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A Man in the Bush

My daughter noticed a man living near the storm drain lake near our house. The storm drain lake sits behind a chain link fence and collects the run off from the city streets, the strip mall parking lot, and Pacific Highway South. The water sits in the pond and slowly filters through the gravel to the Sayworth Creek running in the green belt near the highway. The creek runs down a steep gully and passes through tunnels beneath side streets. Finally it comes out at the top of Saltwater State Park. The park seems like a little stretch of beach from the shore line, but really runs like a nervous system in thin belts through our entire neighborhood, green spaces that hold the inexplicable sound of the creek, birds, and frogs. The green belt behind our house is near the headwater. A man lives in the forest.

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RIP Hector

After a week of heat, after a week of meaning to get to the fish bowl that held my daughters first two fish, even though she wasn’t interested in them once she realized that they didn’t talk, bark, or really do much of anything beside bob just under the surface of the water and act up slightly if we came with in view of their fish tank, Hector, the larger of the two fish died.

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Tire Explosion

On Intestate Five on Friday morning, at the Boeing Field and Martin Luther King Way exit, a tire on a detached semi truck exploded. The explosion shook the cars on the freeway. Tiny fragments of rubber scattered into the oncoming lanes, against the cement barriers. Blue smoke hung over the concrete. The sound and smoke suddenly made the entire freeway seem remote, the site of industrial activity. The majority of the tire peeled away from the semi and flew directly up and then fell into the red sedan following the truck. The truck jackknifed and luckily wasn’t pulling a trailer. The sedan behind it had by this time started to stop because of the length of rubber. I kept moving and moved a lane over watching phone book sized pieces of rubber slide across the freeway and them I passed in front of the truck. The entire flow of traffic abruptly stopped behind the truck. A half mile further down I-5, I had the entire place to myself.

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Coffee at By George

A cistern of boiling coffee foams in the basement of a library near Red Square on the University of Washington Campus. To get to the cistern, I find a free meter on the lower part of the University Avenue in the shade of a rhododendron that just started to lose its thick, pink flowers.

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Sidewalk Walk

I walked down Eastlake Avenue today, along the docks. I saw a man from my work place. I have only seen him sitting behind a desk. I didn’t know he had legs. I could presume he had legs as this is the usual case of things, but I’d never seen them. His legs looked pretty normal.

A flock of birds sat on the docks. I counted the seagulls. I counted to a hundred before I realized I was just counting. I don’t know how many birds I saw.

He had legs. That man from work that I’ve only seen behind a desk had legs.

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Interstate Five

A Datsun Z80 honked its horn at me yesterday while I was in the left hand lane, the fast lane, doing a little over 70 miles an hour.

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Snohomish County Courthouse The Snohomish

Snohomish County Courthouse

The Snohomish County courthouse was built in the late 1950s. I’m guessing. It looks like it came from the same manufacture as the Pacific Science Center, built for the World’s Fair in Seattle in 1962. To say architect is along the same lines as complimenting the chef at Denney’s. Although the waiters at Denney’s invariably ask, “How was your food?” I mumble back because, well, it’s food at Denney’s; my wife, however, will cheerfully exclaim, “Give my compliments to the chef!” because this sends them scurrying away to refill her ice tea. The courthouse had a plastic mould quality. White pebble conglomerate pieces had been assembled like a hastily and somewhat glue intoxicated toy store kit construction. Everything seemed period, that is, it seemed like it had just come out of its cellophane wrapped box and had been left to sit — used by the various civil servants and citizens involved in legal proceedings — but not modified in any substantial way except for the wear of forty years of lawyers, policemen, jurors, clerks, entering the place. The landscaped trees had grown out of their planters and cracked the cement. The daffodils had died and rotted and turned to mold. The mold had dried out, and blown away leaving behind the oxide casing of the flower cups around the central sculpture that looked the same as everything else, as if it too had come out of a cardboard box with plastic wrapping and been airplane-glued to the base. There was a plaque honoring the valiant men who died overseas. The statues were melted bronze monstrosities that repudiate everything else about the courthouse. One appeared as if his torso had been stolen, and the rest recovered from a cow field ditch. He’d been re-welded to his legs. He had long, slender legs, leaving a gapping cleft between his legs, and then a chest starting at his breasts and his arms drooped like melting cheese. One of these slender arms draped out and connected him to the other figure. A woman, overweight and wearing jogging pants and a sweatshirt sat with her daughter or granddaughter on one of the benches, and she watched me as I circled the statues. The benches were two pieces, an angular jutting of preformed conglomerate material and a long, hexagonal bench. A seagull squawked from the roof. His beak flashed over the tall face of diamond shaped windows, each window edged with jet age chrome and bisected with an almost churchlike (or maybe jet plane icon) of chrome. The grandmother, or maybe mother, I couldn’t really tell her age, really, glanced up at the gull and then turned to look to where it was calling, down the hill, to the ripped up street where backhoes installed cabling for the new Everett hockey stadium, to the vast, air between the city and the blue foothills, swamp, river, and nothing.

Abandoned Vacation Cabin

Under the stand of Douglas fir, the cabin rotted. The owners hadn’t driven out to the place in ten years, or if they had, they weren’t able to do anything about the state of the house. They didn’t sell it for one thing. They didn’t even take the dishes out of the cupboard. They kept the place even though the roof had collapsed on the southwest side. The rest of the building still, technically, stood. The majority of the interior was damp, but not wet enough that the tacked up Life magazine covers hadn’t foxed. It was only a matter now of a couple of years, another season even, before the bracken ferns now growing in the raw, red earth spread across the floor, and moss began to creep down the walls. The two bedroom packed with box springs, blue quilt sleeping bags with checkered linings, matching art deco dressers, and a lamp with cowboys and raw hide trimmings didn’t look damp at all, and the only sign they hadn’t been used was the layer of brown, furry dust the covered everything and the cloud of cobwebs floating against the ceiling. The light switch didn’t switch. It wasn’t a switch, but a thick plastic button that clicked off with a direct hit against the surface. The button marked on popped out. The light came through the windows coated with webs and stray cedar tree needles. The light filtered down through the Douglas fir boughs and the maple tree branches and then finally through the hole in the roof, this light didn’t change at all when I hit the on button. The blue glass phone terminal sat on a pole visible from the kitchen. Cedar boughs curved in through the hole, leaving behind long, fuzzy strings of cones. A streamlined white enamel stove sunk in one kitchen corner, with oven door still open, revealing a rack with long burned, long molded, long dried up and fossilized baked things. Everything still lay stacked in the cupboards, plates with pale blue streaks on them and coffee mugs with matching saucers. The drinking glasses, short, and modestly sized, diner glasses, really. From the center of the room, I could hear the river slosh and drag gravel along the bank. Birds relayed twirls and chirps up and down the forest. The ferns around the house draped against my legs, leaving the thighs of my jeans wet. I came out into the soggy, grassy yard, now a tangle of short salmonberry bushes and looked across the river at the neatly manicured lawn of the neighbor there. A man sat on his desk drinking a cup of steaming coffee and reading his newspaper. His cell phone rang and he leaned down to pick it up. I couldn’t hear his voice, just the sudden cut off of the beep beep beep. It was just the sound of the birds again and the river and the wind knocking water loose from the branches and the drops fell down each drip making a slight tic as it met leafs, and fronds, and stones.

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The Christmas Tree is Broken

The Christmas Tree is Broken

I went walking with Riley last weekend. We walked around the block. She stops when we leave the house to inspect the plants. She has on white shoes, the model of shoes that she wore during her first year of life, but she hasn’t worn these shoes through the summer and in the fall she got a new pair of dark blue shoes, and she generally wears these but we left them at our friends house after New Year’s. She wears her white shoes outside. We live in a duplex, on the bottom floor, next to a street named Ruffner and an alley. The alley travels behind peoples’ houses. In the last couple of years the large backyards, once filled with old orchards of twisted fruit trees with gray branches and yellow leaves for most of the year, except for the profusion, suddenly in the autumn, of pears and apples. The apples sat on the tree this year until a November rainstorm knocked them down. They were bright yellow with thick brown bruises against the faintly blue sky and the gray tangle of brittle stick branches. A row of new duplexes has gradually moved over the orchards and stands of cedar trees. We live in one of these. Construction trucks drive up and down the alley. They have left deep ruts that fill with rainwater. A stream trickles. And Riley unaware that anything in the world has changed because her presence in the world is as much a part of this change as the ruts and the overgrown density of buildings, stops to admire the brilliant red tomatoes on the long dead tomatoes plant. She stops to pick up a stick. And then she picks up another stick, and says, “Here, carry this for me,” and hands it to me. She stoops over the stream and riles the water with her stick. We pass Christmas trees that have been set out. “Look,” she says. She stops in front of a Christmas tree. “The Christmas tree is broken.” She looks up at me as she makes a preliminary stomp into the shallow edge of a deep pool. “Do you want to go back to the house and get your lady bug rain boots? You can splash in the mud puddles if you have them.” “No,” she says, and then stomps into the pool anyway, and I pull her up. “I want to splash,’ she says. I explain about the boots again, and she says, finally, “Okay.” A woman passes us, and she says she passed some children making mud pies. We come to the blocked storm drain, clogged with leaves. I show Riley what happens when the leaves are cleared, making a pile of mud and leaves on one side of the drain with my bare hands. Riley and I dig our fingers into the muck to make a channel. “It’s cold,’ she says. And we pull our hands up, covered in old leaves and grains of gravel. “Dirty,” she says. I think at that moment that I should make sure she doesn’t put her hands in her mouth — although she doesn’t do this much anymore. The water slips down the channel we’ve made. We watch the pools sink to puddles, and then a little rivulet trickles down the middle of the alley. My daugther is calibrating the Christmas trees, the movement of water, the feel of one stick and another in her hands; these are things and objects in the world as she is an object in the world. She knows more than she knows because of the odd connection of one word to the next, but her fluency in the world is gained through her fluency in the word, this tying down of word to thing and thing to word.

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