Tomorrow there’s a party, Sunday, and I’m getting ready. Got lotsa good stuff for antipasto, check, marinated and cut into chunks and spiced, yes. Cleaned the bathrooms, OK on that front. Kitchen will wait for tomorrow, after doing the prep cooking. CB has run around with the Webster, removing the diligence of the last half-year’s spiders. Stuff that needs cooking, the spicy drumettes and the Italian roasted potatoes, that will wait for tomorrow.
So here I am on my knees in the dining room, with six or seven scrubbing tools, trying to remove the ground-in remnants of clay from the sculpture of the King Lear puppets. CB spread layers of newspaper on the floor to contain the debris, but his sculpture station at the far end of the dining table found ways to burrow.
Our floor in that room is big terra-cotta tiles, and in the summer it’s a godsend because the chill of the night remains through the day. But the terra-cotta tiles are not a smooth surface, and I suspect that the terra-uncotta crumbs felt a mission to join their cotta tiles in perpetuity. I have been scrubbing that floor for three years, and the clay crumbs and stains are as ground-in as ever.
I am of the opinion that party guests are not going to be staring at the floor. This is not exactly a survival priority, to get the tiles clean. But it’s something that has been bugging me for a long time, and so this work is a birthday gift to myself. I am going to reclaim the goddamn floor.
After two hip replacements, I am finally good with going down onto my knees. I have assembled a dishpan of PineSol, a big metal scrub-brush, a small metal brush, a huge wiping sponge, and some sort of space-age scrubber that actually doesn’t do shit.
After a series of failed attacks, I find what combination seems to work, and I get the acne-ridden area clear. A bonus is that it replaced the gym session I skipped this morning.
The take-away is that I gave myself a gift, righting a wrong, balancing an imbalance. I hated sweeping and mopping the dining room and still seeing a big area of schmutz. Now I accept my gift, and see a clear floor of beautiful big tiles, and say thank you.
Some writers have distinct styles, others a nexus of themes around which they do the hokey-pokey or a war dance. I’ve never been able to do that. Our work is all over the map, always has been.
Partly, perhaps, as it was born in theatre, first with adaptations of classics, then scripting short sketches for our touring ensemble, only much later writing in the realistic mode most actors are trained in. And of course working in collaboration with my mate, a creature of many personae, has its effect. I’m hijacked by stories, sometimes characters, from the sublime to the ridiculous, and as far as I can tell, there’s not much in common, thematically, between Sir Francis Drake or Marie Antoinette at one extreme, and the taxi driver who wants to start a steel mill at the other. Except perhaps for their human capacity for vision and self-deception—but that’s like saying I write specifically about human beings who breathe.
Moving into prose fiction hasn’t brought unity to our endeavors. It’s only multiplied the multiplicity—perhaps because with a short story we don’t have to memorize the lines and assemble props and sell tickets, we just type it and send it out to a concentration camp, a.k.a. literary journal. You just crank’em out and plead for somebody to read’em.
Right now, the projects include: (a) next draft of a short story about a Shakespeare festival atop an underground conflagration; a novella on a sit-com morphing into a horror show; a flash-fiction about standing in line; a novel about the imminent death of the human race (granted, a tiresome subject); and a clown show about survival—our only theatre piece in process. The only thing linking all this stuff is that it’s obsessing me, plus maybe some laughs and quirks of phrase here and there. These will all be completed: I can’t bring a character into the world and leave him sprawled on the keyboard. He’s got to get up, brush off the metaphors, and finish doing the dishes.
I wonder sometimes if birthing these babies is a way to avoid the imperative Know Thyself. In fact I know a lot about myself, especially the stuff I dislike, and it worms its way into the writing. For me, I guess, writing isn’t “self-expression”—whatever personal elements are there, it’s getting outside the strait jacket of self, trying to wrap my arms around the rest of the human race and crow, “Brother in folly, sister in hope, cousin in mortality!”
Sometimes I get there.