Looking for Catherine

I’ve realized I’m not going to be able to write something new every Friday, even if I take Clancy’s suggestion and talk about the girls. (Speaking of whom, Tink likes my new alarm clock very much: when it goes off in the morning, she hops up on top of the dresser and sits next to it and cries along. Time for breakfast, Dad. Time for breakfast, Dad. Time for breakfast, Dad.) So, as the first of a sometime substitute, and following Amanda’s occasional example (and I’ll say, Amanda, I really enjoyed the recent Winter’s poem: thanks for posting something so fine), I’ll offer some of my favorite things, things that I wish were known more widely.

Here’s one of my favorite stories by the best teacher I ever had. Catherine, if you’re out there — drop me a line?

Shopping List

Catherine Gammon

I sent my son to the store with a shopping list.

I have no son. The list read: God, angels, miracles, happiness.

My son returned. He said, You gave me the wrong list. He handed me the paper. Someone had written on it: Have an affair with the right man.

I looked at my child, my daughter. I had been about to say to my son that he had gone to the wrong store. I had been about to send him again. But like me, my daughter would not go out.

I have no daughter.

I looked at the piece of paper. It read: Quit fooling around. Time is passing. Life runs out.

The children, my son, my daughter, watched me expectantly, the boy impatient, the girl (perhaps afraid) stubborn, shy. I wanted to ask them what I should do. I knew that only the boy would answer. I would get a boy’s answer: Go to the store, have the affair with the man. (I was not his mother, he was not my son.) The girl would stand there and shrink.

The story ends here, the children waiting, the paper in my hand. The words on it keep changing. Nobody moves. The sky darkens. The sky lightens. Voices come and go. People pass us by. No one can see that we are frozen. We look like everyone else. We walk and talk and smile. We go nowhere. The list is in my hand. My hands are empty. The words keep changing.

(third coast Winter/Spring 1997)

Looking for Catherine

3 thoughts on “Looking for Catherine

  • October 10, 2003 at 12:52 am

    I like this story (short-short? prose poem?) a lot. And you’re welcome, by the way! Next time I’m in a Thomas Campion frame of mind I’ll be sure to post.

  • January 2, 2004 at 5:56 pm

    Who am i posting this response to? Is it Mike who went to (edited — m.)? Is it Amanda who did body work? Oh the memory grows dim. Or is it all this wall gazing? I’m newly returned to Green Gulch Farm after 15 months at Tassajara, deep in the Ventana wilderness. Washing machines are amazing! And it’s good to be back on line.

  • January 2, 2004 at 7:12 pm

    It’s me, Catherine; Mike. Glad to hear from you again.

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