Wednesday, February 23, 2011


In my building downtown, a man gets on the elevator and behaves very peculiarly: he does not immediately take out and check his cell phone. Is he dangerous? Should I call the police?

We sit in the Les Schwab store, inhaling the scent of new tires, listening to classic rock. Behind us a fountain tinkles. Not a little one, either. An image of Les Schwab in his ten gallon hat, gazing off over the brushland of eastern Washington, rises easily to my mind, burned in as it was by hundreds of repeated television commercials when my brain was young and growing. “Look for the sign you're in Les Schwab country...”

I'll be able to sing it on my death bed: that, and the theme to Gilligan's Isle. The fountain, and the spotless display room, jostle the cowboy uneasily. I am, like Miss Clavell in the night, seized with the conviction that something is not right. Is it the tire store, or is it me?

Alan tore down the back porch, mostly with his bare hands, in less than an hour. Now we have a small back deck, and stairs that go down to the driveway instead of to our neighbor's yard. It really looks pretty damn good. But strange, very strange. We should have some little ceremony for disturbing the balance of the world this way, a precautionary apology to the genii loci.

In the rubble under the porch we found a little white glass pot with a white glass lid: inside the lid, in raised letters, was written “Professor Hubert's Malvinas Cream.” It looks like it might have been buried there when the house was built, in 1913. The freckles it was bought to efface have been effaced in earnest, now.

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