Thursday, March 10, 2011

365 Jobs, Day 69: "Of No Value For Fishing"

Cross-posted from my new blog, 365 Jobs:

"Of No Value For Fishing"
Sunday, March 10, 1985

I like to get up early and write before I go to work.  Today after two hours of diddling I have written this much:
Earning a living
is not living.
Staying alive
is not life.
Today it's a Woodside job.  A muscle job.  A fire-resistant drywall job.  Mr. Straw watches me hammer a nail and says, "If I'd tried to pound that in, it’d be twisted into a figure eight.”  He's cheerfully cleaning the piles of accumulated junk in his garage while I'm hanging heavy sheets of drywall.  He says he hasn't cleaned this space since he moved here in 1948.

Mr. Straw is a spry old man who walks with a limp.  Around his neck he wears a lanyard with a whistle, which he blows from time to time to call his dogs.  Three golden retrievers come bounding and are rewarded each time with a treat.  Mr. Straw says that as a boy he was practically raised by a golden who acted like a combination of nanny and bodyguard.  Now Mr. Straw is giving back, raising his own.  He tells me dog stories.  Once he saw a golden rip the shirt off a man who was beating another dog. 

Before the day is over, I will hang 9 sheets of 5/8 drywall, each sheet weighing 70 pounds, the topmost of which will require a ladder.  I like strong work, sometimes.  I'm proud I can do it.

"Look at this," Mr. Straw says, pulling something from a musty old box.  "I haven't touched this stuff since my father died in 1955."  He's holding a dusty ball of string, shaking his head, grinning.  "It's silk fishing line.  See the note on it?  That's my father's handwriting."

The note says:

This string is of no value for fishing.
"Why did he save it?" I ask.

"You had to know him.  He'd do that."

"Why the note?"

"Because he knew somebody would find it."

"What will you do with it?"

"I'll keep it, of course," says Mr. Straw.

In the evening returning home, I am greeted by wife, three children, and a golden mutt puppy.  I pop two ibuprofen and lie down with a bag of frozen peas on my lower back.  Soon I sit up, joined by Will, my two-year-old.  I write:

Sucking thumb
you come
blanket and cheek
to seek
my lap, my breast
and yes
we both feel
After I put him to bed, my older son Jesse wants to take out his telescope.  Later, I write:
On a frosty night
in fuzzy sweater
sleeves suddenly short
a boy gathers the moon
through lenses
between trees,
counting craters
while a cat purrs
against his legs.
from the porch
I, too, rub his ankles
while his eyes
seek light.
On the cover of the notebook I write:
This journal is of no value for earning a living.
Someday, somebody might find it.

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