Big Sur is not the book to be reading in my condition. But it's not like you wake up one morning suddenly capable of making all the right decisions, no matter what happened the night before.
I've been cleaning up roadkill in front of the house all summer. It's always just another opossum or groundhog with compromised depth perception or a bad sense of hearing, or maybe a few of 'em just stumbled over themselves on the way across. Imagine tripping over your own two feet on the way back from the bathroom in the middle of the night and careening into the front wheel well of a monstrous semi that wasnt supposed to be there, in the night, in the hallway between you and your lover.
Do sleepy-eyed groundhogs startle when they hear the distant dull thud of skull on steel and worry that their whole life is about to be turned upside down? Or do they just keep digging?
The first sign that things were going wrong was the dead bunny near the fence in the backyard. I was pulling weeds and there it was, legs reaching, ears limp, just lying there. It was so small I didnt even need the flat-bottomed shovel I bought last year at the hardware store when I realized part of my responsibility as the alpha-male tenant in our lonely old farmhouse was going to be cleaning up every dead animal from the side of the road before the stink sets in. I just grabbed a garbage bag, scooped the thing up, tied it off, and dropped it in the trash can.
More disturbing was when, a few weeks later, one of the boys found the pink remains of a baby mouse in front of the shed. That we had mice was nothing new—you can hear them scurrying away every time you go in for the lawn mower. But to find one so recently alive and still so skeletal, and so far from whatever hole or tit it must have just been clinging to, could only be a bad sign.
After a while, you stop paying attention to the night sounds. Moths that dont look like much as they're fluttering around like idiots near the flame become big as a truck when they bang headlong into the plate glass window, and if you're not used to it, that alone can be enough to make you drop your banana. But you've also got the rose bushes scraping unpruned along the bottom of the aluminum siding on the back porch, which really gets going in the wind, and the mature cornfield hissing at you, and the angry pops of seven-fingered-Sheldon firing off M-80s down the hill next to the pond, not to mention the rumble scream of overnight truckers and low-rent tweakers in their refurbished Jettas shooting this one last straightaway before the road turns to village, where the cops like to hide.
So the screaming I heard last night wasnt enough to move me from the keyboard. I know I dont have much time left, so it's been late nights out here in the void, trying my good goddamndest to find a final gambit to play, which requires plenty of attention to craft, not to mention long stretches of uninterrupted self-editing and proofreading, which is no small task when you're sitting in the middle of a low-pressure zone like this 24 hours a day, protected by the most imaginary warm front.
In the morning, out in the back, though, there were signs of a struggle. Barely covering a fresh patch of raw dirt ripped up in the grass were a few handfuls of black feathers, but no meat.
It couldnt have been the farm cat, which hasnt been seen alive since that smear of orange fur showed up one morning lining the narrow part of the shoulder near the bend in the road. Foxes dont go after birds unless it's personal, but maybe the bird went after more than it could keep down. At times like this, it's not uncommon to become too greedy for your own good.
Meanwhile, what's really starting to gnaw at me is the guppies overbreeding in the fish tank. Maybe they'd be better off if I dumped them in the pond—
—though, if Sheldon sees me compromising his ecosystem I might be in for it...
But I cant afford to be throwing food at them every morning if they're going to keep going at it like that. Every few days I let them skip a meal, but all they do is eat their young and fuck for more. At some point, I'm going to have to start killing things myself—and it's going to be more than just the tiny flies that come in through the screens. One of the breaking points for ol Jack in Big Sur was when he accidentally let the goldfish die. But at some point, it's going to come down to either me or the fish, and it's tough to stand up to superstition when even the rabid midnight chaos keeps repeating the same stories over and over again.