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Monica Bielanko
That's What She Said
Just A Junk Drawer Dream
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Nature Walk/ Crazy Talk/ A Lovely Afternoon

"It could be a buck deer with a whole hippo on his back and a, and a, and a, and a PIZZA!"

I'm not sure what to do with that, but she's pushing four and you don't nudge back at 'pushing four' with too much setting the record straight or whatever because, frankly, they don't really give a shit and that's how it should be.

Violet looks down at the tracks in the snow and does a little happy jig around them in the snow. I think they are dog, the tracks. But they could be a coyote for all I know. Or a fat raccoon or a muskrat. There's a bunch of dogs that people bring down through here though, to sniff around at stuff in the snow. Dogs love to head out in the cold weather and do giants rails of deer piss; sometimes I wonder if their is a human equivalent to the happiness that it brings them, if there is something that could get me and you off as much as dogs get off on sniffing deer piss, or squirrel piss or other dog piss or bum piss, but I've yet to come up with anything.

Random sex with strangers in the Old Navy changing rooms, maybe?

I dunno.

I try and move up the trail a little bit because this nature hike is taking forever. We've barely come even forty feet down this side trail along the trout stream and it's looking as if we might not ever make it back to the big trail where men jog by us in their man-leotards and old ladies with golden retrievers with strange bumps the size of Dunkin' jelly Donuts growing out the sides of their necks politely say hello. It's the afternoon weekday crowd, I figure. They don't bother with the animal tracks.

"Dad, LOOK!" Violet's voice brings me back.

I look around and she is pointing at another track in the grey snow.

"What is it?" I ask her, interested.

I'm hoping she tells me it's a rabbit. I just taught her what rabbit tracks look like and yeah, I know, it isn't important at all at this stage in the game whether she remembers that or not, but c'mon. Secretly, I want her to remember. Down behind my lungs,where I keep my dreams dude, I want her to be the best animal tracker in the goddamn world since Jeremiah Johnson, you know?

She stares at the four long marks in the crust and mumbles something to herself, her voice switching over to steam at her chapped lips.

I wait. (It is a rabbit, by the way; I can see that from here.)

"It's a rabbit!" she hollers at me.

YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!I slow motion that shit with that deep-drawn out voice of tape being slowed waaaaaaay down.

I pump my fist into the air and she smiles, working her way through the awkwardness of her father as best she can. She is proud that I'm proud, I sense that. But my reactions are hard to gauge sometimes, almost as if they're totally wrong for the occassion and she is young and processing embarrasment and  joy and confidence all at the same time are hard for a kid. Hell, it's hard for me too.

Whatever though.

My daughter is a wildlife tracker, ya'll. And that's not a sentence of words that I ever thought I would write down in this lifetime, you know?

"Good eye, kid," I tell her. "You sure know your rabbit tracks. That's a really good thing to know, too..." my voice tails off at the end there because, in all honesty, I don't have any ifdea how valuable tracking rabbits is anymore. Not much, is my guess. There was a time when a young woman that could track a rabbit through a snowy wood could easily have found herself being courted by upstanding men because of it; men who could blacksmith and men who could dive off of steep ledges into rocky streams for summer fun and men who knew how to call squirrels with a blade of grass.

But there was a time when people knew what fucking color rhubarb was too and that time is gone.

"Hey Dad," she says, and I know what's coming.

See, the other interesting part about this nature walk, I'm finding out, is that my little girl spots a track/ names it/yells at me if I tell her she's wrong/ and then comes up with an alternative fantastical possibility of what it might have been waltzing along here through the snow a few days ago that both amazes me and reminds me that she is indeed my kid and that each of these tracks is something I wish I could stick in the pocket of my old Woolrich coat that I wear for sepcial outside days like today and keep in there to remind me of right now for the rest of my life.

How cool would it be, every time I went for a hike by myself or whatever, Violet away at college, to my hand down in the warm darkness and wrap my fingers around that same exact rabbit track from all those years go?

"Daddy! Look! This could have been a rabbit with a string of candy canes around his neck and a wild turkey for a good friend in the morning together, right?"

I'm stunned. Unintentional poetry bazookas me into the next world.

"Oh yeah, you bet, kiddo," I manage to mutter to her.

After a few minutes, I coax her into moving ahead down to the water's edge with me and I know that isn't easy either because in order to end up there she has to walk over like 455 more tracks cutting across the land beneath her.

I get the feeling that if I let her, we'd both perish there eventually. They'd find us curled up, fast asleep together right there on the tracks of this crazy switching yard for dogs and deer and mice. I point her at the stream.

"Look out there, see that broken tree," I ask her. "If I was a great white shark living here in this little stream that's where I would hide right there," I say pointing at the dark green pool of cold beneath the trunk.

She stares at the spot intently, the tender gears grinding above her think-frown.

"If you were a trout," I ask her, "would you be a nice trout or do you think you would be grumpy?"

That is the level of conversation at which I seem to operate.

She stares at the hole. It looks so fishy. I can tell she maybe feels that way too and that makes me giddy like I can't even explain; maybe she'll fish with me one of these days. I want that so bad.

"Grumpy!" she blurts out and turns to me, her face maybe three inches from mine. I can feel the warmth from down in her belly escaping her.

"Ha!" my voice bounces of the rock ledge across the stream. "You'd be a grumpy trout! Perfect! I like a grumpy trout, they're so cool!"

"A fisherman!" Violet shouts it out.

To my left I catch a bit of movement out of my ninja eye and I look and it's a fisherman alright: a fly fisherman watching his pea-sized orange indicator float slow across a shallow ripple on this cold cold afternoon.

I wonder what he heard us saying. I ask that on my inner PA system.

We turn away from the water before we start chucking rocks or something like that. This fisherman and us, our peaces collided but in the best kind of way, really. We eased into each other's paradise chasing down our own. Nothing wrong with that. But somebody's got to back off a bit and so we do.

Me and Violet turn back to the snow behind us/ Me and Violet turn back to the world before us.


July Is My Jam/ Ode To Summertime

Oh July.

Sweet hot July in your chartreuse bikini that pings and pops like 4pm hail on the hood; you there sipping your medium cherry Slushie/throwing back your chlorinated hair /laughing with your friends/your bare feet shining like fresh clean snakes down in the grass/

YOU: stepping in melted ice cream sandwich over beneath the Yum-Yum Tree;

you really think you can hide from me?

From me?

My t-shirts are over there in the closet, marinating in the mothball dark. They keep me up at night with their damn crying. I left the final shirt of mid-September unwashed

on it's plastic hanger

so I could sniff around your vinegary edges during these




July, you are my jam.

I wish you were available for download.

I wish that the kids and I could go down in the cupboard underneath the sink and that we could walk back in there beneath the white plastic pipes and roll the big coffee can full of grease and old peanut oil out of the way and that you would come walking out of a hidden cave, yawning, smiling, stretching, flipping off the cobwebs and saying,"You found me!" 

Why can't you just light up our sour house with your 50,000,000,000 gazzillawatts of sunshine and hot dry Vitamin C rain?

What's wrong?

What's wrong with you?

Do you miss me at all?

Where are you anyway...Australia?

I put the beach stuff up in the rafters of the garage. Should I get it down now?

Remember at the beach when you blew small Tasmanian devil clouds of baked sand into my earholes while my daughter happily ate a hotdog coated with specks of crunchy zillion year-old seashell as the seagulls dangled off of your hot fat thigh on those thin puppet strings of humidity?


Those were the days.

I love you/ should I drag the air conditioners down from the attic this afternoon?

Should I dump some gas in the mower?

Send me a sign, okay?

I'm gonna count to ten and look out this window and on ten you fly up with a baby kangaroo in your beak and then I'll know you are back, okay?

Okay, here we go.

One....The kids are turning pale in their overheated rooms.

Two....The dead are asleep in the cold hard dirt, one assumes.

Three...The deer are on the mountain where the winds are howling blue.

Four...The pale lame sun is in the cottony sky but it really isn't true.

Five...The snowbanks in the mall parking lots refuse to melt away.

Six...The crows out in the cornfields can't tell night from day.

Seven...The moon is frozen butter in a cold pan flipped upside down.

Eight...The soles of our shoes crunch against the rock salt on the ground.

Nine...The snowflakes pass the street lamps like August moths at night.

Ten...The train in the tunnel is but a distant whistle and but a pin prick of far away light.


The Walkin' Talkin' Burning Man Blues

A year ago today, at around 12:30 in the afternoon, I heard a banging on our front door and nothing will ever really be the same, I guess.

There was a stranger there, a man in his fifties I'd say, and he had a wild look on his face; he had desperate eyes and a serious mouth. It was the look you get when you need to tell someone that their house is on fucking fire.

He stuck around, the guy did.

I don't remember much because it was all such a frantic blur, but he and the woman with him, who, in my narrative of things, is always his wife but who could have been his sister or his cousin or his lover or his bookie for all I know, they stood there with me and my wife as we ran around and stuffed our kids and the dogs in the Honda while we took brief, painful peeks up at the flames bursting out of our highest roof like a mad tank gunner popped up out of his turret screaming "Kill 'em all!"

Looking back now, I never really knew my heart could pound that hard. It just doesn't seem right. I think I probably should have had at least a minor heart attack right there, rockets of pain splintering down my arm, my breath freezing up in my throat somewhere back near my tonsils or something.

But, I didn't.

We're all built a lot hardier than we usually suspect we are. Even in our moments of weakness and helplessness, the majority of us have this little ass-kicking generator that coughs to life enabling us to go into some sort of mode where we become like mentally bionic.

Looking back now, if I had happened to turn around and noticed a mid-sized sedan parked there in my driveway with some sad bastard's feet sticking our from underneath it like the witch under the house in the The Wizard of Oz, I'm pretty sure that I could have lifted that thing up with my two shaking arms and used my boot to drag the person out.That's how hyped I was in the moment.

But, in the end, I couldn't come up with a way to put the fire out.

I just stood there, I remember, in a split-second of freezing January clarity, watching the inferno giving us the finger as it dangled out of my daughter's bedroom window and did its thing.

And yeah, it sucked a donkey's ass, but what are you gonna do, right?


You're gonna do absolutely positively nothing, dude.


Fast forward the tape a few months later and I'm asleep in my mom's house underneath a bear rug hung on a couple nails nailed into the cheapo 1970's wood fake panneling of the 'spare room' which has now become 'my room'/'Serge's room' since I've been living here for the past week.

We were having problems, I guess is how you put it, me and her.

Marital strife.


Oh hell, she had taken to hating the way my voice sounded in the morning and the afternoon. And at night. And I had become defensive and edgy and I was getting fatter because I was eating my way through a frozen aisle of the blues and drinking more cans of beer than were universally marked for me by whoever it is out there in the cosmos who assigns us our beers.

I laid there in the bed, the early spring sunshine coming through the country curtains in baseball bat-sized rods as I stared up at the bear's fangs hanging out of his dumbass mouth, a mouth that hadn't mauled a wild apple or a wiggly grub worm in probably 25 years or more and never would again unless someone had the strange notion to drag him out into the yard and shove his shellacked snout down into the mud.

I wanted to go home. I wanted so badly to just go downstairs and not say anything to anybody down there and not even stop at the Mr. Coffee to grab a cup, but just to walk straight out to my car and toss my backpack full of t-shirts and my toothbrush in the backseat and just drive back to this other house we had ended up in as a family after a fire. But I couldn't. I couldn't because I knew my wife was angry at me and I knew that I was angry at her for being angry and everything had just sort of turned to melted butter in my fist.

There I was, underneath that damn car myself.

And no matter how strong you think you are, no matter how strong you've been in the wake of something as nasty as fate can be, you will never ever figure out a way to free yourself when you're pinned under the wheels of something as heavy as two or three tons of real sadness.


Like three days after the fire an insurance inspector came around while we were picking through charred things and packing up the stuff that had survived. He was a big guy who'd driven all the way up here from West Virginia on behalf of our landlord's policy.

I felt like a stone that day. I felt dead inside.

I think I was scared. I can maybe admit that now, but back then I had no clue, of course.

The guy was a dick, asking me to not pack anything away before he could walk around and inspect stuff. There had been so many inspectors at this point that I didn't even care. The State police had been there, the fire marshall. Barack Obama had been there. Al Pacino had stopped in and looked around and didn't say a damn word.

I looked at the insurance guy and I told him okay. But I cut him open with my eyes when I said it and his guts oozed out of his fat belly onto the floor and we both knew it.

When he was done, he asked me some questions and then he started talking about all the things that we could have done as a family to have caused a fire. It took a while, but I slowly understood that he wanted me to tell him that we had set up the charcoal grill there in the living room that day; that we'd messed up/ that we were pyro people. He was just a man with a job to do. A man from West Virginia who had probably been up before dawn warming up his pickup truck as he got ready for the long slog up to Pennsylvania for an inspection. His job was to save a company money.

I didn't know what the hell my job was.

What was I supposed to do?

He finished up his speech and looked at me. I was so sad inside. I was so angry and confused. I told him I wanted to fight him.

He walked away and left.

The house got rebuilt. We're living here again. Life is so big and overwhelming and shitty and wonderful all at the same time, huh?

Or am I trippin?


The guy who pounded on our door and told us to get out of the burning house was holding Henry at one point, I remember that much. The kid wasn't walking yet and we had him wrapped up in a blanket as we struggled to call 911 and ran around scared and shouting and trying to make things right when they were all going pretty wrong.

I remember looking at him whispering into Henry's tiny cold ear and then he handed him off to the lady and she held him tightly to her chest to warm him and comfort him the best that she could.

Before long, the first fire engines roared up and the noise was deafening and the chaos was insufferable and we were all four of us in the Honda parked out on the road, away from the house, pointed towards the unburning horizon so the kids couldn't see anything.

That couple disappeared then. Back into their car they went, the whole scene fading in their rearview mirror. They had to be shaken up, I'm sure.

God, I'd love to buy them each a beer or three.


These days, I laugh in the spots where the flames licked the walls.

Things aren't perfect, mind you; the woman I love still seems annoyed at me whenever I appear in the kitchen bitching about things that I probably shouldn't be bitching about or when I pop my head into the bathroom when she's trying to get ready in the morning and try and steal a glimpse of some boob or some naked ass. But, we're keeping it real...whatever the hell that means.

She loves me. How could she not, right?

My daughter sleeps in her same old room now, between new sheets of drywall painted a lovely piglet pink, a color she picked out herself during this incredible period of time last spring when Monica had said "You can come home" without even saying it and we found out that our landlords, our friends, were repairing the home we had found and lost and were sure we would never set foot in again.

It was a hell of a time to be me, to be us.

You'd never really think that you could paint over scorched hard times with litebright pink, now would you?

And maybe you can't forever, I don't even know. But for now, there is a house here all around me, a house on fire with life and laughing and shouting and names being hollered up the steps and the smell of microwave popcorn and diaper poop where once it was on fire with just plain old boring fire.



* PS.*

I want to take a moment to thank the many, many people, many who we have never even met, who helped us in the wake of our fire last year. Your thoughts, prayers, donations, boxes of clothes and toys, emails, Facebook messages, wishes upon stars...all of it meant more to me and to Monica and to our kids and our dogs than I will ever be able to find the words to say. But please know that the kindness and spirit that you shared with us helped us through the hardest parts. It really truly did. Thank you so much. Onward and upward.



Even Now.



Henry taps on the window glass at the geese out by the stream. They can't hear him. They're pretty far off and plus they are probably thinking about geese stuff; who's got the stale bread, ya'll?

Inside the train it's Christmas lights and Dean Martin pretending he's tipsy as he bumbles through 'Jingle Bells' and the din of kids crying and laughing and peering up over the high refurbished seats to peer down at who's in back of them, or in front.

Tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-tap. He is hellbent on getting their attention anyway. He's almost two now, a little boy with a smile that creates real honest-to-God light when he flashes it, which is a lot. But on this old train car this morning his face is serious as he uses his binky to boink the glass steaming up with his gentle breath.

I watch him there, balanced beside me on his unsteady legs and I reach up and touch the skin on the back of his neck above his winter hood.

Tap-tap-tap. Methodically. Tap-tap-tap-tap-tap. Tapping his way out of this "Polar Express" train that I bought tickets for months ago. Santa will be there, I told my wife. And they play Christmas music on the P.A! She grunted her okay/I hit 'Pay Now' on the Pay-Pal/we became four future passengers together.

Tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-tap. He taps it like he doesn't want to break it, but his eyes upon the geese say he might do that if he knew it would bring them this way.

They are down there, though. They are down there in a different world and they can't know that a little boy is watching them and reaching out to pull them in.

Tap-tap-tap. He's like a ghost now, Henry is. A kid behind glass, tapping away to the world. Here I am. Are you coming?

The train buckles and starts to ooze.

"Have a holly jolly Christmas...I don't know if there'll be snow but have a cup of cheer."

Tap-tap-tap-tap. The geese slide away from us. A couple hundred miles to the north, the classrooms where it all went down are just like they were since the banging and the popping went quiet. No one has moved anything or anyone yet.

And if there's tapping, no one hears it.

Not yet, anyway.


Lord knows I've tried. Hell, we've all tried. Nothing works though. In the morning on a Saturday just before Christmas you can mix in some apple butter with your oatmeal and listen to the coffee dripping down into the pot while your 40-year-old guts percolate last night's beers into another shit on the horizon but you are still just a weak fern of a bitch standing in the great northwoods.

CNN is on and I sit down in front of it and listen to them circle the wagons containing things they will never know.

I sip the coffee and it tastes okay, like coffee from some gas station somewhere, I guess. It's not Starbucks or anything. It's no Italian cup laid out before you on a cafe table in the shadow of a 600 year-old cathederal, but it ain't supposed to be because I'm 180 pounds of American weekend plopped down in front of a 40-inch Sony and so I reckon the brew fits the scene just fine.

We will ride the Polar Express today. Me and Violet and Henry and Monica. In the early morning, while it was still dark out, we all climbed on the big bed in mommy and daddy's room and watched the movie together. It was something that I had daydreamed about for more months than I should even admit. I wanted us to be fresh off the film when we climbed aboard the old trains the local railroad junkies bust out two or three times a year.

How cool would that be, I had reminded myself over and over again. How cool would that be to manage to watch the movie and then take the kids on a train ride?

Then, it just happened. It could have gone so wrong, too. Henry could have easily drifted off to put small toys in the toilet after a half-hour or so. Violet could have certainly gotten hungry and slid down off the high king mattress and announced that she wanted something to eat. One tiny monkeywrench and the whole thing could have just fallen apart in my hands like so many of my foolish plans, like soggy bread.

But somehow, it all came together.

The kids stared at the movie on the TV, their jaws slightly separated by the action and the elves and the runaway train skidding across the frozen lake a few miles from the North Pole.

My wife disappeared and then reappeared with a cup of coffee for me.

And that one tasted like God had brewed it himself.


The guns. The guns. The guns.

The guns are still out there, in someone else's hands now, probably destined to end up in a lab and then who knows where. You'd be a real asshole to want to fire any of them again, but I don't know where they end up really.

Who gets the guns that mow down 6-year-olds?

Do they melt them down?

Do they end up in a basement storage room with paper tags attached with thin wire?

What would the tags say anyway? Lanza? Sandy Ridge? Case 1677364?

Who fucking cares, right?

Who fucking gives a fuck, at this point.


What you remember when you are slipping away is anyone's guess. But even when it comes on fast there is probably something:

Your bat slamming the rubber tee under the baseball, the voices of your mom and dad mixed in with all the happy cheering back behind you somewhere, the sound of your small heart thumping so hard down inside of your bony chest, hot dog smell, a bird flying over centerfield, the ball rolling slowly across the bright green grass three feet in front of you, the interrupted baseline disappearing beneath your sneaks as you chug as hard as you can towards the five or six kids in Dodger blue all gathered around first base looking lost and desperate and confused and excited and trying to get you 'out' but not all that worried about it in the end.

The clumpy snow on your sled blades falling away as you brush it with your wet glove.

Santa Claus in the sky/he's really a plane/you will never ever know that.

Your mother's warm oniony breath as she situates you upon your pillow at the end of a long good day.

The chlorine in your eyes. The sting of happiness.

Your tiny brother in the doorway holding Winnie the Pooh.

Mint. Toothpaste. Burning life.

Legos all over the floor before you and your alphabet flash cards mixed in with them and the warmth of the room raining down from the bright lights above you sitting there in your pajamas with feet.

The dog you have always known.

Lying on your side, your eyes opening slowly, as you realize that it's morning now. And that it's your birthday.

Touching first base, feeling it under the balls of your feet, joy swelling up inside of you.






I quit smoking two months ago for the second time in a year. You fall off the horse, you get back on, dude.

But I bought a pack this morning, just to taste them again.

It's unhealthy and I'm weak and I want to crush them in my fist.

But first, I need to smoke a few as I write this.


What would I trade to keep you here by me forever, my love?

I would trade all of my veins. Miles of thin worms that keep me going, I would trade them all in a heartbeat to make it all okay for you.

I would trade every word I have ever said just so you could say one more.

That's how much I need you. That's how much I love you.

I would remove my guts with a teaspoon and carry them across the mountains to hang them from a tree overlooking the furthest sea if I knew that it would keep you smiling.

To hear your laughter, I would stand before the greatest army ever known and approach them across a summer field until a distant voice shouted halt and I would keep right on walking.

I have loved you so much for so long.

And I would give all of that up just to love you maybe a second or two more.


(Lighting a cigarette...hold on...there we go...I blow smoke in your face.)

In the days to come we will again talk of Earthly things.

We will once again hear these words/ it has already begun:

'Semi-automatic guns don't kill people. People kill people.'

But, c'mon.

(I blow so much smoke in your face that you can't even see or even breath.)

'Soldiers die protecting my right to own these assualt weapons.'

Who amongst us speaks for the dead, then?

'This is the greatest country on Earth and if you don't like it then leave!'

(I blow burning cities of smoke directly through your head and you are Buddy Holly's pilot/upside down in the snowy night sky/ or are you right side up?)

I love it too, you see. Maybe I love it more than you.

Is that possible?

Can you believe that?

The guns that forged our nation, the guns of our Second Amendment, the 'arms' we gave ourselves the 'right to keep and bear' were muskets. They were single shot shooters. But we have strayed way too far from that now. We have allowed ourselves to shatter the boundries again and again until what we are left with is a monster of our very own making in the form of rapid-fire death that no self-respecting Founding Father would have ever been proud of.

You were so sure you loved your country and that all of these guns proved it. But, like it or not, those days are over.

(I reach down through all of the smoke engulfing you and I take from you what I need to take from you in the name of love.)

You continue to live your life. Or you don't. There is no telling.

But your fucking rapid-fire child-killing machine is gone and the sun continues to set over your neighborhood with all of the majesty of Heaven here on Earth.



The geese are behind us now as our train rolls slowly down the tracks. Henry taps his gentle greeting still, though.

He taps it at the five or six elderly train-spotters who have gathered at the edges of farm fields we are moving through.

They wave at him and he erupts in smiles.

Sleigh bells begin to ring!

Henry looks quickly and so does my daughter and there at the front of our car he appears.

"Ho-ho-ho!" It's him. It's him.

Santa Claus appears and the kids in the train begin hollering and crying and standing up on the seats to get a glimpse of him and the whole scene is chaotic in all of the right ways, in all of the most beautiful ways we can ever know in this life.

I put my sunglasses on fast.

I can't help it. I know I look like a douche, a sunglasses douche in a train car, but to be perfectly honest with you, man, I'm fucking crying.

I am so in love with them, with this. With life.

Brenda Lee comes on. They're piping her in.

"We're rocking around the Christmas tree/ have a happy hol-i-day!"

I'm so in love with life, even now.


How We Earned Our Wings.

Days away from forty, that's what I am.

You could leave tonight on some two week package tour and when you got back home, tired and all bloated from wine and pressurized cabins, me: I'd be forty years old. Go ahead. Go ahead and dip your crusty bread in the shallows of olive oil under the rustic beams of Tuscan's better joints. Go over and walk along the streets of gay Paris with your lover or your partner or your grandmom, I don't care. I'll still be here when you get back.

Fly out tonight if you want; if you can. Seize the goddamn day already and get out there in the German squares. They'll be decked out in all their Christmas glory by now. Hell, they probably have been for a week or so already. Sip some beer from a mega-stein in a cathederal's shadow. Have a bit of mulled wine with your piping hot brown sack of Euro-chestnuts. Buy some shit, some hand-painted Kringle Klause ornaments for your tree back in the states. Let loose for once. Enjoy yourself.

And when you get back: I'll be forty.

I don't know why but age never really occurs to me all that much. I mean, I just don't find myself thinking about it often. Most years go by and for the most part, at any given moment, I'm thinking about, like one of three or four things. You could swish down out of the heavens on a bluebird May afternoon, or some wintery gray morning, and circle my skull three times and then just slip into my earhole and fly back into my Department of Thoughts and the first thing you would see, I guarantee you, would be either a fat trout jumping out of the water/ my kids playing in a field of fresh clover where I have never ever been and neither have they/ various stupid things for sale on Ebay that I am probably going to buy/ or my wife in a tight, white wife-beater, black Chucks, striped knee-socks and these baby blue short shorts she got from American Apparel like six years ago.

That's it, really. I mean, c'mon, that's obviously not everything that ever registers in my brain, but it's pretty fucking close, I'll tell you that.

And so sometimes I get to wondering where exactly my mind should be at 40. What should I be thinking about? Should I be thinking about my health? Because, to tell you the truth: I really don't that much. I go the gym sometimes when I can, but probably not as much as I should. And I know the reality is that if I really had the willpower/the gusto, I could be getting up at 4am and jogging down the country lanes in the dark, like a lost deer with a wafer full of iTunes clipped to my bicep. But I don't do that. And I don't even think about that.

What about money, like finances and stuff? I should be considering those things I know. I should be planning my investment strategy and watching my shares in this and that rise and fall, huh? I ought to be squirreling away some Benjamins too; for the kids' college. Or their bail. But, somehow I avoid thinking about that and instead, when I could be micro-managing my 401K I'm pretty much holding Henry in one arm and motorboating on his ear while I use the other hand to work on stupid shit, like my Amazon Wishlist. If Amazon Wishlists ultimately paid off some kind of weird dividends, man, I'd be set. I update that thing daily, sometimes hourly; the very tides of my immediate existence reflected in the perpetual adding and deleting of swarms of fishing poles and miter saws and paperback Thomas Hardy novels.

There are days when you could be monitoring me from your secret spy cam tucked into the bonsai plant on the living room table, watching my ass with your friends all gathered around your computer screen/drinking beer and laughing, and you'd be mortified as you witnessed me put my baby son down onto the floor to play with the electrical cords from the tv and put big tumbleweeds of dog hair in his little mouth just so I could delete the first two seasons of Mad Men on Blu-Ray from my Wishlist because I don't know if I even really wanna waste a wish on that shit or not. And, then, a half-hour later, you and your buddies would be screaming out loud: OH NO HE DITTINT! as you watched me put a spoonful of Gerber goo on my baby's nose, aiming for his lips but missing big because I'm not looking at him right that minute; I'm adding Mad Men back to the list.

I spend a lot of time outside my skin. I get out a step ladder I keep out behind my heart and my lungs and I climb up on it and crawl out the window of my face and I walk over there, maybe ten yards away and just watch. I watch me and try and clock exactly where I'm headed, who I'm becoming. Maybe there's a name for that sort of thing, but if there is I don't know it. What I know is that I stand there in the corner watching me do my thing and it's hilarious and sweet and trivial and monumental and maybe even tragic too, but it's way too early to say, I hope. 

But I stand there and I watch closely. There I am: fucking wading in the chest-high waves right off the coast of forty years old. Look at you, you husky squat bastard: walking around the house, in the early morning, pushing Violet in her high chair, across the floorboards real fast, making NASCAR engine sounds as she raises her hands in the air and lets out a high-pitched shrill thing that could kill a coyote dead; parking her there in front of the tube, way up high over her little brother who I got sitting down beside the coffee table in his pink chair, sucking on a bottle of his expensive powdered hooch; her taking her first bite of toast and honey as I pull up one of the episodes of Mickey Mouse I recorded on the DVR/ pulling it up in the nano-millisecond before she's about to look at me with a mouthful of food and ask me for just that. Reading her like a book.

Reading them like some super badass book that you can't find on any wishlists because there's only one copy in the history of the world since it was a drop of syrup plunging down through cold dark space a zillion years ago and you already own it.

You already own it like a motherfucker.

So, yeah. I'm not worried. I think about the wrong stuff, I guess. And I waste time sometimes/ a lot of times.

But in all seriousnes: my toast and honey?

It's like swallowing forty years worth of God's personal pecan pie.