I sit up in bed when I see the headlights of a car arc at the end of the driveway, pause for a second over the mailbox, and then stop in front of my house. I reach across the bed to wake Susan before I remember she’s not there. Mine is the last house on a rural cul-de-sac in upstate New York. Sometimes in the summer, late at night, I get kids making out or drinking beer at the end of the road and if they make too much racket I walk up with a flashlight and ask them to move along. But it’s early morning, the week before Christmas, the kind of dry cold air that pinches your nose shut in the time it takes to check the mailbox. No one is drinking a 40-ouncer this morning. The newspaper guy used to drive by at this time of morning and slide a paper into the box, but I cut that off six months ago, when Dylan deployed. Some things you don’t want to know about. The headlights extinguish, and I can see the glint of the car chrome in the early morning moonlight. I slip my feet over the side of the bed, find my LL Bean moccasins, wrestle into a flannel robe, and turn on the light to go downstairs.
The new arrival, Tony, insisted on being the center of attention at all times. He was like an actor on stage playing to a rapt audience. Some of the residents found him to be a breath of fresh air. But I thought the air he brought into the place stunk.
Bullet Brown sittin at the bar sparked the fire when he tells Tall Tan, “Don’t start no shit and there won’t be no shit.”
Tall Tan, the Collector Man, poured some gas on the spark. “Too late for that. The shit started when you opened your goddamn lying mouth.”
Bullet smiled his gap-toothed smile. “Well, fuck, man. If we gonna do it let’s get to it.”
We were sitting on empty nail kegs next to his icehouse on the edge of Lily Pond in Saugus, Doc Sawyer and me, talking about everything and nothing in particular. It was his way of communicating. In his gray felt hat, shirt collar buttoned but with no tie, Mackinaw open so I could see red suspenders clasped at his paunch.
“Attribute neither the magnificent nor the malign to the mysterious mind of a magic god as an excuse to stop thinking about what has happened.”–Czsminoothe, circa 1800 b.c.e.
“You will remember everything.”–Eternity
The eve of All Souls’ Day, and the dead to be visited, provided with light, the all-weather candles of the graveyard, the living visitors to be catered-for with bread and beer. It all meant shopping, the carrying of things, and of all-weather people, in and out of the darkness brought down by November. The eleventh month announced the onslaught of the winter, a drain on the spirits, a greying of the skin, the miniscule tightening of arteries, the dimming of the vision, the only clear thing in sight the glimmer of the wrongs done and not righted, a time of ghosts.
Hundreds of hermit crabs wearing toothpaste caps as shells shuffled through the dirt at the construction site, dirt so full of broken glass that it sparkled even at night, even with no light. Aref knew probably only he saw that seemingly infinite sparkle, just like he knew the hundreds of hermit crabs were really only one because you’d never find that many crabs wearing toothpaste caps for shells.