This is the story of a snake, a bear, and a little girl. Three great friends living together on the forested slopes beneath a mountain. There is a glade within the forest. Evergreens surround the meadow-grass, fireweed, and bee balm. The mountain’s snowcap is visible on clear days. Warmed by the sun, the three friends lay in a lazy pile near a broad, flat boulder. The bear licks the bottoms of the girl’s bare feet. The coiled snake dozes on the boulder. Summer is over but the days remain pleasant.

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Rosencrantz and Guildenstern’s Hippo

Last night I dreamed a production of “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead”. In regulation dream-fashion, it wasn’t really “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead”. Best of all, there was a great zoo scene in it. With a hippo. In a wading pool.
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Two Doors Down and Across the Street

“Fix me something to eat.”

“What do you want?” Read more

A Country Christmas Story About Dogs and Metal Buildings

I wish I could say it was a Merry Christmas. I wish I could tell you everything worked out all right. Okay, I’ll go ahead and play it like this: yes, in the end, everyone was fine and nobody got what they didn’t deserve.

For years, I’d been listening to that dog across the street. Most of the homes around here are spread out; there’s plenty of wide open space and not a lot of trees, owing mostly to the fact this is all “improved” former pastureland. Everywhere except on the side of the road opposite my own driveway.

I don’t hang out with those folks—not that I’m all that social with anyone around here. I smile and wave at the majority of my neighbors but also wonder if they’re going to line me up with a scoped rifle someday soon. Anyway, about the family across the street, we didn’t even make a bad attempt at being friendly. I can’t recall a single specific incident that could have caused a rift, but it just seemed as if our wiring was out of phase or something.
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The last of the collections is leather scraps. It smells the best. If you burrow into the bins, you don’t want to touch bottom—damp, mulch-like, maggoty. Stay close to the surface and you’ll be fine. Soak up the scent of soap, bay leaves, and fresh-cut softwood.

Someone rolled gray enamel over the windows. Who would paint a window? Nothing inside this warehouse has borne daylight in a decade or more. This isn’t completely correct; a million billion holes permeate the roof and walls. Matrices of light stand out against the dust that is suspended perpetually. That’s a lot of exposition, so let’s move on.
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Swirling in the Service of the Lord

We had no idea our hosts were evangelical Christians with a sinister agenda. But when we arrived at their compound, the look of it was bad enough to give us pause. Each detached “unit” was brand-new, but they were all made to look like crackers’ shacks. I made a sneering remark alluding to “Tobacco Road”.

It wasn’t long before they invited us to leave. At the farewell dinner, I annoyed our hosts by singing a parodic hymn of praise and thanksgiving, “Swirling in the Service of the Lord.” Then we helped ourselves to macaroons and bagels “for the road”.

Before I set off walking for the car, I went down to the basement and scooped up a boxload of drugs, also “for the road”. Waiting for the freight elevator, I spied a pair of shoes in a bin of items collected for a fundraising sale. I nicked them. “Like walking on peas,” they were.

At some point during the night, I had to wear a badge indicating that I was a Woman Who’d Had One or More Abortions. But that was a different story, I think.

Last night I dreamed

Kansas City. Or more rightly Leawood, Kansas. 119th St. A street fair of sorts. Jazz and barbecue. White tents. A billion people swarmed it seemed. Overwhelming. Overwhelmed. I was in the deepest basement of a store storing display props. A mannequin on a stand. A woman horizontal. Shaped like a dolphin. The leg came off. I had to wrestle to carry it with the rest. Awkward, wobbley, moving through dim-lit aisles. Found a good spot, threw the extension cord over. The added weight started it leaning forward. It wasn’t going to stand. Fukkit I thought. Picked up my phone. Went upstairs. Outside. Street was crazy. Growing bright. Noisy in the dusk. My phone rang. It wasn’t my ring. It wasn’t my phone. Had a coiled expansion cord with three loose wires. I tried to call its number to find the owner, realized I had the owner’s phone. I think I remembered where I left my phone. It was on a shelf in the society department of the store where I worked. I went into a store-front. There were refreshments. Gordon Lish followed me in. White hair wisping like his white hair does. I said Gordon! What are you doing here? Getting my boat fixed was his reply. He head-gestured toward the drive out front where sat a long, long cigarette boat. Black. Shiny. I said what’s that on the back? Jet engine he said. He was gone. Sheila walked up wearing layers of clothes. She said the outer layer was her on-the-lam-bswool vest. She asked if I wanted to go out for a smoke. I said oh, hon, I stopped smoking….Back in March she finished. I nodded. She looked disappointed. I said you want to sit a minute? We sat. I couldn’t stay seated. I needed my phone. I said you want to walk with me? She nodded. We started up the street.

Tonight I will sleep the sleep of the justified.

This is so cool I can’t hardly stand it.

I’ve been way way down lately, so when India’s and Lucy’s friend Heather commenced live-tweeting about Elmore Leonard from the National Book Awards, I got all excited. She and I got going back and forth, and I told her about my crush on Leonard. And we got talking about one of Leonard’s minor gifts — how he never strikes a false note when he writes about music. Anyway . . .

She said she’d try and get me a photo. And she did.

Travel Planning: New Orleans, 2013

A friend and I are planning a road trip for August 2013: a drive from Chicago to New Orleans, where he’ll be speaking on a panel at the annual meeting of the Society of American Archivists.

The other night I dreamt about this trip, dreamt a dream that offered guidance worth sharing with my friend. Here is what I wrote him.

I do hope there’s been no misunderstanding over the business with the rifle. My insistence on retaining it was not motivated by a desire to “teach you a lesson” nor exact a petty bit of payback. Please know that I was not especially upset over your having hustled me onto that express bus at a moment when I was concerned over the fate of my missing wallet. Under the circumstances, your having opted to take the express to the conference hotel made sense, as you had a session you needed to get to, and my negligence, wallet-wise, could scarcely have been a concern of yours. Mildly hesitant though I was about the bus, I did not protest, as I counted on having an opportunity to hop off near that subterranean restaurant where I suspected I’d left the article, claim it, then join up with you later on. Whether or not you were aware that the bus would make no intermediate stops and that it would take us so very far from the restaurant is no longer at issue, being what you might call a “moot point.”

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Dreams of Small Recitals

You are caramel and hot wax. I am a new wool sweater with a bull’s eye on its back. The ladder in the yard climbs high into the air and I go up, up, up. I’m afraid to look down. The ladder stands unsupported as if it’s a flagpole. I remove bandages until the fabric coils like snakes, but nothing within is wrapped except old air. A woman in line at the deli complains: “My feet are killing me and I can’t stand for very long because it hurts my back.” I suggest she should wait instead for service at the shoe store. Strangers don’t appreciate it when you’re trying to be helpful.

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