Saturday, March 31, 2007

660 days, 9 hours, 27 minutes, 19 seconds

660. All morning that number's been haunting her. Area code? Zip code? At last she looks it up, sees it's the area code for central Missouri. Central Missouri State University. Where a friend taught was until this year. An associate professor with tenure and his two children were born at home with a midwife because the school didn't pay enough toward medical insurance. Not to mention the paltry salary. He gave up tenure to get the hell out of their. Look at his wife's family – the number of amputated limbs that could be chalked up to poor medical care. They'd had custody of her daughter but had to leave her with the father when they moved. Missouri makes it all but impossible to take a child out of state. The personal. The political.

660 days, 10 hours, 29 minutes, 10.7 seconds

In line at the coffee shop. The two youngest children wander farther into the dining room. Then the youngest pulls away. His sister tries to lure him back, calls to someone, then leaves him alone to drag an older sister over. The mother smiles. In all, there are four children. They get a table. The mother carries the youngest now.

Friday, March 30, 2007

661 days, 11 hours, 39 minutes, 36 seconds

She knew she didn't want a marriage like her parents had. They didn't fight, didn't cheat on each other. They would have called this a good marriage. But she wanted more. And it took being away from home for fifteen years before she started looking beyond that, looking at three friends in particular who had long term relationships that she could envision for herself. Then, twenty years ago, her mother had a stroke, and she and her lover flew to California. All her father wanted to do was sit by her mother's bedside. On the plane home, she asked her then-lover-later-husband if he envisioned himself ever caring about her that much.

661 days, 20 hours, 45 minutes, 17 seconds

So she gets in bed and finds him lying on his back, snoring, and leaving her barely room to scrunch against the wall. She's obviously not able to sleep this way. She gets up, showers, tests her blood again: 133. With love, all things are possible.

661 days, 21 hours, 22 minutes, 41 seconds

Twelve years ago a friend and his wife sat on her sofa and talked of their daughter's upcoming wedding. She forgets the exact context now, probably she was questioning if this was the match made in heaven. And she answered that she'd prefer her daughter marry and divorce than not to marry, how much easier it was for a divorced woman to get jobs, and to attract other men. Something like that.

And, probably that same day, these parents talked of how they thought they had a solid marriage, but they'd never really had to put it to the test.

The daughter married that May. The father died in July. After that she lost touch.

661 days, 21 hours, 40 minutes, 1 seconds

Can you think of any better time than your anniversary to get your head shot up with poison? Insurance will pay for the doctor, not the poison. Which is more than they did a year ago. She likes to tell people she married him for his apartment and his medical insurance.

661 days, 21 hours, 46 minutes, 40 seconds

169. Her blood should be under 140. She knew she was pushing the envelope tonight. Anyway, while she's waiting up she decides to write to S. Happy anniversary.

661 days, 22 hours, 26 minutes, 31.7 seconds

She can't go to bed yet. She had chocolate mousse for dinner (actually they called it chocolate mini-mousse) and the longer she stays up the lower her blood count will be. It's that simple.

661 days, 23 hours, 0 minutes, 18.6 seconds

Don't ever get married, it will spoil your relationship, she told her closest friend thirty years ago. And S. repeated this comment at the wedding party she and her husband threw for them. Then two years ago, March 30th, midnight, the stroke of their anniversary, she was on the phone with S., the first time they'd spoken in years. S. was in the middle of a divorce. She'd lost all track of time.

661 days, 23 hours, 14 minutes, 3 seconds

He announces he's dying an Ambien death, and crawls into bed. He didn't get the watch at midnight, he tells her, it was closer to two in the morning. Did they really stay up that late? They were idiots and they stayed up that late.

She recalls, years ago, staying with friends, watching in silence as his wife would go to bed hours before he did. She vowed that could never happen to her. Yet here she is, still typing madly. Three feet behind her, in bed, he turns on the radio. It will cover the noise of her typing. It will help him sleep.

661 days, 23 hours, 34 minutes, 15 seconds

Midnight. The witching hour. She gives him i-pod speakers to replace the ones which broke last year. Which she also gave him. For another anniversary. Tonight he's taking Ambien, wanting the full night's sleep he was robbed of a few nights ago. What he calls her animal noises kept him awake. Any minute now and she'll turn into a pumpkin.

662 days, 0 hours, 5 minutes, 52 seconds

They weren't together more than three or four months. They went out to dinner at a little restaurant in the Village. There was a woman reading cards there, and they decided what the hell. She predicted they'd enjoy their time together, but the relationship wouldn't last more than three years. That was when they decided to make the most of their time together.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

662 days, 0 hours, 10 minutes, 54 seconds

Ten minutes until their anniversary. It was seventeen years ago midnight when she gave him a watch as a wedding present. She can't remember the exact time of their marriage, but she remembers midnight. The two of them alone after dinner with both sets of parents, the first time the parents met, in a restaurant which, six years ago, turned into a gypsy fortune teller's storefront.

662 days, 0 hours, 26 minutes, 44 seconds

Less than 72 hours until baseball's opening day. And of course next weekend's when he's going to visit family in Florida. Some year, he keeps saying, he wants to get down there during spring training, but always he just misses it. Most years she goes down with him. This has more or less been an Easter tradition since they married, seventeen years ago. Their first night she fell in his brother's pool. And she was fully dressed. And she can't swim. And his brother laughed and laughed. And his father ran for a camera. And their motel room had two single beds, which they pushed together. The honeymoon suite, his brother called it.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

663 days, 6 hours, 46 minutes, 7 seconds

She wishes this was a watch and not a key chain. A Backwards Bush watch. People might think it a Swatch at first, those ornamental faces. Then they might look at the numbers and get totally confused as to what time it is. Okay already. Her wrists are too small to wear a Swatch anyway. She doesn't even use this as a key chain. Or not for keys, anyway. She can just picture what would have happened, last year, when she lost her keys in Duane Reade, the manager asking if there was anything unique about her key chain. Picture trying to explain what Bush's face was doing there. And why her husband wanted it returned to her.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

664 days, 4 hours, 24 minutes, 9 seconds

She waits outside for him, while he drops off an umbrella borrowed from a friend. It's what women do. They wait. This is a woman friend. It's the first warm night, a March that feels more like May. They were married in March.

Monday, March 26, 2007

665 days, 9 hours, 48 minutes, 5 seconds

As she destroys 194 countries with the bouncing bush head before even going downstairs for breakfast, she's reminded of The War of the Roses. It's not a movie she'd have elected to see on her own, but her husband told her it had something to do with Shakespeare's plays. This was back when she believed him. A horrid divorce comedy, but the one image she remembers is the ex inviting her husband to dinner, making a meat dish which he enjoyed immensely. Then he asked where the dog was.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

666 days, 12 hours, 26 minutes, 28 seconds

She takes a few minutes out to play the Bush Pong game. She pretends it's her cousin's head there.

666 days, 12 hours, 48 minutes, 4 seconds

822-2666. She can't tell you how many times a day her mother dialed this number. Her sister-in-law. Her closest friend. Sometimes it seemed like her only friend. It bothered her the way her brother spent money, though. It bothered her that Sally would always say something cost $5 or $7, when it was really $5.99 or $7.99. As if pennies never mattered to her. Her brother was like that, too, not caring how much things cost. He was a liquor salesman. They'd go out to dinner and he'd order wine that he poured in the bucket when no one was looking. He'd buy expensive clothes or furniture then throw a screaming fit when it broke or no one was wearing it. She and her husband rented their house every summer so they could pay off their mortgage. They scrimped and saved, then saved more. This is what they passed on to their daughter.

666 days, 12 hours, 54 minutes, 56 seconds

822-2666. Her aunt. Her uncle. Her cousin. She doesn't know which one it is who holds that pitchfork. Prodding her. Scaring her. The night she slept over, awakened when her uncle came home screaming. The two of them screaming for hours. She supposes her cousin is used to this. And her cousin, in the bed across the room, sleeps on as if to point up how ridiculous it is for her to be afraid, a real cry baby. No matter how well they ever played together, there would be memories of her cousin deserting her. She loved her aunt, though.

666 days, 13 hours, 23 minutes, 57 seconds

666-6666: Carmel again. The night they returned from Florida at two in the morning and had arranged to be met at Newark airport. No car. He insists they wait. No car. He calls, they say the driver was sent out. No driver. It's nearly three in the morning. Finally they end up sharing the one cab in sight with a woman who lives in Washington Heights. The cab's just about to pull out when a woman with a baby stops them. She lives right in the area. Please, can he drive her there first? They agree. She gets lost. The driver gets lost somewhere in New Jersey. The baby sleeps.

666 days, 13 hours, 30 minutes, 18 seconds

Carmel Car Service (her husband's cab of choice): 666-6666. Christmas, headed for the Newark airport, they had a driver working only his second or third day. Traffic was horrendous, over an hour just to get to the Lincoln Tunnel. Then the traffic on the Turnpike. Finally they get to the airport, with maybe a half hour to spare (and this was after 9/11). Don't worry, he assures her. Everyone else will be delayed as well. And just as he speaks these words the driver misses the turn for the terminal. He calls on his cell and learns the plane's leaving on time. They end up spending the night in an airport hotel. He has his new leather coat on and doesn't want to ruin it running through a crowd. She paid for half of it, as his Christmas present. 666. The Devil.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

667 days, 9 hours, 28 minutes, 33 seconds

She gives up on the pedometer. Don't tell her friend. But first it didn't count enough steps, so the stride had to be reset. Then the weight was set wrong. Then she couldn't access anything but the steps, and the resets every day at midnight never took place. After last night's struggles with the BB clock, she thought maybe she'd give it another try. Then she saw it lying by itself on the desk, its empty face turned toward her.

667 days, 10 hours, 17 minutes, 57 seconds

Rumor has it that President Bush keeps one of these countdown key chains with him all the time, to remind him how much time he has left to accomplish all he's entitled to. Now, if he can just find his keys...

667 days, 10 hours, 31 minutes, 42 seconds

Bush to Dems: Opposition Wastes Time. They're picking fights with the White House instead of resolving monetary disputes for sending more troops to Iraq. "Members of Congress now face a choice: whether they will waste time and provoke an unnecessary confrontation, or whether they will join us in working to do the people's business," CBS News reports our president proclaiming. The clock is running. If senate doesn't approve the emergency funding by April 15 our men and women in uniform will face significant disruptions. So will their families. April 15th is a Sunday this year. Taxes aren't due until the 16th. 667 days, 10 hours, 23 minutes, 41 seconds.

Friday, March 23, 2007

668 days, 1 hours, 25 minutes, 57 seconds

On the wall of her house upstate, in the room that used to be her study, there's a cardboard Howdy Doody clock. White, red, and blue. The puppet's face, then the numbers around it, and the two moveable clock hands. She wants to say she had this from her childhood, but in truth she bought it at a street fair the third weekend she and her husband spent together. She loved Howdy Doody, though. No lie.

Children today have digital clocks and watches (when they bother to wear a watch at all). They won't have to know the big hand vs. the little hand. That's what always confused his best friend's daughter. Now, for her daughter, for Christmas, they buy a plush Hickory Hickory Dock Clock with six brightly colored mice and a pendulum that rattles. The mice go in the chimney and come out the door. In her house upstate, not far from where she's hung Howdy Doody, there are real mice.

668 days, 1 hours, 32 minutes, 34 seconds

It was wrong to have reset her clock to the instructions at, when the keychain was actually purchased from Now, looking at their site, she sees it, too, is an hour off. That's what happens when she orders from California, she supposes. But she wanted to support the Bookshop Santa Cruz. Bullshit. She wanted free shipping.

668 days, 2 hours, 10 minutes, 49 seconds

Much as she's feared – the keychain and the computer's clock don't match – only the computer got this early start to daylight savings time. A submarine might have clearer instructions. There's the current time, then January 20, 2009 as the goal (actually you could set it for any time, up to 2024). At one point it looks as if there are 2400 days left. Then she finally gets everything set, but the clock on the computer says six hours, the one in her hand now says two. She runs a cold hand over her forehead, twirls a finger in her hair, finally remembers to refresh the computer's clock. The keychain's two minutes behind. Close enough. It's been a long day.

668 days, 6 hours, 39 minutes, 5.2 seconds

Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. 38 seconds, 37 seconds, 35 seconds. She's waiting for one friend and one woman she's never met before. 30 seconds. This clock will never be stolen because our employees are always watching it, above the counter in one tacky diner after another. 38 minutes. She got here early. A waitress comes over to say hello. This is where she usually eats with her husband.

668 days, 22 hours, 46 minutes, 7 seconds

Again, late at night, she looks over old mail, mostly newsletters sent to her G-mail address. Breast cancer. Diabetes. Migraine. Why she continues to subscribe to all these is beyond her. She doesn't need to give hypochondria food for thought. She's got the best doctors. The migraines are under control.

Her headaches are almost under control. She waited too long to call the doctor, now has to wait over a week before she sees him. Botox only takes a minute, she tried to convince the receptionist. He said he could fit her in. He promised... An appointment for March 30. Her 17th anniversary. A reminder of the days leading up to her wedding. She didn't want to get married with a sinus headache, she decided, spur of the moment. She had no doubt it was sinus. A doctor thought brain tumor.

She said she'd marry him and then had her head examined: quip one. She had her head examined and they found nothing: quip two. This was before the cancer, before the diabetes, before she had access to the Internet.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

669 days, 8 hours, 5 minutes, 57 seconds

The villa's about to be torn down! That isolated house in the middle of a 300 foot pit whose owner was resisting developers' efforts to purchase. It turns out this battle has been going on for more than three years. It turns out the owner doesn't live there. A judge now gives them three days to clear out.

She doesn't know what's more upsetting – the fact that it's being torn down or the fact that nobody lives there. It's just the owner's selfish greed that's been at stake here.

She learns of this on the night her co-op board meets. Talk about pettiness. One owner out of two hundred causing trouble. A board election which, for the first time in the twenty-two years she's been here, doesn't have enough candidates to fill the seats. And the building's facing a huge decision in 2012, when they lose their low-income tax incentive, so who's on the board over the next few years will be crucial. Her husband was president of the board before she knew him. He ran once again, maybe fifteen years ago, and lost. And here he is running off to the meeting.

She thinks she'll stay home.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

671 days, 13 hours, 16 minutes, 25 seconds

Her father, twelve years ago now, two days after her mother's funeral, driving the family out to dinner and going the wrong way around a traffic circle he'd driven most of his life.

671 days, 22 hours, 43 minutes, 55 seconds

Another friend writes of driving around half the day in an attempt to focus. And she recalls many times, uptight, frazzled by the city, she's gotten in the car headed for her home upstate. It's physical then. She feels how tightly she's gripping that steering wheel. The sun comes through the windshield and lands on finger after finger. One by one, the fingers loosen their grip. By the time she's forty minutes out of the city most of the tension's drained from her body.

671 days, 23 hours, 30 minutes, 36 seconds

Christmas after Christmas they travel to Texas. Christmas after Christmas, sitting around the dining room table, they've learned to exchange snippets of their lives. And his niece told once of the troubled teens she teaches. There was one she had to wrestle to the ground. Others are autistic. That's where the video games come in. Kids who don't know how to have a typical conversation suddenly understand the script of the game, and will interact, making it into a dialog of sorts. The usually lethargic assume the game's animation.

What happens when these kids graduate high school? she'd bit her lip and dared to ask.

Well, many can go to normal colleges. In college there isn't the social conformity of grade schools and high schools, many of them will do fine.

She remembers Diet Coke going down the wrong tract. She had no social skills growing up. She couldn't seem to have the sort of conversations her parents and teachers expected. She never made it to college. Writing, pad and pen, then later typewriter, became the equivalent of her video game.

She's just trying to put the world in focus.

671 days, 23 hours, 33 minutes, 36 seconds

Her husband, hearing the shots of the Bush game, calls up to ask what she's doing (implying why is she wasting her time), and she calls back down that she's not playing she's writing. Just trying to focus.

672 days, 0 hours, 0 minutes, 39 seconds

There's a parable she often uses in teaching, probably a bastardized version by this time. But a king's daughter was ready for marriage, and he announced he would give his daughter to the marksman who could hit the bird in the eye. He set a date for all interested men to gather. But one caveat: if they shot and missed, they'd be put to death.

The first hunter stepped up, aimed his bow. The king motioned for him to wait, then asked what he saw. "Oh," he said, "this is the most beautiful forest in the kingdom." The king refused to let him shoot. The next hunter came up and took aim, and again the king stopped him and asked what he saw. "The tree, in which that bird is, is the greenest tree in the forest," he said. And once again the king refused to let him shoot. And so on through hunter after hunter. Finally a man stepped up. When the king asked what he saw, he replied "I see only the eye of the bird." The king let him shoot, and of course he hit the bird in the eye.

So it's a question of focus.

The hand-eye coordination. Trying to predict where the head will bounce. Keeping her fingers steady. If she turns away for half a second that head bounces off the screen. If she moves her cursor a tenth of an inch off Cheney's face, that head bounces off the screen.

God, this much focus on a president.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

673 days, 5 hours, 33 minutes, 56 seconds

With a now-blinding headache (possibly from staring into the computer screen, trying to meet it halfway), the new computer, and boxes all over the living room, this entire apartment has become a war zone.

673 days, 7 hours, 21 minutes, 34 seconds

She's got stomach cramps, one of the glucophage side effects she was warned about. So maybe the two pills are working, whereas one did almost nothing. She chews two Tums, just in case it's heartburn. But she's seldom been so happy to be sick. Except, of course, when she recalls those childhood migraines that manifested themselves as stomach aches. How quickly the body remembers pain. How easily she could become that child again. It'll pass in a week or two. Then she'll grow up all over, maybe this time with fonder memories. You can't relive the past, you can just rewrite it.

673 days, 7 hours, 52 minutes, 47 seconds

180 countries destroyed! Hate level 8! She's discovered, when Bush glides along that top line and the sound effects turn into machine guns, she could trap him behind Cheney's face and just keep firing.

Suddenly she has the memory of Monkey in the Middle. A game she detested. Especially when you're the shortest kid in the class and at the end of the line when the photographer takes pictures each year. She hated having her picture taken. But that lineup was just so the photographer didn't have to keep raising and lowering his tripod, her parents said. The school and the teacher made no distinction. And she was the first in line in the photograph from her ballet school. You can't have everything.

As soon as she starts thinking about all this, her aim slips. Even Bush as Monkey no longer entices her.

673 days, 9 hours, 26 minutes, 20 seconds

Downstairs, her husband's setting up his new computer, the first Vista in his office, or their household. She pongs Bush until her mouse-arm hurts. Those two Cheney heads on the sides – she remembers now, they're called Flippers. She thinks of Dolphins. Of the friendly dolphin in an area promoted as swimming with dolphins, who spooked and attacked a swimmer. She remembers her husband, when he first moved to Windows, learning mouse clicks then drag and drop by playing Monopoly with his boss as stand-in opponent. He kept winning and winning and winning. Boasting about his winning.

673 days, 10 hours, 23 minutes, 48 seconds

She knew about R2-D2 and his new stamp, knew the post office was setting up 400 R2-D2 mailboxes around the country, as a matter of fact she logged onto the post office website to see if they were selling Star Wars merchandise yet (great idea for a Christmas present, though this is only March). Then to find this animated little guy working his way around the site, covering up services, his gears squeaking (30 years is a long time). A video announces the coming attraction. Due out March 28. In the meantime, R2-D2 swallows a letter.

673 days, 11 hours, 8 minutes, 43 seconds

She wakes up, turns on the computer, checks her blood (normal for the third morning in a row), checks her mail, eats a Glucerna bar for breakfast, talks to her in-laws, racks up a score of sixty-one ponging Bush. Not a bad start to the day, although it's nearly one o'clock now. She slept late.

673 days, 22 hours, 8 minutes, 48 seconds

Back in her young, apolitical days, she loved playing pinball. These nights she follows the Backwards Bush links to arrive at a Bush Pong Game. Dominate, the first screen reads. Playing the theme from Bonanza. She madly clicks on the Bushhead bouncing about one of those flat maps like they have in schoolrooms. Sometimes it scores, sometimes not. Sometimes it racks up a score of ten or twenty with one shot. There are no instructions.

It takes her awhile to realize it's Siamese twin Cheney, one head on each side of the flat world, that has to bat against him for the guns to fire. Left to his own devices, Bush would duck behind the bobbing head and sneak off the screen.

Five heads per game, as if five heads are better than one. Bush's head gains momentum when ten countries are destroyed, then again at twenty and thirty. She's got to shoot precisely when the heads bump. Without quite knowing how she did it, she reaches a hate level of six with seventy-three countries destroyed. Most games it's only in the twenties.

We'll make no distinction between the terrorists, secretaries, business men and women, moms and dads, friends and neighbors, Bush says instead of Game Over. The words don't make sense. We' ll make no distinction between the terrorists' secretaries? She cuts his voice off quickly, but can't pull herself away. Her husband crawls into bed. Just one more game, she assures him.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

674 days, 9 hours, 23 minutes, 5 seconds

Jennifer Mee's hiccups are back! This fifteen-year-old from Florida hiccuped for five weeks straight. Then a few sporadic bouts. But two days back at school, then a nosebleed, then the hiccups started as bad as ever. She can't stop reading news about this story. When she was fifteen, the best she could do to get out of school was fake a nervous breakdown.

Friday, March 16, 2007

675 days, 12 hours, 9 minutes, 30 seconds

As she rises from bed, her mind still foggy, white fog outside the window, her glasses still on the desk across the room, the tan top of one water tower on a building a few streets away appears to be a breast, with a nipple.

675 days, 12 hours, 24 minutes, 25.3 seconds

Now she's wondering if even two glucophage are going to be enough. Her blood still high. Her body still wanting. More more more more – like some toddler. It was 68 degrees out Wednesday. This is Friday and she wakes to snow. Snow and freezing rain to continue into tomorrow. More, more, more, more. She doesn't get a break.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

677 days, 0 hours, 40 minutes, 24 seconds

Hearing that last entry read aloud at the workshop, Emily comments that, of course, with Bush, the odd or even numbers won't make any difference, he'd never be able to add, subtract, or divide them.

677 days, 5 hours, 39 minutes, 21 seconds

Not a number in that whole batch that can be evenly divided. Sort of like playing with marbles as a child, one for you, one for me, one for you, one for me, then the odd cat's eye standing there unblinking. Her brothers, if she'd had brothers, would probably have done the same with little lead soldiers. And she supposes some boys wanted them all for themselves, throwing a soldier with rifle on shoulder down the sink in a tantrum, clogging the whole drain, and just not caring.

677 days, 10 hours, 14 minutes, 16.2 seconds

Me moriré en París con aguacero,
un dia del cual tengo ya el recuerdo.
Me moriré en París—y no me corro—
tal vez un jueves, como es hoy, de otoño.

(Cesar Vallejo, "Piedra negra sobre una piedra blanca")

677 days, 10 hours, 53 minutes, 51 seconds

And she has 660,052,431 seconds left to live. If you believe the Death Clock, the Internet's friendly reminder that life is slipping away... second by second. She filled in her age, height, weight, said she isn't a smoker, isn't depressed, optimistic, or pessimistic. Now it tells her she'll die on February 13, 2028. The day before Valentine's Day. February's always been the bleakest month for her. Just when she's searching for a way to put this clock in her taskbar, remind her of all the time she's wasting aimlessly surfing or playing solitaire, she sees a link to delay the date of your death. It takes her to some stupid health clock, with information about cholesterol (she already takes zocor), diabetes (she's now on glucophage), breast cancer (which she's had once in each breast), HIV, lymphoma, lung cancer, etc. Now the death clock's gone from the screen. She fills it all out again. 660, 051, 700. February 13, 2028, will be a Sunday.

Monday, March 12, 2007

679 days, 8 hours, 14 minutes, 43 seconds

She wonders how many days, hours, minutes until she buys a new computer. Which is absolutely ridiculous. This 15.4" Fujitsu with such a great screen that she discarded her external monitors is precisely 251 days old, under warranty for another 114 days. There's nothing wrong with it, except for the generic port replicator that screwed up her sound system. Except for programs she's installed then discarded, leaving stray dll files around. Except for the fact that it boots but sometimes has problems loading its usual deluge of memory residents. She's scaled down her startup file. She ran disk doctor and win doctor. It's worked to perfection the past few days. If need be, she'll take this one back to ground zero, take the port replicator out of the picture, and reload the programs she needs. No reason it shouldn't last another 769 days, 8 hours, and 14 minutes. Giving her something else to look forward to.

679 days, 12 hours, 5 minutes, 29 seconds

She's found it -- the home she's always wanted. No nosey neighbors staring through their windows at her blinds always closed (this was at her parents' house), no one stopping her in the elevator to ask if she's still writing, no guard logging in every visitor and every package she receives. A developer bought up everything with plans for a mall, office buildings, high rise apartments, but she refuses to budge. It will take years before all that building gets done. In the meantime she's stocked up on food and water. Unfortunately, she doesn't own this so-called villa. Unfortunately, this is in China.

679 days, 13 hours, 23 minutes, 26 seconds

9745 steps yesterday. She came that close.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

680 days, 13 hours, 43 minutes, 31 seconds

Two news stories, two or three days apart: a woman driving with her daughter in the car has ulcerative colitis and passes out from dehydration just as they're nearing a restaurant parking lot. The eleven-year-old manages to grab the wheel and steer the car into a telephone pole instead of oncoming traffic. And, in the second story, a teenager gets a migraine and passes out while driving: her eight-year-old sister grabs the wheel, her seven-year-old brother grabs the emergency brake, the car comes to a halt three feet to the left of a huge, blinding tree. She prints out both stories for her scrapbook. She has ulcerative colitis. She has migraines. She has no children. She's an only child.

680 days, 21 hours, 10 minutes, 57 seconds

It's Daylight Savings time, three weeks early. One hour closer to when Bush will leave office. She's overjoyed at writing this number down. Then she realizes it will only fall back again.

This year her computer made the change seamlessly. The little clock on the bottom showed 1:59 a.m., then 3:00 a.m. She was wondering if she'd updated the proper patch. And she thinks of how many years ago now, when she and her husband both stayed up to watch, and her computer cut in (what they'd now call instant message, she supposes), saying it was about to change the time, and asking her permission. Hell, she remembers computers where she had to manually set the date each day.

3:55 a.m. Her husband wakes in the bed two feet away from her, startled to hear her typing this much, at this hour. "Are you composing?" he asks. Composing. What a strange word. And one he's never used before. Musical. But then it turns dark, as if she's trying to compose herself.

This was supposed to be a quiet keyboard. And it's wireless. Unattached.

680 days, 21 hours, 14 minutes, 34.2 seconds

Sometimes she's slow to notice things. Like that the deck of cards she's playing solitaire with (on the computer, of course), has an astronaut on the back. Considering that she's still fascinated and frightened by the Lisa Nowak story, considering that she's written about this in two poems already, is it still fair to berate herself for wasting time playing solitaire? This is only one deck among many, though. Can't draw it every time.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

681 days, 10 hours, 46 minutes, 18.2 seconds

Could it be there were two teachers – two reading specialists in the New York schools relocated to the Atlanta area who are going to court this week? This one's in Long Island. Told colleagues she belonged to a coven. That her husband was in a plane crash. That her son's fingers were caught in a VCR and severed. Taught students about the Salem witch trials. The principal, a born-again Christian, had children sing Jesus Loves All the Children of the World. She was only trying to put that in perspective. Not a word about Harry Potter. And this was only six years ago. This is totally crazy, she thinks. Then she remembers George Bush is also born-again.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

685 days, 8 hours, 32 minutes, 42 seconds

Her worst nightmare: she woke up this morning to a computer that wouldn't boot. It sang out its welcome, then stopped in the middle of loading resident programs. So it's turn the button off, turn it on, off, on, off the port replicator, on (it loads one program this time), a call to her husband, off, on, off, on in safe mode (there's an "administrator" user here she never saw before), off, on, off, trying to get into safe mode again she hears a strange beep. And it boots this time. She runs a few programs, then puts it back on the replicator, holds her breath until it boots. A virus scan comes up empty. She runs one-button checkup and sees some registry problems Norton can't fix. But it boots again. She works for awhile, shuts down, takes it down to Starbucks. It's after one o'clock. She works. At three o'clock the after-school crowd comes in, teenagers who sit in the back, younger kids with their mothers. She's never seen it this crowded. The noise is deafening. She plays games.

Monday, March 5, 2007

686 days, 1 hours, 6 minutes, 46 seconds

So her husband and his brother and his brother's wife will head down to Florida over Easter, visiting their father and their other brother. Traveling a lot right now, she has the perfect excuse not to join them this year. Especially now that she realizes the airfare alone is costing him nearly $500. She tried to help. She found flights on Orbitz for nearly $200 less, but he couldn't make up his mind, wanted to check other places, and by the time he got back the cheap flights were gone (it said act quickly, only one left, but he refused to believe that). His money. Don't harp on it. Don't turn into the nagging wife. Don't turn into his father.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

688 days, 3 hours, 50 minutes, 17 seconds

The woman beside her on the plane back from Atlanta doesn't seem to mind when she puts her coat then her computer on the middle seat, between them. They don't speak until the plane's landed on the tarmac (early) and has to wait before it can get to the gate. The woman asks first if she lives in New York, then says she used to live here, they moved to Atlanta a year ago. Her husband's building was destroyed in 9/11. He applied for a transfer just after that, but it took until last year. She's a reading specialist. The day she found out she'd been promoted to principal was the same day her husband's transfer came through.

She's coming back for a court case, the woman says. A student she taught in middle school seven years ago became a drug addict. Now the mother's suing her – not the school, her – because she taught the class Harry Potter and that was her son's introduction to first magic, then drugs. It was all over the papers seven years ago. The statute of limitations is about to run out. So now she has to spend a week away from her eight-year-old and her two-year-old. Six former colleagues have been called in to testify (two others have since died). And of course if she's cleared of the charges she'll counter-sue.

Stay tuned.

Friday, March 2, 2007

689 days, 13 hours, 1 minutes, 39 seconds

Slightly hurt books, the table at AWP says, selling them for $5 each, no matter what the cost. No matter what the damage, she thinks, not even walking over to take a closer look. This is in Atlanta, home of a Carter museum. But it could be Paris. It could be London. It could be Washington.