The end of the world wasn’t so bad. It began with an argument between some self-important people who had a bit too much responsibility. It escalated. The end of the world was loud and hot and bright. Most people dried almost instantly to a pink Himilyan salt, their crystals scattered to the wind. Some took longer, their skin blackened like the crust of a wood fired pizza. Still, some survived, parts of their limbs and flesh melted like a mild gruyere cheese. No, all this was not so bad. It was the lack of good food.
When Kurt Cobain died, Susan didn’t leave her bedroom for four days straight. She closed her door on that Saturday morning and stayed put until I went over and saw her on the Tuesday afternoon. She never joined the groups that gathered at our college when the following week broke; the circles of teenagers who grimly shuffled in the canteen and classrooms, who shrugged and sighed and slowly shook their heads. It was, I suppose, our defining moment. Naturally, none of us realised it at the time. As a generation we had no Great War or Woodstock, social media was science fiction and everyone’s parents had jobs. We were fortunate enough to be insulated from existence. It took a dead rock star to communalise our experience, to sharpen our senses, to force us to cower as the world fired its first warning shot. A snatched photograph of an outstretched leg with a limp Converse training shoe was the image that blew our adolescent minds. This was when the penny dropped that shit had finally got real.
“Yesterday, upon the stair,
A little man who wasn’t there!
He wasn’t there again today,
Oh how I wish he’d go away!”
–William Hughes Mearns, “Antigonish”
I will tell you at the outset that I have seen some puzzling and imponderable events or situations in my life. That life is now well into its ninth decade. Some of the circumstances were believable, some not; some I wanted to believe, some I didn’t. All of them, each instance, whether believable or not, had been caused or created or somehow set into motion by the attitude or action of generally distinctive and memorable men and women, whether for what they were or what they did, or, in some circumstances, what they did not do. Believe me, the chance of something not happening is oftentimes as much a story as that which happens. My wife Agnes was a woman such as I have spoken, and old acquaintance Tylen Brackus was such a man. As Agnes did things at her own swift command, Tylen also did things; he moved things at appropriate rate, though he was born into this life with but one fully useful arm, the other a mere shaft with a mere hand. His deformity was, as one might say of him, in miniature.
Leila has been down into the depths of LS towers again and rooted out a story by Editor and author Hugh Cron – I love it when that happens. This is what she said.
Jacob Mundy glanced at the ominous cumulonimbus clouds boiling overhead. He clutched the sack of groceries to his chest and hurried down the sidewalk toward his home, trying to beat the coming storm. It wasn’t the rain he feared; it was the lightning that came with the storm. Jacob knew if he were caught outside he would be struck dead by a bolt of lightning, fried in his tracks, his groceries, sodden and disintegrating from the rain, scattered like so much litter next to his charred and twisted body. This vision terrified Jacob. He leaned forward and increased his pace. “Oh, God, oh, God, I’m going to get zapped,” he whimpered and walked faster.
You feel it in your soul when the notes swing low and tumble over themselves after a hovering vibrato. The brass sax breathing warm air from wet lips, waiting to create a new feel.
I left a woman in bed recently. Suddenly. Left her lying, hips scooping toward something I couldn’t give her.
I’d been mouthing the rungs of her ribcage, climbing higher, an ardent mountaineer, when she shifted and with her, the light. The blue glow of the stereo conspired with the beams of a passing car and her arching spine to reveal the vase, winking in the corner. Her exposed neck bloomed white as the skin on the back of mine chilled.
I could just make out the glint of quick-blinking eyes as she took in the sight of me, hopping away and into a pant leg, then feeling for the doorknob in the dark.
Hobie Barkley was a first-riser most of his life, and once he was of exploring age, able to go on his own, he toured the mountain like it was newly presented to him, a gift from the God of Mountains. Nobody in the Greater Hills Region of Colorado knew it any better than him. Even some of the old prospectors, their habits and labors cut way back by age, infirmity or a newly-found woman, did not rise to his habits.
Last night I dreamt of the happy-clappy pixie-land extolled by the counterculture of yore. That hippie Eden where daisies shot from rifles because everyone there was so high on lysergic acid that they no longer experienced reality. It was a place populated by paisley-eyed toad kissers who honestly believed that they were the first generation of paisley-eyed toad kissers who knew that the world sucked and that they alone could kiss toads into The Gurus of Change. Viva Revolucion! Alas, psychedelic drugs and fairy tale-belief systems are the stuff of idealistic chimeras. It all eventually wears off and leaves you cold and cynical. By and by you come to the hideous conclusions that the Good Guys never stay good after they win the Revolution, and that every toad you kiss has a way of changing into Richard Nixon.