You could taste it, no other way around it. It was actually in the air; you could taste it. Coming out of the middle part of the factory was a large brick cigarette. Where the mouth was, I don’t know. Probably hell — that or some place close to hell. This mouth was releasing giant plumes of pollution, as thick and long as pulled cotton. You could taste it. It stuck to your membranes. It made your teeth grimy. How did this happen? I asked around. I walked to the place where I used to buy chocolate bars; I stopped in at the barbershop, and all the places I used to know: the supermarket, Placard’s Bar & Grille, the church on the corner, even Mable and John Houston’s. Let me tell you, the chocolatier packed it in and moved, and no one knows where to. The church? Placard’s? Gone. And John left Mable for a younger woman, and Mable’s in a home. Please don’t think badly of me if I spit. There, that’s better. Beyond the way, there is no sun and there is no moon. Heaven’s dome is taking on a violet hue. I am standing in the anti-twilight of the vicus. Let me change gears… Lint, and the hull of some kind of seed — maybe a sunflower seed — are lodged in the bottom corner of my coat pocket. I can feel it with my thumb. Time and pressure are turning them into a rock. I will not interfere with time and pressure.The tiny sting of a splinter shoots to my brain.Yesterday, I took an old granny’s cane, as she held onto me, walking across the street. It was a wooden cane, you see, and I was too proud to say, “My word, Lady! Your wooden cane needs sanding.” The granny was a ghost in the afternoon mist. What I want most is a cold can of soda. I would prefer grape (seems fitting), but I’d settle for orange. Geez, I’m just thirsty. I’d drink anything, so long as it had a kick to it. Trail-of-ants, how do you do it? I’ve never seen a selfish one of you! You always do so well, don’t you? No fuss, no fight. I remember you all well, though. We fought, didn’t we? And you won. All you little guys were so clever in Los Angeles, weren’t you? You sent the lone one scavenging for food, and when the lone one found food, he identified it, and went back to rouse the troops. Jesus, you came in hundreds, thousands — no, scratch that — millions! There were millions of you, weren’t there? I’d come home, turn on the kitchen light, and there you were, trail-of-ants, millions of you strong, picking at the chicken bones in the sink. I’d say, “Not again!” and reach under the counter for the disinfectant to wipe all of you out. I’m fine, now. I’d be alright with having you all back again, and if and when I ever disturb the grass, so long as you’re not the biting kind, I will let you crawl over me — up my hands, arms, torso, face. It’s kinda pretty, now, and in the anti-twilight, the thick cottony pollution. Am I going to hell because I think this? Am I gonna go to hell where that big mouth is? Am I wrong for thinking that in death there is beauty? Oh, how I pine for the loss of all things — not just ants, but also my younger self, the cow that gave me leather, a book I couldn’t help feeding to the fire, my first car, and the polar bear. Yes, I would give my life to pet a polar bear. How absurd! I would risk it for a snuggle in the hollow shafts of a polar bear’s coat (I know it would be coarse). I know I would get the exchange of a mere fraction of heat and then be mauled, and my life juices would color the sweet white drifts of snow. But, yes, it would be worth it to receive that fraction of heat, my most desired beast. There is kindness in your eyes. Do you know that? There is kindness. You’ve been beaten before — I can tell — but you’ve succeeded! Oh, what a blessed thing, to succeed. For every time you’ve been beaten, you’ve risen, and your trophies are new tiny lines on your face. I know this — look at me, look in my eyes. There’s kindness. I used to think it was the whiskey that’s bringing them down, that the whiskey is pulling at my eyes, but it’s untrue. It’s the kindness! Don’t ever let someone tell you whiskey will kill you. No, kindness will kill you. But, remember what I said about how blessed it is to succeed. Death is not bad; death is not final; death is not the end. Between us is a large body of water I want to cross. I will make it there one of these days. I promise. I will make it there one of these days.
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