Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Liar

Bradbury, he is the liar.

Bradbury, the worst of them all.

But he does tell one truth, mind. He does warn us: Don’t become a rocket man.

“Don’t become a rocket man.”

People visited Dugout Dick. They listened to his corn pone songs and bought the little widgets he made. But none of them stayed. None of them stayed, even early on when there was no siren song of technology to keep from digging holes in the side of a mountain and shoring the cave up with timbers and doors from battered Volkswagens. They liked the myth of Dugout Dick.

But they did not want to live like him.

Because he smelled.

Because his songs were terrible, and the widgets useless.

Because he was a liar.

Like Bradbury.

Like Bradbury.

Oh, that I had not listened. That I had not traveled, become a rocket man, traveled on that rocket with Fiorello Bodoni.

But, alas, here I am.

“Leave, then,” Nixon said.

“Leave. Yes, you left. But did you actually leave?”

Nixon kicked at the waxy dirt with his Oxford.

“No, you did not leave. You’re still there. You’re in the class of the liars.”

“But not a crook.”

“No, not a crook.”

He beguiled us. Told us of collecting the loam, the dust, the fluff of comets and the sand of Mars and the gases of Jupiter and the powder of the moon. Then he took us to Venus and killed us with rain and with thunderstorm monsters, to Mars where he killed us with hags and memories. To wherever he wanted to take us, to kill us with our own madness.

He killed the rocket man. Burned him in the sun. Had his wife and child eating lunch at 3 am and sleeping with the green blinds drawn tight, going out during the day only when the clouds poured their rain upon the earth. So they would not see the sun.

The sun the men on Venus missed so much.

“That sets me to thinking,” Nixon said. “I think, perhaps, you’re seeing it wrong.”

I listened. A bead of sweat dripped off the ski-jump nose. He brushed a bit of Iapetus dust off his left shoulder.


“You are not happy here,” he said at last.

“Ah, I see why the Vulcans believe only Nixon could go to China,” I said with a sneer.

He continued, ignoring my outburst. “The men on Venus, they were not happy in the rain. They wanted the sun. The rocket man was not happy at home whenever he looked up and saw the stars. Fiorello Bodoni was not happy providing for his family, but rather wanted to provide something too far out of his reach, too far out of necessity.”

“I know what it is like” he said, swallowing hard, Adam’s apple bouncing against the Windsor knot of his necktie, “not to be happy where you are. And when you arrive, you find that happiness. And the realization that it is fleeting.”

“Bradbury does not lie,” he said, staring up at the blaze of stars in the black sky. “Bradbury tells the truth. We are rarely happy where we are, unless in our minds we are in that unattainable place where happiness always resides.”

“He would tell you you are a crook,” I spat.

“Yes,” Nixon said. “And he would be telling the truth. For he is not a liar. Like you and I.”

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