July 2, 2020 § Leave a comment
They got a message from the Action Man.
Go, now, it said. Action now. And so we went, full bore into the tunnel, dark and dripping, the lights from our lanterns reflecting off the wet walls. Full bore, but barely budging because the height of the walls wasn’t high, but low, and the depth of the mud was deep and so we crouched and crouched our way along. But it wasn’t a clip fast enough for Action Man who was the last to enter the tunnel, sitting on a sled, pulled through the mud by one named Krev. We gave Action Man as much as we could muster, but all our actions led nowhere fast because as we crouched and trudged, feet caked over fivefold with mud, we moved barely. We couldn’t tell if we were moving at all. We hallucinated movement, but all we had was the wet, sucking sound of the mud pulling back at our feet with every lift of a leg.
The energy it took made us wish we were moving, a deep-seated desire for motion, an advance in the direction of our goal, but the only thing moving was the swaying glimmer of our lanterns along the glistening walls. And thus Action Man barked out more orders we could only hope to follow: hurry, push, push, push.
Hours of unsteady progress and we were deep enough into the tunnel to satisfy Action Man long enough to grant us a small parcel of time to stop and smoke. He sat on his sled. The rest of us leaned against the tunnel walls, wet as they were, while others figured they had nothing to lose, so they sat in the mud—sank to the depth of their navel, and their ashes didn’t take as long as the others’ to reach the wet, wobbly ground.
We smoked and guessed at the reason for our entering the tunnel since this had been kept from us. To protect us from those who seek to harm us, said some. Whispered others, to bury us deep in the earth, for Action Man was wroth with us. These others were few, at least vocally, and I felt as they did, but wished not to speak my fears aloud. Action Man could have it in for me and be imagining my lungs sucking in the wet mud because I had had relations with one of his daughters he had promised to another and the last time he had seen me I was outside her window, waiting for the light. He could plunge his fist deep in mud, turn to me, saying, not subtly, I got a handful of this. What do I do with it?
April 11, 2012 § Leave a comment
Photo by Flickr user Patxi Izkue [cc]
Keep a record of your travels, little pieces of where you’ve been. Advice from my father the night before I headed out on my first road trip. The first trip without parental oversight. The night before I cut my way up the coast, the long and winding route that toyed with cliffs and precipices, the thought of which scared the living daylights (his frequent refrain) out of my father who bravely played the role of scaredy-cat in the family.
His easily frightened personality led to his reciting safety tips, precautionary couplets for any and all situations, dangerous or just potentially. Buckle your seatbelt before engaging the engine—mirror signal blindspot, in that order—wear a helmet and be sure the strap’s tight—look both ways before entering an intersection—the road’s at its most slippery right after rain.
I was raised on a gospel of what ifs and better safe than sorrys.
But now that he was about to let me off his leash, his usual almanac of accident-avoiding adages included a list of things I should tuck away rather than trash.
Receipts from gas fill-ups. A half torn ticket from a movie entrance. Your to-dos from the day.
Paste them into a notebook and that day will rattle around in your conciousness much longer.
Phone numbers scribbled out onto motel stationary.
In twenty years that day will be gone, but that burnt out matchbook you would’ve normally tossed will still remain.
That take-out menu will be that day. When do your days ever leave behind something tangible? Your birthday comes to mind. I watched you pushed out into the world. I remember that day like I was still living it.
I assured him I would with, sure. But he knew better. He knew when I was blowing him off.
It’s as close as you’re gonna get to living forever, he said.
I’m fine living just as long as I’m going to.
He rubbed his face, from temple to chin. You’re gonna be the death of me.
November 23, 2011 § Leave a comment
This is no way to write our story, I said. Telephone shouldered to my ear, I scraped the dirt from beneath my fingernails with the corner of a new dollar bill.
Penny and I were about through. Neither of us knew how to do what we knew we had to do. We shared a large amount of debris, making the path before us impassable.
Our paths brought us together, two ships in the night, in a bar, one that projects moving images of athletes in competition on every available wall space, two lonely astronauts in a space called life, a bowl-full of peanuts between us.
I was the only one pulling the meat from the shells.
She brought her beer closer, lifted her hair out and away from her head, then looped it around a finger, closer and closer back to her temple until her hair encircled the entire finger.
We made lethargic passes at each other, fulfilling our roles as the lonely and alone. Repeating come-ons that we’d heard here before, or on screens, in jokes, in the histories of our friends who’d succeeded in love. Maybe that’s why we were willing to try out such lines. Somewhere within these worn-out things there was hope. Hope for a chance, hope for hope, together, not one, two. And what do you know? Before we knew it we shared a life, a sink, cutlery, a rotary phone, a vegetable drawer, a clock with a bird that cuckooed.
We listed who got what now that we don’t share everything.
Her’s consisted of our daughter, just our daughter, the contents of the living room—the couches, bookshelves, books and the pottery that sits on the shelves between the books. She wanted my car and when I asked her why she didn’t want our son or her own car she said, I’m stuck here. I need a way to say no.
How were we going to clear the failed nights, pastoral days, and you-never-told-me-how-you-felts?
I told her I didn’t know how I felt.
At least you should’ve said that, she said. Look, she said, silence is not an option.
It will be now. I plan on going days and days and more without talking to her if I could only start.
Also she had me on the defensive when she recited the memory of the birth of our daughter. You left, she said, when I was tubed up to the medicine bag, when my contractions hit the hardest. You left. You left to eat. For a sandwich, she said.
Will you take her back?
July 30, 2011 § Leave a comment
Everyone around me knows I’m in trouble. Trouble is I don’t know it yet. That only adds to the trouble I’m in. The people around me not only know it, they smell it. Felonious acts slick on my skin. Slippery I ain’t, else I wouldn’t be in this deep water.
I subscribe to the notion that you’re not guilty unless you get caught. And catch me they did. But even with such belief on my part, I refuse to fold. I doubt guilt will ever catch up with me. I blame it on my mother. She never spent one minute feeling guilty about anything. Not the fact that she didn’t provide me with a father. Not the fact that she didn’t provide me with a sister. Not the fact that she provided me with little else than a mattress to sleep on, shoes only after my toes had torn through previous pairs, and a carousel of men in and out of the house for various lengths of time and at varying intervals.
It was these fissures that sent me on my flight. Destination unknown, at least at the time of my departure. I hoofed it right out of Dodge.
Had I left behind evidence that evidence would’ve dragged me right back. I needed to be gone without a trace. He was the first to go. That last one. Not before I made him school me in how he got that plane of his off the ground and back again. I made him believe I enjoyed where he put his hands. I made him believe it was about us, but every word out of my mouth was a lie. Like every thing that fell from his.
Mother was next. They apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, so I felt nothing. No love lost. My way, yes. Even with the maps. Those they let me keep. Those are what keep me up at night. Lines of longitude and latitude define and redefine my altitude.