I’ve been sitting in on a writing class taught by one of my colleagues, Jen Dracos, and this is what came out in my freewrite at the beginning of yesterday’s class. The prompt was “I’m not going to tell you about . . . ”
I’m not going to tell you about Old Faithful, about the tourists who gather in great half circles on the concentric-ringed benches, looking at their watches and wondering if the Park Service has lied to them. “It’s fifteen minutes overdue” they’ll say to one another. I’m definitely not going to repeat the teasing “Okay, that was it” refrain that ripples through the crowd after every minor splatter of water in the buildup. To give you the full effect, I’d have to repeat it over and over in a variety of voices from all different sides, pretending to get up and leave each time, and I won’t do that to you, even though I might like your help in figuring out why they believe the joke gets better with repetition. “Old Faithful sure isn’t faithful anymore” seems likewise to have staying power.
Instead, I want to tell you about the coyote in the Old Faithful parking lot, sliding between parked Winnebagos and Hyundais and Harleys on his arrow-straight transit to God-knows-where. I’ll tell you about the disdainful side-long glance he gives me as he ghosts past, and how I freeze with one foot on the pavement and one still in my car. He passes by so closely that I can step out and scratch him between the ears, or at least could have if I had dared to disturb the universe. I forget all about the camera I’m clutching, the bauble I had gone back to the car to fetch. I’d like to tell you about the wall of lodgepole pines that swallowed him at the far end of the parking lot, but there’s just not that much to say about them, a nondescript clot of trees with nothing behind them but trees and still more trees rolling away for miles and miles and miles, nothing to speak of but the Firehole River, Pipeline Hot Springs, Mallard Lake, the Central Plateau, the Continental Divide. Maybe someday I’ll find something to tell you about that terrain.
Instead, I guess I’ll have to tell you about Old Faithful after all. I watched the coyote vanish, looked at my watch, and hustled off to rejoin my family. I had to hurry; according to the official ranger prediction, the next eruption would occur within plus-or-minus ten minutes of ten minutes from now.
Exactly why I’ve been giving up a free period to audit her class is a topic I’ll write about soon enough–I do have something up my sleeve.