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    Run For Your Life, Black Hockey Jesus!
    « The Story | Main | Where Fiction Meets Non »


    The deck of cards are huge, a brick, in her tiny hands as she offers them to me. “Can you shuffle, daddy? My hands are too little.” Her word shuffles free from the question’s context, shuffling into new meanings. I flash through the places I’ve lived and the people I’ve loved. Life is long and crazy and it’s tough to keep track of yourself. To be blessed with a long history of crossing paths with an interesting band of loonies is also to be frequently cursed with nostalgia. I miss the rich constellation of friends I had when I was 22. I miss Skip. I miss Jenna.

    “We better teach you to shuffle, kiddo,” I tell her, “Shuffling’s as important as reading and cleaning your ears.”


    I need a few more bookshelves—books are strewn about in piles in the “dining room” where there’s no dining table. The kids are staying with me more and more frequently and, at first, I was concerned about having no place to eat. I feared that the kids would go back to their mother and complain: “Dad’s place sucks. Dad doesn’t even have a fucking table! We wish dad would die!” And so on. Like that.

    But I’ve heard that when life hands you lemons, you should just have a picnic, so who am I to argue with misconstrued clichés? We spread a blanket on the floor (an old blue blanket covered with images of Disney characters that my dad gave me when I was a very young boy—one of my earliest memories was anticipating what was inside the gift wrapped box it arrived in) and eat our meals cross legged. They think it’s weird and fun because children are weird and fun. We’re just happy to be together, sharing food and stories.

    Since the separation, I’ve found myself much more attentive to the kids against the background of inevitable shuffling. So as they gush enthusiastic tales with their mouths full (devil take manners) about whatever they’re currently plucking from the spontaneous tree of language, I hone into the content and smile, seeking insights into who they’ll be and where the world will fling them.

    Will they soon move to Phoenix, Portland, or Los Angeles?

    And further, to what careers will their constantly blossoming and wilting desires lead them? Will Jackson study Engineering at MIT or blow off college altogether to bang the drums in a band that plays songs about depression and girls, touring the US in a rusty white van? And will Lucy expand on her exploding love for writing into many successful collections of quirky short stories that thwart the reader’s expectations by resisting closure or will she stick to her current plan of becoming a runway model?

    I sit with them during our picnics, already a ritual, aware of the skulls beneath their lively talking faces that smile—skulls that will outlast all our desires and hopes and digital prose. Who among us can afford to not learn how to shuffle?


    “If you see those old friends out there / Tell them that I send my love.”

    Reader Comments (14)

    Your writing never ceases to amaze me. Like, with its awesomeness. Wasn't going for the cheap joke.

    February 5, 2011 at 1:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterDory

    You gave me chills. "Who among us can afford to not learn how to shuffle?"

    Fucking A, dude. LIttle hands, little time. This is the single biggest question of parenthood. And the one I most tear over.

    Fucking A.

    February 5, 2011 at 2:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterMrs. Flinger

    "...because children are weird and fun." So are you. Great piece, as usual.

    February 5, 2011 at 6:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterChrisy

    shuffling IS important. i never learned. then i got cast in a college play where i was supposed to be a goddam hardass card shark on a women's convict transport ship to VanDiemen's land. the only night i didn't entirely destroy my role was the night i actually forgot the cards offstage and had to mime.

    i know that isn't the shuffling you mean. i tried to play my kids Redemption Song on the guitar today and suddenly i was 23 again in a room i'll never see again with a boy i married and will never see again. shuffle. keep going.

    February 5, 2011 at 7:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterBon

    sometimes i'm afraid (OK most of the time) that i can't teach my kids, or myself how to shuffle.

    February 5, 2011 at 11:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterSlow Panic

    Shuffle for laughter, nostalgia, tears, context and maybe, someday, a little bit of wisdom. It's all there, in the deck. But don't forget: today's picnic is tomorrow's ace.

    February 6, 2011 at 9:10 AM | Unregistered CommenterKit

    "To be blessed with a long history of crossing paths with an interesting band of loonies is also to be frequently cursed with nostalgia. I miss the rich constellation of friends I had when I was 22."


    February 6, 2011 at 11:16 AM | Unregistered Commenterleel

    very cool --

    February 6, 2011 at 11:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterElizabeth

    I hope they don't go to Portland. Other than the Voodoo Doughnuts, I don't see the draw.

    February 7, 2011 at 6:20 AM | Unregistered Commentermuskrat

    i need to work on shuffling. thank you for that reminder.

    February 7, 2011 at 6:43 AM | Unregistered Commenternic

    thank you. again and again.
    ran this morning. first time since november that I ran outside.
    ran in 15 degrees and knee deep white snow.
    thought of you. ran harder.

    February 8, 2011 at 9:56 AM | Unregistered Commentersara

    Isn't it wonderful to just be in the moment with the kids? And they will always remember picnics on dad's floor.

    February 8, 2011 at 2:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterLaura in Michigan

    As my older brothers used to need to learn to shuffle the tits off the queens.

    February 9, 2011 at 7:34 AM | Unregistered CommenterWilliam


    March 3, 2011 at 6:28 AM | Unregistered CommenterBRONWEN

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