Abbott was a straight man. The heavy. The ladies’ man. And he couldn’t take the pressure. In the end, he would become irate when Lou shouted his name at him to get his attention. Somehow he made it work. For him.
Hey, Abbot… Hey, Abbot…
Then Abbott began viciously slapping Lou in the face for saying his name over and over. Lou said Abbo… —slap, Abbo…— slap —repeatedly until Lou was winded and Abbot’s inner rage was appeased. It shouldn’t have been like this. They were like brothers. Or something. Lived in the same flop house. They were having an argument about Betty Grabble. Betty! Both men were just batty about her. And for some reason they had repeated run-ins with America’s sweetheart, confounding all.
But do not bring up baseball to them. They are fans but they don’t understand the strange nicknames the players have these days such as Who or What, or Ida Know.
And the whole thing made many a vaudevillian angry, as the bit had been community property. But now it was identified only with Bud and Lou, who had not originated it, though with it they had made it. Big. That was the curse of radio and film. The question of just who was on first.
“Please don’t hit me anymore Abbot,” said Lou. It was an abusive relationship. It would never fly today. People would not stand for it. And if they did stand, they wouldn’t clap. Certainly. And if they clapped they wouldn’t laugh. Unless everyone else did. In that case all bets were off. Societal pressure.
A man came into the Mercantile searching for a map. He was looking to light out into the wilderness. The Shopkeep, a woman short on words, stood on a ladder doing inventory. Last thing she needed was a customer to bring her down. She looked at the man. “Get lost!” was what she said. That man’s name was Alfred Packer. No one remembers the shopkeep. She never done nothing of note.
I watched the neighbors on the opposite ridge bulldoze the property line, each in turn. Each had a bulldozer. They were being sold posts and barbed wire by a dealer in town. Repeatedly. Follow the money. One day the girl on one side married the boy on the other and the war transitioned to a delicate cease-fire. When they were divorced, the bulldozers started back up. It was love. Then it was lost love. Before that it was just business.
I’ll tell you how she won his love. She used to chase the boy and when she caught him she would sit on him. This was also how she lost him. It became old hat. They needed to shake it up and were thwarted by tradition. It was what they knew. Not enough.
The feud resumed easily. It was what they knew. But now it had more vigor. Teeth. They enjoyed it more. It had a history. A violation of code. Familial.
But at last one of them sold out and moved away. Was replaced with a new family. There was no fight between the houses on one side or the other. The bulldozers were never seen again. The new people didn’t even own one. Absent pride of ownership, the fence stood. The new neighbors had nothing in common with the old. They didn’t socialize in any way. They really couldn’t stand one another.
“I’ve had enough of your horseplay,” s/he said. “Off you go now.”
Everything in the world is seeking to stand on the highest point. Where one can see. There is nothing else which explains the urge to climb mountains, get there first, or pat oneself on the back. It even explains the eruption of volcanoes, the contents inside wishing to come out on top. That’s the prime real estate. No matter what one has to do to get there. That says a lot.
That’s why an eruption is such a sacred shared event. A seismic shift. People remember it. It burns itself on the social memory pad. Changes everything. I saw such an event once. It was my first. After this I saw more, but they were robbed of absolute novelty. Because If you see one you’ve seen it all, the world order set up.
At some point everything becomes common place. It starts to look alike. A revelatory illusion.
Everything is built on something else. The novelty is an illusion. The present is a time shift of the past. It seems clear because there has been a precedent. A prologue. An introduction. And when we left we said “Make it look like no one has ever been here before.” So as not to rob the future of its own initiative. Priorities. I don’t make the rules, I break them.
The present has to be built. In detail. For the purpose of references. Few check these out. Outdated.
Once it is built, it seems to have always been there. This is the natural order. It’s traditional.
My first book was a stapled together mess called A Child’s Guide to Suicide, and I handed it out at a punk rock club. Have you ever been hugged by a sweaty punk rocker? I don’t even have a copy of it. You come away looking like you were up on the stage. The copy I had drowned in a flood. It was from a hot water heater. Twenty years old, it sprung a leak into the basement apartment. The trauma of aging. I was dreaming at the time. I dreamt of water, a gentle flow. A steady dripping and splashing of the tropics. As if I were stranded on a beach. When I awoke I splashed down, as my feet hit the floor and were submerged. I salvaged what I could. And rebuilt. It’s what people do. By conditioning. Tradition.
So here we are.
She had short hair, light brown, when she approached me. She was tall and played the bass guitar. I had been admiring her from afar, but she had no way of knowing this. Like when you look to the top of Mount Everest with longing in your heart, though you understand the perils inherent in such a desire. It’s a question of preparation. How well you pack. If you are ready. If your heart is strong.
“Are you handing this out to children?” she demanded. And it was a set-up to a joke, but instead, for love, the punchline was moved to a footnote. And so the response was left wanting. And she walked away with a flourish. And perhaps that was the greatest gift I could give her. For who can understand the nature of love, for which so much is sacrificed in our perpetual present?