Quoting From THE O. HENRY PRIZE STORIES 2006

From the story “Girls I Know”, by Douglas Trevor. It makes brief mention of a place I passed through on my way to the Bread Loaf Writers Conference, in 1993 : Burlington, Vermont.

“We had been hanging out a lot over the past month or so, ever since she had moved into my building at the end of May and mentioned casually — in response to the bewildering description I offered of my intellectual interests — that her grandfather had known Lowell at Harvard. They had played tennis together a few times, hung out some socially in the Yard, before Lowell decided to transfer to study with John Crowe Ransom and Allen Tate, first at Vanderbilt and then at Kenyon. That made Ginger, so knobby-kneed and awkward, suddenly shimmer in my eyes; she was two degrees separated from a major American poet, even if he had died right before she had been born. Growing up in Burlington, Vermont, the only people my childhood friends were two degrees separated from were French Canadian prostitutes.”

Reading Susan Fromberg Schaeffer

This morning, I am reading a story by Susan Fromberg Schaeffer called “Wolves” that really is about wolves — that is, the main character, the female of a silent couple, has conjured the creature from a comment her husband of 40 years has made in passing one day, and now she keeps its existence a secret from him. The husband, of course, suspects its presence. When the woman goes to their bed at night, the husband says, “You smell of something wild.” Then it turns out the husband, too, has his own wolf, which he keeps a secret from his wife.

The wife makes preparations:

“In the house,” she said, “I have many bottles of yellow pills. I saved them up. I never wanted to die slowly. I never wanted people walking back and forth, with me planted like a bathtub in the middle of a kitchen, saying pitying things, washing me and holding their noses, asking themselves, ‘Why won’t she die?’ But this, this would be better. It’s a terrible thing to do to the ones who stay behind, ending your own life.”

Last night, hubby started coughing — his coughs were like little explosions, involving major aspirations of air and God-knows-what-else. He claims I made him sick. It’s so strange: the man was perfectly healthy when he walked in the door last night; wasn’t aware that you could catch a cold that quickly.

All of this reminds me of the time when I was pregnant with our son, and developed a craving for sushi. Three, four times a week, I would feel the craving. Strangely, my husband, too began to develop a similar craving. And when we saw our credit card bills over the months leading up to the birth of our son, it was amazing to see how many Japanese restaurants we had eaten in, both of us ordering the same things. I believe what my husband experienced has a name: sympathetic pregnancy.

When my son was six, he developed chicken pox. A few days later, I did too. A day after I came down with it, my husband began to develop itchy red splotches on his skin. Until then, I had hoped I could get him to do the groceries and help me cook. But no, his chicken pox was absolutely the worst of all us three. So there we were, stuck at home for two weeks, all three of us. And it wasn’t even like we could treat it as a holiday, because hubby was in a bad mood about having to be stuck at home (though I was happy, ecstatic even, to have an excuse to be off work, and if hubby hadn’t been home as well, griping, and still having to be fed breakfast, lunch, and dinner, I would have been in heaven).

At 3 AM, we were both still up: I reading my book, and he on a brand new laptop that his new bosses have given him. I despaired of ever getting to bed — so restless, and every time I’d be about to drop off, random images would pop into my head, such as the SWAT team member who cried and said that the worst thing about collecting the bodies of the murdered Virginia Tech students was how silent the classrooms were, the only noise the students’ cell phones going bzzzz, bzzzz, bzzzzz repeatedly — they’d been set on vibrate because the students had been in class, and he knew family and friends were desperately trying to reach them.

Early on Tuesday morning, a young pastor sat with Diane Sawyer on Good Morning America, being interviewed. He, like almost everyone from the university, was very calm. After the interview had gone on for some minutes, he suddenly said, “God can be found, even here.” When he said it, he stopped and I saw him suddenly look down. His lips were trembling. “Yes, He can be found even here,” he whispered again. A few days later, I read that this was the man who had to accompany the police when they took the families one by one into a private room to break the news that their children were dead.

I also remembered random bits and pieces of other news: the dog food re-call (and I had just picked up a 30-lb. bag of R/D dry dog food from San Carlos Pet Hospital yesterday — $49), widening and ever-widening.

All these disconnected bits of information, floating in some kind of ether in my brain, but finally I did fall asleep around 3:30. And when I awoke at 6:30, I had not forgotten everything I had read the night before, so was able to finish the story about the wolves.

Wonder what this weekend will be like, since it looks like both hubby and myself are sick?

Stay tuned, dear blog reader, stay tuned.

Sick, Must Indulge

I have no idea why someone googling “Sarah Jessica Parker’s grandfather filip” would end up on my blog, dear reader. Again, I digress.

Self is awaiting arrival of dear hubby with take-out food from Su Hong. Since hubby switched from office in Fremont to office in Mountain View this week, am practically discombobulated by all the possible places self can have him stop for take-out on his way home.

His previous office, in Fremont, was near the approach to Dumbarton Bridge, and he liked to get right on 84 and go straight on home without sidetrips. Since Goldilock’s and Red Ribbon were within 10-mile radius, could sometimes ask him to stop by for palabok or leche flan or anything else Filipino self happened to be desiring at that moment.

But, on to the new. Now, on his way home, hubby passes no Filipino restaurants. Will miss the chance to get sinigang (would be really good right now, with this nasty cough self has developed) or pansit.

Instead, there is Draeger’s. Could ask him to stop by for some of that yummy peach pie of theirs. There is also Whole Foods, but take-out there is expensive: a single lamb shank cost us nearly $20, last time we tried take-out (They charge by weight, and apparently the lamb shank bone is quite weighty). Hmmm, let’s see, what else? Mr. Chow’s CLOSED, we noticed a week or so ago. Too bad — cheap Chinese food is a rarity in these parts. I mean, in the Redwood City/ Menlo Park area. Not sure whether self likes new Vietnamese restaurant that opened in place of old fave Hong Kee Noodle House on Broadway. Almost at the last minute, remember SU HONG!!

Pick up the phone: luckily, hubby is still in office (or in a bar, self tactfully does not inquire). Ask in my sweetest voice: Could you possibly pass by for some food on the way home?

Amazing, hubby says he wants to take me out to dinner. Why does he never think of this when I am well?

Self protests that throat aches and cold air is not good for throat. (Yes, dear reader, it is still cold here, which is twice as bad as being cold if one were in New York. Somehow, since this is Ca- lee — for — nee — a, self takes any cold weather occurring after April 15 as personal affront, becomes whine-y and self-pitying. Must avoid conversation at all costs, am liable to snap/vent)

Let’s see, what can one do on a (probably) rainy, cold weekend when one is sick? Self could putter around in the garden, scattering Osmocote on the roses. Self could plant the small assortment of new varieties of heuchera self purchased almost a month ago. Self could watch a movie! (But hubby asserts he does not want to watch a movie with me if self is sick — as he fears self will transmit germs while sitting next to him, coughing, in movie theatre)

Self could prepare lesson plans and grade papers (!!@@##)

Or self could try writing a short story while hubby is watching a game on flat-screen HDTV . . . After all, am so inspired by the current reading matter, The O. Henry Prize Stories of 2006. Absolutely loved David Mean’s Sault Ste. Marie (liked the story he had in Best American Short Stories, too: that one was about a family disintegrating under the eyes of the watchful family pet, a goldfish)

Whatever happens, must be in absolutely tip-top shape by Monday, as Dean will not take kindly to self’s calling in sick, even though self is really is sick. If still coughing, must pack lozenges and perhaps tote cup of tea to classroom, and assign confusing groupwork (notice this class loves to have me talk, and talk, and talk — the better to pass notes to each other under the table).

Stay tuned, dear blog reader. Stay tuned.

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