Glassine chirring of water over rocks. Distant and echoing, drawing nearer. The sound becomes almost musical, then rescinds back to order. A hollow tubular line snakes out over the river bank, spreads out in fingerlings, a dendrite of which pokes into my ear, then back out again. I close my eyes for a moment; the sprite of sound recedes back over the undergrowth, over the massive tree and uprooted root structure on which I sit, and then, a second later, forks into my ears and in wooden toy tones invades my dark empty consciousness. I startle and open my eyes. I’m smiling. I only stop smiling for a second of trance every few minutes or so, and resist the urge to turn off my mind completely.
The river is sparkling, smells fresh, it’s a warm, sun-drenched day. In all directions there are only a few different shades of green and blue and wood. I see no dirt perched at the crux of two large fallen trees. My shoes rest with me, feet bare. It’s hot, so I take off my khakis and peel off my drawers, stuff them into my leather rucksack. I feel clumsy and my cell phone feels like a slab of putty in my hands. I turn it on, look at it, and giggle at the absurdity. I turn it off. I am giddy. The river is calling me.
An hour earlier I had been dropped off. Within 20 minutes, I was feeling a bit attuned. Ten minutes later, a coyote had just evaporated back into the cover of flora. Our eyes met for a hair of a second, then the bushy tail and whispering leaves as he sped off up the trail. “Kie-Oh-Tay!” I hummed. “Kay-Oh-Tay! Come play with me! I have a banana. Bananas, I hear, are good for dogs!.” Coyotes are hunted here. Coyote would not reappear, though he would watch me for a while. This form of the Fool was a good omen for my trip.
I’m wading through ankle deep bog. The spring has finally pushed the river up over the connective tissue of an oblong shoal that a dry winter laid naked. The healthy levels make it again an island. The main current muscles past the far side; where I enter a crick has formed that barely passes my knees. With a loamy schlomp schlomping percussion my feet take me through a patch of grasses soon to be murdered by a sustained suffocation. On the island I shed my T-shirt, my green Wal-mart gotten “Lucky Shirt” with the 4 leaf clover. The last time I wore this shirt was my birthday-St. Patricks Day-a night on which I drank so much I badly botched entering a number into my phone. A very lucky number. The next day very truly thought I would die. I was still drunk 12 hours after ceasing drinking, and figured that on top of a fifth of bourbon, I’d had numerous several beers and numerous mixed drinks. The moment I’d decided to head home from the bars, I got an unwelcome text from a broken girl, who probably very unwittingly, was trying to break me for good. Like crabs in a barrel…
But I shan’t think of her with an ethereal brilliance of light strobing off of each divet of liquid that slides past these tufts of grass. I begin gazing at the small river stones. So many. So many that I am mad that I can’t sort through all one-hundred and twenty one trillion. First I’m searching in the shallows, then I’m back on land, combing with increasing edit of time and focus. I pick up a few and shove them into my pocket. The crystalline, vaguely granite-like, quartzite with red veins and pinkish hues are my favorite. Later, at a beach, I would find someone’s loose pile of gray blue smooth river rock, over which I cast a couple dozen of these ferric favorites. I go to the end of the sandbar and pull a completely rusted and broken off top of a large cream canister, probaly 80 years old. I hoist it over the branches of a small maple at the highest point of the island. A swallow begins braying at me from the shore.
"Shut up, bird," I say, "you don’t know my name." And I turn away from him, smug and overtopping with mock snootiness. The swallow continues. I say,
"Shut up, bird! You don’t know my name. I’m just an Indian, I am going down the river!" A Mason Proffit song cues in my brain, a lulling sedative of harmonic nostalgia.
Sometime later, I’m back at the other side of the earthen implement. I’m crouched in ankle high water, letting swallows bend air beneath their wings and buzzing my head so close that I can hear their flapping, snagging horseflies, and making a cheerful racket. A kingfisher charges downstream, and for a long minute I endure his knackering in hopes that I might see him catch something. I think to myself, “River birds are just kind of bums. Nesting in sheer banks that are sure to collapse or flood.” I get back on land with a new rock.
A grey lusterless imperfect disc. I like the way it feels beneath my curled thumb and forefinger. As I walk down the trail, I toss it and catch. Again and again, with perfect sympathy for the small muscles and tendons of my hand. Sometimes at a broader angle, letting it rip off of my middle finger. I close my eyes just before it reaches zenith, and it falls perfectly into the cradle of my thumb and forefinger. I would toss it dozens upon dozens of times, usually not paying much attention, sometimes counting the spins as it floated. I would not drop it till much, much later, after the acid had worn off. And I’d almost lose it in a backyard of riverstone. Absent minded, then seeing it a half hour later amidst all the jumble of tired stones, “hey, that looks like…” (checks pocket) “HAH! HAHAHAH! Oh thank BOG!”
By the time that I’m peaking, I’m closer to humans and civilization than all afternoon, but the acid and forest has gotten so thick that all I hear is silence. All that I can see is the gold and green. I begin to think that I’m experiencing the Garden of Eden. This primordial moment has always been here. Undisturbed by enterprise save for the paths of the goings of vertebrates. And for a moment I figure that we, humans, are evil, we are the disease, the virus, the demiurge, that we truly are what the worst environmentalists propose: a cancer, a destroying agent, an ape gone mad with intelligence. An invasive species, beavers grown thumbs with Babel intent. I had been calling for Satan. I called for him again. This time, with the patches of yellow bouncing off of the green floor dwellers, irregular whizz and churr of bumblebees, grasshoppers, mosquitoes, I hear a deeper root note, I hear the lurch, the crackling of roots, of tendrils, of mass consciousness, I hear hobnailed boots of roots and irritant defenses of leaves trickling out like exhaust from the motor of chloroplasts: of photons and water and chlorophyll, Satan abounds like a blanket of robust violent prodigal birthing. I would think of a movie I liked very much, “Antichrist”. I would not call out Satan again. I would only wish for Eve. I would only ask Winter for Eve. Autumn, that inevitable bringer of loss, I asked humbly for a lover.
Voices bounce off trees and remind me of the alienation and bounce off of faces everyday. I assume I’m about to come into the Nascar sphere while in the bubble of LSD Peak. I’m not scared, in fact the only times I got nervous where when I realized I might be able to “discorporate”, as Mike Valentine, the martian, termed it in “Stranger in A Strange Land” by Robert A. Heinlein. I could, afterall, in my heightened state of awareness, just decided by trance to stop breathing. I shivered and crouched, and in the eternal intermittent habit, smiled.
Hollers, guffaws, broad 17 year-old declarations of mindless whim. A loud knocking. “Dead as a doorknob!” He exclaimed. Ah. Ahhhh. Suddenly, I’m angry. I’m jumpy frustrated that I won’t just swim across the river to the shirtless marchers I’ve spied, and exclaim to them “BOYS! BOYS! Let us cleave this fucking fossil in twain and reap the sweet bounty of MOREL MUSHROOMS within!!!” I’ve no fucking clue what an Elm looks like, let alone a dead one. I’ll gladly admit that when I quit once and for all the Boy Scouts, it was because the very repressed homo-feeling meetings interfered with my NBC sitcom viewing schedule. But oh, ever since, how I regret not knowing what knots to tie, and what trees are which. These boys, before I shuffle off, acid a.d.d. taking hold, are shaking back and forth between them—in a measured and pure budding testosterone rage—an ashen fossil of a tree, hoping that upon falling it, that succulent nightdweller of a protoplast my befall them, and that they in all their homosexual tension, might toast with oil and flour in later hours that product of sexless regeneration. I imagine these boys might be the progeny of educated but faithfully detached people.
Sometime later, I’m picked up. I have called on Murph, my fucking asshole angel, brother, father, mother, whatever. As soon as the peak passed and I’d realized I had a few miles to go, I wanted out. I wanted in. I wanted comic books, heavy metal, cheap bear, sex jokes. I wanted rogue innocence. I wanted placid adult anger. I wanted hot food, abandon, careless evening, oblivious death. I wanted all that I could not see or hear and I wanted it without notice or measurement. I wanted to be a parcel without part. Just another sucker on the vine. I wanted a job—a job that I could attend to with vice, with acknowledged but unmeasured wildness. I wanted again to skate through people’s lives with novel fluidity, dropping hope like appleseeds. I wanted a sheet of acid. Johnny Acidseed.
I climb into the Forerunner to an innocuous familiar sound. Somehow I know it. “BUTTHOLE SURFERS!!!” I exclaim. It only made sense now, now as I was drifting into a supermarket for delicious sweet ambrosia, India Pale Ale. I make Murph buy the last pack in a clearance rack of cigarettes, Basic Lights, which so delight me that I smoke nearly a whole pack in a few evening hours. Nash commandeers Murph’s outdoor kitchen, a hobnob of clear glass prep tables and gas grills. I melt into sweet potato blobbed with Kansas City Barbecue sauce. I nibble on a gristly outcropping of some steak before making like a thief with the bacon. A week later, Murph and I are in Missouri at some shithole diner copping lunch, and in a booth outfitted with phone jacks from the days before cellphones, I order French Fries (which happen to be Steak Fries, fucking soddy assholes) a cup of chili and a piece of cornbread. All are delicious but in my manic, crazed appetite I request once again strawberry jam and tobasco. Such is how I like to dunk my fries. Oh, and I add butter. And lots of salt. I should be a Secret Service agent, my arteries so hard and my hunger for boughten sex so harsh. The waitress, Murph says, has “weak eyes.” She’s of auburn hare and pallor southern complexion. Boxy, but not fat, doesn’t smile, but doesn’t frown. If she’d the least of hips and azure eyes, breeding material, I think to myself. Later on we talk about the differences between honor, morals, and ethics.
We’re both of the opinion that, if you have friends, honor is the only wage to be obeyed.
I remember now a day long ago. Driving out into the desert, alone. 12 or 13 years. A cellophane wrapper sticking out of the neck of a defamed Mother Mary, like a Plastic Jesus, containing until that Holy Moment three quarters of a hit of fine and clear LSD. Climbing a sandy slope up to a barbed wire fenced that strung out for miles, and hearing a very distant sound. I put my ear down to the ground. The hum of the Earth is a B flat. I strode fearless out into the fingerlets of the mesa overlooking the painted desert, deadly falls on either side of me created by eons of whither, by rain and wind, and perching lotus-style on the outcrop, and seeing a coyote sit royally on the island decay that I so wanted to leap to, but knew I shan’t. And I scraped those sandstone walls and gazed upon a mountain unnamed over Flagstaff as the azimuth reached it’s frame, and lizards scurried for a micrite igloo home. And I thought: oh so long for a mountain to form, these eons of which there are no real names. Just change. True change. Change goes on without me. Within me, I am change. A coyote barks. A native chuckles at a pale figure, dusty and dazed from the wind of days. A horseflies lays eggs on a pile of shit on a monstrous verdant hill. Moccasins disarrayed by the cloisters of bramble beneath a development laden with the cottages and adjournments of professors and shaman. All for and to naught. All for and to naught.
Old Jacob, down on a corner in the French Quarter, chuckles, starts a Beatles song in mocking of an unsaying purveyor, thinking to hisself, “The shadow Knows! THE SHADOW KNOWS!”
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