AUGUST 27, 2017

SOLAR ECLIPSE

 

So anyway. The major heavenly Event shifted forward on creaky wheels making everybody scurry about with special glasses and homemade cardboard viewers and whatnot. The shadow of the moon drifted in a stately fashion across the sun and the view was all occluded by the seasonal fog. Folks stepped outside from their office cubicles into a gray half-light that was no more dismal than usual. The light faded somewhat and overhead the leaden sky-cover darkened a bit, then got a bit lighter again.

Mr. Howitzer stepped out onto his verandah with a bloody Mary whipped up by Dodd, looked around with disdain, went "Harumph!" and then went back inside to pester the Help about cleaning the jalousie. There was no money in this sort of thing, so it was useless.

the clouds briefly parted up high to reveal what was happening

Tipitina looked out the glassed side of the Embarcadero One and went up in the elevator with coworkers to the roof, where the clouds briefly parted up high to reveal what was happening. People took pictures with their cell phones while the team from floor 29 pointed binoculars at a sheet of paper on the ground so as to avoid burning out their eyes. A few others wore the special drugstore sunglasses and stood around looking like members of Devo.

The shadow sort of edged partly across the sun, leaving a good quarter visible intermittently through the high fog, and then it edged away again and they all went down to their cubicles to return to work.

Beneath the hedges of the College Senor Don Guadalupe Fernando Gustav Erizo peered up at the heavy sky and then returned to his burrow to continue about his basic hedgehog business as usual.

the sea responded to the solar eclipse

Probably the only two individuals who had a clear view of the eclipse were Pedro and Ferryboat as they returned from the fishing grounds out at sea. The boat, El Borracho Perdido, thrummed along the furrows of the waves after the sun had done what it does. As Pedro entered the back end of the big fog bank that moves from sea to shore and back again on a daily basis, the sea responded to the solar eclipse: the sky grew dark and the petrels and gulls began landing on the water surface to tuck in for what they thought to be night and so the sky emptied of bird calls. Surface feeding fish descended to take shelter in the kelp beds and reefs below, but a school of sturgeon swam about in confusion near the surface. The sea took on a deeper aquamarine and turned ebony as the light vanished. Then the boat entered the fog bank where all was muffled and yet resonant with splash and clank of ship's equipment as it was in the early pre-dawn when Pedro set out. Ferryboat stayed quiet in the wheelhouse as the lights from the navigation equipment and radio and Pedro missed his old radio friend, the Lutheran minister who had guided his ship as sure as the stars for the past thirty years.

once you open your mouth, the ears . . . forbid admittance

Pedro had heard the old guy was making nationwide tours, bringing a sort of Lutheran version of a variety show to different cities but it did not look like the man would be coming to sinful Babylon any time too soon. He would have liked to have met the man and talked about fishing, but the Lutheran was retired and Pedro was getting on in years himself and probably the two would have had little to talk about as Pedro still retained a small-town approach to things with his children all raised on the little Island and going to the Church of Our Lady of Incessant Complaint and still married to Mrs. Almeida, the same gal he had met forty-five years ago in Sausalito and so little to add to the knowledge of a world traveler and dignitary of American belles lettres. Mostly, like all quiet men, Pedro liked to listen, for once you open your mouth, the ears seem to forbid admittance, a lesson sometimes harshly learned.

Under leaden skies that had barely lightened after the eclipse Pedro steamed in under the Golden Gate to the docks with the belly of his boat laden with the late summer harvest, bluefin and yellowtail, with several 300 pounders and many destined for the fine sushi establishments in Babylon, the East Bay, and Marin.

On the docks, he spied members of the Angry Elf gang, ranging about and looking for things to steal or damage. Pedro laid his Mossberg 540 on the transom and guided his boat into the mooring slot and the Angry Elf gang stared with angry, shifty, deceitful eyes, scratching meth-induced acne. From their midst he heard the distinctive sound of the one called "the Cackler."

the real estate disease ... had spread

Blue night descended through the shrouded trees and rooftops of the Island as Rolph and Suan returned from yet another excursion in search of better lodgings than the crowded household of Marlene and Andre where 15 souls had sought shelter from the Storm. It seemed the real estate disease that had spread throughout the Bay Area and wrecked and ruined many old neighborhoods all through the Five Counties area and there was little help to be found anywhere. The land-greed and the voracious appetite of the absentee landlords had destroyed one monument after another, broke apart neighborhoods and evicted countless businesses.

Because of the money trap the Hospital had closed its neonatal unit and its gynecology during its desperate effort to remain afloat and independent, so it was no longer possible to be born on the Island. There soon would no longer be native born Islanders.

All due to this land fever, scourging the land and decimating the honest people.

they asked only for survival

In quiet voices Rolf and Suan and Andre and Marlene, who acted as the responsible adults of the Household, discussed the future. They knew that it was only a matter of time before Howitzer, who owned the building, tossed all of them out onto the street and because of the laws -- or lack thereof -- he needed no express reason to do so. And the denizens of that bad abode were all people damaged by Life's vicissitudes, people who had walked with Tiresias among the lowest of the low. These people were beyond asking for handouts; they asked only for survival.

Denby sat out on the steps of the Native Sons of the Golden West Parlor 33&1/3 with Jose and Javier and Snuffles the Bum and Little Andre was there with his school project made of fragile balsam wood, turning the model here and there, and Jose wondered how it all would end.

"It will all end badly," Denby said, ever the optimist. "We will grow old and fall apart and die wretchedly ignominious and in much pain."

"It will end in fire and rain and great destruction," Pahrump said. "Everything we know will be taken away; they can do this at any time."

In the distance sirens announced the termination of yet another tragedy over in Oaktown. The pop-pop of gunfire announced another episode somewhere else.

"Dey smash yo teef in wit a brick and dat is dat," Snuffles said, who knew what he was talking about.

threatening fire and total annihilation

The group stared out over the drooping shore and the stretch of water out to Babylon with its glow. The radio inside the house chattered news about the latest vitriolic exchange between the Baby President and the North Korean Despot, each threatening fire and total annihilation.

"Maybe it's just we make something beautiful that gets remembered no matter how bad it is. It will always be something bad, fo' shizzle. Maybe we need to make something beautiful somehow," Little Andre said. "Cause that is what gets remembered."

"I think you are right," Denby said. "It is what is remembered that is important." He picked up his guitar and started to play "Walk Me Out in the Morning Dew."

From from far across the water, the night train wailed from 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 mysterious parts unknown.

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