Thursday, October 26, 2006

Job Site

When I was young, I thought, one day I will drive, and be in charge of when we stop for the bathroom and where we go.

Now I am on a work crew, and I am the newest member. It isn't right, I think. I am sixty three and a half and yet I am the butt of jokes and the fool of the camp. We are engaged in a construction project and I know neither the process nor the materials. Here I must remove one wheel from a quad-wheeled vehicle of what looks like a flat platform of concrete with steel ribbing. How do I do that? I'm expected to know.

"Here," says the straw boss. "The bag goes in the bin."

It's like a sack of oats, burlap, and the "bin" is apparently one of those shelves up there along an uneven barn construction where stray boards over many years have been put to use with chaotic effect.

I think I should climb inside, a ladder which runs up the scafforlding. I squeeze by a shelf, find the passage does not go where it should.

Now I see there should be a ladder outside. That's how you do it. The boss does it, quickly and easily.

He tells me, you went to the job site this morning. You should be here. We form up here. Be here at 7:30 AM.

Now it's after that, next morning, and I see Joe, a co-worker, ambling toward the job site. I've missed it again. I can't do this. Joe is hispanic and sturdy and understanding. I say, I can't do this. He says, sure, I understand, I'll tell the bosses.

I just couldn't do this.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

It Just Sits There

It is a perfectly marvelous gadget. There's none like it anywhere. It will foretell the present with 100% accuracy. I can guarantee it.

It sits up on my desk, by my monitor. It has no wires going in, no antennae, not even an opening. I don't know how in the world it's powered. Nothing goes in. It's a sealed box of unknown material, sort of beige and about the size of a tissue container.

It just sits there.

I can open it up at anytime. I do. The front hinges away, you see. I find inscribed in the handwriting of da Vinci a perfect description as if it were a diary of events of the day passing, as I have experienced them. It is thus my own empirical record, to include sights, sounds, smells, prominence of each in accordance with how I sense. It is always written in Italian, however, so I must keyboard it into Babel to understand what it is telling me, but it is always simply a log of the day passing.

There is only one day, written on a page which is not paper, and when I close it up, nothing happens. It just sits there. And then in a day or a week I open it again and there is the day revealed on that grey paper which is not paper.

I can never hear anything whirring or scratching in there. I don't know where the box came from; it just appeared on my desk one day. I thought maybe it belongs to Niki J but she doesn't know where it came from either. We are both extremely nonplussed.

I try and open it earlier in the morning, thinking I'll find what the day will be like. After all, if it knows what is happening without anything telling it, then maybe it knows what will happen. But it always just reports the immediate past.

I know absolutely nothing more than I'm telling you.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Alone Now

She was trying to calm her little sister. They were alone now, the four of them, but the two younger sisters had only themselves.

The little one, three, was moving away from the center, which was the kitchen, a sump of surrounding spirals of a winding path leading with flat walls to the upper reaches of the house. You followed the path which coiled like smoke up to the bedrooms. You were in clear sight all the way up because the walls lay on a level with the corridor between them.

She was trying to calm her little sister, but she herself wasn't calm. The older ones, her brother and her sister in their twenties, intended dumping the youngsters, she knew. They were going to Rouen, and then they would place the two little kids somewhere, maybe an orphanage, maybe worse, and they would then move to Paris and live together as husband and wife. She had heard them whispering in the house without walls, their excitement overriding their caution.

She did not even understand how a brother and sister could ever be at the same time husband and wife. But right now she had to soothe the younger one, so she hurried after her, winding on the floor slanted like a dish.

She could not see her in the bedroom. And then she did. She was curled in the bed of Josetta, their Husky mix. Where was Josetta? She hadn't been seen since the strangers came to tell them they were alone now.

She tried to coax her out of Josetta's bed, but there was trembling in her voice. The little one lay very still. Maybe she is hoping all this will go away.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

True Life Experience

There is an exquisite little girl in the right back seat of the old limo. She is fascinated by the turn of the handle which cranks the window. She rolls it up and down.

We are on our way to a camp function. I am a counselor. I smile at everyone. The little girl is part of the volunteer force selected for true life experiences in meeting inner-city kids for crafts and sing-alongs. She rolls the window up and down.

She notices I am as taken with her as she is with the cranking. She says,

"My father says that's how you teach the windows to operate themselves."

I laugh, agree that is a very profound way of looking at it. Yes, it's very good, I nod and smile. I don't want to admit I have no idea what her father means, or what the little girl understands from it.

All the day and thereafter, I try and figure it out. The limo we were riding in was an older one, and the little girl was from a prosperous family. It is possible she has never in her life ridden in a vehicle in which you had to operate the windows by hand.