Tag: friends

Our Shared Year of Words (with Variations)

If you need coffee, get it BEFORE you start the timer.
If you need coffee, get it before you start the timer.

On January 1 of last year, Toots and I started a writing game. We’d spent most of New Year’s Eve watching Slings & Arrows, which is not a prerequisite for the game, but it helps.

Players: 2

Materials needed: phones, notebooks or laptops, a timer (see phones)

We could have spent the day watching Season 3, but unspoken between us was the knowledge that watching TV, no matter how good, was not the way we wanted 2015 to start. Django and I walked Toots to the train, and New Years festivities were officially over.

To play:

Either player can start the game. Toss a coin maybe.

After the dog walk, I wanted to lay on the couch and read. Instead, I got my notebook and a timer, and decided to write for 20 minutes, using the word “Frame” as a prompt.

Player 1 chooses a word and texts it to Player 2.

Set your timer for 20 minutes.

Write the word at the top of the page.

Continue writing anything at all until the timer goes off.

When you’re finished, text “Done” to your partner.

When your partner is finished, they text “Done” to you.

After both players have texted “Done,” Player 2 chooses the next day’s word and texts it to you.

When I was finished, I texted Toots to tell her how my new year was going. She liked “Frame” and wrote for 20 minutes too.

“Want to do this again tomorrow” she asked.

“O-okay,” I said.

So she texted me a word for the next day: “Challenge.”

Rules and Advisements:

Wait your turn: Don’t text your partner the next day’s word, even if YOU’RE done, until they’re done too. With the exception of…

Doubling down: If you absolutely cannot write on a given day, you may “Double down” the next day. Text this to your partner, and send or receive the next day’s word. On the next day, write for 20 minutes per word.

Tripling Down: See above. You’re getting into dangerous territory, but it is possible to get back on track. Don’t give up.

On a dog walk yesterday, I lamented to Dave about how much I miss this game. Not that I wasn’t relieved for it to be over – a whole year of doing this has its ups and downs, and it’s nice to be able to freely journal again, without the word “Level” (Jan 22) or “Arriviste” (July 19) or “Cope” (Nov 11) staring at you from the top of the page. But I loved sharing the ups and downs with Toots. And completing 365 days of shared words felt amazing.

Tip:

Set your phone on silent if you don’t like getting texts at 3am.

After listening to me alternately whine about missing the game and celebrate the fact that I never again have to write about “Suppository” (Dec 30), Dave decided that he wanted to play this game. He called a friend who said, “Sure.” They had to double down immediately to catch up to properly start from January 1st, but they’re on track now to do it COMPLETELY WRONG. They’re writing too much. They’re texting each other  every twenty minutes with a new word. I think they’re on like Word 4 and it’s only January third. They’re going to burn out! But I’m keeping my mouth shut. It’s none of my business.

Variations:

Look up the word before setting your timer. Even if it’s a simple word. You might learn something.

Type if you don’t want to write. Any technology is fine.

But why a pencil? Who would write for twenty minutes with a pencil?

On today’s dog walk, Dave told me a bunch of interesting things about “Sewer.” Apparently it’s related to “Sewing” and “Serving,” which connects to “Steward.”

I might choose “Steward” today if I were still playing with Toots. But our game is complete.

Your turn.

Ringing out the old

Meals and Other Information, Red Star Line, 1921
In-flight entertainment, 1921.

All the guests came. Even Press-n-Seal, though she worried that her presence might be more hurtful than supportive. “Not that we serve the same purpose,” she half-apologized as we gathered in the darkened living room, “but if he sees me next to Cling Wrap—”

“He’ll be fine,” Cling asserted.

“I’m not saying there’s a parallel…”

“Of course there’s a parallel,” said Cling. “That’s why I want him looking straight in my eyes when we say ‘Surprise.’”

“Maybe I’ll stand farther back.”

“You’re sticking with me.”

“I don’t want to embarrass him.”

“It will bring him hope. Here’s you all bright and mega-sized, and here’s me. Standing tall. Still in the drawer.”

“Amen,” called Holiday Baggie, fiddling with a lamp near the couch.

“But how often are you out of the drawer,” I wanted to ask. But I’m new here, and although most higher-end kitchens have made a place for my double-sided parchment-foil promise, I haven’t exactly earned bragging rights.

“It’s going to be a great party,” said Aluminum Foil brightly. “Wax Paper is going to be amazed at the new opportunities out there, in crafting alone—”

“Sh-h!” hissed a Twist Tie from the window. “He just parked!”

We all froze in place, and stared at the front door. No one moved. The mantel clock ticked steadily, calmly, the quiet heartbeat of a gentler era, when spaces between seconds lasted a full, round second, when kitchen drawers held three simple things: foil, cling wrap, wax paper.

At last, the jingle of keys, the satisfying hardness of one key going into one lock for which it had been fitted. A turn, and a click, the door opening, figure hunched slightly in the light from the hall, and in all of us—surely the others felt it too?—an instant realization that we were invading, that we had no right, that he should be allowed to leave the drawer in his own way, privately if that’s how he wanted, that he deserved his privacy if nothing else, but suddenly—

“Surprise!”

Holiday Baggie switched on the lamp, and someone else found the too-bright fluorescent ceiling light, starting the fan too though it was the middle of winter, and Wax’s face was flooded with light while his thinning hair ruffled in the breeze.

He gasped, and broke into a shocked smile, which I suspected—something in the eyes—was not truly spontaneous. “Well, for the love of Pete,” he drawled, yes, far too casual to be genuine, “Who let you bums in here?”

Elegy for Zoe

Random pic from a walk last week.
Zoe on a walk last week.

Zoe was discovered at Charlie Trotter’s. She was two and a half, and on display out front at a PAWS adoption event. “She was just watching everyone walk by,” Ruth says tonight, at the emergency vet. Ruth imitates Zoe’s confident tilt of the head. “She was so much furrier than I’d imagined.”

The emergency vet asks if Zoe has ever been here before. “Just once,” Ruth says, “twelve or thirteen years ago.” It’s hard to explain, because the vet is worried about Zoe now, suddenly weak and listless, unable to walk. Can she know how unusual that is for this particular fifteen year-old? Just yesterday she was bounding up the stairs, so inexplicably excited about every next thing she was about to do—get a treat, eat a tennis ball, walk through a doorway.

That first trip here was after one of Elaine’s first walks to the park with Zoe. She was still getting used to this bundle of energy whose name they’d changed from Daisy. The newly named Zoe bounded into the street and a car hit her. The car kept going. Zoe kept going too. Elaine walked her home, in fact, but then the sisters put her in the car and took her to the vet. “She had a little tear on one ear,” Ruth recalled. “Other than that she was fine.”

That would have been around the time Django and I met Elaine, the Katherine Hepburn of Horner Park, with her unruly dog who was so silky and beautiful and always running across the park to eat garbage. Zoe is still silky smooth, and we stroke her head as she lays on the gurney. She has a tumor on her spleen, the vet explains, and it has ruptured. “I think it’s time for you to let her go,” she says.

After the decision is made, the doctor leaves to prepare the injections. Ruth is quiet. Her family and friends try to make sense of this. We try to get Ruth to sit down, to drink some water, but she continues to stand, slight and strong in the middle of the small examination room.

A tech comes in and gently asks if Ruth would like to use the cremation service that the hospital usually works with. “Can you speak louder,” Ruth asks, “I’m hard of hearing.”

“Would you like Zoe to be cremated?” I can’t believe they’re already asking this.

“Yes,” Ruth says.

“And would you like a plaster cast of her paw?”

“A what?”

“We can do a plaster paw print.” I want to explain it in louder terms for Ruth but I can’t quite figure out what he means. Like one of those clay things we used to make of our hands in kindergarten? Would he do it while Zoe is still alive, and would that feel weird to her, sticking her paw in some clay? Or would they do it after, and what would that mean, emotionally?

“No, no,” says Ruth, shaking her head. “How ghoulish.”

We all laugh uncontrollably for too long.

The vet comes back, with two injections. She explains how the first one will relax Zoe, and then the second one will be very quick. “Yes, I know,” says Ruth. “I’ve done this before.” With Jenny, I remember, the dog they had before I met them, the perfect dog whom Zoe can thank for having landed her in their wonderful home.

Jenny probably set them up to think their next dog would also be perfect in time, would stop galloping through life with the energy and curiosity of a puppy, would become a proper adult dog suitable for two elderly ladies, and then for one of them after Katherine Hepburn passed. But if Zoe had aged appropriately, we would not all be there. Dave and I never would have met Ruth, who has become one of our finest friends. Django would not pull to go into Ruth’s gangway on our way to the park. I would not have learned how to throw the ball for Django, throw one treat into Zoe’s mouth, and then have two more treats ready when Django returned, one for her and the other for Zoe, who had completely forgotten she’d just had one a second ago.

Sometimes we’d let Zoe chase the ball too, which never resulted in fights over the ball because Zoe had learned that all she had to do was run in its general direction, dip her head slightly, and then run back and sit, and the treat would appear.

The vet does the first injection, and then the second. Zoe’s eyes close, and she goes quiet. “She’s passed,” says the vet, and then leans over to Ruth. “I’m very sorry for your loss.”

“Thank you,” says Ruth. She gathers her purse and the folder of paperwork. It’s less than two hours since she called, “I’m sorry to bother you, dear, but Zoe is on the back porch and she can’t seem to move.” Fifteen years and eight months is the age on the paperwork. From Charlie Trotters to a beautiful home to a ride in a Lexus to the emergency vet to a couple of shots and many tears. So sudden. So long. Good dog.

Found.

In Madison, this might be considered a clue.
In Madison, this might be considered a clue.

When Ruby saw her car again, the first thing she wanted to do was vacuum it. Also scrub and Armor All every surface, “erase the hell out of the bad ju-ju,” she said. But first she had to get it out of the impound lot and back to Wisconsin.

The CRV had been found on Medill and Belden, parked in front of a fire hydrant with a note on the windshield, and towed to the impound lot near Humboldt Park. At about 11PM on Sunday night, a week and a day after it had disappeared, Ruby and Roy got a message on their answering machine—a real, actual answering machine down on the dining room desk that you can hear from upstairs in the bedroom—from the Chicago Police. “Your car has been found. Call 9-1-1.”

911? Really? Okay.

During that week and a day, they’d bought another CRV, which oddly was missing headrests but also oddly Ruby had taken the headrests out of the old CRV the day of her trip, so they were still in the garage. Same upholstery too, so they fit perfectly in the new one.

A week ago, Ruby had decided not to fly or rent a car to get to the pig roast, but instead took an Amtrak home and then on pig roast night went to see some other friends of Slim’s and they all had a bonfire. She had adjusted. She’d emailed during the week to tell about the new CRV with 100,000 fewer miles on it, and the headrests, and the email chain agreed that it was serendipitous, and now the only real acknowledged drag was that they’d lost certain custom mix CDs that were irreplaceable.

But then they got the call, prompting joy and celebration—it’s been found! Which turned into a huge hassle of phone calls and arrangements—it’s been found and now we have to deal with it.

I have this picture in my head of how it should be when the police find your stolen car. Sargent Kielbasa calls and says, “Eh, we got yer car here,” and you drive over, and the sarge is waiting with a half-smile on her face, a little annoyed at you with being so gullible as to have left your car outside somewhere in the city of Chicago, where it could be picked up by any stranger with a master key, but whaddayou know, you’re from Wisconsin where people leave their cars outside all the time, sometimes not even locked!

She has to admit, she kinda loves your gullibility, your faith in basic human goodwill, your promptness in showing up after a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Madison, rain all the way, and how you don’t even complain about how you had to take off work for this. You’re good people. You are the reason this thankless police job is kinda worth it, she has to admit. Hell, she opens the driver’s side door for you, and shrugs modesty as you exclaim, “The garage door remote is still here! And our CDs! And the maps in the glove compartment!”

She loves that there are people who still use maps.

She points to how the rear seats are folded down and enjoys your confusion at seeing dirt and a couple of landscaping pavers back there. Sometimes people steal cars in Chicago not for a joy ride or the chop shop, but because they need to haul something for a job. “People do what they gotta do in this town,” she observes, and heads back to her cruiser after making sure you know how to get back on the highway in the cheesehead direction. Just another day in the city that never sleeps except when it’s sleeping.

What really happened is that Sargent Kielbasa gave Ruby the address of the impound lot and hung up. Ruby and Roy got there as the rain slowed, and found the trailer where business is conducted, and waited among several unhappy people whose cars had been towed for various reasons, and when their turn came paid hundreds of dollars to get it released. How does it make sense that you have to pay money after your car gets stolen?

The car was marked up on all windows with wax penciled numbers. “You should have brought Windex,” I joked. “I did,” she said. “It had to be scraped with a razor.”

A van drove them out to the general location and they hunted it down. They then drove it through two and a half more hours of rain back to Madison. When they got there, Ruby parked it in the garage and started vacuuming.