My umbrella was stolen from in front of my apartment door, which is all the way at the end of our complex, with a long, separate hallway. It never rains in Southern California, and this week it does. Every day. The thief went off and stayed dry. I’m left to search for a new one. I’m a large guy and large umbrellas are expensive when you try to live on the cheap because your freelance money is stuck in some bureaucratic detour. I reject the small, collapsible ones. They are rickety and barely cover my shoulders. Rite-Aid has a large one, but it’s 13.99 and of inferior quality. The plastic handle feels like the dashboard of my old Escort, the spokes are flimsy despite being heavy.
At the Dollar Store, only collapsible ones. I go to Albertsons, and the ones that cost 13.99 at Rite-Aid are 16.99 here and I buy one, then return it immediately. CVS has only collapsible ones, Wal-Mart is out of umbrellas.
I feel like a crusader in one of the last and desperate crusades, ill-equipped and without hope of reaching what has long become unattainable. I want my old umbrella back, the one I bought in Koreatown at the 98-Cent Store at my street corner. Its handle was clad in foam, and when I opened the umbrella, underneath the silver fabric, the night sky showed, every single star fixed above me.
Saturday feels like emptying the full bag of my vacuum with two fingers, through the round, rubber-sealed hole, because it’s too expensive to buy a new bag. After a week of rain, it’s sunny again, and I have no plans, the day is mine, and all I find is dog hair, soot, two dimes, and an orange-and-white NASCAR earplug.
I was just given this fancy notebook, pages small and thick. Every word counts. Everything I might have written in a Safeway notebook seems inadequate for this notebook, which comes with a fancy pen.
What did Moses think of his ten stone tablets? Maybe if he’d been presented with scrolls, he wouldn’t have been so terse. Maybe he wasn’t satisfied with “Thou shalt not kill,” but it was written in stone, and there wasn’t space or time for some explanation, for example “only if you’re attacked in a dark alley,” or “only if your girlfriend, the one you intend to marry, is attacked,” or “only if it’s legally okay.”
Maybe he thought of other laws, but they didn’t seem important enough for stone tablets. “Thou shalt not wear socks in your sandals,” or “Thou shalt not leave the toilet seat up after you’re done urinating.”
I run to stave off feelings of inadequacy. My freelance money won’t be released until the IRS sends me a certain certificate, which can take up to 45 days. Or longer, in the case of which I’ll receive a message after 30 days. Meanwhile my credit card groans.
I run to stave off age, which at 44 is sometimes still possible, although now it’s like running after a ball in the outfield and you know you’ll hit the warning track soon. The forehead widens like a desert, the back needs a pillow top these days, thoughts of cosmetic surgery keep buzzing around my head when I sit in the bathroom with the mirror mercilessly placed in front of me. Do people want to see their faces while taking a crap? ‘Wow, that one really contorted my face.’
So I run, the cheap solution to extending my life and to feel that, yeah, I have the stamina to live another 43 years, to live 50, 57 years. I run, and I run along the beach, which should lighten my mood and doesn’t. And in the beachfront parking lot halfway home, I stop, because I see movement in the water out of the corner of my left eye.
A woman and her daughter have seen it too. “Sharks,” the young girl shrieks. Seven or eight of them. An old man on his bike stops next to me, his eyes watery as he scans the water. “Whales?” I ask. He scoffs. “Dolphins.”
“Dolphins,” I yell out to the mother and daughter. The girl squeaks in delight.