The Rodent Cycle
(I am writing a book. It is called Salamander. It is about burning in a fire. And a journal of the plague year(s). It will be longer than The Anatomy Of Melancholy. This here is a small sliver: 21,682 words. Lie back. Smoke some opium. See if it does anything, for you. & if it seems like, in this part, I’m dancing around the fire, not really burning, not being there, in the thing itself: have you never read Slaughterhouse-Five? Catch-22? “There, there. There, there.” And. “So it goes.”)
February 2 is the day the Americans everywhere pause in their labors to await word from an oracular rodent who comes up from out of the ground to deliver climate wisdoms.
“Zoomancy,” that is the fancy word for such: humans scrutinizing the parts, patterns, particulars, of non-human creatures, for clues as to past, present, future.
This has been going on forever, from long before there were any Americans. The Incas, for instance, would remove the lungs of a llama, and inflate them by blowing into the trachea; priests then studied the distended veins of the blatted llama lungs, discerning thereby what the Incas should do in the politics. A Babylonian who might have a question, s/he would walk up to a sleeping ox, and splash water on its head. The reaction of the ox would then be compared to a Chart containing seventeen possible oracular answers. If the beast opened both eyes, that would be a “yes”; if both eyes remained closed, that would be "no answer, try again later"; if the animal rose up and drove a horn through your groin, that would be “oops." The Lombards would bake the head of an ass, then burn a piece of carbon on it. The names of suspected criminals were next recited: if, as a name was pronounced, the judge heard a certain distinctive crackling, sounding from the carbonized ass-head, that meant the person was guilty. It should surprise no one that the Kleagle worked like twelve bastards to revive this practice in the Americans’ immigration courts.
And so, too, come February 2, among the Americans, sleeping rodents are yanked out of their burrows, and ordered to announce whether winter is ending.
These rodents, it is said, achieve their climate forecasts through their shadows. If such a beast sees its shadow, winter will persist; if no shadow, spring soon come.
The most famous such rodent is Punxsutawney Phil, of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.
“Punxsutawney” is a totally shit-just-made-up name, concocted by the Lenape to punish the white people for smallpoxing them and stealing their land. Because no white person can really pronounce it, without spluttering like Sylvester the cat. They look and sound funny, when they try.
“Punxsutawney,” it is said, variously translates as "town of the sandflies,” “town of the mosquitoes,” and “poison vine.”
Needless to say, none of the Lanape actually lived where is today Punxsutawney. Because the Lanape were Sane. Also, Decent. Only white people, would put down roots, in a horror hole infested with mosquitoes, sandflies, poison vines.
As befits a creature who dwells in a Hell of sandflies, mosquitoes, and poison vines, Punxsutawney Phil has never been universally loved. Sometimes he is actually, actively libeled. Back in 1908, for instance, the luciferian time-traveler Jeff Bezos commanded the Washington Post inscribe an editorial damning Phil as a false prophet of fake news:
“We want it distinctly understood that The Post is no blind, fanatical disciple of the ground hog. There has always been with us a lurking suspicion that this greatly lauded beast is an impudent and stupid humbug. Our persistent inclination is to class him with the goosebone, the hen running sideways across the road, the Tar baby, Brer Rabbit, and Brer Fox. The conjunction of a sunshiny 2d of February and a subsequent spell of detestable weather has never occurred to us as more than a mere fortuitous coincidence. Even now, although events should bolster up the superstition and yesterday’s bright sun be followed by six weeks of gloom, and cold, and grippe, we should stubbornly adhere to our incredulity—still maintain against all comers that the ground hog is no prophet."
Phil must also ceaselessly beat off the many pretenders to his throne. These alternate rodential climate criers include Chattanooga Chuck, out in Tennessee; General Beauregard "Beau" Lee, of Lilburn, Georgia; Hutty The Hog of Kansas City, Missouri; and Smith Lake Jake of Graysville, Alabama, a burg formerly known as Gin Town, because no one but a rodent could stomach living there without guzzling at all times great gallons of gin.
On the American continent, predictive rodents seem to have first emerged among the Pennsylvania Dutch.
The first thing to be understood about these people is that they are not Dutch. They are German. That Germans, they would be called Dutch: this is because everything, in the humans, is confused.
These particular humans, they became Americans when they emigrated from the shithole countries along the Rhine, where everyone was being pillaged and rapined in the Thirty Years War, the Sunni/Shia conflict of its time.
Once they became Pennsylvania Dutch, they proceeded to make Farms. And, in the winter they would sit in the House, on the Farm, and stare out at the snow, until they couldn’t take it any more, and then they would go out and pull a rodent up out of the ground, and ask it if the winter couldn’t be over already please.
Back in the homeland, there on the Rhine, badgers, with those people, they were the animals that were in charge of ending the winter. But a badger, it can rip a human’s arm off, right at the root. And so the Pennsylvania Dutch, there in the new homeland, decided it was safer to go groping around for a groundhog, rather than a badger. Because, they were in wisdom.
Sometimes a badger will want to live under your house, and then what you do is move. A badger is not a rodent, but is instead closely related to the wolverine, an animal the size of a cat that can take down and kill a bear. Evolution taught the wolverine that the way to meet Danger is to stand there and face it head-on. This worked well, until came the automobile. Which is why, today: wherever there is a road, there are no wolverines.
My companero Jeff was once riding along atop his horse when he casually roped a passing badger. He then spent the next six hours desperately trying to prevent the enraged animal from climbing up the rope onto the saddle to there make mincemeat of his gonads. The badger was the most dangerous creature he ever roped, he says. Except for his wife.
Seems he was a-rest at home one day, out in the yard, lazily roping his children, when his wife, she detected a certain look in his eye, and she said to him: "Don't you rope me, Jeff. I mean it. I'm telling you. Don't do it." He avowed that yes, no, he wouldn't rope her. But then, he just couldn't help himself—as she passed by, he roped her. She said nothing. Just slipped out of the rope. He thought that was the end of it. Until the next morning. When he awoke, walked through the front room, and saw, there in front of the wood stove, all laid out, his nice new special roping rope, cut into one-inch pieces.
It is possible that woman employed a groundhog, to dismember the rope. Because, like all rodents, the groundhog has Teeth. These are very sharp, and constantly employed in Cutting and Sawing. The animals' incisors grow at a rate of an inch every three months. Which is why they are out there gnawing your deck. So their teeth will not become long as walrus tusks. If you go out and yell at them, they will for sure whistle, and maybe bark, which is their way of announcing Danger.
The capybara eschews whistling when there is Danger, going straight for the bark. The capybara is the world’s largest rodent, living around water down in South America, where it is the favorite food of the anaconda. The anaconda is a snake the size of a train that can wrap itself around and squeeze open a nuclear power plant. In order not to become the favorite food of the anaconda, the capybara runs fast as a horse. Once upon a time I conceived a great notion to ranch capybara and then accumulate many midas piles challenging cowboys to race said rodents on their horses. No cowboy would believe his steed could be outrun by a rodent, with a bird or a cat or a monkey strapped to its back . . . until I had taken his money. You see, while no horse really wants a human atop its back, capybara don't mind riders at all. Everywhere in nature, can be seen various members of the animal kingdom, standing or sitting on capybaras. There is in fact an entire tube, devoted just to this phenomenon.
Heather, cowgirl with the sass, refused absolutely to believe a rodent could outrun her horse. You just wait, I told her, and see. And, once you are won over, you can join me, traveling the land, in a sort of capybara caravan, stopping here and there to challenge people with horse-hubris to race against these rodents, who will be saddled with monkeys. The horse-hubris people will scoff at the notion that a rodent can outrun their equus, and so will wager all of their dollars, that it cannot be done. Then, will come the race, and they will Lose. We will, I explained, then take their money, and accumulate a great midas pile, which we can use to buy the oak lot next to the feed store, which you can then transform into the horse annex. As, it is written. So, it will be done. And, it will be, a new dawn.
I first met capybaras in the weirdo wing of the San Francisco Zoo, where they were placed right across from the backward-penis hippos. The backward-penis hippo is a form of pygmy hippopotamus where the male has a penis that juts not fore, but aft. I used to know what is the term for an aft-backwards hippo-penis, but it's slipping my mind at the moment, and I am not looking it up. This is because the Kleagle says that he does not exercise because the body is a battery, with but a finite amount of energy, and so, if he exercises, he will thereby deplete the battery of energy he needs for acts truly important, like grabbing women by the genitals, or feeding from the KFC bucket. The Americans elected the Kleagle to be their president, so that must mean he knows what he's talking about. And so, if the body is a battery with but finite energy, so too must be the tubes. You can only go into the tubes so many times, to research this or that, before the tubes battery runs down, is exhausted, and collapses in on itself, like a black hole. I do not want any black holes, here on this Duncan Phyfe. So that is why I am not going to find out what is the word for a backwards-penis hippo.
This, is Logic.
A potential impediment to the capybara Plan was that it is not "legal" in California to "own" capybaras. Which is a nonsense. Because capybara are already here, free-range, most notably down around Paso Robles, where they frequent waste treatment facilities. California has many stupid rules involving animals. For instance, once I decided there should be zebras on this property. But then I discovered that to roam zebras I would not only have to get a special permit, but also go to an actual zebra School. I do not need any zebra School. I already know what is most important to know about a zebra. To wit: (1) they will never be tame; (2) they need a ten-foot fence, not a mere six-foot deer fence; and (3) if they don’t like what you are doing, they will kick your head right off your body.
When you are marooned among the Americans, and you want to race capybara, then in order to cavort with said rodents, within the Law, you must live in either Texas, or Pennsylvania. Texas, because there pretty much everything—so long as you are a white person—is legal: not so long ago, it was perfectly permissible in Texas to speed down the highway with a loaded gun in one hand, and an open bottle of whiskey in the other. Pennsylvania, presumably because of that state's well-known rodent fetish: see Phil, groundhog, Punxsutawney.
But I had a scheme, to surmount any legal difficulty. I was going to obtain a pardon from the governor. Jerry Brown was nearing the end of his second go-round as governor, and executive officeholders are renowned for going strange, when issuing their final pardons. So I figured Brown could grant a pardon, prohibiting prosecution, and for all time, when I raced the capybaras.
I have an "in" with Brown because when he was governor the first time I wrote a story in the newspaper about him being naked. For this he has remembered me, for what is going on forty years now. What would happen is that I would promise not to write another story about him being naked, so long as there was the pardon. Also, I know where is his ranch, down there in Colusa County. There Brown is planning a quiet retirement. But his retirement, it would not be quiet, if he did not issue the pardon. Because I would round up a herd of free-range, unpardoned capybaras, and then run them onto his land. It would be like a cattle stampede. Capybaras push out babies every few weeks or so, and so soon it would be like a Soylent Green of capybaras, there on his ranch. Brown would not want that. So, he would grant the pardon.
Then, pardon safely in hand, we would clean out the cowboys of all of their money, betting on the rodent races. And then the cowgirl with the sass, she would saddle up her pony. And ride him, on a boat, out on the sea.
But then the town burned down, and I got distracted, and by the time I remembered the capybara pardon plan, Brown was no longer the governor.
And thus we are now back again with the subterranean rodents. And how, in 2020, when arrived February 2, and the humans, they went out to pull the groundhogs up from out of the ground, to hear from them about the winter, many of the groundhogs, they were not there. This is because the groundhogs did not have the proper papers, and so the Kleagle had them deported. The Kleagle has a great Hate for nature, because it is not gilded, and so he wants it all put to sleep. Many of the groundhogs have long lived in Canada, and when the Kleagle came after the American ones, for the deporting, a lot of them began gnawing their way there at top speed. It was like a Trail of Tears, except all the wood on the way is chewed. Which is why it will go into the histories as the Trail of Splinters.
Some of the groundhogs reached Canada upon an Underground Railway. A single groundhog will churn up some 700 pounds of dirt in constructing just one burrow; and each groundhog, s/he makes a lot of burrows. So it is nothing for them, really, to dig long tunnels, beneath the Kleagle regions, in order to reach Canada. Where, like the black people of yore, they can be Free.
The Kleagle also tried to ban the true-life documentary film Groundhog Day. He considers it wrong, fake news, a failure that should never have been made.
As, for many years, it wasn’t.
Groundhog Day was an emanation of the ether that traveled through the many levels and into the brainpan of the human Danny Rubin. He peddled his Groundhog Day script for many years, to the men with the money, who all said they loved it, but of course they would never finance it, because nobody would want to pay to see it.
Then, once upon an eon, Rubin was scratching around for a new agent. He sent that agent the Groundhog script. That agent said he loved the Groundhog script, though of course it would never be made, and of course he would never represent Rubin. But what he would do, he said, was pass the Groundhog script on to another client, who might maybe like it.
That client was Harold Ramis. Who had committed a series of serious crimes against cinema—Stripes, Meatballs, Caddyshack, etc., et al. And who knew that Ghostbusters, on its own, was not enough, to Atone. And so he decided to take Groundhog Day. To try to answer for himself, before the cinema gods. And because of the Ghostbusters, which brought in more dollars than there on leaves on the trees, the men with the money, they said they would let him make it.
Ramis then worked with Rubin to refashion the script, in order to rope into the project Bill Murray. Because Ramis felt it essential that the protagonist be a complete asshole. And Murray, Ramis knew, he, was that man.
And, indeed, during filming, Murray fully flowered, in all his utter assholeness. He threw extreme and dangerous tantrums, including demanding, among many other unsane things, that the movie go all dark and moody: he wanted a sort of The Spy Who Came In From The Cold feel. Murray was then still smarting from the reception of The Razor's Edge, his bid to break through in a "serious" film. But audiences did not want to see that movie, and the critics all laughed and called Murray names. It was a rerun of Steve McQueen's pants-down go at Ibsen's An Enemy Of The People. It is why Marion Morrison—that is, John Wayne—never indulged, on stage or on screen, his true affection for the works of Noel Coward. Said Wayne: "It never got past the thought stage. I guess they figured that maybe spurs and Blithe Spirit wouldn’t go together. Can’t you see the critics? ‘Wayne should go back to killing Indians, not Noel Coward.’”
Nobody ever gets to be what they really want. That is just a Law. Robert Redford. He got to be “Robert Redford.” But that’s not what he wanted. He wanted to be a professional baseball player. But, for that, he just didn’t have it. And so, in all of his life, he is unfulfilled. The closest he got, was The Natural. Which is why he worked like twelve bastards, for more than twelve years, to get that film made. So he could be. If but for one brief shining moment. Something, like, a professional baseball player. In a shit. Just made up.
“My life,” he says in that film, “didn’t turn out the way I expected.”
“I believe we have two lives, “says the woman in white. “The life we learn with. And the life we live with, after.”
Murray these days is suffering from the curse that has descended upon those in the Hunter S. Thompson karass. In the years since Thompson blew his brains out, things have not gone swimmingly, for those in Thompson's once and future boys' club. Johnny Depp, for instance, today arrives at premieres so bibulated he is unable to walk without assistance. He has spent all of his money—which once totaled more than the annual GDP of many African nations—and now regards as a wise career choice nakedly frolicking in Marilyn Manson videos. He abandoned long-time partner Vanessa Paradis to become an Amber Heard tabloid toy. Once the Depp toy was broken, Heard moved on to Elon Musk, a man who has never really been sane—he wants to nuke Mars—but who completely lost all his remaining marbles, once he was Hearded. Heard left Musk blubbering in the bed, wondering publicly how best to suicide, but his "recovery" may be even worse: Musk now manufactures “personal flamethrowers,” and peddles them, laughing maniacally, all over the tubes. Depp meanwhile walked eyes wide shut into another Amber alert, saying Heard had him Libeled, but then the judge said: no, she spoke truth, you are an animal, go hide in a hole.
Murray has yet to experience an Amber alert, but he has meanwhile become Bobo the wandering sot, randomly inserting himself, while various sheets to the wind, into this life and that. Once—and this is in the tubes—he memorably weaved into some guy's bachelor party and there commenced dispensing whiskey-breath relationship advice. A thespian is really the last sort of person anyone would want to listen to on matters of love and marriage. This is because, by the very nature of the craft, a thespian is required to be so many different people. The kahuna Serge King talks about this in his book Changing Reality: a gift of shamans is becoming other beings, and "actors and actresses, whose profession developed out of an age-old shamanic tradition, are the most well-known practitioners of this skill today." This is why, when you become involved with a thespian, you may drift off to sleep next to sweet Sir Galahad, but wake up gazing into the glittering eyes of Chuckles Manson.
In Groundhog Day Murray shamans forth Phil Connors, a television weatherman in Pittsburgh, whose defining characteristic is that he is an asshole. The film also immediately establishes that this man is not about the Real: we see just his hand, frozen upon a field of blue, as he intones gibberish about temperatures. Phil is beaming through the television, emitting bloviations about the weather, working before a blank blue screen, upon which will be projected for the viewers at home a map, which is a non-real representation of various lands and waters—which themselves are, but only maybe, Real.
Before he is out of this intro TV spiel, we know that Phil is a smug, contemptuous ass. Hole. And we don't want to be around him. But we travel with him anyway, because the film compels us to, on his assignment to Punxsutawney. There to receive the wisdom. Of the rodent. On February 2. Groundhog Day.
While Phil's producer, Rita, and his cameraman, Larry, can appreciate the charm in such frivolity, Phil himself is volubly aggrieved that he must mix with those he regards as morons and hicks, in senseless service to an overgrown rat. He sneers his way through the day; then, at its end, is unable to return to Pittsburgh, because of a blizzard (that he failed to predict). Phil mopes with his crew back to Punxsutawney, and there grumps off to sleep.
To awaken the next morning: in the exact same day.
Every day, for Phil, is now Groundhog Day. He is trapped in an endless rerun. And only he is aware that everyone in town is in a time loop, reliving the same ol' day. Day after day after day.
Early on, along his stations on this cross, Phil sees a sawbones and a shrink: they have no answers. Next, he consults a pair of town tipplers, in a bowling-alley bar.
"What would you do?" Phil glums. "If you were stuck in one place, and every day was exactly the same, and nothing that you did mattered?"
To which one of the tipplers replies: "That about sums it up for me."
It is in the company of these tipplers that Phil decides that since he is forever looped into the same exact day, nothing he might do, on any particular manifestation of that day, will have any carry-over effects, into any "next" day—as there never is any "next" day: always he will inevitably awaken, at 6:00 a.m., there in Groundhog Day, begun anew, once again—and so this means he may safely, and without consequence, embark on a grand tour of the vices.
And so Phil avidly indulges, for centuries, in gluttony, lust, larceny, fetishes as outre as may be depicted in a film rated PG. Until eventually in this Phil reaches an Ecclesiastes moment: he's been through it all, and all, is just . . . boring. Also, stupid.
Next, he connivingly decides to seduce Rita. He’s still a complete asshole. And so, through endless repetition, he caddishly accumulates vast quantities of information about her, so as to craft what she will consider a perfect day. So that, at the end of it, she will consent to be his bed-toy.
Because, in this, in both means and motive, Phil is foully base, he never gets there. In the end, in each day, Rita can always sense it: she is—somehow, some way, she just feels it—the target of some creepy scheme. Phil almost makes it, once, but, ever after, he each time falls further and further from his goal. Sweating, desperation. Increasingly, repelling, her.
So Phil next goes Musk-like morose, and takes to sitting in his pajamas in front of the television, eating popcorn and drinking whiskey, impressing the old folks at his B&B by correctly “guessing” all the Jeopardy questions.
While in this meditative state, Phil, like a true American, conceives a CT: It is all the fault of the groundhog. The weather-predicting rodent, it is somehow responsible. For all of this. If the hog, he can in some way be Stopped, Phil figures, the days, they will then begin again.
So Phil kidnaps the rodent, throws it into a truck, and then they drive together to a quarry. And then Phil guns the vehicle off a cliff, and, together, Phil and the groundhog, they become a roaring fireball.
Because, everything, in the end, goes to, fire.
But it doesn't work. The CT—like all CTs—it was Wrong. Phil, the groundhog, Groundhog Day: they all persist. For Phil. Right at 6:00 a.m. The "next" day. Which. Is the same. Damn. Day.
Phil next embarks on a millennia-long tour of various ways of killing himself. Now that he knows he will live again, every time, he dies. Until that too, gets boring. Also, stupid. For several hundred years, immediately upon waking, he shuffles downstairs in his B&B to grip the toaster, take it upstairs, plug it in, and drop it into the bath with him. In this way, he can at least, short out the day, early.
Then, tired even of ending his life, Phil, as is common with humans who come to understand that life is non-ordinary, conceives a desire to communicate this non-ordinariness to other humans. So he announces to Rita that he is immortal, a form of god. As is also common, this does not go over well: he is not believed. As an attempt at proof, Phil demonstrates to Rita his intimate knowledge of the lives of the various townspeople, which he has gathered over the endless millennia he has lived among them. But Rita regards this as some sort of trick.
“Maybe the real god uses tricks," Phil moans. "Maybe he’s not omnipotent, he’s just been around so long he knows everything.”
Phil, now in the eleventy-billionth repetition or so of his day, has dialed down his assholeness sufficiently so that it is now possible for a human to stand to be around him without wanting to power-chug cyanide. And so Rita agrees to spend the whole day with him. To test, his story. And, through this day, let's give credit, Phil manages to restrain his Weinsteining impulses. But, still, no, Groundhog Day, it does not let Phil, go.
Nor does it let him go when Phil elects to devote his endless time to more than popcorn and Jeopardy and cad-manning: learning the piano, taking up ice-sculpting, etc.
Because Phil's still not there.
Phil starts to get there when he at last directs attention to the broken begging old man Phil has spurned hundreds of millions of times before. Phil gets the old man in off the street, and ultimately arrives with him at the hospital. Where the old man dies.
Phil refuses to accept this. “Sometimes people just die,” the nurse says.
“Not today,” Phil says. For no one can die, in his day. That day, that must repeat, over and over and over and over and over again. It can't be. That always. That man. Will die. In it.
We then see: repeat: endless eons: in which Phil tries all, in that day, to keep that man, alive.
And, we see that, all the attempts, they, always, fail. For, in that day, that man. He is. Always. Going. To die.
When next we see Phil, he has reordered all of his life. He cannot save that old man—who, in that day, will always die—but Phil has understood that what he can do, is identify the suffering, in that day, of those who can be helped, and that he can arrange to be there, to help them. Because he has lived in that day—forever—he can do that. Because he Knows. All of that day. So, he is there: when a boy falls high from a tree, when motoring senior citizens are arest with a flat tire, when a steak-choker is in gasping need of a Heimlich, when a woman requires a light for her cigarette. He knows when and where he will be needed, and he arranges to be there. All day. Every day. Even whom he formerly regarded as pure apparational plague, his high-school classmate, geekily pressing on Phil insurance—Phil now buys from this guy more insurance than any ten humans might ever need. And why not? It makes the man happy. And it costs Phil. Nothing.
This time, when, at the end of the day, Phil tells Rita he loves her, he really means it. And, this time, the next morning, it is, actually, and at last, for Phil a real, brand new, day.
Because Phil, he has at last graduated. Absorbed the Lew Welch "Course College Graduation Address":
(1) Freak out.
(2) Come back.
(3) Bandage the wounded and feed
however many you can.
(4) Never cheat.
Groundhog Day, it is a charming little confection. But because it is a Law that nothing is appreciated by everyone—not even capybaras, or even chocolate—there have been some grumblings over the years about this film.
One of the grumblings goes like this: why does it have to be framed as a rom-com, fall into a boy-earns-girl fable?
This of course is a criticism that can be howitzered at most all of the movies—even those about the politics. To wit, Reds: boy meets girl, boy and girl have some sex and some politics, boy's kidneys bleed out and he is buried in a Wall. Or, 1984: boy meets girl, boy and girl have some sex and some politics, rats in the face cause boy to shift his love to Big Brother. Etc. The movies, they are all always about love. Because love, is all there is. We know this. Because, Zimmerman. He, said it.
Also, in this case, rom-coming, it seems actually appropriate. When one considers just why it is that the groundhog comes blinking out of his burrow round about early February. It is not because he is a narcissist with an overwhelming need to stand staring starry-eyed at his own shadow. Or because he is some human helpmeet up to chatter about the weather. No. The rodent, he comes up out of his hole, because he’s looking for a woman.
“Many male groundhogs do come out of their burrow on Groundhog Day, but not to see their shadow," says Lab Coat Stam Zervanos. "At this time of year, males emerge from their burrows to start searching for the females. The females come out probably seven days later and stay just outside of their burrow or maybe just inside their burrow." After the males determine where are all the women at, both sexes "go back to their winter burrows and spend a little more time in hibernation. In March, they all emerge together, and that’s when mating occurs. The males know exactly where the females are, [so] mating can occur very rapidly."
After the mating, come the little baby groundhogs. And, in this, it all plays, all over again. Just like, in the movie. Groundhog Day!
A lot of the artists, they will not talk about their art. They prefer that it remain in mystery. David Lynch, he is famously one of these. Thus, for example, he will not tell you why in his true-life documentary series Twin Peaks: The Return the Real Dale Cooper oozes out of a wall electrical socket, where he is then taken, by all and sundry, for the recently departed tulpa Dougie Jones, who was just recalled to The Lodge, and from that very spot; Dale, then, just assumes he is Dougie, because everyone treats him like he is, and also the knowledge of his true Dalenenss, it sizzled away, during his incarnation through the wall. Sorta like what happens to us all. Here. When we come. Here. To this planet. Or, why, later, Dale, in Dougie, dimly aware that he is more, and other, than Dougie, sticks a fork in a wall electrical socket, to deliver a shock to the system, thereby hoping to recover his Daleness. Which. He does.
Lynch just assumes you will Know about such things because at some point some doctor harangued you, as him, about the cigarettes. Lynch smokes all of the cigarettes, all of the times, even when he is asleep, which he never is, and it is currently a Law that a doctor will harangue you to stop smoking (whereas formerly the Law was that a doctor would come on the television and suggest what brands of cigarettes you should smoke). And, in the harangues ,the doctor will commence the St. Vitus Dance about heart disease. Explain about the heart. That every heartbeat, it begins with an electrical spark. That no one really knows why. Or where the spark comes from. But, it's Real. And a human, s/he is therefore a creature of electricity. And in the life of any human, there can be good electricities, and electricities not so good. Like, if you are the human Phil Connors, there in Groundhog Day, the electricity that powers you, that is good. And the electricity that powers the toaster, that is also good. But if you are Phil, and you sit in the water in the bathtub, and then you plug in the toaster, and you then drop the toaster into the bath, that is then Bad. Because your electricities—that of you, and the toaster—they are not, in that moment, in the bath, compatible. And so you—Phil—go to the boneyard. Until, tomorrow. Which is. Today.
And thus we now understand. The various Dales. And the various electricities. In The Return.
Danny Rubin, the Groundhog writer, he knows all about, the spark. Because that is also what is required, to make a screenplay, come alive.
“When you start putting together all the pieces of things that you visualized that would be wonderful, it all seems in your mind to be wonderful, but then when you look at what you've created on the page, it’s like a Frankenstein’s monster. You've got a head, you've got the hands, you've got the feet, you've got the body; you’ve thought of everything, but when you look at it, it's still just a bunch of dead meat, lying there on the table. And you're trying to get a pulse, to go through the thing. What makes it real? It's complete artifice, it's completely made up, it's all these things from your head, and your desires and dreams, and it isn't real yet. And, somehow, something has to spark, off the page. To join the life, that's going on in this world that you've created. And to make that life smooth, to make that feel real, that’s the absolutely impossible thing. Writing a good screenplay, it's almost impossible.”
Rubin has not really had a "successful" screenplay since Groundhog Day—in the sense of "success" as a screenplay eventually becoming a film, that is actually produced and released, and that people then watch. Groundhog Day was a confluence, and Rubin has not merged with such again. His work is just too quirky; he cannot write Normal.
But Rubin doesn't mind. He believes it better to be a one-hit wonder, than to have never known wonder at all.
Rubin also doesn't mind that to all and every, to friends and family, to people he will never know, he is the groundhog man. Everywhere, the humans want, always, to communicate with Rubin, about the groundhog. These communications peak each year around February 2. And, these days, on that night, Rubin and his wife, they push back the furniture in their living room, and there, they dance.
David Lynch is anyway easy enough to figure out, even if you don't know electrical sparks in the heart explain why special agents ooze through wall sockets. All of Lynch's work is informed by something that happened when he was a little boy, growing up in a perfect sunny little Pacific Northwest neighborhood. One afternoon he was out in the street, playing with his brother. When around the corner came stumbling a naked, bloodied woman. The woman sat down on the curb, and she cried. And Lynch, he cried, too.
That woman, she is Lynch's Groundhog old man. And Lynch will never relent. In trying to determine what happened to her, and in trying to save her. Because, you know, Groundhog notwithstanding, in some Realities, it can, be done. Just because it hasn't happened yet, doesn't mean that, someday, somehow, it won't, will be. And that is why, it so came to pass, that at the end of his most recent documentary, The Return, Lynch moves all, of all and all, all of time, and of space, to pull it off: to keep, that woman safe.
As, someday, I would, make it be: the town, it will not, burn down.
Back in the Groundhog realm, Rubin doesn't mind discussing the mystery pronounced by his oracular rodent.
“Phil is presented with the exact same day. And the very first time he’s presented with it, it’s probably the worst day of his life. And by the end of the movie, we see that it’s the exact same day, but somehow this is probably the best day of his life. It's the day he fell in love, and she fell in love with him, and everybody loves him, and he was living a fulfilling life, pursuing culture, and things that he loved, and appreciating the day, and doing good works, and contributing to society. And it makes it very clear, that we are in control of our day. We can control our future. There’s something very empowering about it. Groundhog Day, it's almost an experiment, that says: see? Here’s a guy who was having a terrible day, and he's kind of a horrible person, and just through the act of repetition, and paying attention, and remembering, he is forced to change who he is. And by changing who he is, he changes the life that he experiences, and the world around him.”
The town is going to remain burned down. That's just the way it is. Barring some non-ordinary Lynchian mass disordering of time and space, that's not going to change. But what can happen, is we don't have to be assholes, in it. We're still pretty much in the freak out mode, and that will go on for years, but there is also the coming back, and we'll do that, and the bandaging the wounded, and feeding however many we can. Including ourselves. And the never cheating.
We can't unburn the town. But we can be there. When somebody falls out of a tree. Requires a Heimlich. Needs a flat changed. Could use a light.
Because that day was forever, we all know when people need those things, because we've all needed them ourselves. And really, that's we're here for. Paying attention. And moving to do.
Just. As Jeff says. Be kind. Otherwise, it's just the same damn day. Over and over. Again.
You get the worst day. But you can also have other days. You just have to. Get to them.
And so we beat on, boats against the current, burned back ceaselessly, into the past . . . .
So for a couple nights there, came this gnawing noise from out of the kitche
Like, rodent gnawing.
I know from rodent gnawing, because of the squirrels.
Squirrels, they are major gnawers. And we are in peak gnawing season, here, now. Because of the walnuts. There are both black and English walnut trees here, and they put out the walnuts in the fall, the walnuts which are the tree’s babies, but the squirrels, they are abortionists, who want to eat the babies, and when the babies are still fetuses, and to do this there must be many gnawings, of the walnut shells. Because the walnuts put tough shells around the babies. To try to protect them. So the squirrels gnaw and gnaw, until finally they break through, and can commence eating the fetuses. This gnawing, it is persistent, and it is loud: it can be heard, across many lands.
But this didn’t sound like any squirrels gnawing to get at walnut festuses, there in the kitchen.
And, the first night, I didn’t really want to know about any rodent gnawing in the kitchen. Because that would require more effort than lying down. And lying down is pretty much the extent of my energy level, since burning in a fire. So, I didn’t much investigate the rodent gnawing.
I suppose I was hewing to the “just wait, and maybe it will go away” theory. Said theory having served me well, many times, in my life. Though, not always so. Like, I waited for the fire to go away. But no. Didn’t work, that time. The fire. It did not. Go. Away.
There have never been any rodents in this house. That the house is mostly concrete probably has something to do with that. Rodents will gnaw many things, but not often concrete.
After the town burned down, rodents moved into many of the surviving houses. Even ones of concrete. The rodents moved in because there weren’t any people in the houses. Because the Honea Oracle made the people stay away from their houses, and for many weeks. So, all the people gone, the rodents, they were not afraid. They came into the houses. To eat what they could eat. The next people who were not afraid, were the coyotes. Who came into the town, to eat the rodents. It was not uncommon, in the months after the town burned down, to see coyotes loping through the town. Because it was not a town. Not any more. And the animals. They knew that.
Anyway, the second night, when came the gnawing in the kitchen, I figured I better determine what it was. Mostly because I was worried it might be some rodent, trapped. As, so, it was. The gnawing seemed to be coming from this one drawer. And I know that drawer. There isn’t really anything in there to gnaw. It’s a mostly empty drawer. With just some plastic bags. A couple are bags I am saving because they are from the Grocery Outlet. Which burned down. And so there will never be any plastic bags from there, ever, again. They are, like, mementos.
Other plastic bags I am saving because plastic bags in this state are now Against All Laws. It is more legal to have ganja in your drawers, these days, than plastic bags. So, in that drawer, I am allowing those bags, to mature. And then, in twenty years or so, they will be vintage, maybe even antique. And then I can go to the tubes, and sell them, and there make many midas piles. Like people do now with, like, old vinyl.
Since there was nothing in that drawer to gnaw, I figured the rodent was probably gnawing the drawer itself. Because the rodent, it was stuck in there. And wanted to get out.
I felt for this rodent. Because I myself have a powerful desire never to be locked in. Anywhere. That is why once in the Cherokee house, when a bedroom door unaccountably locked itself, trapping me in there, I ripped the door out by the roots, rather than do something Sane and Decent like climb out the window onto the laundry room roof, and down to the ground, and then come in and determine from the other side of the door What Was Its Problem. But no. I just had to get out. Right! Then!
I knew the rodent would not be able to rip the drawer out by the roots.
So I would have to do it.
I waited for all other cats, to sound into sleep. And then I went into the kitchen, and pulled open the drawer.
I didn’t then stand there and Look. Becasuse no one likes to be Looked at it, when they’re stuck in a drawer.
I just turned around, and I left.
Then, the next night, in what should be the gnawing hours, there was no gnawing, there in the kitchen.
And . . . I was kinda bummed. Because I kinda liked, the gnawing in there. And then, it was gone. I mean, I’m glad I opened the drawer. I didn’t want the rodent to be Monte Christoed in there. But, still, the gnawing, it was kinda nice. And, now, it’s gone. And I miss it.
It’s amazing, really, how quickly, you can get used to something. Two nights, and I became accustomed to the rodent, gnawing away, there in the drawer. As when, after the town burned down, I quickly became used to there not being any power. And, therefore, heat. The town, it had burned down, and, in that, so had the power. I had some wood, for the wood stove, but not very much, and I didn’t know how long I’d be up here, in the town burned down, with no power, no heat, so I only burned five logs a night. I was cold all the time, but there wasn’t anything I could do about it. And so, therefore, I wasn’t cold. I, just, couldn’t, be. The only time I was really cold was when the logs were burning, and the front of me was warm, but at my back the cold was seeping in through these circa-1890 windows that had no idea windows could actually refrain from passing the outside air into the house.
So, I was cold, but I wasn’t. Because, I was used to it. Like those Inuit, who when the temperature soars to 40 degrees, strip off all of their clothes, so they won’t keel over, from the unaccustomed, heat.
Lord Bentley, the red transparent bearded dragon, who when the town is not burned down wants multiple light and heat bulbs, so his tank temperature never falls below 90 degrees, he somehow got used to the no power and no heat too. I think mostly by putting himself into this torpid state comboing hibernation and suspended animation. I, too, would like to be, in a torpid state, comboing hibernation and suspended animation. Because, then, I would not feel, burned down. But, sometimes, there have to be these jobs, so I can pay the rent, so I can be, here, now, in a torpid state, comboing hibernation, and suspended animation.
Also, if you are in a torpid state, comboing hibernation and suspended animation, you cannot open the drawer, so the rodent will stop gnawing. And so can be Free. Like wanted. The black people. Of yore. And of. Today.
Did you know the humans, they are supposed to hibernate? It is true. We know this because after the French Revolution, census workers spread out from Paris, into the all and every of the countryside, to Count all of the people. And these workers, they found that the people, there in the countryside, they were all asleep. It was winter, it was cold, and so the people all mostly slept, 18 hours a day, arising only to eat and feed the animals.
This, it is Normal, for the humans.
It is also Normal, in the humans, to get used to things. Pretty much regardless of what those things are. Because if you can’t change them, might as well adjust. Up here in the town burned down, people daily move through the Dresden, and think nothing of it. It has become Normal. That it is not, this is only evident, when outlanders blunder in here, and proceed to turn white, weep, and/or flee at top speed.
I went through this long period, in the months after the fire, where I would bus down to the unburned lands, and there become disoriented and sometimes even actively angry, that nothing there was burned down. What a freakshow! How can everything still be standing? Where is the rubble?!
Now, these days, the rubble up here, it is gone, and, now, we’re used to that: now, there are just these stretches, endless, of flat barren red dirt girls. That is the current Normal. Very occasionally some house will arise on a red dirt girl. And, then, that, becomes startling. What is that doing there? Why is there some building? On the red dirt girl?
From this we know that Change, it is Wrong. This is the lesson of cats. Once they get used to something, cays, the something’s job, is never to change. If you bring anything new into the house, whether it is a lamp, or a dead elephant foot, the cat will initially be startled. And will vote, resoundingly, No! But then, over the days, the cat will accept the lamp, or the dead elephant foot, as part of the Normal. And then, if you try to remove it, the cat, s/he will not wanna. Why are you moving the lamp?! And the dead elephant foot?! Them am supposed to be here!
Cleaning around here, it is an ordeal. Not only because it requires more effort than lying on the couch. But because the cat, he acts like it’s Armageddon. He crowds in close and stares fixedly at whatever I am moving and/or cleaning, to communicate that I am supposed to leave off, and leave it be; hoping by sheer force of some cat-staring voodoo, to Prevent the Evil.
Once in the Cherokee house Joe Ben and I moved all the furniture out of the downstairs for some reason; I don’t remember why; maybe to shampoo the carpets or something. And, as we lugged out each piece of furniture, the chief cat, Blue, would hurl himself upon it, to let us know the furniture was not to go outside—It must stay inside! You are making Change! You are Wrong! Finally, there was nothing left, but the carpet. And Blue, he dug in deep, with all four claws: he wasn’t going to let us take the carpet away! That was all that was left!
Where I, dig in deep, what I will never get used to, is death. I, here, am Phil. I want no death. In the day, that is my life. But there seems to be a lot of it about, especially at present, here in this burning, and in this plague, and I want it to stop. We don’t have death in my universe, and I’m sick and tired of it here. There is no reason for it. The other night Dave and I were talking about John LaPado. Who died, for No Reason. Tumors, rampaging, stomach. We were recalling John’s wonders, and his wisdoms. Dave is a musician, as was John, and so he knows more of John’s wonders and wisdoms, than do I. But I got at least two. That dug in deep. The first was in re Elvis. Never could I understand the man’s appeal. And then, once, walking to Cannon’s place, John said: “Elvis moved with the twitch of the earth.” And then, like Saul on the road to Damascus, in a blinding light, I got it. The second is that John would appreciate all musics, regardless of whether they were kool. There is often a great need, there in the humans, to be kool. Because if you are not kool, then you are afeared that the other humans, they will laugh, and they will call you names. But John, he gave no shits. If he perceived value in a music, he would say so—and right out loud. Like when he enthusiastically pronounced, to all and sundry, that Don Henley’s “Boys Of Summer,” it was “the song of the summer.” This was in 1984. And of course he was right. It’s a perfect summer song. Though it was released in the winter. Because that’s, in there, too. It is the summer. Shriveled. Into. Winter. But Henley, he was not kool. And so everyone was just supposed to ignore, what was Real. But not John. As I know it isn’t kool, to say death is anathema, and needs to be abolished; we’re supposed to accept that “death is just another part of life,” and a bunch of other horseshit, that is just pure bollocks. And I don’t care. Because I don’t want to be kool. I just want. John.
When last we spoke of the rodent, I had freed it from a drawer. There had been in the nights this gnawing noise in the kitchen, and eventually I determined it was a rodent in a drawer. I knew there was no food in that drawer, and so I figured the rodent was trapped in there, and gnawing to get out. So I opened the drawer, and then turned away. Because no one likes to be Looked at, when they’ve been gnawing at a drawer.
I then did not hear from the rodent for some time. Until I noticed that, deep in the nights, the tap lamp, it would be on, there in the kitchen. I have on a counter in the kitchen one of those lamps you tap to turn it on. I rarely use it. And, as I do not do Ambien, I knew I was not arising in the night, to tap the lamp, and then Not Remember. Anyway, when you are an Ambien person, you do not just turn on a tap lamp in the kitchen. You also cook eggs, naked, and then you put them on a plate, and you take the plate down to the car, and then you drive around in the car, naked, until you see a hobo, and then you give the hobo the plate of eggs.
I have no cats at present who like to walk kitchen counters. So it wasn’t them. It’s true the doors here are unlocked, and so somebody could come in here to tap the lamp. But nothing else was different or disturbed. And I didn’t want to think there was somebody out there who came into the house nights just to tap the lamp. So I decided it was the rodent. In its travels it would skitter over the base of the lamp, and thereby turn it on.
I wondered if the sudden illumination would startle it. If so, not enough to make it void its bowels. Because, unlike a Kleagle, it didn’t leave shit everywhere. It is a polite, a clean, rodent.
Then one night I’m out in the front room, writing some Libel, and I hear what sounds like a yeti in the kitchen. Really loud. All cats visually present and accounted for, so it wasn’t them. It had to be somebody else. I go out there to the kitchen, to discover that, what is clearly happening, is that the rodent, it is up to something, there behind the refrigerator. And there’s about a three-inch gap, between the wall and the back of the refrigerator, and, in that space, the rodent sounds, they are echoed, amplified, so as to sound like a yeti rampage.
Now that I knew what it was, I gave no shits. There’s nothing I want to do at the back of the refrigerator. So: rodent: have: at it.
But I guess now the rodent has decided to go bolder. Because yesterday afternoon I was trying to take a nap, only to be startled out of pre-sleep by the yeti noise from the kitchen. Seems that whatever is going on back there behind the refrigerator, now it has to go on during the day too.
I have not actually seen this rodent. Nor have I seen any foodstuffs or other objects that appear to have been rodented.
The cat, he acts like there is no rodent. Even when the yeti noise is at top volume, the cat declines to hear it. I suppose this is wisdom. So long as he refuses to admit there is a rodent, he won’t feel obligated to do anything about it.
I assume eventually the rodent will show and explain himself. Or herself. If a herself, maybe there will be more rodents. It could require more rodents, to complete whatever is that yeti-sounding project behind the refrigerator.
What I think, is that, back there, the rodent, it is building a spaceship. And the rodent, if it is a herself, and for this project, may feel the need, for next-generation rodent reinforcements. Which she will then produce.
When I was little, I read a book about Stuart Little, who was a rodent, and I think he built a boat. That was fine and all, but I believe these rodents here, they are about a spaceship. To go up there in the sky. To get rid of the Kleagle’s preposterous Space Force. Because such a force, it is neither needed, nor wanted. It must be totally be Stopped. Because space does not want any force up there. And that is why space has charged the rodents to build the spaceship. To go up and get rid of it. I think The Mouse That Roared, also went to the moon. Probably, it’s like that. And when the rodents, they have completed the mission, they will be given the Congressional Medal of Honor. I will go to the ceremony. I will get there in that boat Stuart Little built. It’s probably down there in the basement. Somewhere.
I am now directly feeding the porch rodent. Formerly to feed, this rodent was required to scurry out from its little rodent compound behind the kindling bin, to dine on the foods the squirrels and birds slobbed off the porch railing.
Squirrels and birds, like all of nature—and this totally includes humans—are slobly bigly, and so mucho feed accumulates on the porch beneath the railing. Which is no doubt why the porch rodent decided to come live here.
But in emerging to dine on this bounty, the rodent exposes itself to Dangers—which would be anything larger than a snail, this rodent is so wee. I don’t know if a snail would eat a rodent, but a lot of other people would. And many of these people frequent the porch—raccoons, fire cats, jays, owls, etc.
Snails, they no longer visit the porch, not since the fire. In the fire, all the snails disappeared. Snails are pretty much the opposite of fire, and so I think they just evaporated, whether the fire touched their bodies, or not. They said: No, we do not want this, we will no longer be living here. There haven’t been any slugs, either. Slugs, they are just homeless snails. They don’t have shells to live in, and so are roofless, like those humans down in Chico the orcs are coldly driving off with big sticks, because those orcs missed that part in the Wizard of Oz about “if I only had a heart.” Also “if I only had a brain.” The orcs, they think they are chock-full o’ courage, routing the roofless, but really, they are as cowardly, as was that lion.
Anyway. I deliberated some time before deciding to put out a special rodent-dedicated mound of food, there at the dawn of the rodent compound. Because I did not want these mounds to attract Dangers. Various non-rodential birds and beasts might notice these wee piles, and come to feed on them, and there might espy the rodent. I was afeared that in attempting to secure the rodent from Dangers, I might actually direct Dangers to it. Because, you know, sometimes, these things happen. But, finally, I decided the rodent mound was so wee as to be nearly negligible, and also I would endeavor to keep the regular feeding stations for the birds and squirrels fully stocked at all times, so they would have no need to cast their eye on some small smattering of rodent feed.
So far, this is working out well. So much so that the rodent has now come to expect this food. Usually shortly after I apply it, the rodent emerges to feed. This is good, for me. As when in the dawn I awake, and go through the Old Lodge Skins “Am I still in this world?”, I like first to make sure everybody is still alive. Animal, mineral, vegetable. Generally, I would hear the porch rodent rustling around back there, some time in the morning, but, sometimes, I would not achieve this release, until noon or so. And, until then, I would fret. Because, maybe, in the night, the porch rodent, it had succumbed to some Danger. But now, there is not this fretting. Now that I have established a dedicated rodent mound as part of the stations of the cross morning feed the birds and the beasts ritual, and the rodent, it is basically right there, right then, to receive it.
I don’t fret that I am not greeted in the morning by the house rodent. Because it has returned to a life wholly nocturnal. This, after the unfortunate cat incident.
For many moons the house rodent was active only at night, and only in the kitchen, when in scampering across the counter it would activate the tap lamp, which is how I first became aware of its existence, discarding the alternatives that this let-there-be-light was the work of some ghost, poltergeist, or random living totally mental human coming into my house just to turn on the lamp, then leave.
Then the rodent began nights loudly building the spaceship, there behind the refrigerator, so it could make that The Mouse On The Moon story totally Real . . . and in this, I knew, for certain, that the house, it had become rodential. I never actually saw the rodent, but I knew it was in there, rodenting.
In the unfortunate cat incident, I did see the rodent. This incident was presaged by the house rodent’s decision to wander more of the lands than the kitchen, and also in the daytime. It conceived a need to venture into the neighboring dining room, and hang out by the monsteras—from Mendon’s; burned down—in front of the French doors, which are not actually used as doors, because they are so old that if you tried to open them, they would fall down. I think maybe the rodent decided the light in that room was better than in the kitchen, which is true, and also, there, it could there see more of the outdoors. Also, true.
I one day heard the house rodent back there, in the monsteras, and I said “better not let the cat hear you.” Then, some days later, I was sitting in the front room, with the cat, playing with him with his favorite toys—paper towel tubes, broken antennas, etc.—and suddenly he sat up alert, in that alert way cats have, when some noise Interesting enters their ears, and then the cat took off, running around the corner, and skidding, into the monsteras.
Yes, Virginia, he had heard the rodent.
The rodent escaped him that day, and also a couple other days, when this sort of thing, it did the rinse, repeat.
But then came the day when I was lying in a bedroom, at my burned down, ease, and I heard the unmistakable sound of a cat in thundering herd.
This sound does not always have to Mean anything, because cats will sometimes suddenly take off running for No Reason. Actually, probably there is a reason, now that we know that when cats do that thing of “looking at things that aren’t there,” actually they are gazing into other universes, dimensions. So, probably, in that running, that is seemingly for No Reason, the cat is actually chasing, or being chased by, something, in those other worlds.
Anyway. That first thundering herd, I paid it no mind. But it was soon followed by renewed thundering herds. And also bangings and crashings. So I bent all of my powers, to defying gravity, and the fire, and arose, to go out to determine, what fresh hell, was this.
And there, in the front room, was the cat. By the fainting couch. His paw applied to the tail of a wee black mouse. So. The house rodent. We meet. At last. With one hand I petted the cat’s head, told him he was totally godly, and with the other hand I lifted the floor-length blanket on the fainting couch. The flattery caused the cat to ease a bit the pressure on the rodent tail—flattery always works on cats: I know this: I am a Leo, cubed: I am totally a cat—and so the rodent scurried under the fainting couch. I then dropped the blanket. At some point the cat decided he’d take a break from the flattery, and check on his rodent. But, the rodent was gone. Wildly, he whipped his head around; then his whole body. Where is my rodent?! I tried to distract him with his favorite toys—tubes, antennas, etc.—but it was some time before he accepted his rodent had somehow magically vanished, and left off the search.
At first I was afeared the rodent may have been gravely injured. But, several days later, the light went on in the kitchen. And, several days after that, came the sounds of the spaceship-building behind the refrigerator. So, the rodent, it had survived. Since, it has stayed in its own good hole, there in the nocturnal kitchen, and has not ventured out into any other lands.
I do not feed the house rodent. I assume there in the kitchen it attains sustenance from just my general slob. I have happened upon no packaged foodstuffs that seem to be rodent-gnawed. Neither have I encountered any rodent wastes. I did, when we were moving from Cherokee, though. Then Joe Ben and I discovered in a disused closet in the laundry room several boxes of papers that some time in the past had served as rodent urinals. These papers were Important, and so we couldn’t just throw them out. So instead we employed a Kleagle-approved black sharpie and wrote HANTAVIRUS in big letters on the boxes, so that when we moved them we would know to first don asbestos gloves, and also those masks people started wearing when first came a fire, and then a plague.
Because, you know, it’s always something.
Like somebody recently decided to leave for me to see a mole carcass by the leaf pile at the foot of the front porch steps. The carcass wasn’t fresh, and so I assumed the mole had died of natural causes, but then one of the fire cats found it, and decided to bring it around to show me, claiming to take credit for it. I loudly told any fire cats in the vicinity that, yes, they were indeed godly, except remember the deal here is that there is peace in the valley, and at all times, and so nobody gets to get kilt, not even a mole . . . but a human pedestrian, he was passing by at the moment, and gave me the A Mental Man Lives Here & He Is Talking Loudly At Shit That Isn’t There look. I hate those. But, I mean, what can you do? Except. I guess. Check. To see if the dedicated rodent mound. Of feed. Needs. Refreshing.
The Jesuits say that when comes the rectification, the lion will lie down with the lamb. We may not be there yet, but it could be we’re getting close. I’m out here on the porch, and the old deaf fire cat is feeding from her bowl. At the other end of the porch, the little brown mouse who lives behind the kindling bin has scurried out to feed on the spilled bird and squirrel feed. They are about six feet from each other. The cat looks at the rodent. The rodent looks at the cat. Then they return to their food.
After the town burned down, I told everybody who was an animal that they could come be here. In shelter from the storm. But that there would have to be peace, in this valley. No fighting, no biting. As Joe Ben was wont to say.
So far. This peace holds.
I like to come up with little songs for the various animals. Generally I don’t create anything new, I just mutate existing odes. So, this morning, as I deposited the seed mound for the porch rodent, and could hear it scuttling around back there in the rodent compound, I warbled:
have you seen your rodent, baby
standing in the shadow
And then, I remembered, the shadows, cast, by the fire. And I went in, and I laid down. And that was it. For that day.
Since I seem to be on something of a rodent run, I guess I should go ahead and mention that Paris now has an interactive rat map, with which Parisians may track the most recent rattus sightings, there in their fair city. The rat-map tube is called Signalerunrat.paris, or "report a rat." Seems there are some 2.2 million humans in Paris, and 3.85 million rats—which means that if rats were involved in the voting, they would Rule. We know from the true-life documentary film Ratatouille that rats are now Parisian chefs; who knows what rat-world else, the future may bring? What I wonder, is if the rats maintain an interactive human map. I bet, that they do.
In the dreams, it had not rained for many days. All was parched and dry. The people were bemoaning. And a woman said: “Now the mothers won’t grow.” Coming into wakefulness, at first I thought this a nonsense. But then I realized: No, it’s true. The humans, they need to be fed and watered, just like everybody else. Else, they wither.
So when I put the food out this a.m. for the porch rodent, and the various other people, I sang:
sometimes I feel
like a rodentless child
such a long way
Some rodents giveth, and some rodents taketh away.
That’s in the bible.
I’ve been having a good time here, with the porch rodent. Who is now porch rodents, plural.
For it is not good, that the rodent should be alone.
That, also, is in the bible.
We’re on a regular thing now, where I mound some seed by the rodent compound, and then the two porch rodents scurry out to retrieve it, then retreat back into the shelter of the compound, where I can hear them cracking the seeds with their little rodent teeth. Rinse, repeat. It’s quite fun. Everybody here cracks the seeds—birds, squirrels, raccoons, rodents, bigfoots—but the rodents make the least, weest noise. It’s pretty cute.
However, I did not share this cuteness, with Heather, my friend who the fire burned to off the grid up in DeSabla, when yesterday she moaned she was recently sitting there in her trailer, and suddenly the power went out. In determining the source of this wrongness, she discovered that a rodent, it had chewed through, an outdoor cable.
No rodents were harmed in this chewing. But Heather, she was plunged back into the dark ages. As everything, for instance, there in her refrigerator, it was melting. So, I figured she was not interested, in hearing, about the wonder, of rodents. She was but wondering, how much rodents, they would cost her.
Now that I think about it, maybe why there are now two porch rodents here, is because that second one, it is the one who committed the chewing Crime up at Heather’s place. After committing that felony, it fled down here. It is a rodent on the run.
That could be what’s happening.
For the rodent fleeth, when the burned woman with the big cleaver pursueth.
That, also, in the bible.
When in the morning I mound the seed for the porch rodents, I have taken to singing:
porch rodents innnnnnnn
Because then I can belt out the “yippie-i-a! yippie-i-o” part. Which makes me more lunatic, even than the acorn woodpeckers. So, I start the day, with a real feeling, of accomplishment.
I don’t understand money, I don’t understand property, I don’t understand owning, I don’t understand taxes. All of these things, they are a mystery, to me. Like, apparently if you have some rentals, and they are in a town, and then the town burns down, including your rentals, then you need to buy more rentals, “for tax purposes.” Who knew? What does this even mean? I have no clue. I suppose I could try to get a clue, but in these matters I am a moron, and, in re this moroning, it’s like Van Morrison says: it’s too late to stop now. I would ask these sparrows, but they would just laugh and call me names. They don’t know from monies and properties. They just know to sing. “Try that,” they would say. But no. That won’t work either. Because this morning I tried singing a variation on the “Muffin Man” song, and the zebra finch told me to put a sock in it. She has a very distinct noise she deploys to denote Wrongness. And she deployed it for my “Muffin Man” singing. From this I would get a Complex, but animals, they have for years, told me, to stop singing. So. I’m used to it.
Speaking of clueless, here is how clueless the humans are. A while back some Lab Coats got some booze, and then they gave it to some zebra finches. The zebra finches bibulated, and then they started slurring their songs. The Lab Coats, they had an ecstasy. “Drunk Finches Slur Their Songs!” they wrote in their Papers. Well: duh. You need a Study, for that? No.
Then again, maybe I’m in the wrong line of work. Because presumably these Lab Coats were Paid to tosspot these finches. So maybe I should put on a Lab Coat, and start having some Studies. I have a zebra finch here, also some other birds, a lizard, a cat, that rodent building the spaceship behind the refrigerator, and outdoors there are those raccoons and skunks and squirrels and many birds and etc. I can feed them various drugs and alcohols and whatnots, and then subject them to my singing, and other horrors, and then write Papers about what they have endured. For these I will be paid monies. And so I will accumulate midas piles, and with these I can get into property, and owning, and tax purposes, and all that, and then these things, I will Know. They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But I am not a dog. I am a cat. So. Maybe. There is hope. For me. Maybe.
There are crickets in the house now. In the night, they sing. I like that.
It is said it is good luck, to have crickets in your house.
The house rodent, building the spaceship behind the refrigerator, says it is also good luck to have rodents in your house.
I don't know about that. I am not finding anything like that in the literature. But the house rodent says: Never mind that. It's a new dawn.
I don’t get why there is all this rodent Hate. Like, the other evening, there was this visitor here—Heather, fire companera—and we were out on the porch, talking, when suddenly she said, and with some urgency, “There’s a mouse on your porch.”
“Sure,” I said. “That’s the porch rodent. Or one of them.”
I then began gassing on about the porch rodents.
She started laughing. She is long accustomed to my mutancies, and clearly this was one of them.
But when I moved next to ode to the house rodent, and how it is building a spaceship behind the refrigerator, she refused to hear. Cut me right off.
“No,” she said. “I don’t want to know you have a rat in your kitchen.”
“It’s not a rat,” I protested. “It’s just a mouse.”
But she didn’t Care. All rodents, actually living in the house, the mere notion, she would Veto.
Now, it’s true, that if there were any women living in this house, probably I would not be running rodents here. But, there aren’t. So, I am.
Actually, I take that back. Remembering the drawer rodent. Up there in Cherokee. There was a woman in that house. Joe Ben. Proof positive, that in a house, a house that is both sane and decent, there can be both a rodent, and a woman.
Maybe that Heather, who is not Joe Ben, had recently spent some time in the kitchen, this was why she was abjuring any rodents there. She did not want to know, that she had been occupying the same lands, as a rodent.
But it’s not like the house rodent then stampeded out from behind the refrigerator, to bite her in the femur, or spray her with hantavirus. No. For this is a perfectly peaceable rodent. It just wants to go to Mars.
Later, I tried to recall if Heather had ever expressed any pronounced rodent aversion. Didn’t seem like it. I mean, back before the town burned down, she was handling rodents, and at all times, there in the feed store. Mice. And also rats. She did not write love songs to these rodents, but neither did she run screaming like Lucy Jordan from out of what we sometimes called “The Rat Room.”
The rats and the mice, they were there in the feed store, because some people wanted them as pets. Others of the rats, and mice, they were Sacrifices. Doomed. Fated to be purchased by the snake people. Who would then feed the rodents, alive, to their snakes.
I have never written much abut the snake people, and probably I never will. Because snake people, they are possessed of a Disturbance, and to truly understand and express it, I would have to become one with them, in “rhythm logic.” And, for this, I would need many whiskeys. And I do not want to be going to any whiskeys. The last time I was in some whiskey, I think, was that time I reeled through the neighborhood, fumbling to see if anyone had left the keys in their car. So I could take the car, and drive it out to the home of this boy, and there lure him out, to rope him, and tie him to the bumper, and then drag him across the gravel, and maybe even some asphalts. As I slurred out the window, that this was happening, because to Heather, he had been Mean. And so, he needed to be Punished. And that, in this, was what, I was about.
This, the sort of wisdom, that whiskey imparts.
Then you wake up in the jail cell, and your head is hurting, and you go, “Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time.” But. It was. Not.
Except. Really. It. Was.
Heather also tolerated the snakes there in the feed store, though with me she agreed there is No Reason any snake should ever grow longer than five feet. But some of those feed store snakes, they would eventually became nine, or even twelve feet long. And then they would be in somebody’s house, wrapping themselves around a refrigerator, squeezing tight, and pounding it across the floor.
Some people, there in their lives, like to sit there, and watch snakes move heavy appliances, all around their homes. Ours. Is not. To reason. Why. Ours. Is but. To run at top speed.
A couple of the feed store employees, they would wander the store, draped in snakes. They were like those priestesses, back in the Greeks. It was said, then, back in the Greeks, that snakes, they would sometimes whisper wisdoms, into your ear. But I don’t know if I am believing that. I think it is more likely that these snakes would say: “Feed me a rodent. Or, maybe, a refrigerator.”
We were planning on running capybara, Heather and I, capybara the world’s largest rodent, out of the feed store . . . but then the town burned down, before we could accomplish that. I do recall Heather strongly objecting to my assertion that capybara run faster than horses. “No,” she said. “No rat runs as fast as a horse.” When once we had secured the capybara, we were going to have a Race. To See. We would affix a monkey, to the back of the capybara, and then it would set off at top speed, against Heather, on her horse. Werner Herzog, he would hear about this. And then he would come out and make a Movie. Maybe Heather, once upon a time, before the town burned down, had a Fear that a capybara, it could outrace her horse. But, other than that, I could recall no animal, vegetable, or mineral, for which she had ever expressed any real fear. Or loathing.
Except. For the spiders.
Before the town burned down, I would periodically receive these panicked late-night messages in which Heather was being menaced by spiders. Generally the spiders were on the ceiling, and from the floor she was desperately hurling at them various objects, and also stabbing savagely at them with a broom.
There would always only be one spider, and in the videos she sent I was not often able to actually see the spider. But she vowed the spider was totally Real. And an Absolute Menace. And, she knew, if she went to sleep, she would wake to it, crawling around on her face, and then her heart, it would have an Attack.
I would try to calm the woman, suggest various spider banishment rites and rituals, and one thing for sure I never did was tell her about that time Bob Speer invited me out to his cabin in Butte Creek Canyon, with no electricity, where he grew marijuana fertilized with his own feces. This was in between him firing me. He would fire me, and then hire me again. Rinse, repeat. It was like eternal recurrence. That, was our Way. And, sitting that time, there in his cabin, as the night, it came down, and totally took over, he had me smoke so much of his shitweed, I didn’t know my ass from a hole in the ground. Then he told me that his cabin, it was positively boiling, with black widows. They, he vouchsafed, were everywhere. And, especially, up in the beams of the ceiling. Then he said that the way people usually die from black widow bites, is the spiders, in the night, fall onto the head, look for a good place to Bite, do that, and then the person, dies in their sleep.
And then Bob, he extinguished, all of the lights.
See, Bob, he is a Scorpio, and that is just the sort of mindfuck, in which his rocks, they, totally, get off.
But I did not die in that night from any black widow bites—or maybe I did, and all this rest is just one long dreamy fadeout coda. A Jacob’s Ladder sort of thing. Bob once in the newspaper wrote a review of that film, in which he had a Pout, because he said the movie, it had Cheated. In this, he was wrong. So wrong. Jacob’s Ladder cheats not a bit, is perfectly internally consistent, and the end, it is presented, right at the beginning.
Clearly the Problem was that Bob had never been bayoneted in the belly by one of his own people, and then mentally writhed to make sense of such, before saying, alright, okay, I’ll boneyard, shuffle off this mortal coil, flow into the great wide open, step into the light.
Lucky, Bob, him.
So: no. I was not going to, relate to Heather, the Bob wisdom, of spiders, raining down, from a ceiling, of death.
I did marvel, that spiders, they were her Achilles’ heel. For she really is like Achilles. Heather. Or maybe Paul Bunyan. She can heft hay bales that would herniate most all the y-chromes; erect an 800-pound steel fence all by her lonesome; is kicked, bit, thrown, concussed, by horses, then shrugs, and climbs right back on again; rides herd on a nose-breaking teeth-baring fast-as-five-white-lightnings strong-as-nine-trees canis lupus; impatiently shoves aside rattlesnakes in a manner that would have even Woodrow Call doffing his hat; has been malpracticed on by more doctors than I could stand up To Be Shot against any one wall; endures tsunamis of “hey baby” lames in her all and every tube; in meat life has persevered through a succession of boys who talked a good game, then, soon, too soon, collapsed into Fail; drove through fire, drove through fire, drove through fire; and then, all alone, built her life back up, from nothing, nothing but ash; emerged from birth out of truly terrible things I will not here relate, but can tell you, true, I would not have survived . . . and yet, with a spider, who is not only harmless, but barely visible, she can go to jelly.
I decided to Research this peculiar spider Fear, after a time spent with another woman, who came up here the night Berry Creek burned down. That would be Melissa. Of the newspaper. She and I didn’t know what was then happening, we just knew we were all in the dark in a PG&E “preventative outage,” and a fire, it was out there, somewhere, coming up out of Plumas County, and, what we wanted to know, was whether it was about dancing dervish devil into the town already burned down, to laugh and call us names, as it applied some rude and abusive fiery finishing touches, in a sort of Then Came The Fire, version 2.0.
The reason she came up here is because this is a woman who drives into fire. At all times. And through the whole of her life. As we sat in the dark, on the porch in the night, she guided me through some of the stations of the cross of her life. Besides routinely driving into fire, there was the abandonment, the uprooting, the nobody, the ceaseless stream of medical malpractioners, including those who, in the very budding of her adult life, said “hey, guess what, sorry to tell you this, but you are going to die,” she lived in that, for months, and eternal months, until they again called her in, and said, “hey, you know that part about dying? well, our bad, that was a mistake, so sorry, aren’t you happy now?”; then there were the psycho stalky would-be swains who trailed her, even from town to town; the five-alarm sexual harassment from bosses; then, when she herself became a boss, presiding over a misfit crew, that too often resembled a rickety rocking playpen in a day care center for the Disturbed; there she would open the mail, read the death threat, then toss it in the trash, with all the others; sometimes, when she was walking down the street, she would have to shove against the wall, a man twice her size, because he had affronted to, without all or any permission, touch her being; then she was running off, with a rifle, all alone, marauders, who had come upon her land . . . .
She was telling me about kneeling there on her roof, Hamilton City, wildfire, embers firing her hair, just her, and a garden hose, against all a wild wanton wanting fire . . . Van Morrison, he sings about a woman with rainbow ribbons in her hair, this was a woman, with fire embers, in her hair . . . when suddenly she shrieked, jumped, commanding I attend her, and at once, for she was under Menace—white-knighting, I immediately leapt to her aid, and, there, beheld, a small, shivering, spider, that had climbed onto the railing, and was there, but Looking, at her.
I persuaded the spider to stand down the other side of the railing, and not poke its near-invisible head up again. To this, it did agree.
Though I was tasked to, by Melissa, every now and again, rise, and go forth, over there, to the seat of this otherwise she-Samson, to Check.
Here, a woman, who will stand, in all, of the fires. Yet, when presented with a spider: salts, she must smell.
What I Learned, there in my Research, is that well over 80% of the Americans, they do not want, to be seeing any spiders. And, the Lab Coats have determined, there are two Reasons, for this: “legginess, and erratic movements.”
The legginess, this I don’t get. Because, I mean, there in the humans, legginess, that is pretty much totally one of the best parts. At least in the wimmins.
Erratic movements, though: sure. Because the veil of tears, here in this stations of the earthly cross, it is already so bad and wrong, that, surely, what we do not need, is for it always to be dancing, shimmering, spidery, sideways. Just: stand still. Maybe: we can get a grip. But: no. “The wheel is turning/and you can’t slow down/you can’t let go/and you can’t hold on/you can’t go back/and you can’t stand still/if the thunder don’t get you/Then the lightning will.” This. The spider.
It’s like, one day, the humans, there in Europe, they were walking down the road, and then the next day, a third of them were dead. Way up and down the line. All over Europe. You could hear them echoing. All these vast deserts. Of no humans.
Because. The Black Death. It had Come.
Shivering, shimmering, spidery, vibrating at its own long and leggy, death beat.
From out of the rodents.
But see, the rodents, they didn’t Mean it. There was no malice in it. And it wasn’t even like it was the rodents. It was instead the fleas. On the rodents. And it wasn’t even the fleas, on the rodents. It was the plague, in the fleas. And the plague, in the fleas, it wasn’t really about killing anybody. It was just looking. For a home.
Like this be here now coronavirus plague. It doesn’t really want to be killing anybody, either. It’s just looking for a home. What it wants, is to be like herpes: mild, annoying, but not making anybody be dead. And, someday, it will get there.
But, meanwhile, the millions, they will suffer. And, they will die.
Because, life, it is erratic. And, so, too, in that, is death.
Because. The story. Of this place. Through the all, and the every, is this: they try, to do their best. But, they cannot.
Who knows? Where the plague goes?
We work in the dark, we do what we can.
We see, when we can manage even to see, but through a glass, darkly. Now. I know. In part. But then. Shall I know. Even. As I. Am known. When you, I, we, all, i am he as you are she as you are me as we are all together see how we run like rodents from a gun see how we fly we’re crying, we climb, Jacob’s Ladder. Into. The great wide open. Into. The light.
the eye of man hath not heard
the ear of man hath not seen
man’s hand is not able to taste
his tongue to conceive
nor his heart to report
what my dream was
i will get peter quince
to write a ballad of this dream
it shall be called bottom’s dream
it hath no bottom
Yesterday there was a fire in Chico. Alerts, in all and every phone, went off. And the burned people, they were not pleased. Flashbacks. I myself don’t get alerts, as I turned them all off. Because I don’t need to know, like, when water flows over a road in Biggs. Still, I wasn’t pleased either. I was just exhausted. As I realized I don’t want to hear about any more fires. I mean, I know they’re coming. But I just don’t have the energy. I am just done, with the fires. I want to pretend they’re not happening. I will be like that guy on Mount St. Helens, Harry Truman, who said: What, me worry? No mountain’s gonna fall on me. Until it did. And he was vaporized. Instantly.
And then I remembered that this Truman guy, he was a jerk. Because in refusing to evacuate, he got his 16 cats vaporized too. In his denial, he murdered them. I went all into the tubes yesterday, to try to learn those cat names. But they weren’t there. I guess nobody cares. But I care. Harry, he should have at least sent his cats down the mountain. But, he did not. So, he was a jerk. And to the nth power.
So now I have to figure out an evacuation plan for these animals. While I myself, am Harry Trumaning. In not wanting to Deal.
And that brings up the question of these rodents. I’ve been thinking that a drag part about being a renter, is that when you are one, you’re supposed to “declare” your pets. When you’re a homeowner, you can do what you want with animals: run zebras through the bedrooms, float platypus in the bathtub, roost condors on the refrigerator. And no one, can say shit. But, as a renter, technically, I should be declaring—confessing to the owners—these rodents. Though I see no good coming from such. The owners, they really don’t want to know about the rodents. And the rodents, they really don’t want the owners knowing about them. And so, how I can best be, of service, I think, and to both, is to practice rodent omerta, and make sure never the twain, shall meet.
Also, the porch rodents are outside, so I figure I don’t actually need to declare them, any more than the skunks or the meat bees. While the kitchen rodent I reckon I can compartmentalize as a contractor, or handyman, because of that spaceship it’s building behind the refrigerator. This rodent plans to beat that maniac Elon Musk to Mars. It will then plant a little flag on Mars, that says: Uh-Uh, Get Off, It’s All Mine. And Elon, when he sees that, he will weep, and rend his garments. And this last means all the air will whoosh out of his spacesuit, and thus he will have no breaths, which will be a worse alert for him than when he had that Amber Alert, from the Amber Heard woman, who, when she left him, left him curled fetaled weeks in the bed, thinking suicide, and the only thing that saved him, was the brainshower, that he could get up, and invent the “personal flamethrower.” And so then, that happened.
So anyway. I guess I will need to start having fire drills, where I coax the rodents into little rodent containers. So when Big Fire, Soon Come, they can be evacuated, as part of the Plan. They should get to be that, the rodents, I think. Part. Of The Plan.
The porch rodents have produced a child. It’s real little. Half the size my big toe. Which isn’t very big.
“You’re pretty cute,” I told the baby. “Are you a boy or a girl?”
“I don’t know,” it replied. “Are you a man or a mouse?”
“No need to get snotty,” I said. “I just need to know for the gender reveal party.”
“What’s that?” it asked.
“A thing the humans do now. When they learn whether their baby is a boy or a girl, they have a big party, where they set off a ton of fireworks, which get out of control, and burn down some towns.”
“Do we really need any of that here?” it asked. “This town already seems pretty burned down.”
“I guess you’re right,” I said.
“How ‘bout you give me some sunflower seeds,” it suggested, “and we’ll call it good.”
So, I did that. Somebody else. Can gender-reveal, burn down, the towns.
When I was a kid, there would be fires: I’d read about them in the newspaper. But always they were far away, and Smokey the Bear took care of them. Now, all day, every day, and into all the nights, throughout spring, summer, fall, fires, uncontrolled, are burning—and right up the dern street. People ask: why do you always want it to be Christmas? Well, for one thing, because in Christmas, there aren’t any fucking fires. Fire, then, stays in the wood stove. Where it belongs. Here, in this, other, the all the time burning part, it is not real easy, to walk and talk and eat and sleep, and churn out gibberish for the lawyers, when every morning it’s socked-in sullen sulky smoke, just like those first weeks after the town burned down, and then, in the afternoon, when that lifts, there are these huge fucking The Day After nuke clouds, boiling up over yonder. How, in this, is one to Maintain? Deal?
The animals, they are not real pleased, either. Like, this dawn, a porch rodent emerged, from behind the kindling bin, to address me.
“Are we burning down again?” it asked.
“No,” I answered. “I don’t think so. Not here. Not yet.”
“Because I thought this would be a nice place to raise a family. Behind that bin. But now my babies, they are sneezing, in all this smoke. Do you hear them?”
“Yes,” I say. “I do.”
“Will it ever stop? The smoke? The fires?”
“Sure it will,” I said. “When it rains.”
“When will that be?”
“How long will that be?”
“Well, from what I understand about rodent lifespans, about the time your babies are grandparents. Maybe great-grandparents.”
“In the rodents,” the rodent said, “we have tales of the Olden Times, when they say it was really nice here. Before the Great Burning. They say it was like a paradise.”
“That’s true. That was even the name of the place. Paradise.”
“That’s pretty. A pretty name. Is that still the name?”
“Now what is it called?”
“Yeah, well. It is what it is.”
“What does that mean? ‘It is what it is’?”
“Nothing. It’s just a stupid fucking thing humans say now. It doesn’t mean anything.”
“Then why did you say it?”
“So I could Libel it.”
I took a drag off the cigarette.
Because there can never be too much smoke.
“But you know,” I told the rodent, “at least there’s a town song.”
“There is? What is it?”
“’Ash Heap Singin’ In The Dead Of Night.’”
“But why would an ash heap sing?”
“Because what else is it going to do?”
The rodent said nothing to that.
“See,” I said, “it’s like when the Brit bastards bound the arms of the Irish, they didn’t bind their feet, or their mouths, and so, with their feet, the Irish danced, and, with their mouths, they sang.”
The rodent didn’t say anything to that either.
“The song used to be ‘Machine Bones Singin’ In The Dead Of Night,’” I explained to the rodent. “That was after they came in and pushed the rubble into big piles, and at night the wind would come in and blow through these, and the rubble would clatter, and shiver, and moan. All night. Every night. Metal bones, rattling. The corpses of the structures, slain. That went on forever. The machine bones. Moaning. Out there in the night. Forever and forever and forever.” I was crying now. Water for the dead. All my tears. Like water flow. “But then they eventually took all the rubble away. And now it’s just red dirt girls, far as the eye can see. Except for the weeds. They are here for the fire to burn, the next time the fire comes by, all bright and burning and shit, to say ‘hi.’”
“Can you play for me that song?” the rodent asked. “The ash heap one?”
“Sure,” I said. And then. I did that.
in the dead
The Moony neighbor this morning came onto the front porch, for the cigarettes, and at once started complaining about the smoke.
“You’re here to mainline smoke directly into your lungs, and yet you’re complaining about this free-range smoke?” I said. “Don’t you think that’s a little strange?”
“No,” he said.
The guy can be a little cranky. Especially before, in the morning, he first lights up.
“I am understanding now that we need to be having a luv for this smoke,” I said. “Because when the smoke is all ground-hugging like this, the fire can’t get any fresh air, and so is all sullen and smoldering. But if the smoke lifts, that allows all the oxygens to rush in, and then, in that, the fire takes off, and goes totally wild, rampaging across, like, 100,000 acres, and burning down some towns, as it did the other day, there in Greenville. And nobody, wants that.”
‘No,” the neighbor agreed. “But I don’t want all this smoke, either.”
“This is what they can an ‘inversion’,” I yammered on. “When the smoke is all downpressing like this. ‘Inversion’ means, like, upside down, against the natural order of things. Because, you know, smoke, normally, is supposed to just, I guess, drift up, until, you know, it gets to space.
‘There are a number of words, in the ‘inversion’ family” I continued to blither. “One is ‘invert’. Back in the day, they called gay people ‘inverts.’ That was when, like, if you were a homo, you had to go in the jail, like Oscar Wilde.”
“Yes. It was a term even in the books of the brain cranks—the psychiatrists, and all those wheeze bags. ‘This man is an invert,’ they would write, on a Paper, and then they would tell the man, to go out among the women, there to be Cured.”
“How do you know these things?”
“I am words,” I said.
“If you were money, instead of words,” he said, “we would have more of these cigarettes. Yesterday, you didn’t have any. Money. And so, we had no cigarettes.”
“That was in the morning. In the afternoon, there were cigarettes. Because they gave me some money, for writing some words. Law words. Words of law. Gibberish, par excellence. You are smoking those words, as we speak.
“Words are actually more powerful than money,” I babbled on. “For instance, money only has value, because people say it does. Otherwise, these little green papers, little plastic cards, wouldn’t be worth shit. If instead the humans said shells were the money, as among some of the humans they used to be, I would be sitting here on midas piles, because of all the shells that are in my bathroom, to pretend that there I am in the sea.
“Here’s another example,” I gibbered. “If I told you that this smoke you are Hating, was actually fog, you would be pleased, because you like fog. You, have told me, so. If you plug up your noseholes, so you can’t smell it, and gaze out over there, across the pine lot—that used to be the oak lot, before PG&E cut down all the oaks, after they burned down the town, because the oaks were within 16 feet of their lines, the lines which they then put underground, so the trees died for No Reason—that smoke looks kinda like fog, doesn’t it?”
“Yes,” he agreed.
“So, let it be fog then,” I suggested. “Then you will have an organism.”
“What do you mean, ‘organism’?”
“When I was sentenced to the school, you could not say ‘orgasm’ there, or they would send you to the dean. That is because a school is a Thanatos operation. Anytime any Eros tries to get in there, they beat it off with big sticks. So I would say ‘organism,’ rather than ‘orgasm.’ They cannot send you to the dean, for saying ‘organism.’ I was always mutating the words, to avoid the deans. Like, in the German class, we learned the word ‘schnitt,’ which, when you are a German, means ‘cut.’ So then everybody started exclaiming, all over the school, ‘oh, schnitt!’ But they couldn’t make you go to the dean. Because you’d say you were just practicing your German.”
“You were probably a terror in school,” he said.
“All of the administrators, people like deans, wanted me shot at dawn without any blindfold. Among the teachers and counselors and whatnot, they fell into two categories. The ones who wanted to hug me to their bosoms, and the ones who wanted me hung from the highest tree. The journalism teacher, she was of the bosom variety. And her bosom was considerable. Clad, barely, in a peasant blouse. She was only a few years older than we were, and it was hard to concentrate, on the journalism, with this bosom pressing into your shoulder, she leaning over, checking your work. She was a flirt, and of the very first water. She wrote in my yearbook ‘Thanks for all the inches.’ ‘Inches’ is a journalism word. But also another kind of word. Today, if she did that, there would be screaming, at top volume, and she would be paraded around on the television, with a big scarlet ‘A’ pinned to her bosom, there in the peasant blouse. It would be claimed that, with the ‘inches’ word, she had abused a child. She and I, alas, eventually became estranged. A newspaper has words in it, but sometimes there are words they don’t want to be the newspaper. I wrote for the newspaper this story about how the school football team would load up on LSD and then go out and play the games, and the journalism teacher consulted with the deans, and the deans and such decided, no, that cannot be in the newspaper. This was because the school football team was regarded as a form of god, and they did not want any words in the newspapers about god eating LSD, and then running around clutching his balls. This was my first lesson in how sometimes words that are True, and sometimes especially if they are True, they will not get into the newspaper. Well, I had an Outrage, and snuck the words back into the newspaper. But someone saw them, before the paper was printed, and so the words, they did not get into the paper, and thereby out to the people. And the deans said that the next year I could not be the editor of the newspaper, a position to which I had already been appointed. They threw me right out, of the newspaper. And the journalism teacher, with the bosom, she no longer wanted, my inches. This established a lifelong pattern. Generally, I am thrown out of the newspaper, before I can become the editor. Those couple times when I did become the editor, money ran from the newspapers so fast not even Einstein could track it, and the papers quickly died. Now I write for the Faceborg, where there are no editors, no deans, but also nobody who wants to read what I write. What they want, are pictures. And I’m not a photographer. But pictures, are what they want. The numbers, they don’t lie. If I upchuck some picture, I’ll get, like, fifty ‘likes.’ If I write some words, I’ll get, like, four. Same with the writings of other people I post. Like, why is no one reading Melissa's column? Mick Jagger, he sings, “if I could stick my pen in my heart/and spill it all over the stage,” but he’s just a gasbag: Melissa, she actually does it. She is as naked a writer, as I know. She makes me feel, a coward. She is, in that column, that no one is reading, on about family, because they have hurt her heart; her mother, for instance, she denies the plague, though her grandfather, her mother’s own father, has died of it; I try to tell her that you cannot let family hurt you; like, in any other abusive relationship, if they keep wounding you, you have to move on; but she, you know, she has that gene, where fiercely you cleave, to family; I didn’t get that gene; family, they’re just who I incarnated into—everybody all strangers—that doesn’t mean we are of the same all and every, or even close, and if, they keep hurting me, I am just gone; I didn’t get a lot of the genes; that’s why I’m out here with just the rodents; and Melissa, she says ‘love is not enough,’ and that is true; but also ‘love is all there is,’ and that we know also is true, because Zimmerman, he said it; what is key, as Dutch Engstrom knew, is ‘it’s who you give it to’; and Melissa, she is saying more, and all, and every, than all these pictures, and yet, she is a desert, in ‘likes,’ and so, all my tears, like water, flow. And it’s not just the Faceborg. All, and everywhere, no one wants to read: they just want to look at a picture, or a ‘meme,’ and then scream, till their lips bleed. So then I shoot some heroin, and go sit in the corner, and rock back and forth in a fugue state. Until I decide, fuck it, it’s too late to stop now, and then get up and go write some more words that nobody wants to read. But, someday, I will be strong, and, here in this Faceborg, ‘walk away from all this now,” as Rickie Lee Jones says in ‘Flying Cowboys,’ a song she wrote about me, here in the desert, because it’s a desert, bearing the look of an animal, who has seen things no animal should have ever seen, back when she, too, was into the heroin.”
There was a silence. Then the neighbor said, “There’s something wrong with you.”
“I am damage,” I agreed.
A porch rodent then scurried out from its warren, observed the neighbor standing there, then turned tail—literally, not a cliche—and returned to its, hidden, domain.
“I still can’t believe you let rodents run around on your porch,” the neighbor said.
“Why not?” I answered. “I let you come on the porch.”
“And are you really buying them now their own special food?”
“Yes. I noticed that of the birdseed the rodents liked best the black sunflower seeds. So now I just get them a special rodent bag of black sunflower seeds only. And, in this, they have an organism. As we said, back there, then, in the Thanatos school.”
“How many kinds of food do you get for these animals?”
“The outside ones? There’s the black sunflower seeds for the rodents. Then there’s the general all-purpose wild birdseed. For all and sundry with the wings. The squirrel mix, for the squirrels. Peanuts in the shell, for the jays and the squirrels. Hard-boiled eggs, for the crows. Or the jays, if the crows spend too long hamleting, and don’t come down for them, before there is a cackling jay invasion. The skunks and the raccoons and the deer will also come around in the night and eat all this stuff. And today I’m going to go to the Tractor place and get some woodpecker suet. Because I want the woodpeckers to come around more, because they are so mental. It’s a total Rob price, like most everything in the Tractor place, but yesterday I got some money, that doesn’t immediately want to whoosh off to some bill, and so with it I am going to go to the woodpeckers.”
“Do you still have the rat in the house?” he asked tentatively.
“Yes. No. Not a rat. Just a little mouse. Although it stopped making the spaceship noise behind the refrigerator. And so I got a Concern. Where had it gone? Had there been a Tragedy? But then there’s this cabinet, above and to the side of the refrigerator, that normally I leave the door a little open, because some of the cabinets don’t always want their doors fully closed, they’ll tell you that if you just listen, but I’d had, I don’t know, a little stroke or something, and so shut tight this door, and then one night I heard this tiny squeaking in there, real faint, and I was like Horton, hearing some Whos, and I opened the door, and beheld in my earholes multiple wee squeakings, and realized there was a rodent baby farm in there, behind the chicken and vegetable stocks.”
The neighbor blanched. “I don’t think you should be doing that,” he said. “Aren’t you worried about disease?”
“The whole world is groaning with humans spraying everywhere the frigging plague,” I said, “and you’re worried about some disease from rodents behind the vegetable stock?”
“What are you going to do with them?” he wondered. "The, uh, rodents."
“I’m teaching them to sing.”
“Yeah. Remember when you had that birthday the other day, and you were all worried about how your body is all aching, and you’re a-feared you’re for the knackers, and I said you’re just getting a little age on you, but suggested you should probably anyway recite your symptoms to one or more of your ninety-two doctors, and you said you would do that, but were still kinda Eeyore? Well, I’m going to teach these rodent babies to sing ‘Old And In The Way’ for you. And then that will cheer you up some.”
And he laughed. Laughter, a goal. Always.
I’m older, than that guy. But figure, I’ll just stay. In the way. Not about no dyin. Not me. Because, I don’t feel like it. Besides. Who would feed these rodents? Much less. Sing along. With them.
Except: I lie. Because I already died. In the fire. I am the old man, in Groundhog Day. Every day, I, at first, barely, live. And then. I die. And that. Cannot. Be changed. Because. Every day. Is the same day.
The day of. Fire.
But. It’s. Okay. Because. I have. In my mind, ever receding, into the, great wide open. Such as rodents. Heather. Jeff. Melissa. The town, alive, burned down, alive.
All the all, of everything.
In which. All. My tears. Like water. Flow.
I am: nothing. Which is: everything. Which is: nothing. Which. Is.
I was at Crispin’s place, in Marin, and we heard on the news there was a maniac in the neighborhood, described as wearing a wino Santa suit, and he was assaulting women, so Crispin and I went out into the night, to see if we could find the guy, but there was a wildfire out there instead.
It wasn’t much of a fire, low to the ground, kind of creepy-crawly, but it was getting pretty close, so I said, “well, I better get the cat.” I went inside and picked up the cat and put him in the carrier and this he endured without protest. I was surprised. “You weren’t like this in the other fire,” I said.
Then I was in a different house, in the Sierra, rather than on the coast, and Joe Ben was there, and through the big front window we could see in the night some wildfire coming up over the ridge. We went out to get a closer look, and saw it was still a ways off. Joe Ben walked into the darkness, and then came back, and said “I’ve put out a warning line that will alarm, when the fire reaches it. So we can go back inside.” So, we did that.
“Let’s go to the museum,” she then said.
“Can you be naked in the museum?” I asked. Joe Ben does not really believe in clothes, awake or asleep, and so she had become naked.
“It’s okay,” she said. “It’s a Hawaiian museum.”
We walked through the wall, and then we were outside the museum. Set in desolation, nothing around it. Just red dirt girls. More night, here; but, no fire.
Joe Ben was now in a sort of 19th Century male English dandy outfit. She reads English historical novels at all times, and some of these had now gotten into her clothes. There was a top hat, and a monocle. It was, on her, as pretty much all the looks are, a good look.
Outside the museum stood a puzzled man, before a large painting that was the sole object on the otherwise featureless side wall of the building. Said painting depicting a sullen sobersides of a man, in the foreground, with some orange weirdness in background deep.
“I don’t get it,” said the man, standing before the painting.
“Move it around,” Joe Ben suggested, and reached out and began moving the painting around in its frame, this way and that. It became oval, and the man in it, canted, cocked, looked now even more sullen.
“I still don’t understand it,” the Looking man said, “but I guess I should buy it.”
“I don’t think so,” Joe Ben said, and picked his pocket, pulling forth his wallet, opening it, and then all the bills flew out, transforming into birds, which took off up into the sky.
“The fuck?” the man screamed, and set off in futile pursuit of his now-flying, birded, monies.
“Let’s go in the museum,” Joe Ben said. So, we did that.
The interior was bestrewn with objects kind of a cross between the Smithsonian’s African collection and Gillian Holroyd’s shop in the true-life documentary film Bell, Book, And Candle.
“What happened to your clothes?” I asked Joe Ben. She was naked again.
“They served their purpose,” she said.
We wandered the museum a while, and then Joe Ben cocked her head and said, “the fire has reached the warning line.” So we teleported back to that place. And I saw that Joe Ben had previously laid out on the ground objects like hubcaps, vinyl record sleeves, cookies . . . and the low-burning fire, it was now, approaching, these.
Joe Ben was now clad in a total witch cloak.
“Are you going to witch the fire away?” I asked, hopefully.
“No,” she said, “but I’m going to name it the Boobly Fire.”
“That’s kind of a silly name,” I said.
“Exactly,” replied she. “If it has a silly name, maybe it will only do silly things, and not really hurt anybody.”
The fire had singed a couple of the cookies, but a half-dozen or so were unburned. They were like little Chips Ahoy guys, and looked kind of forlorn, there in the night, on the ground, illuminated by the approaching fire.
“I guess we better save these cookies,” I said, and then picked them up, in a fireman’s carry, and walked them towards the pickup truck. "Will the fire get the rodents?" I asked.
"No," Joe Ben said. "But now, that you are in rodents, you are waking up."
And that was true. Because I remembered there was a loose cookie out on the kitchen counter, and figured I should probably go eat it. Assuming the house rodent hadn’t hauled it away. As some necessary component. Of. The. Spaceship.
There are enough porch rodents now so that sometimes they stampede. Like just now three came skittering out from their little rodent warren, stampeded across the concrete to within a couple inches of my boots, hovered there a couple seconds, then ran back to their warren.
This is their way of telling me I need to replenish their seed mound. I fed them on the dawn, but then I had to go down to the unburned lands, and I guess they chewed through it all, while I was gone.
I don’t know how many there are back there; they won’t, like, stand in a line, and let me count them. Too bad the census people aren’t coming around any more. They could help me. They’re good at counting.
There comes a time in a person’s life when they must accept that there are certain things they will never do. Like, I will never pitch for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Nor will I write and direct a series of twenty films based on Emile Zola’s Les Rougon-Macquart. Also, I will not be a porch rodent photographer. I have been trying for some weeks now, and it is just not going to happen. Porch rodents are impossibly small, extremely fast, and like anyone with sense, when they see a camera pointed at them, they at once dive into hiding. I have renewed respect, for porch rodent photographers. Because I, will never, get there.
My tubes, they have gone wrong. Whenever I try to access the Uverse, I am told “Gateway Authentication Failure.”
Apparently, I can’t have any gateways.
“Please contact your Service Provider.”
I did that.
And the Uverse man, he says something is mutant, in the walls.
I’m hoping this mutantcy does not involve rodents. I put food out for them, I let them build spaceships behind the refrigerator, I do not want them gnawing the Uverse.
Hopefully, they are Innocent.
A Uverse human will be here tomorrow at noon. Who will then pronounce sentence. I am communicating with you from the planet of this phone. The Uverse is in Gateway Authentication Failure here, too, on this phone, but apparently the phone doesn’t Care. I have never really understood this phone—at all—and now I am not understanding it even more. I guess maybe it is of infinity and beyond. And so doesn’t need any Uverse.
I’m tempted to blame the alien, since today the alien report was released, and I was preparing to publish excerpts from the classified annex. But now that can’t happen.
Maybe an alien is the walls, Stopping me. That could happen.
Just don’t let it be one of those aliens that bursts out the stomach.
I am going to call the Uverse man, and ask him to send out tomorrow a technician named Ripley. Better to be safe. Than to have your stomach blown out.
Dave told me: “If the Uverse has failed outside your walls it’ll get fixed at no cost. If a rodent inside your house is responsible for the outage, the Uverse people will want monies to fix the problem. That’s how it works down here in the flatlands anyway.”
In this, I was filled with Fear.
But then I then discussed the rodents with the Uverse man, who responded to my house, and he said the rodents would qualify as “not my fault,” and so I would not have to pay any monies.
Of course, he could have been Lying.
Also, I did not want to disclose that I was actually feeding and comforting and otherwise wantonly harboring the rodents.
But when the Uverse man, having surveyed The Problem, pronounced his final wisdom, he declared the rodents, totally innocent. The Problem, it wasn’t even in my house. But, rather “a little problem down the street.” And. No charge.
Another. Crisis. As my brother. Was wont. To say. Narrowly. Averted.
Of course, my brother, eventually, he crisised, into the boneyard. So. Not all of them. The crises. Can be averted. We know this too from that woman down the street there. Who burned to death, there, in the fire, in her house.
Every. Night. I. Hear. Her.
No. You. Do not.
As soon as the rains come, and douse all these damn fires, I will be rounding up a herd of porch rodents, and driving them to Reno.
We will ride across the blasted, blackened lands, and there we will bring new hope to the people. Because, no matter how down you may be, if you look up, and see riding by a mental on a mule, amid a herd of determined porch rodents, surely you must pause, and wonder: “the fuck?”
It is. My destiny.
Melissa was up here the other day, for a sort of belated birthday meet. We were seated suitably socially distanced, she on the walk down by the animal waters, me at the foot of the porch steps. When suddenly she be spoke: “A rat just slithered into your wall.”
I assured her it was no rat, but no doubt but some porch rodent, on walkabout. It had strayed into a flowerbed, where are some naked ladies, over there in her realm. But, I stressed, there was No Danger.
Yes, she said, but then it had rodented into the wall. Which meant it was now in the house.
And then, she said no more.
But, I know this woman. Enough, to know, that she did not countenance, rodents, in a house. Even if she was not, herself, living in the house. But, just sitting, outside it.
But, she wouldn’t say that. Because, when a person is having a birthday, even if the birthday is belated, generally you do not rag on them, even about allowing rodents, to run wild, run free, there in their house.
A couple hours after she’d left, I was lying at my ease, burned down, when I heard, come a-thundering, out in the nether regions of the house, the unmistakable sound, of a cat stampede.
I laid there, and I waited. As I had. In the fire. For it. To go. Away.
But—same as the fire—it did not.
And so, summoning all of my powers, I arose. And went out there.
To behold the cat, pleased, lying on his side. A rodent, still, stretched out, before him.
Whether the rodent was a casualty: this was unknown.
For rodents, they have read, all the cat books. And thereby know that cats, they are “fascinated by movement.” And so, when once captured, enraptured, by a cat, if they cannot effect escape, the best thing to do, figures the rodent, is just to lay there. Silent, Still. Hoping maybe the cat. It will get bored. And. Go away. Leave it. Be.
I petted the cat, told him he was godly. For one must, and at all times, pet, praise, cats. Or else, their little hearts, they will totally break. I know this. Because, I, myself, am a cat. Meanwhile, by the tail, I picked up the rodent. Transported it to the front door. Exited. And laid it out upon the world. Either to recover. Or no.
I was puzzled, by this happening, because I had, when once rodents became rampant in the house, instructed the cat, very audibly, and clearly, that the rodents, they were part of the family, and so were not to be disturbed. And the cat, this instruction, he had heeded. Until. Now.
Then, the next day, the cat, he tracked down, another rodent.
It was, of the day before, a rinse, repeat.
Then, on the third day, the cat, he took a third, rodent.
By now, I was laughing. Because I understood, what was happening.
They say, there in the humans, that animals, they are stupid, and they say, there in the humans, that animals, they don’t know how to communicate. But they have no idea, there in the humans, just how wrong, they are.
What was here happening, here, is that the cat, he had read Melissa’s thoughts, that rodents in the house, they were anathema, and so, he was going about his duty, as instructed, ridding the home of them. That I had earlier verbally instructed him, that the rodents, they were to be spared, he knew this directive, it had been overridden, because, although Melissa, she did not speak, and does not even live here, she is, nonetheless, The Ruler.
So. You know. What can I, do. Because you can't overrule. The Ruler.
So the house, it is, now, silent, of rodents. They may, still, be in here. But they, will not, make that apparent.
And thus, we are now in Lew Welch—we are always in Lew Welch—who, when squatting in the high-mountain cabin he dubbed Rat Flat, at last became overwhelmed by the rodents, who, in the night, had taken to scampering over his face, and so, for them, he set out traps.
And then, after, wrote the poem “Buddhist Bard Turns Rat Slayer.”
and found one in my trap: immaculate
gray fur, white breast, white
little paws, short tail, mountain-sweet, as
everything else is here
almost too quiet
I would have preferred to incarnate into a place where everything lives, and nothing dies.
That is, shot into a sun.
But, I missed my aim, somehow.
And so, ended up here. Where, dying, it us up the ying-yang, and at all times.
I just don't want, anything, to be dead. That's all.
meat nor drink nor money have i none
I did, however, here, get some sun. Big time. Arriving, in fire.
Fire, the only element that cannot only transform matter, but wholly disappear it.
Take it, all away.
And, while I was in it, the fire, it said:
i’m telling you
so you can tell
the rest what you’ve been through
So, today, I speak to rodents. And anyone else, who will have me. To try, to carry across. The fire. Next time.