Serial Installment #4 of “On Rainy Days The Monk Ryokan Feels Sorry For Himself”, Pages 63-79


Or, you can avoid eye-strain while taking advantage of summer shade, and buy book now in its entirety.

January 22

Snow and wind last night. This is a great humility in Oswego, to live and be covered in snow and ice. It puts technology in a corner of your playroom, with the colorful balls and figurines. A man’s life in winter hasn’t changed significantly in sixty years. Oh sure, the phone rings and he can pick it up and walk anywhere with it, but that’s not much. He can have a thousand channels of TV, but so what? The wind howls and his garbage can cover flies by the window. The snow turns in violent circles under the street light. The man will have to sit and wait despite what new “toy” he has to play with.
Chicken for din-din. The oven uses gas, as it did sixty years ago, but now it can clean itself. No it can’t. That’s a distortion. He has to clean it. But the oven has a timer, a fancy built-in instant read thermometer, digital clock, professional BTU’s, and an endless inner light to illuminate the carcass… Yet it still does not possess the necessary robotics to take itself to the store and bring you back a chicken. Nor can it sliver the garlic, poke tiny holes in the breast of the bird, and insert the slivers for you. Oh but it’s shiny and pretty and brand new! Technologically advanced. State of the art (Strange to label the most artless monstrosities and tiny black plastic boxes as “art”). A good technological advance would be an automated device invented to inject a serum into a man’s brain immediately upon entering his vestibule on a cold winter’s night. A drug to make him think that time improves a man’s outlook, that advances in science and technology open old stubborn, painted, glued and screwed shut doors of happiness. That air cleaners, DVD, Surround Sound, the Internet, computer station, stainless steel dough mixers, microwave ovens, snowblowers, and riding mowers, to name just a few beautiful shiny new things, are not only really fun, but fill up the empty places to overflowing. A drug to wear off by morning, because I believe the sun still possesses some magical powers of rejuvenation. (Most men still dream in the early morning, without TV).
Unfortunately, no such drug-injector exists at the present time. They’re still working on the light sensors. It won’t matter how tipsy a man is when he stumbles past the door late on a winter’s night. He’ll be quite satisfied with the television, an invention of the 1940’s, to sooth the growling yawns of his inner, sleeping animal.
Wait. Now here is an example of technological progress. I just got up from the table to use the toilet. I plugged the toilet. I searched every room for the plunger that has been hiding in this house since 1958. Without a remote control finding beep, I found the tool, brought it to the bathroom, and jabbed it into the toilet to upset the dam. The stool broke free. I sighed, and came back to work.
Now this isn’t Tolstoy. I’m not genius. God does not write through me. The plunger is enough. Because of technologies’ stubborn advance, the aspiring modern American writer types with the same genius and sense of purpose that Tolstoy’s great, great grandchildren use to club-hop and cocaine snort their typical Friday night away in Moscow. There are no young geniuses. One would think that time-saving devices would help in the output of more works of fine art. True, there are plenty more artists today struggling with a car payment. Modernity can boast of great strides in art. Particularly in the field of abstraction. The age demands easy expression, some abstraction being a short-cut with paths that widen in equal proportion to the artist’s knowledge of The Brady Bunch. Had Tolstoy the opportunity to view an episode, he might have come up with a creative way to carve out and cook his own spleen. The sculptor of today who possesses a clear vision of Bobby Brady’s favorite t-shirt can produce a masterpiece out of the stale beer cans, twisted wire, crumpled nudies, broken glass, and empty quarts of oil strewn six feet high, found in his Uncle’s mini-landfill of a back yard. He’ll call it, “The Final Destruction of the Soul,” parade it across the country, from one artless museum to the next, settling in at night with gobs of take-out, TV, and perhaps a point to make about Tolstoy’s Russian madness, during the commercial breaks of course.
Every single artist my age who was born in America has heard of The Brady Bunch. The juxtaposition of that piece of embarrassing information with Tolstoy’s worn, calloused, and bleeding feet is the best lobby I can offer for the dire need we have of constant, repeating improvements in technology. The slim chance of survival that the artist has today remains to be seen in the complete destruction of creative spirit among his contemporaries. Because the artist is drugged silly by the supposed ease of modern life, rarely has he the strength to stand alone against technologies’ invisible army. The ironic battle cry of “We just want to make you more comfortable,” often proves to be their final, victorious charge against the American artist. The white flag is raised from the chair, the dirty litter box, while on a dog walk, or upon arrival at the front door, after picking out a four course meal tonight with the eight dollars the artist found in his coat pocket. Three of his favorite syndicated shows are on after dinner, and he’d really like to get this piece finished before Laverne and Shirley.
What options beside madness and suicide are there for the man who is true to his art?
This: He must do his absolute best to avoid as much gadgetry as possible. Unfortunately, avoidance will give him neither strength nor courage. It might bring him sanity, provided there is one like himself fighting inertia in the same town, and they have the lucky chance to meet. For art to endure at least another century, the artist must scrap everything holy in America. Presently, and probably indefinitely, toys are the most holy. He must start with the toys then, and toss out at least one a day. Oh yes, and he must always do the exact opposite of his neighbor. Not the easiest program to follow! What began as a quiet personal, monkish struggle, will end in a declaration of war against man and his technology.
Oh but woe to the simple artist, for the enemy has an endless supply of ammunition from an ever-expanding arsenal of weapons. It has an army, navy, air force, and marine corps of square-headed men with very powerful G-12 processors. It has the popular backing of nearly every man and woman on the planet. All domesticated pets as well. The house dog is taught to turn on the master who changes his diet from an egg yolk on kibbles to “go out and kill a rabbit you lazy mutt!” No, there is no chance in open combat for the man whose life is dedicated to art. He will avoid his enemy guerrilla style. The sane artist must retreat into the jungle to practice his future strategies while living the life of a rainforest hermit. He’s a lone warrior now, one who doesn’t love a soul connected in any way to making his life easier. He likes the hot, steady rains of the jungle, and an occasional hurricane to humble his growing dependency on technology. He might take for booty a pair of sneakers to protect his feet from the sharp forest floor and raid an unlucky troop of tourists using his path to the waterfall. However, he will not hastily assume that his enemy is everyone. No, it’s not wise to combat with any joker holding a wireless. These days, even a promising young painter will be carrying one of those! When the hermit steps out of his hut in the hot morning ready for confrontation, any human being he spies will be carrying some little gadget to play with. Along with American TV, technology has invaded all remote spots on the globe. When he leaves his hut looking for a fight, the artist must take along the same advice given to Marsha Brady by her father Mike when she needed the courage to give an oral presentation. He told her to imagine the audience in their underwear. The artist must go a step further. For his war to be won, he must rip off the underwear and make every body naked. Stark naked and stupid, just like the day they came into the world. First he strips off their clothes and sets his face eye to eye with each captive. He is looking for the same sign in everyone. There is only one difference which separates the artist from the technological man. No matter how fat, thin, pallid, pimpled or pussed the enemies’ body, the artist soldier focuses his entire inspection on the eyes. Nothing can separate him from his enemy quite like the eyes.
For my outlook to improve at all, I must see hope’s death hiding in their eyes!

January 25

We must abide then with the major advances in technology made during the last half of the last century that make men faster, stronger, more idealistic, optimistic, healthy-faced, and preening with glowing red cheeks from this constant game of internal tag between desire and satisfaction.
What, you mean to tell me that your new car doesn’t do those nice things to you? So, you can’t tell the difference between the crisp, clear melody of the CD surround-sound system and the crying, screaming agony of your own heart’s lying to itself?

Let me tell you, this morning I know my writing to be a useless, very selfish form of torturing the ones I love. Any day now, my child will be born. How can a man be so blind and so cruel? I love you Marie. To touch your lovely skin where the insides ache is my duty. I scream and spit at the man who can cover up all of God’s most joyous occasions. Let this also be a point made to anyone unfortunate enough to read this. Ronnie Throop hates himself as good as the next guy…

February 1

Marie is a remarkable woman. Her labor was quick and relatively free from doctor intervention. Janie has a strong neck, healthy lungs, mostly a cheerful disposition, and roving, inquisitive eyes that follow me around the room.
Good God! I write about the luck and joy and fortunate bomb of birth like some university professor. I must be too stupid to live! I love baby Jane. I am a marked man!

February 2

The problem with writing, then, is that I have already quit my night job. I pretend that I need to write a million more words before I can put one true word to paper. Nonsense. When my brain is alive as it has been this past week, I should be quite able to turn on the faucet and let the images and feelings flow. More than anything I need to tell the truth.
On Monday while driving Rachelle to her horse riding lessons I had a very clear vision of a contemporary American home and neighborhood. Now I’ve forgotten most of it. The gravest error of writing is that I will try to recapture the images anyway, probably because I need something to do now that I have quit my night job.
We have no souls. The Protestants and Catholics of 16th century Europe had big fat Christmas ham souls. We eat a pile of dead, flea-bitten, Bubonic rats off our platter. We are not pleased, and never content. We have no belief, no moral code, no fear of something greater than ourselves. One should be able to walk into an American neighborhood any which way he pleases, and that might be called freedom but it ain’t no soul that I can see. While driving down the county road, every home’s inside was unfolded to me. So many rooms! So much space! So many things to fill up the space. And the sameness in the space was remarkable. Each house shared not only the same staples— TVs, sheets, clothes, shoes, and food bought from identical stores, but kept the same personal touches as well. The cookie jar, knitted sweater, shotgun, goose and flower drapes, the children’s toys, the motor oil—these and much, much more were exactly the same stuff bought from a similar place. And although the outsides and insides of these pretty country estates were exactly the same thing, or kept so damn well close to it as not to matter, I could not detect even one tiny soul to share a sameness with. These unfortunate dopes hadn’t a soul anywhere. In the garage? Nope. Just a bunch of same stuff and a sport utility to keep warm and bright. In the basement? Nope. Just a brand new laundry center washing the same socks, underwear, and Starter sportswear. On the roof? No. In fact if you turn over a shingle, it reads, “Ha-ha, we’re the same thing too, dingle-butt!” On the tire swing in the yard? Nope, Goodyear. The tree? Yes, but never affiliated with the dopes. Okay, okay, no soul. I get the picture. But do you really care? You’re comfortable. You like your car, your dough mixer, your books, the computer that cost you an arm, a leg and a soul…What are you getting at hypocrite that we haven’t got to already via the weak, bloated pulse of our own sick hearts?
Jesus Christ, don’t you get it? I am the same soulless prick as you!
Pray tell us why you feel different then.
Because not a day in my life goes by when I am not disgusted at a human or humanity. There, happy?
Sure, whatever. Hey, how do you like the Audi Ron?
In sixteenth century Amsterdam Lars and Mindy were devout Protestants inhabiting active souls in a household at 1313 West Faer Street. Their neighbors, Pope idolers, Charlie and Joan, had busy souls too, and kept a hundred candles lit in their abode to prove it. One morning Protestant Lars got out of bed, coughed blood, walked through the cold over to Charlie and Joan’s house, smashed their stained glass statue of Jesus Christ’s mother’s friend’s donkey, leapt into the couple’s bed, and cut up his neighbors in a crazed fury. Then, after setting fire to their home, walked back through the cold to Mindy, who stood waiting for him in the doorway with a hot bowl of oats and sheep’s milk.
Our daughter baby Jane was born this past Saturday. Yesterday my mother picked up a back issue of the local paper, so that we could cut out the headlines and paste them into little Jane’s baby book. Oops, Janie was born on a day when the headlines were coughing blood.

January 27, 2001: Man Pleads Guilty in Murder Trial

(APP) Associated pissants and pilferers. Did you know that there are degrees of murder? One, two, and three? If you kill one, it might be dropped to two. But if you look like you’re truly sorry for sticking that old lady in the gut with a sharp piece of glass, it might even drop another degree. How do we know if you’re truly sorry? We don’t. So wear a sharp suit in the court young man, and the judge might take pity on your non-existent soul, and issue a sentence for manslaughter although you pulled the eyes out the back of her head, and chewed on them.
The lawyer representing the killer has no soul. The judge playing judge has not a smidgen of a soul, After work he picks up his little girl and squeezes her. He is lying. He loves something not his daughter. The father of the killer has no soul. So what if one balmy day nineteen years ago he had sex with a woman, and then fed the product of that affair sugar cereal every Saturday until it was old enough to kill. Does that give him the right to pretend he has a soul when a woman is dead with cut glass stuck in her forehead? No it does not! The reporters, the courtroom audience, the secretary in the room next door… They have no souls. The people in the street, out in the cold walking by? No souls. The good folks in their cars passing people on the street? Nope. Why? Because an old woman opened her door last May thinking the boy was polite enough, and she might like another subscription to Good Housekeeping. Sure, but there wasn’t a soul in the vestibule, so he invited himself in to have a look-see for himself. Nothing there, so he killed her. The coroner who found glass shards in the roof of her mouth—he doesn’t have a soul. The cops that came to call, and saw her lying there in a pool of blood. They will never ever, even if they were bunnies with badges, have a soul. And without a soul, one cannot develop children with souls. Not first, not second, not even third degree murdering souls. Not one of you nips reading this soulless babble has a soul. You might hope that the priest at the funeral service has a soul, but you don’t hope, because you know deep down, in your bottomless empty pit of a heart that there isn’t even the tiny, starved bird of a soul trying to break free.
The boy was nineteen. The boy could not possibly become a human being. That is what it has got to be now. Every Homo sapien shall be born with a soul. However, soon after the soulless mother or father touch it with their trembling soulless hands, the soul disappears, and with it, its humanness. I know this to be true. The entire courtroom should have been set on fire that afternoon. All of their soulless bodies should have sent billows of smoke up into the winter sky. Because there isn’t a pope or priest out there who believes in God, death is the only sword I can wield. How could that old lady’s children not annihilate the house wherein sat their mother’s murderer? Why did they rise from their pews in the house of law, see all that dirty money exchanging hands, the smiles, the lying tears, the grease on the chin of the lawyer who could actually stomach a burger during lunch break, and not run up to the man who cut up their mother with glass shards, hold him down, and ram a burning torch down his throat? How could her kids stand up and vacate the building without leaving a courtesy bomb in a basket with a bow tied around it? I don’t dare say that I write for God. I am a scared little punk just like you trying to make a comparison between the sixteenth century murder for a belief, and the inability for Homo sapiens of the 21st century, who can’t believe enough in God to play God when their own mommy is slain because she opened a door to buy a magazine.
“We are more humane in this age,” says the President, says the working man, says the soulless father and mother who don’t believe because they are so afraid. No, God damn us, we are spiritual cross-dressers, who can’t muster enough humanity to construct even the tiniest moral code. There is no God. You know there is no God. The fear that you have because there is no fair God, makes you helpless. You fear the man next to you, who might send you to a prison where inmates swear a lot and have sex with the same sex, if you decided to meet that nineteen year old retard who killed your mother face to face, with an eye to an eye; or Jesus at least some kind of similar avenging attitude, other than “It’s out of our hands,” or the even more pitiful, “How can he not show any remorse?”
Why doesn’t he show any remorse? Because inside he is laughing an imaginary head off! Inside he has got a thousand sardonic smiles stuck all over his body. Inside he walks up to you laughing at your mother’s death with a thousand smiles. He knows that in the end you will agree with the jury to feed and clothe and keep him warm for fifteen years to life. He knows it. You know it. You might go home and do your taxes tonight to prove it. But you won’t do anything about it because God does not exist and you’re so incredibly afraid my sorry little soulless orphans. Oh fellow spiritual degenerates, why not form a circle around his tied down body and jab it with tiny little cut pieces of glass? Secretly you want him to beg for mercy, to plead and scream his sorry ass off for mercy. We can let him beg, even make it look like he may get off the hook, wait a couple hours so he can think about his crime, then launch upon him like a pack of starved, wild wolves, tearing at his flesh with our own, very useful incisors. Afterwards we shall wash up, step outside into the bight sun, clap our hands together and sing Hallelujah! Then of course, by all means, go back to work or play, and mourn the wrongful death of another innocent soulless creature whom some of us happened to love enough to kill for.
It has got to be this way. We believe it. We just don’t know where to begin. I’ll tell you, the early years must be dedicated to acquiring humanship. And the few, the very few, who graduate, those receiving the understood blessing and carefulness of being alive, they alone are in the running for soul reacquisition. Those with a soul will teach by example. If the priest happens to possess a soul, he will direct the funeral service for the woman who was murdered by cut glass on a march to the prison, and bomb it. If that isn’t enough, and the people still cannot see, he’ll march them to Albany and bomb the houses that say it’s okay to kill—just be prepared to eat and sleep for free, fifteen years to life. If that doesn’t work and the soulless monkeys come to arrest the priest, don’t fret a bit. There’s a good chance that he will be captured in a state that kills their undesirables humanely—with gas, electric shock, skin peeling, esophagus stuffing, brain bleeding…. But your soul-stuffed priest probably won’t care. He’ll hang himself long before they can agree upon and organize the proper manner of his execution.
She would have bought the magazine, really, and piled the issues on the table of her soulless home. There are civil murder trials. Pretty neat, eh? I might be misunderstood, but I love that slain woman like my own mother. Cruel and unusual punishment? Please God yes! Enough to make up for the slow, but firm advancement of civil cowardice over the years. I beg of you, dear Lord Almighty, please bring back the braver souls of yesteryear.

February 3

No more thinking! I love my children, my wife, my family. I’m afraid of my own mind.

February 4

Quote for today:

“If one quarter of the American people are today living on a level of subsistence far below the norm, there remain nevertheless a hundred million who enjoy comforts and advantages unknown to men in any period of the past. What is to hinder them from revealing their talents? Or is it that our talents lie in other directions? Is it that the great goal of American manhood is to become the successful businessman? Or just a “Success”, regardless of what form or shape, what purpose or significance, success manifests itself in and through? There’s no doubt in my mind that art comes last in the things in life which preoccupy us. The young man who shows signs of becoming an artist is looked upon as a crackpot, or else is a lazy, worthless encumbrance.”
—Henry Miller

I am excited that it’s Sunday. Rachelle comes today. School will start up again. We will bake sweet treats, and I can go back to normal
Yesterday lost in the dreamy haze of newborn glee, Marie, my mother and I talked about my idea to beg a simple living. First, let it be known, we are very happy people. The cold February, the unemployment, the very simple mornings and even simpler gray afternoons, have made baby Jane’s first week of life a post-womb bliss. This is happiness. It’s also very rare, and confounds my mother often to the point of distraction because she’s never known a couple to be so cheerful while in the wake of financial ruin.
Anyway, I feel good enough this week to talk to her about begging. Why not? Sponsorship has always been the artist’s plight. Why should I be ashamed to ask my fellow man for five cents a day? It’s the 21st century and the economy has never been so fat. Just a nickel a day. Five pennies. A dime to secure me for two days. If I could acquire say, forty donors spread out across the United States, perhaps even the richer countries of the world… Forty people each sending me a nickel a day—then that would be enough incentive to quit the hate mail I send out to the non-existent addresses of disinterested Americans. For two dollars a day I might even concentrate on creating something beautiful. Practically fourteen dollars a week will be enough to silence my criticism of everything that cost more than fourteen dollars a week. I could concentrate on beautiful writing, like something straight from Jean Giono’s mind, although not nearly as well-written (I know my limitations). Detailed descriptions of the countryside, brilliant colors of the sky, animals with strong limbs, a kind gesture from a human being. The money would help pay for two simple meals a day, arranged by my own two hands of course, and an hour or two to walk about the town meditating on my next book. This I would do for five cents a day. It used to be two hundred a week. Now it is five cents a day.
Of course I would gladly accept more. Generosity would not go unappreciated. I would dedicate the rest of my books written before death to the forty original sponsors of my plight.
A nickel a day. Thirty-five cents a week. What, do you expect me to live on less than that? After our afternoon inspirational, my mother sent me to the store for steaks. “Nice big juicy sirloins for Marie and me,” she said. Fine. And I didn’t even consider the cost, at least not until this morning, after the buerre rouge, the sauteéd mushrooms and pearl onions. The spicy black beans simmered in garlic and olive oil. Then I wondered about money. Why should it bother me that each steak costs five dollars and I’ve been planning the last few meals out of a pot of black beans? It’s her money. She earned it. Why does it matter that her son just spent an hour giving her a lecture on the virtues of begging, and that even the paltry sum of a nickel a day, thirty-five cents a week, $18.20 a year would keep the budding American artist not only humble to the very core, but deliriously happy because out there somewhere, is another contemporary as foolhardy as he. Why is it that she can give Price Chopper Supermarket a two dollar profit on the purchase of a steak, simply because they supplied the cut piece of cow, but that it breaks her heart to know her son seeks a five cent profit for his artistic endeavors? How can an artist’s own mother not sense his reoccurring frustration and outrage?
Because Ron Throop, you sniffling idiot! She can eat the  bloody steak!

February 5

In the morning I can have no worries. Is it this way for everyone? Most of my writing happens before dawn. That has got to account for the cocky child in me. It’s quite a different story in the night, when my mind is a heavy, overloaded glutton suffering the ill-effects of a fat illusion diet ingested throughout the day. This morning I awoke on a warm, sandy beach. The tide was high, just tickling my toes. The east was light. I sat up, feeling clean and new to the approaching day. A pelican stood in the sand watching me. A blue heron caught on an air wave cruised silently by, and the thoughts in my head and myself were the same. I was a me not separated from my thoughts. However, when I proceeded to get up and act (I thought I’d wade up the shoreline for adventure), the clear-headed thoughts chose to stay behind and made their cozy secure homes rooted down into the sand. Every few waves I turned to look back, so as not to lose sight of my fading thoughts.
Further down the shore, my body yearned toward the sea. Since the sun was up and birds were singing, I felt brave enough for a morning swim. I fell into the warm waves, and pulled myself over one, then two. The water was changing shades of green and gray. I knew this was the best way to live, and looked back to my thoughts for agreement. But a crowd of feeding seabirds blocked my view of the shore. No matter. I had plenty of time to get back to this morning’s light.
Suddenly a whirlpool grabbed hold of my toes and pulled me out to sea. Far, far away from my original thoughts. Then I panicked. Going down, coming up. Believed I spied the shore when it was just a head full of air and water. I guess then I must have died, and heaven was a glorious dawn on a warm, sandy beach with the light in the East, and a pelican wondering about me.
I simply woke up to think about another day.

What are these illusions that in the morning are virtually non-existent, but by early evening drown you in violent whirlpools of confusion?

Where do I begin? You see, this morning I feel happy and free. The world is an infinite exploration. I awake with a blast of anticipation, excitement, belief, wonder, hope, joy, real strength of character. I can even have positive thoughts about begging. And unlike the evening, the thought stays true, and keeps itself clear without the illusion of other people’s feelings getting in the way. A current reality I am dreaming up is to attach a wooden box to the side of the house and cut a slit into the top. A collection box wanting for nickels. I imagine donors walking to the artist’s home, not for the artist’s sake necessarily, but to knock themselves out of agonizing routines. This morning I am certain that joy will come to the man delivering a nickel, whether it be to God, the hungry old woman, the Children’s Aid Society, or to yours truly. In bad weather the nickel donor can take up a staff and obtain an old sock to stuff his nickels in. Already his life has improved tenfold. A walk across town on a nickel delivery might turn enough envious heads from inside their cars to really make a difference. “Hey, isn’t that Mr. Howard, the shop teacher? What is he doing walking through the snow? Why isn’t he in his car? Where can he be going?”
Mr. Howard finally came to his senses, picked up his dinner plate, and threw it against the wall. “Freida, where’s the coin jar?” he said, and then wondered why he didn’t know where the coin jar was kept. From that realization he moved on to the next obvious one. He was near invisible to the people in his life. His loved ones saw right through him. Sure he kept his toothbrush in the holder beside the others, but the big question now was: Would they stop brushing their teeth if his toothbrush was gone? Sure, being a shop teacher earned him a pile of nickels, but even that couldn’t keep Freida from thinking about her gorgeous foot doctor—the blonde, blue-eyed Adonis with the incredible hands. Son and daughter were touched by Dad once long ago, when he played touch football with them and Buster in the yard. They pitied him for putting on a show. Suzy was five, Tommy was six and Buster was the puppy Mr. Howard bought with a fist full of dirty nickels.
Now he takes another look at the home which he hath provided. “Why aren’t we begging for nickels?” he wonders. “Man, we all got it too easy. How is it possible to appreciate anything? And thoughts…! My God, what do they matter? Thoughts, dreams, they are nothing in a home overflowing with nickels. Why did I not see this before? I guess it’s okay to teach other people’s brats how to cut factory wood and tighten bolts, as long as my own brats say, ‘Thank you father,’ and ‘I love you father.’ But they never do. And Freida puts that god-damned plate of food on the table every night. I don’t know, but she might have spread ten toxins on her body to give it that shine today. I wouldn’t stop to count because the days and nights are ripping by and I have nothing to show for life but a house stuffed chock full of nickels. When Suzy and Tommy open their mouths to speak, nickels pour out in a stream. Freida’s a walking sheet of noisy nickels. I got nickels falling out of drawers. Buster won’t take another treat for going outside. Now he hoards nickels in a pile by the garbage. This morning I was late for work. It took twenty minutes to clear the nickels off the driver’s seat. Since I heard about the man in town with a begging box, every turn I make confronts me with a wall of nickels. I never knew I had so much until the other guy made a complete ass of himself. Now I cannot will the nickels out of my mind. I have to rid my thoughts of every last nickel!
So Mr. Howard takes up a staff. Yesterday it was a broken branch fallen after a west wind. Today it is a staff. He stops at his car to pick nickels out of the ashtray, and drops them in a tube sock. He ties a knot in the top and walks out into the street swinging his sock.
“Where the hell do you think you’re going?” yells Freida standing in the doorway.
“I am going to the artist’s house to drop these nickels into his begging box.”
“You are like hell!” Freida screams. She’s in a rage. Her eyes are hot. She feels the heat behind her eyes getting hotter. She shakes her body and waves her fists at her husband. She curses. She stamps and screams. Mr. Howard returns her fit with a look of almost cheerful indifference. This gesture makes her livid, beside herself with a red hot hated for her husband. Her temples are flaming. The heat starts to melt her eyes and suddenly her head explodes. A blast of lava-hot nickels erupts out the top of her head. They land whoosh-whoosh onto the frozen blacktop, shooting bullets of steam into the cold sky.
Mr. Howard walks up to his wife lying in the doorway, steps one leg over her prone body, pokes his head through the door, and yells up to the kids to bring him down another sock full of nickels. “And clean up your mother,” he says. “I’ll be back in a few years.”

You must have no idea about your status as a non entity. That is the greatest illusion, is it not? You’re not that important. So stop fooling yourself. You need me. I need you to provide water, light, heat, razors, toilet paper, food, certain types of entertainment, practically everything out there necessary to sustain life. Jesus, I’m an artist, not a mountain man. Of course I need the newspaper editor. Once in a while I must pretend to look for a job. Sure I need the grocery clerk to arrange cabbages, the farmer to milk the cow, the nuclear engineer so that I may flip switches for electric light. You need them too. Then what use am I?
I am here (alive and breathing) to put the original thought back into your copy-cat brains that the artist is no more an anomaly than the shop teacher, Mr. Howard, the butcher hacking meat, the stone mason picking up rocks and putting one on top of the other, the assembly line worker at the cereal plant making sure each box is sealed with glue. Listen, we are all useless! The more so if we actually think that we contribute to the whole. “I perform a succession of meaningless labors until the end of my day, everyday, until retirement, or death, or death in retirement. I do this for the good of society. I am needed. It is needed. We are needed.” No, that is an untruth. Nobody is needed. The world will keep turning without a single human being left living on it.
That is a depressing thought. So what? The whole will always smother the importance of a single man. The whole is the most silly illusion, yet because it has been allowed prominence for so long, it boasts as being the most dangerous illusion of all. Deadly. We believe in the whole because that is what the whole wants, but what we need in order to keep ourselves from empty space. It is a feeling of being a moon rotating around a center. The moon is dead. The center is a sphere possessing air, light, dark, life, hidden caves, and tall green forests. Giraffes and lions race across meadows of yellow and blue flowers, tiny creatures swim in a cool water stream catching the sun’s ecstatic ray dance. The center is one man. One individual man. And yet it is also the whole. The illusion is the whole, but it is really just one man, one immense population of many “one mans.” Every creature inhabits that center at birth. The grand illusion is an entire life, spent dedicating a better part of it to reaching a cold, personal moon which does not exist. The moons are out there. They are very real, and yet nonexistent. So much the better for them to be spared our luckless souls. As a whole we aspire to become a frozen clump of inert rock, nickel-hoarding non-entities. Each individual a whole, needing just a nickel a day to eat and dream up things like cold, personal moons.
Oh fellow non-entities, empty your coin drawers, boxes and jars! Become an artist. Explode a lonely moon!
Words are so wrong. I read what I write and it doesn’t make sense to me.

February 8

Your House Is a Fat Whore Shitting in the Street

My fingers smell like urine
My baby coos in bed
My dog stands at the door
He’s smarter in the head
What we say we know we know
You know it isn’t known
That crap about the light of day
reap what we have sown

A plumber on my road
has four llamas and a spa
A house with twenty rooms
and soul for bacteria

He’s sneaky and he’s dumb
a dangerous, rowdy hood
He’s smelled his ass too many times
Would lick it if he could

The truth is my dog
just waits to wag his tail
He’s real to himself
unlike the human male

He sleeps and dreams and whines
when he’s hungry or he’s mad
and not like the lonely plumber
will cry when he is sad

The depressing truth o man o man
Is that you’re not a dog
my buddy waits before the door
and I won’t make anymore stupid rhymes to honor his most selfish beauty.

From this day forward I will be a child. I am beautiful and not-knowing. I have a mommy and a daddy and a step mommy. They take care of me. My homework is real. I’m doing a presentation on healthy alternatives to common sugary soft drinks. I have dreams. I don’t want to kill. I have a picture book about my favorite singing group. On each page there are empty spaces for me to write information about myself. The saddest day of my life was when we had to bury my pet rat named Slick. We carved her name and the years of her life in cement poured in an upside-down metal can cover. I can lay in the grass for an hour. The taller the better. But Daddy can think of nothing else but when to mow it. Even when the day is sunny and hot and we can go to the lake. I don’t want to be like my Dad. I am happy with my dreams and playing. Daddy is wrong.


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