uu — 14

21 Sep­tem­ber 2015 – Lazy Mon­day morn­ing. Find­ing it hard to con­cen­trate. Spend­ing time untold gaz­ing out the win­dow. Watch­ing the trees change color. Want­ing more than any­thing to be out there. Run­ning in the park. But twisted ankle pretty bad on Sat­ur­day. In full-on gimp mode since.

Knew a woman once who said that when­ever you’re in pain to ask your­self who is the ‘I’ expe­ri­enc­ing the pain. She claimed that by sim­ply ask­ing, the pain would go away. Some­thing to do with the ego and the sep­a­ra­tion between body and mind. A broader dis­cus­sion that brought belief into play too, though I for­get how exactly.

This was years ago. When I was in first or sec­ond year. Don’t remem­ber the woman’s name or how I knew her. Vague sense that she was an older stu­dent. Maybe we had a class together? Not sure.

In any event, the idea of ques­tion­ing who’s expe­ri­enc­ing your pain stuck. I almost always ask a vari­ant of the ques­tion when some­thing hurts. At least physically—don’t think it occurs to me to ask when afflicted by inner trauma/drama. And some­times it seems to work. If only because I’m either try­ing to recall the woman or I’m engaged in get­ting the seman­tics of the ques­tion right.

How many eyes can one have?

Cur­rently my ankle is throb­bing. Time I iced her down.

On another note. Cups of tea and a dream.

Most morn­ings I get up when G brings me a tea and kisses my tem­ples before open­ing the blinds and head­ing off to work. Though it’s been dark out these last cou­ple weeks I still like to prop myself up in bed and slowly sip my tea until the first light of day col­ors the window.

This morn­ing I slept late. Don’t remem­ber wak­ing to G’s min­is­tra­tions, but I must have because half the tea was gone when I did finally stir. Hold­ing onto a crys­tal clear mem­ory of a strange dream.

Where I was look­ing at a large futur­is­tic square in the midst of tall mir­ror­glass build­ings. My van­tage point was raised. I could see the entirety of the square. The cen­tre­piece was a long pool sur­rounded by a low fence and set into stepped con­crete ter­rac­ing. Sur­faces were slick and clean. Untar­nished. Ultra­mod­ern. Unemo­tional. There were no peo­ple inside the fence but milling about the ter­raced area in per­fect suits of grey and black was a ver­i­ta­ble mob of office-type automa­tons. The scene had every indi­ca­tion of business-as-usual normalcy.

Until the balls came into play. Two or three of them. Bub­bles­cent orbs that seemed to hover as they rolled. The orbs were like Zorb balls, only big­ger, and made of some­thing other than clear plas­tic. They were shiny and opaque and looked to gain size and momen­tum as they bounced off objects in their path. Each con­tact sent a kind of iri­des­cent bruis­ing over the sur­face of the orbs—like press­ing your fin­ger on a plasma screen.

The orbs began to shoot across the square and rise. Once they hit the build­ings they each split into two smaller orbs, each con­tin­u­ing to rise at dif­fer­ent angles. Get­ting larger, gain­ing speed.

Even­tu­ally, high above the square, the air looked like it was filled with bubbles.

And then the orbs bursted. Or shattered.

Every sin­gle one of them. At the same instant.

There was no debris. The orbs sim­ply van­ished. In their place hov­ered a shad­owy humanoid fig­ure. One per orb, so far as I could tell. Hov­er­ing as if stand­ing stiffly upright on solid ground. Lev­i­tat­ing, I guess. Mil­i­tar­ily so. Legs together. Arms at the side. Head look­ing forward.

Toward me, it seemed.

And then they fell. All of them. Together. Each fig­ure drop­ping straight down. Grav­ity fast. Feet first. None of them cor­rupt­ing their stiff stance.

All these bod­ies falling. Ter­ri­fy­ing spectacle.

I didn’t see the moment of impact. For some rea­son I was star­ing at the now open space where the bub­bles had van­ished. And above that the sky. Look­ing like it was con­tained by some­thing. Some­thing iri­des­cent. The wall of a bub­ble. I was part of an inside. Look­ing out.

A zap of elec­tric­ity went through me, a quick shud­der. My gaze went fuzzy. I felt jos­tled. Just a quickly clar­ity returned. I was back where I was. Sta­tion­ary. Looked down at the square. I saw the fallen fig­ures rise from poses of gen­u­flec­tion. Before my eyes their sketch­i­ness under­went trans­for­ma­tion. Each turned into a per­fectly suited automa­ton and began milling about. As if noth­ing had happened.

I looked at the pool. Some­one was swimming.

And then I woke. Felt my tem­ples. Squinted against the morn­ing light. Looked for my tea. Noticed it was half drunk. Felt the cup. It’s cold­ness. Pre­cise. Like how I could see the dream. Com­plete. And yet triv­ial. An amuse­ment for sleep­ing eyes. While strange was the dream, more strange was that I wasn’t really affected by it. It played out, then I woke up.

Oddly, all I can think of at the moment is some­thing else the woman I used to know said.

Things are nei­ther good nor bad but that we make them so. Belief is to what­ever we tether the I.

My ankle is numb.

uu — 13 (a brightness on a cloudy day)

a brightness

17 Sep­tem­ber 2015 – Even when things aren’t hap­pen­ing they are.

Let’s see. This morn­ing drove Liz to museum so I could use her car to take Melville (G’s dad) and Dot (his ladyfriend Dorothy) to clinic. While Dot’s get­ting blood­work done Melville tells me they’ve decided to get mar­ried. He’s so giddy about it he for­gets that he’s keep­ing it a secret. I ask why the secret. He says they want it to be a sur­prise. An oppor­tu­nity to take us all out to a house they know about on the ocean. Under aus­pices of a nice week­end get­away. Then drop their bomb on the Sun­day. While we’re all there. The all of us being Liz and Mar­lon, Dot’s daugh­ter (Carol) and her hus­band (Dun­can), and G and me. I ask if they’d planned a time for this sur­prise week­end. Next week­end. I ask if he doesn’t think it a good idea to let the all of us know. He looks at the ceil­ing in con­sid­er­a­tion. I ask if they’ve booked the house. He seems to have lost hold on the con­ver­sa­tion. I reach out and hold his hand. He looks at me and smiles and hooks his cane on the arm­rest and brings his other hand over top of mine and pats. ‘She won’t be long now,’ he says.

A few min­utes later Dot comes into the wait­ing area flex­ing her arm. Melville’s up at her side the instant he sees her. Fawn­ing and atten­tive, even though he’s the one with the cane. Her try­ing to shoo him off. Him per­sist­ing. Her relent­ing. Their fore­arms entwined. His cane not touch­ing the ground. Her head touch­ing his upper arm. Their smiles. The love in their eyes.

A sac­cha­rine lit­tle scene. Poked by the holes of a hint­ing sad­ness. A dose of checked real­ity (No, I’m not going to go there right now.)

Dot’s one in a mil­lion. A tiny thing but full of energy. Spry as a squir­rel, sweeter than honey, never lets a neg­a­tive word cross her lips, and bakes about the best muffins ever. No way you’d guess she’s in her 70’s.

We met the first week I was back. Hit it off. She tabled an open invite to come visit. Any old time. Which I finally did last week. On a whim. Heard her joy­ous shriek when recep­tion called to see if I was okay to let in. Melville was off in the com­mon room with his cronies. Gave us a chance for some girl time. We had a grand after­noon. Drink­ing tea and bak­ing cook­ies and laugh­ing about our boys. Sim­ple stuff. But so nour­ish­ing. Just what I needed. With­out really know­ing it.

Been back twice since.

See, thing is, since return­ing I’ve been hav­ing a hard time not hear­ing any­thing from mom. It’s plagued me to think our bond is sev­ered. Dad keeps try­ing to reas­sure my patience. But, you know, she’s my mom. We were so close. Upon a time. Even when I wasn’t around she was my warm blan­ket when I needed one. The sound of her voice soothed me. She always knew just what to say and how to say it. I miss the per­son she was. Terribly.

Maybe this is why I feel such a bond with Dot. She’s very much like mom used to be. Older, sure, but gifted with a sim­i­lar spirit. We joke that she’s my hap­pen­stance mom. A role she’s touched to play for as long as I wish.

Any­way. After the clinic the three of us go for a sand­wich. Dot clar­i­fies the week­end get­away. (Two week­ends hence, not one). Melville’s in his clouds. Doesn’t clue into what we’re talk­ing. Hardly touches his sand­wich. He’s eye­ing a news­pa­per left on another table. I ask if he’d like it. Dot inter­jects. Says he can get it him­self. Which he does. Using backs of chairs instead of his cane. Arriv­ing at the table he stands there flip­ping pages. Dot pats my hand and leans in closer. Says that as bad as it seems some­times I’m not to worry. ‘He’s got me.’

I had more to say but don’t have the heart just now to under­mine what a woman is Dot. A bright­ness on a cloudy day.

uu — 12 (bridging the gap)

bridge support

14 Sep­tem­ber 2015 – Delilah takes another deep breath. She gets out of the van and stands behind the open door. As if shield­ing her­self from the old man’s glar­ing gaze.

Time is upon her. Every­thing up to now.

The old man brings a hand to his face. Works fin­gers along jaw­bone. She can almost hear the rasp of stubble.

Even at twenty-plus paces there is trou­bled air between them.

She steps toward the grass-mired trucks. Toward a set of stairs at the side of the veranda wrap­ping around the main floor of the house. Her feet are heavy on the steps. The boards on the veranda creek with her weight. A line of late bright-morning shadow scores across the sid­ing at waist height. She passes the back­less benches cen­tred under two pairs of care­lessly shut­tered win­dows. A trio of bar­rel planters hold­ing noth­ing but dry grey dirt. Upper body in shade, she stands by the planter near­est the old man. Who hasn’t moved. Hasn’t turned to face her.

He deliv­ers his hands to the front pock­ets of his stiff jeans.

Delilah comes out of the shade. Cross­ing her arms she leans in the light against the post beside the old man. An arm’s reach away. So close so far.

He is fully a foot taller than her. Broadly put together. But beaten. From the inside out.

Both face the view. The cargo van and the bask­ing wil­low. Amor­phous fore­ground blots against the bound­less sky stretched broadly across the uni­for­mity of corn.

They each stage courage in the cur­rency of silence.

After a spell, Delilah drops her gaze to the wheel­chair ramp. Shoes its sur­face. Rough grip of sandpaper.

Mary’s not doing so well.’

The words, barely formed, sound defeated.

She can’t find words. But reaches out her hand. Bridg­ing the gap between them. Catches his fore­arm and presses there familially.

The old man places his other hand on hers.

Peter,’ she starts to say.

We’ll have none of that now,’ the old man says.

Tears begin­ning.


She dis­ap­pears under her grandfather’s arm.

uu — 11

saloon doors

07 Sep­tem­ber 2015 – Haha. There it is and then it was done. Very nice. My lines have been infil­trated. Very well then.

Every inten­tion of going for a run. Grab­bing the first man I see and bring­ing him back here. To this freshly fur­nished room of mine. A maiden voy­age of sorts. The first of many.

I have the time, I have the energy. And now I have the purpose.

May have to invest in a daybed. If all goes well. For the time being sheets on the car­pet should suffice.

A man should never come between a woman and her fantasies.

I hate you dearly :)

The stoop­ing older man at the front door is Peter Bridge. Beyond that you’ll have to wait and see.

Who is Drew?

Per­haps we could open a bor­dello. Wendy’s Wing. Spe­cial­iz­ing in dis­creet day­time flings.

The daybed’s a good idea. But what about a cozy hot tub? Noth­ing bet­ter to cre­ate a stim­u­lat­ing atmos­phere. And maybe replace the blinds with gauzy cur­tains. Splash some red about. Get a wardrobe of exotic cos­tumes. Turn the down­stairs into a clas­sic saloon.…

Hmm. This could get expen­sive. Might be worth con­sid­er­ing Kick­starter to raise funds.

Mean­time I’ve brought you a pair of trop­i­cal plants to spruce up the place.

How’d the maiden voy­age go BTW? Any takers?

Drew is a mild-mannered mem­ber of the middle-class. A work­ing stiff who’s made the most of his efforts, done right by his fam­ily, kept his nose clean, stayed true to his con­vic­tions, etc. By trade he’s an engi­neer. Spent a dozen years or more on munic­i­pal road crews. The phys­i­cal rigours of the job took its toll. Tak­ing advan­tage of spon­sored higher learn­ing pro­grams, he went back to school, got his cre­den­tials, and returned to work at a plan­ning desk. After a num­ber of years he trans­ferred to more ambu­la­tory role as build­ing inspec­tor. Now, on the verge of retire­ment, he trains novice inspec­tors. Which is how he meets Lionel, a trainee with bags of edu­ca­tion, no short­age of ide­al­ism and intel­lec­tual con­flict, but lit­tle in the way of life expe­ri­ence. Drew and Lionel estab­lish a bond. Out of which grows a rou­tine of walk­ing and talk­ing about the big things that are dif­fi­cult to grasp in every­day affairs. Every­thing in Our Hands would be the work­ing title of their conversations.

As you’re less than forth­com­ing re: Peter Bridge, what’s with the wheel­chair ramp?

I despise your pulchritude.

08 Sep­tem­ber 2015 – The plants are per­fect. I love the orange pots.

Why so coy?

09 Sep­tem­ber 2015 – Sorry. Work­ing tail off round­ing up poten­tial clients—the park’s a busy place dur­ing the day. No tak­ers though. At least not in the cozy con­fines of Wendy’s Wing ;)

The wheel­chair ramp will be explained in due course.

I’m curi­ous about EiOH. Is Drew an unhappy char­ac­ter? Does he like who he is/what he does? Or is he embit­tered about it? What about Lionel? Does becom­ing a build­ing inspec­tor ful­fil his direc­tion in life? Or has he sac­ri­ficed his dreams for a sem­blance of stability?

Big things that are dif­fi­cult to grasp. Reminds me, I was won­der­ing, if it’s not too much to ask, are you free in the late after­noon this Thurs­day or Fri­day? I have some sheets I’d like to try out. If cost is an issue we can dis­cuss pay­ment plans.

About his life Drew is sta­tus quo. He’s nei­ther unhappy nor embit­tered. Things have hap­pened the way they have and he’s fine with his lot. That said, he has doubts about the future (what it holds for his chil­dren, how his sav­ings and pen­sion look less and less secure with each pass­ing day) and is grow­ing more and more dis­cour­aged by how increas­ingly com­mer­cial­ized and com­pli­cated and expen­sive the world around him has become. Evenso, in the com­pany of Lionel he main­tains a mod­er­ate per­spec­tive that’s firmly rooted in the solid ground of hav­ing led a rel­a­tively straight­for­ward, sim­ple life.

Lionel is a trick­ier nut to crack. He’s a smart and socia­ble and pleas­ant per­son, but, at core, his views are shaped by the ram­pant con­sumerism of his gen­er­a­tion. He has strug­gled to under­stand how the sys­tem behind it, with all its glar­ingly obvi­ous faults, can solve any of the broadly sweep­ing prob­lems it has cre­ated (these being the big things that are dif­fi­cult to grasp). Lead­ing him to ques­tion his own place in the world. How he can lead an inde­pen­dent and eth­i­cally upstand­ing exis­tence while liv­ing dur­ing a time of such over­whelm­ing com­pli­ance to splin­tered con­for­mity and the power of money. Need­less to say he has sur­vived many days of moral con­fu­sion and deep frus­tra­tion. States that he is work­ing him­self out of by focus­ing on smaller things. Like get­ting a decent job (with ben­e­fits) and mak­ing a way for­ward for his young fam­ily. He has yet to suc­cumb to out-and-out apa­thy, but he is tired of strug­gling to under­stand. In many respects, Drew and Lionel are sim­i­lar. The main dif­fer­ence is where they are at in their lives.

Yikes. Bit of a mouth­ful there.

As to my availability…I’ll have to check my sched­ule, but I believe I am free both days this week. Money is no object where you are con­cerned. Shall we meet in the saloon?

uu — 10 (first impressions)

happy daisy

04 Sep­tem­ber 2015 – All the corn has Delilah fret­ting. The blurry green walls of it on either side. Field after field. A vast stretch. Too much the same to tell apart. She’s hunched for­ward in her seat. Hands clamped to the wheel. Knuck­les white. Eyes trained on the road ahead.

Tele­phone poles glide by. The sky big and end­lessly blue. Gravel grum­bling beneath her wheels. Monot­o­nous radio turned down low.

The van crests a shal­low rise. In the dis­tance a line of poplar trees. Tall in these flat lands, tall and lean­ing. Windswept like so many feath­ery plumes. Some­thing to fas­ten her gaze onto.

She relaxes her grip, eases back into her seat, props elbow on win­dow moulding.

Ahead on the left a break in the green wall. She slows the van. A huge wil­low grace­fully bil­low­ing. Lugubri­ous boughs cas­cad­ing over wide picket fenc­ing. Thin leaves flut­ter­ing. A lively skirt trac­ing its pleated seams almost to the ground.

She pulls slowly into the drive. At this end of the fence a weath­er­beaten metal mail­box. Sur­mounted by a small sign. Bridge Farm. The let­ters barely legible.

At a creep she con­tin­ues up the drive. The house comes into a view. Beside the house, at a remove, a cou­ple of out­build­ings and a num­ber of old pick-up trucks mired in long grasses. Col­ors fad­ing. Rust tak­ing hold.

She turns the van and parks fac­ing the house. Tog­gles the win­dows down. Turns off the engine. Sits there awhile look­ing at the house. A two-storey rancher that has seen bet­ter days. From the land­ing extends a long wheel­chair ramp, at the end of which is a sim­ple cargo van.

Run­ning a hand across her fore­head she takes a deep breath and closes her eyes. She is breath­ing in the smells. When she opens her eyes again there is a goodly sized and some­what stoop­ing older man stand­ing by the open front door of the house.

06 Sep­tem­ber 2015 – Tiddle-bit tipsy. Drinks with Liz after din­ner. What a fine mess.

Her man Mar­lon around for din­ner. Then off to ‘a func­tion’. Liz’s expres­sion when he said this. Deflated. Embarrassed.

He didn’t ask if any of us wished to go along. Just wiped his mouth after din­ner and said he was off. Liz straight­ened her back. ‘What? Tonight? Where?’ He took her ques­tions of sur­prise in stride.

A func­tion.’

That was that.

He left. G washed up and headed out back to play with seeds. Leav­ing Liz and I to it. She asked for a sip of my wine. How could I say no.

So we drank and talked.

Mar­lon. Let’s see. They met at the museum. His son Chris was a reg­u­lar at her Thurs­day after­noon sketch ses­sions. Mar­lon admired her patience and her tech­nique. Told her he man­aged a gallery. Words chased words.

This was back in February.

In March he gave her a room in the gallery for two weeks. They’ve been together ever since. Plan is for her to move into his loft for October.

Nights like tonight giv­ing her sec­ond thoughts.

I don’t know what to make of him.

Makes decent first impres­sion. Talk­a­tive. Shows inter­est. He’s cer­tainly pre­sentable. Point­edly stylish—that dress-up to look like you didn’t dress-up kind of thing. Uppity hip­ster, if that makes any sense. And hand­some, of course. In a geeky con­tem­po­rary way. Not my thing, but whatever.

Actu­ally, you know, as din­ner wore on I found him self-absorbed and a lit­tle too OMG excitable. Not to men­tion the con­stant fid­dling at his phone. And his will­ing­ness to LOL to it at the table. The vibe I get is plas­tic, phoney, priv­i­leged. Per­haps worst of all is him being used to it and not think­ing it’s at all off-putting.

What do I know.

I’m look­ing at a crayon draw­ing of a col­or­ful daisy with a smil­ing face. Given to Liz this evening by Mar­lon, from Chris. On the back is says, ‘To liz, mis YU. cHris.’

He can’t be all that bad.

Rules and reg­u­la­tions. Terms and con­di­tions. Fine print.
Pol­i­tics of pro­pa­ganda. Pro­pa­ganda of pol­i­tics.
Omens, Romans, slo­gans.
This busi­ness of smug­gling. Peo­ple.
Aver­age cadav­ers.
Laud­able causes.
Decade Zero.

Aim­ing for bright lights. Moth­like.
Walk­ing with Drew. Med­i­ta­tions on being here now. Every­thing in our hands.
Galeano’s descrip­tion of the cross as fruit­ful meet­ing of rain and soil.

Ross Mac­Don­ald.
Top Five. The movie.
Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats.
Prep­ping Cor­nus mas seeds for strat­i­fi­ca­tion.

Toss­ing hand­ful of Acer gri­seum sama­ras into pot. Just to see.
Ah. My words.
This is not my note­book.
There it is and then it was done.
My apolo­gies.
(Who is the stoop­ing older man at the front door?)

uu — 9 (successful surrender)

successful surrender

27 August 2015 – A woman accus­tomed to wak­ing in the dead of the night. To fend off bad dreams. That bear an fright­en­ing resem­blance to the way­ward real­ity she’s fought to put behind her. What dis­turbs her sleep is the sense of reliv­ing her night­mare. Fear of the dark­ness that was. But what haunts her most is the chronic impulse upon wak­ing to seek out nee­dle and spoon.

She suf­fers a syn­drome of addic­tion recov­ery. Drugs. Alco­hol. She’s man­aged to stay clean for months. But the crav­ings are relentless.

One night she wakes to some­thing other than the resid­u­als of another bad dream. Instead of dark­ness a weight­less light. An unusual clar­ity. Filled with hope and pur­pose. The essence of which is get­ting rid of everything.


Is this Delilah?

03 Sep­tem­ber 2015 – First week back like a hol­i­day. Skulk­ing around the house. Its quiet­ness eerie after G and Liz gone to work. The day ahead an omi­nous assem­blage of hours to fill. Time to myself. To do as I please. Haven’t quite adjusted but get­ting there. Com­bat­ing idle hands by run­ning in the park and going for long bike rides. And today, at last, feel­ing cen­tred enough to sit with­out the dis­trac­tion of look­ing for a job.

Fret me not. A work in progress.

Things are oth­er­wise good. Nine months along the house is much as it was, though there is less evi­dence of G’s mom. Doilies, vases, trin­kets removed through­out. Many of the paint­ings have been replaced with Liz’s work. Biggest change = one of the spare rooms upstairs now sits empty. G fig­ured it only right I should have a room of my own. Mis­sion this week­end is to fur­nish it to my liking.

He’s got it in his head that maybe I should pur­sue writ­ing. We had a good long chat about it the other night in bed. He’s con­vinced I have a gift. I coun­tered that I’m not so sure I have the patience or sta­mina for it. Let alone the inter­est. He brought up Delilah. How she’s on the verge of becom­ing a story. I tried to down­play what I’ve put together so far. But he wasn’t buy­ing it. He strad­dled him­self on top of me.

Do Delilah,’ he said. Once, twice. Then launched into a chant. ‘Do De-li-lah. Do De-li-lah.’ His fist syl­lab­i­cally pump­ing the air.

I get to wake up next to this man.

On a some­what related note, G’s cur­rent note­book. Before me on the kitchen table. A col­lec­tion of quickly scrib­bled notes. Very few run­ning longer than a line. Many are plants.

Botan­i­cal name – com­mon name(s). FAMILY.

Over­all it’s noth­ing like ‘deliv­ery’. There are no nar­ra­tives. No stream­ing or link­ing. As far as I can tell he’s dropped any men­tion of the per­sonal. The entries are ran­dom, naked, rarely dated. Some appear to be ideas. Oth­ers, briefs on pass­ing events. Albums and songs are men­tioned, as is the occa­sional name. And of course a judi­cious mea­sure of wordplay.

From the fresh­est page:

– The ssud­den­ness of mir­a­cles.
– Nev­er­ing the end­less.
– The year in abra­cadabra.
– Natalia Molchanova. Free­d­iver who dove and didn’t come back up.
– Al Kooper’s early solo records.
– Suc­cess­fully sur­ren­der­ing to flight.

Who’s the writer here?

uu — 8

ways it used to be

26 August 2015 – At mom’s. Got here just after 10. No car in drive. Front door locked. Phone inside ring­ing. Knocked, rang door­bell. No answer. Went around back. Door locked. Checked under old milk jug—where spare key’s been stowed for as long as I can remem­ber. Sure enough.

Made tea. Sat on the back veranda. Gazed at the lake. Its morn­ing still­ness. The marina in the dis­tance. Soft clouds in the sky grazing.

Wan­dered the yard. Never seen it in such a state. Over­grown with weeds. Lit­tle indi­ca­tion that mom had kept up with her intent to garden—even before she caught the green bug she had a thing for weed­ing and mak­ing it look nice and keep­ing the paths clear. Espe­cially the one down to the water. Crowed out now by a mass of thistle.

Sug­gest­ing that the lake itself rarely fea­tures in her day-to-day activ­i­ties. Very odd. Mom has always liked being near the lake. Even if she didn’t go in, she reg­u­larly set her­self up a chair at the water’s edge and could sit for ages flip­ping through her magazines.

I pushed through the this­tle. Found the chair. On its side, scarcely vis­i­ble in the maw of shore grasses that are spik­ily con­sum­ing it. Toed through the stinky muck of algae. Stood on the dock. Sun speck­ling off the lake. All the trees sur­round­ing. Turned around. Looked at the house, the neglected yard. Heard water lap wood. A thick goopy sound. Like some­thing sick.

When I first arrived I didn’t think much of mom’s absence. Fig­ured she’d just popped out and lost track of time. No big­gie. But now almost two hours had passed. I was get­ting fid­gety. Fill­ing with resent­ment. She knew I was com­ing. We’d spo­ken on Mon­day. Planned to spend a good part of the day together. So where was she?

Maybe some­thing unex­pected had come up. I went back up to the house. Look­ing for a note in o-bomb places. Noth­ing. Then wan­dered the rooms. One after another gain­ing a sense that she hadn’t been there at all today.

Got myself right­eously riled. Pissed off actu­ally. Had it in mind it was high time I con­fronted her. Really let her have it.

I stormed out the front door. Got in the car. Was going to drive up to the com­mu­nity cen­tre, where she was sure to be. But stopped myself. Had sud­den thought that maybe me being there was too much for her. Sat there sadly. Had a sniffly cry. Wiped my eyes. Got out of the car. Walked the half mile to the main strip. Had a soup and sand­wich. Walked back.

Out on the veranda again. It’s now past two.

Speed­boats on the lake. A small squadron of paddle-boarders. Warm after­noon made pleas­ant by a mild breeze.

Mar­cus swim­ming to mind. And how we used to be. As a fam­ily. The nos­tal­gic pic­ture. Com­prised of over­lap­ping mem­o­ries. Old pho­tographs in shoe boxes turned upside down and emp­tied. A pile of pho­tographs. By a fire­place in a front room. Lights down low. Crack­ling wood. Gut­ter­ing fire. The pho­tos becom­ing blots of fuzzy col­ors with dis­torted edges.…

A thought that you don’t get over los­ing a loved one. It’s too big a thing. A moun­tain made of mem­o­ries. A thing you have to go around to nav­i­gate. And as time goes so do you. Every now and again look­ing in the rearview. See­ing the moun­tain. Get­ting smaller and smaller. So small you can hold it in your hand.

Din­ner with dad yes­ter­day. His com­ment that he didn’t feel like rip­ping out his hair any­more. That he thinks of Mar­cus as hav­ing grown up and moved away. Like he’s out there liv­ing his life.

The phone ringing.

Mom? Impulse to get up and answer. But remain seated. Hear­ing the rings out. Feel­ing them softly peal through me. And at their ces­sa­tion some­thing of an epiphany. I should leave.

And let her be.

uu — 7 (the look of lost)

sandy beach

14 August 2015 – The end of the month looms. Was hop­ing to visit mom but she hasn’t returned any of my calls. So agreed to work an extra week. Wish­ing now I hadn’t. Time run­ning short. Too much on plate. All the lit­tle things to tend to. Been edgy and ner­vous. Excited, yes. But also mildly anx­ious. Not hav­ing a job lined up is new for me. Shouldn’t bother me but it does. Don’t know why. It’s not like I’m leap­ing into an abyss of unknowns. Guess it’s just how I’m wired.

16 August 2015 – Lunch with Clara. Her won­der­ing what she’s going to do with her­self once I’m gone. Told her she’ll have to come out and visit. Sim­ple as that. She tapped her head and said it’s in there for cog­i­ta­tion. Right beside her chief curios­ity of the moment. Adul­ter­ers. And their not so anony­mous online hookup club. She’d like to know if prospec­tive clients have to prove they’re mar­ried to join.

Told her about my pet project. The woman and the mini­van on the gravel road. She seemed more inter­ested in my dab­bling in sto­ries than the idea itself. While describ­ing scene to her Tom Jones song came on. Delilah. Think I have a name for my hero­ine. Ine?

18 August 2015 – Listed car for sale. Perused job list­ings. Got to pon­der­ing Delilah.

She’s retreated to her mini­van. Sit­ting in dri­ver seat with door open. Blank expres­sion on her face. Hands loosely grip­ping the wheel. Through wind­shield she sees cloud of dust com­ing up road slowly. A trac­tor mate­ri­al­izes. Shim­mer­ing in late morn­ing heat. Delilah gets up. Stands behind open door. As the trac­tor nears she starts hail­ing it with jumping-jack arms and sidles to mid­dle of road. The dri­ver of the trac­tor waves. Hear the engine’s heavy roar shift to a low grum­ble. Trac­tor stops. The dri­ver, salt of the earth farmer, tips brim of greasy ball cap in greeting.

G ecsta­tic. Told me he’s kiss­ing my tem­ples in cel­e­bra­tion. I told him I don’t think I’m get­ting very far with it. He asked how far I want to go.

A good question.

Clouds this evening like a sandy beach. Days get­ting shorter already.

19 August 2015 – Started file on lap­top. To keep notes on Delilah. Got down some ideas about what’s going to hap­pen (the arc, G calls it) and scratch­ing sur­face of what’s put her on the road (back story)—the more I pon­der the for­mer, the more rel­e­vant seems the latter.

For­wards and back. Ain’t that just the way.

Pos­si­ble exchange between Delilah and farmer:

You’ve the look of lost about you,’ says the farmer.

I am, I think.’

Where you after?’

Well.… Here. I thought. I mean, I thought there was a road around here. With a house on the cor­ner? Yel­low one.’

That were the Liv­ingstons. Just up from where you come. Half mile or so. Gone now. Sold up some 2–3 years back. Nasty bit of busi­ness that. Took down the house. Dozed the road. Upset more than few in these parts I’ll say. Rightly so. The Liv­ingstons though. Fine folk. They who you after finding?’

No. I’m try­ing to.… Do you know the Bridges?’

Peter and Mary, like?’


That where you headed?’


The farmer scratches at his stub­bled jaw.

Ter­ri­ble run they’ve had.’

20 August 2015 – Dad’s gone fish­ing. House feels like it’s ready­ing itself to return to hous­ing a middle-aged bachelor.

22 August 2015 – Finally a call from mom. Really should go see her. Timing’s tricky though. Mar­cus died on Tues­day. No get­ting around that. On Tues­day Mar­cus died. Still chills me. Doesn’t feel right not to be here. With dad. And I’m not sure being with mom on that of all days will do either of us any good. Plane’s on Fri­day. Christ. Too much to think about at the moment. Must to work. One more shift to get through. Then it’s din­ner drinks danc­ing with Clara.

Arthur, Hero — 9

possibly dangerousOne morn­ing Mar­vin takes me to a squat apart­ment build­ing. We park by the side door. A man is sit­ting there on the stairs smok­ing. Wavy thatch of heavy metal hair and a great tuft of a goa­tee on his chin. At our arrival the man flicks his cig­a­rette and stands. He crosses his arms. A men­ac­ing scowl takes over his face.

First impres­sion: impos­ing, pos­si­bly dangerous.

He’s an odd sight though. Tall and lanky. Bare­footed. Wear­ing what appears to be cov­er­alls with the arms removed and the legs cut just below his knees. Name patch above heart pocket says Herb. Red ban­danna around his neck, and a grey one on his right wrist, under a jum­ble of curly plas­tic key­chains, each a dif­fer­ent color.

Dan­ger­ous? Not likely. Any lin­ger­ing impres­sion quickly dis­solves as Mar­vin calls out his name. Gun­ther. His face becomes that of a happy child.

Mar­vin,’ he says. The two syl­la­bles stretched out and some­how joined into one—a well-practiced stoner’s drawl.

Gun­ther opens his arms and steps down hold­ing out his right hand to Mar­vin. They shake hands, the keys on Gunther’s wrist jangling.

Mar­vin says, ‘You remem­ber I men­tioned bring­ing some­one by.…’

Gun­ther strokes his goa­tee, looks into an inter­nal distance.

Yeah,’ he says. ‘Right. Yeah. Rings a bell. I knew I was out here for a reason.’

Mar­vin intro­duces me. I shake Gunther’s hands, am some­what sur­prised that he emits no odor or mask­ing fragrance.

Wel­come to Will­ing­don Arms,’ he says. ‘Come on up.’

The three of us head inside. On the sec­ond floor Gun­ther keys a door. Ush­ers us in.

Should have every­thing you need,’ he says.

I’m sure it’ll be fine,’ says Marvin.

He tells me to have a look around. So I do. A mod­est one bed­room. Decent size. Lots of light. Rel­a­tively clean, if a bit on the musty side. Like the win­dows haven’t been opened in a while. Sparsely fur­nished main room. The bed­room has a bed but no bed­ding, noth­ing but hang­ers in the closet. In the bath­room I notice there are no tooth­brushes or tow­els etc.

Back in the kitchen Mar­vin asks what I think.


The apart­ment. Think you could live here?’

And that’s how it goes. Mar­vin hands Gun­ther a white enve­lope. Gun­ther hands me a key on a yel­low chain.

Next we’re off to see about get­ting me some fresh duds. To smart me up. Shirts, pants, shoes. And for good mea­sure a stop at Larry’s Bar­ber­shop. To tighten my crop and show my face.

By the day’s end I’m exhausted. I take a shower. Dry myself with a new white towel. Stand over the sink entranced by the unrec­og­niz­able face look­ing back at me. Shuf­fle naked to the bedroom—my bed­room. Mar­vel at the fact of pil­lows and sheets and clothes in the closet.

On the bed a mobile phone and my back­pack. I unload the back­pack. Put on old jeans and t-shirt. Dou­ble­think the phone—pick it up, put it down, pick it up again, open it, close it, put in front pocket. Wan­der to the kitchen. Grab a beer from the fridge. Lean against counter. See myself in the win­dow above the table there. On the table my note­book. Beside the note­book a ring of keys.

I grab the keys. Put on my old sneak­ers. Take my beer down to the stairs where Gun­ther was sit­ting when Mar­vin and I pulled up this morn­ing. I stand there. Look at the peace­ful night sky. Let my gaze fall to the park­ing lot. Where four cars are parked. I walk to the dark-colored Rene­gade. Get in. Start her up. Turn her off. Get out. Sit down on the stairs and finally take a sip of my beer.

Out of the jun­gle and into the sedate world of Will­ing­don Arms.

uu — 6 (establishing a scene)

smooth terrain

11 August 2015 – Things that come to mind.

Since G was here been see­ing an image of a gravel road in the coun­try. The more I see it the more con­crete the image becomes. A line scored between end­less fields of tall corn. Nar­row and weed­mown ditches shoul­der the road. On one side of the road grey util­ity poles hold up a shal­low wave of cables undu­lat­ing into the dis­tance. It’s a bright sum­mer morn­ing. Mel­low blue sky, high white clouds that bear a strange resem­blance to a smooth and eroded expanse of rocky terrain.

A day­dream of sorts? Maybe. But. How to put this.…

Two sum­mers back, about this time of year, I came across a job post­ing that got my atten­tion. I wasn’t actively seek­ing a new job or even unhappy with my sit­u­a­tion. But the pos­si­bil­ity of doing what I do in a dif­fer­ent place had some attrac­tion and set me to imag­in­ing what it might be like.

Dad rou­tinely buys lot­tery tick­ets on Tues­days and Fri­days. I chuckle at his ded­i­ca­tion. He invari­ably repeats the com­mon mantra, ‘Can’t win if don’t play.’ And has done for as long as I can remember.

While I don’t play the lot­ter­ies, I do tend to fol­low the logic of the mantra. In keep­ing with vision­ing exer­cises, when I find myself day­dream­ing about some­thing I can actu­ally do some­thing about I will more often than not make the effort to do it—if for no other rea­son than to get it off my mind and re-inhabit my shoes, wher­ever they are.

So I cob­bled together a c.v., sent it off, and got on with things.

A cou­ple months later I sold most of what I could. Traded-in my car for a mini­van. And drove across the coun­try. To start a new job in a new city.

Struc­tured impul­siv­ity and com­posed real­ity. A per­sonal guid­ance sys­tem. Dri­ven by occa­sion to won­der. And daydream.

This scene of the gravel road though. How it’s com­ing to me, how it plays. Has an alto­gether dif­fer­ent feel. It doesn’t seem to have any­thing to do with me. I see it but am not in it. It’s in my head but I don’t con­sciously visu­al­ize it. I don’t sit with the inten­tion of see­ing the scene. It just appears. Like the long wide shot at the begin­ning of a movie. A movie I know noth­ing about. But keep watch­ing (or, in this case, com­ing back to) to see what, if any­thing, will happen.

Cut to me in the shower this morn­ing. Eyes closed, rins­ing lath­ered hair.

Along the gravel road a comes stirred up a fuss of dust. I watch it for a time. The bil­low­ing plume. Focus in on it. See the van at its head. A mini­van. The color of ripe red grapes. It slows. Pulls to a sharp stop on the shoul­der. Becomes engulfed in dust. Zoom in closer. Dri­ver­side shot of mini­van. After the dust set­tles the front door opens. A woman steps out. She’s wear­ing sun­glasses. And flipflops and mid-thigh khaki shorts and an open longsleeve button-up over a low-slung under­shirt. Her hair’s in a messy pony­tail. She pulls the sun­glasses halfway down her nose. Squints against the bright­ness. She’s clearly agi­tated. Or con­fused. She pushes the sun­glasses back to cov­er­ing her eyes. Steps to the mid­dle of the road. Hands to hips she looks up and down the road. Corn for as far as the eye can see. ‘This isn’t right,’ she says, bring­ing a hand to her mouth, tap­ping upper lip with index finger.

And then there was no more hot water.

Day­dream? Or some­thing else? G gid­dily fig­ures I’m in the throes of mak­ing fic­tion. I wonder.