The Art of Tetman Callis

Some of the stories and poems may be inappropriate for persons under 16

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Road Rave

Free Tibet! if you insist, I see it there on the bumper of your car, the sticker that commands me and you and you and you over there pretending not to notice to Free Tibet!, it’s very pretty, the sticker is, and I hear that Tibet! is also very pretty, I visualize it just so and as reported though maybe not so primarily red and blue and yellow as the colors of your sticker, my god that yellow glows with a blasting power while I visualize world peace as likewise commanded by another portion of your up-stuck bumper, I can see a whole world of peace for a fleet-footed instant before daring all bypassers to keep kids off drugs,well why not? we all say, or most of us, for as we some of us know, drugs are really expensive, in time and money both and furthermore are quite abusive or so we hear, slapping young druggies around and kicking middle-aged druggies when they are coming down and even have been known to slyly stick a foot into the path of an old druggie hobbling down the street on the way to vote for whomever, I can’t quite read your sticky bumper there, it looks scraped and scratched and even to a small measure caved-in, someone must have run into you, banged into you, rear-ended you while you were on your way to support your local belonging and save the unborn whales, but despite my sympathy in some measure or the other for all that is slathered across the back-end of your car, don’t pull out in front of me, you don’t know how lucky I feel.

Listen, you don’t know what I have under the front seat.  Hell, cowboy, I don’t even know what I have under the front seat, it could be something armed and dangerous, give me a minute while I dig around under there and see what I can see, feel what I can dig out, oh, crap, that’s not very nice, whatever that is, stuck all over my fingers like that, I’m sure not going to hold it up to my nose and sniff it, I learned in high-school chemistry class that one does not just go ahead and sniff something unless one good and damn well knows what it is one is about to sniff, there are odors that can stab right up through the nasal passages and into the brain and then where would I be, I’m trying to drive this car.

Where to I don’t know, but I did, once upon my own sweet time, however I am presently so distracted that I don’t any longer know who has the right of way, could it be you?  You, who does not know where I’ve been up to?  You, who does not know the treasures I keep?  You, who does not know where they are buried?  The gold and jewels, precious, priceless, covered with dirt?  Oh shut my mouth, did I give it away with that remark about dirt, well I didn’t say what kind of dirt, now did I?  Not going to, neither, you can’t catch me out on that, I’m gone like a cruel tease and I am not going to say loose and sandy dirt or wet and red clay dirt or black loamy loam in the gloaming when from afar I do come roaming with yet more treasures to store away.  Maybe they’re not in my back yard, buried there by the apple tree as I know you are thinking, I can see it in your eyes, your thoughts there scrolling behind your irises, I admit, I have to squint to read the print, mine eyes are not what once they were, but they’ll still do in a pinch, not to get fresh, but you don’t know how lucky you should know, I know the true value of things.  Big things, little things, all sizes in between, hard things and soft things, even liquids and almost every kind of gas, name one.  Xenon, that’s a cinch, twenty-seven dollars a cubic centimeter under seventeen atmospheres’ pressure.  And shapes and colors?  May as well be amoebas and rainbows, let me tell you, I know worth, net, intrinsic, exponential, actuarial, amortized, pre-tax and post-tax, clear down to the brass tacks.  If brass doesn’t suit you, isn’t quite to your taste, is a touch too zincky, well finicky you may be but it’s your lucky day today I can assay, alchemic, lead your lead to its golden zone.  By God, this man’s a magician!  Look at these hands go!  Tap-tappity-tap-tap-a-taptaptap!  Have you ever seen anything like that?

I didn’t think so, I thought not, yet still am.  Now who’s the wizard, who has the right of way?  It’s settled then, put to bed, laid to rest, all said and all done, enough’s enough.  Let me have the fast lane, the one there on the outside, with the sportsters speeding by and the forty-ton mofo trucks out to squash bugs of up to economy size, look at the way they glower and glare, those teamsters, those take-no-prisoners highwaymen hot-rodding down the high road to high profits in which, sadly, they will not much share, but it’s a job, somebody’s got to do it and you’re damn straight they’re proud to do it well and truly make their contribution to your dream and mine.  But don’t dream of getting in their way, scoot over, we are neither frivolous sportsters nor serious conveyors of heavy loads, we must needs leave the outside lane to its rightful drivers and take some other lane, dibs on the middle, I called it, I’m riding shotgun on the middle lane, hell, cowboy, you never did see me finish digging around under my front seat, no telling what may be down there in addition to bluff and crud, vouchers and goo.  Be on the safe side, pull over and wait a spell, better to get there whole than not at all, don’t you think?  There you are, that bumper of yours looks like it couldn’t take another hit, looks like it’s barely stuck together, best let me have that middle lane, slow down and pull over, let me have the shoulders, too, the culverts, the light posts and guard rails, the passes over and cutbanks through, the grade crossings protected and un, greasy ties bound to rails with iron spikes, stripes of yellow and white reflective paint down black asphalt roads let me have it all, then stand back and watch me coming down the road with a trunk full of treasure, fresh dug up, piles and piles of the stuff, all glittery.

I tell you truly I always lie, I want you straight up to know that right out, or if not then then now, and not to think of me as lying in wait like some cretin, some stunned guppy in shallow mud who’s feeling lucky enough right now, this very instant and the next one on the ever-sliding instantaneous scale, to be your hero, your masked avenger in swirly cape and bright white tights if that’s all it takes, your man-in-waiting you may consider me, fortunate enough to wait out the years after years extending into decades as they will and if I must until the day I receive the word that you are sick, oh no not merely sick but that you have taken terminally ill, or are terribly injured in an unavoidable accident, I told you to slow down and pull over, get out of the way, heads up there’s a thirty-six wheeler bearing down upon your port quarter at flank speed but you wouldn’t listen, now you are confined to bed to await your end while I rush down the road, straight down that middle lane with my horn a-blaring as I speed past the other traffic making way for me, drivers glancing into their rearview mirrors to see me coming so fast my grill is glowing red, they think I’m an emergency vehicle and I am, they swerve aside, I’m like a hot knife slicing through butter as I hasten to your side to comfort you, to be strong, to listen, to hold your hand if that is still possible, or sit in a chair at the foot of the bed while you pass a restless night and I repeatedly doze off, though mightily I try to remain awake, finally I am so tired I fall out of the chair in a dead swoon.  But I bounce! when I hit the floor at three or four in the morning the impact snaps me awake and I bounce! back up to my feet and take once again my seat in my ever-vigilant vigil at your bedstead.  Come sunrise, fresh and pale yellow-white sunbeams a-peeking over the horizon, springy birds a-twitter in the green leafy trees outside your window, your hair will be tangled in your oil and sweat and you will look terrible but I won’t tell you that, no sir or madam, dear me, I wouldn’t dream of it, I didn’t dream anyway, not of any single thing for any solitary monad of Chronos, I sat right there in that chair all night and that one instant that I passed out and fell over passed so quickly I had not a moment to waste on dreaming before I hit that floor and it hurt, I hit it pretty hard, I bounced! but that is no matter, you are dying, my love, whatever pain I may have felt recently or before recently or even before that is nothing of note, so let it pass, no more need be said about that, we’ll drop it.  I will stand beside your bed and smile down at you, my hand held out, tiny treasures cupped in my palm for you to see.

Look what I have brought you.  Have you ever seen such such-and-such?  And looky here at these this-and-thats.  I had to dig and dig, hammer away with the pick of my axen, the dirt beside the apple tree as impacted as one molar too many and dry as cow bones under the desert sky, hadn’t had a drop of water since back when we were young, back in the days when we so easily smiled we were rumored to be loose persons of questionable morals, it was whispered everywhere we went we were so quick and easy with our smiles, what were we up to?  No good?  Couldn’t be anyone up to any good who smiled as much as we did and at complete strangers, too, people we’d never seen hide nor hair of before we hit town that very afternoon, the back halves of our cars stuffed to bursting with treasures of every hue and cry, every last one of them precious, priceless, and covered with dirt, taboo totems to fix in place without a moment’s notice, stuck to our bumpers both front and back and cluttering the running boards, affixed with rancid adhesive dug from under the front seat and smeared across our fingertips, wiping our hands on the tattered seat covers while we made ready to drive into the sunset and flirt with every disaster we encountered along the way, neither knowing nor even believing we might someday come upon the barricade that blocked the road and brought our progress–.

(Originally published in Fox Chase Review Autumn/Winter 2012. Copyright 2012 by Tetman Callis.)

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