I was walkin up the hill on Alturas Road. The lake was as blue as a Giants jersey and the smell of spring in the air made me want to eat a clump of dirt. Yesterday I saw a transient loon bobbin in the drink near the clubhouse and today a kestrel did her tail-dippin routine on a telephone wire. Leonard Cohen is tourin at seventy-four and Obama's in London tryin to salvage the international banking system. The Free Market Boys are stagin a rally and Giacomo has put on a tie and started to consult. Everybody's got their assignment and their playbook. You breathe in, you breathe out, you reckon you're alive, and then you slip into that old belief in a benevolent god like a muskrat slippin into muddy water. Nothin gonna stop you from singin hallelujah now, poot.
I watched a red Sebring crawl up the other side of the hill. I thought to myself, whoever's drivin that bomb is takin special care to avoid the potholes. Impossible, there's too many of 'em. The car stopped about ten feet from where I stood and the passenger window opened.
I walked over, bent down, and looked across front seat. It was Cholly's wife Rosemary. She leaned toward me, "Hi. How you doin? Everything okay? We haven't seen you in a while."
I told her I was fine and said, "I dint recognize the car -- what happened?"
"Yeah, I just got it. Pretty neat, huh? You can't believe the deal they gave me -- the Chevy I traded in, they gave me more than book. No interest. It was too good to pass up. Like the color?"
I did like the color, but kept my yapper shut. I was afraid I'd say something nasty about Chrysler and the junk they kept puttin on the road. When I was a kid I drove a Plymouth Belvedere for a coupla months. That slant six, you couldn't kill it with a shotgun. But the rest of the car? Crap. And then there was my buddy up in Croton -- bought a Sebring ragtop a few years ago. White. Everything inside was plastic. He took it down to Florida to visit his parents. Three breakdowns -- he couldn't get the roof up in a pourin rain outside Baltimore, the steering linkage fell out at a rest stop in Columbia, and the front right seat-belt jammed, trapping his girlfriend for forty-five minutes, until Triple A showed up and cut the damn thing open. "Thank god the linkage didn't go while we were drivin. We woulda been dead. And thank god for the warranty. I dumped it as soon as I could. Got an Accord."
But Rose was smilin and inside it smelled new. You never know -- this one might be a good one. Everyone deserves benefit of the doubt. She drives to Dover every day, so she needs something comfortable and reliable. She turned on the stereo. "Listen to that. Something, isn't it?"
We finished talkin about the state of the roads and how long it was takin to clean up the winter damage. Then she waved goodbye and started down the other side of the hill, real slow. I waved back, turned, and looked out at the lake. A breeze riffled the surface and a cloud dragged a shadow across the far shore.
I ast myself, you know what's wrong with this country? You go down to your local Barnes & Noble, they got two bookcases of "Science and Math" books. But then they got seven bookcases for "Religion" and two more for something called "New Age." Whaddaya think, poot, we gonna survive past 2012?