After the last pop, it became dark. But not just any dark. The night sky achieved a magnitude of darkness that often renders humans astonishingly blind, stupid, fearful, vacuous, and bereft, a deep and still darkness that comes from far fucking out there in the multiverse where it does no silly messing around.
Meanwhile, the smoke from the battlefield continued to rise. Indiscriminate blood percolated and seeped, sentiently. An ooze, before coagulation, crawled. I took careful note of a man who could not stop caressing his gun. It was inherently big, long, semi-automatic. I saw several spooky figures of law and order priming to exude authority. Were they leaning to the side of the glib humans who enable their cats to murder beautiful birds? It looked that way to me. I decided that I’d better remain beware. And positively spooked. So, I did what came most natural. I escaped. I had considerable prior experience in escaping. I used my gnarly, spoiled face that now featured a nose broken in three places as a masterful disguise.
I slunk away from the battlefield like a two-bit flunky. I fled on both feet into the dense forest surrounding Mt. Umunhum, birthplace of H.H.U.M.H., Thee Tawny Owl. Moments later I was able to straddle and then cross the San Andreas Fault. I was lucky it was too dark to see. I calculated according to how a beautiful bird flies that I was approximately twelve hours from my home on the chill ocean side of the Santa Cruz Mountains. When I tilted my head a tad the viscous red taste of my war wounds dripped down my throat.
For guidance I could hear the voice of the lovely Thee Mrs., the trail blazing wife of the tawny owl, who possessed the awesome ability to duplicate every sound in the history of rhythm and blues since Clyde McPhatter.
She was pronouncing judgment on the casualty count at Grassy Knolls, and its accompanying comic interlude, with a clear and pure message that was spreading like a zephyr across the mountain communities of beautiful birds, not only wide awake owls, singing Tell It Like It Is in the voice that many of those who had never learned any better would swear to their dying day was Aaron Neville.
You know life is too short to have sorrow
You may be here today and gone tomorrow
So you might as well get what you want
And go on and live
I took the next ridiculous step with an optimism that belied my authentic self. My spoiled face appeared to be beyond recognition. It was a good enough disguise to sure fool me. As far as I knew, there had to be another highway just around the next bend. This was still California, after all, where optimism comes to sizzle before it plops into the sea. But, I should have remained better beware. I should have followed a path that did not yet exist. Instead, I searched for that simple highway like a hippie in Venusian retrograde. I appeared to be wearing no more than a loincloth.
With no apparently better choice in front of me, I started to hoof it like a diseased cow. Better choices, which were also no doubt far out there among the more distant galaxies of the multiverse, still eluded me.
I remained, though, above all, bogged down, semi-disabled, solidly bereft, and verifiably still on shaky ground. These were some of the many mitigating factors that in combination would allow me to reliably plead ignorance at a later date. It was either that or plead guilty. The tawny owl gave me good advice in that regard. He coached me through the harrowing days that followed that first sharp knock on the door. Unless, it was the second knock that did it. The one that knocked me down.
The tawny owl would tell me days later that it was not much past that point when I began to be stalked by a mountain lion who was at first only curious. That was still when my biggest worry was poison oak. The mountain lion, as it turned out, lost interest when I began to scream in vain after I tumbled into the second ravine of the evening, deeper than the first, although that had a lot more to do with the skunk than me.
It only began to occur to me when a few stray moles started to nip at my heels that my calculations of progress did not include the fact that in all the hills, valleys, and crags of the Santa Cruz Mountains, humans in any number were the main enemy of one and all. In nature, all straight lines are an illusion. Forward marching, too. The wild pigs in particular scared the crap out of me. Likely, I zigged when I should have zagged. It did not matter one whit that I believed I was better than that, or could be.
It was a matter of near fact, then, and no small conjecture, that when I approached my front door twenty nine hours later, sagging with exhaustion like a milk laden tit, I was a disgrace to the evolution of all species.
I thought, though, that I had made it like a banana slug in the shade when I was greeted, sort of, by the yin twin who shares my house on an ongoing, if somewhat irregular, basis. Despite the darkness that had returned, she met me at the door. Oddly though, in my disemboweled state, it seemed as if she was blocking my way. Much unlike her yang brother, she had always been the empathetic side of the see-through cellophane package in which the tween twins are wrapped. She has never to my knowledge begrudged me my ability to eat, breathe, and take up space.
But this time, she looked at me and said, “Ewww.”
Reasonably, I said, “Shit sort of happens sometimes.”
She said, “You’re supposed to answer your phone. It’s the law.”
“I was lost and bereft in the middle of nowhere.”
“Well, don’t be.”
“It wasn’t planned.”
“Your nose looks all puffed up and crooked. It’s gross.”
I said, “I guess I’d better have a look.”
She said, “Not yet. Right now, you’re in big trouble.”
“When did you get here and how much do you know?”
“Mom dropped us off yesterday. She’s talking to her lawyers about it.”
“She had an appointment.”
“Where’s your brother?”
“He went to Taqueria Vallarta.”
“On a school night?”
“Where did he get the money? He spends all of his money as soon as he gets his hands on it.”
“He stole the money from me.”
“I’ll pay you back.”
“When is he coming home?”
“Probably when he’s full.”
That’s when the chitchat came to its logical demise and the deep shit began to sink in. Woefully, I repeated, “Oh shit.”
Wisely, she said, “Yeah.”
I groaned, “Which lawyer?”
“Which one do you think? The mean one.”
The mean one was the reincarnation of a python from Fujian province equipped with fangs that oozed an opaque effluvium that smelled like Clorox. She lived in San Francisco with an Italian sex slave who married her because he was scared out of his silly worsted pants. He cooked for her, scraped for her, wiped for her, filed her writs, and sucked up the dregs from her ritual baths that featured copious bleeding. It mattered to no one when his dick shriveled until it resembled a cotton swab.
Because I had no better response, I repeated, “Oh shit.”
The yin twin said, “I think you don’t know the half of it yet.
I responded, “I’ve been through hell and back.”
She reminded me, “You’re not the only one.”
“But, now I’m back.”
“Don’t be so sure.”
“I’m not sure, not really, you know me. But, why not?”
“Turn around and see what’s coming up the road.”
The first forest ranger emerged spryly from his official government issued car. He was in pretty good shape. I assumed he was armed and dangerous. The official car was duly dark and gas guzzling. I’m not sure which government it came from. I recognized him as a stand-up paddle boarder who most week-ends pissed off the territorial surfers at Pleasure Point. He knocked sharply on my door. This was despite the fact that I was standing there in front of him. At first, I did not precisely respond. But now that I am able with a clear head to look backwards, knowing that the unmentionable end is finally near, for which no one is more grateful than I could ever be, I can see that it was the second knock that did it.