< No bear should really speak, and surely shouldn’t sing, or sing very well, if it can; if it can, it should sing privately. Red was with him at home with him for the visit of Griffin, a mega neura modell. He had fluttered in the hallway of his Coney Island apartment building, leaving Red scarcely any room for join, and wave his arms, too. Red, his neighbor, was grateful God gave him the “real perspicacity” to ignore a giant fly. It was a native ethic of a New Yorker, and meritorious. Red ultimately slammed the door, slid shut the locks, and flouted his nose.
He comforted Red, a senior, Saturday watching Griffin in the flat; something about the Kitty Hawk, and the “1903 Flyer,” and about the Wright brothers, because Red loved planes, but Red could not remember the name of the plane, but then he snipped it did not actually ever have a name, and split. Alone, he chased Aji in his mind, Aji. He was reasonably sure from conversations with Aji, and also Nap, she was composing an oral history about him for the American Legion; this seemed luckier, because he was not an interesting fellow, but it could take them to chronicle it, and substantially agree. Aji was not unattractive; meanwhile. Of course, an alien in this time, and space, that is, Aji, there was too the subject, of, as it were, the future. It was a matter of consequence, he decided. The fable of Orison, for instance, was easily a fantasy about the Garden of Eden, or horse-racing; they spoke of Orison with a cant of virtue, and prosperity, like Yankee victories over the Red Sox; but knowing such totem myths had no basis in science. It interested him, like a boy peering around the corner. He was an aesthete some. Science having trouble prying the lid from art. My. Prayer shouldn’t be an absent plea to points unknown, he thought, but mailmen do not deliver belle-lettres to saints, or absent comedians. He resolved Aji could report his pilfered, useless lottery numbers to the American Legion, somewhere in the 26th century, from which they had been boosted, and did not care: They could keep the numbers. They could play the numbers.
He highlighted the phrase, adagio, in a thesaurus being perused at the dining table; deriving from the Italian adagio, it meant “slowly,” or “gracefully,” and ad agio, “at ease”; Wiktionary had “slow,” or “slower.” He did not want Aji moreover to feel he was as the Irish poet, and fellow traveler Goldsmith described, “remote, unfriended, melancholy,” and/or “slow.” Sunday thus he channeled his focus on life in the mainstream, and chiefly openness, as Aji was gone for the weekend to, amusingly, points unknown. The wit trailed into a creative mist, a restlessness, a desire not to either be the patron poet of vegans, however noble the dappled goal, and penned a new koan; exercise, yes, in a dolor of safe cover, in a moment of peace, it was about the salamander, and a hypothetical watermelon: A salamander/sunbathing upon/the fire escape/a rainbow scruple/watermelon trills.
The balance of the day was “sidereal,” that is, four minutes shorter than normal.
Nobody really lives in New York City, because it is too small. They live outdoors. His dwelling on Coney Island, like most New York homes, was unequivocally designed to promote the out-of-doors; it was not a reflection on the quality of the home, because he could point to doors, and around, with a reasonable motion, to the precarious hallways, and stairways, allies only of gravity to the ground, to outdoors. The proper couches in New York are tiny, cornered, and deliberately uncomfortable, and not correctly set until this is the case, — unless placed on a sidewalk, or somewhere outdoors, furniture, hugely smug, and complacent. New York furnishings must, and often do, reflect the sky, if purposefully, and sleekly-made, causing guests to crane their neck toward the roof, or exits. This is essentially because they are indoors, and one longs for the out-of-doors. He lustfully chose such a path of least resistance, craving the moment to quest the city of New York for fresh bagels, cream cheese, or “hollow’s lox.”
But he felt a tug against his chest, a coordinated path block of brain waves, and imagined new, and used blood or fluid pumping waywardly through coronary arteries, and awry to surprised organs. His mission for breakfast, and rhyme and sundry observation became clogged by labored breath. He must, alas, go out-of-doors. For air. The Coney Island staircase had always demanded more respect, leading as it did largely to nowhere, but there was proximity to Coney Hospital, and this, and therefore, it would not be necessary. He condoned a brief stunt of admiration for the out-going stairway, no more than ninety seconds, and counted a suspicious hundred and four stairs; yet as Monty Python once suggested, to paraphrase, “Who would expect a bushukan?” (Inquisition?)
He repaired indoors, and tried a soothing shower. Red was not speaking to him, because of Griffin, the old fly, and would not allow him to watch the Mets in his surrounds, at least for, say, two days; hydrating in the shower could calm him, and memories of baseball would keep him from, say, “leaning too far away from the first base bag.” He had just explained this matter to a bagel boy at a kiosk Saturday: “A runner is dead to rights,” he informed, “if his shoulder is too far towards the next base, second base, or if his weight shifts that way? He is dead-to-rights.” One pace, one step too far, and with a quick throw by the pitcher to the first basemen, and the man is caught in a “rundown, a pickle”; he is chased between the bags by the first, and second basemen, in a “futile, hapless effort to steal,” which “he wasn’t going to try in the first place, and usually wouldn’t do, certainly not now, but now no other option exists!” He was describing this canard aloud emerging from the shower; his eyes widened, he grasped his heart, and it was the best explanation at the time for the subsequent foot-first slide into the living room. He lay unconscious, the shower, an Aganna Sutta.
Not conscious, and therefore free, his mind was suddenly enclosed in a remote space of seedy green; a “pickle.” It had commenced; a rundown was underway. His mind’s eyebrows raised. He raced between first and second base. Things happen in baseball in the dark, and indoors. He had donned snowshoes; and the base path became a shallow ocean tide breaking towards him. The second-baseman was a cow, which did not seem sufficiently incongruous; the cow eyeballed him briefly; it grunted, wont to say, “how we roll.” The cow’s face had been too close to say if it was an Hereford, Angus, Holstein, or Shorthorn; the cow’s nose touched his chin, as he regained sight in the amoroso, calculating the day of his last hamburger. “Out,” he protested, bravely, and remarked, “Death, like adventure, is seldom routine.”
It was about now Glug, a mega fauna, who resembled bear, — a Jersey bear, — appeared in his new environ. Glug, the bear, had sloshed exultantly to him, dispersing salt water in souses of bearly heft through the westernmost inlet of this prehistoric Coney Island. He had used a familiar coastal waterway across from mainland Queens, positively sure someone new was out-of-doors. He sang merrily, and uncommonly well.
Red had snuck meanwhile, erstwhile, into the Coney flat, and was apparently willing to forgive Griffin, and Aji’s dubious troupe, if he was willing to forgive old Red’s present habit to fill just a tiny canister with neglected bottle of Morgan rum. Red, the neighbor, tiptoed into his home, noticed a human leg under the couch, his leg, and happily another leg beside it, but no other persuasive signs of life. He, Red, growled under his breath. He paused to decide if permission was really necessary to siphon Morgan rum and, while clinking two glasses in one hand, dialed the New York Fire Department.
The times of his life were conjoined by snapping fingers, and comprised a haphazard, geometric line: graduation day, the procession, the Ave Maria; Indian summers; his honeymoon; his second car, a yellow, Chevy Nova slant-6 he could drive in Connecticut; and, now, leaving the hospital. He snapped his fingers, and smacked his fists outside the hospital, contumely, in the prerequisite wheel chair, the brake lever fixed into the concrete sidewalk, as if the staff feared he might leave, although he had been discharged, and yearned for the smells of New York City. He told Aji about this praxis, a reflection, and pointed out the fresh palms in the easements of I-95 in the state of Florida. She overworked the manual gearbox on the floor; he grimaced; it was a black, five-series, a rental.
“Did we pass Savannah?” Aji asked. “I want to see it one day.”
He finally relaxed aboard the Princess, a Florida riverboat, during a tour of the intercoastal waterway. He could recall each step of his departure from the Coney Island hospital building, the “fabulous tension,” the gray sidewalk, the newly-lined black top; shivering in a NASCAR tee-shirt; ancient, Skechers work boots, watching, watching everything, from the maternal safety of the suprabulb of glass comprising the first-floor lobby. He didn’t speak. He watched more. He had not lived through either a near-death, or out-of-body experience. None. Other than his buoyant ride in the bimmer convertible to Florida with Aji.
The coral sunset had blazed into a seiche of pink, amber, and reddish waves over the shoal, over Coney Island, a beach deserted in a year utterly unknown; was this “Orison?” He didn’t dare to ask. There was no one to ask. The sky was diffusing into a brief, and muted garnet, a tone of hue in the jewel range.
The bear, Glug, would return to the island beach, in a bound, without the slightest prompt; but life has circumstance. Because there is no Orison. Because there is adagio. ◊
Theme | “Flea Markets, No. 12” | playlist, nos. 1-15
“The Shadows” is one of three works by SODA TOM.
“The Shadows,” by Soda Tom, Vol. I of III,
from The Echo By Seas; & Other Stories
by Soda Tom
Copyright (C), 2018; 2017, ff., by the author.
All Rights Reserved.
Created by Soda Tom