The boat salesman overheard three men planning a rafting trip. When they approached the register, he estimated their combined weight at six hundred pounds and knew that the tub they’d picked would not make it through the calms, let alone the rapids.
“This one’s rated at two hundred fifty pounds. Two small women. Three children at most.”
He didn’t add that even one of these gentlemen would be enough to sink it.
“Well now, I reckon we can read,” said the ginger-haired man.
The mutton-chopped guy put down a credit card. “Customer’s always right.”
“The spinning wheel’s two hundred. The spell’s another five hundred.”
“That’s outrageous,” the queen said pulling the hood of her cape to cover her widow’s peak. She took a card from her purse. “You do take Visa.”
He did. “How about a CosPlay evil fairy for the christening.”
“CosPlay? I want a professional.”
“Who’s gonna know?”
“You horrible dwarf. You have no idea. It’s hard to marry off a princess. You start as soon as they’re born. Then there’s preschool, private school, etiquette… They need skilled help and compelling stories to get to a happily-ever-after.”
The cottage was set back from the street, not at all gingerbread as you might expect. No dwarfs or princesses resided in the bright kitchen where a woman with waist-length crone gray hair, sat at a rhythmically circling wheel. “I need to spin. Someone’s collecting the skeins tomorrow.”
I asked about doctor’s visits for a study of healthcare options at Stanford. She answered, skeptical that yearly physicals made much difference. All the while her fingers moved in a subtle dance pulling the fluff of wool into ivory yarn.
“This is what keeps me healthy,” she said. “This magic wheel heals.”
We suspect there is a magic passage under our redwood because the garden gnome who guards the tree by day disappears at night. Important forest matters require his attention. Animals trapped in fire ravaged landscapes. Small fawns and mountain lions equally threatened, equally important to the health of a recovering ecosystem. He treats them all with the utmost care.
By daybreak, our gnome has returned. We see an article in the morning paper. Ten small pumas rescued. Feet wrapped in gauze socks. You wonder how they keep from biting through. Probably the influence of our gnome. His voice is hypnotic.
The show was conceived to unload MAGA hats. No one wears them anymore. Full hazmat suits are de rigueur.
Whatever, no one really cares. They’re all home watching the president.
A sprightly octogenarian, Donnie as his fans call him, bounds on stage. He’s surrounded by hats. Sean throws them in the air and tosses them to the audience. Donnie dramatically draws a slip of paper from a black box decorated in crux gammata, Celtic runes, exclamations, and dollar signs. For the price of a meal at a Trump restaurant, you can submit a question. But you won’t get an answer.
Books stacked to the ceiling; new, old, hard cover, all colors,
smelling of cinnamon, cloves, and musty spider dust.
A woman whirling like a cyclone, her arms extending.
She brushes the walls, her eyes shut.
She chooses. The overstuffed couch swallows her and she reads.
Sips of hot tea, cold tea, cider, coffee, one after another,
the light changing through the day from powdery gray to melancholy green,
at noon quite bright yellow and then white.
Straining, she escapes into history, imbibing the past.
Seeking perspective, finding a foundation to understand the moment.
Respite. She girds to return to earth.
Trying to cheer me up, a friend said, “Imagine a start-up selling a flying car. A guy named Tad, with genius hair and cargo shorts, runs things. Like Icharus, he falls to earth. Landing in an old growth forest close to the coast, he’s looking for a mechanic when Chloe comes along on a breath of pine and salt water.
“They marry. They’re happy, too, despite the devil on Tad’s shoulder teasing that he could have had the world. Tad pays that devil no mind. A new dad, now he’s flying by the seat of his pants.”
From a young age, she worked with her father on weekends at a community garden halfway between his home and her mother’s. The relationship developed slowly, the way carrots do. The woman did well in school and married, expecting a happily ever after.
On her son’s fifth birthday, her father collapsed while frosting a superhero cake. The cake was perfect. The party was not. Winter set in, hardening the ground.
In the spring, her mother dragged her daughter to the old garden plot. “It’s yours now.” Sifting the soil, she and her children planted seeds for future remembering.
Theodore grew up in a family that was asset rich, but empathy poor. He dreamed of escape. Filling panniers with snacks and casual clothes, he biked inland, towards Fresno, meaning to sample cappuccino in every coffeehouse in every California town of fewer than 500 people.
Ted, his road name, was shocked that people in some places hadn’t tasted espresso. In one cafe, they percolated coffee on a stovetop using Folgers regular grind from the can. A dark brown, it smelled burnt. The waitress said, “Folks here like this brand.” It broke his heart. He married her. Then, she changed his life.
The law degree did him no good. The teaching position tied her down. Free spirits, Alice and Steven couldn’t bring themselves to follow a conventional path any longer. They had some savings. They sold the condo and bought a shack in the woods.
After Eden, the arguments about money started. He found a side gig writing briefs. She asked her father for a book advance. If it hadn’t been for that, they might have starved. Settled in and surprised at the ways their paths diverged, each found happiness elsewhere. Ten years on, at the station, they didn’t recognize one another.