It was the day after or the day after that. The former was much like the latter. I was having my ups but mostly my downs. Nothing new there. More of the same was on the way. That’s supposed to be the way it is.
I could not help but be curious about what budding genius became the first Earthling with bipedal tendencies to declare, “Blah, blah, blah.”
“Bitterness,” the tawny owl began to intone, “which is the taste of dirt, and necessary to all animals, but especially mammals for the mineral content, needs to be especially well balanced when going down the gullet, lest you wake up, and wind up, elaborately twisted.”
I complained, “Are we starting right from the beginning again?”
The honking tenor of Junior Walker took off on a motherfucking roll that poured out of my open windows. Purified steam power began lifting a heavy load. An archaic turntable was spinning diamonds. The tawny owl was moved to shimmy and shake but there was no way to slow down the runaway train.
“Last I looked you’re still a human, right?”
“Where else a human gonna start?”
“You can’t tell me Junior Walker is stuck at the beginning.”
“At least any human wants to get anywhere.”
The saxophone was gripped loose and pointed prophetically at the sky and it was thumping like a wagging tail on the scent of an exhausted fox about ready to give it up and roll over. I had felt as if I was close to being able to choreograph my own moves and to rise up from my plight until the tooting tenor man jabbed me hard with, “Shoot your shot.”
I said, “You know how badly I want it.”
All I knew is I wanted some action, some psychobabble that sizzled, crackled, and popped, some change I could believe in, some in with the new and out with the used. And I wanted it bad, as bad as the taste of any rotten garbage, trash, or dirt in any round mound or heap. Junior Walker continued to honk as if he was aiming directly down the barrel from his eye to mine, and demanding, “Show me what you got.”
The tawny owl added, “Let’s be clear you ain’t no Junior Walker.”
“Do I have to tell you how that hurts qualitatively?”
“No need to thank me yet.”
I understood that mine was not the only hapless body tied to the tracks as the engines smoked and heaved coming through a dark tunnel. My lazy eye wandered along with the rest of my sloping skull in the direction of a group of goats eating indiscriminately on the side of the next hill over. They followed the leader, became lost, continued to ingest non-stop. Plenty of mindless shit eating there, I thought irascibly, that hasn’t turned out so badly. One behind the next, they bleated, “Baa.”
The tawny owl read my mind, of course. I was so sick and tired of the same old thing I didn’t even care. Boot camp sucked, that’s for damn sure. How was knowing any more about all the same old human shit going to help in the war against murderous cats killing birds?
The tawny owl said, “What about you plant one seed and sit on it day and night until it sprouts?”
I said, “I think I may have to get up from time to time.”
The tawny owl said, “You want to go into the forest and hold up a falling tree?”
“Don’t you think I’d be squashed?”
The tawny owl said, “Well, yeah, like…duh.”
“If I ask you what’s the point you’ll only make fun of me.”
“So then what’s the point?”
Fluidly, he laughed his ass off for a solid five minutes. He was wearing a silly straw boater that he tipped like a vaudeville minstrel, and he finished off his routine with a loop and a dipsy-doo. I admit that even I could not contain a twisted grin. But, still.
Finally he said, “You must think you’re ready to take your first big test.”
I said, “Oh boy.”
“Is that your final answer?”
“How can I be sure yet?”
“We gonna see. Contradictions do abound.”
I said, “That sounds weak enough for me to be saying.”
“Then it figures I’m ready.”
What would come first and then next? Would it require an act of faith? A turn to the right and a swivel to the left? A daring mission behind enemy lines? A leap over barriers and a catapult to unknown heights? Not flying, exactly, but getting there?
The tawny owl said, “Drop your swooshy capes and swords, and your jack boots and hammers and clipboards, and follow me with your eyes only.”
I looked to be sure before I said, “My hands are empty.”
He said, “We not bending no steel, walking on no water, or leap-frogging over no burning bushes or sands. You got no more good use for any of the fairy tales inside your head. All your useless information won’t help you get there, your pocketbook won’t help you, the company you keep won’t help you. None of your wild hoards of pack animals or Gods or virgin maidens gonna do you a bit of good.””
I thought, man that sounds rough. It must be the real deal. I said, “I’m ready to follow when you lead me on.”
“No expectations to weigh you down.”
We waited a few minutes while the tawny owl laughed his ass off some more, before he repeated, “Eyes only.”
“All eyes open and accounted for, Sir.”
And then, as the tawny flew off, he said, “Is what is.”
After that, I don’t mind saying I don’t know what. Where was the subject? A man can’t live by predicates alone. Not only what is but what could be. Forget about once was. The opposite, too. Was the tawny owl watching? Nothing happened. Nothing remained happening. Other than the usual birds, bugs, bees, bores, ants, trees, fog, sea. None of which is new to me. Nothing new and exciting that would carry me higher.
Oh man, after what seemed like forever, I nearly pissed in my pants. I partially rotated my stiff neck to the extent of its nearly full 180 degrees. I can’t deny it was uncomfortable. Then darkness did to me what it tends to do. I could sense stuff happening that I imagined would threaten my comfortable existence. So should I stay or should I go? Who do I ask how, or the reason why? Did I pass the first test, and where? Did I flunk it like a fool? If not, what was I here for?
Even though it sure felt like forever, I knew it could not be. Fragrant juices take time to ferment. I paused to reflect. I considered partial truth and limited consequences. Perhaps it was the fault of those leaden expectations.
Finally, I concluded that what I really needed to survive this unruly test was no less than the answers. All of the above. No shit.
Which never did arrive. Not on time, not late, not next, not after that, and not later.
But, that doesn’t mean they won’t be here soon. Fervent faith, which requires knowing nothing, is nothing if not blind, as well as astonishing dumb. And I’m still waiting.