My Novel, the Poem Version

The following is my novel, reduced to 500 words and given line breaks. Thanks, Autosummarize, for this literary masterpiece. (P.S. I had no idea I used this many exclamation points. I think it got every single one.) Enjoy….

No Lake Ever Loved Us (the poem)

Etta! Etta. If you had only had children, said Matilda. Really Etta, said Matilda. Well! Our little houses. Harvey with his long, thin hands.

Well if you must know, Harvey is Caucasian. Father, Harvey is a professor…. Especially if my father is against it.

Ah well, never mind. Never mind, Etta. Take Harvey’s love for America. Harvey stood behind my chair. Caucasians, said Harvey. Etta. Harvey’s kind. Harvey was the only Hindu. Thirsty, said Harvey. Harvey blushed. Harvey was craning his neck. To Harvey?

Mother says if you could come…. Mother says if you could come.

Matilda! Matilda cried.

Old! Well.

Etta – Etta Chakrabarti. My father. Father! If it isn’t Henry! Harvey and I – I paused. Matilda? Well! Matilda? Not a word from Harvey.

Love. Etta Chakrabarti. Harvey wasn’t coming home. Harvey.

If sex works, that is. Well if it ain’t Etta herself. Men will be men, she was saying.             Etta! Etta – said Harvey, looking pained.

Harvey laughed. Harvey was in California. Well!

Harvey – I mean, Arabinda. Matilda!

Colman’s eyes. What if you fell in?

Love? Well! Harvey’s eyebrows flickered. The man’s eyebrows jumped.             Bloody hell yourself, Harvey. Harvey began backing away.

Etta. I had loved Harvey. It was Harvey. Harvey, what a surprise.

Why it’s Harvey! Right, right. Harvey smiled a weary smile. Etta. Etta.

If I loved you? I asked Harvey. Hello, Etta, said Harvey.

Harvey put his hand on my knee. Harvey held open the door.

Right! Harvey winced at the sound.

I won’t sign, Harvey. Harvey. Harvey folded his hands on the tablecloth.             Mother! Mother! I’m – excuse me, Harvey. Harvey did not follow.

Harvey is so cultured. Etta! Etta.

Hello Harvey. California, Mose said to Harvey. Harvey smiled, squinting his eyes. Harvey smiled, a real one this time. Ah yes, said Harvey.

Ah, said Harvey, shaking his head as if to sober himself. Harvey laughed. Harvey watched without a word. Harvey – my voice was hoarse. Harvey I want you.

Etta, my Etta. Harvey, I said. Etta? Why Harvey! See if he smiled.

No Harvey on the street. My father. Oh, Matilda.

Matilda sniffled. Your poor father. Father –

Harvey lost his citizenship. Matilda prickled.

Harvey! Harvey shrugged. Walking.

Harvey shrugged. Never mind.

Etta – Let me go, Harvey.

When my arms tired, Harvey carried Maurice and when Maurice squirmed, Harvey let him walk, Harvey’s finger in Maurice’s firm little fist. Come now, Etta, Harvey said uncomfortably.

Harvey froze. Fish? hooted the man. Etta. Hurry, Harvey!

Whatever for? asked Harvey. Hush, said Harvey. Are you all right, Harvey?

Harvey was right – Maurice was fine.

Harvey? Harvey was gone.

Harvey! Ah, Etta. Yes, yes, said Harvey, shaking his hand.

Look, Harvey, I turned to him. In Ravenna? asked Harvey.

Harvey watched me with his deep water eyes. Harvey had ahold of my hand.

Harvey held my hand. Matilda –

Harvey, good grief! Harvey was not talking.

If you wish. I’m not divorcing Harvey.

To leave Harvey? Mother is.

Father! Be serious, man! Like mother?

Etta!

Seattlelandia: Episode One, “Ladies on the Loose”

Sometimes life is too much like Portlandia.

The scene begins with a morning trip to the neighborhood artisan bakery for a scone for her and a ham and cheese (excuse me, ham and gruyere) croissant for him. On the way, he throws the chickens a yogurt tub of chicken food and lets them out to run freely in the yard.

Only much later, as she takes a break from working on her tortured masterpiece of fiction and eats her artisan bread/organic butter/homecanned tomato/sustainably-caught-sardine lunch concoction does she notice that the back gate is open. Dunh dunh dunh…. She rushes down into the yard, the dog at her heels. Ruba, Diamond, and Licorice Chick are gone! Only Puff remains, brocking a lonely brock in the empty dirt.

Soon they are both searching the block for the lost ladies. “Excuse me, have you seen any chickens?” they ask again and again.

“I know how to hold a chicken rully rully good,” says a proud child on a pedalless bike (which, like all modern and trend-setting children she rides instead of a trike so that she will never have to use training wheels).

“We had two hundred chickens when I was a kid,” says another neighbor, who now has three small free-ranging dogs. “If I find yours I’ll chuck ’em over the fence.”

Next thing, she’s putting up LOST CHICKEN signs and he’s wandering the alleyways. Then she has to abandon the search to go to a bodywork appointment, which she has strategically timed so that her drives sandwich rush hour (this is Seattlelandia, after all). When she gets out, walking regally and in pristine balance through the golden Wallingford air, a text: They’ve been found! Someone read a sign! Someone called! Diamond resisted capture, but he prevailed, and the ladies are home!

She drives home listening to an obscure band sing about saber-toothed tigers and drinking water (as instructed) from a reusable glass juice jar. There is traffic on the University Bridge. Two cops have pulled some people of color over on her street. She feels incensed and drives on by, then uses her turn signal on her driveway, just in case the cops care. The chickens pace in their run. He cooks dinner. She walks the dog. Happy violins play and the sun sets behind the construction site.

Grammy: Trendsetter

My great-aunt, whom we all call Grammy, is a pretty phenomenal woman. She knows everything about most good things, and is happy to share that knowledge. She’d be the one I would call if I wanted to know what a strange bird was, or how to blanch something, or how to save a favorite quilt, or what my great-great-great grandfather was like, or how to play cribbage, or why exactly Pebble Mine is so controversial, or if I just wanted to feel loved.

A giant, trendy, Grammy-endorsed boot?

She is widely considered to be an authority on many things, both by my extended family and by her community. However, she is not often called on for her fashion expertise. You see, Grammy is a very active, naturally-beautiful, practical woman in her eighties, who values comfort and utility and long-lasting materials over trends. She is usually seen wearing sweatpants and a t-shirt, probably one with birds on it, and Birkenstocks with white socks. Her glasses, which she swings behind her back when she gives you one of her incredible hugs, hang on her chest by what I remember as a turquoise foam cord. Not really a fashion trendsetter, even in a Macklemore Thriftshop kind of way.

This fall, however, I saw her wearing boots that were so comfortable, durable, and practical, and all around awesome that I decided to copy her and get myself a pair. When I went to order them, they were backordered, and I waited painful weeks of cold rain without my exciting new fashion splurge. You see, they were L.L. Bean boots, which have been around forever, but are suddenly trendy. Trendy with young people.

At first, it really amused me that Grammy’s fashion was hip with the youth, but then I got to thinking about what else young people wear and the truth is they wear a lot of sweatpants and t-shirts of things that they like. Of course, their shirts have things like Notorious B.I.G. on them instead of Seabirds of Alaska, but let’s not quibble.

Also, how awesome is it that comfortable, practical, durable, made in the US women’s footwear is cool? It gives me hope that Youth of Today might grow up to be as awesome as my Grammy.

Ass and You Shall Receive

“I wish I had a bronze statue of your butt,” Nate told me a couple of months ago. “With a plaque: Becca’s butt, age thirty two.” Careful what you ask for, Nate.

Bronze was outside the scope of my budget, so I used Sculptamold.

“How would you make a casting of an, uh, torso?” I asked the art store guy. He suggested painting on latex, then supporting it with plaster.  He stressed the importance of thorough Vaseline. You have hairs you’ve never even noticed, he warned. I enlisted my friend Brigid, an artist who has seen my rear end plenty of times at the ladies’ spa.  She coated me up in latex like some sci-fi movie heroine.

“It’s like I’m just making art,” she said, “but then I remember, it’s your butt.”

Hours went by. But the latex wouldn’t dry. It kept, well, cracking. I worried about the efficacy of my vaseline. Brigid got out the blowdryer. Squinchy looked on, confused. He never has understood fine art. Finally, we thought it was dry enough. She put on the plaster casting. But when she peeled it off, the latex came off in shreds, dissolved by the moisture in the plaster. Now I was the sci-fi swamp monster. Hours of lying very still while someone painted my butt with tropical tree sap were wasted. And somehow I had to get all those shreds off of myself. I was rightly worried about the vaseline.

Displaying photo 4.JPGHowever, the plaster cast was good on its own. I loaded it up with sculptamold and voila — there was a statue of my rear. Very white and kind of pockmarked, but still totally my butt.

“You’re going to love your birthday present,” I told Nate. “But it isn’t ready yet.”

“Is it a puppy?”

“Noooo….”

Days went by. It still was not dry completely. I stuck it in the oven on warm for a few hours, then wrapped it in a couple of towels and drove it over to Nate’s.

When Nate unwrapped it, the statue was steaming.

“This is an amazing present,” said Nate, with deep sincerity. Yep Nate, it’s a benevolent universe.

I told my brother about it, and he thought Nate and I should each make one yearly, and line our basement with them. That’s an idea, Aidan, but forget the basement. Nate wants to hang it on his wall. Though for now it’s on an oven rack on his table, still drying.

The Corporation Called Shotgun

carpool by tyger_lyllie

Do you remember, o faithful ‘moth reader, when I wrote about corporate personhood and suggested that it implies that if you have your corporation in the car with you, that should qualify you for the carpool lane?

Someone is testing it out. His name is Jonathan Frieman, and he’s been driving around Marin County carpool lanes with his corporation for a while now, purposely trying to get a ticket and push this issue. Are corporations people? Do they need seat belts? This week, a judge ruled no. Now, I hear, Mr. Frieman is appealing that ruling.  Definitely something to follow.

The judge says that allowing corporation people to count in the carpool lane is not the intent of the law. Seems like the same thing could be said about the intent of the right to free speech. I wonder, though, about whether the papers of incorporation count as the corporation. It’s a little like having someone’s birth certificate count as that person. So I ask you all to look deeply inside yourselves and wonder: where does the soul of a corporation lie? Is it merely a physical document? Or is it something more ephemeral? Ask yourselves, does it even exist?

And what is a person without a soul?

A Bad Way to Go

DSCN2189

Squinchy almost did me in last night. We were sleeping at my parents’ house in the room off the bathroom downstairs.  I was sound asleep, when Charlie, my parents’ dog, woke me up by scratching at the door. He wanted to go drink out of the toilet, thank god. If he hadn’t, I don’t know what would have happened to me.  But he pulled me up out of a deep, foggy sleep into the awareness that something was very wrong.

I was sweating like crazy, couldn’t see, couldn’t hear, and felt nauseated and loose at both ends. The air felt like poison. I stumbled into the bathroom, threw open the window, interrupted Charlie’s drink, and collapsed onto the toilet.  I was sweating and shaky and had a roaring in my ears I have only had once before, standing naked except for a pink stocking cap on the side of a frozen mountain in Idaho. That is a different story, but I knew the roaring meant I was on the edge of passing out. I braced myself on the wall, leaving invisible sweat prints I’m sure you could find with your tongue if you felt the need to lick my parents’ bathroom wall.

Turns out, the air was poisoned: poisoned with dog farts. Dear, sweet little Squinchy, who slept through it all in his own haze, was poisoning us both with his terrible Special Christmas Dinner and Compost Pile Foraging Gas. I worry about his old age. And I never thought I would say it, but thank goodness for Charlie’s toilet water habit: dying of dog farts on Christmas night would be a bad way to go.

Amazon is Hilarious

I happen to really enjoy kid humor, which is lucky since I spend a lot of time with kids and they tell a lot of jokes. While my teacher-self is eavesdropping and my inner ten year old is cracking up, my inner anthropologist (you didn’t know I had an inner anthropologist?) is taking notes.

Here are some preliminary conclusions: Farts and dumb puns are perennially funny. That joke where you’re forced to say that you blew up is still not quite as funny to you as it is to the other person. The pee green soup joke is out of style, but the “What is your name? How do you spell it? YOU DON’T KNOW HOW TO SPELL IT?” joke may never die.

Ross Perot is no longer funny.

There is, however, an entirely new genre of kid humor. PhD. students, listen up. Kids think Amazon is hilarious. Basically, the idea that you can order anything on Amazon makes it really funny.

What if you could order human flesh on Amazon? You just click on Mystery Meat and Mmmmm!

Or there’s the true story of someone’s wealthy friend’s nanny who went on Amazon to order them seven single-serve boxes of that toasted nori snack that is the lunch treat du jour in foodie children’s lunches in Seattle, but somehow ordered seven cases of a thousand. (For real? Didn’t they look at the total price before they checked out? I want to know. But it’s beside the point. The point is, it’s hilarious. Seven thousand! And the kids are eating some of the famous surplus nori right then, so it has to be true, right?)

Or what if you accidentally ordered a baby on Amazon? You meant to click on baby food, but you accidentally clicked on baby? What would you do if you opened your package from Amazon and there was a baby inside it? The kids really want to know. One of the girls looks up and, perfectly deadpan, drawls, “Send it back.”

Now there’s an improvement on the stork.