Category Archives: Family

2017

Arthur D. Clarke and unspecified grandchild, 1960

My grandfather comes to me in pieces; The angle of a plywood sign nailed to a tree, my worn work boots on my porch in Richmond. I never call him up deliberately. This week marked 50 years since I saw him last.

If I make it through the next few months, I will be older than he was when he died.

 

I spend the end of the year alone these days. I don’t drink; alternatives are few in the Mojave. Thoughts chase tails. My grandfather was an oak tree; a rock face. He was incomprehensibly old, wrinkles forming on his forehead, hair completely white in a stiff brush cut, work pants and calluses. He wet his thumb to turn pages. A workshop shelf; salvaged bolts and screws sorted into applesauce jars.

Winter stars struggle to be seen; a storm off the Pacific. I have his reticence and his forehead. He would recognize the impatience, the recoiling and the longing. He would think my politics insane. He would pat his lap, invite my dog to join him in the recliner. He would know how to fix the hole through which the mice get in without dismantling the water heater in front of it. New Year’s Eve rain pelts the window. I have a low table he built me out of things he had on hand. No two of its screws match.

Today the dog, off-leash, flushed the back porch rabbit from behind the washing machine. Placidly staying at my heel, she watched the rabbit regain its composure under a creosote a few yards away. Rabbit folded his left ear down to wash it with both forepaws; dog flicked her left ear in turn.

Ten years after he died, I stood at six a.m. beneath a sodden eastern hemlock. The rides had run out in Western Pennsylvania. I watched a farmhouse through the rain, shaking to the bone. A white-haired man in green work pants pried open the hood of a pickup older than me, bent over it with a trouble light. I fought the urge to go to him, certain of disappointment at a stranger’s face. How different my life might have been had I gone to hand him tools.

Heart

heart3

I have a new family member.

Her name is Heart, named partly because of a black Valentine’s-heart-shaped patch on her left side, and partly because of who she is.

When I first met her, in November, she couldn’t bring herself to make eye contact with me. A series of events I can only guess at had persuaded her that most people, men especially, could not be trusted. She came to live with me in December — a dogsitting-fostering arrangement, I insisted, not to be considered permanent — and it took her several days to stop flinching violently when I’d absently reach to stroke her head.

After a while, in which I spent a lot of time moving very slowly and deliberately, and treating her according to a very smart friend’s advice, we won each other over just a bit.

That advice:

after gaining her trust with walks and ignoring and humor and nothing ever being a big deal, then you expose her to absolutely freaking everything so the shy doesn’t wreck her quality of life.

heart2

Now, she’s devoted to me, and I am in my inevitably inferior, non-dog way, to her. Here’s Heart waking me up on my 55th birthday earlier this month:

Heart1

We walk four miles a day on average, and she is slowly starting to learn that words mean things, and she is training me how to listen to her so that she can tell me what she wants, and she leaps onto the bed each morning and wakes me by punching me in the face repeatedly.

We made the decision this week to make our collegial relationship a permanent one. No one who knows me is the slightest bit surprised, excepting me.

Life is good.

heart4

Red-tailed hawks

700 miles driven in the last week, and only a half mile of that of interest other than my company in the truck: In the quarries near the Santa Ana River, red-tailed hawks fought over a perch on a comfortable dead tree.

It is hot in the desert these days, but the temperature slackens nicely at sunset. An improbable blanket of salmon clouds covered the eastern sky then. It is dissipated, and the stars shine.

The cat frightened us the last two days, especially so for Annette who had to rely on my text messages. The less said about his symptoms the better, except to say that he will be getting a haircut soon to bar further gastrointestinal complaints.

An interesting word, trichobezoar: Greek prefix modifies an Arabic root.

He will be fine, most likely, and I now have less money with which to get myself in trouble.

He reassures me at the vet

He reassures me at the vet

 

Long distance

There are quail in the yard this evening and I miss you already. A bright male stands atop the cinderblock, topknot backlit by the slanting sun. He is calling out to his family. The cat watches avidly through the glass.

I stopped this afternoon near San Timoteo Creek. The badlands behind me bore a coat of spent golden grass. I imagined them poppies, and me in some more westward range closer to you.

Only a few hours since we laughed.

The wilted kale and the spent dandelion greens have gone out through the kitchen door, tossed back onto the gravel for whichever wildlife wants them. The breeze has died down. The house smells of warm creosote. Twice since I got home I have heard your footstep in the other room, started.

Your laugh over breakfast still echoing.

Tonight I am remembering an evening a long time ago, top down on the rental car in the Joshua tree forest beneath an impossibility of stars, and we watched a wall of flashing cloud three hours’ drive to the east. The canyons filled with flood that night, over there, popped trees from their rock and re-carved the riverbeds, and safe with you that night I felt my life start over again, a new me born in distant lightning and cool starlit breeze.

A rabbit has come for the kale.

We were joined in storm and flood that year. This year a storm and flood separated us, recarved your course, washed you to the coast, and my life reinvents itself again.

I have everything I ever wanted. Where I live, what I do, who I am.

Who loves me. I have been so lucky.

Remind me, if you think of it, that I need a new splatter screen for the skillet, and to pick up some paper towels. The sun is turning the rocks pink: I watch their color deepen from my chair.  140 miles and the next two weeks between us. You are my partner, my best friend, my beloved. My family, and who would have ever expected I’d sign up for another one? A raven circles a hundred feet above the block, turning slow circles. The sun glints bright blue off its wing, and the quail have scattered.

Happy Mother’s Day, my darling.

Fool’s Gold

pyrite

Iron pyrite is the most common sulfide mineral on Earth. Its chemical formula is FeS2. That formula gives the impression that the smallest possible bit of iron pyrite is two sulfur atoms bonded to an iron atom, like the two hydrogen atoms bonded to an oxygen in H2O. In truth, the two sulfur atoms are actually bonded quite tightly to one another, sharing a pair of electrons in a covalent bond, forming a sort of submolecule: a disulfide. The disulfide portion of an iron pyrite molecule has an oxidation number of -2: to oversimplify, the two sulfur atoms have two more negatively charged electrons between them than they do protons. The iron atom — in its divalent “ferrous” form, with two fewer electrons than protons — forms a somewhat weaker ionic bond with the two sulfurs.

It’s called “fool’s gold” because the color is said to have deceived unschooled prospectors, but gold is in fact sometimes found in fool’s gold. It’s found in extremely small quantities, a few atoms at a time embedded in the pyrite’s crystalline matrix, but if you know what you’re doing you can extract enough of value to make the whole thing worth your while.

Iron pyrite usually has a cubic crystal structure. For a while, anyway. Iron pyrite is unstable in nature. It’s biodegradable. In the presence of air and water, especially if certain sulfur-metabolizing bacteria are present, that ionic bond between the iron and the sulfide gets pried loose. The iron generally oxidizes, unless it’s taken up by something alive and put to other use. The sulfide portion generally oxidizes into sulfates. Oxygen tends to work to eliminate pyrite, when it can get to it. The mineral forms best where there is no oxygen, where toxic hydrogen sulfide comes into contact with chemically available iron. This happens sometimes in anoxic sediments, deep beneath the ocean or in dying lakebeds, and pyrite will insinuate itself into the structures of dead organisms as they fossilize.

Pyrite is fungible, in other words. It is constantly being made and unmade. That process is faster if the pyrite has more surface area: the dust and powder of mine tailings, for instance, break down fast enough to release sulfuric acid into mountain streams. A piece of crystal, with less surface area, will decompose more slowly. The hunk of it on my desk here is only a little tarnished since I first held it. The photo above was taken 15 years ago, more or less: the rock looks pretty much the same tonight. A few of the facets of the smaller crystals in the photo are rougher now. Whether that is the result of chemical weathering or damage in the five household moves since I took the photo I can’t say.

I’ve had this rock for a long time. It’s one of my oldest possessions. I’ve owned a lot of rocks in my day. This is the one I’ve kept when I let all the others go. When I was 22 years old, hitchhiking across the country to what would be my new and apparently permanent home in California, this hunk of pyrite was in my $25 backpack.

My paternal grandfather gave it to me on my fourth birthday, a souvenir from some roadside stand in the Front Ranges somewhere. I had already established myself as a scientifically inclined kid at that point. He and my grandmother stood in my parents’ kitchen, a quick evening visit to deliver the pyrite and a handful other birthday present, and it turned out to be a memorable gift. Literally so. I can’t say I remember most of my other birthdays, but the night I turned four seems preternaturally clear.

I wonder what my grandfather would have thought had he known how long I’d hold on to this piece of iron pyrite. He never found out. The evening he gave me this rock he had three years and 16 days to live. Had he lived another decade, or three, I might not have been able to tell him. My affection for the rock has been constant, but it has not seemed remarkable. His death likely sealed my attachment to the thing, but it’s been less a “this item is very important to me” thing than a “huh, I’d better not lose track of this thing” thing.

It has followed me from house to house on nearly fifty moves. After coming west with me in 1982, it went back east again in 1984 and back yet again in ’87. It has never been stored away, though there may have been a month or two after one move or another when I’d forgotten to take it out of the box it moved in. It lives on my bookshelves.

Every once in a while, like tonight, I pick it up. It always feels heavier than its mass justifies. That may be less gravity than gravitas. Or perhaps it’s a vestige of muscle memory left over from when I first hefted it with a right arm just turned four, not knowing that it was the first of probably thousands of times I’d pick it up, turn it over absently. Here I am the age my grandfather was that night, and still clutching the birthday gift he gave his four-year-old grandson.

On Saturday it will be fifty years to the day I’ve owned this inconsequential bit of yellow rock.

Fool’s gold.

Deadman Creek

[Thinking of this piece because of something I wrote that will show up soon at KCET. I wrote this about 20 years ago about a day that happened before even that. It first appeared in Terrain, the now-defunct publication of Berkeley’s Ecology Center, in a Sierra Nevada theme issue. I’ve edited it lightly from its original form as I’ve learned a few things about words in the interim.]

It’s the Third of July, and we’re enjoying the traditional Third of July picnic. The campground, “improved” by the Forest Service so you can back your 34-foot RV right into your wilderness campsite, is surprisingly uncrowded. Maybe it’s the mile of washboard between here and 395, easy to drive but with a chilling effect on the pilots of $90,000 campers like those lined up outside Mammoth Lakes. Or maybe it’s the name of the campground, commemorating some forgotten 19th-Century miner double-crossed by his business partner. Whatever the reason this place is nearly abandoned, we’re glad to have it mostly to ourselves. We’re not looking this gift horse in the mouth.

Zeke, tied with my bearbag rope to one of the abundant Jeffrey pines, loudly regrets that he’s just out of reach of the barbecue. Becky tosses him a piece of watermelon rind, which he devours with gusto. Every few minutes he spies a chipmunk testing the borders of our territory and he forgets the rope is there, lunging for the critter. He reaches the end of the rope, and a loud twang like the E string on Paul Bunyan’s pedal steel fills the quiet air as he flips backward. He doesn’t seem to mind much, and is on his feet and wagging his tail before the dust settles. Matthew tosses yet another piece of melon. A fragment breaks off in midair, landing a few feet out of the dog’s reach. A chipmunk spies it and grabs her windfall snack. Twang.

Though it’s a beautiful day, and we’re nearly alone here, I’m not in the best of moods. Tomorrow Matthew and I leave for a week of backpacking along the John Muir Trail. Perverse beast that I am, I dwell not on the wonders in store for us along the route, but rather on how much I’ll miss Becky while we’re gone. I’ll be out of touch for a week, there are very few phones in the high country, and anything could happen while I’m gone. What if a meteor hits Oakland? Matthew is amused but tolerant of my sentimental foolishness, and quietly makes himself scarce as Becky unties Zeke and we stroll up the pumice slope into the forest.

This is the largest Jeffrey pine forest in the world, stretching from near the Nevada line to just below the crest of the Sierra, from Long Valley to the shores of Mono Lake. It lies leeward of one of the lowest parts of the Sierra crest, the environs of Mammoth Mountain. While the tall peaks elsewhere in the Sierra catch most of the moisture blowing off the Pacific, here wet winds are funneled through the range to dampen the excellently-drained pumice soils. Though the humidity is similar to that of the west slope, the temperatures resemble that of Bishop or Reno. The result is an ideal nursery for Jeffrey pine. It’s no accident that the largest ski resort in the Eastern Sierra is nearby. The moisture that quenches Jeffrey’s thirst falls partly as fat white flakes. Mammoth gets more snow than most other places on the East Side. It is this convergence of soil and weather that makes the forest possible, here in the rainshadow of the Sierra.

Place a huge, healthy old-growth forest in a region of plains and low hills with mining and ranching nearby, and you find some of the trees will disappear, made into fenceposts, houses, flumes, and charcoal for smelters. Run a railroad and then an all-weather highway through the woods, and the timber companies show up to send the trees to exotic locales like Los Angeles. The forest here has been logged and logged again, enough that it’s likely the collapse of the old-growth ecosystem here cannot be prevented. It may have already collapsed, for all we know; ecological axioms that hold true in forests of the Pacific Slope may not hold for East Side forests. Where the ecology of the Redwood Forest is abundantly researched, from marbled murrelet above to mycorrhizae below, most of what we know about the East Side is how to grow a nice straight Jeffrey Pine. We know what birds you can find here, but we don’t know whether they depend on being here.

Unfortunately for this forest Timber Harvest Plans make no provision for untested ecological hypotheses. The burden of proof is on the forest dwellers; if they can’t prove sufficient harm, they get evicted. And so the logging continues to this day, carving the heart out of this queen of the Jeffrey Pine forests.

The trees here, though, are as yet unmolested, and they give welcome shade as we follow Deadman Creek, a fork of the Owens River, upstream. The banks are lined with wild rose and an incongruous hedge of Artemisia tridentata, Big Basin sagebrush, which I’ve never before seen near fresh water. The creek is narrow — Zeke can easily put two feet on either side — but the water is filled with 8-inch rainbow trout. We’re without tackle, so my thoughts of fish steamed in bitter Artemisia go unrealized. The fish are hatchery stock, planted in season by the Department of Fish and Game. The DF&G truck plops thousands of fish into the creek here each year. Being hatchery trout, they’re much stupider than wild trout, and all of them tend to stay pretty much where they’re planted. Of course, even stupid trout are smart compared to fish in general; while catching these guys may be, literally, a picnic, it isn’t exactly easy.

There is some evidence of tree-cutting here, though it may be due only to the efforts of campfire-builders. Becky runs to a four-foot-wide Jeff pine, sticking her nose between the plates of bark, and savors the vanilla smell of the tree’s resins: her favorite East Side pastime. Zeke finds a baseball-bat sized branch and worries it, tossing it in the air, raising a big cloud of pumice dust. His coyote-colored fur makes him look like he belongs here. I lean against a downed tree and gaze toward the crest, at the line where the grey-green of Jeffrey pine gives way to the darker shade of red fir. If I were one of the fish in Deadman Creek, I’d forsake my fellow hatchery graduates and swim upstream to the Owens River headwaters. There, under the protective gaze of Two Teats and San Joaquin Peak I’d eat the small, drab fir seed moths as they emerge from the red fir cones and flutter onto the dark cool forest waters. Let the other fish fall for Velveeta and Power Bait.

That red fir forest, in the San Joaquin Roadless area, is little-traveled considering its location. Next to Reno-Tahoe, this is the most crowded spot on the East Slope, but people tend to stick to the roads and well-known trails. The red firs are seen mostly by chickarees, also known as Douglas squirrels, who eat the scales of the cones and heap sciurid calumny on the few passersby. There are pine martens there too. They feed on the more unwary portion of the chickaree population. Porcupines eat the bark of the few western white pines scattered through the forest. Fishers eat the porcupines. Until recently, only a few humans have hiked off-trail into the forest. The approach is too steep for logging trucks, and red fir isn’t the most valuable of timber. Campers tend to avoid red fir forests too. Red firs are prone to branch dieback, and dead branches will plummet to earth at the slightest wind. I’ve seen the falling branches described both as “windowmakers” and as “widowmakers”, depending, I guess, on whether or not one sleeps in a tent.

Lately, though, more humans have been visiting. The local Sierra Club chapter has led groups of hikers into the Roadless Area, so that people can gain a more intimate knowledge of this special place. Surveyors have been here, too, plotting the layout of a proposed Alpine ski resort, which is why the Sierra Club has become interested in publicizing the charms of the area in its pristine state. The resort, with its roads, clear-cut runs, garbage, and loud groups of skiers, would disrupt the forest and disturb the reclusive furbearing animals. But local environmentalists are hampered by the reluctance of their West Side counterparts to notice the problem. It’s as if activists in the Golden Gate drainage had arbitrarily decided that Tuolumne Meadows lay on the edge of the world. Drop down behind the “Sierra Curtain” and you cease to exist.

Night falls; it’s time to plan for our strenuous day tomorrow. There are sleeping bags to fluff, water to drink, carbos to load. Coyotes yip from the Inyo Craters a mile to the south; Zeke bristles and stares into the blackness. Matthew tends the fire, which reflects in Becky’s dark eyes. The excitement of the pending hike builds in me. After a century of abuse the World’s Largest Stand of Jeffrey Pines is still a beautiful place.

By the way…

I do honestly love my brother sometimes.

OK, a day later, since that was apparently too telegraphic: if folks would follow the, you know, link, it’d take them to this story: my baby brother cybersquats a domain name for a upper-crust suburb outside Buffalo, EastAurora.com. (Think MenloPark.com or EastHampton.com or Evanston.com or BackBay.com for rough analogues.) He subsequently links the domain to the Iraq Body Count. Hijinks ensue as a couple self-appointed town fathers plead with him to give the domain to them, or at least to redirect the domain to something more befitting their urban development plans.

This is a town that took the Arts and Crafts style — perhaps one of the most democratic architectural and design movements in recent Western history — and turned it into a symbol of the elíte. As my niece (who grew up there (to the extent that she has grown up yet)) puts it, East Aurora is pretentious enough that they have their own font.”

OK, that’s a fairly common Charles Rennie Mackintosh typeface, but you get the idea.

Tonight

Becky is getting pretty seriously burned out at work. Her school district has been mismanaged for years, is in a state receivership, and the current state-appointed administrator is balancing the budget by privatizing one school after another. Her whole job is triage, figuring out which students she can save and letting go of the rest. She’s tried saving them all anyway, for the last ten years. Student’s mom is on crack, father’s a brute, no supper for days, four generations of illiteracy, fetal alcohol syndrome, she’s heard all the stories. And she still feels it’s entirely her fault if the kid flunks arithmetic.

She came home tonight angry, as usual. Dragged herself to the recliner with a stack of test papers she really didn’t want to grade. And I expected the usual routine: a string of cries of anguish over how poorly her “problem” students are doing.

And then her D student turned out to have gotten an A on the test she was grading, and the anger melted away. She’s grading the rest of the tests now, and hasn’t grumbled or exclaimed in despair once for the last half hour. And she interrupted me just now to say another “problem” kid had scored an A.

A walk with Becky

Photo: Trillium chloropetallum, Bear Creek Trail, Orinda, today. We hiked about six miles, 58 total for me so far this year. I know none of you care: this is just the easiest way for me to keep track. We saw things charming, things sublime, and (don’t look at this next one if you’re squeamish: you have been warned) things grotesque.

One of the things I like best about my companion of the last 16 years is that she finds stuff like that last as fascinating as I do.

Back at home shuttered against the rain, I think it’s time again to post some reciprocal links (the official currency of Blogsylvania) for some of the folks not currently in my blogroll who’ve linked to Creek Running North. A few I’ve been meaning to add to the blogroll for some time.

Name This Thing
Scrivenings
Under a bell
Older and growing…
River Tyde
a tech monk speaks
Wild Thoughts Blog
WolverineTom: A geologist…like Randy Marsh
Flop Eared Mule
Swerve Left
Sacred Ordinary
Mute Complications — a Weblog
Keats’ telescope
Links
ManOverBoard
Hoarded Ordinaries
North Coast Cafe
Arbitrary and Capricious
Having chosen to swallow the red pill…
I Speak of Dreams
Cat Out Loud
.:bird on the moon:. love is the greatest law. boo-yah!
Howling At A Waning Moon
termagaunt
Only Connect
Slow Reads
Raised By Cats
Links
Random Musings
making contact
L a u g h i n g ~ K n e e s
Beathra �an
alembic
DECIMA LISTA
Hoarded Ordinaries
Writerrific: Sit up straight and sharpen your pencils.
Laughing~Knees
halmilo.blog-city.com
natural-overflow
bashasgarden
Gato Felix Infelix Regatta
making contact

Addendum: The estimable Hank Fox thoughtfully provided a link this month as well, and Technorati didn’t pick it up for some reason. Hank’s got a great site. Even just seeing his logo is worth a click.

Red Jacket

My brother posts a photo of a statue around the corner from the old house in Buffalo, an homage to the Seneca chief-cum-orator Red Jacket. Or something between homage and grave marker: Red Jacket is buried beneath it.

I used to walk past the statue every day, my commute from home to school and back lengthened a bit by a mile-long detour through the Forest Lawn cemetery. As a teenager I contemplated the statue, felt as though I should derive some inspiration from the remains of this leader of the people that were there before mine.

Red Jacket’s less-Anglified name, Scajaquada, adorns the creek running through the cemetery and the nearby park. A freeway parallelling the creek shares the name. Scajaquada Creek flows into the Niagara River and the west end of the Erie Canal, widened in places to form lakes. Of all the creeks on which I have lived, Scajaquada is the one I used the least. In the 1960s and ‘70s it was a fetid sump for industry and casual dumpers. There was wildness to be found there, but that wildness was of a particularly urban variety: carcasses of dogs and bad boys lurking to steal your bike. On one occasion my brother — I think it was my brother — found a dead pig rotting on the shores of Delaware Lake. In typical Buffalo blind spot fashion, this reeking sewer flowed past a world-class art museum and a regional history museum in grandiose Neo-Classical buildings. The closest thing Buffalo had to a tourist attraction, and it literally stunk.

The creek ran underground for much of its length, beneath the ghettos of east Buffalo and the squalid sprawling suburb of Cheektowaga. At the east end of the cemetery, the creek emerged from an enormous, cavernous culvert. I could not have hit the ceiling of the tunnel with a thrown rock. We ventured into the forbidden culvert as kids, walking back what seemed a quarter-mile until the tunnel forked right into a narrow, treacherous-looking hallway. Not far down that smaller tunnel, a side shaft carried the creek into a pipe. In the dwindling illumination of my purloined flashlight, the water looked deadly and fetid.

This past weekend

We went to Los Gatos this weekend to visit Becky’s parents and our niece and nephew, who they were babysitting while Becky’s sister and her husband took a few days’ break.

My nephew Liam, pictured here with one of Becky’s Christmas cookies, woke up from his nap and wandered out to the living room. I hoisted him by the armpits and held him as high as I could — an avuncular gesture of affection that I think he is starting to enjoy a little — and said “Hey, nephew! How the heck are you?”

Liam looked down at me. After a moment’s consideration he replied, a pensive look on his face. “I’m just fine. How the heck are you?

Water

Becky and I slipped out today, after I walked the dog through tentative sunshine, to buy a new laptop for my Mesa Refuge residency. It took about half an hour to make sure of what I wanted and make the transaction.

This is the cruellest month where I live: cruel to anyone visiting from back east.  Plum trees shower the sidewalks below with petals. Bearded iris send brilliant flags to be pelted by rain. The Ribes Ron gave us three years ago is in bloom again, billows of pink pendant clusters shining beneath the live oak.

My neighbor washed the car as Zeke and I walked past. “Taking advantage of the three hours between rainstorms?” I asked. He smiled. “Naah. We’re done with rain for the next week or so.” It had been a solid week of rain, three and a quarter inches total. A wet week before that.

Becky had wanted to park in the free lot three blocks away. Walking down the street, laptop box in hand, I felt a few raindrops, and then a few more.  We ducked into a store “until it lets up.” Five minutes later I decided it wasn’t going to let up, but it was a light rain that would barely wet us by the time we reached the car. We headed out, around the corner, and were met with a sudden lightning storm cold front downpour.

The air was a little less filled with water than a swimming pool would have been. We waited for the light to change. I wore jeans, a heavy denim shirt over a t-shirt: five seconds after the hard rain started I felt rivulets against my skin. Becky, in a rain jacket, was laughing hard. We ran across four lanes of traffic, through a hotel driveway, to the car. I fumbled in my pocket for the keys.

Becky’s car has barrel locks, a defense against the petty adolescent thieves that inhabit the neighborhood where she works. The key is like a Kryptonite key, a metal tube with little projections. I put it in the lock, and it didn’t work. I tried again. No luck. A piece of paper had lodged in the barrel, gotten wet in my pocket, and my pressing key into lock had tamped it solidly all the way in. Becky caught up, her pace a leisurely giggling saunter. If anything, the rain was coming down harder. “There’s paper stuck in the damn key,” I said. She held out her hand. “Let me see.”

I handed it to her. The plastic handle on the laptop box pulled through its sodden cardboard holster. The box fell into a puddle. Becky tried without success to free the wet paper in the key. “Let’s go hide under the awning while I get this out.”

I didn’‘t see an awning. “What awning?” She pointed around the corner of a building, down a decorated alley. I grabbed the laptop box and sprinted around the corner. There was no awning in the alley. At the other end, about fifty yards down, I turned another corner and found an awning twenty yards away from there.

Becky caught up again after a minute or so. She took the keychain out, took off a key and used it to dig the paper out of the barrel key. “Okay! Let’s go,” she said. I ran through the even harder rain back down the alley — past a four inch deep puddle that hadn’t been there when we parked — got to the car, and stood stupidly waiting for Becky: she still had the key. She showed up eventually and opened the door.

I put the computer in the back seat, slid into the driver’s seat and spent a minute peeling the dripping denim shirt off myself with Becky’s help. The car was completely fogged even before we opened it: I cranked the engine and the defogger, and in a short few minutes the windows had cleared enough for us to see that the rain had stopped and the sun returned.