They were difficult days and nights after my son’s mother and I separated almost 20 years ago. I was cartooning then, preparing weekly comic panels and strips for perhaps 50 publications around the country. I felt compelled to inject humor into the fear/depression that pretty much had me nailed that first year. The drawings that emerged were perhaps more often bitter than funny. So it goes.

The sales firm I managed specialized in gifts and greeting cards. The best company I represented produced comic-character books and calendars. Twice a year, trade shows left me the samples to be able to bargain with other exhibitors. During one show’s slow stretch, I came across a gaggle of large, quasi-concrete garden fountains gurgling away in a trade show booth with a green Astroturf motif. Nights were hardest during this period on my own. The sound of fountains generated a calm I deeply craved. I opened negotiations with the exhibitor, a local rep. He made it clear that one less fountain to haul back to his garage would be a blessing. I offered him Calvin & Hobbes and Far Side books. I got the fountain at wholesale in exchange for books I had hundreds of. I brought a brand new, concrete-like fountain back to my apartment.

Next stop the rug shop. I haggled with the Middle Easterner for his most beat-up, cheapest piece. I found one at a price I could afford. In my kitchen, I cut a hole in the center of the rug and then splayed the rug out at the foot of my bed, across the bedroom floor.

Lifting unbelievably heavy, disassembled fountain chunks up the two flat stairs into my bedroom, I engineered the pieces back together, with the cord running to a socket hidden by the rug.

I poured water into the cistern and turned it on.

As a cartoonist, I seek absurdities. As a writer, I probe for connection. I am pleasantly confounded when the same target evokes both. Humor and epiphany are so closely related that journeying after one often brings me to the doorway of the other.

The goofy fountain did its gurgle thing all through each night. When I started dating, ladies were delighted by the device.

I fell in love. I toppled off the love abyss. Fear and depression were murmured away by the sounds of the fountain and my lover’s laughter. One night, while making love, I experienced the veil lift. The spiritual and the physical, sex and god, combined. I was making love with an angel. I could see the wings.

The fountain is long gone. The kids adored its glorious eccentricity, but it just got to be too much to haul each move. No matter, its gurgling laughter has been permanently installed.


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