"Mostly," she said. Her voice sounded tinny over the phone line, three thousand miles away.
"What do you mean, mostly?" I asked.
"Nothing. Forget it. How's your trip?"
"You know, Muse," I said. "You scare me sometimes."
She giggled. "I know. Now stop worrying. How's the trip."
"Are you actually interested or are you trying to distract me from whatever horrors you're laying down upon my house?"
"A little of both."
"You're welcome," she said. "Now go on."
"Fine. Day Three. I was awarded custody of my grandfather's retirement watch, given to him back in 1984 following his first series of heart attacks and semi-forced retirement from the lumber yard that he put nearly forty years into."
"Forty years? Must be a hell of a watch."
"It doesn't appear to be anything special, although it's engraved with his name and retirement date. Still, he wore it up until the point he couldn't see the hands any more, so I'm glad to have it. After his retirement, he used to tell people that he dreamed all night long about working in the yard, so he still put in at least forty hours a week there. It always bothered him, I think, that he had to retire. He was a working man, and I think that was the beginning of a slow decline for him, since he didn't feel so useful anymore. Although, come to think of it, once he was retired was when I remember him really being there for other people, including me. I think he just turned his energies from working at the mill to be useful to making himself useful in people's lives. He did a good job of it, too, if you ask me. I hope I can be half as good to friends and family as he was."
"You do a fairly good job of it, sweetums."
"It's a start. He had a little more practice at it than I've had. Give me some more time."
"Indeed," the Muse said. "What else did you do today?"
I switched the phone to my other ear and lay back on my grandfather's bed. "I was up early, for me at least, a little after nine in the morning. My brother was expecting us in the morning to come collect him for a day trip, and so we did. An hour's drive to grab him, followed by a three hour drive south towards Yosemite, to see some redwoods."
"Ooh, redwoods! I've always wanted to see them up close."
"Well, Muse, if you ever come out with me, I'll take you. We'll head north though, and not south. There are redwoods south of here that are big, and I've got a few photos for you to prove it, but they aren't as plentiful or spectacular as the ones up north are. They've got trees there that have roads carved through the trunks. You drive your car through them, Muse. The more southern ones aren't as big, but they were closer from my brother's place than the northern batch. Even so, we're talking big-ass trees, Muse. Several hundred feet high, easily twenty to thirty feet in width. Not circumference, mind you, just width. I've got photos of the stump of one redwood that was 350 feet tall before it was cut down in the late 1800s. Once the tree fell, a two lane bowling alley and saloon were built on it, and the stump had a casino constructed on it. It's fucking huge, Muse."
"Why did they cut it down? Was it sick or something?"
"Nope. Capitalism at its best. Someone cut it down to take a cross section on tour, to show people how big a tree it was. Yay, America."
"Indeed. There were two other trees there that were about half the size that one had been, and they all looked like they'd been through some fire damage at some point. I'm guessing maybe they survived fires there that took down most of the other large trees, because only smaller ones were around there. By smaller, though, I'm still talking hundred and fifty, two hundred feet high and ten feet across. It's all relative."
"Speaking of relative," she said, "how's that hot brother of yours?"
"Get in line, Muse. Everyone who meets him wants to do him. The little fucker. Where was that power when I was his age? Here I had to get by on my brains, where he can skate by on his rock star charms. The little bastard."
"You love him."
"Of course," I said. "He's a good kid. So stay out of his pants. You'll only corrupt him."
"That's the idea."
"Moving on," I said. "After a couple of hours in the redwoods, we drove the three hours back to his place and dropped him off, then came back to the grandparents house, where I now sit, sleepy, talking to you, after having finished answering my email and chatting with Belle."
"So it was mostly a driving day, it seems."
"Totally. I'm fucking wiped. I did all the driving, and I have to admit seeing the black dog about halfway home from the forest."
"Black dog?" she asked.
"Patrick Swayze movie. Doesn't matter. Just means I hit my driving wall and should have stopped, but we had to get back here before we could quit moving."
"You seriously should go to bed, darling," she said.
"I'm planning on it. Just had to catch you up on the day before I could. It's my duty, after all."
"Something like that," she said.
"Is the house still standing, Muse?" I asked.
"Still here. Quit worrying."
"For tonight, I'll stop. Tomorrow, though, is another day."
"Day after that and you'll be home. You can see that the house is still in one piece. Mostly."
"You keep saying that, Muse."
"Just playing with your head. Maybe."
"I'm going to bed. You're making me want to smother you with a pillow."
"True love, that's what it is."
"Something like that," I said. "Say goodnight, Muse. I've got to crash."
"Goodnight," she said. "Call me tomorrow. I insist."
"At my house, right?"
"But of course! You didn't expect differently, did you?" She chuckled mischievously.
"Of course not. Evil Muse."
"Goodnight, sweetie," she said.