On Thursday afternoon autumn arrives in Chicago, what a relief. I feel a sudden boost in energy, manic even, with the cooler temperatures. Paul is on the deck shaving the edges of the cupboard door from studio 113 for the new tenant, like Emanuel cares or something. I go down and beg Paul to draw a design on my second pumpkin so I don’t ruin such a fine long-faced specimen.
We search my books and his books and books in the common area for an appropriate design to use as a carving model, but find nothing. I’m against winging it because I know I cannot render. I complain about Marty’s demands for DSL service. Paul complains about how tenants don’t follow simple rules of courtesy. Just another round-robin of frustration where last year we had camaraderie.
“Okay, okay,” I retreat, wishing only to be free of all the bad feeling. “No more crazy acts today. I’m manic cause’a relief from the heat. Let’s blame it on the weather.” Paul keeps quiet for which I give him points.
We’re back at the pumpkin thing early so we can finish before it gets dark. Paul uses a marker I provide and quickly sketches a design of vining leaves, asymmetrical and appealing. “Score the leaves, then carve sections of each so light shines through,” he suggests. I feel sophomoric for insisting on finding a model. Unruffled, Paul returns to laboriously scraping a cartoonish face, like from the New Yorker, on his pumpkin. “What if I make this leaf bigger?” I ask. “So the opening has more light.” He only shrugs, always the diplomat. “A drawing is just a suggestion from which one makes improvements.” We quibble about proportion and scoring and outcome. Carving wouldn’t be fun without the give-and-take.
Cat cries and we second guess its need. “He’s probably cold,” I say. “We can put on jackets, but he has to grow denser fur.” Paul takes cat inside and returns. I have finished digging out the second leaf and feel pleased with myself. “Two! Two leaves are scored. Sorry, I’m into the reward system.” Paul only laughs. “There’s a name for the compulsion to count everything like birds on the windowsill or lantana buds.”
“With me it’s more that Sesame Street thing.” I do a Count Dracula imitation. “Two! Ha, ha, two pumpkins carved! Ha, ha, ha, ha.” Paul doesn’t laugh. It comes into my mind suddenly that he has no reason to be familiar with the characters on Sesame Street.
We stop without finishing because of the cold. I need to shower and prepare for tomorrow’s classes. Paul needs to visit a tenant and help mount a set of shelves. We agree to finish another day, but it’s a question. Pumpkin carving achieves many objectives, especially in the area of mama-drama, but it can be time-consuming.
I return to the deck around 8pm to light the candles and set the display. Jonas and Mario are talking there. “Nicely done,” Jonas says. I’m shocked he even speaks to me. “Thanks. Um, they aren’t finished yet, but thought I’d have a look at the progress.” Mario offers, “You’re like a kid with a toy.” I’m unnerved they bother to speak. I guess my renewed presence on the deck is being felt, after all. “I’m going up to see how it displays from my studio.”
Perfect, the flickering lights are perfect. Paul needs to finish carving the mouth of one that resembles a Tasmanian devil, but that’s just icing on the cake. Later I glance out to grab another look-see. Adas is reviewing the display with curiosity. Wow, improvements all around.
During Friday’s quiz, the students all have the sniffles. Freshmen have no idea how to stay healthy in autumn weather without a mother’s care. The adjunct instructors Amber and Suzanne and I form a grading group as instructed by the powers-that-be. I drag home 46 student papers to review. Next week will be 46 more from Amber’s classes. Tedious.
I travel home in a lake-effect drizzle and nap three hours. The message board at the artists’ studios is splattered with some new eruption of mama-drama. Jack’s door is chalked with the words, “Paul leave me alone.” I’m so sick of their machinations.
I look down at the pumpkin display. Someone has added a Walgreens-purchased plastic skeleton face that talks when a person approaches. More passive-aggressive gestures. They don’t want a resolution of bad feelings; they want to fight. I only shrug. I don’t expect Candish or Jack will still be residents at the artist studios by next June.
Rhonda calls suggesting an adventure to Target, but I allow the answering machine to record her voice. Paul knocks, but I’m married to this couch. Tomorrow. Bother me with mama-drama tomorrow. I watch Numbers, nicely edited and the new female character with long hair has a comforting delivery style. I spy the unfinished pumpkin project on the way to bed. The arrangement has appeal, but now it’s a chore. Just another unfinished chore.