Mimi is the neighbor’s beautiful little gray and white cat. She had a close call with a car the other day. Turned out, she’d been hit.
I wrote about her close call in Friday Fragments. I saw Mimi streak away and reported it to the neighbor. I’ve seen cats streak away from accidents only to succumb later.
Such was the case now. Mimi’s back end was injured. She dragged herself into the house and hid. My neighbors searched for her but couldn’t find her. Midnight that night, Mimi made a noise and she was found, along with the extents of her injuries. They rushed her to care.
Mimi could be saved. The price would be high. Her injuries were extensive, and the quality of life and her future would be very uncertain. Grieving at 2:30 AM, the people made the decision they thought best for themselves and their cat.
Coronavirus restrictions were broken as the vet allowed them to say good-bye.
It was the humane thing to do.
We’ve had a family of skunk move in to the space under our house. Man, were they a noisy, rambunctious bunch.
And now they’re gone.
I’d gone out and put a board in front of the damaged vent. The board was just leaned back against so it could be moved. It was there as a marker, to provide an idea about what was going on, when.
Well, it was still in place this morning. There wasn’t a sound all night. Apparently, they’re gone.
I’m a little disappointed. Was my house not good enough for their family?
And they didn’t even say good-bye.
2020 continues to be a year of disappointments.
He hadn’t planned a stake out. When had he ever? But usually he had coffee or water. Neither were present today.
Weather was good, though. Smoke was clearing, letting stray sunshine sneak in. No rain seemed likely.
Good. He hated rain on a stake out. Always ended up with steamy windows.
At least this car was decent for it, an accidental good choice. The Mazda CX-5 was his first SUV. The front seats were roomy and comfortable. Lots of space to relax, wait, and watch.
Not like most his cars. The Porsche was a joke on a stake out. The Mercedes and Audi were alright, the Bimmer a little tight. Still, it was better than the RX-7s — three of them– and the Camaro and Firebird. The last RX-7, though, the R1, was the worst. Pretty car but the interior was made for driving and not sitting and waiting.
Movement. He sat up, poised to move. Yes, there was his man.
Jumping out the car, he hurried forward and waved his hand. The tow truck driver slowed his vehicle. He pointed across the street the gray Ford Focus. “Over there.”
The tow truck diver nodded.
Ben walked to the Focus to wait. Funny, he’d never done a stake out in it.
It’d been three years since her husband had passed away.
Amanda decided it was time to put herself back out there. She rationalized (without hard thinking) that her husband’s slow demise (three years of fighting lymphoma and brain tumors before his death) had left her long enough without male companionship. (She didn’t define herself that way, but she liked having a masculine presence in her life.) As she’d heard good things about it, she decided to give Silver Singles a try.
In her early sixties and a successful business woman with two grown children, she thought she’d have no problems. She was right. Within days, she had a first date.
He was as described, six four, two hundred forty pounds, mostly muscle, not bad for sixty-five. Lunch was scheduled. They hit it off well. This being Sunday, he said, “Shall we go back to my place to watch some football.”
“Sure,” she replied. “I have nothing better planned.”
Off they went! After a short period, she excused herself to use his bathroom. When she left the bathroom, he was standing nearby with a small smile. Apparently, he’d assumed (she assumed) that her going to the bathroom was to freshen her lady bits for him, as he said (with a suggestive smirk), “Shall we adjourn to the bedroom?”
“No,” she replied.
“Well, can I touch your breasts?”
“Will you show me your breasts?”
“You want to make out on the couch?”
“Well, you wanna see my bits?”
“I think it’s time to go.”
*True story. Only the name was changed.
People were already out of work due to COVID-19. Without revenue coming in, they were going through their savings, cutting corners where they could, selling things as necessary, going to friends or the governments for help.
Then the fires struck. In a day, everything except that which they had when they fled was gone.
Time to rebuild, but where are they going to go? The costs of housing and living is discussed, politics, and the chance for employment. Gazing across the American landscape, from the fires on the west coast to the hurricanes in the southeast and the cost of living and politics everywhere, options seem bleak.
Monday, I was settling back into my writing routine. Had my coffee, had surfed the news and fed the cats. The cats were now asleep. I was ready to write.
Well, first, one quick computer game. I’d just begun when the phone rang. Churlishly, I checked the incoming number. If it wasn’t someone looking for me that I wanted to talk to, I was going to let voice mail answer.
It was my wife’s cell phone. She was out making food deliveries to shut-ins, something she does once a month with Food and Friends.
I answered (of course). (No, there wasn’t even hesitation.) “K’s answering service. She’s not home right now. May I take a message.”
“My car died.”
“I’m trying to start it. It won’t make any sound.”
“Are there any lights?”
“Just one that looks like the little teapot.”
“Where are you?”
“Corner of Terra and Siskiyou.”
“I’m on my way.”
I was dressed and just needed shoes and mask before I was on the way. I figured, battery, but was surprised. I’d bought her a new battery two years before. She doesn’t drive it much. Other thoughts: alternator, maybe solenoid switch or starter (didn’t sound like it, though). I had cables, and would try jump-starting it.
But first — “I have to finish the route,” she said, transferring the food to my car. “Then we’ll worry about the car. I just have two stops. Then I’m supposed to pick up money from Judy. She and a friend want to donate to help some Y employees who lost everything. I’m taking up a collection so I can buy gift cards.”
I already know all of this but it’s part of her process to go through her own checklist aloud. She’s not actually talking to me.
We complete all that and get back to the car. Because of where it’s parked, my cables are too short to reach it. I head back home because I have a longer set, and return.
The car won’t take a charge. Although the radio comes on, the engine won’t turn and the starter makes a tinny clattering noise. I know the sound: it’s definitely a flat battery. But it’s a five year battery that’s two years old.
Probably the alternator. I can’t change it myself with the arm I have. I’ve swapped out three generators or alternators in my lifetime (also replaced a starter before). That was decades ago, when I was younger. Besides, that Ford’s engine compartment is too packed. The traversely mounted engine is festooned with wires. There’s not a spot of daylight in it. The cars’ engine compartments of my youth had room to work, less wires, and simpler belts.
I’m also annoyed. I’ve been after my wife to replace her car for about fifteen years. We’ve had it for seventeen years. Since the beginning, my wife has complained about its squeaky brakes. Its auto transmission also does some odd clunking. Then there was the seat fabric; it’d worn through, so I’d put some custom seat covers over them. It looks great, but it all points to a cheap car.
That’s not a surprise. When we bought the car, one of her requirements is that it use regular gas and it costs less than fifteen thousand dollars because she insists on paying cash for cars. The woman does not like having debt.
My annoyance has been growing because I’ve been telling her that parts will start failing. “But I don’t use it much,” she answers. “I just drive it around town. And we keep it in the garage.”
“They’ll start failing from age and fatigue.”
“But it only has a hundred and five thousand miles on it.”
“That has nothing to do with it. It’s still a 2003 car in 2020. Driving it less is actually worse for it in many ways.”
She’s not listening. A tow truck is arranged. The car is taken in for testing. “You need a new alternator,” they tell me.
I nod. “Yeah. I know.”
My friend passed away this week. It’s the polite way of saying he died, an easy way to express and digest it without harsher emotions and pain attached to it. He passed away. It’s like a boat sailing into a sunset, going on a journey, out of sight beyond an horizon, but really still there.
Ed was eighty-nine. He had a brain tumor. Actions were taken, but the body is the body.
He had a spectacular intelligence and a sharp sense of humor. I was flattered to know him and pleased that he sought my company. We always had lively conversations. Since I’ve known him, he’s had white and gray hair, with a receding hair line, and a gray and white riotous beard. His daughter included a photo of him from his youth. Turned out he used to be a blond, handsome man, a far reach from the fellow I knew in appearance. Yet, the resemblance beyond the superficialities of hair and beard was clearly there.
After gaining his PhD from Stanford, he joined NASA in the mid 1960s and was with them until he retired a few decades later. He was less involved with manned space exploration and more engaged with sending satellites out to find information and send it back.
In one sense, we’ve been expecting Ed’s death, in one form or another, since he was born. In another, it took him sooner than we hoped, and we wonder if it’s the curse of 2020.
I know that he’s not the only one who died this week, and that his life and death was much better than what many experience. His daughter informed us of Ed’s death on Wednesday.
“So last night mom went in to chat with dad. His breathing for 48 hours had been in the labored, raggedy stage. But he opened his eyes and they sparkled and he smiled. Mom chattered to him and told him it was ok if it was time for him to go. They had walked a lifetime together. She loved him but could let him go. I came in after to sit the rest of the evening not realizing what mom had said and told him “You’ve climbed a lot of mountains, and this has been a grand adventure of a life, it’s time to finish this final climb. We will walk it all the way to the end with you.” One tear rolled down his eye and about two minutes later I watched him hold his breath, carrying what had become a common pause in breathing, just a little further, and he was gone. He took it before it took him. And that’s the way he wanted it.He set the tone for all of us all the way along this last one year+. And I promise you he spent a lot of time over those 6 days, mostly pain free, sitting as an observer to this final unfolding, with his always enthusiastic and curious mind. He showed no struggle, no despair, no sadness. He fully leaned in to the enitre journey. I think he just would have liked it to go a little longer. But no regrets.”
I always wonder what happens after death, spiritually, but also along the lines of quantum existence. If there is something more, I’m sure Ed will make the most of it. If not, he led a life here worthy of being emulated and celebrated.
Either way, damn, I will miss him.
“It’s that time of month.”
It’s not a monthly thing, but a cyclic thing, this periodic slide into a dark trough. I feel it as it comes on. It feeds my bitterness (or I feed it), despair, and frustration. I think, I’m a terrible writer, person, husband, son, and man, a waste of air, space, and energy, and the world is a shitty place.
I know it’ll pass. While it’s happening, I need to keep a check on myself so I don’t do lash out or burn my world down. It’ll pass, you know? But at least twenty-four to thirty-six hours of it are a deep abyss.
So, mood music is required for this shit. Today’s choice (probably used in the past, but I didn’t check, because — mood) is “On the Dark Side”, by John Cafferty & The Beaver Brown Band, as heard in the 1983 movie, Eddie and the Cruisers.
Let the merriment begin!
Weighing dreams on the scales. There was another flying dream, brief but intense. I wore goggles in this one. The wind tore at my face. An insect flew into my mouth.
My sputtering and spitting marked the end to the flying portion. In a dream picosecond, I’m in the military somewhere, temporary duty somewhere, finishing up. A woman, a major is present. She came in for the same conference. I talk to her about sharing a ride to the airport. Plans and agreements are made.
Time skips ahead. It’s later than I thought. I need to rush. I haven’t packed! I need to check out, too. The airport is ninety miles away. No, it’s ninety minutes away.
I need to hurry.
I’m racing, explaining to the front desk, I order a ride and tell them where to meet me. Hurrying to the room, I shower and change clothes. Shoes! Where are they? Oh, I’ve packed them. Where’s my thing, where‘s my toilet kit?
Anxiety ratchets up.
I see a car, a silvery blue sedan, like a Buick. A woman is driving. My ride, I think. I wave at her. She parks and leaves her car. I shout over, “I need more time, I’m almost ready.”
She walks over and starts following me. I’m talking to her, babbling. We’re at once outside and in the room. I finally find my toilet kit — I’ve already packed it. Damn it, where’s my head?
And the woman says, “I’m not your ride. I’m your replacement. How was your visit?”
In morning’s warm light, it all makes sense. The military was a comfortable space. Not very challenging, and straightforward. Structured, with few surprises, and a lot of positive feedback.
Now I’m out on my own, flying on my writing words but so damned dismayed. Is it smart enough, original enough, good enough?
Where is my toilet kit?
I know. Standard writer qualms. Standard human qualms.
Standard life qualms.