APRIL 6, 2014

LARRY AND DEATH

 

So anyway, a dockwalloper set in, perhaps the last one of the year until Fall, leaving the entire place drenched in cold water and putting off that Endless Summer everybody talks about. All the residents at Marlene and Andre's Household have been fussing and fighting in the cramped quarters of bunkbeds and people sleeping on floors and Occasional Quentin sleeping under the coffee table and for everybody it has been a long, hard winter, a time of privation and denial and annoyance.

Larry took a walk out on the mudflats during the lowtide to dig for geoduck with his dog Incontinence. The mudflats are a good place to go walk a dog, especially one with a name like that. Larry did not bring a scooper or a plastic bag and his dog, a basic schnauzer, ran happily about chasing sand crabs and plashing through the tidepools.

The island hard-pack mudflats extend a good two hundred yards out into the Bay when its low tide. Beyond the shelf there the water drops abruptly. They are caused by currents slowed coming around the point and by a sense of general indolence in this part of the world where so much settles due to inertia and lack of impulse.

Larry was out there a good while, filling his bucket with the evasive long-necked clams as the light began to fade and after a good hour of chasing one difficult fellow with his shovel he looked up to find himself on a sandbar as the tide came in. Incontinence was nowhere to be found.

"Hey!" He called out. "Hey! You Pisser, where you got off to?"

He looked about for his dog and switched on his pocket torch, but the animal had vanished. He went out a bit further and saw the incoming water and then went back to see that a strip of water now separated himself from the rest of the mudflats. There was nothing for it but to get wet -- he was all soiled from the digging anyway, and so he marched into the water with his bucket and his shovel. Of course he sunk right down in the softened sand and spilled his bucket and lost his shovel and fell right over besides. Now geoduck, lacking arms, legs and any other appendages, tend not to move fast, but each clam represented a few hours of work digging and so Larry was much put out as he scrambled to recover what he could in the fading light, snagging those long-necked critters who flailed away with no desire to be eaten by Larry or anybody else for that matter.

By the time he had recovered his damn shovel and his bucket of clams, the water was coming in fast and he still stood a good 150 yards from shore, separate by decreasing islands of packed sand and broad bands of dark salt water.

He scrambled out of there and moved along a sand bar to the next passage of water, through which he bulled his way onto another sandbar that seemed to arc out away from shore, but get close to another one which stood a better chance of getting back in. He could angle in along this one, but the pool there shone black with reflections of the shorelights and this way did not look so good as the first.

So he ambled out the far way and when he got there, this way did not look promising at all, for the incoming water made a foam by its rush there and the shore lights shone bright on the water with no sign of depth and so he decided to head back the first way. Naturally by the time he had zigzagged back the way he had come and found the narrowest spot, the strait had widened. He stood looking at this problem and at the half dozen problems that lay beyond it and as he stood there the water came up and filled his shoes.

He sloshed through this with the water coming up to his waist, his bucket and shovel held high and climbed up onto another sandbar. He went out far to the left where it got dark and he could not see the end of the bar or where the crossing would be, then returned to the right, where he again stood for a moment regarding the crossing with his shovel and his bucket and the thought occurred to him, perhaps he should just drop the bucket and the shovel right now for the situation was getting quite serious. He was still 80 yards from shore and the water was making the little sandbars disappear all around him.

Is he the Minister who rides a motorcycle?

It accord to him that he might die there as the tide came in, just like those people in Maylasian Flight 370, and just like them with no more say in the matter. It's all like that. One day you are out digging for clams and the next you are nowhere to be found and there are people sitting in some church basement sipping really bad coffee with execrable bunt cake to have with it and they are talking about you.

He saw a figure coming towards him, and as the figure moved easily, Larry assumed that it must be dry or very shallow over there so he hustled toward the figure only to plow into water that came up to his knees. There was a settling as the loose sand under the water boiled a bit and sucked him down to his thighs.

The figure stood in front of him and now Larry could see that the figure stood on the water as if on pontoons and shore lights shone translucently through his robed body.

"Hey, could you help me out here, whoever you are?"

Well Larry, the figure said with a raspy voice. Are you ready to come with me now? There is no return from that place, you know.

"Well, uh, I was kinda hoping to get back tonight and feed the rest of the dogs."

I dislike equivocation.

"Well, you know you're not offering exactly a clear vision yourself, buster," Larry said.

Well then, I will show you, said the figure. Quite suddenly Larry was in the Annex of the Immanuel Church, looking down on some people. There was a coffin sitting there in the corner and in the alcove there stood jugs of cola and a large tray of ham and cheese sandwiches. People were talking in normal voices

"Well who do you think got the dog?" O that dog? I suppose they took it to the pound. Well what about his truck? I think the family sold that. No they gave that to the Immanuel Church for Reverend Bauer. Is he the Minister who rides a motorcycle? I think a truck is more appropriate if you ask my opinion. Well I don't know. He was a queer sort of fellow, if you want my opinion. He was not queer -- wasn't he together with that Linda Light? You know -- the one with the hair? O don't know anything about that -- I think they were just business partners, if you know what I mean. What happened to the curtains I want to know. Who brought in the sandwiches, I would like to know. Was that Looney's BBQ? I do with one of those right now.

They did not talk about his mountain climbing or the time he had survived that plane crash in the jungles of Ecuador. They did not talk about his years of dedicated work at the the firm of Crimson Assurance, LTD or his courageous decision to set out on his own as an entrepreneur by starting up a novel kind of business, a business that turned out to be very creative and successful. They did not talk about any of that.

You see, said the Figure, that is the way it is when you die. People don't care about you or your feelings or all the things you did. As if they ever. They care about what you own and whether they stand to get any of it and all about the ham and cheese sandwiches in the next room.

This so distressed Larry that he gave a mighty cry and he thrust himself horizontal on the water to free his legs and then he used his shovel to wade forward across the water to remaining sandbars where he charged toward shore with his shovel held before him like a lance barging through the incoming water until he got to the beach and there found Incontinence waiting patiently with a look that said, "Ok, now we go home and I get something to eat and I will sleep at the foot of the bed as usual.

The terrible thing about facing death is that nothing really changes. Nobody really gives a flat flying damn and life goes on as usual, indifferently as if you were not there ever to begin with. The tide comes in, the sandbars vanish as usual, the lights reflect upon the water. The dog barks.

On the way back, instead of a case of beer, Larry bought a bottle of Old Bushmills and, the first thing he did on entering his apartment was pour himself a glass, much to the distress of his dog, who whined in front of his supper dish.

The glass of liquid in his hand looked golden by the light of the kitchen lamp and the aroma of smoky peat bogs wafted from there -- or his salt-sodden clothes. There is good reason they call it the "Water of Life", for the sure fire that descends reminds us that Life is no cakewalk and desire comes with a burning that destroys all that came before. One is alive for now in this moment -- there is not another moment to waste.

He made a mental note to talk about this with Padraic at the first opportunity.

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 like the ban sé 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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