Even in the Midst

— 3 Excerpts from The Dreamcaster Notebook —


Excerpt # 7
The Disruptutorial

        The Disruptutorial led to the spilling of many beverages. Much crashing in the Town Square, tilting along Fault Lines, tipping of beer maids off their feet, and shaking up, yes, shaking up the Populace. This included even General Protection himself, who told the Press that it was not his Fault, Proclaiming to the people from his Bully Pulpit before the Public Library that the problem was Systemic, that this was the time for All Good Folk to regain their Equilibrium, whether the Rebellious Earth would tilt or no. But when Disruption sent him sidelong from his Soapbox the jubilant Madcap Burgherwomen stuffed their kinders' soiled lederhosen in his Spewing Mouth.
        Then the Village Square, the Town, the whole Confused Society, grew still.
        True, the World still tore and twisted as disjointedly as the Vision of a Virgin in a cracked Mirror, but there was at least no uniformed Buffoon ordering the broken-legged Clydesdales to "Buck up and Thunder Forth!"


Excerpt # 20
We Run

        We run along icy rivers. Though our feet burn while our nostrils are frozen, though our breath is as ragged as the death rattle of a caribou run down by wolves, though the grit grinds beneath our shoes as steadily as the scrape of sandpaper, and though my eyes have hardened into tight little bits of gravel, still we keep the pace. We have tasted the bile and forced it back down. We have seen the veins pulsing in the necks of our companions. We have felt the sweat freeze as fast as it forms.
        I see the leaves on the trees are dying, turning as brown and wrinkled as the skin of the corpse of my grandmother, woman of cigarettes and cats and spite. There are insects in the trees, insects whose skin is a skeleton as hard as a high-rise.
        We run, though our bellies twist into corkscrews and our skulls turn to concrete. We run, without hope or fear or future or past. Down a pitted trail alongside a ditch of unsafe water, the home of pestilence and chemical runoff. We run, we run, we run…


Excerpt # 43
A Single Fingernail

The Preface

        Don't particularly want to say anything that makes any sense. Don't particularly want to shed any armor, or add any. Don't particularly want to say anything sour and bitter, or hopeful, or sanguine.

The Piece Itself

        I have shattered the etched glassware. I have patiently sanded away the dents left over from bygone disruptions. In the glossy sheen of public restroom tiles there are a billion sordid stories registered in the soap scum. The amnesiac passengers discovered on transcontinental airliners have no comment about anything, neither as a group nor individually. In the layers of ice forming on the wings are the fingerprints of demons, the exhalations of angels. Oh stewardess! My stewardess…
        Someone has torn the carpet off the floor and glued it on the walls. Out the window I see all my personal gleanings are laid end to end along the equator and the tropics, have been left frozen solid in the arctics, composted in the temperate zones.
        How often I, we, they, slip in and out. First I'm here and then you're gone. They all lie around sleeping, laughing, watching the airliners go down. Ah, let us fly away, my darling. Let us drift out to sea, marking the days with little notches in the bowsprit (the nights are notched astern). Popcorn and truffles and flotation devices placed in their upright locked position. Marking the miles, the furlongs, the fathoms. Stepping hard upon the insects. Listing like a shudder, bivouacking on the flat featureless sides of high-rises, measuring the remaining stretch in a rope, the salt rings of sweat in the undergarments of working girls.
        Even in the midst of the most serious piloting, a single fingernail is always kept free for scratching. I know the winds; I know the currents; I know the sirens' wail. Bail water, fuel the tanks, beat each particular pain into a general amnesic delirium, chisel epigrams into salt flats and granite faces and the thin metal skins of the vehicles of man.
        She gets in elevators and presses the buttons every one. Lining it out in a grid, ticking the metronome spaces of stasis, the urges bite her pretty flesh, nerves tighten against the oncoming pounding. Sinews and high-tension cables snap. Fireball one explodes in the sky.
        She, he, I, they and the other wake with a start, spit broken teeth, and fade again into sleep, marking as we do each particular star, its color and fire and coolness, its ebb and flow.

        And then the long slow tides of light,
                        lapping 'gainst the soft descent of night
                                                        …and travelers.


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Chet N.