Monday, July 14, 2008

Seller's Grass.

Oh, Virginia. Hot as hell up there Friday and Saturday and Sunday, but my brother has chosen for his little family a couple of wide fields in between tracts of new-growth hardwood forest, and so evenings and mornings gave a kind of cool half-breeze that I felt sure we weren't getting back down here on the Piedmont. It's a tall white house with a long front porch a good solid fifteen minutes from anywhere that might sell you a Coca-Cola or a roll of paper towels or a pressure-treated 2x4. There's no running out for anything up there. No errands. At my brother's new place, you Go Into Town. It's the kind of life I always thought I might want for myself: Country Mouse. All the way home yesterday, though, while I was ticking off reasons I might also have bought that house, that life, and then counterbalancing with a stout list of reasons I wouldn't have, I kept thinking City Mouse thoughts, kept wanting yes my stand of just-ripening tomatoes, but also thinking, It is not so bad to live three minutes from the Harris Teeter. I'll say this: the principal ANYLF StormChase vehicle is a 1981 Chevy pickup with no A/C and a radio that can't be heard over the roar of having the windows down at 60 oil-burning ninety-degreed mph. That gives a good long stretch of time back down through all the various zip codes to think about owning land, having babies, wiring ceiling fans.

His wife said all of us leaving them on Sunday morning gave her the same feeling she used to have when her parents would drop her off at summer camp. Since then, even though I've been pushing hard against it, I've been feeling that way off and on basically non-stop. Little hollowed-out place in the edge of your stomach where even though you're thinking, I want this, I want this, you're also thinking, My god, I do not want this, please take me back with you to whatever it was we were doing before this. Easy enough to apply that liberally, friends and fans of weather: choice of clothing, choice of dinner, choice of entire lifestyle.

We did have a fantastic line of storms come through last evening in 27408 while I was home again, trying (and failing in championship fashion) to work on the novel instead of the above. After that we picked up showers off and on through the evening, and netted about six-tenths of an inch. Very nice slow rain. This all leads to happy tomatoes, happy petunias, happy field bindweed utterly destroying our pepper garden out back. Very green around here. My brother's front yard—front field—is entirely dead. They kept talking about something called Seller's Grass, which is what their agent suggested the seller had planted when they saw the house a couple of months ago—some kind of fast-growing winter rye that greens and goes to seed and dies all in the space of a couple of months, such that if you needed to green up your yard for a quick sale but didn't give a damn what happened after that, this is what you'd use. I don't really understand metaphor and simile all that well beyond telling my students not to use it too much, and then telling myself the same thing when I sit down out here to try to put these damn characters through their paces one more time, but I feel like there's something lurking at the edges there. He's sad about it, my brother is, as anybody would be. We're already planning something better, though, something else, some mixture of grasses and clovers he could put down on or around September 1. Until then, though, he's up there, out in the center of almost nowhere, new job, new baby, new landscape, new zip code, new house, new western sky to watch the storms ride in on. New dead field. It's quiet up there. Plenty of time to think, I imagine, even absent the hot wind-roar of a battered truck.

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