Speaking Ill of the Dead

A few years ago when Jackson was playing youth league basketball, he jammed his finger pretty badly and we ended up at the ER, and then we were referred to a hand specialist because it was a weird break. The bone at the tip of his finger had actually split, like if you took an ax to a log. There’s a name for that type of break but I Google image searched and couldn’t find an example, and now I’ve creased my brain with so many truly horrendous hand injuries and I’m not even done with my first cup of coffee.

Jackson’s break was small and it healed up well, but the hand specialist kept telling us to come back for what felt like unnecessary follow-up appointments. I began to feel like we were being milked for not only our precious time but for $50 copays. Did he need to finance his winter trip to Arugula, I wondered? (I mean Aruba, you knew that, but I left Arugula because it’s funny to watch someone’s mind crumble.)

Here comes the point! I titled this post for a reason! So this last Wednesday it was starting to rain, and everyone around here gets edgy now when a storm comes in because enough water could trigger another debris flow through the areas that burned in last December’s fires. If you haven’t seen it, here’s a video from the moment last January 9 when a couple of Highway Patrol guys realize that they need to get the fuck out of there:

I started this post feeling kind of jokey about the whole thing but now having watched that again I’m all choked up. It was so awful.

Because the place where I work is a hub for the Warming Centers, where people can come and sleep and eat and get out of the cold when it rains or the temperature drops below 40, people who need shelter tend to gather outside my office to wait for the shuttle bus. I am not supposed to let people hang out or stow their stuff or use the restroom, but I will occasionally make an exception. Wednesday a slightly addled woman showed up and I went outside to see what her deal was, and I ended up listening to a long, substance-fueled monologue about some recent not-great events in her life, including an ugly hand wound that had required stitches and antibiotics and a trip to (ah ha) the same hand surgery office that I’d taken Jackson to for his broken finger. Except now it has a memorial plaque in the waiting room with a photo of Jackson’s finger doctor, because he was swept away and died last January 9 in the mud slide, along with his daughter.

Then a cab driver got out of his car and came up and started arguing with the addled woman, accusing her of stealing $10 from him, and I wandered back inside. When I looked out again later the woman was sitting on her duffle bag and crying, and then my office mate, who is much kinder than I am, brought her out a cup of coffee and a candy cane.

A ball bounces up a Penrose staircase while a Shepard scale plays. The staircase is everlasting, and the Shepard scale creates the illusion of tones that steadily rise, but don't actually seem to get anywhere. This is a combined audio and visual illusion.