I think I was probably older than most writers are when they first realize that literature is not just books–that it is a system of ideas and ideals, a paradigm, a way of being.

I was 18 or 19.  It was the middle of July in a steaming, sucking, temperate summer, and I was in northern Minnesota at a cabin my family has rented every summer for as long as I have been alive.  Back then, the cabin got three channels, broadcast, via antennae.  After trying, unsuccessfully, to get drunk in local bars, I was suffering a dearth of shit to do.

Desperate, I tagged along with my considerably more bookish sister to the bookstore in town.

In a fitting bastardisation of astrophysics, the sun rose on the British colonial interest in the West, and finally set on it in the East, more than 800 years later. The first instance of English Crown control in Ireland in the late 1100s was the first step on the grand march towards, ‘The British Empire’—an endeavour later re-branded, ‘Globalisation’.

I was now transfixed on the snow pack up on the roof of that big red barn. Out of the blue.

Milomartin1a_5_1


Something told me it was gonna fall. It was all gonna come down. All eleven tons of it. All at the same time. There was absolutely no doubt in my mind.

“How do you know?” Boner asked.

“I dunno,” I said, “I just know. I can feel it.”

“Come on,” Boner said.

“No man, it’s gonna happen. It’s all gonna come sliding off. In one fell swoop. I’m tellin’ ya. You’ll see.”

“You’re fuckin’ high, Milo.”

“I may be high,” I said, “but somethin’ told me when we got out of the Carlo,


Milomartin2a_2_1


that all that snow is gonna come sliding off that roof.”

“How can you tell? Did you see it move?”

“No, not exactly. It’s more of a premonition. Sorta like a déjà vu that hasn’t materialized yet.”

Milo, that same pack of snow has been up there for months. Like four or five months. What makes you think it’s gonna come down right now, while we’re watching?”

“Like I said, I don’t know exactly how I know, but I know. Sometimes you just know stuff. Just keep watching that roof Boner and we are going to see it come down.”

“Well, I doubt it’s gonna come down right now but if it does come down, those cows milling around underneath are gonna get sacked.”


Milomartin3a_1_1


“You’re right. Good point. Maybe we should try to scare them off or lead them into the barn or alert the farmer or…”

“How do we even know it’s gonna happen right now? Or in the next twenty minutes? Or in the middle of the night? Or three days from now? We don’t. That’s the point, Milo, we don’t know. Shit, man.”

“It is gonna happen. Just hang tight.”

“Ah man, we could be watchin’ Hogan’s Heroes right now. It’s after 3:30.”

“You don’t believe me? You think I’m jivin’ you?”

“I don’t know, man. You get freaky sometimes when you get stoned. And you make all these big cosmic proclamations. And you expect me to go along with them. And you know for the most part, it’s just the hooch talkin’.” It’s just the hooch talkin’. It’s just the hooch talkin’.

I remained glued to the roof of the massive barn, my lids at half-mast, knowing the descent of that snow was inevitable.

“Sometimes Boner, the hooch knows what it’s talkin’ about. The hooch helps us to see dimensions of things we wouldn’t ordinarily see, you know, a hyper-sensitivity. A super-reality. There’s like, a central receptacle within all of us that holds everything. Knows everything.”

“I think that’s what they call the Scrotum, bro.” Boner slapped his leg.

“OK. You can goof all you want Boner, but I’m actually pretty serious right now. I’m talking about the Omniscient Wisdom Container.”

“The om-fucking what kind of container?”

“The Omniscient Wisdom Container. The…the…the…the eternal bloom holder. A…a…a crystal saline water vase that holds eleven oceans. The like, sordid history within our cellular patterns. The cumulative knowledge in the fat of our earlobes. The trillions of souls in the calves of our legs.”

“OK Mr. Spaceman. If you’re talking about the DNA strip, I can almost dig that. And the human instinct thing too. And if you’re figuring that it’s March and it’s Spring and like, the sun has been out for the past two days, melting and loosening that base of ice up there, I can go with that. But this bloom holder of eternity stuff, you know, I don’t know, man. I mean, that snow could be up there for another week or two. I mean, fuck…”

“Yeah but the thing is, I know and I don’t know how I know, but I just know. C’mon Boner, you gotta be with me on this. It’s ready to go. It’s gonna drop. All of it. All that snow. All like, eleven tons of it. Soon. You’ll see, man.”

“OK Mister Chicken Little-the sky-is-falling saying it again and again. You’re fuckin’ looped, dude.”

“Maybe. Maybe not.”

I could feel Boner surveying me, wrinkling that Pizon schnoz of his and pushing his glasses up, blinking like an owl, wondering if I was just fucking with him, which I was prone to do. He was looking for conviction. Knowing that this very second was crucial, I didn’t flinch, laser beaming the crest of that snow-covered roof with all of my supernatural resolve. He was either gonna leave me standing there in the driveway like a foolish dope or he was going to hang out and commit to the mystical trip.

“Do you wanna smoke, man?”

“Yes,” I said. “I would like a cigarette.”

***

I had Nicole up just the way she liked it. Squeezed and kneaded her flanks like wet clay, making her move it. I held it good and still, helping every fifth or sixth time. The Tahoe National Forest was positively incandescent natural heaven on this late vernal morning and I was wrapped up and drawn out the window into the bright greens of the Jack pines against the super-white shining of the diamonds in the snow.

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My endorphin machine synthesized the natural elements into a sacred sweaty swirl where the aereolic clouds pillowed the loins and cotton was the rooster and everything turned into either hill or valley or river or bush and at the exact moment I put it all over her back, a bird flew into the glass of the window with a sickening little pt-ink-fup, leading with its beak. Our bodies jumped, jerked out of our insular plane. It might as well have been a gunshot.

“What was that?” she asked breathing.

“A bird I think. I think a bird just ran into the window. I’m gonna go see.”

“Stay,” she purred. “It’s just a dead bird.”

“It might not be dead,” I said. “ I’m gonna go check.”

“Milo, c’mon…”

I gathered over to the window and there, bounced three feet back from the house on the hardened snow, lay a Mountain Chickadee,

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twitching in the confusing throes of a rude collision.

“It’s still alive. I’m gonna go check it out.”

“C’mon Milo. What’s the big deal? You gonna go out like that? In just your wife-beater?”

I threw my robe on and left my boots untied. The snow by the side of the house had a springtime crust from the run-off and I found myself breaking through six inches down with each step, squinting against the sun. What the hell was I really doing out here anyway?

Coming up on the bird, it appeared now to be silent. Upon closer inspection, it was palpitating slightly, its neck turned unnaturally, its beak partially opened, its eye film half-drawn and a tiny sparkle of light visible in the onyx eye.

“Is it dead?” she asked from the window.

“Nope,” I said. “But she’s in shock all right.”

“Probably more in shock from what she saw through the bedroom window,” she quipped.

“Yeah, damn,” I said, sort of smiling. “That must be it.”

I cupped my hand over her shoulder trying to take her and she sprung, alarmed by my touch. It was most likely the first time she had been touched by anything other than feather, wood, weather or sky.

“Well at least she’s conscious,” I said.

There was no response. I looked up to the window. Nicole had moved on to do something else. I got that weird foolish feeling that you get when you’re talking to someone whom you thought was your captive audience, listening behind you, and they leave the room without saying a word and you jabber on about something important before you find that you’re alone, talking to yourself. Oi.

The bird had leapt toward the house, just under the eaves trough. When I came to her, she lay in a sunspot, huffing. I moved my hands toward her again when a large clear droplet of snow water fell into the ruffles of her neck and she flew off in a start, awkward and wobbly, landing under a juniper bush twenty yards back into the woods. She had summoned enough concentrated strength to fly away into the bushes to either convalesce or to die in peace without the hovering presence of an alien. My grandfather once told me that birds who flew into windows suffered concussions, slipping into temporary comas and as long as their necks weren’t broken and they weren’t attacked by cats in the meantime, they could snap out of their coma on a dime and fly away as if nothing ever happened. Come to think of it, the same phenomena occurred with me when I was tossed over the handlebars of a dirt bike a few years back, landing on the crown of my helmeted head whereupon I popped right back up and got up on the bike, cool as a cucumber. Or so I thought. My friends had seen the accident and told me after the fact, that I had laid motionless for three minutes, appearing very dead, when out of nowhere I popped back up, looking almost possessed. Birds, humans, knockin’ ourselves silly.

I guessed that my work had been done here, not that I really accomplished anything with the bird. And although it was Spring in the mountains and the sun was out, it was still frickin’ cold as a witch’s wrinkled bellybutton and I was still only wearing a robe and boots. I started retracing my tracks, stepping back into the foot-holes toward the house when a low bassey ominous scraping sound jerked my head around to witness the four-foot high pack of snow sliding off of the roof onto the patch of ground where I had been with the bird not forty seconds earlier. A veritable bludgeoning avalanche of a multi-tonnage parcel of frozen water blocks hit the ground with thwomps of muted heaviness certain to flatten or maim any living thing under its deadly cross-hairs. Wow. Fuck. Shit. Goddamn even.

“What was that, Milo?” Nicole asked coming quickly to the window.

I didn’t say anything. I couldn’t. She looked down at the pile of thick white tombstones and my footprints leading in. Then she looked over at me, less than ten feet away.

“Holy shit,” she said.

“Holy shit is right,” I said, releasing my breath.

One wouldn’t normally think of falling snow as a leading cause of death but throughout the ages literally thousands of humans, dogs, horses and cattle have been clobbered, paralyzed and killed by snow falling from houses, buildings and mountains, even critically stabbed by falling icicles. Bludgeoned by spring thaw.

And I had been spared. And the bird had been spared. A veritable dual reprieve. Had I saved the bird’s life? Or had the drop of snow water saved the bird’s life, thereby saving my life? And was it possible that the three ounces of bird hitting the window had reverberated through the walls of the house loosening the snow from its moorings? Or had it been the wicked motion within the bedroom? Or had it been the exponential sum of both movements coupled with the spring blast of the sun? Or was it just a coincidence? Or was it a coinciding?

As I attempted to assimilate what had just transpired, I teleported back to Boner and me watching the roof of that barn on that ordinary spring day fifteen years back. I had been so sure and Boner so skeptical and we watched that roof for close to twenty minutes before that snow pack came careening off that 40 x 60 tin roof like the epic frozen ghost of Niagara Falls. I can still see that orange cow, in exactly the wrong place at exactly the wrong time, crumpling under the weight of that snow, its legs buckling and snapping, a dreadful noise mixed with the muffled caterwaul of a guttural moo. I can still see it. In my wisdom container. I can still see it all. That and the expression on Boner’s face.

I went red-eyed and messy-haired to my kitchen this morning to make coffee wherein I saw a large cockroach lying upside-down on my breadboard writhing in the throes of Death. 


I had laid poison last night and it was now taking effect on this roach’s entire system, his whole way of Being. And here I was to actually witness it. Christ. Face-to-face with the big consequences. On my breadboard. First thing in the morning. Jesus.

He was flat on his back, pedaling his legs in a medicated slow-motion Hell dance; his verve, his quickness, a bleary memory from another time– yesterday. I’m pretty sure this was the same commando roach I would see on reconnaissance missions in the pantry between the plastic bags of tomato ramen. I bet that just a few hours ago, he was wheeling and ruling in his headquarters under the refrigerator, telepathing suggestions to his underlings and just doing his ‘survival thing’. Now here he was, dying and double-clutching on my breadboard. This was all so very disconcerting to me…and utterly fascinating.

I ambled quickly to my bedroom to get my deluxe Swiss Army knife with the 10X power magnifying glass. I hurried back and flicked the magnifying glass out so that I might fully examine this Socratic insect on his final deathbed, choking on the Hemlock I had thusly administered. Amazing detail, I thought, as the eastern sun filtered through the kitchen window, conveniently illuminating this Stygian peep show. In one way, I felt slightly morbid and a bit sadistic doing this, as it was I who had plotted to kill him, to extinguish his fire, to effectively block his Life Path. It was I who had gone to the Thrifty on Vermont and Hollywood and picked out the most expensive roach bait traps, the shiny black boxes, the ones with the cartoon renderings of the little purple bugs with the Xs in their eyes.

I was faced with what I viewed as ‘personal enc-roachment’. I actually didn’t mind the little guys all that much but I was tired of girls saying how gross my kitchen was, they shrieking at the crawlers and stabbing at them with their high-heeled shoes. I had had enough. And I admit, I did this all with forethought and malice, moving with blinders past the ‘guilt factor,’ as I realized I was somehow bearing justice and wreaking truth. So there I was, bearing justice and wreaking truth and peering like some Cyclops god through the looking glass at this beautifully ugly hi-tech insect passing onto his reward on my crumby breadboard. Some reward, I thought. This was all so fucking disconcerting.

So I pull in nice and tight right up to his translucent orangey-brown face and Socrates looks me right in the eyes and curses me with his churning mandibles: One day, all this will be yours, Sonny boy. That’s right Mr. Curious, Mr. Pious, Mr. Cyclops God, Mr. Mercenary Jester who hath poisoned Gregor Samsa, King of the Roaches, you too will have your day under the glass, under the sun, under the gun, under the scrutiny of your malevolent peers. And hopefully you’ll be in that predicament before you’ve had a chance to leave a real legacy behind and then you’d be sorry that you had procrastinated so long and you’d fight to hang on and pedal your skinny legs so that you could continue to live and strive for glory but it would be too late by then because you would be paralyzed by the Anti-forces dripping coagulants into your nostrils and making you breathe noxious molasses until you choked on your own blood.

Well, I thought, today is Gregor Samsa’s day to die, and I am sorry for this, but I suppose I should grasp this opportunity to thoroughly examine his cephalothorax and the dwindling state that he’s in. And so I did, moving my monocle down past his hair-hinged V-legs to his abdomen, which was twitching and heaving with much melodrama. Lean and ridged and slightly pointed but rounded-off oh so elegantly. Pure precision design.

Looking closer still, his abdomen metamorphosized into the face of a woman before my very eyes. A moon-faced woman with a little Flip Do from like, the 30’s, and she had a beauty mark on her cheek, on both of her cheeks actually, perfectly symmetrical beauty marks, and she closed her eyes as if she were listening to some strange music that she had never heard before and she cooed and pursed her lips and moved the back of her hand over her forehead and she sighed and batted her lashes until they came completely open and just then it struck me, she looked just like Anais Nin, 

 

 


 

Anais_nin

perky and beautiful and classic and avante garde in a totally new Silver Lake kind of way and she poofed her cheeks out and then she sucked them in and became pouty like a French postcard girl who had so much laundry to do that she didn’t know what to do and because she had absolutely nothing clean to wear, she had to do her laundry in the nude, bending over, lathering and squeezing and rubbing her garments down into the soapy water, then pulling them up, letting them drip, and then she would push down on them again and they would bubble out of the water like the lively little breasts that she herself possessed and she would clutch at them and scrub her fine garments clean and careful not to get her forehead wet with soapy water, she would take the back of her wrist and dab the sweat from her brow and sigh and bend over again and then come back up and then go back down again and then come back up to wring them out. She shuffled in her woodblock slippers across the hardwood floor like a veritable white-faced Geisha, bobbing and delicately swaying in front of the plate glass windows where she looked out to her garden to see Juniper bushes and Japanese Sand pear trees and Japanese water and Japanese stone and Japanese lifeblood and Japanese bone and Japanese beauty and Japanese pain and Japanese sunshine and Japanese rain.

The light through the kitchen window dimmed behind a cloud and the room darkened down a bit so I pulled the magnifying glass to the side and viewed the cockroach once again whole with Naked Lunch eyes and I could see that he was now through trying. He was a bumming boy, obviously in a great deal of pain. He was bushed, he was whipped and I didn’t blame him. I mean, how could I, after all that we had been through together? He had put up a formidable fight and for this I admired him. I looked down at him and sort of wished that we could be friends, colleagues, drinking buddies or some such stature of equal footing, as I was now uncomfortable and feeling terrible pangs of remorse for inflicting the Death Penalty on a being who was guilty of no crime except natural cohabitation. Was this sentence of Death a mortal sin or could this be classified as venial?

I mean, he was always pretty considerate of me, skittering out of the way when the kitchen light came on to make way for me, just doing his thing like anyone else in Los Angeles, fending for himself and basically getting what he could get. Was I too fucked-up and desensitized to realize that this being was no less important than me, or a CEO of some massive corporate enterprise of for that matter, a revolutionary spiritual leader? What had I been thinking? Had I gone too far with my paranoia and glossy pride? Where had my values gone? I didn’t normally prescribe to hierarchies or human constructs. I’d like to think of myself as being a peaceful, justice-oriented person. Laissez-faire. I’m from San Francisco, for God’s sake. I’m into Fugazi. I revere the principles of Dr. King and Gandhi.


 

Mlkghandhi

 

I am not built upon a foundation of hubris. I am not a killer. Jesus, I am a vegetarian, a martyred protector of my animal/fish/bird/insect brethren and now this because I briefly considered this living being not worthy of sharing my space and placing importance on what other people might think. Who the fuck am I to do this? Who the mother-fuckin’ fuck am I? I mean, I relocate spiders, don’t I? Why is this different? Fucking shit. I had no idea of the repercussions involved. I thought roaches were somehow omnipotent, able to withstand a nuclear blast where humans would melt into ash. I didn’t realize they could experience real pain and suffering. Yet my selfish whimsy was halting a formidable Life force. Who the crappin’ Hell am I to do such a thing as this? Shit. I might as well be a power-drunk occupational jar head.

At that moment of my consternation and self-immolation, the King seized. Gregor Samsa ceased to live. Anais Nin was still. Socrates closed his eyes for the final time. I touched his V-leg and he did not respond. I flicked his ribbed antennae and it was limp. The cloud moved past the sun, bringing full illumination to the cutting board. Long shadows cast upon him summoned the brittle body of Jesus. I, a societally-pressured Pontius, swallowed a stone and grabbed one of his legs between my forefinger and thumb and lifted him gently up. I took one last look at him from another angle and then I dropped him down into the brown paper garbage bag underneath. I asked God to bless him, and to forgive me, and then I put on some coffee.


 

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