Saturday, October 10, 2020

It was a beautiful day on the island, as though the world weren’t about to end. Masked people milling about as their tacos and pulled-pork sandwiches were being prepared. We played soccer with the kids on a big fields with sprinklers spraying, in the hope—the expectation—that there will be another season.

In line for beer a woman play-punched her man, a fake karate punch to the side of the head, and I thought it was so charming.

Friday, October 09, 2020

 I lay in bed in the middle of the night with my eyes open and my knees up, the way you do when you know you’re not possibly going to sleep. I thought about how I get this way sometimes at night and I know it’s bad but I can’t help it. I could get dressed and take a walk around the block. I could turn on the little reading light and read. I could curl into a fetal position on the kitchen floor. All seemed like equally bad options. And a few hours later I woke up.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

I forgot my phone upstairs, a bit drunkenly, and of course I immediately saw beautiful pictures to take: a view up the blocked-off street, children playing under a silvery dusky sky; grownups on the sidewalk drinking; pink-purple chalk hopscotch and Black Lives Matter. But of course if I could have taken the pictures I wouldn’t have written the words.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

I gazed from the bar’s gravel backyard at the meat row of three windows on the top floor of a building across the way, wondering if I’d see anything, waiting for something to happen.

Friday, September 11, 2020

Part of being on vacation, if you’re not on a cruise ship or an all-inclusive I guess, is the pleasure and relief of trading one set of problems for another. The things you find irritating and uncomfortable at home are gone—or at least transformed, mostly because they’re temporary—and instead you have a new set: bad lavender hand soap, dust and grime under the bed, baffling television technology. These inconveniences are in fact worse than those you’re accustomed to. They’d be intolerable if you were working, getting your kid ready for remote learning, straining for the end of another day. But because they’re here—next to a lake, next to a little town with an ice cream stand, nothing special even, just somewhere else—they’re perfectly OK.

This is why we go on vacation, really. To temporarily trade our cares for other ones. Also for the pleasure of going home.

Thursday, September 03, 2020

On our second or third day at the lake shots rang out somewhere on the far shore. They weren’t pops or cracks like from a handgun, more like booms, maybe a rifle or shotgun, but who knows what the water does to sound. Every five or ten seconds for a long time, so it wasn’t hunting. Target shooting I guess. It didn’t happen again but every day out on the water I imagined some malevolent presence over there. Would I hear the evil whistle of a bullet over my head, or skimming through the gentle waves, or piercing my donut floatie to lodge into my hip? Some bored teenager, thinks he can take a few shots at strangers, no one the wiser. I’d tell the kids turn around, head back to shore. Fast! Single file to make a smaller target. And when they were close enough to stand: run!

Saturday, August 29, 2020

I heard a roar in the kitchen of the vacation home, unfamiliar, insistent. Then I saw it was the electric kettle someone had put on and at once the sound became comforting, reassuring, almost like something remembered from childhood. But I don’t drink tea.

Saturday, August 08, 2020

We get spam calls, nothing but spam calls, on our landline that came with our triple-action cable deal that we decided instead of not using, why not buy a vintage Princess phone off eBay and hook it up, wouldn’t that be fun?

So the calls arrive, twice a day sometimes, once a week. Unnervingly erratic. Ring ring ring ring. And of course we don’t answer them but it gives me grim, dumb satisfaction to block the numbers later on my Cable Company App.

Sometimes they leave voicemails. Listen to them before I delete them, out of curiosity but also maybe some old-fashioned sense of obligation. Someone leaves you a message, you listen. Then you delete. You destruct this message within thirty seconds. I get a chill before I listen to them—they come from such a dark place, the realm of international technology abuse. These are people who’d be happy to see you dead in exchange for a tiny fraction of Bitcoin. When I press play I brace myself like I’m about to hear the Monty Python joke that’s so funny it kills anyone who hears it. Then what is it? A screed in Chinese. Some asshole telling me it’s my last chance to respond to charges. The gleeful offer of an effortless job.

Then I click delete.

Monday, August 03, 2020

The roofers traipsed up the stairs. The last one was the boss and he gave a dazed little nod, like Jesus fucking Christ, another job. I pointed up the open hatch and said through my mask, it’s all set, let me know if you need anything, just because I thought I was supposed to say something. And he said OK with a look that made me think I shouldn’t have said anything at all.

I heard their movements up there over the course of the afternoon. Finally he called while I was working and left a message. “We found the source of the problem. You should be all set now.” And I didn’t see them again and I didn’t even hear them leave.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Sitting in my easy chair I remembered that not an hour ago I’d had an idea for a song and now it was gone. What was it? Something to a country tune. It’s always easy to think of a country tune when you get an idea for a lyric, or to think of an idea for a lyric when you think of a country tune. I don’t know. The one follows the other eagerly, easily. Not that it has to stay that way, or should. The lyric can change. The music can change. Or both. Now I had neither. You can’t abandon something you forgot. Was it about forgetting? I wish I could forget… my name? No. It was about doing something, getting through it, something rote. But it was poignant, maybe all the more so for being mundane. Definitely started with the word I. Like so many country songs do.