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Oronte Churm Out-of-Office Reply
August 27, 2007 - 7:13am


Hello. I am currently out of the office and am unable to take your calls, e-mails, text messages, instant messages, faxes, wires, smoke signals, or cave paintings. If this is an emergency, please pull the cord mounted on the wall near the toilet, and a nurse’s aide will assist you.

Here, where I am, the people are fine, the people here are nice, the people here drive like they’re all crazy—what’s the matter with these people? In the Sunflower Café waitresses sit down in booths with elderly customers who shuffle photos of kids like decks of cards, hoping for a good hand. Early retirees, robust, tanned, and laughing, describe the waitresses to me as “booze hags.” The women’s hands shake as they pour the coffee. They move round each other in a practiced dance. They minister to the dying with buttered toast, and holler obscene jokes over the din, but do not ask them about their hangovers. Don’t ask.

Offshore, motorboats lop brains off manatees and leave wakes as proud as scars. The shallows blacken with algae blooms. All the “Panther Crossing” signs are gone from the airport road. Mechanical harvesters have clear-cut the pines along the road and gathered them like sheaves of wheat. Cats doze acres of sand flat and square as a Midwestern farm.

I regret I missed you. There are so many things to say. I’ll be back in the office later this week, and we’ll figure all this out together. It should be easy, after all.


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