Thursday, November 8, 2012

Tricky Dick

NOTE: An experimental excerpt from the novel I'm currently working on.

“My mother was a saint,” he said. “Probably nobody will write a book about her. But she was a saint.”

I sat with him on a greasy rock, overlooking the lapping waves.

Suit coat, back home. But still the proper dark blue windbreaker, tie, wing-tip shoes. “Just because you’re on the beach,” he said, “is no reason not to look presidential. You never saw Kruschev in swimming trunks. And Brezhnev, well, you wouldn’t want to. All that dark hair.”

We sat on the greasy rock, overlooking the lapping waves.

The lapping waves.

The lapping waves.

See? It is meaningless.


We fed the squirrels, while their cows grazed on the sawgrass.

“Quite the little herd,” he said. “Never knew cattle could eat sawgrass, but,” he said, glancing at the sun-dappled sea, then up into the black of space where Saturn and its visible moons and rings danced in the same sunlight, “guess they’ve got to eat what’s available, right?”

“Yes, that seems correct,” I said.

“Damn this tapioca, though,” he said. “It’s terrible. Might as well have flies in it; couldn’t taste any worse.” He dropped his spoon back into the little hollow in the stone we sat on, from where he had been spooning the pudding into his mouth. I looked at it. Though spoonable, it was as dusty and unattractive as the grease we sat on, the grease that did not appear to stain his suit, but left mine oozing a black ichor for weeks, even after I washed it. I picked up the spoon and poked at the stuff. It was reddish-black, the color of burnt toast spread with burnt raspberry jam. When I pulled the spoon from the muck, a long strand stretched form the rock to the spoon, finally snapping when it was about a meter long.

“I miss the challenge,” he said. “The fight. You know what they wanted me to do,” he asked.

“No,” I said, putting the spoon back in place. “I do not know.”

The dog danced in the surf, barking at the foam.

“Diplomacy in hell. Literally, in Hell itself,” he said. “My grandmother, Almira Milhous, she wouldn’t hear of it.”

“But I did it. Studied it out. Read everything I could about it. Do you know that Mormons don’t really believe in Hell like the rest of us do?” he said. “Very few people go to Mormon hell. The rest of us, we all go to heaven, though heaven’s divided like a three-story building. Sartre said hell was other people. The Mormons say hell is knowing you could have done better.”

He clasped his hands, and his head drooped. He fumbled with his fingers for a moment as the dog barked in the surf.

“You don’t have to say it,” I said.

“I say it every day,” he said.

We stared into the surf for a while, watching the dog leap as the waves rolled gently in.

“We lived in the same house,” I said, after a long silence. “She did her thing. I did mine. We got along well, so I thought we were happy. It’s what happens when one hermit marries another – you forget. You forget there’s togetherness.”

More lapping waves.

More lapping waves.

So peaceful. Regular. And calming.

The sea, is a hermit. Though it girths the world, though it is filled with plants and animals making love and reproducing and birthing and dying and rotting away and being eaten or hunted, it is a hermit. It is alone. If something small within it dies, it moves along. The waves keep crashing to the shore.

“The world moves along,” he said, finally looking up, back to the sea and the sun. “No matter what you do, the world keeps turning. Night turns to day, day turns to night. The stars fade as the sun rises, reappear as it sets. And the colors,” he said. “Oh, the colors. Red and orange on the clouds, rippling from the horizon on that sine wave of differing pressures. And mackerel skies, patches of indigo, purple, blue, and that delicate pink you see only in the sky. I’ve never seen it reproduced anywhere else.”

“It moves along,” he said. “Rain falls on the just and the unjust. And the sun, it will always rise.”

Lapping waves.

Lapping waves.

“What is it,” he asked. “What is it that finally happened?”

I sighed.

“I tell people,” I said, “it’s because she said she could tell the difference between butter and I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter.”

He laughed. “And they buy that?”

“Not really,” I said. “But it’s the tale I tell.”

No comments: