7: A Summer Afternoon

I woke up at 3:30 that afternoon, groggy and damp with sweat. A shave and a shower helped the damp part. I drank a mug of coffee quickly and took a second one out the porch to work on the groggy part.

I always liked the porch. Enclosed, but uninsulated. Bob and Stanley furnished it a sofa and easy chairs from trash day scavenging and built shelves under each window for their plants. Last spring when they took the storms off I donated a carton of ceramic planters that were getting musty in the cellar and they filled them with their plants—Stanley’s coleus and African violets and Bob’s dozens of plants whose names I could never remember.

I lowered myself onto the couch and sipped my coffee. The porch was an open, light and airy room, easy enough for us to see out of, but too high off the ground for passersby to see in.

It was always light and airy in the afternoon. I lowered myself onto the couch and sipped my coffee, watching the ceramic planters twirl gently in the breeze and listening to the sounds of kids games.

I made those planters. I picked up a celedon bowl from the coffee table and rubbed my knuckles across it. Thick stoneware, thin throwing lines spiraling up to its rim, the wetness of the clay still apparent in the slick glaze. Celedon is the color of jade, the holy stone. I loved celedons—iron glazes are usually brownish, but when you fire them hot and starve them of oxygen, the glaze turns green. Everything I do goes through the fire and comes out different.

“Aren’t you going to work today?” Bob still in his bathrobe and the gym shorts he sleeps in, handed me his wooden pipe.

“What time is it?”

“Almost four-thirty.”

“Damn, I better get going.” First, a couple of tokes for the road. I put down the bowl and lit his pipe.

“Nice pot.” He picked it up, turned it over, looking for the scallop shell. When you cut it off the wheel, you can make a scallop shell with the cutting wire instead of straight lines. “A little yellowish.”

“It’s on stoneware, not porcelain. Good walls though.” Damn. “Bob, I need to make things again.”

“You do. You make omelets, hamburgers, Deli Delights.”

“I’m serious.”

“You’re getting time off in August. Do it then.”

“I’ve got to do it sooner.”

He shrugged. “So quit. Spend your summer in the pot shop.”

“That’s easy for you to say. I’ve got $200 in the bank. If I quit now, I’d need another job the week after I paid the rent.”

He shrugged and absently rubbed the wooden pipe along the side of his nose.

“I have to go to work.” I stood up and stopped, smelling the breeze. That same breeze that followed me from street ringolevio to my first day on the new campus to afternoons in the pot shop. We lived in the night, Bob and I. Suddenly, I missed the day.

I put the mug in the sink and got ready to go. Time to go to work.

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