Archive for the 'family' Category

Morning

I remember your twin brother and how he had a dimple on the left side of his smile. You didn’t have any dimples, and when I was seven I was suspicious that you and he were not really twins after all. But still the two of you always had perfect synchronization, rebuilding carburetors, installing the new clutch cables, draining and replacing the transmission fluid. It was a twin ballet, the two of you so different, one with dimple and one without, Jake with his dirty jeans and his flat boy butt, you with your sweats and the tank top that showed a little bit of girl belly. I remember that Jake lied more often than you did, at least I noticed him lying, and when he left, he went to France, or so he said. But when he came back, he didn’t seem to have picked up any French at all. Meanwhile, you and I had been studying up in school so that when we graduated we could go to France together and the three of us have a French movie adventure, something with beaches and candlelight and that was romantic, wasn’t it?

I remember when my dad came home from work one morning. We were making breakfast; there was a tower of toast and the bacon was in the frying pan, spitting hot grease over the white stove top. He came in and sat down without saying anything, not even “mmm, bacon” and he did not pour himself a cup of coffee like he usually did, just took off his gun belt, hung it over the back of the chair and pressed his hands together like they hurt or something. Mom turned away from the bacon, yelped a little at the hot grease as it caught her on the wrist. She wet a dishcloth with cold water and put it on her wrist, and sat down across the table from dad. He kept his hands pressed together, and after a moment, she reached out and put her hand, dishcloth and all, over his, and there was silence, and grease popping, and the toaster shot out two slices of bread.

“Kids, go on out and feed the dogs,” she said. “We’ll have breakfast ready in about 15 minutes.”  I started to protest, but Jerry kicked me and pushed me out the kitchen door.

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Wherein I talk to myself

Having started Nano without a plan whatsoever, I think it behooves me to think about what I’m writing. Who-what-when-where-why.

Here are some thoughts:

Who – Characters: I have a kiddo (Sofia), her parents (Jennifer and Stephen), her great aunt, her cousin (Florecita), her grandmother, and one artist (Desiree).

What – Thematically: Announcements. Endings and beginnings. The ways in which we hear other people’s narratives. Photo albums, family stories, wedding and obits in the newspaper.

Where – Place: Santa Fe for sure, other places as well, where characters might intersect in a transient way.

When – Time: Present.

Why/ POV?: Inclined to give each character some first person with an omniscient lurking narrator. Did that make sense?

Okay. Right now, my characters are straight out of central casting – too much rushing, but it’s a start.

What makes the theme / plot move?

Announcements

Who announces what?

Tia Josefa does not announce anything; just reads the announcements of others. She would, presumably, get news about la familia before everyone else because she is looking for it.

Sofia, in common with Josefa, is observant and wants to know. She would also be attuned to new announcements.

Jennifer and Stephen are both professional observers and burned out empaths. They are uncomfortable applying their professional skills to their personal relationships.

Jennifer is hispanic, from Espanola. She and Stephen met in college (Santa Cruz) and settled in Santa Fe to start a business together. Mediation, counselling and conflict resolution. Jennifer leaves to become a sand box therapist for children. Stephen has a side interest in sculpture, metal work arts.

Desiree is a semi transient artist with a quick eye and some street sense. I need to know more about her, but I know she plays with texture and light, as an artist. Tends to be poor; not always, though.

That’s all for now, guys. I know it’ll be brutal for me to keep up with the numbers I need to generate, but I’m just back to work today (had the flu) and at least I’m thinking it through a little.

I haven’t put any little creatures in yet. That is an oversight.

I’ll be back later. I anticipate doing the bulk of my writing over the weekends. Because I work too much. That’s why.

Scapegoat

I’ve been a scapegoat more times that I can count. Many’s the time I found myself tangled in some ridiculous, false, absurd accusation. Frankly, I believe that scapegoating is hard wired into human interaction.

At least that’s what my grandfather always said, and he was something of an expert on the subject. Jungian fellow, always looking for the archetype. What we have here, he said to me when I was 8, is a classic example of scapegoating. I was crushed, the ridiculous sad clown of the third grade, smacked down and beaten up by every fifth grader and even a few fourth graders every time the teachers turned their backs.

It was interesting the first time he talked about it. He told me half a dozen examples from his own case histories, each one worse than what I’d just experienced. By the time I’d heard it again and again, in 6th grade, 8th, 9th and on throughout highschool, though, it wasn’t interesting anymore. Grandpa had started to grow hair out of his ears, which I took to mean he could tell me whatever stupid Jungian story he wanted, but couldn’t hear anything I had to say back to him. Like, that’s fine in the abstract, but what does the scapegoat do about it?

This occurred to me around 17, last year of high school. I’d been a dumb suffering brute up until then, but suddenly this voice came to me — hey hey heeeeey, what about this, what about this harassment, there are plenty of other doofus 17 year old guys with skin worse than mine, worse social problems, why this relentless singling out of me? Me?  I can see myself, 14 years old, helping my mother make mayonnaise for her Sunday afternoon card game, and it doesn’t  look so bad, the white are raising, the yolks are blending, the lemon is lemony but not oppressive. Somehow, by Monday morning every jock and every cheerleader in Cherry Hills Middle School knows I’ve been making mayonnaise with my mommy. Mayo Clinic, they called me for three months.

Maybe that’s why I went to cooking school instead of medical school. I had a rich, complex, unusual relationship to the tongue, which I processed and served mixed with conventional ingredients that were presented in fantastic, grotesque shapes at the Madison Food Orgy, a three-day food festival event held in Madison in the early 90s. My tongue won 2nd place for best presentation two years running. This was a terrific first challenge.

There is a lot of disgrace in the food circuit; almost everybody has taken short cuts from time to time, but in cooking, with its small but powerful judges, it’s easy to underestimate the impact of the special foods section. I forgot, for two or three years, but I’m back now.

mayonnaise

The accountant

data stream
I like specialty bubblegum flavors. Peppermint, of course, and sage, the rain flavors, mud, ocean, tomato worm, potato chip, and my current best ever favorite is dead roadkill flavor. I save all of the wrappers and when I have enough I fold them together in a custom built bubblegum chain that should reach from my bedroom here in Seattle to the outer city limits of Little Rock, Arkansas, if my calculations are correct.
My calculations are usually correct, and I do all of my parent’s accounting for their firm because they are not very good at calculations, which they say is not a nice thing to say but is true anyway. They point out to me that they have many skills that allow them to get me the things I need to achieve my goals, and that is true right now because of the child labor laws. The child labor laws were first instituted in this country in 1916 because many children, even children with very good accounting skills, were working in places that were too hot or too cold or dangerous and they worked so hard that many of them died before they could grow up to be accountants, which is what I am going to do. The job of parents is to support their children and give them the things they will need to be productive adults some day, and my parents are clearly doing this job, since I don’t have to work in a sweatshop and live in a sub-standard situation that would be hard to imagine these days anyway.

The accountant is the person in the company who makes sure that all the information about the money in the company is reconciled, with no missing information or information that is not true. This is an important job because missing or wrong information causes people and companies to make mistakes and then companies can fail, which can sometimes lead to children losing their homes, their computers, and their parents, whose job it is to raise the children until they are mature enough to take care of themselves. The other job of the accountant is to tell people when they’ve made a mistake and to hold them accountable for their mistakes. This would be a very good thing to do, although I’m not allowed to do this with my mom and dad, just make notes of the mistakes they’ve made so they can look later to see that I was right.

The accountant looks for predictable numbers in columns and rows and becomes highly sensitized to variations in the predictable columns and rows that suggest that an error, either accidental or intentional, has been made. This is important information to share with people who have an interest in the company, and this information should be made known as soon as possible so that mistakes can be corrected. This is the basic job of the accountant, and that is what I will be doing professionally by the time I am 16, which is when I should be done with my accelerated math program and ready to go to college. My parents say they don’t want me to go any earlier than 16 because of my social skills, which I don’t think matters, but I am still under age and so that is the end of that debate.

Eulogy

gaping maw

He’s taken my money and killed himself. This is what I have to ask myself. I mean, I can imagine the earth opening up, gaping mouth and hungry for vengance and taking him down to the steaming pits of hell. I can definitely imagine that, and I can definitely more or less agree with that plan, what with all that greed and all that theft and all of those people, people like you and me, just left out in the cold, holding the bag, while he’s been sucked down into those bowels. But what I can’t understand is where the money went. Do they use money in hell? What currency? What exchange rate? Do they extend credit? Because what I don’t understand is why the man would kill himself after he got all the money. I can readily understand suicide for someone who’s too poor, too sick, too miserable, too pained to tolerate the hand they’ve been dealt, but when billionaires kill themselves, you’ve just got to ask a few questions. I mean, they wouldn’t be billionaires in the first place if they’d had any scruples, am I right? So how does it happen that scruples develop after they’ve taken everything but the very shirt off of my back and where the hell is my mother’s money? That’s all I want to know. Maybe he’s not really dead. Maybe he and Bill and Bernie and whoever else lives on their privately-owned island paradise somewhere, paying for their exile with her retirement funds. 

Then again, maybe he really is dead. He could be dead. So I ask again, where is the money? And then again, maybe he didn’t really kill himself. Maybe the machine killed him, the machine that makes the money happen, makes millionaires into billionaires (billion is the new million, had you heard?), then eats their heads.

Maybe he didn’t kill himself. Maybe his head exploded from trying to do the accounts, from trying to account for, be accountable for, the transfer of wealth from the gullible middle class into his own stainless steel glass and white leather penthouse apartment that he’s had replicated in several major cities worldwide so he never feels like he’s away from home. Because he’s pretty fearful of being away from home. Remember when he was little and he used to wet his bed until the psychiatrist recommended the electric matress pad that gave him a shock every time he did it? But not until he asked for them, because he was going away to summer camp and the summer he was seven, every kid in Potlatch Village knew he was a bed wetter and a thumb sucker too and they made his life a living hell. So much so that he told Dr. Stangard that he’d either have to use the electroshock system or give up on ever getting into a decent college. Dr. Stangard wrote a prescription for nerves and ordered the electric pad, which was delivered three weeks before camp started. It only took 4 days.

Then again, maybe he did kill himself. Maybe that early bedwetting was an indicator of deep sensitivity that he’d learned to suppress using electroshock and assorted prescription drugs and he was so out of touch with his feelings that he could screw anyone, even his own parents and sister, without feeling much of anything. And maybe when he went to rehab, like he did last December, they cleaned out his system and all those feelings came rushing back and overwhelmed him and he had feelings again for the first time since he was seven years old. Poor little guy. And maybe if he hadn’t turned on himself, he might’ve turn on us, like some of them did, mowing down an entire tribe of CEOs and investment bankers. And maybe we should be grateful that he didn’t. Bless his heart, we will miss him, won’t we?

Harry is not quite right

tupperware

I suppose you could say, in a manner of speaking, that it all started with the tupperware parties. That was in our June Cleaver days, you know, you’re too young of course but I’m pretty sure you and Harry watched the reruns when you were little. Remember Harry at those tupperware parties – I think when they first started he was so little he could sit in the cake holder. I remember putting frosting on him one night, what a cute baby he was. Well, house and home was everything to everyone in those days. Sometimes I look back on it and think what in God’s name came over us all? It was like a collective insanity – you know, and then there was that backlash and everyone was taking LSD and singing and traveling around the country in bright orange camper vans. Those were cute; Harry got one in the 90s for nostalgia I suppose and fixed it up like he was going to a Brady Bunch reunion or something. Anyway, the tupperware. I got to saving just about everything in those tupperwares, and we have a basement with a wet bar, a game area and a lot of storage just in case of Armageddon, you know, all packed with water, canned goods, medicines, the kind of thing you might need just in case. I don’t like to be predicting doom all the time, you know, so I did grow tomatoes and keep up with things, kept the house up to date. I remember hanging a shower curtain in the 80s that was just covered with sea creatures: seahorses, clam shells, dolphins, starfish. Very pretty, as I recall. Things were complicated just then, what with the Cold War and the man with the shoe who kept pounding. I think his face was red, but our TV was black and white, so I may be misremembering. So I started collecting all sorts of things other than food and water and storing them in the shelves in the basement. Salt, aspirin, bandaids, socks. Things I could imagine us needing in case of nuclear disaster or a change in the divine plan. These were difficult times, and there were serial murders, and the president seemed to be having some kind of mental problem. So I started thinking a little more broadly. Like wondering what we might need if one of our own, or a neighbor down there with us, got a little disturbed. I picked up a few books on psychiatry and hid these in three inch deep rectangular tupperware behind the dryer, in case I needed to look up some kind of psychosis. The kids wanted some science projects, so we collected burrs and feathers, baking soda, vinegar, and safety pins. Then I thought arsenic might come in handy, a few knives for skinning small animals in case we needed them. I had a hard time remembering the name of that drug that smells like almonds, or was it like cordite? Eventually I bought a book on Poisons and Poisoning. It’s a big basement, generally speaking, but still I couldn’t help imagine being listened to, followed through the low halls under the stairwells that led to the semi-hidden rooms where the weapons were kept. Sometimes I heard their voices, you remember, Harry, don’t you? Sometimes I forget that Harry isn’t here now. Remember when he spoke in his own defense? I was so proud of him. He learned a lot in that library. Law, chemistry, psychology, the history of death. He started painting about three years ago. I haven’t seen him since I fell last year. Those stairs are pretty steep for a woman my age. But he still sends me cards once in awhile. You’ve been keeping the crawl spaces clean and clear of spiders and roaches, I know, and I do thank you for that. So does Harry. Shall we have a glass of wine now, or is it too soon, what do you think?

 downstairs

20 minutes, long list of collectively generated words. Silly, innit?

Georgia and Tom on the Oregon Coast

rainforest

“You get a line and I’ll get a pole, honey, honey. You get a line and I’ll get a pole, babe. You get a line, I’ll get a pole, we’ll go down to the fishing hole, honey oh babe oh mine.”

Tom couldn’t help singing. Tom hitched a ride with his happy thumb on his way to Anchorage Alaska, where he intended to build an igloo and marry himself an Inuit girl, skin seal and harvest amethyst in the frozen ice caves of Siberia. Tom was a born entrepreneur, but a southerner too, at heart, and it got too dang cold for him just about midway up the coast of Oregon and he never made it to Alaska. Stopped in Gorgeous, Oregon, in the deep wet forest that runs along the west coast. For a year or two he lived on blackberries and fish and his hair grew long and shaggy. He slept too hard to snore, and was too unreconstructed to think about farming, or storing, or hardship.

Oregon is a fine plentiful place for people who don’t mind a little rain, and Tom got comfortable, although not soft. One summer he gave forestry a try, strip cutting a corner of the Kalmiopsis near Biscuit, but he found he could not bear to cut the tree people. There is more bleeding in a tree than he’d ever felt in a salmon, though he could not explain that to himself or the woman who eventually convinced him to put his shoes back on and get out of the tree. He became a spokesman for trees, a miner of bees, he cultivated honey, and made a little money. Then he planted gobble sum and toad willow and buddha fingers and poultry rhymes. He opened a nursery on the edge of a small state road where people who were not in quite such a hurry might stop and talk and buy a cold drink, a Yoohoo or a Sierra Mist. He sold plants and named them himself, as much the inventor of his own roadside stand as any other stepaway of that particular time and place.

The Oregon coast is green, wet, mossy, and cool. At one time (at the time of this story, in fact), there were not many signs or arrows pointing to particular destinations, and it was not unusual for strangers to lose their way. They might find themselves slipping from a long low road into an awning of dripping willows, lining the drive where Tom lived with his trees and the woman he eventually married. Her name was Berry, who stings the fingers and stains the mouth, but she was sweet on Tom and he on her, and this worked, out there in the small stone house where they lived together, with their bees, their honeysuckle, their ginger snap trail blossoms and their two-fingered lobulus marionettes. The garden was fresh and they grew herbs, and kept a few chickens, and wrote some books about living in Alaska and building igloos out of ice and amethyst, and swimming with polar bears in the melting snow waters of high summer in the far north.

Georgia liked to make honey syrup from the berries as they ripened. She made a blackberry syrup, raspberry, blueberry, mulberry and rye berry. Each one had a distinctive flavor and a color that was either natural to the berry or boiled in a colored honey blend to brighten them up. Tom smelled each syrup as it mixed, and measured and tested each flavor with nose and tongue and fingertip, looking for the combination that lifted the spirits and let them fly away out into the cool wet air, where smoke from wood fireplaces hung and ruffled in the cool breeze as the sun went down. The fireplace smell was ashes and fruit, and Georgia and Tom’s three big labs liked to lay there, slightly damp but warm throughout, to let the heat seep into their ribs when the nights were long. Georgia gave birth one time, then two, and Tom hung fishing nets along the fence on the deck where they sat while Georgia recovered. Georgia began to identify each of her two births from one another by markings, by sound, by temperament. She did this surreptitiously, quietly, on little padded cotton feet that did not track much into the house. Eventually, she considered naming the children, but by then they were up and ready to name themselves.


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