Maybe it is to make things right. If we don’t have time to think about it too much.
I can still see Danny clearly, at sunrise in front of that donut shop, slouching in the driver’s seat with his feet up on the dash, laughing, blowing his coffee cool enough to drink, donut crumbs scattered among the rubber bands and route lists and sunflower seed shells on the metal truck floor. Or hanging off the side of the truck and whooping, like a rodeo cowboy who’s made that long eight seconds and is still, miraculously, on his horse. I can still see the look on that dog’s face, the way he lay the newspaper tenderly on the windowsill, peered at it as if he could read the headlines, picked it just as tenderly back up and pulled it inside. The last thing we saw were his paws, as they slid out of view. We thought about what that dog’s people would think, to find the day’s paper when they got up, maybe spread out on the dining room table, the crossword already half done. Danny said he thought he might swing by every day, bring that dog the latest edition.
I drove out of the murk into a sharp light that nearly blinded me. It felt even colder than it had in the fog, and the air coming through the gap above my windshield blew across my face and practically froze a section solid, from the bridge of my nose to the middle of my forehead. I had the heater blasting, which did not do much but keep my feet, in their pac boots and wool socks, from turning into little blocks of ice.
My eyes finally adjusted to the light at Bonner, where the Champion mill on my left was spewing smoke and sawdust straight into the air, and it seemed to stay, motionless, caught in time, or in an invisible element that defied gravity or dispersion. I drove as far as Rock Creek, circling down off the highway to the north side of the river, and along the frontage road to where it dead-ended at a woods of scrappy pine and brush.
I smoked a joint and listened to the radio, an oldies station coming in clear as a bell from Rock Springs, Wyoming. They played songs I’d heard from behind my brother’s bedroom door as a child, and sometimes he’d let me in, take me by the hands and dance with me, spin me around the room to Rave On, Jailhouse Rock, Shout, until I was so dizzy and laughing so hard I thought I was going to pass out and then he’d let me down easy to sit on the floor and he’d sit down there next to me and sometimes we’d just stay there and be quiet or read or draw or talk about stuff until Mom called us downstairs for dinner. After he dropped out of college and got drafted, before he went away, he carefully boxed up all his things, taped and labeled all the boxes. He wrote his name on them all with a fat felt marker, and on some mine in smaller letters, in parentheses, below his. I didn’t open them when he went missing, even after so much time had passed I had to stop believing he could possibly be coming home. Not in a box. Not in a coffee can. Not a bunch of bones tied together like kindling. Not coming back. Not ever.
I hear this platform thing (I admit I had to look it up, and am pretty sure this is only the surface I am chicken-scratching) is a good idea. Even if you have an agent, and maybe a publisher, and something (however slight) of a track record, and a book some people have read and some say they love. I am doing this because I want to do things that at the very least begin as good ideas, as I spent so many years doing things that began as bad ideas, and became worse ones, inexorably, like tides that turn into tsunamis, or some other such tortured simile.
This is my first platform entry. For my next trick, I will try to offer something of value. Something I have learned along the way. I have been doing this for more than 30 years, and no one should be more shocked by that number than I am. Math was never my strong suit, but I do know that 30 years of writing equals hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of words, and probably half as many erasures, if you are serious about your writing.
Lesson one: Don’t try to write yourself out of a corner. It doesn’t work. You just leave tracks. Not pretty little fawn ones either. Metaphorically speaking. Unless you really are in the woods. And really are a fawn. In which case that laptop is so peripheral. Leave it under that tree. That one. There.