Tuesday, February 19, 2008


The brick house is what we always call it: the house we built in the mid-Sixties. I remember the concrete truck's long U-shaped chute poking through the unfinished frame of a basement window, the wet cement rapidly slurrying down, pouring and splatting into the wire-gridded floor area. I remember the unfinished basement steps, how they were open, how I was always afraid to go down them because someone could reach through and grab me.

Thinking about Ginger and Snowball: the time Steve shoved Ginger's tail under the kitchen door, the door to the basement steps, and Snowball bit it nearly off, completely severed but for one stringy white (tendon?) cord. How we caught the cat and wailed. Someone said we had to cut it off. No one else would do it, so I snipped it with the kitchen shears. The cat shuddered violently, a quake I can still feel in my spine, and took a dazed step or two, then suddenly scrambled away.

I flung the tail into the front yard, not realizing that we'd find it again, wanting only in that moment to have it away. The yard, a half-acre at most with an immense sycamore and two large chestnut trees, had become a momentary sea of out-there-ness, not the familiar territory I ranged daily, inspecting plants and bugs, the tiny corn-on-the-cob-shaped castings that I thought were seeds until I watched one slip, still wet, from a caterpillar's anus. I hadn't known I was playing with shit.

This was knowledge before experience: learning the names of trees and birds, collecting seeds, watching a solar eclipse through a pinhole focused on a sheet of paper. I don't even remember what happened to Ginger, only that Mother was furious that afternoon about the tail. Later the facts would reconfigure, polished or worn down in the mind's tumbler, that ceaseless worrying. How we touch and touch, worrying memories, wearing them, wearing them down.

No comments: