In the gray sky days of impending winter, I decided to begin the process of disentangling the chaos of my computer’s contents: digital organization merely mirrors one’s own. Chaos in/chaos out. So I slowly fumble through my files, and find odds and ends which are often surprises, and for which, being realistic, I am sure there is no “use” in some imagined life of a published writer. So I guess I’ve decided to put them out here. Some stories, essays, fragments of once-upon-a-time scripts, snippets of ideas, and poems. Some seem worthy of sharing, so I’ll do so here. Maybe for a title it should be “Nothing to Say.” I didn’t have one in the papers.
There was nothing to say, really. Sure, it was usual to render up some mawkish sentiment, to burble with some high-sounding thought while choking back the tears. It was sad. It was supposed to be sad. Though it seemed to me that sadness was usually misdirected, sent charging off bullheaded in exactly the wrong direction. They’d say all the wrong things, showing right there, in their imagined most solemn of moments, how badly backward they’d got the whole thing. It was pretty much the same at the other end of the event, when to get the whole damn thing started it took a vacillating swarm of fantasy images, and maybe a jolt of some inside drug, to kick the body into its shudders and sighs, and finally shoot the cream in. Like this, it was something you really weren’t supposed to talk about, but just do the right handful of ritual gestures, mumble a few awful clunkers, stick the stamp on the Hallmark card, and move along. Don’t make waves, don’t go against the grain, it ain’t the time to ruffle feathers. Though it set you to wondering, if this wasn’t time to shake things up, when was? So with them all hang-headed, with their hands clasped together, decked out in their darkest, I said it. First I set it up, clearing my throat, like it was something serious and hard to say.
“Dad was really a rotten son-of-a-bitch, and you all know it. He never listened to anybody but himself, and bossed everybody around and everybody hated him really, but didn’t know what to do. And now he’s dead, and his mouth is finally shut, and you all wanna stand around telling lies about what a good guy he was, like he’d jump right up outta his coffin there and smack you if you didn’t say something nice. Well, dead is dead, and he ain’t popping up, and the truth is he was a son-of-a-bitch, and you know it and I know it, except he probably did things a whole lot worse than what we know about, and that was bad enough. Fuck him.”
You could hear the whine of trucks working up over 101, headed north up the pass. The sky was the usual blue. Nobody said a thing. Not a “shhhhh,” not a sound. They just stood around a few more minutes looking sad. Then Mom made a little move, and everybody shifted on their feet a little, nervous-like, making some sniffles, and then like they all knew, they turned and walked back to the cars. Nobody said a word. I stayed and watched as they pulled away, and then watched the workers – they were from Mexico or El Salvador, somewhere – take the little lawn tractor and shove the pile of dirt back down into the ground, tamping it with shovels. Soon as the family was gone they started talking and laughing, and when they were done filling in the hole, they drove over it a few times with a roller ’til there was just a little mound of yellow-red dirt. They came by with a little wagon and after they’d sprinkled the dirt and made it a dark color they laid turf on it. Then they drank a beer and left. I stayed, and I suppose they thought I must have been all ripped up, staying there until the sun had dropped and jet trails heading down to LA made orange streaks against the sky and the first stars started to come out. I walked back into town, past the 7-11 and the gas stations by the Interstate, and went to the El Cajon and had a beer. Al said he’d heard, and said he was sorry, and I said, “What for?”