I’m not sure if it is a memory or a dream. Odds are it is neither. If not for the particulars, I might believe it was a story I made up to sound cool, frighten friends, elicit a particular reaction: shock, awe, incredulous amazement.
In this tale/memory/dream, I am visiting my second cousin, the son of my mother’s nemesis, someone who made making others miserable her profession. We are the same age, this boy and I, roughly 11 years old. One summer, we played on the same baseball team. Other than that, we have little to nothing in common. I don’t like him and I’m sure he doesn’t like me, but it is a summer evening in August and our parents are pretending to get along. We mimic them.
It is early in the new decade, 1982. I am likely wearing too short shorts and a t shirt that does not match, probably stained with dirt or food. My cousin will be dressed better than I, cleaner, which he will point out in subtle ways, a look, voice inflection, to which I will be oblivious.
Across the street and down half the block, new construction is underway. The shiny wooden houses look out of place set among the textured brick ramblers and bungalows lining the eastern side of the road.
We are unsupervised beyond the occasional look out the window. It doesn’t take long or much convincing for us to make our way to the vacant houses (some only wooden frames, others missing windows and doors, a few ready to welcome families), bravely wandering through the least complete, then checking for unlocked doors among the others.
One opens and invites us in. Dark yellow carpet and bright white walls (the aroma of fresh paint and glue) shine like warnings, and the unfinished kitchen gives us pause. Workers may be about, or will soon arrive. We are silent, listening for a hint of another human being, ready to run, hearts in our throats.
My cousin laughs, breaking the spell.
We explore rooms. It is a not-dangerous situation that somehow feels compellingly dangerous. Part of me always feels broken, different, but it is a secret part, one that few will ever see or understand. More often than not, I am passive, overly careful, unwilling to risk. Being here in this empty house, I feel unlike myself. I am an invader. A sudden urge to plunder rises up. I want to break something, kick a wall, a door, just to prove to myself I am capable of casual destruction. Instead, I run my fingers on the walls, whisper in hushed tones as if the future occupants of this dwelling are already present. observing my behavior.
My cousin calls to me.
He is in a back bedroom, un-carpeted sub-flooring marked and labeled with cryptic words defying understanding; numbers and lines that should have meaning, but appear as hieroglyphics.
He is kneeling near the wall opposite the closet. A toolbox in front of him. I imagine removing a hammer, a few screwdrivers, my earlier inclination towards random destruction returning in heavy waves of fear and excitement. He winks at me, flicks the clasp with too clean fingers, lifts the lid.
There are two versions of what happens next. In the first, the gun is a snub nosed revolver, chrome, with a brown grip. We do the right thing and leave it alone, locking the door as we leave the house, agreeing never to tell our parents.
The second seems more honest. The weapon is black, something a cop would wear high on his hip. In this version, the gun takes on the persona of violence (if there is such a thing), an ominous presence that fills the room, chokes the air from my throat. I am suddenly timid, cowering. I do not hesitate. I run.
Or maybe I stand still, watch as my foolish cousin reaches into the toolbox and lifts the weapon out, cradled in his palm. He looks at me, the total brown of his eyes sizing me up again, just like he will years later when we attend the same Jr. high and he tries to figure out how in the hell we can be related, when he is so cool and I am such a hopeless dork. He rests his index finger on the trigger, aims just to the right of me, laughs like this is a game.
But I am already outside, right? I’m running down the street, back towards my parents and the relative safety of the front yard. I don’t stay in the bedroom of the almost finished house, waiting for the inevitable sound of gunpowder igniting, the thud of the bullet as it enters the wall behind me, narrowly missing my face and neck. I would never be that stupidly brave, even if it would make that one girl (with long legs and soft brown skin) who lives down the street look at me with new eyes.
I mentioned our recent trip to Yellowstone in the last post. It was a grand and exciting time for all involved. As usual, we ran into people we knew from SLC who were also visiting, and had fun interactions with people we will never ever see again. It is the wonder of the place.My favorite thing is introducing people to the majesty of Grand Geyser. This year, I was able convince a couple visiting from Sweden to hang out and watch. Sometimes, the wait is hours, but it is always worth it.
The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone was as fabulous as I remembered.
and the waterfalls as beautiful.
For the first time in over 30 years, I ventured to the north part of the park. Mammoth Hot Springs is still a strange place. I was blown away by the steep mountains and amazing meadows. The north part of the park is indeed stunning. Too bad every place was extremely crowded. Lesson learned- do not travel on Labor Day weekend.
I am most grateful for my children and their willingness to accompany Sheryl and me almost anywhere. They both seemed to have a grand time and both took a great many photos. Speaking of which, here are some more of mine.
Thermal features have always intrigued me.
Runoff from Excelsior Geyser/hot spring
Grand Prismatic. I love the colors.
The brink of lower falls.
Big horn in the north part of the park.
Hey friends and family! I’ve just returned from a fun filled weekend at America’s first national park (Yellowstone for those not in the know). I’ve been going to this wonderful freak of nature since I was a young lad, but had not visited in over a decade. It was like reuniting with an absent friend. We were a bit uncomfortable with each other at first, but after a few hours, it was like we’d never separated. I have photos galore to share, but will save them for a different post.
It’s the first Wednesday of the month, and that means the Insecure Writer’s Support Group is gathering for our monthly blog hop. If you don’t know who we are and what we do, go here http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/p/iwsg-sign-up.html
Sign up, blog up, share your stories.
We are a supportive, clever, funny, attractive bunch of writers with hopes and fears, insecurities, failures and successes, just like the rest of you who haven’t joined yet. Quit wallowing in your own misery and let us wallow with you.
On the writing front, I finally submitted the poetry chapbook. As I expected, the moment I clicked send, I was certain there were millions of typos, or worse, I’d sent the wrong document. I quadruple checked. It is the right document. I’m not yet ready to check for typos.
But I’ve talked about this contest already. It’s time for a new (old) topic. I’ve made an executive decision considering NaNoWriMo. I’ve unofficially competed for the last three years, making my word count goal twice (the third book didn’t reach 50,000 words), and because of that, I’ve debated actually entering this November. It seems that having a concrete month, clear word count goal has been essential to my completing projects. The hard part- November is an awful busy month to be writing every day. I struggle to write around my birthday, my sisters birthday, and Thanksgiving. Last year, I was in NYC the first week and never really caught up. I still want to write the first 50,000 words in 30 days, just not those 30 days.
Looking ahead, October is a really great month for writing. I have fewer commitments. The weather is nicer. Days are a bit longer. Kids are in school more of the days. Yeah, this seems like a winning scenario.
For the novel writing readers of this blog- I’m curious as to your writing schedule. Have you competed in NaNo? What sorts of goals do you set for yourselves?
For the rest of you schmucks- Thanks for reading and leave a nice comment below about how wonderful you find me and how grateful you are that we are friends.
I couldn’t resist sharing at least one Yellowstone picture. Gosh we are cute.