Saturday, April 19, 2008

Out Of The Quiet Repetition, Come The Noises...

Life, these days, is quiet. Work is awaiting governmental approval. The humm of spring lawn mowing and the smell of burning is everywhere. To fill the moments, I sometimes sit and make shit up. Here is the start of something I just started...
--The Cockroach And The Crew--

I wanted to meet with my old friend Dijon and get something made from him. I found him in a scrap yard of his own doing, perched and seated nimbly maybe eighteen feet skyward on top of a large A-frame ladder, sitting on the final rung-- the dangerous “not a step” final rung-- and oblivious to his own precariousness. Brilliant blue sparks rained down over auto carcasses and the still bodies of large and dirty dogs. The hard buzz of some very high voltage-- teased apart deliberately to maintain an arc-- tickled the hairs in my ears and stopped the awful happy resonance of those crickets I heard driving out here. Metal scrap flipped up often and struck at my ankles like a yard full of tiny, mislaid rakes, and I stumbled and tripped my way toward the lit-up figure in the trees, my vision sidelong in fear of blindness.

Getting there meant trashing a pair of my best running shoes and forgetting about wearing those trousers on a date again ever. Getting very close to there meant closing my eyes completely, blindly walking through the metal detritus with a hope and a silent prayer, sharp steel tugging on my shoelaces, rounded steel rolling out from under my footfalls.

I waved and jumped up and down.

Nothing, it seemed, would draw him away from the metal tip of his inflamed rod as he scratched and dragged it across the giant cockroach he was building out of a rusty scrap of everything.

“Hey fuckhead!” I tried yelling.

Even his dogs were unmoved. In the pink-lit darkness of shut eyes in daylight, I listened; there were no old dogs barking and no pause in the arcing, and I could detect a vibrating welder‘s rig rattling a short distance off, humming like a sick refrigerator in an open bay of a boxy garage in the woods.

I could, I thought, in this closed-eye manner of mine, shake the ladder and threaten to topple it and have the desired effect that brought me this far…

It wouldn’t, after all, take much effort to sway him toward my point of view…

He did, after all, need a little stirring up…

He was, after all, too young to be retired to the slag heap of his giant cockroach imagination…

The closer I staggered, the more hot sparks struck my Grecian formula and threatened to ignite it. I cracked a covered eye looking almost directly downward. Now if I could just pull on the ladder leg I am sure he would provide me with some service!

I was beneath him now. The metal bits here so small they crunched as I stepped on them.

One glance told me he towered over me like a sparkling Wizard of OZ. I decided it was curtain time for him and the right time for mine. Time to get it all squared away with me a part of the program. Time to reintroduce myself. It had been so long.

I pulled his ladder leg and he toppled.

“Oh shit!” I whispered.

“F-u-c-k!” he screamed within his darkened mask, the word taking the same elongated arc his fall took, starting from an unstable apex and forming a quarter of a circle, hitting the ground at an angle then rolling madly across sharp metal shards and dull odds and ends and out into shambles of malevolent discarded meaningless rustiness. It pained me so to watch him roll, but his mask was now off and I had his attention.

“Hey Dijon!” I yelled.

“Grrrrrr,” I heard him reply. Or was it “Good god almighty”?

I tipped my ball cap to his sprawled out leather-covered big bad self.

He glared at me. “American. Foot-long, if I recall.”

“Dijon.” I called to him again. “Polish, with a French bun!”

It was just like old times.


Beneath the towering cockroach I helped Dijon pick the rusty curlicues from his leather welding gear. He worked the front-- his apron and his chaps-- and I obligingly swiped at his shoulders and the middle of his back. While we picked, we caught up. There were genuine “how are you”’s and the mentions of women. There were taunts and belly pokes and punches to the tops of healthy man arms.

“Art,” came an unasked for answer from Dijon. “In case you were confused.”

I had always been confused. “A giant cockroach out of metal scrap is art?”

“It better be. Or I‘ll have to change my business cards.”

“And you’ve been “arting” out here in the woods for ten years?”

“Have I? Those dogs were pups when I started. You?”

“I tried to get out. Living in the city made me too available, though. Now I’m knee deep in it again and I need a machine.”

“Ah… Not just a social call, then? I was hoping for a wedding invite. Something normal that would drag me out of here for a weekend.”

“Normal? You live in the woods and weld three story cockroaches. I can’t see you craving normal.”

“You crave normal everyday. I can see it in the way you carry yourself.”

“Look,” I said. “My hands are bleeding.”

Dijon had French slave-trader blood and Congo-slave blood and a bit of the Orient in him. He spoke the Swiss version of many languages and could do both high and low state American well. His grandfather had been a famous boxer from last century and his mother had been well endowed with fanciful notions, giving Dijon a worldly upbringing and our organization a superbly linguistic member. Besides languages-- which came to Dijon more by chance-- Dijon had a gift for machines. Machines liked him and would do what he asked them to do.After he made them.

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