Of late, the coffee at work tastes like sweetened turpentine. I have to dump in sugar and fake cream to keep from gagging. Must be the back stretch before the next paycheck because whoever brought the coffee worked the region between ground-by-the-gallon Folgers and Starbucks Whole Bean.
Most of the drinkers in my team prefer high-end whole bean, ground every morning right before brewing. But now…
Okay, here we go. Enough of this sickness. Enough antibiotics and probiotics – would take more robotics. Could send the droid to the job for me. Oh the job … O great sustainer of life, killer of living … Sanctuary, I exclaim!
Okay, few hours before the job sucks me back in yet again. Let’s see what the Monster can do … Messages all over my home desk. My brief touch of excitement that the rest…
Breakfast made and delivered. Dishes set into washer. Other tasks assigned. I make my coffee strong and harsh. HOT. Put it in one of those vacuum-sealed cups that actually works (so well that flipping the tab open sometimes threatens my eyeballs). Go outside.
Overcast. Cool. Slight wind that makes it a bit chilly for a second or two then back to just cool. I sit, watch the dog make a few circles…
Eleven days of freedom sunk by less than one back at the job. I struggle to make it through the rest of the day, never mind I was late by an hour and a half. Finally leave, in a funk, run from the zombies out to my car, merge into traffic, let the river of tail lights carry me home.
My tongue, so recently acquainted with holiday sugarplums, lies in my mouth heavy and dull as wet sandpaper. The…
I woke, tangled in a tiny, green IKEA blanket. Han Solo stared at me from the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon. I reached out, picked up and moved the toy a foot or so from my head. Better than to roll into it.
But sleep failed to return, despite the hour of 4:15 in the A.M. Despite my exhaustion and my eyes staying heavy. Bored with the book I had earlier fallen asleep to, I sat up, found the remote among McDonald’s coffee cups and papers and turned on the TV.
I watched CNN and Bloomberg until 5 a. m., then the local early news. At 5:28 I made coffee and at 5:33 I poured some of the hot liquid into one of the McD coffee cups —hopefully one without mold or three days’ worth of bacteria — and watched the Cartoon Network for the next half hour. I then showered – think I shaved – kissed the wife sleeping in bed. Sometimes she stirs. This morning she stayed still.
Drove down the interstate. Couple of times when traffic slowed to a crawl, I dozed off but always jerked awake a second before someone grew irritated and honked. Traffic eventually picked back up and I tore the rest of the way to work at 60 mph.
Climbed out of car with my bag, forgot my badge, went back fifteen steps to the car, grabbed the badge, made it to the entrance, flashed my badge, entered. Realized I left my McDonald’s cup half full of homemade coffee in the car, said the hell with it and went on to my office. Unlocked that door, set down bag, turned on computer, picked up coffee mug with an inch of old coffee in it (from yesterday? two days ago?). Decided to go and clean it, came back to office, unlocked the still booting computer, remembered purpose of cleaning mug and stepped out to communal pot and poured coffee, said hello to three people and went back in office, shut door, opened it and hung “do not disturb” sign.
I sat there for the next 45 minutes trying to figure out what happened with my life. I did have one insight.
Whoever thought it better that Han Solo wait until Greedo shot first must be my neighbor. Such an inane attempt at non-hostility could only originate in the suburbs.
Greedo had just said he was going to kill Han. Who wouldn’t blast him under the table a second later? Someone who hadn’t spent 15 years in the suburbs trying to make everything safe, secure and proper, including the cool movie moments of our youth. “It’s not right to hit first. We only fight to defend ourselves. It’s not the War Department anymore, it’s the Defense Department.”
And somehow that translates into Greedo having to shoot first so Han can then be on solid moral ground when he blasts Greedo’s lower half into jelly. Okay. What’s really crappy is it turned Greedo from a cool green killing machine into a lame shot. If you went with that version then Greedo was a dumb-ass bounty hunter who got into the BH business because the economy went sour and he lost his job as a vice executive accountant at Light Speed Shipping Ltd. (“We get it there faster than Einstein thought possible!”). Hell, Greedo had to feed the family and keep up with the payments on the 4-2 ½ domed adobe in the Two Suns Valley sub-division (no Jawas allowed).
He wasn’t cut out for it. Got talked into buying a shit blaster at a Mos Eisley pawn shop when he knew a shotgun disperser would be the only way he could hit anything. Never mind he was scared shitless sitting across from one of the coolest bad-asses in the galaxy who probably already had his non-pawn-shop-bought blaster out and pointing at Greedo’s green balls.
Really in that sense, green was a good color for Greedo because he was so green at the bounty hunter thing he missed from two feet away. Nobody does that, not even a kid. And speaking of kids, soon after the disaster in the cantina, Greedo’s wife and two children were forced to live on the streets. Granted, this led one of his sons to grow up bitter and become one of the meanest and most lethal bounty hunters this side of the flotsam and jetsam of the first Death Star. He wouldn’t have a conversation with you first. He’d just shoot you, take a picture of your fried carcass with his AT&T smart talkie and head to the next job. Guy killed about 400 humanoids a year and won several BHOTY awards.
Until he moved to the suburbs: nice place, pull-through drive, slightly bigger than his childhood digs. He started watching back episodes of The Tusken Diaries on sub-space TIVO, developed a little pooch to his stomach and started preferring barbecuing womp rats to frying hit list targets. Finally it got so bad his own brother – remember the other one also thrown out on the streets due to dad’s bad luck – took a grill skewer and planted it amongst the nubs on his brother’s head. When asked why he did it, Greedo Jr’s brother said, “The bastard had gone soft.”
Monster in the Suburbs will return next week if the work-release program is still up and running, i.e. “funded.”
Change light bulbs again on the ceiling fan in our bedroom. Need to check the wiring: the motherfuckers go out way too often. Either it’s the wiring or a light bulb conspiracy.
Could be anything and everything.
Finally get to the kitchen to make pancake breakfast – the one thing I’m halfway decent doing. Discover that no one knows if the dishwasher is full of clean or dirty dishes. Or halfway both ways. Wife says she thinks they’re clean. Kid points at sign on fridge that is flipped to “dirty”. I point at the dishwasher soap dispenser that is still a third full of soap. I suspect someone was in a hurry or not paying attention and popped open the door mid-way through the cleaning cycle. The kid and his friend and I are forced to inspect the dishes: no food debris but some stains linger. Better to be safe: I squirt more soap into the dispenser and rev the whole thing up again. Door’s been open so long the cycle resets on its own.
With all our plates and necessary cooking utensils in the wash, breakfast is on hold. Grumbling about the family cleaning process being as efficient as our current Congress, I sit down at the dining table with a cup of coffee and write this.
Chunks of Styrofoam hit my car. I wake enough to swerve slightly, avoid a piece the size of a small boulder rolling from beneath the truck ahead of me. I burst through a snowstorm.
Vehicles behind me grind and grind the white spongy balls into the black asphalt. White turns to gray.
I look ahead for the vehicle releasing this petroleum chaos but see no spillage from any truck, van or Vespa.
I think of the shuttle, the one that broke apart across the Texas sky several years ago. Columbia. Seven humans suddenly falling stars.
All because of a chunk of Styrofoam.
Harder than these pieces I’ve just blown through, no doubt, but think of the mayhem this road detritus might have caused: a jerk of the wheel too sharp, sudden brakes, collision, more death. But without the stars. Instead, blood on asphalt earth.
A year ago the curious bunch at NASA and JPL landed a rover on Mars. Not for the first time, true, but for a planet to which we struggle to safely get half of our missions, this landing was a celebrated success.
I stayed up and watched the Mission Control guys eat peanuts, use rote and ritual to remain calm and then holler with jubilation at the sudden safe landing. I was fascinated by the sky crane, NASA’s answer to the continued difficulty in landing rovers without loss of mission. Meters above the surface, the descending package paused and lowered the rover to the red surface. It was like something out of the movie Prometheus, science fiction finally come to life. How we’re supposed to do things.
It gave me hope. Nothing specific and quick to fade over the following days and days of monotonous life — already a year has somehow snuck by. But something has remained and I think of it now with asphalt gray foam embedded in the grooves of my tires, my home still just past the horizon.
In memory of Rick D. Husband, William C. McCool, Michael P. Anderson, Kalpana Chawla, David M. Brown, Laurel Clark and Ilan Ramon, and all who go next. Who push. Who reach. Do it for us back here on earth, condemned to see no farther than today and the next mile. For us when we glance up at old stars and then down into young eyes.