08 February, 2009
CHAPTER EIGHT: A CONVERSATION
copyright 2009 by Jim Nail
He is walking along Gull Street; it parallels the Boardwalk, two blocks inland and heading roughly northwest. The last pale gleam of the departed sun hangs in the sky above the trees and houses to the left. The trees are eucalyptus and the houses are dilapidated Victorian crash pads for hippie refugees of the last big thing. But he pays little attention to his surroundings because he is lost in thought. It’s a pondering walk, he tells himself, like Socrates, only without talking. So he ponders.
Is it possible like it says in the I Ching that time moves backwards in the mythic world, so that you can see the future coming toward you, if you have the right tools?
This is an interesting thought and it amuses him for awhile so he just walks, thinking it and not taking it any further, just walking, amused by his thought.
But there was a reason I had that thought in the first place, something that Doralina said, or maybe everything that Doralina says. Doralina does weird things to me. She puts me in the mythic world where time moves backwards and the future comes toward me.
Suddenly out of nowhere a gust of wind travels up the street, like the future moving backwards, smelling like kelp and making a little whirl of dry leaves at the gutter. For some reason this makes him want to stop and take inventory of his possessions, the ones he carries with him. The concertina, its case snapped shut and strapped over the fingers of his right hand. The canvass money bag hanging like a ladies purse over his left shoulder. In the inner pocket of his jacket he’s got a box of charcoal pencils and a folded-over bundle of newsprint paper.
Tools of the trade, he tells himself and he resumes walking.
And what if the future comes toward you in the mythic world? Does it mean something to me right now? Is something happening to me right now? I remember I used to think that all the time. Something is happening, right now! This is it! This is it! Like the sun was going to
suddenly go nova but we wouldn’t mind because we would be in the vaporous state. Or the earth was going to shift its magnetic poles and the continents would change overnight, like Edgar Cayce said. So I got this job. I made up this job because I didn’t want to be doing something that couldn’t withstand the coming change. I didn’t want to punch a clock. I didn’t want to work for the Man. I made up this job. How long have I been doing this job? How many years? Four, I think. Four years. As long as a god damned presidential term. It’s been like every day, every day, four years, every day. And now all of a sudden I feel like it’s going to change, like the skunk said. For real this time. I see signs. I see the future, like an egg…
This thought stops him in his tracks and he says the next five words out loud.
“I’m feeling a little scared.”
There is a creaking sound to his right, like the wooden creak of a rocking chair. In fact it is a rocking chair, hidden on a porch behind a rail laden with laundry. A voice speaks from the chair into the darkness.
“Right on, brother. I know what you mean.”
Wilbo feels embarrassed for some reason, and rather than strike up a conversation with the owner of the voice, he resumes walking, faster now, his embarrassment scouring the pondering out of his mind, leaving it empty.
Ahead, at an intersection where the tree-lined street gives way to the business of town, Wilbo recognizes an ancient green pickup, parked but idling in front of the laundromat. Sparkles of colored glass in bird-like shapes spin slowly in the rear window. Levon Blue Lake Moon leans out as Wilbo saunters up alongside the truck.
“Wilbo,” he says, and he nods approvingly, approving of Wilbo’s name, and of Wilbo being there, having a name. He doesn’t say anything else.
Levon nods again, then turns his gaze forward, watching some children making pictures with colored chalk on the sidewalk. Wilbo watches them too, for awhile. It’s the equivalent of a conversation between them, Wilbo and Levon, watching the children. Wilbo thinks he could easily walk on now, satisfied that they have conversed. That’s how it is with Levon Blue Lake Moon. But then Levon speaks again.
“Washer’s broke. Opal’s picking up the clothes.”
“Ah,” Wilbo responds. This new subject requires him to linger a little longer, but he could still walk on without saying anything else. Then he thinks of something to say.
“I found something today, Blue Lake. Let me show it to you.” He digs through his pocket until he comes across the amulet, the one the skunk gave him. He places it in Blue Lake’s outstretched hand. Blue Lake turns the bit of metal over and over in his hands, examining it from every possible angle. He holds it up to the windshield and looks at the light through the hole in the top. Then he places it in his open palm and turns to Wilbo.
“Arlequino,” he says. “He’s the Italian trickster, like coyote is for the Indians, or the Fool on the Hill is for the Beatles. He’s a street jester, like you, Wilbo. Look at the face.”
Wilbo looks at the face. In fact it does make a difference, knowing that the character has a name, a lineage. The face conveys an emotion but the emotion isn’t clear.
“The face plays tricks,” Levon continues. “The mouth smiles but the eyes cry. Or sometimes the mouth cries but the eyes smile. Sometimes the eyes hold so much sorrow they make the smile look like a grimace. Sometimes the mouth holds so much mirth it makes the eyes look like they’re full of tears. Where’d you get it?”
Why does this question make Wilbo feel uneasy? It does, it makes him feel uneasy. He already told Blue Lake where he got it. He found it. But he knows that isn’t the whole story and Blue Lake wants the whole story.
“I got it from a skunk.”
Levon nods. “That must have taken a lot of courage. On the part of the skunk, I mean.”
Then he turns and reaches for something hanging from his rear view mirror. It’s a long single black shoelace strung through a hole in a piece of rough bark. Levon unstrings the bark and tosses it onto the floor of the truck. Then he holds up the amulet and carefully threads the toggle of the shoelace through the hole at the top. The amulet slides into the loop and Levon ties together the ends of the shoelace.
“You should wear it, Wilbo. Around your neck.” He hands it back.
The moment has a ceremonial feel to it. Wilbo takes the amulet and pulls it over his head as if it were some kind of holy vestment.
“Thanks, Blue Lake, I will.” Then, sensing closure, he makes a little bow and turns to leave.
Just then the glass door of the laundromat swings open and Opal Moon appears. Her long black hair is tied in two braids and she’s carrying a huge bundle of laundry, wrapped in indigo cotton and dripping wet. She sees Wilbo and she does not smile, but she nods slightly and Wilbo nods back. It’s the same as it was with Levon. In this smallest of gestures he feels the nourishment of a full conversation. Nothing more is needed. He turns and walks on.