Pluto. Underground. Lineage. Plans.
Pluto lived in the Seattle underground, the old stores abandoned below the raised street level project completed after the substantial fire of 1889. One night, after a poetry reading in Pioneer Square, Sylvie and I slipped down to visit Pluto. He was busy mapping out the Seattle Shanghai Tunnels, where the gods could get lost on vacation. Cities built upon cities give rise to strange rumors, seeping stories trying to explain what can’t be seen: the buried, the covered, the closed, the past. And the stories, like the people they depict, pile up, one sitting upon another, and their lineages when described set the characters and their plots upside down. Put no stock in the dead weight of your coat of arms. Neither be impressed nor depressed by what occupied your forebears. Your great great great grandfather may have been a prince or a pirate, a saint or an executioner, a sage or a fool; what does any of it have to do with you? A distant aunt may have been Catherine the Great or Catherine of Alexandria; so what? What system of serfdom is necessary to break the wheels that broke the backs of the ancestors eaten by cultural vultures and laughing hyenas and that continue to roll over so many? Where we come from is a matter of chance, unless there exists some Grand Plan, but there is no such plan, unless Hands Off is a plan. If where we come from is a matter of chance, so too is where we are headed. That does not mean we should forgo working to make good choices, but that we can’t fully control or even see or hear all the variables of influence, and that what looks like reward may be useless decoration. A purse is something that must be carried.
is episode 26 of
a Novel in Progress
in Serial Format at The Coming of the Toads.
(Click link for continuous, one page view of all episodes.)
Friedrich Durrenmatt’s short story “The Tunnel” concerns a young man, a student, on a train, commuting to school. The train enters a long tunnel, longer than the student recalls from previous trips along the same route. The student smokes cigars, stuffs his ears with cotton, his head in a book, and he’s wearing double glasses, clear and dark. He’s dimmed his senses, all but closed his doors of perception (26). The train is crowded. There is no light at the end of the tunnel, no end to the tunnel.
I had walked down to Tabor Space Saturday afternoon, but it was closed for a memorial service, so I continued over to Hawthorne, where hangouts are plentiful. I bought a coffee and sat at the rear of the shop, under a window through which I could see the clouds drifting east. I had my copy of John Cage’s “Silence” with me, and I had a small notebook, two pencils and a pen. I had my cell phone, and I had not forgotten my reading glasses. I did not have my laptop with me.
The coffee shop was crowded and noisy. But it was the kind of noise that drowns out my tinnitus. Somewhere, there was music. I sat at the end of a comfortable couch. There was a coffee table, and across the table from me was a young man, perhaps a student, with a laptop and small, white earplugs in his ears. He wore glasses. To my right, at the end of the couch, two more young men sat at a small table, both with laptops, both with earplugs. At the end of the coffee table, a woman sat alone with a laptop at a small table with her back to me, her plush black hair piled on top of her head in a twisted bun. And there were charcoal drawings on the walls, of bees, and one of a rooster. From my view at the end of the couch, the woman’s bun seemed to flair up and blend into the rooster tail drawing pinned to the wall.
I drank my coffee, read some in “Silence,” made some notes, checked my cell phone to see if Susan had texted or called. A guy with a laptop and earplugs across from the woman with her hair in a bun got up and left, and another guy with a laptop and earplugs quickly took his place. That’s when I began to think about Durrenmatt’s short story “The Tunnel.” Then the woman with the hair bun got up, packed her things, and left, but another woman quickly took her place. And this new woman also had a hair bun, identical to the first woman’s, and she sat in the same chair in the same position, her back to me, her hair bun mixing with the rooster’s tail in the drawing pinned to the wall.
That’s all. I read, drank coffee, gazed out the window at the clouds continually changing shape. I made some notes for a blog post with a few doodles. I drew a beehive hairdo that spiraled into clouds above a tunnel.