“Do you have any socks with holes?” Grandma asked, and he almost said no, because he was afraid she would offer to don them, and is there anything more uncomfortable than someone donning your socks? Well, your underwear. Not to mention his discomfort with the very word don; it was both casual and formal; it was used in the mafia and the home.

In actuality, the reason she asked was that the local animal shelter accepted donations of holey socks, and threadbare blankets, and fraying towels, which they would use in the cages of the animals; it reminded him of The Velveteen Rabbit for reasons both obvious and not. He had always felt guilty just throwing those things away, but even more guilty donating them to a homeless shelter, like a child being congratulated for pooping.

So he began collecting them for Grandma, who, in her in old age, had developed an appetite for errands. It became a regular occurrence, him giving bags of worn undershirts, disintegrating mittens, etc. to Grandma. It was on one such Saturday that she asked if he would like to accompany her to the animal shelter. Perhaps it was because his Grandma’s voice might be able to cancel the noise in his head – perhaps it was because his only plans were hours away and there was way too much room for trouble – perhaps both of those perhapses were a prelapse – or perhaps they were all because he had just finished his taxes and marked that once again there was no spouse, there were no dependents. Grandma’s husband, Grandpa, had been gone for two years. And her house was getting bigger by the day.

They went to the animal shelter.

There were dogs and cats and children and the adults overwhelmed with caring for them. It seemed to both him and Grandma that unless a parent was enthusiastic about supporting another life, visiting the animal shelter with children was the stupidest decision they could make. But it was an easy to understand stupid decision; everywhere children were smiling.

Observation rooms were designed to look like playrooms. One room had a wall of kennels with animals of varying degrees of scruffiness. He noticed a dog in particular; black and moppy and immobile, just the sort of disposition he understood. He momentarily considered rescuing it, though it clearly didn’t need rescuing, and perhaps that was the reason why he wanted to. A challenge always energized him, unless it was in an area where he lacked talent or there was a high chance of failure. So most of the time a challenge did not energize him. But when it did: look out, look sharp and don’t look down.

Grandma suggested a stop at the local coffee shop and he agreed as caffeine was the kind of personality supplement he needed. She had a full hand of gift cards and was ready to play all of them on him, but he just ordered a double espresso and she just ordered a peppermint tea and they split a chocolate peanut butter buckwheat cookie and he wondered how many people were aware that buckwheat doesn’t have gluten in it.

They sat by the window, then, to the right of the front door where you could stare at the people who entered without detection. Nearly every time someone came in, Grandma would whisper, “I don’t know them,” as if that were concerning.

“Do you think they’ll move?” Grandma asked, after awhile, referring to his parents.

“Perhaps,” he replied. “Babies have that affect on people,” referring to his sister’s new – and first – dependent.

“You can’t live for your children,” Grandma declared, which he found amusing, since she always lived within four minutes of hers.

“I can’t imagine moving at this point in my life,” he said to the ceiling. Grandma nodded.

They sat there for quite some time.

Home Alone

This post and its comments were originally published on Transformation City Church’s blog.


The wind blows from its diaphragm and the trees do the wave like a crowd at a sports game. For a moment I marvel at the movement; it’s paradoxically collective and individual. It would be maddening to animate. Maybe this is why there aren’t many animated movies starring trees.

For three days the housemates have been at a conference. Every day I have the same conversation with a different kid, or the same kid. “Where Kevin at?” they ask. “At a conference.” I answer. “Where Ben and Megan at?” They ask. “At the same conference.” I answer. They walk away.

The conference is hosted by the Christian Community Development Association, and I was invited, but I declined. It’s held in Indianapolis. Indianapolis, Minneapolis…what stupid names. “Welcome to the city of the state we live in.” That’s more Original than Werther’s! Oh I know, there are several Greek scholars who could expound on Polis in terms of Philosophy and History, but I would get angry and argue with them, and then gyros would be ruined, ruined, and I don’t know why that matters since I don’t eat gyros due to Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

A chill tickles my spine but I refuse to go inside and put on a sweater because I would soon take it off. Tonight is the restless middle child of summer and autumn; so desperate is its desire for approval, and its denial of it, I am almost moved to pity, but move past it to repulsion.

On the curb, several stacks of furniture and garbage form makeshift memorials, commemorating those who have recently moved out – people of various sizes and textures, each one of them a feature in the topography. Opening the door to my car, sometimes I patted a hand on the kids’ heads, waved a hand at the adults. Closing the door to my room, I laid hands on the keyboard.

A friend calls. I do not answer. They leave a voicemail. I listen to it: “I’m feeling lonely, but that’s not your fault.”

Across the street I see a man on his front porch holding a cell phone. I wonder if he sees me.