‘Among the river sallow, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
… treble soft. ‘
– John Keats, from Ode To Autumn
Episode 6 | “…treble soft”
< Sawbones’ moniker for Griffin, a favorite pal-de-camp, was “nory”; it was a cushy post for any mega neura modell.
Mega neura modells are seldom part of the memory of most people, but Griffin, also extinctic, possibly could ring a few bells. There is no case for disambiguation. Griffin was a giant fly. He was a male, with a greatly enlarged head of a fly; it was “round, with bulging eyes, like goggles pilots wore in the mid-20th century,” Aji had mentioned, all to matter-of-factly. Aji had developed an annoying propensity for adding quotation marks with her fingers; she said a “pilot” was not a terrible likeness for a fly. But Griffin was a very large fly. He had been originally rescued by an outlaw named Yon in a moment of criminal weakness, and his affinity for the unkempt: “nory” reminded him, and was shaped like one of, the early Wright brothers’ biplanes, if one can imagine golden wings, and a plane with a long spindly tail, fore to aft. He was no longer extinct, per se. Griffin measured three-feet wide; and three feet, side to side, before the insect’s demise, which was 300 million years ago.
Aji brought the fly with her, as Griffin was “surprisingly awkward.” He found the panels of the hallway at his Coney Island flat too slippery; the carpeting too densely cut-pile, furniture unfamiliar, and walls impossible to navigate. He settled on the kitchen bar: the bar was flat like the table, with decent, and adequate space for comfortable flight, and landings. His body was particularly ornate, and intricately alert; nory’s googly eyes were constantly seeking respect, not unlike a “Yankees’ manager.”
He had journeyed to Coney’s Corner for egg, sausage and cheese bagels shortly after Griffin’s flight plan debut. The surprise of hosting nory’s sojourn was one of many “non-essential facts,” still convoluted as the day continued; the fly had agreeably followed Aji to the flat; nories were “no longer shunned from social environs.” It became his chore to entertain Griffin, tossing bread crumbs the fly ignored. He recalled Aji had said there was a “desperate need for a formal record”; everything had to be “part of a copious record.” She disappeared into the other room, leaving him dizzy, and bereft, with the dubious stares of the unwieldy fly/insect/model airplane.
More pressing matters quickly arose for him, not the least how his neighbors, Red, and son, Gabriel, loathed Griffin, because one of his tours caused Red to drop his grocery bags in the hallway. His blood pressure was rising, but many New Yorkers’ blood pressure rose after dawn; evinced was a subtle, insistent pain. He rubbed his heart, content it was still a friendly organ. Footlights played in a melodrama of the sky, a red sky, a “warning,” he knew; he jotted in his notebook Griffin was “a fly larger than suitcase.” Black coffee was futile at seven; much less, watching Chaldni figure vibrations on the Science channel. A hum stuck in his head: Johnny Cash’s I Walk The Line (“…because you’re mine, I walk the line.”) His protest to Aji about nory, and any more extinct animals or pets was “crumbly,” which he thought was a weak adjective. He said, “I’m going for bagels.”
Aji nodded, softly, and said, “Sure, okay,” which seemed sly. There was a clatter of tea mugs; apparently, these were new to Griffin. Once he had left, Aji slid to the kitchen table, an oak table, past the bewildered Griffin, to his open laptop; not a moment was needed to scroll to Documents, a file, click, Open, and then Send. She speared the red-white “x” in the top corner, and she sighed.
A futile glimpse of Orison was the object, but he was certainly not Hoag. “Hoag’s Object,” a strange, and beautiful galaxy, was discovered in 1950 by a man named Arthur Hoag. He could Google the center of Hoag’s Object, a glittering sun in the midst of a glittering ring, amused how nature’s adagio was seldom clear, and he wondered if he was becoming a pantheist. If it could be touched in the morning, the morning after Aji’s visit with Griffin, perhaps by poetry, his instinct was to try. He watched as a salamander traversed the fire escape obliquely, and in no special hurry; it stopped for a moment, and indirectly trilled a semi-circle of rainbow colors below its jaw; he knew “salamanders” can regrow their damaged organs, if necessary; some sals live to age fifty-five, said the computer. Maybe salamanders knew of Orison, and kept it to themselves; it, Orison, was one of their topics; did Nature hide Orison, like an original sin.
He ventured a koan into his notebook, pleased with a sample of clarity that day; a parse of the salamander; and the watermelon, which may delight in Japanese. But first another matter was beginning to prevail; that is, Buddha’s Hand. We perhaps explain too swiftly, so, to regress, Buddha’s Hand is actually not a hand at all; it is an aromatic, citrus fruit, positively inedible; the flesh of Buddha’s Hand has “no juice, pulp or seeds.” It is named for the yellowish, “finger-like segments,” a bushukan, splitting into several “fingers,” like branches. It was a baffling prelude to a day of perplexing affairs.
The nominal adventure for this Sunday, a Sunday without any guests, was to convene a draft with Gabriel to choose fantasy players for the season. He had the Dodgers, Gabe got the Mets. This was unlucky. There was some baseball that Sunday; there was “a safe slide into second base” in his bath robe. His day was consumed by tepid seconds trying to see his telephone, and dial 9-1-1; he usually possessed exacting poise, but this had been overruled by Buddha’s Hand. Which is to say. He emerged from the bathroom, and swooned, as if , like a vintage appliance, he was abruptly unplugged. This was preceded by a fitful cough, identified later as fluid in his lungs; he was technically drowning from edema; after a few seconds, where it seemed like he was being hanged by sudden ideas, he dropped to his knees, and flat to the carpet. He imagined the mystifying tangerine, Buddha’s Hand, dud or zesty, had magically grasped his heart, and cardio-pulmonarias, and was squeezing his ticker. He admittedly had a furtive imagination, but it seemed so, and he did not know why. It was the suddenly center in the rule of a state of delirium, in his transport to the emergency room at Conley Island Hospital, and, partially, in his eventual prognosis of congestive heart failure. Buddha’s Hand, in his caring view, was intervening against the force of his immune system, an army of germ-and-virus first responders, routinely summoned by his brain, and preventing the vitality needed to battle this blackout; the outcome of the war was not assured, — Buddha’s hand was a much larger alien — and as near as he could tell, in his mind on a fervent vacation, was the fingers of this aromatic, exotic fruit, Buddha’s Hand, refused to relent its clutch of the valves of his heart.
It got inexorably worse Sunday. He steeled as the NYFD ambulance crew burst into the room, and believed, inexplicably, that the EMT’s needed more roaming minutes. It was all a mystery of the coping mind. Yet then, as it happened, as he supposed it would happen, as he had penned how death would happen, his consciousness fizzled towards the end. It was like a television set; like it was switched to “off”: The bright colors of the NBC icon dissipated, the peacock’s plumage dissolved, and collapsed from the four edges of the flat screen; the black frame of space around the picture left a tiny square in the middle of the set; the signal, a white cone, drained in slow-motion from the television box, electric power repaired to the buzzing circuits of the machine, leaving his eyes, the mind’s eyes, a pleasant relief, a temporary, white dot in the darkness, like Hoag’s object; suspended was his mortal career.
He saw the face of a bear, or maybe it was a gorilla, his nose was no more than an inch in the front of his face. The bear spoke words. The bear said, “Glug,” and the bear vanished. Perhaps he vanished, it was more sensible; because he now lied alone in a thin forest; a cow sidled gently along towards him, and it paced laboriously from left to right. He watched the cow approach, and kept watching motionless, as he actually could not move; the cow arrived, stared into his eyes innocuously, and wandered away.
He was forlorn in the woods. He understood somehow it was Coney Island. He rolled to one side successfully, in disbelief, and in a few minutes his senses watched with passion, as if streaming an important movie from the couch, the Lenape, or another “Lost Tribe,” convene in a hail of sprawling smoke. They had assembled to vote a motion to ban all currency from the New York island. He was unsure which disturbed him more: that he was forced to leave the camp of the Lenape before the vote count; or that he was isolated on a desert of beach, Coney Island, but Coney Island centuries before it was a popular beach; before it was a forest, this island was a desert.
Nearing the final repose, the big sleep, as it were, causes a person to do strange things. He searched a beverage, overall, a Dr. Pepper. He as he stepped away from the beach and the sun into a near-lying forest, and saw the bear return, some fifty yards away. He could see him from the eaves of the trees. The bear approached, and broadly yawned. Glug raised his arms to an awkward, semi-circle over his head, and the bear saw him now, and he yawned again, muttering, “Gluggg!” The bear hunkered into a crouch, nothing but his chest, head, and four legs quite too quickly pummeling the ground towards him; Glug leapt over a bow of fallen trees and leaves, a short distance away, and braced; the bear had a wide mouth, and white, enlivened eyes; it was, a smile? Glug braced again, a lineman in football, and seemed waiting for him to join in an unsure game of Rugby; the bear shunted with his forearm, and dug into the ground between them. It hustled to his left, hurdled another bough, and, flustered, decided to run into the woods, and was gone. It took him twenty more minutes to say: “Hey!”
He’d see Glug a third time. The bear was wandering from the woods yards ahead of him in a sandy clearing. It seemed to wait, entirely still. The bear, Glug, was “friendly,” he remembered saying aloud, in the green, and brown grass of the ancient freshet of Coney Island.
The bear had crossed the inlet from New York, after all. ◊
Theme | “Flea Markets, No. 8” | playlist, nos. 1-15
(Editor’s Note: We usually carry a video for our playlist in this space, but the video owner has disabled it for use, except on YouTube, and we oblige.) [See on YouTube.]
“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
Copyright (C), 2018; 2017, ff., by the author
All Rights Reserved
Created by Soda Tom