GIBBOUS OVER EXIT VALLEY
Alan's eyes are close together. Strict, morning-after salt and pepper beards usually affect men with soft voices.
"Ask where it needs to go, it’s a 350 right?", is the note Alan slips under the windshield of my camper.
The well witcher and the ewe were due on the same day: a lamb and water. Alan had been here for the ewe’s term. And he was instrumental in figuring out the water situation. He understood days; within each of them, the fifty-acre parcel.
I arrived earlier this week carried by the Fast Food Wheeler. As a young errant youth my stakes were on McDoubles. Certain had been my reliance on patties, sliced re-pickled pickles, onion sauce and the take it or leave it value specials, but certain also was my wander. A day many years ago was worth only what I would spend on fast food. Now its what I earn from the Fast Food Wheeler. Though, If I were to say I understand my life better this way ‘round, I’d be wrong.
My mother was elbow grease deep with my wits end.
On the evening of the vernal equinox of ‘99, I was riding a bicycle around the reservoir. Everywhere has a reservoir. I knew only that the reservoir occurred somewhere inside me on restless nights and that the equinox occurred sometime within the seasonal change, but I did not know that it was this very day until years later. It was past curfew for me, however I had managed to escape punishment all my life and so the wheels rolled on and spring’s breeze gave me mountainous freedom. As I rolled on along the civic pathway, I noticed Red Birds. Not birds, but the matches; trusted waterproof matches. Each one was on the yellow median that endlessly divided the bike path, dead center, succinct and half burnt. The singed end pointed in the direction I was headed.
Though the surface of the sky was the compulsion for this spring bike ride, my eyes were consumed with these match ends. I stopped. One was perpendicular. Its burnt end still burning and pointing to the thicket that gave way to the water. Cornered but compelled like American cheese, I bush wacked my way through. It was the kind of late/early that always made clear that you had made your bed or you hadn’t. The cold serrated edges of the leaves were a reverse gate on my arms. I heard the shore. I heard a fire. I stopped. I heard the ground moving. I thought surely there could not be so many mice in the world let alone in this grove to be churning this much sound out of their highways of winter’s dead leaves. The world was renovating it’s nesting. I stepped forth toward the fire on the shore. My mother was sat upon a round of poplar, watching the lake lick the shore, flames reflected on her cheek. This was the first time I had ever experienced panic. It was a moment after she noticed me. I knew not how to treat her. A cashier would have been a welcome relief at that moment.
“If ah raised you it awl, I dint raise ya t’be tarty” were her words.
I screamed. I’ve never screamed before. And she’d never been south of Toronto. I hated this woman. Not now, just always.
“Shh, shh, shh. Now, I’monna have you set down right here, and we’ll see whatever kind of mitzvah or whatever I can have done for yeh.”
My stomach emptied as if it had not already been empty; I had no choice.
“That’s a good son. Now, I know why ahm here. But why’r you ridin’ yer silly cycle al’round in the shivers?”
I leveled with her; “Saturn’s in retrograde” I burst.
“Son. You’re wrong.”
My stomach was empty and I went for food. The tires of my bicycle didn’t know what I had just heard from my mother, but they spoke to me like a firm yet fair surrogate father. I gave chase away. My resolution was to never see her again. The wheels were my resolve infinitum. I needed something to calm me. My mother was right. I was running in circles. This bicycle is bullshit. The moon isn’t always round. Inertia won’t let my empty stomach turn a corner.
That bus won’t stop in time and I’ve made a mistake by getting worked up. Adrenaline has fucked me. This is going to hurt really fucking bad.
Luckily I had eaten one burger before the incident. I’m sure the sugar spike is what pinned me to life.
And in that moment of revival I replied to my mother.
My business started quickly and became very successful. Where else could you have your cravings so instantly vetoed holistically, and your resulting over the counter resolve actually allow you to arrive in a different place? My bus company. Fast food, Internet and tinted windows rolling on down the road.
The one and only time I went to Los Angeles, there was her figure throwing lit matches at me from across the street. I had travelled two years straight on an empty stomach. I conducted the bus business starving on my food bus. There she was in Tuscon repeating my same order in the line next to me as the bus pulled out of the depot. I ate food, but I never felt full. I rode the Fast Food Wheeler around the entire country. The engine’s whine always made me long for the bicycle. She offered me the equivalent of a quarter in change to pay for a truck stop pickle in exact change: Wichita. This business was god forsaken. Born of an ire godless dependence. Born of that eve, and of my mother’s secret pagan sacraments of which she must have used to put me in harms way. She appeared still in Wisconsin broke down next to a lake on a still night. Maine when police questioned me for staggering and clutching my empty stomach. Also Florida, Texas, and Colorado. She would show only in the evening. And her scorn shown like halogen described by the Gregorian calendars highlights.
I was unsuccessful in my resolution to never see her again despite my best efforts.
I was sick of the bus. I was irate with the wheels. I was livid with my malaise toward maps of interstates. All things were all ways and again all ways. It should have sooner been a windfall, but fast food was no longer the comfort I sought and I needed a new recipe. So I stopped. There was a warming. A front moved to nestle Alabama’s spring in February.
On the farm in Alabama, work fell well into my hands. The purpose of my palms was firm and open. The materials did what I asked of them. And in return I received the fruits of the farm and the life.
Alan was peculiar. Fifty acre’s to wander in while in my down time of regretting my mother and my giant fast food bus company, and he would appear within shouting distance without fail. He would approach with nonchalance. Earth was simple to him. His truck ran on vegetable oil. He was kind, and had all the cheeks in the world to turn.
I was in charge of overseeing the birth of the lamb, or at least tending to the ewe. I had told them I knew animals. And a wish should make itself so if anything is so. So, from the beckon of an early season Billy and Alan set out to their daily goals. Billy was determined in all things. I could see why he had been award steward of this blessing. Alan chose tasks that need not be precise. But he went to them with the precision of the smarts he had. He asked me constantly about the truck I had bought. How much storage (in cubic feet)? What chevy doesn’t need to be rebuilt? “I never want to unload the idea of responsibility upon myself. What a tailgate”.
My vigil over the laboring ewe was in solitude. I disregarded and hid as much as I could. I walked to and fro keeping my eyes busy. I looked at the truck. The issues I noticed resulted in a laboring Alan. As the morning’s tasks either gave way to more loose ends or the tying of them, he found the time to tinker in the truck. Certainly my messing with that was out of place.
“454 isn’t as efficient” I remember Alan saying to me that day, reassuring me that my old truck camper was accomplished with its 350 GMC V8. I bought this truck camper to live in since Billy lived in the house and did not give space. Alan lived in a truck camper of his own.
“It’s funny with old trucks you know. Sometimes you jus’gotta whisper to’em to get’m to… to uh… to gooo. What’s more is maken a home on’em. A home needs a tenant, but it don’t need a mailbox …you know? …A …addressss.” His words end in a whisper and a grin. “I always relied on a vehicle t’tell me how faast it… heh, it likes to go, when they’s thinkin’ ‘bout dying, hell, whether’r’not they like how the moon sounds on the windshield, you know what I mean? Oh yeah! The witcher won’t make it. He’s a chicken man and the hasty warming of the season’s spooked’m birds so he’ gotta cool’em so they keep layin’. It’s funny. Huh.”
The evening was coming down and my patience for talking of the truck and not finishing talking about anything was giving me an empty stomach. I had to get out of there. I went back to check on the ewe.
“I’ll come with...” He went on. “Y’know one time I was runnin’ the everglades in a canoe fer four weeks. Never thought I’d see anyone, never been more crowded in my release.” His soft voice was like a fog suffocated by vagueness and his intonation indicated a pleasantness to be so. My duty became to give him no indication that I was in cahoots with his pseudonym of air that he regarded as ideas, or the pseudo physics he gifted all life with. “You know they oughtn’t give birth before we’ve established proper guideline’s for’em. But there’s really no figurin’ it. I mean we’ve domesticated them but wild or domestic, it’s usually… heh, heh” he slowed his speech and took the opportunity to really annunciate. Slowly trying to communicate a straight up mystery, “… its u-su-ally the … Equinox that will deliver a lamb.” A solution to a riddle was in his eyes and I wasn’t sure if I cared. I just thought about my mother and her, or I suppose my inexplicable bullshit. He might have a field day with it, and so I was sure to keep it from them both. We looked over the ewe a minute before he addressed me. “Well… a watched pot never –.” He stopped when his eyes met back at the ewe. The riddle was present again.
“Son, Ah tell you sum’n right now. There wadn’t no twinkle in the ram’s eye, and an equinox ain’t gonna deliver a pizza let alone a lamb. It ain’t what you were lookin for, but it just ain’t a supernatural maze. Runnin’ ‘round like a damn pair-a microscopes…” she walked off muttering. It was my mother, for the last time.
Alan’s term was over. His note that night, slipped under the windshield wiper of my camper: “Ask where it needs to go, it’s a 350 right?”
It was a 1979 GMC truck that was a unique gem that gave me the nuance of a quilt of my unique provinces history due to an uncanny likeness in the sportsman’s nature of this southern county. I subtly appreciated it everyday for that.
It didn’t matter that he already knew it was a 350, or that spring in Alabama surfaces early every year. And I knew he didn’t really care about this engine, knowing it inside and out, or whatever they told him about themselves. And it didn’t matter that he always used a lighter. These were not the source of my wrong way one-way blood running. Michael’s post-it message had been singed into it with matches.
A night some a week or so later I saw the lamb born, and saw the water well from the witcher’s eyes. His flock had spoke in dry speak. A touch of sulfur was on the sweet, warm air. It was indeed on the cusp of the equinox and everywhere’ reservoir drew from a well. I left the farm on bicycle. Time inflicts upon me every day a curiosity whether or not I relinquish.