Three Short Things (In Progress)

Time for an in-progress post! If you have a strong opinion on which one I should continue, leave it in the comment section!

The Airedales, Sailor and Caesar, were descendants of show dogs with black and caramel hair that kinked close to their skin like the wooly surface of every rug in every basement rec room I have ever seen. The grace of their parents, who lay in feather beds beneath the mantle of Kennel Club trophies, was confined to their ability to catch the far leaping cave crickets that dwelled in the basement. I witnessed Sailor and Caesar team up against the pests and use each other as tables to balance their front paws, lift themselves in the air to catch a cricket in mid leap. Like two friends playing leapfrog, but with more accuracy and patience. Their old, regal parents would later be burned to ash, held in Faberge style urns that glittered beside the golden trophies, holding up the photos of normal looking dogs with winsome coats playing in the yard.

I close my eyes and see a flock of birds. If I close them again, will I see the same flock of birds? Will I see the same number of birds? The image in my head is neither fixed nor fluid, it is the same image yet I do not trust it not to change. I close my eyes again and again, seeing the same flock of birds and seeing a different flock each time, start off in the bare winter tree and take off to the right against the cloudy sky, the faintest color of lavender.

A tongue came through town with a traveling parade of spectacles. Gypsies, my mother scoffed and waved at the word like it were a bird come in through the flue. She wiped the sweat off her temple with the butt of her palm and told me to go if I really wanted to. The heat stuck on her skin and lingered in the air of the house, where the smells of our combined sweat held still in the windless summer. I could still hear the kitchen radio as I left our yard to see the tongue: And over the course of several days, we had collected thousands of rattlesnakes, weighing together about a ton. Take this moment to imagine what that sounds like—one ton of angry rattlesnakes all writing together in our bags. The program faded into a rattling static as a cloud moved to cover the sky.The gypsies brought wagons and tents made of rich cloth, designed in busy cosmic patterns and repeating images of naked women. We had heard the main attraction was not the great tusks of the fabled white elephant, nor the woman who could play a violin with so much heartbreak, the instrument itself wept. None came to see these as much as they came for a tongue, about six inches long, floating in a glass mouth. Although the show had only just arrived in town, the ground was worn with dusty paths and trails leading up to the tents. The grass flattened out beneath each ware-scattered rug, lit by lanterns shaped like stars. Women in loose skirts lifted up handfuls of brass figures bearing the image of a god I did not recognize. Men lounged against their tired dogs in the midmorning heat, each one giving off the distinct odor of oranges and tobacco. I followed the worn trail to the tent of the tongue and fell into the long line of hopeful observers. The jar was designed for the attraction by the glassblowing widows several towns over, who treated the material with love and ease so that the mouth-shaped jar, as it emerged from the hot flames, blew a kiss. The widows, their lives independent of crushing male rule, melted like the heated glass when it expressed to them this kind of love. Beyond the charm and whimsy of the jar, the story of the tongue itself was what captivated the audience. It belonged to a sailor of the seas, a lover of women and treasure alike. On a meeting with a Persian lord, the sailor let slip some snide observation and had this most vital muscle of the mouth taken clean out with his own blade. At the base of the muscle, I looked so close I thought I could see the ripped edges where the knife, at one time the sharpest blade in the boat, was perhaps neglected for several days and had gone a bit dull. Gone were the days—I heard outside the tent by the traveling story tellers—of the swarthy sailor’s charm, his tricks, and his humor. His favorite way to please women was through that vital instrument, whether through serenading tales of treasure and adventure or as he dove to part the hair between their legs and lick as if extracting honey from a freshly baked roll. Gone were his feasts of fish—bones and all—the ink-stained potato and squid in tough bows of pasta. The lord that stole his tongue removed not only the cruelties a man could do with just one muscle, but he stole the essence of the man with it. No more would it spit in the eyes of his crew. No longer would it curl around crystals of salt on the posts once the ocean spray had dried. No more would it mutter in the dark the early childhood songs from school, oh which weather would you rather skip along to my dear? We could bury the day or we could run away together through rain or through sun, as the boat rocked and daybreak was a skid in the heavy ocean clouds. I stared at the muscle, looking tip to base as close as I could to try and see beyond the tongue, into the language of the sailor—foreign to my own, into the warm wet crevasses of a woman’s sex—also unknown to me. I wanted to walk barefoot up and down the tongue until I understood exactly the taste of something sweet after tasting the salt of the ocean for so long. I wanted to feel the surprise of my wit in a room full of men, who laugh and slap me on the back and spit out their drinks on the table. I wanted to feel the dense flattening of those muscles beyond my teeth when someone told me I could not have what I arrived for, and taste the irony specks of blood that came from inside my mouth when I took a bite to the cheek. Indeed, the man lost everything. I paid to see the spectacle over and over. Every time I got back in line, I fidgeted and inched until I was back in front, facing the tongue, absorbed in its wonderment, until I was nudged aside by the people behind me, waiting their turn to understand what kind of dishonor would cause a person to lose this important tool.

My Favorite Men are Feminists: A Letter to Tara Kennedy Kline

Dear Tara Kennedy Kline, and anyone including themselves in the feminist vs. anti- feminist debate,

I think sometimes we’re all a little confused. Given the social structures, crossing lines of communication, personal differences, cultural gaps, plethora of definitions, etc, it’s no surprise it’s so difficult for us to classify ourselves as Feminist or Not Feminist. Either and any extreme of a given situation is bound to mirror even the simplest political spectrum. Too far in one direction, your are a reactionary, revolutionary, extremist, etc. Smack dab in the middle makes you a pacifist at best. Slightly off to one side or the other is the opinionated activist, or just opinionated. We need to start to clarify, while at the same time, dismantle the common stereotypes feminists and anti-feminists are associated with. This will not solve the collective identity crisis, but hopefully we can learn to reject labels in favor of an objectively even playing field for all the sexes and gender identities.

In TKK’s article on November 14th 2014, she makes her position very clear in the FvsNF debate: As a mother of two boys, she does not want them to grow up with, nor will she impose, a “feminist agenda”. I don’t have my own children, so I have no room to speak for being a mother, but in a way I kind of understand what she is saying. Every parent wants the best for their children, no doubt, and mostly we want them to be influenced by culture at a rate they can understand and be receptive to it. She states:

“I want my boys to be chivalrous, to open doors and carry heavy loads, to ask a girl out on a date and pay the bill without expecting anything in return. I am encouraging my sons to tell girls when they think those girls look beautiful. I love that my boys want to surprise me (and eventually their partners) with gifts, and the spontaneous hug or peck on the cheek from time to time to show their love.

But, the latest campaigns by the feminist movement are telling boys they are wrong if they do these things, or anything else that would make a girl feel stereotypically “girly,” or my sons to act stereotypically “gentleman-like.” The FCKH8 Campaign would have girls tell my sons to “fuck off” if they called them pretty or reached for their hand without permission.”

To reduce the feminist movement and the struggle for women to have equal rights down to stereotypical gender roles is not fair to the movement or to her sons. I don’t think any modern day feminist would object to wanting to raise your sons to be polite, courteous, generous, and loving, but part of the feminist movement is teaching young boys and girls the deeper nature of human consent, exchange, and generosity. What feminism really boils down to is having respect for each individual and letting each person decide for themselves how they want to live their life.

All my favorite men are feminists. My partner has actually taught me more about feminism than I would have found out on my own. His respect and openness to discuss matters which I could deny or consent to has been an enlightening experience for me. He still opens doors, picks up the check once in a while, tells me I’m beautiful, and is appropriately physical with me in public. Those feminist men in my life I’m not romantically involved with treat me and other women with the same caring and non-judgmental behavior they would treat their male friends. Of course, every individual is different. Some women prefer to pay for their own drinks, have a conversation with others without being interrupted by a circling male looking for numbers, and even leave the house without being called at or commented on. Other women, feminists or not, will gladly accept a gesture from another human—a drink at the bar, a casual date, an honest comment—this doesn’t mean they are any better or worse than the other group, it’s just what they feel comfortable with and empowered by. As a feminist male, there is no direct role to follow or reference to. There are some rules to follow and some lines to avoid crossing at all times, but at no point in the “feminist agenda” does it say “Real Men this” or “Manliness that”.

TKK, I think you may have exaggerated the response your sons might get if they “called a girl pretty or reached for their hand without permission”. I don’t think any and every feminist would yell “fuck off” based on these gestures alone, but coupled with aggressive come-ons, inappropriate touching or commenting, or a glaringly obvious lack of consent on the girl’s part, I think that response would be expected. If your son is demonstrating an honest comment or gesture made as a genuine attempt to respect and acknowledge a female, I don’t understand how you made the conclusion that “fuck you” would be the response. I assume you are teaching your two boys to grow up with respect for “no means no” and any/every opinion regarding her personal space a woman has. If you aren’t, you are opting out of helping the next generation understand consent, boundaries, and very basic respect for fellow humans. No human is property of someone else, and the acknowledgement and respect for basic consent is the most crucial step towards living a life with respect for this fact.

As a feminist that has dealt with many “creepy douchebags”, I can tell you it takes much more than “a simple hello” to put me on guard. Little girls are not brought up believing the “fact that 100% of men are rapists.” I’m not sure where you get those numbers or that information. Little girls are brought up to understand their bodies and tell an adult when something inappropriate has happened to them. As those girls get older, mass culture and media teach them that men are in charge of their bodies, what they consume, who they know, and what their level of comfort is at any given time in their presence. Ok, I’m not being fair, but based on your numbers, this is an argument you can understand. Obviously not “100% of men” are rapists. Clearly women grow up to trust, respect, and even love men who provide for and support them. Your definition of feminism is a culture of women who simply, incorrectly, irreversibly hate men. Since there are many, many feminist women who are married, raise children, stay at home, and operate a more “traditional” home situation, your argument immediately becomes invalid.

Criteria for Feminism:

  1. Believe that men and women deserve equal rights.

As an example, since this is actually the rule most people have trouble understanding, a man is standing at a bus stop, waiting for the bus, and a woman comes up to him.

“Hey,” she says, “you’re very attractive. Will you give me your number?”

“No,” says the man, a little taken aback. “I’m just trying to get to work.”

The woman steps back, a little hurt by the rejection, but now aware of the cute man’s boundaries.

Problem solved! Let’s reverse the roles:

A woman is standing at the bus stop, waiting for a ride. A man approaches her.

“Hey,” he says, “you’re very attractive. Will you give me your number?”

“No,” says the woman, a little taken aback. “I’m just trying to get to work.”

The man steps back, a little hurt by the rejection, but now aware of the cute girl’s boundaries.

Again! Problem solved! This is feminism. The respect for the individual needs, boundaries, and comfort levels of men and women alike. Unfortunately, the culture little girls grow up understanding is that men are stronger, and if they wanted to overpower you, they have that ability. This means physically, sexually, mentally, and emotionally. A little girl is taught to run away before she is taught to stand up for herself, because it’s easier to flee a threatening confrontation than it is to avoid one. Tragically, some of these confrontations end in violence if a man believes a woman’s attention to him is a right he deserves. If your sons are growing up without understanding what the young girls are growing up with as well, it becomes harder for them in their adult years to put a woman’s life into perspective, and to recognize the signs and signals of a threatening interaction. Language and body language are the best indicators that someone is feeling uncomfortable by your presence, and if another person is responding in ways that makes you think they feel threatened, it’s a good indication you don’t realize their position or what you might be suggesting with your own language.

  1. Perform and believe Rule 1 on a daily basis.

The feminist men in my life are all different. Some of them are weight lifters, some are musicians, some are artists and writers, some are accountants or business owners, some are bartenders or servers or landlords. Some are gay, some are straight, some are bisexual, some have fixed gender identities and others move easily between. Some of them don’t even like each other, for whatever personal reasons. The only thing they really have in common is their belief that women deserve just as much respect for their unique lifestyles as men do. And that they would never hurt another human being to prove the worth of their own beliefs or identity. If your sons are growing up to turn out like these feminist men I know, I’m sure they will make excellent human beings anyone would be happy to know.

Chapbook

Hello my small, amazing following,
I’m in the process of compiling a collection of sixteen short stories for publishing and distributing. I’d like to submit it to some places, but I also will make some hand-bound collectable copies for those who are interested. Last time I hand-bound, I had one-of-a-kind covers that were unique and sculptural. I’m still in the revision stages, but hopefully you can expect to see a physical, nicely made copy of one soon. If you are interested in a copy, let me know and I’ll start thinking about what I can make just for you.

-Annie

Seppic

As I Go (third draft)

When your night shift is over, count your money. It’s not much again but you believe things will pick up soon. There are bill reminders in your email inbox. Technology is moving too fast, as is culture. You still don’t have the phone, haven’t seen the movies, aren’t doing the diet. Things are moving inside you like a fish moves in wide sweeps of the body upstream. Inside you, the fish pumps its whole body left, then right, slow against the fast current but still gaining distance. You tell yourself this again. Once you have carved out your route, you swim upstream until you find the still and beautiful waters of a life you have made entirely yourself. You are gaining distance in a moving world, and the animals around you are mostly drifting passed, having fun in the rapid water. It’s crowded at this end of the river. Lizards dive in soundlessly, spiders weave their homes, frogs hump the low hanging branches, and you can’t be stopped or lost in the shoals of fish hurrying passed you. Your tips were low today. Your customers were fussy. Your boyfriend hasn’t called you since the fight. You twist against the waters and remain facing forward, partially afraid to let yourself turn around, and partially upset that you won’t let yourself enjoy the way it carries you down. Well, which is it? What are you afraid of? Or, what are you swimming towards?

And you go home. You pour the rest of the wine and put on something. Puccini, or Maria Callas, to help the sadness inside you, always building slowly. Always there anyway. Days flow through your life like water through your gills. It’s hard to measure progress when you are fighting your hardest and the banks at your sides are moving too slow. Joy will pass on the faces of people swimming with the current. Joy does not translate well onto the faces of fish, but where the boats are docked at the end of the stream does translate into something you are trying hard to avoid. As Maria calls out in her elastic voice the sadness in a language you cannot interpret, you start to think about something new and permanent. Just as the mouths of fish have always been translucent, the waters always darker in the cities, you realize you are just a product of something larger. Maria’s voice cuts off. She holds her arms down with her fanned out fingers and looks out toward the cheering crowd. She looks cold in her shawl and moves slow as if conserving energy. Her smile is thin, watered down, a reflection of the dark pools inside her heart where she draws out the opera. She finds the strength to hold herself by the shoulders and breathe. Breathe.

Ok for now. Ok for now, but you have work to do. No more mornings laying on your side, refusing to speak to him before he leaves for work. Nothing to do with the old mattress or the dusty fan or the tepid air coming through the window. Today is about progress. Regression is the debris that rushes downstream, loosened by your choices and your indefatigable refusal to yield. Yield in the morning. Sleep passed the afternoon. Close your curtains. Shut the books. Turn off your phone. Sleep until you dream about waking up in front of stationed trains in mercurial places. Are you allowed to be afraid? You are. But get to work. Not the work that provides the rent or the rest of your expenses (if you could avoid living by yourself, you would. If you could avoid utilities, you might). Cling to the inner banks of mud and rock underwater and rest until you are ready to swim forward again. Resting feels very nice but the momentum is going the other way and you are not part of anything at the moment. Wait a while before you continue up the river, but if you wait too long your strong tail will atrophy, your gills will weaken. You have a lot of distance to cover, and nobody is going to pull you forward on a line unless they have their own intentions, and then you will be trapped. Don’t bite, don’t crowd around. Don’t settle for any pool less wonderful than the one you have in mind for yourself.

(The soft cry from a train is traveling far away, across town. A cozy dark through the window indicates it will rain soon. I fall asleep thinking about towers that have only been built half way. I fall asleep holding my breast in one hand, holding the thing I fear most. I fall asleep thinking, “not one inch. Never give in one single inch”.)

As you go on,  the stream widens and the swimming becomes easier. You’re used to the motions now and you have a rhythm to follow. It isn’t as crowded here and the banks on your sides are smooth. You enjoy the peace of being alone and swimming toward something you’ve never seen. Like a fool, you believe the waters you dream of are deep and still, inside the big heart of the earth where all creativity will come from. And there you will be: churning and diving and creating energy for the world to draw out and deliver. It is how you imagine a life of loving your job works. It is how you envision your future, free of lines and nets and people trying to use you for themselves. You think about this at work again, standing over a table of people your age as they order expensive dinners and talk about good health insurance. Hey, they say to you and you prepare to defend your choices Yeah I work here but I never take it home and I have a nice apartment to myself and I have three days all to myself a week and I do a lot a lot of other things that will get me out of this place soon, I hope, soon, but they just say Hey, would you mind bringing us another round of Manhattans? We’re celebrating a new account. Sure, you say, relieved a little…a little. You walk across the dining room and stand up a little straighter. A woman tries to flag you down to complain about the room temperature for the third time, but you ignore her. Not one inch. Not one single inch. The look on her face is magnificent.

At home again, you cook and make a cup of coffee for a late night work session. Nobody can beat you down, no matter how hard they try, and someday you expect to be fired for this. No matter. They can fire you for sticking to your guns, or telling your boss he’s a misogynist dick. Sure they can fire you for that comment you made to the bitch with the grilled cheese, but she should never have called you that. Lucky for you, you haven’t been fired, but there will come a day when you are so fucking tired of it you just quit, and you better have something to fall back on. So you keep working on your art. You take the financial blow and live off of savings for a while. You enter contests and pay the reading fees. You make some money writing essays for college seniors. You are swimming forward at breakneck pace now because you want to do everything you can not to turn around and swim into a net that will provide the essentials for you. This includes security, health, a bank account, respect, a title, a bigger place. This also includes being slowly dissected until you are too weak to swim strong anymore toward your original goal. You are taking work home, going to doctors appointments, relating to people with families and new cars. You are still convinced you are being lied to but who would listen over the sound of all those nice things. So you stay in the stream and swim away from the nets and stay at your job and swim toward a freedom you’re not really sure exists.

When you are asked about your life, many people really want to hear about your job. You tell them your job isn’t all that interesting, but what you really do is write? Oh, they say and smile, I write too. I write for my blog and the occasional restaurant review. No, you say, I write. I create worlds and people and animals out of nothing. I read aloud to small and polite audiences. I can effectively channel myself into my words and into other people. Whoever you’re talking to takes a sip of whatever they’re drinking and asks how much you get paid. You stare in silence and consider lying. Nothing yet…but…and you are cut off when that person says ‘I got paid for a newspaper column this year’ and you open your mouth to continue your argument but you drop it. Money talks, status is a thing you are starting to notice people go after, and unless you have their attention with your words you still have nothing to prove.

You try not to get bitter sometimes. You offer your pages to your friends and eventually they get around to the first half. You go to book stores and look at the top sellers. You are beginning to get dismayed. Sometimes, it feels like you have to give up the outer world to create a new one from within yourself entirely. You will swim on and on and never find that pool of perfect water, so you leap from the stream onto a dry patch of land and somehow you have to turn that into a pool where you can live. Flop around and be afraid. This is a huge risk you’re taking and if it doesn’t work, you’re screwed. You imagine this happening but you don’t know how it’s going to end because you haven’t done it yet. You are not really a fish, you are a human. You are trying to build a pond by yourself and when you do that, you can think next about the ocean. Make sacrifices. Stop going to book stores and stop talking to people you don’t need to talk to. Try not to suffocate when exposed to the air of mediocre ideas others have about your future. Stick close to your friends who support you emotionally. Be able to say to some, ‘I can’t figure out why nobody feels the way I do about it,’ and look up at her face to see if she’s offended. Apologize, because she wants to feel that way for you, but neither of you know how.

The Lake

Rufus ate all the strawberries this year. I sent the kids out to gather what they could, and they ran barefoot with the bottoms of their t-shirts folded up over their elbows, ready to use as baskets. They tore down the hill to the strawberry aisles Arlo planted our first year in the house. Instead of the abundance of bright red, sweet berries, the children discovered gnawed on branches, slobbery leaves and half bitten fruits. My chocolate lab lumbered towards the woods to, I expected, take a great red dump. The children returned with a meager load of fruit and claimed it was all they could find. Since we couldn’t have fresh strawberries, I asked the children to pitch ideas for the pie I was attempting, now fruitless in more ways than before.

“Chocolate!”

“Banana!”

“Fish pie!”

I gave them the keys to the shed where we kept the fishing poles and told them to catch me as many fish as they could. Again, they sprinted down the hill to the edge of the lake and fought over the door handle and the keys. Rufus came back up eventually, his brown snout licked, but not quite clean of the evidence.

“I’ve caught you red-snouted!” I teased and he threw his butt into the back of my knees for a scratch. Big dummy. Now we had no strawberries today but there were still a thousand that weren’t ripe yet, as the summer was just beginning.

I have caught a grand total of six fish in our lake, all before the kids came to us. All but two were sunfish, one was a bull head, (like a smaller, sharper catfish) and one was an actual catfish. I caught a trout once in a different lake with my grandfather, who made me kiss on the lips every fish I pulled up from the water. I would be granted luck by the fish for one kiss, as long as the hook was not embedded, irretrievable, somewhere in the belly. I have only three memories of my grandfather: kissing the fish, him crouching outside my window and pretending to be a frog that talked, and walking toward the lake with his retriever, Godrick.

The talking frog was proposed by my father, who wove elaborate stories into reality, who recruited as many people as he could into the web. The stories were so good, people willingly lent themselves to perform them for the very purpose of terrifying us kids. Somehow, my father could build an entire species of creature that distressed me, and then when the story ended, family members or perfect strangers would perpetuate the events in their own ways. I turned to see a woman once who swore she saw the skinless, neon scavengers of my father’s most recent fabrication. My grandfather, as he croaked and laughed outside my window while the crickets and real frogs joined in beyond, was playing into my imagination through my father and his terrible stories. Only when I started to cry did he stand up full length and reveal himself the ventriloquist of the frog king’s voice. Seeing my grandfather, still in his fishing vest and smelling like wet tobacco, was somehow worse than an actual frog king leaping through my window and croaking about his horrible life.

The children were experts. The girls were strong and sure of their casts. They speared and twisted and doubled the night crawlers on their hooks, always with the same confident and serious looks on their faces. The boys sometimes opted out of poles entirely, using one of the large nets to scoop up fish as they stood knee deep in the water. Patience was their greatest strength, and what patience was to the boys, grace was to the girls. The girls cast their lines with the kind of sweeping arm movements that I believed were reserved for painters to their canvas. Far away, bobbers danced on the surface and worms danced on the hook and fish churned the waters around the boys ankles, mistaking them for reefs. Rufus and I stood on the porch, facing the lake together. He moaned and whimpered until I looked down and gave him permission to leave my side. “Rufus, go see the kids,” and he bounded off. I wish I could say he trotted onto the dock and sat loyally by the concentrating girls, or that he looked to the boys with a reverence for their dedication. Instead, Rufus, the dog I had inherited from the side of the road, launched himself into the lake, jaws snapping at the water he shot in the air and scaring away every single fish in a hundred foot radius. The children dropped their tools and dove in laughing.

For a year, I had the same dream night after night. There was a small pond in a field with wide shores of mud and wild grass. The water was a burnt yellow and sometimes large fish would raise their mouths above the surface. I struggled against the force that pushed me in, could not lift my legs out of the tangles of weed and minnows that cling to my ankles. By the time I was in the middle of the lake, not being able to touch the soft, murky bottom anymore. The fish mouths were rising and falling. Always before I woke up, some force grabbed me by the ankles and dragged me down into the dark water with the bloated corpses of animals that had met the same demise. I only remember one dream where I actually saw the animals. Hairless, pale grey and swollen bodies were scattered around the shore and the force that pushed me into the lake was gliding me past the bodies, most of which still had their long black claws. I woke up from that dream with a weight on my chest like a tight bandage my racing heart was trying to undo. The waves from the lake were breaking against the dock, but very slow and very far apart. In my final dream about the pond, I wish I could say there was some conclusion. I wish I could have found the lake all dried up from drought, with dead weeds and cracked mud all the way around and the force that pushed me down would not be able to drown me. But all I can say is this: the last time I had the dream about the pond, I felt all the fish writhing around my legs like worms writhe in a bucket I keep in the shed for fishing.

 

Of course I didn’t make the pie.

 

Call it catharsis, revenge, pity. Call it something I wouldn’t expect, like bravery or love. Call it my life with Arlo and all the strange and beautiful things that happen to us. I sometimes have a strong feeling about our connection, like we are always unlocking old wooden doors and finding fresh growth in the gardens we forgot to water. Every once in a while the world seems a veil with runs that reveal the strangeness behind it all. The nail that scrapes the fabric, or the edge of the firewood pile on the side of the house that snags the thin layer of material and threatens to break the skin, is really the core of our relationship and the surface of reality that is being broken. We look for the single red berry in the swath of white and green. We see the translucent lips of sunfish pucker and close around skittering bugs and mayflies. The children fall asleep together in the living room with the window open to hear the frogs. Arlo and I sit on the porch with a small bottle of bourbon and brush the crickets off our legs. There is balance in the world that we can see, but beyond it there is a thin curtain between truth and story, and that is where we live.