Sign

Rich Furman


    I needed to just drive, so I drove north. I could have driven south toward Olympia, past the military bases, where the evergreens thicken in defiance of winter. Maybe west, over the now not-so-new bridge that replaced Galloping Gurdy, the under-engineered quiverer who crashed into the Tacoma Narrows on November 7th, 1940. East would have been fine, toward Rainer, the volcano that everyone calls “my mountain,” and I think as of today I am going to begin calling it “my volcano.” But when I hit the junction of WA16 and I-5, I yanked the plastic wheel left. By chance? A sign? Will? Randomness? Who knows, but steel and plastic and memories and I, we all cut north, passed Fife, native land covered in car lots and trailer parks. I thought of exiting at Federal Way, but couldn’t dredge a reason to traverse the nondescript suburbs and malls. A few more miles, I exited at Des Moines, maybe remembering Iowa, but there are no high bluff views of green islands and shimmering water in that state east of Nebraska, so I continued until I saw Vashon Island in the distance, and drove down the residential bluffs, close to the water, and drove down until I spied blue. I parked by the peer, grabbed my cane from the trunk, hobbled toward a few buckets of stanky small fish, lures and mollusks, and watched Ilocano fisherman troll for squid. I smiled with them, watched their lures and squid and bait all glimmer and dance together just below the water’s surface, and that was enough for the moment, so I limped slowly to my car, lowered myself into the driver seat, relieved to be off my feet. I continued north, and passed an electronic freeway communication sign. Apparently, a grey Dodge Caravan had done bad things, probably the driver of the Caravan actually, who remained nameless on the flashing freeway sign. Why was the car called out, converted to suspect, when I would guess, it was largely innocent? 

  The Dan tribe of Liberia and the Ivory Coast ascribe consciousness to the physical objects of the world, and driving away from that damning sign, I kept thinking of that Dodge. I imagined it passing the sign, unware of the acts of its driver--instead it presumed that all the world is attempting to condemn it for some horrific crime of which it had no awareness. But this brooding did not help my mood, my need to drive, my need to feel my body slice through the world, a body that no longer strides with a linear directness, but instead waddles side to side. North is often used as a metaphor for straight ahead, and so I guess I actually more than just needed to drive, but needed drive north.

    A few days ago, my left knee decided to overtake the right as the one that is “most painful and most problematic” --as an orthopedist had asked some time ago. It's been months since the left crumbling tyrant possessed that distinction. It is now three weeks until he is to be removed, sliced out and replaced with alloy and screws. But today, I will drive, a bit further north, then turn around back toward home, hands firmly on the wheel, feet gingerly on the petals, eyes searching for a sign.

 


Rich Furman, PhD, is the author or editor of over 15 books, including a collection of flash nonfiction/prose poems, Compañero (Main Street Rag, 2007). Other books include Detaining the Immigrant Other: Global and Transnational Issues (Oxford University Press, 2016), Social Work Practice with Men at Risk (Columbia University Press, 2010), and Practical Tips for Publishing Scholarly Articles (Oxford University Press, 2012). His poetry and creative nonfiction have been published in Another Chicago MagazineBluestemChiron Review, Sweet, Hawai’i Review, Pearl, Coe Review, The Evergreen Review, Black Bear Review, Red Rock Review, Sierra Nevada Review, New Hampshire Review, Penn Review, and many others. He is professor of social work at University of Washington Tacoma. A qualitative researcher whose work is situated on the boundary between the expressive arts and the social sciences, he is one of the pioneers of poetic inquiry. He is currently a student of creative nonfiction at Queens University’s MFA-Latin America program.