[media-credit name=”Lara Eller” align=”alignnone” width=”640″][/media-credit]
The Author makes it home with his youngest, his only, daughter. It’s late, early in the afternoon but late for nap. He has been calling Lilly’s name in the car and poking her in the backseat to keep her awake so she wouldn’t take a fifteen-minute nap that replaced a two-hour nap. He has been minimally successful and does not know what will come of naptime. The final chapter on their morning excursion has yet to be written, though it is no longer morning.
She is asleep when he extricates her from the belts and buckles of her carseat and still asleep when he gets her upstairs, so he puts her down without her knowing it. He does not change her diaper for fear of waking her, which means she’ll be a pink rashy mess this evening and Mary will frown and fret. Fret is not the right word, thinks the Author, but it fits.
He only found the parking lot by way of some vehicular braying that called him to the road. When he had climbed up from the ocean, he wanted to go a different way than he came. As such, he turned right and continued on the path he had been following before descending to the beach. The forest constitutes a park and the park constitutes an isthmus or perhaps a small peninsula, and it should not be hard to trace a circle back to the car with his feet by keeping the ocean on the same side, in this instance his right side. Due to time constraints, however, he takes a shortcut on a path intersecting from the left. As he expects, the ocean eventually returns to his right, far below but further on. On their right they pass a raccoon the size of a medium-sized dog who has disemboweled a trash can, which give him something to talk to Lilly about. Based on the evidence of raccoon and trash and dog-likeness, all of which exist in greater density or abundance or ampleness with increased proximity to people, he thinks they are close to the parking lot until they arrive at the junction with the path forking down to the water containing his footsteps oriented both down and up.
He teaches Lilly what a circle is.
He turns around and this time goes the way he came.
He again passes the fat raccoon who pays them no mind. The raccoon is now on his left-hand side. It does not take long for them to arrive at the car, prior to which he hears the vehicular braying, which as it turns out did not play an essential or even active role in his finding the parking lot, but did exist.
As he drives he eats yogurt Mary made with banana he bought with Mary’s money sliced with the knife he brought to their marriage. He feeds Lilly cheese and animal crackers and apple slices he prepared before they left and repeats her name, Lilly, repeatedly, Lilly, to prevent her falling asleep so she’ll sleep later.
From the sound of it, Lilly is still asleep. Thousands and thousands and thousands of breaths, Babe, he tells her without words from downstairs through the ceiling into her room.
It is more difficult for him to write words in the afternoon light than the morning black. Maybe he only has so many words in him daily and once he evacuates them all each morning his daily constitutional is fulfilled. Or maybe it’s that let there be light business. Mary likes to have sex in the morning. He likes to have sex in the afternoon. Neither time is convenient; no time is convenient. They tend to have sex at night. He is getting distracted thinking of Mary in a certain private inviting position. He needs to write and she isn’t here. He’s cheating on his writing. They were late and he has no time and he can’t write and he doesn’t know what he would if he could except that his editor if he had an editor or his publisher if he had a publisher or his agent if he had an agent or his reader if he had a reader would say Something has to happen, but he knows what he would if he could with Mary.
His house has 5 rooms, 2.5 bathrooms, a very modern and progressive and suburban ratio of 2:1. A ratio somewhere between Antoinette’s 1:1 and Reb/Palo’s ?:1. He might use 5:1. After all, Palo has the corner of his yard, and the character needs some hardship. Hardship makes things happen.
He prowls his house, exploring rooms and bathrooms and bedrooms and living rooms and doors and closets to familiarize himself with the allocation of space.
He realizes he lost his yellow hat while lost. It is, was, is the knit yellow brown gold of baby poop, which Mary calls Baby Poop. He is not happy. He’s had the hat a long time. It is, was, is dependable and everyone loves to hate it, and having lost it while he was lost does not augment the prospects of finding it.
The Author is sick of his writing foreplay. He wants to get to business or not bother. What next for Palo. All he’s doing now is screwing his brains out with an attractive young woman in innumerable positions and it’s taking forever and he hasn’t had a thought in minutes and he’s forgotten his sticks and he is cooking up pain with a dollop of satisfaction, as he would do if he were to cheat on his wife Mary is her name, which he thinks he never would. Which is the only reason he does this, which is not writing about his infidelity to Mary, which would never happen, but is writing about some hypothetical infidelity to love. That is the benefit of writing: not doing. He might write about it, but he wouldn’t do it, doesn’t do it. He would write and make Palo do it, and does, Palo who is not him. This is not a fantasy. Writing but not doing allows him certain opportunities that doing does not, namely the use of narrative structure, or arc rather, or the playground slide, the kind that spirals down, or an arc laden with the male and female of the species abandoning the survival of their progeny to screw the opposite sex of another species rather than their own: the lioness with the mouse, the bull with the sow, heifer with rooster, mare with a jack stud. God help him if that’s where this story ends, but that is the opportunity, to create things that don’t exist like climaxes, rising action, dramatic tension, geometry, biology, religion. That and themes like love and incompleteness and the tenuousness of sanity. Those kinds of themes and the theme that that is the kind of writing readers want to read. And the theme that wants are meant to be satisfied like needs. The theme that there is no difference. The theme that there is. The theme that there aren’t things called themes. The theme that there are. The theme of themes. Right now, his right hand writes wrong, or not at all.
In a desperate effort to make something, anything, happen, he sits down to the computer to write even though he does not write on the computer.
* * *
As we climb the trees get thinner and thinner though there are more and more of them, the collections of which are properly called thickets, thickets being thin trees like stacks of sticks on their ends and their sides and interwoven at all odd angles, which is like what we are in. An abundance of sticks. I am distracted from my distraction. But the woods thin and the trees grow bigger. The same trees do not grow bigger, but new ones I encounter. Let me be clear, the thin thicket stick trees remain as they were, as they are behind me, perhaps by now dying they are so thin, but as they are, while the new trees I walk into are as they were and already are, which is much bigger, and remain so unless they fall and rot, which they do not do now, in them is where I am, I should know, but they could after I pass, anything is possible, and will one day. Which reminds me they do grow bigger, they being the big trees and the little trees, constantly, even as I pass them, even now, pumping water and the like, though I cannot tell. Unless I stand there for years, which I do not. Because I walk, after Antoinette. In the end, they may not be growing right now, it is Novemberish, and there is dormancy to contend with. On the other hand, conifers do not go dormant do they? Or what is the point of being evergreen, the evergreenness of evergreens being their main advantage or disadvantage or at least difference from deciduousness. That is the question. The answer may be yes or it may be no. The answer may be or may not be. It may be awake or dormant or hard or soft. The trees I am in are made of both hardwood and softwood. I am not in the trees properly, but in the woods. I have never been in a tree. I have climbed trees for particularly attractive sticks and in so doing I often compete with birds and wind up stealing from their nests, but I have tried to give that up. But I have never been inside one. I will be when I die and liquefy and am absorbed and pumped up, but not now, for I am climbing in the woods and out of the trees, throughout in the outside until I arrive at her cabin and ride in her cab, apologies, getting ahead of myself, until I go in the inside and out of the outside, which has yet to happen.
We climb through exposed and gnarled roots, gnarled because roots are gnarled, exposed because the soil and mud has been eroded by much rain and too many feet. The trees are hundreds of feet tall. Huge Douglas fir and pacific pine, if such a species exists, or western pine, if there is any such thing, or perhaps just western hemlock, spattered with some oak too, as I alluded to earlier, I do not usually forget my allusions, especially when I walk among them. Though I do not walk among them anymore as we walk out of the trees. Trees so big Antoinette and I cannot encircle them with our arms and touch hands though we do not try because we are climbing on a mission and now there are no trees. We climb through a sidehill on the hillside full of flowers like larkspur that do not bloom in November and berries like salmon berries that have long since been picked over by bears and squirrels and birds and desiccated by the sun and rotted thoroughly by November.
In the copse of larch, the larch are tall. The needles have turned gold. November perhaps being a little late for the turning of larch needles. A deciduous conifer, nevertheless, yellow, gold, preparing to lose its needles.
On the hilltop I am on top of the hill with her, worn out, the sun on our level, entering her cabin.
In her cabin we breathe heavily. We wrestle to catch our breath.