Just Bill and the Mister

November 19, 2009


Filed under: Uncategorized — bknister @ 5:00 pm
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The pond.  Bill seems to like being next to it when the three of us sit out there before dinner.  It has metaphorical possibilities that I wish I could explain to him. 

In its small way, our pond serves to keep me mindful of Freud’s analogy to explain psychoanalysis.  Freud compared analysis to draining something in the Netherlands called the Zuider Zee swamp.  The more you drain the psyche’s swamp by chatting with your shrink, the more you expose what lies below consciousness.  This means more of your cognitive real estate is made available for–whatever.  Experiential agriculture, you might call it.  Our little backyard pond serves to remind me of just how much of my own mental real estate is either buried deeper than the Marianas Trench, or lying fallow topside. 

When we bought this house, the owner explained what I would need to do to keep the pond functioning.  Of course she concealed the more disgusting features of the job, focusing instead on the simple draining part. 

This would be accomplished with the quaint, old sump pump she would leave for me in the garage.  Just stick it in, turn it on, and let old mister pump do the rest, she said.  Good, I thought.  That’s simple enough for my skills level.  But as someone both wiser and less habituated to apartment living might have known, nothing good or simple would figure. 

But that first spring, I did manage to get the sump pump working.  Effluvia gushed from the attached hose.  It was very satisfying to see.  I had noticed the pump’s wiring was partially exposed, but since the thing worked, good enough. 

Who can know why things turn out as they do?  It’s like taking a walk, turning to see a skinny stray dog following you, deciding to walk home with him, and as a result changing your life.    

 As the pump chugged along, it exposed more and more of the Zuider Zee.  I could tell all the water wouldn’t be gone, and when it stopped flowing, I took off my shoes and rolled up my pants.  With a rake I stepped gingerly down into the chilly water, and began scraping up rotted leaves. 

 The whole thing stank and seemed to move.  That I now saw was because of mosquito larvae.  I dumped loads of this stinking sewage into a bucket, stepped out and threw the contents on waiting flower beds.  As I moved back and forth into the water, the oddest tingling played about my feet, even in my hands as I worked the metal-handled rake. 

Who can say how long it was this went on before it dawned on me–the mister, the  professor emeritus, defender of the higher sublimations of literature, scourge of the dangling participle and tireless enemy of the passive voice–that where water and electrical current are present, humans should be absent?

Hearing all this later, my friend Bob, an electrical engineer, just stared at me.  He has no beard, but at the moment bore a striking resemblance to Freud.  After a long pause, he shrugged.  You should be dead, he told me.  Never do it again.  You’ve used up every piece of luck you still had coming.



  1. Good grief.

    My sympathies to your wife. I caught my husband IN the Crape Myrtle tree, trimming branches. . . WITH A CHAIN SAW!!!

    Listen to Bob.

    Comment by merrilymarylee — November 22, 2009 @ 5:33 pm | Reply

  2. Barry,

    Talk about a lucky dog!


    Comment by Bernard — December 18, 2009 @ 6:53 pm | Reply

    • Yes, I guess she is. If I think very long about how we came to bring
      Chelsea into our lives, her importance to us now–and the reasons for that importance–it’s a little disturbing. In Just Bill, a character talks about the role the emperor plays in Japan. As Yukio Mishima dramatizes it in one of his stories, that role should be seen as one of mediation, or common ground. Through a mutual submission to and love of the emperor, Japanese couples are brought together, very much as, ideally, couples are brought together through the rearing of children. Well, the children are long gone, and the grandchildren are not here often. Hence the meaning of Chelsea. Yes, this approaches pathology, but so be it.

      Comment by bknister — December 19, 2009 @ 11:45 am | Reply

  3. LOL @ pruming trees with chainsaws.
    This time last year I watched as folks cleared land to put in a fence. I’d asked them to teach me how to use one as I have needed to clear some land and this looked much easier than a manual saw. “Naw, you don’t need to do that. It’s too dangerous.”, said the lead guy. As I watched them scramble though the trees and remembered a statistic concerning injuries to pulp wooders, I thought about what he’d told me. Something about that and “…I caught my husband IN the crape myrtle tree trimming branches…” and reading about the tingling up the legs that wasn’t related to rattlesnake or spider bites had me just laughing. I’m glad that you’re okay.

    Tell your friend Bill that “writer cats” have atleast 9 lives and from my experience out here in the wilderness? You do get extra for being new at it all.

    Comment by 12dogsblog — December 23, 2009 @ 9:25 am | Reply

  4. Almost forgot.
    The extra “lives” is so that you can write a cautionary tale for the rest of us.

    PS Thank you for the invitation to read your blog. Have been busy trying to adjust to not writing on my old blog. It’s been harder than I thought but like all transitions there’s good in it too.

    Hugs. Ann

    Comment by 12dogsblog — December 23, 2009 @ 9:30 am | Reply

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