Tales From Mephitis: Chapter 6 Beauty in Time
“Life is but a day; A fragile dewdrop on its perilous way From a tree’s summit.” Keats
A house-shaking explosion of thunder split the blackness, chasing the nearby searing lightning strike. For that split second it lit his way through the downpour to the barn. He turned around to look at the bright open doorway. Her figure huddled against the jamb.
“Please be careful!” she called out, the rain garbling her words.
“Don’t worry! It’s okay!”
Frank pedaled up to the road, hunched up against the downpour.
“Like hell it’s okay.”
Before he left she was distraught, saying she couldn’t believe this was happening. He had grimly told her this is what comes of believing in miracles or God. There are no miracles. There is no God: Easier to believe in a Devil than a God.
She had said when his face gets hard like that it scares her, he doesn’t look human; he looks like he’s made of metal or stone.
He pulled the cap’s brim lower over his eyes as he flew down the hill. The windbreaker he had on turned out not to be waterproof after all. By the bottom of the first hill, his back was drenched.
At least he could see though, thanks to that cap keeping the rain out of his eyes. Another huge bolt and thunderclap split the darkness.
“That was f**king close... Hope Mel is alright... Shit.”
His eyes became accustomed to the pre-dawn darkness and he could easily make out the road now. The occasional vehicles that came and went gave him a brief view of what lay farther ahead. The rain soaked his jeans, making them stick to his thighs and knees, impeding his pedaling.
“Pump, asshole, pump! Pump away till your heart blows!...This is one helluva hole we’re in, and YOU put us there! There’s nobody else to blame. Who you gonna blame?
God? There is none. Not God’s fault; there is no God. It’s my fault. I was an ass to believe in ‘bonum signum’, malum signum’, miracles, destiny, Fate, dreams, justice.
I’m dead f**kin weary, and it’s gonna take an unholy exertion to get out of this hole. It would help if I thought there was a purpose, a worthwhile goal or idea; anything. But I don’t anymore. I will not believe in anything.
Never again will I believe in anything. I made too big an ass of myself believing in ‘justice’...I can’t even curse ‘God’. How can you curse something that isn’t there? A beneficent’ God’?. IF ‘He’s’ there, ’He’ lets crap happen all the time to good people and blesses the shitheads...I can believe easier in a malevolent God.
But I think the guy that said ‘God’s only excuse is that He doesn’t exist’ had it dead right.”
The water gathered itself as it rushed down the hills, flowing over the tires as he pushed the bike uphill, bowing his head to keep the rain out of his eyes. All around, the lightning and thunder mocked him.
“My whole life has been one giant mistake.”
He stopped at the top of the hill in Evetown, yanked his jeans up higher on his hips and mounted the bike.
“Until I remembered my childhood, all those years before were a ‘living mistake’; a fraud. Even now, now that I’ve seen through all that, I’m stuck in the life that the fool I was had made for me. And there’s no second chance. Instead, it got worse.
I have failed.”
Despite the rain, it was slowly getting lighter. He hunched over the handlebars as he coasted down towards the dumps
“So; now that I know how much I’ve screwed up my life, and how deep this hole is...All I have in front of me is trying to climb out of it so as to simply be able to live out my time... and then die.
No justice; no higher powers: Just ‘live’ then die.
Rather bleak prospect...I can’t WAIT to die and end this farce. Schopenhauer said death is a welcome relief from the exertion of life, hence the beatific look on those who have just died.
I can’t wait.
But there is one thing left: I CAN’T leave Melissa in such a mess. I’ve cost her too much already.
I’ve got to set her up before I can die...If I die now she has nothing; no insurance, no job, no car, no pension. Nothing...I CAN’T allow that to happen.”
“God saves only the RIGHTJUS!” the church’s sign mocked him.
“Oh yeah?" he replied to the sign. "Well, Robinson Jeffers said:
‘The Wild God of this world is sometimes merciful to those that ask for mercy, not often to the arrogant.
You do not remember Him, you communal people, or you have forgotten Him.
Intemperate and savage, the hawk remembers Him;
Beautiful and wild, the hawks, and dying men remember Him.’
.…Either they can’t spell or they were short on letters. Five to one says the former.”
When he arrived, both gates were still locked. The rain had slackened off a bit and the worst of the lightning was heading to the northeast.
He squeezed past the exit gate’s post and climbed the hill to the office. He was the first one there again: No one was around.
He leaned the bike against the building under the eaves, and walked around to the trays. With his knife he picked the lock to the door and went on into the pitch-black building.
The stench was even stronger for having been closed up all night. He felt his way to the light switches near the office, then went back and opened the overheads and dropped the trays down like he’d seen the others do.
He got back into the office just as a bright red pick-up pulled in. The occupant, a short, stocky fellow with eyes that sort of bulged, got out tugging on a ballcap over his balding head.
“Hi. You open up?” he asked Frank in a high nasal twang.
“Got a key?”
“Yeah. Frank Novak.”
“Louie Gluck. Call me ‘Farina’... How’d ya get in anyway?”
“Through the side door by the trays. Didn’t see much sense in staying outside and getting more soaked than I am. I knew a Tracy Gluck down at the mill. Any relation?”
“She was my brother’s wife. Divorced now. She had ta have it morning, noon, and night. If he couldn’t do it, she found anyone who would. Good riddance…How’d you get so wet?... That your bike?”
“Yeah. You’re a truckdriver aren’t you?
“Yeah. Been drivin for the county for twenty four years. I’ll turn fifty in two years, and I’ll be able to retire with full pension in December, a year and a half from now. Then I am outta here.”
“Must feel good.”
They walked out onto the bridge.
“It’s warmer in here.” Frank remarked. It felt good after being chilled by the wet clothes. “Must be the heat given off by the garbage decomposing.”
“Yeah…Probably...You already dropped the trays.” He noticed. “C’mon lets get outta here back to the office. What did you do before you got hired here?”
“Last thing was farm. My wife and I had an organic fruit and vegetable farm.”
“No shit? Me and the old lady always put in a big garden. She likes to make up a shitload of spaghetti sauce and freeze it. Lot cheaper and tastes a helluva lot better’n store-bought. She got me putting in garlic this fall. Never grew it before.”
“Easy enough. That was one of our best sellers.”
“How come ya not farmin now?”
Frank hesitated for a minute. Other than being impressed with his size and that he rode a bike in, up till now his fellow employees had been phlegmatically uninterested in him; but he knew sooner or later someone would ask.
“Made a bad decision. Spent the year’s profit on building a larger chicken coop instead of getting a new vehicle. Then the rear shackle mounts gave way, and it wouldn’t pass inspection. So there I was with no money, and no vehicle. No bank would touch me because I kept most of our earnings off the books, like most small business owners. Haven’t been able to find work for six years.”
“That sucks. Six years? How the hell ya been eatin?”
“Off the farm. Ninety percent of what we been eating we grew. The deer and turkey were ‘free’”.
“I hear ya. That’s tough.” He was quiet for a minute, and then changed topics. “I bet it’s different workin fer yaself than workin for the County, ain’t it?”
“When you’re self-employed you work non-stop. There’s no overtime, no holidays, no sick-days.”
“Here it don’t pay ta bust yer ass... Just do enough ta get by.”
“That’s going to take some getting used to. But I’ll tell you; the idea of just putting in your time and then not worrying anymore has its good points.”
They got to the office just as Rod pulled in. He beep-locked his car and was obviously excited to see “Farina”.
“Who’d you bl*w to get O.T.?!” he almost yelled as he came in.
“Nobody Big Rod, that’s your department. Anton called me last night, wanted to see if I’d cover fer im today. I’M the boss today, Big Rod, so ya betta watch ya step! I’m gonna have ya jumpin today boy, I’ll tell ya! You’re gonna earn ya money today for a change!”
“III don’t think so! ‘The Big Rod’ does what ‘The Big Rod’ wants!”
“Heeyyy! Here’s Haji!” Farina rejoiced, looking out the window as an off-the-road, mud-spattered Jeep with enormous tires roared up and pulled up short.
“Who?” Frank asked.
“Haji. That’s what I call him. He’s as black as a sand-nigger. You never met Troy Massaro? Ahhh, he’s a pisser. We’re gonna have a good time today...Ain’t we ‘Big Rod’?”
It was obvious from the suddenly sour look on his face that Rod did not share Farina’s enthusiasm for this guy. Without a word he left the office and headed out for the trays. Curious, Frank waited to see who this was.
A small, dusky-skinned young man with curly black hair escaping from under his ballcap, and dark, almost black eyes with long lashes climbed out and down.
It’s almost a universal law: The bigger and noisier the vehicle; the smaller the driver. He grinned a white-toothed smart-ass’s grin when he saw Farina.
“Almost didn’t make it, Farina. That f**kin alarm went off, and I almost shot it.” He lazily spoke in a smoke-husky voice.
“Out sniffin again till dawn? Or didcha get lucky last night? You f**kin kids. You got all the luck.”
“Shhhhit. You know me, Gluck; my name is ‘Lucky’.”
“You know Frank? New hire. Part-timer.”
“No. Glad ta meet you...Troy.”
“Nice to meet you.”
“Who else is on?”
“Just you, me, Frank....and ‘Big Rod’”.
“He’s here? The queer? Maybe I will get lucky after all!”
The rain sheeted down the long metal roof of the building and cascaded off the edge in a cataract the length of the building. There were no gutters. He saw the remains of hangers, and upon asking was told they did indeed have gutters once. The ice in the winter tore them off and they were never replaced.
Every time one of them went to help a customer, it was like passing under a waterfall.
“You don’t like Troy, do you?” Frank asked Rod later. Troy and Farina were back in the office, laughing and perusing the stack of Playboys.
“He’s not nice.”
Something about his tone caught his ear: It was spoken as if he were a little boy. It wasn’t a put-on; he was sure of that.
“Why would he say something like that; in that way?”
Frank watched Rod curiously as he interacted with certain customers. With these, ones that solicitously asked how he was, he acted different than he did with the ones he jocularly joked with phallo-centrically. His whole demeanor changed: He stood hands at his side, shoulders sagging, head slightly forward, and fixed them with a mournful gaze which he never altered.
The conversation seemed to definitely follow a pattern.
“How’s your day going?” he’d ask rhetorically.
“That’s nice. Mine’s not going so good.”
That seemed to be their fatal error, because once given his opening he followed them as they dealt with their garbage and recyclables, talking about his problem of the day all the while.
Even when it was obvious to him they were done and wanted to leave, he kept them there by keeping on talking without cease.
They’d edge toward their car slowly, nodding in commiseration, trying to be polite.
They’d open the car door and stand there, hoping he’d get the hint.
He did, and would block their closing of the door by stepping in the way.
Finally, they’d say they had to go, and would get in and start to close the door.
He still wouldn’t let them go, even when they did manage to shut it and started the engine.
Finally they’d just say “Bye” and go.
Frank learned more about the operation in one day from Farina than he learned in two weeks from Anton. The guy liked to talk.
He told him he was here from the beginning. Matter of fact, him and Dane, the guy that had Ray’s job first, welded all these trays and hoppers.
He not only had his class A CDL, but he was a Heavy Equipment Operator, and a certified Welder. When Dane retired he was sure he was going to be given his job like he was promised; but that didn’t happen. Instead Barrator gave it to Rodgers.
“…that little prick. He ain’t got the brains ta pick his nose, fa Chrissakes.
But Barrator f**cked up. The boys found out Rodgers never took the civil service test fa the job.
Now he’s gotta take it; an Dougie, Anton an Jack are gonna take it too. One a them’ll beat him fer sure cause he’s a dumb f**k. Then he’ll lose that job. Serves him right, the little prick.
He was so full of hisself when he got the job, if ya suggested a better way ta do sumthin, he’d yell inta da phone ‘Did you hear what I said?!’
Pissed Farmer off so much he’s takin his retirement in October. Gonna lose a helluva driver cause a the little prick.
Now Rodgers gotta watch hisself. So he comes up with these asshole projects to make it look like he’s doin sumthin.”
“Farina” was politically to the right of Rush Limbaugh, and hated Blacks, “Mexicans”, “Women’s Libbers”, and “Queers”.
The legal marriage of gays he found particularly abhorrent, though not for Biblical reasons. It just "creeped" him out.
He, like Hoppin’ John and Little Tom, was going for his pistol permit because of the upcoming collapse of Western Civilization. He was adamant that the government was intent on seizing his guns so he and all true Americans would be defenseless on the morning of the invasion of the U.N...
“Tommy says ya ex is related ta his wife’s family? My old lady’s a Boulet too.”
“Perfect. Another conduit for gossip back to my kids. Christ. I’m not going to be spared anything, am I?”
They shared woodcutting stories, for Farina too heated solely with wood. He had a fancy wood-burning furnace that only needed loading once, maybe twice a day. He bragged that he had never paid a dime for heating or even for firewood. He cut his own off the family farm, using his son-in-law for all the lifting.
Right now his hobby was re-building his first car, a 1957 Chevy.
“Yeah, I couldn’t believe it. I got that car in ’79, when I was sixteen. I sold it a couple years later. Always regretted that.
Then one day, I was bringing a load of metal down ta the Port, and I pass this car for sale. I couldn’t believe it. It was my car! I got it for $600. Only had one owner after me.
I been fixin it up ever since. When I get it done I’m gonna go ta these old car rallys with it...Tommy’s re-buildin a ’70 Pontiac Firebird with a 440. He’s doin it right from scratch. Every piece disassembled, stripped and sanded, down to each bolt.
It’s gonna take him years. But, shit, it gives him sumthin ta do, and keeps him away from the wife.”
“That fellow, ‘Tim from Genoa’, told me he’s always rebuilding something. To hear him talk, he’s a master mechanic, who’d ‘turned more’n a few wrenches’ in his time.”
“That lard-ass? He works a lot, but only with his mouth. He tell you about how his son...”
“ Bought a Corvette on-line and flew down to Florida to pick it up? Oh, yeah. How about John? He a mechanic?”
“Him? Nah. Oh, he can work on his truck a bit, but mostly he just drinks his Miller Lite. On Fridays his boy comes over and they play ‘big army men’ on the computer. Some video games. He’s good for a thirty pack then....Hey, Ya know who else is big on them computer games, ya know, the ones where they pretend they’re commandos and such?”
“You’re kidding. He’s the last person I’d expect to play commando.”
“Stays up all night playing it.”
The rain had ended before lunch, and the sun promised a steamy day. The rain had deterred some of the patrons, but with its cessation, the floodgates were opened. The garbage began to really pile up.
“Looks like it’s gonna be hot enough ta knock up a sheep.” Farina commented. “Hey, Haji! I need ya ta run that baler!...When he gets back, how about pushin back the yard waste? Done that yet?”
“Ya jist take the skidsteer and push the clippings ta the back of the roll-off. Ya wanna pile it right up ta the top.”
“Got it. Hey, how come the first three bales of garbage are put in sideways on top of each other?”
“Ta get as much as possible in. After those three, ya stack them three on one side, two on edge on the other.”
“How do you get them on edge like that?”
“First ya stack two, then the next one ya kinda let down halfway on the top one. When ya pull the forks out, it’ll tip over and slide down on it’s side...Usually.
When ya get ta the end of the roll-off, ya pull the ramp, shut the door, and drop the last two bales over the top of the door sideways like the first ones. That can be tricky.
Big Rod there, he tried ta do that once, an he got the forks stuck, so there he is with a bale way up in da air that he can’t get rid of. Can’t go forward, can’t go backward.”
“What did you do?” Frank looked at Rod.
“Started cryin fa Anton like a girl.” Farina answered. “ANTON! ANTON!” he mimicked Rod in a falsetto.
“Did not! OOOoooh! Ya stabbin me!” Rod grimaced and pretended to reach for the knife stuck in his back.
When Haji got back, Frank climbed into the skidsteer and drove over to the yardwaste roll-off.
It was half-filled with mounds of grass clippings. He lowered the blade and drove onto the ramp, pushing the sodden mass back until the tires spun. He lifted the bucket, driving forward, and then dumped it. A blast of heat and the reek of fermenting vegetation steamed up, a cloud of particles rained down on him and the seat.
“What do they do with this? Man, there’s a lot of potential compost here. It’s gotta be cooking at a hundred and seventy degrees in the middle. That’s free fertilizer.”
When he finished, he parked the machine and clambered out over the blade, shaking the coating of decaying grass off him, snorting. Both Farina and Troy were laughing.
“Sucks, don’t it?” Farina chuckled. Then he straightened up and groaned softly. “Oooooo. Check out that dolly!”
It hadn’t taken Frank long to size Farina up as sexually unfulfilled: He was irresistibly drawn to the stack of Playboys and Hustlers.
That in itself was a dead give-away. After having intercourse, a man is not drawn to pornography, not even Playboys. That effect lasts about a week and then gradually wanes. And it is only sexual intercourse with a woman that is effective; masturbation has no effect.
Long ago he had learned to ignore what a man said about his sexual ‘success’ rate as being merely empty posturing; nothing more than lies to bolster his image with other males.
The object of Farina’s slavering was a very pretty black haired young woman, maybe thirty, with a very curvaceous torso. She and her husband; a fat, messy looking, but obviously fairly affluent redhead, had a pickup load of furniture to get rid of.
“Where can we get rid of this?” she asked with a disarming smile.
Frank glanced at Farina, expecting him to answer her. Instead...
“Ooooooooo.” Farina moaned under his breath.
“Right over here.” Frank said quickly when he realized farina was not going to say anything else. “Just pull your truck up to the front of this building, and back it up to the cement pad under the roof there. We’ll unload it all.”
“Great! Thanks so much!”
Frank watched the husband. He had to have been aware that his wife, in her tight top and white jeans, was the focus of every male eye there. That is; except for Rod’s. He was in the middle of one of his hostage monologues with another patron.
The fat young man gave no sign of anything, other than a vague look of distaste at being among the trash. He never left the cab.
Haji and he pulled the load off the truck, throwing it into a heap near the hopper.
“You guys are great!” she kept chirping as she stood next to them, watching. “We had to clean out my husband’s mother’s house, and we didn’t know where we were going to get rid of all that.”
Frank was close enough now to see light wrinkles at the corners of her eyes and mouth. He was struck with a poignant sense of the relentlessness of time.
“You guys are great! Thank you so much!”
“No problem, Miss. You’re very welcome.” He passed the driver’s side, and looked at the ‘man’. Like so many others of the ‘XYZ’ generation, he looked like a eunuch; Billowy, balding, and soft.
“What did Hunter Thompson say? ‘A generation of swine. Huge brains, small necks, weak muscles and fat wallets.’ And he was talking about the 80’s. He should these ones now. How do guys like this get women that look like that?... Because women are not drawn primarily to a guy on the basis of physical attractiveness, that’s how. Good for him... Hope it’s good for her.”
He paused for an instant, toying with the idea of telling him he was a lucky man and hoped he appreciated it, but just as quickly dismissed it.
“Mind your own business.”
He went back inside to where Farina was fixedly staring at her, moaning relentlessly under his breath.
“How much is this going to cost us, guys?” She asked innocently.
“It’s free if ya take ya top off.” Farina said very, very quietly, without moving his lips any more than a ventriloquist would.
“It’s free if ya take ya top off.” Said just as quietly.
Haji said nothing. Frank had noticed he was actually very tongue-tied around the woman. Like so many other self-proclaimed Lotharios, he too was all talk. But nobody was answering the young woman. He saw the beginnings of a look of dismay cross her face.
“She understands finally.”
“It’s free if ya take ya top off.” Came again from beside him in a whisper.
“Twelve stickers.” Frank called out to her. He made the number up right off the top of his head.
“That’s all? That’s great! Thank you so much!”
“No problem.” He went back out and took her stickers and tossed them in the hopper. “You have a good day now.”
“Man, she was a looker! Makes me wanna go home and jump the old lady...whether she likes it or not!” Farina observed when he returned, watching them drive off.”
“I doubt they’ll ever come back.” “Yeah, she was.”
“Man, I hope she comes back! Ya never get any good-lookin women here. Big Rod drives em away.”
“Yeah, right! “ Rod had lost his captive and joined them.
“All ya get here at Florence is Rod’s women: Fat an old.”
“I don’t care. I’d let em all pee on me.”
“Jesus. Don’t start that ‘peeing on ya’ shit again!”
Rod laughed delightedly, almost coquettishly, tossing his head.
“Now Genoa and Venice; they got some good-lookin babes come there! What the f**k ya got to scare them women off for, Rod? Just cause they ain’t your type?” He turned to Frank with a sly look. “Ever see Rod’s babes?” He snatched a photo off the top of the fridge. “Here. Ever see such beauties?”
“Gimme that!” Rod snatched it out of his hand with surprising quickness, but not before Frank got an unforgettable glimpse of a photo of two women on chaise lounges, ‘sunbathing’, in shorts and sleeveless tops.
Based on the background, it was in a Trailer Park. The Aluminum frames and the webbing of the lounges were strained, splayed, and bowing under the beached whale-like bodies of the two.
They were enormous, with the greatest of their epic girth around their hips, dwarfing their heads. Their suet-white flesh was dimpled with cellulite. They must have gone over five hundred pounds apiece. Both wore their hair short, not even reaching their shoulders.
The one with the blonde hair had covered her face in shame at being photographed, but the red-haired one kept her massive paws across that behemoth belly and glared hate at the photographer; a look that promised he’d pay dearly.
Rod pushed the photo under his collection of coupons. He saw another of ‘his’ people pull up, and headed out.
“You’re not nice.” He told Farina in passing him.
Farina and Haji guffawed.
“Who were they?”
“That’s his wife an sister-in-law.”
“These guys make me ashamed of being a male. But it’s not so easy as that. Because I, too, noticed how good-looking she was, what a sexually pleasurable-looking body she had.
So, am I any different? Any better? I can’t shut it off. It’s hard-wired.
All I do is control myself more than they do; to try and at least ACT more respectful around women, behave in a way that lets them know I mean no disrespect, they can trust me to be a gentleman. Yet I am no saint. I just have a stronger chain around it.”
“This dewdrop world- A dewdrop world it is, and yet…” Issa
As the day wore on, he realized Farina was right in a way. The patrons were overwhelmingly white, middle class, and either Boomers or Retirees. There were very few young people.
It was hard for him to identify with most of those he saw who were his age. They seemed to him to be older, not from his ‘world’. These people could never have been drug-smoking, concert-going hippies.
But there were some that were different, ones that he could intuitively peel back the layers of years from and see them as they would have been in their glowing, invincible youth.
One in particular that day stood out clearly. She was no doubt in her late fifties, maybe sixty. She wore her hair long and unbound as she sorted her recyclables; all “Newman’s Own”, or “Organic” products. Her hair was thin and as much gray as black. Under her long-sleeved blouse and ankle length simple dress, she was obviously thin, to the point of wiriness. Her taste in clothes reminded him fondly of the peasant blouses and skirts many girls wore in the late ‘60’s and early 70’s.
Though her features now were becoming wrinkled by time, he saw her as she was then. She was a beautiful girl, with a slim, gentle figure, a mane of glossy black hair, and a serenely lovely face that set off seductive blue eyes. She was someone’s lover, someone who turned men’s heads, who young and old men fantasized about.
Then the image was gone. But not entirely. He now saw both the young woman and the older woman simultaneously. This had happened to him before. It was as if he saw through time, and simultaneously the ceaseless changing wrought by time.
It always made him feel a pang of compassion for the passing of the flower of youth of these women, and for how much that hurts the no-longer-so-young; along with a feeling of a sort of quietness, not awe, but a sense of:
“It Is So”: The Japanese 'Sono mama’.. Golden Lads and Lasses all must,... as chimney sweeps,...come to dust.
...Sad but true. Not a damn thing you can do about it, except treasure those beauties while they are there now in time, and honor those who had their flowering before... So much like plants growing, then exploding into such a brief, gorgeous bloom, then fading, then withering. This flesh is so beautiful, but so ephemeral.
It’s more than simply not being admired physically anymore. Behind the eyes are memories of loves, lives full of things done, desires, regrets, and conflicts: All of significance to no one else, or very few others. And all soon to be lost forever, like tears falling unseen into the ocean.”
“Heeeyyy! Here’s Hoppin’ John!” Farina called out.
Frank thought he looked a bit ill at ease, though his eyes were dead as always. The black-haired woman was in the passenger seat. Three huge heads of wolfish-looking Siberian huskies hung out the back window.
“What the hell you doin at the dumps on ya day off!?...Hiya, Tina! How’s it hangin?”
“Hi, Louie!” the woman chirped.
“Hey, Hoppin’!” Haji chimed in. “Hey, what didcha bring us!?”
“Couple a pizzas an some soda.” John said, passing them over the hood of the truck.
“What the hell’s gotten inta Hoppin’ John? He never does anything like that.” Farina asked Haji as they dove onto the pizza.
“I know. I’ll be damned. Peace offering...Apology accepted.” “Hey, John!” He called over to him. John looked up at him, as did Tina too. “Thanks for the pizza. Appreciate it.”
“Anytime.” He got back in the truck, but not before flashing an incredibly wide grin which had the effect of finally giving his face life. “See ya Friday!”
“Here. Have another piece.” Farina urged him after Frank had finished his second one.
“No, thanks. I’d better stop here. This is the first bought pizza I’ve had in about five years, and I don’t want to go into toxic shock.”
“Yeah, I kinda figured you might not have had any for awhile. Duck Dodgers got you working Tuesdays or Wednesday?”
“No. Not yet. I’m hoping to get more time so I can get a car.”
“You’re a good worker, not like ‘Big Rod’ here; you’ll get more time.”
“Thanks a lot, Buddy! Ya stabbin me! If he gets time it’s cause he’s s*cking Ray’s c**k like you!”
There was absolute silence for a minute. Frank felt his anger slam into the roof of his head. “Steady. Steady. He’s a moron. Steady.” He turned slowly and looked at him.
“That will be enough ‘gay banter’.”
Rod turned and disappeared like a ghost. Frank leaned his thick forearms on the railing.
“Who the f**k is he?” He asked Farina. “And where the f**k did he come from? Don’t he know it’s dangerous to talk like that to someone you don’t know?”
“I think he does now.”
“Okay, Haji...Coast is clear, Do it now.” Farina said. “It’s about four o’clock. Gaw head. Ya been wanting ta show us all day.”
“Okay...First, I need a two Liter soda bottle.” Haji dipped into the barrel of plastic deposit bottles. “Back in a minute.”
When he returned, he had some liquid in the bottom of the bottle. He went to the aluminum foil barrel and made two finger thick twists of foil. He uncapped the bottle and thrust them in quickly.
“Okay. Ya gotta move fast now.” He shook the bottle vigorously for a few seconds. “When ya feel the bottle getting hot, ya better get rid of it.” He trotted out to the grass and laid the bottle down, then sprinted away. “Get behind something!”
They all moved behind the row of barrels. Curious, Frank watched. The bottle suddenly began to swell like a balloon.
The bottle disappeared in an explosion that sounded like two twelve gauge shotguns going off simultaneously. Frank cautiously went up to where it had been. All he found was a melted fragment with the metal cap fused into it.
“That was great! Do it again, Haji! Where did ya learn to do this?” Farina applauded.
“Off the internet. The trick is finding the right toilet bowl cleaner to use. Only the super-high strength ones work. Lucky the County uses one like that.”
Farina liked it so much he had Haji do it twice more.
While riding home, he realized that today was the first day he actually enjoyed himself at work for even a little while.
The rides in and back home from the dumps had become for him a time out, a grueling time-out, but a time-out. It was in these interims before he had to start rolling his boulder uphill again that the time was his. He couldn’t say he put it to good use as often as he should have. Too many times he was too tired, bitter, or angry. But at moments, things seemed so clear too him then: Clear, if not pleasant.
“It’s not our world anymore.” Melissa put it aptly and succinctly that evening.
They were talking about their generation aging. The crest of the wave of time had gone on past them, lifting up another generation, and leaving theirs behind in the backwater. And there was nothing wrong with that either; it was the natural order of things.
“The young see the world as beginning with them as we had too, as our parents had, as their grandparents had, as their parents and grandparents had; ad infinitum.”
Everything the young see and feel, had never happened before as far as they were concerned. The gift of seeing through time is a very, very, rare gift among the young, and very uncommon among the old.
But seeing the constant change of everything leads again to wondering: Is anything meaningful if nothing lasts? Is there a ‘meaning’ to all this?
“Maybe the problem is with the question. Who said just because you can phrase a question, that the question is meaningful?
Like the classic: ‘Why is a mouse when it spins?’ Grammatically, that’s a perfectly acceptable question: But it’s meaningless.
Language allows us to phrase things in such a way that it lends them an air of ‘reality’, when actually they may be nonsensical mouthings. Supposing the question: ‘What is it all about?’ has no more reality than ‘Why is a mouse when it spins?’
And that question can only arise from a troubled soul. No fat and happy, self-satisfied person ever questioned his or her lot. Only those whose experiences, like Job’s, are so at odds with expectations of what is just and right, must seek the answer to that question.
Time and again, as Siduri told Gilgamesh, as Ecclesiastes, the Tao Te Ching, and all the others have repeated: That answer is beyond mankind’s comprehension.
And yet, like Voltaire’s ‘The Good Brahmin’, some of us must still seek it: The ‘blind life’ is closed to us.”