© Bruce Louis Dodson (AKA Willie the Rat)
A Ten Shoestring Day
Willie The Rat
It’s been one of those days where life seems to turn on you with the speed and certainty of a blue mamba. One of those days that go sideways. A Midas touch in reverse, where everything you touch turns to shit. It’s the small things that drive you nuts. Charles Bukowski called these moments, broken shoestrings—minor events, nothing in themselves that bad, but there are many of them. A tsunami of bad luck.
I fix the shoestring with an ugly knot. Who keeps spare shoestrings? Shoe gets tied, but it does not end here. I brew a cup of coffee, then the phone rings in the other room. I knock the glass cup off the counter as I rush to answer and it hits the floor exploding into a surprising number of glittering fragments. There is only silence on the phone.
I’ve got a mess to clean up. Coffee all over the place, both wall and floor. I wipe it up with a huge wad of paper towel and manage to cut the tip of my index finger. Not that bad, but bleeding. I tape the finger and make another cup of coffee knowing there are undoubtedly small slivers of glass still on the kitchen floor—as yet undiscovered. I’ll come back and do a better job of cleaning up, but later.
Taking the fresh brewed coffee with me, I sit down at my computer, boot it up and answer two e-mails—delete sixty-seven. One is a rejection notice, not the first—or last. An hour later the computer locks up, freezes. I’ve got a 950 word first draft minimized, but can’t remember saving it, or if so where, and under what name? I check the mouse and go through standard maintenance routines—find nothing wrong. There’s a guy I can call, a retired techie/computer person, but my cell-phone’s now completely dead and I can’t find the charger cord. I check the wall receptacles—don’t see it anywhere. Have no idea where I used it last.
I turn the PC off, then on again, praying my work’s still there. Don’t really pray. God doesn’t give a shit about my short story, but I hope real hard. The desktop comes up nicely, but the short story has gone into that vast realm of space where digital information evaporates. Sometimes a long lost project reappears, like Moby Dick, but not often. I should start over now, before I forget how it went, but it’s been enough. My index finger hurts each time it hits a key and I’m already up to eight shoestrings. Any one or two of them could have been handled easy—even three.
I decide to go to the gym. Smart move. Shift the load from brain to body. Almost works, but I forget to pack my jock strap and a pair of shower shoes. Low energy. I leave the gym at 4 PM and drive home in slow commuter traffic feeling wasted, but a little better—maybe. It’s the right time for a nice martini—celebrate the end of this bad day. At home I kick shoes off and go to the kitchen where a sliver of glass stabs through the sock on my left foot. I’m out of gin. Had meant to pick some up on the way back from the gym. I put my shoes back on—one blood stained sock. Would have removed the tiny splinter, but can’t find my glasses and the store will close in 30 minutes. I still need laces—tomorrow.
At the State run liquor store I grab a quart of Beefeater’s. Only one person in the checkout line ahead. A large black woman who is talking on a cell phone while completing her business with the cashier.
“I can’t do that tonight,” she says. “There’s no way.”
“That’ $22.50 the cashier tells her.
“Why can’t he just come in to the office tomorrow morning?” Cell-phone woman whines.
A man has gotten into line behind me and begins to shift impatiently. I was already impatient when I came in. I need this drink! The cashier waits patiently.
It’s a sort of break for her, a pause in her routine.
Another customer has joined us as the annoying cell-phone conversation continues until a final, “There’s no way I gonna’ do that.” Woman shakes her head an folds the phone.
“That’s $22.50,” cashier says again. There’s calmness in her voice a Buddhist would admire. Cell-lady drops the phone into her large black purse and digs for cash—hopefully a billfold. If she wants to write a check this is going to take time.
She comes up empty handed. “Oh lord. I left my billfold in my car,” she says. “I’ll run and get it.”
She takes off and I get lucky. Cashier moves the woman’s purchase to one side and eyes the clock. It’s almost closing time. I pay in cash—simple transaction, and am on my way back home again. Once there I feed the cat and make a very large martini with four olives, then spill half of it while moving to my favorite chair in the front room. Martini glasses were designed to spill. You ever think of that? There is not a glass on earth as difficult to walk with as martini glasses. Totally impractical containers for what is arguably the world’s strongest drink. Go figure. I have plans to insert ear-pods, drink, and listen to a talking book as darkness falls—turn a ten shoestring day, into a three martini night. As I start to sit down I hear the cat throwing up a fur ball on the kitchen counter.