A very busy Friday:
Writing a grant, that if awarded, will rebrand my working life catchphrase to “Dreams come true if you’re not selfish and greedy”.
Cleaning house in expectation of a visit from darling granddaughters.
Planning meals and play for great daughters of grandness.
Painting a picture.
Band practice at 5 p.m.
Drinking craft beer, chasing with water, and making good craic.
In 2000 I published a book of essays inspired by contentment from homeschooling my daughter. It wasn’t meant to be instructional, still, the people who bought the three copies most likely expected teaching tips and lesson plans, and got a book of village idiot “head space” instead.
First, the story of how I hooked up with my wife, followed by an apple fetish under steely skies of ecstasy and roast duck.
You won’t be audibly disappointed, because I know you’re sensitive and polite like me, and don’t want to hurt the feelings of a child my age.
First though, three introductions:
How strong is this feeling of fleeting moments!
I cannot capture any beauty running by
My hands touching glass
I stand at the pantry window
and watch the backyard
What is it moving?
What music do I hear?
There are countless visions
of a little girl and you,
my greatest happiness
Oh these bittersweet movements
of moments missing love.
My hands touching glass
What a wetness all around!
The wind. The leaves are in endless applause cheering each other on, “Cling to your tree! Stand your ground!” The stiff breeze teases them, impatient to tear them from their branches—the wilted remains of the fresh green they once were—but not today. Today they cling and laugh in whispers and sunny jubilance.
This day! This perfection! The clouds shroud the horizon on all sides, rising in vaporous, silvery castles, solid with weight of the dampness that wants to fall—that will fall, but not today, the first cool day marking the coming of autumn.
I sit and wonder at my own joy. I see it, hear it, feel it, taste it, a tangible thing. I could collect it all up and bottle it. Leave it on shelves in Ball jars to keep me from starving after the Iron Nights come and go. Ah, but I am a glutton, and I sit with my heart and belly overfull wanting to shout out the happiness that I’m feeling to someone, to no one, to all the world, to myself, to you!
Instead I watch the sun melt like butter in a curdled sunset against an appaloosa sky, and smile with the wind.
I love you Daddy, love you very much
Love is more than a piece of cake
I love you more than all the stars
You will never die of me loving you
You are my very own dad
You kiss me good night when ever I want you to
No daddy is ever nicer than you,
You are precious
You gave me two kittens when I wanted them
I will love you forever and until I die
I will still love you when I am dead
Love always rules
The Dead Cat’s Head
Kierkegarrd had his Regine, but before he could get his end in, he thought better to sacrifice his love for love, a true love, and then broke their happy engagement. The following is an account of that love, the ultimate sacrifice of it, for “it”, and the sacred determination of a few cooks, one dishwasher and a cocktail waitress, who, as a group, found it within their hearts to disassociate themselves from the herd, to revere life, to gnaw at life, so to speak, right to the bone, crack the bone and drink the marrow. It is the nonsense of this miserable human life that makes sense—true sense. For those who can see eternity in the day, let them see yet another day. God just wanted us to be happy, but most of all, above anything else, he wanted to be understood.
A Zen master was once asked, “What is the most valuable thing in all the world?” He answered, “The head of a dead cat.” “But why?” asked the confused monk. “Because no one can put a price on it you idiot!”
About mid-July I had the dead cat on my brain. However the rest of the world, the human part of it anyway, was wasting their wonderful selves contemplating the cost of morality, money, newspaper hob-glob, and the 10,000 things which aren’t revered or cherished, but set up in the better part of their brains for the spiders to devour. I was so sick of their preoccupation with making sense, that it was high time again that I leap into the dark, run away from work, from child, from the thirty romances flowing through my veins, and maybe even leap out of life itself. So lonely it is with God on your mind all the time, and no one to talk to save this head of a dead cat.
There was Ylayali of course. Ylayali of the West and an ardent supporter of my madness. And there was my Chrysler New Yorker Fifth Avenue, better named “Sally” by my daughter Rhiannon. Surely it would not mind leaving with me. We would go, but when? If I could wait a week, (how does one wait to act?), then my best bet would be to leave at the start of Harborfest, an annual weekend celebration devoted to the tired slaves and bored masters of Oswego. Yes, of course! I would leave on the restaurant’s most profitable night, leave with a bang, while my work friends, the other little chickens, ran around frantically looking for their heads. I would leave on Friday taking the quickest route to the Pacific Ocean. Arriving there like a Santa Anna blaze, I would run up to Ylayali’s doorstep to kiss her red lips and chop off her cat’s head all together in one movement. Then a clean fast break to the pier and Sally and Ron would be no more. A creative way for me to leave. This time with no strings attached.
This is my typical dreaming. For years now I have had my escape planned out. It’s always changing, yes, and actually becoming more interesting in proportion to my rising madness. Perhaps next year I will throw myself into a pool of blood-thirsty sharks, or maybe devise a neat and simple little way to bury myself alive. Who knows? God knows that there is nothing to change in this world. But this God is certain that if you don’t change for me, I won’t be able to stand it!
So there I am at work, sweating out my fifteenth hang over in a row, fully prepared to leave the calamari prepped and waiting, and run out the door to California right then, when I am struck with an idea. Now next to me stands Mike juggling sauté pans. Mike, who in a week will be leaving this rotten business. Mike, who in a way is a kindred spirit—so much life in him, but too much of it spent on the quest for the perfect palpitating labia. At the broiler stands Brian, all worked up flipping burgers and steaks with a pent-up vengeance and, like me, hardly needing an excuse to lose his mind. What about these two? Surely they won’t need much convincing. And my suicide can be postponed. There is plenty of time in store for that! Three of Augie’s best cooks en route to California, their first desire to live and one of a lessor nature to destroy all the harmful things that the boss holds so precious and dear, like money, morality, a liquor license... We will ruin him! And at the same time relinquish our status as untouchables. It’s a plan too good to be true. After kissing Ylayali, I might even settle down and rent a ranch house in the desert. There would be my friends to look after, and Sally...
I suggest all of this to Mike while garnishing the Buffalo China. He’s game, or so he says. I don’t buy it. I need to boost his morale a bit, so I start to sing the wanderer’s song, loud enough for the whole kitchen to hear. Jeff walks over with his big grin, “What’s up Ronnie? Where are you going?”
“I’m not going anywhere—alone. We’re going to California. The cooks and their cars.”
“At the moment Augie turns his register on next Friday.”
“I’m in,” he says, but means, “Oh no, there goes Ronnie, leaving the planet again.”
Brian hears our talk. He’s grinning from ear to ear. His mind is losing in its own trench warfare. He is looking for a way out. There is no doubt among us that we are cowards, and that we know how to run away. So what if the scallops are charcoal? Brian has stepped off the broiler to work on a flyer announcing our get away. So what if we are bad cooks? We’re fair cooks at least. Augie will have sufficient time to stock his kitchen with reinforcements. We’re not such proud sailors as we are smart ones. The big guns discharge their rounds in the distance. The galley is filling up with smoke. Why mutiny? We are cooks for Christ’s sake! Tong-fisted and right in our own minds, we will march into the captain’s quarters unannounced, shake the good Admiral’s hand, and then jump into our dingys and row with a ferocity that will get us to the Malaysia by midnight.
The flyer is up. Now to make it a reality. I know that it will be impossible for me to let up. When freedom is on the floor, I become freedom’s lobbyist. I make my best speeches whenever the dead cat is on the brain. I pound my fist on the cut table, “There isn’t a moment to lose my friends! So much is at stake you see.” Brian will not accept Santa Monica as our destination. He declares San Pedro and the Queen Mary. Okay Mr. Conzone, I’d give you Death Valley if it would secure your vote for me in this affair. It doesn’t matter where we go, as long as we go!
For the rest of the shift we set our sights on the work ahead. The auto pilot has been switched on. Our senses are tackling greater visions than those inspired by a sizzling butterflied filet mignon.
In the course of the night my plan to run away has evolved into a cook's race across the continental United States. A “Cannonball Run.” Two to a car, the driver and his co-pilot. Rest stops, route markers in Oklahoma City and Flagstaff, prize monies totaling $5.00, but that’s it! A lovely affair!
Now I am happy. With a little help from my friends, I have once again defeated the living death. Greg the manager looks worried. He is Augie’s emissary to the kitchen, so of course he’s nervous. At first he didn’t take me seriously. Now that the cooks are backing my plan, he will ask more questions. He must be thinking, “How many crazy people can exist in one restaurant, in one insignificant, sparsely populated city in upstate NY? Well, by my count there are four of us so far. However, Jeff is only half crazy. He won’t dare take his car. “She won’t make it to Buffalo,” he says.
Sally is my love. I put all my faith into her. Just an affectionate rub across her dash from time to time, and she will perform miracles. Brian has my old car, the Chevette I wouldn’t name because of the cancer that was eating away at her. Better not to name the dying. I gave her to Brian when Sally moved in, and I must say, he fixed her up considerably well on account of his desire. Brian wants to take the vette because, well, that is Brian. He also wants to send a carrot into orbit. A little endowment would help. A Fellowship perhaps. But who in his “right” mind will hand his precious dollars over to a man with a carrot and a dream? Nobody! Miserably we live, miserably we die, and all for a lie. Who’s got the guts to do right and squash any groundless presumption that he is right? I tell you this, you miserable creatures... No one is right! We are dead wrong. Over and over again, this ringing in my ears, and Miller’s voice repeating inside, “The life man is living is a lie!”
So we are living a lie and we are dead wrong. Now to do right and sing Brian’s praises. Sing the cook’s song. Sing about life. How can I prove to you that in order to live, to really have lived, there must have been a time in your rotten life when the only thing left to do before dying was to pack a stuffed Cornish game hen inside a plastic fish bucket, with breading for sand, and notes and photographs of the dishwasher, and then send it off to sea? How can I prove that to you if I am dead wrong? Just last night in all of our fever and ferment we began planning our attack on the U.S. Naval Ship that has docked in Oswego Harbor to spread goodwill throughout our “right” community. We don’t want their goodwill. We are not well, nor right. We are going to bomb them with six day old fish, rotten tomatoes, slabs of green meat, and hopefully a dead chicken or two. Wonderful! I can see us in full regale, a band of pirate cooks stalking the woods, each one of us wrapped in thirty pounds of bungi, botulism and salmonella. Just imagine a typical drunken sailor’s reaction to an incoming trout head...These are the beautiful days! And Brian will be our captain. I cannot speak for the rest of the fellows, but whatever booty we collect, I plan on donating my part to Brian and his carrot. Good luck El Capitan! I believe your nonsense should be the only way living goes.
The work night is over. Several of us unwind at the long waitress table discussing our race. I have to say “our race” now because we are cooks and cooks must spice together, always. The pen is in my hand and I am jotting down prospective contestants. Rose sits at the head. She is dying to join us. She has kitchen blood, although she’s not quite ready to spill it all for the promise of San Pedro and a five dollar cash prize. Still, I am convinced that she is mad in her own right and honorable enough to appreciate our periodic blasts of nonsensical behavior. She was the first to defend my decision to wrap a silver salmon skin around my forehead. It disgusted her yes, but she came back to the kitchen with a smile and handed me a pin so that I wouldn’t lose my crown. She defends me. She and the cooks of course. The symbol of acceptance is illumined to a higher propensity when beauty, or what is popularly defined as beauty, Rose, allows you to act, no matter how foolishly, in a way so as to offend most people. She is beautiful because she is off her rocker. That is why I love her. And why I was the first to second her motion to run someplace closer. Immediately a round of suggestions filled the air. New York, Pittsburgh, Cape Cod. In fact it was a good idea—for everyone else. Creative cooks we all are, but I was the most desperate one. A shorter route, and everyone would keep their jobs. We could race round trip and not lose a scheduled shift. Perfect for Rose. Another compromise for me. Even Greg, who was now very relieved, decided to join up. And all the others, if they had doubts before, weren’t doubting now. “Atlantic City!” It was decided. Racing, gambling, racing, running...The Dead Cat’s Head, ancient and alive in July! A happy cook. Happy friends. Happy days when nothing fits, and nothing is more joyful than nothing with a purpose. And there is no point to anything, and nothing is right. Yet we are human, all too human, and I must not be the only one who will never forget this.
Rose decided to run with Greg. Joe Garcia, phallic dishwasher, was cruelly being swapped around by the drivers. At first, Brian picked God as his co-pilot, but apparently, God did not want to ride brake-free in a Chevy Chevette. So Brian asked Joe and Joe settled with Brian for the simple insanity of it. Mike would be my co-pilot. He wanted to ride with class, and out of all the cook’s cars, mine was the classiest. Old, a little worn yes, but that is class. Greg had a brand new purple truck, but Sally had working electronic seats lined with smooth, beige Corinthian leather. Greg would ride with the motto, “America Built Tough”. The unwritten phrase across Sally’s dash read, “Cook created and marvelously dilapidated”.
It was agreed all around that Jeff would ride with Matt, who was temporarily laid flat out in bed with Mono. We didn’t have to ask Matt about the run; we just knew he would come. Wouldn’t miss it for the world, or for a shiny new bottle of Cuervo Gold, either. Matt was sick, even dying perhaps, but Jeff would be there to nurse him, to make sure Matt drank a lot of liquids. He would be there to nourish him with salts, proteins and canned beer, and if need be, to stop off the road every ten minutes to take his patient’s temperature.
The following week was filled with anticipation for the run. We kept reminding each other not to back out. Once the official entry list was posted, Greg backed out. Perhaps he thought that being a manager put certain limits on his free time. According to him, sleep was a requirement, second only to lining Augie’s pockets with gold. I should have figured as much.
Rose would ride with Mike and I. By mid-week, Matt was back in the kitchen, well-drugged and prepared to get himself reacquainted with the smoking broiler. He could stand now, so he could cook. He used to say, “I’ll have plenty of time to sleep when I am dead”. Well, at twenty-one he has a stomach ulcer and black lung. He wants to die before he’s fifty and his driving is proof of that. Matt and Jeff would be the team to beat.
Brian is the best driver, but he had a mouse for a car. A dead mouse. A few days before the run he let a blind man drive it through a corn field. “Don’t worry about me,” he said, “She’s going to the shop on Monday.” We can’t imagine what he can do to make the Vette carry the speed limit, much less, put it on the road, but not one of us who is worried. If Brian rides a snail, you can bet its shell is overflowing with rocket fuel. He has the ingenuity to make a fast car faster and a slow car the fastest. Brian is crazy, but unlike Matt, he’s not suicidal. There is the difference.
The First Annual Admiral Woolsey’s Cannonball Run. What shall we do without us? Back to the dead cat... Now I hope I make myself perfectly clear that when I say there is absolutely nothing for us to do, I mean that there is nothing that cannot be done. Dawn is a womb and she sets us free. Yesterday a name was given to me and I failed to live up to that name. Fine. But today I awoke with the intention to keep that name and its trail of countless miserable failures. Why? Am I insane? It’s not a matter of being a failure or not. Who cares? Words miss the point, always, and you know that. And you must know too that success is just the down slope on a mountain called Failure. The real problem of success and failure is that man, in his trivial existence thus far, has amounted to nothing more than a bricklayer. It was the Egyptians who built the Pyramids, right? My God, how many more civilizations must rise and fall and bury themselves into the center of the Earth before a man flows out of the dawn screaming, “I don’t know a damned thing!”? I so want to believe that I am not Ron Throop, that that fool has long since passed away, he failed one afternoon and died... I want to believe that you too haven’t a clue, that together we can go on performing random acts of madness in the name of the dead cat, in the nameless name of ourselves, till we fall out of the sun into the world brand new each day.
“Shams and delusions are esteemed for soundest truths, while reality is fabulous. If men would steadily observe realities only, and not allow themselves to be deluded, life, to compare it to such things as we know, would be like a fairy tale and the Arabian Nights Entertainments. If we respected only what is inevitable and has a right to be, music and poetry would resound along the streets. When we are unhurried and wise, we perceive that only great and worthy things have any permanent and absolute existence—that petty fears and petty pleasures are but the shadow of reality. This is always exhilarating and sublime. By closing the eyes and slumbering, and consenting to be deceived by shows, men establish and confirm their daily life of routine and habit everywhere, which still is built on purely illusory foundations. Children, who play life, discern its true law and relations more clearly than men, who fail to live it worthily, but who think that they are wiser by experience, that is, by failure...”—Thoreau
Reality is not fabulous! You are awake, now prove that to me. I do not wish to see another infinite regression of habit and routine, and don’t even try exhausting yourself with reasons why it must be so. Maybe habit and routine are a necessary part of life, that is, in order to live at all, we must find a routine that will help us to earn our daily bread. Also, it would be a good habit now and then to stay on one side of the double yellow line. What fear goads us into resignation? The fear of change? Is it change that will destroy our good intentions? Arise this new morning alive and alight. Step out onto the porch and tell me what you see. A row of cars, a tree, a garbage can, telephone wires, a child, a bird, a blue sky... Listen, you’ve never seen a God damned thing and you know it! Beneath every face another world; beneath the tree bark, what magnificent constellations! Another world on the tip of your finger creating and destroying other worlds.
How about a bite to eat, perhaps lunch out on the deck, a fish sandwich, or a burger cooked to medium? And while you wipe the grease from your chin, I bet the thought doesn’t cross your mind that a band of pirate cooks will murder you on the highway tonight. How could you ever imagine something so absurd? You stand alone, helpless in a world which you subscribe to everyday. Why imagine another one? Water is H2O and the sky is blue. You get paid on Friday and you’re living a miserable lifetime. You rose clean, ate your breakfast, shaved, showered, and stepped out into the sun for a breath of fresh air. You watched a man walk out his door and get into a car. Is he going to hell, to work, the welfare line, shopping? Besides the fact that he drives a white car and wears a tie for a belt, you know nothing about him. Obviously he is not a god, a saint, or a magician; a telemarketer perhaps, maybe a stock boy or a dishwasher. All in all, it’s all the same to you. You go to the doctor, the cook, the druggist, the clerk, so many moments in the day when you pass the man in the street, pass under a towering oak tree, step out of the car into the rage of the sun, but a cloudy one, a darker sun, the sun of eclipse in your ass, the sun that rises and sets in your ass. Never a sun of passion or a sun of light, change, miraculous change, fertility, wonder... And absolutely not the sun of God, but the sun you pray will sink into night, a sun that is wasting its time with you; a sun to illumine the ten thousand things; a sun to put an exorbitant price on the dead cat’s head; a sun to daily remind the world of the great failure you are; and a sun to remind you that it’s never too late to cast away all prejudice. Ah, to wake up beside the dawn and not against it! To call yourself Jack, Xavier or Git and give each of these fellas the chance to fail the day miserably. Let the sun then be a constant reminder of your incredible folly. If a man must do anything, then he must persist in his folly. Life is not a routine thing. It is a whim. Like the sun it fancies the day. It directs itself and follows its own intuition. What is the difference between man and the sun? Nothing. If you happen to wake up tomorrow morning with the thought, “All right, I have had enough,” then that is your success and I congratulate your decision to burn out. Otherwise live. Nothing should be expected of you but to shine.
I spent the morning of the race scrubbing Sally inside and out. I gave her a thorough cleaning, even new floor mats for the finishing touch on her evening dress. Then Mike and I picked up a spare tire for her at the junk yard. Across the street a group of spinsters were having a yard sale. On a table strewn with the knickknacks of the damned, sat two thumb-sized plastic Buddhas grinning over the nonsense of the human world. One for Mike and one for me, and two for Sally to secure our victory. We set one on each side of her dash, and then named them after each of our true spirits, our Buddha nature. Jazzy and Tim. My Buddha was Tim. No Caucasian Christs for our ride. No need to suffer. No reason to wake up early feeling guilty for the sins that will surely happen in the day. The Buddha sat under the swaying tree. I bet Christ did too, but his disciples tried to make something of it, and for that reason, all Christian racers must ride with a sorrowful, constipated looking mascot. It’s a wonder they don’t crash full throttle into stone. Why live to worship the image of suffering? Why live at all?
The rest of the afternoon I spent picking out my garb and putting a few final touches on Sally. First I went to the Salvation Army, and after tiresome deliberation with the fashion gods, I decided to dress my skin up in gangster apparel. It looked good. It fit Sally. I figured Mike would be going with the Hugh Hefner look, and Rose would be joining us after her date, dressed I’m sure, to kill and look good. Sally though, still needed a bit of internal work. A cooler with ice and juice, some wine (Mike would take care of that), road maps, individualized seat markers, music for her tape machine, a coin box, and finally, the one thing I couldn’t leave without: my bronze replica of Shiva the destroyer, my patron god of world creation and destruction. Our God of true suffering, of true joy, the fire of life, the spasm of ecstasy...
So our team was ready. Mike had no license so I planned to drive straight through, unless Rose volunteered along the way. As far as I could tell, the other boys were ready too. It was July’s early evening. All the racers were hard at work, except for me. I had a day off, a day of rest. I pitied their misfortune. They had to pretend to be something other than mad escapists, not to become themselves until the gas was turned off, the floors swept and mopped, and their engines set idling in the parking lot. I got to be myself though, walking into the kitchen to check on their status, when Brian approached me with a desperate look.
“Ron, I can’t go,” he said, “I don’t have a car.”
The Chevette died on the operating table. It didn’t matter. I was not going to let the captain down. “Brian,” I said, “do you want to go?”
“Yea. I got my bag packed.”
“Then cook my friend. There will be a car here waiting for you.”
Nothing was going to stop us. Man, it meant my life. I drove Sally over to Jeff’s apartment without mentioning my true intentions to her. Jeff always coveted my precious Sally, and at any other time would have paid top dollar for her affections. I knew that Sally wanted only my happiness, so she consented to be Jeff’s for a while, (I couldn’t muster the courage to tell her that it would be forever). Jeff took her like a glutton, his gold tooth sparkling over my incredible folly. I sold Sally for a bag of rice. I sold her because of my starvation, sold her for a Pontiac T-1000, a rice bag that would ride along side of me on a five dollar race to oblivion. But ah, for the love of it! To let her go! To sit down for a hot bowl of rice and dip your chopsticks into nothing. And nothingness be digested! To feed yourself on spirit, to offer the other man your nourishment. Yes, to be a starving idiot. Jeff was, and is, a calculating individual. How could he ever know that I was starving? One plus nothing equaled a fully equipped Chrysler New Yorker, and Brian became the famished new owner and racer of the car that Jeff wouldn’t even drive to Buffalo.
The night was saved. The race was still on! I would keep Sally for the ride, and no matter what the outcome, hand her title over to Jeff at the winner’s circle. I came back to the restaurant with Mike’s camera at closing time to fill my tank up with cigarettes and coffee. Everyone was happy. To look into our eyes, one was sure to sense satori. My friends and I, with something of gigantic unimportance to complete, never in our lives gave a damn for worldly things. Reach into the heart of any man or woman and find there a desire that no material treasure has ever touched. Our hearts are only moved by nonsense. Love is nonsense. Friendship too. Children never demand a world with money or business. Children have never left our hearts. That night we reinstated the love of pretend and called that our political party, our front page news, our way of getting a living. We were right. Period. And no one would be able to change our minds again.
It was on!
And then it was over. Atlantic City is a horrible place friends. Don’t go unless your urge to live is much stronger than your urge to gamble. Philadelphia is ugly too. Christ, every little bit of man’s world must be hell unless one can blend in well a good bit of fear and trembling with the dead cat’s head. Kierkegarrd’s love was in his break with the world church, his own spiritual defiance of the status quo. He relied on the strength of the absurd to feed him throughout the rest of his life. Had he not known about the dead cat, he might have dived off the Copenhagen pier to put an end to his world. If he had a horse and buggy, then perhaps he would have grabbed Regine and eloped to Hamburg on a Saturday night.
If you are a doctor, a Priest, or a munitions worker, if you are anything that you never wanted to be, don’t fear. No need to reach into the bureau drawer for the pistol just yet. Why scar your precious hide? I say organize something stupid in your life, and you will be set free. Heck, if you still have ten toes, give one away. You have an appointment at 9:00 am. Walk to it naked with a duck in your arms. If your wife appears sad, and cannot understand your present deviation, hand her over with your title, your career, and all of your possessions. How are any of those things going to make you happy? If it will help, jot down your foolish triumphs in a little black notebook. A nice place to go if you need to be reminded that life is definitely worth living. But only to those who feel the need to be alive.
I am happy to be alive. And I am happy that I have friends who want to live. I am happy that Brian still mentions his carrot. My car won the race. The poetry would have been justified if we came in last place. It didn’t matter. That afternoon at the restaurant, exhausted cooks ran into the kitchen to punch their driving times in on the clock, and begin their night’s work. Six hundred miles of rough road, no sleep, and a very busy night of cook work ahead. The boss rolled his eyes and shook his head at us. Still, we gave him a good show considering we should have been passed out cold. Well worth the pain though, to put another notch on the belt of life, to live another day. To really live another day! We got a stronger feeling for nothing and a single memory to always stand up against a repetition of life that put men to sleep long before their bedtime.
The First of Four Very Short Stories Written Under Sexy Duress for the Year 3000
I think Rose is trying to make me crazy. I asked her to come up with a subject for me to write about. I thought it might be a good idea to get a happy soul’s suggestion, since my subject choices almost always invite scorn and contempt from my bitter brain. Rose is a happy soul. I want to write about happy, no matter how impossible. Usually I can find something humanly evil and wrong behind the making of an apple. She could have said, “Kangaroos,” but those hyper monsters would end up stomping all the tourists to death. If she asked for babies, then all the unlucky newborns would contact brain gangrene by the age of two. Being a bitter, angry, misplaced suburban husband and father of one does not make me a good candidate for inspirational, new age, and futuristic writing. So what? Has there ever been a good candidate for anything? I am the great optimistic pessimist. I will do my best to keep the good and the happy in the following very short stories about the year Three Thousand. I love Rose, and I never want to make her cry. Besides writing about the next millennium, today, the day before our year 2000, I plan to cook and serve a wonderful holiday meal. Roast Duck with Cherry Sauce, some other savory masterpiece which I haven’t decided on yet, and a surprise sweet treat to complement the Key Lime Pie that I have an unusual craving for today. That being said, my hands are full. Ready, go!
The Day John Lindsey Finally Picked an Apple and a Roast Duck Fell Out of The Sky and Killed Him.
“I don’t care what she says. They’re all crazy. Apples didn’t give them cancer. I’m down right sick and tired of flax milk and fish pills! I’m sick of her, all we do is sit there and wait. I hate waiting. I had to get out of the house. We didn’t kill them. It’s not our fault. Oh my god! That’s disgusting. What’s that smell? I should have listened. I shouldn’t have left. They’re watching. Did they see the letter? Can they read my writing? Will they know what writing is? Oh Jesus, they’re watching. What am I doing?”
John ran as fast as he could. It was his first time. If they spotted him, they would kill him. He didn’t realize this. He thought they were watching. But they were not. If they saw him, they would kill him.
No one ran. No one knew. You never ran. Days were spent sitting, or walking to the hole to relieve oneself. John ran.
He found a book under his chair. They never got rid of the chair. There were too many chairs. There was too much to do. People were hungry. John read the book three hundred times while his wife slept. It was an ancient book stapled under his chair. He didn’t know what a moon was. What was a car? When Dorey ate an apple, John became transfixed. Dorey was the lone character in the book who got into a car and drove it over a bascot. What was a car? What was a bascot? What was an apple?
An apple was red. He knew the color red. The sun was red.
He knew it was round, and could be held in the hand and eaten. Dorey ate the apple the day before the bascot. John loved Dorey because Dorey wasn’t John. Dorey got to run away with a car and nobody watched him. Dorey was a man. John didn’t know if he was a man or not. John was terrified. John stopped to breathe.
“What’s this? Where am I? I’m nowhere. Too quiet. Oh Jesus, what’s this? It stinks. It’s green. There are millions of them. They’re moving. They’re waving. They’re happy to see me!”
John was looking at grass.
Oh no, I am crushing them! Oh I didn’t want this! Not this. Help!”
John ran again, trampling the blades of grass. He ran frantically, clumsily, with his arms flapping wildly.
“Up ahead, what’s that? People?”
“Brown, gray, green. Yes, they are people. Hundreds of arms. They’re waving. A thousand red eyes. Are they friendly? Ahh! What the hell was that? What’s that buzzing sound? What is that wonderful smell? Good Jesus, oh God, I am Dorey! Those red eyes are apples! Lovely red, round apples. I want just one. I need one. But those people have got them all! Are they the army? Are they the President’s guards?”
John moved closer to the orchard.
“Wait. They have stopped waving. That smell! They’re not people. What are they? Be careful. This is the end. Good John. Good Dorey. Carefully. Careful...Yes! Oh sweet beloved joy yes! This is my apple, my apple, my glorious triumph. My car, my apple, my bascot! Oh you feel so good, so smooth. Are you made of water? Shall I eat you? Dorey ate you. No, I will hold you and stay with you, and sleep here tonight with all of these arms and things. They’re gentle. They don’t want to hurt me. They love me. I love them.”
John sat with his apple the whole day. The red sun set, and darkness came. The noises came. The sounds of night. John listened and thought and would not sleep. The apple sat in his lap sleeping.
“Where will I go? Can I stay here? What about these arms? Will they wake up? What was that? What’s moving? Nothing. It’s gone. It’s cold. My apple. I’ve got my apple Dorey. Now I need a car and a bascot. They’re reading my letter. They’re watching and waiting to bring me back. Help me. Help me!”
Slowly the moon showed above the horizon.
“Ahhhh! They see me. They want me. They got me in their light. I’m trapped. My apple. It’s now or never. No bascot. No car. No Dorey. What’s that? ‘Quack, quack, quack?’ Oh it’s to much. Too much!”
A band of traveling mallards flew into the moonlight. John took a bite out of his apple and screamed in a high, maniacal tone. Suddenly a blinding flash of light, then a “thump,” and John lay motionless on the orchard floor. The strong odor of roast duckling wafted into the apple trees. John Lindsey was dead. The end.
Substack prevents me from finishing the stories. This was on the menu that fateful Y2K New Years Eve:
Roast duck with cherry-pecan sauce
Mushroom-garlic terrine with steamed Brussels sprouts and carrots
Assorted field greens with lemon vinaigrette
Roasted garlic mashed potatoes
Key lime pie with freshly whipped cream
Wet lemon-maple cake with vanilla ice cream
Take it from here Rhiannon!