Monday, April 2, 2018

He taught me that some people are assholes accidentally. 

My name is Jim DiMaggio, he said, and set his coffee cup aside to pace in front of the class. I was a quiet kid sitting up front and smiled as he glanced from face to face. 

Bending down to speak to me, he said, I am not related to Joe DiMaggio, and I bet you don't even know who that is.

Why would he think that? Does he think girls don't know about baseball? But I told him what he expected to hear. No.

He also taught me the phrase, It is better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it.
That never left my head.

I am worlds away from that first day of seventh grade, but I still believe it's better to have what you need, than to find yourself in the rain without a spare tire…


But some things are just impossible. Lily has bone cancer.

She is slowing down. Out again in the woods today in an early spring snow, I put a hand up against the suddenly bright sky.

It's sunning on our snow, Lily! Nearly six inches fell, but it deflated like cotton candy, becoming nothing under our feet.


She hops along, keeping the weight off of her right rear leg. And after five months, she is getting tired. More limping. Slower to stand up. But happy, happy, happy. 

I don't think Mr DiMaggio has a solution for this. One day I'll have to take Lily to the vet. A quick needle, and I am going to have to watch the lights go out of her eyes. 

She doesn't know anything about death. Dogs hurt, but I don't think they sit around pondering the eternal unknown after life fades.


I read back through this blog, hoping to find things I have already written about death.

Maybe the dead never leave. They are still here, in a way. Hershey has been gone for two years. We were out for a coffee one Saturday when I asked, Remember how much she loved the river? 

She was the best dog ever, he said. Don't talk about this, I can't talk about this.

I thought I was fine, then I choked on my next sip and sat waiting for my eyes to stop leaking.

My grandmother is in my head all the time. My ex boyfriend's name comes up at least once a week. I wonder how much of our thoughts are really our own. 

Today the daffodils were ready to scream out in yellow, until snow fell. As I returned home tonight I told the little green bunch, Tomorrow. Bloom.

Good girl, Lily. I'll love you as much as I can. You would have already been gone eight years ago when I found you sick in the woods. It is better to have had you, than to have never known.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Thoughts And Things, 2017

One of my favorite assignments for creative writing class was eavesdropping. 

I sat in a lobby or cafeteria and listened … to the kids having coffee, to professors talking about students, to Professor Keneally who loved vodka and was sleeping with a student, and often mocked beer drinkers. Where does the thirst come from, he asked. 

And I listened to the asshole behind me talking about what I guessed was cheating on his girlfriend. I told her I was running late, he said… 

I knew Karen missed class. I knew the girl with the pottery was frustrated that she had not sold much.

I walked over to see what she had. I loved pottery. My friend Maryanne's boyfriend Jason came by and said, that pottery is nice.

Not as nice as my ass, I said. 

I knew where the guy in the red shirt spent his night. She was hot, he said, we did it while her roommate waited outside. 


Tim at the bar after closing was staring at long shadows cast by overturned stools. He said, I had to eavesdrop too. I wrote down anything interesting. We had to build a whole story around like, a sentence.

Did you like it?

I liked writing in prose, but this assignment wanted dialogue, he said. I was not used to writing that way.

Prose and dialogue, I said. It's the difference between, say, daydreaming and tennis.


Grabbing the scrap of paper, I read what I had overheard: He said, My ass crack was bleeding. I was wearing a thong that night.

For his birthday he wore a sparkling tiara. I loved it. His eye shadow glittered. A true daredevil.

Another day, another comment…

As I walked up the basement stairs and turned to enter the bar, he said, My sister's name used to be Juan Carlos. Now, it's Julia Carmen.

Reading that last note to Tim, he asked, Is that what you were scribbling down?


When I told Jerry about it, he suggested that I start writing down things I hear and putting together a book. Three hundred sixty five days at the bar, or something like that.


Unfolding another stray thought that I wrote on a slip of paper, I read the words, The light fades for everyone eventually. 

I had not overheard that, but thought it on my own while pouring vodka and soda, rum and coke, and popped beer tops for hours. 

Lily has bone cancer. I found out in early October and those words from my vet are the first and last things I think about every day.

How are the dogs, Danny K asked. 

Well, we lost Hershey two summers ago, Bandit has arthritis, the pug had the good grace to quietly slip away in his sleep, and poor Lily has bone cancer.

I'm sorry to hear that, he said.

It's ok, I am not going to tell her, I said.

We hike each day and she chases her toy. I rub her sore leg where the cancer first showed up as a limp. I'm just going to do the things I know she likes. She'll never contemplate death. She will know discomfort one day, but not yet.

I am going to run through the forest with her and toss her rope toy until the light fades.

Friday, June 23, 2017

On a Friday when I didn’t wake up well:

Ripe with a pending storm, clouds stir. Wind wrenches dark streaks against a heavy sky…which does not explain why I am remembering a bitter winter morning, just two fingers poking from my gloves to shift or steer and staring through frost on the VW's windshield. The glass was ablaze with sunrise on a narrow bay road in Long Island, 1994-ish.

I was leaving at dawn, slipping from a warm bed in a corner of his messy rented room. Dirty clothes, burnt-down candles, old spaghetti-stained dishes, and piles and piles of cigarette butts. I could smell his shampoo in my hair: love love love. It went sour by summertime.

 A different girl and a different him in another place…

Lipstick smudged on the rim, she sets down her Pinot Grigio: I thought about him all day yesterday, she said. Five minutes passed and I waited another five without touching the phone, then another five and finally it was Midnight and too late to call.

 She’s a girl in a quiet corner somewhere with almost tears puddled in her eyes, dreaming about a guy. What does he feel like? Is he hungry? Is he gentle? Does he even care?


Thursday, March 2, 2017

Things I Think In A Blink

Do I seem placid to you?

I hike through windy, bending trees, stop for coffee and watch a cardinal flash red around the bird feeder.

But it's a mess inside.

Screw you bright sunshine and randy wind. My mind, my health. How long have I got?

He stood behind us at the bar with a martini watching UConn shootin' hoops. You know, life is about three things, really, he said. Your health, your relationships, and your money.

His statement is a boulder in my head.


Did you see the little carrot farm she planted in her hummus? We grabbed our seats after break, passing her desk and snack, getting back to Real Estate Practices, Chapter 12.

Reaching over, I drew a frowny face on his notebook. He drew a dick in my eye.

We saw you two writing little love notes, she said.

Oh, that wasn't love, I said. That was a sad face, and notes like: my boobs hurt.

Ha! Must be pms!

She was close.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Chasing a sun setting along Saturday's horizon, Lily runs through mid-winter's slushy woods. She isn't thinking about a twinkling hot orange smudged sky. She doesn't notice horizontal sunbeams soaking snowy ground. Evening shadows loom.

Today's warm beautiful light was going out as I snagged her toy and tossed it toward gnarled Mountain Laurels. Its pink blooms each spring are a surprise.
Everything is cast in a rusted hue of dusk's magic limbo. I breathe it in. I want to keep some of that faltering color deep inside. 

A small glow in my belly. 

Sparkling eyes. 

Of course the spell pops -- just another old birthday balloon. Life isn't shining.

Where is that thrill -- the oh m'god flop in my stomach?

I'm a little girl alone in a huge bedroom. The lights are out. Ugly, slow-breathing monsters are waiting. Sometimes bad news comes creeping out from under the bed to rip away a sense that the future is a safe place. It's not.

"There's no guarantees," he said.

"You do things right. Eat healthy. Exercise. But that might get you nothing…" I said.

"You were talking in your sleep."

"Oh, what did I say?"

"Flash cards."

"Flash cards? So stupid."

Lily and I head for home. "Lily, why did I say flash cards?" 

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Can't Go On

He broke my heart when I was 18

There was no argument

no moving out

no goodbye

he just went to her house

was wrapped in her arms

her legs

and never left


How many times did I have to get drunk and stand outside their bedroom window at 3 am to believe it?



Will you write me a love note?

His question was shy, so I said yes.


Grabbing a pen and stretch of register tape, I scratched out:


With bad music

thundering in a messy bar…

there was this guy

he wanted my attention so badly he could taste the frothy cold Budweiser on his lips

god, that was delicious


Thursday, September 1, 2016

Is And Isn’t

Glistening with sunrise are leaves dampened by rainfall in the small hours…1, 2, 3…hitting my windshield in little spits...

September 1, 1:45 am: Driving home from the bar. Hershey, where are you?

I'll look in the misplaced shadows where a little bit of her might linger and blend in the forest's dips and hollows.

She keeps afloat and aflutter that cluster of swallowtail butterflies overhead. She’s a whispered breeze. Hershey?

I have been seeing her in my head non-stop since I found her Monday, aware with a glance that she was gone. Less dead than free, she had shed her cancer on the basement floor. Her lifeless body was just a tumble of discarded clothes, but I cried anyway.

Where does life go? I can’t believe that Mother Nature, who coaxes life from frozen ground each spring, would waste the loving energy squeezed inside a dog’s short life. Be free girly.

The vet called today. Her remains are ready. We can bring Hershey home.