It was in Griffin, WA, just past the turn off for Addy-Griffin Road (double-take), on the stereo “One More Suicide” by Marcy Playground was shaking the upholstery when the squirrel threw himself in front of the car. The first autotoreador of the season to make his bid for mortality before my machine broke left, then cut back right as I hit the brakes and swerved. It’s a habit, what can I say? There was no thump, and in the rear view there was no furry carcass. I believe that rodent has lived to be run over another day.
South, and west. Now I sit at a place called Cleary’s, somewhere in the vicinity of Portland. I was sorry to leave Colville; mornings in the quiet house, feet up in front of the fire are hard to beat. Bob and the H’s were sorry to see me go, for divergent reasons. Helen, whose first question on my arrival was “do you still have your convertible?” subsequently summarized just what it was about me she liked so much. “You’re easier than Dad!” There was only a trace of incredulity when she said it, and she meant it as a compliment. Henry is older and still a dreamer. When he saw me, his first question was “Do you still have your convertible?” Henry launched into a writing project while I was there, and I think he was a little surprised at what his imagination was able to do. I don’t kid myself that this flurry of pencil to paper will last much past my departure, but there might come a day when he remembers that story, and remembers the fun he had writing it.
I didn’t mention to his parents that when he said he had to write an essay for school (the dreaded 3 points in 5 paragraphs format) I told him to bag the rules, write from the heart, and count the paragraphs later. I wonder what a teacher would do, faced with a really good essay that was (gasp!) six paragraphs long. In fact, I might even be willing to relive those years just to write such an essay. Almost.
At the time I followed the formula like a good little robot.
Bob and I go way back, Back in the day there was no one better to kill an otherwise lost afternoon with. First, Bob has a creative mind tuned towards having fun. Take an unexploded bomb, a golf ball, and a hula hoop, and Bob will find the game waiting to be played. These days, Bob isn’t around land mines so much, so when I’m in town it’s a special opportunity. It’s a chance to go and drink beers and shoot pool and do guy stuff.
For precisely these reasons Bob’s wife, Jeni, is happy to greet me and also happy to say goodbye. Recently I revoked the right of people to complain about how busy they are if they watch TV. Throw your TV out the window and light it on fire. Take all that extra time and put it into the community, into your family, into the sports team. Feeling tired? I don’t blame you. By the way, Jeni is putting out your burning television. She’s got firefighter of the year awards hanging on the wall. While I was there she had two days extended into significant sleep deprivation by fire calls. I’ll tell you this, though: In my life I’ve had neighbors of various sorts, and there are a very few who take being a neighbor seriously. I am shameful in this regard. Jeni will drop what she’s doing and pull an all-nighter because it’s the right thing to do. Dang.
That said, I didn’t make Jeni’s life any easier while I was visiting. I was a polyp of institutionalized chaos, the guy who plays big ball hall soccer. More that once the H’s caught grief for transgressions that I affirmed. (OK, encouraged.)
Rachael. I am a time traveler, a stone skipping across the surface of the lake, just touching the life of this family at intervals. Between this skip and the last she has changed, dramatically, beautifully. I had heard about the teen threshold in girls, but I had never witnessed it firsthand before. Rachael and I did well before, while she was the engine of the conversation, but this time some scruffy friend of dad’s wasn’t automatically cool, no matter what he drives.
She’s about to make life hell for some poor bastards. She will do it innocently, or at least without dishonesty.
Then there’s hoops. Rachael plays a position game. While her teammates crash and bang about, she gets where she needs to be. She raises her arm, providing a target, put it there and see the offense work. If that doesn’t work she can rotate to the top and move the ball around. Snap!
OK. so that’s Rachael. Dudes, be ready to have your asses kicked.
And… I have much more to say, much, much more! But they’re kicking me out. Stay tuned.