SOMETIMES THE DAYS roll into weeks and time just scoots on by, and all I have to show for myself is a bunch of regrets.
I regret not posting an essay on how my cat is teaching me piano. I said I would, but I didn’t, even though it’s almost done. I regret letting the sweaty heat of summer distract me from my writing, because how many times have I said in recent years, “By golly, nothing — and I mean nothing — will stop me from writing that darn book!”
Too many to count, although I think my mother has been keeping tabs.
But as long as I’m squishing words down on
paper screen, such as I’m doing right now, I feel settled and okay, and the air in my lungs expands and then releases and I look a little less like a drowning amphibian and more like a … writer? Geesh, does a writer really look a certain way?
I suppose the answer is an emphatic yes, if you’re Hunter S. Thompson. The guy had writer practically tattoed on his forehead. And by the way, kudos to his wife for returning the antlers he stole from Hemingway over 50 years ago.
My entire life is one ginormous tangent.
SO, HERE’S WHAT inspired the amphibian comment.
The husband and I went boating on Shasta Lake here in Northern California a few days ago. Some friends down the road invited us, and I said yes, despite my stupid fear of swimming in anything but a bathtub.
And it was heavenly.
The water temperature was incredibly warm, which gave me an illusion of safety and comfort, and one thing led to another and just like that my hooves got strapped to a wakeboard, and there I was: a soggy, redheaded stick person being towed at 25mph in the middle of a huge lake, giggling the entire time.
A crumpled, belly flopping, crashing-into-the-waves stick person, I should say, who wasn’t wearing a swimsuit because I don’t own one. My swim attire consisted of brown capris — sans underwear because my dog ate them — and a seafoam green tank top that had a habit of billowing into a massive boob cylinder. At least I wasn’t going totally old school and wearing wool.
And for the record, I’ve never ever described a color as seafoam green before. It’s either green, dark green, light green, or Kermit green. I blame Etsy for this.
Anyway, I epically failed at trying to stand up on the wakeboard and royally trashed my lower arm muscles in the process. I’ve since watched several YouTube videos on wakeboarding and quickly learned I was way overusing my arms. I couldn’t clip my own fingernails that night, my arms were that sore.
Just an hour earlier I was warning everyone that if a fish or some other mystery object from the murky depths of the lake were to bump me, the day was done and I was heading for shore. And the next thing you know I’m yelling out Yo, mama! — the signal to the boat to hit the gas and get going already — and choking on water with a big smile on my face.
And I somehow managed to do this without crossing paths with that posse of vicious river otters. I’ve been bitten by a baby squirrel, a black widow spider (horrific experience), and a bat; charged by a porcupine, a mama moose and a caribou; growled at by a grizzly bear; rattled at by a rattlesnake; and pecked by a rowdy pack of geese and one lone duck.
So, naturally I’m the one most likely to be attacked by an outlaw gang of otters. But, nope. The only wildlife we had the pleasure of seeing was a pair of bald eagles and some chubby drunk guys on a cigar boat.
Whoops, the amphibian comment has yet to be addressed.
Imagine a floating frog on the calm surface of a lake, limbs extended front and back and just kind of doing nothing, while the head turns this way and that and takes in the beautiful scenery. That’s what I was told I looked like in the water as I floated on top of a life vest and totally relaxed into the bravery of hanging out in non-translucent water.
I love frogs, so I was grateful for the compliment.
I was also told I ask a lot of questions. It’s called autism, Chad — or maybe the toxic algae bloom had something to do with it. Anyway, thank you for a most excellent adventure. I can’t wait for the next one.
AND HERE’S WHAT this whole sidetracked kaboodle is really about: regrets and stories left untold.
Sadly, this book is no longer in print. But you should be able to find a second-hand copy on Amazon or, better yet, in a local used bookstore.
Here you go: a little window of an email I sent to him last night that took me 25 years to write.
Tom . . .
I’ve put off writing this email for years.
First, when The End of the Road came out way back when, email wasn’t a thing.
Second, do you really need to hear (from yet another weirdo stranger) how much your book means to me?
Well, there. I done did it.
Your book, to this day (eons after it was published), means a lot. It saw me through a freezing cold winter in a log cabin, back when I was an Alaskan neophyte and worked at Gulliver’s Books in Fairbanks.
And even when I did a major stupid and shipped my suitcase home to California, with my copy of your book inside, and it disappeared into a Unabomber post office hell pit and was never seen again, it wasn’t the end of the road for The End of the Road.
Some years later, I acquired another copy at yet another used bookstore where I was working, this time in Ashland, Oregon. That copy disappeared, too. But not the story.
Not too long ago, I found a hardcover first edition at a thrift store. (Don’t feel bad; I found my husband at a thrift store, too.) And now I’m all kinds of happy again.
All those years ago, when I would wake up with ice on my blankets because I didn’t know how to keep my wood stove going through the night, a motley crew of furry characters came to me. They came and went, just like your book, but their story never left.
And now I’m writing them down, and soon (at 45 years old) I hope to have myself a proper book. I have you and your book to thank for the reminder of who I am: a storyteller.
So, thank you.
AND ON THAT rather uplifting note, I bid you adieu until next time. Peace and glad tidings, folks!