MARCH 9, 2014
MR. HOWITZER GETS KNOCKED OUT
So anyway, everybody loses an hour of sleep, of rest, of their lives due to the DST change thing. Old Gaia sits there on the rickety porch of the world. Now is the time when Gaia tilts her weathered face creased with valleys, arroyos, hills, deserts, plains, mesas, continents and the liquid seas of her deep dark eyes toward a direct gaze at her son, Phoebus Apollo riding in his bright chariot as she sits and rocks ever so slowly in the ticking wicker chair, the folds of the quilted Universe draped across her lap, the rocking becoming the dance of Shiva, the creaking rails marking the ever ceaseless count of time's advance, ticking each second, each century, from the first moment of creation until that rocking chair comes to the moment of that last terrible motionless silence.
Some people confused by Astrological hoodoo believe in this day and age the season warms as the earth spins closer to the sun -- nothing could be further from that deception, unless it be the foolish nonsense of Mercury Retrograde, the classic illusion, for nothing moves with surer purpose than the planets.
As Gaia turns her face toward the light, her ravined face gradually warms with measured steps, quickening life from the once barren soil, stirring dull roots with Spring rain, and everything is precisely where it needs to be right at this moment while Phoebus Apollo charges across the firmament like any boy enthralled with hot rods all bedecked with gleaming chrome. O Phoebus, you scamp!
How this plays out on the Island: the increase of daylight causes the soil and pavements to steam upward, making the air heavy with moisture. Tiny creatures emerge, much as the ancients believed, from insensate matter. Spiders collect in great numbers, ants boil from the floor mouldings, birds erupt from bony trees and the smaller mammals pad about like middle-aged men in morning bathrobes, hunting for cups of coffee or nuts.
Because of the recent overcast weather all the trees are still stark, scratching black limbs against the pearl gray sky.
It being that time of year before Realtors engage in the feeding frenzy of Spring in an area where modest cottages now go easily for three-quarter of a million dollars, Mr. Howitzer made his annual trip out to Colma to visit there the grave of his dear, departed, goddamned mother.
Mr. Howitzer's approach to sentiment of any kind was to kick the wretched animal to the door if feelings did not depart after suitable hints of being unwelcome. This had done him well in business, but had not offered much in the way of family community, and now, after 150 years, the present occupier of the Howitzer mansion, last of a long line of Howitzers who first stormed over the Sierra ramparts in 1849 to rob the Californios and slaughter the Native Americans and in so doing establish a dynasty, now occupied the family hall as Solus Rex, or so they say in chess, save for his manservant, the regretfully loyal Dodd, who departed the place in haste each evening he was allowed, so as to enjoy the warm comforts and sanity of his home and Mrs. Dodd.
There at Colma, Mr. Howitzer cleared the weeds around the mausoleum with its curious inscription, "Here Lieth Abigail Howitzer, 1902-1986, Thank God!" and threw stones at the crows that seemed to delight in gathering in large murders about that particular spot.
It happened to be on March 5th, which is for the Roman Catholics an Ash Wednesday, the beginning of a time of fasting, breast beating and gnashing of teeth before it all cuts loose in a big party called Carnival where everyone has sex with one another.
Mr. Howitzer was hurling stones with such vigor, after actually knocking down a very large raven to his great satisfaction, that one rock glanced off of a pillar that was part of the Eunice Mimblefoot Memorial to Wayward Endeavor. The ricochet came back and knocked Mr. Howitzer flat on his back. There he was when Father Richard Danyluk came along with some gravediggers after officiating the funeral of Senor Gustavo Orellano.
The gravediggers, named Sal and Nick, were uncertain as to whether Mr. Howitzer was dead or not, as this being a massive graveyard the size of a small city, dead seemed very likely although the disposition of the body was not regular. Usually they dropped the stiffs off in some sort of container.
Colma, although quiet and somewhat restful under the flight path of SFO, did not present itself as ideal place to take a nap.
They wondered if he had fallen off the wagon on the way to the embalmers, but Nick had the opinion the man looked fairly well pickled already. In the end, they decided to let him lay there and let nature or Administrative procedure take its course.
Father Danyluk decided to administer last rites, and to cover all options, also did the Ash Wednesday thing, figuring that it couldn't hurt as cremation had become all the rage now that land was so dear.
The three of them then went on their way and had beer at the local pub before the priest drove back to the Island, figuring that if the man were dead, someone would arrive to collect him and pay someone to put him properly in the ground.
Mr. Howitzer eventually roused himself and drove back across the Dunbarton to the East Bay where he encountered curious looks and a significant amount of respect and fear that he had longed for these many years, as wherever he went he presented a forehead clearly marked with an ashen cross. Those who knew anything of the staid man, expressed astonishment.
At the corner of Park and Encinal, the Wee Man emerged from the shadows to take out a conductor's baton, which he used to direct an invisible orchestra in a stately contredance.
As the notorious landlord walked along Park Street, Lionel, dropping a dollar into the box of the old Chinese Pie-Pah player, looked up startled to see the mark of the cross, allowing the dollar to waft away down the pavement where it attracted the eye of Imbecilla Cupcake, who ran after it, knocking against the deliveryman carting cases of cola to Javarama. The deliveryman cursed as several cans rattled loose to spill onto the pavement and roll across the street.
Mike Goughassian, shouldering a length of lumber, came out of El Tomato and dodged a rolling can with his lumber swinging a wide arc that nearly brained Lynette walking along with Susan and their bicycles.
"Hey!" shouted Lynette angrily, which of course made Mike swing back the other way, neatly clipping Mr. Larch as he walked two of his service dog charges from his business Pushy People Anonymous. The dogs tore loose and ran diagonally across the street. This caused Pahrump riding his scooter to slam on his brakes and skid to a stop. The commotion distracted Eugene Gallipagus driving his Range Rover, causing him to drop the Styrofoam cup of coffee into his lap, which meant that he did not see the figure of Mr. Howitzer bending down to fetch the wayward dollar that had nearly escaped little Imbecilla, who cursed Mr. Howitzer with such vile sailor's language that he paused there, two fingers on the dollar bill, looking up only to see the grill of Eugene's Range Rover just before it struck his face.
"Tadaaaahhhh!", the Wee Man said, triumphantly.
Father Richard Danyluk came along then with Archbishop Mitty from the Basilica of St. Pandy beside, and they joined a small crowd looking down at the figure of Mr. Howitzer. Father Danyluk recognized him immediately as the man from Colma.
"Dear god," said Father Danyluk. "I keep seeing dead people!"
"I saw that movie too," said the Archbishop. "I did not think it was very good."
From far across the water where the gantries of the Port of Oaktown stand glowing with their sentry lights, the long howl of the throughpassing train ululated across the waves of the estuary, the riprap embankments, the grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the former Beltline, keened through the cracked brick of the old abandoned Cannery with its ghosts and weedy railbed, moaned between the interstices of the chainlink fences as the locomotive click-clacked past the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off to parts unknown.
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