Posts Tagged 'hurricanes'

Concatenation

I come from the island country of Concatenation. The commonwealth of Concatenation was named by the state poets and accountants who were held responsible for balancing the books, booking the best artists, poets and musicians; and the doctors, who raised the technology of health care to a single point of light. Every citizen of Concatenation was entitled to unlimited hair removal, dermabrasion and cold laser therapy. They were uniformly smooth, soft and silky to the touch, but unfortunately utterly unable to tolerate touch of any kind, and so the pedestal was actually invented in the commonwealth of Concatenation, a little known fact that has nonetheless shaped the past and future of the Catenates who first migrated to the island in 1846 from a small atoll on a deep current that passes Concatenation during times of climate change.

There was a heavy wind that day, I remember distinctly, with a sunset that was mango colored and shot with clouds. There was a ringing in my head, and a sense of warning, as of shipwreck, the shipwreck that is in the bones of all natives of Concatenation, the one that brought us here, and threw us away, stranded, on foreign soil.

Standing on the prow of a sailing ship is a young boy, or a young girl, no one ever knows in these stories, but whoever or whatever he is, he stands tall and looks far as the ship tosses. Only the very young can be tossed like this without severing an artery or rupturing a disc, and so we know that the young boy or girl is rubbery and ripe for the hard action of adventure. The slim bare feet are dirty, the kerchief ties the tangled brown hair back and away from the face, which is both brown and mischievous. This child, regardless of age, stature or gender, has been traveling like Pan on the seven seas, and here has come to the island of Concatenation, where the adventure changes suddenly from swashbuckling and overt to spicy, mysterious, and internal. I saw the child there, hanging onto the ropes, nearly falling into the wash, and I saw my future. Pulling against my mother’s skirts, I tugged away, away from her brush and her braiding, away from the skin, hair and nail care that made up my predicted path, and ran into the foaming waters at the edge of the sea on the island of concatenation, where I heard the sea birds ringing in the changing of the season, tintinabulating, sang the birds. And so what, you may ask? That was the first day of my life as a pirate, is what I say back to you, the me who is little and wild and still hairy as might be. Saved.

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Summer vacation

wooden crate

I lived for a time in a solid wooden box. Not cardboard, you can’t live in cardboard for long; first rain takes you out, puts you back in shelter.

I believe in shelter. I believe in shelter like I never believed in some other things. Once, when I was little, I lived in a doll house behind a big old palace, or mansion I guess it might have been. In Texas. The folks who lived in that mansion were almost never there; they lived in Connecticut most of the time is what I heard from Elba, who washed their clothes and put food out for the stray cats in the neighborhood (pretty good food, it was, and with cloth napkins, sometimes). I slept in that doll house, belonged to these folks little girls, only like I said they were never there anyway and I guess the people who kept the place up while they were gone didn’t much mind me for a certain length of time. I stayed there one entire summer. It was small for a real house, but real big for a doll house. There was a kitchen that actually worked, only it was short, like for kids about 7 years old or so, with a sink and a little fridge. No stove, but I did find cigarettes and matches in the little bitty roll-top desk in the living room. There was a velvet sofa in there, too, almost big enough for me at the beginning of the summer but I had a growing spell and had to switch to the little bedroom with the two twin beds. I had one big summer of pretend. I pretended I was Goldilocks. I pretended I lived in the Magic Kingdom. I pretended I was a fireman. I pretended I was flying through space in a rocket ship. I found a telescope one evening in the gardens near the house and looked through it on a clear night and I saw shooting stars and I imagined myself up there in the constellations riding a horse with magnificent wings. This was maybe my best summer ever in my entire growing up years. There was a little bitty library in that small house, too, and since I like to read I found myself curled up on that velvet sofa or stretched out on those twin beds with the chenille bedspreads reading all night.

In the daytime, when there were people around, I headed on into town and went to the full size library, where they didn’t have snacks lying around or anything like a little privacy, but they did have air conditioning, which was new in Texas at that time and most welcome by just about everyone. Back then all the older ladies still carried their fans with them everyway, and every one of them smelled like lavendar sachet and talcum. Old ladies always made me sneeze, and I can barely think of them even now without the end of my nose twitching reflexively. In those days, librarians were strict about silence, and about not folding the pages of the book back. I knew how to follow the rules, even back then, and how to break them without getting too lost from my own sense of what was right and what was wrong.

At the end of the summer, I came home to the doll house one evening and found that it had been visited. There were piles of toys stacked against the wall in the little living room, most of them with their price tags still on. There was this one toy donkey, about 3 foot high, almost big enough to ride on, and if you pulled his tail and let go, he made a big hee-haw sound and his ears wiggled. That was one expensive donkey. I looked around – didn’t seem like anyone had noticed my stuff, it wasn’t touched at all. So I gathered it up and put it back in the pillow case I’d been carrying it in before I stopped here, and I left. I found a bag out by the back porch where the cats eat, with peanut butter sandwiches, some fritos, and a few apples, and I took those with me. Cats don’t really like peanut butter, anyway, I said to myself.

stuffed donkey

Zuzu trims her words

twister

 

We are trimming the verbiage early this spring. I took my clippers and my shears and eliminated adjectives, superlatives, an embarrassing overgrowth of verys, goods, and littles.

How does one fracture an overgrown root clump, a collection of twisted, knotted, entangled word sins? Might be done through confession, through deletion, through a combination of bleach and a cold wrap placed on the root ball. I’ve killed bores before, growing on word trees. My peach tree produced even as it was dying, sweet blush stone fruit hanging heavy on three limbs and a stunted trunk. It is in the nature of nature to grow whatever it may grow even in the process of dessication, aging, and a sinking downward into the ground. Bury. Reincarnate. Bury. Return. Turn.

I greet Poison in the spring and offer it a drink: please sit down, Mr. Poison, there is no reason to ostracize you just because your nature is to destroy, not to seduce or convince. I give Mr. Poison a seat in the yard, which is tender and thinking about blooming, and he waves at Mr. Lopper, they being old friends and collaborators from back when. We have iced tea, from a pitcher that is made of a hard plastic substance that imitates glass, which is made of sand, sand blown so hard and hot that it is harder than the desert and the sand that makes your feet hard as leather when you are a child and hard leather feet are appealing, like you’ve grown mocassins on your feet. I remember walking across the parking lot, the Piggly Wiggly, in July with the brothers, all of us running barefoot from one white painted parking stripe to the next. The paint just enough cooler than the tarmac to keep us from blistering our small brown feet. Where the hell were our parents? I think that was the year of mom’s diet pills and dad’s embarassing toupee. Cripes, those mid-life crises were really something back in the 60s.

 

How is it that people can not talk about things, can avoid verbs their entires lives until suddenly verbs are spilling out of every crevice and every confession is followed by another? Zuzu’s locked herself in her small apartment and is sitting out on the back porch stairs every evening looking at the patch of city that she can see over the fence. The city is full of verbs; she doesn’t know how she’s spent her 35 years not noticing this before. There’s a boy on a scooter; he is scooting. There, a man has broken a bottle. Over there, a bus smokes as it passes and a woman in lime green linen is smoking, too, with her back to the street, like she doesn’t want to be seen by someone she knows. Zuzu can see the woman’s face, which is lit by a street lamp as the sun is going down. The street is steep, which is not a verb but describes the effect of the street on the action of those ascending and descending. She is thinking about action, Zuzu, and she is thinking about postcards and how they used to come all the time from people on vacation, but now it is e-cards, which she can’t imagine she will be able to buy in those little trash-to-treasure stores that are fading like the peach tree in the tiny yard behind her apartment. Still giving out the sweetest of surprises; she even likes the smell of old stores. Dust falling in motes, a lavendar powder in a compress, the sharp smell of rust on nails in rickety wooden furniture. She smells past, she smells future. Zuzu sometimes dreams in French, sometimes in Spanish, sometimes in smell. She wakes up and hovering on the edge of her dream there is cinnamon and peppermint, there is the smell of envelope glue, there is the smell of rain. She used to chase thunderstorms back before she got here, on the coast, where smells blow in from the sea and hang in the fog, where they are partially hidden.

Zuzu stayed home for a week after she got a postcard that said “The tide’s gone out, will call later. Don’t worry. Love, Billy.” She sat on the back porch, smoking, watching the woman in green linen hiding her bad habits. “Don’t worry” was hovering in the air all week, a hummingbird, a seagull, a thin mist hanging, an unfinished thought.  Zuzu sat waiting for the next card to come.

Billy’s funerals

I am so shocked and celebrated, celibate and debauched. I knew there was a typhoon, I knew there was a storm that would make my mother’s hair curl. My mother, who goes to Larry’s to have her hair washed and set every week. Please understand.

No, don’t, I don’t know about begging. My mother went to Larry’s every week to have her hair washed and set. Before the storm that drug everything out of Mayhem, everything. The pet store, the garden and farm supply store, the pharmacy, the liquor store, the churches, the churches, the churches, the banks, the banks, the banks that rose with the water and washed away our sin.

I remember it, I was planting bulbs and thinking about the wisteria and the wind was rising. Mayor de Troi was holding a press conference to say we are all prepared, we are all prepared, we are all prepared to meet our makers, and she said this with a salt shaker in one hand and a lime in the other.

I’ve been writing for this little weekly newspaper for 12 years now, since I came home to take care of mom, who’s been washed away, washed by the blood of the lamb, only truthfully it appears that it was high tides and bad management that washed away everything in Mayhem, Texas, other than Helen’s big mouth and that parrot. I suppose if I’m a journalist, I’ve got a responsibility to write what I see. And so I did.

 

Billy Gumball became a man the day his mother was washed away by Hurricane Margarita. Zola always thought so, and when she came home to attend the funerals and wear the hair shirt that the prodigal children all wear, she saw him and he was not the same. They embraced, cotton meeting cotton with the familiarity of cousins, and she smiled at him.

That first funeral was numb like novacaine, like stroking out, and half of your body is missing. Half of your body is missing, and my body is my home, my neighbors, my mother, our candy shop and my celibacy. It rained and the wind blew and on my knees I met my maker and I was good and made. Then mother was dead, the parrot was sitting in the window of the candy store where the glass used to be and he was singing yo ho yo ho far away on the Santa Fe Trail.

That was when I knew I would be leaving, and when Zola showed up with her little girl and that coat with the fringes hanging down like she’s Custer only tougher, I knew we’d be going together.

Have you ever been to a funeral for an entire city? Have you ever carried your pen, your laptop, your tiny voice recorder with you to death after death to record in the mud and the stench that all is lost and somehow that is not a dramatic overstatement, but an actual statement that is more literal than anything you’ve ever said before in your life?

I had insurance. Not being dead, I was actually able to collect on it, unlike most of my neighbors, my mother, and Zola’s entire clan. We shook hands at the funeral, I gave her some lemon drops, some ginger chews, some extra hot peppermint, and some rye. In the evening, as the waters receded and the bones of my life were exposed, we drank the rye, and we planned out first steps out, away from Mayhem.

Lost my compass. Anyone seen it?

Drat.

My brain’s gone walkabout again.

Don’t know where, exactly. When I look inside my own head, I see mostly fog.

Maybe it’s the new year making me fuzzy (August is my new year).

The chickens, geese and keets seem more important than writing.

I can’t seem to get enough sleep.

 

Maybe it’s the weather.

 

Maybe it’s my disorganized office.

Maybe it’s my hormones.

 Maybe it’s astrological.

 

Maybe it’s nothing at all.

I’ll be back when I’ve got something to say. Or when my office is clean.

Whichever comes first.


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