Quickening

It’s Friday and on Fridays everyone has a two-hour lunch break (you do, right? If not, send a letter to your Congressman) and because Odin  has time to meander a roundabout path he almost makes it to the store before the crow notices him.

Let me tell you something: having largish birds swoop around you close enough to hear their feathers on the air quickens the heart with joy, as long as they’re not pecking at you or shitting on you or something belonging to you or where you wanted to sit.

Heart quickened, Odin buys a mylar bag of cashew nuts and dried cranberries, and a small plastic bag of miniature dried sausages.

Odin eats some nuts and eats a sausage on his way back to the bench to share with the crow.

The atmosphere is cycling back and forth between the poles of nice, sunny, late-spring day and Is it maybe going to rain or not, without ever actually raining.

When he arrives at the bench, Odin is thinking about writing a love scene with the sentence, They kissed so hard a piece of dried sausage trapped between two molars was dislodged.

The grey crow has its rules of engagement, and they include not approaching closer than four feet. It will not come onto the bench for a bite of sausage. It hides the big pieces, and some of the nuts, and eats the small pieces and the rest of the nuts and cranberries.

On a two-hour lunch break, you have time to just sit on a bench in the sun/shade/sun/shade and rejoice in being a living thing.

Part of all this.

Just a part, one part among many.

What say the slain?

How fortunate you are, this very second.

And how I love you.

Der Traumpolizist

You are whining in your sleep. I pat your head and you stop.

At breakfast I ask you about the dream.

You tell me: powerlessness and loss, violation and theft, paralysis and loss of voice. Weakness, hopelessness and fear. Exhaustion and failure.

Every living thing must have dreams like this. Especially after a week like the one we just had. Fear of this disease or that, fear of going broke, fear of getting old and having nothing. Fear of cancer in me, or — a thousand times worse — fear of cancer in a 16 year old boy.

But then yesterday the reprieve: alles okay. Everybody healthy for now. Sometimes the universe just wants to give you a good scare.

Tonight I will be the dream police. I will find the robbers and get back your purse.

Don’t get off the boat, now with a 30% chance of cutesy alliteration

It was a weird, warm, wasted winter day, quiet in an eye-of-the-storm way and Odin sat on the bench, unfocused and confused — he had just called his wife and she had complained about confusion and lack of focus, too — sort of a postapocalyptic, full-moon feeling – and unpacked the curry chicken sandwich.

The crows were already waiting. Odin could see Huginn and when he tossed him a piece of the sandwich, Muninn swooped down, landing behind the bench and Odin gave him a piece. The third crow must have been waiting too, out of sight, because it showed up seconds after that.

In just a jiffy, everyone was eating.

Odin also had some cashew nuts and cranberries in a mylar bag.

I don’t know. Quiet isn’t the right word. More like, timeless. Some days life hurries you along, but on days like this, it’s like the temporal axis has just fallen off the graph completely.

Bare branches are black against bright grey sky.

This particular universe has been behaving oddly.

Like: Odin writes in his journal about the fact that there is actually only one day in all of time, and we just keep on repeating it, just with changed hopes and regrets; and then that same evening he visits a friend and they watch Groundhog Day.

Or, Odin writes in his journal about how everything is okay, and his friend sends him a link to a button online labeled “Make Everything OK” that you press, then there’s a loading bar, then it announces that everything has been made okay.

Or, Odin is waiting for a bus and a woman asks him something about the bus, and instead of waning, their conversation grows and is interesting and when the bus comes, after half an hour, it is too soon and the woman, who is a painter visiting town from Frankfurt to look at the Lucien Freud exhibition, gives Odin a catalog of her last exhibition saying, I brought this along in case I met anyone I wanted to give it to, and I’d like you to have it.

Sometimes things just go really right, sometimes, if you let them, Odin thinks.

So, Odin is trying to figure out why, when his wife asked him if he loved his life, he almost burst into tears.

Odin loves life, and he loves many of these universes, but don’t ask him if he loves his life unless you have the time.

In fact, don’t ask him.

In fact, it reminds Odin of Apocalypse Now, when they get off the boat and a tiger attacks them in the jungle and the guy hollers, Don’t get off the boat.

What say the slain?

Same as always.

What say the hanged?

He owed me money.

He threatened me.

I didn’t even see him.

I thought he was a wild animal.

 

 

Little red hat

2014 is going to be the year Odin streamlines his life. The year he throws old crap away.

Like all his t-shirts with clever sayings on them.

Or not — his kids might want those, so he’ll hang onto them.

But his workshop, all this junk! And on top of that, the new beer making kit he got for Christmas. And not even counting the wet plate camera he hasn’t bought yet. Where to start?

Odin is sitting in the attic, telling his wife what’s in boxes so she can inventorize what they have in their attic prior to throwing stuff out. Odin is like, why not just throw it out and save a step. And he is also like, old magazines in this box. Painting canvases. Some sort of plumbing fixtures. Travel case for a harp.

In another universe, Odin has a temporary job taking inventory for some company. He is standing in front of a wall of televisions in a shop, counting them. The Space Shuttle takes off and then explodes. Odin sees two dozen images of debris angling through the sky, leaving a white trail.

Odin and his wife are doing pretty good in the cellar. They donate a lot of old clothes. Then, this box: ballerina duds. A princess dress. Like that.

A little red hat.

There is another universe, 20 years ago, it is the carneval season, children are being led through games at a public carneval party in the city hall.

About 20 years ago. Or only 12 — Odin gets his universes mixed up. It would depend which daughter, Thor or Loki.

Christ.

Through the blue haze of all the smoking mommies, Odin can see her, in her red hat, covered in confetti, wearing the red hat, dancing.

There was also a lady bug costume, he finds the hat to that one too.

Odin remembers a lady bug dancing, spinning in circles.

Odin and his wife box the red hat back up.

So anyway.

Today is the first work day of 2014. It is quiet out. Odin is not hungry at lunch time but he wants to check on the crows.

Odin strolls to the store. It is warm for the second day of January. The small grey crow swoops down and accompanies Odin to the store, where he gets peanuts and a curry chicken sandwich.

He sits on the bench and all three crows are there waiting.

It is such a quiet day, like the end of the world. Like the world could still decide 2013 was the final year.

The four of them eat sandwich, they eat peanuts.

What say the slain?

I dreamt someone on a motorcycle whipped my leg with a strap and captured me, I was balanced on the handlebars and gathered myself and kicked them to get away, and woke myself up kicking in bed. I asked the dream what it was and it said, what supports us binds us. It said, love. It said, vitality. It said, escape.

What say the hanged?

Memory is not carved in stone after all. It is reinvented all the time. It is stories you tell yourself, and you know how reliable stories are. You find a little red hat and make something up, because you know who wore it, and you know how much you love her.

May we always remember.

Dramas are cheaper than comedies

Man, it’s freezing out.

Winter.

But Odin doesn’t wear his hat when he goes to the store. He doesn’t want to make it any harder for the crows to recognize him, and he thinks a hat might do that. It sure freaks out his cats when he wears a hat.

So, no hat.

He buys honey-roasted peanuts and a baloney sandwich in a poppyseed roll. The crows meet him at the bench. Not immediately. He stands there for a minute eating peanuts before the first one, the grey one that reminds him of a duck, Huginn, appears on a telephone wire and swoops down for a piece of baloney sandwich.

Then the second grey one swoops down from the left and fights over another piece of sandwich with Muninn until Odin tosses them a couple more pieces.

For a while, they all hang out, eating silently.

Odin feels particularly unstuck in the multiverse today. All day, he has been slipping easily from one to another.

He is at a movie premiere with his daughter. Standing in the cinema lobby, they crack jokes and watch people, observing the different tribes that show up at movie premieres – the movie actors, the journalists, the photographers, the fans, the weirdos.

They wonder if they should buy popcorn. They agree popcorn should be handed out free at movie premieres. They count uncanny botox foreheads.

Botulinum toxin is the most lethal toxin there is, his daughter says. 100 mg would be enough to kill everyone in the world.

Like Odin himself, Odin’s daughter is a fertile source of useless facts. This makes Odin smile. He has been smiling all evening.

You might want to use 200 mg, though, just to be sure, Odin says.

His daughter has another thing in common with him, too: she attracts nuts. Odin realizes this when a little man appears in their personal space and asks her if she is an actress in the movie they are about to watch.

She laughs and says no.

The lobby is very crowded and noisy now, and the man talks fast, so Odin catches only a portion of what he says, but he hears him say that a local film festival always shows dramas, but never comedies or action films, because dramas are the cheapest. He has something white in the corner of his mouth.

Probably food.

Is that right, Odin says. He moves to stand between the little man and his daughter.

So they show dramas. And documentaries. Documentaries are even cheaper than dramas.

For a while, he tells them about a movie he recently watched. Odin runs through his entire repertoire of things you do to signal a conversation is winding down, but nothing works.

Finally, Odin says, well okay then, grabs his daughter and walks with her to another corner of the lobby.

At one point, Odin gets the autograph of an actress his daughter and he both like.

At another point, they watch the movie. It is okay. It is a comedy, not a drama, and they laugh a lot. Afterwards, the cast come onstage and talk for a while, then Odin and his daughter go home.

Although Odin is unstuck in the multiverse, he is not entirely without control.

On days like this, he can slip almost effortlessly from one universe to another.

He is in his car, realizing it is snowing.

He is riding a train.

He is someone else, in 1972.

He is a man waiting for crows.

He is watching a beautiful woman.

He is playing Arvo Pärt with his daughter – she plays the piano and he plays the cello. Then they give up and he switches to the singing saw and they play it that way, and laugh and laugh.

He is digging post holes with another man, holding a heavy motorized auger between them.

He is back with the crows.

What say the hanged?

Live it up.

What say the slain?

They say live it up, too.

Sat down besider

Little Miss Muffet was trying out the 5:2 diet, and it was a ‘2’ day, is why she was eating cottage cheese. Also, she lived in a cottage so it seemed somehow appropriate.

She sat down on the tuffet and waited.

Somewhere, a clock ticked dog barked truck shifted gears lawnmower buzzed ice cream truck tinkled a song someone hollered at someone else across the street something went BANG airplane flew termites gnawed bees buzzed leaky faucet dripped hearts beat fly bashed its head against window ambient hum hummed.

“Looks good, if you’re into dairy,” said the Spider. Capital S.

“I expect it is a source of lean protein,” said Miss Muffet.

The Spider watched eight different things at once through his eight eyes, arranged in two rows of four.

The Spider watched Miss Muffet, because you can’t be too careful.

The Spider watched a hollyhock sway in the wind outside the window.

The Spider watched shadows moving on the floor.

The Spider watched the fly.

The Spider watched another fly.

The Spider watched the clock.

The Spider watched the soul of an old man leave his body two houses down.

The Spider watched the beating heart of the earth itself.

Miss Muffet finished her lunch.

“I admire your resolve, sticking with the 5:2 diet,” said the Spider.

“It’s actually easy, and plus I’ve lost five pounds already,” said Miss Muffet.

The two of them sat there side-by-side, watching.

“It’s a life-long thing, isn’t it,” sighed Miss Muffet.

“The only alternative is not having a heart,” said the Spider. He spread out five of his eight legs, gesturing everywhere. “And that is no real alternative, in this lovely, lovely universe.”

“We love, and our hearts break, and it hurts, and we love stubbornly on.”

“One eye laughs, and one eye cries,” said the Spider. “At all times. And six watch. One watches humorously, one watches hopefully, one watches without hope. One watches warily, one lovingly, and one objectively.”

“One with joy, one with curiosity, one with suspicion, one with sadness, one with grief, one with elation,” said Miss Muffet. “One with gratitude, one with amazement.”

“That, too,” said the Spider.

The god of the office and the god of weather

“How come you let such terrible things happen all the time,” says the god of weather.

“Why is it raining?” says the god of the office.

The god of the office and the god of weather are standing on the balcony watching it rain onto a bunch of May-green trees. May is the best month.

“See, I don’t make it rain,” says the god of weather. “Weather is the expression of a complicated system. And anyway, the trees need a drink.”

“There’s your answer,” says the god of the office. “And anyway, I’m just the god of the office.”

“Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t jump,” says the god of the ledge.

“Ozymandias,” says the god of weather.

“This too shall pass,” says the god of the office.

“Tomorrow shall be sunny,” says the god of weather.

“Everything eventually falls apart,” says the god of the office. “And everything is beautiful, anyway.”

“Those you worship will disappoint you,” says the god of weather. “By sacrificing too much for you and too little for themselves, or too little for you and too much for themselves, or by not making themselves happy when they are your idol and example…”

“…and you will disappoint those who worship you by not making yourself happy. Self-betrayal is not a worthy sacrifice. Sacrifice itself, I don’t know, is it obsolete or just ancient? But love makes up for all of this,” says the god of the office. “And everything is beautiful anyway.”

“These are the ground rules for an earthly existence,” says the god of weather.