Saturday, October 15, 2005

Magic Carpet Ride

I'm sitting on my low couch with both bare feet flat on the rug (my, what lovely fire-engine red polish you have on your toes) and each foot pillows the head of a snoring cat. They also spend the nights this way, in a sort of bipolar tandem, one glued to either side of my ribcage, pinning me down. I don't mind because 99% of the time I sleep so still that all I have to do to make my bed in the morning is flip the corner of my down comforter back up over my pillow. Since I sleep on my stomach, it's easy to just swing one leg out of bed and slide out without disturbing the covers, or the cats. When I want them off I just flip over really fast and send them rolling. People have a tendency to poke me when I'm sleeping to make sure I'm still alive; alas, the martyrdom of shallow breathers.

Mr. Goodwrench and I both had omelettes at JB's this afternoon. I really wanted to order eggs benedict, but hollandais is always such a gamble. We went to Kallas Auto and got the parts he needed for the Cadillac, which turned out to be more than just a belt. The bearings in the water pump seized up and threw the belt, which explains why she was vomiting coolant all the way up Harrison Drive Wednesday evening. This is also the belt that drives the power steering pump. A Cadillac without power steering is not fun to drive. Earlier in the week, when the Caddy started hissing and spitting, I thought she was just mad about the 85 octane gasoline I slipped her last time I filled up, so I bought some STP Octane Boost ("Barely Street Legal!"), thinking she just didn't like cheap wine. Not so. Luckily Eddie had a remanufactured water pump, so we got that, and a new belt and a new idler pulley. Mr. Goodwrench is the most polite and gentle mechanic I've ever seen, and I've watched him enough to know that it isn't just because I'm watching or because he's operating on one of les spéciaux, my two mechanical darlings. He finesses sticky bolts gracefully with the ratchet and his bluer-than-sky eyes squint off into the distance every once in a while while his hands, nails pearly through the black grease, continue to work. He only cusses when he gets hurt. When things didn't go his way with the Caddy today he would stand quietly wiping power steering fluid and blood onto a blue shop towel, muttering about how to get around the problem. It's a joy to watch anyone who loves what he does.

I stopped at Jubilee on my way to Morgan's tonight for a few bottles of SoBe Green Tea, and a man in tattered Carharts asked me for a quarter on my way in. I gestured towards the store and told him, "let me get some change." (I use my debit card for everything, so I can track my spending. I don't even see cash for weeks at a time.) He looked as if he assumed that was my way of getting around him. I bumped into cheerful Terry, who I worked with at Home Decor the winter I helped Jim upstairs, in the checkout line and we visited on our way out; she wanted to know all about my new job. At the door we both aimed left to where the panhandler was sitting dejectedly on a bench covered in handpainted advertising. I handed him a few dollar bills and Terry handed him a plastic grocery bag with something small and square in it. He looked up at us, apparently shocked, and mumbled, "thank you. My God, thank you." Terry never stopped talking, eyes twinkling, about the plant and Home Decor and the ranch she lives on outside of town. Her bright, friendly face was such a contrast with the man's, with his sallow skin and grimy beard. He looked fairly young and able, and I wanted to ask him why he wasn't working at one of the multitudes of $25.00-an-hour jobs in the oil field. Probably he couldn't pass the drug test. Mom said one of her regulars at the Inn told her that of the 600 men his company interviewed for several positions on their rigs, only 30 passed. Interstate 80
snakes like a dirty vein of concentrated drug abuse across the breast of the country; the communities for a hundred miles north and south of that strip of weathered concrete are poisoned by what travels on it and spills off into them, with no end in sight.

Eric, a local police officer, lost his son Daniel a few weekends ago. Drinking and carrousing in the wee hours of the morning, he and several friends were in his truck out on the Narrows when it rolled and crushed him. This happens a lot in rural America. I could be cynical and call it survival of the fittest. Or I could hedge and call it sad. Morgan took the family, who live in the house across her back fence, a pot roast and talked to the youngest girl for a while. This week they started hauling all of the truck parts Daniel collected out of the backyard.

I also forgot to memorialize Paul Eveleigh, who died on 9/11 this year of a heart attack. Paul, a lovely person and married to another, the smiling Janet, drove cab for Dad in Coronado. After the end of Dad's company he took a stint as a limo driver in Vegas. His "famous person" story (Dad's involves Kirsty Alley and Mom's was even better. I came home from school one day to find her
sitting on the couch, crying. "Touch me," she said, holding out her hand. "I just talked to Kevin Costner on the telephone." He left Emilio a hundred-dollar tip.) implicates Donald Trump, who he drove from the airport to the swankiest hotel on the strip. Donald told a lackey to tip the driver. The toady just sneered at his retreating back and closed the door of Paul's black Lincoln. Paul was understandably ticked. A loyal Briton, he wrote to Dad shortly before taking the oath of U.S. citizenship: "Janet says it's hard, but you just cross your fingers behind your back and grin and nod." Paul had a charming laugh, sprinkled with snorts, like that pink cartoon sabertooth, Snagglepuss. He was tall and elegant in that tweedy way the British are. He was a gifted storyteller and a kind man, and, like so many people, he thought my father was the greatest thing since sliced bread. He loved chauffeuring, Land Rovers and living in the Cays. And he loved pretty Janet, who will be lost without him.

I've been making costumes and practicing Bach's Brandenburg Concertos and not getting enough sleep. Mom left Cordale her bag of little airplane-shaped Cheez-its she was given on her Delta flight from Monterey. He will be thrilled with them, being eleven years old and thrilled with pretty much anything (the gummy sharks are going to blow his little mind), but he will totally miss the irony of the label, which proclaims the snack to be "Cheesy Plane Crackers." Look at the time. I'm learning unrest from the best, apparently.

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