With our “Still Here” series, we are checking in with members of Utah’s art community to see what the past several months have meant for them. Larry Menlove broods in southern Utah Valley. His work has appeared in many venues and reaped honorable mentions for both Short Story Collection and the Novel categories in the 2020 Utah Original Writing Competition.
My wife and I have both been working our day jobs at home for several years and were already leaning well into our own hermitism, so when COVID hit with that first alarming blow last March we didn’t panic too much. Other than an initial skoosh of oh shit we don’t have enough toilet paper or hand sanitizer we more or less settled back to witness the coming apocalypse. My wife will tell you that I reveled in it rather inappropriately for about a month. I’ll admit I did. I’m not too proud of that, but with dystopian stories being a favorite of mine I couldn’t help letting a little distorted giddiness slip through.
Back at the beginning of all this I was stuck in a novel project, a place I often find myself, towards the end of a first draft, paralyzed because I thought I had something good so far and wrestling with my self-doubt that always says, you’re gonna screw this up. The pandemic has only brazened that stupid demon.
I’ve been reading, polishing old stories, writing dismal poems and angst-coated essays that could peel paint off the walls around me. When I wasn’t cursing my lousy gardening skills for a fool’s crop I spent the summer sitting on the porch holding down the urge to go out on the street and get in a fistfight with the damned teenagers roaring up and down on their dirt bikes and four-wheel ATVs. The dust was flying. Some numbnut let slip on the internet the secret that there were fireflies across the little lake I live by, and our evenings were plagued by hordes of beaming families parking up and down the road packing KFC and chirping shouts and laughter that turned my gut. The joy of all those pilgrims seeing a little fly’s butt light up churned the bile. Fall couldn’t come quick enough.
Time goes right on by, and 2020 seems to be no exception. Spring’s frantic toilet paper and Metamucil supply-demand ended. Then George Floyd was murdered, ushering in a hot-AF summer of more shouting and reckoning and all my silly stuff (see above) and then fall just seemed to lie down and die in woeful debates and an election that won’t go away. A dear friend’s father died with COVID, cats are being kidnapped a town over and let loose at my doorstep. That’s another story. I’ll sharpen my angst pencil, and write another essay. The sun’s headed for its deepest dive all year and there’s no stopping it. Lord, it’s bound to be cold.
Yeah, I’m still here waiting on a return of investment for eight months of quarantine, sitting outside in the angling sunlight fretting over the infection rate, missing my grandkids, missing the hug from a dear friend and even my mother, and I wonder how I need to position my wrestling feet, forget the COVID, and put my fingertips around my demon’s throat and type out that other half of a good novel’s end.
UTAH’S ART MAGAZINE SINCE 2001, 15 Bytes is published by Artists of Utah, a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Categories: Still Here