Juggling

The first thing I did this morning, after I took my shower and stood with my head leaned against the glass shower stall, scalding water running on my shoulders till I woke up properly, was listen to Eric Whitacre’s choral setting of E.E. Cummings’ poem i thank You God for most this amazing day.

i thank You God for most this amazing
day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and love and wings;and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

How should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any—lifted from the no
of all nothing—human merely being
doubt the unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

Having listened to that, I attempted to turn on my computer, only to find that it was stubbornly refusing to turn on. I fiddled with it for fifteen minutes, and finally got it to turn on. I printed off my calculus III homework that I was up till four this morning working on, and arrived at class twenty minutes late.

After, I skipped chapel (what a heathen am I?) and instead read the short stories for my fiction class that I was supposed to read last night, when I was working on my calculus. In that class, I sat and listened, because normally I’m very vocal. Everybody seemed to dislike the stories I happened to like, even the professor.

Afterwards, I managed to get sick on a hamburger and a bit of orange soda.

I went on a walk to calm my stomach, and made my way down to the arboretum. The arboretum isn’t a building, like it would be in many places, but a patch of forest sandwiched between Rt. 19 and the campus. It is filled with walnut trees that are just beginning to change color, and the light filters through the leaves all green and gold, like fine jewelry.

I took a quick nap there, waking up fifteen minutes after falling asleep when I rolled my face against a walnut. Now, walnuts, if you’ve never seen them right off the tree, don’t look like they do in stores. They have a skin on them, like leather, just like a coconut does. It’s thick and rubbery, and to break it open you throw one against a rock or the pavement of the sidewalk. The pith of the skin is strong smelling—they use it to stain wood, and it will turn your fingers dark mahogany.

I palmed the offending walnut—it felt full and round in my hand, and got loam into the wrinkles of my joints. I gave it an experimental toss, and by the time it came down into my hand again, I had decided that I wanted to learn how to juggle. I picked up two other walnuts of similar size and shape, and began to practice. I stayed in the trees for more than an hour fumbling out basic tossing patterns, and by the time I came out, I was able to, with reasonable competency, perform something that was in no way, shape, or form, juggling.

Then I got on the internet, and found a nice website that told me how to begin juggling, and I discovered that all I had really gotten out of the afternoon was a sore back from sleeping on the grass, three walnuts in my pocket, and stained hands that smell like wood varnish. I failed my quiz in German, because I was learning how not to juggle when I should have been studying.

But I like the feel of the walnuts in my hand, and life is, for the moment, good.

Inspector

          First Draft of this guy: I get to workshop it in class on this coming wednesday. I’ll post an edited version as well, once it is closer to finished. Hope you like it.

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            When Officer Rebecca Clives had signed on to the Seattle Police Department, she had been expecting to do something to improve the city. She had wanted to fight crime. Bust bad guys. If nothing else, she had wanted to drive one of those spiffy cars with the flashing lights on.  

            And, for a week, she had gotten just that, but only for one week. The chief took the car away after she had managed to pull the mayor over for speeding and then, after apologizing profusely and tripping over her own feet while retreating away from his Mercedes, backed her car over the curb and into the nearest building so hard that ‘Bank of America’ was imprinted in reverse on her dented trunk from where the metal had wrapped around the a commemorative plaque mounted on the building’s cornerstone.

            After that first week, she was put on foot patrol for some of the harbor-side street markets. That had also ended badly, for she had bought some shrimp from the Pike Place market, gotten food poisoning that night, and when she had crawled out of her bathroom two days later, had rushed to arrest them for assault on an officer. One short and comical trial later, Inspector Clives was taken off of patrol for the remainder of her career, and began doing deskwork at the precinct.

            Today, like she did on most Fridays, Officer Clives arrived at her apartment angry and depressed, with a six pack of beer, a six pack of pudding cups, and a package of Oreos, all of which would be finished (and perhaps thrown up) by morning.

            Bumping the door to her station wagon (which had no flashing lights) shut with her hip, she padded her way to the back entrance to her apartment, which was the upstairs sweet being rented by an elderly widow woman. Rebecca paid a small rent for it, and took care of Mrs. Dinwiddie’s cats then she was visiting grandchildren.

            There was a stairway in the back that Mr. Dinwiddie had made with warped two by fours and already-used nails before he died. Once, there had been paint, but that had come up, leaving the wood blotched green and pale with water stain.  

            Rebecca made her way up it, tripping, as usual, over the third and sixth steps, which were badly warped and never where she expected them to be, no matter how many times she went up and down the stairs. She dropped her Oreos each time, and by the time she fumbled her key from the side pocket of her black police slacks to let herself into her one-bedroom, she could feel through the plastic that they had been reduced to chocolate crumbles coated in smudges of the white stuff.

             The inside of her apartment was spare: She had a sofa and a television in the living-space/kitchenette, along with a vintage 1960 oven-stove and a fridge so old that it had rounded corners and no water dispenser.

            The Oreos had been smashed too much to dip in milk, so she took a small handful, mixed them in with her pudding.

            Rebecca had a nice set of China, for two, and she normally scooped her pudding into one of the bowls, added a little whipped cream on top for elegance, and ate it at the table, after her supper.

            Today, she flopped herself on the sofa like a drowning fish on the basin of a canoe, clutched her beer in one hand and the pudding in another, and slurped it with her tongue straight from the plastic tub while The Daily Show with John Stewart played on the television.

            It wasn’t just that earlier in the day, she had spilled the chief’s afternoon coffee all over that morning’s paperwork, or that she had gotten a ticket—getting a ticket in a police uniform, how embarrassing—going into work that day. It was that she had been doing the same thing and tripping over the same steps heading up to her apartment for the past two years, and had yet to bust a single drug lord, or even arrest a drunk, or even give a suburban soccer mom a ticket for speeding to her precious Tommy’s ball game.

            Somewhere between tongue-fulls of pudding, the beer paused halfway to her mouth, and she watched, with chocolate and Oreo crumb clinging to the corners of her mouth, the television flicker.

            In a daze, she put down her beer and pudding, and turned John Stewart off. Then, just inebriated enough to have an excuse for her clumsiness, she made her way to her bedroom.

            It was small, but with a full size bed and room enough for a bookshelf besides. The book shelf was littered with classic Noir—old beta tapes, mostly, and a few of the fifties books—and the complete set of Sherlock Holmes novels and fictions, along with an entire shelf devoted to penny-book store mysteries. Tucked on the bottom shelf, where they were hard to see, and could easily be hidden should visitors come calling, were most of the Nancy Drew mysteries, with their covers well worn.

            Above her bed was a poster of Daffy Duck in a trench coat, proclaiming that, wait a second, he was Dick Twacy, and on her bedside table was volume three of the ultimate collection of the actual Dick Tracy comics,

            Officer Clives paid no heed to these things, because they’d be waiting for her when she had cheered herself up. Instead, she stalked directly to the single luxury that her apartment afforded her, which was a walk-in closet.

            In the back, past the spare police uniforms, slacks and skirts, was a full-size mirror covered by a charcoal-grey trench coat.

            She pulled the coat off, and slipped it easily over her shoulders, and it fit perfectly. She tied the belt, enough so that it still showed off what figure she had, and mussed her hair just a bit. By itself, on a shelf just above her head, was a grey fedora hat, which she lifted reverently and placed on her head.

            Then, reaching into one of the front pockets, she pulled a carved wooden pipe, and jabbed it into the corner of her mouth. She puffed it experimentally, and then gave a fetching smile to her reflection.      

            “Clives,” she said. “Inspector Rebecca Clives, Private Eye.”     

            Then, as if to make sure there was nobody watching, she backed out of the closet and glared suspiciously around her room, and returned to the mirror.

            She smirked at herself, and said, in a gruff, low voice. “Well, Inspector Clives, it seems I’ll have gotten rid of you at last.”

            Then, in her normal voice, “I don’t think so, Kingpin. You think you can get away with your crimes?”

            “I think I already have, Inspector. Here you are, in the middle of my headquarters, surrounded by dozens of the most skilled assassins in the world. How do you plan to escape?”

            Slowly, with great satisfaction, Rebecca brought both arms up to her sides. The index fingers of each hand were extended, and the thumbs sticking straight up perpendicular to them.

            “I thought you’d never ask, Kingpin,” she said, and flung her arms out to the sides, hands ratcheting with nonexistent kickback, spitting out little kshew, kshew sounds as she mowed down imaginary opponents on either side of her.

            With surprising agility, she danced back in the closet and darted behind a denim dress for cover as twin thugs with machine guns darted in, opening fire on her.

            (“Eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh,” said Rebecca, as they fired.)

            Then, when they paused to reload, she dodged out, with an impressive sideways roll from the denim dress to her ceremonial uniform hanging on the other side of the other side of the closet, firing off two shots, kshew, kshew, as she did so. The machine-gun jockeys fell, and all at once it was just Inspector Clives and the Kingpin again.

            “Not bad,” said the Kingpin, in Rebecca’s man-voice. “But not good enough, Inspector. You haven’t caught me this time.”

            Inspector Clives leveled one of her finger-pistols at her reflections head. “Oh no?” she said. “I think I have, Kingpin. You’ll spend the rest of your life behind bars you… you…”

            Rebecca’s imagination failed for a moment, trying to come up with the most odious thing imaginable.

            “…you criminal.”

            She fired a shot, but so did the Kingpin, and they both dodged in the same direction—backwards.

            At the entrance to the closet, Inspector Clives glared at her opponent over her shoulder, and the Kingpin did the same.

            “I’ve rigged this building to blow up, Inspector,” the Kingpin said. “I suggest you run for it. Perhaps you’ll have better luck next time.” And then, at the same time, Inspector Clives leapt for safety, the Kingpin disappeared from view.

            Rebecca landed on her bed, breathing heavy but smiling.

            There was a sound pounding in her ears, and it took her a moment to realize that there was someone knocking at the door. Entirely unsure as to why, Rebecca did not take of either her trench coat or her hat when she went to answer.

            It was Mrs. Dinwiddie, who was possibly the cutest old lady in the world. She was a short woman, and stooped over a can always. She had a long, banana nose upon which rested half-moon spectacles which made her eyes look several times too large for her face. She wore a red kerchief on her head, tied neatly underneath her chin.

            “Rebecca, dear,” she said in a way that suggested that just because she wasn’t Rebecca’s real mother didn’t mean she wasn’t allowed to try. “How are you today?”

            “I’m well,” she said, pleased to find it wasn’t entirely a lie.

            “That’s wonderful dear,” Mrs. Dinwiddie said, and toddled inside, placing a plastic-wrap-covered tray on the entrance-way table. It looked like it had cookies or perhaps scones on it. “You’re eating well?”            

            Rebecca hopes she didn’t notice the pudding cup and the half-empty beer can, and said, “Yes ma’am.”

            “I’m so glad,” Mrs. Dinwiddie said. “Rebecca, dear, I was wondering. Would you be able to watch my cats next weekend? I have another great-grandchild coming, and I’d like to be there.”

            “Of course,” said Rebecca, who know that cat duty was much more important to Mrs. Dinwiddie that punctuality in rent payment. “I’d be happy to. Just Saturday and Sunday then?”

            “Monday too, it it’s not too much. And if I stay longer, I’ll call.”

            “Certainly,” said Rebecca, bobbing her head just a little.

            Mrs. Dinwiddie patted her shoulder. “That’s wonderful dear. I brought you some cookie-bars, to help you eat better.”

            “Thank you very much,” said Rebecca.

            “Well, I should let you get off, then,” said Mrs. Dinwiddie. “I wouldn’t want to keep you.”

            Rebecca—who never went out on weekends except to buy groceries and, sometimes, if it was confirmation Sunday, to Mass—said, “Keep me?”

            “Not a costume party?” Mrs. Dinwiddie asked. “I’m sorry, dear, I saw you wearing that dusty old thing, and just assumed…”

            “No,” said Rebecca, quickly, snatching the fedora from her head and wringing its brim in front of her. “No, ah, no costume party. I just found it at a thrift store. I thought it might look okay on me,” she added hopefully.

            Mrs. Dinwiddie looked at her, and said, with the terrible innocence of old people, “I would take it back, dear. I don’t think it flatters you.”

            Rebecca stared at the hat. “No, I don’t think so, either.”

            “Well, I hope you have a good day, dear. Goodbye.” Mrs. Dinwiddie waddled her old-lady waddle out the door, and down the rickety, warped stairs.

            “Have a good day,” said Officer Clives, without much enthusiasm, and closed the door.

            She sat down on the couch again, and didn’t move—not to sip the beer, or to try to get the last smidgen of pudding from the cup, not even to lift the now-bent fedora to her head.

So…

Last piece of writing posted on this blog: “The semester is suddenly looking up—I was nervous about it before. I’ll post again with something of actual merit soon.”

Time of posting: August 27th.

Time elapsed since posting: 21 days.

In other words, I am what is technically known as a liar. The semester, which for the brief hour of the previous posting, was looking bright. Sort of like the Sistine Chapel, before the supports go and it all falls on you. I’ve been buried up to the eyeballs in work and other pleasantries for the past three weeks, and have only just recently managed to get into some sort of rhythm for my work. This is now punctuated by a nasty cold that prevents me from eating my food.

However, there is some good news. I’ve started meeting with a discussion group going for a local group of fiction writers. It’s been very good for me thus far, and for the development of Artifice. The fiction writing class is going well—I’ve completed my first short story, which is a short work featuring the same Rebbecca Clives that was from Here’s My Badge, only a little older. I’ll post it up soon, and this time it’s already written, and so I hopefully won’t be lying.

Pray that my stomach settles, or, if nothing else, someone happens to give me decongestants.