03 May 2009

Essence of Cherry

He stretches his tongue out of his mouth and rubs it against his upper lip. His tongue is so dry that every bud on it feels like a glass bead falling into the cracks of his parched lips. For a place so moist and humid he never thought he could be so deprived of water. His tongue, being nearly useless, slips back into his dry mouth. The lick probably made his lips worse instead of better.

Slowly he lies down on his back, the gravel digging into the back of his head. He wants to brush the gravel smooth but his hands are already so dry they ache. Getting them dusty would make them worse. Instead he just lays there shifting his head from side to side hoping the gravel will magically move or that he’ll find a more comfortable position.

The dark, thick, heavy clouds are moving overhead. He breathes in the sweet air and is grateful that at least the air is not as dry as his swollen lips. The same wind that pushes the clouds also pushes on his cheek. It is a cool, dry wind so full of deceit; even as it cools his warm skin he can feel it pulling precious moisture out of his cheek. He turns his head to face the wind, the coolness is a relief on his flaming skin but in an instant any moisture his tongue had put on his lips is wicked away.

He pulls his hood up around his face. It provides some protection from the cruel wind. Even through the thin fabric he can feel the sharp gravel rocks poking at his skull. Cloud after moisture laden cloud move through his view, none are willing to share their abundant water.

He closes his eyes and fills his lungs once again with the sweet air. It smells like rain, that pleasant, sweet almost dusty scent. Somewhere, someone is getting rain. He hopes they are enjoying it while he is dying like a tropical plant in a dry desert.

His eyes fly open. For one single, fleeting moment he felt the gentle tap of a tiny drop of water on his lip. The lip so relieved that it now ached at being reminded of what it has been missing. His eyes dart across the sky. There is no sign of more rain. The memory stayed with him though, like a fleeting kiss from a lover that will never be seen again.

Minutes passed with no more moisture. The clouds continued to move along too proud and mighty to pay any attention to him. As the aching in his lip died down he began to question the moment. Maybe he just imagined it. Maybe his lip was tingling from a momentary lapse in circulation.

The clouds were getting darker as they rolled over head. Instinctively he reached his tongue out once again, his lips so dry that his tongue had to push them apart. He dragged his tongue across his upper lip like sandpaper across rough stone. Once done pretending to deliver moisture to the upper lip the tongue navigated down to the lower lip.

There was no pretense of moisturizing; the tongue was here to investigate the damage. He could feel the cracking and splitting, it was more extensive than it had been when he first laid down. But what was to be expected; at least there was no blood. But there was, it just took a minute for enough moisture from his tongue to raise the blood for a taste. The bitter, acidic taste of the blood repulsed him as he started to wonder if it were possible to bleed to death through one’s lips.

He looked over to some nearby trees and began to wonder how much moisture he could get out of them, if they could possible sooth his aching body and bring much needed relief. The effort would be too much. The leaves were tiny and frail, the dry autumn winds had already started to pull the moisture from the leaves and the bark was sure to be dry.

He looked back to the clouds, longing for just a few drops of their bounty. Still, they would not yield.

He could hear the distant sound of thunder. Somewhere, someone was definitely getting rain. He pulled his hood tighter and slipped his hands into his pocket as he continued to watch the clouds go by. As his body settled he could feel more pieces of gravel digging into his flesh reminding him how uncomfortable he was.

Then there was new pain, something being pushed into his thigh. He pulled his hand from the warm fleece pockets and pushed into his pants pocket. Deeper and deeper it went until it struck a small smooth cylinder. His finger wrapped around it and retreated from the pocket. His hand held the cylinder above his face for inspection. As his eyes stared at the small white cylinder a smile broke through his cracked lips, of all the things to have forgotten, why was it this one simple thing.

He retrieved his other hand from the fleece pocket. Gripping the top and bottom of the cylinder he pulled splitting the cylinder in two to reveal a glossy pink substance. Deliverance had been in his pocket the whole time. His mouth cracked open as his hand guided the cylinder across his lips, first the top and then the bottom, then his lips closed again. Cap met body and the cylinder was carefully placed again in his pants pocket.

The smile returned to his face as he rose and brushed off the dirt and gravel, all remnants of his recent brush with death. He looked back up at the dark, think clouds once more. There was no more longing in his look, he was satisfied and didn’t need their cruel teasing anymore. His tongue stretches out once again to rub his lips, but instead of blood he tastes the faint essence of cherry.

01 May 2009

My Car Elazar and the Problem of the Signal

As many who have ridden in my car in the past while can attest, Elazar has been getting progressively vocal about his feelings and opinions. At first I thought this was just a phase and that he would grow out of it. He didn’t .

His new found power of expression came shortly after his turn signals were fixed. His turn signal box was recalled-ish (Chevrolet has enough problems with them that they will replace them for free but not enough that they send out letters with recall information) and I got his replaced as it often prevented the turn signals from working. The problem was fixed but occasionally Elazar would randomly start clicking.

The first time it happened was just after I dropped Tyler off at the Portland airport early in the morning. The clicker started running and I started to panic. I started flicking the turn signal back and forth trying to get it to stop while praying in my heart that my car didn’t explode. We got home safe.

For the next several weeks Elazar only occasionally clicked, it was almost cute. Still I tried to break him of the habit. I would put him on time out only to have him start back up the moment he was off time out. I would flick the signal in hopes that it would catch some magic lever and stop his tongue. I ever avoid going places that would take a lot of signaling to get to. None of these worked.

The drive to Idaho was fine and mostly filled with my choice of music. In Idaho the problem stayed minimal until near Valentine’s Day. I guess Elazar wanted to let everyone know how much he loved them and how glad he was to serve them. Even when he came back from surgery he was still quite chipper, much like Pollyanna. Something needed to be done.

One Saturday morning we had a long talk and I worked with Elazar. I reminded him that even his inside voice was loud and it made it hard for other people to talk. I suggested that his instrument panel was a much more effective way to communicate his feelings and that perhaps he should use it instead of his clicker. I also took the cover off the steering column to see if I couldn’t find the problem. I couldn’t find anything. I did however hold the signal at so many odd angles that there was a brief sound of sizzle and a small puff of smoke. Knowing I could do little else I took this as my only concession and closed Elazar back up.

The smoke and sizzle did something because for a long while he didn’t make another click, except when signaling of course, and then came the first hot day in Oregon. It wasn’t even very hot, but hot enough. Elazar started clicking as if he was imitating with Rush Limbaugh. At times it was none stop, no matter how I held the signaler he would just keep on clicking. It almost made me want to drive around with my signal on just so the clicking would be quieter, but I didn’t. Instead loud music prevailed and I stopped talking to people while I was driving.

The clicking almost drove me to the point of taking him in the doctor, but before I could take him in I found out that he was in desperate need of tires. Not like when I was younger and we stopped liking the shoes we wore and begged for new ones. No, his tires were so thin that almost anything could have punctured them. The new tires made me too poor to take him to the doctor.  Being poor and the clicking being too bad to live with I took measures into my own hands. I operated.

With the help of my sister Jacklyn I again uncovered the steering column. This part I knew. From my dad I was able to borrow the tool to get to where I couldn’t before. I was able to remove the signaling assembly. (The windshield wipers would like to point out that while they are connected to the signaling assembly they were working quite well and in way the cause of duress.) I pulled the assembly and carefully disassembled it.

The answer was so simple. Elazar was talking so loudly all the time because his ears were clogged and he couldn’t hear everyone and he could barely hear himself. Through time and hot weather the grease that lubricated the signaler’s slide over the contact plates had oozed to fill in the breaks in the contacts. The car thought that the signaler was always on, in both directions! A couple of cotton swaps fixed that.

Happy that I had found Elazar’s problem I started putting everything back together. As I was trying to cram the signal assembly and steering column back together the voice of my father kept playing in my head, “make sure it works before you put it all together.” I ignored the voice. Then it came again. I decided he might have more wisdom than I. Clicking the garage door opener I started my car. Honk! The horn went. “That’s odd,” I thought, “maybe he’s just happy to be able to hear again.

Carefully I backed the car out of the garage and started to turn onto the street. Honk! The horn went. I stopped and slowly turned the steering wheel to the left. Honk, honk, honk! It went. I slowly turned it back. Elazar was silent. I slowly turned the wheel to the right. Hoonnkk, honk, hoonnkk! It went. I thanked the voice in my head for warning before I was compelled to drive my car to work with the car honking on my every turn.

I pulled the car back in and pulled the steering column cover off again. I don’t quite know what all I did, just that in the end the honking stopped and the signal, lights and wipers all still work. Once I had got Elazar all put back together I again carefully backed out of the garage and turned onto the street. Elazar was again silent. I pulled forward and drove down the street. I am sure I must have looked crazy because I kept turning my signal on and off. He only clicked when he was supposed to; I was so happy.

The next morning I drove to work almost feeling like I was driving a new car, a quiet car, a car that mostly kept to itself and when it had something to say it would try its very best to use the instrument panel. Ah the bliss of quietness.