The juvenile display of fireworks shot off from the dry hills that ignited the dry grass to celebrate the freedom to drink wan beer from an assembly line that tastes like armadillo piss, and urinate in public on at least one special occasion each year with impunity, burned two hillsides above the public golf course, manzanitas, firs, and live oaks mostly, along with lots of the wild berries enjoyed by adorable yellow warblers, and poison oak. A pair of previously way cool bros from Fresno State ended up taking the fall. The Northern Pygmy owls lost a few good perches but nothing too mightily high. Squirrels fared poorly but that’s what squirrels do. Redwoods remained majestically above it all.
Each hilltop, after removal by heavy equipment, had been regally festooned with a rustic themed McMansion featuring a vast artificial lawn, pastel stucco siding, and views of the on-ramps leading to Silicon Valley. Turrets stuck out from the angled roof lines in bold, contrasting colors. In both cases, the stucco became singed before the fire department gained the upper hand. One side turned pink, the other puce. The lawns coagulated and melted before turning the tainted hue of melba toast. What lessons could be extracted from that? Subliminal aesthetic conditioning or nature versus nurture? The identical custom floor plans came from a cutting edge cookie cutter design developed in the eighties, derived by Famous Amos or Mrs. Fields most likely, when fistfuls of cocaine were exchanged up the good ol’ yin-yang divide, and skinny Nancy Reagan in her little red dress just pouted, “No.” Only documents buried in the county planning department could explain for sure. Two firemen were felled by fumes of an unidentifiable nature in the process. Illicit chemical agents are suspected. Aren’t they always to blame? Original blueprints if they still exist might help settle the issue one way or the other. One fireman bit his tongue. No questions were taken by responsible parties. No shit neither. Unless those turrets were machine gun emplacements that blended in deftly with the post-modern decor for the purpose of self-defense. An investigation would proceed accordingly at a later date.
But, first things first.
I was maintaining a constant lookout for the fallout of spreading smoke symptomatic to the season, because that’s a large part of what I do with chronic irregularity, observe the maddening progress of destruction from a considered distance. In that way, I’ve been able to locate a shifty pattern of toxic clusters with some accuracy. That in theory gives me plenty of time and opportunity to flee in disarray when the time is ripe. That might be considered a big if by some, but I’m pretty used to it. Without the if and the then where would we ever end up?
The yang twin joined me briefly on the redwood deck to fake shallow contemplation about habitat degradation, before asking for money. He said, “It stinks.”
I said, “You said it.”
He said, “I need some money.”
“Where are you going?”
“A little more than the usual will do.”
“How are you going to get there?”
“You’ll take me.”
He was right. He is right like that more often than would appear altogether healthy. I’m still waiting for the symptoms to disappear. I’ve been waiting for longer than would appear altogether healthy. My skin is developing spots in the interim. There is a red rash thriving on the left side of my scrotum. The spots appear alternatively right in front of my eyes. To decipher the message, I just follow the bouncing balls as they expand. Unless those are clusters.
Helpfully, he added, “After you buy me a car, you won’t have to take me everywhere anymore.”
I said, “I’m looking forward to that.”
He said, “Only three and a half more years.”
I dropped him off at the Pacific Ocean straight ahead. Reliably, it starts where the frontier once ended. No more trees and animals left to burn, so what else remains to be done but dive bomb fish and harness the rip tide to power dead meat processing? When I turned back around, which required a left turn, a left turn, and another left turn, due to traffic controls operated by a sequence of least common denominators, the smoke was rising like an army of grubs, and I was stewing in the heat, replacing consciousness with a void. Unless that first left turn was a right cross, and I walked right into it.
I thought heavily while I was still down and counting, but rising up, not out, and not for the first time, if I don’t recognize and acknowledge where I came from by naming names and spilling beans, then how do I get away? But, then again, I considered soberly, where was that at, and was that really me hanging out in the dry heat, and heaving? Wasn’t that where I was taught by rote how to hold my tongue when I spoke and stick it out while I kissed my ass good-bye for good? And yet, if I am trying to attain higher consciousness, which I am, in theory, sort of, then isn’t it better to step past the shadow lurking behind and grasp at all flexible straws?
Unless those measly grubs are really fully formed worms yearning to slip and slide in their own muck, and breathe shallow, and free?
I try to look forward to emerging trends in etymology to provide evolutionary clues behind the smokescreen that appears in certain artificial lights to suggest continuity. Take, for example, the now widely used advancement in singular nouns, douchebag, not to be confused with douche, derived from the more general, asshole, and less so, dick and jerk-off, an obvious relation to jerk in numerous prior iterations, and before that, scoundrel, and knave, dating all the way back to a bunch of jolly olde fellow douchebags with new swords and guns and explosives that chopped, and slivered, and minced, and branded new cuts of meat that required new nouns for buying and selling.
Surely, every douchebag who ever lived had to believe profoundly in the pits of his bowels that the rest of the mutts in the pack were a bunch of runts and his was the snarkiest dick in the litter. How else would it work? Edited evidence of hearsay faultlessly provides all the proof every douchebag needs to be objectively correct. Without belief, what’s left, facts? In the historic game of us against them, the other side is always wrong, by definition, period. Why ask why? Why cross a street when you only need to look to the other side? Pointing fingers is the easy part.
When I arrived at the cliff later that afternoon to retrace my steps, the yang twin was busily engaged in the interpersonal behaviorism that epitomized the maturation process of his gender. He, along with his presumed peers, were engaged in meaningful communication. Commonly, wild savages require bones for gnawing. Boys hold tight to this crazy ass adage about boys being boys. It was penned by a couple of real douchebags.
“Fuck you,” I heard. The voice sounded familiar. Well, yeah, like…duh, I thought. Remember, why ask why? Then I heard, in addition, “Fuck you first, you fucking douchebag.” Then, in a swiftly melodic libretto, other morsels of enlightened free speech included, “knob, kook, fuckwad, dickwad, dickass, and dildo.”
Dutifully, I parked on a steep grade and curbed my wheels. It appeared as if the sun was retreating but I assumed with confidence that was an illusion.
When the yang twin finally came to acknowledge my existence long enough to stow his surfboard and finish muttering under his fetid breath about the breach in surf etiquette from clueless wannabe vals who need to go back to the valley and suck their smog where they belong, I commented, “Nice mouth.”
“The dexterity with the highly expressive language you demonstrated.”
He said, “Oh, that.”