When the Texas economy crashed in 89 I loaded my pregnant wife and 3 small children into our tiny little Isuzu and drove cross country to San Diego California where I knew people, had family and friends and hoped I could find work in construction.
We had no money of course so we packed food in the trunk and in coolers and planned on driving straight through and fixing food along the way.
Late afternoon somewhere in New Mexico or Arizona we stopped to make some sandwiches. As I got the mustard out I didn’t pay attention to the fact that the bottle was swollen to twice its normal size, having been in the trunk, in the summer, driving from Texas through the great southwestern desert.
When I opened the mustard about half of the bottle came out, part fine vinegar mist and part messy mustard spray. All over the roof of the car, the windshield, the driver’s window, and every part of the front of my body from my waist up including my glasses and my hair.
It took a while to clean everything up. I chose not to have mustard on my sandwiches after that. When I sold the car years later there were still mustard stains on the headliner.
And the happy ending? Sorry. When I got to California construction crashed but it boomed in Texas. And we’d already moved. Eventually I found work in information technology, working with computers, so maybe there is a happy ending after all because that’s the work I really love.
Railroad ties make a good retaining wall. Heavy and thick, they’re impregnated with creosote so they’re nearly rot-proof. Peg them together with 3/8″ rebar and they’ll be there 20 years later (according to this picture. Neighborhood has sure run down since I lived there.)
The process is to lay down the first layer of ties, drill holes where the pins will go through, lay down the next layer, drill, and repeat. Somehow, I kept performing the miracle of drilling the holes exactly where they needed to be. Stupid confidence sometimes turns into wild good luck.
I’d finished the fronts of the walls, tied into the sides next to the steps. I do not remember why (trauma, perhaps) but as I neared the end, I asked my teenage son Tristan to come help.
“Here, hold this,” I said, with a 3-foot chunk of rebar placed in the top of the hole in the railroad tie.
A snip from the middle of my 4,000-word short story Any Old Apple. Yesterday, newsletter readers got the whole thing, and next month they’ll get the audio version absolutely free (for non-newsies, it’ll be 99¢. Do the right thing. Sign up for the newsletter. I’ll even send a copy of the story so you can finish reading it.)
Any Old Apple: An Excerpt
We join our hero mid-story.
His teacher pronounced his last name correctly, and Milton skated through the first half of his first day in fifth grade without major embarrassment. Last year, the ancient crone who creaked her way into the classroom every day had called him “Milton BOW drucks” no matter how many times he corrected her. Continue reading “Any Old Apple (excerpt)”
I looked up as the shower needled my, I suppose “lower chest” would be correct though not necessarily medically or anatomically accurate (I apologize in advance to those who know what things are called for being fairly loose in my terminology – but just this once). As I say, I looked up and noticed that the mini-blind wand (see previous apology) was inside the shower as was I.
At first it seemed as though the blinds had been installed a bit too wide at the top and cut to width around the shower. Further reflection during my aqueous impalement suggested another answer for the strange inverted L shape. It appeared that the almost human-sized glass box I was in had been installed after the window and blinds already existed.