Stayed up too late, rose too early; come the crack of Three PM, I put my head down for a 10-minute recharge. I hear the gate open. I wait for the sound of the dog; nothing. I hear the squeaking of the water spout. Of course! It’s the never-say-die crew, come to fill up the totally patched and utterly fixed tank! Because that was this week’s big advance: patching a leak. Content, I drifted off, and woke with one strange line in my head:

What is this, an Ed Harris film festival?

Whatever, subconscious. Now I’m at the kitchen table, waiting for Gnat to get dropped off from swimming, so we can go to Chuck E. Cheese’s. Half an hour ago I drew a chalk mark on the waterline of the tank. How I want to look. Now. It’s killing me. I have to know.

No, I’ll wait. That will be my gift to myself. Fire up the five o’clock cigar, wander over, steel myself, and check.

Can be honest here? Absolutely truthful? I have a small, nagging suspicion that the water level might actually have dipped an inch.

Call me crazy. Call me a suspicious louse who’s lost his faith in fellow man. But there it is, and I’m ashamed.

Whoa! They’re back! They’re walking over to the pit . . . I can’t bear to look. I can’t stand the suspense. If they shake their heads in dismay, that’ll mean, oh, I don’t know, six more weeks of repairs. They’re groundhogs. Who smoke. Smoking groundhogs.

Later: it’s 5:02. Here I go.

5:03. It’s down two inches in two hours.

The rate of the drain has increased.

5:08. Just got off the phone with G.B. He had been informed by his crew. I’ve heard cheerier voices in documentaries from Death Row. I assumed the flat voice of someone who has lost his will to live, but not his will to sue. He said he’s going to come by next week – Tuesday, to be exact, Monday’s out – and rip up the lining and put down a new one, under his supervision.

“Of course, we’ve spent two weeks patching two leaks,” I said. I almost felt cruel to say it, because I knew what his reply would be. He had been under orders to Patch, not Replace. But He Would Patch No More Forever.

So the repair job will take six weeks, at the least. Six weeks. I think the Romans got an aqueduct over a mountain in five.

Was that my entire day? Of course not. Just the most . . . potent. I wrote, I mopped all the floors, I met with the landscape contractor  (different company, needless to say . . . although he’s repairing something the company screwed up a few years ago, when they ripped up the lawn to put in a sprinkler system and put grass seed amongst the flowering ground cover. It never ends.) (Perhaps the secret is just not to start.) While he came my agent called with good news – not the Joe Ohio book, but another in the Institute series, so there’s one book in the ’07 season I know I’ll have out. Huzzah for that. Jasper, naturally, barked as though Frankenstein had showed up smelling like cats, and between the phone call and the landscaper and the dog I think I gave my agent approval to accept the offer of sixteen hosta plants, as long as they’re hardcover.

Gnat arrived, dropped off by the parent who takes her and her bestest friend in the world ever to swimming class. This being my wife’s bunco night, we headed off to Chuck E. Cheese’s for the usual diversions. I played the stop-the-rolling-light-between-the-posts game like a crack monkey at a slot machine, and she stomped spiders. We played air hockey and skeeball and ate that sweet, tomato-smeared bread confection the locals call “pizza.” I got back in the car, checked my cell phone – three calls from the Hugh Hewitt show. Uh oh. I’d left messages with the producer requesting the monthly reschedule to the third hour; apparently, it hadn’t gotten through. I called the show, and Robbie the Interim Producer said he could put me on now – but since it was pouring rain and I had a kid in the back seat and a taco in my lap, I was not in the position to wax loud on world events, so we pushed it back until I’d gotten home. I know, I know: and I call myself a professional.

Actually, I don’t.

Once home I did the show. Brief discussion of Turkey, which all of a sudden looks like the next red boil. Oh great.  poured a drink that was not exactly stiff but not entirely inclined to pliability, either, and Gnat and I watched Spongebob. (It’s amusing to hear her echo my own remarks. “Patrick is dumb,” she said, “but he has a good heart.” That’s a fragment of some old lesson about the relative importance of intelligence and goodness, I guess. I’m just glad she doesn’t phrase it the other way around.) Then I went upstairs to upload the Diner, only to discover I had not finished it. Hardly. I had left it at a rather annoying point – I’d talked myself into a corner and completely gotten off the subject, whatever that was. But of course the fun of these things is just making it up as I go along, so: hook up the mike, make it up, go along. There’s always something I can use as a call-back, anyway. Cleaned it up, sent it off to the .mac servers, got her in the bath, read books. She wanted a Rolie Polie Olie book, bless her heart.

“I’ll be down the hall,” I said. “I’ll close my door so the typing doesn’t keep you awake.”

“No,” said a sleepy voice. “The typing makes me feel safe.”

As it happens, I stopped typing after I wrote that last line; I’ve been looking at it, thinking about it, trying to burn it into some backup neurons that will fire on the day I die and release all the good stuff into my brainpan as I head into the light. If she has a few memories of the kindergarten years, and one of them is drifting off to sleep, happy, secure, listening to the muted clack and clatter down the hall – well, I’ll take that. Some of my earliest memories, after all, consist of the pungent poke of gasoline in my nostrils, because that’s what dad smelled like when he came home from work. To this day I always breathe deep when I fill ‘er up. Ahhhh. That’s the stuff.

Yes, yes, I know, the State of California has determined that the vapors can cause cancer in marsupial blastocysts, or whatever. My dad’s 80, and he can lift his wife over his head. So there.

Hit the Diner link below for the art-added whizbang version; boring MP3  is here. New Quirk, of course. Thanks for enduring this week of ordinariness – better a plate of straw than nothing at all, I suppose. Right?


Okay, don’t answer that. ;)


  c. j. lileks 2006. Email may be sent to first name at last name dot com.