Kage Baker – on those rare occasions when she found herself with no plots or ideas burning in her brain – would lie back in her wingback armchair and moan, “Tell me stuff. Give me ideas. Inspire me …”
“How the hell am I supposed to do that?” I would grump, usually tangled up in some fiendishly difficult knitting stitch.
“I dunno.” Kage would wave her hands in the air like sock puppets. No one could be as boneless as Kage. “Caper and sing. Tell me jokes. Has something weird been dug up anywhere? Go look through your nerdy science magazines and find me an anomaly.”
“Oh, screw you,” I would wittily reply.
And the afternoon or evening would proceed on a gentle tide of bickering. Ancient disagreements might surface, and the many crimes of adolescence. (“Remember that time you ate all my chocolate-covered cherries?” “It was an emergency. My metabolic theobromos was dropping!”) We would discuss favourite old candies – Kage could lecture on old candies for hours. We’d discuss old movies and television shows – theme songs: see the candy comment. Kage never forgot anything and could sing those for hours. Hours, I tell you.
I would explain planetary rotation and the precession of the equinoxes, with balls of yarn. Kage would explain how to mix Phthalo blues and greens to try and get transparency; which is hard in acrylics. I don’t think either one of us listened much to the other, except for the pleasant murmur of a familiar voice … God He knows, I would give quite a lot now, to just have her low, cinnamon-and-honey voice in the background while I try to write …
This is not happening, though; not even in my mind. You might note, Dear Readers, the relative lateness of the hour – the day has rolled on by me, with any energy or inspiration that might have been garnered oblivious to my desperate, grasping hands. Also, apparently coated liberally with KY, ’cause I sure haven’t gotten anything. The news is full of fools and malice. The weather went hazy and dull today; no interesting neighborhood activities or sounds aside from some mysterious tumult down by the nearby railroad tracks that sounds like someone was demolishing a piano. It went on for hours, though, which I don’t think one could manage with an actual piano – on the other hand, I can’t imagine what would make such boinging and zinging and tormented harp-sounds as were coming from the tracks …
We had some brief excitement at twilight, when it was revealed that a Mommy skunk had littered in the garage – she was bringing her little ones out for their first excursion into our newly de-forested back yard. Apparently skunks, like true suburbanites, also prefer a nicely clipped lawn to a jungle … and I must admit, they are illegally cute. But we’ve had to put the baby-gate over the dog door now, partly because Kim doesn’t want skunks in her kitchen but mostly because the Corgi wants to go out and herd the little things.
That way lies madness. Also, bathing a traumatized Corgi in Coca Cola. Which is not as entertaining as you might imagine.
It would have been be a great night for brain-storming. We could have turned on the Lava Lamps and the battery operated candles (earthquake safe!), and I could knit something simple in the breathing twilight while Kage sang all the verses of the theme to Robin Hood. The good old British one with Richard Greene, sponsored by Johnson & Johnson and Wildroot Hair Oil … which didn’t strike us as funny in our childhoods, but certainly does now.
Ah, me. Good memories. And memories of memories, of the times Kage reconstructed some part of our youth with the shadows of her hands on the living room wall. We always found something to talk about; and eventually some idea would lodge like a multi-coloured burr in her mind. And she’d fall silent, and then the next time she got up for a fresh glass of Coke, she’d drift off to the computer … and shortly the keys would start to sound, faster and faster, like rain on thirsty ground.
And my God, the things that bloomed!