"Spring arrives in forty-five minutes," says the woman on the radio. I'm sure she's right, but that doesn't mean the snow ain't comin down. Hell, it's twenty-nine degrees up here this morning and not a single critter visible between the cabin and the lake. They don't know it's the first day of spring, they're hunkered down against the wet and cold. It's enough to make a man start coughin again. I put on a pot of coffee and peel an orange. Some days the air in here gets awful heavy.
Yesterday I met a couple of friends in town. We drank a modest cabernet and ate red meat. March is a good month to be a carnivore. We used to work together, so we spent the first hour or so chasin down the usual dirt. So-and-so said this, "X" did that. You remember Fisheyes? Well, he got the axe. And Lady Dewclaw? She got promoted. Didja hear about that company across town? You can't believe what they did, hell, it's all over the web. Hey, nobody can keep anything secret these days.
I think to myself, you can pretend all you want, but you dote on the dish. Keeps you connected, even if you're sittin in a burger joint in the Village instead of an office in the air above Midtown. Quist claimed all people love gossip, "Nobody knows everything, but everyone knows something they can use. It's the fuel that keeps business goin." Yeah, especially publishing.
After a while, the talk turned to books set in the West, ones that were out, ones not yet published. Every decent book is the beginning of a conversation. We gabbed and gabbed and ordered more wine and gabbed some more. Mountain lions and mink. Broken down rental cars and Mormons. Livingston and Cody. An exploding hotel in Vegas, a motorcycle ride in the dead of winter. Hey, poot, once in your life you gotta go from Yellowstone to Red Lodge on the Beartooth. We were gettin full and after a while we got quiet. After hitting the can, we split up on the street and promised one other we'd get together more often. I had four galleys and one finished book stuffed in my bag.
On the way home I passed Tall J, another former colleague. He was haulin a load of wash. I ast him, "Whatcha doin? Shouldn't you be at work?" He looked at me and grinned, "Nah. I'm on stay-cation this week. Gives me a chance to catch up on the chores. Way things are goin, I'm too scared to travel. You never know if you're job's gonna be there when you get back."
TJ knew that I'd been laid off. "How you doin? You alright?" I looked up at him and said, "Sure, I feel great. They took care of me -- now I've got some time to figger out what I'm gonna do next. It's a great opportunity to unwind and explore other options. Hit the road for a coupla trips. Put my house in order."
Without any irony he said, "I envy you. I wish I had that kind of time. Listen, we gotta get together soon. Okay?" We shook hands and split. There were cars and pedestrians, noise and smells, all around us.