Fifty degrees is not always fifty degrees. It’s predawn, raining, and a good breeze is coming through the window. At this moment, fifty degrees feels glorious. Last summer was brutal. It was so hot my garden wilted if I didn’t water it for two hours straight in the middle of the day, and my squash stopped producing for a month. Triple digit heat stayed with is for over a week, and upper 90’s stayed longer still.

Of course, back in December it was down in the upper teens for five days, but the cold didn’t bother me the way the heat did. I worked outside in the heat, and if felt as if my body were melting in my boots. The water was warm right out of the tap it was so hot.

Maybe that’s why I think this fifty degree weather feels so good. Yesterday it was close to eighty. Now, it feels more like it should. I’m down to a pair of shorts, and that’s all. I want to feel this. I want to experience the coolness of the air, the feel of my body not sweating, the bare skin totally free of mosquitoes hunting.

Were it dark enough, I would walk around nude on the deck.

Cold

Cold. I remember cold. Maybe because I worked in the heat, played in the heat, maybe because summer was the time of being outside, swimming, doing things, I don’t remember heat, or being too hot. Cold, yeah, cold, I do remember cold. Not just the absence of heat, but the total lack of comforting warmth. The air was cold, the floor was cold, the food was cold, the surface of my skin was cold, the walk to school was cold, the sun was cold, and life was cold.

It’s too late now, to look back, like being in a car and wanting to see where you left an hour after departure. It’s gone. There’s nothing left of it at all. It never existed except in my mind.

            Someone told me, who I can’t remember, when is a mystery, and why, yeah, I get why, but they said every time you think back, open a memory, that memory is changed, polluted, obscured, and scarred by your mental touch. Who you were when that memory formed is different now. Now you are not the person who stored that memory so when you feel it, you’re going to add, or subtract, make stronger or weaker that memory, and in all of this, the memory’s original form is lost forever.

            “I want to talk,” she said, and of people, this was the one person I most wanted. She and I had dated, broken up, dated, and finally it was final.

            “Okay.”

            We walked across the parking lot of the high school, she stuck her hand in my jacket pocket, her fingers cold, mine colder, we intwined our fingers, tightly, hanging on to the only thing left between us, the tightness too much but that was all we had. The wind blew hard into our faces, and I had no idea where we might be going, just walking.

            “I’m pregnant,” she said and I felt cold.

            I swallowed hard, tried to do math in my head, tried to think of something to say, found nothing, wanted a drink.

            “It’s not yours,” she said, and her voice broke.

            She turned around, walked back towards the school, and I waked on, into the cold, and now, at this moment, I can see the image in my head of the paved parking lot, the basketball goals, the field beyond the parking lot, the dead grass, the tree line, and I wonder how much of what I remember was ever real, perhaps little of it, except for the cold.

I remember it was back in 1976, I was in high school, sixteen years old, and drinking Jack Daniels right out of the bottle, chasing it with Mountain Dew, just before the bell sounded and class began. One of the straight kids, one of those students who didn’t drink alcohol, and didn’t smoke pot, looked at me, and it was like he was seeing a snake crawl out of the earth, or maybe an alien landing here, hard to say.

“How can you stand to drink before school?” he asked.

“How can you stand not to?” I replied, and neither of us had an answer.

Last night was filled with garden variety anxiety dreams.

The metallic sound, repetitive, sharp and rhythmic was familiar, personal, and somewhere being awake and sleep, dreaming, hallucinating, dying, that point where anything that can be defined, I realized it was the sound of a wedge being hammered into firewood in order to split it. One of the chores I had when I was growing up. I don’t remember being warm. I don’t remember comfort. I remember the sound of the maul’s flat head hitting the wedge, driving it deeper, tearing the wood open, breaking it into pieces, so it would be easier to burn.

With most of the country in some sort of surreal deep freeze on Christmas morning, remember that each car accident requires law enforcement, EMT’s, 911 operators, Emergency Room doctors and nurses, road crews to clean up the debris, wrecker operators to move the cars and trucks, firemen to put out fires, electric company people to repair damage to poles, and none of these people will be home for Christmas morning.

In the meanwhile, somewhere out there is a young man or woman, who is wearing a uniform for the first time on Christmas and they are far, far, away from those they love. Or it might be someone who has been in uniform for years, who is once again missing their family today.

Those who go out and do things we do not see, those who serve this country, those men and women who have jobs that keep our world running the way we like it, are rarely thanked, but to those who love them, at this time of year, they are always missed.

Merry Christmas, to all who are out in the cold, or in a uniform, of who are performing some task so the rest of us my travel more safely.

And to those people, and their families, too, Thank You!

Writing is ricocheting all over the inside of my mind. So much stuff bouncing around, like rubber balls in a metal room, and although it’s fun to watch, and to listen to all of this stuff, it’s difficult to sit down and writing about one thing at a time.

Rough Draft, New Idea

The limb collided with her face and stopped the panic running. Nearly unconscious, she found herself facing up, looking at the sky through the limbs of the trees, and suddenly, fear returned. The bear was still out there. It might arrive at any time.

            She tried to stand, fell, then lurched to her feet. Trees, more trees, and trees was all she could see. The sky was still there, seen in patches through the trees, tall evergreens, but even as the idea of being lost struck, the light of the sky seemed to be fading.

            Her shoulder hurt. The bear, huge and brown, had grabbed her pack and dragged her into the woods. She managed to get the pack off, and ran, and ran and ran, but now where was she? Where was the bear?

            Downhill would be toward water, but the ground sloped down, then back up, or did it? Too many trees were around to tell. But standing still seemed wrong. She walked without any idea what direction.

            The darkness seemed to close in tighter with every step. Now she was the terrain was getting steeper, but turning back seemed to be a terrible idea. The air was growing colder, too. She heard a noise, a voice, a woman, maybe, then a man’s voice, a light, a small light, she stumbled towards the sound, and the light, and saw a man and a woman having sex by flashlight, no, the man had his hands around her neck, she was pleading for him to stop.

            She approached the two, saw a rock on the ground, and hit the man in the head as hard as she could. The woman on the ground was half naked, gasping for breath, but could stand. They walked to the man’s truck, the gasping woman could only point now, but they got into the truck and started backing out of the woods.

            The man came out of the darkness, a knife in his hand, lumbering towards his truck and she screamed. The bear was behind the man, charging, snarling, and grabbed him by the neck and took the man down.

            “You okay?” the cop asked at the Emergency Room.

            “Yeah, I think so, how’s that woman?” she asked.

            “Bad, but alive. You saved her life. You know who that man was, the one you fed to the bear?” the cop looked serious.

            “No, I ran from the bear, I had no idea where I was,” she shook at the memory.

            “He’s killed six women. We’re calling him the Green River Killer.”