October

Things are the same.  Slightly worse, but mostly the same.  I still don’t have a job though am renewing my 30 day sub certificate which allows me to be a substitute teacher.  This is work I did 15 years ago, so to say it feels like I am going backwards is an understatement.  I am feeling the full effects of this shitty economy.  There are times I seem to get close to getting a job, almost comically so, and then it just doesn’t pan out.  I don’t really know why that is.  I would imagine there are a lot of candidates for the same jobs.

I’m struggling to get any kind of real sleep.  My anxiety medication is not working, and I’m tired of going back to the doctor to say, do you have anything better than this, because it all feels much the same.  Arun is still talking in his sleep starting at about 4 am.  Mostly he is angry, upset, frustrated when he talks or shouts.  Or he is frightened.  Sometimes he laughs.  A lot of time, in what he says, he is cruel.  And that is really hard.  It’s alarming and upsetting to wake up to someone shouting.  He grinds his teeth at night before falling asleep, he grinds them with such vigor that they make a squeaking sound.  I’ve asked him again and again to see a dentist, maybe for a mouth guard, or to go to the doctor to see if there’s something that can be done about the sleep talking (the sleep talking began with the change of medication for him).  But he never goes.  That’s hard for me.  This Sunday I was exhausted.  Sometimes there seems to be no end to the bad stuff.

I’ve sent out a bunch of stories to various places and am writing a new one.  And in November I’ll be doing NaNoWriMo with a friend. Not to write a new novel but to spend the month editing my existing one. I got a rejection letter this morning for a story I sent out last week somewhere.  It’s probably my strongest story, so that was tough.

Last week, Ivy, who is chronically unpredictable, got on her bike while I was doing homework with Hazel and ran away from home.  I learned later that Clyde had acted as her accomplice – he helped her pack a bag, smuggle food and then waved to her from the end of the driveway.  He came in while I was doing homework and announced her departure. “Ivy’s gone,” he said. “She’s run away from home.” And I laughed because I didn’t believe him.  But after much searching in the house, and then in the garage (she has hidden in the house to frighten me before) I saw her bike was gone and that her tires had left tracks, as they’d gone through the puddle at the end of the driveway.  Clyde told me she’d run away to school, which was a 4 mile bike ride on one of the busiest streets near us.  So I sent the other kids over to the neighbor’s house and I got in my car and drove around.  I found her fairly quickly, she’d made it as far as the park a few blocks away.  She was up in one of the play structure houses, a bed made for herself with a pillow pet and a blanket.  She had applesauce and books and her stuffed bunny.  The other parents looked at me reproachfully, so I loudly scolded her for running away so they wouldn’t think I regularly let my 6 year old go to the park unattended.  Parents are judgy bitches these days.  Read any article about anything bad happening to a child and it’s all MOM’S FAULT.  Later I asked why she’d run away. “I didn’t want lasagne for dinner,” she said.  Which does not bode well for her teenage years, because that’s a pretty low bar for running away from home.

I’ve got a couple updates on the other stuff from the protected posts, but it’s so draining that I’ll have to write that another day.  I will leave you with a Halloween story I like very much by Francine Prose.  It’s dark, but I can appreciate dark stories this time of year.

Happy Halloween *shudder*

Pumpkins by Francine Prose

There is a terrible accident. A truck full of Halloween pumpkins is speeding around a curve and fails to see another car unwisely making a U-turn. In the car is a young woman, married, the mother of three, who, when the vehicles collide, is killed.

Actually, she is beheaded, her body thrown from the car and such force that the head sails through the air decapitated with such force and lands a pile of pumpkins spilled out onto the road.

Her husband is spared this detail until the next day, when it appears in a front-page story in the local paper.

This newspaper is bought by a woman about to leave home on a trip. The tragedy so unhinges her that she rushes off the train and calls her husband at work. When she mentions the pumpkin-truck accident, he says, Pumpkin-truck accident? Precisely like their five-year-old son saying, Bubble gum on the couch?

The woman begins to tremble, realizing now what she should have realized (and because she is in therapy, she thinks, she did realize, no wonder she was upset!). The accident occurred more or less exactly in front of the house of a woman with her husband had a love affair but has promised he has stopped seeing,

She senses that her husband knows about this accident-and not from reading the newspaper. That is why he sounds guilty. Perhaps he was with his lover when it happened, perhaps this woman called him for comfort, just as she is calling him now. As she confronts him with this, her husband keeps interrupting to answer questions at his office.

The next morning the woman sees her therapist on an emergency basis. She tells him the whole story, from buying the paper and reading about the pumpkin-truck to calling her husband to her husband moving out again last night.

The therapist says he is sorry; he cannot talk about this. He tells her that, coincidentally, one of his patients is the husband of the woman killed by the pumpkin-truck. It is, after all, a small town. The therapist says he has been dealing with this tragedy for two days-on a real crisis basis, a real emergency basis-and frankly he cannot stand to hear it treated as another subplot in this woman’s continuing romantic imbroglio.

The woman bursts into tears. The therapist apologizes for his unprofessional behavior. He says the whole thing has unnerved him in ways even he doesn’t understand.

That night the therapist tells his wife about this. For ethical reasons he leaves out the names. Still, he repeats what the woman told him and what he said and what happened.

Except that this time, instead of saying “pumpkins,” he says “Christmas trees.”

“Christmas trees?” says his wife.

“Did I say Christmas trees?” he says. “How funny. I meant pumpkins.” Naturally he realizes that this slip of the tongue is a clue to why this incident so disturbs him.

Later, in bed, he considers his mistake. And before long it comes to him. Because for once the truth is not submerged, but bobs un-buoyed, tied to a time he often revisits in looking the surface, like a back on his life.

At five he suffered a case of mumps which turned into something more serious. He remembers running to his parents’ room, his cheeks swinging like sacks of flesh from his face. He remembers falling. After that he was sick for months from autumn through early winter. The symbolism is so obvious: pumpkin time when he became ill, Christmas when he recovered.

Now his wife gets into bed, but he doesn’t notice. For he is feeling, as never before, how much of his life has passed: all the years that separate him from that swollen-faced boy. He thinks how sweet that period was, the rhythm of those days, sleep, radio, chilled canned pears, the kingdom of the blanket, the kingdom of ice outside it.

For an instant he nearly recaptures that haze of safety, confusion and boredom, when he fell asleep looking at pumpkins and awoke seeing a Christmas tree, when nothing scared him, not even time, it was all being taken care of. Then it recedes like the plots of dreams he wakes up already forgetting.

It is like the experience of speeding along a highway, and some broken sign or ruined cafe will suddenly recall his past, but before he can tell his wife, they have already driven by. He knows that if he turns and goes back, what caught his eye will have vanished-though perhaps he may catch a glimpse of it, fleeing from him down the road.

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4 Responses to “October”

  1. Cassondra says:

    Sometimes it seems like life is conspiring against you. People pull you in all sorts of directions, and you already have enough on your plate.

    I discovered a very small slow link under our kitchen sink a few months back and thought I should call a plumber sometime, then promptly forgot. Yesterday I noticed water dripping from the underside of the bay window that pokes out behind the kitchen sink. We haven’t had rain for a while, so I didn’t know where it was coming from until I remembered the leak. It’s much bigger than it was, and the bottom of the cabinet under the sink has collapsed due to wood rot. Fantastic.

    Keep on Arun about his teeth. Little problems tend to get bigger when ignored. Oh, and thanks for reminding me I need to find a new dentist.

  2. Suzanne says:

    It’s really hard to put something out there and have it rejected. Especially when it’s something that you’re personally proud of. Keep at it. You write beautifully.

  3. Sarah P says:

    SHE RAN AWAY?! Holy crud, she’s feisty. I like that kid.

  4. Artemis says:

    Sorry for the delay in commenting, but I’m on the east coast and Hurricane Sandy just did a number on us. I think sometimes it’s good to put things in perspective. So, while I didn’t have power for over a week and it was lousy while it was happening, I know it could have been a lot worse. I have friends who had to evacuate their homes and don’t have anything to go back to!

    I know a temp job isn’t optimal, Tara, but Suzanne is right, you do have a talent for writing and just need to hang in there and think positively and eventually things will go your way.

    As for Arun’s teeth, it sounds like he has TMJ (temporomandibular joint disorder), which I’ve had for years. I actually hit my teeth together so hard that I ended up needing a route canal on one of my front teeth. My dentist made me a night guard which protected my teeth, but it didn’t stop the jaw pain and headaches, so I went to see a TMJ specialist (on Park Avenue, no less). He said my bite was misaligned and created two sets of mouth pieces for me–one for day, one for night. They helped, but weren’t a long-term solution as far as I was concerned, so I ended up getting braces for the second time in my life to correct my bite (apparently when I got my first set of braces years ago, orthodonists didn’t know what the #$*# they were doing). They’re off now and while I occasionally get symptoms, it’s very rare and I feel much better.

    Best,
    A

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