Saturday, March 13, 2010

Aimless Reading: The G's, Part 6 (William Gibson)

Gibson, William
Mona Lisa Overdrive

I am pretty sure I bought this at Rust Belt Books. It cost $2.75.

I want to return today to the morning theme of two days ago. It's very easy for me to remember Saturday and Sunday mornings because they were so bound up in ritual, but it's a bit more difficult to remember the rest of the week in so specific a fashion. Weekdays had their own rituals, most of which involved getting to school, but the individual days blend together in my memory as one big weekday morning.

I don't remember much of what I ate during the week, though I suspect it was some combination of cereal, toast and juice. I don't remember having trouble getting up in the morning until I reached high school, though these difficulties may have begun in junior high, which was when what had been a basically happy childhood began to become a very unhappy adolescence.

Although I lived close enough to my grammar school to walk, we had to ride the bus every morning. If we wanted to walk to school, or home from school, we had to bring a note from our parents. Only those deemed "walkers" by the powers-that-be could come to school without a note.

Our bus stopped on the next cul de sac over from ours, which I believe was called Dale Ridge Court. It stopped in front of the house of the P's. The P's had a son a year older than me and another that was four years younger. I remember both parents were heavy smokers with thick southern accents. There were usually between 5 and 7 kids that waited for the bus each morning. After it picked us up it would make four or five other stops before lettings us off at school.

I always preferred to walk, if for no other reason than I could be free of authority figures like bus drivers and parents and teachers for a little while. To get to school I walked down our driveway, turned right and moved north toward the circle in which the street ended. I'd cut between the two unfenced yards of the J's and the C's to get up to what we called "the back road," which was a dead end street–mostly unpaved and with much older homes along its sides–that ran behind our cul de sac.

I'd turn left down the back road until I reached a long, flat, gravel driveway that lead to a large, white, plantation-style home, which happened to be owned by the only black family within half a mile of our house. We never really knew them. None of the kids went to our school, and the family mostly kept to themselves. Occasionally, we'd see them in the back yard having a barbecue or a party.

They seemed to have a lot of money, and there were all kinds of rumors floating around about how they made it and what they did with it. (As I recall, they owned a house-painting business.) We were always afraid to trick-or-treat there, despite the fact we heard rumors they had gigantic buckets of full-sized candy bars inside and that if you had the guts to walk up and ring the bell, you could have as many as you wanted.

Anyhow, you had to walk down their long driveway to get to a path that lead through the yard of the house behind them to the next street, where you turned left over and down a hill before turning right on a path through the woods.

The path ended on a cul de sac, but just before it let out you had to pass The Dobermans. The last 40 feet or so of the path was bordered by a fenced-in yard owned by a family of breeders whose specialty was Doberman Pinschers. They trained them as attack dogs, and every time we approached the fence they would start barking at us. I remember they scared me at first, but that eventually I would either bark back or start shouting at them and they would run off, half-afraid. I've never really been afraid of dogs since then.

Finally, we'd cross the cul de sac and take a short path leading up to the school playground. I can't remember if we could enter from the back of the school or if we had to go around the front. Anyhow, there were were, and that was pretty much the weekday morning routine -- ride the bus or walk.

from Mona Lisa Over Drive

The ghost was her father's parting gift, presented by a black-clad secretary in a departure lounge at Narita.

For the first two hours of the flight to London it lay forgotten in her
purse, a smooth dark oblong, one side impressed with the ubiquitous Maas-Neotek logo, the other gently curved to fit the user's palm.

She sat up very straight in her seat in the first-class cabin, her
features composed in a small cold mask modeled after her dead mother's most characteristic expression. The surrounding seats were empty; her father had purchased the space. She refused the meal the nervous steward offered. The vacant seats frightened him, evidence of her father's wealth and power. The man hesitated, then bowed and withdrew. Very briefly, she allowed the mask her mother's smile.

Ghosts, she thought later, somewhere over Germany, staring at the upholstery of the seat beside her. How well her father treated his ghosts.

There were ghosts beyond the window, too, ghosts in the stratosphere of Europe's winter, partial images that began to form if she let her eyes drift out of focus. Her mother in Ueno Park, face fragile in September sunlight. »The cranes, Kumi! Look at the cranes!" And Kumiko looked across Shinobazu Pond and saw nothing, no cranes at all, only a few hopping black dots that surely were crows. The water was smooth as silk, the color of lead, and pale holograms flickered indistinctly above a distant line of archery stalls. But Kumiko would see the cranes later, many times, in dreams; they were origami angular things folded from sheets of neon, bright stiff birds sailing the moonscape of her mother's madness. . . .

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