First snow on the mountains, and they all look like postage stamps with the clouds, matted in lavender-blue. There’s a purple piece of foam I found on the trail someone dropped, for sitting on, and I take it with me to the lake now, with the dog. With contract work and flexible hours, I can work an hour or two first thing in the morning, in my bath robe—go in a couple hours to the office, come home, change, take advantage of the sun breaks to walk the dog.
And it seems unnatural to work a brick and mortar 40-hour workweek now. I think of my old colleagues, the fact they’re expected to be there all day and then available off-hours too. It’s one of those unstated expectations, the kind you can never satisfy. It’s like the empty closet concept, a 40-hour workweek in the office: you find ways to fill it even if you don’t need all that space, all that time. You fill it with meetings: meetings that confuse activity with real progress, all the vague conversations that make up consensus, the politicking and positioning, the pre-meetings and postmortems.
When I worked at a theater out of college in downtown Allentown, I’d sometimes meet my mom for lunch at her work cafeteria, the local newspaper. I could walk there and back to my apartment, though it wasn’t a good area for walking. And her then boss is a friend of mine now, a wonderful poet and editor named Rick, and there was no email or Outlook: in fact, they made the leather-bound Daytimer planners in my hometown—and when I quit that job at the theater I became a temp packing boxes of planners onto containers that went onto planes and got shipped all over: weekly, monthly, annual calendar views.
I could earn more temping, inspecting ball bearings for rust defects, wheeling around dot matrix printouts on Rubbermaid carts—or loading boxes from a conveyor belt onto a pie-shaped aluminum container. And the two guys I worked with, UPS employees, were a Laurel and Hardy sort named Frank and Lou, and the first time I went to a strip club it was with those two, and one of the dancers was a girl I knew from the 5th grade though I pretended not to know, I wrote about her when we were in the UK, I changed her name: it was Thanksgiving time in school, we were doing something to celebrate the harvest and learning how to square dance, it was the first time I held my hands on a girl’s hips like that, and she took off her glasses and looked at me in a way I’ll never forget.
Now I sit down at the lake with my smartphone and my dog, my trousers, writing in a pocket notepad like I always have, still a reporter at heart covering the local news, trying to hit my deadlines and spell the names right.
At night it’s the pitter patter of the rain again like the crackle of wet campfire, it makes its own music. The dog and cat curl into themselves, bed down, the dark’s own conclusion. Outside the frog’s song’s the same as the sound of a metal nutcracker bearing down on a shell like a vice, right before it catches and cracks.