Friday, July 25, 2008

Stephen King

I've not read a lot of Stephen King's books. They're not really my type of reading. But I have found lots of inspiration from his book "On Writing: a memoir of the craft". I try and read this book every couple of years. There's always something good I missed the time before. I do, however, love the back jacket and always have:

  "For years I dreamed of having the sort of massive oak slab that would dominate a room. . . In 1981 I got the one I wanted and placed it in the middle of a spacious, skylighted study in the rear of the house. For six years I sat behind that desk either drunk or wrecked out of my mind. . . 
A year or two later after I sobered up, I got rid of that monstrosity and put in a living-room suite where it had been. . . In the early nineties, before they moved on to their own lives, my kids sometimes came up in the evening to watch a basketball game or a movie and eat pizza. . . I got another desk--it's handmade, beautiful, and half the size of the T. rex desk. I put it at the far west end of the office, in a corner under the eave. . . I'm sitting under it now, a fifty-three-year-old man with bad eyes, a gimp leg, and no hangovers. I'm doing what I know how to do, and as well as I know how to do it. I came through all the stuff I told you about . . . and now I'm going to tell you as much as I can about the job. . . . 
It starts with this: put your desk in the corner, and every time you sit down there to write, remind yourself why it isn't in the middle of the room. Life isn't a support-system for art. It's the other way around."

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Lemonade Stand

There was only a single day in my childhood that I had a lemonade stand. My brother and I had thought it was a great idea. No one dissuaded us. Our Mom probably loved that we were out of her hair for almost the entire day. All it cost her was a single pitcher of lemonade. 

We drug the card table out on the lawn and set our two folding chairs around it. We had cups, and ice, and a hand-made sign drawn with markers on poster board. It was hot. Very hot. We were going to be rich. 

Our older sister was not interested in our business venture. She was old enough to know what we didn't. Well, maybe we knew, but we didn't want to admit it. Instead, we hoped that our proximity to the reservoir, a local boating and fishing hotspot would provide us with customers. The problem was, our house was about 3 miles further up the road than the loading dock and a full mile past where the reservoir ended.

As far as locations go, ours was not ideal. We sold lemonade 8.3 miles from the center of our small town, along a windy country road that (in those days) seldom saw traffic. After my brother and I exchanged quarters, we each took a glass of lemonade. We watched the cars: there were three of them that went by that entire day. Not one stopped. 

Still, we watched the road with hopefulness, swishing our bare feet just above the clipped grass. We sold (or failed to sell) lemonade for most of the day. It was a failed endeavor from the start, but I loved that no one told us we couldn't try. 

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

My Father's Wallet

My Dad kept two photos of my mother in his wallet. They were both black and white pictures of her in high school. She was beautiful. Really and truly, beautiful. Mom said he liked to keep them to remind him of how she used to look; I didn't like it when she said that. 

I thought it was sweet, though, that he kept those pictures; treasured them, really. He wasn't that great at birthdays or anniversaries, or Mother's Day, but the fact that he adored those photos always reminded me of his love for her.

I liked to look at them too. I don't know when it was but I looked in his wallet and noticed that one of the pictures had sort of decayed around the edges. I asked him about it. 

He laughed. "Didn't I ever tell you?" he asked. "It was the darnedest thing." It seems that he'd lost his wallet one fall, out on the tractor. We still had an old Allis Chambers open air tractor with a metal seat. That wallet, housed in his back pocket, had worked its way out and fallen somewhere in a field next to the pond he'd tried and failed to stock with fish. He'd looked for it when he noticed it was missing, but couldn't find it. "This biggest thing, was, that it has those photos, in it," he said. It wasn't the money in it he was going to miss, but he hated to lose those pictures of his young sweetheart. 

Fast forward to spring. Same field. "I stood there and remembered that that was where I'd lost my wallet," he told me. "I decided that before I did anything to it: turned the soil, or disced, or messed with it, that I'd walk over it one more time." And there is was. A season later, after the winter snow had melted: his wallet. The leather was decayed and falling apart in his hands, a $50 bill, partly disintegrated. But the photos, in their plastic sleeve where still there. His young love staring back at him, except some minor decay along the edges. 

He got a new wallet, a new plastic sleeve for the photos, and went to bank where they exchanged him for a crisp $50 bill. He smiled and looked at her picture. "I sure would have hated to lose those," he'd said. "Isn't she beautiful?"

He put the wallet back in his pocket and we went upstairs, where Mom was there, with dinner, waiting.