Monday, January 18, 2010


At first I worried Emma might get too far into Kitty’s meditation/non-attachment rap. Kitty really is aloof in the world. (Although the last we talked, she had certainly fallen off her non-judgmental beam.) The whole yoga house views Emma as “a sensation junkie.” And for now, Kitty says, Emma’s consciousness being stuck in her sensual body is fine, because she’s so keenly attuned it. She could possibly attain enlightment just from there.

(Click here to read the first episode and here for the previous one.) 

Well, thank you, Kitty.  Thank you for approving Emma’s sensations. But thank Buddha, too, because Kitty’s place is half the reason Emma’s so happy and busy.

What really is too bad, though, is Emma’s inability to sing in my music studio, which I thought she’d love. Setting it up out here was a big deal, even though the electronics available now make a home studio as good as any other. Most afternoons, I compose songs, or try to. While Emma learns yoga, I listen for songs in my head, or deliberately don’t listen, because sometimes the trick is: wait.

I met Emma in Chicago, singing in my friend Charlie’s band. She’s a great mimic and moves her voice really well. But before a melody or even a few beats start up, she’s frustrated. And then angry: “If ya got it, Scott, ya got it. If ya don’t, ya don’t. And I fuckin’ don’t.”

When I say, “Emma, you’re wrong,” she says I’m an idiot. She’s got just enough music in her to know it’s not enough.

So when Pedro asks to check out the land I’ve given him as a bonus, and how far it extends, because he wants to build a house for him and Moira and the baby, I offer to help. I’m aching for work.

His land runs from the beach to a small cliff of chalky rock. At the top an overgrown field recedes a quarter mile before giving way to the jungle.

“We’ll clear that area and build a bungalow that looks out on the ocean. Kinda like mine but family-style.”

He’s nodding and smiling and punching my arm. “My brother and I, we can do it in a few months. And build a low fence, front yard, backyard, so the boy can’t run off.”

“You know it’s a boy?”

“No, but the ladies always guess. Main thing is healthy. Okay if I start tomorrow? My brother Hugo has the materials.”

“Start today.”

He calls Hugo and ten minutes later, the three of us are walking the ground, measuring this and that. Planning the lay-out. Foundation goes here. Garden here. Pedro wants natural steps to the beach, meaning we’ll cut into the rock. He’s done that before. The rock’s soft. So we agree to start clearing the field early tomorrow morning before the sun gets too hot. Hugo says, “Pura vida,” and climbs into his sun-bleached truck. Pedro starts toward his trailer and I’m going the other direction to pick up Emma from her infernal yoga training.

“Five a.m., Pedro? Meet here or at your place?”

He’s already started on the jungle path, but trudges back to the drier, grassier area where his new house will be. He’s shirking and apologetic from a hundred feet away. Taps my shoulder and kind of hugs me, saying, “You shouldn’t do the groundwork, Scottie. Leave it to me and Hugo and, I don’t know, maybe Logan.”

(Logan? Yeah, right.) “Why not me, Pedro? We built my place.”

“Only after me and Hugo had cleared the ground. You were away, surfing, Scottie.”

“It’s just digging and hoeing, right? How hard is that?”

“Sometimes there’s snakes.”

“Boots. Big gloves. I’ll be fine.”

Sun’s not quite up yet and Pedro hands me a hoe. I chop the ground by the cliff. The hoe sinks into soft grass and a cloud of no-see-’ems rises up, attacking me. Pedro and Hugo are digging up bushes. I tear off my glove to slap at the bugs. Wave my hands around and they disperse a little. I reach for the hoe handle before the glove. And searing pain invades the inside of my wrist. I flick off a long, thick, brownish thing. Reflex action. But I see the snake falling in the air. Its yellow tail means it’s a juvenile. And juvenile pitvipers are even more lethal than the adults.

The bite already looks like a rash of big blood blisters. I call Pedro. Maybe he hears the alarm in my voice, but he was already afraid for me, and runs toward me so fast it’s cartoonish. He looks at my wrist. “Shit, Scottie. The terciopelo?”

“Yellow tail.” I hold my forearm and pain explodes up and down the whole limb.

“Keep calm, hombre.”

(Click here for the next episode)


Dan Leo said...

“Keep calm, hombre.”

(No, thanks, I think I'll just panic now!)

I love this sort of expatriate tale. Americans or Europeans going off to poor tropical countries to find -- what?

The elusive "what". Joseph Conrad, Graham Greene, and now K. Maher.

kathleenmaher said...

As a friend of mine sometimes says, heh heh.

BillyWarhol said...

U write stories like Screenplays Kathleen* did I tell U I finished all 898 pages of 2666? part of which takes place in Mexico Hombre* ;)

Old 333 said...

Ah, this is great. thanks, kathleen. Professional and highly decorative writing.

rhoda said...

glad to see you are digging into the archives of flashing by. the ultimate compliment for any blog!