Issue Thirty-Three - Winter 2019

Distemper

By Rich Ives

Occasionally I seem to fall into myself, and I have a limited number of holes to accommodate that, which is to say I’m capable, one chance in five, of being an asshole.

You see, I’ve just gotten out of bed and I remember some things I said and did yesterday while I’m trying to make some pancakes look and smell like pancakes before I taste them, and I’ve reached the point where flippancy is the other side of intensity and both of them have burned the pancakes.

So I eat the pancakes anyway and try to concentrate on the maple syrup, and I go outside to see what’s out there. I’m noticing a bunch of creatures in the grasses humming the same tune right over the top of each other, harmonious. You probably think I’m offering an excuse for being an asshole, but I think I’m just noticing things.

Then I remember telling a female friend just yesterday, This is not the kind of relationship that pushes the wheelchair into the busy intersection, and being irritated by the way she listened like a car horn.

You’re very inventive when it comes to shallow humor, replied the woman who was not friendly enough to remind me what her name was.

I felt the thin line between the slide and smear a trombone donates to ironic situations confuse my former sense of certainty and cleverness. It’s a subtle experience but not really the metaphor I’m pretending it is.

Unfortunately I also remember that I had suggested perhaps she had a couple of advanced degrees in unnecessary clothing, and she indicated she had a doctorate in distemper, its appreciation, not its cure.

That was when I considered traveling without restraint, but as an American tourist I’m significant and vulnerable to kidnapping. At home nobody wants me, so I continue to limit my tours to the grocery store and feel inordinately safe.

Cover the uncovered that it might soon be seen as naked, I think I also remember saying, trying to be clever again, a whole blatherfull of it, a jig paraphrasing cigarette burns. And now I remember the phrase, as the secret maiming of intelligence becomes known and offered to the body as something I may have said to the full-of-herself woman, who was kind of attractive and maybe not so snooty as her lack of interest in me suggested.

The party was held by a man I’ll call Jeremy, who always crossed the hall as if one direction were better than another.

Where are we going, Tranquillo? I asked someone else, who seemed lubricated enough to take me seriously.

Go forth upon the waves and tame them, I said to Jeremy, and once again the day was broken.

Some of the guests were standing near their stones, and like some wild ass in the canyon of his heart, Jeremy tried to make them feel more comfortable.

This was all just yesterday too, the first day of the year after Grandpa began living on the porch, which may also be a metaphor, but it was the first year I advertised my compassion.

For a moment I’ve forgotten I’m in the garden, but after I have another friendly conversation with the flowering weeds. (Oh don’t I still feel at home among them?) I consider how we’ve divided the plant world into good plants and bad plants and there is no allowance for individual differences (these weeds are not recovering from being bad weeds) or offer any pathways for improvement (no therapist would even attempt it) that don’t simply try to make a weed not a weed.

Then I notice some large beetles, which seem capable of biting me severely although I don’t really know why they would want to, except for the foolishness that rearranged their hiding spots just because I was wondering what was under those leaves I had failed to remove when preparing the garden. Right there is something else I missed, something dead that may have arrived beneath the leaves well after I forgot them because it’s still leaking although I’ve decided not to annoy any further readers who have been persistent enough to have come this far by describing that in inspirational detail.

It’s another aspect of my experience resembling the sea, the idealized one modified by accidents and misinterpretations, which is what the real sea does, even if you’ve never seen it, when it sees you coming in your ashes and spreading out as if to embrace one more ceremony before going off on too many different obligations placed out ahead of you before you even know it.

I can hear my mother gesturing loudly now, and this day’s only just begun.

I was the broken bat smiling in the team photo. In this way I really was the bat boy at the center of the picture.

My mouth was empty of words briefly, after the last thing I remember saying to the woman at the party, so I left my mouth open. Her dress was whispering invitations where it fell short, where my frequency allowed assumptions, but I hadn’t yet been breathing up there right next to where I lived. It was only a matter of transportation and once the vehicles departed with their loads, you didn’t have to pay attention.

And we were all like one with a similarity we couldn’t quite identify. At that moment a bloom of understanding accelerated and my confusion manifested itself as thirst.

Just when I think I’d like to live closer to water, it rains.

So finally I shut up and hope I’ll be remembered for one of my more intelligent responses, the ones I can seldom remember, although it doesn’t seem possible until I’ve been a little stupid first.

Copyright Ives 2019

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