Got out of bed, poured a cup of coffee, added a splash of half & half and looked on unbelievingly as it instantly curdled. Not a good start to my Thursday morning and despite a Christian tongue I did let loose with a few loud “Damn! Titty-Titty, Damn Damns!” Nobody wants to get in the car to drive five miles for more half & half when they’re standing at the kitchen counter in nothing but a pair of ratty shorts at 7:00 A.M.
Thirty minutes later a fresh cup of coffee with a splash of good-until-next-month half & half erased my sour temper.
By anyone’s count it has been much too long since I gave some attention to writing in this blog. Not surprising how practice can easily dwindle away, every day aims becoming once a week goals and soon enough something that was once a week diminishes to an infrequent trickle. I have to hope it isn’t the nature of life in these woods around Old Dixie Lane that has turned my head from spending more time in Scriblets. It prompts the question, what is the nature of life in these woods?
Manny and Jimmy were barbecuing Mexican sausages across the fence late yesterday before sunset. Back at the edge of the woods where Jimmy’s trailer is set up, it’s nasty to imagine what the mosquitos must’ve been like around their picnic table. Jimmy’s sister, Jean threw him outta the house because she had company coming, told him he could buy a trailer to park out in the backyard. And he did. Then she upped his rent from 400 to 500 a month, her own brother. Since he had that quintuple bypass surgery last summer, and with an assumed prognosis of little time left, he’s busy drinking himself to death, trying to spend the 50,000 in savings he’s got left. Jimmy is a Vietnam vet living off his pension, which seems to do him okay. Thin as a rail, somewhere in his early 60s, I guess. Along those jungle paths back in the day he got shot up and came home with a Purple Heart. Now he smokes funny cigarettes and drinks all day long every day. I don’t see much of Jimmy but sometimes hear his 70s rock booming out of the trailer. Manny says he plays it so loud they can’t hear each other talk inside the trailer, have to go outside and sit in the mosquitos.
Speaking of Jean, about a week ago I walked over with Farina to say hello around 4:30 and stayed until 7:00 sipping on Randy’s nasty Canadian whiskey and ginger ale. Jean sat across from us throwing back Southern Comfort on the rocks. At one point Manny came tooling down the road on his lawn mower pulling a baggage cart, come to pick up some laundry Jean had done for him (a bedcover she said later hadn’t been washed in 36 years) and without even the foam off of one beer managed to drive his mower and cart bang into Jean’s car, a broadside to the passenger door. In her state, Jean didn’t give a damn but Manny was discombobulated. Conversation came around to pests in the area and Jean announced she wouldn’t harm a single pink hair on an armadillo’s belly and even enjoyed watching two babies play out in her yard. Two seconds later she told us if she ever got her hands on one of those guys who raise fighting dogs she wouldn’t hesitate to put a bullet through his medulla oblongata and walk away like she’d just swatted a fly. Me and the dawg didn’t get home until after dark, treading carefully along the dirt road, eye out for night vipers.
Hard to understand Randy and Jean getting all over Manny for fattening a wild hog in his pen down the road. Not sure how they did it, but they badgered him into letting the hog free, saying it was cruel to pen it up for fattening and eventual death on the chopping block. Wild hogs are popular with hunters in these parts, a delicious meat for the table which is what it’s all about for Manny and his small government pension, barely enough to live on. Missing the point, Randy and Jean tell him if he wants to eat roast pork to go to the supermarket and buy it. Not the first time they’ve freed his catch, last year they sent Jimmy down to Manny’s place when he was gone and let loose another wild pig he was fattening. Well, Jean is a forceful kind of animal lover, but she’s given up on me and the pesky critters. I told her she better make sure those not so cuddly armadillos stay on the south side of the fence because I’ll blast them to smithereens without blinking an eye and go off hunting more of them.
Manny had a roadkill cookout last week but nobody showed up so he was unhappy about that. Walked up here later, grumbling, bringing his insurance guidebook and needing help picking an eye doctor out from the list inside. I looked at the book for ten minutes and told him I couldn’t find any eye doctors, full of dentists, orthodontists and periodontists, without an eye doctor in the bunch. So he took the book on next door to have Jean, a former blood technician study it. Last time Jean drove him to the doctor, the doctor was head down over Manny’s lab report when Jean snatched it out of his hand to get a look at it herself. The doctor told Manny when he was leaving not to bring that woman back again.
Hallelujah! The county tractor came to mow down the head-high weeds on the verge of our road. Farina had a conniption fit, running up and down the fence line barking her fool head off. We’ve needed those weeds chopped down for a while now. The last time they sent a guy out here who’d never done it before and he drove his ginormous tractor halfway down into the canal and came out of it with a dozen water moccasins coiled around the underside.
Big mufflers on muscle cars are rumbling hard across the way. Haven't laid eyes on another person today but the air has been seasoned with gunshot and roaring engines, pow! and vroom! all day long. Doesn’t bother me much, all part of the soundscape out here. Distant airplanes, trains, birdcalls, barking, lawnmowers, and who could ignore the goats that at a certain time of day conduct goat talks that sound like recess at the nuthouse.
Life gets serious around here once in a while and there are always a few books to enjoy in the cool of my back porch. A couple of good ones here of late that I’ve given thought to writing about but always falling short in my distraction with dawg, yard or visit from Manny. Here is a list of some recent good reads that have impressed me.
The Bone Collector (1997) by Jeffrey Deaver — This first in a long series featuring forensic criminologist Lincoln Rhyme is surely one of the best and most compelling crime novels ever. It offers a fascinating look into the history of New York City as well as introducing a devilish serial killer pitting himself against a bed-ridden detective.
Alan Turing: The Enigma (1983) by Andrew Hodges — A big book of 800 pages about Alan Turing, the man who helped break the Nazi Enigma codes in WW2 and was also the first to conceive of thinking machines (computers). An awful lot of math, logic and physics but nonetheless a satisfying look into the man Turing was and the tragedy of his short life.
The Martian (2014) by Andy Weir — No, not science fiction, but an incredibly convincing tale about a fictional astronaut’s time on Mars. This first novel by a software engineer-space hobbyist is funny, compelling and believable down to the last tiny piece of space hardware. This one went from blog to Kindle to bestseller to movie deal in a matter of months.
All the Light We Cannot See (2014) by Anthony Doerr — A Pulitzer Prize winner and National Book Award finalist, this one tops my list of books read this year, an exquisitely written story of a young blind girl finding her way through the rubble of WW2.
Sympathy for the Devil (2015) by Michael Mewshaw — The latest biography of the iconoclastic and prolific writer, Gore Vidal. With such a colorful life to work with, the writer has balanced well both the serious and outlandish sides of his subject. Vidal was a remarkably intelligent man who could turn his words from reason to scandal in the blink of an eye and Mewshaw catches all the colors and shadings.