Having a police badge had given me the privilege to call up people I didn’t know. All I had had to do was tell them, either when I reached them by voice or by leaving a message tucked away on their telephone answering system which may or may not have notified them instantaneously of my calling them, that I had had a wish to speak. Whether I had placed a telephone call to the proprietor of a saloon or an atavistic candy store filled with bonbons, or to a suspected chimney burglar, it made no difference at all to me. Over the years I rose in rank, retired, and spent afternoons working as a landscape laborer, raking the lawns of neighbors as a hired hand. My pension was never spent, never exhausted, and when the catarrh hit me I was as much surprised as anyone. The denouement was quick. In just weeks I was chewing on food as though it were ashes and gravel. Several rifles with painted white stocks fired their bullets high at an angle to commemorate me. At the outskirts of the funeral service was a man I had once warned decades prior and a woman together, standing arm and arm, who had telephoned the station and been connected to me in a panic once, with thin but empty smiles on their faces now.
“It’s really refreshing to be in a group with people who aren’t completely out of their minds,” he said, according to court documents.
This is pretty amazing. Ya ever been to a fish market where the big fat frozen fish eye on ice is staring you sideways in the face? So is this: so this guy goes to a place called “Retro Daddio”? I mean, talk about red flag city galore! “Hi! I’m your avuncular uncle of yesteryear coming to pay you a visit and a little pat on the knee.” And what’s that taped up on the wall, but a nice pic of hot young Jodi F. who inspired it all coz the dude lookin’ outta the corner of his eye can’t go on the Internet to do it.
He’s like stuck in the past, i.e, “retro,” you dig, and is makin’ a good impression on the proprietor, naturally. Otherwise all bets are off and the bells that ring when he opens the second hand goods store, they’re not ringing to St. Peter’s. I betcha if she’s got ‘em, ya gonna catch him lookin’ at ole Jodi there sideways glance eye-wise on the security cameras keeping all the customers street legal, coz tape and posters, they ain’t against the law to look at.
Now you just figure if he’d be going to visit Momma if 35 years ago he’d been a black guy who’d shot a president. Snowball’s chance in hell [entailments of “white” fully intended] he’d be outta prison a day, if for a lifetime.
It’s just crazy, man, crazy!
There hadn’t been a reason to recant a single thing. Why, my memory had been blown anyway, so the point on it was lost. Tulips had been supposedly planted for the dead. Termite mounds rose out of nowhere. Morning shadows stretched over fallen brown leaves. Jupiter had fled. My incendiary reaction to politics notwithstanding did not undo the fact that I had been time ago a pretty good shot, prone or standing. The acres and acres of corn had stood. Ears had been popped off here and there. Some joke of some kind, someone had guessed. That I had been doing nothing at all, facing southwest on the porch overlooking some fallen paradise, why it made me perfect for it. Everything about it was in my files anyway. I could talk a storm but I had nothing to say about any burn marks on my fingers nor the stubble on my cheeks.
I had told this boy the same thing that I tell everybody else. He came by, stopped over, and was looking at all the tables. I told him the prices were marked: on this table $15, on this table $12, on this table $10. The prices were for all the crystals accordingly. And he was with his son, a little one, and they were looking at all the specimens. All the crystals, every one of them had been from here, from Mr. Ida, and they are nowhere like this anyplace else in the world. “God,” I told him, just like I told everybody, “made you perfect just the way you are. Ugly or beautiful, just the way you are, God makes everything in this world already perfect.” I wrapped his up in newspaper while the little boy of his had wandered off to the cleaning station where we had hoses and chemicals. I had warned him, the father, to keep his boy clear from that, where we had my husband and I five gallon buckets full of water and oxalic acid sitting in the sunshine to clean up the rocks before selling them. You don’t want to fool around at all with that stuff. 5 grams of it will kill your kidneys and that will be the end of you. The police that came by said he was one of the most wanted men in America. They hadn’t said why that was, nor had I told them that he seemed like a perfectly good father to me which I reckoned wasn’t any of their business.
Everything I had known, and everything I had held dear had deserted me. And, unlike Yeats’ circus animals whom he claimed had deserted him, what remained for me was an incandescent flame, a vivid, hand-held torch with which I had always and will always hold aloft. And it is by this light of God that I will see the paintings on the wall where for fifty thousand years people haven’t since traveled before. By this I will even view the perfect moment John Wilkes Booth saw like a red maple leaf fluttering down while shooting and killing Lincoln in his theater box. The crimes and sacred moments of humanity, life, and sometimes glimmers of my own death, I have caught these like melting snowflakes falling into my autumn fingers.
To me, I have felt the sorrow of being the common cook whose food had accidentally poisoned the great Buddha. But I have also felt the rope breaking the neck of a bewildered Saddam Hussein. That I have no friends to turn to, nor scarcely any possessions, even an empty dresser drawer to slide in and out, I don’t even have that simple enough human pride of such wooden ownership to stand beside and claim as “mine.” My destiny had become to be a shipwrecked sailor to be cast upon another sea, to drift without craft, and to all my life wander from land to land in search of a numberless people who do not exist, whereupon, like the curse of Odysseus, giver and receiver of pain, my oath was to plant my alien oar.
By now the murderers escaped from prison, whose masterful plan was lauded as extraordinary and as sophisticated from those in high office who must know a thing or two about extraordinary and sophisticated forms of subterfuge and deceit, must have been apprehended. Possibly, though, they are tucked away in some nice Canadian fishing town that packs all its tasteless fish into frozen blocks to be shipped off and sold in the United States as some sort of breaded stick or block of reconstituted, once fresh cod. And the two gentleman, one with a Heart of Mexico forever stamped upon his back, and the other with blue inkings on his right hand knuckles, will live out their days, day in and day out, working in an obscure arctic factory, taking cigarette breaks when they have them, and in between shifts, sometimes with each other, sometimes not, going over the old days in their minds or whispered back and forth in the cold frosty breath of winter.