Change in the Weather


Carl paced from room to room, checking the views from each window. Thunderstorms were coming. First, murmurings from the west, then rumblings and a cool breeze promising a break in the oppressive humidity. It was the first cool breeze in a week. There was no air conditioning in JJ’s farmhouse. “That guy”, Carl thought as he paced and sweated. “Too good for an air conditioner.”

Carl was house sitting for JJ. Or, hiding from Anne, his wife. Or, taking a break from her. Or, giving Anne a break from him, and not for the first time.

The breeze picked up and Carl watched the sky. There were clouds up there he had never seen before, moving in odd ways. Heavy sporadic raindrops blown from the storm proper hit the windows and roof. This was going to be a whopper. A direct hit, he thought. He made the rounds and closed the windows. Then he went onto the porch.

Two things happened as soon as he got out there. The air raid siren went off from the center of town and a car appeared, headlights on, speeding up the road from town. “That looks like my car,” he thought. As it pulled into JJ’s driveway, he realized it was his car, with his estranged wife in the drivers seat.

“Tornado warning!” Anne yelled as she hopped out.

She ran from the car as the rain picked up and Carl looked again at the sky as the siren droned from town. A section of the sky had separated from the brooding clouds above and was rotating slowly over the town. The edges of this huge rotation were tinted yellow like jaundice, boding illness and breakdown. “We’re fucked,” Carl thought.

They watched together as the funnel formed from dust rising up into the turning cloud, not so much touching down as taking shape between ground and sky. The twister came toward the mountain. Carl could see individual pieces of debris being pulled up into the funnel; branches, shrubs, and flat flipping panels of wood or cardboard. And, was that a Little Tykes kiddie car? “Cellar,” he yelled.

The tornado never hit the farm, moving up and over the mountain about a quarter mile to the south. (The swath would be visible for years). Carl and Anne sat in the dirt-floor basement, side-by-side on a couple of lawn chairs, holding hands and listening.

“You were worried about me,” Carl said.

“You asshole,” Anne said. “I was scared.”

“Scared enough to come find me?”

“Sad when you put it that way.”

They were quiet, straining to hear upstairs. There was some wind, but the house was not ripped away. There would be no Wizard of Oz hallucination or destructive aftermath.

“So, can I come back home?”

“Why don’t we live here for awhile?”

“At JJ’s?”

“Why not. A change of scenery. Aren’t they gone for awhile?”

“You know him. Could be another week. Or, a year.”

A pause as they listened. Silence.

“You know, if this was a novel, we’d fuck right now,” she said. “Narrow escape. Hearts pumping.”

“This is no novel, that’s for sure. But let’s fuck anyway.”

So they went upstairs to JJ’s bedroom with the storm moving off , the sky having turned from yellow to green, and sirens coming from the town below. They opened the windows. The humidity was gone and it was just nice to be naked in bed with someone you loved and hated, as a cool breeze came through the room.


That’s That


“This is perfect,” Carl said. “A door closes and God opens a window.”

“So,” JJ said. “She’s serious this time.”  They spoke of Anne, Carl’s lukewarm wife.

“Who knows, who knows? She’s seriously fed up. The usual shit. No ambition, no money, look what those people have, why can’t we have that. Same old shit. It’ll blow over.”

They were in JJ’s farm house, in the midst of camping gear strewn all over the living room and kitchen. Tents, sleeping bags, pots and pans, spatula, propane, clothes, boots, lantern, flashlight, batteries, rope, Cracker Jacks, toilet paper…

“Well, you can stay here until we get back. Or she takes you back.”

“I could come with you,” Carl said. “I mean, can I come?”


“Can I meet you somewhere? Like for a weekend?”

JJ thought of the three of them, Carl, JJ, and Lila, all in a tent together, and disgust rose in his gut, unlatching an old trap door to a cellar in his mind. Cobwebs of jealousy and resentment. He suspected Carl and Lila had been together once or twice. In fact, he knew it. It didn’t bother him day-to-day, but still, it was there like a blemish on an otherwise jolly photo of three amigos. The eye was drawn to that blemish and it could never not be seen. “I don’t think so,” he said. “We’ll see.”

Carl took that in. “Y’know, I know a few things about life. I wouldn’t be a friend if I didn’t bring this up.”

There was a hardening in JJ’s chest, familiar and automatic since his parents or teachers called him out on something. Stealing his sister’s babysitting money or breaking a school window with a thrown apple, it didn’t matter if it was justified or not. His jaw tightened. You’re not the boss of me.

“It seems to me like you’re running from something,” Carl started. “You can’t escape yourself. You can’t outrun yourself. Wherever you go, you’ll be sure to find yourself there. You can run all your life, but not go anywhere…”

Carl droned on. Deep down, under the growing layers of resistance and resentment, the swamp of guilt bubbled. Down there, JJ knew Carl was trying to help him, that maybe he was right. But, this was Carl, kicked out by his wife, still an overnight bagel baker. Carl, the fucking philosopher. Nobody tells me what to do.

“Enough!” JJ said, louder than he intended. “Just, enough.”

“All right, all right.”

“I’m sorry, but just stop with all that. I’m not some invalid. I need to live.”

“I’m just worried about you, man. You’re like my brother.”

The guilt swamp bubbled and the anger was swallowed in the morass. How can you hate and love someone in the same moment? JJ sighed. “I know, me too. I feel the same way. But, I have to move, man. I have to get moving.”

“But, that restlessness. It’s not a good thing. That’s all I’m saying.”

Why wouldn’t he just let it go?

You think you’re better than me?

“Thanks, I guess,” JJ said through clenched teeth. “But I’m going away with Lila. You can’t come. But, you’re welcome to stay here while your marriage is broken.”

“And that’s that?”

“That’s that.”

Prepping the Bird, Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving morn and JJ was up early to deal with the turkey.  Not some frozen supermarket bird but a real live turkey (it was alive two weeks ago) from a real live farm nearby.  “This bird is environmentally sound plus I’m supporting the local economy.” JJ tells himself these things, feeling good, and reaches into the cavity for the giblets.  There they are, wrapped in plastic.  Carl said to save them to help make gravy.  Well, Carl can make the gravy because JJ’s at a loss about this big-ass bird and what to do with it.  That’s when Carl came through the kitchen door, banging in with bags of food.  “You haven’t been humping that thing, have you?”

“I don’t even know where to start,” said JJ and patted the breast.

“Better at one of the ends.”

“You and your thing with food humping.  How are we going to cook it?”

“We’re gonna rinse it, then we’re gonna stuff it, then we’re gonna infuse it with butter and herbs and  then salt it and put it in the oven.”

“How long?”

“A long ass time.  Hours.  Five or six hours.”

“Where’s Anne?”

“She’ll be along.  She’s getting some stuff ready.”

“Like what?”

“Some kinda beet salad.  With goat cheese and pecans.”


“Exactly,” said Carl as he carried the bird to the sink.  “Where’s the roasting pan?”

“Roasting pan?”

“Oh shit,” Carl said.  “Here we go.”

“I thought it just went in the oven,” JJ said.  Though now he could see there would be juices, maybe grease and fire, certainly a mess.

“Please tell me that you’re not really that stupid.”

“I don’t have much of that stuff and you know it.”

“I thought maybe you would acquire some stuff.  Y’know, with your winnings,.”

“I bought plates and silverware and all that.  Pots too.  But no roasting pan.”

Carl took his phone out and called home.  “How soon are you coming…bring the roasting pan…yes, really… what?…No shit,” he said and looked at JJ.  “OK, see you soon.”

“What did she say?,” JJ asked.

“She says you need a lady.”

“No shit,”  JJ said.  “I know that.  What about the pan?”

“She’ll be here with the pan.”

Carl had a cake of butter mixed with herbs that he pushed in dabs up under the skin and into the cavities with the stuffing.  JJ cut some apples and onions into chunks.  They tied the legs together and pinned the wings to the body.  Anne arrived with the pan and they nestled the bird on the rack, filling the bottom of the pan with chunked onions and apples.  Carl rubbed some more butter on the breast and salted the whole thing.   JJ opened the oven door, moved the rack down to the bottom notch, and Carl put the whole deal into the oven.  JJ shut the door and bowed his head, hands clasped, in recognition that this ceremonial killing and cooking of a large awkward bird was taking place all over the country.  Thanksgiving, USA.

“I’m thankful for you guys,” JJ said.

Anne smiled and Carl said, “Yeah, yeah, same to you.  Let’s have some coffee and go throw the football.”

JJ looked out the window.  Not a single cloud in the pale blue sky.  “OK,” he said.  “Let’s do that.”

Moondance Part 2, A Walk to the Graveyard

As the farm-warming party wound down, Pierre strummed and sang, “Je ne peux pas avoir juste une danse avec toi mon amour?”  Lila looked over to the fire and felt the chill of the cold shoulder from the guys over there. “They hate this,” she said to Carl’s wife, Anne.

“Yeah well, it’s good for them to see.  And it’s good for us.”  They watched JJ and Carl in the circle of firelight.  Carl reached down for a rock, showed it to JJ, and said something that made JJ smile.  Anne said, “They probably want to kill Pierre with that rock.”

Lila laughed and Anne turned back to Pierre.  But Lila kept watching JJ and Carl in the firelight.  The cold moping over there had passed and JJ was more at ease.  These days, he was able to pull out of the dark moods and be loose and funny, like he used to be.  Was it the money, the ridiculous lottery winnings?  This stupid farm that he bought?  Maturity?  What a horrible word, Lila thought.  Horrible goddamn maturity.

Then JJ and Carl were coming over and Lila thought they really were going to bludgeon this French guy and crush his little Euro guitar.  “Hey,” JJ said.  “We just came over to kick mon ami’s ass.”

“Funny,” Lila said.  “Are you having fun?”

“Yeah.  But we’re going for a walk in the woods. Do you all want to come?”

Lila hesitated and looked at Anne but Anne ignored them. Lila said, “Where did you get this French guy?”

“I thought he came with you,” said JJ.

“Are you kidding?  I’m only listening to him to piss you off.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“It means, let’s take that walk and leave these bums behind.”

Carl said, “I’m standing right here.”  But then he sighed, walked over to Anne and put his arm around her leaving JJ and Lila alone on the fringe.

They walked away and the night surrounded them.  The fire and the music seemed far away as they headed down the hill.  It was another dimension out here, all shimmery silver light and shadows of shadows.  People need to walk in the moonlight, JJ thought.  It’s the world in negative, a bizarro world where things can happen and time and distance are warped and stretched like Dali clocks.  JJ felt furtive and alive.

They reached the tree line and JJ said, “The back of the South Street cemetery is down this trail.  Let’s go look at it in the moonlight.”

The woods closed in and they soon reached a small clearing where they stopped and turned to each other.  Their hands joined and they stood in the moonlight, still themselves with all their history, but also new to each other, cast in this strange light.  Nature’s masquerade.

“Well,” JJ said.  “What are we going to do?”

“I’m waiting for a sign,” Lila said.

“So let’s walk to the graveyard and see what happens.”

“Ok.  I really don’t know what we’re doing.”

“We never did,” JJ said.  And they continued down the path toward the cemetery.

It’s a Marvelous Night for a Moondance

“Remember that time Benny was on crutches and had to hide in the bushes from the cops.  He couldn’t run.  He just kind of toppled himself into these shrubs…”

JJ, Carl, and their old friend Stevie D sat by the fire on JJ’s farm.  The farm-warming party was winding down.  The full moon was up and it was a big ol’ autumn moon to behold.  Some Euro hipster (Pierre?  Sven?) was playing guitar for a few of the ladies and Lila was eating it up, of course.  Carl’s wife was over there, too.  Their group sat apart, away from the fire because, according to Lila, the fire spoiled the moonlight.  The Euro started singing a familiar melody in French, “it’s a marvelous night for a moondance”.  All the girls laughed.  JJ wanted to find a rock that fit his palm and just club this guy, with his wispy beard and European ease, just club him into the ground.

Carl said, “And then we circle back and that sorry bastard is crutching down the road at two in the morning.  He was so pissed off!”  Carl and Stevie D laughed.  JJ managed a thin smile.

When JJ thought back to the old hijnks he didn’t feel the hilarity anymore.  He felt like he was entering a swamp, a wet sucking at his feet making it hard to move and releasing a reek of regret.  The capers, the pranks.  It was all fun, of course.  But it was tangled with the old feelings of being doomed and baffled.  Drunken escapades into the suburbs to drive on lawns and party on golf courses and beaches.  The cops came and you fled to another spot.  Always another spot and more cat and mouse.  JJ felt like he played cat and mouse his whole life with sadness and regret.  He would plug the hole for awhile with a girlfriend or city, then it would start oozing again.  He looked at Lila.  A surge of … warmth?  Longing for sure.  Caring, yes.  Then came the ooze of sadness and regret, the old resentments.

Carl leaned over and said into JJ’s ear, “Stop it.”

“Stop what?”


“Whadaya mean?”

“Move forward.  Fuck the past.”

“I’m just…I think it’s time for bed.”

“Stay with me, man.  Right here, right now.”

Stevie D shambled off to find something to drink and JJ and Carl sat looking into the fire.  They listened to the singing and the laughing but JJ did not look over.  The Euro sang, “Je ne peux pas avoir juste une danse avec toi mon amour?”

“I seriously want to crush that guy’s skull,” Carl said.  He reached down and picked up a rock that fit his palm.  “This look about right?”

“Yeah,” JJ said.  “Perfect.”  He smiled, a real smile.  “I’ll get the shovel.”