I am brushing a heavy beard of snow off of my car when a woman plowed her giant SUV, head-first, into the vacant snowy space in front of my car. The SUV sat at an awkward angle in the large space, inches away from the bumper of the car in front. She cut the engine and stayed in the vehicle.
I wasn’t going to drive anywhere. Just removing the snow before it ossified into an icy shell. And having the luxury of time and in need of exercise, I meticulously shoveled the area around the car.
Midway through this process, it occurs to me that the woman sitting in the SUV in front might be expecting me to vacate the newly shoveled space so that she can back right into it. But maybe she’s talking on the phone, or listening to the radio? Who knows? Should I offer to shovel her space, too?
The street is festive. Neighbors are cleaning off their cars, shoveling the walk, snowblowing paths. A woman named Jill introduces herself. She’s holding what looks like a mini, hand-held snowblower. “Can I help you get rid of this snow? I just got this new toy and I’m still trying to figure out how it works.” “Yeah, sure, thanks!”
Jill lays down the mower in the street, lets it rip, and the snow sprays everywhere, dusting the sidewalk, the yard, the front porch and the SUV parked in front of me. Suddenly the SUV door flies open. We hear a shriek reminiscent of Moira on Schitt’s Creek. A woman bursts out of the vehicle and proclaims (to no one in particular), “I’m HERE!!” She’s wearing a full-length fur coat, hair in an architectural pile on top of her head. Is she wearing heels? Where are her gloves? In a huff, she stalks straight up the stairs and enters a house. That is her house? Moira’s house? (I’m calling her Moira now).
A few minutes later, a man pulls up parallel to Moira’s car and lets the engine idle with the window wide open. This time, I want to manage expectations, so I tell him that I’m not moving my car. “OH! I’m just waiting to pick up my son.” His son is apparently in Moira’s house.
On the world’s loudest speakerphone call, he says, “Brandon, let’s go!” He’s completely in earnest, but I think, “poor kid has to deal with *that* now…”
Brandon responds something garbled in a whiny voice. He’s in the middle of blah blah and dad will have to wait because argly bargly. Father and son engage in a back and forth barter-session. Brandon has dad on the verge of circling the block 25 times when he goes a step too far and the dad loses patience: “Brandon, I’m in MIDDLE OF THE STREET. I CAN’T WAIT ANY LONGER. TIME TO GO.” I can’t hear Brandon’s end of the conversation. I’m done with my car, but pretending to brush off nonexistent snow because I’m a nosy voyeur. I hear something about food and eating and and that makes me wonder if Moira is the grandmother of Brandon’s friend and was supposed to prepare food, but was waiting for me to leave so she could take my space and now Brandon’s father is losing his mind because the food is late….
I’m pretty good at finding a way to blame myself for other people’s quite possibly fictional problems.
I’m growing fatigued with Brandon and Moira and Brandon’s friend (and Brandon’s dad) and the biting cold at this point so I decide to take a walk past that house on Thome Street that I’m mildly obsessed with and hopefully by the time I return, I’ll get to see Brandon to satisfy this extremely mundane curiosity. Does he have horns? A tail? Chipmunk teeth? Well. I got distracted on my wintry walk and instead ended up on Granville chatting with the guy who lives in the house with the Tibetan flags across from the Islamic mosque, which is down the street from the giant Catholic church which is across from the Methodist church which is down the street and around the corner from the Jewish Synagogue. God, I love this city.
This detour meant that I missed seeing Brandon.
A day later, my car was still there in the shoveled space, no doubt conversing with Moira’s truck nestled in unplowed snow.
While shopping for Christmas presents this past December, I strolled into a tiny jewelry store— a small business in a local suburb. Wanting to support them, I traversed deeper into this already too-crowded space. Most patrons were wearing masks, as news of the omicron wave seemed to hurl us all backwards in time to a pre-vaccinated mindset. And of course two unmasked women in the store were conducting a banal yelling conversation across the aisles. Unwilling to actually stand next to each other while exchanging valuable Christmas travel advice, their conversation was broadcast throughout tiny shop. I made a giant U-turn to leave and observed the faces. Oh, how eyes can speak volumes.
Tales of the Subterranean: Anatomy of Sock Puppets
A zine produced in 2010
A few pages