On the Rachel’s Studio Walk.
Summer is beginning to look tired. The air is still, saturated, heavy. Early morning small dark clouds fade to a milky blue sky. The sun burns hot. In areas of yards grass has died. Yellow-white splotches green.
The man who grows a large vegetable garden has harvested most of the vegetables. He will soon begin to prepare the land to lie fallow.
A brick house, its carport in need of repair and paint, stands empty.
The German shepherd, who most of the time runs to the edge of the invisible fence to greet me, sits quietly and alertly on the front porch.
The small house I call Rachel’s Studio is once again for rent. The windows are blank, except for curtains open and hanging vertically. Two nearby houses are for sale.
The pupils in the elementary school started classes this week. There is no recess this early in the morning. The playgrounds are empty.
I pass the lot near downtown where on January night a year or so ago my friend Craig and I stood cold on frosty ground and howled at the full moon.
Downtown is quiet, still. There are no early visitors to the coffee shop sitting outside sipping coffee and using electronic devises.
I turn down Fourth Street to return home, uncomfortably warm. No birds sing. No squirrel scampers. Only summer insects quietly heave their muted drones.
How To Pay.
Friends in their mid-40’s visiting from another state relate how groups of people going out to dinner there pay the bill for the group. They ask the server to bring a take-home bag or box, and each diner puts his or her credit card into the container. They then ask the server to draw a card. The owner of the card which the server draws pays for the entire party. The three of us did not play the game.
Notes on Reading. Nonfiction. Stephanie Kraft, No Castles on Main Street: American Authors and Their Homes, Penguin, 1980.
In this lively and entertaining guide book, Kraft chooses thirty authors and write about them in relationship to their homes, all of which can be visited today. In “Forward,” she explains that her choices considered balance in geography, gender of the writers, and condition of the properties. Several important writers from the East were omitted: Melville, Irving, Harris.
The writing features more about the writers than the dwellings. There are black-and-white photographs of the homes (interior and exterior) and of the authors.
Notes on Reading. Fiction. Alice McDermott, “These Short, Dark Days,” short story in The New Yorker, August 24, 2015.
This well-crafted and memorable short story focuses on the character and actions of a nun, Sister St. Savior, a member of the order of the Little Sisters of the Poor, who ministers to the young widow of a man who has committed suicide. The young widow is poor and pregnant and explains that her husband had lost his job with the railway company. They had, however, paid for a burial plot, the title of which St. Savior takes to the funeral home and arranges for a fast burial, before news of the suicide is announced.
St. Savior “had collected any number of acquaintances, who could help surmount the many rules and regulations–Church rules and city rules. . . that complicated the lives of women–Catholic women in particular, and poor women in general.” As she “considered the sin of her deception, slipping a suicide into hallowed ground,” she reasons that her action would . . . “get the girl what she paid for,” to bring her comfort. She prays, “Hold it against the good I’ve done. . . We’ll sort it out when I see You.”
Even though the newspaper reveals the facts of the suicide and the undertaker says, “Now that it’s in the paper, there’s not a Catholic cemetery that will have him,” the ending is happy. The child is christened St. Savior, and the child grows up, not knowing where her father is buried.
Thank you for reading. I hope you are enjoying this last month of summer.