Sketch: Coming Down

Sun coming up, clear and cold, illuminating the breath. Not waking; haven’t been to bed. House full of snoring friends. Sipping Cuervo from an almost empty bottle. Light down through the ridges, shaped into sawteeth by the treeline, shines through the fog rising from the orchard, the trees just barely green with new leaves. Cars parked haphazardly along the dirt road. A pickup on the front lawn, tire gouges in the wet turf. No other houses in sight, but a few columns of chimney smoke. Crows in the trees, still, one now and then hopping from an upper to lower branch.

Kelso must have really been wasted; he left his acoustic propped against a table covered with empties. It’s an effort to move, but pick it up by the neck. Heavy, it’s a substantial guitar. Try to remember a chord; all you can think of are A, D, and E–not very satisfying at this hour. Then you see chord boxes in your mind’s eye for A and E minor, strumming quietly, alternating between the two. Dylan’s “Senor” coming and going.

Sunday? Sunday. They will wake slowly, stumble into the kitchen, where the coffee’s brewing. A few will probably have to be roused. Then breakfast for those who can eat. Leave taking in the afternoon: hugs, smiles, a few tears. Then the last taillights bumping down the road and out of sight past the bend.

Finally, it’s just you and her, and the dirty dishes and pets wanting fed. Break out the vinyl, familiar cracks and hisses, and put on something you’ve heard so many times that you know the bass parts. Arms up to elbows in soapy water, your reflection in the window: a little less hair, a few more lines. In the background, the door to the office: stories, plays, poems impatiently waiting to be written.

Well. That’s hours away. Now, it’s just you and the sleepers, and the guitar, and the mistletoe in the oaks, and the spider webs lit with dew, and a squirrel running, stopping, then running furiously to disappear in tall grass.

Look up, and the red tail glides past a big cedar and vanishes into fog.

About Steve Patterson

Steve Patterson has written over 50 plays, with works staged in Portland, Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit, Austin, Tampa, and other U.S. cities as well as in Canada and New Zealand. His works include: Waiting on Sean Flynn, Next of Kin, Farmhouse, Malaria, Shelter, Altered States of America, The Continuing Adventures of Mr. Grandamnus, Bluer Than Midnight, Bombardment, Dead of Winter, and Delusion of Darkness. In 2006, his bittersweet Lost Wavelengths was a mainstage selection at Portland Center Stage's JAW/West festival, and, in 2008, won the Oregon Book Award (he also was an OBA finalist in 1992 and 2002). In 1997, he won the inaugural Portland Civic Theatre Guild Fellowship for his play Turquoise and Obsidian. View all posts by Steve Patterson

5 responses to “Sketch: Coming Down

  • xtine

    hi s,i like ‘coming down’ and then first phrase: coming up. directional to start. a nice gesture. the crack and hiss of the vinyl. the little squirrel running. and the way the hawk disappears. a lovely vanishing. these pencil marks get light and finally lift off the page.x

  • splattworks

    Thanks, x, for the kind words and observations. If it wasn’t obvious, this was written while listening to “Sunday Morning Coming Down.”S

  • xtine

    aha, s. nice.what is that song?x

  • splattworks

    It’s a Kris Kristofferson song:Well I woke up Sunday morning,With no way to hold my head that didn’t hurt.And the beer I had for breakfast wasn’t bad,So I had one more for dessert.Then I fumbled through my closet for my clothes,And found my cleanest dirty shirt.An’ I shaved my face and combed my hair,An’ stumbled down the stairs to meet the day.I’d smoked my brain the night before,On cigarettes and songs I’d been pickin’.But I lit my first and watched a small kid,Cussin’ at a can that he was kicking.Then I crossed the empty street,’n caught the Sunday smell of someone fryin’ chicken.And it took me back to somethin’,That I’d lost somehow, somewhere along the way.On the Sunday morning sidewalk,Wishing, Lord, that I was stoned.’Cos there’s something in a Sunday,Makes a body feel alone.And there’s nothin’ short of dyin’,Half as lonesome as the sound,On the sleepin’ city sidewalks:Sunday mornin’ comin’ down.In the park I saw a daddy,With a laughin’ little girl who he was swingin’.And I stopped beside a Sunday school,And listened to the song they were singin’.Then I headed back for home,And somewhere far away a lonely bell was ringin’.And it echoed through the canyons, Like the disappearing dreams of yesterday.On the Sunday morning sidewalk,Wishing, Lord, that I was stoned.’Cos there’s something in a Sunday,Makes a body feel alone.And there’s nothin’ short of dyin’,Half as lonesome as the sound,On the sleepin’ city sidewalks:Sunday mornin’ comin’ down.

  • xtine

    how beautifully sad, s.lovely.

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