Sunday, October 16, 2016

No Fishing

Many years ago, back in the 80’s in fact, there was a lake down past where I live and the guy who once farmed the land around here charged people two dollars a day to fish there. The lake is now weedy and overgrown with elodea and no one has been allowed to go back there for thirty years now. But fisherfolk never forget a place where they once fished and they’ll keep coming back to that place, like birds will revisit feeders that have been empty for months. I haven’t fished or had the desire to fish, since I was a kid, and I’m not likely to wake up one day and have the urge to murder worms as a hobby. For those who have done it and still want to do it, my front door seems to be some sort of beacon.

I love it when someone comes to the door and all four dogs hammer down. It’s like being in the middle of a grain silo where someone is dropping a dump truck load of cookware that makes barking noises as it hits. Marco Ladakh has a hammer for a voice and he isn’t afraid to turn the knob to the right, even if he is afraid of his own shadow. Grey Charlotte isn’t as loud or as large, but she can sound menacing. Lilith Anne is not very large or very loud, but she looks like she means it. Tyger Lynn had learned that the table is the best vantage point for scaring away would be trespassers. Of the four, Tyger puts on the best show. I’m pretty sure she doesn’t mean it and she’s never really offered to bite anyone, but there is something about her, all fifty pounds of her, that seems a little fiercer than the others. I worry about a lot of things out here but someone just walking through the door isn’t among those worries.

A guy came by about a month ago and Marco reacted very poorly to him. Even the other dogs stopped and looked at Marco as if they wondered how this got so personal. What no one at the door can see is I get the shotgun on the other side of the door. I’ve never felt the urge to point it at anyone but this guy made Marco edgy which made me nervous. Fisherfolk do not seem to understand the word no unless it is repeated and explained, and I’m used to it now. No, I do not have the keys to the gate, no I cannot give you permission to go back there, no I will not ask for you, no I will not take you back there “just to look” and that just to look thing is something nearly all of them ask to do. Can I go back there just to look? Why would you? Why not leave when someone tells you no? So, you won’t leave when you are asked to and then you want an escort for trespassing? Sorry, I’m busy, please not to come back because there is no fishing to be done here.

But fisherfolk are accustomed to failure. They can spend an entire weekend and a few thousand dollars out in a boat on the Gulf, puke their guts out half the time they’re out, get sunburned to the point past crispy, and still have a good time. No, no, no, and more no, and they still want to ask about the pond beside my house. It’s a weedy thing with more plants than water in it and very few open spaces that anyone could fish in, even if I was inclined towards permission, which I am not. No, I do not want you out here at all, for any reason, for any length of time, no, no fishing, is please to go away and not come back. No fishing.
Well, do you know of anywhere I can fish?

We are having this conversation while four dogs are yammering away and the guy keeps looking at the dogs, looking at me, and he keeps asking, can you shut those dogs up, no I’m not going to because you are leaving and they will be quiet then. I don’t fish, I do not know any place to fish, I do not care about fishing, I do not care if you never fish again, I do not care if no one ever fishes again and I do not want to talk to you about fishing. No fishing.

Out past the porch the man’s car is sitting there with the driver’s side door still open and there is a woman sitting there with that look on her face. She’s agreed to go somewhere with him because he wants to be with her and still do his thing but now she’s regretting being talked into it and part of who he is might be wrapped up in being able to find a place to drown crickets before she really gets disgusted and demands to be taken home. He doesn’t realize it but she’s balancing the trouble he’s worth against the idea of spending a Saturday afternoon knocking on the doors of strangers and listening to dogs bark. I’ve seen this before; guys will take a girlfriend along with them because they want the best of both worlds and wind up with the good of neither. Women do not want to tag along. They want to be included. This one isn’t feeling it.
“Are you two married?” I ask and he realizes that I’m looking past him and at his woman.
“Uh, not really, no, uh..” He’s at a loss to explain why I have asked. He looks back at her she looks at us as if wondering if there is some resolution to any of this noise and I wave at her. She waves back. And smiles.  He’s only sees her waving and he isn’t happy.

Okay, thanks, we’ll be on our way now.

No fishing.

Take Care,

Friday, October 7, 2016

In Store

If it weren’t for traffic and shopping I might, possibly, have some hope for humanity. But both traffic and shopping leads me to believe there isn’t any redemption for human beings as a species. The way we get to where we’re going and the way that we buy our food and stuff we need, and stuff we do not need, doesn’t lend itself to any optimism on my part, and quite frankly I think things are getting a lot worse than they once were. In a million years or so, when alien land here and start trying to figure out what went wrong and how we killed ourselves, traffic and shopping are going to be the two leading theories.

To wit: I was stuck in early morning traffic. This is a four lane road with a middle lane for turning, but that middle lane is always stacked with people trying to turn so it’s best to avoid this area. The car ahead of me turned on its right turn signal but didn’t get over into the middle turning lane because it was full. The car slows down, stops, and then turns on its emergency flashers. And the driver is trying to wait out the traffic in the middle turning lane by shutting down the traffic in the right lane. Then he decides to get out of the mess by getting over in the left lane. He starts out at five miles an hour, left blinker on, bumper to bumper traffic in all lanes, and he’s trying to make a left from the right lane. He gets to the traffic light and forces his way over when the left arrow turns green. Why not go up a couple of blocks where the traffic isn’t nearly as bad and then cut around the block? No, he has to do what he has to do right there in the middle of a crowd.

Then there is the woman in the grocery store in line ahead of me yesterday. She’s bought a million different items and she’s coaching the guy bagging this stuff on how to bag each item as it is rung up. She’s standing there telling him how to put everything in bags, double bagging things like white bread and a box of crackers, but she’s going to get every one of those little plastic bags that she can out of this deal. She wants the dude to bag twelve packs of soft drinks that are already in cardboard boxes. She wants a plastic container of cookies to be in its own plastic cocoon. She’s standing guard over this process and as the guy is bagging the cookies she reaches over to grab them and they go flying. Now he has to go get another container of cookies for her and we’re all just standing there watching each other’s souls dying slowly because this woman wants more of those little plastic bags than anyone will need in a lifetime. The aliens will find her body buried, ceremonially, in a labyrinth constructed of little plastic bags, and deduce that someone garroted her with one.

And get this now: here we all are, captive to her dalliance with little plastic bags, and after she is finally done with all this, after making the poor guy bagging put one hundred items in one hundred twenty-seven bags, she then decides to get her credit card out and pay for the stuff, and grumbles, “I didn’t come here to spend all goddam day in the goddam store”.

I wonder what this woman is like at home. I mean, after she unloads all these little plastic bags, what on earth is she like past that point? Is she a happy person? Is there someone out there who loves here? Is it as difficult to bring her to orgasm as it is to make her happy in a store? That’s a thought right there that might be worth tracking; are these people so self-absorbed during sex their partners are left sitting there with their blinkers on never to reach their own destinations?

Have we finally gotten to the point where we have considered the world to be made up of those little plastic bags, that each moment is disposable, that each person we encounter is there only to perform a function, or service, and then we pass on by, as if those people are no more than traffic signals, obstructions to out uncommon goals which only benefits the person behind the wheel or the person buying the stuff? We’ve become detached from any sense of kinship with our fellow travelers and those who sell us food. Once, those with whom you rode and those you dealt with for food were important people, not just disposable moments.

I don’t shop. I raid. I go in. I get out. I know what I want and I know where it is. But I never make the lives of the people who work in stores more miserable than it already is, and I try to let them know I see them as human beings. Hey, how are you? Those earrings look great on you. Just put everything you can in one bag if you can, it’s okay it you can’t, stay out of trouble while I’m gone.

There was never a flock of geese, evil creatures that they are, who rammed into one another, blocked each other’s paths, showed a certain sense of obliviousness for destination or took more than was needed in the name of senselessness or selfishness. No school of fish ever came to a standstill for the sake of one who decided not to move. It’s to the point I wonder if only by obstruction or destruction, or abuse, do people define themselves beyond the heard or flock or school. It’s as if the only sense of individualism comes from the total disregard for others and the total lack of respect for the common good.
We were not meant to be fish or geese, evil creatures that they are, or colony insects without faces or being. But we do not become distinctive or unique through acts of depreciation of others, who are in the end, very much like ourselves.

Take Care,

Sunday, September 25, 2016

For the Love of Carol

The van pulls up to the gas pump beside me, or on the other side of where I am, really, and the woman in the passenger side is co-piloting, “Pull up a little more, James” and the van glides to a smooth stop. They are a little too far out from the pump, I think, and I might have to help them manhandle the hose that far. James comes in from the driver’s side to open the woman’s door, and the side door to the van is one of those that opens automatically. The woman busies herself with something in the van and James goes to the back of the van and brings out what looks like an aluminum staircase. I’ve never seen anything like this, and I wonder that he can pick it up, but it fits the van side door perfectly and the woman leads an ancient white Lab out of the van.
This is not just an old dog but a very old dog. She struggles down the steps they have made for her but they don’t hurry her at all. “Come on, Carol, you can do it, what a good girl, Carol, “ and Carol is wearing a diaper that the woman removes as she walks Carol towards the grass. Carol’s tail flips back and forth as she walks beside the woman, and I wonder if Carol can see.

“How old is she?” I ask the man as he is struggling with the hose. I pull it out for him and he takes a step back, unsure of my intention at first.
“Sixteen last month,” he tells me, “my oldest found her in the middle of the road, just sitting there, just a puppy, back in 2000.”
I have a story just like that one but I can’t tell it right now, not at this moment, and I can’t explain it, not to a man who has a sixteen year old dog.
“Carol was ten when Danny was born,” and the man motions to the van and I realize there’s a kid inside. “He’s six now, they live next door to us, he’s never known a day in his life without her.”
He tells me his son in law built the steps out of aluminum, he’s an engineer, great guy, good husband and father, paid seven hundred dollars for it to be made, out of his own packet, so Carol could keep going with Marie and him on trips. Marie and Carol come back and I help Carol up the steps. She doesn’t realize I’m a stranger at first then her ears go up, hey, who are you? My name’s Mike and I love you because you are a lab, and an old girl dog, and I know how to pet your ears. Oh, you do, you do, and I love you because you love old girls dogs and I will give you kisses on your head, and Carol makes a new friend just like that, and so do I. Danny is a bright eyed kid who tells me that he’s reading to Carole and that she likes dinosaurs and he gets to hold her water dish, as if I might be easing in on that. Marie puts the diaper on Carol, just on case, and they pour water into a small red bowl and Danny gets to hold it like it’s Holy water, and he is clearly in love with the old dog. They’ve made a harness for her, a seat belt, and as Marie is strapping her in Danny is asking her what book she wants to hear and I help James load the stairs. It’s a light weight thing, and built out of more than seven hundred dollars’ worth of work and I know it.
“You’ve done an incredible job with your family James,” I tell him as we shake hands. “Thank you for what you have done for her.”
“Took the bed off the headboard and footboard so she can still sleep tween us.” He says but he’s suddenly serious.
“We just want to keep her going until Christmas,” James tells me and I realize they’re bargaining and accepting all at once, and trying to explain to me why they’re still hanging onto her, “everyone wants to come home this year to…see her again.” And he looks away from me as the door closes.
Danny is talking to Carol as I walk back to my truck and I wonder what it’s going to be like for him to lose her. These are good people, I tell myself, and they’ll let him cry, mourn, allow him the expression of grief and agony some families deny their male children. They want her home for Christmas, where she can have a piece of turkey and be happy at the treat, and her people will love on her, but she the time comes she will tell her mom and dad that she is tired, and her hips hurt, and she has never felt anything but loved, but please, the pain, and it is time, and it is okay now.

Danny’s heart will break like it never has before. They’re going to kill his dog and he won’t understand about the pain or the time. Young, he will now understand the loss of love, the loss of a loyal and true companion and member of his family and perhaps the first expression of unconditional love that has lasted his entire life will be extinguished and his heart will break. Danny will forever know that dogs are short lived creatures and that each moment with them is a gift. He will grow up to be the type of person who stop in the middle of the road and picks up a puppy and when he had kids of his own they’ll be just like that too.

Take Care,