this little day
by tobias crabtree
At 4:13 I snap out of dreamland into regularville. This morning, regular is 11 degrees below zero, fahrenheit, and a serious need to take a leak. I have my little dolphin nussled up in my brother’s drive, which is in a cute, little neighborhood on the outskirts of Lakewood, CO. I chance it and jump out naked, and I let’r fly between my rig and the blue spruce. My feet are squealin’ to get back into the dolphin and I can’t tell where my cold parts begin and end, if you know what I mean. Yes, you know what I mean.
Coffee is on and I have my trousers draped over the space heater, while I do my cold-man dance in the low, yellow light of the stove. I love this. The heavy whipping cream that I left on the floor by the door is frozen almost solid and I gotta pick at it with my pocket knife — one chunk aaand one more chunk. I hear my brother’s rig start up. He’s on his way to the job site. Ol’ Josh has always been more of a man than me. I step out and we talk about the cold and he laughs at my barefoot prints in the snow in front of his truck. “Call of nature must’a been pretty strong,” he says. He pulls out onto the street, the squeak of the snow is loud in the air. I grab my cup and go to the garage. There’s a thirty degree difference that makes my face feel hot as I hit the lights and say, “g’mornin’ ladies!” to no one in general. (I suppose only Hunter’ll understand that one, since that’s what he yells to me in the mornings and he kicks the lights on when I’m staying there at Orion Forge up in Bend…what up Hunt?)
Drawing pictures from the dreams the night before. Old matchboxes and pocketknives. Fishing kits and dog-eared maps. My dreams are a jumble that I’ve yet to piece together. I imagine i might just live out this life without finding any rhyme or reason to my night-time travels. I’ll tell ya this much, they sure do provide me with material for drawing!
Inside the house, the boys are asleep. I hear the dog let go with a little growl at the top of the stairs, she don’t trust me yet. I like that about Blue Heelers, they’re slow to let down their guard. Seems smart to me. I go out and start my rig and then the jeep. The old dolphin cranks alive and I let’r warm up a bit then shut it down. I gotta run up north this morning and grab some parts. It really ain’t important where I’m headed, but it’s through my old stomping grounds, so i take the side roads. The roads are treacherous and icy, the temp. hovers at zero. The jeeps locked in 4 wheel drive and I’m listening to Terry Gross do an interview on the radio.
Of course, this might seem mundane to you. It’s not some shining thing, bright colors flashing, to keep your attention. This is only life, and it ain’t even yours. Hell you might even want to cut out now while you got the chance.
There’s always something sad about old neighborhoods and this morning, with the blue in the air, even more so. The Colorado cottonwoods are white as bones along the ditches. North on Kipling to 32 Ave., take a right. All these old farmfields are covered in snow. Now a patch of yellow thistles along the fence. The old graveyard where my Granny is buried. Somewhere out there, I don’t even know where, under the snow and dirt, is a casket with my Granny in it. I wonder about all that stuff, you know, all the things we do to deal with death. I pass the cemetery and turn north on Sheridan. Along the way I see things that seem like they are typical of Colorado; some place called Lube and Latte, where I’m sure you can get a good oil change and a bad latte, and then there’s Senor Burrito in an old Taco Bell building, and burly homeless folks wearing thin coats and standing in the snow drifts, faces red, noses dripping. And Terry is talking on the radio. She’s interviewing a famous cartoonist who wrote a memoire about the death of her parents. The cartoonist, whom I recognized from the New Yorker, was funny as hell but as she spoke I could hear the tone of her voice and the sorrow it carried. She missed being by her Mom’s side by only minutes when her Mom died. I was impressed by her nature. So candid. And she said, “yeah, when I got there, she was gone…but she was still warm.”
I stopped and walked out into the park before I got back to my brother’s place. It’s always a wonder to me how the wild world is just around the corner. It ain’t like the wilderness has a choice, we certainly ain’t waiting for permission to move in. Down in the creek bed, I see fox tracks and coyote. On the other side of the creek are raccoon prints, their tiny hands obvious even from here. Up toward the tangle of cottonwoods and willows and birches are a whole bunch of skunk tracks, back and forth. I think about the time my brother walked out the back door to find a skunk, raccoon and his cat, all eating from the same dish while politely taking turns; a fragile but necessary entente cordial. I walk back to the jeep and notice some graffiti on the back of an old fireplace, the last remains of an old burned down house. Written in tricked out letters, it read, zombieland. A different kind of wildlife, I think to myself, but wildlife, indeed.
The air is amazing. Icicles are forming in giant patterns on my dolphin. My breath shows in billows out in front of me. My back is stove up from the cold. The sun is shining cold with a kind of flat light. Foxes are curled in their dens awaiting the night. Skunks are walking with impunity, snuffling and rooting and bandylegged. Now my nose is dripping. We do not know the number of our days, guarantees are cheap. I am walking around noticing stuff, something i sometimes forget to do. If all else fails, I gotta try and remember that we can’t get ’em back, these little days.