The Wrong Hand

2016-07-30

Yesterday, after shopping at Ikea, as I carried a big blue tote bag containing ten LED Par-20 floodlight bulbs for my lighting instruments in the lobby of the little theater I run and one small black picture frame for artist bios for our gallery exhibition away from the cash register, I paused, taking in the scent of cinnamon rolls, then remembered that they seldom live up their their promise, and continued on my way.

A young couple blockaded my escape route, but I was too tired to dart, so I bided my time behind them. As we passed into the gauntlet of sliding doors, the young man slipped back to let me pass, and as I was about to step through the last sliding door, the young lady, on a monologue to her mate, assumed, by position, that I was that gentleman, reached out, and grabbed my hand.

I looked down at my big clumsy meathook inexplicably in the control of a more slender and elegant hand than I am accustomed to holding, then looked up at her with a furrowed brow as she continued her soliloquy, her sharp eyes scanning the large parking lot for their car, then looked back at her mate, whose face was a wry and twisted concentration of I MUST NOT LAUGH.

Despite my previous feeling of urgency, I continued in this entourage across the entire parking lot, seeing my truck dwindle in the distance, even as the cuckolded mate hung back, intentionally staying out of range, occasionally covering his mouth with his hand, and the one-sided conversation, a detailed treatise largely revolving around the functional and aesthetic properties of an incorporated chaise in a large sofa, continued as well. I was pleased to hear her pronounce “chaise” properly, and wondered if I looked like a giant toddler in tow, dragged helplessly through a day of clothes shopping.

We arrived at a small silver Honda, hands still engaged, and she blipped the remote with her free hand, unlocking the car, before turning to me, recoiling in horror, and snapping her hand away from mine like someone who’d inadvertently grabbed the red-hot handle of a pot on a stove. The other gentleman in question burst into gales of particularly ragged laughter, doubled-over with his own blue bag sliding off his shoulder. The young lady, who was not at all amused, began to belabor him about the head and shoulders, yelling “You are so stupid, Aaron!” which made him laugh even harder.

I just stood there, silently, because it seemed right.

After a time, I turned and headed for my truck at the other end of the parking lot, getting a fresh grip on my own blue bag and ten LED Par-20 floodlight bulbs and a small black picture frame, and listening to the combination of pique and hilarity dwindling behind me as I found the truck, inserted the blue bag and then my person into their appropriate spots on the bench seat, and drove off.

This, dear hearts, is why the work of Jacques Tati speaks to me.

It is always playtime.

©2016 Joe Belknap Wall

The Red Pen

So I wrote this book, and then I had a lot of unexpected life changes and I got way off track editing the draft, and I ended up expanding it in unproductive directions and vandalizing myself with a million edits and replacing the light touch of stream-of-consciousness narrative with ponderous literary pomp and then I had a bunch of additional life changes and then I got real busy and it just sat while I focused on my storytelling work on stage.

I’d revived it briefly a while back when my friend Keith Sinzinger badgered me into working on it with the very, very generous offer (since he was a master editor with faith in my stories) of being my editor, but he left us before we could roll up our sleeves to get down to it and I just left it alone, feeling sort of wrung out and sad.

Now that it’s going to be a while before I can do much stage work during the pandemic lockdown, I thought hey, I have a book manuscript—maybe I should finish that.