Another photo of The Bridge(s) that span the Mississippi at La Crosse, Wisconsin. There was only the one when I grew up there, the triple-arched one, not the single arch. The two are necessary now due to all of the traffic. The population remains the same, but more people drive and more people have vehicles. Some bit of time ago I wrote an erasure and posted it on this site. It’s about crossing the bridge as we did in childhood and the sand beneath our feet, between our toes. (“For An Erasure”)
- The trials of Lizzy Fig: Today again I thought I’d give the out-of-doors and cat harness a go. First you have to catch her, resulting in trama number 1 for the darling. Then there’s the application of the harness itself, resulting in trama number 2. When at last she uncurls herself from the frozen rock she becomes, we go outside. All goes well for some time; she watches birds, walks in the grass, crosses to the next patio. She even seems happy. I’m congratulating myself on my ability to prevail when a person comes out from an apartment door. That person walks in our direction as Lizzy Fig begins to back up, then more so, further and further. Suddenly she takes off running, tugging madly on the leash, like a fighting fish in the waters of the Florida Keys. She pulls and tugs in one direction and then another. The leash gets wrapped around a small tree, next it wraps itself around the hedgerow. After the initial ruckus I end up with a relaxed line and an empty harness. (I had wondered about that.)
I caught up with her at some point after, where she was crying behind some hedges. I did somehow coax her into letting me pick her up. We are both safely back in the house now. I have no idea where she is hiding. I’m sure she is thinking she will never come out again, certainly never trust me again. Meanwhile Tula thought it was all great fun—watching as she was from behind the patio screen door—then jumping up and down as we came back inside. The only thing better would have been for her to join in the chase after the cat.
- When I was a freshman in high school I met a girl who might have come to be in our clique as we were forming up and learning our way along. Most of us were on the fringes then, deciding without words which of the worlds we would traverse and the ones who would walk with us. Who would sit at the lunch table with us. Which lunch table would be ours. Who would scream with us at the football games. Where we would belong in the hierarchy and tyranny of the students at the high school named for St. Thomas Aquinas.
Wags asked me if I wanted to go shopping with her on that Saturday, downtown at the J.C. Penny’s where school clothes lay in abundance. (Abundance then was nothing to compete with the sheer variety of today’s choices.) But of course I wanted to, and why not, something to do, somewhere to be. Girl’s clothing, second floor, top of the escalator where in the not-too-distant future my daughter would catch her shoe and cause the escalator to crash, experimenting as she was with the possibility of catch and release on her own, eliminating the need (not) for a store manager and a crush of patrons. That particular day, with Wags, was schooling of a different sort.
We gathered and carried several cardigan sweaters into a fitting room, both of us together. Those days were well before the clothing limits, the alarm locks, and no more than one person to a room. We were in fact likely the cause of future precautions against department-store theft. She demonstrated to me how she could select a sweater and wear it out of there, under the top she had on, her loose jacket pulled over both.
I wore a lovely pink cardigan out of J.C. Penny’s and walked home with it on. It was soft and luscious. It did not itch. It was perfect.
When we met up I tried to tell Wags how I was not sure the fear was worth it. How all-consuming fear to the point of dizziness had become. How I thought I would scream as we walked out separately and purposefully meandered to dispel any suspicions. And she tried to tell me how that was the point of it all—to not only be able to have what you wanted and could not afford, but how it felt. The act itself, and getting away with it. That feeling was the best part. I was not at all convinced.
At home I told my mother that Wags had given me the sweater as it no longer fit her. That was surprisingly easy, and the questioning ended with that response. That weekend the parents were having people over, and those people had children with them. Why could I not entertain those young ones with sparklers we were setting aside for the fourth of July? Why not? The patio and sparklers on a cool autumn eve were no hardship, rather an easy and fun entertainment for the kids and me. Not only easy and fun, but I could wear my lovely new pink cardigan. The one Wags had given me. The one with the pearlized buttons. And in the fashion of that day, a sweater which could be worn buttoned up the back or the front.
It was an autumn night with a rose-colored sky, matches and sparklers on the picnic table, excited children, and me in my lovely pink cardigan. Ah, the trailing arches and figure eights and ribbons of shooting stars. How they sparkled and shone, and how they set up tiny burns on the flesh where they lightly struck the hands and face. And then burned little holes all over that pink cardigan.
I thought it was punishment for my sins. God acts swiftly for the guilty to prove you cannot escape though you might not be caught. I later made several “acts of contrition,” and buried the sweater in the sand underneath the bridge.