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Jalopy

Jalopy

Mitchell Grabois

1.
My father ran aground amidst a naked, barbaric race. The women’s cologne must be distilled from excrement, he and his mates thought. They held their breath. The men’s penises dragged on the glacial ice. My father wondered why he had ever set sail.

2.
With global warming, the glaciers recede like a pack of erections that have simultaneously changed their mind. The Mendenhall Glacier wonders: Viagra or Cialis? I need to assert myself. I need to get back to fucking the world with my cold rod. The world is too hot. Women are supposed to be hot, but not planets. I remember when I was young and stretched out beyond what I could see or be aware of. I did not know myself. All the worse for me.

Now I know myself better, but what I know, I don’t like. I’m retreating from the battle. I’m becoming more frayed and mud-spattered every year. President Obama visited me, and he had tears in his eyes. Then, to take his mind off my fate, he went and watched Eskimo children dance in colorful costumes, big smiles on their faces. They laughed with joy when he got up and joined them in their dance.

3.
I once had a friend who was a microwave oven. She heated up quickly, but had a cold heart. I went to high school with her. We kept in touch over the years.

She married a man because she believed that as he aged, he would grow more and more to resemble his father, whom she greatly admired. But as he aged, he became the antithesis of his father. It made her bitter. Her glass door became greasy. You could no longer see what was inside her.

I talked to her on the phone. I was thinking about all the appliances that I’ve owned that have broken down and I’ve discarded.

My friend was a microwave oven. As she aged, the hinges on her door weakened and she began to release dangerous radiation. At night I would imagine myself spinning on her carousel and would get excited and couldn’t sleep.

I had a friend who was a vacuum cleaner. I had a friend who was a dishwasher. I had a friend who was a ceiling fan. My wife told me that all my friends are marginal, which was the way she reminded me of how marginal I am.

I would have been even more marginal if I didn’t live with her. I would have been a jumble of broken parts that don’t add up to make any one machine.

4.
I am the spiritual leader of the Cult of the Sacred Armadillo, but I’m thinking of branching out and also claiming leadership of the Cult of the Tasmanian Devil. I think that will bring more balance to my life.

I need balance. I get out of bed in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom and fall over and lay on my back like a turtle.

My wife says What are you doing down there?

Nothing, I say, I’m thinking.

Are you thinking of starting a new cult? How many cults do you need to lead? How many cults will, in the end, satisfy you? I’m tired of being the bride of a cult leader. I feel guilty at having killed off all the other brides and buried them in the backyard of our old house. Our lives are as dull and predictable as episodes of Criminal Minds, which just goes on and on, year after year. It’s incredible, our tolerance for violence and perversity. We find it entertaining. We find school shootings entertaining. What are you doing down there on the floor? Have you lost your balance again? You ought to take yoga classes. Yoga is good for balance.

5.
I put on the uniform and pledged to obey all orders. When I returned I attempted to commit suicide. I was, obviously, unsuccessful. There’s more stigma to a failed attempt than to a successful one. We worship success.

I’m a narcoleptic child trying to concentrate on the catechism. Sleep is sweeter and sweeter.

The priest puts his hand down my pants. I fall asleep again. When I awaken, I know it has been a dream.

I put on another uniform and pledged to obey orders. I cheated on my wife because those were the only vows I felt free to break. She was breaking her vows too. We were both caught in the same trap. That was partly why we loved each other.

6.
The Pope visited America and, as he boarded the plane to leave, I breathed a sigh of relief that he had not been assassinated in our barbaric, over-weaponized country. Francis brought God back into organized religion, mercy and love for our fellow man, especially for the downtrodden, the least among us, and that is good. He reawakened—in some of us—a conscience.

But it’s also bad because it helps to perpetuate the power of ancient mythologies, and the human race will not progress, will not evolve, until we have left all the ancient mythologies behind.

7.
The whale caller sat in a cell in the maximum security prison in Canon City, Colorado, the same cell that had been occupied by Antonio Guerrero, the Cuban spy, one of the Miami Five, before he was released in a historic deal between the U.S. and Cuba, and returned to his homeland a hero.

While in prison, he tutored other prisoners. He wrote poems and painted pictures and sent his girlfriend long, passionate letters, which the prison censors greatly enjoyed reading.

But the whale caller was nearly illiterate. He had no ideals. He didn’t want to know any of the other prisoners, let alone help them. He only wanted to call whales, but all the whales were so far away, the ocean so far away. He could not even catch the faintest whiff of salt. He smelled dust. He smelled grass and cattle. He heard the roar of off-road vehicles. He could not hear the whales’ sweet songs. He could not even hear them in his imagination.

8.
I had a friend who was a chunk of granite from the Granite State. She was grey and speckled and very heavy. I loaded her into my trunk with some of her brothers and sisters and cousins. I was going to plant them in my garden. I lived far from the Granite State and didn’t know if I would ever get back there, so I filled my trunk.

As I was leaving the quarry, my rear axle broke. I was wondering if something like that might happen. I’d put my trust in God, but God was not worthy of my trust.

It was an old car. It was an old God. This God had a lot of staying power. He was the foundation stone for a world of stupidity. Obviously, my car didn’t have staying power. It was what used to be called a “jalopy.” The Kelly Blue Book said it was worth 99 cents, the same value as the autobiography I’d placed on Amazon.com.

I abandoned my car. Luckily I hadn’t filled the tank for my return trip. It maybe had 99 cents worth of gas in it. I abandoned my life at the quarry too. Altogether I was out about three bucks, not enough to worry about. I took a torn sweater out of the back seat and headed down the dirt road which led away from the quarry.

9.
I built my farmhouse over an underground stream. I didn’t know it was there. As the years passed the stream came closer to the surface, as if it were attracted to my new family’s warm life, until it finally broke through the ground and widened and created a small beach inside the south wall of the house’s foundation.

I didn’t worry about whether the stream would undermine my house. I didn’t worry about it swelling to a size of a river and flooding the first floor. I declared that the stream was a gift from God and got out my fishing pole. I went down the old wooden stairs. The fish I caught were bigger than the ones I used to get at the lake.

No one ever saw me in daylight again, except when I came out to dig fat earthworms behind the barn.

 

painted by Joseph Wolf Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London, 1865 

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