by Colleen McGrath
There’s a crack in my Mac
In the casing to be exact
And I wonder what I am to do
There’s a crack in my Mac
In the casing to be exact
And I wonder what I am to do
My wife and I have been together long enough that what should be between us in bed is a decent interval.
I can appreciate that “early on,” couples might want to engage in touching. Even at the risk of children. But at some point, personal space needs to be allowed back into the sleeping arrangement.
Many couples resort to a dog to reestablish spouse-free zones in bed, only to find themselves later united against the dog.
Our problem began with my wife’s ass. It’s a nice ass—during the day. At night, though, it is transformed into a marauder, conquering the linen expanse of our shared bed, relentlessly seeking out warmth. You see, my wife sleeps cold, while I sleep hot. And once my wife falls asleep, she gets colder. That’s when her ass takes over.
When my family moved to The Free Territory of Trieste, it was a time when people did not fly across the ocean. Flying was prohibitively expensive and rare. No one really believed that airplanes made with all that heavy metal could actually fly safely when they were full of people. It was counterintuitive. I personally still have trouble believing that those enormous things get off the ground at all. (And don’t even get me started on those helicopters from the mosquito family!) Back then, everyone had the same reservations. We sailed across the ocean to FTT on the Saturnia. I suppose that if I had thought about it, I also would have questioned how a ship made out of metal that should obviously sink, could float. I’m glad I didn’t think about that at the time, or I would have worried my way all across the ocean.
LOS ANGELES -
Picture the scene:
I was twenty-four. My San Francisco band was on tour. The night in question: we’d just finished playing the 7th Street Entry in Minneapolis, opening for The Celibate Rifles. The show had gone extremely well. Me, manning drums. Dave on guitar, Jim on bass. A great big rush and blur of wailing voices, whiskey and heartache-strung guitars, adrenaline drumsticks. Think thrashy folk music: the bastard lovechild of REM and the Violent Femmes after a long night of ecstasy and crank snorting.
BFE, TEXAS -
“Someone lost his mind in there,” I tell my dog Tonya as we walk up the sidewalk to the abandoned Pizza Hut. I want to see inside.
Tonya yips at me as we approach the building then cocks her head low the way she does when she’s nervous about something.
“It’s ok,” I tell her, but I can feel it, too. The air turns heavy as we walk past a shrine for the people who died that September night. I realize that today is September and a chill skitters over me. Tonya gets one, too, for when I look down at her, the hair on the scruff of her neck bristles like a mane.
LOS ANGELES -
Picture the scene:
I was fourteen—a confused puberty stew of zits, girl craziness, cracking voice, and crippling shyness. It was summer. My family and I were spending a week in a small Wisconsin town. My dad had driven me to a swimming area across the lake from our cabin. He told me he’d pick me up in a couple hours. Said I should stay put—swim, girl watch. Not to walk the three-mile stretch of lonely country road back home. I agreed. But after less than an hour, I’d had my fill of the murky brown water, and the locals that looked straight out of Guns & Ammo magazine.
NEAR 91 DEGREES LONGITUDE-
I confronted eschatology too young. Although benign compared to some beliefs, my Catholic upbringing placed me at the sidelines of Armageddon—strange references to a kingdom come, the Second Coming, Judgment Day. I got queasy at the mention of the Book of Revelations. Sermons and syntactically-strained Bible readings led me to infer a tremendous destructive end to all life, human, animal, insect, plant. There were drawings in books, filled with fire, angels and demons, a sea of the damned. For a child, it’s impossible to reconcile a loving Father with one who will kill every one of his children with wanton violence. Children also don’t grasp metaphor.
LOS ANGELES, CA-
I didn’t mean for it to end up this way. I really didn’t want to be standing at a rather nice wedding reception, glass of semi-expensive white wine in one hand, and napkin full of half-chewed, hastily spit out stuffed mushroom in the other. Sure, I knew my friends, the now-hitched earthy couple, erred on the side of unconventional and wanted their wedding to reflect that as well. It was taking place in what used to be the old Ojai Jail, a cluster of tiny, ramshackle cabins in the mountains above Santa Barbara. And yet, in the middle of this somewhat rugged mountain setting, my friends had imported stunning orchid arrangements, enough wine to baptize the whole city of Santa Barbara, and (my personal favorite) a wicked cheese platter.
There were even waiters gliding around, passing out tiny, delicious treatsies on trays. And after hurriedly hauling myself to Santa Barbara, surviving the van ride up the mountain with a driver who may have very well had one eye closed, and quickly pounding two (okay, three) glasses of the aforementioned very nice wine, I was starving. Add to the mix that fact that my ex-boyfriend and his new ladyfriend were not only in attendance but also in very close physical proximity, and you could maybe see how the wine would be priority Number One, followed by food.
The summer after my father lost his business in the great tsunami of 1960 we were cash-poor. I was just 17 and managed to get a job with the Hawai’i State Department of Fish & Game, which oversaw much of Mauna Kea, a large mountain with a lot of wildlife on it, out of a ramshackle camp at Pohakuloa.
SAN DIEGO CA-
The first thing I did after you moved out was rearrange the furniture.
Before your moving truck even made it down the hill to the interstate I was back upstairs, calculating the new geometric equation that redefined “our” home as “my” home. It was easy; the strength I wasted trying to keep us together was more than adequate to the task. With all of your junk gone there was at last room to move, room to breathe. You took away so much but at least you left me with that.
AROUND 91 DEGREES LONGITUDE-
If I’d known the word vegetarian when I was a kid, I wonder if the shift would have happened sooner. Back then, there was no Lisa Simpson giving pop culture credence, no easily available information, and no role models in my social circle.
I was an unusual tyke in that I liked almost every fruit or vegetable I tried. Steamed artichokes, smooth avocadoes, fresh cherries with pit and stem, even maligned Brussels sprouts.
However, I did like meat. It’s what was for dinner, after all. My mom made a well-seasoned skillet-fried hamburger, which I’d amply top with standard accoutrements, except for cheese. Summer Sundays featured my grandfather’s barbequed chicken, covered in a sweet sauce he mopped on in layers. When the mood struck him, my dad stood for a good hour poking garlic slivers into a roast he’d cook with potatoes and carrots. My grandmother made braciolone (brucelloni, colloquially), a recipe from my Sicilian great-grandmother–a thin round steak filled with chopped boiled eggs, parsley, celery, and seasoned bread crumbs, tied with string, seared on all sides, then simmered in thick tomato sauce. Cue gurgles of gastronomic glee.
The barefoot summer is nearly over.
My soles are dirty, maybe permanently so; they are also thick and somewhat wiser than they were when this summer began 2,714 miles east of here.
There are certain things one learns (or doesn’t learn) when driving the highway between New York and Montana
I had the flu. Well, maybe it wasn’t the flu. It could have been stress. There are times, when I am excessively stressed out, that my stomach hurts and I get nauseous. I feel as avocado-green as a 1970’s kitchen appliance.
At first I thought that I had eaten something questionable, but after two days I had given up on that notion. It had been going on for a week. I didn’t feel bad enough to stay in bed but I didn’t feel good enough to actually do anything, let alone do it effectively. So I whined on the inside, annoying only myself with my self-pitying inner monologue, while externally powering on with my daily life at a maddeningly slow and completely ineffective pace. (more…)
LAS VEGAS, NV-
I have this cat. His name is Trotter, dubbed so after a character from a really lame pirate flick, The Cutthroat Island. Well, there is nothing pirate or cutthroat about Trotter the cat. He’s rather ordinary, although like all felines he believes in perfection that is himself. Black and white, slim and amber eyed, he spent his street-reformed kittyhood in a shelter. He licks his non-existent manhood, he drinks from the toilet, he sprawls on your desk when you’re trying to write.
When happy, he drools on your clothes.
I’m perfectly fine with Trotter’s sometimes devious ways of sneaking an occasional waffle off the table. When he catches a pigeon, and drags it by its broken neck into the living room, I praise him on his hunting skills and toss out the poor bird when he’s not looking.
But there is one thing he does that I can not get used to.
BALD HEAD ISLAND, NC—
We left home for Bald Head Island under an invasion of gnats. They started turning up in the master bathroom, and it got to the point where I was killing a dozen or more a day. The slaughter was not traumatic for me in any way. The gnats were slow, unthreatening. You could close your hand around them or — my preferred method — wait for one to land and crush it neatly under a fingertip. If one alit in the sink, you might end its existence with a splash.
I didn’t think of the gnats again until we were well ensconced on Bald Head, until we saw the baby sea turtles.
WASHINGTON, NJ -
Every time I open a new book of fiction, there’s a part of me that hopes for the improbable: to encounter something new, something utterly original. So as you can imagine, I’m let down a lot. But sometimes I get lucky.
It’s been two weeks since I finished reading J. Robert Lennon’s Pieces for the Left Hand, but here’s this little gem of a book, still sitting on my desk. I don’t know when I’ll return this paperback to its designated shelf, but it won’t be anytime soon, for I keep going back to it, reading one of the 100 anecdotes in this collection at random, smiling and chuckling along the way.
LOS ANGELES -
The late-night June sky was exceptionally clear, rabid with wild stars. As I walked home from a Silverlake bar, I witnessed the usual constellations—Orion, Ursa Major. In addition, I spotted new, undiscovered formations. I named them all: Zardoz, Love Bullet, Moonlight’s Motel.
Some might find it difficult to love a person who intentionally pees on your stuff. Perfectly understandable. And when that person is a cat, well, the answer seems clear. Get a new cat. But then she looks at you with those big eyes and curls up in your lap, purrs in your ear, and greets you at the door like a dog. Unfair, really. There is no defense for that. So you think well, they all die sometime. I’ll just wait it out. My cat died yesterday. (more…)
There are many wonderful things about being a dog owner. The playing, the walks, knowing that your dog wouldn’t do a damn thing to stop a robber but would, without hesitation, risk its life to protect you and your loved ones from squirrels. These things, however, pale in comparison to one of the true joys of having a furry friend. I’m talking, of course, about standing on the grass for unbelievably long periods of time waiting for your dog to pee.
COLDEN, NY -
I’m writing this in rural western New York, where out my workroom window I’ve seen deer, woodchucks, hawks and, once, a weasel. Last week a fox I hadn’t seen before came to check things out. I let these animals alone though I admit to throwing sticks at the woodchucks, who eat my phlox, and I warned my chicken-raising neighbor about the weasel. The plants and animals I look at seem to belong here, but most of them, even the birds at my feeder, have their origins somewhere else. I don’t think of them as invasive, but they are.
I grew up in Hilo, a town on the Big Island of Hawai’i, and I go back there every year, to live for a while in the house I grew up in. In Hilo you can’t help being aware of the tension between invasive and endemic species, and I don’t mean as metaphor for tourists and locals. Ordinary folk talk about it and (more…)