Thursday, March 14, 2013

Everything is Fine: Short short fiction


 

The summer was a delight in Bucks County, Pa. When Joseph was a child. As he edged into puberty the mystery of daily life enriched in the golden sunshine.When a child grows slowly into friendship, there is no getting to know. He starts out in intimacy. Bonds of memory, territory, maps, pieces of the world are automatic. All of the members of the intimate union are living on the same planet.

Jim and Joseph lived on the same planet. Each had deposited his paths and walls into the consciousness of the other. They had a chemical handshake in their heads like cooperative machines. It's not that they were one, but they knew, each, where the other was. They drifted into familiarity.

Joseph lived next door to Brenda. He and Brenda began exploring ritual and began decoding mystery from the time their memories began. It was not just familiarity, it was joining in the development of appetities.

Remembering made Joseph gloomy, trapped in time. He felt like kicking and screaming his way out of this future which was his present and which he couldn't escape.

 

 

Generally nice, feeling he was, thinking he was a negotiator who could obtain any reasonable agreement and could find any likeable compromise, Joseph really didn't know who he was. His true identity, how he was actually seen in the world, was kept a secret from him.

Joseph lived a very quiet life. He slept alone, awoke in fuzzy fantasies which stretched out from his dreams. The day was loaded with rituals and appetites. The knife edges of give and take rarely penetrated even the outside of the outer armor boundary layers.

Joseph thought about how he cleans everything up, as if he were not there. Everything spent on Joseph, he would pay back,. He would drink little and take only one plate, cleaned after each meal with water that would have flowed anyway. He was a healthy being, demanding nothing of the future. When I say goodbye, Joseph thought. I will not leave a residue, nothing added or taken. All my body products will be returned to the earth. The products of my brain are stored in atoms easily reprogrammed or written on paper which melts in the rain.

Joseph couldn't speak in the fog. It lubricated space, stuffing space. Voices couldn't vibrate this air. Doorbells couldn't ring. The telephone sat uselessly with all it's gay little red lights un-winking. Joseph felt the containment of his space. He was free but so cold. Freedom was cold, all his pathways were trod in the snow.

Joseph dared to wish for winter to be over. Even though he didn't want to wish away any precious hours. It's just that in the spring he could walk. His vision could stretch itself over human-populated streets and he could hope for sound.

Far away were the warm warrens where voices were breathed, breath intermingled with breath, friendliness continuously tested, results instantaneously fed back, voices made sense or no sense, but the real acts of living and dying took place. Joseph knew the people there. He had been there to see them although he was not one of them for many years. He couldn't remember when.

They have big cheeks. They want to stuff as many pleasures into the years as their cheeks can hold. They spend hours in the malls and streets laughing, their eyes sitting in that strange dark background that comes from paint and their hair delicate and clean, caught and moved by every breeze. They often keep their mouths open letting everybody see their pure pink tongues. So much fun, they are immersed in funny things and baubles. The groups of friends who know everybody, assume success and never get turned away. Forever, they will buy things that make no sense and sip the manufactured pleasure of seeing everyone notice. They will live forever. They will pack to the brightest avenues forever.

But Joseph knew how he was forever making nightmares out of the grit in the deepest basement bedroom of his heart. Even when he wanted to make fun, the fun he created made nightmares.

Joseph rolled out of bed. His room crowded with books but not books worthy of respect, junk books picked up at crumbled used book stores and thrift bargains from church basements. He rarely read books.

He made his way through corridors of piles organized around his stuffed chairs. Piles became shrines in powder and cobweb. Joseph remembered the symbollism and made subtle but appropriate genuflections as he passed them.

Then he reached the exit. Joseph wore worn khaki pants and a thin jacket over a dark brown t-shirt. He reached over to a hook on the wall and pulled off a gray padded winter coat, slipped it on, opened the heavy door and went outside. The ground was speckled with dry snow. The wind came in blasts which threw the snow up over his face in waves.

Joseph was a gray man with an unkempt look. No one ever sampled his breath but nobody trusted it. Everyone wondered about his nights. Everyone imagined his bed was tossed and marked with dark bands. But even Joseph, who sleeps alone and eats alone and whose speech is unpracticed, even Joseph, in private, constructed wistful images of love.

Joseph made his way to the nearby Zellers Cafe. He had no friends there but the waitresses were sympathetic. This was about the only social life he needed. A word of recognition coupled with comfort food for an hour satisfied something very basic.

Joseph was a regular at houses of social prostitution. He found them in many nearby businesses. He could enjoy them not tainted with the nuisance of immorality. Many people made their living that way. In fact, there was a time, Joseph would admit that he would look for things to photocopy just so he could spend time with the engaging staff at the nearby stationary store.



Joseph was relieved when he left home. He needed to get away from the house where he spent so much of his life. The house was haunted by persons who were still living. Alone crouched under the couch, bounced against the damaged doors. Joseph kept heairng the voices of accidents.

He returned to the house just before noon, sat on the chair up against the kitchen table. He cried.

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