Friday, May 4, 2012

Notes from the Home VII

Russ and Karen brought dinner with them when Tuesday. They usually cater Sunday supper, but they pushed it back this week, because Karen wasn’t up to par Sunday. A one-pot meal of bowtie macaroni, spinach, peppers and such was on the menu. It was very good, which wasn’t surprising. The surprising thing was that Russell picked out the recipe. I don’t remember him being much for vegetables beyond peas and corn. Of course, spinach is an acquired taste, and it’s only been in the last few years that I’ve acquired it myself.
   The pressure is on Russ these days. He wants to beef up his resume by adding “illustrator” to it. And already the demands for his illustrious illustrating talents are coming in from across the country, or at least from Idaho and Georgia. The people making the demands are his mother and father.
   Fifteen or twenty years ago – my how time flies – when we lived on Myrtle Avenue, Debbie wrote a children’s book and put it in the drawer.  After she’d been in Idaho a few years, she took a writing class, opened the drawer, dusted off the book, got Russ to do the illustrations and tried to market it. Then the book went back in the drawer until Debbie pulled it out again a few months ago and decided to publish it through Author House. But first, she wants Russ to gussy up the illustrations.
   I, on the other hand, have been happily writing triolets almost from the moment Suzanne, my writing mentor, introduced me to the form. The triolet is an eight-line poem with a rhyme scheme and a few repeating lines. To wit:
Bad Computer

My computer needs dissected
For not behaving as it ought.
Since it hates to be corrected,
My computer needs dissected
And most thoroughly inspected
Before it’s taken out and shot.
My computer needs dissected
For not behaving as it ought.

   In the cold, dark, snowy days of January and February 2011, I began writing triolets about animals, creatures such as the Missing Lynx, the Should-I-Otter, Cat-or-Pillars, and the like. I now have forty-one of them. Urged on by Suzanne and the members of the writing class, and prodded by my ego, I’m getting very anxious for the day when the triolets are together in a book with “By Tom Harris; Illustrated by T. Russell Harris” on the cover. To that end, I ask Russ about his progress on those illustrations every chance I get.
   So, Russ, in addition to his job at Barnes & Noble, trying to keep a steady flow of cartoons going out to various publications, and being without a computer for nearly a month – the computer is apparently as important to the modern cartoonist/illustrator as pen and ink – is fending off his parents. “I’ve got about nine projects going,” he told me the other day. How this all will end is a mystery. Russ is the key. He is the exceptionally talented one, and he could give his parents’ efforts a touch of class. Unless, of course, his parents drive him crazy first.
   It seems there is always something blocking a portion of the sidewalk when I go to the shopping center at the end of asphalt path through the woods.  When I first got down here, the Kmart was a week or so from closing, and much of the garden department was on the sidewalk. There was of room for those on foot to get by, but not quite enough for me and the wheelchair. Then the store closed, the pallets of top soil disappeared from the sidewalk and a truck from the sign company arrived to remove all evidence that the building had ever been a Kmart, blocking the sidewalk in the process. After the signs were gone, the area around the entrance to the erstwhile Kmart was all a jumble of people loading their trucks with the fixtures and shelving units they’d bought. Yesterday, stock cars were being taken off trailers and placed around the entrance to Piggly-Wiggly.
   None of this is much of an inconvenience; I get off the sidewalk and use the fire lane, unless it is also blocked. Then I have to edge ever closer to the traffic in the parking lot. And I’ve got this thing about parking lots. A few years ago, we went out west. In addition to the Grand Canyon, Zion National Park and many, many other natural wonders, we visited the Air Force Academy. As I was making my way through one of the parking lots there, a black SUV started to back out of a parking space. I stopped. Then the SUV stopped, which I took to be a signal that the driver was waiting for me to go by. Off I went, and then here the SUV came and sideswiped me. “What the hell was that?” the driver yelled. “That was the guy I told you about,” the woman in the back seat, whom I think was probably his mother-in-law, said. The wheelchair left a mark on the SUV, which I hope didn’t wash off, and I’m sure the backseat driver reminded the guy in the driver’s seat of his incompetence at every opportunity for the next month, which is a satisfying thought. The wheelchair wasn’t damaged, but I was left with an abiding fear of parking lots.
   And while I was over at the shopping center earlier this week, I realized why newspapers don’t make money these days. My sole purpose that day was to get a Ledger-Enquirer and a USA Today. I had a pocket full of change, and both papers have a box along the sidewalk. According to the instructions on the USA Today’s box, I was to put the coins in the slot; listen for them to drop: open the door and get a paper. All went well until I got to Step 3: the door refused to open. While there was no Step 4 listed on the box, I assumed it was “push coin return and take money from the tray,” which I did. Then I repeated the first three steps, and after uttering a few imprecations, repeated Step 4, and took my quarters to the Ledger-Enquirer’s box. Different paper; same result. So it was on to Piggly-Wiggly, which doesn’t carry USA Today and charges eighty cents for the Ledger-Enquirer that can be had for seventy-five elsewhere. Don’t ask me why.
   I finally have an Internet connection in my room. When I didn’t have a connection in my room, I had to go to the library, which has Wi-Fi. I’m a little concerned that because I no longer have to leave my room to get on the Internet, I won’t get out of the room as much as I should. On the other hand, I’ll be able to Skype to my writing class, and Skype with Beth, Ken and Hayden. That’s something forward to. This morning I got an e-mail from Beth. It was a video of Hayden splashing around in the bathtub.  It made my day.

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