Ever since reading about making a half-knight move in chess, my mind had been cracked. It is of course something that cannot be imagined except to have imagined that such a thing is possible, when it is not. This strange little world of softly thatched roofs and straw hats a-tumble beside a nameless sea had always been a wonderland full of empty moon snail shells and bright red poppies blooming in the fields for me. And people, well, it had been obvious to them who I was, I suppose. I had been the man with seagulls sitting on his arms flapping and sunning their wings. The only talent I had had was that I tended toward merriment rather than despair, when the latter appeared to be the only rational and boastfully reasonable option left. But why live the obvious? It wasn’t that I disbelieved these; I did not. They were akin to leftover breadcrumbs on the table after eating a fine enough meal to be swept off onto the floor.
Infidelities had not been my thing, not my strong point. Nor polyamorous détente posing as an acceptable spin-about, two-way mirror. My beloved and I, we’d hang out a spell in the local commuter lot sucking down a rum-laced smoothie and watch the parking meters there go to zilch, to zero. This was before the armistice, when public appearances as such were not frowned upon. What keeps the peace makes the peace, the newbies from the inland landlubbers used to say. And I hopped in the passenger seats of some. Fine leather seats. Doe skin floor mats. Skunk pelt shoulder rests. Chip-enhanced hi-def resolution video display on the dash and visor. Putting such spousal considerations in the glove box. Making out like an Aston Martin in spoon time. The fistful of quarters went for a while, and shining the light with my lithium battery torch over the small asphalt plain looking for love again when the high rollers bailed out at 7 pm, it wasn’t so skeezy but it wasn’t exactly not either. It was the crank crank crank near coming into the rush to come on the upcurve slope of the soon to crash downward rollercoaster cliché. So it became a thing. Doing it my way, or doing it your way. Downing that all with wheat ale at 11 pm back with my true love was some time had off 45 NE. Then we’d kick it and rub all night like it was second heaven till dawn.
Garbage trucks had carried garbage, and school buses carried children. If it had been the other way around: if school buses had carried garbage and garbage trucks had carried children, we’d have had a different problem. But, thanks be to the dog of Egypt, they didn’t. They sounded, however, carrying the metal luggage of themselves up the hills, almost exactly the same before sunlight on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday morning. On Wednesday not: there were no garbage trucks running. The companies did not compete. Only buses. Which was strange for my little village. All the crows around there battled for scraps of road meat. Me, I never ate the stuff, didn’t touch any such carnage. The birds about they carried tufts of blue tarp strings to mend and to make their springtime nests. They didn’t care if it was synthetic plastic or organic twine, and neither did I. The lofty squirrels jumping from high tree limbs with their mouths full of last autumn’s leaves built their insulated empires expecting in their simple genes dearth and snow and sub-freezing temperatures. Any job I ever had had was lifting bales of trash from the roadside and heaving them into the back end of a truck, if I ever passed the test, which I did not. Too heavy. I wasn’t strong enough. But the gusto of anonymity, of nobody knowing me, it had appealed to me. As a former A+ student, with a traceable name, and higher degrees, I was not taken seriously enough, and subsequently by the short-arm of the government was fined by the courts 100,000 forints which I naturally refused to pay. In time, after many years, after strewing my trash out in the cobblestones along the curbside, I was ordered to be hanged by the feet until dead, against all reason, logic, and common sense—not on account of that per se, but on my perennial failure to ever have paid my taxes & flouting local ordinances.
None but I had ever voted. Most of us, my kin, believed we had deserved the government we got. Choosing our leader to lead us was against the bone. It cut against the grains of many of my centuries. I did it myself as a lark, thinking to myself that I was placing a bet on a piece of penny candy, really. I bet, I thought to myself, that if I write this name on this slip of paper and push it through the slot, that I will pick a candy of this flavor. And, I thought to myself, if I write a name that differs on this same piece of paper, I will pick a candy of another flavor. I was instantly apprehended by the authorities as to having no right to be there at all. To vote was prohibited. And they said it was all owing to a mix up which, they insisted, pertained to my nationality. When I insisted back to them that it wasn’t that at all, they laughed; it was the border, I exclaimed. “It is the border!” I said to them. And the whole bunch of them tossed me and my heavy pack onto the track. It was the last time I would attempt such tomfoolery, and would go live by myself within the pine forest, among women and men of my kind.