A Picture of Something

by jkatejohnston

21 August 2015

Dear Max,

At dinner Enzo asked if he could sing something inappropriate. I don’t think we answered. We were curious. He sang something with the word “sexy” in it.

“Where’d you hear that?”

“I made it up. Evil thoughts.” I went for paper and pen. “Do you have to write down every crunch I make?” (Tortilla chips were part of the dinner.) I think I told him, or maybe I only thought, that it’s a good habit to write down what people say, word for word.

He said, “I have a story.” He waited for me to be ready and then spoke slowly so that I could get it down. “Once I ate—I actually drank—some chocolate milk—it was actually hot chocolate—and I went outside for Colin to smell my breath, and he licked the inside of my mouth!”

“Colin or Petey?” I said.

“Colin! I’m not that gross.” Petey usually has bits of debris floating in his drool. He’s constantly picking things up and chewing on them for a while, in an exploratory way. After he finishes drinking, the water bowl always has bits and pieces floating in it.

Teresa mentioned an article in the Sacramento Bee about two Paku that were found in the Delta. Paku is a South American fish, rumored to bite human testicles and worse, an invasive species. Enzo said, “Once these things start to get really numerous, like there’s a lot of them, we can use them for fertilizer.”


While looking for some lost item in his room, “Where’s the world’s most uncharted place? Under the bed.”


“I had such a bad dream. I felt like I was having a seizure without the shaking. My whole body felt uncontrolled.” I didn’t catch the whole dream, but it had something to do with a velociraptor in the back yard.


In Enzo’s story that he wanted me to write down, I like all his revisions in the direction of accuracy. Not eating, drinking; not chocolate milk, hot chocolate. Johnson would approve. I like non-fiction for its obligation to plain fact. A few weeks ago I wrote about buying cardamom and Hubba Bubba at the Red Sea grocery store. And I was dying to write that it was Ethiopian cardamom because it made a better contrast with Hubba Bubba. And it was so close to being true. I’d gone there looking for Ethiopian cardamom, but couldn’t find it. Of course I ended up writing the truth: plain old cardamom, and it was fine that way. Usually what really happened is more interesting than whatever attention-getting bit of fiction I’m tempted to insert. In this case, I think Ethiopian cardamom actually is better. But it would be, as Johnson said, a picture of nothing.

Here’s what I hope is a link the the passage in the Life of Johnson. If you want to find it on paper, it’s in the year 1776. https://books.google.com/books?id=mo0EAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA435&lpg=PA435&dq=life+of+johnson+picture+of+nothing&source=bl&ots=blVM1WdlOm&sig=JYdqM7IzcxFLAYyMByPepOYzi6k&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0CCgQ6AEwBGoVChMIgufDw7i6xwIV11eICh37pwhG#v=onepage&q=life%20of%20johnson%20picture%20of%20nothing&f=false