Falmouth, 4 a.m. Tiny flies on the sidewalk table. Tiny streams from the overnight sprinklers. Murdered puddles of ice cream. The air smells like a good day. Crickets and the clank of the fuel truck and hoses feeding the petrol station. The baker is in. The dress maker is asleep in her bed, all of the covers pushed down—the window a soft splatter of American flags. The moon, soon to eclipse the sun, is a slim pointer for the morning star.
Raccoons in the dumpsters. Rabbits in the parking lot—and then everyone who didn’t get there too early, everyone who trusts a bus schedule. Uneven sidewalks and bubblegum, a dryad monster potted in a road median.
These are artifacts of the simulation, slipping, absent-minded, resolved to straight lines and mathematical curves. The alignments are by-blow, something I keep to myself. This bus won’t be put of service half-way across the morning run because the aisle is a bathtub of puke and beer, sloshing back and forth and side to side at stops and hard turns. I’m not pushing a wheelbarrow about the grounds of a nursing home, not anymore, not for a long time—smelling the gasoline and the junipers we planted yesterday, yearning for my lunch break from minute one.
In recent years, I’ve taught myself to wake early. It does not matter when I fall asleep. It does not matter when I have coffee. It does not matter. The penalties are small. I leave a wet-dripped-from-the-cup trail between rooms. I lose a hat when it should be on my head. But pushing six back to four, once in a while, is in stride—if I have somewhere to go.
Some mornings I forget to set the alarm. I’ll wake, regardless, within minutes of when it should have broken the silence. But most mornings there’s no bus to catch. Fewer each year, I think—and this morning I again woke before the alarm. Because I had no destination in mind, only the kitchen counter espresso and the desk in the home office, I remained on my back, thinking about one character and then another for an hour and then another. This month, one is traveling to a gas giant’s moon. Another drops her luggage into the trunk of a taxicab even as she plans to abandon it and go by foot.
Public reading in a couple weeks. I plan to read tight excerpts like popcorn, and most will concern going places, travel so called—and what’s there when we step back to the curb.