jumpingfish
 Saturday, August 30, 2003

He Was Gonna Smoke 'Em

I'd seen them before: lean, fit, fast. They aren't in our running group, but they seem to run the same routes. They were out there today. Two women and a man.

At the dry cleaner's I briefly caught up with them. They had stopped to drink from the hose that we all depend on whenever we run that route. The women were waiting for the man who was still drinking.

When he finished, he handed the hose to me and went to join the other two who had started to walk without him. When he came up behind them, he began jogging and said as he passed them by, I'm gonna smoke you, ladies. They started up the hill and ran out of sight.

I took a long drink from the hose and handed it on to the next in line. Then I walked to the street, started up the hill, and left that oasis behind.

From the road, I could see the other three at the top of the hill. The women had passed the man. He was gonna smoke 'em.

When I got to the top, I could see the three climbing the next hill. The women were 20 yards ahead of the man. He was gonna smoke 'em.

From the top of that hill, I could see them again. The women had a 50 yard lead, and he didn't look to be enjoying the run. He was gonna smoke 'em.

And from the crest of the last hill I could see the women far ahead turning the corner for the final straight away. The man was nowhere near them.

He didn't smoke 'em, after all.


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 Friday, August 29, 2003

Afternoon on the Lake

Voices echoing from the beach across the water. Two boys diving off the raft beyond the dropoff. The sound of a fly buzzing by. Two legs draped over the edge of a hammock strung between two large pine tree trunks. The dance of sunlight on the ground. The gentle rustling of leaves. Dogs sleeping in the back. A kitten hiding under the deck. Humming birds flitting overhead. Bluejays calling in the distance.

Sleepy eyes. Sleepy mind. Is it time for a nap?


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 Thursday, August 28, 2003

A Heron Flew

A heron flew into view over the oak and pine and silver-bottomed maples down by the water's edge. Beyond the mist-shrouded canopy, it glided gracefully over the lake and turned to the swamp on the northern shore and disappeared into the reeds.

---
Half-Mile Lake, Gowen MI, summer 2003


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 Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Time to Run

It is time to run, but with this warm-cool air and the sun on the beach and the boys diving off the raft anchored in the deep water, with barely a breeze coming off the water and the dark lake inviting from the bottom of the hill, with this feeling of sleepiness upon me and the leaves periodically rustling gently overhead, I wish it were not.


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 Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Celebrating Mars

Last night (Or was it the night before?), we walked out into the street and gazed at Mars together. We didn't stand there long. It was hot and muggy, and we were both very tired. Still we were out there for a while.

Tonite, as it comes close to its nearest approach, I saw it again as I turned the corner walking the dog. But when I got home, I didn't take her by the hand or pull her outside.

Instead, tonite, as Mars comes near to its closest approach, we sat inside and ate fried chicken and had watermelon for desert. You might say it was a celebration, I guess.


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 Friday, August 22, 2003

This View

I come here often. I frequent this place regularly. And in spite of that, I never tire of this view.

It's not as if the scene changes much from day to day. There's not much different today from yesterday, or much from the day before. Yet I never tire of the view.

Great pine boles shooting skyward. Maple trees with silver bottomed leaves shimmering in the forest light. Oak trees hiding amid the others. And the two beech trees sneaking slowly up to the sky in the undergrowth where a big maple tree fell many winters ago.

I never tire of this view.


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 Thursday, August 21, 2003

Two Brothers

Two brothers standing at the sink where they've stood many times before. Two brothers standing washing forks and spoons and plates and bowls all covered in blueberry pie.

One brother brings dishes in and stacks them by the other's side. Then he goes back outside for more. This one is in a hurry.

The other works more slowly, rinsing most of the plates and bowls before setting them into his carefully tended suds, drying each glass, drying each dish, taking his time. This one is in no rush.

There is, after all, plenty of time. There is still much daylight left. And there will be enough time to watch the sun set and even enough to listen to taps from a silhouetted musician at the end of the dock.

But the first brother doesn't see it so. His rambunctious three kids are waiting outside: one in a hammock wanting to swing, one running around with a bottle in hand, and one in a life jacket waiting for her daddy to row her around the lake, which he will.

So whereas the second brother is in no rush and is content to take his time, the first finds this time-taking an obstacle of sorts. And he takes the stacked plates covered in blue blueberry juice, and he dumps them into his brother's clean water. He dumps them there, and in the blink of an eye he washes them and rinses them and stacks them to dry.

And then he walks away.


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 Wednesday, August 20, 2003

A Few Things

As the sun glints off the waves and a wind blows down from the northwest and the dappled shade dances on the sandy lawn, there are a few things I had planned to write about.

There are a few things I had planned to write about, but I can't seem to remember what they were.

So perhaps, as the sun glints off the waves and the wind blows down from the northwest and the dappled shade dances on the sandy lawn, perhaps those things will come to me.

We'll just see.

---
Half-Mile Lake, Gowen MI


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 Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Seeing Mike

We had tried this once before. It was summer. We were driving north and figured we'd come into town. We walked around campus a bit; explored some buildings; scribbled on chalkboards; walked along cool, empty halls; walked in the grass.

We knocked on Mike's office door that time, too. But it was summer. It was Sunday. And not surprisingly he was not there.

This time, although it was summer again, we had started our trip late and stopped often along the way. This time it was Monday. So as we pulled the heavy glass doors that I used to pull more than 20 years ago, and as we climbed the stairs, and as we walked down the hall to where Mike's office was, I thought we might get lucky.

The sign on his door encouraged interruption, as it always did.

I knocked.

Come in, came a voice from the other side of the door.

I pushed the door open, and there he was, sitting back in his chair talking to a student. He looked the same as he did more than 20 years ago.

May I help you? he asked.

Well, I am David Hasan ..., I started. It had, after all, been more than 20 years ago.

But the look on his face then stopped me short. A broad smile burst across his face. And he gasped. And he jumped out of his chair. And he came to the door where I stood. And he held out his arms and gave me a hug.

It was a great class that semester, those three semesters, more than 20 years ago, and he evidently remembered them as fondly as I.

---
University of Illinois, Urbana IL


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 Saturday, August 16, 2003

There's Water

The morning run was short. The air was cool even after the sun came up, and the sky was blue, and the grass and trees were green after the rains of a few days before.

He stepped into the shower with a smile on his face, a good way to start a Saturday. He sang to himself as he shampooed his hair. His wife came into the bathroom.

Oh! she exclaimed. Oh, the water!

He mumbled, What?

The water. There's water. Everywhere.

What? he said again, rinsing the shampoo out of his eyes so he could see what she was talking about.

The water. There's water. Where's it coming from!? Oh!

The sink. It was the sink. It was full, and water was flowing over the edge and running down the cabinets onto the floor.

He had put his running shirt in the sink to rinse the blood stains away, and he left the water running. He left the water running in the sink and walked away! He walked away from the running faucet and never thought about it again -- until she walked in and said, Oh!

So it begins.


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 Friday, August 15, 2003

Yesterday and Today

Yesterday -- or was it the day before? -- we gathered inside. We gathered inside that little cottage on the hill just after arriving late. They waited for us, and we talked for a while inside. Late yesterday.

That's right. It was Monday night, because it was the night we arrived late. Yesterday it was. Late. That is right, isn't it? That was the night we got here, right? Yesterday?

So anyway...

Yesterday night, the night we got here, we gathered inside with those who stayed up late waiting for us and we talked and laughed and smiled wide smiles. Last night we did that. Late. And then one by one we went to bed. Yesterday. Late last night.

And now it's the next day. Today. It's a new day, and the air is cool up here on the hill.


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 Thursday, August 14, 2003

Inside Tour

The students were mostly gone, summer session done. The grass and the trees were catching their breath from the tramplings they'd grown used to. The sky was blue, but the air was cool, a welcome break for four travellers having just escaped the blistering heat of Texas.

The four of them -- a man, a woman, and two boys -- parked their car north of Green and walked along the bike lanes to the central campus several blocks to the south. It was full sun, but they marvelled at the temperature.

They wandered thru Altgeld Hall with its cool mosaic floors, low ceilings, hidden stairways, and empty basement classrooms with casement windows peering out onto the sunny summer day. They climbed the stacks of the Mathematics Library, where the man showed them the very spot where he discovered Lanczos and marvelled that he could understand it. And the man pulled old tomes from the shelves and showed them to the boys.

Look! This one's in German.

Look! This one's in Italian.

Look! This one's in Dutch.

Sometimes they looked. Sometimes he turned to find them gone, exploring the dark corners and cubicles themselves.

They walked across the greening quad, and the man talked about playing frisbee among the teeming hoards of students sitting on the grass. He told them about Chemistry here and English there. And they went to see the Morrow Plots and the underground undergrad library and the real library next door, where the card catalogs still stand looking lonely beside the rows of computer screens.

Walking again on the quad, they passed a crowd of kids on a tour led by a woman walking backwards talking to them, talking to the children who didn't seem to be listening at all. There were a lot of them: a lot for the poor guy at the end to try to keep corralled, a lot to not be listening.

And as the man and the woman and the two boys passed those kids, one of the two boys seemed to notice that those kids weren't listening.

Well, he announced after the crowd has passed, they don't have their dad to give them an inside tour.

The dad smiled.

---
University of Illinois, Urbana IL


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 Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Summer Night in St. Louis

They ran from under the stainless steel arch to the top of the hill, soft grass under their feet, night sky overhead, the spot-lit dome of the old capitol shining in the distance behind them.

They ran up and their silhouettes stood at the top, one jumping with arms upraised, another collapsed onto the ground from his sprint to the finish. A third stood still against the light.

Then they ran back down. And when they arrived, when they were back at the place in the grass where they had left their shoes and frisbees and other things, the tiny slits of window light high at the top of the arch went dark, and the spot lights came on.

First one. Then another. Then another and another, until dozens of beams shot at slanting angles thru the dark, and the steel skin of the arch burst into white flame against the summer night sky.

---
Gateway Arch, St. Louis MO


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 Tuesday, August 12, 2003

Gameboys Off

From the front seat I announced an hour and a half until Gameboys off. A threat of sorts it may have seemed, but a promise is what I intended. Play a game of cards, I thought. Read while the sun is up. Or better yet, look out the window!

Only 30 minutes have passed since then. Just moments a ago the two machines went click. They set them aside, and Ben made an announcement of his own.

We're turning the Gameboys off now, Dad. Before you can tell us to.

He seemed to take some pride in that.

And now they are wedged into their respective pillows in the back, asleep or at least trying to be.

So much for the looking out the window idea.

---
Northbound somewhere in the Ozarks


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 Monday, August 11, 2003

Push-Ups

They come and go. Drenched with sweat, always looking rushed and like they can't quite fit the whole day in their days, they come up with their baby joggers, let their toddlers toddle around a while, and the rush them back into their seats and jog off. You can almost see the daytimers in their heads: jogging ... check.

Ok. It's time to go, they say, just as the toddlers have begun to take in this scene of runners coming and going, sitting and standing, drinking and stretching, talking and staring. Just as the kids begin to focus again amid this blur of unfamiliar people doing unfamiliar things in an unfamiliar place, their parents decide it's time to go. The kids are only along for the ride.

Had enough to drink? It's time to go.

Time for dinner now.

Up in the stroller you go.

Snap.

...

Those two don't look quite right. They look too relaxed. Their shoulders aren't tense. I haven't seen them glance at their watches recently. They don't see to be checking boxes in their mental daytimers. And while their boy walks around agog at the people all about him, they are just standing still, content to let him roam.

Do you want to stay a while? the boy's dad asks.

He jumps up and down.

Try some push ups! his mom says.

The boy jumps up and down some more and turns a full circle again taking in everything he can see: the runners, the pigeons, the dogs on leashes, the drinking fountains and outdoor shower, the plastic jugs of Gatorade. Then he looks at his parents and jumps up and down again.

They just smile. They're not in a rush to go anywhere.

Do some push ups. Up-down-up-down!

The boy jumps up and down. He clearly wants to do push ups, but he's equally clearly shy. His dad sits down on the ground near him. The boy sits down, too.

Look, his dad says, assuming a push-up position. Up-down. Up-down.

The boy assumes the same position and does a remarkable job. Up-down. Up-down.

And when that's done, they go and stretch their legs on a stretching post. The boy smiles widely with a grin from ear to ear.

The dad stands back and watches and waits. The mom stands back and watches and waits. They're not in a hurry. The little boy has all the time in the world. He is a very lucky little boy.

---
Town Lake Trail Stretching Area, Austin TX


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 Sunday, August 10, 2003

They Paddled Back

They paddled quietly back from the shallows on the western shore. They left behind the lily pads in the gathering gloom by the eaves of the woods where the oaks and maples and pines meet the cattails at the water's edge.

They paddled out into the deep water. And overhead a Great Blue Heron passed them by.

---
Half-Mile Lake, Gowen MI


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 Saturday, August 9, 2003

An Unexpected Gift

When they started, it was dark. The colored lights of the buildings downtown shined brightly and reflected in the still water of Town Lake as they ran along the empty trails.

By the time they finished the five mile warmup loop and found themselves back were they started, the dark had given way to dawn had given way to day, and the trails were no longer empty.

Some of them ran 10. Some 16. Some 18. And a few 20, but this group was small, and most of them were quick, having long since left him in the dust. He ran the 20 miles mostly alone.

At the start, there was RunTex Gatorade. At the boat dock, there was water. On the overlook at the top of Scenic Loop there was more in another blue RunTex jug, and it was cold. At the lady's house at the corner of Balcones and Mt. Bonnell, there was another blue jug of Gatorade, set at the curb by the coach in the wee hours before they began.

And that was it. After the Gatorade at that corner, it was gas stations and grocery stores. And he didn't bring money, so it looked like it'd just be water for him the rest of the way -- only water with 10 miles to go. He figured it would be ok.

But he figured wrong.

Somewhere along Shoal Creek, things started to go bad. Not his legs. Certainly not his lungs. But every five minutes or so, his body slowed to a walk, and he had nothing to do with it. It was his starving brain run amuck, and he had 8 miles or so to go. It was going to be a bad day.

He began scheming in his mind as he ran then walked then ran again. Perhaps a hidden gas station along the road, perhaps an unexpected grocery store, but he didn't have money. Or perhaps Steve and Melody would be up and he could beg for orange juice -- heck even a coke at this point, anything for carbs. He needed to feed his brain to put the pieces back together again.

At 45th street he slowed to a walked for the tenth time or so. By that point, he was resigned to it. So he just walked to the light; there was nothing else to do. Besides, his hope for orange juice was only 10 blocks away.

And then it happened.

As he crossed the street and slowly raised his eyes to the road ahead, angelic voices sang from on high. A golden ray of sunshine slanted thru the trees, landing on the ground across the street where a glorious sight appeared.

There on the corner of Shoal Creek and 45th sitting at the curb, was a blue jug with RunTex stenciled across it in black. And clean paper cups.

He gasped out loud and crossed the street. The cups were large. He filled his three times. And as he filled the first one, he saw that it was Gatorade. And it was good. He felt like a lone tree in the desert after a storm. He felt like a sponge. And his renegade brain reassembled itself. And his legs began to run again.

He certainly wasn't a pretty sight as he finished those last few miles. But those three gift cups of Gatorade got him home.

---
RunTex Fall Marathon Training Class, Austin TX


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 Friday, August 8, 2003

It Took Too Long

It took too long for the ink to dry. While I sat here holding the pages open, the boys came out of their game room, having mastered whatever magic trick it was they were learning. They came out and got in line for the raspberry and ice cream and angel food cake -- raspberries picked just this morning only a few miles from here.

It took too long for the ink to dry, and I found myself at the end of the line.


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 Thursday, August 7, 2003

Ignorance

We have forgotten the technique of blue stained glass that they used to put in the high rose windows. We cannot make it anymore.

We are forgetting how to save our seeds from one year to the next. Our vegetables are hybridized and genetically modified, and we buy the seeds in little paper packets far from the fields in which they grew.

A fat man stands at a restaurant counter in loose hanging overalls and a red t-shirt with a smoking cigarette in his hand. He looks up at the waitress at the register.

Two Stars-n-Stripes, he says.

She pulls two tickets out of a colorful state lottery machine sitting on the counter between them. He pays her and studies the tickets closely as he leaves.

Look around. Watch the talking heads on TV. Turn on the radio. Listen to what our politicians say, and follow what they do. If ignorance is bliss, this must be paradise.


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 Wednesday, August 6, 2003

Nymph on a Swing

B&J's Restaurant was a tiny square of a building about the size of a Waffle House, set in the middle of an asphalt parking lot with no shade in sight for fifty yards or so.

Across the street, in a neighborhood of small ranch houses with crepe myrtles blooming in their yards and trees showing down shade, a man was moving his lawn in the relative cool of morning, meticulously trimming the grass at the base of an old tree trunk where once a tree grew so large that it must have hung over the street.

B&J's served up heaping plates full of hash browns and buttermilk pancakes and bacon and thick slabs of ham and over-medium eggs. On the ceiling, between the water-stained tiles there were high capacity AC vents, a dozen or more in one tiny glass-enclosed room, suggesting what summer is like in central Oklahoma.

And on the wall above the table where two boys sat struggling to finish the breakfasts they were served, there was a sun-faded poster print of a brown-haired man in a loose tunic and a yellow-haired nymph in a filmy sheet that left little to the imagination. Her head rested on his muscular shoulder.

A woman and a man sat with the boys. Sometimes she leaned her head on his shoulders but not this morning. She stood up, leaving him and the two boys sitting.

It's time to go, she said. I'm getting up to pay.

This is what they don't tell you in pictures like that, the man said to the boys, pointing to the nymph in the swing, smiling at the woman who was making her way to the cash register.

---
B&J's Restaurant, Muskogee OK


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 Tuesday, August 5, 2003

Just Waiting

Sitting around the table eating enchiladas and tacos and sausage migas, Trudy looks over at me and announces with glee, I'm just waiting to remember what I forgot!

Aren't we all!

---
Departing breakfast on the way to Michigan from Austin.


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 Monday, August 4, 2003

A Blueberry Lament

Not a cloud in the sky. Not a wave on the water. Not a whisper of wind in the leaves. The sun is dancing on the treetops in the west.

And there is one lone blueberry lying on the deck in this golden light of afternoon. All the others are long since gone.

---
Half-Mile Lake, Gowen MI, July 2003


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 Sunday, August 3, 2003

Skyline of Cincinnati

Neither Trudy nor Ben wanted to stop. I wanted to and tried to convince them otherwise, but their resolve was firm.

We're not hungry yet, they said.

When you're driving all day, the last meals do eventually blend into the next ones. Even though it had been hours since we last ate (I swear it was hours), it was clearly still too soon for them.

This was our last chance, I tried to explain. We'd just passed over the river and were leaving Cincinnati behind. It was now or never. Last chance for Skyline Chili.

Yet despite these entreaties, they still said no. Then George spoke up from the back seat.

I am kind of hungry, he volunteered in his quiet voice.

You are the man, I said and took the next exit up the hill. You see I kind of figured that as driver my tie-making vote broke the tie it created. I didn't ask for second opinions.

...

In a strip mall near the top of the hill, we parked the car and walked into the restaurant. We sat down and studied the one menu at the table.

I explained to them the intricacies of Skyline Chili: 3-way, 4-way, 5-way. But I left the discussion of cinnamon until after they had begun to eat.

When the food did arrive, they devoured it with glee (even those two who had professed disinterest just minutes before). Then I mentioned the cinnamon when they began asking about the taste. And I wondered out loud at how spicy it was.

Cinnamon wouldn't make it spicy, would it? I asked, looking over at Trudy. She took another bite of her 4-way and shook her head no.

The man in the booth behind us turned around and looked at me.

Did you try the hot sauce?

I picked up the menu looking for a hot sauce option.

No, he said pointing to a bottle on our table. The hot sauce right there. If you drip it on a dirty penny, it'll make it shine.

His kids smiled as I reached into my pocket.

As I dripped a few drops on the penny on the table, he volunteered, There's chocolate in it, too.

No! I exclaimed (quietly). I looked at Trudy. I looked at the boys. I looked back at him. Chocolate!?

...

Later, after we had finished our meals and thoroughly cleaned the penny, I leaned over to the man in the booth.

So were you messing with me ... about the chocolate.

No, he promised.

And he told me of a frat brother friend of his who was from a Greek family and knew the family of the guy who started the chain and somehow knew a few of the ingredients of the secret recipe used to make Skyline Chili.

Chocolate! As if cinnamon wasn't enough.


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