Shopping zero early on Sunday morning means fewer people to deal with, so the dead man was a surprise, a shock, and for him to be standing in the meat section seemed oddly appropriate. He was among his own in this, all the dead in one place. I fled to the produce section, trying to sort out what was seen.
Of course, he is not the dead man. The dead man was named Mike, that’s the only part of his name I remember, but he was a deeply religious man at work, and like most of the deeply religious men at work, he had a problem keeping his dick in his pants. He got caught having an affair with his married secretary, he was married, but the deeply religious supervisor he had also had the same problem, so the issue was swept under the rug.
We had one conversation, about my lack of belief, the only conversation we would have, and he said I ought to change my ways and become a better person and I said, “You first.” And we never spoke again.
I had a supervisor that was cut out of the same holy cloth, that look-at-me-I-love-Jesus-but-damn-what-a-set-of-tits-on-that-bitch type of white guy with a little power over people. When he wasn’t hitting on the women under his supervision, he was trying to get people to come to his church.
The dead man died of cancer. Slow and hard, he died over a period of months, and he told people that his god was punishing him for his infidelity to both his wife and faith. I’m pretty sure any deity who would kill a person like this isn’t holy at all, but I was amazed my supervisor bought into it, or claimed to, and worried that his god would come after him one day.
I went to check out, and at zero early hours, there’s one cashier, usually bored to death, but there was the dead man, being checked out before me, and I hesitated, waited a bit, it felt weird to be that close to someone who looked just like the dead man.
“The computer just died,” the cashier said, and she had to reboot it.
The dead man was bagged up, paid, and away he went. I checked out, and left a few minutes later. He was parked beside me, loading his groceries into the trunk of his car.
“Do I know you?” he asked.
“I don’t think so,” I replied.
“You looked like someone I knew,” the dead man said, staring.
“He died back in, uh,…”
“2010.” I finished for him.
“That’s right,” the dead man says.
“I got to go,” I tell him, loading my stuff quickly and getting into the truck.
I pull away and watch in the rearview for just a few seconds.
I wondered where it came from, and I still do. It’s a massive structure, revisited, my second time here, and it’s breathtaking. The edifice reaches the clouds, maybe two kilometers in the sky, maybe even higher, there’s no way to measure, and birds must fly around it, great flocks trying to gauge if it would be better to skirt around the man-made mountain or go over. It’s when the birds are close is when the scale becomes apparent. Tiny flying insects they become, against the soaring walls. Higher and higher the flock flies, up and up, until I cannot see them anymore.
Why red brick? There’s a reason it’s built out of red brick, and I feel I should know why but no. I stand closer now and have that feeling a person gets when they first visit New York City, and walk among the skyscrapers. But a good portion of New York could fit inside this building, and as far as I can tell, there’s no reason for it to exist, except it does.
Engineering would deny this thing in reality. From space, it would look like an old fashioned water well, simple and round, the walls only thick enough for a small truck to drive upon the open rim, a three meters wide, at most. I’ve been up there once before. I think I fell.
There’s a tiny café to the left of the entrance and people time their visits to avoid the guy mowing the grass here. He pushes a loud, smokey, clunky mower, just like you would find in suburbia in the mid 1900’s and honestly, I have no idea if one person could actually mow the inside area and not have a permanent job. But the men and women working to repair the wall also have a full time job. There are hundreds of them, scaffolding clings to the bricks in various places, and stray bricks fall at random times. But overall, there are vast, immense areas where unbroken fields of bricks stretch into the skies.
But why red brick? The question comes to me, even as I walk in the freshly mowed grass, I can smell it, and I know it’s a dream, but the red brick stage setting intrigues me. Something tiny to give The Well a larger sense of proportion? I have no idea. Then I see her, the woman I was looking for last time, sitting alone, waiting for me. The dream is repeating, the dreamscape and characters are back, and even though I know it is a dream, the smile is involuntary. I’ll ask her why the bricks, why everything, over a drink, and a cigarette, but I wake up instead.
The dream stayed in my mind, like the residue of honey in a refilled cup of coffee. It’s not there, not even the memory of the dream is there, nothing but something akin to a psychic aftertaste, something floating around in the mind like a speck of red dust in the air, reflected by sunlight for a moment in time, picked up by imperceptible currents in the room, before drifting back into the shadow near your closet.
It’s still there, it still exists, you know for a fact it does, but you also know you couldn’t find it, and by looking for it, by trying to define it, you would pollute and distort it, change it so completely as to destroy the vision entirely.
How can it be both there, not there, remembered, not remembered, forgotten, not forgotten, Schrodinger’s Cat, with your conscious being the radioactive isotope, that triggers the poison. Your subconscious doesn’t know if there was a dream, or if you dreamed there was a dream, but the if you look for it, you kill the dream.
Perhaps the same part of your mind that forgets people one millisecond after you’ve been introduced is responsible for remembering your dreams. It’s a faulty device, battered by television shows, bumper sticker politics, and Prosperity Religion. If you spent more time reading, you’re remember what you had dreamt in more details, and Barbra Anderson’s name after you met her.
You can feel it, can’t you? You know it’s there. You meet someone and you’re looking at her, she’s speaking to you, and her name was said out loud, you shook hands with her, and now you’re scrolling through names in your head without a road sign or a map to help.
Feels just like when you’re trying to remember a dream, doesn’t it?
When was the last time you did remember a dream? The dreamscape, the setting of the dream, was it familiar only while you were there, or it is a real place? The people, were they characters in your life, or did they only exist in your slumber? Perhaps there was fear, some creature that meant you harm, were you lost, were you missing someone, was there abject terror of death, fire, falling, bullets, bears, or Johnny with an ax?
Maybe that’s why we don’t remember dreams, it’s a self-defense mechanism keeping us from screaming during the day while we remember what happened in our sleep. And perhaps, for mechanisms we cannot quite comprehend, it’s the same reason we forget the names of strangers.
When I got involved in Snake Identification in Facebook groups, I had no idea there was a culture, and subculture, that revolved around snake myths, and snake identification. I should have known, for if you get ten people together in a room for a week, by the end of that seven days, you’ll find narratives that have no basis in fact at all. Three people will believe the narrative, three will accuse the first three of lying, three will be indifferent, and one will have never heard of it.
Even before we are able to fully understand our mother language, as infants, we are fed the myth of Santa Claus. Every year, as we grow up, we see photos, videos, movies, hear songs, listen to adults and other children talk about Santa Claus, so we believe, because why wouldn’t we? Why would all of this be based on a lie?
But it is a lie. It’s not a misunderstanding, or some tightly held religious belief with no evidence, no, it is an outright lie.
Whether you want to admit it or not, whether or not you think it matters or not, parents teaching their children about Santa Claus is teaching those same kids, once they discover the truth, that lying is acceptable, and even more desirable, than the truth. To use a lie to modify someone’s behavior, like parents do when they tell their kids if they misbehave Santa won’t come, is perfect.
Here’s the fallout: Children will so reverently believe this lie they’ll repeat it to other children, and among the kids, will be stories of how one or the other, or some group, stayed up late, or got up early, and actually saw Santa. Others will see something in the sky and know, really know, deep down inside, they truly and honestly saw a red nose, brightly leading the sleigh through the sky. Moreover, as the kids get older and the lie gets harder to defend, and the truth becomes glaringly clear, both parents and children will pretend to believe, as to keep the lie alive, for just a little while longer.
Gee, Mike, that’s certainly a buzz kill, but what’s any of this got to do with Cottonmouths?
Here in The South, as I was growing up, I was told the tale of Hoops Snakes who would grab their tails in their mouths and roll like a hoop to chase you. Then there was the story of how Coachwhip snakes would chase you and whip you with their tails. And rattlesnakes had a poison dust in their rattles that would kill the unwary. Snakes hypnotized birds to catch them. And if you killed a rattlesnake, its mate would hunt you down by the next day. And there was the story of the water skier who fell into a nest of moccasins, and as rescuers tried to drag the lifeless body from the lake, the snakes were still hanging on!
Also, Cottonmouths would chase you.
None of this is true, of course, and most of these myths have slowly evaporated as videos become more and more ubiquitous, and the evidence for such snake activity becomes more and more impossible to prove.
Yet the one myth that seems to be the hardest to dispel is the one of Cottonmouths chasing people. In ID groups, long and irritating threads will stretch on and on, with the person claiming to be chased never relenting, never giving an inch, but yet never producing a photo or a video that their claim is true. They grew up hearing about people being chased, and they feel they are not part of their own culture if they do not produce a story about nearly being killed as they barely escaped the deadly fangs of the moccasin.
Yet there are issues here, and those issues are based in reality. The truth of the matter is while these snakes do strike swiftly, on land they are remarkably slow. The Cottonmouth got its moniker by its eponymous mouth agape position, showing its fangs. But it is impossible to chase anyone from this position as it is a purely defensive posture! Moreover, there have only been four recorded deaths from Cottonmouth bite in the United States. If these animals are so dangerous, and they do chase people, why is it so few people have been killed? Why is it so few people are bitten? Why is it we have no videos, why not hundreds of them, if the myth is not a myth?
The truth is we have “The Santa Claus Effect” here. People have been fed a lie, by people who were fed the lie, and each generation passes it own without thought. It’s true not because it happened but because it’s part of the culture. People lie about it, and find a ready audience for their lies, because they have already told the lie themselves. To argue this point is to find a group of people emotionally invested in what they are telling, and what they have been told.
If you really want to piss people off, tell the truth. Tell a four year old child the truth, Santa doesn’t exist and watch their parents explode in anger. It’s magic, the parents will tell you, it’s wonderful, that is, until the bill comes due after Christmas and all the fake snow and tinsel has really brought is credit card payments and a child who believes no amount of toys is quite enough to keep the magic alive.
The Cottonmouth tale is much like this. People want excitement, and safe fear. They want to feel brave and heroic as they blast away at a creature that will run away if given a chance, and who has harmed no one. They want to feel like they have, once again, conquered the wild by beating to death a snake they have always heard was dangerous, and they have always told people was dangerous, without giving a single thought to the truth.
Back in the day, I had a co-worker who hated the sight of people eating with chopsticks, at a Chinese restaurant, in south Georgia. Chopsticks, he claimed, was not only un-American it was anti-American. Of course, forks were brought over from England, so not strictly American, but I occasionally used chopsticks in the office while eating lunch just to watch him melt down. It was interesting in that he personally invested in chopsticks being the antithesis of American values but cell phones, clothing, and thousands of plastic items from China polluting the waterways were perfectly fine.
It should be noted that injustice is practiced, and nearly perfected, when it comes to conjuring excuses to colonize violently those places deemed desirable. Once the early settlers became strong enough to declare war on those who helped them survive, one of the tried-and-true methods was religion. In due course, the settlers accused the natives of Satanism, for they knew nothing of Christianity. In Central America, the Spaniards would hand a local leader a bible, and if he failed to be able to read it, they would kill him and loot his kingdom. Greed, the psychological desire to possess more than enough, drove the Spanish to destroy ancient and advanced civilizations, and erase cultures from the maps of history. Christianity was their excuse of choice.
Of course, destroying a civilization isn’t the only horror to be laid at the feet of the Genocidal Marriage of Greed and Christianity within the boundaries of this nation. Slavery was used to kidnap, murder, rape, and to steal the lives of people whose only crime, or only sin, was to be born of a darker skin color than the men who held money and land. For four hundred years, enslaved people could be, and would be, kept in bondage and made to work, getting nothing for their labors but the barest of necessities. Women were used as breeding stock, men were worked to death, and nothing, no bright point of existence could be experienced without the permission of those who were pocketing the money the slaves worked for.
Greed, in all of its various forms, has always been accompanied by spiritual heroin. The rich can convince the poor their lives are only meaningful by their submission to the way things are, by the rich getting richer, the poor getting poorer, and obeying those in power is the only real virtue. After all, how could the rich have all the money and all the power if they weren’t those selected by the gods to have them? Who are the poor to questions this?
It’s no mystery why churches in America are tax exempt. It’s the tithe they receive from those in power for keeping the poor looking past their own lives for something better. Here, in this lifetime, they must be productive, meek, and work themselves to death, very much as the slaves did. The misery they endure will be assuaged by some mythical creature, but only, never before, they die.
Time to sit down with a cup of coffee and write. Good coffee makes for good writing, I believe, and better coffee makes for better writing. But writing is different now and I have lived to see a couple of changes in the way writing is done, and how reading is done, too. Rolling with these changes can be a bit tricky, and it is not enough now to know your audience, but you also must know the medium as well, for now, the medium in which you express yourself will define the audience that you reach, and most importantly, how that audience will react.
Twitter is the fifty word novel of social media writing. A writer is constrained from deep explanation or meaning and instead goes for the sound bite and the punchline type writing. Twitter is superficial to the point of being nearly meaningless, and before you rise to defend this site remember most commercials on television are make for an audience they know they can reach in thirty seconds, with ten seconds of that being staccato fast disclaimers being spoken in a near whisper. The level of dishonesty and deception that can be delivered very quickly is amazing and is it simple. Writing deeper requires your audience to think about what has been offered, and often it requires time to consider the level of veracity. Also, there are these thoughts:
“He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them. But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion… Nor is it enough that he should hear the opinions of adversaries from his own teachers, presented as they state them, and accompanied by what they offer as refutations. He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them…he must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form.”
― John Stuart Mill, On Liberty
There is a lot to unpack in this quote. Rarely, very rarely, on social media are there those who will consider deeply those opinions they do not themselves hold and hold dearly. Entrenched positions are defended from any thought or idea, or words, that might not perfectly match those being held as the one word of truth.
Humans, particularly those who were raised by television while their parents were preoccupied, were trained to think of good versus evil, all issues black and white, and this is to the detriment of gray areas where both sides meet and build compromise for the greater good. One team scored more points, or killed more of the other side, or had more weapons, or goods, or food, and that side was the one who won the argument, irrespective of the truth. Our American culture reflects this quite strongly in our past, first with the Natives who suffered genocide, then the other colonists who were on the same continent, and finally, the enslaved people who were freed suffered the fate of those who lost. Only great political and cultural upheaval has forced change upon those in power who from profited from this system.
Now, on social media, anger is the weapon of choice. It is not preferable to debate an issue, to look upon all sides of it, no. Now, only anger will do, and once again, those who express the most power, who get the most reactions in their favor, have “won”. No issue is decided by anything short of brute force in the form of the cyber version of pitchforks and torches.
It’s important to remember the users of social media have decided to join a culture where anger is the weapon of choice in interaction between members who disagree. It is entirely within their power to commit to change.
The ability to chance will be drive by the desire to change. The emotional feedback loop, of a group of people continuously agreeing with one another, and reacting in anger to all others, will grow stronger and more resistant to change. Moreover, it will become refined, stronger, with those in the group who are less fervent being attacked by those who are more radical, and the process will continue until what was once seen as fringe beliefs become mainstream.
Compromise and loyal opposition are eliminated quickly in this process, until nothing is left to talk about.
In closing, this is a cultural phenomenon. It can be changed, not without some conflict, and it will require an effort. But as the use of anger as the primary means of communication spreads, we will all become human beings, caught in traffic, impatient to get to where we are going, readily blaming someone for getting in our way, blowing our horns, raising our middle fingers, and still going nowhere.
Sunday was one of those days that just primed me for a night full of odd dreams. I saw it coming. I transported two puppies from a drop off at someone’s house to the next leg of the ride, which began in Ohio and ended in Florida. It went so smoothly I couldn’t believe it.
On the way back, I took the long way home, off the Interstate, side roads, and side roads of side roads. I listened to Natalie Goldberg narrating “Writing to the Bones” on Audible.
An officer in the military once told me if the Cubans and the Russians ever invaded from Florida, they would advance north, until they would run into the “I-10 Line” which is where Florida broadens out, and it would be there the southern part of the United States truly begins. A few million heavily armed, and pissed off, rednecks would pour into the area, making it impossible for the military to get in or out, but hey, they are heavily armed, and they are pissed off.
As a military commander, you haven’t lived until one of your senior officers is killed by a sniper, who turned out to be a fourteen year old girl, using her grandaddy’s 30.06 from a hidden tree stand, and on her you find ammo, food, water, and a Barbie Doll, who is also dressed in camo. There’s nothing but death north of I-10 because north of I-10 is South.
It’s pretty country out here, north Florida, that’s part of the south. Giant Live Oaks, lots of water, more history than the locals know what to do with, and it’s just about the part of the country where freezing weather doesn’t happen often enough to scare farmers. Close enough to the Gulf of Mexico to catch a sea breeze, and knock off some of the heat in summer, but that means close enough for hurricanes, too.
There’s Blue Springs in this area, a place once known as a hang out for the party crowd, but they’ve clean it up nice and respectable, and now it’s more a family place to go. The cut short from Valdosta to the springs wound in and out of fields and down nearly forgotten lanes, but all of that is fenced in now, and GPS will get you there quicker, much quicker, but the journey is more than half the fun.
But now I am in Greenville, where, I am told, is the hometown of Ray Charles, who was born in Albany Georgia, according to the people there. I pull over to check on the puppies, and they are on another leg of their adventure, their last one before they arrive home. I too, take a right turn, and I’m heading back to the house. The ride has been good to me, and idea float around in my mind like so many flashes of lightning, or gnats, depending on how hard I work on them.
It feels good to work with dirt, with soil, and to see material that might have gone to the landfill now returning to the Earth as all things should. Sweat is my salary now, sore muscles my vacation from sloth, and sitting too much to write. My arms ache with the heat of work, hard work, physical exertion that will provide the garden with its food, so it might provide me with mine, and enough to share, I hope. Years ago, I discover there is very little that will cause as much joy as giving away produce that is home grown.
Rain is supposed to come in later in the day, but clouds scud and drift, blocking the sun, providing shade, and I looked up. The photo up top is what I saw, and the picture was taken, stored in my cell phone camera, and I sat down, looking at the photos taken this very day, of fog, dogs, spider webs, of the sun, and clouds. How many generations of humans had no cameras, no way of sharing the wonders they saw except with joyous outbursts of words and facial expressions, and how many people have listened to these descriptions of wonder, and knew they would never see it, but it was enough that the sight made someone else so happy?
Sixty-one years and a few months slow me down now, and I hesitate before returning to my toil. The earth around this area of the world has been tilled before. This was part of the nation where slavery thrived, and enslaved people were worked for generations, doing very much what I am doing now. I wonder, my mind goes back to the days men and women night have, on the very spot I sit, been forced to work long hours, longer years, with no hope of knowing any other life but hard labor. Were there those among these poor people who would look up at the sky, see some marvelous cloud, and were told to get back to their task? Would an enslaved person hope for such a sight, for some rare treat in the day that might offer some beauty in a world devoid of anything resembling anything but misery?
Look back at the last 400 years, at the music composed, the inventions, the works of art, the poem, the books, the wonders humankind have created, and then see the shadow the light of that creation has cast. Those who were enslaved, and those who were descended from slaves, have lived in this shadow. First as kidnapped workers, and then as second-class citizens; Jim Crow and Red Lines, Peonage and Lynching, the light still withheld, the freedom and justice still denied, and it still goes on this very moment.
Yet given rain, and not too much, given warm weather without scorching heat, given luck and some skill with plants, the earth will provide those who farm a bounty, regardless of the color of their skin. Mother Earth will receive a body, if it is allowed to rest in a natural state in the dirt, and from this life will begin anew, such as it always had, and such as it ought to be. Kings and dogs, slaves and statesmen will all turn into soil, accept seeds, and grow whatever is tended, or not.
The wind blows now, the sky grows dark, and I am inside, clean from a hot shower, and writing the words you see before you. I hope you liked my photograph of a branches and sun, and clouds. I hope the photo stirs in you some sense of wonder and beauty. I wish for you to remember not everyone has ever had this, some were denied it, and some still do not have it. It is luck, chance only, that you and I do.
The rain began a couple of hours before noon, a slow descent of drops, which seemed to be the vanguard of many more. By lunch rain was coming down hard, and considering it’s been weeks since the trees or the pond or the plants and animals have seen any rain at all, it was a benison for the Earth. Like putting your ear to a seashell, a roar of water could be heard, rain falling through the leaves of the trees, rushing down to the dry earth, and replenishing what was desperately needed.
My work here is done. There will be no gardening, no composting, no preparation of the ground or building raised beds. This will be my Sabbath, my day of rest, with dogs near and books open. Even music will halt, no classical for background, no instrumentals for breaks in thought, no. This is a day of water, of the drenching of the roof and windows, and the sound of this action is all that is needed, conducive as anything created by any composer with two legs, for the human mind to be at ease in focus.
My compost pile is getting a natural dousing, which is very good, and it will be easier to fill the new garden bed. The pond needs water, but it always has and always will, and the pollen ought to find itself somewhere other than my truck. Yet the rain must also show up in print, being read or being written, and I wonder how other writers have decided when to add the rain.
A story about a group of survivors, trying to figure out if they can grow enough crops in a post-apocalyptic world, find themselves waking up to their first good rain, and they realize work is impossible for the day. Some sleep, some gather in small groups and talk, to plan, like farmers always have and always will in down time. Men seek out women, women seek out men, lovers find places to forget about the horrors of life, solace sought inside the bodies of another, and the rain comes down hard. The narrator stares out into the storm, watching in the dim light of the day, as much needed rain falls, and subconsciously he knows there’s a point of too much, but there’s nothing to be done if this happens. One bad harvest and they all will die, he knows they have to expand, and send others out to farm the land away from this place. Everything but the rain, and right now, seems impossibly far away, to this man.
I have a scene in mind, for what story I do not know yet, of a woman who is seeing a man, and their level of intimacy is getting warmer each time they are in the same room alone together. She left a bad relationship, still feels the pain of it, it still haunts her thoughts, and heart, but this man. The night before he left early, she asked him to, for her body’s desire was overriding her ability to sort it out, and after all, they were going canoeing with another couple, but now the rain.
They cancelled the plans on the phone, and without thinking about it, she went to his house, without calling, and now she’s sitting on his bed, and he’s in the shower, the bathroom door open, the rain pounding the roof, and so many thoughts are running through her mind. Join him, take her clothes off and wait, just ease back on the bed, and let him come to her, is she being too forward after last night, it’s like a swarm of cupids, all of them shooting arrows in different directions, and she doesn’t know what to do next, only she has to, now is the time.
To her horror and dismay, he goes downstairs, after all that’s where he left her. She starts to follow, then decides to wait. He calls for her, she tells him she’s upstairs, and now he’s going to find her on the bed. She can hear his steps on the wooden stairs, and she positions herself on the pillow, and hears the first roll of thunder in the distance.
Sex and storms have a long term affair going, they always have, always will, both involve so much motion, so much combining of certain elements for the conditions to be just right. Lightning, thunder, orgasms, cries of pleasure torn out of a lover’s throat like the wind suddenly blowing a shutter open hard. She’s waiting for him.
I went to a flea market today, a rather large one, and went early to avoid the rush. It was cooler than was comfortable, the wind was blowing, and the feeling of being out of place cut deeper than the cold.
The older woman selling honey growled the price out, her tone of voice suggesting anyone who wanted the honey badly enough would somehow discern the price, perhaps telepathically. Dressed for the Artic as she was, perhaps she feared a transaction might somehow weaken her defenses against the soon to arrive blizzard or distract her while a polar bear ambushed us both. Her gray hair was pulled back and stuffed into something that mostly resembled a hat, and her face was crinkled with deep grooves that spoke of poverty and bad choices with men who came into her life like trees falling onto a house. I moved on.
It’s a covered flea market, with a few enclosed shops, but mostly just a roof, with nothing to slow the wind down. Smokers with their cigarettes can be smelled a mile away, and some guy selling cheap tools is talking loud enough to be heard over the smoke.
“They ain’t gonna do it,” his voice rising with the power of his opinion, “I bet they ain’t, com’on, you bet me, they ain’t gonna do it,” and he takes his white cowboy hat off and waves it at imaginary betters in the air. He’s one of those big hat, big belly, big belt buckle men, with a shirt that’s red and white checkered, like someone stole a picnic tablecloth and tortured it with a sewing machine. The tools on the table, still in a package, are lightweight, no steel or iron, and they’ll break during hard work. But this is a man who is putting on a show, advancing on the would be customers like ants at a campground, who brought their own picnic tablecloth. Meanwhile the three guys he’s talking to, slowly back away, not gambling against his info. One of them gets far enough away to turn around and make a break for the next stall, and the other two now have an excuse to follow. Cowboy Hat Man snorts, and looks around for his next audience, but I’m on the move.
I was once good at this, navigating crowds, weaving in and out of people effortlessly, a shadow barely seen or heard or felt, but it’s been too long now. The Plague has sapped me of my invisibility. Stopping, sidestepping, waiting for people to move, my glide is gone, the people moving the wrong way at the wrong time, and collisions nearly occur.
Another shop is selling confederate flags, but near the back, in plastic packages, not on the wall like they once did. There’s a flag from the old Soviet Union, hammer and sickle, and it’s not being flown either. More cheap tools, but this time power tools, deeply discounted, in case you need a power saw for one project, you’d likely get it. Machetes, two for ten dollars, or five-fifty for one, thin, cheaply processed metal, and you couldn’t hack your way out of your 70’s girlfriend’s pubic hair with that thing.
Used clothes, more clothes, clothes, clothes, clothes for sell, dresses, jeans, shoes, and even hats for sale. The jeans are going for twenty bucks, a green down jacket for twenty-five, and this morning that’s a bargain, and I wonder who owned that jacket, and why they sold it, and how the jacket came to be here.
A teenager, young girl, is sitting in a chair at a small table, not seeing me, not seeing anything at all. She’s the daughter or granddaughter of the shop owner, and if this girl was holding a gun on you it would be your last moment on earth and you would be certain.
Her eyes are boring a hole through the air, through everything there, the people, the used clothes, the treason rag, the flimsy machetes, the parking lot, the hostile honey salesperson, and nothing from the outside world can break through that stare.
I want to sit down next to her, and ask her why the stare. With someone who is a young teen, it could be social media, or it could be she’s trying to figure out why her body and mind are going through what they’re going through. It could be the cold boredom, endless, dirty, smokey, cold boredom, of used retail, cheap clothes off dead people sold to the dying. Or it could be worse, much worse, as she found a hidden camera in her bedroom, and her new stepfather is creepy. Tell her Mom about it? Not tell Mom? Tell social media, tell no one, silence encourages aggression, she already knows that, and that stare is trying to decide if she walks away right now, into the abyss of the world, would it be that much worse than what awaits her in her own home? The stare lazars its way through me, past the greasy food stands, past the shop selling boom boxes, past the used CDs, past the next state and the next country and into deep space, but she will find no help anywhere anymore.
Moving quickly now, the mojo is returning, and I dodge those who are milling around like cattle in a pen, grazing on anything that might be slightly interesting in the cold stockyard of the flea market. It’s time to go, time to get away from this place, and as I leave the old woman with the honey calls out, wanting my money, even though she rather not speak to me again. I pull out, another car pulls in behind me, and someone will buy fleas here today, I think.