Friday, January 20, 2023

2 Minutes. Go!

There are things we know. How to make good guacamole. How to build a bonfire on the beach. How to ignore that the entire state smells like weed. How to wear flip-flops, even if you call them thongs. And there are things we don't know. Cold is one of those things. It's a bay area morning when you see someone wearing a ski suit next to someone in a baby doll dress waiting for BART. And they both look cold. 

People get mad at the cold. Like the cold is, personally, a dick to them. They take offense. 

The cold don't care. 

Most of us don't know enough not to go outside with wet hair. I get lucky in that regard. 

Cold is whatever, man. I'm just glad we're not having wildfires. Earthquakes. Shootings. 

Oh my!

Wrap your fingers around a warm mug. Heat your socks up in front of the heating vent. Hang your towel over the radiator if you have one. But don't be mad about it. The warmth will return. And I will be waiting for it like drought land, ready to be flooded. 

13 comments:

  1. Wow. Love this, and great image of the baby-doll dress next to the ski suit. Here, it hits 40 degrees and people break out the shorts.

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  2. Part 1

    You always envied your brother, who had the brighter eyes and shinier coat, the clearer voice and the quicker wit. He was the instigator of mischief—the first through the gap in the fence, the first to greet visiting humans, the first to discover the tasty clover in the neighbor’s lawn, even though the dog always told them no. They say he was the first to clamber atop the haybale, the cows and horses parting to let him through, while he casually nibbled the feed as if this was the most natural thing for a young goat to do—to stand taller than those around him, to look all around as if he was the master of not only the haybale but the endless blue skies and the fat, scudding clouds and the rolling green pastures that surrounded us. He actually posed there, atop the mound of feed that was supposed to be for all of us, lifting his head, while the humans squealed and cried “how cute!” and took his picture.

    Climbing up there was actually your idea, your dream, yet he hopped aboard without a “sorry” or even an invitation to join him. He wouldn’t even meet your eye—then, or for a long while after he came down.

    Even so, when the truck arrived, and the human and the dog herded him and some of the others inside, you felt bad for him, even worrying about his fate. It was quiet in the field that day, no one yet daring to speculate where the little goats might have been taken, or if they would return. Except the old goat. He just shook his gray-whiskered snoot and talked of the ridiculousness of it all. “Playthings for humans,” he grunted. “Little fools. Trading their dignity for…for what? A change of scenery? To stand on some human’s back and pretend they have the upper hand in this life? To have another reminder that we are owned, from horn to hoof, and we have no say in our destinies?”

    It was a very long afternoon.

    But then the truck returned, and, led by your brother, the little ones fairly bounced out of the back, squealing and bleating with joy. He trotted over to you, waggling his stumpy tail, eyes shining brighter, and bumped his forehead against yours. He smelled of human, and you didn’t know if you liked that.

    You had many questions, but all you asked was where they had gone. “We played a game with humans,” he said. As if this also was the most natural thing for a little goat to do. “They said I was the best at the game and they want me to come back again and play another time!”

    You were happy for your brother because the joy in him was contagious, but you were sad that he didn’t say something like “You should come next time.” Maybe you weren’t good enough to play games with humans. You let your snout drop. But he was already off in search of sweet clover.

    “Little fool,” the old goat muttered, as the two of you watched him nibbling on the neighbor’s lawn for quite a while before the dog barked and trotted out to bring him home. “There is no cause to feel jealousy about your brother’s adventures. Being wanted by humans is a two-sided coin.”

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    1. Part 2
      At first the old goat’s speech felt comforting, then not as much. “What does this mean?” you asked. “What is a two-sided coin?”

      “It means a thing that is both good and bad. It means finding good-tasting clover that makes you ill. It means cavorting in the roadway until a vehicle hits you.” He took a deep breath. “It means…all is fun and games with humans until they no longer want you, and then… Well, you do not need to know that yet.”

      You tried not to think about that. You sensed that the old goat didn’t want you to ask. But you couldn’t resist knowing a little more. “Did they ever take you to play with the humans?”

      The old goat leveled his gaze at you as if deciding how or if to answer. “Once.”

      “Was it…was it fun, like they say?”

      “For me, not especially, no. I did not care for it. The humans contorted themselves into odd positions while we were made to stand on their backs. As if we were circus performers for their amusement.”

      “Is that why you were only taken to play once?” you asked. “Because you didn’t care for it?”

      The old goat walked away.

      -------

      On a day when you woke up not feeling especially good—you’d followed your brother into a new patch of clover the previous afternoon and it wasn’t sitting well in your stomach—the truck came, and the human and the dog herded some of the little ones in the back. You watched this process, and you were of two minds about it: jealous that you weren’t chosen, but grateful because of what the old goat had told you. Then the humans said something about numbers, not enough, and the human who lived in the house rubbed his chin and you were chosen! Avoiding the baleful eyes of the old goat, you trotted up the platform and your brother bonked your forehead, a little harder than usual.

      “You will like this, brother, it will be fun!”

      “But…but…I don’t know what I am supposed to do!”

      “It’s easy,” your brother said. “There’s a nice human with a soft voice who teaches us how to do it. If we do it right, we get a lot of treats and cuddles!”

      During the trip, while the other little goats chattered—mostly about the treats and the cuddles, which did sound kind of nice—you tried not to think about what the old goat had said. Maybe he was still angry because he wasn’t ever chosen again. Maybe he was jealous because he was no longer a little goat. He didn’t trot when new feed was put out, and there was a kind of cloudy film over his eyes, and sometimes he didn’t smell right. Yes, that had to be it. But there was something else—

      “Brother, did you ever notice that where we live there is just one old goat?”

      Your brother looked at you like you’d just said something silly. “Why should we care about that! We are young goats, we have fun and play.”

      And that was all you said the rest of the trip.

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    3. Part 3
      They were greeted by the human with the soft voice, like your brother had said, but the instructions were confusing and didn’t feel fun at all. The tricks the human wanted—your brother demonstrated them, so proud of himself—looked difficult and sometimes made you queasy. You wanted to go home, but it was too late and back of the truck was closed and you didn’t know where you were. Somehow you got through it, and each of the little goats were assigned to a human and they sat together on separate blankets. Your human smelled like spoiled hay and touched you far too hard. The human with the soft voice called out when to do a new trick, and you tried very hard to remember what to do, but your hoof slipped and the human cried out and grabbed you too close to your tender stomach and it hurt and you couldn’t help yourself and you bit down until the pain stopped.

      All the fun and all the changing positions stopped. The human with the soft voice no longer had a soft voice, and took you back to the truck and closed you in. It was hot and dark and you were scared they’d all be mad at you and you cried. It was a very long afternoon.

      -----

      The next time the truck came, it didn’t take you. The old goat raised his eyes to you then shook his head and resumed chewing the bits of hay strewn on the ground—leftovers from those who’d gotten to the new bale first. You stared at him for a while, wondering if he too had bitten a human, if that was why he was never taken again. Then you decided it no longer mattered. Let your brother get treats for doing humans’ tricks. And if the farm was only meant to house one old goat, then you would be the next. But for now, you were a young goat, and you would enjoy it. You stared at the haybale, and immediately knew what to do. You trotted right over, nosed between two cows, and climbed your way to the top. And there you stood, the master of everything—of the sweet untouched hay, of the sunny afternoon, of being your own goat, even if just for these few minutes—and it was marvelous.

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    4. @Laurie. Goat yoga from the goat's POV. I love it!

      P.S. I would bite the humans too.

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    5. This is a cool piece. I really dig the dialogue and the social commentary.

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  3. The Garden of Remembrance.

    “It’s my responsibility to do this,” he tells me. “It was an honour bestowed upon me by the Ancients, those people only a few of our elders remember. It wasn’t up to me to debate the whys and wherefores; it was a duty passed down to me through birth.”

    He pauses, stopping beside one of the bell jars. Beneath it, there’s a rose, its flower fully open, its petals turned toward the distant star. It seems defiant and ill at ease, its stem barely attached to the ground.

    “This one was for Albrecht Durer. He was a painter. He died centuries ago; all his artwork was destroyed during the rout. He didn’t live to see the dissolution. He was a memory before I was born.”

    He lifts the glass dome, and the plant’s stalk shudders, the mist rolling in from all sides. The air under the glass is clear, a microcosm of an earlier world.

    “It doesn’t like it here. It feels misplaced.”

    He lowers the dome and turns it a quarter turn, re-establishing its seating against the soil. The rose begins to stiffen, standing more erect, its flower straining to reach the air at the upper part of its biosphere. He pulls a notepad from his pocket; he writes a couple of lines in a cursive script.

    He hides the pad away again, resuming his patrol. I follow him, knowing he barely knows I’m here now. I’m an irrelevance, an irritation to shrug from his mind.

    We visit Frans Hals and Michelangelo. Michelangelo is a shrub without flowers, its multiple stems thrusting into a bush-like ball of leaves. It doesn’t have any thorns, but its stalks are vigorous and angular, its vitality self-assured and calm.

    “My grandmother was the one before me,” he tells me, breaking his silence. “My father was unsuitable.” He says nothing further, but I wonder how it would have been. The shame and the dishonour of being passed over, his mother knowing he was of little worth. She would have tried to have other children, seeking to find the truth of her lineage, knowing their privilege could be lost if she didn’t.

    We follow the trail further, tracing a path that meandered between the plants, its route passing directly by some and angling away from others. In some places, the track is heavily worn. In others, the ash appears unbroken; it seems as though the path could change each day, its route undecided until his feet stir it into being.

    The track behind us glows in the starlight and then dwindles away. I would never be able to retrace our steps.

    Antoni Gaudi was followed by Frank Lloyd Wright and Hemingway by Plath, each plant notably different from the last. There seemed to be no end to the number of shrubs and leafy growths growing here, some of their enclosures impossibly large for him to remove.

    I couldn’t understand the reason or logic behind their being here. I hoped he’d explain a little more about them and his responsibilities, his quiet indifference to me making it difficult to break through his reserve.

    My patience was close to being exhausted. I couldn’t follow him forever; I had duties of my own, albeit less noble than his.

    The next plant is an amorphous blob of green, suppurating flesh, invisible until its bell jar is raised. A puff of black mist flows away from its dome, the growth below emerging as it disperses.

    This was no rose or sunflower, no hydrangea or rhododendron. It stank of corruption and bile. It had veins of toxic venom threaded beneath its folds, dripping acidic pools onto the ash.

    “And now, finally, we have Presidents’ Row. It’s where our journey ends, both figuratively and literally. We should never stop remembering these notables. Our future depends on it.”

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    Replies
    1. @Mark Such a chilling vision of our future. I have those too.

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    2. This is super cool. The biggest strength for me is how visual this is. Great scene-setting/world-building. This feels like part of something bigger.....

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  4. @JD. You made me laugh this time. I vaguely remember what I thought was cold in Los Angeles. Then I moved to Kansas.

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  5. @Laurie. Goat yoga from the goat's POV. I love it!

    P.S. I would bite the humans too.

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  6. @Mark Such a chilling vision of our future. I have those too.

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