I let the cat in
or out, or both
the air was cold outside
and warm inside
and the moon was bright
the door locked with a loud click
because it’s just a little
out of alignment due to
decades of settling
and i thought
god i haven’t written mom in ages
i should tell her how nice
life is and how great
the kids are and
everything that’s going on
this new place with great breakfasts
how well my scones turned out
but she’s dead
i had forgotten momentarily
i opened the door back up
and took another look at the moon

Ruby Beach

I will always remember
going down into the kitchen
one morning and my daughter
is grumbling at the table
angry over string theory
i mean she wanted to slap somebody
I will always remember
sunset at the beach, we were in Florence,
and in Cannon Beach, and up north in Washington
my daughters sitting in camping
chairs at a bonfire
when i am honest, this year has been
for many of us
my mom froze to death in January
under sad circumstances
she didn’t have coming
my photo app sent me a memory
this morning
a collage of pictures of the beach,
my daughters from 2019
my wife and me from earlier this year
over for the funeral
I had momentarily forgotten we went
to the beach
but I had wanted to show her places
i went to with our kids because I had wanted
to show our kids where I had been
with their mother when we were young
when i am honest, it’s kind of a mush
in my memory banks
i see ruby beach, I see a tent
cobbled together from laundry
line and plastic tarps
and driftwood
I see a skunk lured back out of
our tent with cookies
they ask me what do you
want to do now
i want to live, i want
to experiment, i want
to make more memories
i want to love and be
kind but sometimes I also
want to slap a physicist
So it was a hard year
in some ways for
some of us
be kind to yourselves
be kind to each other
make good memories
this is what we got
this right here
this swirling galaxy
swirling in a snail shell

No one is upset and nothing hurts

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.

Who ya whiskin’?

What day was it.
It was Sunday, the Sunday following the Saturday where we got together in a restaurant across the street from the cemetary to discuss what needed to be done in the event of a (theoretical only) death in the family (never hurts to be prepared) and who wanted Viking funerals (Gamma, me) and who would settle for something more realistic and legal, who to contact, etc. followed by a trip to a doctor due to chest pains and a dislike of irony (dying after the death meeting) who ordered further tests in the hospital that found nothing leading to a diagnosis of probably carrying the refrigerator was a bad idea.
It was Sunday, and latish morning, and Alpha and I went for a walk in the woods, by ponds and the Danube and back to the car with wet feet and a feeling of accomplishment and also a feeling that we had earned lunch at the local wine tavern (Heuriger).
We were the first guests at the Heuriger except for some dudes playing cards and we took a table outside in the sun/shade. I tried to fit myself into the shade. Our food came (I had the large round sandwich, Alpha had the Wildplatte i.e. the wild plate, consisting of game animal products. It was all pretty good. She had a spritzer, I had Sturm, i.e. pre-wine, the cloudy, sweet kind.
We were enjoying sitting there etc when Alpha goes,
“Honey, there,” and gestures at my chest where, when I look down, I see 3 enormous shiny black and yellow wasp family dudes fighting on my shirt pocket.
And I go,
“Oh. Hornets fighting on me.”
Have you ever had hornets fighting on you? It’s fascinating.
I was enthralled, it’s really cool. Shiny ectoskeletons, shiny black yellow patterns, like some athletic device you might have had years ago until it went out of style and disappeared under the bed.
They were kind of distracted by each other trying to kill everyone so I calmly watched them for a while (few seconds) but then their proximity to my heart occurred to me, you know, ‘Man stung in heart by three fat hornets’ and I whisked them away with a napkin. Two flew away immediately, one fell to the bench I was sitting on and *then* flew away.
And that was that. They might be big and scary, but at least they didn’t stick around after I whisked them the first time, like wasps, who are always, “ya whisking me ya think ya gonna whisk me who ya whiskin there fella I’ll whisk ya I’ll show ya whiskin,” etc.
Then we went home.
Now it’s Tuesday all of a sudden.


Don’t forget to have her check you for… says Odin’s wife.

Yeah, yeah, says Odin, who is going to the dermatologist.

Odin is used to waiting a long time at doctors, so he is a little surprised by the speed at which things transpire this time.

Do you have time to check me for… he asks the doctor after spending less than a single article in an obsolete magazine in the waiting room.

Sure, she says. He gets undressed and she looks him over. A mirror takes him by surprise and he resolves to work out more and eat less.

Nothing he had worried about was anything to worry about, she says, But this here, now. It should go immediately. You want an appointment or shall we do it now?

Um, says Odin. Now, I guess.

Let me show it to you, enlarged on the monitor.

Odin looks at it, feeling like a character in an H.P. Lovecraft story gazing upon an Old One nestled down amidst belly hairs enlarged to two-by-fours.

Yeah, let’s do it now, he says, with increased vigor.

Back onto the table, shave, shot, cookie-cutter, stitch, stitch, bandaid and he’s standing up again looking at the hygienic paper cover the doctor had unrolled over the table before plopping him down. It looks like the Shroud of Turin, a little crumpled, with a sweat stain the size and shape of a medium-to-large man and, down by the feet, a bunch of black fuzz.

Apparently Odin’s socks today are lintier than average.

Or: the Effects of Fear-Induced Perspiration on Lint Adhesion, thinks Odin.

I always thought it was just a mole, thinks Odin. But it was something else. Something… eldritch and ancient.

In this fashion, Odin will go about cheering himself up.

The doctor gives him an an appointment to have the stitches out on April first. Upon hearing the date, tasteless prank after prank begin scrolling through Odin’s brain.

Nothing he could ever really do, but still. He is thankful for the distraction, it keeps him from thinking about the linty, sweaty paper, and about the tiny, ancient thing.



New wardrobe

I was picking out clothes.

I had this medium-length tan coat, similar to what Steve McQueen wore in a movie. Bullit I think.

And this knit cap, like what Daniel Craig wears in a scene or two of that remake of that brutal Swedish movie about the reporter and the hacker, which I happen to like (the cap. And the movie, as it so happens, despite the brutality).

It was kind of a strange combination, and wouldn’t look good on me, I don’t think, but this was a dream.

I was going to see my dad. I was real happy about that in the dream.

I was still happy when I woke up; then I remembered that my father passed away years ago.

Suddenly, the dream was disturbing.

My wife says I was moaning and groaning in my sleep.

Remember the old days of blogging, when we wrote about our dreams all the time?

Before death takes a holiday, he fills his tank

Death still has half a tank, but he’s doing something after work tomorrow so he swings into the filling station on his way home from work.

The architecture of the filling station is like this: building on the right, with the cash register, snacks and drinks and magazines, a couple poker machines, tobacco products, office in back. Next to that, restrooms and a garage bay.

There are three rows of pumps – one on the left, and then two rows on the right, back to back. So in theory two vehicles could be filling up on the left line, two more next to them and on the right side two more.

That is, beneath the roof extending out leftward (from death’s current position) from the building, there are two open spaces. The wider space, on the left, has a row of two pumps on its left side and a row of two more on its right side. The backs of those pumps abut another row of pumps which are along the left side of the right open space. The right side of the right space is the face of the building.

Death’s car’s gas cap is on the driver’s (left) side.

When he arrives at the gas station, there are two cars. One is a large, white delivery van parked diagonally in the wider left space, effectively blocking both left and right pumps. The other is a small, blue compact blocking the right space.

Both owners are in the building. Death waits for one of them to come out before committing himself to a row.

The large white delivery van reminds him of when he used to drive a large, white delivery van in college. You drove it standing up. He very nearly rear-ended a car in Vancouver, Washington once, down near the I-5 bridge, because he was watching a girl. Imagine that! What is it with death and maidens? He slammed on his brakes at the last possible second. It was summer, he was young and strong, and the tires screeched on the asphalt.

Two women with long, frizzy, light blonde hair and dark blue coats exit the building and climb into the blue car. Death leaves his motor idling, moves his car up behind theirs and waits for them to drive off, but they don’t. They don’t appear to be doing anything. They don’t seem to be having a discussion, or looking for the key (the driver had that in her hand already while exiting the building) or arguing or talking on a mobile phone or programming the navigation device or finding a station on the radio.

They are just sitting there.

Okay, death thinks. Whatever. They will eventually notice a car behind them and drive away.

Meanwhile the driver of the van exits the building in a hurry. He looks over at the van, but then turns left and tries the door of the men’s room. Finding it locked, he goes back inside for the key. He dashes back out, unlocks the door and disappears inside.

The blue car now has death curious. What are they doing? Why are they not moving? Are they rude? Distracted by some emergency or crisis? Having a quiet argument? Blind with grief? Laughing over a joke? Are they just stupid morons?

Cause, seriously, death is two meters behind their car, in his own car, motor idling, lights on.

Death waits a little longer, then gets out of the car and walks over to the driver’s side window of the blue car. The two women are sitting inside, looking straight ahead.

Weird, death thinks.

He bends over and taps on the glass.

The driver looks over at him and her entire body jerks such that she is airborne a couple inches before bouncing back down into the seat. Her facial expression is one of panic, briefly.

Am I so scary looking, wonders death. Maybe so. He is about six feet tall, after all, and male, and wearing a long black coat. Death wonders how she would react if he popped up from the back seat, wearing scary fake teeth, on some dark road. It would be the end of her story, he thinks.

The woman recovers and vacillates briefly between rolling down her window and opening her door. Death would roll down his window, but she opens her door a crack.

Excuse me, says death. Would you mind moving your car a few meters forward so I can put gas in my tank?

The woman nods and drives forward a few meters, then stops. Death moves his car and begins filling his tank. While he does so, the woman moves her car again, further forward and to the right, over by the high-pressure water washer things and the coin-operated vacuums. Then she loops around to the left, making a U, until she is in front of the diagonally-parked delivery van, blocking its easy exit.

The delivery truck driver exits the men’s room, returns the key, and jockeys the van back and forth until it can get around the blue car,  and drives off.

Death goes inside and pays. He has a bad taste in his mouth and wants to get chewing gum, but the cashier rings up his gas so fast he doesn’t have a chance to tell her he wants gum and doesn’t want to make her change what she’s rung up so he just lives with it. He pays and returns to his car.

The blue car has turned around again so it is in front of him. It drives off, slowly, death behind it. Out of town plates, notices death. Maybe they’re just lost and trying to figure things out. He gives them plenty of space.

At home, death’s wife is working in her office.

Sorry, death says, I don’t want to bother you for long. I just wanted to give you a kiss. He kisses his wife.

That’s okay, she says. People bug me all the time at work. For hours on end.

Oh do they? says death. Anyone at work do this? He reaches around and squeezes his wife’s breasts.

Is that a trick question? says his wife.

They laugh and laugh.

That death. What a joker.