Building - Memoir by Pat West

April 1987


Went to town with money today. Good stuff is being said about my show. It does look good- at least it has a theme- some line to tie it all together. The sculptures appear in the paintings- the paintings tell a story about the sculptures. It’s not just another show of recent works.

It’s getting cold- have to light a fire tomorrow. Had a nice lunch with Ann and Diane.


Snow is coming- my opening is tomorrow. I started a new painting but the kids were having such a good time doing little abstracts that I started a big one myself.


Woke this morning with just a skin of snow on the ground- thought I had won. As I lay in bed feeling fine, the radio said,” up to a foot of snow in the mountains.” We are the mountains! Spent most of the day throwing anti-snow feelings against the low black clouds. Something worked. The roads were just getting snow-covered when we came home from the after-opening party my friends gave me. I’m so rich in friends. The opening was fun- lots of people came (not husband, of course). I even sold one painting. Sure am glad I went to the food store this morning. Now I can lie back and let it snow.


Snowed in in April. Glad we have food. Been burning on the paintings- feel real good about them. The kids have been painting too. I feel great except for my foot and when I think of money.


Finally got all the birds I could ever want at my big window. The last snow made them give up the last of their fears about eating in front of people.

I’m painting a lot- nothing else to do.


Sick to death of slush and mud. Feel so sorry for myself when I dig into piles of icy sawdust, hoping for an over-looked stick of firewood. Slipping and falling in the mud- cold and wet. My poor old horse begging for food, looking like a cartoon drawing of an old nag.

Want to see the sun.


No sun- but at least no rain. Painted all day with foot wrapped in heating pad.


Chinese medicine man Vince Black blows into town- looks at my foot- says it is out of line- sticks needles in it- pulls and snaps it into a line that suits him- puts bone powder on it- says it will be fine soon. I hope so- it sure hurts now.


I want a new lover. I want my blood to bubble. I want to feel the top of my head coming off. I want to spend whole days in bed with a man who has never heard my stories. I want a time where it’s quite all right to be very silly.


It being spring, I was thinking of Christmas and my kids. How I hate our family Christmas. Have wanted to give the kids something wonderful to remember before their dysfunctional family becomes nonfunctional. Got this wild ass idea to take the kids to south Mexico this Christmas. I hear it’s cheap down there and they have never been out of the country- neither have I. But it would mean growing 12 pot plants for the ticket money. It will be scary but I’m very good at hiding them.


Girls brought down a box of tiny baby possums Herb found and said to give them to me- damn Herb and damn the mother possum. I can’t get them to eat- they won’t nurse on a doll bottle- eyedropper-broom straw- anything I try. What does a possum tit look like? A cold wet day- I got a good start on a new painting.


Found a way to feed the possums. Give them rags soaked in an egg-milk mix and they roll around clinging to their bit of wet rag, sucking on it. After each feeding, the slimy babies must be washed and dried. Use the girls’ hair dryer to blow them dry.

It’s been raining for days. The river is high and brown- no house water.


Finally went and cut out the window over my bed- made it into an opening sash. Have been enjoying looking and hearing out it. My river reaches into my open window, snatches my troubles and floats them away.


Sick again- makes me so mad. I think my foot must be poisoning my whole body- have to take my show down tomorrow- river still high to start the pump.

I was on the phone, rattling on to Mary about the baby possums when she cackled something about me still taking care of husband’s babies. Such rage and bile came up out of me that if Mary had been in the room, I would have throttled her- and she was only the messenger.


More rain.
I took down the show- found I had sold two more paintings.

I’ve given up on my foot- just drag it after me like a cat on a leash. Masturbate a lot. Feel I must build up orgasms for the long summer ahead of kids everywhere.


A long line of ants is moving across three walls- wonder why? What for? Have to believe the ants know.

Life is closing up and down on me. I feel only a little afraid.


I saw a house burn today. It was smoking when I crested the hill. I slammed on my brakes, ran up to the house yelling, but the door was already hot and with all the smoke streaming out I couldn’t even try going in. Betty’s car was gone and if her old dotty mother was in the house, she was already dead. The postman went to call for help and I sat down in the front yard for a private viewing. Smoke was leaking from every seam by then and the house appeared to bulge. I could hear the distant fire horn sounding while I watched flames shoot out an upstairs window. There were snapping sounds like when you put a wet pan on a hot burner and all the windows started breaking. The fire fed on all the new air and the roof was engulfed. The house began to shrink. The power line fell off and began to spark and dance. The roof was caving in when I moved my car so the fire trucks could do their “surround and drown”. It started to get crowded fast. This part I’d seen before so I went on to town. When I cam back, the hilltop was quiet again. Just Betty and her Mom poking about among the pile of blackened boards and bits of twisted plumbing.

Every time I come around the last bend in my road, I hold my breath till I see my house still standing.

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