— From the Fool —

            My friend Barnett still talks about high school. Thirty years ago, but it left its mark. He was smart, and in high school that doesn’t pay. Guys punched him in the arm and called him faggot a lot. He turned out to be a lawyer. I see him sometimes when he’s drunk, which is most of the time.

He’s still a smart guy. He follows all the conspiracies which nobody knows about that are all over the Web even though the conspirators post about conspiracies that are so fake that people think all conspiracies are fake and then they’ve gotcha.

Last week he told me about the international conspiracy of the Death Scam. “There’s all these theories out there that people die,” he says, “so people are scared they’re going to die.   Writers write about it and preachers preach and doctors doctor you all over, but it’s all a hoax. The Federal Government plus the UN puts out this stuff, so people get terrified and give up their Constitutional right to live forever. Nothing will save you from the worms, they tell you. So they sell you prescriptions, weapons systems, iPods, haircuts, senators.”

No, I’d never heard about that.

“That’s the proof. They keep it out of the news.”

“You mean people don’t die?”

“They do if you kill’em,” he said. He had a point there.

“Sure, you can’t kill’em all or they wouldn’t be consumers. But kill a few and the word spreads fast.” He wrote it all out on Facebook and claimed that nobody’d proved him wrong. He’s a lawyer so he always gets the last word. Though if you let him talk long enough he falls off the bar stool.

I didn’t have the trouble in school that Barnett did. In third grade Artie hit me on the arm but I bit his thumb and that was that. It just takes a little forethought.

— From CB —

            Why am I remembering the shack on South Sixth Street? It might be from the moment this morning when I plucked white hairs from my heavy brown shirt. They made delicate curlings in the sunlight.

Back then, at the age of four or five— No, we lived in that little place till I was about to start third grade, so I was maybe three and a half when we first moved up to town from Grandpa’s farm and I saw it — “an old rag house,” I called it. Poetic for a three-year-old, but accurate. A tiny shack, and the outside had been covered with canvas held in place by strips of lath, and maybe wads of newspaper stuffed in cracks around the windows. That was the insulation. It’s a good deal, my mom told me, only ten dollars a month. Ten dollars seemed like a lot.

It was on a large corner lot in the dog end of an Iowa town, just across the river from the vast metropolis of Omaha. I’d heard my grandpa talk about Omaha and hoped I might go there some day. My mom had worked over there at the bomber plant and then on a meat-packing line, and now we were just across the river. Very exciting, up till the day they said the Russians might drop an atomic bomb on Omaha and we’d all be dead. Though by that time I was in school and we had desks to hide under.

We moved into the old rag house. There was a tiny front room, just big enough for a worn-out no-color couch and an armchair. To the left, a bedroom. My mom had a single bed, and I still slept in my baby bed, the kind with wooden bars up the sides — can’t throw out good furniture, said my mom. When I got too big for it, I slept in bed with my mom. The walls had striped wallpaper, or maybe flowers — I mix up walls.

At the back, the kitchen. It was down one step. I’d never been in a house where you had to go down a step, and that seemed special. We had a coal stove and a table against the wall, a cabinet over a counter, and rats. The icebox stood by the back door. It leaked. Our water pump was just outside, and the privy about a dozen steps away.

Over the years that we were there, things changed. She got a bookkeeping job and made more money. The old rags gave way to new wood siding and a paint job, white with green trim. The coal stove went, and in its place a gas range. The kitchen was partitioned to allow for an indoor toilet and shower. We got a dog and a doghouse.

The rats had a lease on the house, so they stayed.

— From EF —

            Friendship. What does that mean? When you’ve done something awesomely dumb and need to ask for help, it gets clearer, especially when the need comes very late at night.

In our touring lives, we’ve logged thousands of overnight guestings, mostly with people we’ve never met before, and I’ve had a lot of experience in keeping track of maps and addresses and phone numbers and contact details. But my track record flat-lined this past weekend in San Francisco.

During our run of Lear at the Emerald Tablet, Fridays are pretty hairy. The gallery can’t deal with our set during the week, so on Saturday night we finish the performance, wipe off the sweat and mingle with the audience, and then commence the 45-minute process of dismantling everything and packing it into a side storage room for the next weekend. Then we drive the 60 miles home.

Next Friday, we drive down, spend four hours setting up and doing makeup, etc, perform for nearly two hours, and then spend post-show time with the audience. We realized that we’d be saner healthier critters if we could stay in the city Friday nights, so we put out a call to get overnight crash space. Friends responded, and in our grateful acceptance notes, we did mention that we’d be arriving late.

I keep all our contact info on our home iCal, syncing it onto the iPod that travels with us. That works fine, but only if you remember to sync. I hadn’t. Heading out to the car at 10:45 p.m., I pulled out our map printout, and found that I hadn’t written the street address or the telephone number. It wasn’t on the iPod either, and our friend’s number wasn’t saved in the cell phone.

I haven’t the faintest idea why I thought that since I knew the exact block and side of the street we could just drive out to the Sunset and start looking, maybe connect with WiFi and Facebook message, but when you’re dizzy with fatigue you get strange. Of course, that didn’t work. Although it was late, I rang some doorbells, got no information, but was grateful that nobody called the cops.

What to do? I finally thought of one mutual friend, found her number in the phone, and confronted the moment of truth. Did I have the chutzpah to wake her up at 11:30 to ask her to look for a phone number for me? Well, yes, so shortly we got buzzed in by a bleary-eyed hostess, apologized for our ungodly delay like properly embarrassed zombies, shared our bottle of wine, and then fell into bed.

So my heart is open with gratitude to both the friend with the bed and the friend who didn’t cuss me out when I woke her up. Mostly, I’m grateful that I trusted those friendships. Thanks, friends.

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© Bishop & Fuller 2015

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