Thursday, October 11, 2001

This is the kind of journal entry you can only write at leisure; and at enforced leisure, at that, because I cannot get online, so this will be posted in a day or so. Truth to tell, I don't mind not being able to get online, just as I don't mind that my cellphone is out of service where I am right now. It's a good thing. My only contact with technology is a single phone call home each night, to read a chapter of Daniel Pinkwater's LIZARD MUSIC to my daughter Maddy.She has a copy of her own, at the other end of the phone, and fills in occasional paragraphs.



I was woken up this morning by the sound of artillary bombardment in my dreams. Blam. Blam.Blammety crash. Blam. I opened my eyes, and someone was dropping bricks from the sky. The bricks would crash onto the low roof of the cottage I'm staying in and then thud off the roof onto the grass. I got up, bleary-eyed, and stared out of the window.

Blam. That was the sound of someone dropping a brick onto my car.

The problem, I eventually concluded, was the walnuts. Not the nice, wrinkeldy brown nuts you get in Festive Nut Hampers, but the kind that fall from trees, like compact green cricket balls with the nut somewhere inside. The outer covering contains walnut juice, as I find when I pick one up. In fiction, as a boy, people were forever staining their skin with walnut juice in order to pass for Indians or Arabs, and I couldn't understand how the nut gave the juice. It doesn't. It's the yellow goop inside the green case.

So. I'm hiding out in a pretechnological world, with a wood-burning stove and lethal rains of noisy walnuts, getting some writing done between engagements (viz. an appearance at MIT with Messrs Harlan Ellison and Peter David, and the parents' weekend at my son Mike's college this coming weekend).

The MIT appearance was enjoyable. Harlan was Harlan, and Peter was Peter, and I was me; and I thought at the end that in while Peter and I had enjoyed ourselves we were not quite as in evidence as we might have been, and that someone should just book Harlan Ellison vs. MIT, the rematch. ("In this corner, one distinguished-looking gentleman with wearing a brown suit and orange shoes, who still uses a manual typewriter and who has not even begun to fight; in the far corner, 900 mildly outraged people who wish to further contest Mr Ellison's collective characterization of them as 'Dumb as bricks and a waste of good oxygen'...")

Harlan was the big star, but I think overall the three of us made an impressive sort of constellation.


That was the sound of another exploding walnut crashing down from the heavens onto the roof and rattling down onto the ground.

Snuffle snuffle grurp munch.

That was the sound of a large pot-bellied pig eating walnuts. The pot-bellied pigs live on the farm next door. But they wander. And they like walnuts. I suspect the pig's mouth and chin are stained with Walnut Juice.(I just went and checked. They were.)

Me, I really enjoyed the MIT thing, and the company on and off stage, although I could have done without the signing at the end. I read a poem called CRAZY HAIR that I really do have to publish as a book because after I read it people ask me for it; and I read the House of Clocks segment of the story I'm writing with Gene Wolfe for World Horror. And then I drove south, and came eventually to rest in a tiny cottage with a wood burning stove, a spiral staircase, a well-stocked fridge and an antique telephone, for some peace and quiet and writing time.

And autumnal calm and sunlight and October-blue skies. The wind sighing in the maple trees and the high elms. Deer down at the pond, drinking. No cell phones, no noise, no nothing. Just a chance to collect my thoughts and work, in a three hundred and fifty year old cottage under a walnut tree.


Snuffle munch.



Several days later...

I've left the perfect autumnal cottage. Normally on leaving somewhere that cool, I'd post its whereabouts, but then, if I did that it might be fully booked the next time I wanted to go back, and unspoilt and perfect places are few enough in the world.

The lady next door runs a home for pigs. I went down each morning to say my hellos to the pigs and the people: cute little wee black piglings and mighty great boars and snufflers. Not for eating:Vietnamese potbellied pigs, pet pigs, some being boarded, some for sale, some for adoption.

The lady who owns it took me around and introduced me to many of the pigs.

"Now this one," she said, pointing to one small and chirpy looking black fellow in a cage "was a pet pig. He was an ungelded boar, who was owned by people with Pomeranians. But they couldn't cope, and we're looking after him until he can be adopted."

"Why couldn't they cope?"

"Ah," she said. "Well, there's no way to put this delicately. I gelded him myself a couple of days ago. But an un-neutered boar needs to ejaculate at least twice a day to remain healthy. And this fellow, not being neutered, was trying to meet his ejaculatory needs with whatever came to hand. Mostly the Pomeranians. And the family, well, they really hadn't bargained for that."

I agreed that they probably hadn't. And then I shook my head, listening to the grunt and snuffle of the pigs, and contemplating the silence of the Pomeranians.