I first saw the sculpture about a month ago, walking to the Cumberland Farms with Matt to get beer and some papers. It was shimmering under the late day’s sun in the back of a fenced-in yard. Even from a distance, I could see the long spindly legs of the black metal spider clinging to the delicate netting of its web, waiting for prey. I was mesmerized.
In the Archial, what some call the Little Light Library, it is always night. The distant ceiling is a night’s sky held by pillars, and connecting those pillars are shelves of books coated in leather and dust. The only light comes from lanterns. Inside steel cages, white fires flicker eternally, generated by a lost art. The lanterns are stars if anything. The lower one travels, the bluer those stars. Deep enough and there are no lights at all.
I see ghosts. I hear their voices. Watch them move across my vision. Sometimes they talk to me, but it isn’t them. It’s people from the past. They’re frozen in my memory. A word, a touch, a phrase. The what if’s and what might have been.
It´s a balmy evening, there´s a couple leaning out of a dimly lit window at the side of a house overlooking an alley. They´re both naked and their heads are wreathed in smoke from their cigarettes, its effect heightened by the intermittent blinking of a faulty street light. You can´t even see the moon or stars.
Let´s call her Kate and him Daniel.
I hear everything: the soft cry of my mother, the beep of the heart monitor, the whispers of the nurses, and the subtle hum of the air conditioner. I feel the rough texture of my hospital gown against my skin, the cold hand of the doctor every morning when he visits, and the warm hand of my mother every time she touches my cheek. I am awake. Wide awake.
Small-eyed, small-eared, a mole perched like an ace of spades on one eyelid, a mastoid-depressed void behind one of those ears, pale of complexion, shoulders it seemed worn down by weights almost too ponderous for life, Jimmy Griffith was the essence of obscurity as he leaned on the bar of the Vets Club. All members knew Jimmy by name and by sight, but few had ever heard him say much more than a good morning or a goodnight, or “I’ll have my second beer now, Al,” or “Brownie,” if Brownie Latefox was on duty. This was the two-a-day ritual at the end of walking his route about town, measuring water consumption, reading the meters down in fieldstone cellars or the utility rooms of newer bungalows. Read the meters, jot the numbers, cheat a bit for a friendly face, or go a step further, like disconnecting a meter for six months at a time, not a soul at the water department or in the confines of Town Hall ever the wiser. Nobody knew how happy Jimmy was to have the job, nobody in God’s creation. Or why.
Almost sort of exactly 201 years ago, Jane Austen died. I must confess I haven’t read much (any) of her work despite Pride and Prejudice and Zombies being on my reading list for some time. Never being one to allow a lack of knowledge to get in the way of a good opinion however, I’m prepared to wager that her collective works didn’t contain many references to the humble kilogram.
Young Jane would have been almost sort of exactly 18 when the French said pas plus to the grain related measurements of the time and invented the kilogram. She would have been far too busy working on her short novel Lady Susan to bother with such new-fangled frippery. She no doubt noted however that the initial name for this kilogram was a grave and as such the literary seed for her zombie based works was sown.