Saturday, September 26, 2015
The one thing I’ve always been able to count on is the ability to write. Even if it wasn’t the greatest writing on earth or even if it wasn’t as good as something things I had written in the past, the creative part of my soul has always hung with me. There was an interview with some guy who was once famous, very famous, and one day he just stopped writing. It was gone and it never came back, as if it was never there at all. He’s made a decent living reliving the past with old hits and wearing the same haircut he had when he was twenty, but he’s pushed over fifty now and the realization that it’s over has settled in. He talks about it. He talks about it far too much. I think he ought to get off his ass and get a life.
I don’t write for money and I’m not sure I could. This is what I do when I’m doing what I want to do. This is what I want to do whenever I’m doing anything else. I spend as much time writing as I do anything else except work and if they aren’t watching very closely I’ll crank up a computer at work and write until I have to stop. I certainly write more than I sleep and I wonder if I would sleep better if I didn’t write as much or if I stopped wanting to write as much as I do.
It’s 0051 right now, the dogs started barking and I knew sleep wasn’t going to happen so I got up to write what you are reading right now. I suspect very strongly that no matter what happens in my life there will be a moment when I sit down and write about it, “…that damn tree fell right on top of me and it’s hard as hell to write with one hand while being pinned to the ground waiting for someone with a chainsaw to happen along.” Yes, I fully expect something like that to happen. I’m like one of those people tweeting every moment of their lives but I use a thousand word essay instead.
The idea of being famous through creativity has taken down some good writers and good artists. There’s a very short period of time fame and glory lasts in today’s world. I remember a very young woman exclaiming her love for a boy band that was totally forgotten in less than two albums. One of the reoccurring signs of death in the career of a singer is to remake some old tune from some artist that has already stopped producing. It’s like getting milk from an old cow twice, as it were. I remember when Sheryl Crow sang ‘The First Cut is the Deepest” and the first thing I thought it was a sign of a decline. I’m willing to bet there are people twenty years old who have never heard of her.
Crow was one of those pop singers who tried to go country and didn’t make it. Michelle Branch’s country CD made me cringe. Then again, country music makes me cringe anyway. Oddly, it’s as formula driven as hip-hop and the fusion of the two, hick-hop, is surely one of the signs of a civilization in a serious decline.
So I wonder what will happen the first time I sit down to write about my latest bout with insomnia and nothing at all appears in front of me on the screen. Hemingway was driven mad by the idea that he was done, oh, and the fact he drank all the damn time. Papa was one of the best pure writers ever born and I really liked his work even if he was famous. I think Stephen King is a good writer but I don’t think he’s great. “The Stand” was his best work, arguably, but after that it was one thing after another that was the same thing. I’ve known people who think writers like King are evil because of all the weirdness that pours out of this minds but I think it’s fairly common for people to be drawn to the kind of horror King writes about. I’m writing a story right now about a man and his wife who gets talked into helping a serial killer escape from Death Row because the killer knows they killed the wife’s lover.
How many people would do something terrible to preserve their lives as they know it? If everyone was getting on the life boats in an orderly fashion and no one was freaking out, most people would just follow along. But let there be some sort of panic going on and it’s every man for himself. At the same time, let’s say a guy finds his wife in bed with her lover. In a moment of rage he hits the guy knocking him out. Then he pulls a gun, his wife tries to take it away from him, the gun accidently is fired and the lover is dead. Going to the police means jail time for someone, right? And the guy is already dead. So what to do? Hide the body and life goes on or come clean and hope for the best?
That’s the thing that drives good fiction; putting a character in a position where there’s no easy way out and all roads lead to Hell. It might be hard to stand with a woman who cheated on you but staying with a woman who helped you hide a body might be the beginning of something that made the both of you make it work out.
I think I will write all of this out a little more clearly in the lighter parts of the day. There’s a compulsion for me to write that has nothing to do with fortune or fame. If nothing else, there’s something inside that wants out, and as long as I have that I know there’s something there.
Sunday, September 20, 2015
The very idea of having to navigate human territory is daunting. I just have a feeling this morning if I have to deal with people it will end poorly. It’s a good forty-five minute drive into the human zone and then I have to be able to get in, and get back out again, without one of them trying to kill me. This will not be easy because I am traveling in a pick-up truck which means I have to share the road with many human beings, which of at least one out of every one thousand will actively try to kill me. Be it passing on the wrong side, passing with traffic coming, speeding, drunk driving, or firing a gun at road signs, when you share the road with human beings you take your life into your hands.
Clearly, I have some issues with my own species.
The drive is survived and I sit down to drink coffee and write at a local worldwide coffee selling place. Nearly immediately, a human sits down on a chair across from me while waiting for his coffee. Wait, what? Uh, you’re just going to invite yourself to join me while you wait for your order? Hold on there, Cowboy.
“What are you doing?” I ask.
“What?” Cowboy asks.
“What are you doing?” I repeat myself. “Why are you sitting at my table?’
Cowboy is about fifteen by the looks of him. He’s also neglected to remember to shave for about six months or bathe for at least that long. The man looks like a skid row bum who has just only now hit puberty. He’s wearing a cowboy hat and he’s clearly agitated. Maybe the idea they actually have to pour his coffee into a cup before he gets it has him on edge.
“Are you going to the park today?” I ask before he can form an answer to my first question.
“It’s Pride Day at the park today are you going?” and I keep asking questions before he can answer.
“If you don’t have a date…” And Cowboy launches himself at the counter to wait for his order. Time was this tactic would have started a fight but these days it’s just a good way to get rid of someone who doesn’t have any business being there to begin with. I’m not sure which of us has worse issues here; Cowboy because he clearly doesn’t mind invading someone’s personal space, or me for being reactive when someone does. At the same time, being in public requires a certain amount of willingness to be around people, I get that, but not to the point someone can sit across a table from me without me knowing who the hell they are.
I’m writing. Is please to keep distance from me. I need coffee but not company.
There’s an old story reborn that involves a man and his wife who accidently kill the wife’s lover. The man is a guard at a prison where a female serial killer is on Death Row. She’s has some psychic abilities and offers help hide the death and lead the couple to a million bucks of buried cash if they will help her escape.
Would you do it?
There is a realization that exhaustion just might be a good drug of choice later in the day. I wait for the caffeine to take a hold of me and I head to the gym where a treadmill awaits me. I think we shall go 6.7 miles an hour until it hurts, I tell the machine and it obeys. Once upon a time I could do ten miles an hour all day long but that was three decades and thirty pounds ago. Right now I only want to be able to run a 5K in less than half an hour. My short term goal is to run five point five miles in an hour. I can do that today, but not at once. My plan is to take 6.7 into the thirty minute time zone and then sort out the rest of the run as it comes.
The first mile is hard. I cannot find a rhythm anywhere. A few seconds past nine minutes pass and I wonder if I should punt. But the next mile passes without incident and I find myself at the two mile mark in less than eighteen minutes. My breathing becomes more settled and my body finally accepts the run. Three point one miles fall at the twenty-eight minute mark and I realize I have to slow down if I am to survive but I have to make it to thirty minutes. At thirty-six minutes I have to slow down to a walk, but I’m pretty close to four miles at this point. I walk, I run, and finally walk, and average six miles an hour. It feels good to be alive.
Then there is the traffic back.
The Moron of the Day is the person who passes me and then makes a right turn nearly immediately. I have to brake hard to keep from rear ending him, but what makes him truly stupid as well as dangerous is he’s overshot the turn and nearly hits a car coming out of that street. Moreover, that car is a police cruiser which goes all blue lights on him. That’s going to hurt your insurance rates.
Oddly, more than anything else that has happened since I woke up, someone trying to kill me with a car affects me more than, let’s say, watching one of the regular pond birds eat a fish way too big to have been born in my pond, or at least I think it is too big for that. This is the first year in a while we’ve had enough water to call it a pond and there’s a fish wider than my hand living there now? It does occur to me I know next to nothing about how big fish can get in a year, or how long they live, or for that matter, what species of fish it was to begin with. That would help, don’t you think, if I knew that?
I have survived people for another day. It does occur to me that I interacted well with the people I had to and interacted poorly with someone who surprised me. I think I am part Chow, really, but I don’t have the hair for it.
Saturday, September 12, 2015
I let the dogs out at about three and Lilith locked down at the sight of rain. The Pibble Princess doesn’t like to get her feet wet at all. Tyger Linn charges out no matter the weather but her sister…not so much. I have to nudge Lilith out and she looks longingly for the umbrella. I shoo her down the steps and wonder if I should make coffee or just write. It’s three but I know I’m not going back to sleep and I really do not want to at this point. My dreams were a mixed set of garden variety anxiety dreams and reverberations of those things that bothered me during the day.
Early Friday morning I found one of the Rescue People drinking coffee outside at Starbucks and joined her. There was a guy standing against the wall watching her and since she had her back to him she didn’t realize it. He was also keeping an eye on anyone who pulled up past the drive through. If someone pulled up to put their change up or put something away, they would pull even with the wall and there he would be. It was a creepy sort of social ambush and he was wearing sunglasses to try to hide what he was doing. He didn’t much like me watching him watching other people, in particular the Rescue Person. Eventually, he stopped watching from where he was standing and went to sit in his car. I stuck around until my friend left and made sure he wasn’t going to follow her.
Guys, it’s creepy. Yeah, I watch women all the time but I never stake out a perch and then stand around and stare. It’s rude. Also, there’s a difference between sitting at a table stealing glances at someone who looks interesting from across the room and it is quite another to put yourself in a position to ambush women who aren’t expecting a guy to be standing there. A good rule of thumb here is if you can tell you’re making someone uncomfortable with what you’re doing you should stop.
But the dreams last night.
At one point I was standing in the yard of a house where I had never been before I was looking across the road and there was Tanya. Before I could more or yell or anything she came running towards me and a dump truck came out of nowhere and ran over her, brutally, with the front tires crushing her and her body being thrown under both sets of back tires. I ran to where she lay dying and knew there was no way to save her.
That was more than enough to wake me up and get me up and make sure I wasn’t going back to sleep. I know it’s a common theme in dreams to be put in a place you cannot stop something bad from happening. I’ve lived through these kinds of dreams before but never with a dog I once lived with. Part of it is my karma, I know that, but at the same time it’s sad in ways that I’ve never felt before.
The morning air lacked the density that Summer always holds. Even with the rain it felt less humid than it has been lately. Seven found the sun still asleep in her bed and I realized that this would be the first day where eighty degrees wasn’t going to happen. And even if it did it wouldn’t feel like it. The low tomorrow is going to be down to sixty. At some point during the day or during the night, a cold front will pass through the area and it will be a few days before we have truly warm weather again. Summer has stumbled but I doubt if she has fallen. There will be days in the mid to upper nineties again this month but the killer heat from July and August has left us now. It’s over. I already miss it.
Marco Ladakh has decided that he likes training. He likes the sit and he likes the carrots for treats. We have to work on his weight a little and I’d like to see him exercise a little harder. Tyger keeps trying to coax him into running with her but it hasn’t happened yet. I’m still keeping the Residents and the Cousins apart most of the time but walking in the woods is when everyone can get together. Tyger will hunt alone and Lilith will stay close to me, always, but the Cousins are still trying to figure it all out. Woods, Marco thinks, are good for the canine soul.
The Coyotes have discovered Very Large Dogs live inside the fenceline now and they have backed away from Hickory Head a bit. Large Dogs are dangerous and a pair of them mean trouble. Toss in the warlike cries of the Pibbles and the Coyotes have decided to ease off hunting near us.
I’ve missed the big dogs. I’ve miss the way that a person has to move around them and get them to move inside a house. It’s body language that everyone inside understands. It’s fun to realize that I’ve connected with them to the point we all move in concert in the mornings when I’m trying to feed them, they’re trying to get fed, and everyone is happy to be up ( except me).
The rain is still falling, slow, lightly, gently, and it is not a Summer rain at all. There is no light and violence to it as there was in last week’s storm. This is a transitional shower, fading slightly the hard colors of Summer and making way for the variety of hues that Autumn will bring. The corn and produce are mostly gone now and only cotton and peanuts remain. School buses are more common on the road than trucks pulling boat trailers now. The sun comes up later and the day is ending earlier. Another Summer is picking up and leaving us. I miss Her already.
Saturday, September 5, 2015
The lightning popped close last night, really damn close, closer than I have ever heard before in my life. I knew that something was going to take some damage because it’s lightning. Ever else you may believe you have to believe that there is no safe place when it comes to the electricity that slings down from the sky in a storm. It can kill you anywhere you’re above ground and under the right circumstances it will chase you down wherever you may be. There’s no warning, no signals and whatever you are doing when it strikes it will be a lot faster than your reaction. My advice to you is to stay away from the stuff.
When I got up this morning the first thing I did was flush the toilet and the water flowed. Great! The well is still alive. I went through turning lights on, opening the refrigerator, and basically trying to figure out if I had taken a serious hit. The breaker that controls the microwave and the coffee maker was flipped and that spooked me somewhat and it still does a little. Electricity around here has been acting weird the last few months. That frightens me a somewhat. This is a substance that is invisible, has no smell, and kicks without recoiling. Electricity is nothing more than a little lightning that’s on a leash. It still yearns to kill us deep down inside its blue little heart.
The washing machine is who ratted the lightning out. It stopped filling up with water. I tried the kitchen sink and it ran dry. Oh no. Oh very no. It was before dawn but I knew there were just a few things that it could be. I went to the pump house and smelled the slight aroma of burned wires and rat’s nests. The breaker had burned through. It was blacked and ugly. That’s the cheapest way out, the breaker, but I have no sense of optimism here. The control box opened up and it looked, uh, okay, I guess. It’s the one I put in when lightning hit last time. I took photos of both objects, just in case, and hoped it wasn’t the pump itself, which is somewhere under the ground.
Of course, it is foggy and visibility is about 1000 feet. I haven’t had a shower. I feel yucky and this is the Labor Day weekend. If I have to call someone it’s going to be ugly. If it’s more than the breaker or the box it is going to be very ugly indeed. I cannot afford ugly. I cannot afford much past bad looking.
Lowe’s is one of those Great Big Hardware Stores which can be a little more than impersonal. But it is early and those who work in this place know what happened last night. Those hardy souls who work in the electrical aisle know the flood will come after the storm. I am the first but I will not be the last.
The Very Helpful Person tells me that yes, he does have the Breaker I need but he does not have the Two Horse Power Control Box, and furthermore, a week, maybe ten days, is as quickly as he can get one sent to me. He’s a kindly man. He leads me to a co-worker who looks at my photos with consternation. We have to stop now. I have something I would like to say.
Smart phones are only as smart as they are used. There is no excuse to walk into a Great Big Hardware Store without a photo of whatever you need. Model number serial number, where the wires go and to which, and many of them, too. Why would you write down a ten billion digit model number when you could, at the press of a button, have it definitively? The co-worker lays it down; it is either the control box or it is something ugly. He knows one place, one, not two or a couple, but one, one place in Valdosta that might, maybe, have a Two Horse Power Control Box. Miller’s Hardware, a small, tight, long lasting, defying the odds and thumbing its nose at the Great Big Hardware Stores, an anachronism with packed shelves, Miller Hardware, might. Maybe. He looks at me and asks me if I would like for him to call?
He knows someone there, leaves a number and asks that the person call him back. This is an honest man. It is either the Two Horse Power Control Box or it is Ugly. I will either solve my problem within a couple of hours with less than a couple of hundred dollars or the dogs will have to get used to the way I smell and half rations. Miller’s calls back in three minutes. Yes, one, just one of these things exists, but they close at noon. It’s ten. And a ten minute drive.
Many the miles.
At Miller’s I am the first person in but they realize what’s happening. A half dozen people have called. One of them asked about this one box. The man was aghast that it would cost him more than he wanted to pay and they told him, by all means, go to the Great Big Hardware Stores, and let us know how it goes. Yes, try to get information about a well from some minimum wage college student desperately trying to fight off the effects of LSD, young women, and no parental supervision for the first time in his life, by all means, call them. We will be right here. Miller’s has the box and offers to let me return it if it doesn’t work. They know someone willing to pay for it, even if that person doesn’t quite grasp they are going to quite yet.
I gladly pay for the box and hit the road.
Two wires. Yes, that’s right, two wires are all that are involved in the breaker. But first, because I am more paranoid about electricity, yes, remember electricity? Because I do not trust the stuff I check the breaker in the main panel. Is it off? Mike, stop, take a deep breath and see this as what it is. Is the god damn breaker off? Yes. By all means, proceed. You turned it off, why on earth would it be on? Because dead, that's why.
Two wires, cross referenced by photo twice, get the breaker in the pump house installed.
The Control Box, with its four wires, black, yellow, yellow, red, cross referenced by photos thrice, get tightened down hard. I rewrap two wires that have been chewed by rodents. I send my older sister a text; ten minutes, I will know in ten minutes. I cut the new breaker off and head to the main box and cut that one on.
The new breaker sits there with its shiny new tape and a new Two Horse Power Control Box. It is either solved or it is Ugly. I have a three day weekend or I have a wreck around me. I can take a shower in a few minutes or I have to find someone willing to let me be wet and naked in their home.
The sound of a motor and rushing water fill the pump house.
If you have ever heard artillery in the distance you know why so many people have compared its sound with thunder and thunder’s with artillery. Tyger Linn tensed up and growled at it, the storm still many miles away, but a warning is a warning. I’ve opened the windows and let the night air in again, yes, this early in September, it is only the fifth, I know, but there is a change in the air. The hour before dawn isn’t as sticky as it was a month ago and even if it did hit ninety-four today it didn’t stay there for very long. The days of the pop-up thunder storms are over, almost, but here’s one creeping up on us as midnight closes in as well. Horror stories begin this way.
This one is not only loud as the sound of cannon fire it is also as brilliant as fireworks. This isn’t a flash here and a flash there, with rolling thunder coming in seconds later, no. This is an all-out war between the Giants in the Sky, who toss bolts of lightning at one another and the earth shakes with the sound of them falling from the skies to crash headlong upon the fields and woods. Lilith joins us on the bed and I let the cousins in, but I close the bedroom door. I do not want the better part of two hundred twenty pounds of dog on top of me during a storm and I do not want Tyger Linn interacting with anyone during this sort of racket. And racket there is.
It’s one thing to be able to see the world outside in those brief blue flashes of light from the sky but it is quite another to sit up and be able to see, very distinctly, the rain and the trees and everything else in the yard. I lie back down and the house shakes and rumbles with the noise. I keep one hand on Tyger and she tenses up every time thunder shakes the house. She reacts to the thunder a split second before I hear it. Tyger has learned that lightning equal thunder next and she’s anticipating the noise. And it has been a very long time since I have heard this sort of noise.
The blue flashes are now joined by reddish orange stuff and the thunder gets louder and doesn’t just boom. The windows rattle and the house shakes for seconds as the sound vibrates across the sky. There is a tearing sound racing across the sky like the scream of a woman having an orgasm that ends with an incredible release of noise and Tyger sits up and her entire body is ready to spring toward the heavens. Lilith snuggles closer to me and I wonder if, perhaps, this will be a storm that I remember for a long time.
There is a terrible, terrible, tearing noise that begins deep and away from the house and it ends with the rattling of the whole of the earth. The room is illuminated in white yellow light and there is a sudden boom of noise as if the lightning and the thunder are both trying to enter the same doorway simultaneously. I see Tyger Linn in midair, in mid-bark, as she leaps off the bed and towards the door. There is the sound like a light bulb blowing and I know that whatever has happened it has happened here and now and to my house. Tyger Linn challenges this trespass with her voice and every fiber of her being. She scolds the Sky Giants for their war with one another and Tyger refuses to be collateral damage. If she is to die she her death will come with bared teeth and death threats. Tyger Linn is unafraid.
Another tearing sound rips across the sky and another blast of thunder shakes us. Tyger now races across the bed and places her body firmly across my face. I cannot breathe. There’s a series of lightning flashes, one, two, three, four, and then there’s a strobe light of blue that ends in a deep rumbling noise surrounded by a loud crash deep inside the sky. Yet this one, with all its violence, seems to be a bit to the north of the house. Instead of a direct hit, this barrage lands in the front yard, not the back, and the rain falls harder, the background noise to all of this makes itself known again.
Now it is very clear and very distinct; the storm is moving to the north and to the east. The light coming in from the open window fades and the light coming into the other windows now throws shadows from lower and further away. The sound of thunder echoes across Hickory Head with the rumbling of cannon fire but the war is moving slowly away from us. Lilith jumps down off the bed to find her blanket. Tyger Linn, still at my side, uncocks her body and begins to curl up a bit.
The rain lessens and the wind finally dies down a bit. It is past midnight now and very slowly peace and darkness returns to the night.
Morning finds me looking to see what got hit and how bad it was. The wifi works. I am very surprised the line coming in from the outside didn’t feed some unwanted power to the inside and fry the modem. The light in the bedroom work as does the lights in the bathroom. I hear the sound, or thought I did, there. There might be a dead tree near my bedroom window now. There is a breaker tripped but that’s all the damage I can find. There are no wounds to be healed there are no machines to be replaced and there are no dogs still shaking after a night of violence. The storm has come, stayed for a while, and then left again, as all storms will do.
But this is one I will remember for quite some time.