Okay, here’s the deal.

Guttural, bellyfeeling version: ($#*@#*@#$

Short version: my wife was sacked.

Long version: can’t say. I’d love to recount the entire tale, but by the time I salted with with caveats and hypotheses it would be unintelligible and boring, and I leave that sort of writing to the Postmodernists.

What caused my spasm of doubts over the Bleat’s future was prompted by the immediate and stark realization that a sizable portion of our income had evaporated. My first thought was to stop spending my evenings writing for nothing and start writing for money. My second thought: this is, in a way, writing for money; people visit the site and buy the books. So it might not be wise to give this up. Don’t quit your night job, in other words.

I still don’t know what to do; it all hinges on how long my wife is unemployed. No changes for a while, I think, but I’m all over the road here. In a way it’s a blessing, since she was looking for a new challenge. (Like joblessness! Hah hah!) And while I’ve finished the next book and am halfway through the one after that, I could be writing a novel at night, you know. A murder mystery. Jack the Ripper in Ancient Rome! I can see the cover: a shadowy figure with a tophat and a toga. Or perhaps something about parenthood - although who reads those books? The target audience is too exhausted to read, and by the time they have a spare moment or two they don’t want to read about raising kids, they want to read a murder mystery set in 14th century Greenland.

As I was thinking about a Gnat book, I had a horrible realization. Until my wife got a job, she would be staying home with our daughter. I know that sounds odd. I’m happy for everyone. But suddenly I felt as if I’d lost the job. I’d been fired. I was made redundant. And sure enough when I left for work today, I was disconsolate; this was all wrong. We were supposed to have our morning together, then drive to Nana’s. Then I would work for a few hours, pick her up and drive home singing songs and playing Name That House Color. No more. I could stay at work as long as I liked, feet up, keyboard in lap, writing at my leisure.

I went to work and I didn’t write a word. Stared at the screen.

But there were more repercussions, and they all chewed the wax tadpole. Of the entire clusterfarg, the largest glowing component was this: She was canned the day before we were to close on our mortgage. I could have said nothing; I could have signed every piece of paper put in front of me, but that would be - what’s the word? - WRONG. Yes, it’s illegal, but it’s also wrong. So closing was off. That fabulous interest rate we got: poof.

And then the ripples go outward: won’t need Nana, so she’s out the scratch. The woman who comes in once a week to do the woodwork: she’s hosed. The guys who mow the lawn: well, they’re in luck, because I’ll be damned if I push a mower up the hill. But otherwise, it’s time to cinch the belt. Cancel the cellphone! Goodbye HBO! Jug up the plasma and sell it on the corner from a rickety cardtable! Rent out the basement to carnies!

Stop. Wait. We’re fine. She got some goodbye money, and there was the 401-type money thingy (I’m not clear on the details) that will be rolled over, but still: my inner Homer looks at this, and gets a thought-balloon of myself in Monopoly man clothing clicking his heels to “We’re In the Money.” They’re giving you money and you don’t have to come in?

Yes, but that’s only because they’re not going to give me any more in the future.

To heck with the future, Marg - uh, honey! Everyone’s always talking about it but we always get stuck in the stupid present. Let’s build a gold rocket with a glass-bottomed swimming pool!

After Gnat went down we talked for a while, then my wife went to bed to spin & seethe. At eleven the storm hit. At midnight the power went out. I was still wide awake, so I sat up watching “Rocketship X-M” on my laptop, feeling rather numb. My wife came down a few minutes later and we mapped out the future over candlelight and the mad bright theatrics of the storm outside.

In the morning the lawn was strewn with branches knocked off the trees by the storm. I paused, and thought wow: now there’s a metaphor for life, how violent acts prune away the parts you no longer need. But I’d better gather them now before my wife comes down, because the last thing you need to see the day after you’ve been sacked is a lawn full of dead wood.

Back to work now - since I didn’t write a column at work I have to do it tonight. But two notes:

I’ve given up with the mac.com mail account. From now on I’m going to make my life easier and fold everything into the giant wad that is the Backfence account. So: fence@startribune.com is the new address.

Point two: anyone need a lawyer? Three years Department of Justice in DC, eight years Assistant Attorney General for the State of Minnesota. Smart as they come, rigorous and diligent, astonishingly hardworking, and a you-can-turn-the-world-on-with-your-smile smile that makes Mary Tyler Moore look like exhibit A at a dental convention’s “Crones and Gingivitis” seminar.

Point three: life’s still good.

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