stories

for the information age

 

 

These bite-sized stories chronicle my efforts, both pitiful and successful,

to navigate the rapidly-changing world.

 

My hope is that they help you do the same.

christmas motive - cross section of red

Updated: May 16, 2021


In each of my childhood memories, smoke plumes across the scene. My parents smoked in the car, tipped ashes out of the triangular window, smashed butts into the metal ashtray. They smoked as they cooked, cleaned, weeded the garden. When money ran low, the shopping list looked like this: milk, eggs, bread, case of Marlboro Reds. Sometimes my parents waved at the smoke round their heads, as if it were a pesky fly. But mostly, they loved it. In their marriage, smoking was glue, one thing they shared. When they passed a lit cigarette back-and-forth, taking long, slow drags from the common square, it was an act of intimacy. Even when they could hardly tolerate each other, they smoked well together. This gave us hope.


My father smoked as he wrote articles for the newspaper, wire-rimmed spectacles down on nose, cigarette dangling from lips. For him, smoking and writing were entwined – the DNA of one wound into the other. He always acknowledged that smoking was, what he called, a nasty habit. But he was unable to stop. Or unwilling.


When the lung cancer diagnosis came, my father continued to smoke a pack a day. And as he lay dying in a hospice bed, he held an invisible cigarette between two upright fingers, moving it to and from his lips. In its final push, the cancer metastasized to his brain and he began to vanish in earnest. The last time I saw him, he looked at me, took a puff off of the phantom cigarette and said, do you know, I have a little girl who looks just like you?


I was twenty-six and he was gone.


Habits are just the things we do over and over. We all have them. Some habits will devour everything we love and do. Others bind us to the life we want to live.

Updated: May 16, 2021


All day I wait for night -- the cricket whir, the moonlight, the hush. If daylight belongs to all creatures, night is possessive; it takes me.


It has always been hard for me to go to bed. Something deep inside me, something American, wants to stay up and do things. At night, day-tasks vanish -- work, children, meetings, meal preparation, hair concerns, the weedy garden beds. At night, I read the poem, a chapter in the book, I watch a film, I begin to write. If I was drowsy earlier, this flurry of activity rouses me. In the quiet hours, something critical awakens.


The trouble is, the more I do in the night, the less I sleep. The less I sleep, the less I am able to do. I have discovered this: morning, that well-lit realm, never ceases to arrive.

Updated: May 17, 2021


I read somewhere that 85% of cellphones have fecal matter on them. In other words, touching someone else’s phone is kind of like changing their diaper. That’s why, whenever I bring my phone into the toilet with me, it’s the last time I’ll ever do it. I mean it. But then, what am I supposed to do, just sit there?


We are constantly looking for ways to improve our lives, but often overlook the matter in our hands.