Working Man

That's right, fuckers, I work for a living.



One day last year, daddy and me took off on the bikes and headed south and west for Ocala. I don't know why, he said he wanted to go look in on Pa-paw's old place. It rained a half-dozen times, hard quick storms blown deep inland from the Atlantic, roaring across whatever one calls those great saw-grass plains. I'd opted out on the windshield for the 883 and at sixty the rain stung my lips most so I'd draw them back into my mouth for protection. It was June maybe, with the hot wind we'd dry again under an hour.

One day I'll go back, alone with my camera, to stop and record each cornered and relic fruit stand under dark canopies of moss covered pines, each hoary road-house, each derelict gas station with roof angles jetting off for no practical architectural reason. Elemental Florida, the true one that I remember. Instead Daddy and me ran over the beige shell-embedded road through Ocala and headed out 40 to Silver Springs. I followed him over the great bridge of the Intracoastal into the Silver River state park through that hard country where a man named Bill Tester, who would later mentor me, crawled into this swamp-world before breaking out to New York for the first of two times, learned his craft and went insane.

When I was little, the bridge over the Intracoastal always seemed to be a mountain to me, the last of a long extinct line passing through there. Daddy running the FXR up it that day seemed to be going straight into the sky. It was under that bridge that my Pa-paw and me once flung a bottle into the waterway. I had written a letter with my name and a little about myself and sealed it up with wax, I was maybe nine years old. It passed, somehow, through the broad waist of Florida, through swamps un-numbered and perils over years, eventually making it out to the Atlantic and the Gulf Stream.

It passed north and into the Pamlico and then later the Albemarle sound of North Carolina, where it was discovered, about an hour's drive south from where we would years later settle in Virginia, by two fishermen. A reporter from a newspaper called us back in Tennessee and asked me questions about it. Four years might have passed since I first threw it in.

Daddy never could find an article about it, nor the name of the reporter or the newspaper. There's no telling where this bottle with my name scrawled in it might be now. I have tried before to chart it's course through the state of Florida, many times daydreamed how it might've meandered, got hung up under mangrove roots, then broke free. I don't reckon it ever sank.

I cannot form a clear image how it finally met with the Atlantic, or how exactly it might've bobbed in the eternal deep-blue of the Stream, or for how long. I wonder why it chose Carolina to come back, this small thing with a part of myself sealed away in it. Why not journey forever, lost, mad and alone like Ulysses?



The intersection where the jaw hinges, greets the tendon rising up the neck, embraces the root of the ear. A body adrift, banished. Beheld. The pelvis is a ship, a construct, that holds what fruit there is of us, miles and miles of us. The flaring edge of the iliac crest peaks at the hip, there is bound in sinew and dives away again, forms a valley. Another confluence. Resembling the way God's hand shapes the Blue Ridge going north up 81. The bones ridged and many across the top of the foot, the arch springing, the air that somehow moves beneath. It is a lost landscape, it asks an old question, "What is going to happen?"



It was Beth who, when I explained how the thing I'm in felt like some kind of transformation, told me, standing out on Boulevard in her Carhartt coveralls, "Yeah, you're just going through the fire." The ten pounds I lost, the veins rangy upon my arms like tree roots, or tributary streams, the feeling like I'm a walking wire with a current run through it. She named her gallery Wilderness, down in the tail end of Manchester, the dog-end tail of dog town. Consider this ghost city within our city, every maimed ghetto, every last trolley that clattered across the bridges burned years and years ago. Whole blocks lost to the fire of purification, returned to tall grass with stairs leading up to it. There in the grass, the lonely trees and loading docks, our brave pilgrim lives and works and breathes. If I ride my bike that way I go without music. So that I am aware. Down Hull to West Seventh street and the warehouse where I want to live. Past Alcoa, past weed stricken husks of industry waiting for developers and their blueprints. I roll on the throttle around Legend, as there is no one to hear, past empty shops overlooking the river, and bank it up the ramp onto Commerce. It is there I catch the hammering of the pistons housed in their cylinders, the sound of them a song against the concrete of the rail, the stobbed aluminum posts of the rail staccato past. It is there in the night I am jettisoned onto three empty lanes of this bridge from Manchester, a machine on a bridge with no other machines, pointed at the heart of this city and hurtling across the river towards it's rising.



Day 10

I slept pointing south, no, I can't remember. My head is a compass, it has been set reeling. There are dreams of wild libertines ranting about free will. I have scattered toothbrushes throughout this city. It was late in the day, it was time to go again. It was time to go. I have determined sludge-metal to be the anthem of this season, the speakers in the truck blown. There are guitars to growl and hum like my blood hums, loud enough to feel it in my chest like a collision. I leave the windows down in the truck for the wind, our quick movement across this city resembling flight.

Robinson street cuts across this story, the story isn't anything to fall in love with. That would be stupid. Over by the lake the road isn't Robinson anymore it's something else, it is the fountain road. The sun hadn't set, there was pink yet in the sky shot deep into the water, gas lights ringed the lake in orange, reflected like a constellation there, the deep blue left in dusk ran deep throughout, the surface chopped by wind, the fountain caught the white hot from the tennis court lights. It sparkled, fragmented, and danced. It danced like a falling chandelier might dance.




Mrs. Pam called one day to tell there was a problem with one of the parents of the children at Gooseberry school, and the doors would be locked when we came to pick up our own. The story she left on the message, as well as the story Mary heard at the college, was vague enough to be alarming, so I got the truck over there early, walked the curving path around the back to the door to the basement. The red barn stood in the field a mile off behind her place as always, I think it was this time of year, spring. The mountains miles past marked the gnarled border of North Carolina.

Sam, who was a year younger than Henry and still ten pounds heavier and who hasselled my kid daily unlocked the door and let me in. The room was open and airy , many lights in the ceiling, many doors and windows facing the blue edge of mountains east. There was red mexican tile over most of the room's breadth, the noise from the children was constant and almost deafening most of the time. I crossed to the horseshoe shaped countertop in the heart of the room, which served as a kitchen, where Mrs. Pam, in the middle, was serving up juice. The other children were in centers, Henry playing with his legos, and I let him be. Mrs. Pam was tall and midwestern, with short hair and the kind of glasses you might think a woman from the midwest would wear and everyone loved her dearly.

She leaned in and told me, almost in a whisper that the father of one of the kids, Gabriel I think it was, was bi-polar and stopped taking his medication, and today had gone missing from wherever he was interned. There had been some talk that he might come to try and take Gabriel. I remember she smelled like something, lilacs or cookies, one. I remember hearing her husband Scott upstairs in the kitchen and imagined him staying home from work that day, carefully loading borrowed guns while the muffled noise of the children floated up the stairs.

Just past the kitchen area was a large carpeted patch where I always managed to bring Henry in late and disrupt the story each morning. The was a tall window behind it facing a deep window-well where the earth fell away toward the back of the house. Field mice would tumble into it and so trapped, would die, the children poking at the window like a terrarium. Mrs. Pam would tell them each mouse was sleeping, until Scott would come later and remove the thing.

The window-well bothered me so one rained-out friday I constructed a chicken-ladder for it, one of four I have built in my time as a carpenter. You have seen them before, they consist of one long board with small cross pieces, blocks, nailed across it acting as rungs. It is an ancient and simple construction. I think I built it out of some half-inch plywood I used for templates and some white oak left over from a porch job. Mrs. Pam said it was the nicest thing anyone ever did for Gooseberry. I set it down into the well so the mice, at night when the children had gone, could perhaps make their way up the rungs and out.

I used to look at my chicken-ladder when I sat at the horseshoe, as I had a hard time meeting her quick blue eyes. As we talked another parent came in and told us, hushed while the children played very quietly all around us, that we could unlock the doors now, someone had found the father dead in someone's house. With a pistol he had erased himself, his illness, from Gabriel and everyone else in this world.



The therapist at the Jewish Family Services who accepted me on a sliding-scale always wore her hair up in a bun. In my ignorance I always wondered about the nature of her attire, but never had the guts to ask her about it. Strands of dark hair hung down from it onto her neck. I never felt more like a redneck carpenter than when I was explaining my depression to her, how it almost always occurred at the end of the day coming home it the truck. People were disappearing in large numbers in Bosnia. Between us on a table she had a miniature waterfall, water tumbling over rocks under a stone bridge, past a small hut. After a couple of weeks it stopped working and I tried to no avail to fix it.

On a bookshelf she had a sandbox and surrounding it were figurines-- dragons and knights, children and monsters. Some other types of people, heroes maybe. I can't remember. I inquired about it, what was it for?

"Some of my clients use it to act out scenarios or fantasies they don't necessarily want to talk about." she said.

"Is that like a Jungian thing?" I asked. She replied yes, that it was.

It took years for me to realize the sandbox and it's players were made for children. A way to help those with no formed language, perhaps help them to communicate things there may never be no words for.

I must have stared at it frequently as one night my therapist paused and said, very slowly, to me,

"Clay, would you like for me to get down the sandbox for you?"

I thought about it for a long time but again, I didn't have the guts.



Last Day

My bags packed and shouldered, the man responsible for the floor that morning told me, "God lives in your feet, keep them moving."
There should be music. There should always be music.
I had slept pointing north. The bike on the sidewalk faced south down Robinson. Everything in the morning was cold again. Willet still slept inside.

I tugged open the choke, started it easily and left it there. Gloves, zipped up my jacket, warm in my leather shell and helmet. I got it off the curb onto the worn pale road, the front tire almost bald now.

Rolling south, the wind increased incremental with speed. At Monument I banked east over the cobblestones, opened it up, all noise and fury. I muttered to the bike under my helmet, "Bark, boy, bark."

Jack London

“The proper function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time.”


\ˌin-tü-ˈi-shən, -tyü-\
Middle English intuycyon, from Late Latin intuition-, intuitio act of contemplating, from Latin intuēri to look at, contemplate, from in- + tuēri to look at
15th century
1: quick and ready insight2 a: immediate apprehension or cognition b: knowledge or conviction gained by intuition c: the power or faculty of attaining to direct knowledge or cognition without evident rational thought and inference --merriam webster

1. instinctive knowledge:
the state of being aware of or knowing something without having to discover or perceive it, or the ability to do this --msn encarta

Intuition is apparent ability to acquire knowledge without a clear inference or reasoning process.

It is "the immediate apprehension of an object by the mind without the intervention of any reasoning process" [Oxford English Dictionary]. --wikipedia


Day 1

I had slept pointing west, woke to the massive grid of windows filled with pink skies, fractured clouds, piled red and white. I wondered about the nature of this hellish new day.

I believed I could wake before those windows forever, to regard each morning broken and remade again and again.

In his partitioned bedroom Dennis slept, three walls enclosed in the open heart of the warehouse. The clock by his head held a disk, left in it for years. Slow metal erupted at a specific time, the same song.

I heard. I thought only of the notes, the lush fabric of sound as it turned, flowed, wrapped in the feedback of itself.

The song faded and I rose, and everything was once again irrevocably changed.