"My Friend, Humbaba's face keeps changing!"
(20-25 lines are missing here)
The ground split open with the heels of their feet,
as they whirled around in circles Mt. Hebron and Lebanon split.
The white clouds darkened,
death rained down on them like fog.
Shamash raised up against Humbaba mighty tempests-
Southwind, Northwind, Eastwind, Westwind, Whistling Wind,
Piercing Wind, Blizzard, Bad Wind, Wind of Simurru,
Demon Wind, Ice Wind, Storm, Sandstorm-
thirteen winds rose up against him and covered Humbaba's face.
He could not butt through the front, and could not scramble out the back,
so that Gilgamesh's weapons were in reach of Humbaba.
Enkidu spoke to Gilgamesh saying:
"My friend, I have been talking to you but you have not been listening to me,
"You have been listening to the curse of Humbaba!"
... his friend
...by his side
...they pulled out his insides including his tongue.
...abundance fell over the mountain.
...abundance fell over the mountain.
The Epic Of Gilgamesh,Tablet V
Mark Drumheller was the first lead I worked under. He came from
Mark and I frozen in a tree-stand by the lake eating ham sandwiches.
Mark turning his cap around backwards to sight down the pink mason’s line we’d pulled taut over the dirt.
Hiding under the deck from the afternoon sun, lying on cool stones.
Me toting 2x8’s through the snow to him. Him in the rafters cursing the snow and me.
The two of us at lunch on the half-framed dock. Me waiting to show him the great catfish that jumped, under the mist.
Mark stumbling on the dock, his tools clatter out onto the ice. Me creeping out to recover them. I was much lighter than him.
Mark and I shivering in cover-alls in the bed of my ford, eating soup from thermoses.
Dusted by snow, discussing cowboy movies.
The previous crew had used special walnut to stain the loft ceiling so that it absorbed all light. By four o’clock I’d pretty much have to knock off as I was reading my tape measure in less than 1/16ths of an inch. I’d pack up my tools, run a broom over the floor of the butchered addition to my aunt’s cabin and begin my descent, in the truck, down the mountain. I only came down from that mountain to get my beer, food, or cigarettes. No one much spoke to me at the stores in town. I’d been hired to build stairs and a balustrade, but I pretty much had to move in and fix everything the other guys had fucked up. I don’t remember the name of that family, I never met them. I worked alone all day and slept there at night. My wife and three year old son would sometimes visit on the weekends.
I mortised the stringer on the wall side, wedged the treads and risers with shims and glue. The outside stringer was mitered for the risers, the treads returned with a jack miter. I fabricated newels and filled my basement shop with the chalk dust of basswood for the balusters. I built the rail out of heart pine beams salvaged from a timber frame barn, each notched for the rafters, numbered I-VI with a chisel. The heart pine so dense it hardly accepted stain, each night I’d scrape pine pitch from my router bits. I loaded the whole thing onto my truck and drove it through Cosby, through Cocke county, past Gatlinburg in to the heart of Smokies.
I learned true loneliness up there. Spring thawed, blossomed and eventually I went insane as the summer dragged. Appalachia all around, mean and flint-edged, on the road away from family, rocky and suddenly jagged,
I got to where I could run the hour down to town without hitting the brakes. The WPA ran the road next to an ancient creek, buried a mile down in limestone crevices, overhangs, doglegs and switchbacks. The house, exposed on a outcrop would get over eighty in june, but the hollers in the road could stay below sixty, it felt. I’d roll both windows down, stick a beer between my legs and let the cool creek air bathe me going down at the end of each day. Sometimes later in the after-dusk, hallucinating shadows, I could still hear the voice of the water just outside.
At twenty leagues they broke for some food,
at thirty leagues they stopped for the night,
walking fifty leagues in a whole day,
a walk of a month and a half.
On the third day they drew near to Lebanon.
They dug a well facing Shamash (the setting sun) ,
. . .
Gilgamesh climbed up a mountain peak,
made a libation of flour, and said:
"Mountain, bring me a dream, a favorable message from Shamash."
--Tablet IV, The Epic of Gilgamesh
The place outside Jonesborough had been slept in by three presidents. From 11E it looked like an island of old trees locked in acres of wheat fields. Ancient cedars gnarled along the drive, there was a hemlock, two or three warped oaks tall and dead. After the people's son got shot down at twenty by a dealer the place got away from them. The gutter dropped on the wrap-around porch, diverting rain into the ceiling, the porch roof failed, it's box-beam collapsed. By the time I showed up there were pieces falling in every day. That was the State of
The man's name was Lynn Lloyd. I am writing it down so that I don’t forget it. A boy named
The first weeks that summer the light would change around four. Something about how it came through the trees, the place just got still. I felt watched from every window, there was one corner I never did like to go, I tried to speak to whoever it was,
“It’s okay, I'm trying to help.”
Of the men who brought me into this trade, the first would have to be qualified as a “true entrepreneur.” For this reason I found myself hurtling toward the airport one raw January morning, heaving the truck around traffic in the curves, to build a Quonset hut on ten acres of asphault. I have since learned to couple the term “entrepreneur” with the phrase “galloping psychotic.”
It was, of course, raining. I had the kind of hangover that turns the mind into a squirming working mass, the morning was not merely hellish. I could hurl my body into whatever task was appointed, getting the aluminum frame off the ¾ ton truck the man drove all night from
Traffic from the four-lane roared a steady pace. Hulking jets landing obliterated all language. We bolted the thin frame together for two days, the sky hung wide and low above us, racing. The aluminum skin of jets fading in and out of clouds.
An open field in mid winter, sky-shot and a few low structures in its center. A road running through the middle, edged by trees growing around barbed wire. We had our breakfast, rummaged about, cinder blocks and fluorescent lights. There were old men in the trucks lining the road, waiting. Young men filed out, each got into a truck with an old man. Panel trucks and pick-ups. I got in with Blake. Blake with a red beard and a bald head. I got in from the cold, I was an old man too.
I had the can slung over my back, carrying it like I African diamond miners I once saw hauling burlap sacks out of a mud pit, the bottom perched on the base of my spine, when he called to me,
“Somebody done got robbed,” he yelled over the noise of the truck and pulling his hose out of the blue box slung down a purse that someone had dumped in the john. It was small and leather, shaped like a pear with little pouches along the sides. The port-o-let had provided the thief good cover to rifle the bag. The only reason I could come up with for him dumping it there afterwards was simply out of sheer mean-ness. The red-face shitsucker by my side made a half-effort at empathy and then drove his truck on down the alley leaving it with me.
I kicked it into the yard under the oppressive shade of the great mulberry that was to later come down and left the purse there for a while. Howie didn’t know what to do with the poisoned, wretched thing either. Mosquitoes swarmed around us. I lumbered past with the can twice before I hunkered down on the back porch and emptied it out.
She was blonde and not entirely pretty, her blue eyes just slightly too close together. She was from Georgia or so I reckoned from three different college I.D.’s Howie hovered over my shoulder and wondered if she were dead, or merely in the hospital. I was wondering about my hands. Standard items, lipstick & make-up, no phone. I finished just in time for lunch.
I called the precinct from my place as I was spreading peanut butter over bread. By the time I got back the cop had already come and retrieved the items. No-one was there to warn him about where it had been found, nor was there anyone to inquire about the girl herself.
I wrote the Georgia girls name down somewhere but of course now, months later, her name is gone from me. I thought about calling around, I thought about posting a letter here, with her name, so that if she did a search for herself she might find some apology for what happened. Months later, this is the best I can do.
I am truly very sorry.