Andrew (A to Z)

“A unique sort of pleasure… Intriguing …Andrew is a fully realized Everyman, juggling life, death and a hundred other little irritations. Clever, but never mocking or cruel”  Katie Schneider, The Oregonian

“Engaging protagonist…Lively writing…Penetrating…Unorthodox.” Daniel Green, The Reading Experience


Excerpts from Andrew (A to Z):



There is a rumor I was born there, but I don’t believe it. I don’t feel like a person who was born in Arizona, I feel like a person who was born somewhere else—somewhere with trees and an ocean and a liberal political tradition. Somewhere like Washington or Oregon or Massachusetts.


A semi-deciduous flowering shrub. We have five of them growing along the rock wall that separates our property from Daniel Boyd’s.  While I rarely see this neighbor to my west, I know he is there and that’s enough to disturb my day. I don’t like him. I can’t say why exactly. My reaction is visceral. There is something about his loose-jointed demeanor; his slack, hounddoggy face; his infantilized self-absorption that I find deeply offensive. I know little about him—only that he is divorced and that he works for a computer company.


I was surprised to see a man playing one the other day. It seems like something from another age—the instrumental equivalent of a pterodactyl.


We are obviously an acquisitive group here in this neighborhood and some of us are more acquisitive than others, but there is something about the nature of Boyd’s particular species of getting that is especially off-putting.  I think in part it is simply how much he has (his garage is a disgrace), but it is also what he has. It is not age-appropriate. Flabby, balding, and fifty-five if he’s a day, it’s the sort of stuff you would expect someone twenty years younger to be accumulating—skis, bicycles, baseball paraphernalia, golf clubs, a speedboat. No one has ever seen him use any of it.


Karen made a pea and cauliflower salad. It is our contribution to dinner with the Snyders.

“Just bring anything,” Amy said.

“ How about an appetizer or some sort of a salad?” Karen asked.

“A salad is fine.”

The “fine” thing about this salad is that it is easy to make, but it looks hard.


While I don’t sell insurance, the company I work for employs people who do. In the face of catastrophe we offer hope and salvation. We are alchemists. We turn fear into money.


Katherine Kramer has started getting angry in meetings. She has started doing this under the mistaken impression that if she acts like some of her male counterparts, she will be treated like them. This is not the case. Her anger is just annoying people she shouldn’t be annoying and suggesting to some—who she should not be suggesting anything to—that she is headed for a nervous collapse.


The subject line of the memo I wrote read simply: Assorted Issues.


I don’t know exactly why I wrote “Assorted Issues”—I was bored and frustrated I guess. It was a way of amusing myself, a way of avoiding the despair that sweeps over me regularly several times a day. It never occurred to me that anyone would read it.


Russell McGahan is a nice old man. He is my neighbor to the east. Like a lot of old men, he has a well-stocked store of regrets. One in particular that seems to come up often in conversation is the regret he feels at not having been a better father to his son. He is constantly apologizing. Russell doesn’t feel he took sufficient interest in the boy when he was young. He says too often he was just tired—his work in the upper-middle echelons of the banking industry taking out most of what he had in him. I told Russell he shouldn’t believe everything he reads—a father’s presence in his son’s life is not inevitably a blessing.


It is to me what the heart-lung machine is to the surgeon: essential. Physically I can survive the summer without it; emotionally I cannot. If it breaks down, I break down.


Most of the dreams I have are interesting only for the awkward outlandishness of their peculiarity, and most of the ones I am told—if interesting at all—are similarly interesting only for their strangeness, not for their profundity. I wish I could say I had a recurring one—I like what that would suggest about the complexity of my psyche—but I haven’t yet, so I am inclined to doubt I ever will.


It’s always difficult to imagine what is keeping Karen awake. She has so many things on her mind. While I am toying with some anesthetizing fantasy, she is worrying about her mother’s health or her brothers—one of them between jobs, the other between marriages. Tonight I have the feeling it is one of her students. We were talking about him at dinner. But maybe it is about me—the way I have been acting lately.


Karen, who notices everything there is to notice about me, finds it astonishing that Elizabeth (across the alley) doesn’t seem to know whether her husband is right or left-handed. “I bet there was a time when she used to know,” Karen says, shaking her head ever so slightly.


I don’t really seem to know how to act anymore. When I was younger, knowing didn’t really seem to be a question—now, at some level, it always is.


The Jenners over on Stimpson Street have just adopted their fourth underprivileged child. Like most of the neighbors, I respect them enormously—but like a few, I find myself also wondering exactly what it is they are trying to prove, and to whom.


Someday the doctor is going to find one. That is the day the compromising truly begins.


David May has been closed up in his office all afternoon working on the mysterious presentation he will be making tomorrow. A certifiably neurotic perfectionist, he worries about everything—so to save himself embarrassment, he prepares and prepares and prepares. He does this with an intensity the rest of us find peculiar and frightening.


Periodically I am stupefied by a sense that it is all just part of an infinitely vast, complex, ongoing accident. I can barely get up out of my chair and get myself another glass of wine.

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