Q & A

By Bud Smith

Essay

Good Luck: Episode Thirty-Eight

 

A living memory asks, “What is time?”

 

Webster’s Dictionary says it is, “A nonspatial continuum that is measured in terms of events which succeed one another from past through present to future.”

 

But they are wrong.

 

Time is when the lightbulb burns out and you’re down in somebody’s basement doing a job, no clue where the stairs are, and in that darkness I remember another darkness, missing you, before you died, when you were off gathering sticks to make our campfire, while the moon rose, and I was just a child, sitting cross legged on the dirt, and you came back and said, “Don’t cry, it’s okay, Buddy.” And soon after the trees danced with light and everything was glowing, sparks popping, you saying there’s nothing in the dark, which is true, after a time, my eyes have always adjusted to it, and I slowly make my way out, find the stairs, open the door back to the bright present.

 

Anonymous from Unknown asks, “What happens when we die?”

 

Great question. I am trying to find out myself. So far, jury seems out. But I’m hoping within the next few days to get an answer. Check back in the novel later. Thanks.

 

My friend’s friend’s brother’s brother’s psychiatrist’s psychiatrist leaves a short voicemail, “What is memory?”

 

Great question. I’ve answered it earlier, my definition has come up quite a few times already. I’ll reiterate here, for convenience, but the previous one hundred and thirty thousand words of Good Luck did a great job in encapsulating my thoughts on memory, you might want to start at the beginning. Episode -1 and read to here, Episode 38. But, I know we are all busy, so. in summary:

 

Memory [ mem-uh-ree ]: noun, plural mem·o·ries.

  1. I don’t recall. (Just kidding).
  2. Your life is a house where you keep your memories. You built this house. Before you, and your memories, there was just a field there, with wild flowers and grass and bugs. You and your house and your memories displaced all of that, but it’s okay, when you die, the house will fall down and the rooms with your memories will collapse under the weight, and the wood that built the house will rot away and feed the ground, so grass and bugs and wild flowers return. Every year the house grows bigger. Each year a new room is added to keep those new memories. You can go to the house whenever you want to revisit these living memories, it’s located up over the hills, and then down the cup of the valley, and across this river, and that river, and then through a maze of dense forest, that feels as if it will ever end, but then, somehow, you’re through, the fields stretching on forever, the house a spec on the horizon.

 

All of this was well documented earlier in this project, and recently I spoke about how I forgot my own wedding anniversary, and upon harassment from Rae, I went and saw a neurologist. Following a CAT scan, the neurologist said there was nothing wrong with my brain and I was just getting old, I was just forgetting things. I knew better. I went to my house of memory, opened the door where my wedding day memories are kept. There I found my wife and I and all the attendees of the wedding, just a pile of skeletons. After discovering a tunnel from that memory into another, I eventually came to the conclusion that a murder had occurred, the killer was revealed to be Rae’s first boyfriend, who’d gone psycho, found his way into my house of memory under nefarious purposes, botched the memories.

 

Okay so anyway, that’s what memory is. And that’s why I forgot my wedding anniversary.

 

My father writes in from Bayville New Jersey, “Do you believe in life on other planets and that extra terrestrials visit earth?”

 

I do, I know you saw a UFO while doing your drill with the volunteer fire company. A rotating blue ball of light floating over town hall, seemingly attracted by the strobing red and white lights of the fire truck itself. Dad, I don’t think you’re crazy, and I’ve never heard you lie so I’m going to say yeah it wasn’t swamp gas. You told me, “I don’t not believe” and I’m going to stand in solidarity with that and say “na-nu na-nu.”

 

Ashleigh from Woodland North Carolina writes in, “Why did you send people to kill me and Joey?“

 

I’m sorry about that it made for good storytelling and I forgot about the feeling of fictional characters even if you aren’t fictional all the time, just in the story, and besides Joey edited out the murders and their black ski masks and watching y’all sleep, and all of it, so I hope we are all good. Though I think the fictional killers may still be out there. Please tell your vigilantes to stay vigilante.

 

Rae’s first boyfriend, Charlie Butterfield, writes in from memory jail, “What makes people evil?”

 

Man, you tell me.

 

Ileen Kaplan from Rock Springs, NY writes, “Will there be a time when there is no war?”

 

Absolutely not. I’m at war with the clouds right now. The clouds are just trying to get warm in the sunlight, but they’re also blocking my sunlight and I’m annoyed by it because I want to go swimming. The sun is too far away to notice any war, however small. But when the moon comes up, the moon is local and petty, and thinks it’s won. At dawn when it’s chased away by daylight, it just says it’s had enough anyway, it’s not retreating it’s just bored here. Meanwhile ants are always at war with somebody who is washing a lollipop off a sidewalk with a garden hose. And the undertaker is always at war with the doctor, and so on. And that’s not even getting into the real heartbreaking stuff that happens on this dying spec of stardust. I just saw last night on the news that children have lost another war against bullets, again.

 

Rae Buleri from Jersey City writes in from the other side of the bed, “For what cause or person would you sacrifice your life?”

 

You. I die for you. Nobody else. Nothing else. Come over here.

 

Rae writes in, “That’s a Bryan Adams song.”

 

🎶You know it’s true … Everything I do … I do it for youuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu🎶

 

Username anarchistcuckbook666writes in, “How will the apocalypse look?”

 

It’s going on now already, just look out the window, you’ll see it happening for yourself. This is nothing new. I just read Hamlet again and in 1603, Shakespeare writes that Horatio and his soldiers pals are all up on the parapet walls discussing a comet they saw, telling them the world is just about to end, and then a clown court jester ghost shows up and which think predicts the end of the world too. I don’t know, maybe it does. If there’s one constant thing about this world, it’s that it’s always been ending since as far back as anyone can remember. I think the end of the world is going to look like paint drying and grass growing on into an infinity we won’t get to see.

 

My brother William writes in from Bayville New Jersey, “Isn’t it a strange coincidence that the sun is 400 times larger than the moon, and also 400 times farther away, then the sun, so they both appear to be the same size in the sky?”

 

Yeah. Also don’t forget. You still owe me $400.

 

Abe Lincoln from Doylestown Pennsylvania writes in, “What came before the Big Bang?”

 

Great question. Moses says, “Darkness was upon the face of the deep.” Which sounds true.

 

Anonymous writes from Unknown, “What lies beyond the observable universe?”

 

Consciousness. Whatever it can fathom, what it cannot.

 

SeXXXiest TeXXXan Alive writes, “How does one discern between a dream and reality? Want to find out? Click to meet horny local singles in the 07306 area code NOW

 

You’re dreaming.

 

John Collector writes in from Santa Barbara, “How will we get to the future together?”

 

By expanding our empathy, communicating our love for one another, all of us, bedazzled strangers on the loose. By explaining our pain to those we think may not understand it, so they can begin to. By seeking the beatific in what is typically thought of as smoldering rubble. By saying not only the hard truth to some ignorant somebody on fire, who can’t tell they’re engulfed, but by bringing them water. By forgiving somebody, even if they’ve chopped your hands off so you can’t hold their hand, but when they come around and give your hands back, slap them once so they know, but then move on. By continuing to believe in goodness, while also growling at righteousness until it crawls in a hole and its punishment of sleep. By screaming into the void until the void sings back a lullaby. By living through the work week and taking your sweetheart to the carnival, riding the wild roller coaster up and down left and right. Blinking when you want to. Breathing when you want to. One heartbeat to another if you want to, your decision. Making friends with anybody who will babel on with you or against you, doesn’t matter. By deleting all the passwords. By melting down all the keys. By forgetting what the definition of sin is, whatever it is. By making something just to have made it. By looking on at the nearest comforting thing before it disappears, and when it does, by finding the next best comforting thing, until we ourselves, finally disappear.

 

During the course of your life, what has been your greatest personal accomplishment?

 

I won a poster contest when I was twelve. Drew a toxic waste green goblin sunset over an autumnal forest. “Keep the Colors On the Leaves and Out of the Sky.” Think it was something to do with Earth Day.

 

My mother writes in from aboard her pontoon boat, The Sea Bitch, “What do you know about me?”

 

Well, I know I love you very much. And I know that you were born Aug 24th 1957 in Point Pleasant hospital, the 5th child born of 7. Your parents were William and Jane Seaman, but they died before I was old enough to know them. Your siblings are (and in some cases were):

1) William *RIP*

2) Lester *RIP*

3) Sandy

4)Elaine

5) You, Robin.

6) Jeffrey *RIP*

7) Jonathan (Currently recovering from a severe stroke).

 

You are 61 years old now. Soon to be 62. Happy early birthday. You’re going to live 100 more years, which is great news for me. You were raised in Toms River and went to Toms River North high school. You met my dad when you were 18 and married him in 1980. I was born the next year. You were 23.

 

Your favorite color is red … About the color red, you say, “It’s my favorite, although I don’t wear it much …” When asked about your favorite food, you reply, “My favorite food is shrimp.” Most times we have eaten in restaurants, you have ordered the fried shrimp. It has been nice to see you happy.

 

You love all kinds of arts and crafts … but your favorite is knitting, of which you say, “I enjoy knitting for other people and don’t make much for myself!” and of which you add, “What color socks would you like?” To which I say, “Red” because red is your favorite color and I think you will enjoy knitting it the most.

 

You also love gardening and being out on the water fishing and crabbing on The Sea Bitch. When pressed for further comment, you reply, “Oh, and tell those nice people reading that I said that I believe I am a realistic person … I don’t need to have the best of everything.” Which, is true. So I will say, in conclusion, that you are self-aware, as well as being humble, realistic, and kind.

 

Haruto Itō writes in from in from Inazawa, Japan, “Is telepathy real?”

 

Howdy Haruto, I’m not sure, but I texted my dad and he responded to me, “Mental telepathy is real, I tested it, and someday face-to-face I’ll tell you the story.” So yes, telepathy is real it seems. I don’t have the details of my dad’s experiment yet, nor do I know if I’ll ever be able to share the details with you. It’s up to my father. I’ll ask him and I will get to back to you if it’s okay. Thank you for reading. Thanks for sending this question. More soon.

 

The Editor writes in, “Bud, is this a novel?”

 

Yes. You’re a character in it, Joey. You’re called Joey, or just referred to as The Editor. You’re one of the heroes. Just bear with me it’ll get uglier for you soon. But then it will get better. Buckle up.

 

The Editor writes back, “Hey no offense but I don’t think I want to be in your book.”

 

More soon.

 

The Editor writes back, “But for real? A novel now?”

 

Yeah it’s a novel. Contender for ‘Great American Novel’. Buckle up.

 

The Editor writes back, “I don’t mind editing some pieces, like week to week (surprised we’ve done this many tbh) for the Nervous Breakdown, but I don’t wanna like … edit a whole novel … for free.”

 

I’m gonna call you later. I’m in the middle of something.

 

Michael Mungiello writes in from Guam, “Do you see the world more clearly when you’re in love or when you’re heartbroken?”

 

Great question. Both points of view are a filter. Infatuation rose tints everything but despair shades everything the other way towards darkness and brimstone. The true nature of existence can be glimpsed more accurately by a disassociation with the Self. I find it easiest to do this when consuming the art of others. One of the reasons I’ve always been so drawn to books and movies, is because I was able to get away from myself and my problems (mostly it was always problems). Anyway, I’m hoping to get to the Whitney Museum this week or next week to see the Biennial. If you’re back from Guam by then, maybe we can go together.

 

Anselmo writes in from below the Mason Dixon line, “Are you on drugs?”

 

Great question. Next question.

 

John Collector writes in again, now from New Orleans, “What caused your most recent cry?”

 

Last winter, coldest day of the year. Two English sisters made me weep like a baby. I’m not sure what they were doing in Jersey City but I heard them screaming in British accents just below my living room window, this one called this one a tutter and the other one called her a daft cow. I looked out and then they were kind of kung fu fighting in the handicapped spot. That didn’t last long. Someone driving a yellow Prius swooped in and tried to park illegally in the handicapped spot, and the sisters kicked the car and scared the driver off. Then they were kind of embracing and apologizing to each other for being such chuffed tossers. The one sister told the other that she now thought she was the dog’s bullocks and I thought that was bad but then the other sister said, “Absobloodylootely, Bob’s Your Uncle!” They were crying and hugging and then I was too. They saw me and asked if I was looking for a pull and I said, “What?” And the one sister said, “It’s monkeys outside I’ve had enough of this chav wanker.”

 

Mikaela Grantham writes in from Hawaii, “Well what do you think is going to happen today?”

 

I’m not sure if anything will happen. There’s going to come a time when things happening becomes used up. Maybe nothing will happen today, finally, for the first time, for us all. Might be a nice change of pace.

 

Juanita writes from Juarez, “What happens when you get sued?”

 

Hello Juanita. Great question. Nice to meet you. We have never met before. I have no knowledge of you as a person or any incidents that may or may have not occurred between us, this is my official, and final speakings on the subject. Have a nice life, or get a life. Your choice.

 

Michael Bible writes from Oxford, Mississippi, “Is suffering more the absence of pleasure or the presence of pain? What are your thoughts on the pull up vs. the push up? Does one’s current political or cultural affiliation still matter faced with the knowledge that we are dust and dust we shall return? If olfactory is the sense most associated with memory what sense, in your estimation, is most closely tied to seeing the future? Do you truly believe in the maxim “more money, more problems” or is opposite true? Without researching the topic do you, right now, believe dinosaurs had feathers? Is wine or chocolate more important in your life? Did you know some bird sleep while flying? Do you trust what I have just told you is true? How are your knees these days? What in your mind is the perfect temperature?” 

 

All great questions. I’ll be fielding these all shortly, in total, together. Please hold.

*“Young Turks” by Rod Stewart plays on loop*

 

Bill Yarrow writes in from Chicago, “Do you agree with this Zen proverb, ‘The future doesn’t come forward to greet us, but comes from behind, streaming over our heads.’?”

 

Yes, I do agree with that. Rae’s father, Ben Buleri, taught his daughters, “Never turn your back on the ocean.” The thinking being, as soon as you stop paying attention, you will be knocked over by a wave. But I believe to have fun in the ocean, one must surrender this vigilance and to begin to play, to let one’s self be crashed around, and to make the best of said crashing. You cannot have fun without “playing” you cannot play in total control. Much in this same line of thinking, one cannot live while worrying about death, because that worry will alleviate the living and the living is not in fact living but a pre-death. We must occasionally let our guard down and come what may to us. In these moments of unguardedness, we will reach our greatest heights of joy. Another piece of advice Ben Buleri gave to Rae was, “Never wear flip flops in the city.” He told her that someone would come out of a dark alley with a knife or gun, and she might have to run, to save her life, but trying to run in flip flops would be her doom. Ben Buleri also once stood up from the kitchen table and went to the front door of his own house and yelled out to the whole neighborhood, “Does anybody else want to come over here and bust my stones?”

 

The character, Durak, writes from inside the novel, “Can you please leave me alone. Can you please stop writing about me?” 

 

Durak it’s more than hallway over. New Year’s Day 2020, I promise you’ll thank me.

 

A cat from Woodland, North Carolina writes, I can’t read but I like to watch movies, what’s your favorite movie Bud?

 

Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal.

 

Another cat from Woodland, North Carolina wants to know, “What happens when we die?”

 

I don’t know for sure, cat. Am still conducting my own independent research, yet to be vetted by the scientific community. But also, until you hear back. Check out The Seventh Seal. It could help you understand.

 

Bud Smith writes from his bamboo desk, where I am now, “Do you believe everything that happens is predetermined? Is there free will?”

 

Nothing is predetermined. If I don’t do the laundry, I have dirty clothes, but I can do the laundry, it’s just not smart to do it today, because it’s Sunday. Everybody is down there clogging up the machines. Everybody does their laundry on Sunday. Why would I want to do my laundry on Sunday. I’ll never do my laundry on Sunday. Okay, so that one thing is predetermined, the rest of it, I have free will over, and so do you. We’ll do the laundry tomorrow. Unless the weather is nice. That’s yet to be determined. I never believe the weatherman. I always have to look out the window for myself. If it’s nice out, we’ll take myself for a picnic.

 

 

 


[artwork by Anna Reeser]

 

BUD SMITH lives in Jersey City and works construction. He is the author of the novel Teenager (Tyrant Books '19), among others.

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