Saturday, March 25, 2017

Swamp (excerpt 1)

“How many people do you think I am?
Pretend I am somebody else.
You can pretend I'm an old millionaire,
a millionaire washing his hands.”
                                         - Talking Heads

No time for grieving, for reeling and tumbling in Powerball’s effects. Authorities needed to be notified, not the idiots that passed as Pogo Springs cops but real pros: state police, Swinger County sheriffs, search-and-rescue folks.


A British accent announces band members over a cheering crowd then, “They’re called the Grateful Dead, the Grateful Dead,” followed by exuberant guitar strumming, piano, drums, “I had a hard run… running from your window…

The mud-crusted, gray rear wall of the laundromat shrouded the truck like a filthy fog bank. His rage rattled his bones. Emma dead, gone from him, left a universe-sized hole in his life.

He looked around seeking escape from the dirt lot behind the Johnny Cash, scooped into a hillside of shale and requiring grading after every mud season to slice out winter ruts. In one corner, a rusted metal tool shed scrunched from a previous year’s snow load, doors gaping open on a bent track, various implement handles poking out a pained maw as though the ugly beast had snapped at a giant porcupine. Next to it, a brown dumpster overflowed from trash deposited by neighbors who hadn’t bothered paying collection fees. Several torn and filthy mattresses were leaned against the laundromat’s wall, occasionally dropped to the ground for use by vagabonds or horny high school kids. The depressing character of the place added to his malaise, his yearning for escape from the dope’s effects, the confining space of the truck’s cab, and the consuming need to tell someone about Emma. The dream that stuck out: a medical chart on the wall, a cold metal box holding her pieces, serious people in serious clothes asking serious questions. Whispers in the corner about whether she jumped or was pushed.

Waves of annoyance and pain pulsed through his spine, from his tailbone into his brain’s blank spaces, “Taught me good, Lord, taught me all I know… taught me so well, I grabbed that gold… and I left his dead ass there by the side of the road,” lyrics hammering dimpled divots into the naked metal of his emotion.


Confusion. Soft violence. Hands touching his throat, eyes rolled to become the white bellies of whales. Trembling with loss, with being lost, with having no relation to the world he was in and the world he was lost within. Emma’s absence tore him open and tossed his innards across the ground, strewn like offal left from a kill site, shit stink mingled with the ascendant stench of decay. Circling vultures, cackling hyenas, flies and beetles, scurrying ants sending out messages to feed, an environment where time plodded past a death felt freshly; too recent for him to give it up to scavengers.

When they come to take you down… when they bring that wagon 'round… when they come to call on you and drag your poor body down…”
He wanted to explode.