“I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart: I am, I am, I am.”
Sylvia Plath The Bell Jar
Sylvia Plath The Bell Jar
July 27, 1989
His trailer was crammed in a single lot at the Speckled Trout Mobile Home Park, only a stone’s throw from the channel. The smell of burnt rubber and dead fish hung in the air. Over the pines, the cranes of Barbour’s Cut Terminal banged stacks of cargo crates onto mammoth vessels. Drayton carried his lunch pail through the lightless courtyard and waved at a group of plant workers. They were hunched around a smelly oil drum fire like sentries at some backwoods leper colony.
You got a stog? yelled one, a fatcheeked welder everyone called Ogre. He wore a thin ponytail and a ball cap over his bald dome.
I only got one, Drayton said.
Well that’s good. I can only smoke one at a time. Ogre took it and lit it off the fire. I get paid Friday, he said, and held out a bottle of Mad Dog.
Nah, I gotta run, Drayton said.
Sit down and holler awhile, said Dusty. He was a lanky welder with a lazy eye, dressed in ragged overalls speckled with burn holes. Drayton could never tell which eye to look at so he just looked at the ground.
Ain’t no use bein in no hurry, Ogre said.
I got dinner waitin on me.
Just for awhile.
Drayton sighed. He plopped down on a log and grabbed the bottle.
You heard about ol Shane, Dusty said.
I don’t believe so.
Got his pecker stuck in a vacuum.
Judas Priest, Ogre said. What’d he have it jammed in there for?
He was checking it for mites, what the hell you think he had it in there for.
Always figured Shane for a pud puller.
Act like you ain’t never done it, Dusty said.
Not in no goddam hoover I ain’t.
Quit interruptin me, Dusty said.
I’m sorry. I am. Just go ahead.
Like I was saying. Old Shane you recall spends lot of time over there at Grandma Viv’s place.
Always thought there was something strange tween the two of em. Carryin on with an old broad like that.
Here you go again, Dusty said.
Anyway, he was over at her trailer the other night, and they was watching game shows and she was making him supper. He’d been slaving away puttin roofs on houses all day and needed a good meal, by god. She made some of those meatballs in tomato gravy like she does.
Hot damn, Ogre said, licking his lips.
Well she told him go in there and take a shower so’s he wouldn’t be stinkin up her couch from all his sweat. Told him she got hot water and all. Towels are right there in the linen closet. So ol Shane, he heads to rinse off but as he’s walkin through her bedroom he can’t help but notice she has one of them new vacuums by her closet. One of them fancy upright ones with the big cylinder in the middle and all them fancy attachments in a little case.
Madison could use one of those, Drayton said, wincing at the sulfuric wine. She’s getting tired of sweeping that dirty carpet.
Any-way, Dusty said, waving the smoke from his eyes. Shane always had it in his head one of them vacuums would make for a fine little companion, if you know what I mean. But he ain’t never seen a real one. So he peeks back down the hallway and Grandma Viv’s sittin there on the couch, the TV blarin about big money and no whammies and shit. And then he sneaks back in the room and wheels that vacuum in the bathroom and strips down nekkid. Flips the switch and climbs in that steamin shower with the hose in his hand.
Which hose, Ogre laughed, and winked at Drayton.
I wish you would just shut up, Dusty barked.
Go on with your perverted ass story, Ogre said.
Well Shane didn’t waste any time. He turns his back to the shower head and feels that blazin water on his neck and just jams that son of a bitch right on his little pecker. And Whoop! That tube just gobbled up his whole crotch and by god stretched everything but the jimmies to the max.
Great toads of fire, Ogre said.
Yup. Wouldn’t let go, neither.
He couldn’t get it off?
Hell no that suction was too strong. Shane never figured on account of how much power that vacuum has. Like I told you, it was a highdollar one.
What’d he do? Ogre cried, his fat cheeks red as strawberries.
He screamed like a ninny, what the hell you think he did? Fell over backwards and banged his head on the tub. Blood starts spurtin everwhere and he’s layin there in the bottom of the shower, screaming like hell jumped up, beating his fists about the walls, shrieking for some relief. And ol Grandma Viv, boy she comes around the corner, hollerin about What’d ye do Shane, what’d ye do, and she sees him layin there in the tub with that vacuum cleaner hose sucked up on his beans and franks, eyes wide as bug eyes, screamin Get this damn thing off me Grandma it’s plumb gonna eat me alive.
God in his mercy, Ogre said.
I knowed it. Well Viv she flips the switch off and that machine just slowly grinds to a halt. Shane pops the hose off and he ain’t even embarrassed about it cause it was such a relief by god. But he ain’t got long to enjoy it cause Viv come around the corner, waving a umbrella above her head, screamin Get out of my trailer you redneck pervert, and she starts beatin him about his head and shoulders, so Shane jumps out of that tub and runs back down the hallway and busts out her front door, running for his very life. He made it about halfway through the courtyard fore the blood loss caught up with him. He stopped, did a little twirl like one of them ballerinas, and fell over plumb backwards.
Stone cold dead, Ogre said.
Hell no he wasn’t dead. Just knocked out is all. But when the sheriff’s department showed up they couldn’t tell one way or the other. There he lay, on his back in the middle of the courtyard, covered in blood, his purple pecker standin at full attention, all swole up like a boiled orange.
I bet he don’t get no more lovin from a vacuum cleaner, Ogre said.
Well it was a hell of a ride to the city jail, I can tell you that.
I gotta run, Drayton said, standing up.
Hell you just got here, Dusty said.
It was all so fleeting. The expression on her face says everything. After a terse exchange, I sense that we were both beholden to the past; there is no escaping it.
“Do you think it would ever be different?” She looks puzzled, lost. I am befuddled and confused. Incapable of doing anything. Words become useless ornaments that get discarded. It really didn’t matter what I said.
“I am going to go.” I posit, turning to the door slowly.
“It’s all very sad you know.” I can hear it in her voice. The finality is a haunting presence in the room. She continues, “I don’t know what to say. I just really don’t know what to say.”
“We should talk when I get back.” I suggest, but she and I both know that we will be in a different place then. It would be water under the bridge, just a dark pang that stabs the heart periodically.
“Okay, that sounds great. We will talk then.” Slowly she wipes a tear out of her eye. Embarrassed, she turns as I head to the door slowly, making one last attempt to think of anything that could fix everything.
“I still think of you the same way I did then, that day. It feels like a million years ago.” I walk out the door, silence to my back. There is nothing I can do; there is nothing either one of us could do for that matter. I get a lump in my throat and feel the sun beat down on my face as I walk out.
Sudden Denouement Literary Collective
“…I give you the mausoleum of all hope and desire…I give it to you not that you may remember time, but that you might forget it now and then for a moment and not spend all of your breath trying to conquer it. Because no battle is ever won he said. They are not even fought. The field only reveals to man his own folly and despair, and victory is an illusion of philosophers and fools.” William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury
“You are a runner with a stolen voice. And you are a runner. And I am my father’s son.” (Wolf Parade)
The weather is changing. In the morning I can feel it. It is just a matter of time. Eventually a cold wind will blow away all the dank humidity. I think about running, my lost passion. Before the bad back, before the squeeze of domestic responsibility, I would put on my running shoes on a cold Sunday morning and run until I had exhausted my legs, lost my breath. It was exhilarating. My life transformed when I was running; it was the action from which all good things sprang. I could never envision a life without it. Of course, I didn’t visualize the obstacles life would put in my path.
Years ago my mother gave me some dusty mementos of races my father ran in the early-eighties. I never thought of him as a runner. Later in life he had a big belly and was a connoisseur of indulgent, greasy meals. He labored at times going up stairs and seemed frail. I wondered why he quit. Thought that perhaps if he wouldn’t have stopped running his heart would not have exploded two weeks after retiring in his late fifties. I thought of him as I ran. I felt close to him. Understood what he went through getting up on an early Saturday morning and facing down a half marathon. Perhaps I understood him in a way that I never did. It was something that we had in common all these years after his death.
Like my father, I stopped running. Life happened. I think the end started with a back problem that eventually became an excuse. I slid into a life of leisure. The drive vanished. Again, I understood him; the distractions, the work, the family all became more important. Suddenly, it became easier to stop running. I wonder to myself if he ever felt the guilt, pined for the long runs, or the silent meditative runs when all the problems of the world seem to be held at arm’s length, at least for an hour. If he would have lived to an old age, we would have those conversations. We would realize that we have a lot in common. Maybe we would have a laugh and realize that I am my father’s son.
Today, as I eagerly anticipate the first cool air, I think about him. I also think about running. My life fell apart; unlike my father, I was not able to hold it together. Now I have half a family, smoke constantly, and find myself given over to the same indulgent meals—though I have not yet fallen prey to the protruding belly. I don’t know how to fix everything, but I am sure that the only thing I can do now is take action, put one foot in front of the other and spend hours chasing the silent meditation that led me out of the darkness years ago. It is so far away but so close. All it takes is action, putting on the shoes, grabbing a water out of the refrigerator and start running.
Sudden Denouement Literary Collective
There is a place I can dwell, removed from silent gore of emotional life tied to humid residue of lost summers. From failure springs the renewing waters of new worlds laid out–removed of the impurities of dysfunction, bad relationships, tarnished pasts, regressed lives spoiled under the hot sun. A celebration of life! Turning from folly, the endless cycle of death and resurrection, the desire for absolution from a human problem: Lost in people, feeling tied to desire for healthy relationships, nuclear domestic dynamics. It is all so fleeting!
There is a place I can dwell, upright, given to spontaneous laughter, at peace with the balance of universal order, finding a person in the mirror I can live with. Slowly the last forces come in from remote villages, shoulders slumped, spirits broken, bones shattered; the light from their eyes extinguished by the long battle. Longing for the peaceful, tender embrace of loved ones, starting a new life devoid of the endless war against everything, their shattered nerves begin to calm. There is solace in the sun rise, the ceasefire that brings lost souls from a life of peril–and conflict–to the hearty meals, comfort on either shoulder: Silence. Is this merely a mirage?
There is a place I can dwell, benign rumors of demise, refuted with archaic parchment written on the heart, shown to elders who rub long beards, nodding silently as bread is broken, ceremonial wine consumed out of ornate cups. A world of possibility beckons with the hustle and bustle, normal lives being led in quiet satisfaction: Ah, everything is actually going to be alright! The grass eventually pushes the dark red stains of war off its leaves. The moon hangs passively in the sky as tired souls find solace in soft bed, the smell of candles and the laughter of children. The war over, the battered souls finally at rest. I find my place there, away from the carnage, emotional wounds heal slowly; at last, the world opens again with all of its blissful majesty.
Sudden Denouement Literary Collective