Friday, August 24, 2007


It is sitting before you on a slat table, innocently awaiting your next move,
or perhaps your lack of move.

The day is warm and dry. You eye it speculatively. Plums are not your favorite fruit; pomegranates are. But still. Plums are inviting and, you think, quite attractive with promise. It has been a long time since you have had a successful relationship with a plum, the last several being either dry or stringy or bland, not at all fulfilling the promise of their first impression. At length, the plum reveals itself to you; it speaks of a hidden tart sweetness, of experience. It tells you that it is not by any means inexperienced; there is more to it than surface impressions suggest. This is not some plum snatched off the tree strictly on account of its pleasing appearance. I am giving you experience, the plum says. And then the plum tells you that you can trust it. You do. You accordingly take steps to completely rearrange the atomic structure of that plum.

Now, as you look at the image of that plum that once was and no longer exists as a plum, you feel no sense that you have betrayed it, rather you have preserved something of what the plum told you about itself. There was honor and good faith in its behavior to you and yours to it. You have commemorated the relationship with this image. You hope all your friends and students realize that you do not go around taking photos of all your meals. You hope that they see in you, among other things, a man who has kept good faith with a plum.

Thus energized and motivated, you are driving along East Valley road toward Toro Canyon, hopeful of being able to get a good shot or two of a--well, truth to tell, you don't know what it is. It appears right out of the ground and after certain complexities, goes right back into the ground. It is a fascinating piece of business--construction that has been trying to get your attention for some time. True, its mystery intrigues you and you wonder what idiosyncrasies or secrets relate to it. Even the fact that someone who knows what it is and what it does might give you a completely bland explanation does not undercut your interest. Whatever it is, it pleases and interests you. It is of no consequence to you that there are those who might think the less of your, knowing you actually drove to Toro Canyon Park to take a photo of such a-a thing.

But this is a remarkable universe, and while you are on your way to this blue and red and kind of rusty thing, something else calls out to you, like a team of pickpockets where one performs an act that arrests your attention while the cohort gets your wallet. This simple hydrant has caused you to slam on the brakes and look for a spot where you can leave the Toyota while scouting for a place whereupon you will begin listening to it, trying to figure if you have any language in common, so that you can begin to look for a way to show appreciation. Trust me, the hydrant says. Trust you to do what? I don't actually know, the hydrant tells you. For as long as I can remember, my ambition has been predicated on being trustworthy. What else do you need to know about me? If I think of something, will you tell me? I don't know, he hydrant says, and I am suddenly taken up in this hydrant's vulnerability. You have to figure I've been around for a while and I've never had such a sense of empathy for a goddamned hydrant.

There are no such issues involved with a group of Cro-Magnon who are talking to you and whom you wish to put in a story, but there are issues with information from a less remote individual, who has in all innocence, or I could say in all plumn-ness or thing-ness, or hydrant-ess told you things that have caused you great uproar of enthusiasm for an approach to story that has haunted you ever since years ago when you read a short piece by Dashiell Hammett about how he once had the responsibility as a Pinkerton detective of finding a man who had stolen a Ferris wheel. This links to a psychiatrist now dead who told you the story of how, waiting for the delivery of a baby grand piano for her apartment in Santa Monica, she discovered that the piano had in fact been delivered, and then stolen.

At this stage, I have resolved to tell the story, and at this stage I am drawn more deeply into the morality of what to do with the secrets of such things and people as I discern, even though there is a danger that now, I've blown the hydrant's gossamer web of anonymity and betrayed it in a way that makes me apprehensive.


Lori Witzel said...

A few random echoes back:

The rope, binding and fraying between the two valve-wheels (my mind's blank about what to call 'em.) As if they might escape, crazily unscrewing and setting something (but what?) free.

That is indeed the most forlorn, unassuming and gently comic hydrant I've ever seen. I hope his concrete-topped retinue keep him good company. (His secret's safe with me.)

And betrayal by plums? I've experienced it many times, but it's worth the risk to find sweet, tart-right-under-the-skin, succulent, chin-dripping plum. (I have just about given up on peaches, though.)

Anonymous said...

Having never seen a plum before, I wondered why you had a pitcure of a bowling ball. Sorry.

Some day, Shelly, I hope to be as good a writer as you. I know you don't need my praises so I won't say them. I just want you to know that I've never been so touched by a plum and a hydrant before. I think about it and I'm awed at how we -- plums, hydrants and humans --are all connected, and how we can find god in the most mundane of things.