Nothing Up My Sleeves

Slowly like the Cheshire cat, if there’s any justice
At first the flesh and then a mist until there’s simply nothing
I can’t forget that she forgave the fact that I forgot
It seems the breeze- the days and dreams- have stolen what was lost
But now there’s nothing left, it seems
But memories and faulty thoughts.
So let us inter the past
With the could have beens and oughts-

Such pretense has no power here
Stripped bare of grace and charm
The Cheshire cat is gone for good
Yet where he was is warm.

On the Nose

Sixteen months and five million dollars later, they had just about succeeded.  All that was left was the final blast and a little bit of clean-up work, and then a mountain in West Virginia just tall enough to be a mountain but not large enough to have a name would have been reduced to rubble, paved flat, and eventually turned into the location for the fifth largest golf and spa resort within an afternoon’s drive of the Eastern Seaboard.  A few more pounds of dynamite- some dump trucks, and that was it- they would have redefined the map.

The obstacles had been many- of course, the usual environmental groups had complained about some special feathered wood owl or something or other, they had unearthed some primitive bones and intricate stone carvings, politicians had been bribed- but now it was almost over.

Three bulldozers and eighteen men had died when a dynamite blast caused an avalanche.  Everyone cried for a week, it seems, then the digging continued.

That night, the foreman of the project stayed late, drink three quarters of a bottle of Wild Turkey, and paraded around the spot where the summit of the mountain had once stood, now reduced to a small pile of rubble.

I moved a mountain, he repeated over and over, not even ceasing the incantation when choosing to piss all over the dirt.  As the flatness spun around him and the alcohol took him over, he realized that this was the greatest achievement of his life, this dismantling of an entire mountain.  He threw the bottle down, smashing it against a pile of rocks.

I moved a mountain! he screamed, slipping on the mud created by the remainder of the booze and slicing his hand on a piece of the broken glass.  He looked at his hand, full of blood, and laughed.  Then he wet himself and screamed I moved a mountain again, thrusting his bloody hand toward the half quarter moon.

He pulled his cellphone out of his pocket and clumsily dialed.

Five rings.

Hello?

Hey, babe, it’s me-

Where the hell are you?

We finished the project and I thought I’d celebrate-

God, are you drunk again? 

Just a little, but I can’t drive.  Need help.

I can’t leave the kids, Frank.  Peter’s sick. 

But I need a drive.  I mean, ride.

You need more than that.  I’m sorry, but I can’t help you tonight.  Please don’t call back tonight- if the kids hear your voice, they’ll get upset, and it’ll be hours before I can put them to bed again. 

But babe-

She audibly sighed.  We’ve been over this.  You had your chance, Frank.  Multiple chances.  You made your choice.  You blew it. 

Click.

He dropped the phone to his side and passed out for about an hour, only waking up when his urine soaked jeans turned cold in the night air.  He climbed to his feet and began lumbering toward the construction trailer and his truck beyond.  After a few seconds, he grabbed the phone and pressed the redial button.

I moved a mountain he muttered to himself, as he listened to the rings.

Twilight Mud

Everything night before I go to sleep, in the spare moments before I drift away, I try to picture a field in my mind.  It’s never clear- more of an idea than a place- but it’s there.  It’s my idealistic image of nature, I suppose- a field of uncut grass rippling in the wind.  There’s a tree, standing alone, with woods one can’t see but that are surely there surrounding it on all sides.  That’s as close as I can get.  I hope, every night, that I’ll dream of this field and be able to roam through it- I never do.

I don’t think words can capture that- but I think everyone has their own field, their own vision before they fall asleep at night.  I often forget how little I’m capable of seeing what other people see- in my Copernican universe, it’s easy to forget that every single other person has another life- another set of problems- another goal, another wish.

I’m most often reminded of this when I’m stuck in traffic on Interstate 20.  I look to my left and see a person, just like me, waiting in the other lane.  What’s their story?  Where are they going?  I’ll never meet them, and yet here we are, sitting less than ten feet apart, headed the same direction.  It certainly gives a sense of perspective.  It makes one realize that there are six billion plus other stories out there- that mine is not the only one.  They say fish don’t realize that they’re wet, because they always are.  I suppose it’s like that.  But for brief moments, when we’re the greatest us we can hope to be, we burst forth from the water and feel the sun hit our faces, if only for a moment.

I’m bone tired.  The bed calls.  I’ll try to picture the field again.  I can only hope that one day the picture will be clear.  And I’ll wonder what other picture others are trying to picture.  Perhaps there’s a common thread- perhaps not.  Are we more different than alike, or do our similarities bind us together?  I can never know what it’s like to be someone else.  That is a fact.  Because who we are is the culmination of everything we’ve experienced.  We like to say that we know someone, but we never really do.  At best, we know the person they want us to know.

I think, if forced, the one word I would want people to say about me is that I was genuine.  But in the same breath, I realize that I, too, set up facades to hid who I truly am.  I distance myself, even as I realize that I want to be closer to other people.  And perhaps that’s why I picture the field in the moments before I drift off to sleep- the field doesn’t judge.  It doesn’t question, doesn’t wonder- it just reflects the passing of the wind.  And in the end, can we do better?  We can shout, yell, worry, plan, cry, curse, or regret the wind, but does it stop blowing?  If it does, did we do it?

I used to think that life was a person standing in the river, and trying to charge forward against the current.  I viewed life as a struggle- something to overcome.  Now I think that life is a river, but that we’re forever stuck in the current- that life washes over us.  We can twist, and choose how to deal with the rising waters or rapids that may come- but we can’t stop them, or ignore their existence.  And we can’t march past them.  Rapids always come.  The river always shifts.  But we are stuck until the riverbed dries out- on that day, we’ll wish the rapids would return.

I thought about not writing tonight but then I thought to hell with it I’ll write maybe make it a time trial let’s see how fast I can type something that someone sober could ever hope to follow.  That would be a hoot.  My enthusiasm for this project wanes so fast it’s embarrassing, but it’s only five hundred words- I’ll soldier through.  I changed “That’d” to “That would-” I’m not entirely sure why- perhaps I sobered up enough to realize that the colloquial nature of the expression wouldn’t fit exactly with the blueprint, or perhaps my Asperger’s kicked in with a vengeance- I was too intoxicated to care more than a little.  That kind of care that tickled your fancy, but never really struck it.  Hard to explain.  I sit in silence for a moment, letting the thoughts emptiness wash over me.  I’m glad I found that button up top- it fits exactly into the plan I made on the spot.  That’s always a good thing.  I sit some more.  I think to myself that one day I’ll die and that this is mostly it- I’ll do different things and see different things and live a bit longer- but nothing is ever going to change.  If it does, it will be because I willed it, not because of how much money I have in the bank or how many financial advisors I have.  The damn spell check says that “advisors” should be spelled “advisers” and while I guess I see their point I also think I would murder the spell check if I could.

I wonder at times what would happen if the characters I have written on this website encountered each other- how that would turn out?  I had a dream last night that I was the father of a son, and that I stole one of his cigarettes that was in his backpack.  However, my son in this dream was older and owned his own house, so I don’t know why he had a backpack.  For some reason, the cigarettes were Marlboros, but there were Chinese characters on the wrapper.  It was all quite strange, to be honest.

One hundred forty words to go- then I can go take a piss in silence and head to the bed.  The money you make working twenty-two hours of overtime is nice, but the sleep you get on the last day is worth five times as much.  There is no waking up in the middle of the night that night, I can assure you.

I am almost asleep.  It will be a wonder if I can finish this little project before I pass out.  I yawned a few minutes ago.  My eyes are having trouble staying open for more than a few seconds at a time.  I don’t know what to say.  I should probably head to sleep.  No one reads this shit anyway.  Which is, in retrospect, a good thing.  Writing a blog that almost no one reads is kinda like walking around naked in your backyard- you know someone could see you, but odds are, no one ever will.

Siren Song

It’s complicated, she said, her hair twisting about her face in the summer breeze.

What is?

The nature of it all.

What?

Like I said, it’s complicated. 

He sank back into his Adirondack chair and sighed loudly.  The breeze had picked up.  He watched the miniature waves crash against the side of the swimming pool.

I think she continued that often we intentionally avoid the very path we ought to go down, because if we went down it, it would be uncomfortable.  Truth is, I’m tired of being comfortable, I guess.  Feeling uneasy is better, I imagine, than feeling anything at all.  That make any sense?  She looked up, shielding her eyes from the sun with her hands.

Yeah he said.  He was still looking at the waves.

I mean this is it, you know?  I’ll never understand it- everyone knows you only get one chance at living, but no one seems to live.  Every now and then a movie or song or something will remind us of the fact, and for a week we’ll pretend to give a damn about something more important than where we’re going to eat for lunch.  It’s bullshit, and I’m tired of it.  Every day should be New Year’s Day.

What?

New Year’s Day- you know, when everybody promises to do better.  Why is that only once a year? Yeah, we almost always fail, but what’s the sense in only really trying once a year.  Maybe if we tried at trying more, we’d actually achieve something.

He didn’t have an answer to that, but it didn’t matter.

And here’s the other thing she said.  We all know what we’re supposed to do.  There’s something in all of our hearts- a gift, a talent, a blessing, a desire- call it what you will, it’s the same thing.  It’s the thing you most wish to do.  It’s the thing that we’re most afraid of failing at, because what’s the point of living if you ultimately fail at the thing you most want to do?  But at the same time, it’s the thing that makes us feel most complete when we’re doing it.  It can be anything- tennis, painting, singing, making chairs- she stood up, now, twirling- dancing.  Anything in the world. 

I think that’s right he said.

Of course it’s right she said, putting her hands on her hips unceremoniously.  And the other thing is this- if we don’t do what it is only we can do, it will never be done.  Ever. 

Forever’s a long time he thought to himself. After a while in the silence, he grew uncomfortable and all he could think to say was so what do we do now?

Her hands slid off her hips and she sank back down into her lounger.  Her hair fell around her, this time undisturbed by any breeze.  A lone bird chirped in the distance two, then three times, before everything fell silent again.

I don’t know she said, her voice pouting.  Like I said, it’s complicated.

View Finder

The joke was that when they baptized her the water boiled just a bit- for just a second.  Of course such a thing hadn’t happened, but it was good fodder to bring about a familiar smile in those brief spare moments after the service.  The crowd moved with one pulse toward the doors and closer to the lunches waiting at various restaurants and simmering in countless slow cookers on kitchen counters. It had rained during the sermon, and the doors were opened to the bright wet asphalt and the hazy steam which rose above it.  Everything sparkled. A red Mustang roared past, tearing the silence.  And then, a moment later, the supreme silence returned, made holy by the rain.

————-

Damn I drank too much I thought.  Too much for me was a lot- an awful lot.  And now with the soaked through sandpaper on my flesh and the tea kettle in my belly I had to keep it between the lines long enough to make it home and crash on my couch.  Usually I’m able to make it home before daybreak I wanted to think but instead chose to ignore it while I passed a church on my left.  I saw the people pouring out but didn’t really pay them any attention, as my head was full of nails.  I figured they were just as miserable as me.  At any rate, trying to fill the same damn hole, just using different cement.  If that’s not true… I ignored the thought.  Some thoughts just weren’t worth the trouble.  I do know that I’m miserable, but I’ll be okay in a few hours.

————

The white box with the black top next to the grey box in the green box exploded with little bursts of color, just as it did every time the same week.  The little boxes of white and red and green and blue began to shuffle off the grey box, splashing water as they went.  A red box moved mostly down the black track at about the same time.  I figured they were all just as precious and free as me.

————

The pain and the love and the sin and the grace and the truth collided and spun around the little ball of mud a bit more.  Some gained; some lost.  Some understood but never learned; other learned but never understood.  Some were cold.  Some were hot.  Some were good.  All were wrong.  All were different, but mostly the same.  They all schemed.  Some cared.  Some prayed; some cursed.  Some drank; some ate.  Some took; others gave.  Some cried.  Some laughed.  Some tried.  Some didn’t.  They all failed.  Some cried again; some stopped.  Some sought answers.  Few ignored the questions.  Some cheated.  Some stole. Some lied.  They all wanted happiness.  They all tried to find it in different ways.  Most didn’t.  Some had the map and never saw the treasure; others lost the map and found it anyway.  All were alive, but most were fairly dead.  They were all important.

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