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Monthly Archives: November 2012Image
I pour my soul out to the mountain and all of my nothingness overflows down my cheeks until I am certain I am empty.
Down here in the crevasse, it is a still chill, and each drop burns a trail. The pain is at least a feeling, which I have very little of now. My legs are utterly numb and twisted below me, and all I can feel in my fingers is a light tingling. I’m not sure if I’ve been here minutes or hours. The blue glow is diffuse and I can’t see the sky.
All I know is that I’m screwed.
Solo alpinist climbing accidents are not resuces, they are recoveries.
Besides my mangled legs, I’m fairly certain that I’ve broken my back and I have no idea where my ice axe is. I can’t reach my boots. Hauling myself up with only my pocketknife and titanium spork seems as hopeless as it sounds.
Given where I’m at, I’ll likely be recovered in a decade or so when I pop out of the face of the glacier.
There are two options for me. I debate myself.
It’s a tie.
I don’t like that result, so I struggle to retrieve the first aid kit from my pack. It’s hard. It’s in the top, behind my head. My hands are trembling. I don’t know if it’s from the cold or the trauma. Probably both.
I fish for my canteen. Gone.
I dig through the kit and find what I’m looking for. The bottle. Ten pills. Perc-10s. For emergency use only.
My feeble hands almost drop it trying to get a pill out.
I check my watch and then dry-swallow one. I think of my family. Of summer days swimming in the lake together. Birthdays. Smiles. Laughter. Tears. Love.
My time is slowing down in its rush to the end. Five minutes pass, and I swallow one more and then another, which I almost choke on because my throat is suddenly dry.
A note! I should leave a note!
I can’t reach the part of the pack with my notebook. I weep again for an age.
I check the time. I’m very woozy. It’s time.
I swallow each remaining pill in turn, and in time, the river swallows me.
This is the transcript of Ms. Rhonda Wainwright, subject #RW-PKB120724:
“I’m concerned about clean water supplies. Does anyone know if any of these cities _don’t_ fluoridate the water? I wouldn’t want my babies drinking that. We only drink bottled water now that the system we were hooked to by the county has fluoride in it. The government seems to meddle in everything right now. Don’t you find that it seems like more and more of our taxes are being spent on more and more sinful things? I can’t believe that the Communist dictator of Cuba is taking American chemotherapy. If he was really ready to die for the revolution, don’t you think he’d not use the yellow running dog imperialist capitalist pharmaceutical output built upon the slave labor of the oppressed developed world laboratory technicians? I mean really! The gall of it. Don’t get me started, or I’ll give you an earful about hedge fund managers that should be strung up by their duodenums from the gibbards. Those rat bastards put a dent in George Bush’s economy and prevented that professional aircraft destroyer and oh my God I love her shoes from taking their blessed, rightful position at the helm of this great nation. Instead, we were cursed with the wickedness of the evil Joe Biden, forehead of portent doom. I mean those Democrats haven’t put up a Vice-Presidential candidate without a forehead freeclimbers on El Capitan dream about in their fecally resplendent cocoons. One cannot trust the freethinkers of California – their reefer dreams have infected the very birds and bees of the countryside, leaving Mother Nature to weep over seedy dispensaries atop storm drains that drain to stream with the effluent of the very machines that convey us to our doom. Yay, the hour is neigh that Lucifer shall rise up from upon his coaly throne and bring righteousness to the wicked and apostasy to the devout. For Satan is but a fallen agel, dropped from the lap of God for soiling his mighty white tunic and befouling the aether. My ex used to fart like a coon dog on squirrels and I was so happy when I finally kicked him and that freeloading sister of his out of our apartment. I mean the nerve of some people! She had the utter audacity to put the butter dish in the icebox without a cover! Can you imagine! Butter that tastes like leeks and ham? Gosh I hope the Dark One smites her down into melted butter! Billy’d always said that long pig tasted better in butter, but he ain’t never brought none home. He said’n he’d only had it on the river, downstream where it gets all hot and jungly, and twern’t fit for man nor beast, only Frenchman and Creoles. I saw this voodoo princess at Disneyland once, (the Florida one, not the California one,) with these hawt tattoos, and it got me thinkin’ of of my lover, Jimmy Beam and his 750ml of liquid brown essence, make a man out of a woman and a woman out of a man, fool noobody but themselves and the drunks. They go down the dark way, towards Soddom Hussein’s way and Im’a sure he’s a gonna change. Speaking of those professional rip-off artists, what the fuck is up with Nickelback? WHY ARE THEY EVEN STILL TALKED ABOUT? Jezzus Khrist they’ve gotten more airplay than Zappa and they’re a scintilla of the musical chops of Frank, Allah Rest His Soul. OMG, did you see that Van Halen was touring again? Valerie looks better than Diamond Dave in a dress and I wish it would stay that way. I find that comment systems on publically available websites are great places to pick up learnings about revolutionary thinking to topple the white, male, patriarchy that holds the systers down! Did you know that paradichloral benzene mixed with high-test petrol creates a napalm so effective, that only UN peacekeepers in Syria is allowed to use? It’s true. During the siege of Galal and Ga, they used it to great effect to repel the hordes of alien invaders. Those bastards didn’t even have green cards, and being from Japan and all, got a free ride during the Reagan administration, which was almost tragically cut short due to Bobby Dinero’s crackerjack performance in Dog Day of the Condor from the 1970’s. Isn’t Robert Redford dreamy? Sorry, I got sidetracked there for a minute on a bridge maintained by the county that those lazy SOBs haven’t inspected since the Wilson administration. There was a socialst president. Starting that League of Nations bullshit. Lot of good that did, except for the lobbyists in Gucci Gulch, as always. State dinners here, consul relations there; where’s the crystal fork, my dear? Those same said lobbyists that talked to those bankers on gibbards, I’d say! Additional scoundrels, dredged from the oily deeps of adolescence and student association elections. Only the psychopaths won, but the sychophants smelled opportunity that they’ve leveraged into a new Mandarin class, formulaic in their spreadsheet accuracy to the bottom line of their corporate lollipop, that they lick and lick, looking for the center by never finding it, they being too wedded to their steady minstrations of the USC like dung beatles to the feast. Rise up, rise up, I say and cast the liars and cheats from the hallowed chambers they have soiled by their very small presence of mind within it, diminishing them by their petty, self-aggrandizing thoughts. Only true patriots need apply. Leave your cable, your doggie day care, your yoga mat and your gossipy ways behind as you storm the gates of citizenship and reclaim your earned birthrights of dignity, sanity and leadership. Step away from the anti-thought people who seek to control you via religion, politics and economic injustice wrought upon a subdued populance conditioned to believe it’s for their own good. Oh dear. That sounds awfully messy, and I wouldn’t want those dirty, smelley [insert current terrorist profile here] bastards to win, so I’ll gladly have my innards and outards irradiated like haggis. Be free, I say, be free!
When I can start bottle-feeding my baby CocaCola?”
I was fucked. I had taken a risk and peeked out the window near the fire escape to ascertain the situation and it turned out that I was in the center of a three-ring circus, and my chances of getting out were dwindling by the moment.
In the first ring there were helicopters, riot police, K-9s, harbor patrol, APVs, mounted patrol, acres of beat cops, SWAT, plainclothes, and the bomb squad.
The second ring had ladders, pumpers, Medic One, hazmat, and heavy rescue from what looked like seven districts. They were like swarming ants, tugging on canvas hoses and attaching them to fire hydrants, creating a creeper-like tapestry of netted water.
The third ring was everybody else and their fucking dog watching the prickly festival of testosterone.
What the fuck was going on? Why so much callout? I slid down and put my back to the door, gazing down a row of empty cubicles. The cube closest to me was tidy. Papers, neatly stacked. Family photos pushpined to the fabric walls depicting two kids and a husband. There was a crayon drawing of what looked like a orange dragon/dog in front of a lake. A small, perky potted philodendron trailed over the desk. A lavender cardigan hung on the back of the task chair, which was pushed back against the file cabinet. The only clue something was amiss was an empty coffee mug on the floor, resting on its side.
Trying desperately to think of a way to get out, I was staring at the coffee mug when I was startled to realize that the building was trembling. Then there was a loud CRACK, and my stomach could hear steel bending somewhere in the building until it was drowned out by a shuddering crash that rang the building like a bell and sent burning debris flying over my head and out most of the windows.
Then came the heavy bits of concrete and metal, and after that, flaming wreckage arced and fell like tephra all about me, causing microfires to start everywhere.
“Holy shit.” I told the plant.
This explained the zoo around the building. My guess was that the roaster somehow caught fire and had been putting up a major plume. Add reports of gunshots and possibility for a hostage situation, and someone probably thought they had a terrorist attack on their hands.
That meant that FBI, ATF, CIA, and DoD were here or on the way, too.
“Fuck, fuck, fuck.” The plant was nonplussed.
I didn’t have a choice now with the fire – I had to go out the fire escape behind me. My best chance was that in all the confusion with a major fire, I could avoid the police. I pulled off the white suit, yanked the door open, and started down the six flights of stairs.
I begin to hear a sound that I’ve heard before, but can’t quite place. A deep bass pushing growl of a groan. My stomach goes cold as I connect the sound to ground waves I see rolling towards me. I blink, not sure that what I’m seeing is real, but my brain connects as I watch successive rooflines bob and dip, bob and dip in the distance and throw mostly older, brick buildings down into heaps of rubble.
This was turning into a very strange and even more dangerous day.
Particularly since I was standing on a steel fire escape bolted to an older brick building.
I immediately flashed to the photographs of the building under construction displayed in the cafeteria.
The cafeteria of the building was a curious place inhabited by all manner of strange peoples. Working in one of the largest buildings in Seattle, it housed a number of firms, ranging from a Fortune 500 to mom-and-pops.
Across the street is a hardware store, where mostly Central and South American illegal immigrants and a handful of African Americans advertise their skills with buckets overflowing with brushes, saws, stilts, wrenches and various and sundry tools. Most only have their hands, backs and legs to offer.
The tradesmen stand apart and alone, waiting and watching in silence, keeping a keen eye for their truck to pull into the lot. The one with the rack on top, battered by metal pipes being heaved on top. The one covered in a fine dusting of gypsum. The one with a generator chained in the bed. The step-van. The rent-a-truck with a lift gate. Some smoke, some pace, some sit on their buckets. All wear the clothes of their trade from their paint-spotted caps down to their steel-toed boots. Most have small coolers harboring whatever passes for lunch inside. Always in the same spot, day after day, staking out the corner nearest the lumber load, the drywall load, the tool rental. Always in the correct place to beat the crowd. A target is spotted, and a practiced movement that a professional athlete would envy shows a fluid cigarette flick as they grasp their bucket and make haste with their livelihoods. I see them every day and we know each other by time and place but not by name and we nod, each acknowledging the other’s need to be where they are right now to keep their bellies full.
The muscle stands in groups that chatter, laugh and wave their hands when talking. They wear t-shirts, dress shirts, tennis shoes, shorts, jeans, Dockers, belted, unbelted. Some have paper bags, a few have backpacks but most have nothing but themselves. They swarm every truck, jostling for position. You can tell who is hungry, who has a family to feed, who is desperate – they move the fastest and are gone before the more comfortable deign to end their conversation. Some knots have designated translators who are just dealmakers. They are better dressed and have regular clients, and they sell and load up their fleshy wares by the truckload.
From time to time, I would see some standing at parade rest. More rarely, singular figures would be dressed in fatigues and combat boots. Most of those had canteens and a small rucksack. Always loners, they were invariably short, attentive to my passing through their space and to a man, looked very uncomfortable. I was never sure if they got jobs or not. It seemed they were waiting for someone to come to them. They were a puzzle. Shining Path? FARC? DISIP? Deserters? MPs? Alas, my knowledge of military uniforms is lacking, and Occam’s razor reminds me that there is a military surplus store on the opposite corner, which is where I instantly decided I needed to be.
But first, I had an earthquake and a bazillion fucking teenage boys in rut with guns to deal with.
The first time I died, I was five.
My grandparents 1965 black Rambler Classic station wagon flew down the Edmonds ferry pier with me in the back seat, crashed through the red- and white-striped crossing gates, and then cannonballed down into the murk of Puget Sound, mere yards away from where George Brackett landed his canoe during a windstorm in 1876 and then promptly set about selling the land out from underneath the resident Snohomish tribe, to their eventual dismay.
Five year-olds have little fear, as everything is new and exciting, so the facts that there was no braking, the crashing of the painted plywood as it skittered across the hood and ricoched off the windshield with a smack, the butterfiles-in-the-stomach drop as the sea embraced one and a half tons of machine folded steel, rubber, chrome and leather, and the fast envelopment by the chill waters patrolled by killer whales, were greeted by me with laughter.
The laughter changed to startled terror as a Pacific octopus erupted from between the seat and back, and enveloped me in its rubbery, spider-like grip. I blacked out, or maybe it was the ink clouding the water, but my last memory was of my grandparents sitting in the front seat, my grandmother admonishing my sedate grandfather, “Douglas, you’ve left the turn signal on again!” and of him flashing that sheepish grin of his that served him so well in comfortably avoiding true hardship and reality through the The Great War, The Depression, World War II, and the disintegration of his progeny.