My friend Rich, an archivist whom I met here in Columbus in 1995, was here in Columbus for the first time in over four years. Four years ago, he took a job as an archivist for the State of Rhode Island and moved to Providence. we have kept in touch by E-mail, snail mail, and occasional telephone calls, but this is the first time I’ve seen him in person since he left to go to Rhode Island. He was (is) en route to a conference in Topeka, Ks., and took the opportunity to visit friends along the way. (He had spent Friday night in New Jersey, and last night at our place.)
It was very good to see him. He was the closest we had to a permanent dinner guest. It used to be that families would adopt a nearby bachelor for Sunday dinner, holidays, etc. Rich came over for dinner most Sunday nights; Susie, who was in pre-school at the time, loved the chocolate cookies he always brought.
The funniest anecdote about me he likes to tell is about something I didn’t do. The day after Susie was born, we were at Grant Hospital, and both Steph and Susie needed to get out of the room. We were wheeling Susie in a crib, and Steph was walking slowly (not unusual after a C-section), and Rich was with us. A man passed us in the hallway, and he said, “Newborn, huh?”
This incident is significant in that it shows one my rare moments of self-restraint. Rich was wearing a T-shirt with an upside-down triangle (although he isn’t gay) with the words CELEBRATE DIVERSITY! I was so tempted to point to him and say, “Yes, my husband and I are so proud!”, and then point to Steph and say, “She’s the surrogate.”
One thing I definitely respected was Rich’s research skills. He told us a story about a farmer who grew up in Rich’s part of North Carolina. Apparently, this bumpkin liked to celebrate Christmas by driving around the countryside on Christmas Eve throwing dynamite sticks out the window of his truck. (Farmers buy dynamite for things like blowing up tree stumps, etc.) One Christmas Eve, he and his hired man were out on their Christmas rounds–like Santa and the elves, I suppose. Rich’s uncle was awake and heard the explosions, and thought, “Cleo’s at it again.” (This farmer’s name was Cleo Moore, the same name as a B-movie goddess from the ’50s no one remembers anymore.) There were one or two more explosions, and then a tremendous KAAA-BOOOM!!! The next morning, they found out that one of Cleo’s sticks of dynamite had fallen inside the truck and ignited all the others. He, his hired hand, and the truck were all blown to smithereens.
Maybe his tombstone reads, “Rest in pieces.”
I didn’t believe this story when he told it to me at first, so when he went home for Christmas that year, he came back after New Year’s with a Xerox of a clipping from the local newspaper describing the whole thing. What broke both of us up was when the story jumped to an inside page. The rest of the story was printed there, and in the adjacent column was a feature called “Bits and Briefs,” which is probably all they found of Cleo. (We thought about changing the weather slug to “Partly cloudy and light Cleo” as the Christmas Eve forecast.)
Anyway, enough of such explosive topics. The productive day started about 3 a.m. Saturday morning, while I was going through the two or three shoeboxes full of breast-pocket notebooks and notepads I’ve been saving since I was in Athens. I picked out five poems I especially liked, and when I took Susie to the Franklinton library, I typed them up in Microsoft Word for windows and printed them. Later this afternoon, I’m mailing all five (the maximum permitted) to the Virginia Quarterly Review in Charlottesville. (Yesterday, I got a rejection slip from The St. Anthony Messenger, so the two events balance each other.)
I’m coming in late to work tomorrow. Steph has a job interview tomorrow morning, and Susie has to get to Comedy Camp at the Davis Center by 9. I’m going to do another errand I’ve been postponing–my psychiatrist ordered a second blood draw for my Lithium, so I’m going to stop by Grant Hospital’s lab and have that done. (I’ve been carrying the order around in my wallet for a month.) They are literally painless in drawing blood; had I not been watching, I would never have known they had filled two tubes.