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You Just Never Know

January 19, 2005

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. It was filled with romantic ballads and stories about vodka and chains and acupuncture — the kinds of things that get a person taking stock of her own life and wondering whether a bit of excitement might be in order. Especially with the wind chill as low as it was last weekend, and all 27 windows in the house leaking heat and me sitting on a step stool by the oven, which I'd cranked up to 400 and left open so at least one room was warm. I'd thought about buying that plastic window covering stuff at Menard's but it seemed a little pricey and I figured by the time I'd have covered all the windows in the house it would warm up again anyway. So I skipped it. It's good to shiver now and then anyway, to feel what "cold" really means.

Anyway, there I was kind of huddled up next to the oven with my Russian tea and Mr. Keillor talking about his desire to lick a pump handle. Which I did once when I was in second grade and let me tell you, there has been nothing like it since. And I didn't just lick it with the tip of my tongue. Nope, I stuck it way out and smashed the whole thing onto the frozen metal. To make a long story short, it was a good hour from the moment I peeled my tongue away (leaving a good portion of its top layer behind) to when I made it into the arms of my mother, who said it would heal in a day or two and suggested she might blend up some chili which I could drink through my nose with a straw. I said no, thank you.

So I was alone in the house, with Mr. Sundberg in Detroit and the kids away at the Children's Museum with their Aunt Judy who's always out on adventures. I admire people like that. People who just get up and go without thinking too hard or planning it all out. Last summer Judy went to Michigan one Tuesday morning. Just because she needed a change. She's a lot like Mr. Sundberg that way — it's about the only resemblance they have as brother and sister. They both take off and go. She hopped in her car that Tuesday and drove way the heck across Wisconsin to Sheboygan, where she got on a ferry and three hours later drove her car off the ferry and all the way down to Silver Lake where she paid a resort owner $50 for two nights in a cabin that had been booked but the couple had cancelled. So there it was.

I know all of this because Judy called me late that night. I was up reading the last chapter of Out of Africa and the phone rang. "Oh, Honey, " she said. "I am just now looking at the most beautiful sight on God's green earth. It's all lake and sand dunes and moonlight. I just went for a swim and the water is glowing a bluish green." But it's past midnight, I told her. "I know," she said. "Isn't it wonderful? And I left my swimsuit back in Minnesota." She went on for half an hour telling me about the walleye dinner she'd had with Ralph, the caretaker for the resort, and how he told her she ought to wear blue every day.

Judy and Ralph have been talking regularly since last summer and things seem to be heating up long distance. Ralph has visited twice and has expressed interest in opening a hot-air-balloon business here along the river. Judy is thinking of buying a house out in the woods. And I'm happy for them both. They both like to ski and he was a cook at a German restaurant for fifteen years and she knows how to drive a tractor. It all goes to show: Get in your car one day and drive awhile. You just never know.

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