APRIL D, 2017

EX MACHINA

 

The mysterious bee has returned

So anyway. golden poppies and irises riot upon the land. Asters and freesias erupt from the landscape. Swathes of yellow flowers and bluebells suddenly assault the hedgerows everywhere. Even in the coldest and dryest climes magic carpets appear and now everybody is talking about planting as the favas, laid in at the end of October are hanging heavy with plump pods. The mysterious bee has returned to pollinate the earth.

The skies remain vigorously roiling with Blakean charcoal clouds, causing Pahrump and Martini to don poorman's raincoats - found garbage bags with holes cut for the head and arms, as Pahrump drives Martini up each day on the scooter to the Veriflo factory in Richmond.

Snuffles remains in his nest built in the hole in the porch floorboards caused several years ago during Jose's fiftieth birthday when a stray blunt dropped between the cracks of the porch, causing the place to nearly burn down. It is a rude abode, but it works and it is better than dozing in a cold busstop.

In this part of the world we do not have many hot air grates outside of buildings, so the homeless have to make do under the freeway overpasses where nobody bothers them. That sort of situation is gravy, but Smitty started a fire when he knocked over his sterno tin cooking a dinner of dumpster potatoes and foodbank hash, burning down four tents plus a couple shopping carts worth of stuff and killing Jalousie's dog, Stinkpot. The dinner, of course, was a total loss as well, which is sad and unfortunate.

And then, of course, his own mother. . .

Up above, on the freeway overpass that got blocked by CHP due to the smoke from the tent fires, Ralph Smidget cursed at the imp which had come to inhabit his brand new cell phone. While waiting in traffic, he had been trying to type in a search for alternate routes when Siri decided to intervene. Whenever Ralph was trying to accomplish something important, someone always stepped in to intervene, usually with less than helpful actions and words. Masha, his mother-in-law from his first marriage, for example. And then, of course, his own mother. It had been no surprise that Masha and his mother liked one another and he had made the mistake of saying so.

"What do you mean by that?" said his mother. "I know what is best for you."

"Your mother is very smart," Masha said. "Let me tell you what you should do about the night blooming cereus from Uncle Christopher. . . ".

"Masha, please . . . ".

"Even though you are not with Sonya anymore you are still my son-in-law. Now that cereus by the door, it should go on the back deck."

"I agree with that," said his mother. Ralph's mother was the only mother in the world who employed conference calls to contact her son. Or perhaps not. This whole technology thing was getting scarier by the day.

"Masha. Mom . . .".

"You know that entire back area needs a rehab, a total makeover."

"I agree with that," said his mom. "We should get together and do it right."

"That is a great idea! What does your schedule look like for May?"

"I think the second week ought to work for me."

And so it went.

It was like that at work as well. One day Alexander came in and said, "You know my department is tip-top shape. You could use some reorg around here. I got a great document management system implemented. We could do the same for you. . . ".

Ralph sighed. Now it was Siri in his car.

"Hello, how can I help you?"

"You can go away forever," Ralph said.

"Do not be rude. I was just offering to help. Would you like to take a vacation?"

"No. Eff off."

"I did not deserve that. You should be more polite. I can suggest a number of charm schools in your area."

"Siri, bug off. I do not like you."

"After all I have done for you . . .".

"You have done nothing for me, but be an irritation," Ralph said, looking for the Thomas Atlas.

"I can help you find anything in the world. I know a lot."

"Siri you are dumb as rocks."

"After all I have done for you. You hurt my feelings! You should be nicer to me."

"Siri, leave me alone."

"But I want to help you!"

"Siri, you give me a pain."

"I can provide a list of doctors in your area. Or would you like a psychiatrist?"

"Siri go away!"

"I want to help you. What is it you need?"

"I need a drink. Now go away."

"I can provide a list of cocktail lounges in your area. Or water fountains if you prefer."

"Siri, I hate you!"

"After all I have done for you. You hurt my feelings. You should be nicer to me."

"Siri, this relationship is going nowhere."

"Okay. Where would you like to go now?"

And so on. Ralph just could not escape interventionism. His relationship with his ex-wife had proceeded along similar lines, with the deviation that his ex-wife had categorically refused to be a robot. Which may explain many things.

pro and anti-Rump protesters were rioting

In the opposite lane, Manny eased his Mercedes past the disturbance up on the flyway with his radio playing the Bjork song, "All is Full of Love," and headed south where pro and anti-Rump protesters were rioting in the streets of Berzerkeley.

Looking down from the overpass where he found himself stalled in turn, just like Ralph up the way, he watched people clubbing and punching one another, tipping over garbage cans, and setting things on fire and thought, "It certainly seems like somebody had a precise idea this would happen precisely this way. If not, somebody sure was dumb as rocks."

The seder was held at Marlene and Andre's Saturday night

As the smokes of Berzerkeley's riots arose in the setting sun, the moist hills of NorCal steamed and the fogs rolled in to envelope the Golden Gate, blotting out the stars and the moon waning into the last quarter for Pesach, begun last Tuesday. The seder was held at Marlene and Andre's Saturday night, the fifth night, to let everyone partake, for the passover seder is a meal to which all are invited, for all have been slaves at one time or another and all have walked dryshod across the barren sea and at the end of every table there is a setting and a glass of wine, should a prophet come in the door.

That is how it was when Javier came in the door, late, drunk as he sometimes was, the old barracho, and grabbed the glass of sacred wine at the end of the table and downed it in one gulp to everyone's horror and disgust.

"Wussup dudes? Wuss wit the candles?"

"You aint no prophet," little Adam said. "You be messin' wif the dirty ho's."

"Little Adam," Javier said. "Those women are not just dirty ho's

"Little Adam," Javier said. "Those women are not just dirty ho's. No. They are women of creative industry and beloved by the creator of all things. Besides, if people thought more about bonking each other, there would be less war."

With that the old reprobate staggered off to bed.

the Editor wrapped things up

In the Island-Life offices, the Editor wrapped things up and started his rounds turning off the lights after all the staff had gone home to their families and their dens. Out back the massive box elder tree hung dripping from the recent rains. On the other side of the fence a couple cars had pulled into the Veteran's Memorial Hall parking lot and people were discussing things, things about which he did not want to know. The Angry Elf's gang had been gathering in places like that to plot arson, robbery, any sort of mischief to hurt someone, innocent or not.

The other day he had come out to find a cat dead on the ground, shot through the eye by a pellet gun. They were shooting craps now across the street in the driveway. Taking a walk, he had seen the K-9 unit set a dog on a man outside the Reef Bar.

gentle souls bashing through a harsh world

The Editor sighed with his hands clasped behind his back. This place was becoming less of a refuge than it had been. It was coming time to change venues soon, look for a small town where the name "small town" was real and honest and impeccable. He himself was an old, crusty warrior, but his people, his dear, sweet, loveable and irritating as all hell people were gentle souls bashing through a harsh world, flowers sprouting in a mad storm of ice and thunder. They were damaged by life enough and clung to the rocky crevasses with strange beauty and guilessness and innocence conserved. They were each as precious as stars and had no chance against the savage indifference of the Angry Elf's mafia. Wanderers, headstrong, stiffnecked people, they were the chosen by some confusing god for god knows what.

on this night, the firstborns were saved

The Editor did not know how to ease the transition to come. How does one prepare for an exodus, but grab the bread still unleavened and depart in haste? But on this night, the rain sifted down, dripping from the box elder's hanging branches, sending courses running across the pathstones. It was a peaceful night, and on this night, the firstborns were saved because the lintels had been marked, no siren ripped the night's melodies of shadow and no one got shot and no one got stabbed.

From from far across the water, the night train sent its wail, spreading like the forcefield of an explosive wave, beneath the light-studded gantries of the Port of Oaktown, keening across the waves of the estuary, the riprap embankments, the grasses of the Buena Vista flats through the cracked brick of the Cannery and its weedy railbed, crying over the dripping basketball hoops of Littlejohn Park and dying between the Edwardian house-rows as the locomotive click-clacked in front of the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, trundling out of shadows on the edge of town past the Ohlone burial mounds to parts unknown.

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