Today has been a miracle symphony.
I took off work two hours early in order to get to a gig over in SE Portland again. That means that someone else would have to take two hours of my route and do it for me. But, when I looked at the volume of mail and considered which route I was on (“God”), I told them that if someone could take one hour I would make up the difference.
That is when it began, this day of wonder and a day of change. That miracle symphony actually did guide me and comfort and bless me all day as I began delivering. I needed it, needed to hear it and to feel it, because of much that has happened and not happened and because of the thing in SE Portland later. It was going well—buoyantly, even—and soon into it, I realized that I probably could have taken all the mail and done the entire route and still left work two hours before quitting time.
But to do so would have been to my disadvantage, going above and beyond excessively to the extent that no good is done for anyone else, and harm is actually done to me. It would be “shooting myself in the foot” as they say. As I say too, because I have actually done that: I have shot myself in my own foot, and at an extremely close range.
It was the summer between 4th and 5th grades in Konawa, Oklahoma. My dad had a construction job there, just for the summer, to help get the building of a lake underway, so we rented a cute house with a mimosa tree in the front yard. I’d climb up in that tree and sit for hours in the cool of the day. When it got too hot I’d go into the air-conditioned cuteness and read Hardy Boys mysteries. All of the rest of the time, I would wander around the small town with my BB gun.
Soon, I became a dead shot with that gun. I could easily shoot a wasp at any distance from which I could see the wasp. Once I shot a fly. I stuck some wood matches in the top of a fence in the backyard and shot the tips, striking them. That gun and I (I still have it) became like one thing. We were intertwined such that when I raised it to aim, it was like an extension of my arm—a true point and shoot.
And then, I shot myself.
For some reason, I thought it would be a great idea to put the tip of the barrel on my right foot (which was shoeless), and then walk around the yard stiff-legged like a tin man or something. And for another reason, I decided to keep the gun “cocked” meaning that the lever action pump had primed the chamber with air and all I had to do was pull the trigger to fire. And for another reason altogether, I decided that I’d keep my finger on the trigger so that if I saw a fly or a wasp or even an airborne match, I could quickly shoot.
So I did all of those things for those reasons and then reason must have retreated into the cool cuteness because it had left me completely. I took one step and as my foot went down with the gun resting on it, it pulled said gun away from my hand thus pressing the trigger against my finger. The trigger worked really well that time, and I shot myself at point blank range.
It hurt, like a wasp sting from a wasp I had missed perhaps, and the pain went from my right foot all the way up my right leg and into both sides of my dignity. I dropped my gun and looked at my foot, expecting to see a tiny hole all the way through it. No hole was there, thank God, but there was a small crater, a spherical indentation in my flesh.
Well, I will never do that again, I thought, rubbing my foot until the dent was gone.
I was thinking about that all day, as I slowed down a bit and enjoyed an easy day with “God” as a route and God as a worker of miracles, and I’d easily finish two hours early minus that one hour that I gave away.
With irony, now that I think about it, one of my first stops on this route is a gun shop. They were closed when I had arrived early, so I put their mail aside, and now I’d deliver it at the end of my route, going back up SE McLoughlin Blvd toward the station. It would mean a left turn into that parking lot and then a left turn out onto the busy four-lane, but I had the time. I even sat in my truck, waiting for the finale of that glorious Rhapsody, before I went into the gun shop and delivered their mail.
I headed back to the station slowly and carefully, knowing that my best was good enough and better than most.
If I worked any harder today, I’d be shooting myself in the foot.
Not gonna do that again.
Photograph “My Right Leg” © 2018 Timothy Waugh