It started with a few small fish short of a billion anchovies. Momentum can shift just like that, oddly. Though small, the anchovies packed a powerful wallop when engineered into a vast odorific ball. Monterey Bay was percolating with a rare biochemistry as the sun paused in profile before finishing up its local chores for the day. It was no surprise that more than the usual crowd gathered to frolic and gorge. There were white and brown pelicans diving into the vortex, off course boobies, common cormorants, sandpipers, egrets, herons, gulls, terns. Clumsy humans were left standing at the edge to gawk. They had arrived uninvited due to word of mouth while the cliffs beneath them crumbled. Unless that was rare a bio-engineering. A trail of vapors on the surface that looked like an ancient asp was wriggling to achieve lift-off. Dolphins came just for the fun of it, although of course they ate too. Nothing wrong with that. Sea lions and seals came to enjoy a big dinner, only to suffer role reversal and become a big dinner for some permissively raised adolescent orcas. The naked sky was gashed with cinnamon and cayenne but the earthy scent of the brine added up to one funky stew. Unless those were multiple stews, multiplying, uniting, and dividing. Venus was hanging low in the West like it was about to come in for a landing. Unless the light that was flashing on the eternal color wheel was more like cardamom and coral.
When I crudely broke what I admit amounted to a majestic silence, the tawny owl looked at me in that way of his that is not attractive. I know those looks. Okay, maybe it was one of those empty comments I sometimes feel compelled to make in order to fill an empty space I feel. But, still.
All I had said was,”Did you see how low Venus was hanging last night?”
Sure, in retrospect, maybe it would have been better to say nothing at all. I was looking at Venus when I said it. Sometimes, when synapses pop, it makes that much linear sense, and no more. The tawny owl has had to repeat to me often that every animal including the teeniest simple bug has more awareness of every morning and evening than any human, ever. But, still.
What the tawny owl said, and unnecessarily in my opinion, was, “What result do you get when you extricate a flat and prickly sliver from a vast and complex multidimensional pie?”
I said, “C’mon.”
He said, “You get approximately you.”
“So, nothing is definite then.”
He said, “I gotta go fly now.”
I said, “But, still…”
I know it galls the tawny owl that we have so much in common. We are both derived from the same salty solution, after all, along with the humpback whale, the crustaceans who crawl on the bottom of the sea, and all organisms that exhale. Anchovies, too. Our common origins go way back to the gaseous dust formed by exploding stars. But, whenever I mention it to him in any of my typically glib and insensitive ways, he flies away in a snit.
When the tawny owl flies, he is gone. I too would like to feel how much air is required to achieve such a dynamic antithesis, how much thrust, and kickback, before lift-off. I too would like to decisively defeat inertia. I would like to understand how he never ducks his head, turns away, or asks the question why. For that, I would be thrilled to wear a hat that does not fit just to feel like Willie Mays when it flies away and leaves me behind.
Instead, I returned home to a scheduled dalliance with the formidable brown beer that I brew in my laundry room. The tween twins were soon due to arrive and dominate my semi-consciousness for a week. That meant I had to feed them, favor them, fight them, ferry them across shallow streams. I was required to maintain a semblance of balance, wrestle with inanity, enhance global peace, and hope that no spigots leak, bulbs pop, bones crack, stirs become overly fried. I would neither know where I was going nor how to get there for the duration. I was not new at it and usually did a shitty enough job to rate as passable.
When the yang twin arrived, first through the portal, he said, “What’s that that stinks?”
It was not a question and no reply was expected. He continued, “If that’s for dinner, I’m not having any.” Then he ran out of the back door.
The yin twin entered and dropped her heavy bag. It sounded to me as if something broke. “Where is he?” she asked. After I pointed, she said, “He’s gonna get it.” Before she left, she added, “It reeks like about a billion anchovies in here.”
“A billion of anything reeks,” I replied. “You’d throw up if you smelled a billion dollars.”
As I began to search for the right knife to start slicing and dicing innocent vegetables I heard impersonations of sheep and donkeys from below my open window. I don’t know which tween was which even now. Comedy is often cruel. The word dude was spoken to mean asshole, dimwit, get real, whatever. The word whatever was spoken to mean fuck you, as if, and omg. The yin twin dripped with disdain like molten Hershey’s syrup. It is not true that a yin can’t get cocky. The yang twin tried hard to pretend he was always on the winning side. It did not matter to him if he was wrong. I could picture the yang twin as a donkey, but not a lamb.
Then, “You always think you’re so right.”
“So do you.”
“So does everybody.”
“So don’t blame me.”
When I found what used to be the right knife, the blade was broken off. Neither tween had squealed like an oinker on the other. No matter what, I was the outsider here.
Finally, the yin twin declared, “Just because no one agrees with you…”
The yang twin was able to then end it with a resounding, “Whatever, dude.”
I made soup with broccoli, chicken stock, chili peppers, coconut milk, and half-and-half. I had made it before. It never failed to cast a calming spell. The tweens had seemed to understand from the beginning of time that evolution is all about caring for the eggs, though not that their tap dance on the brittle stage was a key. They agreed, however, that the velvety half-and-half was essential.
From the distended bits I have been able to gather from the big bang, from the cracks in the crust that allow eerie gases to escape, from the dinosaurs who had to die to make our sins possible, if not plausible, and from all that I have not been taught about dynamic force and flow, which may be opposites, as well as contradictions, I knew I had choices to make, constantly. I added more chilis, lime juice, and balsamic vinegar, and watched over the pot until the simmer seemed just about right.
Something had to be missing, right. Isn’t it always? If not that, what?
Then I said, “What else do we need?”
“Anything but more of those stinky anchovies.”