Well, I’m empty. It happens. Some Wednesdays are the hole in the doughnut, the Big Lacuna. You do what you do and then the day’s done. What, exactly, did you accomplish?
You wrote a column. The child was fed with a variety of substances both raw and contrived; the dog was walked and permitted to excrete in the spots of his chosing. If you had a bill to pay, you put it on the pile; if the pile threatened to totter, you got out the checkbook. Stamps? Yes, you have stamps. You bought two books: one commemorating a famous boxer; use those for the utilities. The other book contained oversized stamps of famous children’s literature characters, including everyone’s favorite incoherent mouse, Maisy. You actually narrate the process as if this was an episode of that long-forgotten cartoon.
Would you like to symbolize the cost of transporting this check to the gas company, Maisy?
Oh, look, it’s Charlie, your dull-witted bipedal crocodile accomplice. Hello, Charlie!
And Charlie’s brought Cyril the mouse, who peed in his pants in one episode. We’ll never let you forget that, will we, Cyril? And it’s Tallulah, the pushy little duckling whose boundless self-regard indicates a nascent narcissistic complex. You’re going to bring your parents grief and leave behind a string of dazed, resentful boyfriends, aren’t you, Tallulah? Unless you’re more like your namesake, and regard the goslings with bemused disinterest! Oh and look, it’s Little Black Cat, the animal who unaccountably did not get a first-name upgrade, but lives in a subservient state. Way to spotlight institutional racism in way that goes right over the audience’s head while reinforcing the concept at a subliminal level, Little Black Cat!
By now you’ve spent 15 minutes talking to the postage stamps, and you’re late for picking up your kid. You leave the house – forgetting the letters, of course – and drive to school. It takes four minutes; you change the radio station 16 times. Once in the school you talk to a Mom, who asks if you need a column idea.
“Never,” you say. “But try me.” Turns out her stroller rolled down a hill. Into the creek. No kid on board, but there was a laptop in the back. There was also a stuffed animal, who bobbed away down the stream, to much lamentation. Her story is hiliarious. You don’t know whether to make a Bobo or Ophelia reference. Ah: here’s your child; hugs and kisses, out the door. What was the word of the day?
The word was Safety. They had a Red Cross team in class to teach them about safety. And how can you be safe?
“Look at the trees,” your child says, adding, “you probably wonder why you should look at the trees to be safe.”
Indeed; you are wondering exactly that. Do they start to move their roots when bad weather approaches, as though wanting to run away?
“No well if the veiny side of the leaf is pointing up, that means it’s going to rain.”
You never noticed that. Somehow you missed the massive leaf-inversion that presages an unsafe episode of precipitation. Off you go, off to home. Your kid has a friend coming over, and the event is signaled with the usual canine hysteria. They play I Spy on the computer for a while; you offer some snacks. Goldfish crackers, anyone?
“Flavor blasted, please,” says your child. To your immense relief your Goldfish have indeed been blasted with flavor. “Nothin’ but Nacho,” to be specific. Lo, the adjective has become the noun. You get out some Yo-J, and discover that the stuff was already expired back when Bush was polling in the high 40s. You serve milk, to everyone’s disappointment. You catch up on the news while they play. The news is bad or depressing or just not encouraging. You wonder if there’s some parallel Pollyanna internet out there you might enjoy every so often. Either the news is depressing because the purveyors appear not to have gotten the general memo delivered a few years ago on a crisp blue morning, or it’s depressing because they not only got the memo but can recite it from memory and spend an hour on the “story so far” part, winding up to Today’s Peril. But then the kids start laughing again because one of them put a goldfish up his nostril. Well, that’s the news of the day as well. And just as important.
At five they go in the car for tumbling class. It’s the last one of the spring. Everything is the last something or other these days; for all the promise of Spring’s new beginning, it has more termini than any other season. You go home to prepare dinner, taking 12 minutes for a quick and potent nap. After supper your wife and child go to soccer, so you make a stab at this little internet radio thing you do. You have an idea, but no specifics. That has never stopped you before.
When everyone comes home from soccer and grocery shopping you do this and that and putter around, and everyone stays up a bit too late, and your kid can’t get to sleep because she’s exciting about the plane trip she’s taking this Friday. You will not be going. You will be staying home for R & R and other duties both small and unavoidable. You don’t mind. But right now you have to write something, so: the laptop goes on the kitchen table, the evening cigar is lit, the cordial poured, the DVD popped in the player so you can look at the menu screen for “24” and be reminded that the rote joys of the night are still ahead. A little popcorn, a little pudding, some bad guys shot by the Inerrant Gun of St. Jack the Brave, and then bed. Thursdays are always good; this should be no exception. And it’s June!
June, the greatest of all months. If done right. May is really the finest, you think; May prepares the way for June. A cold May is quickly forgotten if June is warm; a warm May that gives way to a hot sunny June makes summer seem twice as long. By the end of the month, May has done its job in the most important sense: the greenness of the world now seems ordinary. All that lush life seems like it never went away. You’re used to it. You take it for granted. But you walk outside in the morning for the paper, look down the hill at the thick lawn, look up at the trees – veiny-side down, sailors don't frown – and you still think: wow. Yes indeed. This is why I’m here.
June! You never extinguish the emotions that word held when you were in school. Freedom and release. Listening to the radio in the twilight, waiting for the station to sign off with that robotic vocoder ID. Pulling in Casey Kasem from Chicago on the weekend. Comics on the stoop. Not just popsicles, but Dreamsicles. Ice cream sandwiches melted to that perfect pliant state; the remarkable melding of mushy cardboard and orangey sweetness that composed the end of a Push-Up. The swimming pool, with the hot solid grit of the concrete under your feet, elastic band with a basket token cinched around your ankle. Burgers in the car and root beer from the mug, delivered on a tray that hangs off the window: you can feel the thick plastic webbing on the bottom of the tray, just like you can somehow imagine the weight of the drive-in movie speaker just by remembering the way it sat on the glass. June!
You wonder if you can make this one last a little longer this time. You resolve to try –
And then you note the time, and note the day is mostly done. What did you do with it?
More than you thought, it seems. That’s usually the case, if you look close enough.