Cleaning a furnace

The world, it spins so fast, yet we are not dizzy.

First weekend in ages with sweet, empty hours to goof off. Woman goes to zoo with kid, tells man, oh BTW you have to paint walk-in closet as cleaning lady coming tomorrow. Gives him roll of plastic to cover stuff.

Post-tantrum, man looks for brushes, paint. Calls wife. White paint has solidified. Try other color, she says, to his disappointment.

No roller, either, just a little brush. But it is a small room and walls mostly covered by new wardrobes now too so okay.

Takes a couple hours. Maybe a few hours. Go downstairs to  make tea. Father-in-law comes, with something his wife cooked for man’s wife. Says something about cleaning, man fails to understand. Want some tea? Man asks. Okay, says father-in-law. A conversation between the hard-of-hearing and the slightly demented ensues.

Cleaning: man realizes, someone said something earlier, about cleaning the furnace.

Have time to clean the furnace? Yep, says father-in-law. That was the whole reason he came over, man realizes.

Inside his head, his mind is whipcracking around with these realizations. Outwardly, he appears normal.

They go down to clean the furnace. To do that, you remove the plate on the front, remove the bolts holding on the face, open

(whoa giant brown-recluse-looking spider on the floor by father-in-law’s foot)

the door, remove a drum-type thing, get a wire brush, brush out the soot from inside the furnace.

(the spider is very still. it is either dead or playing possum. man watches it closely, although he should be memorizing the furnace-cleaning steps. father-in-law’s birkenstocked foot moves closer and closer to still spider, man wonders if he should say anything, but he doesn’t know if the spider is dead or alive and why waste all the excitement sure to ensue on a dead spider?)

replace drum, bolt door shut, replace face, plug things back in.

(man will tell father-in-law about spider if it starts running up his leg, he decides. father-in-law finally bumps it, it still doesn’t move, so it must be dead, man feels better. it was only dead! who cares about a dead spider?)

father-in-law cleans up. man will shower later.

they chat a while. how many more chats will we have like this, man wonders.

father-in-law goes home. man cleans up room he just painted, reads a book, takes a shower.

it’s a fine, sunny day.




Down besider agin

There was this crow and Little Miss Muffet was trying to dig out some beef for it without getting sauce on herself cause she figured it would prefer beef to the wok vegetables or the rice and due to her concentration she didn’t see the spider until she had flipped the beef out into the street where the crow pecked at it and waited for it to cool enough to carry it off.

“Hola, guapa,” said the spider.

“Geeze, you, gah, whoa,” said Little Miss Muffet, fanning herself.

The spider chuckled and chewed on his cigar.

With his mandibles or pedipalps or whatever they are.

Seen up close like that, it was like something out of an old grindhouse scifihorror movie.

“Short story is,” said the spider around his cigar, and shrugged, all eight eyes looking upward theatrically, palms theatrically upward.

“What.” Miss Muffet paused, chopsticks halfway to her mouth with a load of rice from which generic brown sauce dripped.

“Perfection is another word for death. Check a thesaurus: perfection, death, paralysis, stasis, procrastination.”

Miss Muffet glanced at the crow, which was burying the beef under some dead leaves.

“All there ever is, is this moment and doing one little thing after another. One little, imperfect, broken thing after another, again and again and again.”

“Sounds depressing.”

“It’s beautiful. It’s the most beautiful thing there is. It’s the only thing there is, in fact.”

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.

Fever! till you sizzle

On holiday next week. We will spend it in a small cabin in the Alps somewhere, the four of us. First family vacation in a while. Weather outlook for the week: cold and rainy. We offered to maybe look at a last-minute trip to Greece instead, but the kids insisted we go to the cabin. I’m happy about that, because I have been dreaming of a trip like this for a long time, going to a cabin in the mountains instead of spending days in airports.

In unrelated news, a few nights ago a nightmare woke me  up. I guess it was terrifying, because my heart was ‘racing’ and it took me a long time to get back to sleep.  Actually, it was 4.50 so I gave up and got up and didn’t go back to sleep until the following night, I remember now. It, the dream, took place in a mountain cabin. There were a couple strangers there, on the edge of the dream, guys I didn’t know. The cabin was weathered and reminded me more of the mountains (and cabins) I have seen  than the cabin we are going to (knock on wood).

There were two spiders in the cabin. One was large, as big and heavy as a crab, and was climbing around on the back of the door and making a lot of noise. The other was ‘smaller’, with the body the size of a birds and long, long legs and very fucking fast. It was spinning a web in the room and got in my face and started spinning a web around my face and head real fast, jumping around the way some spiders do when prey lands in their webs.

I was ripping spiderweb from my face when I woke up.

I figure it means, bring lots of books and Uno cards with us.


I just googleimaged “garden spider” to see if I could find an image of the spider my daughter had seen when she was picking some parsley in the garden (she damaged its web accidentally and it charged her) that she then showed my wife and my wife said it looked as if it were eating a bee, it was so big and strange-shaped, but my daughter said no it was just a bee-like spider, long bodied and so on, and then neither one of them wanted to go pick tomatoes for dinner so I did, and accidentally damaged a spiderweb there, on the tomatoes, and by god, a similar spider charged me too (I guess they’re touchy about their webs) and I was all, whoa! damn! because it was the first time I had seen a spider like that, black legs, yellowish body with markings like tribal tattoos, and when I went back into the house and described it to them they were all, yeah, that’s the guy, and I was all, well he wasn’t eating a spider, he was just big, and fast and strange-shaped (at first I thought it was lugging an egg sac around but no, it was just big-bodied) and later that evening when they were discussing whether to sleep out in the yard at night (it’s been hot) and i mentioned the spider for some reason, they were all, “I’m sleeping inside after all” and believe  it or not, it was in the very first images at the top of the page, apparently it’s called a garden spider for real. But the one I saw had blacker legs.

Also, yesterday I woke up covered with spiderwebs, which sort of freaked me out in retrospect, after seeing this spider. But it’s a real pretty spider.

What the sailor told the magician’s assistant

“I was not old when I left home. My father beat us and we took refuge in my mother’s stories of a tree house sanctuary. We’d move someday to a leafy hide out where we’d see him way before he us, and play Aggravation and checkers, and read in hammocks, library books we’d check out when the coast was clear. Once I realized it was only a dream and not a plan, I left. I was a long haul driver’s punk for a year or two, after the money I stole from my father ran out. Then one night I heard a fight out in the lot of some poor bar as I huddled in the sleeper cab of my master’s rig, and him getting the worst of it. They abandoned him for dead and words bubbled from his lips when I went to him before the dawn. Get help he mumbled, so I did. I took the key to the strongbox and left with his savings, my second treasure. It was a lot for a kid. After that were dishes washed and unwatched tills. I never actually killed a man and all my loot I deserved more than the ones I robbed, high pressure systems move to low.
At eighteen I found myself at sea. I actually swabbed actual decks, and painted steel and served up slop and climbed up through whatever ranks one rose through and my foot locker filled with cash from paychecks never spent and jewels I bought to save space. One day, standing on the deck I realized I was at the place furthest from a tree as if I’d kept an oath sworn as a boy, which I had in fact not consciously sworn. But life can take us to these junctures unawares, where had we sworn an oath it would be fulfilled: no more love, no more trust, no more hope or faith, no dreams of trees it was for me.
And now I’m here with you on the bed of the sea they took my ship in a storm just like you. It’s over there, full of cargo. I’ve made my bed in a container full of mattresses, king size, and wander this shining city at all hours, looking for a place to spend my loot. Would you like to make a bet?”

“I’d wager that your trucker’s dead,” the magician’s assistant said. “I stole the clipping from your purse, that was my old profession, as you spoke and gestured. So you didn’t kill him but you let him die.”

The sailor shrugged. “To remind me of my life on land. My father beats my mother still for all I know and she still dreams of trees.” He got down on his knees. “Will you marry me? I’ll pay you well. I didn’t think so.” He stood back up. “I say that to all the girls, pro forma. If only we had a big casino with roulette wheel and blackjack and a stage and a red whorehouse in the back, or a mall.
A hobo robbed me down by the creek between my father and the truck. Or drifter, if you subscribe to the romantic notion that all hobos are above board by definition. I fought him and he knocked me down and pocketed my cash. Someday you’ll see how illusory this really is,” he laughed.

“Here’s your clipping back,” she said, the magician’s assistant. “And your other stuff I took. Are there many others here?”

“There are a few. Maybe more, who hide from me. I feel their thoughts and eyes. Captain Nemo is down here, the old liar, with his lying song of death.”

Major Smith and the space spider things II

Major Smith suddenly wheeled about, there in his yellow kitchen, wheeled like a dervish stopped in mid-whirl. He turned on his heel and returned to his refrigerator, where he opened the freezer. God, it was full of ice. He could barely get the drawer open. When was the last time he had defrosted? He moved a package of frozen corn, and a nearly empty box of popsicles. It was in here somewhere. He found it two drawers down, under a sack of ice cubes that had frozen into a solid brick: frozen bliss. He looked at the back of the box. Best before 2007, it said. He wondered if bliss could go bad. He put it into the microwave on low. Milk turned into yogurt. What would bliss turn into when it went bad? Joy? Euphoria? Rapture? He considered the difference between bliss and joy. He wished he had a dictionary in his house, and not all these thesauri.

The phone rang. His private phone. It was headquarters. The Secretary for Alien Spider affairs was on the line. Major Smith knew the score: the alien spiders who remained – and there were several – had taken to the oceans and made shipping unsafe because in the water they developed into huge, squid-like creatures that pulled tankers and cargo ships to the ocean floor, where sonar imaging and google maps discovered that they were being cemented into some sort of structure with some sort of natural adhesive that hardened into an impervious shell. What were they building down there, was the question. Their underwater city continued to grow. The alien spider squid continued to reproduce, although it was unknown how they did so, none had been dissected or observed laying eggs, giving live birth, dividing or mating. The alien spider squid soon discovered the Pacific Garbage Patch and added that to their structure in the space of days. Swoosh, like that, the oceans cleaned in days of centuries of mankind’s trash.

People were starting to get angry. What were these space alien spider squid up to? They were making us look bad, whatever they were. World leaders debated it in the UN but Russia and China vetoed it.  Within a year the oceans were pristine and world petroleum reserves were depleted due to tankers being all gone. Giant space alien spider squid were found moving up rivers, plugging factory pipes with their impervious whatever it was. The streets filled with panicked masses as pollution rates fell below the lowest levels measured in centuries.

Major Smith looked at the bliss. Elation? he wondered. Maybe it was a halflife sort of thing when bliss went bad. The problem was, none of the definitions he had was any good for figuring out a difference between bliss, joy, and happiness. If bliss was ultimate joy, then maybe it decayed into joy when it went bad, and from there into happiness, but the definitions he had found struck him as describing things as a sort of differences of degrees thing when he was sure it was in fact a difference of quality.

He found a jar in the cupboard with a little happiness stuck to the inside walls. With a small spoon, he would be able to scrape some off if he was patient. He held the telephone between his shoulder and ear and moved his eyes from the microwave to the cupboard, and back, repeatedly, as one does when shifting ones attention between two alternatives as part of a decision-making process.

Major Smith decided to give bliss a try. If it was, in fact, that. It looked a lot like joy.

“Yes,” he said into the phone.