Jean-Pierre had been an engineer of Swiss watches. He had retired at forty-five after a very successful, brief career of twenty-two years. The thing on his arm looked like an aqualung. It weighed enough to make him feel it resisting his movements. Its face was extra thick, and the chunky bezel shone like a chrome grille. He had puzzled out its inner intricacies himself; he had made it as complicated as he could do. That had been his goal: the most complicated watch I can make—for no other reason than that. Just to do it.
Maya waits on the church stage in an ankle length black dress with white stripes holding a flute. She stares at a giant window covered in coloured plastic panels that play with the light. Looking at all those colours, she can’t tell if outside is cloudy, raining, or sunny. One blue panel has a spider web crack across its surface.
The town fidgets on a rock outcrop spouting with springs. Only a few decades ago its salient features were a few old-time stringband musicians busking on the pavement, a minor moviehouse, a tractor showroom, the teaching college and the big Baptist church that owned the majority. Some of those old boys and girls are Grammy winners since, but the theater awaits refurbishment and the tractor palace is a coffee shop, the university is open to everyone and the Baptist Church is at most number two on the scene. The university has become the largest landholder in town. It owns almost everything. Another two thousand students and it can advance to a higher football division. Football has cleaned up the town.
Words cannot adequately express the giddy joy I experienced while I stood on the ferry’ s bow, alone with my “escort” (an amiable deckhand twice my size, half my age), as the vessel glided swiftly across the gunmetal Puget Sound toward Charleston, where the Law awaited me with open bracelets. The early spring sun made a lovely show of going down behind the Olympic Mountains–all dreampurple and pastel poetry. It had been ages since I had felt a sunset unfettered by loss. I was was further gladdened when my escort shooed off some fool who had come out of the cabin to capture (thus desecrate) the sunset on his phone. There was a reason we were alone; that reason (also, twice my size, half my age) was inside the cabin holding one of those phony “Blu-Ice” bags to the spot on her meaty chin where I had landed a right cross just a few minutes before.
I come in and find Evie, wearing only a thong, standing on the kitchen table, bowing. I lean my guitar against the wall and admire my girl. I never get tired of her skeleton. The tat stretches from her forehead to the tips of her toes. Front, back and sides. She’s a masterpiece although sometimes I wish the skull didn’t hide her beautiful face.
I found Ginny at the diner with her face square against the linoleum of the table. I thought she might be crying to herself, and I thought that tears were maybe a good thing. The waitress, Joyce by her name tag, asked, “Is she yours?”
Squirrel Pen Diary: First Entry
Last Wednesday morning I entered Our Lady Star of the Sea church during mid-week mass. While two dozen or so senior citizens went through the ancient, dusty rites (monotonously administered by an equally ancient and dusty priest), I rose unseen and snuck upstairs to a small balcony that communicates with the church’s attic. I climbed atop the guano splattered stone rail that hugs the balcony and balanced myself on one foot and held the other out as though I intended to take a seventy-foot step onto the marble walkway below. After I had done all that, there wasn’t much else to do except wait for someone to notice me.