— From the Fool —

A guy told me his dream. You get that kind of stuff in bars. I tried to change the subject to global warming or some other chit-chat, but he had a need, so I listened.

He dreamed he was starting a new job. Heart surgeon. He was right in the middle of it, where they stop the heart and pump the blood around on a detour and sew up the messy parts, when he realized: he hadn’t quit his old job.

In med school he’d moonlighted as a programmer, and he still had tangles of code that had to be sewn up or the HTML would all reverse itself and his team would lose. (Dreams poop out these mixed metaphors a lot.)

So he had to jump over to the keyboard, which had to be boiled to sterilize it.

But he’d worked as a busboy in the college cafeteria and still had a dozen tables to clear. But in high school he’d worked summers detasseling corn, and the tall stalks were spreading their pollen over the keyboard, the tables, and the wide-open ventricles. But he looked up at the clock and it was past time to start deliveries on his paper route.

The guy had a couple more drinks. I don’t know how the patient did.

 — From EF —

Sebastopol is well-supplied with wildlife, and because we keep a food-bowl outside for our feral cat community, we get lots of visits, with raccoons at the top of the list. Shortly after we moved here (2000), I made the close acquaintance of a mama coon. I knew she was a mama because when she stood up on her hind legs at our glass patio door to beg, I could see her milky nipples. I couldn’t bear to shoo her away.

For eight years we were friends and had many long silent communions, me kneeling inside the door, she crouching attentively outside, nose-to-nose. For a while I was even feeding her from my hands, then realized that was probably not wise. But we definitely had a bond. My most stunning memory of her was just after a rain, when she had one perfect glowing raindrop as a third eye.

She had many litters of young, but they’d all migrate away, as is their custom. Then came the inevitable time when she wasn’t there any more. I regret to report that her kids were not up to mama’s standards. They’ve repeatedly torn up our front-yard moss and stolen the food bowls. We thought of live-trapping them, but one of our infrequent customers is a gorgeous skunk. Not a good accidental capture.

I try to be philosophical about each year’s young’uns, but sometimes I lose patience. I don’t want to hurt them, but I’d love to make them think about moving on. That’s when I thought about the hose.

We have a huge Gravenstein apple tree at the edge of the back patio, and its trunk is hollow. CB reported that when he last shooed the kid squad, they ran up about four feet to a hole and dropped in. Aha.

I came out the door, all three of them zipped into the tree, and I walked up to the hole with the hose set on maximum jet. Blam! One at a time, they stuck their faces out the hole like a picture in a frame, got drenched, then wriggled out and got blasted in the butt as they ran. I must confess that I enjoyed this immensely.

They’re back, but I’m still giggling.

— From CB —

We’re finding our way through the first scene of King Lear. By temperament I always want a clear interpretation before I venture forth, road maps all the way. But I’ve learned, over the years, to go against my temperament, to trust the moment-by-moment finding.

It’s a swing between sensing the ribs and knuckles and plosives of the text and what they evoke from your own experience with the weird human species. There are all the mechanics to solve — who hands a puppet to whom, how the Fool juggles Cordelia while hitting a light cue — but I’m finding it impossible to do a mechanical “mark-thru.” No, the text grabs me by the throat, and I’m plunged into it.

Lear plans a ceremonial abdication, all prearranged. The love quiz is a whim, a twinge of anxiety at relinquishing power, one little game to show that he’s still king. Regan and Goneril comply instinctively to his whim. There’s nothing inherently evil in them except what they’ve inherited from Lear, the primacy of power. Cordelia balks: she’s her father’s daughter in a different way, with a sense of self that her sisters lack. Lear takes her response as a joke, then as a faux pas he tries to coach her through. But she resists this commodification of love, and for him that’s tantamount to treason. This is the father who later, crossed by Goneril, calls down the gods’ curses on his own daughter’s “organs of increase,” a power-besotted man who’s always been the sole puppeteer of his own puppet show and now finds his puppets rebelling.

The deepest pain in the scene is Lear’s banishment of Kent. Kent is the old war buddy whose utter loyalty spurs him to violate protocol and oppose his king. Lear tries to silence him, then finally pulls rank — “On thine allegiance, hear me!” — and banishes him. Beneath his anger at Cordelia and at Kent, Lear suffers acute pain, but that pain incites cold, rational spews of judgment that show, momentarily, a Lear at the height of his powers. It’s a remarkable fibrillation between senility and resolve, and the effect is of a man teetering on the edge.

Regan and Goneril are left stunned. Their leave-taking with Cordelia is tense and reserved on both sides — to my mind, they’re her half-sisters by another mother, though there’s no mention of mothers in the play. They’re hardly celebrating their acquisition of a larger chunk of the spoils: they’re deeply shaken by Lear’s actions.

Nowhere is there a love that understands the other.

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© Bishop & Fuller 2014

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