wading naked into my stream of consciousness

the sky is grey instead of blue that’s one thing here, the sky is almost always blue but that’s because it’s too hot for clouds they burn away before they’re born borne on the wind to somewhere else past the mountains snagging on the peaks leaking leaks we do get rain maybe even some later this week but it’s a desert after all so not much eh and let’s face it july through october it’s just too hot seriously any time the temperature is over 120º that’s not okay and the ac chugs and chugs but hey it still costs less than it did in Sacramento eight years ago half as much if only we could balance the upstairs and downstairs the music room is too too hot and it’s not good for the instruments but if I shower four times a day and we keep the air on and now that I have shades for the three hottest windows maybe four hottest windows and I’ll do the fifth maybe this summer it’ll be better because one way or another I’ll make it better we’ll make it better together


Proofreading Done on “Love Runs Out”

Yesterday the proofed version of Love Runs Out plopped into my inbox.

I impressed me, I did.

In a 44,000-word novel, there were about 30 typos, and 2 issues with wording, both effectively typos.

That’s a 7/100s of 1% error rate.

James does excellent work. He catches errors even after I’ve gone through a dozen times. His attention to detail is flawless. He also does a certain level of editing, questioning unusual wording, and he loves fact-checking. He really loves fact-checking.

I’ll have the manuscript finalized by end of week, meaning all I have left now is to settle, for sure, finally, absolutely, on the font for the cover.


The Engineer’s Funeral

when we’re told to look to the ant
it is because they are industrious
not because they are smart
consider: if a shoe the size of a Lincoln Continental smooshed a guy down the street, would you rush down so you could be next?

even their industriousness is shaded
and I mean no disrespect, because they do indeed get things done
you can, when you never sleep
your whole life
at all
not to mention your 99,999 brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles and cousins once twice thrice removed
because that is a lot of sleepless doing of stuff
but if two of you grab the same twig
and then head in opposite directions
because, you know, the “no leader” thing
you might be observed in a certain laboratory playing tug of war for two weeks
two
weeks
and that twig could have sprouted roots for all the progress you’ve made

there is a chap who finds empty nests
of the ant kind
and fills them with aluminum
of the molten kind
and then
dig dig dig
flip brush wash
and mount
you have a monument in aluminum to the engineering prowess of a tiny chap and his extended family who still don’t have the sense to avoid their third cousin’s funeral


Molotov Brothers

Transcript (but it’s better if you listen)

My brothers discovered Molotov cocktails when we were teenagers. In case you don’t know what they are, as my brothers discovered it’s just a little bit of gasoline and a little bit less oil in a glass jar with a rag stuffed in the top. Wet the rag with the gasoline in the jar, light it on fire, and throw it. When it lands and explodes it creates a smoky fire that, in battle, or riots, disrupts the enemy, adding confusion and a smokescreen and fire and broken glass and all kinds of mess and nonsense.

I’m the middle brother, one brother 18 months older, the other 18 months younger, so we went through life almost like triplets—except one of us didn’t go around making Molotov cocktails. We lived right at the bottom end of San Diego Bay. There were disused railroad tracks right across the street and quarter of a mile away, a railroad bridge. Down below the bridge, 20 feet away, was a tiny stream and rocks where my brothers experimented with their Molotov cocktails. First a baby food jar with a tablespoon of oil and a quarter cup of gasoline which exploded, made a nice boom and burned till the water washed it away.

Then mayonnaise jars. Finally, when that wasn’t exciting enough, a quart of gasoline and a pint of oil in a glass gallon jar.

They lit it on fire, leaned over the edge of the railroad bridge, and dropped it on the rocks below. The explosion fluttered their pants and took all the hair off their faces and some off their heads. They were half way home before they realized they were running, and in their bedrooms studying for some imaginary school quiz when the police and fire department showed up to see what the explosion was out there in the estuary where all the protected wildlife lived.

I’ve always assumed they hadn’t blown up any California least terns or other endangered species but I wasn’t there so I don’t know. My father found out virtually everything they ever did (we discovered later because he’d also done the same things) but I’m not sure that the experimentation with blowing things up ever came to light. But I also know that after they almost blew themselves up and removed all their facial hair in the process, they never experimented with blowing things up again.


A Reading on Reading

have you heard the sad fact
that after school most people never read another book?
this is confusing to me
are they too busy? too tired? did they forget how?
it isn’t a lack of great books
I read a new one every year, another weighty tome filled with deathless prose that makes me feel and makes me see things differently, changes my perspective, changes me
and who’s too busy for that?

maybe they don’t want to change
and I get it
because I didn’t either, until I did
it’s inertia, that thing Newton described, that a person without direction will remain directionless, a resister of change will resist until resistance is not futile but painful
because they say we only change when the pain of change is less than the pain of staying the same
and that’s sad, too, if you only change to change the pain
and I know pain can make you tired but never be too tired to move away from pain and what if a book will change you without pain, did you consider that?

but I don’t think they know about the change thing, so it must be that they’ve forgotten how
forgotten how to slip between the covers of a gentleman in Moscow, how to go back to 11.22.63, where to hunt for Red October or ditch the big sleep and be gone with the wind
or they’ve mislaid the memory of saying goodnight moon with a hungry caterpillar and a purple crayon where those wild things weave a web and cats wear hats and hop on who knows who
or maybe they never knew about how the pigeon found that hot dog and why he shouldn’t drive the bus, why Anne must be spelled with an e, how the wind sounds in the willows or how to find where the sidewalk ends

but if a little engine could, even after a terrible horrible no good very bad day
maybe we can teach them again
and they’ll remember that reading doesn’t hurt, it heals
and after the initial inertia instead of resistance we’ll have more readers
and the readers’ kids will be readers
like yours
and like mine
like you
and me
and wouldn’t that be splendid?


Aging Squared

My dad was 26 when I was born. I was 26 when he died in a traffic accident.

My mom was 18 when I was born. As I approach 60 this year, she just turned 78.

When Dad died at 52 he was riding his bike 20 miles each way to work every day.

Mom has never been quite so active. These days, she’s bedridden and uses a wheelchair to get around—except when she doesn’t.

She’s started falling down. A lot. We’ve reached that point where we’re having the difficult conversations about her care and her living conditions. She’s mentally competent, so it’s her decision, but we worry about her living in a regular apartment instead of somewhere there’s onsite help when she falls.

I’m too old for this. Also too old to have a 15-year-old daughter excited about learning to drive later this year.

Maybe I’m just too old, period.

(Nah. Saw a short video about a wonderful lady who’s 108 and still chugging along, happy as Moses and loved by so many people. Here’s to my next 49 years!)


Wind in the Trees

Excerpt from a book I plan to finish someday.

Long before the huge Buick burst from the trees he heard the thrum of the huge engine his Uncle Quest bragged about. Gravel scrunched and popped as he slowed abruptly to turn into the driveway.

The massive door slammed. “Hey, Plum!”

“Hey yourself, Plum!” His uncle and aunt had been making up nonsense greetings for as long as he could remember. Never with others, just between them. Fruits meant happy, good news, his uncle’s wide smile and his aunt blushing.

“Where’s my princess? Or did she get promoted to empress by now?” Bets giggled as she ducked behind Momma’s chair. Betsy squealed as Quentin gave her hair a tug over Beth’s shoulder.

“What are you hearing?” His uncle sat behind him and looked over his shoulder toward the trees.

“Just the wind.”

“Saying anything I oughta hear?”

“Nah.” He was always a little embarrassed when his uncle asked about the things he heard. Not because he was mocking, but because he wasn’t.

“Alright, then. Keep me posted, eh?”

“Sure.” He couldn’t help smiling. His uncle was the biggest man he knew and yet he seemed small. No, not small, quiet. Young. Something like that. To look at him you’d expect a bear or a bull, but he was more like a cat, a big friendly cat.


Dry Heat

at least it’s a dry heat

crematoriums, or would it be crematoria?
they use dry heat

so does the oven in the kitchen
unless you’re using bain marie
which is French for boiled with wet air
a common cause of insanity and death in east Texas

fire
fire is as dry as heat gets
but we don’t want first responders to say “at least it’s a dry fire”
at least it’s a dry fire

that frying pan you left on the stove top after you rinsed it
when you remembered it and took it off the burner and you forgot how long it had been on so you didn’t use a potholder
that’s a dry heat

in Seattle
or San Francisco
or Milwaukee
they don’t say, when it rains, “at least it’s a cool wet”
it doesn’t help
thank you
thank you very much for reminding me that instead of being cold and wet, I could be hot and wet
because knowing things could be worse always makes the pain go away
worse things happen at sea
possibly to children starving in China
I don’t know
but I still won’t eat liver
so don’t tell me they’re hungry
it doesn’t help

temperatures should have 2 digits
I’m flexible
the first digit can be anywhere from 2 to 7
and the second digit can be anything you like
any number at all
I’m flexible

but when the temperature has 3 digits
no matter what they are
I know it’s a dry heat
I’ve used an oven
and a frying pan
and I’ve been to Seattle
and San Francisco
and even Milwaukee
not China
not yet
and nobody says “at least it’s a cool wet”
nobody says that
anywhere
and there’s a reason for it
it doesn’t make sense
even to those hungry Chinese children


butter comma peanut

Who decided peanut butter should come first?
What reasoning led to this order?
It is not alphabetical
Unless it was decided by a librarian, butter comma peanut ampersand jelly
Librarians, beautiful minds all, are not the natural arbiters of sandwich naming conventions

It is not historical, the origins of both lost in the mists of time
Though let us explore that concept
Once upon a time, neither existed, no butter comma peanut, no jelly
I would pause for a moment of silence here, sad as the thought of a pre-PBJ world is, but you might think I was finished and applaud so let us press on

At some point in antiquity someone dug up, roasted, salted, and crushed the cotyledons of Arachis hypogaea
And it was good
Someone, was it someone else or the same someone, mashed berries containing a sufficient quantity of pectin and, perhaps they forgot them on the counter, and it jelled into, well, you know
And it was good, too

But which happened first?

Fine, I said origins, mists of time, et cetera
But fruit is easy to find
Peanuts, not so much
Fruit is obvious, over time becoming sweeter, and mushier, with no help from Homo Sapiens
Peanuts, not so much
What with the digging (why?) and the roasting (why?) and salting, which I get, but crushing, again why?
Jelly is obvious, likely, spontaneous, inevitable
Peanut butter, not so much

And yet
If someone were to offer you a jelly and peanut butter sandwich
Or, in fact, a jelly and butter comma peanut sandwich
Or even a sandwich comma jelly ampersand butter comma peanut
Would you trust them?
Would your taste buds tingle?
Or would that be the hairs at the back of your neck?
Because whatever the origins
Fair
Or not so much
Even a child knows
Peanut butter comes first
(except, dear librarians, in the dictionary)


Nothing to Wear

what, exactly, do you mean by “nothing to wear”?
because you may have forgotten, but we share a closet
and I just tried to hang up a shirt

do you mean nothing you like?
because, if I recall correctly and correct me if I’m wrong
didn’t you buy all that stuff?
and didn’t you like it when you bought it?

or do you mean nothing appropriate for the occasion, which I can certainly understand
up to a point
but let’s remember it’s karaoke at the neighbors, not Cleopatra’s barge down the Nile
Marc Antony, that cummerbund is too to excruciating, well done my good man
and I get keeping up with the Joneses
even if their name is really wait don’t tell me I see it on the mailbox every time we pull in Mortense I think the missing letter is an N Mortensen

or do you mean nothing that fits?

ahem

there are whole colonies where they don’t worry if they have nothing to wear because that’s what they wear all the time
but that is not us
or here
or now
because we are, like Cleo and Marc, civilized

so then, what, exactly do you mean?
you’d think I’d know by now, but I’m still learning
it’s a steep curve
and speaking of curves…