Two Men

Ave maria in some drab cafe

Nice snow falling here, did some thinking and writing this afternoon,
read through that play again to see if it’d work, figured something out about the beginning and end, which seemed kind of crazy and off putting, need some staging and music… great fun but some serious stuff in there… reading Bert’s marginalia, his rewrites so I can hear it all ticking away, his mind, the corrections, the paring down. Bert’s church upbringing in the mechanisms and the correctional tone. He’d be at it in the morning when I went to bed after I finished painting… I never knew which character he’d be.

He wrote it when he was thirty something, a play about growing old, and he’s not far off at all on some of the casts of mind. I want to know the play really well so I can talk detachedly about it, because I think I will give it to the troupe to play with.

Then I napped, strange dreams continue, a dog man making healing tea, I hoped it was anyway, and serving it to me at his kitchen table, urging me to drink it for my health and I trusted him enough to down it. Anubis of course, the Jungian part thinks… those awful store bought muffins says a slight fluishness. A highly productive afternoon indeed, utter nonsense,so I’m painting tonight like that’s practical either. I give up… what a farce. Shoveling starts to look like a sane pleasure.

You’ll be finished the set of shifts and relieved. Good night for walking
in the snow. Gonna do just that in a bit here, take in a little night
life. Restless and tired is a strange combo. Some kinda modern times
symptom of too much advertising and over stimulation, or just those
store bought muffins.

Blocks of text in my head… I remember you talking about that sensation out in the snow long time ago, leaning up against a car. I got that novel’s main voice yammering about looking at a circus poster, once up against a trailer while he fucked with a carney and years later in a living room where he sees it all slickly framed as nostalgic decor. Clear as a bell. No point at all in the way my mind works, I swear.

deep and true.
one gentle as the other is ungentle, moving my hands lightly where I can reach. The range of responses people pull out of one another never fails to amaze me. The psychological instinct involved, in just knowing physically… wish I had more of it out of the sack.

Later, a quiet evening of painting, murder dramas on tv out of the corner of my eye, proper British mysteries too with village gossip and old ladies and antique dealers. I knew who did it from the word go. And then a very beautiful history of the Roman empire, mostly jewelry makers you’d think, in Britain, everything in an hour with swelling violins and the usual stuff said about the Roman vision and the pantheon. the emperor Claudius in marble giving Britain a swat in the head or worse. Back in Rome more marble limbs viewed through protective chicken wire against today’s vandals. Not mentioning the pollution.  Yer prettier than all the statues. Quite a story but I shall die of boredom sooner than cigarettes at this rate. Heading out in the snow now for a little air…

singing a pop love song in my hapless bed, that was music, screw Beethoven, he’d understand I think.

One of the two,  smiling to himself and a little fearful too of the requested privacy had hurried into his winter woolen coat, which hung a little heavy in the damp overcast. They lived about twenty miles and twenty years apart, one with the thoughts of the almost young and one with those of the nearly old. He held the dog’s fluorescent pink cloth lead and the dog pawed air stupidly at the full tense extent of the lead.

Their walk took them out a long gravel drive past the pumpkin patch, now empty but remembered for joke that went on too long. His parka a little much tonight with the warm moon above the neighbor’s field just a smear.

The first snow had come and gone. The neighbor’s field was all broken straw. there was a motley collection of about twenty miniature houses and windmills and wishing wells jumbled behind the fence line, then he saw a row of spruce receding as a snow fence , and as a neighborly blind. Then a trampoline, and his eye saw a long clothes line of towels and sheets strung out of the darkness into the back porch light of another bungalow and the lawn chairs stacked on the back deck looking cheap and forlorn.

He liked to lag a bit behind to watch the younger man walk, he had  a purposeful glide along a road, and he never let a branch snap back when he made trail in the woods. The dog was always crazy for the first few minutes, crazy to pee, crazy to run. It had been deer hunting season and she couldn’t just run loose as usual. Tonight the younger lagged behind the older who was on a short tight lead, ahead with the dog.

The younger kept his hands in his jacket pockets as he always did when he was nervous, he raised his shoulders and pulled them inwards. He kicked at stones, he was an oversized, purposeful  boy approaching an unfriendly school yard. He was trying to get many things done without getting into one of the fights his size and good luck in life seemed to invite, he was friendly but firmly not to be diverted from his plans.

Charting their differences kept them busy, the generational ones, the things that run in families, in classes, sets, subsets. They wondered how they would get along. As one had said , stumbling into the other’s shoulder that morning while they tossed firewood and stacked it, pausing briefly. “Life’s dealt us a strange hand, we’ll just have to play it as best we can”.

One had righted the other, his big gloved hands on the grayer bearded man’s small shoulders and smiled a little frantically before handing him a stick of firewood, thereby saying, lets get on with it. “Nah, I’ll finish up. You go inside and start something new. You’ve been at this the longer. “

Face black against the sunlight behind him. He almost filled the door frame, he had to duck his head forward to back out the door. He stumbled doing so. “You’ll only outlive me if you quit drinking. ” Neither drank much at all.

When we laughed together I liked to let my eyes rise to treetops and beyond, imagining the sound waves, the chuckles, and I felt accomplishment, proud if he’d thought up the punch line. I was looking at boots now, kicking loose curves of bark up as he laughed, and didn’t blame him a bit for his common sense.

He’d likely said he was afraid of losing the other himself in so many words or gestures. He knew he had in his heart or wherever he said such things. A wine bar on a train in his youth, a terminal ward night chair twenty odd years later. His psychiatrist in the city said to him what the fuck, we all lose one another. We all walk off into the dark, into the mystery.

One turned laughing now to unload an armful of firewood, trying not to bump it against the aluminum siding. The moon was past full and they’d walk under its rise. I’d like one of your full moons. Surely it would be safe to let the dog off the leash on the last night of hunting season. They made her wear a red scarf as they set out after supper into the dark.

They’d just passed the first old fashioned streetlight of three along the road. You got into town most pleasantly by going to the end of this road and walking a snowmobile trail through the woods and then through the fairgrounds. It was a nice walk to go for cigarettes or to hide out at the diner. The bush was close on either side of it for much of the way and there were steep climbs that kept it exclusive to real walkers. It’d washout in the spring and twist your heel. The dog strained toward the blackness beyond the lights, where she would be released.

What was it the one said that night, what was it he said. Each on his own later would mull it over and it would matter for a bit, but it would blur into the other words that mattered and other walks. Into the sort of general tones, the overall speedy quality of their separate headlong memories of these long walks, drives,  parties,and exhausted sleeps. Two years..

and from Bert’s play, found it in a manilla file written twenty odd years ago “… the illusion must be maintained but it costs a lot in speed. Deliberation and little baggage are safe. If you can’t wear it in a coffin, you can’t wear it.” unquote.

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