I followed a white cat known for his treachery who I suspected of stalking beautiful birds, keeping my wary head up in the deep forest. His provocative tail swished like a ten dollar whore in five inch fuck-me pumps. It was surprising how well white blended in with so much green. I was learning that my role as a traitor to my species in the war against human enablers of treacherous cats who murder beautiful birds was taking its toll on my deep breathing. I stayed back, preparing to pounce, and only lost him when I recoiled from a cluster of poison oak. Rampant treachery is endemic to venal cats everywhere, but this white cat wore perfume behind his ears as a disguise. Unless the sneaky cat was in fact off-white. The diversionary scent was supplied to him by a clique of human enablers who with great pride refused to evolve beyond toddler stage. And forthrightly so claimed an off-key refrain printed on wrinkled papyrus. As paradigms, many had soft gray hair, screw-in teeth, layers of swaddling cloth, and dim vision under most lighting conditions. They brought him soft food, squeaky toys, fake fangs. Sternly, they ruled straight lined notebooks with compassion. Eyeglasses dangled from lanyards around necks that looked like crepe paper. They trapped beautiful birds in mesh and nets. They thought his fur was so cute. Plus, there was that alleged whiteness hard at work.
The road back, on which I tried to cut no more than the usual corners, threw me for more than one fucking loop. How many is always hard to say. I won’t say that I became lost in the woods, which implies being found at some point, in a clearing of some sort, coming or going, but I did.
I came upon four Norteno drug dealers completing a ritualistic finger banging covenant that signified deep commitment I turned away when they started picking scabs. They posed and flexed behind the thick stump of a felled redwood tree and eyed me suspiciously. I realized my red shirt that theoretically camouflaged blood stains was a mistake. I should never have tried it on. It wasn’t even that clean. Unless they were Surenos. And it was the dirty blue Levi’s that set the wrong tone for the setting.
I did not know that the tawny owl was watching me from a redwood tree on the meandering trail leading to the epicenter of the Loma Prieta earthquake best known for interrupting the Bay Area World Series of 1989 between the San Francisco Giants and Oakland A’s, and that he was not surprisingly laughing his ass off.
Later, he said, “That white cat was playing you for a fool.”
“I thought I knew what I was doing.”
“And where I was going.”
“Same old same.”
“A man’s got to start somewhere.”
“You might as well be blind.”
“I’m just saying.”
The tawny owl relayed supplemental directions designed to keep me from stepping too deeply in my own way that other animals know from near birth, having efficient access to all that came before, unlike humans who start from scratch in the dirt every time a kerplunk gets plopped. Neither of us was surprised by what became lost in transmogrification, however. How was I was supposed to know, for example, that straight lines not only don’t exist but lead nowhere, not only when bisected by darts, ploys, thrusts, parries, and arrows, which is where most traffic gets directed, other than from where I ended up?
The tawny owl said, “You’ve been lost here before.”
I said, “I thought it looked familiar.”
He said, “That’s not what I said.”
In the chill Pacific Ocean, on those days when I would search for the humpback whale who appeared to be light taupe, unless he was in fact more accurately dark ecru on the eternal color wheel, just to clear the air between us, nothing too heavy, I could not keep my directions straight any better. Especially when the humpback whale did not wish to be found, which seemed to be all of the time, at least by me. So is that my fault, too? I have heard admissable hearsay evidence hinting that no matter how deep and wide all of the oceans appear to be in their current phase, they’re not big enough for the both of us. But, I have to believe that’s a bit much to swallow. The Wild West is behind us. I’m no danger. I can see the cliffs crumbling at the edge each time I turn my head back.
Previously, I have passed through windows while flailing, fallen from narrow ledges, groveled in dirt, improvised, compromised, passed out, woke up, somewhere, nowhere, which turned into somewhere else. I never failed to breathe, though not deeply. It all looked familiar, sort of.
I have to assume that the real reason the humpback whale laughs his blubbery ass off is because he’s only joking. It is a little known fact among humans, who laugh so little, that most animals are laughing most of the time. Especially animals who possess asses that are so accommodating.
I know my ass is basically good for nothing. It contributes little. It stays put when I laugh out loud. It sags. For no known reason, it has big expectations. Big fucking deal.
According to the tawny owl, humans became lost as a species when our tails dropped off so precipitously. Without a settling tail what happens to all balance? Without a dynamic tail where is the inspiration for thrust? Beautiful birds clucked over it back in the day a million years ago.
The tawny said, often, “It’s a wonder you don’t fall on your useless ass every time you sneeze. You have no way to stay stable and reduce drag. If it wasn’t for the inspiration of rhythm and blues as a booster engine you’d be crawling back on all fours where you belong.”
Without a tail there can be no lift. With no lift, how do you get high? You don’t, that’s how. What’s left? Breathing? Fucking? Pronouns? Protein? Sugarfat content? A sagging ass. Big expectations? A big fucking deal?
I said, “Don’t you think that the word ‘useless’, in combination with the term ‘ where you belong’ constitutes much too strong of an indictment?”
“Sounds about right to me.”
The tawny owl has seen me fall precisely on my ass not only due to a mind altering sneeze, but due to ennui, overreach, vertigo, revolution, bifurcation, dyspepsia, dysphasia, and counterrevolution. I’ve heard tall tales of balance in the abstract but I’ve never seen it believably up close, live, real, and in person, on hard ground.
“Without balance, you might as well go back and try to start all over again in the ocean.”
I spent every day during the week after Halloween while the tween twins resided with their mother looking for the humpback whale who at last sighting appeared certainly to be light taupe, unless I’m all wrong again, and he was absolutely as a matter of fact dark ecru. I wriggled into my wet suit and used a boat, a kayak, a boogie board, a paddle board, and makeshift fins, all to no avail.
Oddly, when I did finally see him again I was standing on my own two feet, on solid ground, sort of. I was walking on the beach at Rio Del Mar when a rogue wave overwhelmed the thinning stretch of sand and knocked me on my silly, useless ass once again. The tide was not only high. It seemed way out of bounds. Was this the way it was going to be? Pushing back? I struggled mightily to my wet feet. Maybe I was the one who was out of bounds. There was an embedded message in the tide that was up to me to decipher. I looked up to see the humpback whale only fifty yards from shore. He was watching me with one crusty eye the size of a medium mushroom pizza. I was getting a vibe. I was pretty sure he was laughing his ass off. Then he deftly turned like a ballerina and showed me his tail. Then he slapped it hard on the surface of the water. A cold spray shot up like a sputnik. When it came down, I found myself all wet all over again. I remember thinking, distinctly, whoa, fucking whoa.
Was a that a warning, a threat, a promise, a prediction? Was the primordial ooze at the bottom of the sea off limits, too? Am I not part of the same crust and muck and dust? Isn’t that where I came from long before I came out of Africa? If I can’t get high, and I can’t get deep, where do I go to go back or get going?
And I still don’t see how it’s my fault. And certainly not why.
Just as I turned around, and ready to return with my ass dragging, from where I don’t know, though I have strong if not justifiable suspicions, some less attractive than many others, I heard, “There is no distance that can’t be breached.”
Well, yeah, sure, I thought. But, still.