So long!

Land of to have and have not, mostly have not, like most lands where guns come before butter and both wind up on the black market, where compulsory works for some but not necessarily for others, where chance is every character’s antagonist, where you’re on your own but rarely left alone, until it’s obvious you’ve played out every option, then you are let to go, and you can’t go on, but go on you must. Also paradisiacal home to amateur myth, where you mighta had class, were it not that, in every failure’s telling, everything is thrown, from bronze, silver, and golden rings to bad apples, rotten tomatoes, and remaindered books. Where one is born into simplicity but immediately starts to complicate matters, thickening the plot by making decisions great and small. But it’s never too late to start singing, as long as what you sing is instrumental, no lyrics. So we come to this, not an end, but a new beginning, a fresh start, an unheard song, not of diminishing returns, like the musical chairs game, but of growth born of compassion and humility, where you give up your seat to someone else, happy to be standing, happier still to be moving, happiest when ignoring the bored gods, those gods of pencil tails, gods of implanted teeth. Gods of the chaste and gods of the meek, gods of the shy and gods of the bold. Gods of yes, maybe, and no. Gods of marrow and morrow, of deep pockets and short-sheets. Gods of horror and jubilee. Gods of theft, and gods of trash. Gods abroad and gods stayed home. Gods blowing in the wind and contained within. Gods of youth and muscle and gods of old and wrinkled. Gods of hello and gods of so long. And god of gods, who never grows old, oldest of all, god of lead and god of gold.

The End

~~~

“So long!” is episode 81, the last episode of Inventories, a novel written in serial format at The Coming of the Toads, with daily installments from 27 July 2020 through 15 Oct 2020.

Pick up and Delivery

Quickly but gently Pinch said and the three of us downloaded a dozen boxes from the plane into the yellow Hummer. The work done Pinch and I stood between the Hummer and the helicopter and watched the airplane take off and swoop west and over the hills. I was to drive back to the schoolhouse where we would unload the boxes. Pinch would follow me from the air in the helicopter. What about Sylvie, I asked. What about her? She said you’d be a good delivery man. The boxes were all the same, the size of a case of wine, and weighed something like six bottles of wine each, I guessed, but they must have been packed exceptionally well because I didn’t hear any glass as we shifted them from the plane to the Hummer. Unmarked, tightly taped, thick cardboard boxes. Was there a black market for wine? I asked myself. I was on a country road, the helicopter visible, crisscrossing above me, but when the road narrowed and curved and passed under a canopy of trees growing near the river I pulled over and cleanly cut open one of the boxes. Bottles, labels taped to each with handwritten numbers and letters and dates, not commercial labels, but coding that might have been winery production information. I removed one bottle and stuck it under my seat and pulled back onto the road and saw the helicopter again above and ahead of me. At Pinch’s place I pulled into the backyard and he was waiting and we carried the boxes into the covered back porch and he told me to put the bottle I’d taken back in its box. It’s not wine, he said. It’s medicine. You don’t want to drink it. Or talk about it.

“Pick up and Delivery” is episode 75 of Inventories, a Novel in Progress in Serial Format at The Coming of the Toads.

In a Pinch? Call Pinch!

Flying high over grape vineyards, hills of oaks, and country roads, Neder Pinch handed me his joint, which I declined to a shrug of his shoulders, and he took another toke himself. We reached the private airfield where Pinch had found the yellow Hummer, parked in the field near the short runway. Neder Pinch works out of a two room office scabbed into a defunct one room schoolhouse in a small town in wine country. In the front room Pinch’s receptionist and secretary mind the store. In the back room Pinch spends most of his day on the phone or in discreet meetings with individuals at large. Pinch provides, according to the sandwich board in the school front yard, for financial and other services requiring license or expertise in the field, including high risk insurance, bail bonds, notary public, realty (rents and sales), payday loans, civil marriage, used car sales, air-taxi, private investigations & missing persons, copies faxes and photographs, post office, city and county utility payments, and plumbing repair. His helicopter pad was in the back school yard. We landed unceremoniously in the private airfield, disembarked, and walked over to the Hummer, which was unlocked, empty, cleaned out, keys in the ignition. We climbed into the Hummer and Pinch advised we now wait patiently for the plane to land. It usually came in around what he called his sit-out time, and he often watched the plane’s landing pattern coming in over the town and school house office as he and his staff sat out in the school yard with a beer or wine drink, chomping on fried carrots and mushrooms, cheeses and bread chunks dipped in oil and vinegar, while chatting up the day’s business and the plans for the morrow. In a Pinch? Call Pinch! his ad in the local paper read, and I had called him, pursuant to what appeared to be Sylvie’s direction. We rolled down the windows in the Hummer and waited for the airplane to come in, Pinch falling asleep sprawled out in the back seat, his feet sticking out a side window.

“In a Pinch? Call Pinch!” is episode 74 of Inventories, a Novel in Progress in Serial Format at The Coming of the Toads.

Call Pinch

Of course I had tried Sylvie’s cell, but the signal was dead, or least very ill. I was staying now in a rooming house in a small town on the outskirts of a bigger town, up north, in vineland, a couple of hours out of San Francisco, friendly place, if you didn’t ask too many questions, like where people came from or where they lived or what they did for a living or where they might be on their way to, if you didn’t ask any questions at all. I took a job washing dishes in a local tavern, three hours a day, an hour after the breakfast rush, an hour after the lunch rush, and an hour after the dinner rush, not that any of the rushes was much to write about, short of a filler in the local weekly (Lots of dishes to wash yesterday at Taberna’s Tavern said local dish washer Glaucus, hired to handle the meal rushes during the annual month-long Taberna Jazz-Grass Fest), and one night, after the dinner dishes, sitting out on Taberna’s western style wooden sidewalk, raised a couple of feet above street level, drinking a beer and watching the passersby, tourists mostly, and flipping or flicking through the pages of the little pocket notebook Sylvie had given me for my writing but in which I’d yet to write a single word, a habit I’d picked up, the flipping of the empty pages, I espied something written, a scribble that passed by in a flash, and I had to thumb slowly through the pages again to find it. Call Pinch, it said, in Sylvie’s handwriting. How had I missed it? When did she write it? What did it mean? Who or what or where was Pinch?

“Call Pinch” is episode 73 of Inventories, a Novel in Progress in Serial Format at The Coming of the Toads.

Missing Persons

Going north a sign indicated the last thing I remembered before awakened by Sylvie groggy from road sleep parked in a poorly lit motel space outside Room 3. Dark out and Sylvie said let’s just go in and sleep and sort our stuff out in morning, but she handed me my cowboy kit and she grabbed her backpack so we might complete our nightly personal ablutions before entering the torpor of little brown bats. Late morning I awoke and went in search of coffee. I was away about an hour, wandering up the road until I found a coffee hutch, and when I got back to Room 3 Sylvie was missing, her backpack too, the yellow Hummer also, the parking space in front of the door empty. No note. I waited, finished my coffee then finished Sylvie’s coffee. Check out time neared. The housekeeper knocked. At the desk in the lobby I was informed the bill for one night had been settled, and that’s all they knew. I started walking back up the road, retracing my coffee search steps, passed the little coffee hutch, and kept walking. Then I went back to the coffee hutch and asked the baristas if they’d noticed a yellow Hummer that morning, described what Sylvie looked like to them, her blue eyes, round cheeks dotted with a few freckles, straight hair, thinking maybe she’d stopped for coffee. No. Sorry. Maybe I was headed in the wrong direction. I wasn’t even sure where I was, what city we had wound up in. I kept walking, surrounded by local business minding its own business as usual as far as I could see, the main street a typical two way affair, one side leading out of town, the other into town, ending in a turnaround, and the other way around. I walked around the town twice, once stopping for breakfast at a small cafe, the big yellow Hummer noticeably absent from anyone’s morning as I asked around, in the cafe, at the two gas stations, the old grocery in the middle of town, the newer stop and go at the end opposite the motel. Down a side street I passed a church and a small graveyard. On another street a grade school, the yard empty. Little houses with big porches and big yards, a vegetable garden gone to seed, garages with no doors, bicycles and toys strewn about, a swing set, a tire swing hanging from a giant maple branch, two women talking over a fence, an old man in a pickup truck making deliveries, a feed and supply store. A building with a tall flag pole out front, not exactly the county seat, but I might have considered a missing person report. A single police car in the driveway. But who was missing, Sylvie, or me.

“Missing Persons” is episode 72 of Inventories, a Novel in Progress in Serial Format at The Coming of the Toads.

Mission Imagination

Avo did not pick up, and Sylvie didn’t want to just drop in on him, imagining a happy reception. I suggested we change course again. We could reach San Juan Capistrano in the afternoon, walk around and pray some, relax, and find a place for the night in Laguna. Check out the surf at San Onofre and Trestles on our way to the Mission. That’s not very far at all, and I’m beached out after Ocean Beach, Sylvie said. Let’s head inland and visit the Nixon Library. La Casa Pacifica, that’s what I want, not the $100 million dollar place, a simple place near the beach. Did Nixon suffer from a poor self-image? That’s what others said, who helped him come to realize he’d grown up poor, which in itself was not a problem, because he enjoyed a great imagination, Nixon did, but doors of opportunity were closed to him, and he remained devoted to his family. Takes imagination to want something more than what one has been given. Who knows what he thought of himself. Takes some imagination to see ourselves as clearly as others see us. I always did say so. Takes imagination to see ourselves at all. The artistic imagination is different from other forms, from a political imagination, from an imagination of the body. Yeah, the body politic. Imagine the importance of imagination to a blind person. Without imagination even those with perfect visual acuity are blind. Blind to what? To what others see? How do we know what others see is any more or less what we call real than what someone else sees? Figmentation. Is that a word? It is now. What does it mean? It takes imagination to discover reality. In any event, the Great Stone Church in Mission San Juan Capistrano fired my imagination. The low retaining wall, leaning, reinforced with rusted metal plates and large bolts through old cements, lines of forms still visible in the granular rough face full of notches, chips, divots. Sun weathered, thin brush strokes of yellow-lime moss on the wall in the shade of an ancient pepper tree.

“Mission Imagination” is episode 68 of Inventories, a Novel in Progress in Serial Format at The Coming of the Toads.

Listing

You’re writing, Sylvie exclaimed, her voice rising hurray as we came to a full stop point on Interstate 5 northbound. What did you write? 1.5 million people in San Diego and they all decide to drive north on the I-5 this morning. Let’s move over to the Cabrillo and head up to Fallbrook and visit the god of avocados. It’s going to be messy whatever we do. Why don’t we just find a place to stay and live and never mind all this sitting in cars driving around. But don’t you want to go places, see things, visit all the wonders of the world, parachute out of a hot air balloon, sail the seven seas, climb Kilimanjaro, travel back roads to far places to eat in parts unknown. We could sail around the Mediterranean and visit Italy and Greece and Turkey. And pick up refugees and ferry them to safety. Don’t you ever get tired of living on the dark side of the moon? At least I know my way around. And it’s not so crowded. Have you got Avo’s number in your phone? I’ll give him a call. Old Avo. Wonder how is he.

“Listing” is episode 67 of Inventories, a Novel in Progress in Serial Format at The Coming of the Toads.

Intransitive

Sylvie and I drove southeast and south from Tucson, stayed a couple of nights as tourists in Tombstone, crossing the border at Naco into old Mexico, where we spent a night in Motel Cowboy, and a few nights farther out, in a rough cabin in a shady grove near a dry stream bed. Attempt no profit from your epiphanies, Dr. Lao had said. No worries, since I wasn’t having any, though the desert was lovely in its apparent simplicity. One story trailers, shacks, lean-to structures, adobe and brick block dwellings, old pickup trucks. Little commotion, no one about. No plots brewing that I could see. The prickly pear grows little opportunities, another Dr. Lao ambiguous comment. Life is a mystery only to be enjoyed, he said, not to be grasped mentally. That I got. When the beer and wine and food ran out we drove back north, cutting west after the border crossing to Sierra Vista and north past Fort Huachuca, and on up back to Tucson. Sylvie said what she got from Dr. Lao was motifs, like string theory. Life seemed made up of motifs, but her theory never went much beyond that. Life is made up of moods, I said. Moody. Life is a mood, and mostly a bad one. Very moodily said, Sylvie replied. Yes, an adverb chasing after some runaway verb, now ahead, now behind, a sentence with its noun cut off. And no object. No, and no object. Intransitive. In transit, anyway. Where to now? I don’t know.

“Intransitive” is episode 60 of Inventories, a Novel in Progress in Serial Format at The Coming of the Toads.

Fallout and Fall In

The hidden room, while abandoned, was hardly a secret. Everyone at Hotel Julian knew about it. As I had guessed, it was built during the hotel reconstruction phase in the late 1940’s. Designed to function as a nuclear fallout shelter, the room was built by Minerva’s late husband, who had died not from fallout, but from fall in. Climbing out one night after a bout in his room with a bottle of rum, he slipped and fell to the bottom of the well shaft, where he perished from the fall, from drowning, from hypothermia – or all of the above. He had gone missing for over a week before Minerva woke up one morning with a start, the noir thought of what probably happened to him suddenly dawning on her. I had been very nervous about Zoeasta making it back to her kittens, in spite of Minerva’s expressed confidence in the cat, and, initially, anyway, a bit ruffled at her criticisms of my current, what to call it, walk of life, and also suspicious of just how she came to know so much about me, I excused myself with the rational reason I wanted to be sure Zoeasta was back safe with her litter. Sylvie, for one, would never forgive me if she were to read that something awkward had befallen the kittens. Put another way, she’d shove a ball lightning up my butt if she found I was responsible for anything bad happening to any of the cats. Minerva insisted though I return to finish our conversation, she called it that, though I had said little, apparently my deeds speaking volumes to her already. Minerva’s house sat on the corner lot opposite the grocery of Hotel Julian. It took me less than a minute to run across the street and around the back of the hotel to the basement entrance, skip down the stairs, and check on Zoeasta, who I found licking her kittens, all five of them, I made certain, while they pummeled and sucked at her teats, all in a new padded and carpet lined box that sat just outside Eve’s door, and there stood Eve and Dawn glowering at me. We know where you’ve been, Eve said. You shouldn’t have taken Zoeasta with you. We were already planning on moving the litter closer to us and to her litter box and her food and water. I must have looked pathetic, and Dawn absolved me by saying the kittens were already about a week old and Zoeasta wasn’t away over an hour, and everybody seemed happy in their places. Are you going back to finish your conversation with Minerva, Eve asked. Minerva owns the hotel, you know. She keeps tabs on everything. Julian is her son. She makes decisions, Dawn added. And she’s decided she likes you, Eve said. Is that a good thing, I wondered, but kept the question to myself.

“Fallout and Fall In” is episode 33 of Inventories
a Novel in Progress in Serial Format at The Coming of the Toads.
(Click link for continuous, one page view of all episodes.)

Note: With episode 30, the title of the novel was changed
from the original working title of “Ball Lightning” to Inventories.