MARCH 5, 2017



So anyway, the Man from Minot threw down his bag in such a way that the flat bottom of the leather valise sent a ripple of dust out from beneath it like the shock wave of Big Boy when burst above our lives and send us all surfing on that radioactive wave through the years of what was then the horrific future of apocalypse and now the sad past of death, fear and anxiety in response to that upgrade in warfare.

He had just returned from a trip to Stevenson, a suburb of Dallas, without the pleasure of being Dallas or Austin or even Chicago to learn about the future of home lifting -- the technology and the advances and the mandatory upgrades -- which all amounted to an hill of beans as far as he was concerned, since his little company had been acquired by a massive international engineering outfit that had been once captained itself by a former Vice President.

And now everything, all this new stuff, the hydraulic jacks and the lifts and the joists and contracts and the relationships, was being couched in terms of former this and once that. Like any man returning from a long trip to a mostly empty house he went and got himself a drink. What his dead partner would think abouit all this. . . .

So anyway, indeed.

signs of impending change erupt quietly

Mornings come with sodden gray skies and ice on the back window. A nimbus hovers over the vales as if a congregation of ghosts has just broken up its meeting and steam rises from the trees. Most of the deciduous ones remain bare and padding to the stove to fire up the coffee, your breath comes out in clouds. Nevertheless even now, signs of impending change erupt quietly, tiny green explosions along the branches of buckeye that went stark naked in summer all quite suddenly the past year. The Japanese plum has clad itself in sexy pink lingerie and all the cherry blossoms are popping out. Down along the Cove a carpet of daffydowndillies appeared with yellow surprise. In the places where we have snow, shoots appear at the bottom of suncups. Dawn O'Reilly goes out to the garden and bending over, spreading her knees, looks down where she and Padraic planted the fava beans last year, pushes aside the weeds, and remembers the days when she was a girl rolling with the boys in the hay of Enniskerry after the snow had cleared. Clearly, something is happening down there.

tradition and kindness die easily in these times

Latterly Padraic has been in discussions with the landlord about the next five year lease. They have occupied the same location now for well on twenty years and more, granting succor to many a lost soul while contributing to the community in a thousand ways, but tradition and kindness die easily in these times and the landlords are not known for generosity or kindness. Mr. Howitzer's firm Rauch, Howitzer, Howitzer and Ball, was wanting an increase of a sort to drive any businessman half mad on the Sea of Accountancy. Change was in the offing. They might have to let Suzie go.

a shadow was extending now

Dawn stood up and went up to the second floor to look out the window while Padraic emitted the sound of a small lumber mill from the bed. Down there had been Brown's Shoes. And over there beyond, John's Barbershop. Both gone now. And down the way, Pagano's Hardware had once presented its creative storefront windows for an half century; also gone. A shift in clouds above changed the look of the Island. The little houses with their Edwardian fronts interspersed with the faux adobe craftsman cottages painted in pastels still looked the same, but it seemed a shadow was extending now from one end to the other.

We're gonna get you.

Down on the street Denby made his way to Marlene and Andre's Household. A spatter of rain and wind caused him to walk bent over holding his hat, which provided with his Macintosh his only defense against rain. He took brief shelter under an awning of a shop that had closed and now had windows all boarded up. As he stood there waiting for the squall to lessen, a car carrying several members of the Angry Elf gang drove by slowly. The car paused for a moment on the street and the occupants looked at him and someone cracked a window and cackled an evil laugh.

We're gonna get you. We are gonna make you sorry.

A car coming along honked impatiently and they drove on.

Denby stood out in the street as the rain lessened and shouted after the car, "Fuck you Neil! Fuck you, ya little man!"

this was no country for old men

But he was only a small person on a street in the rain and everybody had their problems and nobody cared and nobody paid attention. The police did not care; this was no country for old men and they rather preferred to save stranded cats in trees and have pancake breakfasts at Ole's Waffleshop to promote themselves and community spirit.

He had gone to the police about the threats and the bullet holes in his windows, but they could do nothing unless Denby did the leg work for absolute proof. The Angry Elf had immunity because he had narced his former friends in Brooklyn. He was Protected.

TV zombies after an apocalypse

Something like a local Mafia was not to their taste anyway and so Denby was on his own in the little town, headed on a path like a boxer in an old Hemingway story. No one would listen. No one cared. All was rotten from the highest office of the Land, infected with a cynical disease which turned people into mean, slobbering, grasping creatures howling at one another, not too much different from TV zombies after an apocalypse.

He reached the battered porch of the old house and came in as Marlene was dishing out the meal of bread soup. At that moment the storm really hit and the rain came lashing down to pound the roof, while inside all the lost souls of the Household sat in corners with their bowls of steaming soup after a long day of survival in these times. This was a place of Sanctuary, a concept that used to be considered sacred back in the day before it became politically inconvenient.

Below the floorboards, the denizens down there continued their scurry around the old furnace unit.

Meanwhile, Rolf and Suan were not present at this gathering. They were harboring with friends up in San Anselmo in Marin where they had been looking for a place, an alternate refuge, for many were leaving the Island City during the Rental Crisis and it was good to look around to see what could be found.

As it turned out, Marin was crowded, expensive, inhospitable. Full of effete poodle walkers lacking irony or humanity. Hardly a place of refuge. Indeed they did meet one rancher who had occupied his land for ages out in the town of Sylvan Acres, a place which consisted of nothing much more than a country store and the post office, who seemed affable and real, but they had found nothing else and were resigned to returning to look for some harbor in San Leandro where a crew of misfits and malcontents could take up shop should TSHTF.

As they sat down to their meal flashes of light illuminated the hills all around. Thunder rolled over the Himavant in waves. The drought was ending. Changes were coming.

That night, after a long day of searching, Suan listened to the sound of rain and rushing water and missed the sound she had hearkened to for so many years and that hard woman who worked as a pole dancer at the Crazy Horse wept, knowing change was certain.

Miles away, in a cruiser sitting by the Old Cannery on the Island, Officer O'Madhauen opened an envelope by the light of the dashboard lights. It was his retirement statement. He did not know what he would do when the time came; perhaps he would move to Kentucky to be with family. There it was cheaper. Even though he had lived here all his life.

A car drove by slowly and he recognized it; the Angry Elf Gang. The Officer's eyes narrowed. Just you make one mistake. Just one mistake. He knew what they were.

Mr. Howitzer III, last of the Howitzers, sat beneath the painting of King George and went over his accounts. That house on Otis. Yes that one with the hippies. It was time to monetize that one better. Yes it was time. Before the fools enacted Rent Control. A change was coming on, he felt it.

On the Avenue, the open car carrying members of the Angry Elf's gang sprinted away from the scene of the burning car they had left in front of La Casa Azul as a warning to keep the payments.

Summer was their favorite time, for more people on the street meant more cover to do what they wanted. They were exuberant, especially the Cackler, a favorite of the Angry Elf, who enjoyed any sort of terrorism so long as it came cheap and paid well. The Cackler had a job in mind, one that would be fun and easy. Then they would all have a romp. Yes, a change for somebody was definitely in the works.

Calla lilies had burst into bloom at the base of the steps leading up to the door that lead to the apartments of Mr. Sanchez and Ms. Morales. The couple had gone to bed and the crib sat beside the window with the shades up and the powerful surge of the full moon filled the room with lapping waves of light. The man in the moon smiled upon the new infant; yes, changes were happening.

A few miles away the quick denizens flitted beneath the floorboards of the Household as the meeting between Suan and Rolf and Andre and Marlene broke up. The dark forms flitted and darted around the sparking old furnace which Mr. Howitzer had never had repaired, or even examined for some 25 years..

At that point, the train wail ululated from from far across the water, spreading like the forcefield of an explosive wave, beneath the light-studded gantries of the Port of Oaktown, keening across the waves of the estuary, the riprap embankments, the grasses of the Buena Vista flats through the cracked brick of the Cannery and its weedy railbed, crying over the dripping basketball hoops of Littlejohn Park and dying between the Edwardian house-rows as the locomotive click-clacked in front of the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, trundling out of shadows on the edge of town past the Ohlone burial mounds to an unknown future.