Some teenagers came by for candy
tonight. They didn't
even bother wearing costumes.
I live in a rough neighborhood.
I was going to call up somebody and say Hi, how
you? But that's just so they'll ask me the same. I don't
feel good. It would be too obvious.
On my pickup route there's a clinic
that's just staffed
by women. "Our Pets, Ourselves." I went there today.
Last night's storm knocked out the power and they all
had flashlights in their hands. They waved me over to
where they keep the freezer but when I opened it, well,
it smelled really bad.
So they started spraying all these cans of air freshener but
it just made it smell like dead animals wearing cheap
perfume. All of this and it was dark, too.
I tried to think of a way to help but they just told me thank
you. No. Go.
My new job with Blaine is that I visit with him and see what
he needs and make him feel comfortable. If he wants to
play scrabble, we play scrabble. If he wants me to wheel
him around outside to smell the wet leaves, we can do that.
So far, he hasn't asked for anything. I don't even know if he
I sure hope he can hear.
I've told him a lot of stuff.
Gary, the day clerk, he's been
there a long time and he
told me about the night the boiler blew.
It was during the first Iraq war and one of his buddies
over there read about it in The Stars and Stripes. That's
how big a deal it was.
Nobody got hurt but it shattered every window on the
Also, it could have been a slow news day.
I got a call from room 304 that
somebody in room 303
was shouting for help so I bounded up the steps with my
Mr. Aronson was on the floor, on his back, and the TV
was on top of him. Jay Leno was cracking jokes right
through Mr. Aronson's stomach.
Mr. Aronson is over 70 and uses a walker and he spends
most of his days in his room drinking rum mixed with the
syrup you get from cans of fruit cocktail. He drinks and
stuff like this happens.
He said he was just trying to change the channel.
Something else I'm supposed to do at the hotel is walk
the halls on every floor and be sure I don't see or smell
So, sometimes I pass by and hear stuff.
Last night I heard a woman cussing out a guy really bad,
using the f-word a lot and saying things like she wanted
to kill him.
It was room 203, Ms. Jorgenson. So when I got back to
the desk, I called her room to ask if she was O.K. She
said she was OK, that nothing was wrong.
She sounded like I woke her up.
There are many kinds of little jobs
I'm supposed to do
at the hotel at night. It's not just sitting around doing
Ever since the boiler blew up years ago, the night clerk
is supposed to check the gauge at least once a night.
That big thing kind of scares me. It coughs and
gurgles and rumbles and the needle always flutters
right on the borderline between green and red.
I really don't like going down there.
Annie called. She left a message on my machine.
still has my coffee cup and wanted to know if she
could bring it by.
Actually, she said she wanted to know if she and Jim
could bring it by.
I think she can just keep it.
I was at Albertsons and I tried to use the self-checkout line.
Nectarines don’t have bar codes.
I watched a sitcom today. A rerun. It’s supposed to be
a comedy but it put me in a bad mood.
I decided I didn't like anybody in it.
This was a show from a long time ago. Men had sideburns
and wore bell-bottoms and I hoped that they were all now
just really unhappy. All those people who were in it.
I don't know where I get these bad thoughts.
The laugh track was too loud.
Outside through the window came the smell of the tar
they were putting on my neighbor's roof.
There was a message on my machine. It was from Rosa
Henning. She wanted to know what happened to all the
money. There were credit cards missing too.
She left her number.
I don’t know if I’ll call her back.
They have country western dance lessons at the Tack
Room every Wednesday night. If you don’t have a
partner, they see if they can get you one. You just sit
over on the bench.
That’s what happened last night. I was there on the
bench and I had on a cowboy hat. I was afraid I’d look
dumb, but most of the guys wear them so I couldn’t
have looked that dumb.
A woman in boots and jeans came over and asked me
to be her partner but when I stood up she said I was
kind of short.
She was chewing gum and had on a gold chain that
had charms hooked to it. She looked at me some
more and then moved on to the next guy.
So I sat down.
I found a wallet on the sidewalk in front of my house.
The drivers license said Rosa Henning and it has her
address but none of the other stuff in the wallet has
her phone number so I guess I’ll have to mail it to her.
There’s a Starbuck’s card and a CostCo card and a
photograph of a little boy.
I wonder if there’s a reward?
I didn’t want to ruin the diary but I wanted to
so first I smashed the lock with a hammer. That didn't
work so I sawed the leather strap with a steak knife.
It was mostly just blank, white pages. There were only
The first entry just said I got my diary for my birthday.
Next, there was something about Kennedy dying. It
went on for three pages. It didn’t make a lot of sense.
And then there was this:
can’t write to you anymore.
reason is this, I can’t be honest.
something last night I can’t tell anybody.
And I’ve done it before, too. There’s no way I
could ever write about it. And that’s what I
thoughts I wish I didn’t think about. If
I write about them, it reminds me. And these
thoughts won’t go away.
not even telling you right now and you’re my
I make up stuff, this isn’t a diary, is it?
bad I didn’t start this a few years before.
Going through my old trunk in the garage, I found
some stuff from my childhood. There were a bunch of
pencil erasers which were red on one end and grey on
the other. The grey side was for erasing ink but all it
did was rip up the paper. Maybe I did it wrong, but I
don't think so.
There was one framed certificate of participation I got
for attending a summer recreation program at the park.
I remember we used to stay there the whole day and
And I found a diary that had a lock on it. And it was
Sometimes I feel like Blaine.
Blaine without a caregiver.
A woman called me. She thought I was a care giver for
Blaine. I said no, that I just delivered some meals. She had
found the piece of paper with my name and phone number
that I left for him. But I told her I don’t do it anymore
because I got laid off.
And then I got to talking about him and asking how he was,
and then she asked if I’d be interested in a different job. A
care giver for Blaine but doing something else.
I said sure.
“There are two kinds of people in his world. Those who
return the shopping cart and those who don’t. We’re the
kind that does.”
That’s the explanation I heard a mother give her little
daughter in the parking lot of Albertson’s today.
The little girl was looking at me.
I drove by Blaine’s place. Maybe out of habit. I don’t know.
I didn’t see anybody coming or going.
Dang it. First I lose my factory job and now Meals On
Wheels lays me off.
So, who’s going to bring food for Blaine now?
I got a call from Fontaine. It was hard to hear
because he had an easy listening station cranked up
He called to tell me something about how he saved a
lot of money on his
taxes. He writes off everything as
a business expense. Well, he doesn’t
do it. He pays
Financial Concepts and they do it for him. All he has to
do is keep records.
I asked him what his business was. He said it’s to get
people to sign up with Financial Concepts.
He said it was nice to talk to me and I think he actually
meant it. I didn't sign up for anything but he was able
to write off the call.
I talked to Blaine, like I always do, but
this time I
pulled up a chair. He didn’t look at me.
I said some stuff and then I paused and then I said
some more stuff. And then I started to tell him
My whole body hurt.
I’m not sure what Blaine thought about this. He sure
is a good listener, though.
Last night I checked in a guy from
Poland, a visiting
professor. Why the university decided to put him up
at the Starlight, I don’t know.
He had a burning question for me but he spoke no
English, not a word.
His face was round and red and his tie was askew. He
tried pantomime, which didn’t work, and then he tried
to draw something on a piece of paper.
Well, then I got it.
I guess some people regard desk clerks like taxi drivers.
I said no and wagged my finger. But there was no
shame. He just giggled. I'm a desk clerk.
It was close to 4 am and I saw this
guy sleeping sitting
up in one of the high back chairs.
He’s one of those guys who was born black and then
later goes bald.
I thought about that for half a minute.
And then I woke him up.
I lost my job at the glue-fold factory. It's just
My other jobs have me hopping and that other guy
really wanted it.
I saw Blaine today. I noticed that behind that table he
sits in a wheelchair. I also noticed that he doesn't have
I made some small talk. None of it in the form of
questions because he won't answer. It's uncomfortable
when questions just hang in the air.
He's the last on my route and I wish the food would be
a little warmer for him.
I left my phone number on a piece of paper. I told him
if he wanted anything, to just holler.
He didn't look at the paper.
I don't expect he's going to holler any time soon.
The Starlight Hotel is starting me out at minimum wage.
If it appears I have what it takes, they’ll keep me
on. Then we’ll talk about how much I’m worth.
It’s an old hotel and it probably was fancy in its day.
The lobby has a maroon carpet with a floral pattern
and it’s huge. It takes up the whole ground floor.
After midnight the place is dark and I just hear the
sounds of the wooden chairs and drop-leaf tables
contracting or expanding from the change in
temperature. It used to spook me.
But sometimes when I tell myself there’s nobody there,
there’s actually somebody there. That can be even
Last night there was an old man in an overstufffed chair,
just sitting there, quieter than the furniture.
I asked him if he was a guest. He said yes. I asked him
what room number. He just smiled, got up, and left.
That was part of my training. How to kick out people
with no place to go.
I was looking out through the glass doors of the lobby
and I saw Annie walk by.
It probably wasn't Annie. But that didn't matter. It made
me feel bad.
I still feel bad.
My turtle used to bang his head against the tank every
time he wanted food, so I hung a little bell just low
enough for him to reach it if he really wanted to.
He didn't know what the bell was for. But one day he
somehow hit it by mistake so I gave him some food.
Now he rings it all the time. So I'm always getting up and
giving him food.
I told Mr. Conroy, he's a guy at the hotel, all about how
I trained my turtle.
But Mr. Conroy said it sounded to him like it was the
other way around.
The last client on my route is Blaine. I have a key to his
apartment. I knock a couple times, announce who I am,
and let myself in.
He’s always sitting behind a table, wearing dark glasses
and a beret. I say hi and I’m cheerful but he never says a
word. He doesn’t move, either. I put the styrofoam box
on the table in front of him and he just sits. I say bye and
let myself out.
I like Blaine. I don’t know why.
Meals on Wheels. It’s all surplus food but it’s from good
restaurants. I bet they get a great write off.
Sometimes some of the older ladies on my route want to
chat and that puts me behind. It’s hard to go. And even
when I go, they keep talking. Even after I close the door
and I’m on my way, walking down the steps, I hear them
I like my Meals on Wheels job. There’s one guy, Enola, who
hates the food and calls me a crap head, a scum bag and
a dork, but I have a feeling he says that to everybody,
though I’m not sure he sees anybody else.
I thought the night clerk job at the Starlight Hotel would
be pretty easy, especially in the wee hours of the night,
but we take outpatients from the V.A. hospital and either
they can’t sleep or they try not to.
I might lose my job at the glue-fold factory because the
owner hired two of us from County Wellness and Welfare
Human Resources Department and he only needs one.
He’s going to keep the hardest worker and I don’t even
know what I’m supposed to do. The machines make a lot
of noise and I’m never sure I understand what he tells me
After months and months of unemployment, I’m now
working so much that I can hardly think. And now I have
a fourth job! Can you believe it? None of them are full
time jobs but they total up to 50 to 60 hours per week.
My fourth job is contract work with veternary clinics, which
is good, because I always wanted to work with animals. But
the bad part is, all the animals are dead.
I pick them up and take them away, once a week, right out
of the freezer they have on site for that purpose.
They’re in bags. It isn’t so bad. And the veternarian nurses
are always happy to see me.