What took you so long?

Welcome. I've been waiting for you to show up.

Monday, November 29, 2010

A Brief Recap of my Last Excellent Meal

You placed four perfectly crisp, golden-brown quail
still hot from the pan onto my plate.
We had shot them ourselves in a field in November.
I recall the dogs -- one flushing the birds from dun broom sedge while the other, its tail raised in semaphore, pointed.
I watched the canine ballet, set to the drumming wings of the covey
rising into the cold sky.
You aimed your gun, leading just enough so that you found the bob-whites
and tumbled them out of their arcing flight.
The panting dogs brought them back to us.
Now, as I lift a bird to my lips, I taste the air and the gunpowder and the damp coats of dogs and the report of your gun and your smile and the field where I stood, admiring.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Riding With Jason

Jason the tow truck driver has bright pink and green tongue studs and various other piercings about his face, but we share a love for Red Bull, so I run into a convenience store to buy us a couple of cold ones.
He has winched my car onto the flat bed of his truck and, as we drive to the Bridgestone-Firestone store, we chat about panhandlers (we both feel guilty when we refuse to pay out), the economy (you'll never be out of work if you tow vehicles) and deer hunting (we love the venison but hate freezing our asses off in tree stands).
The cab of the truck is littered with coffee cups, cans, damp newspapers, bottles and rags, bits of wires, bolts with mismatching washers, crescent and adjustable wrenches, needle-nose pliers, a CB radio, two cell phone chargers and a strange luminous chew toy that I am afraid to contemplate.
Jason is so good-natured and optimistic that he is the perfect counterweight to me, as I stew over the cost of replacing a 255/40/R18 high performance tire and the bent rim it rode upon
It occurs to me that his job brings him into constant contact with inconvenienced, worried people in much the same way that therapists always see emotionally disheveled patients, and I wonder if that is why he keeps a chew toy close at hand.
In the dark truck, our faces illuminated by the glow of the dashboard dials, we could be any one of a million mismatched couples driving somewhere together with different agendas.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


This place will swallow you up. You only need one-syllable words to describe it: plain, dull, gray, and dry. To these, add harsh in winter. One of the ice ages wore everything here down to a nub. If the emptiness doesn't hollow you out, the lonesomeness will. As far as you can see in every direction, the only thing taller than a man is a grain elevator. All the rest is flat, like something bit down on the earth, sucked all the juice out and left the bones.

I killed a man the other day. He tried to steal my thresher. I put a hole in his chest and let him bleed out right next to the John Deere. I'm wearing his jacket inside out, right now, and his gloves. By March, his corpse will be bleached; by August it'll be reduced to its components. Calcium and phosphorous are good for my wheat.

Under the laws of the prairie, he had it coming. Prairie law spells it out clearly. The worse your surroundings, the meaner you are allowed to get.

The meaner you get, the greater the likelihood you'll overreact in fatal and elemental ways.

Scorpions sting each other over nothing. Sparrow hawks that've gone a week without rabbit flesh will try to fly away with a farm cat twice their size.
A man tries to steal your thresher and ends up deader'n a hammer.
You can come out to Saskatchewan and see our laws in action for yourself, but I wouldn't recommend it.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Small Chair Speaks

On Saturday evenings, we let the furniture speak.

Harry and I usually leave the house to allow them privacy. We go out to a movie and then for Viennese coffee and pastries. By the time we get back, things have pretty much settled down.

Last night, with a bad storm front moving in, we stayed home with head phones on, listening to Garrison Keillor.

However, it had been brought to my attention that the small green chair had been bullied of late, so we discreetly removed the headphones and eavesdropped.

"You have to make more of an effort," the teak coffee table was saying, its voice surprisingly authoritative for a Danish product.

"You're weak and useless, if you want to know the truth," said the scratchy camelback sofa (I don't know why we bought it).

I was ready to jump in and defend the small green chair. I fondly remembered buying it at Kubinec's Fine Furnishings, its leaf-green corduroy unblemished and soft. It was my favorite place to sit in my pajamas. I liked to rub my arms over its arms.

When the small chair finally spoke, its voice was defiant.

"I am trying, I really am, but you see her! She's gotten too damn fat for anything but the wrought iron patio furniture!"

Harry helped me drag the small green bastard to the curb just in time for the storm to hit. Trash pickup is on Thursdays, and good riddance.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Fear the Chess Club (and the school band too)

In Alabama, the Blount County education system has begun mandatory drug testing of some students.
Those who will be randomly tested are kids in grades 7-12 who partake of extracurricular activities: Band, athletics, cheerleading, math club, debating, chess club, and so on.
The school board categorizes this selection of kids as being "those who participate in any activity where they will come in contact with other schools."

Oh well, sure, those rowdy math club kids from the other side of the tracks could be bad influences. It starts with calculus (a gateway operation) and leads to theorems and wild orgiastic fractions.

Is it just me, or does anyone else think that singling out kids in after-school activities is a bass-ackwards approach to discouraging drugs? I mean, is there not a whole ANTI-DRUG MOVEMENT based on providing kids with after-school distractions to KEEP THEM OFF THE STREETS? Kids who play supervised soccer and go to swim meets are not (and I could be wrong here) GENERALLY the ones cooking up meth.

Also, I have problems with kids being coerced into drug testing.
The threat is clear: Either you pee into a cup when we tell you, or you don't get to go to the band competition in Chicago this year; you don't get to compete for the National High School Chess trophy. While I understand that many companies test applicants for jobs (and I have taken my share of pee tests), those applicants are adults.

This Blount County program is funded by a $600,000 grant, by the way. That much dough could buy a heckuva lot of new band instruments, athletic equipment, art supplies and chess boards.

But I guess Blount Countians need the drug tests to make them feel safer.
That way there will be fewer rogue music majors roaming the streets at night, selling meth to math geeks.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Schadenfreude Report

I have no hard figures to back this up, exactly, but I’m pretty sure schadenfreude has become the new national pastime.
Taking pleasure in another’s misfortune is -- if not our default emotion -- pretty darn close to the mood in America right now.
I know I got a huge dose of it when I heard Christine O’Donnell had lost her race in Delaware, early Tuesday night.
Then, I experienced another sweet round of it a few hours later when Harry Reid was declared the winner in Nevada and Sharron Angle the loser. Aww, I thought, smiling widely, wonder what Sharron’s doing right now?
Meanwhile, in living rooms and country clubs around the nation, Republicans and FOX News analysts were swooning with schadenfreude. By God, we put the hurt on Obama, they were crooning. We’re the hammer, he’s the nail.
And the defeat of Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House? Wow, that news raised the schad-o-meter past the red line.

It’s tough to deny. Progressives felt this uncharitable version of satisfaction two years ago when we saw the Roves and Limbaughs of the world licking their wounds. I, who am not really a bad person (only a baddish person), kind of loved the moment when I thought we’d seen the last of the GOP idealogues for a while.
Little did we know they would morph into something even more shrill and maverick-y.
I mean, in 2008, who possibly imagined that they would erupt like a boil from the head of Sarah Palin and multiply?

But that’s the thing about schadenfreude: It is enjoyable, but it’s short lived. The cycle is about 730 days. And the happier we are at someone else’s downfall, the happier they will be when it’s our turn.
So, to the people standing on the sidelines of my unhappiness wearing smiles, right now, I say: Just remember this moment two years from now