Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Monday, December 27, 2010
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
It was so embarrassing when Dad went up and started messing with Mr. Bilson’s front door.
Mom was making us go for a walk. Dad wanted to be fixing the brakes on the car, and I was in the middle of a Warcraft battle. And Holly—it didn’t matter what she was doing. She was five, and five-year-olds whine about everything, even the fun stuff. She could be at
The only one who thought a walk sounded like fun was Mom, and she didn’t come with us.
So we had gotten about four houses down the street when Dad saw that weird Mr. Bilson’s front door handle was falling off. It was crooked and barely hanging on, but I doubt Mr. Bilson even noticed, because he didn’t go outside. His front lawn had gone to seed and was almost as tall as Holly. The tiny house had equal patches of brown and gray, so it was hard to tell which color it had been most recently. But it must have been the brown, because it was peeling off in long strips like my skin did that one time I got a really bad sunburn at my friend Jake’s house. Jake has a pool. Anyway, the only reason I knew that a person even lived here is because my parents complained about the state of his house a lot.
So we were passing Mr. Bilson’s house when Dad noticed the doorknob. Without a word to anyone, he walked right up to it and started trying to fix it. I guess he was still hankering to fix something. Still, I hoped to God no one I knew would walk by and see us in Mr. Bilson’s yard. All the kids knew he was totally weird. Holly pulled up a golden stalk of grass and ran her fingers up it, popping all the seeds off. She held the seeds in the palm of her hand and blew them away. It looked as good an activity as any while Dad messed with a doorknob he couldn’t fix because he didn’t have any tools with him anyway. I pulled out some grass and joined Holly. Sometimes five-year-olds aren’t all bad.
“Who’s there?” The voice came from inside, but was strong enough to make all three of us jump. The door swung open, and Dad stood there with the doorknob loose in his hand.
“Oh. Hi, Frank,” Dad said. He lifted the knob up. “I saw you were having trouble with your doorknob. I thought I’d try to fix it for you.”
Mr. Bilson stood there eyeing Dad. He was short—shorter than Dad, anyway, and Dad isn’t real tall. He was solid, though. Stocky and strong looking, like he’d once been real muscular but some of those muscles had gone to fat. He didn’t have much hair left and was obviously sorta old, but he didn’t stoop over like most old people. He stood up real straight. He was dressed better than I would’ve expected a guy who never left his house to dress. He was wearing a long-sleeved yellow button-down shirt and brown slacks that had sharp creases in them. His house may have been falling down, but at least he dressed nice, which is more than I can say for my folks. They both work from home, and I’ve never seen them in anything but jeans.
“Where are your tools?” Mr. Bilson finally spoke. “You’re not going to get very far that way.” He turned and went back into the house. We all stood there, not sure if we were supposed to follow him or go away. Even Dad didn’t know. He stood there with the knob still held up in his hand and his eyebrows lifted. He rolled his eyes at me and was about to put the knob back down when Mr. Bilson came back with a toolbox. It looked like it had been bought new and had never been used. It was covered in dust. He set it down at Dad’s feet.
“There you go,” he said.
“Uh… thanks,” Dad said. He was committed now. He knelt down and opened the toolbox, ruining the perfectly even coat of dust.
Mr. Bilson just stood in the doorway, watching Dad as if he’d better do the job right or else. I was trying to decide if I had to stay when I saw the knives.
They were along the back wall of what I guess was Mr. Bilson’s living room. There had to be twenty or twenty-five of them, all mounted on the wall with a notecard underneath each one, like they were all real important and this was a knife museum or something. I wanted to see them better, but Mr. Bilson was in the way. Then I saw that he was watching me. My face got all hot and I looked away.
“You want a better look?” he asked.
I did, but not bad enough to go in his house. I shrugged and looked away to show him I didn’t care. I could go to the knife shop if I wanted to see cool knives.
“You should see what’s on the other walls,” he said mysteriously.
I looked at Dad, but he was fishing around noisily in the toolbox. Holly was now lying in the long grass and looking up at the sky, singing a soft song. She was probably pretending she was a princess or something, like she always did. I looked back at Mr. Bilson.
“Okay.” I said. Dad shifted his body so I could pass, and I knew that he’d been paying attention to the conversation even though he hadn’t looked like it. Normally that would be annoying, but right now it made me feel better. When I brushed past his warm flannel shirt I felt safe, and I was relieved he was right there. I’d make sure he was in my sight the whole time, just in case.
Monday, December 13, 2010
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
They stood in line, shifting their weight from foot to foot like metronomes out of sync. It was a cold night, and Rachel had forgotten her gloves. She burrowed her long fingers under her arms, finding more warmth there than in her coat pockets. She looked up at Hank. He was scanning the line of people in front of them, the familiar little worry V between his eyebrows. He noticed her watching him.
“Looks like it’s going to be quite a wait,” he said to make conversation, even though it was obvious.
“Yes,” she said. “That’s okay. It’ll be worth it.”
They had been there only a few minutes, but already there were a dozen people behind them. The line curved from the castle door in a long, graceful smile. Everyone was orderly and polite—merry, even. It was a Christmas concert, after all.
Rachel’s fingers were just beginning to thaw when Hank companionably squeezed his hand through and tucked his arm around hers. Cold air rushed into the little pockets of warmth, and Rachel sighed at the loss, as if the warm air from her lungs rushed to escape with the warm air from her armpits. She said nothing. Many were the times she wished Hank were more demonstrably affectionate, and if the Christmas spirit had prompted him to touch her in public without her asking, she wouldn’t complain.
Hank squeezed her arm, and waited until she wasn’t looking at him to look back at her. He didn’t know why he should be shy to examine her face. Fourteen years together and you’d think all walls would be breached, all secrets reached. Yet while he could make love to his wife, or argue about the gas bill with her, he couldn’t examine her face with her clear eyes on him. Her gaze was too steady, too strong. It was like trying to look at the sun. So he didn’t look at his wife very often, and she noticed this but didn’t know why. Fourteen years together and they had this little cool barrier between them, a mild disruption in the comfort of an otherwise complacent relationship. In a way, each of them treasured this sliver of shy secrecy. It kept something for later, for the years when nothing else was left.
She was admiring the castle’s façade, the glow from the windows reflecting golden on her skin. The fine hairs dusting her cheeks and chin were highlighted in a way she would have been self-conscious of, had she known. He found the effect charming. He liked things that made her human. She was smiling, bouncing ever so slightly on the balls of her feet as if trying to contain her childlike excitement. He was glad they came. He didn’t give two shakes about a Christmas concert, but he liked seeing Rachel happy. Her gaze dropped to the line of people in front of them. He looked away before her gaze reached him.
“Did you hear Becky had her baby?” The woman behind them asked her friend. “She had it at home in the bathtub—can you imagine?” There was no judgment in her voice, only wonder.
“Of course she did. She’s Becky!” Her companion laughed.
Rachel and Hank shared a quick glance and a furtive smile, in on the laugh by proxy. Of course she did. She’s Becky!
The foursome in front of them laughed at their own joke, and Rachel’s smile grew wider. They were three women to one man, and a ratio like that is never overlooked by the man.
“I can’t believe you guys talked me into this,” he said. “We could be at Darcy’s right now.”
“Braaaad!” One of the girls said. She grabbed his arm and hung from it, which he was no doubt hoping would be the intended result. “We go to Darcy’s every night. It won’t kill you to experience a little culture!”
“Sure, if we get inside before we freeze to death,” he said. The three women looked at each other and surrounded him in a big, female hug.
“We’ll keep you warm!” said a muffled voice. Brad looked pleased.
The elderly couple in front of the group hug glanced in tandem at the youthful frivolity. The iron-haired woman gave a disdainful sniff and turned away. Her husband looked at the mass of bodies for a minute, his eyes laced with memories. He took his hat off and clutched it tightly, as if it were his anchor to the present. Eventually he ran a spotted hand over his cool scalp, and perhaps the feel of his bare pate brought him back. He gently set his hat back on and faced forward again. His wife muttered something to his bent head, no doubt involving the phrase “kids these days.” He kept his nostalgic eyes cast down and nodded.
A little murmur of excitement traveled down the line, and Rachel saw the door was now open, a liveried man standing outside it. Hank smiled at her.
“Here we go,” he said.
But go they didn’t. The man chatted with the first few people in line, and stood there. He must have been waiting for something.
It began to snow. Big, soft flakes floated down in front of the grandly lit castle, as if they’d been ordered just for this occasion. Little exclamations bubbled up from the people waiting, and the queue undulated as hands were lifted, palms outstretched to capture the flakes. Rachel followed suit, laughing and extending a bare hand.
“How beautiful,” she said. A few flakes settled in her hand and she touched her tongue to them like a child. She tasted nothing but the salt from her skin.
The iron-haired woman scanned the postcard-perfect scene. “Great,” she said. She sighed loudly as if the snow were a personal affront. Rachel felt sorry for her husband.
Hank’s worry V was back. He sandwiched Rachel’s cold hands between his gloved ones. “Where are your gloves?” he scolded lightly.
“I forgot them.”
His V deepened. He rubbed her slender hands gently and then cupped them, raising them to his lips. He blew on her freezing fingers, and rubbed them again. He alternated actions; blow, rub, blow, rub. Rachel’s hands slowly grew warm as he massaged them. She felt like they were alone, surrounded by a curtain of snow. There was something different about this moment than the preceding moments. Different from the moments soon to come after. This one stood alone, suspended in snow, brought to life with breath and touch. The rippling pattern of the fluttering snowflakes and the hypnotic rhythm of Hank’s attentions to her hands went directly to her heart, filling it with such happiness she thought she might die. Hank stopped and looked up, as if he felt it too. He broke his unspoken rule and looked at her while she watched him. They gazed at each other, examining the other’s face as if they would never see each other again and had to memorize every curve, every wrinkle. They looked into the other’s eyes and saw themselves reflected there.
The falling snow slowed, thinned, and stopped. The absence of the snow left them feeling strangely naked, and they sprouted embarrassed little half-smiles and turned away from each other. Hank took off his gloves and gave them to Rachel. She said “Are you sure? You’re hands will be cold.” He said “Take them.” She said “Thank you.”
The snow had subsided, but flurries of hands rose from the crowd again, pointing up. Hank followed their direction to a lit window at the very peak of the castle. He didn’t know what the room was on an ordinary day, but for tonight it was apparently a dressing room for the choir. Some unfortunate girl, ignorant of the crowd outside and the lack of a window-covering, was in the process of changing into her gown. She’d unbuttoned her shirt and was stepping out of her jeans. There were murmurs down the line as people registered the appearance of a half-dressed girl in the window.
“Poor girl,” said one of the women behind Hank and Rachel.
“For God’s sake!” muttered the old woman.
“Whoa,” said Brad appreciatively.
Hank and Rachel said nothing, and watched the window. Hank felt sorry for the girl. He wished there was a way to cover her from the eyes of all these strangers. He looked away helplessly and hoped it would be over soon.
Rachel watched as the girl unhooked her bra, thankfully with her back to the window. There were a few catcalls, one “Turn around, honey!” that was hushed quickly in admonishment. None of this registered with Rachel as she watched the girl, awkward and innocent, struggle into her dress. She had the strangest feeling that she was that girl, naked and clumsy in full view of eyes quick to find fault. She was exposed, embarrassed. The connection with the girl was so strong, when Hank put his hand on the small of her back to urge her forward, she was surprised to find herself in line, standing on a thin covering of snow. The line of people had finally started to creep slowly forward. She took a few steps to close the gap and looked up again. The girl was in her dress, twisting her long hair up as she looked in a mirror. She was beautiful. Rachel wondered if she would ever know.
The queue inched forward. People around them rustled in pockets and purses, pulling out tickets.
“Do you have the tickets?” The woman behind them asked her companion.
“Yes. I was lucky to get them, too. They sold out fast.”
Rachel and Hank looked at each other, mutually chagrined expressions growing on their faces. “Did you get tickets?” she asked.
“No. I thought you did.”
They fell silent, shuffling along with the line of ticket-holders.
“What do we do now?” Hank whispered from the corner of his mouth.
“I don’t know. Make a break for it?” Rachel whispered back.
They clasped hands and ran, laughing, as if they’d just shoplifted something. Their queue companions gazed after them in bewilderment, then promptly forgot about them again as they neared the entrance. They could hear the discordant sounds of the orchestra warming up, and chatter, and wine glasses clinking. The girl was gone from the window. Rachel and Hank ran, slipping and righting themselves and slipping again, laughing through it all.
The snow silently resumed.
Saturday, October 23, 2010
Friday, October 22, 2010
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Monday, October 18, 2010
She didn’t understand.
He’d told her to clean the castle.
But when the king heard she’d swept with his brother, he was furious.
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Monday, October 11, 2010
Friday, July 2, 2010
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
Giorgi and I have a standing date with my dad every Wednesday morning while Nai is in school. Coming up with a photo a day for the Bellingham Daily Photo can be challenging with my busy schedule and two little ones, so every Wednesday morning Giorgi and I pick up Dad and go someplace I've been meaning to photograph. We click our cameras companionably, and I get a good stockpile just in case I don't get anywhere scenic the rest of the week. Plus, Giorgi and Dad get some good bonding time.
This series is from the Deming day-use area, and it was a grey, misty morning-- which probably could be atmospheric and cool if I had the right camera and was a "real" photographer. Still, even though my little blue point-and-shoot doesn't know what to do with mist and all that white sky, I got a few sweet moments with Giorgi and Grampa.
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
The girls and I had a picnic on the beach today. I can't believe it's February. Here's a few pictures from today... followed by a picture from last February. Both days were fun in different ways!