Thursday, October 14, 2004

Babysit your neighbor's children

LOCATION: A city TIME: Mutually convenient EQUIPMENT: Yourself, Theodora, Victoria (or their equivalents), neighborliness, pink bicycles OPTIONAL: thumping ovaries

I used to live in the basement of the Fondo del Sol art gallery - about which more later. Two doors down from us, the owners of the Alex Gallery had two adorable daughters who often rode their bicycles back and forth on the sidewalk. As my friend Missy used to say, "My ovaries were thumping!" I introduced myself to their mother Julia one day - she was a very interesting and lively woman - and said I'd be happy to babysit them on the weekend days she had to watch the gallery.

Seriously, I think that there's a huge missing market here. There are all these stressed-out families with children in need of care, and there are all these twenty-something girls with no families anywhere near on the horizon, but ovaries which occasionally thump. Somebody needs to figure out a way of efficiently hooking us up together.

Anyway, Theodora and Victoria were absolutely charming - sweet and well-behaved, but also curious, creative, and strong-willed - the kind of kids who persuade people who never thought they wanted kids, to have 'em. (My aunt's children pulled a similar trick on my parents, poor things.) Julia said that lonely old women would sometimes stop on the street and basically beg to adopt them.*

One day during cicada season I took them on a field trip to Dumbarton Oaks (about which more later). They rode their bikes. Later that afternoon I wrote the following.

she called,
but I, happy in my velocity
thought if I didn't notice I could keep on riding -
but Look!
she called again, to make it clear
this was non-negotiable, so I wheeled my bike around
to where the girls were kneeling.

An accusing finger pointed out a cicada carcass
gently baking on the sidewalk: crumpled wings
and a parabola of sparkling guts.
- this time
expectantly, waiting for my explanation.
I had to vouch for the universe.
How? she had no idea, but there must
be some explanation. And I thought, how cute -
she's going through her death phase, and I get to help.

"Well you know...all insects die eventually, and maybe
it had babies." This was clearly lame. "But what
if it didn't have babies?" "That's true -
maybe it didn't. It's a shame. There's not
really a reason. Here, though, we can do something,
we can take it out of the street."
And with a leaf I scraped the carcass, put it on the grass.
We all waved. "Goodbye!" Soon after:

And, happy in my velocity, I turned - "I think
there are millions of cicadas. It's just dangerous
to be a cicada." The curiosity skipped to a new foot.
"Look, half its butt is missing. And ants are eating it."
And we left it there.

On the third
her older sister said, with
Authority: " I think that there are
a whole lot of those, Victoria." And there were -
thick as locusts, scattered like autumn leaves.

If the bodies crunched
beneath the bicycle wheels
I couldn't hear it -
not for the clean click of gears,
the shuffle of feet on pedals,
the rustle of pink handlebar ribbons in the wind.


*Attention, men! Do you realize how unfairly this whole game is stacked in favour of you? You're playing against a gender that has an almost uncontrollable biological imperative to be selfless. It is wrong to abuse this fact.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Help me Dude, I'm lost.

I was searching for Elvis and somehow ended up in your blog, but you know I'm sure I saw Elvis in the supermarket yesterday.

No honest really, he was right there in front of me, next to the steaks singing "Love me Tender".

He said to me (his lip was only slightly curled) "Boy, you need to get yourself a shiny, new plasmatv to go with that blue suede sofa of yours.

But Elvis said I, In the Ghetto nobody has a plasma tv .

Dude I'm All Shook Up said Elvis. I think I'll have me another cheeseburger then I'm gonna go home and ask Michael Jackson to come round and watch that waaaay cool surfing scene in Apocalypse Now on my new plasma tv .

And then he just walked out of the supermarket singing. . .

"You give me love and consolation,
You give me strength to carry on "

Strange day or what? :-)

3:59 AM  

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