sarah

If you needed me
I would come to you
I’d swim the seas
For to ease your pain
— the prophet Townes Van Zandt

I didn’t know Sarah very well. The problem with being a recluse is that it makes you reclusive. But I knew her through Mandy.

Mandy was Sarah’s aunt. I accepted early on in our relationship that if forced to choose between Sarah or me, I would become a fond memory. They had a bond, a love, an understanding.

Sarah had an artist’s soul. She had her ups and downs, the way artists do. But she had a glowing spirit, that joy that is shared only by artists and newborn puppies. I think Mandy, who has always been an artist whether she wants to be or not, was drawn to her as a kindred soul. They were partners on the roller coaster of life, screaming and laughing, terrified by the hairpin corners, swearing never again, and then jumping back on for another ride.

When I would come home, I could tell Mandy had been talking to Sarah because she was would be so happy. Sarah understood her. They would talk about things she could never talk to me about. Their jobs, their joys, their frustrations, their lives. They understood each other. I was always so grateful to Sarah for being there when Mandy needed her.

I asked Mandy today to tell me about those calls. What were they like? What did they say?

She just starts sobbing again.

She pulls her hoodie up over her face. “She’s irreplaceable,” is all she can say. Then she can’t stop crying. My heart breaks for the hundredth time in two days.

Sarah was always there for Mandy when she needed her. Always. In some way, I suspect she always will be.

How can you know if you made the world a better place during your short stay? I suppose it’s all about whether or not you made a difference in the lives of the people you loved. She made a huge difference in ours.

I know it’s just a matter of time before you move past the profound sadness and start down the road to where just the happy memories remain.

I think it’s going to be a long, long road …

Our refrigerator in Corpus Christi. Mo says she wishes she could show Sarah. She would say “HEY LOOK YOU’RE ON MY REFRIGERATOR.” Sarah would say “HEY YOU PUT A BOTTLE CAP ON MY FACE CUT IT OUT.” Then Mandy laughs, for the first time since the sad news. Thank you, Sarah. For everything.

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brothers, part 6

I found your letter in my mailbox today
You were just checkin’ if I was okay
And if I still miss you
Well you know what they say
Just once in a very blue moon

And I feel one comin’ on soon

— the prophet Patrick Alger

“Did you ever walk the kids to school?” Mo asks Rick as we’re out on our afternoon trek. “What was that like?”

I didn’t expect much of an answer. Rick sometimes has a hard time finding the right words these days. I can feel his frustration. He talks with me a lot, I guess because he doesn’t worry about not being able to finish a thought when he’s with me. I’m a goofball. We can both shrug and go on to the next thing. But he’s increasingly quiet around people, fearing embarrassment. What will he say to Mo?

He looks off in the distance. “It was scary,” he says. “You walk with this little person, and then you have to let her go. It’s hard.”

He drifts away for a minute. Maybe remembering those days, maybe just thinking. Sometimes it’s hard to tell. “It was scary,” he says. It’s vintage Rick, honest and poignant and profound and saying so much with just a few words. Mo and I walk along silently, awed by that moment.

We’re in the midst of a solid week of storms that would make Gen. Rainz proud. We have our pre-storm ritual down. Lucky the dog  is terrified of thunder, so when the storm gets near, Mo cinches up his thundershirt. He then hides in a cubbyhole and trembles. Rick brings the other dogs in and we hunker down. He brings out shredded cheese to apply liberally atop the dog food, an apocalyptic treat. If you’re going to die in a storm, do it while eating cheese, I suppose.

We stay up with the dogs, watching the lightning, not so different than those nights with Granddad out in Vancourt when we were kids. Watching the sky, seeing the bolt and jumping at the crack of thunder. It’s an entertaining show, the kind people enjoyed before 200 channels came along and made us stop looking outside.

We begin each day with Cheerios and end it with Klondike ice cream bars, a ritual that has become a tradition during my visits. And, of course, we walk. He tells me about the history of the homes in the neighborhoods. We take Mo to the Lone Wolf and Endless Love and the waterlilies. We go out for strolls with Mike, who has just undergone heart surgery but is already leaving us in his dust. And we go out in the evening, just the two of us.

It has barely stopped raining, but we can’t wait. There are branches everywhere from the previous night’s storm. We hop puddles, sometimes making it, sometimes laughing as we land in the middle of a pool in the intersection. We dodge the splashes from white F-150s coming too close. The air has that fresh, magical smell that you don’t get very often in the land of the prickly pear. He’s quiet. I’ll say something. He’ll respond, “oh, you know.” I always wondered where I picked up that phrase. And funny. I do know.

I’ve been reading Kerouac’s “On the Road” for the millionth time during the trip. That’s how I’ll always think of Rick. A latter day beat poet who fearlessly set out to discover Texas, one mile marker at a time. He talked to so many people, saw so many things, wrote so many stories. I’m honored I got to be in some of them.

You go through storms. You put on your thundershirt and hope for the best. You never know. Even on a cloudy night, there’s a very blue moon up there somewhere. You just have to look hard, imagine, remember, hope, pray. Maybe eat some shredded cheese.

And these days I know exactly what he means. It’s scary. You walk with this person, and then you have to let him go. It’s hard.

I love you, pal. Even if you ate the last Klondike bar after you thought I had gone to sleep. See you next time.

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chalk mark in a rain storm

Chalk art offers a good lesson. Life doesn’t last forever. Make it colorful while you can.

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come on home

i walk into the living room. mo is watching some show on michael murphey. asks if that’s MY michael murphey. sorta, i say. he wasn’t really mine after he left austin. and dear god never make me hear wildfire again.

i could never hear wildfire too many times, she tells me.

i defiantly cue up the old stuff. alleys of austin. honolulu. geronimo’s cadillac. cosmic cowboy. she listens intently, then exclaims:

“god. i’m so glad i never had to hear him in concert.”

i contemplate the best place to dump a body in the desert on the impending drive to texas. but then she says:

“i love john prine.”

marriage is all about compromise. and maybe headphones.

image_52510

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subdivision

I remember the first time I saw someone
Lying on the cold street
I thought: I can’t just walk past here
This can’t just be true
But I learned by example
To just keep moving my feet
It’s amazing the things that we all learn to do

— the prophet ani

 

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making pies

5 a.m.
Here I am
Walking the block
To TableTalk
You could cry or die
Or just make pies all day.
I’m making pies

— patricia j. griffin

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hey! wait! i’ve got a new complaint.

I’m so happy.
‘Cause today I found my friends.
They’re in my head.
— the prophet Cobain

He’s staring at me.

It was a weird day at the track. A woman was running the wrong direction. The Kid on the Green Bike was bouncing off the fence. And the bees were gone.

The table was still there. The police tape was still there. The signs were still there. The bees were not.

This can mean one of two things. Either a beekeeper has taken them to live on the farm with my grandparents, or they’re hiding. Waiting. For the right time.

I watched the Twilight Zone as a kid, and it taught me a valuable lesson: The world is black and white. I’m not sure how this relates to an ominous bee story, but I’m sure Rod Serling could bring it together in the third act.

My left ITB is bugging me. Mo, ever the jokester, suggests stretching. Mo cracks me up. Then she suggests running the wrong direction, since the only other person on the track is running the wrong direction anyhow. It’s funny how you can be married to someone for 16 years and not know them at all.

But in the end it’s OK. I’m in the Zantes but I took the insoles out because I think they had the Bad Mojo, and things felt OK. Mo has Pop Tarts. I have a Hershey bar. I prop my feet up. And he’s staring at me.

Cobain. He’s across the room. He’s inside the guitar. He’s giving me the Stink Eye.

Every day it’s the same. I’m sitting here, reading a short story about an insane elderly man who finds himself in charge of the country, and Cobain is staring at me with those steely eyes. Not to be confused with Steely Day eyes. Becker and Fagen have never given me the Stink Eye.

Why is he doing this? Is it because I once threw away a perfectly good Fender Jaguar? My brief flirtation with Hole? My fervent belief that Neil Young is the only True Religion? He won’t say.

He just stares at me. Black-and-white Cobain looking out of a technicolor guitar. A Twilight Zone epidode waiting for a debut. Dead Grunge King and the Missing Bees. Although that may have been a Smashing Pumpkins album. For the record, Billy Corgan has never given me the Stink Eye.

Maybe you can explain this one day, Cobain. Why did you have to kill yourself? Why are you staring at me? What the hell does “Meat-eating orchids forgive no one just yet” mean?

Mostly, stop staring.

Oh, well, whatever. I’ll just prop up my feet and wait for Mr. Serling. Never mind.

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