executive branch in a nation of one
Friday, September 12, 2003
Two strange days:
I had announced to my landlady that I'd be away for the weekend, so she arranged to have the water-damaged ceiling repaired. What that meant in practical terms was that, when I changed plans and returned after work Thursday evening, the main room of my apartment had been hit by World War 3. Shredded sheetrock and tools strewn about, most of my furniture herded into the little bedroom. I quickly gathered my things for the weekend and drove to my parents' house, which similar catastrophe had befallen, more or less.
Mom, in advance of my folks' pending move to a smaller house, had declared war on pretty much any object she could have us carry up or down stairs, and had thus marked damn near everything for sale. The accumulated history of a household, priced to move. In the kitchen, a bustling group of Mom's friends marked and tallied and made small talk. I arrive like the refugee I am. Ravenous, I gobble a slice and a half of tepid pizza, grab a beer, and cast about for an unoccupied chair.
I trade messages with my realtor, concluding with disgust that my offer isn't getting anywhere and will have to be pulled. Janis, arrived from Connecticut to help out, is asleep on the porch beneath a mound of clothes like a hibernating animal. The house is about ten degrees cooler than any reasonable habitat should be. Finally, everyone leaves; we attempt to persuade yipping Katie to poop outside like a normal dog, but fail. I take over Bill's room; a friend of Mom is coming by in the morning to pick up Bill's bed for her daughter, so this is the last hurrah for houseguests. I volunteer to sleep on the floor if it's going to blow the sale; everyone giggles, but no one thinks this is terribly far-fetched.
Fitful night's sleep in a bed sold out from under me, then, and Friday morning I'm late for breakfast with Marty, the frigid news that Johnny Cash has died, and I'm the last man in America to file his taxes, although this time Caesar gets to render unto me. Dad and I having wisely determined that not being around for the sale is of paramount importance, we get organized by mid-morning for our drive to Stonington. On the way we buy a firearm. There is, I can assure you, absolutely no way to carry a shotgun around inconspicuously in broad daylight. It can't be done.
It's only two weeks past Labor Day, but despite splendid weather Stonington has already gone into winter mode. They've torn down most of the remaining husk of the burnt mill and poured footings for the renovation. The rest of the place is near-deserted.
I had promised Dad I'd head out on the boat with him at least once before the end of the season. Tropical Storm Henri has lost most of its strength over the ocean, but its ripple was spreading north and it was supposed to pour all weekend, so our only real shot was today. The wind is stiffer than we'd like, the flag snapping crazily, but we decide we'll at least trawl out to the point under power. We pass what's left of the mill. As we near the point, we begin catching swells, so we wheel around, and as we near our mooring the balky motor gives up. We drift in a dizzy flat spin, hundreds of yards downcurrent, stave off nearby boats, get the motor going again, and then the propeller spins free of the shaft. We're totally stranded; we drift along further, catch hold of the nearest boat and anchor ourselves to it in desperation. We scowl, curse, keep the two boats from destroying each other, call sheepishly for a tow, regain dry land and write this one off as a well-intentioned failure.
Afterwards we return to the house and head for the roof. The sunset is muted, but the sky is as close to paradise as I've ever seen, white and purple and ten shades of majestic blue. The clouds are cast in massive whorls by the remains of Henri, cut by evening contrails. Knots of dark birds swirl over the water, like debris in a frozen whirlwind, swooping for fish. The wind thickens. Later, some time after dark, the sky will settle, and then the rains will come.
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