Monday, December 27, 2010

OK. enough's enough. Of course we wanted snow on Christmas. But we wanted to be with friends and family more but instead we are home alone and not having nearly as much fun as Macaulay Caulkin did. It's now two days later, almost one o'clock on Monday, December 27, and the side roads are snowy and icy and since I totaled my car ten days ago, I'm reluctant to go driving. There are "dangerous wind" warnings up and on a short walk down to Charlotte Street I got the distinct notion that things could start falling- like trees into power lines, etc. Well, as my friend Morris likes to say, "the traffic is the traffic." We shall make the best of it hunkered down with the Sunday Times, some homemade two bean-tomato soup, and the key board.

So, I am posting a short story I wrote back during our fist snow of the season. I am also sending it off to the Asheville Mysterians, which should take care of any copyright issues. (Yes, the title is The End.)

Noah Adamson steps around boxes to get to the front door. When he opens the door to retrieve the morning paper, he shivers, seeing the distant mountain peaks white against the gray foreboding sky. He may have had worse days in his life but, at the moment, none come to mind. In a few hours his friends will be by with a truck to load up all his worldly possessions and take them to a mini-warehouse where they will stay until the day comes when he can again afford a place of his own. In the meantime, he will stay on a sofa-bed in a friend's spare room, an untenable situation for the long run. Things actually could be worse, he supposes; he could have to stay in a homeless shelter, a situation for which he now qualifies. As he steps back inside, a northwest wind pushes the front door shut behind him.
He pours a cup of coffee and scans the headlines in the warmth of the kitchen, not bothering to look at the help-wanted ads, planning to go to the unemployment office later in the day. His adjunct teaching job at the local university ended six months ago. The last check he'd gotten for a story paid for the first month's warehouse rent and he has nothing in the pipeline.
Back in the bedroom, he sits at his writing table. Avoiding the glare of the blank paper, he glances out the window directly to his left, facing west. There is a dusting of white on the grass. A few snowflakes swirl in the eddies along the apartment wall, then disappear. When he turns his attention back to the page, it seems that the cold has slowed the movement of his brain cells as it is said to do to molasses in winter. He turns his head again to find inspiration from the woods across the street where sometimes a movement will trigger a thought, leading to another thought, a train of them getting underway.
There is more snow on the ground and on the tops of cars parked along the curb and along the edges of the blacktop. He anticipated its coming but is surprised it has appeared so suddenly. It peters out almost immediately as he watches.
He turns his attention to the book in front of him and begins.

Teasing, the implication of alternate other possibilities
If only enough of them can get together, collarborate to
A collaboration in white to
Subvert the atticipated established order.

The An implication of other possibilities
A collaboration in white to
Subverts the established order

Yes, well. Maybe it's a beginning. He turns back to his left, sees only a few wisps of white in the air. No snow is falling but the street is almost completely covered. The grass has disappeared entirely and it looks like there is another inch on the roofs and hoods of the cars. He watches. A car moves by slowly, as if it is sneaking around, hoping not to be noticed. From its track, he guesses two inches have fallen already. He begins to turn away, back to his table top, when he sees the flakes swirling. They stop when he turns his attention fully to the window. He quickly turns back to his work.

forcing its way through the gray cauldron
new recruits

bullying through the gray cauldron

Another look to his left. Another calm in the storm. The sky is still gray but the air is clear. The tire track is almost obliterated. He knows that what seems to be happening, can't really be happening, is just some kind of weird coincidence. An illusion. He starts to turn away. Whorls of white appear. He looks back at the window, assessing the depth of the snow. At least three inches on the car tops. It has not been a half-hour since he stepped out his front door. The boys will not be coming by, not if this keeps up. He will have to call the landlord. Can't move today, Mike. Soon as the roads are cleared. He smiles. A crack appears in the clouds, a patch of blue appears. He panics and returns to the page.

Blue like the lightning parts the clouds
Blue like lightning parts clouds
Blue lightning

An explosion rends the muted air lifting him off his chair. A flash of light fills the sky. The lights go out. Presumably an overloaded transformer. Wan gray light fills the room. He gets the storm lantern from the closet, goes to the kitchen to make another pot of coffee before realizing the coffee maker will not work, returns to the closet for the Coleman stove. He brings the stove and the tea kettle into the bedroom, puts them on the desk along with a packet of Earl Grey.
He does not look out the window, instead looks directly down at the page in front of him and begins writing slowly, deliberately, like a calligraphist.

Snow. Snow. Snow.

Out of the corner of his eye he sees flecks of white dance in the window before disappearing. Another inch, maybe two, has fallen. Nothing moves. The tea kettle whistles. He pours hot water over the tea bag, inhaling the orangey aroma. Turning back to his notebook, he picks up his pen. He thinks about when he might stop it. He hasn't felt this good in five years, since the first day he got a letter saying a story was going to be published, almost as good as cocaine.
He touches the pen to the paper.

snow, snow
snow, snow, snow...

Ten minutes later, fingers aching, he looks at the pages he has filled, covered with snow. His stomach rumbles. In the kitchen, he remembers the power is out, opens a can of tuna, drains it, eats it straight with a fork, thinks about the people who are in the shelters around town or the less fortunate, huddling under a tent if lucky, or under sheets of cardboard. What are they eating? Are they alive? He stays in the kitchen, avoiding his room. Then, with no recollection of how it happened, he is at his table. He wants to write. Something. Something about what it's like to be at the end of your rope.
It begins.


He warms his hands around the lantern. What little outside light there had been has long since vanished. His overcoat, the one he bought so that he could at least appear prosperous, is buttoned. The gray felt hat is pulled slightly lower over his right eye than the left, his fingers are getting numb in the black leather gloves, but they seem to know what is expected of them. An unlit Camel short hangs from his lips. A smile slips onto his face as he thinks of the image, then disappears. He hears the rumbling from blocks away, the sound of tire chains, of metal scraping asphalt. The light from the truck's headlights precedes it around the corner. He turns his head. The snow is higher than the plow's blade. He knows it will is a catastrophe. The city is not prepared for this. This is it, of course. The story. If only he could write it.

Snow . . .
                                                              The End

Feedback? (And should that last The End be in italics or not. Hmm)


Friday, March 26, 2010

life after the ambulance comes

During the thirty some odd (some very odd, indeed) years of my first "career", rehab meant working on drug, alcohol and other addiction issues. Drug rehab. For the last few years, it has meant physical rehab, dealing the effects of accidents, strokes, traumatic brain injuries. Today it means repairing the damage done by a heart attack and working to prevent another one.

My heart attack happened on Friday March 5. It will probably stand out like 9/11, the day John Kennedy was shot and my kids' birthdays, my sister's and parents' deaths. I sometimes don't remember the specific dates, but I do remember the particulars, where I was, what I was doing, what all was going on in my life at the time. (Actually, my father not so much. He was killed in a car wreck in Florida and there was no time to have it sink into context, although I do remember the sequellae, the memorial service, the sinking of the ashes in the Gulf of Mexico, Mom back at her house.)

Today, I attended my third day of exercise at Heart Path, the cardiac and pulmonary rehab program run by Mission Hospitals. I have also attended the orientation session and two educations classes covering stress, diet and weight training.

Just as having an "event" -- an accident, an ultimatum from a loved one or employer, an arrest-- is what gets people to examine their lives in drug rehab, so, too did having an event get me to take a better look at what I was doing or not doing to keep myself alive.

When I was told that, indeed, I had experienced a heart attack, that the excruciating pain I had experienced early the morning of the 5th was not merely anxiety but was the real thing-- having been confirmed by a blood test that looks for an increase in a certain enzyme released when the heart is damaged-- and the cardiologist recommended a catheterization to look for blockages in the heart, and a stent or stents inserted if they found any, my response was that I wasn't ready to die, I had things to do and my book hadn't been published yet, so let's go ahead and do it.

The short of the thing is to eat differently, exercise more, and reduce stress. What I intend to do is to chronicle my recovery. (Without putting myself in the position of feeling like, Oh, No, I haven't done the blog today!!) For today, I've eaten well so far (1/2 cup "heart healthy" cereal [more about that later] with skim milk and half a banana, glass of grapefruit juice diluted with equal part water; a stalk of celery with hummus for a snack), and exercised at rehab (20 minute on a treadmill and 15 minutes on a stationary bike) and will take a walk with George this afternoon and plan to eat well the rest of the day. I have committed to listening to more music. (Greg Brown is playing in the background.) I started to think about what it would be like to return to work Monday and stopped myself. Today, Bob! Just live today. Monday will take care of itself.

In subsequent posts I may talk about the spiritual implications of all this.

This is, of course, part of my recovery. To take a good look at all this. See if I've learned anything, as my father would say. (Well, Dad, I've learned for real how transient this whole thing is. I don't know if I want to go out at eighty-seven being smashed by a truck, but I do know that if I live to eighty-seven, I want to be healthy when I get there.)