Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Quake that refreshes


The flat started shaking as I was sharing a pomegranate with Mr. Billy. I had time to stare at Mr. Billy, think, "earthquake," put down the pomegranate, think, "damn, it's a long one."

And then it really got going.


We're looking around the flat for anything that might come flying off a shelf or a wall. We both stand up at the same time. Our black cat scrambles for her safe place under the bed.

Something crashes in the guest room.

The striped cat holds for dear life to his platform on the cat tree.

We stand ready for...something. Um, do we need to get under a doorway maybe?

I look at the picture behind the couch, swinging on the wall.

It stops. It doesn't wind down. It just stops. Mr. Billy moves quickly to me, puts his arms around me. We hold each other tightly, for a long time. He grins at me, his eyes big.

We take a minute to look around, see what fell. Nothing seems to be broken. We coo reassuringly at the cats, but it will be awhile before they've calmed down.

I'm putting away the leftovers, and it occurs to me: I'm happy.

Moments before I was Googling symptoms (note: do not do this. I can't stop myself, but you're better than me. Hint: whatever you have is cancer), checking work email, obsessing. Now I'm humming as I find a container for the pomegranate.

The seeds blink out at me like jewels.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Burned-out husk

Post-rush-hour crowd on the bus as I ride to a doctor's appointment. An Asian man in a toupee sits across from me, Ken-doll swoop to his bangs. He holds his mouth pursed as though keeping in a mouthful of vomit. Or pearls.

I'm knitting, listening to the women behind me.

Mature Woman #1: Di-vis-a-der-o.

Mature Woman #2: That's a major street, there.

MW #1: So she asked me, are you carrying flame retardant with you when you drive? I mean, the car was just a burned-out husk, sitting in the driveway.

MW #3: Tsk.

No, it isn't quite a tsk. It's a sound I recognize, I've heard it before. Kind of a tsschp.

MW #1: Boat's completely gone. It was an old wooden boat, in the driveway. Nothing left. SUV's a burned-out husk.

MW #3: Tsschp.

Now I recognize the sound. My grandfather used to make that sound when he was sucking on his dentures, slurping the loose dentures back up against his gums.

MW #1: The firemen had to yell at Bob to stop, he was spraying down my car with the garden hose when they got there. Get away from there, they said, it could explode.

I'm eight years old again, listening to Gramps play guitar, jazzed up with a wah-wah pedal my uncle designed, and Gramps' own flourishes.

MW #1: You know, my little car didn't get any better mileage than that SUV.

MW #2: What'd it get?

MW #1: (mumbling) 16

MW #3: Tsschp.

Gramps played a fancy guitar, singing and playing and sucking up his dentures. Natty in his dark suit and string tie.

MW #2: Your car's not so little.

MW #1: It is. Not full-size.

My stop already. As I step down to the doors, I look back at the women. They each have a variation of the practical Mature Woman haircut. One gray, one blond, one brunette.

They wear matching, red-white-and-blue American flag windbreakers. The brunette shakes her map of San Francisco open for the other two to see.

Back by popular demand

(Popular demand = my sister and a friend)

Chuck has looked like a thumb for far too long. In mere moments, I hope to replace that vaguely repulsive image with a new one.