NOVEL’S TEASER —Part 6—

This is a continuation of a story that began at: https://sunriseswansong.wordpress.com/2015/01/09/teaser-to-a-novel/

Part 2 can be found at:   https://sunriseswansong.wordpress.com/2015/01/13/novels-teaser-part-2/

Part 3 can be found at:  https://sunriseswansong.wordpress.com/2015/02/25/novels-teaser-part-3/

Part 4 can be found at:  https://sunriseswansong.wordpress.com/2015/02/27/novels-teaser-part-4/

Part 5 can found at:   https://sunriseswansong.wordpress.com/2015/03/02/novels-teaser-part-5/

Although I feel “on a roll” writing-wise, this will likely be the last installment of this tale for a while. Reality demands attention.

SYNOPSIS:  The character “Nig” is adding a final postscript to a enormously long letter to his friend “Kaff” in South Africa, describing the America he has returned to after spending a year away. (The two teens have devised a shorthand that allows them to write with the frenetic speed of their thoughts.) Because the letter has consumed so much time, “Nig” has been unable to keep a diary, so he wants to make a copy of the letter at the local library before he sends it.

This postscript demonstrates how Nig cannot even go make some copies at a copy machine without turning it into a tale. Most do not approve of this tale-telling behavior, and call it a “tendency” of Nig’s,  however his friend Kaff does approve, and calls it an “ability”

Even when I walked into the library, just before closing, I still had a big smile pasted across my face, and of course Lilac noticed.

Most folk call Lilac “Widow Stetson,” and she’s one of a crew of librarians who have never changed since my mother took me to get my first Library Card at age three. They are something people in Weston joke about. In fact, back when I was still little, I over-heard Deacon Paulson joke to old Myles, the Unitarian Minister, that the library’s air must be full of formaldehyde, cos no one in there ever got any older. Old Myles laughed he wasn’t sure about that, but agreed Widow Stetson had looked fifty-five back when she was widowed at age thirty-nine, and still looked fifty-five now, as she pushed seventy.

If I was eight when I heard that, and am eighteen now, Lilac must now be pushing eighty, but she still looks the same. Same out-of-fashion clothes, tiny blue details on white, crisp and clean and looking brand new. Same old face, without make-up and with silver-rimmed glasses.   Same big nose. Same sharp blue eyes. Same hairstyle from 1898, sort of like an upside-down pyramid, getting wider and wider to a flat top, so she still looms taller than me and can make me feel about five, even though my eyes are three inches taller than hers, now.   There’s never a hair out of place, in that hairstyle, and it is thick, snowy hair, but there is one thing about her hair that does change. You would never call her hair anything but gray hair, but sometimes it’s got tints of sky blue in it, and other times it’s faintly cobalt, or even a daring mist of maroon, but usually it is a sort of lilac tint, which is why I call the lady “Lilac.” Not to her face, of course, but when I talk about Lilac with my friends they all know whom I’m talking about.   I haven’t a clue what her real first name is.

. Lilac’s weird, cos she never looks like she approves of me, but is always interested in what I’m up to. I used to think she was only interested so she could tell me to stop it, but now I think I just puzzle her, and she likes a puzzle even if she doesn’t approve of it.

Anyway I walked in chuckling to myself, and right off the bat Lilac commented that I seemed awful pleased about something, and without really thinking, as familiar as can be, I just told her I was glad I didn’t have to solve other people’s problems. She didn’t look like she approved of that answer, yet at the same time there was a glint of warmth in her old eyes, and all of a sudden it occurred to me I hadn’t walked into that library since before I went to Scotland, and hadn’t seen her in over a year, but everything was exactly the same. I really liked it that nothing had changed, cos maybe I’m getting a little fed up with everything being so different, and a warm feeling made me smile, and suddenly I realized I was still very stoned.

That got me feeling shy, and maybe a bit paranoid, so I turned to the copier and tried to look business-like, but I was actually looking around the place and thinking how I sometimes used to just about live there at times, when I was a kid.

As you go in the door there’s brass spittoons to either side which I guess guys used to actually spit in, and then to your left’s a Victorian reading room, a cavern with high windows and ceilings like a church, and to your right’s a counter with absurdly huge, round wooden pillars like Greek columns on either side, and absurdly stern librarians behind the counter, and straight ahead is the copier, looking ridiculously out of place. Beyond it is an “L” heading off over the hillside, totally jammed with tall shelves of books. Under the “L” is a children’s library downstairs, where I actually used to spend most of my time, cos it was warmer and cozy and had a sunny window seat with cushions. I didn’t like going upstairs cos it was colder and had no cushions and also seemed full of old people’s vibes, while downstairs didn’t feel that way. There were downstairs librarians who were younger and more cheerful, and upstairs librarians who all seemed frosty when I went up. Lilac seemed the only librarian who worked both floors.

I didn’t much like Lilac cos she always noticed when a book was even one day late. The fine is only two cents a day, but two pennies was a lot when my allowance was a nickel a week. A nickel could buy me a candy bar, but when I went to the Library, which was usually during the drab days after Christmas at winter, I hardly ever got to buy a candy bar, and it was all Lilac’s fault.

Also Lilac caught me every time I damaged a book, which was pretty often.   Sometimes I’d leave a book up in my tree house and it would get rained on, or I’d be eating as I read and spill a bowl of black bean soup into the open pages, and sometimes I didn’t even know how I’d done it; the binding would just be split or pages would be loose. That was partly because I was always taking out odd, old and brittle books, and sometimes those books were fragile and it wasn‘t my fault they fell apart.   They‘d‘ve fallen apart even if Lilac took them out, but Lilac still stuck it to me.

I’d often take out the limit, which was six books at a time, and Lilac would always frown when she saw me bring them back, and would go through them carefully, so I never even got away with even a drop of cocoa on a page. For a while I owed the library so much money that they wouldn’t let me take out books any more, but that just meant Lilac had to put up with me hanging around until closing, which was five o’clock downstairs and nine o’clock upstairs, which meant that lots of times I’d just take a downstairs book upstairs so I could keep reading. It was against the rules to take a downstairs book upstairs, but once I was into a book I couldn’t put it down, so I’d break the rules. I’d hide the book under my coat and tiptoe up a back stair that was wicked steep and curved, like stairs in a Dunrobin turret, and at the top I’d crack the door and wait until no upstairs librarian was near, and then dart into the back “L,” and keep on reading. So I reckon it was the Library and its rules that first made me a law-breaker.

I tended to read in binges. Sometimes I just couldn’t stand to be indoors and Lilac wouldn’t see me for months, and then suddenly I’d need a place to hide. Most bullies don’t follow you into libraries, and I could just read until my eyes couldn’t take it any more.

Lots of times Lilac didn’t approve of what I was researching. I think that was because one of the first things I researched wasn’t a book but the beautiful, bronze statues of Greek gods that were up on the high windowsills of the children’s room.   They were all stark naked, but most were discreetly turned so you couldn’t see between their legs, but when I was around five curiosity got the better of me and I climbed up the shelves to get a better view, and Lilac caught me. I don’t think she ever trusted my research after that.

When I was on a reading binge I used to read every book in a series, rapid-fire. For example there were something like thirty Thornton Burgess kiddy books about Reddy the Fox and other animals, and I went through them like a Wrenchhead going through a case of beer. Lilac seemed to disapprove, as if I was wolfing and scoffing down gourmet food without tasting it.

She didn’t like it when I got involved in baseball books, cos in both the upstairs books and downstairs books other boys had scrawled rude and even pornographic cartoons in ballpoint pen, and she couldn’t tell if I had added any new ones. She also didn’t like it when I got involved in woodcraft, cos they had a great collection of books by Earnest Thompson Seton, some from before 1900, and I took them all out into the woods. I wondered where else you were suppose to take books about woodcraft, but Lilac didn’t like grass stains on the pages, and a smear of fish guts really got her mad.

One time I got interested in the books in the girl’s section. Lilac didn’t mind so much when I read the “Little House In The Prairie” series in something like three days, but I went on to read a whole series of romance books for schoolgirls. I just wanted to know how girls thought, but Lilac gave me a disapproving frown, when I took them out six at a time every day for a week or so, when I was thirteen. Usually she asked a few questions about what I was researching, but she had no questions when I took out those girl’s books, and I got only stony silence as I went through that phase.

I was always interested in war, but one time I got fascinated by the advertisements in the wartime National Geographics.   The library had every National Geographic ever printed, and they were kept upstairs. I think they were up there because downstairs schoolboys were very interested in pictures of African boobs. In fact the entire staff acted very suspicious every time I went to look at the old National Geographics. Lilac probably figured she knew what I was looking at, and sometimes she was right, but another time I was honestly only interested in the wartime advertisements, because they were so weird. I must have told Lilac what I was looking at, because she would never touch the subject of what boys looked for in National Geographic’s with a ten-foot pole, but I do remember her giving me an incredulous look as I commented on the wartime ads.

Then, when I was a senior in high school, I started taking out every book I could find about drugs. There were lots of rich doctors living in Weston, so the upstairs library had some good references. At that time lots of other kids were snitching their parent’s pills, and I was pretty worried and wanted to know what the hell they were taking. That was one time I felt guilty, and even a little like I deserved Lilac’s disapproval, but all the rest of the time I didn’t care a hoot what she thought, nor even consider she might be measuring my character by what I read. After all, she was just a librarian, and who cares what a librarian thinks?

But now it hit me that maybe I did care what she thought, as I stood there clicking a handful of quarters by the copier, stoned out of my gourd. I had the weirdest feeling of nostalgia, which didn’t make any sense, cos how can you feel nostalgic about something you haven’t even left? But I didn’t get to think about what I was feeling, cos suddenly Lilac was at my elbow. I figured she was going to tell me it was closing time and I had to leave, but instead I heard her telling me the copier doesn’t take quarters any more: now it ran on dimes. That astonished me, cos the price of everything else went up while I was in Scotland. I was too stoned to calculate quickly, and she seemed impatient, so maybe they were closing after all.   With asperity she asked me how many copies I had to make, and looked down at my letter to you, so of course she sees all the squiggles of our secret shorthand. Her face takes a real critical expression, and she looks at me and asks me “Is that Arabic?” I say,   “It’s shorthand,” and then blush and feel I need to explain, and blurt out, “Sometimes my hand can’t keep up with my brain.” She gives me this real incredulous expression, and I’m thinking it is probably because my brain is crawling at two miles an hour, and its pretty absurd to talk of it going too fast.   She then pries open my fingers, takes eight quarters, and hands me twenty dimes, closing my fingers when she’s through. Then, as she’s walking away, she mentions, “Anything over twenty-five copies and the price goes down to five cents a copy.”

I tell you it was hard making copies when I was so stoned. The dimes kept slipping from my fingers and rolling away on the floor, and I kept blushing more and more, as Lilac watched me with that critical look. I was glad to get out of there.

And that is the end of my big adventure, which I will sarcastically call “How Hard It Is To Go Make Copies.”

So now I have made a copy of this entire letter except this last part. So you’d better save this part, for when I become famous. You have the only copy. However the postage for this letter will just about bankrupt me, so I’d better get to work on some serious art.   Already the morning is half-past, and from now on I’m getting serious, writing-wise. No more of this fun stuff, writing to you, which will never earn anyone a cent.

Forgive me if this writing is a long-winded bore.   If it is, get revenge by writing an even longer letter back to me, about your own life.

************

PS It’s now the afternoon of July 20 and I am just heading out to mail this cos it took me that long to scrape together airmail postage but I thought I’d check the mailbox first. Got your half page note of the 18th.

You’ve got a lot of nerve, you bum. Here I write a book to you, but you don’t even tell me what you’re up to in your measly half page.   Instead you pester like Pest, bugging me for a copy of “The Party Woods.”

All I can say is there’s no money in that drivel.   I’ve got to focus on lyrics for songs.   Now quit bugging me for that and write me a longer letter.

Yours,

Nig

LOCAL VIEW —Boston nears all-time record snowfall—Updated

For me it was Monday, back to work and back to winter. We had yet another “snow-event” overnight, and as I awoke my ears listened for the scraping of a plow, passing the house.  I really was expecting it, as this winter has been beating me up, and it would seem quite normal to begin another work-week having to go to work early and spend time trudging behind the snow-blower, clearing the entrance and exit and parking lot of our Farm-Childcare. Also I have been indulging my creative side, and whenever I goof-off in a dreamy manner it seems reality likes to bring me down to earth with a solid thump. To my amazement, I heard nothing. Despite the forecast for two to four inches, (which has usually meant at least six inches, this winter), the disobedient skies had only produced an inch of fluff, despite the map and radar looking like this, as I sought a Sunday evening slumber. (Clicks images to clarify and enlarge)

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As has been usual this winter, (and quite the opposite from most winters), the radar shows Boston getting heavier snows than the hills where I live, in southern New Hampshire. They got another two inches, putting them just over 104 inches, and very close to the “all-time-record” of 107.6 inches in the winter of 1995-1996. This is all the more impressive when you realize that in the middle of January their snowfall was below normal for the season. They have had over eight feet since January 24.

I don’t think anyone was in the mood to break a record this Monday, and were glad to see the snow swept swiftly  out to sea .

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The amazing thing about Boston’s winter is that so little of their snow has been washed away by rain. I grew up in the hills roughly twenty miles west of Boston, and can recall how often the rain would change to snow as you drove out through Waltham, (on the “Boston Post Road” [route 20], as the “Turnpike extension” [I-90] hadn’t been built.) I actually think the winter of 1968-1969 might have been snowier out in those suburbs, as I can recall jumping from a second story roof into snow so wet and heavy my feet didn’t touch the ground as I plunked down, winding up in deep snow to my armpits, (and only then wondering how the heck I was going to extract myself). However this winter Boston has had little rain to wash away the snow, and is even snowier than the suburbs or New Hampshire hills.

As I cleared inch of snow from the front walk and nearest parking places with a shovel it didn’t seem cold at all. I didn’t even bother with a hat. Seeing the thermometer was down at a morning low of 19° (-7.2° Celsous) surprised me. You know you’ve been through a cruel winter when that seems warm. I felt no pity for the parents returning from vacations in Florida and California, who arrived muffled and hunched over, with their metabolisms out of whack. They’d had their way; now they must pay.

I had my own vacation in the dreamy landscape of creativity, and had my own readjusting to do. I think I did fairly well, especially dealing with small children who had flown home on the red-eye, the night before. Perhaps we were in some ways on the same page.

I was very distrustful of the puffy clouds passing overhead. As soon as the calender states it is March the sun starts to turn what is merely scud in December into “thermals.” Weathermen suffer many embarrassments as cumulus puffs up, turning from a passing cloud to a passing flurry, and then the flurries add up. Today they didn’t add up, but a few passing clouds did cast a handful of surprisingly large flakes down.  All the while the wind picked up, as our “snow event”, (which actually was little more than a glorified warm front), blew up into a decent storm up towards Labrador. We hit our high temperature of 28° (-2.2 Celsius) in the late morning, and then the north winds began to drag winter back down from the north. The inch of snow began flying around as the white wraiths and swirls of powder we’ve grown all too used to this winter.  We have yet to have any of the sticky snow children love, because it clings and makes the construction of forts, igloos and snow-men easier.

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Although the snow still swirls powder, as if it was January, and though it has been weeks since we’ve been above freezing in these hills, on south-facing roofs, and hillsides, and roadside snowbanks, the deep snow is starting to sag in the strong March sunshine. A top fence-rail has reappeared in part of the pasture. For the moment the spring is winning, and the depth of the snow is shrinking slightly.

In the above map you can see the true arctic front is still north of us. The temperature is only down to 18° at 9:00 this Monday evening, despite the gusty north winds.  It is likely to drop sharply towards morning, but few are looking north. Instead the weather bureau has all eyes looking hopefully west towards the next glorified warm front,  and is tantalizing people with the prospect of temperatures above 40° ( +4.4 Celsius) on Wednesday. For the locals who haven’t been able to escape to Florida that will be an excuse to wear a short sleeved shirt, especially if the sun is out.

However I have doubts the mild air will make it north. It may do so up a thousand feet or so, but with the Great Lakes frozen and hundreds of miles of deep snow in the way, the air at the surface often hangs tough. (Also Joe Bastardi explains, over at his excellent site at Weatherbell, that something called a “thermally induced eddy” creates light north winds ahead of such a warm front, at the surface.)  In any case it may only barely nudge above freezing, and only after glop. (“Glop” is snow-turning-to-sleet-turning-to-freezing-rain-ending-as-light-drizzle.)

This will depress the people of Boston, who are sick of snowbanks. They are hoping for a light but warm rain, with lots of snow-eater fog, which can swiftly reduce the snowbanks without flooding. Instead they may get glop to add to their snowbanks.

The good thing about glop is that they make snowbanks by roads much firmer, and more able to keep skidding cars on the road.  The current snowbanks contain far too much powder snow, and it is all too easy for skidding cars to penetrate them and hit trees.

This brings back a memory from that winter of 1968-1969. My mother didn’t want to have to pick me up after the bus got back to the high school from an away wrestling match, as she had a Christmas party she wanted to attend, and so she did a foolish thing. She allowed her sixteen-year-old son to drive her husband’s car to that wrestling match, so he would not have to take the bus.

When driving back from that match in an elated state after a splendid victory, I was toodling east on the Massachusetts Turnpike at around 85 mph when I noticed I was missing my exit, and swerved sharply from the highway, which was dry, into the exit-ramp’s cloverleaf, which was snow-covered.  Instantly I knew I’d made a big mistake, as neither brakes nor steering had any effect, and all I could see in front of me was headlight-lit snow shooting straight up in the air. Fortunately the huge snowbanks along the cloverleaf functioned much like the walls of a bobsled run,  and I proceeded around the cloverleaf until, after fifteen to twenty seconds, the vehicle stopped. I could see nothing, so I turned on the windshield wipers. I then saw a man in a toll booth, looking at me with a totally amazed expression.

This was one of those times I feel God was sending angels to watch over me as a teenager.  Any time my luck doesn’t seem good, in the present tense, I just think back to this event, and see I likely used up all my good luck early in my life.

This also shows you how difficult it is for me to come down from my creative state. I am suppose to be talking about the year 2015, not the year 1969.

(However maybe I can sneak one more chapter in, before the weather turns bad again.)

I’ll update this post as the next “snow-event” advances.

UPDATE  —Tuesday morning—Winter weather advisory—

A shot of arctic air came south over us, with flurries, and it was down to 6.3° (-14.3° Celsius) by dawn, when the gusty wind had already died. No one was paying much attention to the north winds and the arctic air, as all eyes were on the south winds on the west side of the same high pressure, dreaming fond dreams of the magic, the heaven, the ambrosia of forty degrees.

Unfortunately the radar didn’t show much warm rain.

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I’m nervous people aren’t giving the arctic credit for having the pressure it has. It has been pressing air-mass after air-mass south. If you are terribly old fashioned, and keep track of air-masses, then an arctic air-mass has a quality which differentiates it from tropical, even if it has been greatly moderated by sitting over the Gulf of Mexico. And the air sitting over the Gulf of Mexico now, south  of the stationary front strung along the gulf coast in the above map, is just such extremely stale arctic air that came south over a week ago. The true border between arctic and tropical is a vanished front, a “ghost front” as it were, which has pushed south of Cuba and along the southernmost border of the Gulf of Mexico.  That is where the true tropical juice now lives, lurking and waiting for its chance to rebound north and pour gasoline onto the development of a storm.

All the moisture involved in the approaching storm is largely home-grown. If it has any sort of tropical origins they lie out in  the Pacific,  and have been mingled with Pacific polar air and wrung out by the Chinook-effect while encountering the speed-bump of the Rocky Mountains. Most of the moisture has been sucked from American snow-cover or American soil,  which isn’t exactly tropical right now. In conclusion,  the approaching warmth is not the most powerful warmth we have seen. Meanwhile the cold, still pressing from the north, has been some of the most powerful we have seen. In fact there is a veritable river of bitter cold pouring from Siberia, over the Pole, and down to the eastern USA, as today’s Polar shot shows.

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So what we have is a weak army charging north to meet a strong army charging south. It seems fairly obvious who the winner will be. Call me a pessimism if you will, or a wet blanket on a party cheering for forty degrees, but I just feel all the warmth will be lifted high off the ground, as the cold presses south like a wedge beneath. I’m girding my loins for more battling with winter. I hope I’m wrong, and can face forty degrees and be pleasantly surprised.

*******

EVENING REPORT: Snow HAS started. Today’s high was 27.1° (-2.7° Celsius.) Sky went through awesome shifts and changes, through all the moods between pure blue and pure gray. Despite obvious influx of southerly air, smoke from chimneys has stubbornly drifted away to the south, showing a north wind that will not quit. Here are the maps:

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INSOMNIA UPDATE  At the time of the above radar shot the temperature had dropped to 20.8° and the snow was thumping down, and it looked obvious I’d have to get up early to snow-blow the Farm-Childcare. I wasn’t too thrilled, and after an excellent meal ambition was at low ebb, and I slipped into a nap. A couple hours later my wife woke me to tell me it was time to sleep, and I was surprised to see the radar radically changing.

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Temperatures are up to 28° and the snow has changed to a swirling, freezing drizzle, but there seems to be little snow-eater fog. The wind is really roaring in the pines. I have a sense the press from the north is squeezing everything east in a big hurry.  Also that I might not have to snow-blow in the morning. Maybe I’ll work on my novel a bit.

NOVEL’S TEASER —PART 5—

This is a continuation of a story that began at: https://sunriseswansong.wordpress.com/2015/01/09/teaser-to-a-novel/

Part 2 can be found at:   https://sunriseswansong.wordpress.com/2015/01/13/novels-teaser-part-2/

Part 3 can be found at:  https://sunriseswansong.wordpress.com/2015/02/25/novels-teaser-part-3/

Part 4 can be found at:  https://sunriseswansong.wordpress.com/2015/02/27/novels-teaser-part-4/

I had fun writing this part, as it contains the oxymoron of a vegetarian barbecue, and also a youth aged 18 viewing youth aged 23-26 as “mature”.

SYNOPSIS:  The character “Nig” has completed a enormously long letter to his friend “Kaff” in South Africa, describing the America he has returned to after spending a year away. (The two teens have devised a shorthand that allows them to write with the frenetic speed of their thoughts.) Because the letter has consumed so much time, “Nig” has been unable to keep a diary, so he wants to make a copy of the letter before he sends it. On his way to the copier at the library, he drops off his elder siblings friends at a barbecue, and then stays for a while because he’s hungry and  hopes to mooch a burger or hot dog. This then becomes a story, added as a post script to his letter.

 July 19, 1971

I’m up early this morning, with the feeling I want to get to work, writing-wise. I had the same feeling yesterday evening. Even as I finished writing to you I wanted to get down to business with real writing, but also had a feeling like I didn’t want to face the dark alone, especially after how horrible the dark was to me the night before.

Anyway, I didn’t get to work last night. Halsey and Millie’s friends needed a ride over to some cookout over past North Avenue on Lexington Street, so I threw on a shirt and sneakers and drove them. I figured I’d drop them off there, and then stop in at the Library and make a copy of this letter on the Library’s Xerox machine. I haven’t kept a diary since I got back from Scotland, so I want to just stuff a copy of this letter into that notebook before I mail this to you, so I’ll have some sort of record, even though I also was feeling cheap and thinking I can’t really afford twenty-five cents a copy-page.

Once I got over to the cookout I hung around, cos I was hungry.   I was thinking a cookout would mean hot-dogs and burgers, and I haven’t had much meat lately. Also they were passing a pot pipe, and I had the hankering to get high.

I didn’t. Instead I got stoned. There’s a difference.

I just felt really tired, and like my eyeballs were hanging out. Everything seemed sort of heavy and fleshy. The food was all this Hippy stuff: Salads full of sprouted seeds of various sorts, sort of like the cook had let the seeds go bad but was using them anyway. The burgers were all made of all these mushed up vegetables, all toasted on a grill without a lick of grease, so it was all like dry potatoes without butter or sour cream. If it weren’t for the cheeses I would have starved, but, even though I was hungry, eating just grossed me out. Also the conversation was all this girly stuff about vitamins and dieting, and talking about stomachs and intestines just isn’t all that inspiring to me. But worst of all was that I figured out why I was actually there: It was because I remembered Miss Brunette looked damn fine when skinny dipping, and I wanted a closer look. While driving her to the cook-out I’d noticed she didn’t seem interested in Wince, and in fact seemed to want to get away from him, and maybe even closer to me. Meanwhile he was starting to look like he remembered what a headache was.   And it was my fault.

The revelation hit me just as the pot hit.   I noticed I was edging closer to her, and I heard my mind thinking, really loudly, that Eve was away at camp and would never know. Before that I had no idea what I was hanging around for, especially cos the food was so bad and the library would be closing, but when truth hit me it hit like a ton of bricks, and I felt unfaithful to Eve and disgusted with myself.   And that sort of feeling isn’t high.   It is stoned.

I just wheeled and walked away from Miss Brunette towards the Fossil’s sedan, but got distracted by a really neat talk Halsey was having by the parked cars with a couple of other guys. They were talking about some sort of recently discovered theory which says a star can have so much gravity it pulls its own light back.   The star’s there, but you can’t see it’s there.

I blurted out that there are other situations where the light is there but you can’t see it is there, and that some people pull their own light back, only rather than due to gravity it is due to them being too grave. I thought that was wicked witty, switching the word “grave” for “gravity,” and my input seemed pretty profound to me, but I could see the older guys felt like I was way off the topic.   Halsey gave me a certain glance, so I shut up and let them go back to astronomy.

Wince suddenly was there; looking like his headache was all the way back. He also was changing the topic away from astronomy, but he didn’t seem to notice the glances he was getting. He kept gazing over at Miss Brunette, and kept trying to turn the conversation over to Wrenchhead talk about Halsey’s motorcycle, which seemed to annoy Halsey no end, especially as Wince pestered Halsey over and over to let him ride the BMW.   Halsey disdained him, however Wince was so persistent the other guys eventually got distracted from astronomy to motorcycles, and Halsey finally gave in and talked about restoring his old bike.

I didn’t need to hear the tale, cos I could remember it. It happened just after Halsey got out of the army, back before I went to Scotland. The Fossil nearly lost it, cos for a while he couldn’t park his own car in his own garage, cos Halsey didn’t work like a Wrenchhead.   All the parts of his bike were scattered over the floor of the garage on flat pieces of paper with tidy handwriting inked on them, and many parts had little tags taped to them as well, with even more precise handwriting. They were all clean as could be, washed and wiped with oil, which used up all Mother’s supply of paper towels, (and Mother buys in bulk and usually has a six month supply.)

For a while it looked like the Fossil would never get his garage back. Halsey kept looking puzzled about stuff, and needed to go think about some problem, and that involved him going upstairs and playing the piano for three or four hours, and when he came up with the solution it usually involved walking back down to the garage, lifting some small part from a piece of paper, and reducing it to even smaller parts, which involved even more tags and more pieces of paper, and six more rolls of paper towels.

It had been a while since Halsey had lived at home, and I liked watching him think. I thought the situation was pretty neat, partly because his piano music was really good, and partly because I sort of liked seeing the Fossil and my mother get all flustered. It’s funny to see stuffy people get so bent out of shape about someone who is so kind and mild-mannered. However what was neatest was the ending. One night Halsey got real ferocious on the piano, pounding out all this amazing stuff, and then, just as I was going to bed, he went marching down to the garage, and the next morning the 1952 BMW motorcycle was all put together and running. It was completely amazing, considering it was a rusty pile of crap that hadn’t run for years, when he first brought it home.

It is a really neat bike. Millie and her boyfriend have Honda’s, which hum like very powerful and deranged sewing machines, “Nyaaaah!” My other brother Hurley has a Triumph, which is harsher and goes “Gnaaah!” like the engine wants to self-destruct. But that old BMW is totally different. It doesn’t even have a chain, and has a drive shaft instead, and you can hardly hear it, as it makes a real low “Pum-pum-pum.”

Anyway, since I already knew the story, I almost left, but decided I wanted to hear Halsey’s version of the restoration. It was interesting, because Halsey didn’t mention the Fossil or my mother. I reckon he honestly was oblivious of them being about ready to hire a lawyer to get their garage back. Instead he talked with respect and awe about German engineering, and how parts stayed sound and solid and un-pitted, even when crusted with rusty black carbon.

Halsey was getting into some interesting talk about the molecular structure of German steel, but Wince kept nagging on and on for a chance to ride the bike. Halsey looked more and more annoyed, but Ruth was holding up a plate of food, with a spoonful poised to go into Halsey’s mouth like a Jewish mother would do, so Halsey finally conceded to allowing Wince to take his bike out for a spin, just so he could eat in peace.

I’m pretty sure Wince wanted to impress Miss Brunette, cos he looked her way as he headed off down Lexington Street towards Waltham.   His attempt at impressing her was useless, cos she was shifting her shoulders, persuading some other guy into giving her a ride home, and she was gone before Wince was back. (I noticed exactly when Miss Brunette left because I was just as aware of that girl as Wince was.) I was disappointed she was leaving, and then was disgusted with myself for being disappointed, remembering Eve, but I couldn’t really get into the disgust, because I could hear Wince showing off, as the noise of the BMW got fainter and fainter, further and further away down Lexington Street.   Halsey could also hear, and I could see a faint look of concern troubling his face, and the fork Ruth held paused on the way to his mouth, cos his mouth forgot to open, and pressed to a thin, tense line.

It’s hard to make Halsey’s BMW do anything but go “Pum-pum-pum,” but Wince was so determined to impress Miss Brunette that he got it screaming before he bothered shift to second gear. Halsey winced a bit, and ate the bean sprouts. The BMW was screaming again, a bit more faintly, before Wince shifted to third gear, and again Halsey cringed, opening his mouth for the Alfalfa sprouts. The bike, getting more and more faint, was screaming again, by the time Wince shifted into fourth gear. This time Halsey didn’t wince. I wouldn’t say he glared, but he stopped chewing his soybean and sweet potato burger, and pouted in a very seriously manner into the distance.

The distant bike began to wind up in forth gear, and then the sound abruptly ceased. It sounded very much like Wince had hit a tree. I was taken aback, but Halsey’s face was so funny I couldn’t help but laugh.   There is no way I can describe it.

Anyway, as I laughed Miss Brunette was brushing by as she left, and when she saw me laugh she shot me a smile, and my stomach flipped like a pancake. Then I felt unfaithful to Eve, and had to go through my little self-disgust trip, which I hope explains why I didn’t rush off to see if Wince was all right. In fact Miss Brunette’s smile was so nice that I think it would have driven Wince’s plight right out of my mind. (Maybe it’s true pot makes you forgetful.) But then I saw Halsey had no amnesia, even with his girl on his arm.

Halsey isn’t the sort of fellow who ordinarily makes a fuss. If you drove over his toe with your car he’d wait until you were out of sight before he began hopping around cursing. But I could see he was about as agitated as he ever gets. He didn’t want to poop the party, but he was chewing real fast. Then he began to pace about.

This made a real problem for me. I knew I should go tell him I’d drive the Fossil’s sedan down Lexington Street to see what happened to Wince. But I can‘t be blunt like that with Halsey. If I say there‘s a problem I‘m making a fuss, and Halsey hates a fuss. I wind up feeling I’m only making a fuss cos I’m younger and immature. So I just stood there sort of frozen, waiting for him to ask me.

Just then my vision got real keen, and, way far away, on a stage about as big as my thumbnail, I could see Miss Brunette acting very offended by the guy who had offered to give her a ride home. They were on either side of his car, but she was standing straight and indignant, and giving him both barrels, and he was making placating calm-down motions with his hands at the same level as both barrels, from across the bonnet of the car. Then she swung away and started walking back towards me. She was still far away and tiny, but already I was scared she‘d ask me for the ride home, and this would make things wicked complicated, cos I‘d need to stay to wait for Halsey to decide that we‘d better go look for Wince, and meanwhile I was worried cos it was getting late and I needed to get to the library before it closed.   It seemed really weird that I could go so quickly from not wanting Miss Brunette to go to not wanting her to come back, and it made being stoned feel like I was wearing a lead helmet.

I looked back at Halsey, and saw Ruth had figured out he was upset, and was holding his hand and was patting the back of it. Halsey looked sort of annoyed, cos he didn’t want any fuss, and hadn’t gotten around to making one, yet here she was, fussing.   He was still sort of walking to and fro even while he had to stand still, cos she held his hand, and then he finally stood still, with one toe tapping really fast.

I could see all the problems. Marijuana is good at that, but it is really bad at solving any of them, and I was wishing I wasn’t stoned. I heard my own voice sort of moan, “Oh God,” and looked back at Miss Brunette.

She was still far away, looking back at the guy who had offered her a ride, and he was making all these apologetic, ingratiating gestures with his hands, and she was gesturing all sorts of stern stuff with her boobs. He nodded, and I was wicked glad to see her go back to his car and get in, and to see the car drive off.

That simplified things, and I started down to Halsey, who was snatching his hand from Ruth’s patting, and looking about as annoyed as he ever gets, which would only be slightly perturbed, in anyone else.   I’d decided to just tell him I was going to go look for Wince, when Wince himself came laboring back into the parking area, pushing the BMW.

Wince was unharmed, but covered with mud and chlorophyll, with a twig sticking out from behind his ear, and the bike looked worse.   The BMW had so many leafy twigs and branches stuck into it that it was perfectly camouflaged, but Wince couldn’t hide from Halsey.

Wince shot Halsey such a shit-eating smile I couldn’t help but chuckle, but Halsey didn’t yell or get mad. Maybe his jaw got a bit tighter, but mostly he looked concerned about his BMW, as he stepped forward and took the handlebars.   Meanwhile Wince was looking past Halsey for Miss Brunette. I couldn’t stop chuckling, his expression was so lame. On one hand he was relieved she wasn’t there to see what a dope he‘d been, but at the same time he was disappointed she was gone. How can you be both at the same time? I didn’t know, and I sure wasn’t anyone to talk, cos one minute I’d been sorry to see Miss Brunette going and the next minute glad as all get out she was gone.

Anyway, the facts that she was gone and Wince was alive solved everything, and I could just jump into the Fossil’s car and escape, pedal to the metal, to the Town Library. And it really did feel like a get-away car. I was so glad to be gone I couldn’t help chuckling the whole time I drove. I might like hanging out with older people, but sometimes it’s just a huge relief to get away from them.   They just get too complex for me.

LOCAL VIEW —QUIETUDE—(Updated thrice and summarized.)

Winter has had us up against the ropes, and only needed deliver the single uppercut of a nor’easter to shut down our modern, vehicle-oriented society in a way never before seen, but it has relented. Perhaps prayer does have a power science cannot measure.  In New England even Atheists are now praying the snows will relent,  though of course Atheists would deny they were praying, and state they only were wishing. Same difference. In theory thought has power, (and the pen is more mighty than the sword), and the multitudinous minds of New England are briefly united in thinking enough is enough.

I have seen this happen a number of times, over more than a half century of observing New England’s weather. I confess that at times I have thought it might be a very good thing to see our vehicle-oriented society knocked out, brought to its knees, and fall flat on its face, for a week or two. If people stayed at home they might get to know each other better and this would strengthen community and family values. Due to this (some wouldf call perverse) hope, I have been keenly aware of each and every time New England has been up against the ropes, but not knocked out.

The knock-out simply never happens (so far). The best scientific explanation I have, for why nature never delivers the knock-out punch to New Englanders, involves meteorological theory, which suggests the deep snows over the northeast encourages high pressure to build, and that high pressure then shunts storms south of New England. The only problem with this lovely theory is that the actual facts of history show plenty of exceptions to this rule, when snows were deep but not deep enough to close things down, or when snows were deep but enough time was given between storms to prepare.

Such an exception-to-the-rule nor’easter would knock New England for a loop, right now. It seems somewhat astonishing that it doesn’t happen. Look at this radar shot from two days ago, and you see all the ingredients for trouble, (both a southern-branch feature and a northern-branch feature), bringing snows east. If the advancing snows combine and “phase”, it is an uppercut to the jaw of New England.

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Not only did the two features fail to “phase”, but, despite a very gray day, we actually got through our first day in a week without seeing a flake in the air, on February 26th. The southern feature slid south of us as the northern feature “dried up”.

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This is not good luck. Good luck involves goodness, which a study of New England’s corrupt politics will teach you has seldom been seen around here. Rather, in my opinion, it is dumb luck.

There are times, when a boxer is battered and seeing stars and up against the ropes, that he gets a bit of a breather, but it is only because his opponent is winding up to really nail his jaw.

In the same way, just before  a cat slays a mouse, it may toy with the hapless prey, delaying the mercy of swift death.  The thing of it is, sometimes a cat is unwise to do this, for against all odds the mouse will seize the opportunity, and duck into a crack between boards, and escape. I’ve seen this happen to cats, and the cat’s dejection is extreme, when they lose their toy and dinner at the same time.

In like manner, if the winning boxer winds up too boastfully for his knockout punch, and showboats too much to the admiring throng, he may allow the battered fellow against the ropes to gather just enough wits to doge his knockout punch, and throw a quick returning  jab that lands. Then how astounded the champion looks! Unlike the cat who merely sees the mouse escape, he is facing a mouse that can hits back. He’s stunned.  The winning boxer is faced with the possibility he might lose.

Big storms are like big government and big business.  They are cats that overwhelm the common mouse. They are champions laughing at challengers. But the challenger can survive the battering at the ropes. The mouse can slip into a crack where the cat can’t reach.

That is what this current weather is like  It gives the mouse just enough time to gather its wits.

When the little people finally have time to do things other than clear snow, what do they do? Having dealt with Big Storms, they revert to dealing with Big Government and Big Business. Exactly what these dealings are escapes the vision of the Big Shots, because the poor are forced to be practical, and practicality is something far above the logic of wealth and power.

What I just wrote was profound. Sorry about that. To return to more practical topics, the pattern has been snow-free and, if not warm, not overly cold. We might return to below zero temperatures on Saturday morning, but for the time being things are nice and quiet, and an interlude of quietude.

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UPDATE  —Good Will—

The cold came creeping back last night, and it is -2.9° (-19.4°) this Saturday morning. I don’t feel cold, perhaps because I still feel warmed by a benefit I attended last night.

The benefit was for a couple who I like, and have worked with over the years. I worked with the wife in a local warehouse, packing herbs and spices, and I worked with the husband picking up the furniture of people so wealthy they will pay more to have an old couch reupholstered than most will pay for a brand new couch.  In both cases the work could be grueling, and tedious, and involved petulant customers, but in both cases the work involved a lot of laughter, due to the buoyant spirits of the couple. They were a lot of fun after work as well, and were always volunteering for local events, and making that work brim with laughter as well. They are not the sort who you would think deserved to be hit by catastrophic infirmities at retirement age.

In such situations you learn what all the money you have poured into insurance policies over the years is actually worth. Insurance companies are not focused on good will, but greed, and can be stingy when it comes to benefits.

In such a situation local folk need to hold a benefit. It is a chance to show greedy Big-shots that they are totally missing something far more important than cold gold. Big-shots cannot see there is any benefit in spending decades working hard and being generous and being a warm source of laughter in a community.  It doesn’t show on the bottom line of the annual report. While they may begrudgingly pay out for a lot of a medical bill, they still demand a lot of co-paying and basically leave clients destitute, facing life in a under-heated home and unable to afford small luxuries like a fancy cup of tea.

Such treatment cannot be borne, especially when you look back across decades and remember warmth and generosity and laughter. For example, back in the Great Boston Blizzard of 1978 the traffic came to a standstill on the interstate, with many stranded in their cars, and my friend had pulled off into roadside restaurant’s lot. He was towing two snowmobiles, and spent the next twelve hours zooming up and down the interstate on his snowmobile, plucking people from stranded cars that were running out of gas and getting cold, and bringing them to the warm restaurant.  He didn’t even think of charging anyone; rather it was all great fun, and the gathering at the restaurant was a great party in a swirling storm.

That is the feeling of a good, local benefit. You don’t want the recipients to feel beholden, like beggars holding out a tin cup.  Rather they have made payments of kindness over forty years, into a policy of good will, and are now receiving the benefits of accrued good will, which are the opportunities given to others to show thankfulness and love. I suppose it is a form of charity, but it is the charity of receiving a birthday present. It lacks the stigma and shame of welfare, and is more like an outpouring of something not always seen in mortals: “Divine nature.”

Big shots do not take such considerations into their cold, hard calculations. Because they do not allow for things such as mercy, compassion and generosity, they create for themselves a winter that has no spring. They are rich, but pitiful.

There is such a thing as spring. Out my window a brilliant sun is climbing up into a sky of cloudless blue, and even though the thermometer hasn’t nudged above freezing in weeks, the south-facing snowbanks are starting to slump. Driving up a hill to the Childcare-farm, I’ve watched as the north-facing snowbanks remain towering and ivory white, while on the sunny-side of the street they were turning brown with road-sand and starting to shrink.

So which side of the street ought a fellow walk on?

The forecast still holds much snow and cold, but after attending the benefit last night, and seeing over two hundred people appear out of the woodwork to warm the winter, I feel fairly confident winter can’t last forever.

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UPDATE  —SUPER SUNNY SATURDAY—

It was a dazzling day, with the sunshine flexing its muscles. The temperature only got up to 28.9°,  (-1.7° Celsius), but all the south-facing roofs were dripping. The work cleaning up the towering snowbanks from the last storm has slacked off a little, and I didn’t see anyone shoveling roofs, as perhaps it seems foolish to spend time and money doing that, when the sun may do the job for you. My middle son did go out and shovel away the wall the plows built around our mailbox, and he was working in his shirtsleeves. I was avoiding that task, but he was restless and burning off youthful energy I lack. He also shoveled a new path to our propane tank, and looked a little sunburned.

Earlier in the week you could still see front-end-leaders gouging chunks off towering snowbanks, and moving the snow about to make more room. The snowbanks along Main Street were removed, chunk by chunk. The state plows went along breakdown lane of the state highway with a wing plow at roughly chest level, making an odd shelf in the snowbanks, as they were shoved away from the road. (I think the plows were raised to  avoid hidden things such as guardrails.)  Today I saw none of that.

I was avoiding digging out my mailbox by going up to the post office and picking up my mail there. Perhaps a lot of people have been doing that, and perhaps a lot of people, like me, can’t be bothered go every day, or even every other day, and the office is swamped by heaps of uncollected mail. Every day that mail must go out with the mailman, and then be brought back undelivered. I think maybe my mailman was getting a little fed up, for when I couldn’t be bothered pick up my mail for five days he didn’t bother with my mailbox, and instead swing up to my door to deposit the mail inside on the carpet. I got to see his grumpy expression as he trotted up and down my front steps, for I pulled in behind him as he did  it. I assumed he had seen me, (I was only pulling in before backing into my space), but he hadn’t, and he hopped into his jeep and proceeded to back into me with a solid thump. That made him even more grumpy, and also extreemly  worried, but I told him not to worry. No damage was done. Anyway,  I don’t care how my 20-year-old truck looks, as long as it functions.

That happened on Thursday, and was the last example of a snow-related frustration I can remember. Under the benevolent sunshine life is settling back to this odd thing I can barely remember, called “normal.”

For me that means writing about things other than the snow, and getting back to work on “my book”, and that always spells trouble. My wife has learned to be patient when I suffer these fits of irresponsibility, but only up to a point. She tends to regard me with a reflective look, when my eyes get dreamy and I become absurdly happy, and I myself tend to feel a little guilty.

I didn’t need to worry much about getting a sunburn, but the sun was flooding so much light in the windows I was drawn out to sit on the front stoop, and remember other front stoops on other March mornings, clear back to a morning when I was just a boy, listening to a Red Sox game back when spring training was in Arizona, back when I didn’t fully understand the game and was trying to figure it out by listening to the announcers. (There’s a sonnet in that, I think.)  I most definitely wasn’t in the present tense, and nearly let the fire go out. (It has been burning since October.) That demonstrates the power of the beaming, benevolent sun.

Of course I am perfectly aware we could have snow well into April. These days of perfect blue are a set-up for emotional whip-lash, as they often are followed by a solid week where you never even see the sun. But when the sun returns, it will make you happily foolish all over again, and you’ll sing of the sunny side.

In any case, I’ll have more “teasers” for my novel to post, as I keep a sharp eye on the snow advancing from the west.

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SUMMERY OF A SUNDAY GOING GRAY

It dropped to 1.4° (-17 Celsius) just before dawn, but the stars were starting to dim in the high overcast, and when the sun rose it was most promicing down by the horizon, and grey grayer as it rose. The winds shifted to the south, and temperatures sprang up into the teens, but without yesterday’s bright sun the south wasn’t bringing much springtime, and the forecast held the dreaded word “snow.”

Sure enough, the dreaded stuff began falling in the afternoon, as temperatures peaked out at 27° (-2.8° Celsius.)

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It is hard to walk on the sunny side of the street when it is snowing. However the Carter Family kept singing about the sunny side, despite all their woes, for thirty years that covered the Great Depression, World War Two, divorce and death.

It is interesting bit of trivia that June Carter eventually did provide some sunshine in John Cash’s life, at a time he was fairly cynical and “Dressed In Black.”

Therefore I suppose I can muster a shred of a sunny attitude, though besides the snow I am facing the prospect of a dreaded Monday.

Back to work, and back to winter.

NOVEL’S TEASER —PART 4—

This is a continuation of a story that began at: https://sunriseswansong.wordpress.com/2015/01/09/teaser-to-a-novel/

Part 2 can be found at:   https://sunriseswansong.wordpress.com/2015/01/13/novels-teaser-part-2/

Part 3 can be found at https://sunriseswansong.wordpress.com/2015/02/25/novels-teaser-part-3/

A break in the weather has allowed me to do something other than fight amazing amounts of snow, and I am seizing the opportunity to try to get work done on this novel.

PREMISE: The characters “Nig” (American) and “Kaff” (South African) have developed a shorthand that allows them to write letters as swiftly as they think. Nig is finishing a long description of his first 24 hours back in the USA, after a year away. He is out of school and deciding what to do with his life. He wants to form a “commune” holding his friends, including his girlfriend Eve, however she does not entirely approve of the party scene his other friends, especially his best buddy “Durf”, enthusiastically subscribe to.

Nig has the use of his parent’s house for over a fortnight before his mother and stepfather, (the “Fossil”), return from Europe, and his friends nearly destroyed the place with a surprise party on his arrival. All but four friends deserted the party when an intruder alarm was accidentally set off,  and at this point Nig is describing the arrival of the police. As he attempts to describe his first 24 hours at home he also describes the constant interruptions he faces as he tries to write. Among the interruptions are the appearances of his older sister Millie, who does not approve of him trashing the house. He arrived home on July 10, and it is now July 16.

July 16

I ‘m up early and full of coffee and in the mood to just finish this damn story. I can only write so long before I get restless and lonely and want to head out, but I got your note of the 14th so I need to write you a quick note back before I finish this letter. You’re damn lucky I’ve got one of those prepaid airmail envelopes cos I’m getting so broke I can’t afford airmail.

There. That’s done. You’ll get that letter before this one, even though this one started before that one. So……where was I? O yeah, the police car pulls into the driveway.

I was relieved to see it was Chief Mayberry.   Mayberry‘s not his real name; we just call him that cos he‘s like a good small town cop on an American TV show.   He’s known some of us since before he was promoted and before we were out of diapers. He’s always been a real good guy, but as soon as kids started smoking pot he was stuck in the position of being the bad guy. I hate it, cos I know he isn’t, but its just how things turned out. Kids who have lived in town all their lives don’t treat him badly, but other kids who are just passing through Weston think he’s the Gestapo. The Lodge Brothers think he taps phones and reports all we do to the CIA.   Maybe there are some cops like that, but Mayberry isn’t one of them.

I told him I’d accidentally set off the alarm opening up the house. He nodded and then looked me up and down and said it appeared Scotland had done me good.   Then he glanced about, sizing up the situation, and I knew he probably had a pretty good idea of what happened.   There’s not much traffic on Sudbury and Concord Roads, so he would have noticed all the cars and motorcycles heading the other way, with all the town’s worst characters all looking as innocent as they could, as they passed him. I could see him taking in the sight of the Cadillac parked in the drive. He would know it belonged to Durf’s father, and would know Durf was there, so I decided not to deny I had company if he asked, but he didn’t ask. Instead we just stood there in the sunset, me talking about Scotland and him about town.

I figure he knows I smoke pot, but I don’t feel comfortable talking about it with him, cos he’d have to arrest me. Instead we somehow wound up talking about booze.   The drinking age is lowered to eighteen here, because someone figured if you were old enough to die in Vietnam you ought be old enough to drink. I think I opened the door to that subject by stating the drinking age in Scotland was eighteen, and I really liked the beer in Scottish pubs. He opened the door to that subject by asking me how it was in Scotland. So we were being open, in a guarded sort of way. I was faking it a bit, trying to look open so I wouldn’t look suspicious and he wouldn’t want to go in the house and wouldn’t smell the pot. So I really wasn’t open, but I felt a lot more comfortable with Mayberry than I feel with most cops.

He said the drinking age would probably go back up to twenty-one, cos kids in the USA couldn’t handle it. He’d been to Europe, and said he knew European kids started drinking younger, and somehow handled it better. He didn’t know why American kids were such vandals. He said it wasn’t the kids going to Vietnam who caused problems, but instead it was the students who weren’t going who did, and he said he suspected mixing pot with booze made it hard to learn to drink socially. He said pot made you forgetful, which proved it messed up your memory, which proved pot made it hard to learn, and that meant you were slow to learn to be mature. I knew he was giving me a lecture without actually pointing at me, and I nodded like I agreed though I don’t.

He then told me there’d been a lot of vandalism at the high school since I graduated. I asked “Like what?”   He told me the bad news.

There was a student smoking lounge I worked so hard to get legal so we wouldn’t have to sneak cigarettes in the boy’s room all the time.   He told me it has been shut down, cos the kids set the couch cushions on fire twice, and the wastepaper baskets caught fire over and over. It would set off the fire alarm, and everyone would go trooping out of the school, so kids started doing it on purpose, when they didn’t want to go to a class because they hadn’t done their homework.

He told me other stuff too. The younger kids, kids I went to school with, wrecked stuff for no reason.   I had to shake my head.   I said it sounded like kids had forgotten all about Peace, Love, and Understanding. Mayberry laughed when I said that, though I was serious. Then a call came in on his radio about three motorcycles on the Town Common, and he told me to stay out of trouble and drove off.

I went back into the house, and found the fellows were really relieved Mayberry had left. They were acting like I was some sort of hero and had tricked him, but I didn’t really feel like a hero. To be anything less than straight with Mayberry always makes me feel a bit like an eel.

We started to clean up the mess, and it turned out the Lesaumille Brothers hadn’t really ditched me. They‘d just ducked into the pines off the patio, and were peering out from behind the trunks to see how things turned out. They would have been there, if I needed reinforcements. And actually I did need reinforcements, when it came to cleaning up the mess, but with so many helping it didn’t take long to get the place straightened out. We found some air freshener, and even some rug shampoo for where the beer had spilled. The only real damage was to a lampshade, but you hardly notice it unless you walk around behind it.

The three oldest Lasaumille brothers had to work the next day, so only Zooks stayed. I had the urge to go down memory lane, and went up to the attic to get the stuff I boxed up before I went to Scotland. The tenant’s kids had broken the locks and trashed things pretty badly up there, but the lock on my trunk must have defeated them. I opened it with my key, took out my Jimi Hendrix albums, a box full of little pink pills I never got around to selling my Senior Summer, and my party papers.

I used to spread out a big sheet on a table at parties, with a bunch of different colored markers, and all the kids at the party would draw little cartoons and write comments and poems. I figured it would help us remember what a great time we had, cos it always seemed we couldn’t remember the next day. It was fun to unfold the sheets and think back about last summer, but I kept having the feeling something was lost. It was sort of like the paper had yellowed.

The pink pills were a cheap speed I was selling last year that I got to hate. We popped some, which was how I managed to stay up all night despite the jet lag.

We talked all night, but I suppose that counts as my second twenty-four hours back in the States, and the story of my first twenty-four hours is over. I’ll just say I kept having the saddest feeling, all night long, and when the sun came up it was like the pink and golden beauty was very far away, and not pressing in close like it was in 1969. I’d have to say the all-night-talk was one of the most depressing talks ever. It was so depressing I don’t want to talk about it.

July 17

It took me all that time to describe my first day back in the States, but stuff keeps happening. There is no way to catch up and describe it all. My brains are only part way through figuring out the last thing when the next thing happens.

I’m trying to get the old gang together and patch up all the problems but

later

My big sister Millie came in just then, and we had a big fight. It was because I had a coffee cup in the dining room. Also because I had another coffee cup in the living room, another in my bedroom, and a fresh one out here on the patio. Millie was sort of quivering in rage about stupid coffee cups.   It’s something she’s been hassling me about for days, and I just can’t take her seriously. The more she quivers the more I can’t believe it.   It’s been building up, and I guess it had to erupt, though I can’t think of a stupider volcano.

I told her to just buzz off and let me think. I told her I didn’t see why the crap she had to keep bopping by, anyway. She’s got her own apartment, doesn’t she?   I told her that if she doesn’t like me she ought just be a good little girl and just go home.

I guess I knew I was pushing my luck. Millie’s always trying to prove she’s as good as a man, and to have a snotty little brother, four years younger than her, tell her to go home like a good little girl really got her riled. Her eyebrows shot up and her blue eyes bugged out, and then the truth came out.

She said Mother didn’t trust me and had appointed her official guardian of the house, and I had to obey her. I said O, that explains why she has been such a totally embarrassing asshole, every time I tried to sit down with the guys and have a meeting. She said, “Meeting? Is that what you call burning out your brains?” I said Yes, that was what I called it, and I didn’t care what she called it, and I was sick and tired of her prudish attitude.

Millie likes to think she’s real liberated and revolutionary, and it gets her hopping when you call her a prude. Her blue eyes bugged even more, and I thought she was going to throw those stupid coffee cups she was so all-fired concerned about, but instead she stomped the dumb army boots she always wears, and yelled,   “I don’t care if you are sick and tired, Mom put me in charge!”

I said I didn’t fucking believe it. How could Mother put her in charge?   Mother had never thrown me out of the house for wrecking the marriage of a friend by messing with the friend’s husband. (Millie got thrown out for that when she was eighteen, and it’s pretty much forgiven and forgotten by Mother by now, but the fact is Millie’s never moved back home, and anyway I was just bringing up the past to be mean.) I said she’s one who’s thrown out and I’m not thrown out, and she’s got her own apartment and I don’t, and she doesn’t even live here, so why didn’t she butt out and mind her own fucking business?

Millie got cold as ice then, and her elbows cocked and her hands made fists, and she breathed hissing through her teeth for a bit, and then she said she was going to tell on me to Mom.

I said she’d have a fine old time trying to track Mother down in Scotland. What was she going to do? Call every bloody bed and breakfast place from A to Zed? Anyway, I didn’t care what Mother said. Mother was just the trophy wife of a seventy-year-old fossil.   It was the Fossil’s house and not Mother’s, and the Fossil had put me in charge. Was Millie dense or something? I was in charge of the house, and what’s more, I was in charge of the damn car, and she’d better hand over the bloody keys.

Millie didn’t hand over the keys. In fact she has stomped off in her dumb boots and departed with the car. I bet my Mom wouldn’t’ve much liked how she wasted the rubber on those tires, as she left, either. She left twenty yards of rubber down the road.

I also bet my mother wouldn’t like how Millie slams the vacuum about, when she’s making such a production of cleaning. That must be murder on the legs of the furniture. If she threatens to tattle on me I’ll threaten to tattle about that.

Anyway, she’s gone. Good riddance. But I still feel bloody uneasy about the situation. Fighting with her is always hard on my poor stomach. However it shows you how hard it is for me to just sit down and write, or have a meeting with my friends. But I am going to sit here and write. But first I‘m getting another coffee cup. Screw Millie.

Things just aren’t working out. I looked back to where I started writing today, and saw I wrote “patch up all the problems.” I think it’s just too much for me.

I spent my whole time at Dunrobin looking forward to coming home and getting the gang together, but even at Dunrobin I got letters before the postal strike talking about how everything was falling apart.   Durf says this one line over and over like it’s some sort of Hindu mantra, “You can’t go home again.” I don’t see why not.

This picture from Dunrobin keeps coming into my head. It is of the pub I used to sneak off to down in Golspie, the Ben Bhraggie. I snuck over there on my eighteenth birthday, and, even though it was against Dunrobin rules, beer wasn’t against the law for me any more, and they served me a beer. It was the first beer I actually liked, really creamy. And I just sat there sipping it and thinking what a neat place that pub was. It was like a living room, but not just for one family, but rather for a whole neighborhood. There was everyone, from grandparents to little kids, coming in and going out the door. The feeling was so much like a home, especially compared to Dunrobin, where ten teachers had to watch over a hundred-fifty kids who basically were unwanted and thrown out of their homes.

And now I come home to Weston and get told it isn’t my home. Why not? I’ve lived here since I was two. I know every tree and every brook. Yet people keep telling me I’ve got to go, like it isn’t my land, like I’m some Cherokee and need to walk some Trail-of-tears to Oklahoma.

There’s nothing even remotely like the Ben Bhraggie in Weston. In Golspie you couldn’t walk a half-mile without passing some place where you were welcome. In Weston you can walk mile after mile and there is never a pub.

All I want is to make this house be a place where my friends are welcome, at least for a couple of weeks until my Mother comes back.   Is that such a damn crime?

O shit. Millie’s back with my stepsister Mary. I have asked them very politely if they would mind please waiting until I finish this paragraph. They are standing and watching me.

To be continued.

Evening

Well, I actually won the fight. Not that I feel that good about it. To be honest, I feel rotten.

My stepsister Mary is as old as my Mom, which is something that happens when a seventy-year-old fossil marries a forty-four-year-old trophy. But Mary’s a really nice lady, always bright and cheerful, and she did a good job of patching things up between Millie and me.

Millie was putting on airs and treating me like I was a two-years-old, so I felt justified to put on airs right back. I acted all reasonable, like she was the unreasonable one, partly because I knew it would drive Millie wild.

I told Mary that Millie was overly distraught about coffee cups, cos she was anxious to please my mother. I said I would be certain to wash the four cups before my mother returned, yet I feared my sister worried too much that I might forget.   The whole time I talked my sister was shooting me these baleful looks, and when I was done she walked over quivering to some burn-holes in the carpet, and jabbed a finger downwards without a word.

I first noticed the burns after the Wrenchheads all ran away, the night the party ended when the alarm went off, and I think the Wrenchheads might be responsible. But I didn’t lie about it. I just said yes, I had noticed the burn-holes, but had noticed them the first night I was back. Then I went on smooth as silk, saying perhaps my sister had not heard that the tenants who rented the place while my parents were gone had some problems with their kids, and the kids had broken into the locked closets and stolen liquor and the police had been called a couple of times. Did it not occur to my sister that there might be an explanation for the burn-holes, other than the assumption that leapt into her head?   She really ought not worry so much about my housecleaning skills.

Pretty slick, aye? I’ve always been skilled at half-truths, and I think I perfected it, getting hauled into the headmaster’s study so often at Dunrobin. I’m so good at half-truth I’d go to work writing advertisements on Madison Avenue, if being slick didn’t make me feel like such an eel.   But my sister deserved it. She was sort of slumped, but still giving me that baleful look. I could tell she was on the verge of tattling about the marijuana-smoking in the living room, even though she smokes herself, so I figured I’d best keep talking to keep her quiet.

I told Mary I was short-tempered with my sister for taking my stepfather’s car. I informed her I might not have even returned from England, if I had not assumed I would have the use of the car, which the Fossil had assured me I would have.   Of course I didn’t call him the Fossil.   I called him “your father.“

Anyway, I just stressed how rough it was without a car.   How could I look for work? How could I register for the draft? How could I even buy groceries, and eat?

Then Millie snidely said, “And how could you drive around with Eve?”

Millie stepped in it then, cos once you say anything snide you look bad and are at a disadvantage. I stayed silent for a bit, doing my best to look all righteously indignant, and then shook my head with my best attempt at a pitying face.   Then I turned to Mary and said, attempting a charming and frank grin, “Yes, driving with Eve too, though my finances would be stressed by the ferry fare. You see, Mary, Eve’s parents want to free Eve and myself from temptation, and have sent Eve to a tennis camp on Martha’s Vineyard for a fortnight.” Mary laughed, and I continued, attempting to look a bit sad, “If I drove any distance out of town it would be likely in the opposite direction, to see my Dad up in New Hampshire.”

Bringing up the subject of my Dad was the clincher.   It introduced uneasiness, and awkwardness, and a Stinedu everyone wants to shut up about. My sister slumped, and then looked up with a sort of ashamed glower, and she said she was sorry she had over-reacted. She said she’d only asked Mom for the car because her motorcycle had to go into the shop for repairs.   Mom had asked her to make sure I didn’t destroy the place, and she was only trying to do her job, out of gratitude for the loan of the car.

So I not only won the fight, but I got the use of the car, day after tomorrow. Milly and I even hugged. Unfortunately, I feel like an eel.

Nearly midnight

Crap. Again I can’t sleep. Likely it’s all the coffee. It’s not speed. I stepped on the scale and saw I’m down to 174 already, so I’m staying away from that stuff. But coffee’s the same, I suppose.

I don’t eat enough. My Mom gave me some money for food, but I hardly eat. It doesn’t help that Durf eats everything in sight every time he drops by. He dropped by tonight long enough to drink all my milk and get mad at me for not wanting to go out. We didn’t even get high.

Maybe I should have gone out. With Eve at camp I’m as lonely as hell. I’ve got a sort of knot in the pit of my stomach that won’t quit.

The fight with my sister left a bad taste in my mouth.   I keep thinking what a liar I am.   One great thing about the last fortnight at Dunrobin was that all the graduating guys knew they might not see each other ever again, and dared be honest. That was when I blew everyone away by admitting I was a virgin.

You guys all thought I was such a big stud because, after Eve wrote me that letter about going out with someone, I went out and got Ginger for a girlfriend down in Golspie, and was seen snogging with her.   But I never went all the way. I thought I might, which is why I had that Johnny in my wallet, but even then, when I told myself screwing would just be practicing for Eve, it never felt right to pass third. It also never felt right that you guys thought I was so flipping experienced, though I sure didn’t mind it that you guys didn’t hassle me for being a virgin, the way you hassled Pest. But the pretense just seemed a lie, especially when I’d hassle Pest along with everyone else, and I felt more and more like an eel for letting people assume something that wasn’t true, which is why I finally came clean. It felt good to just quit being such a fake.

But now that I’m back in the States and already I’m getting fake. If I’m honest about my sex-life Fred will call me a prude for not being a male slut, and if I’m honest about pot I’ll get arrested by Mayberry, or thrown out of here. You can’t just be yourself.

I started a song tonight about people being like a herd of armadillos. They wear these shells, and if you threaten their tender side they roll up into balls.   In the poem they rolled about with no idea where they’re going. I liked the idea but the poem utterly sucks. All my poetry sucks. I thought I’d write better, once I got away from the pressure of Dunrobin, but now I think I’ll call my next bunch of lyrics, “Freedom’s First Result Is Garbage.”

Bugsy and Stephen were by today, and we had a good but sad talk. They just graduated, but were always good students and were on the student council.   I told them what Mayberry told me about the school, and they said it was true. The younger kids don’t understand how we had to have sit-down-strikes and be punished, and fight, fight, fight, just to get rid of the dumb rules about haircuts and not wearing blue jeans. Instead those kids take all the freedom for granted, and are making things so crazy that the rules will have to come back. Bugsy said the underclassmen were so bad he felt like an old geezer, grumbling about “Kids nowadays.” Stephen said the student council advised that all the rules be brought back, and the freedoms we fought for and had sit-down-strikes for be called “privileges” you could win, but also could lose. Shit and double shit. Doesn’t that sound exactly like Dunrobin?

I just said it was a crying shame. In 1969 it wasn’t necessary. It was like a light came down from heaven, and people wanted to make the world better, and it was obvious how to do it. Now the light has gone out, and people are groping in the dark.   Instead of building a better world they want to tear down what we already have.

That’s what communism is. They want to tear down the rich, and anyone else who stands in their way.

Ham and Franks dropped by really briefly, to see if I wanted to go protest the war at some college. They’ve been talking to a college student who is real big on communism, and wants them to join. (That’s not hard, considering they were already sold.)   They could even get some money. Not much, but enough to mimeograph pamphlets and hand them out.   The money comes from some anti-war group in Sweden, but Russia funds that Swedish group. The Lodges don’t care where the money comes from though, cos their Dad cut them off and for rich kids they’re damn broke.

I told them they’re nuts. I’ve known too many people who ran away from Poland and Hungary and China, to think communism is some utopia. But the Lodges said Weston sure isn’t any utopia.   They said parents think it is, but as soon as you graduate they throw you out, cos utopia doesn’t include the likes of you. I had to agree with that part, and told them my idea about us being like Cherokee being thrown from our homeland out onto a Trail of Tears. Then they said, why get thrown out? Why not throw the parents out? I could only say it didn’t sound much like Peace, Love and Understanding to me.

I can’t figure out all these problems. I wanted to get the gang together and have a commune but it is just too much for my poor brains. I can’t even handle feeding myself and getting groceries. Who am I to talk?

I keep hearing about how Audley Bine tried to start a commune in Weston last winter and how it didn’t work out and how that proves you can’t do it.

I want that light to come back down from heaven.   The pot just doesn’t do it any more.

I just got to get out of here.

July 18

Doing much better, but man O man did I ever crash bad last night. I felt like I couldn’t take one more second, like I’d scream into my pillow. I couldn’t see any hope at all, and just wanted my brain to shut down, but I couldn’t even get close to sleep, and just lay thrashing on my sheets in the heat. Finally I got up yet again and went to the living room and clamped on the earphones and just blasted Hendrix through my brain in the pitch dark. But even that seemed hopeless, cos Jimi died in his vomit.

My head got all full of ugly images from Wilford Owen’s poetry. The poem about the guy drowning in strangling mustard gas in No Man’s Land came back to me. Hendrix drowning in vomit seemed like that; he was like one of those English captains who jumped up from the trenches and shouted, “charge!” but immediately got mowed down by a machine gun. And I’m like the loyal follower down in the trench having second thoughts about charging.

The Lodge Brothers say the CIA had Hendrix and Janis Joplin put away because they were having too much influence on American youth, so now I can’t even listen to Jimi’s music without thinking sad stuff about how some people hate beauty, and if you stand for beauty you get killed.

I was listening to the beautiful song where Hendrix says a angel came down from heaven and stayed just long enough to rescue him. Durf told me that song is just about some groupie who Hendrix got laid by. Durf thinks I’m full of shit to believe Hendrix really did see angels.  It’s all sex, sex, sex with Durf. Nothing beyond the physical.   And thinking that low way makes me want to scream, and I really see why Hendrix was so lonely. No one understood what he was trying to say. I feel like if he had only known me, the loneliness might not have killed him. But the poets are too few and too far between, and my crashy mood had me thinking maybe my turn will come, and I’ll be killed by loneliness.

When I’m lonely and crashing it just seems there is nothing good or high in the world; the world is all KGB and CIA agents busily murdering poets, while blissfully oblivious ordinary people stay blinded by busily money-grubbing and selfishly fucking. It’s so low and gross and horrible I really do want an angel to come down from heaven to rescue me.

I felt so horrible I remembered that time John Keats was in agony and groaned something like, “Man cannot have been created for such suffering,” and I was agreeing and giving the Creator quite a talking-to, like a flea daring an elephant to talk back, but all I got was silence.

I remember lying in the dark pressing my eyeballs in, in that way that makes you see swirling light, but the swirling light would never focus into anything. I wanted some angel, but only could think I was screwing up my optic nerves.   So I stopped doing it, and got up to go back to bed, and then there was this big flash of pink light that lit up the entire living room. Then it was even darker, and I stood there spooked for a while, before I heard the thunder.

I figured that was good enough to count as a sign from above. It didn’t seem likely I’d get anything any better, at any rate, so I went out on the patio and watched the storm roll in. The cool wind felt really good, after the heat wave, and I liked hearing the rain come marching up through the woods. I felt the first drops on my face and then went in to bed, knowing today would be cooler and drier and I’d feel much better. Having even that little hope was much, much better than I felt before.

The last thing I remember is feeling really comfortable, listening to the thunder muttering away into the purpling dusk in the east. Then the first thing I remember is still feeling really comfortable, and hearing really fast Mozart on the piano. Didn’t need to open my eyes to know my brother Halsey was back from England.   What was odd was smelling bacon and eggs. That’s not like Halsey, cos he’s like me and never eats until he has to. Then I heard Millie tell him breakfast was ready. The piano kept on going, and after a while I heard Millie tell him a second time, and then a third time, and a forth, and a fifth.

It made me chuckle in my sleep, cos it’s so typical.   Once Halsey gets playing he gets lost.   And he can’t walk by a piano without being tempted. He could be walking past the piano on his way to answer the phone, and he’d be tempted to play just a chord or two before he answered the phone, and the phone could just go on ringing and ringing for ten minutes. Maybe there is some reason both piano and procrastination begin with “P.”

He drives some people nuts, but I never mind, cos I like his music more than I like most other things. When I was little we used to have a grand piano, back in my real home, and I used to just go sit under it as Halsey practiced. Halsey liked dramatic, fast stuff like Rachmaninoff, and it was really loud under the piano. I thought sitting there was the best seat in the house.

Just laying in bed with my eyes still shut, I could almost believe I was back in my real home, and my mother had never remarried and we’d never moved here. I just had a nice, warm feeling, to start the day. Of course it panged a bit with nostalgia, cos that house got sold and I can never go back, but my mind got to thinking maybe I could buy the place back, or at least get a place like it.

Millie was in her mobilization-mode. She’s pretty good at prying lazy brothers from chairs and getting them rolling, cos she’s had a lifetime of practice. She popped her head in my bedroom and asked me to if I wanted some breakfast and to go swimming. It wasn’t like I had much choice, though she did ask me if I wanted to go, and didn’t totally boss me about. So I threw on some shorts and wandered out past Halsey, who was still playing the piano, into the sunny dining room, where there were four of her and Halsey’s friends. It was a nice relaxed scene, sort of like the commune scene I’ve been wanting to create in this house with my friends, that has never happened.

Everyone was at least four years older than me, so I just shut up and went with the flow. Mostly I tried to mind my own business and not get involved, but one of the girls was really hard to ignore, cos she had the most spectacular set of knockers I’ve seen in a long, long time.

I’ve always liked the fashion of girls going braless, cos I figure a breast is what a breast is, and it’s best to go with what God gave you. In that way I agree with Millie, and I’ve always thought it’s dumb for girls to do all the weird things with their knockers that they do. Girls with big ones sometimes try to flatten them like they are Orientals in one of those kimono things, probably cos they’re tired of guys looking at their breasts and not their faces. But then flat girls wear these falsies, cos they’re tired of guys NOT looking at their breasts. And then most girls have normal boobs, but a heck of a lot of them hoist them up like sagging is some sort of sin, and knockers are suppose to defy gravity. Lots of girls crank them up so they point at you like a double-barreled shotgun, and then act all indignant and call you a chauvinist pig if you look at both barrels pointed between your eyes. It’s never made a lick of sense to me.

But this one girl didn’t need a bra to hoist both barrels. They just naturally levitated, and she wore a flimsy summer t-shirt that hid nothing. To make matters worse, she must have been at least part Italian, cos she was a tanned brunette, and sort of talked with her hands, only she didn’t need to use her hands, and instead shifted her shoulders and talked with her knockers. Just the way she said “glad to meet you” when Millie introduced me made me feel like I was being unfaithful to Eve. I felt especially bad cos I walked in there barefoot and wearing nothing but my shorts, and her eyes hardly touched mine before sliding down over my chest in a way like a caress.

I’ve forgotten her name, so I guess I’d better make one up, cos she’s part of the tale. I’ll call her “Miss Brunette,” but every time you see those words,   “Miss Brunette,” you’ve got to think “Miss Boob-net,” cos that’s always a Freudian slip away on my tongue.

I can’t remember her boy friend’s name either, though I should, cos he’s a friend of Halsey and Millie and I’ve been meeting him on and off for years. He’s just that sort. You can’t remember his name. All I remember is that he always looks like he has a headache, so I’ll call him “Wince,” though at breakfast it was the first time I ever saw him looking like he didn’t have a headache. Miss Brunette must have done it to him, cos she was all he looked at.

After a breakfast at noon I got the keys of my stepfather’s sedan, and followed Millie’s, Halsey’s, and Millie’s boyfriend’s motorcycles over to White’s Pond for a swim. I brought Ruth, the girl Halsey was with, cos she wasn’t in the mood to ride behind him, and also brought Miss Brunette and Wince. No one brought a bathing suit.

Everyone pretended to be casual and not be self conscious about skinny dipping, cos it’s natural and only prudes aren’t casual.   Of course, I’m a prude and virgin and am always sneaking peeks and always am a bit worried I might get a hard on.   Not that most of them looked all that good naked, but Miss Brunette did. I decided I’d better get away from her and away from where the shallows were warm, so I swum out into the middle of White‘s Pond. The surface is warm out there, but it’s really cold around three feet down, and shrank a certain subject I didn’t want to expand upon.   Once that was done I just floated on my back, up in the warmer layer. I noticed I float better than last year, when I was all bones.

I just stretched out my arms with the sky very blue above, and the trees like a green fringe all around the edge, and the sun white and spangling in the droplets in my lashes, and I felt more awake than in weeks, and also happy. It seems a while since I have just felt happy. It was like the light was shining down and it was 1969 again. I had this huge feeling of gratitude but didn’t know who to thank.

I had a feeling like the feeling you get from that Keats poem about how good you feel getting out into the country after being “long in city pent.” Then I started to wonder if you have to suffer before you can groove over how lucky you are. Maybe you have to suffer a prison like Dunrobin before you can appreciate being free. It seems dumb to me, because you shouldn’t have to be miserable to see what is gorgeous. You ought to be able to skip the misery. I’m sure Major Ridgeway wouldn’t agree; he’d say you have to endure a grueling row across the Atlantic to appreciate anything. And I know Indians used to eat Jack-in-the-pulpit root and endure agony, cos it was a purifying ordeal, but to me it all seems like hitting your thumb with a hammer because it feels so good when you stop.   People ought to be able to just appreciate the light shining down without needing a whole lot of darkness.

After a while Halsey came swimming out with Ruth. Nobody can figure out whether she’s his girlfriend or not. Sometimes she rides behind him on his motorcycle, but today she came with me in the Fossil’s sedan. They are both too spaced out to bother formalize anything, but their eyes were very clear and in the present as they swam up to me, which is unusual with them, because they both usually have eyes that are somewhere at least a hundred miles away. My sister soon followed with her new boyfriend, both blue-eyed blonds with the water making blue eyes bluer. Then Miss Brunette came out with Wince, with his headache still gone. The only one missing was Eve. At Dunrobin I always used to dream of luring Eve into some summertime, Hippy swim, and here I was, right where I dreamed of, without her.

They started talking about the color of the water, which I hadn’t noticed. It was a bit breezy, and the water wasn’t at all like a mirror. It was broken into all these dabs of color, and they were talking about how the dabs were mostly green like trees, towards the shore, and mixed more and more with blue sky as they got closer to us, until right near us they were all blue mixed with a sort of sandy, sunlit lime-hue of the sandy depths.   Once they pointed the colors out it sort of made me drunk, like the beauty might make me pass out. Instead of water it was like I was swimming in dabs of light.

I felt like I felt last summer, when I hung out with older people, towards the end. My friends sometimes just seem too young. They make all sorts of problems, mostly about stuff they could deal with better if they had a paycheck, but these people had jobs and didn’t worry about that stuff. My friends just don’t seem mature, sometimes. They make it all be dark, and can’t see the light shining down.

I sure could see the light shining down out on White’s Pond today. Even though we didn’t all know each other all that well, I had the feeling we were very close. We were like a lost tribe, outside civilization, free from jobs and clothing and land and gravity. All the dumb rules, like putting five dollars in the coffee can to use the phone at Durf’s commune, were gone.

What I liked most was the purity. I get tired of Durf always pushing me to be free in his free-love way, where you have to seduce every girl you meet. Here I was naked and with others but not thinking like that. I felt free from that pressure, which seems like chains to me, even if it seems like freedom to Durf.   The only thing even like that heaviness was a sort of nervous feeling I got when Wince swam closer to Miss Brunette, and she swam away from him closer to me. But that was probably my immaturity. These people were more mature than me.

I never felt tired, but we sort of treaded water back to the shallows, and got out. I felt a bit nervous again, cos Miss Brunette didn’t seem to be looking at my face much. Not that I could be sure, cos I wasn’t looking at her face all that much either.   Anyway, I put my shorts back on, which was as dressed as I ever got until afternoon.

My sister had brought sandwiches, so we ate late lunch even as the shadows got longer and the beautiful day threatened to not be endless. I had the feeling I’d been on drugs even though I hadn’t. It was what they call a natural high, but the high was wearing off, but I didn’t want to come down.

Then Ruth asked me if I still wrote songs, and I said yes, and she pushed me into singing, so I sung the one I wrote at Dunrobin that you liked, about how sunrises cannot be sold. They clapped when I was done, which pleased me more than I would have thought it would. The clapping made a strange shiver go down my back, cos the echoes of six sets of hands clapping echoed back from various banks of trees across the pond, and it sounded like a lot more than six sets of hands were clapping. It was like an invisible crowd was standing all around the pond.

It put me in an odd mood. When we drove back here, and Halsey went back to the piano and got lost in Beethoven, I started to think about people like Beethoven, and to wonder if I might be one of them.

Some people just get lost in all the darkness, and forget to see the light shining down. They need to be reminded, cos if you build your life in darkness you are a mole, and not a mountain man.

They need to be reminded, and maybe that is what I was born to be: A reminder.

Continued at:  https://sunriseswansong.wordpress.com/2015/03/02/novels-teaser-part-5/

ARCTIC SEA-ICE ON USA EAST COAST

At this time of year there tends to be an increase of interest in the Sea-ice at the Pole, largely because some believe the Arctic sea-ice is in a “Death Spiral”, and when the ice up north goes the world will lose its ability to reflect sunlight, and we’ll all fry. The people who have this idea seem strangely happy at any sign there is less ice. I should think the end of the world might be depressing, but they are gleeful.

They are likely gleeful now, as there is less ice in the Arctic, as we approach the peak levels of ice in the first weeks of March. (Click all images and pictures to clarify and enlarge)

DMI2 0226  02icecover_current_new

In actual fact the levels of ice this time of year are not indicative of that the levels will be at when the sun is at its highest, and the most sunlight can be reflected. For example, in the above graph, in April, the green line is highest and the red is lowest, but by September their positions are reversed.

But never mind that. Let us play the game, and worry about sunlight being reflected. The word to use is “albedo”. This makes you look scientific, even if you only have a crumb of information.

One reason there is less ice up at the Pole is that during this past winter the winds have been “merdianal”, and air has often assumed a cross-polar-flow across from Siberia, and then down to the USA. This creates what might be called back-eddys, swirling milder air in from both the Atlantic and Pacific sides. One Atlantic eddy formed a little gale on the Pole itself a week ago, and right now a swirl of milder air is forming a storm on the Pacific side. Between the two, a glob of cold Siberian high-pressure is being transplanted to North America.

DMI2 0226 mslp_latest.big

Temperatures on both the Pacific and Atlantic side are milder than normal, though often below the freezing point of salt water.

DMI2 0226 temp_latest.big

The thing to remember is that the sun hasn’t risen at the Pole, and even down by the arctic circle, where it has risen, it is so close to the horizon that it tends to bounce off any open water it strikes. Water, especially when glassy, can reflect the sun as well as ice can, when the sun sits on the horizon.

Another thing to remember is that the cold air also freezes water down south in the USA. In fact the Great Lakes are now frozen at record-setting levels for the date.

Great Lakes Feb 26 glsea_cur

This ice is not included in the above graph of sea-ice extent, but it does reflect sunlight. In fact, because the sun is so much higher in the south, it is reflecting more sunlight than the entire North Pole. This should be added to “albedo” calculations.

Also not included in most graphs of sea-ice extent is the ice forming on the east coast of the USA. The satellite picture below shows ice in Long Island Sound, and off the New Jersey north coast, and down in Delaware Bay,  and even in the upper reaches of Chesapeake Bay.

East Coast Sea Ice b-umfxaciaa2qmm

The sun is high and bright down in Virginia. In 1947 the cherry trees were already budding in Washington, before a bloom in March. The amount of sunlight being reflected is substantial, and it too should be included in “albedo” equations. Boston Harbor and New York Harbor are reflecting heat, rather than absorbing it.

East Coast Sea Ice screenhunter_7348-feb-21-10-512

Boston sea-ice Screen_shot_2015_02_21_at_1_34_06_PM

With all this heat being reflected, should not we start to be alarmed?  I mean, for Pete’s sake, look at Niagara Falls!

Niagra Falls Frozen b-o_1qsxiaa7xn5

It may not be a sight you are longing to see, if you are longing for spring, but I think we can avoid being alarmed and skip talking about some sort of anti-death-spiral.  As is the case with most extreme weather, the media is wrong when they call it “unprecedented”.  For example, here is Niagara Falls in 1911:

Niagra 1911 article-2536278-1A82232200000578-809_964x522

In the same manner I myself get nostalgic when I see current pictures of Lobster boats frozen in, up in the harbors of Maine.

Lobsterboats frozen 6829983_G

What is alarming about the above pictures is what it may suggest will happen to the price of lobsters, and the income of lobstermen.  However back in the late 1970’s I lived up there and walked the ice on those harbors.

The following old post has a couple pictures from that time, and also points out the fun you can have. After all, if believers in the “death spiral” can get glee from the world ending, the rest of us ought be allowed to have some fun when it doesn’t end.

The only thing sure to end is winter, though I’ll admit it looks like it may take its sweet time ending, this year.

https://sunriseswansong.wordpress.com/2014/01/25/a-retrospective-fun-with-sea-ice/

 

NOVEL’S TEASER —PART 3—

This is a continuation of a story that began at: https://sunriseswansong.wordpress.com/2015/01/09/teaser-to-a-novel/

Part two can be found at:   https://sunriseswansong.wordpress.com/2015/01/13/novels-teaser-part-2/

It is indicative of how brutal this winter has been that I planned to have the next installment of this tale ready In a week or so, after I posted the last episode on January 13. It is now nearly March. However the constant interruptions have been much like the time the story is attempting to describe, so perhaps the weather is helping set the mood.

SYNOPSIS:  The character “Nig” is trying to write to his friend “Kaff” in South Africa about a wild first 24 hours he spent, upon first arriving back in the United States, but his tale is constantly interrupted by ongoing life.  Among other things he is torn between the desires of his close friend Durf, who likes the wild life, and his girlfriend Eve, who prefers life more tamed.

July 15

Stuff is happening but I want to finish the first story before starting a second.

So where was I. O yeah. Eve.

Arrrrgh! This will have to wait. My sister Millie is being a total jerk. She’s slamming the vacuum around and shooting me these looks of complete outrage. I don’t even know what she’s doing here so early. And why vacuuming? It’s obvious she’s picking a fight about something, but I don’t want to talk to her. All I want is some peace and quiet, and to think about my first twenty-four hours back in the States. But now the damn doorbell is ringing. God!   Is there no mercy?

Half hour later

Yes! There is mercy! What a hoot!

The person at the door was Duke, one of the Lesaumelle Brothers. I’ll have to explain the Lesaumelle brothers at some point, but for now I’ll just say Duke’s the second oldest, and has always had this thing for Millie, who absolutely can’t stand him.

I’m not sure why, cos he’s a Sir Francis Drake sort of fellow, or Sir Walter Scott, or whoever it was who spread his cloak in the puddle for the lady to walk on. You couldn’t ask for a more courteous dude. I’ve seen him actually bow, before opening a door for my sister, but it just makes Millie shudder. If he opens the door she’d rather climb out the window. Her gagging has something to do with a date they went on back in high school. During the date she realized he’d darkened his mustache with a pencil. In Millie’s book, that makes Duke a total phony, cos Millie won’t darken her eyebrows or wear lipstick. She won’t even shave her legs. Her pubes tuft into her crotch when she wears a bikini bottom, which sort of makes my skin crawl, but it’s a political thing with Millie: She sort of goes out of her way to be ugly. Meanwhile Duke never has a hair out of place, and has the nicest clothes, and first thing in the morning he’s so drenched in after-shave and cologne it makes your eyes water. But the more he grooms the more she shudders. She can’t get over the complete loathing she feels, and Duke only makes it worse by being more and more elegant and courteous. It doesn’t even seem to matter to him that she’s already got a boyfriend.

So I couldn’t have asked for a better person to show up and get Millie off my back. I’m not sure why he dropped by. Judging from his face, he either wanted to sell me some pot, or to ask me if I knew where he could buy some pot. But soon as he saw Millie, over my shoulder, it was sort of like I ceased to be.   His face changed, and got all dreamy, and he sort of pushed by me like I wasn’t there.

Man O man was it ever funny to watch. It was sort of like mime, cos the vacuum made it too loud to hear what they said to each other.

Millie was trying to slam the vacuum about, but couldn’t,  because Duke was so damn polite he was hoisting chairs and coffee tables and even armchairs, to make it easier for her to vacuum. Finally Millie just shut the vacuum off and stomped off, but Duke is so light on his feet that he sprang ahead to open the front door for her as she stormed out. Then he went bounding ahead and opened the door of the Fossil’s sedan, so Millie could swing in, shooting him a savage glare before slamming the door. As she went screeching off he did this little bow towards her dust. Then he went wandering homewards, looking up at the treetops thoughtfully. I reckon he‘d forgotten me completely.

I can‘t tell you how funny it was. My writing stinks. I don‘t even dare think about it, because my guts already hurt from laughing too much. But I tell you, Millie may be pretty good looking, but she sure can get ugly when Duke is kind. I could hardly recognize her face.

I‘m not sure why that‘s so funny. Which reminds me. Eve is beautiful, but may look pretty ugly if I‘m late again the day she leaves for camp. So I‘m off.

Evening

I wasn’t late, even though I had to walk the whole two and a half miles. Hitchhiking stinks in Weston, unless you can catch all the Dads leaving for work.   Only three cars passed me the whole way. It was still a bit dewy and cool when I started but muggy by the time I got there, and I didn’t like being all sweaty when I saw Eve.

I was hoping to get Eve alone for a bit, and kiss her. You‘d think that, after a year apart, we’d at least kiss. I especially wanted to kiss because now we‘re going to be apart all over again.   But it didn‘t work out. Eve had to pack and didn’t have time for a walk, and I got the feeling she wasn’t over me being so late yesterday. Of course she didn’t say so, but she was just sort of sullen. So all I did was sit around and talk with Eve‘s mother, and then I lugged Eve’s suitcase down from her room and out to her Dad‘s orange sports car, and then I waved good-bye. Then I had to walk the two and a half miles back here, carrying a gallon of milk I got at the store. By the time I got here my arm felt like it was coming out at the socket.

I’m in a pretty crappy mood. It seems pretty ironic there’s an ocean between Eve and me again. Someone’s playing a joke on me.

Anyway I wanted to be alone so I could write, and now I got what I wanted. There’s not even a clock ticking in this house. I can’t stand it. You can hear the dust fall. I’m going out on the patio, where at least there are birds.

Now I’m on the patio, but still feel crappy. I need a coffee.

Now I have a coffee, but it’s no good. I don’t know how I’m suppose to describe how good it felt to see Eve after a year, when I don’t feel good because I’ve just said good-bye to her.

Hell, I’ll just fake it.

It was really great to see Eve again after so much time, especially as she intercepted me on the way to her door and led me away and didn’t want to share me with her family. I really liked it that she was selfish.

Weston has a really huge town common with horse chestnuts all around the edge, and we walked around it in the shade, trying to find things to talk about, but mostly silent. I felt like I was in a dream.   You know how I used to moon over the picture of Eve on the wall of our study in Dunrobin, month after month, dreaming and dreaming and dreaming. But now I wasn’t dreaming, yet it was more like a dream than a dream.

Durf can never see what I see in Eve, cos she hardly talks. I think she’s quiet cos her mother talks so much that Eve grew up the opposite. Of course Durf also always complains other women talk too much.   I think what really bugs him is that I stick with Eve rather than practicing the free love he’s so all fired up about, but he is right about her not talking much.

I don’t mind, cos she says a lot with her body language. I can tell if she doesn’t approve because she tenses up, and can tell if she approves because she relaxes.   I sometimes talk non-stop like a jabbering idiot, bouncing all sorts of ideas around, and she basically says nothing.

Eve has never liked my burnout Hippie friends, and in a way I understand why she worries. In February 1969 I had trouble losing enough weight for the 158 pound weight class on the wrestling team. Right after the regional’s were over, and I didn’t have to “make weight,” I went on a eating binge and weighed over 165 in only a week, but then my senior year turned into one big, never-ending party. I had a blast, but at the end of the summer I remember stepping on the bathroom scale after a shower and I weighed 138. I looked in the mirror and was scared, for my skin was all white and dry like paper and I looked like I was thirty and not seventeen. It was all the damn speed I took, I’m pretty sure.   That was why I had that picture of myself looking like death, next to the picture of Eve looking beautiful, in my study at Dunrobin: To remind me I’d better shape up. And I did shape up, and weigh 180 now and it’s all muscle. But looking good seems pointless unless it’s for some good cause, so I talked with Eve a little about what I wanted to do now that I am back in the States.

I don’t really want to get married because my parents showed me marriage was hell. I want to have a commune, and only have Eve stay with me if she wants to. I don’t want her in chains. But when I said this idea, I could see her tense up.   I’m not sure whether it is because she doesn’t want to stay with me, or whether it’s because she thinks marriage is a good thing because her folk always work out their problems after each of their fights. That’s one bad thing about Eve not talking; I’m not always sure what she disapproves of.   If I ask her she usually waffles and doesn’t answer. So I just keep talking and she keeps tensing and un-tensing.

I also talked about how I didn’t want to get a job and wanted to write. She tensed up at that because it doesn’t seem I can make any money, so I talked about people who made millions writing. (She doesn’t have to say there is no money in poetry; I’ve heard it so much from so many people I just hear it in my head and then say the answers, talking about poet-song-writers like Art Garfunkle and Rod McCuin and so on.)

Durf says I shouldn’t tell her everything, but I’d rather be honest, so I confessed about tripping the night before. She got tense about that, but relaxed when I said it was a bit of a drag and I didn’t like some things at Durf’s. I told her about Katy with the hangdog expression, for example, and said I didn’t want stuff like that at my commune. But mostly we just walked, hardly talking at all.   I was pretty tired, and just said Weston seemed very green after Boston and airports, and that she looked very beautiful. She liked that, and said she was scared that I wouldn’t like her now that her teeth are in braces. She also said a few little things about her life, such as taking tennis lessons and a driver’s education course and looking forward to having her license. She may go to art school after she graduates this year. Little things.

When we got back towards her house her brother Iz was just coming out. He was glad to see me, and drove us over here. We stopped downtown so I could get a submarine sandwich and some granola and milk and orange juice. I drank a lot of orange juice, because it cleans out your system after LSD, and we just sat out on the back patio where I’m sitting now, talking a little about the past year. After a while Iz said I looked pretty tired, and I said it might be afternoon here but it was night in England. I was hoping he would go and Eve would stay, but she’s a good girl and he’s a bit of a chaperone, and they both left. I’d told them I was going to take a nap, and maybe talk with them in the evening.

I didn’t take a nap right away, and instead got my notebook and just sat here in the afternoon sun, trying to think of a poem about how I was feeling. It was so much like a year ago, but so different. I was sitting at the same patio table, on the same patio, and, even if the birds and cicadas were a new generation, they sounded the same. Down by the pond the evening shadows were collecting and the night chorus was starting: The big frogs were low cellos and the little ones went “plonk” like breaking guitar strings, just like a year ago. However I felt so different somehow. Durf and Eve were still pulling me two ways, Durf wanting me to party and Eve wanting me to be good, but the me in the middle was changed.

I couldn’t find any words. It bugged me because I wanted so badly at Dunrobin to get away from all the studying and just have time to write, and now I had time but my brains were blank. Or not so much blank as just listening, listening, listening…and then I heard a car door slam.

I went through the house to see who the heck was in the driveway, and saw Durf getting out of his Dad’s Cadillac with a bunch of my old buddies. Durf shouted “Party time!” just like it was last summer. (Last summer we’d figure out whose parent was out, and that was where we’d have the party. Some nights there’d be three or four parties, at houses where I hardly knew what town I was in, which is why I lost so much weight.)

I was a little annoyed at Durf for having a party at my place without telling me, but Durf was always doing that, last summer.   One time he had a party here the day after I left to hitchhike up to Canada, which was a fiasco because all these people showed up and only Mother was home. Everyone was real polite with Mother and didn’t stay too long, once Mother came walking up from her bedroom and found everyone smoking dope in her living room, but Durf made it sound like I’d scheduled the whole thing, (and also like he didn’t smoke dope.) Mother wasn’t too happy with me, and I got an earful when I got back from Canada. (If I did schedule that party, I sure didn’t remember it.) I’m pretty sure it was just Durf being Durf, and now it was a year later and he was still at it, even though I’d made it pretty clear I was all jet-lagged and needed sleep.

Even if I was peeved at Durf I sure was glad to see the other guys. There was Bugsy and Stephan and Elliot, who are brainy fellows you can really rap with.   Last year they were underclassmen but now it’s their turn to have a Senior Summer. I invited them in, thinking we could sit down for a good talk, but we had hardly lit the pipe when the doorbell rang it was the Lesaumelle Brothers: Zeck; Duke; Spook; and Zooks, from up the street. They are four great guys who have lived in town as long as I have, and when I first got to Dunrobin and didn’t know anyone and was so homesick, they were four fellows I missed a ton. I had dreams about them. Just seeing them them troop in, a quartet that just was made to go together, sort of like the Marx Brothers in a movie, made me laugh even as my eyes stung with tears. Yet even before they sat down the doorbell rang again. This time it was Zapper and Needles Kirk from down the street, a couple of super-scientific brothers who are really great at wiring stereos and making fireworks and bombs and crystal meth and stuff like that.   I could see that Fred had called around.

It would have been OK if it stopped there, but the doorbell rang again and it was the Lodge brothers: Ham ‘n‘ Franks. I sort of thought, “Who the hell invited them?” Those two are always at the right anti-war rally, wearing the right L.L.Beane backpacks and boots, and I never like how they talk about politics all the time, (though Franks isn’t so bad if you can ever get him away from Ham.)   Together they are always seeing conspiracy, and if you dare disagree with them they say you work for the CIA, which is a good way to wreck a party. And, after them, the people coming in through the door started being the Wrenchheads.

I’d better explain the Wrenchheads.

Wrenchheads are the sort of guys who like to get greasy and to bloody their knuckles working under cars. They never cared about school much, and it seemed like they were shaving when they were twelve, and working real jobs and joy-riding and drinking beer when they were thirteen, which was when they started to stand out as being different from my other classmates. Meanwhile I was the youngest kid in my class, and when you’re twelve and everyone else is thirteen you can‘t help but be the runt, and Wrenchheads used to shove me about pretty good and call me a twerp and a pain, so I hated them and also hated anything to do with working on cars. But by my senior year I’d grown bigger than them and also they discovered marijuana, and knew I had the best, and all of a sudden they were over at my house and talking to me like I was a human, and like they were humans too. That was a revelation to me: Even Wrenchheads are brothers. That was the feeling of 1969, but by the time I was getting ready to leave for Dunrobin in 1970 it was wearing a bit thin. They liked to guzzle beer, and I wasn’t into that. I didn’t drink at all, but those guys could drink a beer the way I eat a piece of popcorn.

Now they came barging in, and each had a twelve-pack, and they were really pounding them down. Some had already chugged two or three just driving home from work. And the doorbell kept ringing and there was more and more of them, including some I didn’t even know. A couple fellows briefly said hi to me, but most were more glad to see each other, and sort of shouted hellos across the room to other Wrenchheads, without hardly paying attention to me, as I started trying to keep them from wrecking the joint.

It was weird, cos somehow I felt like I had to be polite and be a good host, even though I hadn’t invited them. I was sort of trying to gently tell them not to put feet on the furniture, and stuff like that, and not having much luck. They were all grimy and sweaty from hard work in July, and in no mood to do anything but make themselves at home. As I looked around I noticed not a single girl had shown up, so there was no reason for those guys to behave.

Another thing I noticed was that their beer cans were all sweating drops of water in the heat and humidity, and it was dripping down on the veneer of Mother’s expensive furniture, which is something that drives her nuts. She has masses of these little disks called “coasters” she puts under drinks at her cocktail parties, so I started hustling about sticking the little discs under the beer cans, but it was rough, cos they were opening new cans so fast. They also were lighting joints left and right, so I started hustling about handing out ashtrays.

Somehow I started feeling really dumb, like I was a prissy sissy, running about fussing about fabric and veneer, and practically hysterical when a beer can tipped over. But I couldn’t help myself. More and more of these guys were coming in through the door, and sprawling all over the place, and just doing stuff I’d never dream of doing in the Fossil’s living room. For example, one couch was pretty much full, so three guys sat up on the back of it, with their feet down on the cushions. They were wearing these big grimy work boots, and I just knew you can’t put that kind of boot on cushions in a fat cat’s expensive living room. So I knew I had to say something, even if it made me look like a prissy sissy.

Just then I noticed Curtis come in. For some reason I thought he’d be the perfect Wrenchhead to tell the other Wrenchheads they had to be a bit more fussy, cos he has never really seemed like a Wrenchhead to me.   I’ve known him since first grade, and he’s always been shy and delicate and sensitive and polite and got good grades yet let me copy his homework when I hadn’t done mine. Even when I was a runt he didn’t shove me around. He just doesn’t seem like the sort who can down six beers in an hour and then drive through the center of Weston at sixty, though the speed limit is twenty-five. He actually does stuff like that, but you get the feeling he isn’t really a Wrenchhead, he is just a visiting anthropologist, studying a tribe that interests him. So I actually asked him, back in 1969, how the heck he came to hang out with that bunch, and we had some really neat talks. It turned out his Dad only got rich enough to live in Weston by working his ass off, and he put Curtis under big pressure to work just as hard, and Curtis got tired of being sneered at for every little laziness, and just found a gang that let him be more relaxed and lazy, (though I didn’t see what’s so relaxed about zooming through Weston Center at sixty.)

Having these neat talks back in 1969 let me feel we had a sort of understanding, so I headed towards Curtis feeling I’d found a friend who could help me, but he saw me coming and looked really scared, for some reason. He’s always been shy, but now he was tilting his head back so you could see the whites over his irises.   He was stepping backwards. It’s not what you expect, when you haven’t seen a fellow in a year, and it stopped me in my tracks. I felt like something had happened the year I was away, and wanted to ask Curtis what it was, but what can you say? All could say is, “How’s it going?“ Instead of answering me he just greeted someone across the room and brushed by.

When I turned to let my eyes follow him I could see things were getting out of hand. The Fossil’s living room is pretty huge, with a ceiling two stories tall and two towering paintings over a couple of fireplaces that face each other across the wall-to-wall carpet, but it seemed like it was getting crowded, and suddenly I saw a jet of foam from a shaken beer go arching up, and come down on a bunch of guys who thought it was a damn fine joke. The Fossil’s stereo abruptly turned on blaring, and I heard the needle scratching over a 1930’s record. That’s the Fossil’s music, and no one should have had those records out, let alone be scratching them. Then I saw Duke Lesaumelle telling a story with his typical grandiose sweeping gestures, and he flung out a hand and accidentally gave a lampshade a vicious karate chop, and one of my mother’s lamps went to the floor. The chopped lamp got everyone hooting laughter, and the guys sitting in the couch lurched back in their laughter, and, with three guys sitting up on the back of the couch, it was enough to tip the entire couch over backwards with a tremendous crash.

I knew right then things were out of control.   Maybe I can understand someone accidentally tipping over a chair, but tipping over a couch? However it was just beginning.

I cannot tell you how quickly it happened. One moment I was quietly sitting on the back patio minding my own business, and the next the Fossil’s house was getting trashed.

I was really pissed off at Durf for inviting everyone, and he was glowering at me for being a party-poop, but glowered in a guilty way, as if even he knew things were getting out of hand. And if things weren’t bad enough, I could see Bugsy holding up the phone and yelling at me.   I couldn’t make out his words, over all the noise, and then I lip-read, “Eve.“

All I could think was, “O Shit. I told Eve I was going to take a nap. This is going to be damn hard to explain.” But even as I thought this I looked to the front door, and saw someone I didn’t know was opening it, and letting in these three, huge, fat bikers in black leather, with three ridiculous women in tow.

The group looked so extreme they wouldn’t pass the cutting room floor of a grade B Hollywood movie. I mean, the women had these fishnet stockings and spike heels and black leather shorts and black leather bra-tops. They had huge black eyelashes like jungle spiders. I started laughing, thinking it just had to be a practical joke, but then one of the guys turned to say something to one of the girls, and I read “Hell’s Angels,” across the back of his jacket.

I started to panic, yet still knew the time had come to draw the line. So I went marching to the three, huge, fat dudes to tell them it was my party and they weren’t invited. They had beards and looked mean and weighed well over two hundred each, and the closer I got the bigger they looked and the smaller I felt. I could feel my throat squeezing, and knew that when I spoke my voice wouldn’t be low and manly. It would constrict and be shrill, like a hysterical weenie, but I’d had enough.   Hell’s Angels or not, I had to poop the party.

Just as I got to the three, big, blubbery bastards, I got squeezed from either side. Curtis pushed by to my left and started shaking the three mobster’s hands like they were long lost friends, as Bugsy intruded from the right with the telephone receiver stretched out so far the cord’s coils were a tight line. He handed the receiver to me, and helpfully said,   “It’s Eve.” In a daze I lifted it and said, “Hello?” and my ear heard her voice say, accusingly, “I thought you were going to take a nap.” What could I say?   Nothing. All I could do is hear my mind wailing, “O God!   Get me out of this!”

Just then I noticed Curtis looking curiously up at the top of the inner door-frame. He said, “What does this little button do?”   I yelped, “Don’t!”   It gave Eve a start, at the other end of the phone, but it was too late. Curt pushed the panic button my mother had installed, just in case my Dad ever showed up at the Fossil’s. Suddenly there was this deafening, hooting alarm,   and I turned to Curtis and bellowed,   “You idiot! You just called the police!”

You’d be amazed at how quickly that party was over.   There was a stampede out the door, lots of slamming car-doors and gunning engines and squealing tires, a brief traffic jam of motorcycles and souped-up cars down by the mail box, and then the scene was suddenly deserted. The only way I knew it had really happened was that horrible, hooting alarm, blaring and blaring and blaring. I had to go into the cellar and figure out how to shut it off. Once it was finally quiet I called the police, but they said they had to send a guy out anyway. Then I called Eve, and got her mother, who was a bit freaked out. Apparently if that panic button gets pushed while you are on the phone, the call gets interrupted by a recorded voice, which says an intruder has broken into the residence and the police should be alerted. Because the last thing Eve had heard was me screaming,   “Don’t!“ her Mom had called the police.

I calmed Eve’s Mom down, but in the process she figured out my parents were still over in England. So that blew my chance to get Eve over here un-chaperoned, in a big way.   Eve’s Mom seemed real curious and wanted to keep talking, but I excused myself by telling her I had to talk to the police, and hung up. I never did get to talk to Eve.

One thing about this sort of situation is that you find out who your real friends are. The only real friends, who didn’t bail on me when the alarm went off, were Durf, Stephan, Bugsy, and Elliot. As I walked back into the living room they were waving towels and magazines, trying to blow all the marijuana smoke out the back door of the living room. Out front a police car was pulling in. I looked at my loyal pals, and decided they looked pretty guilty and shifty, with hair down to their shoulders, so I told them to stay out of sight, and walked out to speak with the police.

The next exciting episode of my life will have to wait, because I’ve been writing all afternoon and evening and now it’s dark and the mosquitoes are out and I’m beat.

I’m not sure why I have to write this all down.   I’m only up to hour 22, in this tale of my first 24 hours back in the States, and one thing is pretty obvious:   If it takes me days to describe my first hours, it’ll take me months to describe my first week. It sort of feels like it’ll take forty years to figure out what happened to everyone the year I was gone. But right now I’m thinking, “why bother?”

July 16

I ‘m up early and full of coffee and in the mood to just finish this damn story. I can only write so long before I get restless and lonely and want to head out, but I got your note of the 14th so I need to write you a quick note back before I finish this letter. You’re damn lucky I’ve got one of those prepaid airmail envelopes cos I’m getting so broke I can’t afford airmail.

There. That’s done. You’ll get that letter before this one, even though this one started before that one. So……where was I? O yeah, the police car pulls into the driveway.

(TO BE CONTINUED)

Continued at:   https://sunriseswansong.wordpress.com/2015/02/27/novels-teaser-part-4/