Jim Meirose

Self-Serve Pet Wash-Stop Station

               “You could see the white bottom and we sat on a dropped telephone pole by the pond and baited our lines with slips of paper. Apparently Kinelski didn’t mind us…”
               Self-Serve Pet Wash-Stop Station; the vivid sun turned Kevin to one pure vessel, totally conscious of walking along the strangest planet in creation, but—when it grew too hot walking the shoulder, Kevin slowed, nearly halting, stopping his turning to face oncoming trucking, attempting to thumb a ride—aft-all, walking’s to riding as riding’s to flying, but—what was coming? Orangey people of some kind dotted the fields, spreading out from the highway, on the northbound and southbound sides, as well. Kevin slowed, looking, and, as he drew closer, yes; these were orange-clad reapers, swinging sickles all back n’ forth, arcing back out down and away, their gleaming blades busily clearing their ways ‘cross the field, each leaving a trail of dropped plantlife—in the wake of a clearedtrack—following ‘hind each ‘nique flavor of one.
               Praise God, thought Kevin, that might be something like guildering live chickens, or scarfing down sixty-gauge penne-balls, or—every other kind of terrible work. Is reaping not done by machine these days? God, how terrible—but, they’re lucky, ‘cause though it’s horribly hot, it could be hotter. Plus, these must not feel the terrible heat—must be used to it. Up ten or twelve degrees it may have to kick, for them to start here and there pausing to shield eyes, mop brows, or otherwise wilt down.
               Having seen them and decided, he knew what they were, and a little but-bit—but, not too much—about them, ‘cause—needing to know so much more about them as to bog him down into the same spot, for too long, would equal obsession—so, he moved on, wanting to clear them, but. As he walked past one, there was another—and they were closely spaced enough that this triphammering frustration knocking back in his forebrain, unseen behind the brow topping his face, so that once more the additional drag of the energy sapped back by his rising anger at them, combined with the usual energy sapped back by the need to put one leg in front of the other, and the stressors involved with staying in balance while walking given—the top-heavy nature of most of his species, caused the act of walking erect t’ be hard as hell, but most of his species, including him, do not think so, because there—would be absolutely no point in thinking so, since—if every time a human walked, their mind was consumed with resentment at having to do it to survive, and being enslaved by whatever unseen force or higher being who, which, what condemned them with the need to walk, they would soon drop, wither, weaken, and die, as, bitching and moaning and crying and weeping ‘bout something that will never change, which is bad for one, but made worse by the natural bent of each individual, when angered or frustrated, to join with others, then, forming a mob seeking something called justice which can only end badly for obvious reasons, I mean, look around you—just look ‘round you look!
               What? Who? No one, turn, look, but; engine sound came up behind, sounded. Turning Kevin. A large-noised blue metallic fatwheeled object composed of piled shiny variously sized squares, came beside; remaindering Kevin of the great bunching wagons he’d read of all boyish, some of which stood at ninety-six feet tall, and weighed more than three hundred tons. Handlegripped. Step beside closer. A button in the handle to be pushed, was. Kevin pushed and the largest square’s side swung out, showing a higher handle. Kevin reached gripping. Able to see both ways simultaneously. Heads turned in both directions also simultaneously. The opposite of what should be. Back behind him, the reapers swung back, then forth, as he turned to watch his step, up. Kevin pulled himself higher. Cool blew out over bringing him. His legs were not enough. he needed all fours then. Walking along the shoulder of the interstate, and sitting in some soft chair can’t happen together, but—turning to see what is it, this chair, while walking watching the reapers can’t happen together either, but. There had been a human sound from the opposing box inner space from where the reapers worked. From the shadow further in the box Kevin was climbing had come more than just a human sound. No, it was more; it had been a voice. More than that, too—a dashboard curved up way before him, and a sudden, all of a sudden, all the reapers were all pushed back. Gone. Gone. Gone no, but. The side of the big square, when closing over, sucked them up. They’re in a glass panel beside his face. Enablily-tation on his holiness, the Javascript. This cannot be a mirror. He is not a field of reapers but so—a wave up and around of some lightness came, and calmed him. He turned scanning. From the reapers across leftwise. Past a vent hard blowing cold air. So that’s what he felt. Less light then when walking. More left a panel of lit letters and numbers and a latticed-tight square letting words flow from which—the calm drained resistance to whatever had taken him down enough that he heard the words and what they described crackled the air before him, a radio. All out oe’r some radio confronting Kevin came with, Whenever a good Haida is about to die he sees a canoe manned by some of his dead friends, who come with the tide to bid him welcome to the spirit land. Come with us now, they say—for the tide is about to ebb, and we must depart. All likewise, July morning revelers out Bulgaria, feel the yearly need to come to the shore of the Black Sea, but their purpose is not what they consciously believe. Any sea is a beckoning force. Any large bodies of surging water—in fact, all of Pérez Dasmariñas’ themselves were simultaneously killed at sea some distance from Manila—plus as all know who’ve stood at the sea scanning wave after rolling on wave after one wave after another wave rolling each wave seeming wider than their field of vision, knowing that.
               As nothing seemed to be meant for him there, near-panicky Kevin tore his attention to a similar reapersquare, in what must have been the other side of the big square space, and along the low edge tooled by a Blue Pontiac WagonBoat, blown down the road under the far field of reapers in the past distance, out that side. Between it all, over past when everything’s everything always being everyplace, a thickened second man beside himself formed sitting out that way, gripping a tilted wheel before his breast, and his face pointed directly at Kevin, his face smiled quite graciously, his face opened sending Kevin a sentence, this sentence.
               Eh, I did not get that. This rig is quite loud—please say that again?
               —stand back, and watch the ensuing struggle. They will little by little complicate all into total impossibility—and that must not be allowed.
               The—uck gagnoggy! Echoed from another face, ‘cause. Nothing had mouthmoved—but—at that Kevin’s first fractional thought meant to say thank-something, but snapped down, no—no that would not do, no thank you, that would not do. He reached for the seat belt, whose law says buckle me or else, pretending to not have heard, because—there was no friendly way to answer that question. For example, if he said, I’m sorry, but also confused; I said nothing, as I recall—he would be saying simultaneously that, in his view, the speaker is somewise deficient, deluded, or worse, which might provoke a disquieting response that would not have to stop at being verbal, but. If he decided to improvise some casual answer, he ran the risk of being exposed as a liar, if the speaker had heard some syllabic snatch or six of somewhere between like five, four, or lower—in there someplace, at any rate, eh—and the additional snatch he would provide did not dovetail neatly with the speaker’s small snatch, but—no. Kevin pressed his feet to a flat hard floor back in the dark, under what seemed the control panel of the metallically wheeled box, which would have to serve as a kick in the ass to himself at his stupidity in not seeing that there cannot be a speaker’s snatch because, in fact, he had said nothing—he tipped his head to the radio, feigning distraction, to buy time to think—it saying, Before our surf-watcher was spawned this view was the same, sounded the same, and onto and past that up to the nows rippling impossibly rapidly past any single watcher’s razor-sharp nip of existence, but. In the span of time surrounding each now, we’ve been granted the ability to see more or less at once, we after wave just see the same wave after each through a rolling seemingly endless allotment of nows passing by gone, each crashing, shrinking, pushing, half dissolving, gone into the sand at the surf-watcher’s toetips, eh, half-slip sliding seaward, gone ‘n lost, but in time to, and roll and forward and, and again, and. This is always now forever will be, but; but. But the Kevin knowledge but pull Kevin away of this blinks but but right through, we take Kevin back out watchers but, but but, but; and the radio radio dissolved ‘cause, behind out the end—out popped Kevin down back to the other half of knowing his befores, that since he’d said nothing, the speaker is a liar. Ut. By the superbly crafty artisans of Odisha, et et, eh, here’s he all sealed perhaps against his will in an earsplittingly loud—which exaggeration may be excused when the mild even hum in the metallically wheeled box, was compared to the silence of the Interstate shoulder, where Kevin was far from the reapers who this gave no sound, and that for a very long stretch of time there had been no traffic on the interstate, but—after they passed, passed, he bypassed a fastmoving big billboard written over with Pricelessly Classically Configured Instruments Actually Preyed On by Legends Five Miles Ahead, worded uptop ‘o a battered peely half-faced figure of Segrovinia or whomever—Kevin shot by, too quick to properly read the fast-bannering signboard, e’fore yanking his lids wide. He let up on the pressure into his feet, and he listened to a voice begun coming from the speaker, which, one not in a heightened state of fearful awareness would simply believe the speaker was speaking, but, which Kevin heard seeing coming around both sides of the speaker, was some-thing formed some-place way past that side’s field of reapers, in through the window engulfing the speaker, becoming yes a thick dark it looked like that shoreside pier post at, like that past shorelining summertime where Kevin’d watched under that pier all back when with one endless wordwave coming ‘round the speaker-post stood up tight, et, firmly withstanding the pressure, by hold of that two-fisted brown upslanted gripwheel, and aside out him furtherpast look look out, see, see the reapers eh set ou all randomly effective, quickly able to slash down the field which gets fed to the food generating machines, but, but; there what, and why, they go. It reached-rose all overtopping poor Kevin, frozen forced facing the reapers, all red shirted, move-swaying sidewise, still reaping sickles, all swinging sickles, still swinging coming closed supersharp sickles, into, no it’s not possible, all melt, flow, suck together one reaper, one sickle, dancing the field as at Spottiswoode, in Berwickshire, Kevin the last corn at no harvest, was afterwise uncut. There passed no reaping of the last corn at harvest at Spottiswoode in Berwickshire, not got there cut Kevin was, this no same way, way, but; Kevin could have known this. Kevin, no, many reapers swinging many sickles at Spottiswoode, in Berwickshire, became one reaper, down-blinded, dizzily swinging one sickle sickling down the air spinning feeding some loud backwise hilarity, eyes squeezed shut, and then again, not, ‘til tired out and pulled, so—since that could not possibly be, Kevin again pulled his ear near the radio blast, with some effort—calm question there, simply—but why take time standing, staring, and for down the this question there, sea saying is no nothing? Good answer. Ug, turn and walk up the beach, or et, turn even further, eh, leave the beach, but then within the hours that’re more like instants we’re talking or doing or thinking or wanting, regretting, mourning, or seeking, or—back in the spot, nothing’s there, seeing waves after waves push past push past the nows toward the nexts waving now over now waving all out past, when. Those who had paused to watch, and to know, but then turned back away, may lose the ability to ever come back again to scan the sea, wave after wave after wave rolling in, by virtue of their sudden deaths, or such as that Kevin ’s blank face batting forth, forth, back, back, back, and forth-over their radio-times, ‘til it sank, he was seeing a line of reapers, waiting, nothing, stepped forward, and the next in line was not even worth gathering blindfolded, spun about, pushed into the field, to spin and spin and sickle out the air here, and then over there, nicking down maybe a couple of kernels, but again non no nothing worth gathering, and it will take—Kevin was able to quickly calculate—uncountable reapers to finish one field out Spottiswoode, in Berwickshire, let one anywise else, this way. The next reaper’s the world, hungry, sickling nothing, and the for the next after world corn desperate that’s sickling nothing, will for become, and the next the corn world after that after, will starving that all sickling become the for nothing after world, its corn mostly dying, will for corn become will become dead, will become rot, will become nothing, will become never was, never was never was, and, I being Kevin, the I will become never, and never, and—never ever was, and eh whew wow wowee, the last reaper got tossed in the air to three cheers, brother harvesters three, cut until waypast’s cheers, three cheers, all ‘bout their race’s starvation, but not cut in time, but never, this ‘gain ‘cause the corn was not cut until waypast their race’s starvation. Not cut in time. Not cut in time. ‘cause ‘cause of the reap job split ‘part all complicated, sidewise. All complicated snapped apart meant to be moving parts can’t work, oh, ut—all ends starved. Done. Always the fruit of dumb silliness, but. So! Hey. That’s what you get. What that’s what you get you get when just leave what f’ you works, can’t just get left be. And, all mesmerized as Kevin’d become, at last the speaker—still standing beast-strong against the tide, said—Eh?
               —root out and butcher every rebellious over-complicator of the simple, or—
               Eh? Kevin turned away—in this box, no, on the verge of learning, he never ever was and this—this—this whoever only can think up to say, This one, Eh?
               —each wave seeming wider than their field of vision, knowing that. Before they were spawned, this view was the same, sounded the same, and onto, and past, and the same, same after. But—
               No. The handle. The side went never there the thing—what, a truck? My God, it’s just a truck, probably also yes just a driver, but—at Port Stephens, in New South Wales, the natives always buried their dead at flood tide, never at ebb, lest the retiring water should bear the soul of the departed to some distant country. July morning the. Divert the attention of demons from human beings to puppets, toppling the whole crew, neck and crop, river-sweeping them far out to sea.
               Make all easier nothing harder to bog all down to be taken under a suddenly smothering end.
               What? You.
               No; not a driver no, yes, something very else, so go get out, leave, jump, before she drives off’n, off, and hit us to the ground at over sixty—whoop! Tip. O hippo, over hippos up, came the sweet ground running us innocent, having said nothing, no nothing, no—nothing at all.
               Another ancient belief, attributed to Aristotle, was that no creature can die except at ebb tide. They can’t be born, unless it’s pretty nigh in—not properly born, till flood.
               Door slam up, behind, so, shut your shit radio down this instant!
               Some say actual Vestal Virgins even got cast into the Tiber, from some old Sublician bridge at Rome, to purge the city from their demoniac influence.
               Ah. Run away, b’ where—God yes, blessed be, there’s the reapers. Sickling healthily their backforthing horizons to horizons, and. On top of it all. A small pale daymoon, centering the bluesky. So.
               As all July firsts are the same one repeated.
               So! Run for it!
               End Self-Serve Pet Wash-Stop Station.

Jim Meirose's short work has appeared in numerous venues, and his published novels include No and Maybe - Maybe and No (Pski's Porch). Le Overgivers au Club de la Résurrection (Mannequin Haus), Understanding Franklin Thompson (JEF pubs), and Sunday Dinner with Father Dwyer (Optional books). Info at www.jimmeirose.com @jwmeirose
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