First light for August

The plane resembled a bird in the sky, reflecting back in the lake. There were a few on the dock fishing, spread out to give each other space. They were all having their moments with the lake, the morning light. A couple in the middle were pointing across the water with their camera out. Thin wisps of fog moved in one direction to the center away from the shore. I had to go back to the tire place to get it fixed. I’d been there already on Saturday, they said they’d fixed it, but come Sunday they hadn’t: it was leaking again. I got there before they opened and there was already a line. A burly guy with no neck and a crew cut looked agitated, paced by the door. I let him pressure the workers to open early, I didn’t have that kind of presence. They explained it was the corrosion around the wheel that was giving me problems, something I’d never heard of: the tire needs a clean surface to form a seal; the rusting causes unevenness. Somehow, everything was a metaphor to aging. Bad seals, leaks.

I sat in the lobby with my book waiting for them to fix the tire. It was getting warmer with the morning sun but felt nice. They had the TV on but it had no power over me, relaxing even. There were others with me waiting but we were all alone, bound by our tires.

Patti Smith was talking about moving into the Chelsea Hotel, befriending the music anthologist Harry Smith: having her first encounters with late ’60s celebrities, about to become one herself. In her own kind of waiting room.

Sam Shepard just died: and I’d texted Donnie about him over the weekend, asking if he could confer with his wife (a Shepard scholar) if the play Cowboy Mouth, the phrase, had come from Dylan’s song, or vice versa. Donnie acted like he didn’t know the reference. It was from Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands. And Patti said in her book it was in the Chelsea Hotel that Dylan wrote that song. There was a banner with Shepard on the homepage of my work computer I glanced at, then moved on. I’d worked on a few of his plays, read many. Didn’t feel sentimental.

They were back to report progress on my tire: a nail, not corrosion. I was glad for that, they could patch it and I could fend off death for another day, get back to work. The guy who worked on it asked if Anton called me yet, offering to buy my Volvo. Anton was the one who worked on it Saturday. He had a Volvo like mine he said, loved those cars. I said I was ready to move on. Falling in love with cars is a bad idea, they take more than they give. But I wanted it to go to a good home, it was from my mom and John, an east coast car: we’d towed it across the country, paid some shady eastern European with a missing thumb two thousand dollars for the tow. There were mice nests in the glove compartment. But we’d toted our kids around West Seattle in it, a freaking tank of a car, indestructible. I was going to donate it for the tax write-off, I told Anton. But if he would buy it and love it, that would be better. Maybe I’d see him again some day and he could help me work on my next car, an old Mercedes.

And I thought about all that driving back by the lake, imagining the Volvo cleaned up and happy, running well, glad it was a Monday, I loved my job, and this week we’d be driving 12 hours to Montana: and I told myself not to be a dick in the car, to be loving and present with my kids, though I’d have to tell myself that again and again.

Photo by Loren Chasse, Waitts Lake, Washington.


Categories: prose

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

20 replies

  1. Heard a great catch phrase… “You’ll see it when you believe it.” Which is another way of saying what Walter said in The Big Lebowski, “if you will it, it is no dream.” Sorry, it’s the recovery side of me talking, and it’s excited cuz it’s never had anything to say before. Anyhoo, enjoy the road trip.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. R.I.P. Shepard. Our generation’s O’Neill. I’ve seen truly spectacular works by him. I’ve also walked out at intermission on a play I didn’t understand and didn’t want to. I think that’s admirable. Daring to put something out that might not work.

    Bon voyage.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. i love the characters spread throughout this one – the shady eastern european missing a thumb, burly guy with no neck, patti smith, dylan, sam shepard – you covered a lot of hallowed ground

    Liked by 1 person

  4. See, I knew that about tires and rust, so point for me.
    I didn’t know Shepard had ALS. No way for anyone to go. I think I told you I was in Cowboy Mouth in university, played the Lobsterman. Seemed pretentious even then. My train of thought with Shepard goes like this. Shepard –> Jessica Langue –> my first serious girlfriend, who was Langue-esque –> still no idea whatever became of her. Is she still Langue-esque? Because Langue still is.
    Don’t be a dick.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good advice, not being a duck. Or a dick. I forgot you were in cowboy mouth, how funny. I owe that record a spin, it’s real magic. You knew that about the tire and the rust because you’re older than me. You’ve learned and seen more. I’m catching up though….

      Liked by 1 person

  5. First, I hate to think of leaks as being metaphors for old age. I’m getting up there, but I don’t have any leaks yet, knock on wood. All seals intact.

    Second, thinking of Shepard, I remember being on a panel of three authors with his son, Jesse, whose short story collection, Jubilee King, had just come out. He had a ranch near Santa Rosa and seemed like a real down-to-earth, quiet fellow. His stories made me wonder if he was trying to emulate his father, but as far as I know that was his only book. He probably liked ranching better than writing, all in all.

    I liked the idea that I was now two degrees of separation from Sam. And Jessica.

    Have a great time in Montana. That seems like a Shepardian kind of place to remember him by.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Splendid sentiment and story Kevin, thank you. I owe you a reply to your mail- in essence, sounds great, though timing is going to slip. I can’t stop just enjoying summer. Had my mom with us for a month and was hard to focus myself on writing. But trying to get back in the groove here. Downloaded your book to Kindle too. Hope your time with your mom was good and will catch you on the flip side as they say. Bill

      Liked by 1 person

  6. That’s funny. I dropped a ageing Volvo into a recent piece on early Floyd. Guess they’ve become some mythic symbol for solid, unassuming longevity. Which is not such a bad thing to aim for, eh?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think I caught that ref. I just drove around the small, aggressively white town of Coeur d’Alene Idaho now looking for a starbucks and too stubborn to “map it.” Played an early Floyd cd comp my friend made me. Thought it best before the others on our road trip were in the car with me. “Stay” (and help me to end the day).

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Hope it gets all sorted and the Volvo steers back to life. I know how things can get a bit upside down when you rely on a car. The lack of it is tough like in my life. I am yet to learn driving and need to pull the socks.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ha, nice to hear from you again Vishal and thanks for your warm wishes! I just got a message from a guy who wants to buy it and I would like to give it to a good home, as we say here. Your comment was good timing, thank you for it! And best to you and yours. Bill


  8. Yes, no leaks here, thank god, though I’ve seen it happen in others. The leaks in mind and body – not good. Good car a Volvo – very safe, very solid. Love the idea of it having a new lease of life, maybe carrying the mouse nests with it, the essence of one thumbed Europeans too.
    And having to remind yourself to be present with the kids, not to be a dick? I get that. So easy to slip into Dickdom.
    Hope the trip’s gone well. Keep enjoying that summer before it too leaks away 🙂


    • Hi Lynn, greetings from Dickdom — that’s well put. Very well! Thanks for this, as always good to hear from you. Merry times. Looking forward to getting back into some kind of rhythm here with the reading and writing and conversing. Hope you’re settling nicely into your new home. Bill

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hi Bill. Back from your travels, then? Yes, settling in nicely, thanks, though combating a summer that seems determined to be largely rainy, nothing new there I guess. All the best


  9. Hello. Hello out there! Hope you’re ready for the eclipse/ apocalypse? At least you don’t have crazy critters in your neighborhood! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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