So last Monday I’m snorkeling up the edge of Radium Golf Course rapids looking for river glass and space-drifting, Derek, Cochise and Will walking around on the rocks. Because of the injured back State Farm won’t pay to have treated (see “Chicanery” ovictormiller.com), I’m more comfortable staying in the water where gravity is slack. So I’m pulling myself upstream through the shallows, hand walking the limestone rocks, thinking about that first body my treble hooks snagged up from the Kinchafoonee with Alex Walker and Sea Scouts around 1957; the two Tallahassee divers Moose Fountain, Jerry Lindsey and I recovered from Radium Cave in 1960; the 400 lb teacher in a polka dot dress I thought I’d found and hadn’t and the bodies over the last 50 years I looked for and didn’t find.
Ned Newcomb knows when you’re feeling around on the bottom of a dark river for a body, the very last thing you want is to actually find one, which may account for why divers don’t recover as many as you’d think they would. I’m blowing spume out the snorkel and wondering how I ever got mixed up with recovery in the first place, though before the fire departments and police got divers, the few kids with tanks got drafted into body and evidence recovery before we’d learned to tell adults in uniform to kiss off.
The worst case scenario then and now is a lost child. The unbearable urgency, the intense dread and deep sadness of the enterprise–such sadness. I’ve always had a horror about finding drowned children and all the epidemic emptiness a vanished child causes– and I didn’t mean to get into all this, but that’s what I was thinking when I came up on the muddy hank of curly wires flagging from something buried under rubble and sand.
When I grab a fistful of the stuff and pull. In an explosions of silt a small pallid face with closed eyelids and naked shoulders appears with the shocking recognition that I have a handful of blanched hair the texture of steel wool. I find myself standing in knee-deep water with no memory of struggling to my feet, my fist unable to turn this horrible thing a-loose, screaming until my back buckles and sits me back down.
Fellow glass gleaners get curious enough to wander over. “What’s wrong with you now?”
“Nothing,” I wheeze, throwing the dripping thing up the bank. “I just got excited about finding this baby doll for Derek’s river collage is all.”
To former students
I spent an entire career creating Frankenstein monsters and neglecting to include practical methods of restraining them once they get zapped to life. Plus I’m still getting paid for a half ass job–still attached to the desiccating teat of teachers retirement and feeling obligated to append some observations I’ve made since quit teaching and found time to learn a couple of things, one being that I spent my life bullshitting and teaching others to do the same. I’ve now decided not to bullshit you any more until I die or change my mind.
Please bear with me in this. As former students, you know right well that learning, like honesty, is a slow and disagreeable task. It makes us wiggle with discomfort as if trying to slough skin that’s still alive. It’s like dawn’s early light breaking in on a hangover. It’s a heap more tempting to duck back under the covers and go back to sleep. Anyway, here’s some practical advice about living with a male writer should that eventuality rear its ugly head.
1. Don’t, unless you absolutely have to.
2. When he’s looking out the window don’t say: “Hey, while you’re not doing anything, you could wash the car.” He just seems to be looking out the window. He’s not! He’s writing!
It’s o.k. to interrupt if he’s pounding away furiously on his laptop. He’s just trying to convince you he’s writing and doesn’t have time to wash the car.
3. Don’t interrupt him if he seems to be washing the car. He’s really writing. This is especially true if you don’t own a car and he’s washing the one belonging to the new divorcee next door. You can tell he’s really merging with the muse if he turns his inspiration from the car and starts washing her.
4. When he starts palavering mindlessly, agree with everything he says. He’s brainstorming the polarity of a split brain, coming to terms with his female side—his gynecological persona– and fixing to be reborn or maybe even evolve. If he wants to wear your clothes, let him. He’ll need some initial babying as his new self squints into the light. Continue nurturing and fondling until he dies again– sloughs off his mortal coils, so to speak. Then repeat step #4 en perpetuity or until his next metamorphosis.
NOTE: If your significant other is a writer of a female persuasion– which a review of my class records reveals that a majority of my students were and still are, her ability to multi-task renders these rules inapplicable. If you are a male writer sharing significant-otherdom with a writer of a diametric gender, you’re both fucked unless you maintain dual and distant quarters. Also, she’s going to write better than you do, so get used to it. Why do you think we’ve tried to suppress them since Eden’s first dawn? Duh!