Up in Smoke

“Anything else?” This from the man in the local market who has just help me place three Bartlett peers in a plastic bag. I told him yes, the Bibb lettuce in plastic. He now peels off a bag from the roll by the arugula. No, I say, by “lettuce in plastic” I mean the stuff prepackaged in a transparent box. He grabs this for me. Anything else? Coconut water. What kind? One. Now, as though we are fulfilling a Marx Brothers script, he responds that, yes, he knows I want one…. One, I now explain, fatigue already washing over me at 10 AM, is the brand. As well as the number of cartons of it I want. To put a finer point on things, I want one One.

I head home. Home is the heart and hope of the nation, I learned in eighth grade. In fact, I wrote a winning essay on the subject. Home was actually rather in short supply in those days, but never mind, for I was clearly heading for a career in marketing writing, a.k.a., bullshit. And although the childhood home proved rather disastrous, the current home is quite splendid. And on this particular day it has weathered some untoward events.

The latter began at 4 AM. I often make it a practice to induce my paralyzed foot, the right one, to spasm when I briefly awaken in the night. This spasm inducing thing is all about abnormal neurology. Which has to do with harnessing the latter, putting the abnormal to work. Because a spasming foot is a moving foot, and when a foot is moving, so is the blood. You get the idea.

Anyway, I got my 4 AM foot to jerk in its usual way, but not without some pain. Something in my foot was aching. Which set me to worrying. At least until 5 AM. And then, why not, 6 AM? At which point the alarm went off. And once I was up and trying to use my foot to do standard things like get out of bed, it was clear that all was not well. Jane helped me through bathroom maneuvers…an extra morning job which took time. And time waits for no man, and no vicar…. Jane got off late to her Wednesday morning prayer ceremony with a group of Episcopal nuns (yes, there is such a thing). And as she was departing, Bella, our 15-year-old, mortally declining dog, had a major intestinal relapse. All over the sunroom floor.

At which point Jane’s overloaded morning now included the prospect of her quadriplegic husband trying to clean up this mess. Which probably seemed like it might result in a messier version of the original mess. Which sparked a heated discussion. For which there was no time. With Jane at work, there was time for me to call the medical student just down the street. He dropped by and diagnosed that I had broken my big toe. How? A spasm, of course. But two days earlier, when my big Joe had jerked up at the wrong minute and caught something under a piece of furniture. What to do? Nothing much. Time heals all broken toes.

Did I mention the electronics? The latter are everywhere, of course. Which explains why at the next moment, the remote-controlled bedroom light decided to get stuck in the on position. Which would be simple enough to fix, if the battery involved wasn’t impossibly obscure…leading to a trip to the hardware shop, which yielded nothing. There was no way to turn off the light. And no way to turn off the day.

Both have kept going, thanks to that mysterious process called life. Which leads one to reevaluate the trip to the hardware store. Was it really so fruitless? After all, I did pick up a couple of facemasks, finally joining in the group experience here in San Francisco, vis-à-vis air with dangerous levels of toxic smoke.

And while smoke is generally toxic, the incineration of a modern home means that so many electronics go up in smoke…that one is forced to inhale key moments in the semiconductor fabrication process. Chips are made with, among other things, gallium arsenide. In other words, when ‘smoke gets in your eyes’ so does a certain amount of arsenic, along with an unknown number of cremated humans. The death toll in California’s Butte County fire is rising by the hour.

Making our little morning drama a small one. Making me want to take a big nap.

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