There was a strange red sandstone rock formation in the vicinity. One that though it was not as remote as the decidedly more extensive rock bound canyons of the Southwestern region of the nation, it still provided a distinct flavor of their strange magnificence. A large prediluvian portion of sedimentary accumulation of ancient riverbed dating from eons back that had congealed into a solid mass before the advent of mankind and mammals. A stretch of rocky canvas that was slowly carved by successive assaults of restless wind and water into eccentric meandering channels and Cul de Sac’s. The adaption of their odd geography to some purpose beyond eccentric paths indeterminable save for that of a robber’s roost. The implementation of human habitation being more reasonably ‘in line’ with a day’s outing. Or in the case of two specific sections further along the tunneled passageways, a natural dome ending in a sky focused occulus. Further on, a raised platform of solid stone resembling something between a dais or a lily pad. Somewhere along the line within this tiny approximation of a Roman pantheon it was planned to camp for the night. The ability to star gaze given the opportunity afforded by the weather revealing a rare glimpse of the heavens above within tight shelter at the end of this same Cul de Sac. But much to the general disappointment it turned out to be occupied. The next opportunity in the vicinity was to nestle into a sleeping bag upon the dais further down from the intersection. But in the final approach as all had been diverted by the unsuccessful expedition to the first location by the time it was in sight others were in the process of claiming it for the evening. The last opportunity remaining was to trudge forward and hope the find some other uncharted natural feature that would afford a place to rest. After hiking onward for indeterminable amount of time the end of the rocky channel came into view. Expanding from a narrowed tube to where flat land and foliage was once again visually in force. There indeed sat a small cabin. But the sign beside it revealed that we had somehow breached the Canadian border? All one could think of is how everything could have gone so curiously gone awry? The last degree of pleasantness realized when one of us had leveraged their way skyward up over the channel where it had narrowed for a handhold so that they could see the magnificence of the that strange mystical hidden landscape of those larger formation above that had enigmatically transported us a thousand miles in one day.
Does the light as opposed to the dark cleanse your mind of the past? Its deeds and emotions, the recollections of attempts gone sour to achieve something of note in society but always fall short. “If I were a king old I would knight you both!“, he said. The two young boy’s enthusiasm in the play of their chess pieces interrupted by the old man’s folly.
Somehow fortune had smiled. Or had it? He had secured a job in an elite ad agency and had arrived to show his manifold talents. A chance encounter of sorts had presented his name to this agencies’ head. A madcap individual who embed with an honored reputation in the industry careened about the floor of his own shop like a Caliph eyeing necks to cut. The young man felt that eye lurking about ready to smight his own hopes and dreams and struggled for something he could do. A reason to be in that place and excel in a manner that he assumed his destiny would lead him. But there seemed nowhere to sit in this fast paced environment? And worse yet, he was unable to recall any exact instructions given by his new employer or anyone else. And so he wandered from desk to desk. His physical being actively ignored viewing pile of work and all manner of pads, and paper and drawing instruments but afraid that if he disturbed the wrong chaotic pile that it would lead to his instant termination. Anything vaguely useful to the cause of providing a creative platform within the dust and jumbled on the floor. All the while the presence of that owner’s watchful eye wondering in disgust why he had invited such an incompetent into his midst?
Late that afternoon in a palatial hall at a gathering that had the dynamics of a large gaudy overstuffed convention the young man was equally surprised that he was allowed entry and with a temporary companion who had no stated identity that could be recollected swept through the echelons of seating surrounding the speaker’s dais. Both looking for something close enough to hear their big boss who was being honored as an honored guest speaker having taken the microphone. His voice boomed about the Baroque columns painted in exotic greens and gold. Emblems of filigree enigmatic but providing greater beauty through their intricacy evident in every direction. The bleachers at the far corner where the young man briefly took up station being so remote that he thought that it was actually upon a street in the worst part of town. A black face opening up a window on the second floor across peering out to their street engaged by foreign revelers of the very same class that oppressed them. Every corner of the auditorium filled with troublesome angry looking rivals their facial expressions ever at was with the other. The man eventually taking cover beside a twin sculpture of two figures that had been temporarily covered for the event with plywood and a faux grill. Their matched pair of hands entwined in some arcane significant unconscious embrace. He studied this jewel of aesthetics of the past as he heard his boss’s world pounding down from above.
Feeling that he had hit on something elemental suggesting the creative solution to his ongoing dilemma he wandered off to the back of the hall to find his fellow. The hallways was as much a garden marked by rich growth of luxuriant species of plant life. Ever the dreamer had he not been in a hurry it would have become evident his had wandered into his own thoughts. A wedding party, its member’s richly dressed lingered about the men sitting and conversing in a manner that suggested the ceremonies aftermath. Though he was in no way dined, the young man felt that he needed to return back to his own party. That in some way it might end and he not be part of the throng to be counted as faithful. Swiftly heading back but down the wrong path confronted by some strangely configured varieties of birds that by their haphazard physical construction seemed more the pets of demons from another world than species resident on earth. He took the hint and retraced his steps staying just ahead of their flamingo-like communal gait. Back in the entryway lobby heading back to his starting point.
But exchanged for the old reality of a formal ceremonial meeting was another experience completely different. One composed of facsimiles of the same characters yet more in the setting of the lecture space of an auditorium of a college that had been sequestered by rambunctious students hell bent on frivolity of their generation. The mundane uniforms of the grouped young prevailing up the steps in chaotic repose. The young man having been brought into this amphitheater taken by the hand of a comely sylph that had instantly enchanted him. The lingering promise of her equally prompt disappearance being that if he old discover he whereabouts amidst this throng then she would be his. And so he began his performance trying to stay in character without he classic heroes of old. Traipsing up and down the stairs making overly theatrical motions and gestures at every despoiled, “Ahha“. The sly artifice of the moment summoned only to buoy his own quickly deflating hopes of a fading solution. Defeated evermore until out of desperation he grabbed a hose and sprayed the entire assembly dousing all. To equal measures of his shock and surprise lay an old maiden laying unconscious upon her front under the full extent of the flowing carpet of her own long auburn hair. A love of old turned sour, decades past the age of any other in the room. That fairer sylph long gone and his apparent prize subsumed within the indignity of this more ancient example of womanhood. His own shock leading to the fact that he like she was in fact too old for these games of frivolity. The two of them now fully revealed as being many decades advanced beyond that of all the surrounding audience.
“Modern spy agencies part of bigger operations these days and always inventing new toys!“, he thought. Or so, it is generally understood. They are depended on the human animal to provide a facade and as such are vulnerable to their persistently human foibles. The worst brute of the team that I was aware of was someone of a rival age. A big lummox of a man. he particularly liked to push his weight around others. Until the ‘runt of the litter’ in the guise of a much smaller less physical type showed him up in every way. Including in physical dexterity! This lummox misused the latest toy that he had been supplied with. A matter reducer that could perfectly shrink anything living or inert to more diminutive less noticeable proportions. So exasperated was he now inflamed by what to his mind were his humiliating defeats that he decided to goad his rival into a state of impotence and insanity by using the device to shrink himself down to the size of a common house flea! Then, his twisted logic reasoned, he could bite him ceaselessly until he too lost his mind. His plan backfired and though he manages to bite his nemesis once he realized that he was essentially powerless in the environment and became irretrievably lost within it.
That was the sketchy recollection of the dream that the recognition of being same now suggested he was reasonably awake. He had toyed with all the way through the dark into the kitchen. The decision to accept it as a lasting nocturnal image or just allow it to sink into oblivion seem to suggest his indifference about the level of inspiration that it might contribute to diverting him from his own current dismal existence. He went to his portable terminal of the round glass coffee table in the very small apartment’s lounge and hit the bookmark of the laptop computer which jumped into life actuating an audio substitute for a pill. A transliteration of a long dead author of his youth. The proxy for the spirit’s voice narrator spinning a clever tale about a post-apocalyptic scenario, though much more extreme than his own present circumstances, still held a sort of morale of the story value through implied camaraderie. The night sounds in his section of the block made their somber swish as if miming that of an occasional passing vehicle. The sound posed too early and in danger of being in reality a recycling audio track nightly broadcast covertly by the ‘D-State‘. Something in the way of yet another clever strategy from their trick bag of so many to lull the population into a sense of complacency during the ‘normal’ rest cycle. The average ‘Joe’s’ and ‘Jill”s lost in this animal cycle of no conscious thought supposedly at rest properly engaged in deep REM. That way the ‘pluckers’ could go about their appointed task in the wee hours of the morning undeterred to ‘disappear‘ the latest crop of extremist’s that popped up from time to time. It took some time to plant evidence plausible enough to explain the sudden disappearance of familiar faces from the neighborhood. A way inferring the suggestion of an unsuspected medical condition leading to emergency evacuation or of a distant relative unexpectedly pleading over the phone for assistance leading to an unexpected departure. Something? Anything! After all most people were generally too lulled by an enforced love for all things mundane to care much about anything past an hour or two? Probably forgetting the details of the whole affair by the time they returned back home from work mentally purged by their appointed mind numbing habitual cycle. Those whose existence had been allotted the status of perpetual standby. Or in some cases, permanent due to an early dismissal then granted free media access to public airtime so as to obsess abstractly offering their discontent to virtual play violence upon the latest FPS modules dispensed by a D-State outlet store. Also somewhat derisively referred to as, ‘the Conglomerate’.
The man stood for a while listening to the phantoms around him in the rectangular portal arch between the kitchen and his lounge. The room seemed lit in a dim subterranean glow from the forest of street lamps extending into the horizon. The thousands of pinpoints reflecting tin the soft low ceiling of the customary ‘cotton cloud’ that acted like a tent or canopy covering the entire metropolitan area. Spread out each night like a blanket, it served to act as an absorbent antenna transmitting the proper EMF signal paths through its grid to distribute them efficiently to the to the subconscious’ of each recipient. Special instructions delivered to each citizen to properly program them for the coming day. As such the overbearing secondary glow from the persistent canopy of an uninterrupted low cloud cover took on a sinister appearance. One side of him ensconced by it while the other still sat safely harbored in shadow. He was totally alone now. It had been for three years now since he heard the inadvertent nightly stirrings of humanity within his immediate proximity. Everything that suggested fellow human habitation too possibly a faux state stratagem as much as some impromptu combination of distant neighboring humanity. It WAS three years to the day, or at least it would be by the next coming month. His emotional track had not been directly stimulated by the actual touch by another, sensual or otherwise, for almost three times that interval. He might have been considered as the perfect model citizen in regard of the fact that save for short stints of a previous solitary existence he had long kept a close proximity to his two now deceased parents. The infrequent prospects for pair bonding occasioned by repetitive stormy involvements with various now mostly forgotten females still occasionally made ‘guest spot appearances’ in the nightly toil of his dreams.
Breaking free of his muse he looked left towards the bay window’s emptiness. He realized that his appreciation of this past era had been superseded by another that seemed to have crept up on him. A viewpoint of total detachment to anything. An impression that he found alien to his own ongoing little circumscribed fantasy that had perpetuated the continuation of a childlike fascination with a cloistered world of past things now all but visibly extinct. That same world subtended by the presence of his long lost electric train still holding sway engaged on its daily route around the periphery of his conscious existence? He occasionally felt, as if by some odd stretch of a child’s imagination, that his subsequent life amounting to many decades past preadolescence was nothing but a momentary idle sketch dreamed up by the fickle whim of a child’s momentary playfulness? Though the Conglomerate’s intentions seemed in line to fostering categories of similar mental miscalculations overall to keep the general population off balance and at bay. Mass compliance critical to the furthering of its larger agendas. Its various bureaus working overtime being very jealous about how this ongoing process would play out. The idea of implicit consensus being muddied up within the stratagem of fostering individual scenarios mixing daily memory with longstanding self-inspired fantasies seeming some laughable paranoid’s ruse. It irked him when he suddenly realized that he too was caught being alone and vulnerable to sentiments tampered with by shadowy parties outside his immediate perception. The personal realization of the urban legend popular fantasy so distressing that he couldn’t even summon that usual sense of nightly paranoia that suggested he was next on the list to be ‘plucked’. Reluctantly he padded over by a dimly lit chaise to avoid returning to sleep. He placed his headphones over his ears and laid back to continue the latest pacifying nightly tale. Hoping the drone of a state-sponsored midnight narrative would quickly erase these rambling conclusions of conscious recognition of his own disgruntled existence. A long drought of calming tea that he had rescued from the kitchen numbed the recognition of the persistent lurking presence of the vast underbelly of the canopy lurking both outside and inside his skull. He fell back into the hyperbolic narrative of faceless nameless characters that all too closely resembled the fantasy of the lives his neighbors whom of course did not exist.His eyes closed he sank quickly into the required oblivion that was expected.
The sounds of the morning began softly reaching throughout. The open wind transitioning him slowly to gentle awakening. A chipping sound accompanied by a low slowly evolving constant rumble somewhere from afar that might have reasonably supposed as traffic from the distant airport. The prevailing image in his mind this morning was of a giant loaf-like chocolate chip cookie encased within a paper and cellophane wrapper. As such it had been the nightly ethereal focal point of an undisclosed nationalities’ discussion over the validity of the customs of divergent cultures. Nothing tastefully encouraging any possibility of a real appetite, it apparently had derisively related more to the daily functions of the lower organs of the body. Something urgently oppressive that he could not rid his mind of. He could still recall that his unconscious self must have relived the exact same scenario at least two or three times in the course of dreaming before sleep had finally found him. A child’s nagging squeaky voice whined imploringly like a rusty hinge sounding from some outer location farther down the hall outside his apartment. A new chipping sound was now emanating from somewhere within the building. His ear shifted back to outside where slowly rising Doppler hushes of autos passing increased with frequency from down below. “The damnable image must have been a plant!” Something that his mind had been inseminated with deep in cluttered REM The chipping resumed even louder now from across the street outside his lounge window
The surrounding neighborhood was slowly being filled with a symphony chorus of pounding, metal dragging and the occasional siren all directed by a distant approaching train horn’s echo “They must have done a plant on me!“, his mind briefly exploded. The mechanically enslaved sound of a jack hammer pounded from the street below. It rang out diverting him before he could fully expand upon his thought. How foolish to think that after last night’s interminable insomnia! And that which seemed to have the markings of an absolutely new and original thought? It was a plant!
The lichen covered expanse of toy-like houses sat under what remained of last night’s cotton cloud. It’s puffy remnants glided away over the edge of the vast lake to the north. Fading quickly into the usual hazy blue of morning. Only insomniacs seemed to have any awareness of the fact that each evening past ten it was rolled out routinely like a blanket. And then again, just before dawn, magically rolled back again to disappear from sight over the lake. “You weren’t supposed to notice?” he figured. But he did! What were the odd that it could be there every night without exception like clockwork? The rattle of metal on concrete clanged on too seemingly close from just outside as a more mechanized level of chipping continued on. It played havoc with his thoughts. Distracting them to the base state of an animal lizard brain state of complete social annoyance. Why was it that everyone was functionally put out by the fact of their fellows? The answer seemed obvious! The larger fish tank of public discourse tended to follow the same path despite the infused poison that was daily added to steer its conclusions. He mindlessly set his tired limbs expectations back to thoughts towards the kitchen. His best pair of long deposed threadbare pants pulled on one leg at a time in the rise and fall of mental limbo. Like an automaton he found himself at work preparing a couple of eggs with the mindless military precision of a short order cook. No single element or effort accorded more time or attention than absolutely needed to speedily produce the desired result.”Funny?“, he missed. Despite his skilled effort, the eggs had the taint of a synthetic taste. Perhaps indicative of another unknown well-accepted popularly whispered conspiracy incantation.
All the chickens had long ago stopped laying eggs after the spontaneous detonation of another nuclear plant? Most people weren’t aware of that. Catching himself from spacing out, he picked up one of the two thin slabs of brown toast. Tasteless, he bit into it as if it were recycled chipboard. His tongue registering the slight hint of a distant memory of commodities like butter and strawberry jam that had become too rare to cheaply obtain. He bulldozed the salty remnants of the eggs on his plate with the dry toast against his fork.The sight of the meager residue remaining on its surface producing an opposite reaction that killed off his remaining desire to eat. The last corner of toast ground abrasively though his teeth onto his tongue chewing as he carried the soiled plate to the waiting sink in the kitchen. The remnants of his meal deposed into the slurry of hot water down into the drain. All utensils quickly washed and put promptly returned to their usual order. His day of waiting for the approach of another sunset had now begun. It seemed that everyone subliminally investigated turned into blog writers. Some popular, most remaining anonymous and wholly unknown. This might have been an attempt by the supervising animal within to rebuild what inner sanctity that was fragmented or destroyed in the course of the night? Like clockwork his fingers automatically animated themselves across the keyboard to type in the access code to his own site habitually checking to spy any new messages possibly from strange admirers. Their comments reacting to a former post of words. He chucked the keys in a rapid rattled but both domains were empty. Save for the clutter of too many nonsensical proposals ever promising material success and quick service. His fingers drummed the desk before the keyboard before sweeping them into the trash. The long wait through the unbearable monotony of a successive day had begun.
The desert property was far out of the way where most of humanity dwelt and as far as he and his neighbors were concerned could maintain distance and keep it that way! That is why a sense of shock manifest itself when the metal patchwork of a blunt tube of a rocket appeared. Its boxy less than aerodynamic self showed arcing over high in the sky dropping down with what all surmised must have been a nuclear of biological attack. You can imagine the collective relief when it turned out to be a dud! Its most immediate neighbor of the man relieved to the point of ecstasy when they saw that the damn thing did not explode! It looked like some absurd gigantic childhood bubblegum cigar off cant of vertical with its nose buried deep in a sandbank. The only thing missing being a cheap paper wrapper ringed around its middle. The experience leaving all trembling with a mixture of rage and relief for a while appearing like nervous wrecks. “The neighborhood was going fast!“, as the old saying went.
The dull glow of dawn came over him. It made him recall things that he never thought he would have. Old personal myths concerning places that had literally haunted him in dreams throughout his life. Locales seeming repeatedly familiar that had once held out the notion of that which in former eras had seemed to be eternal. But much to his surprise had long ago been crowded out from his subconscious neighborhood. Displaced by the appearance of newer more modern empty insoluble conundrums that were empty of human habitations all emotions earthly or ethereal now absolutely undetectable. The decay of the old familiar structure progressively ‘going south‘ from furnished to empty and abandoned. The upper floors then being found at a later date to be collapsed leaning upon an eviscerated ground floor and basement. And now the entire structure completely gone, save for one devastated corner located far back of the former servant’s quarters. Itself burning on fire due to the mischief of passing vandals.
He was awake again. Awake and feeling very vulnerable as he lay feet first toward the door looking into the hallway. Thinking, he was thinking about . . . ? “Could you call it that?” He was scared. Scared and on edge. He felt as if he was caught in a recycling time space where no matter how much you hope time will move on, it doesn’t seem to want to. The hands on the ornate German wall clock were tirelessly swung barely past one. He took a few more steps and peered with apprehension at the digital readout of the time on his stove. It said two. The wall clock was wrong. “Had someone opened it’s glass panel and manually changed it?” He looked at the two brass counterweights before the tiny swinging pendulum. It was still swinging away. Another sleepless night. He hated this. Every night awakened by something. Something that on waking he generally could not remember. Sometime his own atrophying digestive system? The noise from without had ceased long ago. Most of his neighbors had moved away. The annoying ones that played their TV’s and radios loud. That generation was being displaced. He turned around to look over his shoulder. He hadn’t heard anything but the possibility that someone had entered his apartment while he was sleeping sent chills up and down his spine. The door was still set with the Police lock apparatus. It would had taken more that a shoulder or flying stomp to stealthily breach it. He would have known! Yet as he tread back to his bed in careful little rapid steps he knew that he would feel the presence of something menacing the monument that he swung under the covers and turned his head away from the room’s point of entry. It seemed the sort of dark inadvertent game that a child would play? Making a covenant with powers unseen to act as a trembling wary sentinel staying awake and fixed on the most likely vulnerable spot not turning away lest some phantom swiftly appear standing menacingly above if he turned away for even and instant.
His dream world seemed no more hospitable. Maybe less so? It was acceptable to believe that the general impression of a bad dream was in many ways similar to a storm. After one had experienced so many of same over the years it was a case of enduring the roughest patch for the scenario just beyond. The problem was that on occasion there wasn’t a progression to another situation but what felt like a record skipping back to the same spot or a tape loop. The same thing would just repeat again and again, one and on. He could recall that there was a menace roaming about. Earlier on it had taken out the next door neighbor who fell prey to a fit of the inanity of rage and shot someone next to the old suburban bungalow that the dreamer did not live in. His unseen nemesis ranted like a Tyrannosaurus Rex threatening to appear magically within the dining room to shoot the dreamer and the shadowy family family that he was not part of. This had happened at least twice? The next chapter of the same ethereal drama unfolded into a situation not too dissimilar to the enclosure of the waking dilemma. He could not be sure that the perimeter of the living space that he lay dormant and prone within would provide adequate cover against some unspecified monster Hell bent on enacting some unthinkable method of ghastly destruction. He could recall a more frenzied type of nocturnal mobility of an unresolvable quality in the haze and confusion of too many repetitions. A couple of times the clock on the wall had progressed. But only a matter of a block of minutes and not the larger portion of the fragment of eight or so hours that might have been expected.
The last segment he could most vividly recall was being cast as a subsidiary minder in a crown of young boys all gathered in the dark of an open field by torchlight. He and his fellow minders engaged in keeping the tightly packed standing throng of young boys focused upon a large screen in the chill of empty night. The projected drama was in short synopsis a sadomasochistic tale of a young adolescent that was being harassed and constantly threatened by unfair mischance of what was a very cynical screenplay. You could hear a moan rise up in places within the herd of restless viewers. The proctors like the dreamer expected to quell these disturbances and redirect the attention to the presentation. You could tell that every one of the boys hated it. “That’s not fair!“, a voice would sound out here or there. He kept repeating his thought that he wished he could be in a classroom once again teaching them something useful! “I could show you how an automobile engine is built!” “How it works!” he desperately mouthed aloud to a small circle of boys. It was no use! The situation did not allow for such a thing. It was not designed to. The raising of collective bile within the assembly of innocents and its refining into angst and resentment was the order of the evening here. You could see it by torchlight as if the ranks of the dissatisfied had been assembled into the expectation of eventually descending to the animal insensibility of a lynch mob mentality. This seemed worse than laying under thin covers alone without any implement of defense to stop the blows of an unspecified attacker.
He turned his head out of the glaring headlights of his recollection back into the semi-lit chamber. The somber illumination of an approaching day was quickly stealing night from the landscape outside. The accompanying darkness within was evaporating rapidly into the same old inventory of surrounding objects still in the exact same arrangement as the previous evening. The same exact configuration undisturbed by any other hand save his own. What had happened to humanity in this unsure mental jungle plagued by its persistent malevolence? The fiends were unseen alright! But he suspected that they repeatedly reached out their horrible clutches not from a den hidden within the inky shadow of restless night but by some occult instrumentation from the machinations of the brightness of day. The thought exhausted him. All he could hope for was to have a deep undisturbed rest at some point. Wearily he rose up from the chair and walked back into the bedroom to remove the loaded automatic from under the rumbled pillow of his bed. His flat palms beat the sheets sweeping them into a semblance of smoothness. Flipping over the covers and striking them in the the same impotent manner. He brought the handful of nightly toys into the other room. The most lethal of the collection dropped into the iron safe the lid dropped shut to rest until night. It was another day.
If you need some reality in an otherwise fantasy clouded existence let me say that the little game of pretend that you have put yourself through for all of your adult life has not yet to pay a dividend. Self delusion is a fine art when practiced by experts. A daily exercise in obsession amidst an engine of society that says, “better“, “faster“, “bigger“, “taller“, and “more!“, “More!“, MORE!” It is truly attending to see the amount of technology and physical resources dedicated to creating mass hysterical fantasies. First of course we fear and hunger. Fear of being clunked over the head and being eaten by man beast or he elements. Then when things got a little calmer due to a high unstoppable birthrate and some sunny weather the next hurtle was keeping up the cooperation without stepping forward to volunteer to stop spears, slings, arrows, or cannon balls flung in your direction. And now, in an ever expanding word ‘sans souci‘ of religion or lasting moral reparations, please find a cave person plateau of the alter ego as ‘ubermensch‘ as it has been foretold. The body stuck within the recycling jaws of the body corporate that assimilates all in the name of all of the above to bring you what you have been deluding yourself all along that you absolutely needed at the expense of friends, family and lovers! Yourself!
Go ahead and try that on your flying monkeys if you dare!
And in the end, mere minutes after the last breath all that struggle becomes a useless little bit of clay on its way to Potter’s filed. Zipped up nicely in a large plastic bag with a toe tag. All humbleness aside all that self-pretense that initially was so difficult to maintain to prevail over that undefined person within that felt so naked to the vagaries of the world outside is, “poof!“, gone! Gone and flown. Flown and blown as if a telephone call from a former creditor blown off for the very last time. You life’s work and all that daily struggle by the hour and the minute, second by second, shown up for what it always was. A ruse covering a mask over the face of someone that even your couldn’t figure out how they had gained entrance to the building? All that is left is a bunch of stuff that was persistently arranged with some vague purpose that you were going to eventually get to when you got the time. Except of course, “Time’s up!“. Now it is a quick trip to the garbage dump or some relative or friend’s attic or basement to wait for more room in that communal hoard of humanity known to professional archaeology as cultural detritus. Pick and choose the artifacts of the past so as to keep the same old game going on in the future for the fools that think that they are in power.
That big invisible wound up spring based mechanical clock that is ever in the process of slowly winding down. The need to express what lurks within that dark inner corner that has been diminished to believing that there is never next to naught. The noise from without that seems to be recycled noise from some other mouth long before your own. Those same old tired words that you recite but do not want to believe it, “I am not a trained monkey trying to back flip more than anyone else to get strokes!” Accompanied arm in arm without that sneaking suspicion that, “I am sure I am not getting the wealth in sufficient bucks for my trouble for hanging around to take more of this abuse!“. How far can you go on with next to no gas in your old rusty automobile’s tank? And the biggest question at that certain un-tender absolutely cynical unreachable later age of far past it that asks, “Why go on?”
[pause and silence] . . . while I ponder . . . To answer that one you would really have to believe in logic! You would really have to understand that it is all a fearful little game of boredom that can not be relieved. Those moments in-between that only accumulate to the completion of a larger task. A tower of Babel upwards to the sky. But not an ancient siege tower or a modern parapet to the sky to nuzzle the ear of that unseeable motivating force that so many want to refer to a God. Or just give hime or her a big wet kiss! No. Just an exercise in producing something that the next generation will tear down and replace with its own pile. A legacy of creation and urban renewal that will go on until a larger chaos of the universe unseen and unknowable takes hold of the larger anthill and pours water on it. The flood of celestial tears regenerating the whole operation back down to scratch.
Perhaps, after all, that is the real need for a mask? . . . a fantasy? . . . a good well-developed game of self-delusion? It may be that it is a one revolution go around type of merry go round? Something that you don’t give up your seat on because once you do a chance for that ride will never come again! Not tomorrow and not ever. One chance and that’s it. That is your answer. Wear your mask if you wish. But with mask or otherwise, the fantasy is that this just isn’t so.
It was after six o-clock and Jenner was a couple beers past finishing his burger. Somewhat past his general state of paranoia as to the unexpected events that had transpired earlier in the day. Whatever had occasioned his being questioned that morning by the police was now no longer seeming so nefarious. “A lot of people get questioned on a daily basis.“, he reckoned out loud to himself. It was no different than every once in a while getting a speeding ticket or a parking violation. Sooner or later your luck would fall short and you’d receive a citation. Just your tough luck! He grabbed at the morsel of a tiny cold French fry on his plate. It was the bit about the old record player that was the part that was bugging him. Was it stolen? Taken out the back door in the night from one of the sixth street antique stores? Or maybe some little old ladies garage? It certainly didn’t rate as the crime of the century! There hadn’t been much crime of a serious nature in this town since he lived here, if any at all? Sure, the usual stuff like shoplifting or theft when some holiday vacation residents went back home. Maybe a fist fight that occasionally got out of hand? Or domestic dispute that ended up with an abused wife going off to a shelter? Murders? Not more than the two that he had read about in the Kenosha News had written about in a poorer part of town. At least not since nineteen-eighty one by ‘murder alley’ by 65th street. But that was really something! Four murders almost in a row at housed on either side ore a period of a couple of weeks. Each with no convincing explanation? They finally found someone to pin it on some months later. But he was already in jail. Overall not the sort of statistic that one would expect of a backwater Wisconsin minor metropolis like Kenosha! Something more in the line of what one would expect from that big neighboring city to the south.
The area in general had suffered some hard blows since Chrysler Corporation had filed bankruptcy ten years previous. The old Rambler factory that had been making engines for AMC had finally run out of gas as far as the foreign accountants of that international mega-corporation were concerned. A lot of people had pulled in their belts an extra notch. Some of the younger residents had moved their families further north to Milwaukee. Better job prospects. There were of course worse places to be. Thank heavens he wan’t living in Zion on the opposite side of the state line down in Illinois. It had become a haven for big trouble. Drugs, gangs, assaults on the street, you name it. Jenner took another swig from his mostly emptied glass. It was warm now and had lost all its flavor. Its ‘Zazz’ as his father used to say when he used to go along with his younger brother to Hogan’s Goat, one of the old local taps in Delavan. his face seemed to sour. That was something he didn’t like to recall a lot. His brother Luke. Jenner had gone to the community college straight out from Delavan Darien High School. Their old man had worked for years making auto clocks at the Borg plant just a mile or two down where they lived just outside of town. Somehow he had expected that both of two sons would come up with something better than he had in terms of a career? Luke had joined the army that first year but had been killed unexpectedly in what they had been told was an accident overseas just below the 33rd parallel in South Korea. Bad rotten luck to have as a rookie on his first deployment. The resultant pall of his brother’s death casting a shadow over everything. Jenner had made the daily drive to the shores of Lake Michigan to earn a college degree at Carthage College. But due to low grades in too many of his classes he had dropped out much to the consternation of his emotionally father. Now he was part time as a pizza driver on the weekends picking up any odd job that he could. Ten years of drifting through life hadn’t left him very optimistic. The future of the family as one might say was a total loss?
The door swung open just behind him as Gabby hurriedly pushed through. “For Christsakes Gabby!“, Jim carped, “It’s already a quarter after!” “How long do I have to hold down the fort?” Gabby’s heels clattered upon the hard linoleum in the direction of the gap leading to behind the bar. She pushed by the old sour puss giving him her best casual smile. “Why Jim, you’re such a sugarplum today, aren’t you sweetheart?”, she smiled as she bumped him a bit with her hip. “That and everyday!“, another boozy voice rang out from an anonymous local down at the other end of the bar. Gabby picking up the small knife used to cut bar fruit shaking her head at the empty tray. “Leave our poor sugarplum alone!“, she mockingly cooed back to the shadows. Jim looking back past her in the direction of the comment growling, “So everyone is a comedian today!” “See ay all later I’m out of here!” Gabby still at the center of the bar’s back aisle with her hands on her hips looking down, “You better run mon ami, you didn’t bother to finish the setups for tonight!” Jenner couldn’t help letting out a snicker at the floorshow that was lit up by the ‘stagelights‘ illuminating the bar. “Mind your manners, I see you over there darling!”, Gabby said in her usual playfully disparaging tone. At five foot five inches tall, cutting an extraordinary female figure even for a movie star, Gabby had the ability to direct traffic from across the room with simple look back in one’s direction. The impression she left was part old French film star Brigit Bardot pleasantly mixed with a somewhat “Desperado” movie Mexican version of Selma Hyack. Small, beautiful but sassy and tough. She was the type of lady bartender that expected her customers to mid their manners. And woe betide those who did not. Rumor had it that she carried a .32 cal hidden somewhere nobody could see or would be allowed to unless they got really violent. An ’86’ in her book was a hard stare and no more drinks coming your way until she announced closing time by turning up the house’s work light. Since it was a regular stop by the local constabulary who would simply park outside the portholes with a flashing Mar’s light thrown in for good measure not one ever thought to object. Gabby knew everyone.
Jim had gone out the back and Jenner watched Gabby catching up on the chores that the afternoon Milwaukee Journal news edition had precluded Jim from completing. She wielded the knife chopping limes and oranges like an iron chef. “Don’t worry honey pie!, she tossed over to Jenner between cuts,”I’ll attend to you an a second!” Jenner was one of her favorites. Probably because when he first started hanging here two years back he was one of the few that ignored her. Not staring down her cleavage like so many others. Or watching her pear shaped ass as she traversed back and forth up and down the old wooden trellis never hitting an in-between empty spot with her medium set of high heels. “That girl’s got gravity all figured out!“, one of he customers declared one night some months back. He didn’t last long at the bar. She seemed to like Jenner as someone to roll around that general level of mundane conversation that regular people had stored up during a day’s existence to share with someone that they could trust. Someone who didn’t carry it around to others behind her back and twist it into something dirty and mean spirited. Sure she occasionally caught Jenner looking admiringly at her now and again. But in a polite kind of way that didn’t make her feel like an object. That was OK. Jenner got up from the table carrying the empty plate and beer glass and setting them down on the side of the bar. “Thanks honey.“, she said as she pumped some dirty beer glasses over the soapy sponge device in the sink. “Anything new with you?”, she added after a couple of fresh ones sat upon the rack drying. “Not really.“, Jenner lied really wanting to say exactly the opposite. It seemed to be disrespectful and sort of dumb to be asking what she new about a dumb old record player down at Police headquarters. She brought over a fresh glass of beer from the tap and looked at him. “Something on your mind besides crime?“, she chuckled innocently. “Now why do you say that?“, Jenner said defensively somewhat startled. He never figured her for a mind reader but he played on like he was innocent. “No reason!“, she turned and casually walked over to a customer who had just newly arrived. What in the hell was going on, Jenner thought to himself? Is this my day to play the most guilty looking party.
The lanes of traffic spread out as they courted the parking lots surrounding the maritime museum along side Kenosha’s harbor. The day was pleasant being summer somewhere between sun up and dusk. Jenner rode his bicycle down along these lanes courting disaster weaving back and forth beside the occasional passenger auto that impatiently whisked past. Somehow in the back of his mind he was courting a confrontation. Something that awaited just ahead. But as to whatever it was, he was in a mood not to be dissuaded to enjoy the day in a manner of his own choosing. They say the kid inside never dies and the exhilaration of swooping across the intersection pedaling fast felt too good to be interfered with. The car in the turn lane not being too appreciative in a manner that was reminiscent of modern drivers in general. They also said there was something about the experience of driving that turned one from a Dr. Jekyll into a very impatient Mr. Hyde. Behind the wheel one could vivisect a single instant into overlong fractions of a section waiting for a driver ahead posing an obstacle providing the possibility of enduring a missed opportunity. Though the driver of the Ford SUV just to the side of Jenner minded his manners, the wrath generated by the stranger felt palpably like a storm cloud advancing a foot or two just behind his rear wheel. It was just a feeling of course. And with another lazy curving arc he pulled the own Schwinn racer up to the curb promptly planting his foot down upon it for balance.
The officer seemed to appear from just out of sight of his right shoulder. The policeman’s greeting was customarily curt. A sense of destiny or maybe the approach of fate behind his best attempt at an easy but forced manner. “I’m sorry to bother you but I must ask you but would you please come with me?”, asked the tall hulking anonymous entity supporting the uniform before him. Jenner seemed at a loss. The helpless feeling of some unexpected drama was congealing about him that he could not escape had arrived. He peered back unable to dodge the expression of his head nodding within the mirror of twin lenses drawing a bead on him from under the precipice of a khaki brown campaign hat’s brim. Jenner to his amazement found himself sitting behind a steel desk as a portable vintage record player was set down before him. The clunky artifact was of the sort that he might have seen at his grandparents on holidays. “Can you tell me anything about this?“, the cop sternly asked. Jenner stared at it totally perplexed as much by the context of the nature question or as to how this object had required his specific presence. The officer’s dead stare seemed substantially no different than the mirrored glasses. Two dead orbs a further response before the dusty cast metal Bakelite appointed antique. “If you are asking if I have ever seen this thing then no.“, Jenner said quietly. The two of them on either side each out waiting the other for a pregnant pause waiting for the baby to drop. A minute of climbing intensities of tiny infinities passing Jenner interrupted the silence with a, “Is that all?” “Can I go!” The enigma of an answer to solved the dilemma of this particular why not as important as making a swift and unheralded departure. “Sure!“, the cop sharply barked in marked disappointment. “But if you recall something familiar I would appreciate a call!” Jenner pulled the extended business card from the concrete grip that had been extended forward towards him. Ten minutes later he was on his bike pedaling once again. This time his mood not nearly so light. The storm clouds were overhead though he had yet to feel the first drop of rain from the otherwise absolutely clear blue sky.
He pedaled hard and fast along a lazy arc at the edge of the roadway that belted the front of the museum. Only coming to a near halt to jump the curb and a small section of grass until he was upon the asphalt of the pedestrian pathway that paralleled the long canal to the small sailboat marina. The mystery of the cop’s questioning him about a thing that he had no connection to seemed to totally preoccupy him. What sort of unsuspected relation was there to occasion unofficially official information. Did the authorities think that he or someone like him had stolen it? Of possibly that it might have at some point belonged to him or someone he knew? Someone he knew? Who could he muster in his memory that might have had the thing in their apartment? Or maybe, garage? Something to think about for sure. Especially for a nobody that worked part time at a body shop driving back and forth around town running errands. By this point Jenner was off the seat of his bike which was leaning up against a park bench while he slowly paced rubbing the increasing stiffness from the back of his neck. Who? Who could it be? His mouth was getting dry and he got back on his Schwinn to pedal back to 6th street to one of his favorite hangouts, Captain Mike’s. That old familiar sign upon the building’s side chiming, “Eat like a king, drink like and idiot“, seemed to strike a chord. He sure felt like an idiot! Something so simple as recollecting a single item that now was beginning to seem familiar though he had never cast eyes upon it before. What was it that seemed so familiar to him now but was impossible to place. “Gabby would know!?“, he thought.
Gabriela Magdalena LaFollette, though not directly related to one of this state’s more illustrious statesman, Governor and Congressman Bob, she had achieved her own kind of local fame. A hot mix of Spanish Dona on her mother’s side and pure French Canadian by her father, her looks were reputed to wound if not literally kill. More than one fistfight had spontaneously started over some trivial rivalry for her attentions when she served up drinks behind the bar on Friday.Perhaps she might have been described best in the corollary of some epic ‘femme fatale‘? A flesh and blood version of the mix of what the animators had in mind when they devised the cartoon character of Jessica Rabbit. A uncle of her’s had had worked at he old Warner Bros. studios with its premiere artist, Tex Avery, back in the heyday of three minute long cel vinyl based acid wit. Her demeanor had all the sass of a “Have”, but more probably, “Have Not”. A Humphery Bogart’s snappy Betty Becall tight packed into the legendary body of a Rita Hayworth in her role as Gilda! This old joint itself had all the verve and vinegar of an old Great Lakes fisherman’s joint. A fully stocked bar where once could get almost any variation of mixed drink and the best burgers in the area. Jenner felt his legs quiver as he realized his blood sugar was now waning that he needed to replace those extra ‘carb’s’ lost earlier through too much recent worry. It was getting to be late afternoon and Gabby wouldn’t arrive to be on call until seven that night. Saturday being one of the two nights that she was regularly assigned. He sat himself at a small table across from the end of the bar near the back entrance. Jim, the steady afternoon guy, waved at him as he passed from his perch behind the bar pointing silently at the tap. Steely Dan blaring out a little louder than usual proclaiming innocence of any current wrongdoing despite some well-vocalized past transgressions. Jim had the look of someone who could fully commiserate with that message. Old, gray and scrappy to a fault his lanky frame looked like it could waste a troublemaker with a single punch. Nobody had ever asked him about his past, but it was rumored that he had done some minor time served years back up in Waupun State Prison. Something about assault with a deadly weapon. The details were as hazy as the brains of the regulars who engaged in such gossip off the cuff now and again. Who could tell if it was local urban legend or actually had some credence? As far as Jim was concerned the Ojibwa translation of the town’s name, “dawn of another day“, said all that needed to be said. The beer was cold and not watered with that old hops rich taste so characteristic of the product of the old beer barons in Milwaukee. That was good enough for Jenner. A Cheeseburger Walrus smothered in mushrooms and onions ordered and on the way.
The joints interior itself had little to say beyond the brightly decor behind the bar. It’s primary source of light. Several four-seater tables stood opposite lined along the wall. Each with its own porthole looking out to the street. Most of the crowd were eating outside and Jenner had the bar nearly all to himself. His hands supporting both sides of his face as he studied the foam collapsing back along the inside of his partially emptied beer glass. His mind though temporarily derailed now began to ponder the events earlier int he day. It seemed so odd that the police had been tipped onto him specifically? Was it as a result of some insidious mischief by his old flame? She had left town the year before heading back out to her old hometown of San Diego. Jenner stared at the bubbles going dead and flat on the beer’s surface. Who did her know who has a big vintage 45RPM record collection? “Anything New?“, he hollered over to Jim whose graying temples were buried in the newsprint pages of the local digest. “Naw“, Jim responded with an irritated rustle. “No local break-ins or tourist fender benders down by the museum or nothing?“, Jenner quipped in passing. The paper rustled again a little louder. “How the fuck should I know?” “I only read the sports section!” “Wise man!“, Jenner replied as he scanned emptily along the bar’s backstop. The music track just above switched over to Journey’s, “Forever Your’s“. Jenner looked over at Gabby’s framed picture on the wall. “Isn’t Mikey a big audio buff of something?” “Used to be!”, Jim’s voice sounded from behind the journal hovering before him. “Say, how’s about another beer?“, he added, “I think your food order is just about up!” Jim coming around the bar minutes later with plate and brew in hand, “Why don’t you bite on this instead of chewing off my ears?” “I want finish my article in peace before a big crowd comes in!” Jenner took a chomp out his burger chasing it with a long cold swallow of brew. “I bet they don’t serve nothing more that American cheese sandwiches down at the jail?“, he thought to himself. He knew that he wasn’t too eager to find out.