A Truly Terrible Tale for a Rainy October Night
A long time ago in an Indiana town far, far away (or roughly an hour and forty-five minutes if you go the speed limit or whatever) a boy regaled his classmates with a story so terrific, so awful, and so, well, lasting that I have never, ever, ever forgotten it. Lord knows I have tried…sorta. Because the story took place on a rainy fall day and was told on a rainy fall day, I cannot see a leaf on the ground on a rainy fall day without thinking about it. Now you all can think about it, too. You're welcome.
It was a grey and wet October afternoon and a boy we'll call E, the E Who Shall Not Be Named, said he had an interesting fall walk. He was walking through the neighborhood, crunching and slushing his way through fallen leaves, as one does. What to his wandering eyes should appear among the soggy leaves but one perfectly robust piece of autumnal crispy glory. He couldn't resist it. In fairness, who could? In a fit of adolescent exuberance, he took one big leap in the air and landed square on the big lovely leaf.
There was no crunch.
No, there was a squish, perhaps a splat, coupled with a deep disappointment of the kind that only comes when one is suddenly and shockingly deprived of certain, immediate satisfaction.
That was no leaf. That was a frog.
See, it's a terrible story. And there's no happy ending. Nope. The frog lives on only in memory. Although, you have to admit, that frog would never, presumably, have achieved the kind of celebrity it has since found if it hadn't been for E's foot landing so indelicately on a fateful fall day. (See, at last we get there: frog prints!)
Small consolation for a frog, one supposes. Of course, we'll never be able to ask.
I can honestly say I have never since crunched a leaf with any amount of force or velocity. Or at least, not without verifying that it is indeed flora and not fauna first.
Again, sadly, small consolation for a frog.
Why I hate Twilight
Edward: “But, Bella, I’m a killer.”
Bella: “I don’t care.“
(a.) Not much of a Thinker, is she? (b.) See also: Sweet Valley High, Super Milosevic Edition. (c.) Now she’s going to have to break off that long-distance pen pal love affair with that serial killer at the federal penitentiary. (d.) I’ll take “Things You Should Probably Care About” for a thousand, Alex.
The one and only thing Twilight didn’t get abysmally wrong
Bella: “Why do you like me?”
Edward: “Because you smell good. And, I can’t read your mind.”
Relationships have been built on worse grounds, really. Also, I can’t rule out the possibility that the entire evolution and proliferation of homo sapiens sapiens is built on the foundation of “Hey, you smell good and I don’t know what you’re thinking. Let’s go.”
Hey! I accidentally agree with Grover Norquist. Sorta.
To the assorted members of the Do-Gooder Billionaires’ Club who are advocating for higher taxes on themselves, Grover Norquist has said that a change in tax policy is ridiculous and Mr. Buffett, you can just go ahead and write a check to the U.S. Treasury if you feel so strongly about it. (Seriously, under “Gifts to Reduce the Public Debt.”)
Well, I think it’s snarky of Mr. Norquist to put it that way, however, yeah, billionaires and Average Americans alike: if this is your thing, then absolutely, throw a couple bucks into the maws of that debt. Walk the walk, or walk the talk, you know what I mean. But (1) keep talking about changing the tax policy, Grover’s wishes to the contrary notwithstanding and (2) make sure the whole country knows you voluntarily wrote a check to put your money where your mouth is and practiced what you preached, et cetera. But keep preaching.
Oh, and (3) advocate to get that capital gains rate up to 20% or to match the income tax bracket. If nothing else, it’ll help me in my quest to avoid cases in which I agree with Grover Norquist.
(Yes, I realize that Mr. Norquist said this way back in Septemberish, but the recent story on PBS NewsHour about the “Patriotic Millionaires” refreshed me. So there you go.)
Lastly, Your Pre-Thanksgiving Dose of Americana
I had originally intended to post Edward Hicks’ Peaceable Kingdom as the prelude to Thanksgiving (a.k.a. “Black Friday Eve”). Goodness knows that any of the 60-plus versions Hicks made of it are more famous than this painting.
But this one has a turkey in it.
“For how can one know color in perpetual green, and what good is warmth without cold to give it sweetness?” John Steinbeck
In honor of Autumn, October, and Halloween, I’ve been re-reading John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley: In Search of America (1962). I usually do this because there’s something so perfectly fall-like about the first half of Part Two. “The climate changed quickly to cold and the trees burst into color, the reds and yellows you can’t believe. It isn’t only color but a glowing, as though the leaves gobbled the light of the autumn sun and then released it slowly.” And so I wanted to share this, the Millais painting, and the short list of atmospherically perfect things to dip into on a crisp October day, or better, a brisk All Hallows’ Eve.
With a nod to Indiana, James Whitcomb Riley’s “When the Frost is on the Punkin.”
For poison and pathos and the ability to stick in one’s head, “Where ha’ you been, Lord Randal, my son?” Anonymous child ballad, “Lord Randal (Randall).”
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story, “The Birthmark.”
Alfred Noyes, “The Highwayman.” For cadence, but mostly for this:
“The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees / The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas…”
Happy Halloween. Happy Autumn.