Tuesday, December 30, 2008

7 Beginnings to Short Stories I Never Finished

1. She had two hours in which to make him love her again. These were his criteria: The proof must arrive in the form of a small envelope or package, she must not deliver it herself, it must arrive between the hours of 8 and 10 a.m. She went about it systematically.

2. When they were several feet from shore, they dispensed the cows to swim the last stretch by themselves. Children on shore waited with sticks to switch the cows to safety.

3. He kept sending her videos of himself performing the most mundane of tasks— shaving, pouring the breakfast cereal, mowing the lawn—and now she felt it was time for him to stop. That morning a videotape of him sleeping in a lawn chair had been delivered to her home. She did not want to watch that video. Despite this, she watched. The video was entitled “Lawn Chair.” It was the most relentlessly dull film she had ever watched. The only discernable action was when he awoke, briefly, and swung at a bumblebee that had alighted on his thigh. The sequence had been relooped so that he awoke, again and again, blinked his eyes, and flung a big hammy hand in a scooping motion toward his leg. She counted, eight, ten, twelve times. Then she snapped off the tape with a vicious impatience. She would call him tonight after dinner, and tell him clearly but politely that his films were no longer of interest to her. Admittedly, her curiosity had been piqued by the first one, which was an hour-long shot of his feet shuffling along a wooden floor, back and forth, back and forth, until the shuffling sound had become almost hypnotic. She searched the film for some hidden message traced by his feet, but they shuffled in one direction only.

4. He was a little man, and she was a big woman. The first time they arm-wrestled she won handily, striking his knuckles against the wooden bar table. They had a conversation that was hardly appropriate for a first date.

5. That was the day that the saints were unashamed to perform little miracles, and they stood on the street corner selling blessings two for a dozen, and the fat old women danced to earn some; because they smiled so nicely they got a few cheap ones for nothing. They took them home and tossed them in their dinners and the grouchy old men ate them without blinking an eye.

6. Beneath the wide compass of her thighs her son Peter crouched like a struck stone. She was conscious of a deepening embarassment, as if she had whelped him right there on the floor, amongst the shifting conversations and cocktail glasses. He was too big to be here anymore, though he didn’t know that yet. He was soon to learn. He was almost ten.
“Peter, go upstairs,” she said, nudging him with an ankle. He crouched closer to himself, and moaned audibly. She took a deep drag of her cigarette.
“Peter, I said to go upstairs,” she said, as she saw Mrs. Moody approaching.

7. He was calf-deep amongst toasters, fans, baby strollers, his hands tearing at a bag of discarded clothes, when something deep underneath gave way. Marcy, on the street below with the flashlight and the bag, yelled something out, but he didn’t hear what it was under the rasp of sliding metal. His arm came up against something rough and serrated, and he pulled it up sharply, opening a thin groove in his skin. It was a rusted saw, small—small enough for a child, really—and he jerked it up and out and onto the pile.
“Marcy?” he called, and he heard a banging, and then her head appeared above the edge of the dumpster. She wore disposable green gloves, and her arms were stained brown with rust and grime up to the elbow.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Suck This, Berkshire Country Day School!

Note: The post below has been changed to protect the privacy of the middle-school bullies I originally mocked in it. I have now given them all more suitable names, rather than using their real names. Although bullies deserve to be outed (and flogged ruthlessly through the public square), I'm getting tired of deleting the spammy comments that have poured in from some loser with too much time on his hands who clearly didn't like seeing his name here. Hereafter, he shall be called Jujyfruit Assbat. The name of the school, however, I ain't changing. They deserve the sucky press that comes when teachers don't protect kids from being bullied.

The original post with edits is below!

Because of the vagaries of the Facebook universe, I recently came across the name of a fellow classmate from 9th grade, when I attended a special little hellhole called Berkshire Country Day School.

Let me tell you about this school. I arrived as a 14-year-old, having moved from Greece (where my family spent about a year due to my father's work at the time). I was naive, awkward, and completely unaware that I had the smoking-est body of my entire career (which I swathed in chamois and LL Bean couture). I had horses on the brain and often waded around in stables. I sat around at night musing about poetry, and generally wondering why my lot in life was to go to BCD.

There were exactly 9 kids in the 9th grade class; all had been together since kindergarten. Let's just say they were a tight-knit bunch. There was one hose-beast named Baconback Dix, with an emphasis on the DIX (she sort of looked like she might have one, or several). Two trashy chicks named Slutteree Dinglebrack and Angela Iddlethwap, who wore tapered jeans with zippers near the ankle. And a horsey lady named LaLa Lovelace. She was all right, sort of. The males consisted of a lovable, goofy guy named Boofah, a strange and goofy guy named Heehaw, a brace-faced Blue Oyster Cult lover named Lump (who briefly and sadly became my boyfriend), a pretty cool and weird guy named Frog, a redheaded fucknut named Sludge, and one all-star mutherfuckah named Jujyfruit Assbat. The latter is the very same whom I encountered on Facebook. The only person out of that group I might want to say hello to these days is Frog. Like I said, he was a pretty cool guy. I guess I'd give old Boofah and Heehaw and Lump a handshake, too. Maybe I'd nod at LaLa Lovelace.

This school was just a rotten place. It might have been nice for those in "the club," but for outsiders it was very, very bad. The funny thing was, all my siblings had attended this school years back and had loved it. Loved it! They thought the place was the cat's ass. Of course, my sister later revealed that she hadn't liked it very much, really. And I never heard my brothers talk so highly of it, either. So I think my parents were delusional. They specifically went out of their way to send me to this fuckhole. They thought they were doing me a big favor.

My classmates decided I didn't fit in (thank god, in retrospect, because they were grade-A assfaces) and so some of them would make fun of me. And here's the kicker--one of the teachers, whose name was MISS JUICY FATBACK, decided she would laugh right along with them when they made their stupid cracks! Miss Fatback was a big, fat, swollen lump of a woman. She was pretty young; I think she got a kick out of the 9th grade boys liking her. They called her (inexplicably) Miss Taboobstake. And she liked that! One of the ways she got them to like her was by laughing at their inane jokes, even at the expense of a poor lil' 14-year-old girl. Her ass was about the size of Ohio so I think she was a little insecure. I mean, what kind of place is it when teachers join in on the bullying?

Then we had Madame Slap, the French teacher. I took tutoring with her because I was placed in a higher class than I should have been. She was so old, my sister had also had her as a tutor. When you got an accent mark wrong on your French compositions, Madame would reach out and viciously scratch a pen mark on your arm. If you did really badly, your arm would be cross-hatched with ballpoint marks when you left her little studio.

There were probably some decent teachers there--I seem to remember liking the English teacher a good deal, and the science teacher wasn't so bad, either. The art teacher I deem worthless because I have bad memories of being tormented there, too, and the teacher blithely ignoring it. Teachers who don't defend kids deserve a special place in hell. Yes, you, Miss Taboobstake.

BCD was a very bucolic-looking campus, with small buildings dotted around a large expanse. There were cross-country ski trails on the property, and a swimming pond. It felt like I had to take about 8 buses to get there because it was so far from the farm-like homestead where my parents had temporarily set up shop. I think it was a 40-minute journey in all, and every bit of it rotten. The bus ride was like a classic movie in which the cool kids combed their hair and talked about their inane lives, while I sat hunched in my seat with a kid two years younger who decided to be my friend. I think his name was Tate. He was a good kid, all right. It plays very well in the movies, these mismatched friendships. We used to make up puppet shows with a pair of mittens.

Lots of kids at the school played Dungeons and Dragons. In retrospect, the place was lousy with geeks. And also jocks. The athletes were spilling out of the woodwork. Since I'm channeling Holden Caulfield tonight, I'll just say they were a bunch of crumby phonies, the lot of them. Just about every kid there felt entitled, and acted like a prize monkey. The kids would hang around in big groups and pick on other kids who were smaller, or who looked different, or whatever. It was frightful. Jujyfruit Assbat, the rotter whom I encountered via Facebook, would dance after me down the walkways shouting "Ugly! Ugly! Ugly!" This really happened, people. (He's an "actor" now, but I deleted the link to the heinous photo of him with hair as big as a wolverine's pelt. Funny, a friend of mine was casting a movie not so long ago, and who should show up in the stack of resumes but....our friend Jujyfruit Assbat. He was summarily recycled. Oh yeah, Jujyfruit, it's always wise to be nice, because I could have helped you a wee bit in your dumb career. I won't even explain how or it would make you cry in your soup. But I'm not enough of a bully.)

For a long time after the miserable six months I spent there (the latter half of my ninth-grade year) I received solicitations for money from the school. I have never had less inclination to give money to anyone. Although I haven't thought of it much in years, I take a special pleasure now in slagging the joint. Thank you and good night!

Friday, December 12, 2008

RRRR.I.P.!

This just in. Reason Number 346 that we are relieved to have left New Rochelle.

Perhaps another tartly-worded letter to New Ro Superintendent "Dick" Organisick (sic) is in order from yours truly?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Eviction of the First Son: Chapter Four

Oh all right. Here it is!

They keep counting to ten. I keep holding my breath, pushing. Between contractions I fall asleep, or pass clean out from the pain. I wake up to see Husband and the doctor patiently waiting for me to start again. One time, I wake up and its just Husband and Nurse Helene; the Doctor has wandered off to check on someone else. Who’s going to catch the baby now? I think, and pass out again. When I wake up Doctor H2 is back and I wonder if I dreamed her absence.

Someone suggests a mirror. I never wanted a mirror. In fact, I was appalled by the thought of a mirror.

“Okay, the mirror,” I say, and they roll one in on cue. It’s a big mirror on wheels with a wooden frame. Funny, I’d always envisioned a slender vanity hand mirror, perhaps held by a manicured medical student whose only role is to tilt it in the right direction. In the mirror I can see some wrinkled part of the baby’s scalp, with a little bit of blond hair darkened by wetness. It’s terribly close to the exit.

The mirror does the trick. I know one thing: This pain can be over in a matter of moments. There is only one surefire way to make this pain end. I really do push with all I’ve got. I realize a few days later, when I collapse in tears after walking four whole blocks, the extraordinary physical effort of this moment.

The baby’s head pops out. I see it in the mirror but it looks like a purpled lump, and I can’t see very straight. Could be the Stadol goofing with my senses, or my eyeglass lenses steamed with sweat. No one mentions that the shoulders don’t feel so good coming out. For a few seconds, someone down there manipulates them through. And then the whole baby is through and out.

A door opens to another universe, and through this door a living human being is placed into my arms. I don’t know who puts him there. Past the door’s frame I do not see. He is accompanied by light. His eyes are dark and big and his face is nothing but light; he is light itself. His arms pedal. There’s a flash of red near his legs (genitals), a flash of pale, milky blue (umbilical cord), an overall slippery sheen of wetness. He gazes right at me, a little outraged. His eyes are dark blue, blinking. Already, he has a stare that evaluates and questions. His brow furrows and his mouth opens.

Expecting a shriveled little raisin of a baby, empurpled and cone-headed, we are completely stunned by his beauty. There is a rift in the air, and I don’t think to look up and through it, from where he came. For a moment he carries a trace of the eternal world, the world of pure ideas. He brings it in with him like a trail of light.

(Two weeks later he sometimes gazes at the edges of rooms, where shadows go missing. He stares and bicycles his legs and looks sometimes frightened, sometimes mesmerized. Husband says ghosts. I think perhaps there are ephemeral gaps and tears through to that other world, and he sees them opening and closing, invisible to the rest of us. By the time he can tell us of them, will his gaze will brush past them, favoring solid shapes and sharp lines?)

Nurse Helene lifts the baby off my chest and deposits him in a clear bassinet in an alcove off to my right. He scrabbles and clasps the edge of it while they try to pin him down for his first-ever assessment test, the Apgar. This one is feisty, and strong. Husband and the baby lock eyes, and Husband tells him things in French. They seem like they are in another room, a well-lit room of soft upholstery and fine music. Meanwhile, Doctor H2 is depositing the placenta in a plastic tub. Then I’m getting stitched. (Two stitches only, despite that eggy-headed baby! Perineal massage: a good idea.) I don’t feel the stitches at all. I’m watching the baby and my husband. Why are they so far away? I feel a mild, dissociated sadness, as if the parade has moved on and I’m no longer needed.

But soon the baby is back for his first grab at the breast (assisted by Nurse Helene’s rough, overly vocal ministrations). I’m not sure how I feel about him yet. It’s all too strange. A few days later, I will know.

There’s more to the story, of course. There’s Tao, the hospital’s lactation consultant, who comes around to affix the baby’s maw properly to my breast. Tao is much gentler than Nurse Helene, but her instructions make no sense since her English is poor at best. She also teaches a complementary postpartum class at the hospital which may as well be in Chinese. We learn absolutely nothing, except that the other babies born during the night look like squished lumps of uncooked dough. I feel even prouder of our handsome infant, despite a blotchy red rash that he’s developed during the night. In the middle of the class, Tao asks me how I’d feel if my baby had jaundice.

“Not great, I guess.”

“Your baby have jaundice!” Tao shouts. “How you feel?!”

A large, redheaded nurse from Slobovia or some such country comes by later with tips on how to rouse a sleepy baby at the breast.

“Should I tickle his feet?” I ask.

Slobovian nurse looks outraged, as if I’d suggested prodding the baby with a fondue fork.

“Oh, noooo!” she cries. “You NEFFER teeckle a baby!”

During our stay at the hospital, we’re given six different opposing instructions on how to care for the baby’s circumcision site—from “don’t touch it” to “drizzle water over it” to “apply gauze squares, one per diaper change.” I’m offered a vile meatloaf studded with peas or similar greenish items (it’s so gross, we actually take a photo of it). My husband clogs the toilet in the room, and a disgruntled janitor shuffles down the hallway with a plunger (did I mention that the brimming toilet—which WILL overflow with the addition of one more droplet of pee—is also filled with blood, like something out of the film The Conversation?). It’s clearly time to go.

My mother-in-law helps me pack up our things and we head for the elevators. Husband waits below in the car. On the way out, a young Chinese nurse waves goodbye.

“See you back next year?” she asks brightly.

“What? Oh. No, no I don’t think so.”

We take our baby out in the world. He’s tucked into his car seat like a small, curled bean. All that night and all the next night, too, I dream his face in the few minutes I sleep. And when I’m awake I see his face as well, as if burned into my retinas by that shocking moment when he arrived in my arms. So sleep deprived that I begin to hallucinate, I see his face in the curtains, in a twist of bedspread, in the shape that a stack of books makes in the dark. For a time, I imagine that my face has taken on the shape and dimensions of his own; that we are one and the same. I wear his face. I lose all sense. I sleep heavy and dream fantastic, multi-chaptered dreams for the first time in months.

He sleeps, and flexes his back. His fist bunches near his ear and shakes, as if he’s clenching a tiny bell. I realize how he almost wasn’t. And then again, how he had to be, and how every small event has led to him. Every past decision now makes sense. That is why I turned south or north that day, that is why I paused, that is why I (and we) came back. He is. He exists.

The Eviction of the First Son: Chapter Three

My thanks to the fantastic Liz Hoover Moore for inspiring me to finally post the rest of this. For installments One and Two, see:

Chapter One
AND
Chapter Two

I’m hooked up to the monitor again, sometime in the middle of the morning. The kind nurse on that shift allows me to stay in the rocking chair. I watch the contract-o-meter rise and fall, up to 70 and beyond, down to 5. An endless pink sheet prints out the history of my pain and the vibrancy of the fetus. His heartbeat sinks and rises as he turns within, swims deeper away from the constricting bands. Depending on how I sit or move, the level of the contract-o-meter’s readout changes. Sometimes the pain is deep but the contract-o-meter doesn’t register it. I want to jar the needle so that it shows the jagged peak I feel, not some pudding-shaped lump that suggests a bad hair day rather than a fierce pain. It should jump and shimmy like I’m telling wild lies, damn it! Then I will get the epidural…yes, the epidural that I have all-too-suddenly decided I must have, and have now. It’s 5:30 a.m.

I grip husband’s knees and tell him of my epidural desires. I have a thin sense of shame but the pain supercedes it. No one gives you any medals anyway, damn it. He understands. He calls the nurse station.

Doctor H. arrives for a status check.

“Great progress!” she announces brightly. “You’re now at two centimeters.”

She has got to be kidding.

TWO centimeters, after an entire night of pain—pain, mind you, that I had decided to withstand like a hero. If I’ve hit a two on the pain scale on the way to ten, then I consign myself to eternal cowardice.

But Doctor H. smiles sadly. “I’m afraid it’s just too soon for the epidural. We like you to be at least a four.”

She decides to give me another dose of the misoprostrol to “speed things along,” and offers me a Stadol drip in the IV so that I can sleep for a couple of hours. Stadol is something like Demerol, and I’ve been told to avoid it. Rumor has it that you can still feel the pain, but you’re doped up and goofy. The promise of sleep is too tempting, however, because I know I’ll need my energy soon enough. How many hours away that might be is still unknown. I accept the Stadol.

Of course, it takes at least an hour for someone to arrive to administer the stuff. Evil Nurse drops by with a surgical mask around her neck to inform me that she’s been at a delivery and “that’s more important than you; you’ll have to wait.” I’m so desperate for help that I actually thank her. Hey, Evil Nurse, thanks for stopping by!

The next thing I remember, a bearded male doctor appears in my field of vision. I see him upside down. He looks like a youthful Santa Claus. My husband later suggests that he is creepy and beady-eyed, but to me he is a kindly gentleman, a lovely dapper fellow. He is the drug pusher, the savior. He carries a needle of potion, and an unknown nurse fumbles with the IV while I thrash on the bed. The fumbling goes on for an impossibly long time. Then the Santa Claus doctor is leaning over me, suggesting that I will soon drift away. I think I see my husband on the couch. I think inexplicably of white paper, tumbling in the wind. I sink beneath a softness that obscures the pain.

I next wake up into darkness and think that I am alone. Lying on my side, I search for my husband’s presence on the couch, but I don’t see him. Although we’re deeper into the morning, the room seems darker. And I have hit a ten on the pain scale. The problem is, I think it’s a ten at the time, but it’s only going to get worse. In retrospect, I’d call it an eight. They have a chart on the wall for non-native speakers, with cartoon faces expressing varying levels of pain. “Tiene un terrible dolor!” says the face under the number ten, which is weeping copiously. I can still speak, so I don’t think I earn a ten.

I call to husband and he tilts upright from the couch, with a sputter like someone caught sleeping under an office desk.
“Should I call the nurse?” he asks, bending over me. My glasses are wedged in a crevice between the mattress and the bed frame. My fingers pick at them—maybe if I can see sharp edges I can tame the pain. It’s so fierce and so incessant that I can’t catch a breath. (Already I have forgotten it; it seems dull now, like cotton wool.) My only sane thought is that this is an absurd outrage. How completely over the top! I really don’t think it needs to hurt this much to be effective, and Mother Nature has made a very bad error.

“Yes, call the nurse.” Maybe I’ve made it to four centimeters now, and I can have the epidural. That’s all I’m counting on.
Right around then—but it might have been a while still—Doctor H2 arrives for her morning rounds. Again, I see her upside down, a dark and kindly shape framed by light. She goes to check my cervix, and I don’t feel a thing. I don’t remember how she gets there or where her hands go or anything.

“Well,” she says, like she’s been told a good secret. “You’re at nine centimeters. You’re going to be ready to push in a few minutes.”

“Epidural?” I might have croaked. At least I did so silently. But I know the painful answer. The window of opportunity for the epidural has closed for good. By the time an anesthesiologist is alerted and arrives, the baby will be breathing his first breath. Ouch, au natural! That’s not what I intended—it’s sort of like twisting a 180 degree turn while canoeing through a particularly rough set of rapids. Best to just turn your head downriver, plunge your paddle in, and stern your way through backwards. I’ve done that. It worked then.

Almost immediately a panoply of nurses rushes in and out of the room; I sense wheeled things being pushed hither and thither. There’s a general bustle right outside my range of vision. I can focus on a circle in front of me about two feet in diameter. Beyond that it’s all a blur.

That’s when Nurse Helene arrives. I meet her at an odd juncture of pain and anticipation, and I don’t have any idea what she really looks like until the next day. She’s more a voice and a presence. That, and a bulbous nose shaped like a root vegetable. She’s there suddenly, fussing around me.

Nurse Helene’s personality falls somewhere between a Nazi and Mother Teresa. It’s okay to love her, because she changes your disposable underwear and super-industrial phonebook-sized maxi pads after delivery—as many times as they need to be changed. A droplet of blood on the bed padding? Underwear change. Shift in room temperature? Underwear change! Patient looking fidgety? Change the undies. I was eternally grateful for her administrations to my nether regions.

But then, she had a bad habit of putting her face close enough for me to count chin hairs and nattering away in a know-it-all fashion. And she had a really, really bad habit of grabbing me under the chin like an irate grandmother while she lectured and blithered at me. This earns her a bus ticket to Hades in my book.

The next few minutes—or maybe it’s an hour—pass rapidly. I feel an intense pelvic pressure and tell Nurse Helene I have to go to the bathroom, but it’s hard to even make it there. She tosses a blue hospital chuck on the floor and bids me to squat there and take care of business. (Some scraplet of dignity prevents this horrifying outcome.) I don’t know where to go or how to arrange myself to accommodate the pain. In a creeping effort to escape it I crawl up on the bed on all fours and scream. Yes, this is a ten. Tiene un terrible dolor!

“Screaming like that won’t do anybody any good,” chides Nurse Helene. I can’t see her because I can’t even lift my head. And I definitely can’t connect my fist with her chin, as I’d like, considering I can’t see her. Instead, I scream even louder. She tucks her head in close to me, like a bird, and squawks at me to quiet down. Bony fingers reach out and grab me by my chin. Ack! My response is to scream even more furiously. In fact, I consciously decide to scream as loud as I possibly can. A small part of me thinks uncharitably: “Get an earful of this, you motherfucker nurse!” I hope everyone down the hall can hear me. I hope those women at one centimeter are quaking in their laundry-thinned nighties. Nurse Helene backs away with a “tsk”ing sort of sound.

Doctor H2 decides to nip my operatic performance in the bud by asking me to get in pushing position. I lean back on the bed. She breaks my water; a hot rush. It happens very fast. The doctor takes my right foot and plants it on her hip. She directs Husband to take the left foot and do the same. For a second a “Who, me?” expression flits over his face, but he quickly does as asked. So much for any ideas of him staying up near my head while the “action” happens discreetly below.

Doctor Halpern explains that when a contraction comes on, I’m going to push. Okay, good. I feel the first one rising, like a wave in a dark sea. It starts somewhere deep in my back and hums its way to the top. Then I start to push. I get about three good pushes per contraction.

For some stupid reason they want me to hold my breath during the pushes, but this is so counterintuitive I don’t get it at first. I want to puff out. They shake their heads. No. I keep trying, but I still think it’s impossibly stupid.

Nurse Helene’s face appears about an inch in front of mine. At this distance I can’t get a read on her features; she’s mostly nose. I see beady eyes glittering above the nose. And then—everyone’s worst nightmare—she starts to count to 10! This seems so clich├ęd that it should be funny, but its not. It’s very bad indeed. I wish fervently that this nurse would descend down a chute into the bowels of the earth, where she would be prodded repeatedly with hot devilish sporks dipped in acid.

I’m very bitter about the counting nurse, but my hands are busy gripping the bedrails and I don’t have the energy to throttle her. I keep trying the moronic breath-holding technique, and at some point I finally catch on. (It’s quite strange how, when in pain and in the presence of medical professionals, one will accept such directives.) For some reason it seems to help. The doctor announces that the baby’s head is actually in sight.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Buddy the Anthropomorphic Lump


Over the weekend we were invited to another little girl's birthday party, this time at an establishment called Great Play on Central Park Avenue in Scarsdale.

I loved this party. And the reason I loved it is that it has a mascot named Buddy, who kind of resembles a square of chocolate with bulbous eyes. In some lights, he looks kinda brown. And then he resembles well, you know...a turd. But in reality, Buddy is supposed to be a space alien.

Greay Play has this thing called Interactive Arena that is pretty cool. There are a series of interactive screens around the room, and different images are projected on them throughout the course of the party. The kids can throw a ball at a screen and try to make various images move, make noise, and so on.

The young woman leading the party invited the little princes and princesses to walk down a red carpet of sorts, whereupon they would be transported into a magical kingdom with castles and other magical paraphernalia. And there, among the pink-clad princesses and turrets, was Buddy--projected on all four surrounding walls. Riding on a horse. Later, he appeared as a space alien kicking a soccer ball. Because of the size of the imagery and the sheer amount of virtual Buddies replicated on the walls, it was hard to look anywhere without seeing a big, orangish-brown lump with eyes. Someone near me said, "I wish I had brought the shrooms."

Then Buddy's photo was blasted all over the walls while the kids ran from end to end, trying to "catch" the photo and "tickle" it. They were supposed to be tickling Buddy's feet, but because of the height of the projection, they really ended up tickling his nether regions. "Tickle Buddy!" shouted the assistant. "Tickle his nads!" I wanted to shout.

The other freaky thing about the party was that the young male who ran it sounded very much like Bobcat Goldthwait, complete with weird head jerks and gesticulations of the mouth. It was like he'd been studying the man's moves in an effort to BE Bobcat. "Come on kids," he'd splutter in a maniacal, retarded fashion. "LET'S GET BUDDY! brawhahahahwwww!" And then he'd stomple around frenetically, arms waving, like Bobcat did when he wore the Godzilla suit in the film One Crazy Summer. He sounded JUST LIKE THIS. The kids followed him around like he was the pied piper.

By now we were all tripping. One little girl screamed and said that Buddy scared her. But on the way home, my boys said that they loved the party. And they loved Buddy best of all.

More photos of the event forthcoming.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Felling of the Great Tree

We watched from the upstairs window,
swinging ropes thick and draped
before the bark. One rope thin
and pale, others robust, red, blue.
(Later when the tree humbled
itself on the ground they were
coiled in fat malevolent heaps.)

The man made one heroic leap
from bifurcated branch, his eyes
widened as he clung with boots
to the thick trunk. My son said
he hoped the squirrels had fled.
Then he said: Let's run for our lives
if it falls the wrong way.

They hooked the ropes to pulley
and branch, and stood in a line.
There were fine wood shavings
in the air, like snow. It was cold.
They carved a sharp wedge
from the trunk. The boys leaned closer
and blackened their noses on the dirty glass.

The rope went taut, and the chainsaw whined
as he tucked into it, and it wouldn't
be long now. We all felt lurched, upended;
I know they felt it too. The little one said
that he would miss that old tree.
He would miss walking around on the roots.
We were up high, as if in the branches.
We saw the sky opening up.

We had watched the triumvirate moon
from that window, two planets spanning
the width of that trunk. Now the trunk shuddered,
and it was something like those buildings coming down
in the very moment before it went.
It shifted, and we all breathed in, and then
it went over like a hero, hollowed and burned with rot.
It hit the lawn and drove deep divots
in the grass with its canted weight, and the highest
branches slammed down just shy of the far fence.

It seemed to go over more than once. It seemed
that the deep roots sent a tremor through the old house
and something of sadness rose and fell away.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Kids Say the Gayest Things!

Thanksgiving morning. I'm lying in bed, and my two elder sons stomple in, rubbing the sleep out of their eyes.

Me: It's Thanksgiving Day today! Our relatives our coming. Maybe we should dress up in our nicest fancy clothes. What do you think?

Middle son: Ooh yes. Let's dress up like ballerinas!

Eldest son: And pwincesses!