01.11.12 The Bus Comes Back at the End of the Day





Bad day. Morose. Old. Tired. Useless. But the only cure is work, and I did ten tons of novel. Gads, this thing is a mess. The third one, I mean. The first one, I would like to believe, is a shining model of perfection, and I don’t think I’ll have to change much beyond tightening up and adding a scene in the Casablanca Bar’s 1980s incarnation. The beginning of the 1947 novel is a total mess, and there’s a big plot hole I’m considering leaving intact, because it’s one of those things you can get away with, if things are moving quickly enough. Something gets you from point E to point F, and F takes you in another direction with such narrative speed and answers the questions raised by point F, then E matters less.

As for the third novel, it really is a strange thing. It’s quite a lightweight thing, and I think it might come in shockingly low, at 60,000 words - there just isn’t enough there. But. Hey. For $2.99? It’ll do.

Here, have some cover art for another project:





Haven’t talked to my dad since I was in Fargo; that’s okay. He hasn’t called me; that’s okay. Probably talk to him this weekend. I have no doubt I’m not on his mind right now; he’s got other stuff to think about, and is probably sitting in the den listening to the country channel on cable TV. It’s the way of things. It’s totally normal.

On a completely unrelated note: the bus was 20 minutes late today, so I went out looking to see what had happened. I was pretty sure she had been kidnapped, and I would find her backpack in the bushes down the street. I was also pretty sure this had happened in the morning, and she never got to school, and this was my fault for not standing at the window and watching her go down the hill. You get lazy. You give them a kiss and send them out and get on with your day, one small clock in your head ticking until the expected time when the world will deliver them back at your door, back in the place of safety, back in the castle. Draw up the bridge; she’s home.

But she wasn’t, and I got that greasy feeling in the gut. Even though I knew it was nonsense. The bus would be along. And sure enough the bus was along; the driver waved a SORRY and the kids spilled out.

Everything resets.

“What’s wrong with your dog?” asked one kid. He’s rather blunt.

“He’s old,” I said.

“He has arthritis in his back legs,” my daughter said.

“Oh.” The kid looked at me. No expression. “What are you writing about.”

Huh? “I was writing a mystery story about a newspaper. Someone is shooting the reporters one by one.”

“You should write about your dog,” he said. He looked at Jasper with no expression. He looked around the lawns. “You should write about how there’s no snow.”

“I have,” I said. “And I will.”

“People would read that,” he said, perhaps suggesting a newspaper mystery would not rival “cat coughs up hairball into baby’s face” for hits.

He went one way and we went another, going up the back steps so Jasper didn’t have to climb the main stairs.

“I don’t know how he knew you’re a writer,” daughter says.

“My fame extends to the sixth grade.”

“He’s in eighth grade.”

So I have some work to do to get brand awareness in the lower grades.

We get home and settle into the routines, and the rest of the night unfolds like a standard Tuesday. I am called into her room for some technical troubleshooting at some point. The issue is solved, because I have a conceptual view of the computer environment she lacked. But now she lacks it no more. One less reason to call me into the room, I suppose, but I’d rather she was capable instead of needy.

Up to a point. The practical side of parenting is all about engineering your obsolescence, and I’m sure that works really well for robots. The rest of us don’t mind a modicum of indispensability.

Anyway, all is fine. But if the bus is 25 minutes late tomorrow I will have all the same assumptions. Your kids are never more present than when they’re not where they’re supposed to be. You want relief from this, or at least relief from the old instincts. You know it’s just a late bus, just as you knew years ago when you went to pick her up and couldn’t find her in the crush of kids that she was there, somewhere, and hadn’t been levitated out of the room by ninjas with invisibility cloaks; you know all this. But it will be nice some day when you’re an old dad dozing at day’s end, looking at the phone, thinking “I’ll call him tomorrow. He’s okay.”

That has to be a good feeling. When you’re certain. But it all seems sad to consider:. The day she doesn’t call. The day I don’t expect it. The day I don’t call, because, well, heck, I called a few days back. Horribly sad. I suppose it won’t seem so; it’ll be just the next edition of Normal, edited quarterly for your edification. But there’s not a parent of a young one who can look at their room, imagine it empty and wonder how, exactly, you get along after that.

So what do you do? You get up tomorrow and make a good breakfast with all her favorites and read the comics together and check the weather and pack a treat in the lunch and send her out the door, a boomerang you spent a decade carving, and that’s all you can do. Close the door, pat the dog (he always comes to the front door to see her off, then looks at me as if we’re going somewhere, too; does it every morning) get a cup of coffee and get on with the day. It’s all we have until we get another.

Today: some Louise Brooks over in Black and White World. (Also fixed the duplicate Joe Ohio; 45 is the new one. See you around!

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