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Succotash, thought George.
Standing in the shower, not thinking of anything in particular.
What? Succotash?
What on earth would make me think of that?

He was used to the early morning mental clutter that passed for thinking.
Thoughts washing through his mind as water sluiced over his head.
He was never fully alert at this time of day.
It always took a while for his conscious brain to get organized.
And he never paid the mind-burbling much attention.
But succotash?

George knew that science said that only four per cent of the universe was known.
The rest was called “dark matter” or “dark energy” – not because it was black – it was just unknown – unaccounted for – so far unperceivable.
George had a personal reason for finding that information useful.
He felt he could account for only about four per cent of the workings of his mind.
The rest was dark matter or dark energy – ninety-six per cent of it.
The mystery of the meat between his ears was how he thought of it.
He believed in Black Holes in the Universe, because he seemed to have a small Black Hole at the center of his mental galaxy.

Thinking of the word succotash was an example.
Unbidden, un-requested, the word came to him.
He had not eaten succotash or seen succotash or thought of succotash since he was a small child.
Succotash – he could see it in his mind now – little chunks of peas, carrots, lima beans and corn in a goopy butter sauce.|
His mother made him eat it – or tried to.

He would eat it only after carefully separating each vegetable into a pile, because he believed that if different foods touched each other, they would become poisonous – he could die – his older cousins had let him in on that terrible truth.
Nothing would persuade him otherwise.
In sympathy, his father brought home a tray used in army cafeterias – with little compartments for different foods.

Maybe it was the tray out of his childhood that had come to mind when he was taking his morning shower.
A sign that George was trying to put his thoughts into separate compartments – to avoid chaos when he was trying to consciously think clearly about just one thing at a time – because when all jumbled together they were mental succotash.

He did not feel like he was in charge of his mind these days.
Waking dreams, sleeping dreams, hallucinations of an avatar, music, garbled thinking, strange voices speaking. . . the edge of madness?

After showering and dressing, George got a notebook and pen, intending to try to capture any more random thoughts of his day – to try to rein in the wild horses in his mind and assert control.
He would stalk his own brain and record what it did – whatever it did.

The meat will contemplate the meat, he thought.

The task proved much harder than he imagined.
In less than hour he felt he like he had dropped the reins and his six-horse team and wagon-load of thoughts were roaring downhill out of control.
Thoughts and images came pouring into consciousness.
As fast as he tried to capture one, it fled, shoved aside by more oncoming insistent mental traffic.

Part of the difficulty lay in what he felt was his secret life.
The activity he would never share with anyone else – thoughts that were inane, stupid, bizarre, unintelligible, irrational, crude, and confused.
One piled in on another – in between lucid streams of consciousness.

Determined, he persevered.
In half an hour he managed to record these words and sentences and reflections:

1. Quit cold turkey. (Why do we say that when we end a habit?)

2. Deja vu. Deja vu.

3. What time is it? How do I tell time? What does time tell me?

4. Silly goose. (Why does Vera call me that? What experience has she had with geese?)

5. Rain. (I like walking in the rain – it gives me a kind of public privacy.)

6. So many things people told me when I was young turned out to be true.
But a lot did not – and you can’t know which is which ahead of time.

7. I was told that when there was lightning, it mean God was taking our picture.
Am I really sure that’s not true?

8. If ignorance is bliss, why aren’t most of us happy?

9. Piece of a poem:
“They tell me I’m going to die.
My cup is full.
Let it spill.”
(who wrote that?)

10. Fried oysters.

11. Parts of a song: “Rock me mama like a wagon wheel, rock me . . .”

12. Aphids, ladybugs, grasshoppers.

13. Mice and lice and dice and rice.

14. Next Wednesday is recycle day – don’t forget.

15. Difference between umwelt and umfeld (German) – one’s environment, which is subjective, and one’s surroundings which are objective.
Not the same. But where does one begin and the other leave off?

16. Gestalt (look that up to make sure what it means.)

17. The end of history and the beginning of the future are the same.
Depends on whether you look back or look forward.

18. Hockey-pucks. Funny sounding word.
(Put that next to succotash as a puzzling notion.)

19. It’s not true that the present is the most stressful time in history.
In the days of hunting and gathering, every day was live or die.
In the days of agriculture, every day was a crisis.
In much of the past every town was at war with the town next door.
Neighbors against neighbors.
Plagues, fires, drought, flood, famine.
Pretty stressful.
I’ll take now, not then . . .

20. Vera

There was more – stuff that blew by too fast for him to write down before
another thought overpowered it – thought piled on top of thought.

My God, it’s exhausting to try to keep up with your mind’s output.

* * * * *

While George was trying to capture his thoughts on paper, the telephone interrupted him.

ring….ring….ring

“Hello?”

“Eddie, you bastard, where’s my wallet?”
A young woman’s voice.

“You must have the wrong number. This isn’t Eddie.”

“Yes it is – you’re disguising your voice – I want my wallet back.”

“You really do have the wrong number – I’m not Eddie – Eddie isn’t here – and I don’t know anyone named Eddie.”

“If it’s the wrong number, why did you answer the phone?”

“What?”

She began crying.

“You’re really upset. Let me see if I can help – I’m good at being a finder of lost things – just give me the details and I’ll try.”

“Well . . . I came home last night late . . . and went to bed . . . and Eddie came home after I was asleep . . . and when I got up this morning . . . Eddie and my wallet were gone . . . the dirty bastard took my wallet. . . And everything is in it – money, driver’s license, credit cards, secret passwords – everything!
My identity will be stolen. My life is over!”

“Lady, I . . .”

“I’m not a lady – I’m a young woman.”

“OK, young woman . . . It seems to me you’ve got three separate problems – all mixed up – a missing wallet, a questionable relationship with Eddie, and a case of emotional outrage.”

She began crying again – sobbing and blubbering – saying words George couldn’t make any sense of.

“Listen, your wallet is under your car – you dropped it last night when you were getting out in a hurry, and then accidentally kicked it further over underneath the driver’s side.”

“What? How do you know?”

“Well, it’s a guess, but I’ve done the same thing a couple of times.”

But that wasn’t the truth.
George didn’t want to tell her the truth.
He had never lost his wallet under his car.
But he had an image of her car and her wallet in his mind as clear as if he was standing by her car – a white Honda sedan.
And he was certain nothing was missing.
It was a Mender of Destinies moment.
He saw the wallet – thought – and said to himself – So shall it be.

“Just take a chance that I’m right and go out and look under the car.
I’ll hold the phone until you come back.”

George heard a door open, then another.
Faintly, from outside, he heard her scream.
“Holy Mother of God!”

“IT WAS THERE! IT WAS THERE!” she shouted into the phone.
“And nothing’s missing – nothing!”
Now she was laughing.

“Who are you?” she asked “You must be a wizard, or a magician?”

“Just a lucky break for you – but I’m a good guesser,”
And a Mender of Destinies, thought George.

“Eddie won’t believe this.”

“Maybe you shouldn’t tell him the truth – at least not the whole story.
And maybe you should rethink the truth of what you think of Eddie.
Are you even sure Eddie was there last night?”

She was crying again.
“But . . . but . . . but . . . Eddie . . .”

“Listen, I can’t help you with Eddie – that’s out of my league – I just do lost wallets – and sometimes lost dogs.”

“How did you know I have a dog? Who are you? Where are you? How can I ever thank you?”

“Let’s not go into that. I have to go now. Just enjoy your good luck. If you lose your dog, call me – you have my number.”

As he hung up the phone, George thought:
She has a sheep dog – a big, white, wooly sheep dog.
I can see it.
And the dog has not gone astray – but maybe I have . . .

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