Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Where There's A Road There's A Way

I was driving across Michigan's Upper Peninsula and do you think if my life depended on it I could find a decent fucking Indian restaurant? Did these people seriously believe a man could live on nothing but smoked fish and fudge?

Up the road from Manistique was a town called M'Alyce, and I wondered if Paul Weller had stumbled through this space at some point or if there was another such place in the world. Somewhere in the rear view mirror: the World's Largest Soup Kettle and a redhead who wore a sailor's hat well past the age where it was cute to wear a sailor's hat. A redhead who could swill Pabst Blue Ribbon like no woman I'd ever met, and who drove a beat-to-shit Nova with a bumper sticker that read: "Keep Moving Until You Fit Or You Stop Moving."

One night this woman --who was way too old for such monkey business-- showed up at my motel room with a couple cans of Krylon and said we were going to tag the living fuck out of Escanaba. It didn't quite work out that way.

"I've thought about this my whole life," she said, and then I watched her spray paint "Your Satisfaction Is No Concern Of Mine" on the cinder blocks of the Tidy Wash. I took this as a message pitch, and so took the paint can from her and tossed it in the blue plastic barrel out front.

I like a woman I don't know a damn thing about, but only to a point. That point came when we were driving around one night after I'd bought her a steak dinner and she directed me to pull off at a pay phone. I sat on the hood while she dialed a number and said, "Now what the fuck?"

There was a pause on her end, and then she said, "You know as well as I do that there's a goddamn world of difference between 'shot himself' and 'got shot,' so which is it?'" That was it right there. Weird is good. Weird can be fun. I don't like spooky, though, and I told her as much later as I packed my car.

I would not grow old gracefully. That much seemed certain, and was all I really seemed to be able to grasp of my fate, if in fact that's not too dramatic a word for what I was driving blindly into.

Every story has a 'then what?' and I suppose a truly satisfying story has a number of 'then what?'s to keep the reader moving along.

There is, unfortunately, only one 'then what?' left to this story, and it is this: My mother was dead, and she had a house in Ohio --and a shitload of shit-- that needed to be dealt with. I'd been procrastinating. It had taken me almost two months to make my way from Sioux City to the U.P. I would, I'd decided, finally knuckle under and head to my mother's, would get the matter taken care of once and for all. Who knew? I thought. Maybe I'd end up living for a time in the tiny house in which I'd grown up. Maybe after all the years I'd been gone there was finally something there for me.

There was nothing for me in Lorain, Ohio. There had never been anything for me in Loraine, Ohio. My mother's last hand of Solitaire was still laid out on the TV tray in the living room. Her bed was unmade. There was a refrigerator full of items that had long since become reeking science projects. Every clock in the place told a different time, and every one of them was lying.

Long story short: People hear gunshots and they call the police. I can't blame anyone. Gunshots in the middle of the night are startling. If you hear them, you're supposed to call the police.

I was just blowing off steam, I guess, talking to myself so people would hear me. Shooting out lights and reflective surfaces, trying to obliterate any sort of personal revelation. I felt like being in the dark. I didn't want to be confronted with any more images of myself, even as I fully intended to leave the photographs alone. Those were something else, something else, some other time when the light didn't feel like such a hostile interrogation. Still, I inadvertently ended up shooting up a few of those as well, and taking out a handful of other things --trinkets, I suppose you could call them-- that had a bit too much painful resonance.

It got out of control in a goddamn hurry, I'll admit that much, and it was a noisy, disruptive business, a textbook example of disturbing the peace.

So, yeah, the police were called. The police came. It was the middle of the night, and in the middle of the night when gunshots are involved you aren't going to get just one cruiser pulling up to the house. No, you're gonna have cop cars lined up all the way down the block, sirens flashing, radios squawking, and officers crawling around and crouched behind car doors with their own guns drawn. A sorry incident right out of Cops, to be sure. The sort of dust-up that wasn't going to go away for a long time.

Right away, looking out at that scene, I knew I was in deep shit. I knew there was a good chance I was going to get my face shot off. I knew that neighborhood would never again be home. I knew I needed a lawyer. These were the thoughts --or at least some of the thoughts-- that went through my head. Short term or long term, this was going to be a tough mess to get out of.

I put the gun down, went to the door, and stepped out onto the porch with my hands up, just like you're supposed to do. They weren't going to give me a chance to explain just then, I knew that. They were going to come rushing at me, all of them at once, yelling at the top of their lungs and swinging their night sticks, and they were going to stomp my ass and truss me up like a hog while the neighbors watched from their sidewalks and living rooms. And, sure enough, that's exactly the way it went down.

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