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Thursday, December 23, 2010

Chapter 16: Congruence

"OH. MY. Gaww ha ha haawwwd!" Dave exhales, reaching down to take the tiny treasure from his son's hand. He deposits each one onto a large piece of granite wedged under a front wheel of the Bobcat. I scoop the flashlight off the ground and halo the growing collection.  What is most striking about these artifacts isn't their size, or even the attention to detail (which is impossibly accurate)... it's their cleanliness--- there isn't a speck of dust on any one of them! I try to communicate this observation to Dave but the directions he is barking at Jungleboy take up the whole yard, "What's under that one, Aiden?  AIDEN! AAAIIDEN.  Open that one," he points, unwilling to accept that his extended arm is well above his son's line of sight (even if he weren't facing downward).  

Eventually Dave grows tired of this discovery-by-proxy arrangement, stands, and dusts himself off. "I gotta get down there," we jinx as the rope shudders in his hand. "There's no way that rope will hold all of you, Chubby Chase," I jest, rubbing his belly. "Ya, ya, ya," he mutters, pretending to adjust something on the Bobcat's dashboard.

"I could go next," I offer coyly. 
"We're going about this all wrong," Dave declares.  "Instead of trying to get down there, we need to bring this shit up here." I figure there is more of a plan coming, so I remain quiet. Then, after a minute-long brainstorm, Dave says, "I gotta piss." Never one to turn down an opportunity to urinate in the great outdoors, Dave simply turns to the river and unzips. Meanwhile Aiden is still trying to pass things upward, so I get down on my tummy, steady the rope with one hand, and position the other to receive a 1/4" couch, a lamp as thin as a toothpick, a little checkered table. Each item is so small that if dropped, there is very little chance of recovery. 

"OK, AIDEN LET'S GO," says Dave, tugging on the rope above me. I hadn't seen him finish his honorable discharge, so his voice startles both Aiden and I simultaneously, causing us to bungle a handoff. "DAD! I'm getting more st----"
"Aiden, we're not going to do this all night. You have school in the morning, and I have a much better plan. Gavvy, untie the other end and let's bring him up. We'll deal with this tomorrow." 

"Are you serious? We just spent like two hours getting the thing open.  We don't even know---"

"Trust me, Holmes.  This will be waaaaay better in the daylight. The operation will continue at noon."

Getting Jungleboy out of the pit is much faster than lowering him into it, and within minutes he is untethered and examining the excavation excitedly.  Dave closes shop hastily---so hastily, in fact, that I begin to wonder if my "Chubby Chase" joke rubbed him wrong (even though my hand had definitely rubbed him correctly). "Come on, Shmavvy. Grab this end with me and let's close this thing up," he commands. 

"Why close the doors? We can just leave them open for tomorrow at least..." 

"Shmavvy, this is total lawsuit territory. Some guy cuts through the yard and falls in there, he'll have me in court for the rest of my life. Yeah, no thanks, pal." 

I have no response for this. The scenario is completely implausible, and we've just spent the last half hour dangling his son (by way of a duct tape diaper, no less) into the same lawsuit-attracting pit by moonlight. And where is this litigious man going, exactly?  Cutting through this recessed backyard (presumably from the busy road, where there is no sidewalk) to arrive at the river, crossing it, and forging up the adjoining hill into the the thick of the Lincoln Woods is not quite a well-traveled route. It seems like a reach, but I can tell Dave has made up his mind.

"I guess... it could also... rain?" I offer as additional justification for his paranoia. 

"Exactly, Exaaaaactly." 

In just ten minutes, we've dropped the huge doors back into place, wrapped the extension chords, and stored the lights in my back porch. In spite of every form of protest available to him, Jungleboy is prohibited from transporting the tiny pieces any further than my kitchen, where he's arranged them in a wee living space, sans walls. He and Dave are both positioned at eye-level with the table surface, marveling loudly.

"So, how do you think we can get the whole city up to... ground-level?" I ask Dave.
"There are a few ways I can think of," he says matter-of-factly, but trails off.

"So... what's one of the ways?"

Dave walks to the sink, splashes water on his face, and without warning assumes Downward Dog pose in the middle of the kitchen floor.

"Ooooooooooooooh, man... my... fucking back...." he groans, flexing each shoulder in turn.

"Davey, what's one of the ways we can get the city out?" I repeat.

"Uuuuuuuuuuuuhhhhggggg.  I am LOOOONGGG overdue for a chiro appointment. This job we're on is MURDER on my whole system. What Shmavvy? How do we get it out? Is that what you're asking me, Holmes?" he asks casually, as if I had a speech impediment. He begins his signature thinkwalk around the table, but I refuse to be reverent, "Yah. How are we going to get that whole thing out in one piece? You don't have a plan, do you."

"Leave that to me Homey. Aiden, get your mask from the backyard, let's ROLL."

"Dad, why can't I take them with me? DAD.  WHY.  CAN'T.   I.  TAKE---"

"You can take.... ONE.  ONE THING, Aiden." 

"WHY?!!"

"PICK... ONE."

"BUT---"

Dave switches to calm voice, which is somehow a step above loud voice on the Serious Scale, "It's one thirty in the morning. We will come back.   To-mo-rroooow." 

I'm too tired to press the issue, and too tired to wonder how he knows what time it is without a watch or a wall clock anywhere. So I hug him goodnight, watch Jungleboy tuck the little couch carefully into his utility belt, and brush my teeth in the downstairs bathroom.  

Later, when Lu has finished orbiting his resting spot, I burrow my legs under him and stare at the far wall, focusing and defocusing my eyes on the small octopus drawn there. This is one of many sleep exercises I use, but tonight it doesn't seem to be working. I think of that miniature furniture. I think of how many more pieces there may be in the pit. My brain cannot shut off until I have envisioned and profiled their (previous) owners: a handful of people. A family of four. A father, a mother, and two boys. The father is maybe Don.  The mother is probably Miranda. The boys are Harold and Harold. This is because the father is extremely forgetful and one name is much easier to remember than two. The mother sleeps on the couch... the father... on. the table... because he forgets... where the... bedroom is...

Like all dreams, this one has no point of entry, I'm just walking through a corn field like I've been a farmer all my life, very matter-of-fact. The sun is setting, and everything has cooled off. While drifting along the worn path it occurs to me that all the corn in this field is dead. Not the stalks---the stalks are still green and standing---but the ears themselves are only dry blackened stubs housed in unravelling withered leaves. I know this without looking, without examination... it's instinctual---like how I  know a new Michael Bay movie will be horrible. 

I begin to notice dead appliances strewn throughout the rows: TVs, washing machines, microwaves, and blenders, charred and toxic screens and consoles kicked in, some still steaming. The further I walk, the more desolate things get. I look behind me and am unnerved to see the quiet destruction is closing in behind me. I walk faster, scanning in all directions for an unlittered escape.

There is alien music wafting up from the corn somewhere in front and to the left of me, but it's melody is elusive, its duration unknowable. I begin to smell burning, but can't see fire anywhere. The smell grows stronger and I begin to panic, tearing through rows and vaulting over toppled fridges. I feel heat clipping at my elbows, but spin around to find no flames. The song grows near, but still no source is visible.

"Caaaaaaaaastleton."

I recognize my name, sung out over the top of the music, elf-like in timbre and pitch but slightly distorted, as if broadcast from a very old and damaged speaker. As the last syllable of my name sinks into the bed of harmony supporting it, I believe I have spotted the source.  My eye catches movement at the end of this row... something turning and turning, the only movement I've seen since I arrived. As I draw near I see that it is a crippled gramophone tucked into a pile of electronic parts, spitting my namesong out of its tarnished bronze Pavillon. 

"Casssssssssssssssssstletooooon," it croons, and I'm held there two feet away, hypnotized, even as I can feel my shoulders spark and crackle into flame. It is as if this is the first time I've ever heard my own name, or perhaps the first time I have heard music at all, and I am a slave to the esotericism. While I ponder this, the scrap cradling the gramophone shifts, melting into the silhouette of something sinister.  I am terrified to watch the pile mold itself into a circuitry-sewn fabric, a camouflage robe of wiring and hardware. Even before it faces me, my mind has preemptively ascribed human form to it: arms out of vacuum hose, shoulders from subwoofers, a neck braided from coaxial cables.
When it finally trains its cloaked head directly at me, my eyes are not met with eyes. Jutting out from the shadow of its hood is a drooping grimace, carving through its forehead like a gash. When its head is fully raised, and the light from my burning body is dancing across its face, I see that it is not a frown after all, but a lecherous smile stretched end to end deep into the hood. And well below it are two upside-down eyes, laughing at something behind me---


I can honestly say that this is the first time I have felt my eyelid opened by an outside source, and I find the sensation rather unsettling. It is held open far too briefly to see anything other than a blur of dark colors, but the forced optical entry is enough to invoke my full consciousness. 
When I open my eye manually, I can barely make out a fleck of something moving away from my face. As my eyes adjusts to the light and my mind adjusts to reality, I confirm the impossible: two ladybugs, one short and rotund, the other... less short.. and lanky, are scuttling on their hind legs towards the end of my pillow. If I had my glasses on I could confirm that they are, in fact, "arm in arm," but I can't be sure. I instinctively plant my hand in their path. The duo stops abruptly, then executes a clumsy about-face. After a long breath shared between the three of us, short choppy words carved from lofty pitches tumble single-file and unison from somewhere on their beetly faces:

"Oh.       Hello."

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