I remember those crazy shads. Nemesis brand. Secret agent wrap around
style, they kept the dust out and wouldn't fall off. I wore them all
summer. 16 hours a day in 100 degree heat, and it only rained once.
Every body had a pair on.
Don't know if them pipeliners or Latinos started it. They out numbered
us white boys 10 to 1, but we spoke English, took and gave orders. Not
me. I was the nigger of the outfit, the fuckin' new guy and,
potentially, whipping boy. I stuck with the Mexicans and Hondurans
mostly, steel or poly pipe, depending what work was. Nicer people than
the drunked up cowboys, they were more tolerant of my lack of skill. You
get teased, at best, along with the job description. Nice to know what
they're saying about you, too, so you pick up the language little by
drought and dead weeds
a bullet hole
in every road sign
Not like my trade. That was life or death, and I'm Jack Black, mother
fucker. There I'd worked with hundreds, besides, on thousands of spaces,
a Metropolitan numbering millions. But don't rescue the schedule,
however far behind, you might have to take your tools and go home.
Until, finally, we all did. Here, your comeuppance was a meal of tamales
wrapped in fresh corn stalk made by someone's loving spouse just before
dawn, their sauce tempered sweetly with crisp green chilies emitting
fire ... la familia producion l'amour. Auqi, no es tardes, amigo, de
nada, primo, de nada.
in columns march
into the grass
Nope, this was a humbling experience. You see, there's just nowhere to
hide on that plain. You might have to stand on a rock to get a cell
signal. Ain't no trees ... but glory to God, there is wheat. Waving
amber and sunlit on end, from it, you can observe the wind criss-cross
the prairie from miles away. Pray, you might escape that splendor, for
at night it becomes an Ocean, phosphorescence visible in the seed. You
could chart a course by the moon or the stars where they meet the
horizon, always ahead, your headlights egging you on, your destiny,
perhaps, to just let go the wheel.
an Angus calf
got all caught up ...
loose strands of wire
Somewhere in deepest, darkest Honduras there's a video, taken on a phone
in a place five cultural nightmares laid end to end and a little
dictatorship away. It's protagonist is a laconic, gangling man tan as
bark but for the raccoon lightness around his eyes - reeling like some
mad shape shifting kami chasing the lads around and over the riven
earth, snorting and stomping, pretending to be a bull - they made me do
it. So little children would laugh. All little children share that
Came the day I hit that deer, fiddling with my wipers in the convoy and a
split second lost. I could have missed him, an immature buck, I'm quick
because I have to be, I was so close ... the Hondurans boys finished
the poor fella off with a penknife, his blood soaked up by the dust
along side that perfectly straight road.
And later, leaning against the red wind carrying the earth's contents to
the sky, they feasted on its haunches lit by the waning sun just before
midnight on the only day it rained.
red sky at night -
curlews choose flight
over Black Tail Dam
socko, gocko, ocko, and jocko watched from the mouth of the cave.
zocko huddled under another tree. the tree mocko had climbed was between zocko and the cave.
it was raining, and had rained for days.
everybody was hungry, especially the tiger.
socko moved a little way from the mouth of the cave, picked up a rock and threw it at the tiger. it fell short, and the tiger paid no attention to it.
gocko moved a little closer to the tiger, and threw another rock at it. it too, fell short, and te tiger ignored it.
jocko picked up another, smaller, sharper stone and hurled it at the tiger. it struck the tiger, who turned and growled at the quartet in front of the cave.
zocko, seeing his chance, ran out from under his tree and ran toward the brow of the hill, away from the cave.
socko, gocko, ocko, and jocko all began picking up stones as fast as they could and throwing them in the general direction of the tiger, screaming at the tiger as they did so.
the tiger turned completely around to face them.
mocko leaped down from the tree and ran away in the same direction as zocko.
but the tiger was having none of it. he turned again and began chasing mocko.
mocko was the fastest and most agile member of the troop.
he knew that he could not outrun the tiger, but if he could only catch up to and pass zocko, the tiger might settle for zocko and spare him!
socko, gocko, ocko, and jocko all watched the tiger disappear over the brow of the hill.
a great bolt of lightning flashed , striking the tree that the tiger had chased mocko up.
the rain increased, coming down in wind driven torrents.
the quartet retired to the cave. it had been a bad day. they had found no food, and one, and maybe two members of the troop might be taken by the tiger.
they were mostly sheltered from the rain, but the wind whistled through the length of the cave, which had two entrances, the natural entrance, and a smaller one they had dug at the other end so that a tiger or other hunter could not trap them within it.
they picked up an endless argument. should they continue living on the ground, and in the caves, or go back to living in the tall trees, like the monkeys.
socko and gocko were for the ground, ocko and jocko for the trees.
later in the night, mocko returned. he had outrun zocko, and the tiger had taken zocko down.
mocko had then circled back to the cave. now he went to sleep, and took no part in the palaver.
toward morning the tiger returned.
jocko, the youngest member of the troop and a light sleeper, heard the tiger prowling and growlng on the roof of the cave.
the day was fading and a light rain began to fall as mr eggwhistle headed back to the city.
he passed a couple of cornfields, then a wooded area, then a long stretch of nothing at all, and was just about to come to the main highway when he saw a solitary figure trudging along on the other side of the road., but headed in the same direction as himself.
it was johnny.
mr eggwhistle stopped. when johnny saw him, he walked across the road and got into the car.
they continued down the road for a while without speaking.
“so how have you been?” mr eggwhistle finally asked.
“you remember me, don’t you?”
“back in indiana. i had a little tailor shop across from mr packer’s general store. you used to run errands for mr packer, and sometimes for me. you had one of the first bicycles in the state, and you were johnny the errand boy.”
“i remember the bike. that was a good bike.”
“i am sure it was. now, i understand you and mister packer have a little disagreement going on.”
“a little disagreement! he owes me. i just want what’s rightfully mine.”
“of course you do. i tell you what, why don’t we drive into town and i will see if i can find mr packer and see what i can do to straighten this situation out. it can’t hurt to try.”
johnny shrugged. “i guess not. you can try.”
mr eggwhistle found packy in his usual spot in the back booth at ruby’s, doing his crossword puzzle. there was nobody else in the place, except florence, behind the counter, and al, in the kitchen.
mr eggwhistle slipped into the booth across from packy.
“can’t say that i do,” packy did not look up from the crossword puzzle. “where should i remember you from?”
“well, that is neither here nor there. how about this fellow?” mr eggwhistle took a picture of johnny out of his wallet and put it on the counter.
packy glanced at it. “no, i don’t recognize him either.”
“he says he was talking to you just the other night.”
“i can’t remember everybody that comes pestering me. that’s my problem, people always pestering me. how about you. people slays pestering you?”
“not particularly. well, i tried, i guess i will be on my way.”
“stick around, try the breakfast special. with the sausage. it’s pretty good.”
when mr eggwhistle got back to his car, the rain had stopped, but the street was still wet.
i'm just a bundle of neurons, like you and john the baptist
and i raced down the hill with confucius, to see who could run the fastest
with machiavelli and joan of arc, i questioned the meaning of fate
as we sat beside the seashore with alexander the great
cleopatra and cesare borgia went in for a swim
but caligula sat all sad and alone because no one would talk to him
i started to build a campfire with pocahontas and buffalo bill
when they returned from their excursion picking blueberries on the hill
we sat around the fire singing ballads until dawn
and i began to wonder where the elephants had all gone
errol flynn and theodore roosevelt started a poker game
but i did not play because all the cards in the deck were the same
every card in the deck was the ace of spades
with a bullet hole in it shot by jack slade
every bet they made was called by judas iscariot
who raked up all the chips and rode away in a silver chariot
i'm just a bundle of neurons whirling through space
they say i have messalina's heart and st teresa's face
queen victoria's sense of humor and marie antoinette's smirk
but i have never had a job because i don’t like to work
the great emperor felt the earth trembling under his feet.
he summoned his four wise counselors.
why is the earth trembling under my feet? he asked the counselors.
because a mighty army is approaching from the north, said the first wise counselor.
what should i do? the emperor asked.
raise a mighty army of your own, replied the first counselor.
i already have a mighty army of my own, the emperor said. he turned to the second counselor and asked him -
why is the earth trembling under my feet?
because the great mountain to the west is beginning to crumble, said the second counselor, and when it is gone, floods of barbarians will overwhelm the kingdom.
what should i do? the emperor asked the second wise counselor.
bribe the chiefs of the barbarians with sacks of gold, the counselor replied.
i am already doing that, said the emperor. they are already getting all the gold that all my slaves can mine. he turned to the third wise counselor and asked -
why is the earth trembling under my feet?
because a maiden is approaching from the east, said the third counselor. she is riding a mule, and she is bringing a message that will cause the earth and sky to split apart.
what should i do? asked the emperor. should i have her intercepted, and hanged before she can deliver her message?
the third counselor shook his head. the gods whose message she brings might not like that. perhaps you should wait, and hear the message that she brings, and hope that the earth does not split too close to your feet, and that the sky does not split too close to your head.
you are not very helpful, the emperor told the third counselor. he turned to the fourth wise counselor, and asked him -
why is the earth trembling under my feet?
a master is approaching from the south, said the fourth counselor, bringing a message of his own. he should arrive in three days. perhaps we should wait to hear what he has to say.
that sounds like good advice, said the emperor. we will meet again in three days.
three days later, the emperor was again seated on his throne, with his four wise counselors beside him, and the master who had arrived from the south, a rather ordinary looking individual with a long gray beard, was brought before him.
why is the earth trembling under my feet? the emperor asked the master.
because the earth is under your feet, the master replied.
the emperor was not amused. look here, fellow, he told the master, i have been listening to such so called pearls of wisdom from the likes of you all my weary life. i want something a little more definite.
i think, the first wise counselor interposed, his celestial majesty would appreciate some specific ideas as to how to stop the earth trembling under his feet.
oh, well, in that case replied the master, heed my words -
first - gather all the frogs in the kingdom and have then turned into wolves.
second - gather all the redhaired maidens in the kingdom and have them turned into lions.
third - gather all the cats in the kingdom and have them turned into silver goblets.
fourth - have all the water in all the rivers of the kingdom -
that is quite enough, the second wise counselor interrupted. how do you imagine we are to do all that?
why, said the master, do you not have magicians at your disposal? or at least one master magician?
we thought that you were the master, said the third wise counselor. and that perhaps you could perform some magic?
i am not the master, said the man who had been brought before the emperor and the four counselors. i am not a magician, and i am not even a magician’s apprentice.
who then are you? the fourth wise counselor asked.
i am only a poor peasant, and the master is only my dream.
a dream? the emperor asked.
yes, a dream i had thirty years ago, when i was just a poor goatherd’s assistant. i was caught in a rainstorm with the goatherd’s daughter, and he gave me a tremendous thrashing. when he was done i crawled beneath a pile of hay and began to dream… listen, and you can hear the raindrops falling…