Thursday, January 3, 2008

Exit, Pursued by a Bear

Chapter Four

When you consider the difference in our ages and backgrounds, you're probably curious about the things Rae and I argue about and indeed the little things that send them skittering into orbit.

Since we're both obsessive in our preoccupation with details related to our professional lives, each of us follows the assumption--wrongly, of course--that the same amount of planning is lavished in other areas. As a consequence, our biggest row yet, started by me, came with me blowing up. "How could you forget such a thing? What could have possessed you?"

"Because," Rae said, "I got excited, that's how. You want to know how I got excited? You want some details?"

Once again, I'm racing ahead of myself. What I want to talk about is the argument we had over this document you're reading. "I don't mind you telling the truth," Rae said, "even if it shows me up as wrong-headed. I do mind you using real names and places. I could be content with roman a clef, but if this version were to fall into the wrong hands--"

"What wrong hands?"

"Police wrong hands. Federal wrong hands. Someone we don't even know, looking to cut a deal to get reduced time."

"Such people do not read the kinds of journals and reviews that publish my work."

"You have never before goddamn patronized me. Such people. Such people as your former associates will recognize names."

"My former associates are looking for nonsensical ways to explain things. They can't be bothered with names."

This conversation took place in the informal dining area just beyond the kitchen in the Sacramento house. It took place while we were in the process of eating a convenience meal of rigatoni with Ragu or some other bottled tomato sauce and was the beginning of what we have come to regard as The Spaghetti Wars.

"University professors do not get into trouble with the police or the feds."

"Will you listen to yourself, Howard?"

"Okay, then tell me when the last time was that you heard of a university professor being hassled by the law?"

"Last time, bullshit, Howard. It's the first time I'm concerned about. If someone gets your notebook or your laptop, if it gets published the way you wrote it, it could be used against us."

"How will they know what's real and what's fiction?"

"That's all the more reason why they'd use it?"

This is where the trouble with the pasta began. Rae threw her spoon into the serving bowl with the force of some exasperation, causing some of the sauce to splash onto my shirt cuff. "They'll check it against real events, just the way they did with that guy in Oregon. Packwood. The way whey did with no arms for hostages, and Bill and Monica, and the little Dweeb with WMDs."

"You're comparing a literary effort to that?"

"I'm comparing your hubris to theirs."

"So tell me what happened to the Fifth Ammendment? You know. Immunization against self-incrimination."

"You are a gifted ad decent man in many ways, Howard, and I trust you with my life. You are a good cook in spite of this--" she shook the spoon, causing more disruption with the tomato sauce. "--and the best lover I have ever known. You were probably a good teacher, but your grasp of the law is pitiful."

"You really mean that? The best?"

"We are not talking about the Fifth Amendment here, Howard. We are talking about the goddamned Fourth Amendment. We are talking about them searching for evidence and finding your goddamned notebook or your goddamned laptop with all the goddamed dates and details."

"And what makes you think they'll come at us, looking for evidence?"

"Because of what we do and because we cannot afford not to think they'll come at us, whether they do or not." (We both agree that this was the point at which we began throwing the pasta at one another.)

We spent the better part of an hour cleaning up the mess and spatter. Two weeks after the conversation, Rae found a shriveled rigatoni shell stuck to the wall behind the refrigerator.

Another episode of the Spaghetti Wars erupted while we were having home-made linguini with clam sauce, after I suggested to Rae that we get married.

1 comment:

R.L. Bourges said...

I just googled shelly lowenkopf (curious about the meaning of the lowen part of the head) and realized that every time I reference you in my blog, my post shows up on the sl search. boy am I dumb. Never place new technology in the hands of the technologically challenged. there I was telling myself - go ahead, write what you want, only a handful of people will see it anyway. that'll teach me to slip up on my due diligence. And your dog blogs too? I'll check and see if little lassie has anything she wants to tell sally.
rigatoni, huh?