Roadside Stand

“Well, so, I’ll get it set up somewhere close to the river, and you know, work at a convenience store up the street or something,” I was telling my mother.

“Ah. Of course.”

“And, you know, sell quilts by the roadside.  First I have to learn how to sew quilts.  Maybe jam instead or something.  And plant a little garden.”

“Live off the land?”

“Of course.  And have parties on weekends.  I’ll set up an outdoor kitchen, and string up lights, and we’ll all grill things and play guitars.”

“You’ll do girl things?” my mother misheard.  “What, have you just given up on men altogether?”

I considered that to be a nuclear statement, even if she’d heard me wrong, so I went with, “Ooooh I got it it! Forget the quilts.  I’ll sell BAIT!

Sigh from my mother, who was done playing along.  I could actually see her calculating the cost of my private-school education, mentally adding in a decade of ballet classes and dubiously productive piano lessons and weeks of summer camp.

I actually think I have too many teeth to be the lady selling bait down by the river, and I’d probably have to cultivate a good cigarettes-and-whiskey voice first by, well, taking up smoking and drinking lots of whiskey, and then in another decade I’d be ideal for that job.

What I was talking about, of course, is my fantasy of living in an Airstream and writing a novel after I’m laid off in two weeks.  The only thing that would freak my mother out faster than me becoming the Bait Lady, in fact, would be anything involving the word “writer.”  She’s right to keep giving me the speech that sets my teeth on edge no matter who’s delivering it, about “you’ve come too far to throw it all away,” and “think of all that you’ve invested.” And it’s true.  After beginning the career change in 2006, I have something like six more months of intern architect hours left to log.  Six more months: a tiny drop in the bucket compared to seven semesters in school, and almost three years of interning, and all-nighters and teacher assistantships and research assistantships and the decades worth of student loans I’ve just started to repay. Six more months, plus seven expensive exams, and I’d be licensed.

If I want to.  I probably want to.  But I’m not willing to sign off on anything until I’m sure.

I found this:


Y’all.  It’s practically free.  It needs a lot of work, starting with ripping out those curtains and giving it a good wash.  It is guaranteed to be a money pit.  It is guaranteed to be pretty beat-up inside.  The upholstery is Very Seventies, and not in a good way.  The refrigerator is busted.  Oh yes, and I’m about to be laid off.  There is nobody who would tell me that this particular purchase would be a wise decision, all things considered, and right at this particular moment.  “That is a crazy idea,” said the first people I told about this possibility. 

Crazy like a fox, I told them. In my head.  Because if worst comes to worse, and I can’t find/can’t face another job like the one I’m leaving, Dawg and I can sleep there, down by the river.  I’ll rent out my house for awhile, and we’ll listen to FM on a battery-powered radio under a shade tree next to our roadside stand where we’re selling quilts or jams or bait, and I’ll write the next Great American Novel while Dawg keeps an eye on the fishing line. 

You can come over, the first time we grill things.  Plan to bring your guitar.

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