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[MARCH 2014.]

For kidchamp, a wildlife rehabilitation story, starring Klondike prospectors “Pinky” and “Bear Grease.”

Their camp was selected as home base by a particularly larcenous camp robber. This bird is a member of the jay family, sometimes called a whiskey jack in the north. It is at any time an audacious and highly vocal bird. It knows little fear and will seize any food left lying around, a trait Bear Grease and Pinky did nothing to discourage, as the presence of a whiskey jack was supposed to bring good luck, and they were superstitious. Like other miners who worked hard but, lacking luck, did not find gold, they had to have some excuse outside themselves to explain failure.

The camp robber or whiskey jack, treated in such a friendly manner, became bolder and bolder. He took to swooping down on the table and grabbing food that was left there. One day when supplies were getting short, the camp robber made a particularly bold swoop and grabbed a pancake from the table. Bear Grease in his anger hurled a rock at the bird and by chance struck it. He called to Pinky in alarm. He had killed the camp robber. Together, the partners picked up the bird. Seeing its eyes were not glazed with the film of death, they fanned it with their hats and forced water into its beak. The camp robber soon recovered, and as they released it, flew away. It had learned its lesson and did not come back.

Pinky and Bear Grease had been working the claim for some time without success. They were getting discouraged, and when a passing miner told them of good colors farther down, they decided that the departure of the whiskey jack had brought them bad luck, that the place was cursed, and they should move. So the two partners packed their gear and once again moved to a new location. A year later another miner took over the abandoned claim and made one of the rich strikes of the area two feet below where Pinky and Bear Grease had left off. The whiskey jack cost the two partners about $200,000 apiece.

David B. Wharton, The Alaska Gold Rush (Indiana University Press, 1972), 241.

nth Act

Two Beckett tramps fallen on good times, frail but well dressed, take halting steps down the sunny pavement.

‟…and as it happened, we were at a restaurant that didn't have French onion soup.”

‟Oh my goodness.”

‟So he, sort of, expressed his disappointment and dismay….”

Wordsworth, “That in this moment there is life and food / For future years…”

It was in Berlin, Barcelona, Athens, Rome that I felt most strongly we were filling our granary for the future, and not just because we went droning like bees between every bookstore in town, picking up as many foreign-language books as would fit in an extra duffel bag or three. (“No se necesita ropa interior,” said the charming woman running the bookstore in front of the Palau de la Música Catalana, “siempre que quepan los libros.”) Now and then we dreamed of permanent expatriation, but our wiser selves knew it was an exceptional time and would have to end. So when I saw a pair of hoopoes burst out of the scrub on the back of Tibidabo, or magpies go bouncing at dawn over the grounds of the Freie Universität as if mounted on springs, I said to myself, “Keep this.” I choose birds as examples since birds don’t stay where you put them.

By almost any measure I would have used back then, these have been lean years, nibbling at memory. I know also, by R.’s hair cinematically haloed in the afternoon, that they are laying up treasure of another sort.

Wordsworth always sounds so damnably satisfied with his own mind. These days we feel closer to Proust, alike as he is, probably because he can novelistically bracket his character and make clear that we’re following a vulnerable child. The easiest way for us to live with Wordsworth now is to novelize him, to bring out the fear. As I live with myself.

I want to sweep out the house I have not been living in. This means lifting the shutters, never mind who’s looking inside, but not too high, not to blot out the eucalyptus grove at whisky light, when the bats come.

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