“It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.”
― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince
A friend called me one Saturday morning to tell me there were fields of Sunflowers blooming, vast, beside the Interstate on the way to Austin. I drove down there to take photographs. It was amazingly beautiful, the miles of yellow faces looking into the sun.
Today’s story reminded me of that day and these photographs.
“I like work: it fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours.”
― Jerome K. Jerome
Years ago, I had a big chest-type deepfreeze freezer in the garage (I guess I still do). People from my background often have these – the generational memory of The Depression, dust bowl, and mass hunger leads to a deep desire to store enough food to get by for an unreasonable time.
At any rate, this freezer was full, mostly beef. I had stumbled across a good deal on half a steer and a lot of it was there, frozen, waiting on my hunger. I was out of town on a long trip and while I was gone someone accidentally unplugged the cord on the deep freeze. I’m not sure how long it thawed out, but it was summertime, and it was way, way too long. It was beyond disgusting.
I thought and thought about what to do. I ended up digging a big hole in my backyard, pulled the freezer out there and tipped the contents into the hole. I covered it up, and used a hazmat mask to clean out the inside of the freezer.
It actually worked. I’ll bet to this day the grass grows really green in one spot in that backyard.
Today’s story is about a man that does this sort of thing for a living, and for redemption.
“The car has become an article of dress without which we feel uncertain, unclad, and incomplete in the urban compound.” ― Marshall McLuhan
My son bought a car online, unseen. He filled out a form and a truck with a trailer drove up out front and dropped it off. I like that. I never liked dealing with car salesman.
I have never been a car person – to me a car is a box… I get in the box, manipulate some levers and a wheel, push some pedals… for a short time or a long time. Then I get out and I’m somewhere else – hopefully somewhere that I preferred to the place I used to be at when I got in the box.
That’s what a car is to me.
So I value reliability, gas mileage, and low cost. That’s pretty much it. It’s not surprising that I’m like that now, a spent old worn out man, but I was always like that. I always wanted a reliable, low cost, high mileage car.
One time when I was in my mid-twenties I went to buy a car. It was in a small city. The salesman kept taking me to hot souped-up crappy cars. There was a custom Mustang II Cobra, like the one Charlie’s Angels drove. He couldn’t believe I didn’t like that car. I finally found one that I was halfway interested in. We sat in the car and turned the key and it wouldn’t start. It ground and groaned but wouldn’t turn over for more than a couple seconds.
“So do you like the car?” he asked.
“It won’t start.”
“Well, it’s been sitting here for a long time.”
“Do you really think I’m going to buy a car that won’t start?”
“He is mad about being small when you were big, but no, that’s not it, he is mad about being helpless when you were powerful, but no, not that either, he is mad about being contingent when you were necessary, not quite it… he is insane because when he loved you, you didn’t notice.” ― Donald Barthelme
Donald Barthelme is one of my favorite authors. He was a pioneer in the nontraditional school of short-short fiction – eschewing traditional plot structures and styles. I actually came to reading Donald Barthelme from reading about his brothers, Frederick and Steven – both also respected writers. I came across them by reading an article that they wrote about their gambling addiction. It was a fascinating and sad story – two accomplished, intelligent writers caught in a disastrous downward spiral in the gambling barges of southern Mississippi. Really something. So there are three authors, all worth seeking out – both for fiction and non.
I remember when I was a kid growing up – moving from school to school (I went to twelve schools, more or less, in twelve years) sometimes we would have animals or plants in the classroom for the children’s edification. I don’t remember very many specifics except for a nice big bull snake in Mr. Clinkingbeard’s seventh grade class. I remember it because I had no fear of snakes and would handle it whenever I could. Once it bit me on the hand pretty good (nonpoisonous – though it hurt) and once it crawled past my neck and under my shirt. I grabbed the end of its tail and pulled it out. Unlike today’s story, though, it never died (well, as long as we were in the class).
The story has a really nice structure. The first paragraph reads like a memoir. It starts out small, pedestrian, ordinary, and begins to get bigger and stranger and more poignant as it goes along until it springs out of the form and becomes something completely different. I really like that – will make a note and add that structure to my list of writing hints – maybe do a story or two like that.
I have a lot to do – but I’m tired and I have an Echo Dot hooked up to a soundbar next to my bed and Spotify. I lie in bed and think of classic albums. I say out loud, “Alexa, play Dark Side of the Moon,” or “Alexa play Goodbye to the Yellow Brick Road,” or “Alexa play The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars,” or ….
“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron.” ― Dwight D. Eisenhower
A very long day… very busy. I did some stuff that I haven’t done for a while – and that was a good thing (I’ll write about it soon) – but the stress is so high I couldn’t really enjoy myself. Then it was off to work – so busy, even on a weekend.
So, all I have time today is to read a bit of Microfiction…
It does have some with and interesting ideas in a small space.
“Nobody owns life, but anyone who can pick up a frying pan owns death.” ― William S. Burroughs
Down at the end of our block is a big park with ponds, softball diamonds, woods, and a picnic area. Next to it is a tennis center, and past that, an area that the city has built up for horseshoe pitching tournaments… (yes, really).
Especially on windy days, tennis balls from the center get blown over the fence and the people there are lazy about fetching them.
The ones that fall toward the street are picked up by people walking in the area and when they get to the trail in back of our house they throw them over the fence for our dog, Isaak. He is completely obsessed with tennis balls. He pushes them through gaps in the iron fence for the walkers to throw back.
With the isolation, however, not enough people are picking them up and Isaak’s collection is getting ratty.
So, driving by, I noticed about a dozen tennis balls spread around in the horseshoe area. They sat there for a week – through a couple of rainstorms – so I knew nobody wanted them. Except I knew Isaak wanted them.
One of the bad things about getting old (one of the many many things) is that you can’t climb over fences anymore. It’s weird – in your head you can scramble up, over, and down like you did when you were twelve, but when you try it all you get is pain, embarrassment, and injury.
But I thought of all those balls going to waste in that horseshoe area and decided to walk down there and climb that damn fence. It turns out that the gate is lower than it looks and by standing on tiptoes I could sort of step over – easy peasy.
So now, every day for a week or so – Isaak gets a new bright yellow tennis ball. They are a little damp and not very bouncy – but he doesn’t mind. He gets all excited and walks around with the new ball in his mouth – showing off to all the people that walk by.
Today – A heartbreaking flash fiction about mothers and their children.