Monday, April 30, 2012

The conversation centers for days and weeks afterward on the dart in my chin. Those who didn’t witness the event directly ask for detailed descriptions, then elaborate and expand on those descriptions for their own listeners until the tale becomes so outsized as to challenge those still circulating about the trappers that opened up whole sections of wilderness just west of here two hundred years and more ago and whose visages would now grace our coinage if not for the unlucky fact that no one can agree on just what each of them looked like. Of course there were no cameras then, and no camera obscuras, and very few people around who were handy with a paint brush. They had all been lured to some other continent (frequently the very one their own parents and grandparents had fled scant years before) by promises of wealth and notoriety and physical comfort such as we are, to this day, lacking. We bend the line of sight our mind takes when it is trying to gaze into the past because if we don’t, if we stare straight ahead like someone suffering mental illness or someone trying to act as if he hasn’t heard the insult aimed brazenly at him, we will see only what has managed to stand upright and undamaged through the years. We will glimpse only that, for example, which the wind has failed to topple, only that which has ossified to such an extent you can’t scratch it with your fingernail. My investigation is thorough, starting at the end of the street and taking into account each doorway and the amount of time it takes to move from one doorway to the next and who might have had reason to do so on the evening in question. Still, the task is daunting and I like the idea of giving up on everything, of abandoning all pursuits as soon as you have begun them. That way, there is never any danger of feeling as if you have more to accomplish than can reasonably be accomplished in the time you have been allotted. It’s like Eulalie always says (when she is in the mood to say anything at all, that is, which is rare enough and, here lately, only when you have managed to get a modicum of gin into her system by offering her the bottle as you might offer her a bouquet of roses or your hand in marriage): It’s necessary to get even with yourself. That way the rest of the miserable world is spared your vengeance -- which is almost always white hot and beyond anything they can possibly imagine -- and you are free to exercise it again and again with little in the way of consequence. Just a cold sore now and then. A trembling of the fingers that you can explain away easily enough as the aftereffects of a mild case of mercury poisoning. A misunderstanding, really. Something to take no more note of normally than one takes of the azimuth of the sun.

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