Thursday, August 28, 2014

Good Chemistry

I see the dead hand of dad on that young fellow's video. Not a signature. Brush strokes or something.

My little son is importunate. He starts his pleasant little harangue the minute his eyes pop open. I heard him, bang on seven this morning, begin the little burble of narration he keeps for his life. It's Sunday and the sun is out and the world is his oyster again today.

I'd been awake for a couple hours. I'd left the windows open in my office last night and so I was outdoors instantly. The sun rose gently over my textual exertions. There cannot be a sweeter place to be than western Maine staring down a sunny day knocking on June's door.

I went up to his world, filled with talking sponges and grinning dinosaurs and the Google Earth carpet of a cartoon town.

Dad, I want you to help me make a video with Bionicles and muzzle flashes and space ships and galactic battles and dancing robots and talking animals and it won't be hard because we can do it in 4 fps so the camera won't die of no battery and the moviemaker won't crash and mom says you have to work all day today and tomorrow and the day after and even more days so I'll wait until you don't have to make furniture one day but don't make me wait too long because I'm impatient.

There is no quality time. There is no such thing as quality time. There is only time. Time is teflon and adjectives and adverbs just slide right off it. It cannot be condensed, or frozen, or hoarded, or distilled, or saved for later, or borrowed and paid back.

You don't have any story that anyone wants to see, son.

What is a good story?

It doesn't matter what it's about. It just needs to make people want to keep reading it, or hearing it, or seeing it. People need to feel differently when they're done. That's all.

I don't know any stories like that.

You are a story like that. Everybody is a story like that. You're a little boy. What happens to a little boy?

I don't know.

Of course you know. It's whatever you want. What's in the bowl there in the kitchen?


You eat the banana. What do you become?

A monkey!

That's a story. There's an apple. What do you become?

I don't know!

You have to think of something. That's all.

(A hint of tears) I don't know!

Of course you do. Don't be sad or you'll spoil your story.

Johnny Appleseed!

Mom puts honey on your waffle.

A grizzly bear! Then there's cheese and I'm a mouse! Another mouse comes and I'm a cat! Another cat comes and I'm a dog!

And when you're all done, you're a boy again. That's a story. It's slightly better than every book you've gotten from the library for a year.

And then he went out back and rode his bike in a circle because his father lied, and his time has adjectives all over it, and under it, and all around it. The adjectives are stacked like cordwood outside the door.

And so Dad has his story too.

[First offered in 2012, rerun with comments intact]


Sam L. said...

I don't know if you are a genius at writing, but you'll do until I do know.

This is gooooood.

SippicanCottage said...

Hi Sam- Thanks for reading and commenting. You're as pleasant as anyone I've met on the Intertunnel, and I'm glad you stop by here often.

Leslie said...

We have a house full of sadness. I love to come here and leave it for a while...thank you.

SippicanCottage said...

This pains me to hear. We are all friends here.

Please leave two sadnesses in our Take a Sadness, Leave a Sadness tray by the register, and don't take any back.

julie said...

That was beautiful; what a perfect way to spend a moment on a Sunday morning.

Leslie, I'd be delighted if I could toss a shiny bit of not-Sadness in that tray, too. I don't quote know how, though, so instead I'll hope and pray that somehow, someway, someday when the time is just right, the sadness will be transformed into something like joy.

Leslie said...

After a while, though the grief did not go away from us, it grew quiet.

What had seemed a storm wailing through the entire darkness seemed to come in at last and lie down.
— Wendell Berry

My mom (the best mama in the world), is dying, in the slowest way possible. It is not for the faint of heart. Thank you for your kind words...

Sam L. said...

Thank you, Sipp, for your kind words. I try to be pleasant, or funny. Most folks say I'm trying, very trying, and as for funny, looks aren't everything.

Leslie, my wife died some 15 years ago. Her sister's husband died 7 years ago, and I tell you what I told her: It doesn't get better, but it does get less bad. The scab falls off, the scar remains, and it imperceptibly slowly becomes like the "old war wound"--change in the weather or something makes it twinge, unexpectedly, but usually a little less each time. My last big twinge was 11 months ago, sitting in the sun, reading a magazine. Do what you need, do what you must, and know that you can carry on, regardless of the burden. You are stronger than you know.

nemo paradise said...

This is what the New Yorker stopped doing twenty ears ago, to everyone's regret. It's flawless.

Joan of Argghh! said...

Sweet Savior, but this is as pretty a piece of time as I've ever spent.

I do hope God lets you write his biography.

SippicanCottage said...

I do hope God lets you write his biography.

I'm sorry, but I already got hired by the competition: The Devil's In The Cows

Mal said...

A great post, Mr. Sipp; comments and all.
In the spirit of the chemistry thing, here's a version of the McGarrigles' "NaCl" that I hadn't heard before looking it up for this comment. The audio track must be from the early 70s..

vanderleun said...

Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful.... repeat until buffer is full.

Leslie said...

Wow, to reread the comments, after the incredible story.. I had forgotten. The best people come here. And, Sam L., it did get less bad. Much less bad. Time does that. The world is so different now.

Delaware Dave said...

Dear God; reading this reassures those of us that
remember the goodness of our past is not gone.
It lives in a corner of western Maine...reading this
brings to mind "Granger" speaking in the closing
pages of Fahrenheit 451: "...we'll turn around and
walk upstream. They'll be needing us up that way."

Any other words I could write would fail me; I
hold tight to your writing when thoughts of
mine, joyful or dark, rule the paths of inner
contemplation. Hold tight the wonders of your
spouse and heirs.

Sam L. said...

Mr. Sippi, I have pretty much come to a conclusion, but I wouldn't want you to get a swelled head, so shall keep it to myself.

Leslie, I'm glad my few words seem to have helped. Life goes on, and so must we.

Nel said...

My grandson likes to run faster than he can stay balanced. Now and then he runs into a wall or the edge of a tabletop which is (his) head high. The local hospital emergency room personnel know him by his first name.
I call him by his secret name, 'Buckaroo.' When he asks me what his secret name is (he loves secrets), I tell him it's Buckaroo, and he belly-laughs.
I suppose heaven is full of little kids, romping for all the time they missed on earth.

Seidler said...

It feels good when you are smiling by the end of reading a story. I also agree there is just time - not quality time - and some of the best stories come from the little details of our own every day lives when we pay attention to them and have a sense of humor and imagination. Thanks for a boost!