It’s taking a moment to steady myself for the start of another week. The house is quiet. Popsy is napping; the older two are at school. It’s been a weekend of strange on/off fevers, long days, boredom. Hours of looking at campsites on the internet for the summer. Of wondering why everything has to take so long to decide/organise/plan.
Last week Popsy had the fever & woke two evenings in a row; or rather didn’t wake, but just screamed inconsolably in my arms until I woke him. The first evening, when I’d calmed him down enough for him to speak, he told me that he had a tummy ache & we lay together on my bed as I rubbed his stomach. In the morning, when I asked him how he was he said, as he always says, ‘Fine. I have my milk now?’ I asked if he remembered the tummy ache & he said, ‘Yes, tummy ache in my ear.’ Ah, yes, a tummy ache in the ear. Which made far more sense. Today, at lunch he told me that I was Mummy Penguin and he was Baby Penguin.
‘I bang my head now, Mummy Penguin.’
‘Have you, Baby Penguin. Poor you.’
‘No, is joke Mummy Penguin. I fly away now, Mummy Penguin. Fly, fly. I back, Mummy Penguin. I want log now.’ (Log = yog = yogurt)
And so on.
Lying in bed last night, thinking of all the things that I haven’t done, I remembered that I haven’t told you to go and read Alexander MacLeod’s wonderful short story collection Light Lifting. You can read Kerry’s great post — which prompted me to instantly buy the book — here. Even when she’s ill she makes the best book recommendations. And the story she writes about, ‘Wonder About Parents’, was stunning.
One of the pleasures of MacLeod’s collection is how rooted his stories are in the world of work and place. He totally immerses you in a job or discipline — distance running, brick laying, making deliveries for a pharmacy — that you may know nothing about, but through the story get to understand in a strangely visceral way. For example, who knew that you can’t lift bricks with sunscreen on your hands? (Too slippery. Which makes perfect sense — but still, I’d never given it any thought.) Or how to ride a bike in the snow? (And how to fall off it so as not to get run over.) Again and again I found myself thinking how incredibly well — in a detailed, physical way — he brings us into these new worlds.
The setting of many of the stories is Windsor, Ontario — across the border from Detroit, &, from these stories I would guess, urban, industrial and little written about. This grounding in a real place, with a real economic and social history — place as character, if you will — adds an extra dimension to the stories, whether it’s a place you know or not.
Another pleasure — and one that I’d almost forgotten exists in fiction — is that initial disorientation you can experience when you start a short story. MacLeod isn’t afraid to let it take a page or two before you know where you are, who’s speaking & about what. ‘Miracle Mile’ opens with two distance runners killing time in a hotel room before a big race. Despite the clue in the title, I spent a good couple of pages wondering who these two men were and what they were doing together — planning a robbery? having an affair?
And the endings! Oh, the endings of these stories, which aren’t at all neat, but just perfect: slightly ambiguous, sometimes violent, and just a beat before you expect them to close.
Anyway, one family’s stomach bug is someone else’s very happy reading find.
I also haven’t told you that our lives have felt incomplete since we watched the end of Twin Peaks. Even though the second season had lost so much of the magic of the first, I could have stayed in that world forever. We’re now on the second season of Breaking Bad. It’s fine. But just fine. We keep wondering if we should cut our losses now. Start watching Mad Men again from the start before we see the final season. Anyone want to convince me that Breaking Bad is going to get better?
Our first daffodils are in bloom: these are February Gold. The front garden, with its creamy yellow daffodils and strangely out of place hyacinths is poised on the cusp of bursting into flower.