How’re you doing?

Harry Drabik

Mike the Headless Chicken. You can look it up.

First, dear Reader reader, the question is not meant politically, activity best left to politicians, prostitutes and (for youse versed in tea-ater) trodders of the boards.

An awkward intro, I know, but may as well start off messy into the mire. In any case, my question is not about stuff or projections. An unanswerable question? Maybe so. When I’m asked (most often while grocery picking) I dodge the query by answering “Good enough.”

Having sufficient awareness, strength and politeness to respond says I’m good enough to speak on the subject. But to fact, I always lie, not to be untruthful but because I don’t (‘n never have) carry a correct reply.   How are you? How am I? What to say? We’re not political parties or finances. We are impacted by health, but we’re not kidneys or bowels. If vision isn’t what it was, especially night driving, how serious that impairment? Can it be worked around and can you still not see falsehood done up as true? Even when off kilter we function. Often messy, life is robust. We don’t die easily. T

rue-fake movies have that all wrong. The one-shot one-slice death scene leaves out the body’s l-o-n-g struggle giving up. Think simply in terms of readying a chicken for the pot by removing its head. I was near ten when I first witnessed death at Delia and Whitey’s happy little farm where my Easter duck having outgrown our porch went into retirement, a fiction I was fed and believed until a hen beheadedly headed for a meal it didn’t-couldn’t see in its cluck-clucking future. Butt clamped like a vise and both hands protecting another vital area, I got the heck away from that headless horror. Scared me witless, it did. That was no “bang-bang, you’re dead.” That was two-legged monstrosity flop-running every which way, including into a boy’s dreaming.  

How I’m doing today includes that long deceased hen plus other experience often forgot in the press of time and need. So, how are you doing? I’m betting that in distress there’s likely none of my readers who wishes to clutch another hundred or two in a fearful dying hand. In Iron Range terms, the coarse and fine crusher of life hauls us in and does what it will. Far as I know there is no politics or prayer will keep any of us from metastasis of cells or murder by psycho. No matter the number of ducks we put in line, we’ll never know until.  

So, how are you? The question is sincere, but only a device because I can’t take answers. I do think, however, prodded in the direction, you and I might surprise ourselves. Or we could think the question an invitation to examine and enjoy the puzzling adventure of life. Maybe it’s how we respond to such a question that gives the answer. Maybe. Is life battle or an invitation to be amazed? Which suits a particular you better or best?  

Decades past I discovered one of my stories in a collection I knew nothing of. Wrote to the publisher. They said “Wasn’t you?” I said “Wasn’t me.” Another had submitted (and been paid) as me. More than plagiarism. Plain theft. But what should I do? Legal fees to recover a few hundred. Made no sense. Instead I felt flattered someone thought that little piece worth stealing, if only for a few of its small moments. I was good enough to steal from! Damn and gosh, that was nice news. Didn’t like being cheated, but not a hill to die on. The fates and forces that play with us made sure I had a second dose to consider at near the same time.

Ah, timing! I’d submitted material to a govt. agency (NPS) for consideration. They declined but later used the work slightly altered. Know thou the expression “The style is the man”? Decades of muse abuse and pitiful attempt does build style. Clever NPS workers had juggled words about, but the style was guess who? Sure, I could seek justice, fight them, I could. But they’d given a gift and payment bigger than they knew. They taught a lesson in style plus the reward that I was worth stealing from. I could not have bought a better review.   The key word in the question leading this article is you.

As a writer I’m nothing without audience. There’s that, but more important is the central notion of societal (and personal) mutual interest and concern. We are linked by common understanding or we are not. If not we likely end as competing special interests more inclined to yelling than listening. I don’t think I’m benefitted by howling and doubt you are either. Too much yowl and howl. It’s exhausting.

And there’s the emotional-spiritual toll of constant petty judgments based on presumptuous codes and supposed experts informing and ranking in what I’d call plain ol’ meddling by loud mouths devoted to promotion. This year, any year, I try not to allow blinders (does that term work days when tunnel are outside the experience of most) to rule me.

Might not always work (how could it) but I try reminding myself other points-of-view (yours) need be considered. As with trying to be objective or fair or unbiased, I’ll miss the perfect mark. Who doesn’t? Who could? Try being completely fair (and above criticism) to absolutely everyone (including compulsive critics), and see what happens.

There is no wondrous ultimate solution. There are only trade-offs. In any case, we’re only responsible for our efforts, not for outside results.   Look at basics as a guide. In work, relationships or sport I’m responsible for effort (to try) not result. In any of those things, no matter how hard you try, there’s no sure thing. Results are unpredictable.

Love for another doesn’t assure their love, does it? Life is unpredictable, is chaotic, as your life can attest. When effort is replaced with intent (a sly ploy) the result stays uncertain, doesn’t it? You’re wise enough to ask good questions, but so-many too-many distractions get in the way of being peaceful of listening.

I hope you’re doing OK.