Friday, April 29, 2005


Work is my sanctuary. I love the two plants, old and new, stoically side by side on the hill. After the weekend’s rain the puffy spring clouds are doing that weird time-lapse thing they do, hustling overhead as their shadows scud along the soft gray-green hills like insubstantial juggernauts. I can stand up here on the hill, “E Hill,” watching trains snake through the valley on their tracks, which bisect the city along the banks of the sinuous Bear River. I can watch the truck traffic on I-80, rushing east across the state to the Midwest or west to Salt Lake City and past the broad, stinking, salty lake, across the Bonneville Salt Flats, through Wendover, on across the great flat empty west to Reno and the coast. Or maybe in Salt Lake City they’ll hang a left on I-15 to Vegas, Bakersfield, on to San Diego and the border. I want to run to catch a train. I want to get on the highway and go. This month they found a dismembered body just past the Wyoming/Utah line in Summit County. I want to drive until I find a place that doesn’t have any death.

A week ago last Monday, two firefighters died fighting a house fire here in town. The funeral was Saturday, same as Dad’s, only instead of old cars, A.J. and Robert had 50 fire trucks from all over the country winding up County Road to the cemetery, completely stopping traffic for two hours. They had to turn away many more trucks from communities all over the west. Robert Henderson left a wife and kids and 23-year-old A.J. (Jacob) Cook left his bride of about a month. I’m wondering what it’s like to be her; I can’t imagine. I took a picture of their trucks parked next to the Post Office, across from the Fire Hall, laden with their uniforms, flowers, posters and photographs, and I felt the hollow spots on the earth. Otherwise I’m not very affected. I’m numb from my own grief over Dad, who I’m starting to miss to an alarming degree, and Gram, who I’m terrified to lose but can’t bear to see live if she doesn’t really want to.

I am limping through the days, apprehension folded in my pocket like a passport. Morgan whispers in her sleeping ear “you’ve been such a good Grandma” and she nods, slowly, childlike. She may take a few bites of canned fruit, sip brandy diluted in 7-Up. We don’t make her put the oxygen back on. We tell her she can go whenever she’s ready. Sometimes I don’t know her, can’t see the woman I spent fifteen years in close proximity to. In the last ten she has simply become someone else. I didn’t know her for the first seventy years of her life; what makes me think she should always be the same? I know she’ll handle it, because she’s pure iron under that soft maternal lining, but I can’t help but worry about Mom, sure to lose her husband and her mother in the same year. It isn’t fair.

Something else.

I’m considering getting Cable TV. (I already have the digital box and 12 uninteresting channels, which are free with my DSL). This may alarm people who know me and know that I very rarely watch television (like once every two months I’ll halfheartedly tune into Antiques Roadshow or a rerun of The Simpsons), but lately I’ve been craving the History channel and Travel channel, and TLC only because I enjoy watching Clinton and Stacy gag over the general lack of fashion sense in the world on What Not to Wear. I despise Trading Spaces. Also there are times when, even though I probably wouldn’t sit and actually watch it, the background buzz of Nascar would be incredibly soothing. Maybe I don’t need the added distraction though, the potential to have more precious time flushed down the toilet. And then too there would be the increased risk of Katie Couric appearing on my screen. I cannot stand the perky little insect and her nauseatingly relentless flirting. It makes me want to sick Ann Coulter on her.

I feel like I’ve been asking too much. And somewhere deep in the bowels of this house the pump that moves the hot water through the pipes that heat our rooms is beginning to grind and moan. It’s probably cavitation. Or maybe the motor’s shot. Anyhow I plan to move. And I’d like to move up.

I woke to a few inches of snow this morning and wanted to break the sky. I’m so tired of winter. The prairie is green but the bitter wind that steals the air right out of your lungs is hanging on. Bud drove me up to the intake on the river Wednesday, into the concrete bunker full of massive valves and screened, yawning open pipes almost four feet wide. The place was full of spider webs, the kind you see on television, cottony and thick and sticky. He says they torch them in the summer. We went to the station at the dam, checked the quality of water at the reservoir, which they’ll probably switch to this weekend since spring runoff makes the river water nearly untreatable. He switched on some lights and opened an unassuming metal door and there was the concrete tunnel that runs all the way under the dam, the huge intake pipe stretching far into the dank subterranean distance. It was like opening the squeaky door of a wardrobe and finding Narnia on the other side. I would so love my own Aslan. I would so love an absolution.

I bet lions really shed something awful.


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