Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Oh, So What!

I wrestle with the Devil. The personal supreme spirit of evil , according to Merriam-Webster. Twenty years ago a person hands me a business card. We're in a bar. I do not know the person nor do I remember why he handed me the card. Perhaps, I had bored him to death. It was a white embossed card with only these words: Oh so what who gives a s**t. I held onto the card until it was tattered and then gave it away to someone who bored me to tears. I've gone from boredom to the blahs. Then, sick of winter is followed by really tired of bitter cold, cabin fever, manic depression, winter weary and now, Oh so what...It could only be followed by, Why Bother!

Even cheerful Marion at the grocery store who clucks whenever she sees me, asks the same question; Have you been subbing much? and finally scrunches up her face in her red pinched way and bemoans; I'm tired of winter. The feeling gets in the way of writing. Then a bright light, like the LED trouble lights I've been buying for the 82 year old librarian in Readstown-bent from an automobile accident 30 years ago, fingers curled from arthritis; Write what you know. Blame it partially on Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

Love In The Time Of Cholera , a crazy juxtaposition, is filled with lovely descriptions, haunting metaphors, unreal images -every other line could be the title of a book or short story. "...Unfaithful but never disloyal." "She had a legendary career as a courtesan who deserved her nom de guerre, "Our Lady of Everybody." ..."All that remained of her on the moonlit roofs was a fluttered farewell with a white handkerchief like a solitary sad dove on the horizon." Write what you know.

I know a kitchen in an old remolded schoolhouse. I know the farm folks were short on cash. Vernon County is second only to its neighboring county for being the lowest in per capita income . Cheap paneling abounds. Z-brick, a fancy substitute for real brick lines the walls above the splash block of the counter. Why in heavens name would anyone use Z-Brick in a kitchen. The abrasive surface is impossible to clean. The final blow- a textured plaster over cellulose ceiling tiles. Again, impossible to clean. !@#$ farmers.

The Pooch is out of cat treats. He's riding high on our list of heroes when he catches a mouse in the kitchen. I surmise that he found the fat, furry rodent in the basement. Then again, there are two holes in the plywood over studs behind the cabinets. There's a wire for the range hood jutting out from the wall. The Pooch investigates the wire nuts on the white cable sticking out of the wall.He looks up at the hole in the corner between the ceiling and sidewall. Mice highways. A labyrinth of tunnels. A trip to the grocery is part of a careful system of stops from here to the small town 18 miles away.

First, to the library to deliver LED trouble lights. I chuckle, thinking that the librarian is putting a little light into every one's life at the darkest time of the year. She's very clever and a real pistol at 82. Janie tells me, " I got a clean bill of health from the doctor." She describes various tests including a bone density test. "I've got the bones of a 50 year old,"she says. "Hmmm, hmmm," she hums constantly and writes me a check for five rechargeable lights and asks me to keep an eye out for DVD movies for the library. After the grocery store, I head toward Richland Center and the Amish. There are a few missing dimensions on the cabinet plans.

I'd stopped at the farm before I left for town. Monday is laundry day and the daughters are busy sewing and ironing. The Mrs. has socks hanging outside and more laundry on the door of the wood kitchen stove. I ask, " When are you making bread again?" She looks at the clothes in the oven and jokes about them. "Friday," she says. I ask for one white and one brown. The Mr. is off butchering a cow. He'll be back by 4 PM. When I return, Titus is driving a creaking iron wheeled wagon. In the wood sided wagon is a tarp and a meat saw. "Got any hamburger?" I ask. He says his brothers have all the meat. He gets the hide which he will sell. Although the winds is biting, he's dressed in a thin denim coat and straw hat. No gloves and rubber boots. We go inside to check dimensions. The youngest daughter is at the vinyl covered table arranging pictures of animals. I point out a missing dimension on a side cabinet. The plans for my cabinets are in the wood shop, but to save Titus another trip outside, I tell him,"I'll be back on Friday for bread." I write him a note. Check dimensions of cabinet on left side of refrigerator. I recount an episode from my teaching days about written excuses and cite an example from Frank McCourt who wrote of his days as a teacher in NYC. Frank turned a drawer full of thirty year old excuses inherited from a retired teacher into a writing lesson. The most memorable challenge: Write an excuse for Hitler. Then, I remind Titus I'll be back at the end of the week and drive off to give the Pooch his treats.

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