Friday, December 9, 1983
My daughter, age five, sleeps in the top bunk. This morning when I wake her she sits up, looking puzzled. She leans over the side railing and vomits all over the lower bed, which fortunately my son has just vacated.
Cheerfully she says, "Well, Daddy, you never know what will happen next, do you?"
She's fine. She goes to school while I go to work on the bathroom that I'm building in a garage (without a permit, for a Superior Court Judge). The Judge greets me saying, "Could I make an observation?" Leading me to the garage, he points out that the shower unit that I installed yesterday can only be entered by stepping over the toilet.
Oops. So I spend half the day rotating the shower. Cutting copper pipe, I gash my index finger.
Checking an electric connection outside, shoving some leaves aside, suddenly I'm eyeball to eyeballs with a tarantula. Hairy. The size of a tennis ball. It's injured. One leg appears to be broken. I did that. I'm so sorry.
On the way home making a stop at Orchard Supply Hardware, I'm lightheaded with a feeling like I'm constantly falling. I guess the finger's infected where I gashed it on the pipe. Standing in the checkout line, I almost faint but somehow stifle it by telling myself not to make an ass of myself. That is, more of an ass.
Back home, stepping inside, the house is full of dark diesel smoke. In the basement, flames are erupting out the sides of the old oil furnace. I hear my wife Rose arriving with the kids and tell them to wait outside, not to panic but please just stay the fuck outside. Running downstairs, I point the fire extinguisher wondering if it still works after three years of hanging on the wall — and it does. Foam, foam, everywhere foam. Only then does it occur to me to shut off the electric switch that powers the pump.
It’s going down to 25 degrees tonight. The house smells like a truck stop. Could’ve been a disaster if I hadn't come home just then.
We open windows and go to the restaurant for a spaghetti dinner, the cheapest meal. We never eat out, can't afford it. To the kids it's a treat, a special occasion.
Back home we close the windows and turn on two electric space heaters. The kids all bed down in the living room in front of the fireplace, which the dog thinks is a wonderful idea. My wife and I prefer the comfort of a mattress, so we heap a mound of blankets on the bed. Only now, snuggling near midnight, do we have time to talk, to tell each other about our days. Rose thinks the tarantula bit me. "But," she says, "it probably won't kill you."
I have no worries about my own survival. May the little beast thrive somehow, seven-legged, sheltered again under its pile of leaves. A female tarantula can live for thirty years.
We awaken to sunbeams streaming in the window through a slight haze of lingering smoke and the scent of burnt oil. In the bathroom there's ice in the bottom of the water glass. We still have a house. We have our lives. It will be a day of cleanup, hot chocolate, warm jackets; but the sunshine feels cheerful and really you never know what will happen next, do you?