Wednesday, May 10, 2006


You will never guess what happened to me yesterday afternoon. Given a hundred years you would still speculate wide of it, short of it, everywhere but on it. Were you to eat three helpings of salmon and chase it with broccoli and green tea, the goings-on of moi on the afternoon of yesterday would ne’er come nigh your tent.

I fell asleep on my walk.

Well, not exactly on my walk, but during it. You see, I usually sit down for two and a half minutes at the seven mile mark of my daily round. This brief respite makes the final mile back to my office less of a strain. The two and a half minute sit is long enough to leave me refreshed and ready to go stale again.

I have a favorite telephone pole (F15718) that I think fondly of and lean back against as I bring my knees to my chin to enjoy the sensation of not walking. The pole is on an agreeable, grassy little hump. The thing yesterday afternoon was that the weather came fair and the winds spindly, so I closed my eyes. Next thing I knew, two cars passed the pole simultaneously from opposite directions, creating enough of a whoosh to startle me into consciousness. It was then that I realized I’d been asleep.

I don’t wear a watch, so I looked at the sky and unsheathed my sextant to make sure I hadn’t accidentally slept for, say, five hours. It was not like me to fall asleep at all in the middle of the day (except for lately), but I thought I’d check the sky anyway. I didn’t want to have missed supper. The sky looked just the same; the sun was where it was supposed to be. That relieved me at first, but then introduced a troubling thought: was it possible that I had slept for 24 hours? What if I had just spent the night with my back against F15718?

Well, ha-ha, of course I knew that was impossible because I didn’t remember brushing my teeth. Besides, I looked down at myself and noticed that all my clothes were still on. Plus, Melody had not kissed me. Plus, I had not said goodnight to the kids. I was relieved for all of this, to say the least.

I once fell asleep while riding a bicycle. So momentous was the occasion that I remember the year: 1991. And the season: winter. I had set for myself the goal of riding my bicycle the 23 mile round trip to my post office job on as many days as possible between October of 1991 and March of 1992. In other words, through the winter. Any idiot could do it through the summer, I thought. At least I think I thought.

The problem (one of the many problems) was that my job necessitated my presence at 5:30 a.m., and the post office lay 11.4 miles to the west. This necessitated my rising at 3:20, eating as much food as possible, and leaving the house at twenty past four. I remember my breakfast in those days: one large bowl of Malt-O-Meal, two huge blobs of grape jelly supported by two pieces of toast, a Slimfast breakfast shake, orange juice and a cup of coffee. Melody (such a good wife then, and always) would get up with me, help me burp, and send me down the road with a cheery, “You’re nuts.”

For some reason, I loved it. I loved the dark and the cold. I loved that no one else was around. I trumped the world in this way. I blinded the dark and the cold with science. I blinded it with a high-tech lamp (NightSun) clamped to my handlebars, a windshield (not kidding, manufactured by the Zzipper Fairing Company), electronic foot warmers (Hotronic), down mittens that resembled hockey goalie gloves, a black Lycra face covering, and ski goggles (Scott). I looked like a citizen of Pluto. I pedaled like a citizen of Pluto, just to make heat. No sun in my universe shone or even suggested the phenomenon. I was usually so awake it was ridiculous. But on one particular morning, I wasn’t.

I was pedaling up a hill one morning (up a hill, for God’s sake) with the snow flying and my nose running and my legs pumping as usual, and it just happened. Nitey-nite. Next thing I knew, I was in the ditch; didn’t remember going there; never would have steered there purposely; never favored snowy sidegrass as a premier route choice. My adrenal glands squirted their protective juices and I remained upright and heaved myself back to the pavement. I was awake for sure now. I related my adventure to my work crew while missorting mail. I was legend already, but this cemented it. Another time I almost hit a deer, and this was commemorated with a plaque next to the postal coffee pot.

Yesterday was weird. This whole two or three weeks has been weird. I can never sleep during the day. I sometimes try, but hardly ever can. I have trouble shutting down my mind. I never tell you any of this. You don’t know the price I pay for being me. You don’t know what my brain does to me. It hardly ever considers my feelings. It lives a Bohemian lifestyle that I, myself, could not possibly bear. It tortures me, though I have never been anything but kind to it. Perhaps you do not know what it is like to always be at work. If you do, forgive my presumption. Writers never clock out. A writer is at work even when he or she is looking out a window, or leaning against a pole, or dumping the sandy residue of cat waste. There is no stopping the onslaught of information and the brain’s innate need to record it—my brain, anyway. But I got back from my walk yesterday, worked some more (yes, I do work; I swear I do; I think and read and write and talk into my microphone while staring at you through my wall [ZenderTalk], and my mind never gives me a break, but these are not the lowlights of my day; I relate the lowlights for the thrill of exposure and the potting of my plant in the universal peat; everyone works, but not everyone accidentally sleeps against a telephone pole or flushes out a deer in the middle of the night with the high beam of a NightSun bicycle light, so that’s why I relate these. I also saw a dead dog yesterday on Route 9, a little dog I greatly admired; he walked with a larger, older dog; they barked at me halfheartedly but never bothered me because they were too busy on the farm; they were the Bobsie Twins, Laurel and Hardy, I loved them; the little one was so sweet walking behind and trying to keep up with Old Bess, or Old Roy, or whatever the older one’s name might be, but there was this little one alongside him always, or sleeping next to him, or looking up at him, his big buddy, but now here on the side of the road away from me and away from his older friend in swipes of blood—unfair blood—I had to hope it was not him, but his little head was too brown and the little body was too white and blotched in too soft brown for it not to be him, so I choked back tears and looked ahead to something and walked on faster and breathed in the sunshine, because you know what death does to me and how much I love animals and how rarely the sun shines here; I knew that the owner of the farmhouse would come and get him because the owner has a young boy [I hope the lad is sensitive, but not overly so like I am]; I could not go get the dog myself or anything like that; I just could not do it; I wonder now if the older dog realizes it yet; I could only turn away from what used to be my friend and walk forward pretending not to see him, pretending that life goes on, pretending that the eon has already ended), and then I laid down (or lay or lie, I never know which; I always have to look it up; I never learn; I never want to learn because the rules are so ridiculous) on my sofa when I got back and took my pants off and you’ll never guess what happened next. You would never guess how I found relief then. In a million years you will have ventured and ventured and reckoned your head off reeling off a million guesses without ever nearing the truth.

I took a nap.

I was so happy when my mom called later yesterday to tell me that the pollen count has been astronomically high due to the non-severity of this past winter. Wow. So that’s been my stupid problem. So at least now I know that I’m not dying. Ah. It’s life that’s killing me.

All I need then, is a large jar of local honey and a big spoon. Forget the dumb bees from Argentina. California bees do me no practical good. It’s the local bees that go out and gather all the specific pollens (the local stuff that is killing my mom and me) that torment local sufferers. And they carry it on their little bee feet to whatever hive they call home. Then they digest the pollens with their inner syrups, regurgitate it as a sort of vaccinative elixir (called “honey”), surrender it to the bee man, witness the man’s wife—through the translucent hive walls—glean their nectar through plastic nipples in jars shaped like bears—or, better, in fat glass jars dubbed “Mason”—for the innoculative rescue of sufferers like me and she who bore me.

All this will happen, God willing, tomorrow, if I can scrape up seven dollars left over from the price of gasoline.

© 2006 by Martin Zender