Autumnal, Said Right for Once

Following the soccer game where I was the substitute and halfway-in-control coach, me trying my best to juggle the forward players while the backfield lot meanwhile (and in Thoreauvian fashion) confirmed and catalogued the pitch’s nineteen varieties of cultivated grass, I felt somewhat frustrated; it’s hard work, especially with so many parents watching from comfortable chairs, comfortable chairs being the easiest to judge from. Regardless, there were goals kicked and good plays made.
Bear had demanded Cayde punch him hard in the stomach partway through the second quarter: when Bear then afterward lefted one into the net, he said it was because Cayde energized him with a right to the gut. I didn’t argue.
“I asked him to punch me. Then I got a goal,” Bear shrugged.
Guys do this, right? I never played soccer, I don’t know. Also, I’m not a guy’s guy.
At home, Cayde and Bear donned capes and put on a magic show for me and Jenn, then took their magic show to the front-yard, fifty cents per illusion, while in the partial shade of the fast-crisping sycamore. They made at least three dollars on penny-tricks and never once produced a rabbit, nor guessed the right card. And they were pretty horrible at disappearing, which was ok with me.
They wore sequined caps, forgot their shoes, and sat at a table still mostly in their soccer uniforms. That trick with the rubber band and the ring earned them the most coinage. Some lady still owes them a buck according to Bear. Shouldn’t magic be COD?
I later walked down to the corner store to pick up some chicken for dinner. Woody, always affable and characteristically homespun, rang me up at the counter and, when packing away the produce and the poultry, wished me a good rest of the weekend. Woody walked straight outta TV’s Mayberry some years ago, I’m certain, complete with forename and wire-rimmed glasses. He mentioned the heat, and I of course commiserated, saying ‘Yeah–I wish it were more autumnal.’
Woody smilingly corrected my pronunciation of ‘autumnal’: ‘ah-toom-nal.’ (I said it: ah-tum-nal’).
I always get it wrong, and why choose that word anyways? Always, my strange head.
‘I think you corrected me last year, too, Woody,’ and he shook my hand laughing.
‘You have a good one now,’ Woody said.
‘Ah-toom-nal.’ Fall-ish.
Walking beneath the fern trees left of the fence and dragging my groceries home, I wondered why I always get the word wrong: it probably has to do with that long ‘o’ which I dislike; also ‘–toom’ is similar to ‘tomb’ and though spring is supposed to be the rejuvenating season, green buds, etc., I prefer the Fall when the green buds have spent themselves over the course of a season, and when, come September, the leaves rather scrape the concrete in hull-some fashion, fallen and done. I like autumn, and were there some briskness to it, it would prove better.
Fall is not falling: it’s neither a tomb, nor a –toom, whatever semantic is appropriate, it’s just when I feel better, Jenn too, and all this having nothing to do with pumpkin spice.

Blood moon tonight and I forget. Cayde and I are playing in the street—too late, really—but I promised him a game of catch with the Nerf ball that whistles, and it’s 7 o’clock by the time tomorrows meals are done and when the neighborhood kids are ushered inside and Cayde is left without a playmate.
“Daddy,” Cayde is at the screen door, pleading. He lines up two doors down, next to the spent Corolla, and I’m in front of the driveway. We play catch in the dark, and it’s a good thing the football whistles, because we can’t see much. The sky is still halfway lit, but we are silhouettes on the street, as much as the parked cars and the night-winked hedgerows. We spread out because how are awesome are we that we can throw missiles in the dark, and there are the whistles and k-thunks as the football bounces every which way, never too far from the intended target. At 7:15 I remember the lunar eclipse and shout as much to Cayden. The neighbors across the street emerge from their house and debate the wind. I collect Cayde and hoisting him onto my shoulders to get a vantage point above the apartment rooftop, the neighbors flick some lighters and shuffle a few houses down harboring something. The moon is an apostrophe of red. Without my glasses, I don’t see well.
“What’re you doing?” Cayde shouts to the neighbors from atop my shoulders, who are still testing their Bics but also unfolding a filo-thin piece of fabric, if a bit drunkenly, and figuring out some ignition thing.
“Chinese lantern.”
“What’s that, Daddy?” Cayde wants down, curious. He is also unsure on my shoulders, he being eight now.
The neighbors introduce themselves.
“Hi: I’m Dre.”
We all shake hands.
“Oh–Dre!” I know her from the neighborhood, didn’t know she was now my cross-the-street neighbor, and we hug in the dark.
“Hey! You live there?” she asks pointing to the sycamore tree. “This your kid?”
Yes, on both accounts, and Rob holds onto the lantern while it expands, the ignition having been lit. The lantern fills up with heated air. We all watch as Rob eventually lets go, the blood moon now visible from even Cayde-level, and the lantern floats upwards like a luminescent jellyfish, up and up.
There is a queen palm across the street and Rob worries he’s going to catch the fronds on fire; Cayde runs down the block following the lantern as it rises, the lantern never coming close to the queen, just rising twice the height of the neighboring apartment buildings before glinting out and falling paper-bag harmless to the ground.
I collect Cayden to sit on the front porch with the family. The blood moon is visible. No clouds, and Jenn holds Finn who sucks his thumb while sporting heavy eyes. The bottom half of the moon is red and, were it fully lit, there’d be the face with its craters and seas. Some look at the moon and see a silhouette of an embryo; others see Jack and Jill illustrated, tumbling down. Stupid things you see in the sky sometimes, like when constellations are very much a stretch.
Like when it’s autumnal, which, actually, I say right for once.


A Monday, especially a Monday hemmed in with high clouds and high heat, is no day to celebrate a birthday, but it was Cayden’s birthday today. Yes, he liked the burgers I grilled for him; no, he did not like the brownies, though they were a special recipe. The brownies were “sticky” at the edges, and it isn’t till you get a few years past eight that the crusts become palatable, or the corner pieces become the best pieces. Everyone knows the corner wedges of brownies are the best, c’mon.
Been picking the boys up at school and Cayden whined how far it was walking to the car. Parked as far as we were, it meant a different way home. Usually, we take 16th to the top of the hill. It’s a forty-five degree angle down 16th and an immediate right onto Pershing to get home. Cayde usually turns in his seat, says, ‘Hold on, Daddy,’ and inspects for cars when paused at the summit. He looks around, then conspiratorially whispers, “Go!”, and we gun it down the hill. Daddy is fun.
Went the opposite direction today, east before turning north, and it was over some rough-shod white concrete. Slower streets, so the windows were down, and Finn thought it a roller coaster with the up and down jostling and the fact that his hair was splayed back from his forehead. “Yay! Yaaaaaay!” Hands up the entire time.
Passed the Metamorphosis Center–some sad wellness storefront–then hit green lights on into the narrower streets where the trees bower and we have to slow down.
It was Cayden’s birthday today, and the car in front of us was kicking up dried myrtle leaves by manner of exhaust, autumn confetti, and we followed the leaf litter through the length of South Park and on toward home.
The week is all sorts of anniversaries. Yesterday, three years ago, Finn had his breastbone broken on purpose, and his heart re-stitched.
Finn was a marionette on twenty different circuits following his surgery, a few wires penetrating his chest: it was a hard puppet show to witness.
It was also Cayden’s birthday and, friends being the best of friends, threw Cayden a party when we were entirely incapable of doing so ourselves.
“Daddy–I have to poop,” Cayden says when we’re shopping for ingredients at the neighborhood market. I promised him burgers and brownies and needed to pick up cuts of sirloin and chuck, hamburger buns, all the etc. We’re parked, hurriedly shopping, and Finn is meanwhile threatening the pyramid display of Zinfadel while perched precariously in a grocery cart.
“Hold on, hold on, Dude.”
Cayden clutches the seat of his pants while I pay and while the engine clicks just outside the door in the heat.
“I’ll run home and get there first, ok?” Cayde says nervously.
“But I’ve got the keys, Dude–just get in the car. The house is locked.”
And we get home on time, Cayde bursting out of the car when barely we straighten into the driveway.
He’s eight. The idea of ‘eight’ has always scared me. His face has changed, graduated into boyhood and is already suggesting adolescence; I worry that–after eight–the fact that I have the keys, or that I drive the car home, will somehow change and that closed doors will be my fault; maybe the car ride won’t be as much fun.
Cayde got a magic set for his birthday. While trying to prep dinner, I told Cayde: “Please–show me your magic tricks in a bit, ok?” because he was too much in the kitchen with a silk sack, a wand, and some sorcerer’s box; Finn was wailing not having slept at all during pre-school.
I couldn’t conjure patience, was still in my work clothes; the grill was set too high so that I burnt both my eyebrows and the chicken.
When the evening waned and Cayde re-attempted a magic show, he tried to convince me that this foam ball would, by clumsy sleight of hand, become some other thing. Not a pigeon, certainly, but I wished for it, to have a magic trick work so well as to give us all confidence in the illusory.
No; instead we just take 16th home–usually, even if not today–where the road ramps downward so steep that we fly past the eyesore cinder-block buildings and the rusted-out chain-link. Cayde says ‘Go!’ and Finn throws up his hands in expectation, and I know to hit the brakes two-thirds of the way down so we don’t bottom out. It’s magic making that right-hand turn, when it’s absolutely certain the car won’t crash despite the momentary rush–I can even calmly flick on the blinker before turning into the right-hand lane–and Cayde says, always: ‘Daddy, that was AWE-some.’
Love you, Kid.

Movement, removed.

Yesterday at the gym I rode a stationary bike that was anchored two feet in front of a large plate glass window. Outside the window were three sycamore trees, their leaves already crisping in preparation for the encroaching and inevitable fall. Beyond them sprawled a half-parched lawn, brownish-green, extending toward Friar’s Road in the near-distance. Cars passed eastward in the commute.
There was a devil’s rain at play, something the midday had conjured, with the sun shining simultaneous to the increasingly transient showers.
Had I actually been moving through the weather, on a real bike, I’d probably have been sweating just as much—only differently—with monsoon weather flushing the skin and with the otherwise factor of wind being its own thing, the cooling effect of momentum.
The gym however, was air-conditioned: the wind there is positively pressured and continuously pushed downward through evenly spaced vents. The assorted riders ride nowhere, but the digital read-outs insist otherwise: there are all these measures of miles traversed, spans of time-in, sundry calories spent.
I played this game where I agreed to do just ten minutes on the bike. When that didn’t match up to an even number of calories burned, I figured I’d keep going, pedal toward the five-mile mark. When five miles didn’t amount to an equitable sum of minutes, I continued pedaling, looking for a goal, never of course reaching the plate glass two feet in front of me, nor un-anchoring the cycle; I finally stopped at ten miles, thirty-five minutes, 400 calories disappeared. That’s what the read-out said at least.
Even enough. I stopped the program and dismounted.
The trees hadn’t changed much, but the traffic had slowed and the rain had stopped. I took out my ear-buds, the gym equivalent to parking a bike, and the whoosh of the air-conditioner was immediately apparent: always that substitute wind.
It occurred to me how often we look to digital measurements as something we could otherwise intuit, things we could register ourselves, but don’t; always looking instead to the monitors and LCD displays, the light pollution and digitalized numbers.
When Cayde was being born, the doctor pointed to the monitor left of where Jenn reclined on the bed, epidural in place.
“Look—you’re having a contraction right now,” and what should have been a body-clinching spasm, and where Jenn should otherwise have doubled in pain, the contraction just showed up neatly as a seismographic tic on the hospital’s machine.
Jenn and I nodded as if simply noting a brief change in the weather.
When Carol, Jenn’s mom, was let go in peace, and when we together shuffled into the white-accordioned room to say good-bye—Jenn having gone first and instructing the nurse to please re-bandage her mother’s head as there was a coil of brain exposed beneath the existing bandage—when we gathered around Carol and let her salts find their final shoreline without expectation that a machine stopped could in any way change her condition—she unresponsive, already gone—we still looked to the flickering numbers on the screen to let us know, decisively, that the dwindling electricity and down-trending needles meant she was at last passing, that we were given cue to say our final things, and be allowed exit into the hallway.
It is a modern thing to measure things immeasurable.
At the gym, there are all these mirrors. Self-inventory is recommended, in which case—after a workout—you can remark how your body has changed, if temporarily, by having moved through all these varied yet static stations. The chest is flushed, the iliac crest is pronounced, you have more color, and everything suggests you’ve accelerated to somewhere. Still the plate glass remains, as do the trees outside. The bike stays anchored and on its monitor blinks a heart-shaped cursor—also sensors on the handholds—requesting: please, please, another pulse.
There is the forced air when leaving through the sliding glass doors; when exiting to the parking lot and just walking to the car, the heart either slows or accelerates—however it should when recognizing the familiar lines of the crosswalk or the particular light at whatever time of day. Regardless, it remains its own privately measured thing, this heart: quiet, reticent, beating silently and soundly, always resolute, belonging ultimately and always all to itself.

Thousands and Thousandths

Finn decidedly unwore his backpack on the way out of pre-school today, the backpack being as big as he was. Even when I knotted the straps around his waist and held his hand out the door, he shrugged the monkey-themed rucksack down past his shoulders, and preferred me to hoist him in a crooked arm, alternately waving to everyone, else sucking his thumb while we made our way through the melee of first-day-of-school curbside parents. Cayden skipped along behind, excitedly talking about math and Spanish; it was ninety degrees out and we had to walk five blocks to our car, parked up on Broadway and near the taco shop. Finn happened to see his mom, herself dismissing class out in front of the school, and so for five blocks it was: “Mama! Mama! Mama! I held Finn’s backpack while he reached a hand out back towards Jenn, who was dutifully matching students to parents and abuelitas, all the Sherman Heights neighborhood in one place collecting their children. It was really hot, and by the time we arrived at the car, Finn was limp on my shoulder, his ‘mamas’ having expired. A few minutes into the drive, the AC having kicked in, I asked Cayde: ‘Wait–how was school again?’ He talked about thousands and thousandths, and that his teacher was “pretty wild”. Finn was complacent in the back seat in a fresh school uniform and I remembered when he was born, when our pediatrician draped him across her forearm in the recovery room, his blood already pooling in an imperfect heart, so sleepy in the first shows of congestive failure, that the fact of anything outside his diagnosis was uncertain. Then he woke up, heart tightened, and so did we, and I had to fairly hurl Finn into the carseat today because he’s now so heavy, and did so outside the taco shop that has our favorite chile verde burrito; outside the taco shop where Cayde was excitedly talking about the thousands and thousandths places, and where, while buckling Finn in and thinking of all the chances, I had to agree with the math.

Hurricane, home.

Hurricane, Cayden, not tornado. You’re creating a lemon-lime hurricane. And, also—don’t do that. You’re in a restaurant.”
I use the flattest achievable tone to make my point while Cayden furiously stirs his plastic tumbler of soda. Why I’m insisting on his ill manners being meteorologically correct, I don’t know. I just know it’s Wednesday, in which case we have an hour in between lunch and Speech, then another hour before soccer practice. Ramen has become our thing, Underbelly being the neighborhood retreat.
The patio is al fresco, with long stone-slab tables set up family-style. Trenches of lava-rock channel the length of the tables like igneous table-runners, and tea-lights fashion the scene. When the sun goes down, the lights are lit, also the crook-necked lamps lining 30th Avenue.
30th is the North Park’s equator, literally and figuratively, with its resident and well-trafficked cross-streets having their own reputations by virtue of their either north or south latitude. We reside in the land of good-repute, Craftsmen and xenoscaped Mission bungalows lining streets with waists so thin they starve out the generally ill-considered apartment complexes—zones remain something of a thing.
There are lawns, albeit dying now and addresses you may or may not want; but if you’re hazarding to the right while an oncoming car passes on the left, you’re probably in what’s considered a good neighborhood.
Wasn’t always this way. Jokes were about the helicopters circling the area adjunct to the NP adult bookstore, back in the days of lesser-cautioned but wider-open thighs, when junk shots were sanguinal, and the shoddy bungalows were exactly their worth in square footage. There was a bath-house close to next-door.
For scale: it would take seven of my houses to create a square mile. Can’t buy a house for a fourth of that now, or any house within ten square miles of me.
Cayden threatens to create a tornado in his tumbler while I still correct him about tornadoes being vortices of wind, and hurricanes being vortices of water. He stirs his Lemon-Lime and I forget if typhoons or monsoons or all those circular things have to spin clockwise or counter to have proper effect. I forget these things; Cayde meanwhile says his drink is gone.
Finn was sleeping, but is awake now. I order the trio tartare, tell them to replace the salmon with a second helping of spicy tuna and I chopstick portions to Finn in his stroller. Rice and red-tinged albacore, which he agrees to. Because those lower teeth haven’t grown in, he still stuffs food as matter of fact, pushing everything to the back of his mouth. Spice doesn’t concern him.
The hamachi is whitish-gray, and I splash it with sesame, but it still tastes like clean sea-water despite the dressing, amber-jack fishy to a point, but clean, and I consider that seawater runs through fish, through their fern-ish and feathery gills, that sea-water is iodized, negatively charged, positively energized, and that there are creatures that exist in complete erasure of mood by manner of swimming.
“I want to ride my bike this way.”
“Can we go to that parking lot?”
“Yeah, sure.”
Cayde wants me to take pictures, thinking he’ll be a dynamic blur. He pedals fast thinking he’ll best the camera shutter-speed.
“I can do tricks here.”
We’re in an abandoned parking space of a dismissed and bankrupt Laundromat, and Cayde tosses his limbs in his own version of abandon, doing tricks and ignoring the pedals.
There is a spent mattress with pornographically-displayed coils, extinguished cigarettes wind-swept against parking curbs. Every picture I take has perfect resolution, and Cayde isn’t the blur he wants to be. I take photos of him riding back and forth in front of a mural. He rides a green bike, and the mural is a ten-foot depiction of Amy Winehouse, the Cleopatra eyeliner collecting age and with no snakes afoot.
“Hey—let’s keep moving. There’s that alleyway.”
That alleyway, and Cayde pedals fast, zoom, fast away; Finn sleeps in the stroller.
When Cayden was a baby, and when I carried him on my chest, I pointed out all the plants, not knowing how to otherwise speak to him. I knew all the Latin words.
Tecoma capensis.
Pandorea jasminoides
All these plants peeking through the fences.
Nyctaginacae, which was the bougainvillea, and when parking the bike, is the simple and lone sepal stuck on a stray spider-tangle.
“Take off your helmet, Dude. We’re home.”

The Strand

When dropping from overhead height into a wave, I unfortunately landed on Cayden who was going the wrong way in the trough, right and not left, all with the wave peeling north; immediately Cayde gave up body-boarding, for five minutes at least, exclaiming boogie-boards as something ‘STUPID!’ But then he rejoined his buddy Harrison and me back in the midriff-deep waters. Because the reef-break in Coronado is unique and the Strand something man-made, there are always marooned silver dollars and periwinkle shells underfoot, also waves doubled and tripled up which make for long, surging rides to shore. I catch the waves out deep, Harrison and Cayden catch the middling waves, and we suddenly ride parallel; there is that best thing when Cayden looks both left and right, decides to grab my wrist, then Harrison’s, and we ride to shore together.


Cayde was well intended. He had done his research and had decided that Carlos should eat only flies since that’s what Carlos would otherwise eat in his natural environment. It was noble thinking on behalf of an ignoble but beautifully-finned fish and so today, Carlos,a Betta–a junk protein–which can otherwise live in oxygen deficient rice paddies, drainage ditches, and desktop bamboo vases—floated atop Cayde’s fishtank, thin in the sides, once splendorous tail accordion-folded like a shuttered fan.
“Did you feed him, Dude?”
“Well, kinduv. I gave him a fly yesterday.”
(And our house has been host to the usual Labor Day swarm of winged-things, buzzing stupid against the windowpanes; catching flies for Carlos has been a fun task for Cayden in some junior zookeeper fashion).
“Did you give him any of the flake food? Like I told you?” I’m not being accusatory.
Cayde starts to cry, simultaneously shaking his head ‘no’ while wiping tears on the thigh of my jeans. I’m holding a dripping fishnet and Carlos is brick-red now when he used to be a fairly handsome vermillion.
“I’m sorry, Monkey,” and Cayde cries jaggedly, and we make this into a lesson before Carlos—full name, Carlos Danger—swirls clockwise into the watery mausoleum that is the charge of the San Diego Water Authority. There are no words, no attendant priests.
Later at lunch, Cayde and I share a bowl of ramen, in which case we’re fighting over the oxtail dumplings and it’s explicitly communicated to the front of the house that we need TWO eggs lest the meal be somehow unequal. Finn’s not too enthused about his bao buns and Cayde nearly jabs me in the eye with his chopsticks while we lean over the bowl.
“Ramen!” Cayde noms. He asks, once the noodles are done, what is ramen exactly? And I’m kind by not mentioning how traditional broth is made with bonito flakes, the same stuff Carlos exactly wanted.
On the way home, we take the alleyway, which Cayde has expertly mapped over the past few months while spending further time outside the house: here is where the water puddles after a rain; here is where you can bunny-hop the broken concrete on your bike; here is the mini-ramp that loops around the row of apartment trash-cans and—incidentally—where there are discarded things, not exactly treasures, but chairs and faded couches left as offerings to whomever the taker.
Behind our house, a bougainvillea vine commingles with an overgrown ficus, just above the broken fence.
I flushed Carlos, and Cayden cried, but he turned off the aquarium light right away, also the filter, then he ran ahead in the alleyway and hoped that someone, one of his other friends, was perhaps home.


The iPhone uses ‘capacitive’ technology, I’ve read, which means it’s touch-sensitive and altogether too easy to use. It’s not necessarily easy on the eyes, I discover, when Finn–spying me in deep-squint on the phone, the tablet, etc.,–wrinkles his face comedically, reminding me I look silly with my glasses discarded and with me, seemingly mid-snarl and deceptively carnivorous in face, writing a letter all squinchy-eyed, else perusing the most recent Trump faux pas on-line with a furrowed brow and a mess of hair falling into my eyes. Trump’s stapled head, meanwhile, currently hosts a dead vole, a domestic thin-haired one, I think. It’s unnaturally orange at least.

There’s ‘capacitive’, but also ‘capacity’–potential–which days innately contain. The trick is tapping into it, like figuring out the ‘K’ coefficient in a physics equation, like: how will momentum exist today?

At Speech, Finn counts ‘one-two–threee’ and slides down slides and throws himself onto mats. He taps his lower lip and sounds out sounds, cueing himself. Forwards, certainly, but Rady’s Hospital is sometimes a drag-some place even with all the forwards momentum, I won’t lie. Where’s the ‘K’ for the day?

(Incidentally, the bahn mi joint down the hill burnt down this week: it was named ‘K Sandwiches’, because irony).

Also, and considering Rady’s has its share of institutional bulbs and miles of linoleum, don’t we all just hate fluorescent? Like a basic human fact? Like that last time you tried on a shirt in a changing room, and your skin was green in pallor, but also weirdly pink and you really hated whatever mall gods made you defeatedly sag your shoulders in the mirror? Rady’s is very fluorescent.

We get home, and Finn is appropriately zombie. Jenn’s home, too, and it’s an afternoon where the sky is clearing blue. Because Finn is due for a nap, I sling on my knapsack and take a walk, the five-block exercise in the sun being that small convalescence, fluorescence winked out, and where I fold a paperback against its spine and try not to get hit by cars in the alleyways while reading.

I order albacore tataki at the neighborhood ramen joint: a white plate with a liberal ladling of ponzu, daikon sprouts, and scallions decorating neat tiles of tuna. The tuna is raw and seasoned with sichimi tagarashi. It’s all pretty and I dribble some sesame oil down the domino row of albacore. It’s an easy meal, fresh and clean.

The bar-back tells me to ‘Try this” and “Also this” while I scribble in a notebook, so I taste tasters while writing. Bar-back calls me ‘Brother’, which is guy talk.

The cashier next door—he calls me, ‘My dude.’

Gabe at Parkside: ‘Hello, my Friend.”

Mac at Thorn St.: ‘Hey, You.’

Glenn, Ripe Market: ‘Hi, Thom.’

Barista: ‘☺’

Cindy at the produce stand: ‘You doing a fly-by, or what?’

Me: ‘Getting some lemons?’

I scribble on the back-sheet of a paper that lives in my satchel—it’s a copy of an essay I read at a writers’ conference and I scrawl in scratchy blue pen while dredging a tile of tuna in ghost-chile relish.

I write about a tile of tuna in ghost-chile relish while writing with a scratchy blue pen.

This place is an al fresco space, and the myrtle trees outside the parklet are green, not gray, now that the marine layer is lifted. A natural light. And when I bus my tray: ‘Hey, brother! Good talk!’ The pourer tosses a chin. I check my phone, which is fractured and inexactly capacitive, but heading back home, and heading down the white alleyway, which Cayden always insists we walk, the day collects net, ‘K’ having done its thing and I’m full, near to capacity.


The line on the horizon seems drawn with a light pen, the line necessarily one mile out by nature of optics, and exactly where the sun is shining through a break in the clouds. The horizon sparkles in measured beads of gold: a line that grows tauter, its span shortening, as the space between dusk and dark lessens.

A parallel and low-hovering line of pelicans returns somewhere, here, at the same time. The clouds take over and the pelicans are still flying left and southward. By count there are nine beaks, eighteen wings outstretched and cambered, all in silhouette.

(It’s summer. There have been three diagnoses in as many months, in as many people: Hodgkin’s lymphoma, adrenocortical carcinoma, papillary thyroid cancer. These are strings of malignant consonants, words that metastasize into moods. Moods. Moody-mood moods).

There are the numb places and also the sudden places. The sudden places where you suddenly come to, finding yourself staring at insignificant things like pillow seams or clock faces, capacitive screens, else the nothing-spots that exist up and to the left of your vision: those intermediary spaces between you and the wall.

The beach, meanwhile, is nice. The water is seventy degrees. To the north is the Agua Hedionda lagoon, and a concrete tower shepherding its fishery. The lagoon hosts now-barnacled dikes and young fish, fry and fingerlings separated; the lagoon is just up the shoreline. You can see the tower from the coast occasionally belching steam: it’s sentinel for the Encina Power Station and part of the coastal architecture. Not exactly postcard, but something of report at least.

Cayde plays in the water. His rash guard is so boy-stained, even the ocean can’t do the trick of returning it to white. From the shore, I can see the gaps in his smile—those square teeth and square non-teeth all jack o’ lantern—while he pushes a body-board about. I smile in return, wave.

“Hey, Daddy!” he shouts, which is how he starts most sentences.

“Hey, Daddy:

“If you had a pet shark, what shark would you choose?”

“Hey Daddy:

“What’s 53 x 47?”

“Hey, Daddy:

“How does light work?”

“What’s your favorite song?”

Unanswerable questions, but always the: ‘Hey Daddy.’

“Hey, Daddy:

“I love you.”

I should like to be ‘Hey Daddy’ for a while, at least forever I think; my sentences don’t begin near as absolute because I’m not seven anymore, haven’t been since before I was seven. I try and answer every question, though, as Daddy, and since I’m asked. Being not-asked is the worst.

For the record ‘53×47’ is 2491, and light works whenever you flip a switch, or else when you tousle your kid’s hair and he smiles upon hearing ‘I love you’ said back.

(Sometimes there are low blood sugars and sometimes you find yourself slouching outside of yourself, once removed. This could be a Tuesday, or a Wednesday—any day an empty vessel is supposed to be lighter, but on any given day laws can be reversed as with a magnetic shift: empty can easily be something heavy instead).

The pelicans fly past, their wings irregularly shaped, and irregularity being the science behind lift. The leading edge of the wing is thicker than the trailing end, there is an airfoil, also net forces with the upward and forward subtracting the diminutive downward.

This is how you fly.

The last pelican is gone and there is the sound of Cayden’s laughter. Cayde’s skimming the surf on a body board and he is laughing, pushed forwards by the curdling sea foam. I have Finn in the shallows, jumping the shoals; my hands hoist him by the armpits and he laughs his jagged laugh, eyes squinted to commas in the manner his diagnosis dictates, laughing, with his legs pumping and his orange hair salted already into ropelets of strawberry and blonde. He is signing ‘more’, else just clapping or flapping his hands in a sign that doesn’t have to have meaning outside of excitement; he is three and the waves are fun in and of themselves, never stopping, churning the beach sand and there is quartz glitter between his toes. We’ve ditched our sandals.

Earlier in the day, Jenn dredged a kelp holdfast from the surf, a root-like anchor unleashed from its undersea hold. She cut loose the stipe and brought back the root as trophy, depositing it on the sand. The kids and I parsed through it–other kids from the neighboring beach blanket, too–breaking the amber tendrils and occasionally unearthing sinuating arms of recessed creatures, hidden, deep in the cellulose labyrinths. Sea urchins, brittle stars, evacuated worm tubes, stalk-eyed shrimp. There was foreign alga intertwined with the kelp roots, feathery, and there were occasional crab pincers a sixteenth of an inch long deep deep in the mass. We made a grave of broken kelp parts and saved all the living things inside a plastic bucket.

I showed Cayden a transparent crab on my thumbnail. There are things alive just this big.

I surfed in the morning with my buddy Larry, when the ocean was an early morning half-color. Fought every single wave, trying to remember how to surf the inside sets. The surfboard would yank my wrist and fly away from me, the thing that’s supposed to be my buoy dragging me instead. There were gulls catching light on the ragged undersides of their fraying primaries, and me not catching waves at all.

Suddenly the water rose, in the correct place. There was the proper surge and there’s this lifting when you ride a wave properly, this liquid push from below inviting you to stand on top of everything, which you do, obligingly, lifting as the grebes dive and the pelicans camber along, all the forces of rising and sinking and lifting all there, all there at once and with you on top; it could be you standing, it could be you standing or—in the alternate ending—you kneeling, but there is lift regardless. Lift and lift; there is always lift and also up.

The Perfect Exclamation Point

For a brief second, I see Jenn do a handstand at Kellogg Park where we’ve gone for the morning, ocean in view. Cayde’s agreed to do yoga with his mom at 9:30, the park (not to mention the parking lot) already full and populated with ruddy-faced morning-divers, their wetsuits peeled to the waist and eyes ringed with red lines, their masks having sealed correctly. The true surfers are already leaving and day-campers are setting up the hibachis and volleyball nets. I’m pushing Finn around in the stroller, up through the lawn-spaces, on the right-hand side of the coastline. The boardwalk is all young bodies and today is the day Jenn turns the age I still feel because I only turned the calendar page a month ago.
But Jenn is always younger. On the way to the jungle gym, I see Jenn and Cayde do ‘downward dog’ in tandem, on parallel mats. Cayde bounces some on his heels because there’s no way a boisterous seven-year old knows anything about chakras or breathing space. He resembles a pose whereas Jenn has her palms flat and her knees locked, textbook.
Finn climbs the playground ladders on his own and slides down, laughing. We swing, and have this game where I push him, then tickle him on the ascent and he throws out his arms and throws his head back smiling.
We circle around with the stroller, playground sand in our shoes, and park in the shade to watch the yoga group finish their poses. Jenn is upside down, and the instructor has her fingertips barely touching Jenn’s calves, steadying her; Jenn is upside-down with her hair touching the grass and with arms rigid in a handstand, a perfect exclamation point. Cayde is trying to do the same, tossing his legs akimbo over his head and looking all of seven, toppling ass over kettle more often than not.
It gets to the Shivasna portion of things and Cayden and Jenn hold hands, Cayde wanting to just get to that part where everyone says ‘Namaste’, which you do, appropriately, in virisana pose, virisana appropriately meaning ‘hero chief.’