Monday, September 26, 2011

Jenny Catlin's Bookshelf

The book shelf is made out of L brackets. The nails came from the same store, the dingy one on Alvarado that makes me question humanity every time I shop there; screaming jaundiced infants and blank-faced strangers shoving one another to reach miss-spelled Happy Birthday balloons.

They are too long, the nails. We didn’t have a hammer then. I pushed them into the wall with the bottom side of a cast-iron pan that belonged to his dead brother, before he was dead.

I didn’t put them up evenly, the brackets. The Ballad of The Sad CafĂ© levels it. My favorite copy, I love the colors and I've never stopped wanting to be Carson McCullers, perhaps without the debilitating strokes.

I do all my work on the ten-year-old lap top, covered in stickers from his first stab at college. (Silly when the lap top that holds up the books is new and better.) But I broke it one night when I first got to LA. Sick of kidney-punch vodka and sharing a scratchy bed with a stranger enemy who played the same broken DVD all night in a hallow motel room, while we waited for him to get out of Rehab.

The first story I sold is trapped in there--it was the first bridge I burned when I got here. It’s the only story anyone ever wanted to pay for.

We couldn’t bring anything, two towels, two forks, two chipped bowels. Just an old Toyotas worth of belongings. The books were the worst. We threw away and left and sold tens of thousands of books. The guys at Kilgore Comics sure got a hard-on over what we brought them. Signed Bukowski and Crumb. A first edition copy of The Slaughterhouse Five with dust jacket, I never really cared for Vonnegut anyway. They gave us five hundred bucks, I knew The Woman alone was worth that much, but it was hurry up and forget for us, so we did what we had to, hastening departure, like imaginary renegades.

I'm not sure how I chose the books I brought. Some I love, some I never liked to begin with. It was hazy, surreal, bizarre, the time back then. Drunk and paranoid, we left nearly everything.

We have furniture and clothes and a once again growing mass of books and shelves to house them, but this shelf is the one I hold the dearest. I re-read American Salvage and Where I'm Calling From, so many times, in that first damp apartment that their pages are just stacks of paper. Now Carver’s words will always taste like slightly moldy CA rain.

This shelf reminds me that no matter what the world takes from me and what I give away to the world, even when I have nothing, I have words. And words are everything.
Jenny Catlin is a writer from Colorado. She edits and can usually be found on any of the dream streets of the Southwest. Her first full length collection, Some Men I Left In Denver, is expected around the New Year.

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