The Chemical gets a call from his wife, the Chemist.
How old were you when your grandmother spilled (what did she spill? Boiling water?) on your foot? 7 or 8?
Boiling oil. I was 12. 11 or 12. Although, maybe 10 or 11 come to think of it.
So just a year or two before she died?
The Chemist is researching family history. She knows more about the Chemical than the Chemical does. The Carboxyl family, the Hydroxyls, the rest.
So my brother was 8 or 9, he says.
And how old was he when he ate her thyroid pills?
And that was after the mental hospital?
I guess? I was a little kid.
So was her thyroid problem diagnosed after the mental hospital?
I don’t know.
Maybe the thing with Amino…
Was enough stress to trigger a thyroid storm or some other crisis… and she was hospitalized and got the electroshocks… and eventually a thyroid diagnosis?
I don’t know the chronology. And anyone who knows is dead, except one or two who were directly involved in the whole scandal themselves so you can’t ask them, and their kids are all younger than I was so they probably don’t know either unless their parents told them later, which is entirely possible, everyone’s parents told them more than mine told me. Everything was a secret and now they’re dead.
Maybe ask Phosphate or Methyl, he says.
They finish their conversation and hang up.
The Chemical gazes out the window. It is a crisp fall day but warmish, the colors are bright (chlorophyll breaks down revealing yellows and oranges, any trapped sugars might turn into anthocyanins for the reds) and crows are arguing over the borders of their territories.
Mellow music is playing on his computer. The YouTube algorithm has decided to serve him mellow ambient music today, which irritatingly is just what he needs. He is wired, as if he had drunk a lot of coffee this morning, which he has but not that much, not any more than usual.
When he leaves the office in two hours he will walk to the subway, past various things including the attacking crow. He thought she had mellowed out, she stopped attacking him for a while, swooping only, but yesterday she whacked him in the head with her wing again.
Boiling fat, actually. His parents had a broiler pan in the oven, a flat pan to collect bacon drippings etc and when his grandmother forgot about it and it started to smoke, he drew her attention to it and stood there next to her and told her to use the oven mitts, so she wouldn’t burn herself. Careful, Grandma.
And she put on the mitts and took it by one end and as soon as it was free of the oven it tipped and emptied the boiling grease onto his right foot.
She felt terrible and he felt terrible that she felt terrible.
When he finished screaming every obscenity he knew, he tried to comfort her.
In the hospital where he got a skin graft he had rubber joke vomit and tricked a nurse with it, who then tricked another nurse with it.
Sometimes you’re awake and feel alive. Sometimes you’re tired and feel dead.
Anyone who thinks they understand this world raise your hand.
Tag Archives: family
The Chemical gets a call from his wife, the Chemist.
what was it
there was something
what was it though
was it something about a crow?
i stuck my nose in a spider web
while watering the thistles
that is how i discovered the
writing spider in the back yard
that wasn’t it, either
although it was the biggest and most
beautiful spider i have ever seen up close
and i mean up close
i rode my bike to the train station
i will be retiring some day and
to save money i have been considering
getting rid of my car and riding a bike.
maybe that was it.
my bike is very old.
for a bike.
i used to run my daughters around on it
in a little child’s seat.
they’re all grown up now.
it needed new tires because the old ones
had rotted off
and kept going flat.
so i got cool new tires that never go flat.
and i checked the sky before
going to the train station
because it always rains when i ride my bike
but the skies were blue.
the first thing that happened
the chain fell off the front gear
i got that back on
then the tail light cover
fell off and clacked along
i got that back on too.
my bike is a three speed now
because i can only shift the front gears
the back thing
no longer works.
but that’s okay bc it’s flat
where i live, the landscape.
when i told my family about it
my daughter asked
were you leaving a trail of parts
so you could find your way home?
was that it?
was it that my wife had to give me a ride home
from the station that night
because it was raining so hard?
i don’t think that was it either.
this is driving me nuts.
I was dreaming this morning when a cat woke me with a bladder massage.
In the dream, my extended family was celebrating my birthday at my childhood home, around a redwood picnic table my father had built, on a sunny summer day, in the shade of a cherry tree, a maple and some redwoods.
There was picnic food on the table, no animals were trying to steal it, the sun was warm but gentle and not blinding, the way summer sun used to be.
Everyone was happy at the same time, but not excited, there was no drama, no one was sad or mad at someone, everyone got along.
My grandmother was not there. I imagine she was in Montana, as a teenager, riding horses.
My uncle, who sometimes felt compelled to be weird at gatherings, I suppose due to anxiety, was not there. He might have been in the hills filling his green and white Ford pickup with scavenged firewood.
My parents (whom I remember missing yesterday) were there. They were younger than they had been when they died. 30s or 40s. My father looked fit and was not wearing a shirt, which was typical of him in the summer at that age. I talked to my mother.
I talked to my father. I asked him how Heaven was.
No one is upset and nothing hurts, he said.
My sister gave me a letter she had written for my birthday. It was written with a wide calligraphy pen in several colors. Each color said something else, and the colors intertwined, and tangled, and she had written it in her normal handwriting not calligraphy despite the nib she was using so I was unable to read it.
I asked her to read it for me.
She was about to read it when I woke up.
Ask the sun, when you fell upon me, reflected off the orange garbage truck my streetcar was stuck behind on the way to work this morning, filling the streetcar with bright amber light and turning the interior into mysterious silhouettes, was it a judgement or a blessing? Or do you not perceive any of us at all?
Ask the crows, what say the slain? And listen to their answer: they are waiting for you to delineate your sadness over your mom dying, to put a name on it, for you to find a balance for it between heart and head but for that to happen it has to come out of the dark. They are waiting for you to understand something ununderstandable.
Ask the bear, do you feel like I do when I am walking down the stairs at the subway station and faster descenders pass me right and left when you stand in the river and running salmon crowd past you on their way to spawn, or is there a difference bc you are eating them and I am not? And are people right who say a fish does not perceive the water surrounding it, or are fish as aware of it as we are of air and ground, do they even hold swimming contests and do they maybe, crowding into the mouth of a river on their way to spawn, arrange dates when they hit it off, baby that shady spot under the alder tree, lay your eggs there, I have so much milt for you.
Walk in a circle while reading the instructions on the can of blue insulation foam, especially the bit that says ‘only fill the space 1/3 of the way with foam, as it continues to expand after application’ because if not the foam will expand uncontrolled and drip onto the floor and onto the attic ladder/steps, the bookcase, two books, your slippers, your shirt, your glasses and your hair, and if that happens do not try to wash it out of your hair because the instructions also say, For better adhesion dampen target area prior to application, and if you read that after making your hair wet you will feel like a moron, justifiably, and the insulation foam remover you rush to the hardware store for won’t work for you either, although if you make an emergency appointment with your hair stylist she will, together with two colleagues, in the emergency hair salon operating room you didn’t realize they had, using the foam remover and some stuff they use to remove hair extensions, in a dramatic and slightly painful medical-drama-style operation not only successfully remove every last bit of foam (which is, chemically, a close relative of super glue) from your hair, which you had expected would have to be shaved off, they will also laugh while working on you and say, “This is a first, this is one for the books, we have never had anything like this,” and ultimately style your hair and leave you looking nicer than ever, and charge you such a paltry sum you give everyone big tips.
Ask the crows, what say the dead, to which they will answer, nothing today.
Then wander into the junk shop with your eyes closed and hold your hands over the amulets and feel the vibes.
It is November and the weather is dark and depressing. My city just underwent a terrorist attack. Currently, as I write this, Trump is doing “better than expected” (=cheating is going well) in initial counts. My tooth broke off day before yesterday and I spent yesterday morning at the dentist getting the rest ground off and a temporary crown applied and it was, of course, not in my budget. And, finally (?) we are not only in the middle of a pandemic, still, and our second lockdown (so far) — we are quarantined for the second time, waiting for someone to come test us, bc we were exposed to someone who tested positive.
You may ask yourself, why is Mig in such a good mood?
Well, strictly speaking, not a good mood, but maybe, why isn’t Mig in a worse mood?
Why isn’t Mig depressed?
Or, more accurately, why isn’t Mig more depressed? 2020 is being 2020 with a vengeance, he can’t see his friends in person, etc.
Ok you know what, when I started this post that was going to be the joke – there is no life hack, right? Things are terrible and I’m depressed. Except right now it occurs to me I am not really depressed. I am sad, but that’s different. My opinion – and I am not a psychologist – is that if you have a reason it’s sadness, not depression. I am sad bc a young man felt compelled to shoot random strangers. I am sad bc of seasonal grayness. I am sad bc I can’t see my friends who *are* depressed and try to cheer them up. I am sad bc I have to figure out how to pay for a crown on my molar (I have the money don’t worry).
I don’t know. My tent wisdom comes to mind – when I started this post, it sucked that it was raining when I was in a tent. But before I finished the second paragraph, it was great to have a tent when it was raining.
Maybe it’s just my brain’s last desperate attempt to cheer me up before I plunge into despair, but right now I am thinking about everything, and everyone, I love. My family. My friends. Random people I follow without knowing on social media saying decent, or indecent but funny, or kind, things right now. The city of Vienna. The country of Austria. The person who hollered “Schleich di du Oaschloch” at the terrorist. The Viennese personality that phrase is so typical of. The Americans who voted against Trump.
And so on.
I don’t know. Maybe it isn’t enough. We’ll see I guess. Maybe absentee ballots will be so overwhelmingly against Trump something good will come of 2020 after all. Maybe the feeling of unity and kindness in Vienna will last. Maybe my friends and I will cheer up. I am already thankful for a lot of things – my breadbox is full of bread, my wife and I are getting along, my small cats like me and the big one doesn’t bite me much. My transmission is making a funny noise but I only have to drive to the train station, usually. My children and my wife and I are all safe and healthy, except maybe for coronavirus. I don’t know, it’s a balancing act.
It always is, for someone, I guess right now we’re getting a taste of it, in case we didn’t realize before.
Now excuse me, I have to go into the cellar and write, Gamma is my new writing partner and we’re doing Nanowrimo this year. <3
A play in one act.
Living room. Three people watching TV. Two women, mother and daughter on one sofa. Man lying on second sofa.
Man: I was walking down the stairs at the train station and got real dizzy and realized it was because I had forgotten to breathe.
Woman 1: OMG you do that too? Mom doesn’t believe me that I do that.
Man: I think it’s related to tension.
Woman 1: So do I. See, mom?
Woman 2: Hm.
Woman 1: When the doctor was cutting open my incision she stopped and said, “please keep breathing.”
Man: Yee. (Watches TV)
Women 1 & 2: (Watch TV)
Man: Oh geeze.
Woman 1: What?
Man: That guy being interviewed’s right eye, on the left on the screen, looks like a mouth and every time he blinks it looks like it’s closing and opening, with an eyeball inside. I think it’s due to his minimal eyebrows.
Man: It looks like a mouth!
On Christmas Day
we celebrated at our house
I picked up my in-laws at their house
and drove them to our house.
They are old and wobbly
and there are lots of stairs
so it took a while to get them into my car
also my mother-in-law had a flame
the Light of Peace
that had come all the way from Jerusalem
that she wanted to share with us
and we had to be careful with that
so as not to light anything on fire
and especially not let it go out.
it was in the form of a candle, protected in a little
wood and glass lantern type thing.
she put that into a pot and carried the pot
for extra protection of all involved.
the light, as i understand it, someone goes to jerusalem
and sets something on fire from the Light of Peace there
and hurries back with it before it goes out
then they light more things on fire
and take them to churches
where people come and light other things, usually candles
and take them home
where the Light of Peace
shines on Christmas.
their neighbor had gone to church to get a flame
and come over and lit their candle for them
doubling the Light of Peace.
all the way to my house it smelled like something was burning
in my car but it was only the Light of Peace.
at my house everyone stood around
while I took out our candle
or rather put their candle-lantern thing into a larger lantern
a big glass affair
and took our candle and a long wooden match
with which to transfer the Light of Peace to our new candle
while leaving their candle burning
thus doubling yet again the Light of Peace
but instead, with the large match, I pressed the first candle’s wick
into the melted wax
extinguishing the Light of Peace
undeniably, before five witnesses
fuck, I said.
it’s like that Jack London story with the trapper starting a fire in winter,
but none of them were Jack London fans.