Geyser Life

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        I awoke to the sound of chainsaws. That’s how Tuesday started. It was the day I found out about Grant, and the men across the street were already cutting down the wrong trees.

        At 7:15 the newspaper discovered that I was among the missing and, as that was my place of employment, they decided to call. The phone rang and rang on the second-floor landing, but I stayed in bed, listening to those voices out on Lexington Street arguing in loud Italian over the rumble of idling machinery. My housemates were already at work, and in spite of myself, I continued to count the rings. When the toll reached nine, I went down and answered the phone. Across the street, out in the fog, I watched as a father and two sons stood beside a half-destroyed white oak. Their meaty arms flashed through the gray and warming air.

        Maris, my boss, sounded as though he’d been awake for weeks. He asked in a practiced way why I wasn’t at my desk an hour ago, particularly on a day when they were short bodies. The morning was already getting a zooey feel to it, he told me. Maris could be a sly cerebral comedian, one of those people whose jokes you don’t get just at first, yet in reality he was the paper’s metro editor, and most likely a lifer.

        Back in my room I hauled my blue-striped button-down, the one with the black tie already knotted and threaded under the collar, out from the closet’s dark side. I ran downstairs, trying to remember if my cordless shaver had enough zap left in it for one more twenty-seven mile Belmont-to-Lawrence commute. Out in the driveway, I did a final button-zipper check before starting my bumperless, tank-green Karmann Ghia and backing away into the gloom.

        On the way up to work, everything seemed out of synch. For instance, none of my favorite incoming commuters were waiting for me at the Route 16 lights. I had already missed the cute and dangerous-looking woman in the Horizon who always appeared flustered but pleased when I waved at her. The runner in the Boston Globe T-shirt wasn’t by his normal spot in front of the U-Haul Self-Storage place. I began shaving anyway, a driving habit that Claire, my newly lost love, always thought weird. Then I buzzed up the I-93 ramp, scooting under the sign for SALEM N.H - LAWRENCE and on past the General Foods plant with its forest of steaming pipes that two afternoons a week make the universe smell like raspberry Jell-O. My paint-flecked boom box was running off the lighter because someone had pried the radio out of my dash again. The boom box was tuned to BCN and when I turned it on, for some reason the thing burped into Norman Greenbaum’s “Spirit in the Sky.”  That song has always annoyed me. Even before the lyrics started I couldn’t get them out of my head. How is it that certain things can go directly to long-term memory? Within minutes I was passing tractor-trailers far too quickly and wishing that I were someone else.        

Copyright (c) 1996 by Edward Hardy