BROKEN BONES AND BOOKS
MAY 20, 2012
So anyway Spring is holding a stiff arm out to prevent Summer from waltzing in wearing those thin dresses and lace-up shoes by keeping the fridge on pleasantly cool. Unfortunately the cool weather seems to be prolonging the flu pandemic going on around here. Denby had to cancel several gigs due to the effects of this unusual virus, which appears to have a good 14 day incubation period before it sets in to strip the myelin sheath from nerves in the lungs. Lungs not wanting to go around naked produce coughs and fluids about which adolesents like to tell jokes.
The bug last a good week before the patient feels better, goes back to work, then has a relapse. This relapse can prove fatal in people over a certain age or with compromised immune systems.
While sneezing violently, Denby misstepped going down the stairs, tumbled, caught his foot between the stairs, and finally fell to the concrete, with a sound described vividly in certain cheap detective novels as "a sickening crack". How many times did Nick Danger and Philip Marlow feel that sap on the noggin? No one knows but the Shadow knows.
Denby lay there groaning as people stepped over him until he eventually crawled to the bus shelter, sat there groaning for 20 minutes, then got on with some difficulty to ride in his splendid made-in-Belgium bus, groaning, to his destination, entirely unable to really enjoy the continuously empty seats beside him, in front of him, and behind him. No one wanted to sit near the man with disheveled hair, blood on his face, rumpled smelly clothes and a glazed look in his eye.
When he got to his destination, he got off of the splendid made-in-Belgium bus and, there before the grand gates of the ER, fell down.
"You have insurance," a concerned face wearing a nurse's smock said to him, looking down.
"I am a musician," Denby said.
"Well that answers that question," said the nurse and he snapped his booklet shut. "Off to Highland you go."
"Highland?" Denby said.
"They have a trauma center, and you, my dear uninsured fellow, have a broken kneecap."
So Denby holed up in his burrow, with his leg up in a cast sniffling, coughing, wheezing and generally feeling down instead of going out. From his window in the Island's Little Ghetto, he distracted himself by shining his flashlight through the bathroom window to startle the wood rats climbing the orange tree outside. It is one thing to play the Blues, and quite another thing to have them.
Jose came down with the same thing as well, so he missed out on a fine weekend that would have included Murmurana in the Uptown, the Greek festival up there beside the Mormon Temple in Oaktown, the Chinese celebrating something Chinese in Chinatown, and the SF Art Faire.
Jose commiserated with Denby over the phone.
"Why you not take an ambulance right off, amigo?"
"My mother was Jewish and my father was a converted Catholic from a Lutheran family. I feel guilty about my guilt complex, like, who am I to deserve such worry."
"I will never understand you gabachos," Jose said.
The Editor did not have the opportunity to catch the flu. He much decided -- apparently against his will, if you can believe it -- to break bones differently from Denby.
While working at the Jack Sparrow Orphanage, he stepped out of an elevator before it had completely risen to the level. This is what happens when there is not enough money to properly maintain an Empire Elevator.
Empire maintains offices in Petaluma, about an hour's drive away (outside of commuter hours) and if anyone had bothered to call Empire, well they would have had a maintenance man out there in a jiffy. Make that old elevator, creaky and clanking as it was, right as rain.
But they did not.
So, over time, the elevator took on the whimsical habits of an uncle going a little dotty, remembering the Great War, forgetting to stop in time, sometimes missing a floor entirely, often coming up just so far to pause tiredly as if nodding out, then jerk up suddenly again. The staff called the thing Old Sparky and the more experienced of them took the stairs in the old admin building, built in 1904.
We could tell you more about Empire Elevator and its wonderful people, who do try very hard, and we could tell you more about this particular elevator, but that is not what you want to hear.
You want to hear how the Editor, arms loaded with paper-stuffed folders, unable to see down to his feet because of the things he was carrying and -- it must be admitted -- the consequences of being overly fond of beer, scotch and Irish potatoes hanging over his belt to obscur the view and snagged his foot on the edge of the floor, to go down without any more parentheses or pause to hit the floor.
With a sound that has been described by cheap detective story novelists, etc.
To cut to the moment, this weekend saw the Editor staying indoors with his right arm in a cast and his Spring supply of Weight Watchers instant dinners along with a book he had just purchased from an NPR affiliate.
Javier tore himself away from his new girlfriend to get some work done, and Chad soldiered on with the HTML. The rest of the staff kept tabs by phone.
"Howya doin', Chief?" Jane from the Crime Desk innocently inquired.
"Great Caesar's ghost. How many times must I tell you Jane? Don't call me chief!"
Out at sea, Pedro fiddled with the dials on his radio, trying to get his favorite preacher on the air. Unfortunately the man was preparing to take his show on the road, so all he had were radio reruns. So while an old tape of a girl Pedro imagined must be tremendously beautiful sang a song about birds, the light strains of her voice drifting out across the waters, he stepped out to look at the stars. His father, a fisherman like himself, or vice versa, had taught him the old style of navigation.
The stars were not a confusion of spangles as they are to most people, but guideposts set up there with allowance to drift along a predictable course. Earlier in the day that was nearly done (lately he had bumped his start-out time earlier due to the pinch of the Great Recession, and the shrinking supply of catch so as to capture more working hours there had been a solar eclipse.
Everyone was saying that had been remarkable and that the next celestial event would be the traverse of Venus. He wondered about what that would be like. Something so bright as Venus most times becomes a shadow as she passes before the face of the sun.
This is because Venus is too distant from us. Friday's Tribune lay in the cabin with headlines like
HP TO LAY OFF THOUSANDS
AN OPPORTUNITY FORGONE
WATER, GARBAGE RATES TO RISE
HOUSE OKS LONGER WAR
DETAILS SHED LIGHT ON KILLING
These days, Venus is too far from us and Love casts a small shadow.
Back in the Editor's cube with its humming machines and its small pool of light cast on the desk while all around him there was a darkness, he made ready to put this week's issue to bed.
He got a phone call from his boss, Katy, who wanted to know if he was coming to work in the morning. Thinking of the kids at the Orphanage, and the TAY kids, and those who had suffered the unspeakable, he said yes.
"You don't have you," she said. "We'll get on fine."
"Yes no one is indispensible . . . "
"I didn't mean it that way . . .".
"Katy here you are, working, calling employees near midnight on Sunday. I will see you tomorrow."
If only life were like it can be in fiction, where the bullies get beatup and the good guys win over evil all the time, the Editor thought as he pressed the final keystrokes and turned from the computer to pick up an old fashioned, analog, paper-based book. He liked the feel of the new book in his hands, with its perfect binding, its clay-baked cover sporting a sort of film noirish image. Best of all, the warm feel of the paper inside. The typeface was aldus, designed by Hermann Zapf in 1954. Been around a while.
The book was seductive, almost pulling him away from his yet unfinished Carson McCullers.
"Call me a cynic but . . .".
With a tug inside him, he that one down to finish off the end of the book he had been reading. But he first had to find the place where he had left off.
"In the town there were two mutes, and they were always together. . . ".
From far across the water, the long howl of the the throughpassing train ululated across the lonely waves of the estuary and the grasses of the Buena Vista flats as the locomotive hunted its way past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront beneath the transit of Venus, headed off on its journey to parts unknown.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
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