Of Squirrels and Dolphins

If I am to come back as an animal after I die I think I might choose a squirrel. Assuming you get to choose. I imagine you get to pore over a glossy, very dog-eared catalog — or maybe it is more like a set of Encylopedia Britannicas — and you choose which animal or fish or reptile, etc, you want to be. I hadn’t thought of a fish until just now. A dolphin would be cool but they are mammals. Still. Okay — the reason I said squirrel was because I watch them play in the trees all day. But now that I think of it they are awfully stupid when it comes to crossing the road. They are like, Ahgh! This way no that way no this way no — SPLAT! So forget I said squirrels. Definitely dolphins. They seem to have a lot of fun. I grew up watching a show on TV called Flipper about a dolphin version of Lassie except dolphins are way smarter than collies. Collies are really stupid. Anyone coming back as a collie — hoo boy. But then here I am in the tuna fish aisle and all the cans say dolphin safe tuna. So I find out dolphins get caught by mistake in tuna nets. Maybe I need to be more at the top of the food chain, like a lion or polar bear. But polar bears are having a rough go of it lately with all their ice melting, and I don’t want to be a zoo bear. A lion might be nice but do I really have the heart to run down a gazelle and bite its throat and tear it to pieces and eat it raw like sushi? Maybe if I was a very careful squirrel. Oh — maybe you can pick what year you come back. Definitely not the future because that only looks good for jellyfish from what I’ve been reading. But I remember in elementary school they told us before America was discovered a squirrel could travel from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mississippi without ever having to touch the ground. Sign me up for that one. 

Unspooling

I arrived in Toronto on a Friday evening in late March. I believe it was cold but whether it was unseasonably cold or not I could not tell you. This is what I can tell you: That from the moment we touched down in the early dark a small clock began ticking deep within my core, a clock that for me would stop in less than 48 hours. That, had you been there with me, had you been my traveling companion, if you looked very carefully — with the most precise optics — you might have discovered a very fine thread, a fiber fine as spider silk, trailing back from the plane, across the western sky to southern California, and back East to western Massachusetts, and northwest to Ann Arbor, and then to Toronto, and back to Ann Arbor, and back to Boston, and back to a white Dutch Colonial house on a quiet shady street in a small college town, where, on the second floor, you would find me, holding my phone like a lost thought.  Continue reading

The River

The River

November, and I am standing under the light of an almost full moon, near the top of a wooded path that slopes down to a river. The moon has Jupiter for company, and I have Tango the leaf magnet. His fur seems to be unique in that each and every fine strand is lined with microscopic barbs that snag every small twig and dead leaf from the forest floor. At night, this is not much of an issue. But it is hard to look dignified walking a small terrier by day when he looks like he is wearing a ghillie suit.

The night air is cool but not cold, and something about the weather is not right. My eyes tell me it is fall, almost winter. The sun sets well before five, and, like a weakly lobbed softball, never really climbs that high in the sky before dropping in the southwest. The tree canopy overhead is bare of leaves, and through the black lattice of branches I see a few of the brightest stars, along with the moon. The first time I walk in autumn woods after the leaves have fallen I am always taken back to a childhood living room, listening to my mother read Halloween stories.  The comfort of yellow lamp light. A sofa with scratchy coarse green fabric. We would decorate our picture window with store bought and homemade pictures of witches, skeletons, and cats with arched backs.  The envy of the neighborhood. But tonight the air does not feel like winter approaching, it feels like spring — Continue reading

Gotham

     It is sometime between coffee and lunch when I nearly cut my left index finger off with the molten edge of the cutting wheel. Standing there, on the gallery of the Gotham City Police precinct set, I peer into the dark hole in my work glove and for a moment my legs nearly give out as I see nothing but crimson and feel nothing but pain. My impatient task master, Hoaung – introduced to me as Juan and who I assumed was a Latino until a closer observation of his stocky features moved the pin to a different part of the globe entirely – is waiting for me to continue, as if losing the tip of a finger is no reason to delay production. I steady myself against the metal railing we are welding. My co-worker Gary, a little too eager to show Hoaung he is not intimidated by metalwork, urges me to see the medic. Continue reading

Heat Death

About twenty years ago I was granted an old boyhood wish when my father-in-law, purging his closet, offered me his Astroscan telescope. It was manufactured by the Edmund Scientific Company, and as a boy in the late 1960’s and early 70’s, I used to covet their catalog. Although their primary focus was all things optical, they also offered such irresistible nerd-bait as parabolic spy microphones, gyroscopes, solar cigarette lighters, black lights, one-way mirrors, and surplus gear from WW II. The Astroscan quickly became one of Edmund’s iconic products. It’s a stubby, fat little thing, a shiny red plastic reflector scope with a simple ball-in-socket design. The spherical base at the bottom of the tube freely swivels in an aluminum cradle. It was designed for portability — sling it over your back, or toss it in the backseat of your car, plop the base down on any surface, and you’re in business. Continue reading