Friday, February 29, 2008

Febs. Bookshelf

This month I managed to read four books (and start a fifth). I was probably averaging a book a month the previous few months so this is quite an accomplishment (for me).

Here's a recap:
The month started with The Great Gatsby. I talked about that already, so nothing further to report here.

Then I moved on to The Orc King: Transitions, Book I . Jason gave it to me for Christmas. It's sort of a tradition we have, buying each other Dungeons and Dragons books for Christmas. It was better than the previous three D&D books I read by the same author, so I was quite pleased.

After that I begrudgingly pickup the book my online book club was reading. Given I had just read a D&D book it might be hard to believe I'm somewhat of a book snob but I am (a little). The book club voted on reading The Road. I had to read it because I skipped the previous months (The Kite Runner). And I did read and it went fast. But so did the Orc King, so I don't know that a fast read means anything besides I don't have to do too much thinking while I read it. My biggest complaint was his use of incomplete sentence, it drove me a little batty. I was forced to read paragraphs over once I hit an incomplete sentence so I could figure out exactly what he was trying to say. But overall it was good, I enjoyed it. There I said it.

This week I finished Old School. The first half of the book was pretty good. After recently reading Portrait of the Artist I was sort of feeling jealous of boys who went to fancy prep schools and this story added to the feeling. The feeling never really went away but once Ayn Rand shows up in the story it feels a lot less like a novel and more like an essay on particular authors' styles and overall themes. This became bothersome until I stopped reading it as a novel and read it as an essay. It made for a decent essay. :)

Now I'm starting A Farewell to Arms. I'm excited for this book, but nervous too. I read For Whom the Bell Tolls last year and it became one of my all time favorites. What if A Farewell to Arms can't stand up to it? What if Ol' Papa let's me down? What if? What if?

Thursday, February 28, 2008

For My Friends Who Find Themselves Up Late Every Night

From Mr. E. Hemingway.

It was late and every one had left the cafe except an old man who sat in the shadow the leaves of the tree made against the electric light. In the day time the street was dusty, but at night the dew settled the dust and the old man liked to sit late because he was deaf and now at night it was quiet and he felt the difference. The two waiters inside the cafe knew that the old man was a little drunk, and while he was a good client they knew that if he became too drunk he would leave without paying, so they kept watch on him.

"Last Week he tried to commit suicide," one waiter said.


"He was in despair."

"What about?"


"How do you know it was nothing?"

"He has plenty of money."

They sat together at a table that was close against the wall near the door of the cafe and looked at the terrace where the tables were all empty except where the old man sat in the shadow of the leaves of the tree that moved slightly in the wind. A girl and a soldier went by in the street. The street light shone on the brass number on his collar. The girl wore no head covering and hurried beside him.

"The guard will pick him up," one waiter said.

"What does it matter if he gets what he's after?"

"He had better get off the street now. The guard will get him. They went by five minutes ago."

The old man sitting in the shadow rapped on his saucer with his glass. The younger waiter went over to him.

"What do you want?"

The old man looked at him. "Another brandy," he said.

"You'll be drunk," the waiter said. The old man looked at him. The waiter went away.

"He'll stay all night," he said to his colleague. "I'm sleepy now. I never get into bed before three o'clock. He should have killed himself last week."

The waiter took the brandy bottle and another saucer from the counter inside the cafe and marched out to the old man's table. He put down the saucer and poured the glass full of brandy.

"You should have killed yourself last week," he said to the deaf man. The old an motioned with his finger. "A little more," he said. The waiter poured on into the glass so that the brandy slopped over and ran down the stem into the top saucer of the pile. "Thank you," the old man said. The waiter took the bottle back inside the cafe. He sat down at the table with his colleague again.

"he's drunk now," he said.

"He's drunk every night."

"What did h want to kill himself for?"

"How should I know."

"How did he do it?"

"H hung himself with a rope."

"Who cut him down?"

"His niece."

"Why did they do it?"

"Fear for his soul."

"How much money has he got?"

"He's got plenty."

"He must be eighty years old."

"Anyway I should say he was eighty."

"I wish he would go home. I never get to bed before three o'clock. What kind of hour is that to go to bed?"

"He stays up because he likes it."

"He's lonely. I'm not lonely. I have a wife waiting in bed for me."

"he had a wife once too."

"A wife would be no good to him now."

"You can't tell. He might be better with a wife."

"His niece looks after him. You said she cut him down."

"I know."

"I wouldn't want to be that old. An old man is a nasty thing."

"Not always. This old man is clean. He drinks without spilling Even now, drunk. Look at him."

"I don't want to look at him. I wish he would go home. He has no regard for those who must work."

The old man looked from his glass across the square, then over at the waiters.

"Another brandy," he said, point to his glass. The waiter who was in a hurry came over.

"Finished," he said, speaking with the omission of syntax stupid people employ when talking to drunken people or foreigners. "No more tonight. Close now."

"Another," said the old man.

"No. Finished." The waiter wiped the edge of the table with a towel and shook his head.

The old man stood up, slowly counted the saucers, took a leather coin purse from his pocket and paid for the drinks, leaving half a peseta tip.

The waiter watched him go down the street, a very old man walking unsteadily but with dignity.

"Why didn't you let him stay and drink?" the unhurried waiter asked. They were putting up the shutters. "It was not half -past two."

"I want to go home to bed."

"What is an hour?"

"More to me than to him."

"An hour is the same."

"You talk like an old man yourself. He can buy a bottle and drink at home."

"It's not the same."

"No, it is not," agreed the waiter with a wife. He did not wish to be unjust. He was only in a hurry.

"And you? You have no fear of going home before your usual hour?"

"Are you trying to insult me?"

"No, hombre, only to make a joke."

"No," the waiter who was in a hurry said, rising from pulling down the metal shutters. "I have confidence. I am all confidence."

"You have youth, confidence, and a job," the older waiter said. "You have everything."

"And what do you lack?"

"Everything but work."

"You have everything I have."

"No. I have never had confidence and I am not young."

"Come on. Stop talking nonsense and lock up."

"I am of those who like to stay late at the cafe," the older waiter said. "With all those who do not want to go to bed. With all those who need a light for the night."

"I want to go home and into bed."

"We are of two different kinds," the older waiter said. He was now dressed to go home. "It is not only a question of youth and confidence although those things are very beautiful. Each night I am reluctant to close up because there may be some one who needs the cafe."

"Hombre, there are bodegas open all night long."

"You do not understand. This is a clean and pleasant cafe. It is well lighted. The light is very good and also, now, there are shadows of the leaves."

"Good night," said the younger waiter.

"Good night," the other said. Turning of the electric light he continued the conversation with himself. It is the light of course but is is necessary that the place be clean and pleasant. You do not want music. Certainly you do not want music. Nor can you stand before a bar with dignity although that is all that is provided for these hours. What did he fear? It was not fear or dread. It was nothing that he knew too well. It was all a nothing and a man was nothing too. It was only that and light was all it needed and a certain cleanness and order. Some lived in it and never felt it but he knew it all was nada y pues nada y nada y pues nada. Our nada who art in nada, nada be they name they kingdom nada they will be nada in nada as it is in nada. Give us this nada our daily nada and nada us our nada as we nada our nadas and nada us not into nada but deliver us from nada; pues nada. Hail nothing full of nothing, nothing is with thee. He smiled and stood before a bar with a shining steam pressure coffee machine.

"What's yours?" asked the barman.


"Otro loco mas," said the barman and turned away.

"A little cup," said the waiter.

The barman poured it for him.

"The light is very bright and pleasant but the bar is unpolished," the waiter said.

The barman looked at him but did not answer. It was too late at night for conversation.

"You want another copita?" the barman asked.

"No, thank you," said the waiter and went out. He disliked bars and bodegas. A clean, well-lighted cafe was a very different thing. Now, without thinking further, he would go home to his room. He would lie in the bed and finally, with daylight, he would go to sleep. After all, he said to himself, it is probably only insomnia. Many must have it.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Slow Going

I signed up for a writing class. I've done once before and it kept me writing more frequently--I'm hoping for a repeat (even if I don't learn a thing).

And another thing, if you haven't seen a shooting star recently maybe you spend too much time looking down, or indoors (as in my case).

One last thing, it's taken five or six months but I've finally--thank you God--reached a point where I'm reading as much as I did when I had a long commute. It was so hard to get into the habit of reading at home. I feel accomplished now. That is all.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Delayed Valentine

I was driving through the City with my mom, aunt and Robyn following behind me (sometimes two cars are necessary). While I was driving NPR was playing a repeat of This American Life from Valentines. It's about love, not the lightening strike type of love, but love that has last a long time, long after lightening has struck. I didn't hear the whole thing but I did catch Richard Bausch reading his own short story. It was good. You can find the whole episode here:
349: Valentine's Day 2008
The short story starts around 8:30.

Monday, February 18, 2008

That Night

He laid on his back the remainder of the day with his hands in the grass, rows of soft blades peeking between his fingers. Here I will lay until she returns.

One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight, Nine, Ten. He counted in his head. Repeat. He watched the sun creep across the river. He watched the occasional boat slide silently by. He let the flies land on his arms. Ants crawled through his hair. Sweat slid down his temples. A rock settled into his back, just behind his heart. The sun set. His body ached; he did not move the rock.

The summer night wasn't too cold. He didn't begin to shiver until he saw the reflection of the moon in the water. Above him bats and moths flew through the air, he could see their abrupt dance as they passed in front of the moon. Sometimes two would collide, without a noise, and only one would fly away.

A moth landed on his shoulder. There it sat for an hour, maybe more. He had counted to ten 400 times before the moth spoke.

What are you doing here?

Admiring the river.

It is a nice river. It'll be here tomorrow.

How do you know?

I've been flying over it for millions of years.

And it will be here another million years?

It'll be here long after you're dead.

He sat silent for a minute.

But maybe not?

Anything is possible. I'm only a moth.

The moth spoke again.

There are many rivers.

But look,
he pointed across the water, this one is so wide you can't see the other side.

It is dark.

Even in the day light.

I wouldn't know. Have you seen the other side?




So you don't know much about it.

The boy sat up to peer across the water. The moth flapped its wings a few times, barely taking to the air, and then settled back down on his shoulder.

Have you heard of the Nile? It feeds millions of people.

It is very far away.

Have you heard of the Amazon? It's so long it would take me a year to fly its length.

But is it as beautiful as the Mississippi?

It has its own beauty.

Yet here you are, flying.

It is the way of things. I must go.

The moth flew off. He watched it disappear into the night. He moved a hand through the compressed grass where he had been laying all day and found the rock. He stood, moving the rock between his fingers.

One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight, Nine, Ten
. He threw the rock at a soft angle and listened to it skip across the water before it sunk to the sightless bottom.

Later that year he boarded a plane to Brazil--he had to see the Amazon.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentines Day

That's all.

Also I added links to the rest of my family off to the right. Now it feels a little more like home around here.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Next Morning

He paused at his front door. The air was humid, the katydids were already awake, singing their song. He stepped off the porch and walked through the morning sun back to the river.

There he sat the rest of the day awaiting her return.

She never came.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


We ran so fast the soles of our shoes flew apart, one small little piece at a time. Before our eyes and hearts we saw stars and planets and diamonds and doves and sunlight and dolphins and fireworks and mermaids and snowflakes and acres of peach trees and bolts of lightening and mountain-tops and we heard waves crashing, kids laughing, dogs barking, life moving--it sounds like this ffffffffft, can you hear it?--and then it all fell down around us. BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM. "What happened?" "What happened," they screamed (with tears in their eyes).

He smiled. "Do you believe everything they told you, all the stories?"

She smiled too, "Yes, even the bad ones."

Our eyes still hurt from looking at the lightening and stars.

We sat on the east bank of the Mississippi. The sun lazily crept behind the tree tops. Its light filtered through the leaves and branches, barely touching her face, as if hesitating, worried it might not be worthy. What remained, the light that didn't stick to her skin, I herded in to small pools with my eyelashes. If I squinted just right the rest of the world turned into star-bursts, with her in the middle.

"You stare a lot; didn't your mama teach you any manners?"


With her in the middle... The Mississippi was grand. The sun was radiant. The wind was perfect.

Our shoes were useless after running so far so fast. "Let's swim." (It doesn't matter who suggested it, but it was her.)

She dove into the water and it parted as for a queen. This is her river; it had meandered through North America for millennia waiting for this moment, for her to jump into it, to wrap its cool waters around her shoulders, to wet her hair and create swirling currents and eddies around her body. It could dry up now, having fulfilled its purpose.

I would never be able to match her graceful entrance into the water. I climbed a tree and jumped off of it like a fool; it was better this way, better than trying to mimic her beauty, or trying to claim the river as my own.

A flock of sparrows flew over head as she swam close. Finally. She placed her lips to his and she knew she'd found love. Finally.

What a river. We renamed the river Love. We planted our flag in it. Claimed it as our own (but really I knew, in my heart, it was only hers). And I made a speech, floating on my back: Here Love will always flow. Here Beauty will always grow. Here God will always know. She spat a fountain of water on my belly and said, "Amen."

And then she swam back to the shore, put her wet feet into her broken shoes and ran away from the river. I never saw her again, except in dreams and songs and novels.

Monday, February 11, 2008

And It Will End

The story will be wrapped up in here somewhere.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Another Story, Maybe

It might start something like this:

I've always been extraordinary at remembering dates. You probably don’t believe me. Go ahead, ask me about an important date. Day my parents were married? October 25th, 1912. Day I lost my first tooth? January 2nd, 1919. Day I graduated high school? June 20th, 1933. Day I lost my virginity? June 21st 1933. Don’t be such a prude—I’m the old woman, not you. I’m going to convince you. Day my first grand-daughter was born? March 7th 1956, 2:31AM. This will do it. What day did our neighbor’s house catch fire and burn to the ground? September 15th, 1942. So many memories lost in that fire, so many memories.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Happy Super Tuesday

My brother's going back to Iraq.

Monday, February 4, 2008


I don't have a single bit of creative energy in me. It's gone missing the last couple weeks.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Filling Holes and Gaps

I'm reading the Great Gatsby now--for the first time--because no one made me read it in high school. Twenty or so pages into it and it's much better than I expected it to be.
For a moment the last sunshine fell with romantic affection upon her glowing face; her voice compelled me forward breathlessly as I listened--then the glow faded, each light deserting her with lingering regret, like children leaving a pleasant street at dusk.