short stories

I’ve been taking turns the past couple weeks with Adam, reading short stories by Philip Dick. He picks one to work on before bedtime and usually I take my shift super-early the next morning before Oliver gets up and at some point later we’ll discuss the story’s merits, twists and whatnot. Plenty of weird ones in the large volume we’re sampling, like this old lady who keeps baking cookies for a neighborhood whippersnapper so she can steal his life essence.  A tad depressing at times, stumbling across some of the more dystopian older stories, especially considering they were a little ahead of the curve back in the day and trickier yet explaining undercurrents to a ten year old in terms he can grasp (truth be told he’s gotten used to plenty of dystopia the past eight months if you know what I mean but maybe you don’t).  At any rate, Adam’s definition of science fiction has expanded. So has mine, really.  For a voracious reader, I’m not very literate.  For years I needed a dictionary at the ready to make it from one page to the next let alone understand sort of deep things.  Right now I’m struggling with Jim Bouton’s classic Ball Four but not because it’s hard reading. An indisputable classic and luckily I’m enough of a baseball nerd for enjoying half the name-dropping but……….. it’s dated. Not exactly in the same way but it brings to mind last year when I finally took down from a dusty shelf and slogged through my yard sale copy of Lake Wobegon and by the end had chuckled a fair amount but speaking strictly for myself I don’t find Garrison Keillor’s writing much cleverer than his old radio show.

It was yesterday I was gardening and wouldn’t you know it the sky turned black coming down over the hill and there was a patch of thunder. Oliver Fern was sensible and heeded my warnings to run to the house and stay there until the weather blew over but I decided to take my chances engaged such that I was in a heartless renovation of rockrose (only ever meant to serve as placeholder).  Adam was going to be shouldering his forty pound book-bag up the hill from the bus stop at any moment between sometime-and-midnight (on his fourth bus driver because the trainees keep flunking at the hands of Humorless Bus Supervisor who sits behind with the kids) and figuring I may as well distract lightning bolts from an innocent schoolboy lost in daydreams, toiled away.  No lightning problems but a handful of cloudbursty downpours had me mildly hypothermic for several hours and while I was trying to remember the President’s name (you’ve gotta be fucking kidding me) Adam took care of dinner for himself and Oliver as he’s pretty good at fixing hot dogs but he did tear the buns all to hell as they were these fluffy brioche numbers I picked up to allay the boys’ mother’s concerns I’ve been feeding them hot dogs five days a week since school started.

Speaking of which, Adam’s loose tooth had fallen out during social studies. The school nurse gave him a hinged, plastic tooth-holder molded into the shape of a back molar for bringing home the nasty little prize.  On the International Scale of Weirdly Revolting Things, a fallen-out tooth ranks highly but when Adam showed it off (reddish pulp still attached) I did my best to hide any trace of revulsion, nodding with pretend admiration at what may as well have been moldy dentures. We were standing in front of the house in the pouring rain and I was shivering uncontrollably but as he was clearly blinded by the beam of pride it’s apparent Adam mistook hypothermia for excitement. Loving him dearly as I do…… all for the better, I must say!

postscript: I wrote this a couple days ago but then the earthquake in Mexico City happened and frivolity went out the window. I’ve been worried terribly sick about friends who live in the city. It was no small miracle to me this morning I received confirmation they’re okay and doing what they can to help others.

concerning a collection of venus fly traps innocently flapping about in a refreshing breeze along the ship canal at the fremont sunday market

After a disappointing perusal of seemingly more abundant-than-usual manufactured kitsch that had me feeling transported to a unique sort of Etsy Hell (such as the vendor who papers old maps and atlases over light-switch plates, I guess homey hardware featuring microscopic detail of backroads and small towns from each of the fifty states) downunder in what doubles as parking garage the rest of the week, the boys and I spotted a vintage, Super-Flex Smokey Bear and I was torn for a little project I’m assembling except his dirty polyvinyl armpits and neck were liquefying into sticky goo in the Sunday morning sun and the price was just not right. The irony was not lost, come to roost as it were, this awfully desiccated Pacific Northwest summer upon that iconic, lovable stooge of the United States Forest Service. In summers to come, many thousands more acres will burn for old Smokey. At any rate, proprietor was ornery cap gun guy who was in a far cheerier mood than usual and later we crossed paths with him while looking amongst the sterling silver for Oliver, who lost his beloved peace ring at the dock on South Manitou Island in Lake Michigan country earlier this summer.

September 2017 - Venus Flytrap-5

We made our rounds in the antique mall where the boys smirk at the vintage Playboy magazines next to hideous Starter team jackets (for the few remaining ironic hipsters in Seattle?) but Adam begged us to go back to the market so he could get the Venus fly trap he had his eye on. He insisted on paying for it with his own money: Venus fly trap was delicately transported home in the back seat on his lap, Adam was like those nervous parents relieved-yet-terrified to be out of the hospital with baby. Except when they’re yelling and screaming bloody murder in concert with their little brother each time they spot a lime-green, orange or pineapple-yellow bicycle. Adam was up 32-15-3 (I wasn’t really trying) before I invoked the bequeathment clause for Oliver’s sake and snagged a half dozen bikes between the hospital and the football stadium but this raised Adam’s competitive ire and he would spot the usual trio of bikes parked in front of Montlake Market and Oliver basically gave up and we spent the rest of the ride home peacefully thinking up names for numerous Venus fly trap children (little brother and I each got the honor of naming one). I don’t know who exactly this is featured above but it’s clear she has a refined palate when it comes to fruit flies of which there are billions in the house at this time flying scared.

mr. brahms’ famous lullaby

So it was with dutiful tenderness tonight that Adam played Oliver Fern to sleep with Mr. Brahms’ Famous Lullaby and A Minuet for Mr. Bach’s Children. Lately, the boys and I’ve been on our own quite a lot as their dear mother is highly sought-after in the Boring People who Frame their College Diplomas community for advice-giving, inside of which she occasionally must endeavor teaching adults how to act like big kids and will utilize downhomey, impossibly-true stories (corny) regarding gentle cows named Betsy, red snowsuits and deranged roosters (you can’t take the country out of the girl which is one of the things I’ve always loved about her). Before dinner, Adam and I played catch in the driveway. The baseball ricocheted dustily several times off the barbecue grill and once went rolling a block down the hill where it came to a halt next to the green fire hydrant. While the driveway is not an ideal place to play baseball, one could hope the narrow passing lane and spectre of neighbors’ broken windows eventually will translate into pinpointy Madduxish control.

Oliver Fern rode his bike sans training wheels for just the second time last Friday night and before we knew it he’d made it around Green Lake. Also, he is reading now. I mean really reading. He and I’ve worked hard together on it. Adam has been methodically guiding me through a chess match and I’ve been introducing him to David Bowie, the Japandroids and Camper Van Beethoven.  About WordPress: I miss it a lot (still faithfully reading behind-the-scenes that output by my handful of dear compatriots). I’ve been replenishing the birdbath, reading (Francisco Goldman’s Say Her Name and The Interior Circuit: A Mexico City Chronicle followed by some insufferable Didion) and indexing copious notes, among the most writerly things a writer does without actually writing. This post is mostly a scribbled-message on recycled envelope tucked in the jamb of the front door. You didn’t see the note until you’d shimmied your way in……… one of the grocery sacks was slipping through the crook of your arm.

postscript: I thought about trying to pass this evening’s entry off as today but the truth’s somewhere in between. After one of the longest days of the year, the night on which I returned to this was clear and breezy in the city. The boys and I’ve still mostly been on our own. Little brother was already asleep when I sent Adam up the hill to 19th Avenue East for a couple of local weeklies (in the hopes of a good feature but usually to see which bands are in town) and I waited outside for him, trimming head-high fennel and lanky Shasta Daisies away from the neverendingly-prescient Black Lives Matter sign in the hellstrip.

first contact (foul ball at rainier playfield)

Last Saturday afternoon, Adam’s bat finally made in-game contact with the baseball: A blazing, gravity-defying rocket emitting the most satisfying aluminum ping I may have ever heard in my life. Later in the game, he caught a few innings behind home-plate and got the ball back to the pitcher.…most of the time. During one agonizingly long inning of the game in which the casual observer could have completed several chapters of a more difficult Tolstoy work, I stretched my legs with a walk to the Columbia City Bakery for a box of ludicrous brownies (immensely high in price as well as taste) and on the way back down the grassy hill, having decided even a lightning-quick visit to the library en route was a tad self-indulgent, observed the diamond below and duly noted the issuance of another bases-loaded walk- but superb timing insofar as the opportunity next inning to cheer for Adam’s upcoming at-bat. Calling it cheering would be a stretch. Mainly, I nod. Adam generally disapproves of outward public displays of parental boosterism and would rather we keep quiet.

The boys were tuckered out in the evening- the three of us attended the rowing races and boat parade earlier that morning. The University of Washington’s best boats (ladies as well as gents) notched course records in utter demolishments of the jet-lagged, smog-choked visitors from China.  The parade started on-time this year but to be honest we found it a little dull,  Oliver observed the proceedings at certain times with that certain detachment of the bus rider. The best part was (and always has been) when the police and fire boats putt-putted up the Ship Canal with their water-sprayers on full blast.

A shortish walk was taken Sunday to the top of Index Town Wall. The boys were alternately fascinated, revolted and amused by the foil doo-doo bags (instructions included) provided trailside for sporty rock climbers who can’t hold it. The path to the top is steep for a pair of four year old legs but Oliver Fern made easy work of it. We had the main ledge to ourselves for all of an hour and this was good because my favorite regular cranny was off-limits due to winter windfall.  Sixty minutes is plenty long enough for divvying milk chocolate Easter bunnies and watching clouds drift past, it was a glorious afternoon with my family.