"When I was a child ... You know? ... I spake as ... and so forth ... But now ... blah, blah,blah ... I put away childish things. But, let's pretend instead that we really can't understand anything, ever! We understand plenty, of course, down in the dank and stank, but let's say, due to the Condition Humane, with a nod on the side to our enchanted modernity, our digitized disconnect and to the cadaver embrace of electropium bliss, let's say we don't get it. Don't get shit! Yes, yes. Let's pretend it's beyond us!"
Rudy shifted in his chair and wiped at his nose like a hungry bantamweight cocked and ready to knock the title-holder ball-less.
"For example, looking at the state of the world, let's pretend we don't understand that violence breeds violence, hatred breeds hatred, mean-spirited affectations of superiority especially of morality breeds likewise and let's pretend further that the delusion of an absolute and separate self, perceived as a apart from Earth and other, forced by its corrupted nature into a posture of perpetual defense ...let's pretend that has nothing to do with it, it being the prevailing climate of antipathy, fear and rage ... manifest now in the state of conflict we find ourselves in internationally and now specifically, my dear Thurston, The War on That and Them and the temper and underlying intent with which, on our side, the post-industrial nations, primarily in the North and West and their desperate economically dependent, constitutionally repressive power-crazed lackeys and sudden oh-my-god rivals East and South frame this...and in particular the government of the US which roughly, and isn't rough the word for it...roughly sets the agenda ... the way it's potentates are defining, portraying and prosecuting this conflict ... this 'war' ... (and war it is, but not in the way advertised) ... Let's pretend that the wailing egotism of the Fall, currently clothed, nay raimented, in bristling blue suit camo and the casual Friday polo shirt of weaponized Techno-Calvinism ...let's pretend this is not what is at the fear-filled heart here dear boy, though it clearly as an elephant turd in the center ring at the circus and wherein the high-wire ballerina has fallen tutu and tightless headfirst is ... is at the heart... and...and that this effort, because it is infected from the root by lies, cannot communicate honesty...in truth, cannot freely win the confidence of those it has think-tanked, smart-bombed and so, oh ever so benignly gored and conquistadored ... cannot win even a cessation of hostility much less a genuine sense of common cause ... and thus in place of a fundamental truth shared between the equally free, there arises like flies from a corpse the abuse and humiliation of the mutually imprisoned."
Rudy paused, and with a wistful look in his milky blue eyes, took the hunting knife he had been sharpening and ran it deftly over the back of his hand ... exuding as he did so the gentle yet arrogant precision of a brain surgeon considering a run for the Senate ... and then up his forearm, creating a baby-butt-clean-shaven landing strip amid the black hairy jungle that stood as the ribonucleic remnant of his Carpathian, possibly Lost Tribe heritage, a jungle already singed to desert in spots by daily slips and miscues with the cutting torch he used in his trade as a metals salvager.
"But then, maybe we should just accept our lives as perpetual high school and be concerned about nothing other than our grades and who we're in love with!"
Geneva, who as usual thought she should be doing something other than what she was doing but couldn't figure out what, looked at her boyfriend Thurston, who seemed transfixed by the hair harvest and suddenly all she could think about was that there must be another window in the place somewhere, where no one would see ... one you could actually open ... one you jump out of ... and then ... free! ... free! ... into the old Silverado and away!
Rudy plucked a blade of grass from the lonely little patch of pee-soaked sod his dog had torn up from beneath the old oak tree and then left on the kitchen table as a gift and with almost imperceptible movement and incomprehensible finesse he began to carve the face of George Washington into it as he appears on the dollar. And now Geneva had to watch despite herself. She could still hear the mutterings within ... how it was just another one of Rudy's look-at-me tricks, like the things Laxmi said he could do with his pogo stick (And why wasn't he more of a leader, more of a public figure anyway? He had the goods, the fuck head!) But as she watched, at the same time Geneva found herself vaguely re-recognizing the exploding contrariness she felt and was now inwardly spewing toward Rudy ... recognized the toxic spill-over from a more generalized anger, a life of anger ... anger the cause and anger the result...now constantly forming into a fist looking for a wall or better, much better, a face to put a hole in. She thought, that's what's its come to. But then, give us a break, the day had started with a two-mile walk in thrift store bedroom slippers after running out of gas on her way home from taking Thurston's remarkably well-behaved kids to the huckleberry heartbreak of summer school ("What else am I going to do with them!" the loving but hapless father asks.) There was of course no sidewalk at the spot where the pick-up finally choked and rattled dead, as until recently, when a distinct swelling was noticed, citizens had been subtly discouraged (it being seen as socially and economically retrograde) from walking. Yes, as in most parts of Boomtown, just a foot-wide shoulder overgrown with vicious, invasive briars that some tourist had brought back from somewhere as a souvenir and then tossed out a window or some shit...a dead zone strewn with cheap looking car parts, broken glass, plastic bags, and the full range of psycho-commuter sputum and if the literally bloody walk wasn't enough, wasn't her head already ready to split open after sitting through another bullshit-fest with Thurston and Teresa over the stink of the rank, oily, pre-vomitous mess they called breakfast ... the ex who kept coming, kept rolling, kept bouncing back after each gas-bag collapse of her latest "new beginning" to spend "just a few nights" Just a few fucking goddamned nights.
And speaking of beginnings as they forever were as if they feared more than anything the meat in the middle or the moment they were in ... they had been on again about the beginnings of life, and she a devout creationist and anti-family-planning zealot was wound-up and testifying about how now with the advances in in vitro cinema ("It's a miracle!") you could clearly see the little hairs shoot out of the don't say embryonic say baby's head the very moment that old sperm impricked the quivering ovum and Thurston was allowing that all this would soon be accomplished without the need for humans doing the dirty dance 'tall or even the need of human cells ... that "they" ... the great scientific diviners,...were looking ever deeper, ever closer and soon they would be able to see the on-off switch for life itself, or would they? Or would it be like the particles of atoms, and that there would come a point where the looker and the looked at were no longer separable and the notion of an objective reality, at least in this application, withered like dad's gonads in the ice water glaze of mama's eyes and on and on until she told them if they didn't both leave for work she would burn the fucking house down around them.
And she now saw Thurston as a man who could do nothing but talk, a boy lost on a vast and lifeless sea wherein he would blather until something required enough attention that he was forced to stop talking and arbitrarily and thus without heart, he would foster the impression that this ending of talk was also and yes indeed his well-considered, formal and firm opinion/conclusion even though a moment of actual attention by the listener ... any listener ... would reveal it to be without gravity or grit and that everything was set to be On The Table again the next time that Thurston had the opportunity to talk ... On The Table! ... and ready to be rehashed again and again and again.
Outside of Rudy's house, a mockingbird began to sing. The sound crept sweetly up the stairs to where the three people found themselves sitting in an uncommon silence. Finally Geneva spoke. "I think I'll stay here," she said.
Rudy, who had been examining his grass, looked up. His eyebrows arched slightly and he appeared for a moment to be smiling but then quickly regained his signature impassivity.
Thurston blanched and trembled slightly. Although she had used the word think it was clear from Geneva's tone her decision was final. "I see," he said. Thurston rolled his eyes toward the ceiling and then looked squarely at Rudy. Rudy looked squarely back.
Geneva shifted her feet so she sat cross-legged on the rug. She seemed for a moment like she might say something else, but didn't.
Thurston shook his head and got to his feet. He glanced softly at Geneva who, like Rudy, now appeared to him completely and rather horribly different.
"I'm glad you made your decision known in front of Rudy ... So I didn't waste a lot of time talking ... maybe even begging you to stay ... by my side." He reached in his pocket and pulled out his keys. "Good luck," he said.
Thurston crossed the yard quickly. The steer Rudy had fattening in small pen by the gate mooed as he passed.
Back out on the highway, Thurston tried to turn on the truck's radio, but it had quit again, so he began instead to compose a song in his head as he'd done long ago when he had hoped they might make him famous.
"If I could just see the road ahead ... If I could just feel my hands up on this wheel ..." he sang, now without the requirement of hope.
Already beginning to adapt and improvise, he stopped at the Circle K to buy a package of hot dogs for the kids' dinner.
"How's it goin'?" the clerk asked as Thurston stepped up to pay.
Thurston thought for a minute and but nothing came to him.
"I guess it all depends on what you're used to, the clerk answered for him with a friendly sort of laugh.
Thurston collected his two cents change off the glass and put it faithfully in his pocket.
A half-hour later, Rudy and Geneva came in and bought twenty-four bottles of beer and didn't reply or even notice when the invisible man asked 'How's it goin?"
About the author:
William Painter is renovating a big old house so he can sell it and rebuild back at the place where his first home burned down in a swamp in East Central Florida with the real Cat Woman and a howling foaming herd of rescued animals. He is trying to give peace a chance, reread all the books he didnt get the first time and to write something substantial between home cookin and The Clampdown.