­ti­ful than they already are. Sports, music, the com­ing week­end. He’s quick-tongued but easy-going, relaxed yet buoy­ant, bristling with con­tin­u­ous excite­ment. Can­did with­out being self-indulgent.

Skirt­ing the shorter older build­ings of down­town our gen­eral bear­ing is south-east. Lane clo­sures and manic traf­fic have no dis­cernible effect on Marvin’s mood. He’s utterly relaxed behind the wheel. Win­dow down. Rel­ish­ing the moment.

We drive through Chi­na­town, an indus­trial sec­tor, hit a main artery ser­vic­ing what looks to be a lower mid­dle class res­i­den­tial neigh­bor­hood ris­ing the ranks.

Food mar­kets, restau­rants, din­ers, cafes, bars, cor­ner con­ve­nience stores, laun­dro­mats, dime stores, bak­eries, butch­ers, pawn shops, florists, sec­ond­hand stores. Old school mer­chants. Some appear­ing to have been around for­ever, some with a touch of mod­ern flair. A cin­ema, a hard­ware store, a fire­hall, a gallery or two, a bowl­ing alley, a pool­hall. The strip is short of noth­ing, save chain­stores and car dealerships.

We park out front of a dry clean­ers. Mar­vin turns off the engine. Checks his phone.

Ten twenty-three,’ he says. ‘A bit early yet. Give me a moment.’

He makes a call.

It’s Mar­vin.… Out front.… Yes.… Will do.’

Mar­vin turns off the phone.

We’re just gonna hang a few minutes.’

The phone rings. He checks who’s calling.

Gotta take this one. The girl­friend. You okay in here for a bit?’

I say I’m fine.

Sher-ee!’ he answers, gets out, closes door, walks around back of truck and onto the sidewalk.

In side mir­ror I see him toe the curb. I turn my atten­tion to the tur­tle heads, now still, the big eyes painted on top seem­ing to stare at me.

After a cou­ple min­utes Marvin’s beside my window.

You ready?’

I open the door. Roll up the win­dow. Grab my backpack.

You won’t need that.’

I stow the back­pack on the floor.

On the side­walk Mar­vin tells me he’s got some busi­ness to tend to. With a guy named Reg.

Here’s how we’re gonna play this. I’ll hold the door for you. You walk in. Stand in front of the counter and let me pass. Reg will be at the back table. I’ll sit across from him. You sit beside me. And just so you know, I won’t intro­duce you. Reg is a bit old-fashioned. Straight-laced, if you know what I mean. Not much for strange faces. Sound good?’

I nod. Mar­vin pats me on the shoul­der and adds to his smile.

Here we are.’

Al’s Deli. He holds the door. I head in. The ser­vice counter takes up the major­ity of the space and runs the length of the pub­lic part of the shop. Along the right wall four tables, each with four chairs. A large man in butcher whites sits at the first table with his back to the win­dow. He’s scan­ning a news­pa­per, pays me no mind.

Big Al,’ Mar­vin exclaims upon entering.

The large man looks up. An approx­i­mate smile dis­torts the fleshy con­tours of his big face.

Mar-vin.’ Said like he hasn’t seen Mar­vin in a long time. ‘Good to see you, my friend.’

They clutch hands and Mar­vin bends down for a half embrace.

You look good,’ Mar­vin says.

Big Al waves him off, ‘You’re a ter­ri­ble liar.’

Mar­vin taps a fin­ger against his nose.

Big Al leans heav­ily in his chair, gaze peer­ing over the counter, barks a name I can’t quite make out. From the depths comes a greying-haired woman, wip­ing hands on a white apron.

Mar­vin appears delighted.

Sophie,’ he says as he scut­tles over to the counter. ‘Beau­ti­ful as ever.’

They hug over the counter. Kiss cheeks.

I look at the tables. At the back one sits a man fac­ing the door. Reg, I take it.

Mar­vin taps my arm, scoots by. I follow.

Reg is eat­ing a cookie. He’s bald­ing and thin. Wear­ing old suit and poorly exe­cuted tie. Big frame glasses. There’s a dark fedora on table.

Mar­vin stops at the table.

Reg,’ he says, offer­ing his hand.

The small man stays seated. Shakes Marvin’s hand. Doesn’t say any­thing and doesn’t took at me.

Mar­vin sits oppo­site Reg, against the wall. I take seat beside Marvin.

Reg fin­ishes cookie. Nap­kins his mouth. Pushes plate aside. Reaches to his feet. Puts leather valise on table. Unbuck­les, pulls out ledger book, opens fully onto table, lifts glasses onto fore­head, leans for­ward, licks fin­ger, flips pages with snap, fas­tid­i­ously runs fin­ger down entries, find what he’s after, dou­ble taps entry.

Here we are.’

Sits back, glasses back down on his nose.

They talk deliv­er­ies and pick ups. I look at the walls. Faux brick pan­elling to about four feet. Above that a muted yel­low to the exposed ceil­ing. Loom­ing over Reg a blank flatscreen tv. Not on. Cen­tred above our table a small grey and white pic­ture in a dusty glass frame. Of tele­phone pole, cables, trees. Can’t tell if it’s a photo or a paint­ing. Tag tacked to wall beside reads $50.

To Reg’s right a wash­room door.

I hear clas­si­cal music. The sound of Big Al flip­ping pages of his news­pa­per. I do my best not to look directly at Reg. He’s got hair com­ing out of his ears. Below the cor­ner of his jaw­bone, a piece of toi­let paper with a tiny blot of blood. His neck sinewy, the skin sag­ging. Dan­druff on the upper reaches of his suit jacket.

His voice is droll. Marvin’s is toned down—I can hear that he isn’t smiling.

I look at the $50 pic­ture. See it’s a street scene. Cars parked on the road. A street­lamp. Scat­tered cloud caught in a burst of sunshine.

Even­tu­ally I hear Mar­vin perk up.

O-kay,’ he says.

Reg closes ledger. Mar­vin stands. They shake hands.

As I get up, notice Reg glance toward front of shop. He takes off his glasses. Puts on fedora. Busies with valise.

I fol­low Mar­vin. He calls out a farewell to Sophie, who’s not in sight. As we near the door, Big Al lifts him­self up. He embraces Mar­vin, who’s about the same height but much thin­ner, and then looks at me, nods, holds out his right hand.

Arthur, Hero — 6

backpack

Freshly arrived I step from the easy light of the bus depot into a busy bright after­noon. Before me a wide green plaza. Over the trees big build­ings loom. Down­town feels near. There is much to see and hear and smell. I am alert to dis­trac­tion. But more than any­thing hungry.

In the plaza I get a hot­dog and sit on the low wall of a dry foun­tain, back­pack between my legs. All man­ner of peo­ple snake and bus­tle and hun­ker about. I watch them pas­sively. Sense their accli­mated indif­fer­ence to the daily clamor. The traf­fic and con­ges­tion, the grit­ti­ness, the con­struc­tion, the noise of every­thing under the sun.

My mind is rac­ing in too many direc­tions. I open my back­pack. Retrieve note­book. Mark­ing the cur­rent page a beer coaster. On which is writ­ten the name Mar­vin, a phone num­ber, and a note to say MT sent you.

This is why I’m here. Con­tact Marvin.

I scope the sur­rounds. Look­ing for a pay phone. See a hos­tel sign up the block a bit. I’ll be need­ing a place to stay. Likely be a phone there.

With­out fur­ther I’m at the hos­tel. I reserve a sin­gle room for a cou­ple nights. There’s a phone by the entrance. I call the num­ber. One ring and I’m through.

Yell-o.’

The voice is upbeat, loudly spo­ken. Dancy music and lots of chat­ter on his end. Like he’s in a bar.

Is that Marvin?’

That it is. Who’s this?’

This is Arthur. MT sent me.’

Ah. Straight to busi­ness. Good, good. Give me a sec.’

I hear him say he’s just gotta take this. A few sec­onds pass. Music and chat­ter fade.

All right-y, Arthur. You still with me?’

Still here.’

Great. Let me ask ya, Arthur, how old are you?’

Twenty-five.’

Got ID?’

Yes.’

Phys­i­cally fit?’

Yes.’

Any issues I should know about?’

None that I’m aware of.’

That’s say­ing some­thing. Where you call­ing from Arthur?’

Hos­tel by the bus station.’

Right in the thick of it. Good stuff. Can you call me from the same phone between six and six-thirty?’

Shouldn’t be a problem.’

Well, Arthur, I’ll see what I can do.’

I hang up the phone and stand there a moment. A lit­tle uncer­tain what to do with myself. It’s just gone three. I can’t get my room til four. Fig­ure I may as well get a bet­ter idea of where I am. I peruse a rack of tourist brochures. Find one with a sim­ple map. See that I’m in a part of the city called Old Town, cen­tral to four adja­cent areas: Down­town, South­lands, West­side, and River­front. I put the brochure back in its slot and set out.

Along­side the hos­tel a bar, a cof­fee shop, and a con­ve­nience store. Across the street a num­ber of take-out joints and a bank. This noted I take a cross street, head­ing for the river.

The walk does me instant good. I don’t know for how long I was on the bus but my legs rel­ish the move­ment. The rest of me, stranger in a for­eign place, defaults to wit­ness. I try not to look com­pletely out of my ele­ment. Or let my gaze linger too long on others.

I pass a young woman seated against a tree bawl­ing her eyes out. A gaunt man pilots two shop­ping carts laden with bulging garbage bags jan­gling a rhap­sody of bot­tles and cans. Sport­ing a well-worn safety vest and a cow­boy hat, another man col­lects with a garbage picker cig­a­rette butts, deposit­ing them in a gal­lon paint can he car­ries by its han­dle, a sil­ver watch loose about his wrist. A man and a woman hud­dled by a garbage bin putting nee­dles into each other’s arms as a short old-timer shuf­fles them by smil­ing, hands clasped behind back. The man and woman pay no notice and the old-timer, per­fectly zen, doesn’t break stride or even look for cars as he crosses the street from alley to alley.

Peo­ple being peo­ple in the ambit of Old Town.

I wan­der along. Mes­mer­ized by the dark beauty of these worn and neglected streets. The brick build­ings that have seen bet­ter days, the colour­ful lay­ers of graf­fiti, the boarded up shops, the strewn garbage, the near-constant stench of urine, the con­trast­ing tex­tures of hard sur­faces left to crack and fill with weeds, the deter­mi­na­tion of the luck­less souls roam­ing these parts carry on regardless.

Before I know it more than an hour has passed. I’m itch­ing for a shower and a beer. The river will have to wait.

At 615, three beers to the good I call Marvin.

That Arthur?’

He’s got good news. Says he’ll pick me up tomor­row morn­ing at 10. In front of the bus depot. He’ll be dri­ving a white Ford Ranger.

Arthur, Hero — 5

sunset

There are times when sense is a thing gone miss­ing. When the right­ness of the world runs foul, counter to any con­ven­tional set of val­ues. The inher­ent mean­ing of good­ness shifts. Leav­ing those in its wake scram­bling. Awake to a new order they fear beck­ons an unfor­giv­ing end. Time and again the fear passes. The end doesn’t mate­ri­al­ize. And being awake becomes more and more like being set adrift in a bad dream.

My writer used these lines to set the tone for what would even­tu­ally be devel­oped into the whole Lane affair. In that con­text the pas­sage goes on to describe a city trem­bling in the grips of dis­cord and char­ac­ter­izes the mood of the cit­i­zenry as swelling into a dark­en­ing state of per­pet­ual sunsets.

Fore­bod­ing stuff, to be sure—and suit­able for the sub­ject matter.

Thing is, is that the lines tran­scribed above are mine. As in I wrote them. Word for word. Shortly after The Tab went down in flames.

How about that for a mindfuck.

I men­tion this not to claim own­er­ship. Rather I wish to high­light an exam­ple of the extent to which my writer has gone bonkers with his plot­ting. He’s con­stantly dig­ging holes with­out hav­ing a plan for what to put in them. Or what to do with the piles he’s cre­at­ing. It’s nuts.

Patently schizoid.

Let me be clear. I have no prob­lem with him mak­ing use of my words—reworking their import, gun­ning for impact etc. Far from it. I’m only too happy to offer my ser­vices. It’s part of the role I play. Per­son­ally I like the fact that writ­ing is an aspect of my char­ac­ter. It keeps me engaged, alert. A nat­ural exten­sion of hav­ing been gifted the mod­est pow­ers of observation.

As a place to gen­er­ate a col­lec­tion of sto­ries, for instance, The Tap wouldn’t have lasted a week if I wasn’t there to encour­age and listen.

Like­wise with Annabelle Ruthers. I’m the one who assem­bled and orga­nized what she told me into a rea­son­ably coher­ent nar­ra­tive. From which I was begin­ning to deduce that some­thing was amiss. Only to have the rug pulled out from under me at what could’ve been a piv­otal moment.

The prover­bial rug.

This is what I take issue with. Being propped up, made to dance, and then left floun­der­ing, flail­ing in the wind, gasp­ing for breath.…

And you know, none of this would have mat­tered if my writer had just let me be. I hon­estly thought we were finally done. That I could be my own man. Unfet­tered by the end­less shenani­gans of a hope­less tin­kerer. Retired from the game of point­less adventure.

Things were coast­ing along nice and smooth there too. I was back behind a bar. Mak­ing do and stick­ing to an easy rou­tine of home and work and get­ting myself from one to the other. Once or twice a week I’d hang with my work­mates. Have a few brew. Maybe head out for din­ner. Take in a show etc.

But no. My writer had to go and send me a pair of name­less agents. Fucked thing is even this would’ve been fine if there’d been any fol­lowthrough. But, to reit­er­ate, no. It’s a month now since and nothing.

Here’s me. On the edge of my seat. Half-expecting another knock at the door. Or to be caught unawares on the street and bun­dled into the back of a van with­out win­dows, no one hear­ing my screams, no one notic­ing my absence, the day itself an igno­rant bystander.

Fuck it.

If my writer wants to dig, great. Let him dig. But I’m done try­ing to make sense of his digging.

Per­haps I over­step my bounds. What­ever. I’m tired of being toyed with.

There are times when sense is a thing gone missing.

Now is one of those times. But I’m not gonna wait around for an unfor­giv­ing end. I’m tak­ing the helm of this adven­tur­ing ship. Set­ting course for a place I should already be.

Near as I can tell, nav­i­gat­ing scraps, I have enough to go on. This will at last be my story.…

Arthur, Hero — 4

background

I’ve been a play­wright, a lock­smith, and a legal aide. In none of these roles have I had to per­form acts befit­ting the trade. I would merely be in a the­atre, a work­shop, or a cour­t­house. To what ends I couldn’t say. Per­haps to admire how well the spaces were defined. I’ll give my writer props, he can write a good pic­ture. And once in a while sticks with it long enough to cre­ate scenes and, more rarely, some­thing of a story—though I’d say sketches bet­ter describes his mod­est assem­blages of scenes.

One such sketch had me in Carmel-by-the-Sea. I stayed in a motel on the high­way. ‘On the doorstep of the great Big Sur.’ Wait­ing for a deliv­ery of some kind. A deliv­ery that didn’t arrive. Not while I was there at least. In the mean­time, for 5 or 6 days, I wan­dered to the sea­side dur­ing the day and sat in a dingy bar at night. The main things that hap­pened were that I became mes­mer­ized by the ‘windswept majesty’ of Mon­terey cypress trees and that I hooked up with Candy. Who I bought drinks for and threw darts with and let share my bed. Where I learned of her pro­longed res­i­dence at a drug-crazed artist colony, from which she had recently dis­patched her­self, and of her long­ing to travel South Amer­ica. I also dis­cov­ered that she was tat­tooed from the waist down in faintly ren­dered fish scales. My mer­maid. A bit daz­zled by life and the throes of addic­tion recov­ery, but we got on just fine and had us some fun along the way.

Put this wise it sounds as though Candy was the item to be deliv­ered. I don’t know from nar­ra­tive devices, but in ret­ro­spect it does seem I was in Carmel to enable Candy, if that makes any sense.

Let me ven­ture an aside here. My writer uses me to a) be the eyes in the spaces he con­structs, and b) engage with and draw out rel­e­vant details from the other char­ac­ters he deems fit to send in my direction.

In a sense, then, my chief func­tion has been to col­lect stories.

Cer­tainly an accu­rate descrip­tion of my main call­ing. By default I tend bar. Pre­vi­ous to the whole Annabelle Ruthers deal I even ran my own shop. A nar­row hole in the wall called The Tap. I had noth­ing to do with its name but I think it fair to say I made it the cozy estab­lish­ment it was. Serv­ing host to a hand­ful of odd­balls who, over time, became a closeknit crew of ram­bunc­tious reg­u­lars. Most nights The Tap was venue for all man­ner of top­i­cal debates: why we do what we do, how things are for­ever in tran­si­tion, what the next con­tro­versy might be, how the stars fea­ture in our daily inter­ac­tions, etc. I had staff: gen­er­ally tran­sient souls, com­ing and going, and of course the indomitable and irre­place­able Bee­Bee (who’s spir­ited opti­mism and down-home moth­er­li­ness over­shad­owed the trail­er­park hair and the gritty vocals of a life­long smoker). On week­ends a philo­soph­i­cal piano player, Eddy, tin­kled the keys between gar­bled mono­logues of con­tem­po­rary profanity.

All-in-all a pretty decent room to call my own.

Til it burned to the ground.

I was there the night it hap­pened. Smelled the smoke and saw the back wall of the main room ignite into a ver­ti­cal sheet of flame. I kept my wits. Ush­ered every­one out and with a clus­ter of reg­u­lars watched from across the street as the fire took hold. Fiercely glow­ing against the dark night sky.

Then noth­ing. Another hia­tus. For months. Til outta the blue getta call from Lorelei.

What can I say. My writer has his head in the clouds.

He clearly has designs on writ­ing mysteries—me being prime among them. Only prob­lem is he doesn’t seem all that inter­ested in solv­ing them.

And, you know, the thing of it is, I mean, if I’m hon­est, is that, well, I never had much faith in there being a future. For me, I mean.

Maybe that’s what this is about. Me writing.

Get­ting things down. Tak­ing the reins. Hav­ing my say.

Won­der if Candy’s still out there somewhere.

Had I my way I’d make mine a story of find­ing her again.

Just say­ing.

And I’m think­ing to myself, why not? Go look­ing for Candy? Sounds a solid thing to aim for.

But I sup­pose my first pri­or­ity should be stitch together my own loose thread.

Instead of Norm — cover preview

ION cover 1

Work­ing at mak­ing nov­els avail­able in epub for­mat. Here’s a pre­view of pos­si­ble cover for Instead of Norm. (Apolo­gies for crappy resolution—image is JPEG con­verted from PDF.)

Hop­ing to have epubs ready for April, which hap­pens to coin­cide with 5-year anniver­sary of exper­i­ment pages!

Arthur, Hero — 3

day one

My writer cre­ated me a num­ber of years ago and has been toy­ing around with the idea of me ever since. He puts me into scenes. Has me say and do ridicu­lous things. Gets me going then uncer­e­mo­ni­ously aban­dons me, repeat­edly leav­ing me in the lurch. It’s maddening.

To be fair, I expect that I drive him nuts too.

Char­ac­ters: can’t live with em, can’t go on with­out em.

I should be grate­ful. At least I have a name. Even if only one. A given. Con­ferred upon me at the end of my first appear­ance. Which I still have by the way. Secreted away in a drawer. Like the orig­i­nal copy of an impor­tant doc­u­ment. A birth cer­tifi­cate, say.

Here it is. In full—don’t worry, it’s short. Entered as evi­dence of how I came to be.

It suits him that his birth­day is on Rob­bie Burns Day. There’s always a party going on and he does’t nec­es­sar­ily have to attend to participate.

“And some great lies were never penn’d.”

Per­haps he’s chuffed that he shares some­thing in com­mon with the likes of Anto­nio Car­los Jobim, Vir­ginia Woolf, Etta James, Euse­bio. Should he think of such things.

We are, after all, what we make of ourselves.

Or maybe he iden­ti­fies more with mor­bid details. That, for instance, mob­ster Capone died on the 25th day of the first month in the year 1947. Noth­ing like a ten­u­ous link to noto­ri­ety to give the oth­er­wise ordi­nary a boost.

Not that he wishes to make (or take advan­tage of) holes in the sys­tem. Yet that he should be so inclined allows for more inter­est­ing pos­si­bil­i­ties than, say, being a col­lec­tor of inspi­ra­tional one-liners.

Hard to imag­ine him hav­ing much of a response to such phrases as ‘you are the pur­veyor of your deep­est self’ or ‘only you make now happen’.

Ordi­nary though?

Well well. Didn’t another Rob­bie Burns Day alum­nus pen that only a mediocre per­son is always at his best?

Set­ting that aside, it’s fair to say he’s not polit­i­cally moti­vated. (He cares. Just not enough to turn his life into a cause.) Nor does he like to be at the cen­tre of things. (Do away with any inten­tions of explor­ing a mega­lo­ma­niac in the mak­ing). And it’s doubt­ful he’s bur­dened with urges that the larger frame­work of soci­ety frowns upon (i.e., the stuff that makes for decent crime drama).

So, for the time being, we’re left with a mid­dling sort of dude who’s as like to get drunk with his bud­dies as he’s capa­ble of spend­ing his birth­day drink­ing alone, in his apart­ment, with the lights down, get­ting his white­boy funk out to a dig­i­tal groove channel.

Putting him some­where between 20 and 45.

As yet uncer­tain of his stature etc. Would do, how­ever, to grant him a name. Let’s dub him Arthur.

Not much, I admit. But it’s mine. And maybe sheds a lit­tle light on what I’ve had to put up with. Since day one.