Sunday, July 19, 2009


I have one friend who likes to say “no” when we are out with Squawkers and someone asks the usual question. Is he real? She grows anxious, seeing someone step out of the way of his not really powerful beak, or hesitate starting up the car for fear of startling him. Another friend once mispronounced the word Karaoke, and is now afraid to say it. Today, we are seeing off two other friends on a road trip to the Northwest in a Flying Green Pea. Doodles serves shrimp and grits and beignets and French press coffee, but that isn’t what I have ordered. The place fills up fast with people and noise, and when I have finished my huevos rancheros and fruit cup, I’m ready to go.

This building used to be a filling station. The hand dryer in the restroom (you have to go outside to get there) blows harder air than expected, and I spend a few seconds letting it whistle through my fingers. The tune it plays is Refrigerator Door. Two of the people with me will know at least some of the words. Staying put is a talent we share. Then I am back at the table, and her father comes in and we haven’t spoken, not once, since the thing I did (bad) years ago. Hadn’t I just mentioned…no. Something else. Something else like it. Remember.

Sometimes, driving in hard rain, the old lines show through clearer than the new. I turn off the radio, slow way down, and promise myself I’ll replace the windshield wipers soon. Once I drove with windows so fogged, I could see nothing. I should not have had a license, I always thought that, but my father was insistent. He taught me how to watch for other people, always on the verge of making a terrible mistake. He taught me how to fill the car with gas, at the Shell on Harrodsburg Road. For several years, I bought all my gas there. Returning to the south side of town from wherever I noticed the tank was low, I knew it was not that different from the others, but I needed to be sure.

I never gassed up here. I think it was a Marathon. The Shell on Harrodsburg Road was safe like the second table by the window at Wendy’s and the back row left end seat at the movies, where I had to arrive 45 minutes early to be sure of not being displaced. I depend less on such assurances now. I go where I want to go, almost forgetting the many times I made it as far as the door of a business before returning home. Melodies and pictures still assemble themselves from whatever sounds and lines are available, but I am not afraid. No more or less than an unexpected squawk, these are a part of me, a way of making order. The harsh judgments of self and others, these are the lines that no longer apply. This is what I’m thinking as I stand in the parking lot at Doodles, and people begin to approach me with the question.

One of them has made a bet with her companion. He is still inside, eating. This time, my friend doesn’t say it. Someone else says something different. I see that the script will be improvised, the words on the screen in front of me are shifting. The woman points at Squawkers as he watches through the window, and shakes her head back and forth gleefully. She’s wins.

Across the parking lot are two identical cars, side by side. The license plate numbers reveal no discernible relationship. I notice the hubcaps are different. Relax a little. Overnight, magically, one time a cookie with a jack-o-lantern face turned into a cookie with a ghost. My younger brother pointed out the obvious: there must have been two. That was how I knew. I was going to be okay.


  1. Awesome. Thank you!

  2. "The Shell on Harrodsburg Road was safe like the second table by the window at Wendy’s and the back row left end seat at the movies, where I had to arrive 45 minutes early to be sure of not being displaced."

    My (Aspie) husband does exactly the same thing. We are either first in line for tickets or we don't go. I don't completely understand, but it's not such a big deal in the grand scheme of things. Some of the things I do are a mystery to him, too.

    I like the stream of consciousness feel of this story. Keep writing!

  3. Thank you so much for this. This is going on my fridge, in my car, in my bag, and to our extended family.

    I have a lot to learn and I appreciate your voice.

  4. Thanks, Anon! I like writing this kind of reflection. I don't get a lot of comments on these, I don't think they are what most of my regular readers enjoy. I appreciate the feedback, and am glad this was useful to you. (You aren't the owner of Doodles, are you?)

  5. Myself and Flickablankie (my ancient plushie unicorn with no eyes who goes everywhere with me) appreciate this post most muchly. We like things to stay the same and will go to one place out of the way rather than a closer place that is different.

    And we like that, for us, the word verification thingie is readable. (We cannot use auditory ones due to processing issues, but many visual ones are too difficult to understand with our vision issues).


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