the Remembered Saints: My Life and Subsequent Death
Execution of the Sun"
Among the Jellyfish"
of the Manfestation"
Cake and Double Talk"
the Remembered Saints:
My Life & Subsequent Death
Second Brush with Death
one night-black route to the next, long and silent, our
fearless foursome ride, Onion Charlie at the helm with
wife beside, while behind, beneath a musty Hudson Bay
blanket, snuggle Arbunkle and Candy Tabitha, the former
so preoccupied with thoughts of the dead that he almost
ignores the hands groping, pulling back the belt buckle
and popping loose the buttons beneath. More turns and
a long stretch of black road and finally Onion Charlie
turns right at the elementary school whose mascot Indian
head grimaces silverwhitepink under the sodium vapors.
Still further, then, through a long corridor of trees
that will lead them, sure as rain, to the point where
the living have traditionally chosen to seek the dead.
One mile, two; nothing but woods and
signs forbidding trespassing. Then behind the line of
trees: fields of soybean and lettuce, from which lurches
a family of deer: papa mama and bambi. Onion smashing
the brake pedal for all it's worth; gasp-shrieking from
the car's four mouths startling the deer more than the
brakes' screech. Then hop-hop they go, across the road
to munch lettuce. Whew; brow wipe; collective sigh. Then
another mile, where at last the expected railroad appears
at an unexpected spot.
it here? says Onion Cindy to Candy Tabitha, who years
before had visited the dead with a date whose single pre-occupying
thought had been meeting Jim Morrison's ghost.
Candy Tabitha: I'm not sure.
Cindy, not yet willing to discuss with
her husband the reason she had disrobed before their mutual
chairman, stares at the twin tracks of steel and sighs.
Finally: map unfolded, routes traced
and...I say, old man—this route crosses the rails
in two places.
—So which is it? from the car,
Blank stares and crumbling noises while
the map is folded, and then, no one willing to climb out
alone and yell for your humble, Charlie-at-the-helm-Onion
drives through the trees one mile exactly to the next
railroad crossing, which is, if anything, even less inviting.
Again more blank stares until Candy Tabitha, she of the
car's youngest eyes as well as the hardest, etc., plucks
out of the blackness a dim, familiar shape.
—I remember that, she says, pointing.
The others strain, come up with nothing.
—There, again pointing, and then,
as if it were a ship sliding into a fog-shrouded harbor,
the house appears.
Window glass gone, doors popped from
their frames, clapboards bone-white with weathered age.
Beside it a tree manifests itself, stretching its limbs
to cuddle and conceal the house.
—We got out here, Candy Tabitha
No door handles are turned, nor is it
suggested. Eight eyes in four uncertain and suddenly rather
frightened heads peer into the darkness. But this is not
the vigilant watch the spirit world demands; this is merely
fear of the dark, a pitiable trait among four adults.
Finally, it is the helmsman who speaks.
—I think it's the other spot.
Grumbling, disagreement, half-hearted
effort to get out of the car and confirm the sight, and
then the car is started, turned around and driven back
to the first crossing.
retraced mile later, the helmsman steers cautiously onto
the mud-splattered shoulder, the ship's headlights scanning
over beer cans, cigarette butts and empty packs, candy
and hamburger wrappers, and a single condom that, in the
headlights, looks like a child's legging and causes hrumphs
and throat-clearings all around.
Helmsman: This has got to be it. All
the trash, the shoulder, etc.
Still, no one moves. Then, unexpectedly,
it's Onion Cindy, clucking and stepping heavily onto the
debris. Soon, goaded, the others follow. And are surprised
by the heat that rises from the road, the moisture that
pushes through the swampy marshes beyond the trees.
Except for the strip of sky over the
tracks, the road is dark. Looking one way, back into the
city, the strip is pink; the other way, navy-blue with
hundred thirty-five years ago, a train loaded with Confederate
war-wounded crossed this road, then only a deer path.
It entered the woods here at full steam, aiming to cross
the marshes before nightfall. Less than a half a mile
later—mere seconds of travel—the locomotive
encountered Yankee-twisted tracks. For a moment, train
and passengers floated, then tumbled, twisted, screeched,
ceased. The conductor, who had invented a prototype of
the kazoo and had even sold forty-nine to wounded soldiers,
was thrown against the door. When the train finally fell,
he was decapitated by a falling wood ax. It is this man
who haunts this place, pacing the tracks, lamp lifted,
searching in vain for the head that will make him whole
again and let him slip completed into that world we dare
not question and yet forever seek, paradise.
woods and marsh oblivious to all this, of course, croaking
twittering chirping and generally ignoring the cars that
bring the supplicants seeking news of the other side (which,
of course, the conductor couldn't give them anyway, never
having been there himself. Imagine what form a dialogue
with the conductor would take: Seen my head? No? Have
I what? I wish. Sure you haven't seen that head? Damn.
Damn. Here somewhere. What?). Normally, they come intoxicated,
their courage propped up with chemicals, but Arb &
Co. huddle together sober, frightened of the forest and
its hidden mysteries.
Cindy (whispering): Well?
Clearing of throats, foot-shifting.
Charlie: Which way?
Glances up and down moonlit tracks.
In the starlight, they beckon, and each of our four, in
their own way, wonders whether they might be better off
just breaking away and...each wanting to follow the tracks
A pair of headlights bobs through the
trees accompanied by the drone of a motor making its way
toward our four. Like deer they lock legs, wait; heart-throated.
But the droning motor nudges its way onto an unseen road
and drifts into the trees on the city side of the tracks,
eventually dwindling to a whisper...and is gone.
Another collective sigh, legs lifted,
stretched. Eyes searching the woods, the tracks, then
turning as a pack on our hero.
pass. Sitting on the hood, leaning on the fenders, lying
on the ground, sitting on the tracks. First staring back
into the city, then turning to stare into the marshes.
But nothing. Finally they break up into separate couples,
like strangers on a beach, Onions to the tracks, Candy
Tabitha and our hero back to the car hood, where they
lie under the stars and stare up wordless: fingers-interlocked.
Near four o'clock, a shooting star streaks across the
strip of sky, the length of the tracks. Ar and CT so busy
shrieking and pointing that at first they don't hear the
Onions' simultaneous shrieking.
Then, in a terse whisper, Onion Charlie:
Vaulting from the hood, sprint-flying
to the tracks: a collection of pink dots hover playfully
several hundred yards into the marshes.
Hesitation, then tentatively, slow as
a mine sweeper, Onion begins walking down the tracks toward
the lights, which dart and dodge, oblivious. The others
watching, not moving. He reaches the edge of the woods,
turns back to beckon. The lights dissolve. Become nothing.
More waiting, but they don't return.
—Marsh gas, Woody says, reason
regained. Firm in his fickle faithlessness again, yet
with a hint of let-down.
Back to separate couples again. Chirp
chirp, hoo hoo. Otherwise silence. A few mosquitoes passing
through stop to draw a little of the red stuff and then,
after the moon has cleared the treetops and cast a blue-funk
glow over the track and its haunted air, the Onions rise
and wander down the tracks. The air is cooler now and,
standing on the spot where Onion Charlie had stood when
the lights evaporated, their thoughts drift lazy as the
lights, each in their windowless world, feeling history
and time as yes, as nowhere, as none. Then, in the distance,
another droning motor.
dash back to the road, feet slipping off the tracks slick
as mud, grunting with fear. Ar and Candy Tabitha vaulting
from the hood, Ar simultaneously struggling to button
back his fly (yes, at it again).
Onion Charlie (guttural): In the car.
Panic; wasted, soap-slick movements:
hands grasping and slipping loose, legs suddenly fallen
asleep or dead even, rooted like trees as the motor hums
nearer. Doors pop open; clumsy, over-sized bodies pile
into the car suddenly grown two sizes too small, then:
slam slam slam...slam. Silence. Through the trees, headlights.
Not a breath from our heroic four. Nearer, nearer comes
the drone, headlights scanning over them, and finally
it appears, a small import, bubbling like a motor submerged
in sea water. Blub blub blub blub, diminishing now, disappearing
through the trees that lead to the second crossing. General
exhalation from the car, then: sweat turns cold as the
car is heard to turn and make its way back toward them.
Tabitha, suddenly unfrozen, spastically clutches the flashlight
at her feet and, with less thought than a tree, clicks
Recovering her senses, she struggles
with the buttons and discovers that the flashlight offers
two more options: flashing yellow light and a whining
siren, each of which commence at the flip of their switches.
CT (near hysterics): Oh my God.
Our hero, likewise unfrozen, clutches
the flashlight and begins bashing it ruthlessly against
the back of Onion Charlie's seat. To no avail. As the
mystery car approaches, droning, our questing quartet
present a whirling light-and-sound show. Then, as the
mystery car comes abreast, Arb manages to crush the light
on the back of Onion Charlie's head. Lights out for both
the flashlight and poor Charlie. Only Cindy, ignoring
her slumping husband, has the foresight to peek into the
mystery car and see nothing more than a forty-nine year-old
man out of work and delivering newspapers to make ends
meet. What she doesn't see though, is your humble, manifesting
himself in the form of a nose and a right ear, riding
low in the passenger's seat and finding himself wholly
incapable of rising any higher.
goes the mystery engine, smaller and smaller until it
is merely a single halo of pre-halogen light, and then,
too small for our terrified tetrad (minus blacked-out
Onion) to hear, a gut-busting bellow explodes from within
as our over-aged out-of-work newspaper boy sets his hand
on your humble's right ear. Bellowing, shrieking, wetting
himself and then falling lifeless onto yours truly, trapping
me temporarily against a newsprint photo of a newly discovered
two-headed toad. The pre-halogen halo drifts handless,
then locks radar on the nearest pine tree and, leaping
the ditch, plows bumper-first into it.
The noise is negligible, but perhaps
something askew in the peripheral catches the eyes of
our remaining three: the pre-halogen halo now turned to
a single, cyclops-beacon shining back toward them and
unmoving. Poor Arbunkle, thinking finally his headless
prince had come, leaps from the car. But is greeted by
no headless lantern-bearing train conductor in Confederate
grays. Instead: the incessant droning of our ceaseless
mystery engine, like the squirming legs of a bug on its
back. By now, of course, the women have stepped tentatively
back onto pavement and as Ar explains the beacon, Onion
Charlie lifts his head from the wheel and stares about
him. Sadly groggy and double-visioned, but nonetheless
Minutes pass while the unseen Onion
struggles to climb out, and then, our heroic four a foursome
again, they watch the silhouette of the newsboy likewise
climb out; likewise double-visioned but alive. Glances
about, then, remembering, darts head back into car...but
sees nothing awry. I, of course, having hocus-pocused
back to this miserable darkness. Shakes head, disbelieving,
then backs back onto the road and, deciding that the right-hand
road of the two matches up to the world, he follows it
through the trees and is gone.
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late Reginald Blisterkunst was a college professor whose
areas of expertise were Milton and the Metaphysical Poets.
Among the Remembered Saints was his first novel.
He also co-wrote Pluto Wars with Charlie Onion,
a frequent WAG contributor.