The Rationality of Your Duty – or – What You Think Your Fathers Wanted
So there LeRoy Spencer sits, arranging the last stray pieces of the day’s paperwork beneath the dull white drone of the fluorescent lights overhead, the vague, parasitic feeling persisting in his belly that he’s forgotten something important. He shuts down his computer and tidies the stuff strewn over his grassgreen blotter before he flicks the nose of the Mattel, Inc. Saddam Hussein Ruthless Dictator Series™ bobblehead doll next to his stapler and on his way out nods once yes likewise to the withdrawn secretary at the front desk, who, Spencer has observed, seems to serve mainly as Mr. Panetta’s administrative doormat. A grungy European dance beat issues from the headphones nestled above her cherryred cheeks as good-natured Spencer, across the top of the circulation desk, slides the girl a folder of documents inked with his John Hancock by a cold, shaky hand. He wishes her a happy holiday to zero response, she at once winsome and removed, which his tendency toward reticence and self-counsel allows him to absorb without giving off the outward appearance of any unfriendliness whatsoever. Spencer: a diligent and conscientious man whose ability to have feelings isn’t any more or less keen than anybody else’s, but the guy’s introverted and, let’s say, deliberative—a deliberative body within himself—a trait that he manifests not in what he presents, but in what he doesn’t present: Spencer conveys his inner workings at about a glacier’s pace. He’s thinking, was his mother’s canned response for whenever anybody would make the socially-cumbersome observation that the boy’s silence was different, though the usual inflection of the remark would reveal, as Mrs. Spencer feared through her midwesterner’s desire to always foster friendly relations among acquaintances, the perception of a certain unfiltered childhood nihilism that could lead the boy to do God Knows What that his folks worried about so consistently while they cleaned the dinner plates every evening or during their pillow talk in bed as LeRoy would sit pent up in his room, caved into himself for what seemed to observers to be spans of nearly Christlike hiatus, never once making even a peep, these instances becoming increasingly frequent and worrisome to Mr. & Mrs. Spencer in the run up to LeRoy’s departure for school out east to become one Crimson out of many others, away from his semi-rural Minnesota home in the place his ancestors conquered and set led. This trend of silence was refined with time, mainly over several years as Spencer hunched dreadfully over various desks chugging out pages of homework or intel files until little beads of sweat would bleed through his shirt, no sign of complaint ever once visible, however, into something so pure and essential to his character that it became, like him, a thing among other things, an ontological playmate for his still body, a gentleness so fundamental and remote and palpable that, though it hasn’t exactly procured him any enemies at the office, it could only be found attractive and irrevocably lovable to a philanthropical sensibility like his wife, the sanitation heiress Olivia, whose name is one of ten on the list Spencer had forgotten about and now holds after digging in the right pocket of his overcoat as he wonders what he’ll tell her about his day. His feeling of something misplaced subsides momentarily and then returns, descending over him like a dark hood. What gift does one buy one’s wife during wartime? Olivia had composed the list and placed it for Spencer to find next to a halved, out-of-season grapefruit she’d sliced for him before she left this morning to meet her sanitation dynasty of a family at the Reagan Nat’l Airport, a fact of the Season that’s left Spencer nettled inside. LeRoy Jr.’s name has a short sublist of items for Spencer to pick up on his way home headed in the child’s handwriting: a two year trip to florida to America’s Playground to ride the roller coasters! !, such penmanship, though the space by Olivia has been left blank. This is for Spencer to fill. He places the list back in his pocket and digs for his keys in his trousers, feeling an un-capped pen he approaches the wide row of naked cherry trees on the parking lot’s edge. A concentrated bundle of red spots are partially hidden behind their lightly bobbing branches, the spots flicker behind the wood limbs in fragments and coalesce as he nears them: like small bits of red fruit, it seems, an image that conjures that of schoolgirl Olivia, golden head bowed over her desk littered with papers. The Public and Political Discourse of Early American Poetics was the course, he recalls, one crossing the departmental boundary between Political Science and the History of American Civilization. LeRoy was then a helpless, faltering undergraduate, writing his bungling verse in the seat behind Olivia and her wafting schoolgirl scent. The adulterated image of his sophomoric summer, their first together . . . Who couldn’t have fallen in love with a winsome sanitation heiress emerging with a wicker basket from the row of cherry trees atop the orchard’s green lawn with a bushel of berries at her side, as though to be released from another realm guarded by an invisible membrane made secret by the bunches of pink leaves? She was white and tantalizing, like a fairy queen, though he spelled it fairie at the time, his youthful pretension. What was that allusion he made, the central conceit of that conceited poem he’d written for her there in the orchard? The ham- fisted one that had stuck with him because of its ham-fistedness, too obscure to be understood without the thoughts that spurred it? Something to the extent of the muddled and confused non-emperor, Edmund LiegeRoy Spenser of Burkeshire, possible progenitor perplexed by the other sex. In his mind the silent non-emperor lay prone, enthroned by the words of literary and political elders, covered by the tall grass of the narrow Lakota territory with a mass of bushes behind his head, on his back quaking meekly between the strange sites built on the borders of expansionist Contact. Spencer delicately crumples and smoothes the list in his pocket, walking among the cherry trees. And Olivia the philanthropical almost-virgin coming forth, Spencer’s non-divine non-right, inverted by the reflexive gaze of his memory, godchosen, her reflected image intimate and personal and gestated inside a tumescent LeRoy. She unrightfully his without much sour stink of a bedroom past on her, seeming to be placed before him by God the Almighty Himself on the green lawn with its amber tops swaying in the breath of the seasonal westerly. Olivia, the poetic subject, lifting a somewhat seasoned white leg over the wooden fence post. Her skirt ruffled, a white thigh she smiling sultry and cooing at the unstately head; and the amber tops of grass protruding from between his sticky toes, bobbing up and down like a nodding plastic tyrant, a sustained glug and the murmur of a crowd filling the space beyond his head, O the lotion she rubbed in, like maraschino. What would he say tonight, sworn to secrecy? The list in his hand expands downward. The space below the wife and son is filled and occupied by the names of Olivia’s visiting sanitation dynasty. The children’s wishes for fortune constitute a space—cascading annexes of personal assets accruing. He moves past the bank of trees. The red spots unify: a form: the substance is Panetta’s 1968 Corvette. It’s embanked on each side by gathering drifts of snow, the vehicle’s smooth red body being slowly consumed by the white anti-erosion, ornamented by a blue handicap tag dangling from the rearview. And Panetta earlier before he left for Yemen to speak with diplomats regarding a botched suicide bombing, one attempted by a cowboy-dressed mascot at America’s Playground: Al Hudaydah. Panetta’s half-assed lament that we the U.S. can’t make a decent sportscar anymore, the declension of a nation of manufacturers, the loss of what he called it from behind the john door, the moxie, that allowed for our ascension to industrial and, consequently, martial supremacy—we’ve lost the world we made for ourselves, he’d said, gassy and belching out the rump. Spencer fingers the pen. The proverb of superlative might, the inscriber of fictions. The letting of signatory ink like blood on the clandestine counterterrorism papers atop his grassgreen blotter. O penstroke, though the poem in the orchard—Panetta gassy behind the crackedopen john door with a sliver of light stretched expanding outward into the darkened office like a sharp frontier, Spencer’s head hung bowed as though a repentant monk or convict, as he walks and pats his flanks, vexed and silent and wondering why the vexation, why the mild personal torture of this gray vexation that something he had has been abandoned, which he wears like a dark hood? He stops in his path and confers with himself silently and moves to his car with the pen and list both in his hand, leaving footprints in the white snow behind him from the naked cherry trees. Cherry Lotion et al., he writes with the pen of love and war next to Olivia before starting his foreign luxury sedan and working his way east down Dolley Madison Blvd. on down over onto Western Ave., further east. Down these streets Spencer performs the silent act of commuting, soundless, not of radio nor of fellow traffic. The wane of it all is muffled by the vehicle’s sealed windows and the hot bluster of its malevolent sounding heater; the commute is an act automatic, nearly as fluid as the functions of the body itself. A flow through guided channels, the twiceaday movement of the business week. Vessels carried and shepherded terminally over the body of the North American continent by the gutpaved earth. Spencer’s Audi hums and moves without obstruction. A maniacal red Chevrolet passes him on the right and veers into his lane, slowing down abruptly. General Motors the barometer of American zeitgeist, pressure: Panetta waxing sorrowful from behind the private door to the analyst Spencer with clandestine intel files strewn about his grassgreen blotter in the darkened side office, overcome and flushed, silent. Sometimes we must behave outside of our regular character in order to regain that character, Panetta’s dirge in front of a chorus of farts before flying east for his two week continuum of diplomacy and leisure in the oil- and tourism-rich Republic of Yemen, where he’ll walk the grounds of American-made amusement parks, the briefings by embassy men and the Yemeni counterterrorism attache regarding the parks’ available CT logistics as high value targets because of their indications of a Western presence. Panetta strutting and blustering taking care of business. I know you must have some reservations, he’d said, at which LeRoy stared at the nodding plastic dictator yesnodding on his grassgreen blotter with a malignant molded grin underneath a black plastic mustache, the painted white teeth: Panetta’s eventual grin in the government-subsidized suite reserved for him overlooking the blue-as-dyed-water gulf. The pen and list rest bundled in the cupholder of the center console where Spencer has them stored. Exceptions to legality. The family will be in the living room after dinner chatting this evening. He could stay in the kitchen to help Olivia clean up. It’s a ready-made excuse. He weakly resolves to tell her what he signed, he steers the Audi silently under a contour of the G. Washington Memorial Pkwy, past the Reagan Nat’l Airport on his eastward course across the antecedent banks of the Potomac. Spencer looks out the window into the side mirror at the inverted concrete legs supporting the receding highway: Olivia’s gray route Northeast toward home from the R.N.A. with her kindred line of river-crossing sanitation tycoons packed tight inside her Land Rover, the Mississippi their western Delaware, spans crossed by patriarchs and their lineage. Maybe he wouldn’t say anything, the risk of having someone overhear him being too great. But then again the river-crossing sanitation dynasty has acted more or less friendly on most occasions; they won’t wage war, no surprise attack like against the sleeping Hessians, and the scene comes to Spencer’s mind as though a memory: LeRoy Schlaffer, the Germanic wielder of mighty pens and lists lying prone, a loafer unsuspecting, napping inside a canvass tent with his hat pulled down and white hands clasping his stationery to his chest, next to the orange embers of a smothered flame, separated from the snowcovered grass leaves of the North American continent which the occupiers hold as capital, the monarchical forces of commercial sanitation standing in his camp smiling with arms out for extended-familial embrace: the germinating sanitation dynasty Waistdice, a name of English origin that crossed the Atlantic, Olivia had said, the sanitation dynasty Waistdice’s derricks plunging updownupdown into the broken soil of the continent, the rumbling glugalug of the thrusting derricks filling carved-out cavities until the grassgreen earth shows a slight bulge, removing the eastern seaboard’s trash from the ground-level in a gesture of philanthropical, aesthetic re-placement, done as public spectacle on a queer stage in front of a murmuring crowd. Spencer, in his Audi, pictures how the episode must have looked— papa James Waistdice grinning huge from a tobacco-brown rut in front of a weathered red barn festooned with a nylon banner reading The LandFill™ of the New Millennium, which Spencer had seen through a smattering of bobbling leaves. Waistdice cutting a silky red ribbon with a pair of oversized scissors inside the echoing voice of an enthused PA announcer, the announcer’s tinny voice echoing outward over the crowd decorated with bolo ties and pinnedup Dolly Parton hairdos. And the blue smoke rising from the candybar sized stogie extended from Waistdice’s executive teeth under his cream colored cowboy hat, his peeling red face scrunched and squinting like the stogie had punched a hole in it: the American Restoration Project of Olivia’s politico brother, the widower Eric, who pushes a star-spangled broom across the gaudy stage, his philanthropical cause. It makes Spencer feel as though the black hood about his head is bearing down further, encroaching on the peripheries, tightening itself toward a pinhole. He frisks the right pocket of his trousers with his fingertips and pats his crotch, uncertain of what he’s searching for though surmising that it must be somewhere. And how many kids is it now, how many more little Waistdices in the sanitation clan, the little carriers of the trash re-placement gene riding with Olivia from the R.N.A.? John Stuart, the oldest, he’s a smart one. The rude mass of little ones with the interchangeable names of A, Andrew, Abraham, and the twins Amanda and Aric Jr., the mutation of his father’s name of E, though the two younglings together constituting the mutated Amarica. They’d all want to go to that Floridian playplace, America’s Playground on the top of the list flapping in the heater’s malevolent breath: and Spencer adjacent to the private john door with Panetta’s escaping bluster, head bowed torturously signing the itineraries and briefings for the clandestine Yemeni and Saudi and Iraqi parks all concealed to the Western world like secret prisons though indicators of a Western presence, sites of triumph and fostered friendly relations hidden, a secret realm behind a black administrative hood pulled over a country’s eyes. Spencer’s silent oath of employment. The pioneer spirit, King Panetta the First had said, leaning forward on his porcelain throne toward the frontier of escaping bathroom light. Though the familial expansion, preserved by the thrusting glugalug, thrusting, thrusting. And O but Olivia! the poetic subject emerging her hair more golden than the sunlight running down the pink cherry leaves like liquid, the golden rays hanging in the air as a splendid vapor. Poetic subject Olivia’s dirtied white skirt lapping in the gentle westerly, her arm held out clasping a fruit for bashful LeRoy to taste, tumescent, her pink cheeks full and flushed standing winsome looking at him atop the green grass his toes squirming dirty and sticky in the bulging soil like earthworms seeking shelter, toes sticky and red pulp oozing in between. The incessant glugalug of the welded steel derricks and a PA announcer’s tinny voice buzzing from beyond the bushes. She the Word of God the Almighty Himself, he coiling away bashful. Her hair shining over her cheeks over the wicker basket of fruit atop the bulging greengrassed earth where the pines meet the prairie, O Minnesota, Olivia the old Scandinavian Soo Line outpost on the Lakota plains, colonized into a holy land of corn and cattle. The highest truth that cannot be a lie, the origin of Spencerian lineage among the cherry trees—the moral pedigree of a nation, derived from the truthful child Washington, the cherrytree chopper of parable. And she named for the place that grew her the patriarch James Waistdice liked to bluster. P.S. Olivia standing revealed from the realm of parted pink leaves, the child of the vast midwestern ag-pro garden, fruit extended on the growing tumescent landscape, a cavernous space being filled as Spencer pulls his car into an open spot in the Bloomingdale’s parking lot, there quickly to purchase according to the lawful list. He walks silently between the rows of parked cars toward the store’s automatic entrance: the list curled around the pen in his hand, he thrusts the other into the cavernous left pocket of his overcoat. Bits of lint crumble among his fingertips. Plenty of shoppers drift past in routes opposite Spencer’s, pushing carts with children dangling off the sides or hopping at their mothers’ feet as the shoppers find their respective parking spaces, their chirping offspring, vehicles pulling in and out. The beams of their headlights look hazy and somehow tired in the wet, gray air of midwinter. Spencer grabs a basket on his way in and courses toward the bath section, crowded with perfumes, where, cherries on the mind, he picks the scent out above the others and places Olivia’s lotion in the basket: a cherryful basket at his side he courses toward the toy department. And Olivia placing hers full of cherries at the side of his prone body by his pen and paper, Spencer regally silent, a heap of fruit tumbling down into the splitting surface of the bulging ground. Olivia lifting a leg over him like climbing over a fencepost their two corporal forms inverted, heads bobbing nodding yes in clandestine relations: the frontier of escaping bathroom light expanding, casting itself over the nodding plastic dictator on his grassgreen blotter nodding over the strewn documents torturously John Hancocked, a bowed head monastic with the silhouette of Panetta emerging with the withdrawn secretary trailing and drying her hands behind. The looming form adjusting his trousers and hawking a lump of phlegm and swallowing, blustering to the silent analyst take all of that down to Legal and turning to the pallid figure at his rump and you make sure nobody does anything to my car while I’m gone. The steel sportscar that clunky symbol of diligent times when resources were extracted and alloyed and products made, industrious manufacturers manufacturing a superpower: they don’t make them like that anymore, he’d said, a voice malevolent and forceful and full of sorrow, a residual fart passing fluidly out the rump. Spencer stands in the toy aisle holding the list and the cherryful basket at his side in front of a shelf stocked with smiling plastic dictators, their heads bound by wound up twist-ties. A whole row of grinning Saddam Husseins et al., a roll call of malevolent plastic. It’s not like he has the U.N. on his tail. He’s not gassing populations of ethnic minorities or bombing subways. He’s a paper pusher, nothing more, really, how binding, his oath to secrecy? He moves again, courses rightward down the aisle as he crossreferences the child-scribbled list making sure not to forget anything, past the brand name and knock-off G.I. Joe’s until he stands gazing at a whole other phylum of toy soldier, musclebound and humanoid, looking more or less amoral, it seems, less trained for martial activity as it is designed for it. Covert Carl, the messy list reads in a child’s smudged scribble, the name on the box. He plucks the toy off the shelf and drops it in the basket and courses rightward to the end of the aisle, where there stands a yard-high cardboard cutout of Covert Carl™. The figure’s humanoid arms are raised above its blonde head in a moment teeming with victory, backgrounded by game huts and concession stands, a speeding, deathdefying roller coaster encircling its head like a halo. It speaks in a cartoony white word balloon, Ask your parents to enter now for a 2 week, all expenses paid vacation of a lifetime to America’s Playground in Tallahassee! Come Play With U.S.!™ The cartoonishly rendered action figure’s blond hair stands spiked and tussled: the little child LeRoy’s request: a trace of the recessive gene present in a toy figure without ancestry; a hulking American figure dropped from a vacuum, no origin other than a bottom line that’s fed by appeasing the desires of U.S. children instilled in them by the bottom line itself, urging them to give in to their solipsistic tendency to forget the external and succumb to the inward desire for a personal world, the desire for things to be for oneself, the toy aisle colorful and inviting and urging its viewers to quit resistance and simply give in to a world with no other history than what it contains in the mind of its spectator, a nationalism centered around the self, Spencer concludes, this is a service to your country; if we go down, the whole world goes down with us, Panetta adjusting his belt, the girth of a world strapped in, if you won’t do it we’ll sure as shit be glad to find someone who will, blustering before his jaunt to the U.S. outposts of steel, the strongholds covertly built for mohammedan amusement—the secret loci of fun and subversion. And their two heads nodding the sounds of yes drowned and stifled by the PA announcer’s tinny excitement transferred to the crowd on the front lawn of the Waistdice sanitation dynasty’s hobby farm, the public outpost of their empire. He pictures the patriarch of philanthropically aesthetic trash re-placement grinning for a flash bulb before the incessant glugalug with his feminine strand of lineage, the prospective Mrs. Waistdice- Spencer, lady livery, hidden straddling with a dirtied skirt her inverted hobby horse cimarroy atop their private green space out of the eyesight of the crowd of paid admittance, the wild hobby horse neighing his nervous stanzas. On the farm’s lawn, separated from the orchard by the ornamented barn, the peeling red face of the Midwestern patriarch Waistdice wondering where his daughter went, the split ground introducing a Coke can underneath the yesnodding pair as Spencer reads the list, coursing through the toy aisle dropping for his niece and nephews several plastic dictators into the basket of fostered friendly relations between married parties. A red Coke can making contact with Olivia’s white rump, the crevice of transferred capital Spencer checking out swiping his credit card through the crevice acquiring annexed personal assets to be dispersed as the mighty pen lets ink in a mercenary John Hancock of L. Spendere on his receipt. The paid enabler of hessians and toy soldiers and clandestine administrators. Outside he silently trudges, into a space dimmed like a low-key side office by a setting sun, his foreign sedan gurgling with a crossed out list of annexes, a world built for married lineages Panetta strutting out through the frontier of backlight at once mournful and satisfied; Spencer’s feeling of something misplaced is subsumed by a gale in his chest on par with any of the green storms he’d seen torment the U.S. Midwest as a freckled and tussled-haired child looking wide eyed out the rain-speckled window—he looks up and sees an airplane gliding eastward across the dimly glowing sky as though to draw the string of the black hood around him closed as he drives silently on his eastward course toward home, deciding what he should say to his wife when the question will inevitably come, “How was work?”
Golden haired Olivia bends forward the clink of the afterdinner china as James Waistdice, a snifterfull of brandy on the end table to his left, pulls a match across the brown strip of his Liberty Lights the Way matchbook to set alight the fat stogie in front of his cherryflushed face, insisting that Spencer stay put. It’s the decades of sub-division, he says. That’s the problem. Blue smoke rising in front of the cherryred. Liberty’s flame. The French gift. Spendere’s giftwrapped gifts underneath the plastic fir tree. Sleepy Schlaffer’s Tannenbaum. Traum. The wrapped up cherrygift, the absorbed agent of artificial scent. Invades the skin. Olivia in the side room, too frazzled to ask about my day when I came in, whipping up dinner. Mythical cherryred. It’s been difficult enough with all the greenpeacers shoving their noses into every legitimate business move you make, even the little ones, but you have a whole other beast on your hands when you piss off the Indians. By the side of cherryred the wifeless son E nodding yes agree. Son agree. Electable E son. Ah-Mare-EE- Cah. Itching to say a word. The tired hobby horse cimarroy sits silent. Grrglrgh. O, a bit gassy feeling. Something in the gut. Like bossman, 16 gurgling eastward hours. A bathroom occupied. Eastern occupation. A torturous smell similar to Waistdice in a lot of ways. Blustery bosshogs missing their America. But the torture question, ah, what’s missing? Olivia in there alone. Privacy necessary for a confession, like a priest and his parishioner. A useful comparison, metaphoric. What good would come? Silence for now. There’s the steady patter overhead of the little ones’ rude feet trampling about. What doing? Oblivious to the adults. Out of sight out of existence. America’s Playground. Hidden detained. John Stuart in the study adjacent door closed. Hope he doesn’t check the browser history. Rot the brain. They make my life a stinking hell. Orangeglow. Blue exhale. Some tribes have these plots of land that they’re just now disputing where the deeds are 150 gosh damn years old. The Indian excuse is that their ancestors were tricked into signing their assets over, or even worse that these tribes were conspired against by the U.S. Government who breached their treaties were somewhere along the way, or that these documents were never legitimate to begin with, these people say they were fooled into what we all know more or less happened, but since it’s been a damn century and a half since the deeds were written, these plots have all been sliced up and divided so many times over that the Indians have in some cases maybe about one square inch they’re angry over that’s valued at maybe one thousandth of one cent. In some cases we’re talking disputes over land that’s now being used as traditional landfills, but a man’s land is a man’s land, right tipasip? And all these deeds from over the years are so bogged down by litigation that it’s simply an administrative nightmare to untangle everything, though I say hire the Indians to do it. It’ll get them out of the bottle, and it’ll let me move some trash. You and I all know that when I’m not moving trash the whole damn eastern seaboard’s life is a stinking hell, and when the whole damn eastern seaboard’s life is a stinking hell, my life is a stinking hell, and all over this little tiny square inch of disputed land that you can’t do anything with anyway. Tipasip. Grglrrrgh troubled gut. Olivia’s golden head comes bobbing in from the kitchen. Forward bend with a glass of redwine out front. Pushes an outlet plug by the cherrygift, O. The plastic tree lights up, she smiles. Liberty Lights. Upstairs the rude patter left-to-right. She unlike she used to. The lines in her face. The map of a life. Girlhood gone. A memory. Image. Does LeeLee want anything to drink? Coffee? No, thank you, nothing that could interfere with sleeping later. Thank you. But so I mean the problem’s historical glug, not that any of this is all that profound. The link between people and place is religious. You know how you feel for example when you come home after a long trip in some foreign land that’s different from the place you call home, and the first view of the green horizon spread out like dairy product hits you right in the heart, that kind of pearly gate feeling? The land in a manner of speaking is our father, and he allows us to become like children. All this stuff the Indians have about mother earth which is what they call it, I believe, is mistaken. The land is a provider, a worker. He’s out there all day everyday allowing his skin to be brutalized and upturned not because he wants to but because he has to, because he knows that that’s what’s required to provide for his children. The land is God, more or less. Top me off, by the way, please. Thank you. And so it pains me just as much as it pains the hippie-dippie greenpeacers and the Indians when the ruptures occur, because not only am I losing money and prestige as well as the ability to move trash with the damn EPA breathing down my neck monitoring every gosh damn move I make like I’m some kind of gosh damn criminal, but I’m also desecrating something that’s holy, and that fact doesn’t sit well with me at all. It makes me feel quite guilty, actually, though it’s what I’ve done and how I’ve made my living. Too late to go back now. Glug puffpuff. But the farmers like it. They simply plow it all under and they’ve got themselves a top notch compost material that I more or less paid to have pumped in. Have you ever seen corn that’s twenty feet high? I have, and let me tell you, it’s a thing of greatness. Glugalug. I suppose this is all a bit metaphysical, isn’t it? That by desecrating something that’s holy in its physical form I’m desecrating its, I think.. Platonic, right? Hey John Stuart. Boy. Eric go get your boy. John Stuart, how are you this evening? Granddad has a question about philosophy. The essence is a thing of Plato, is it not? That’s what I thought. The Platonic essence. By rupturing the holy land—ha, how’s that one for you?—the land’s Platonic essence, it’s redemptive greatness, I should say, I rupture. It’s like burning a flag, if you want to make a comparison. That’s when all this trouble started, is with the hippies, all wearing their fringed leather coats and moccasins like they’re some type of gosh damn urban tribe, pretending they’re in touch with what’s natural. They’re the ones that began questioning the very premise of America and what it stands for. They’re the true villains of history, not the—good brandy you’ve got here, by the way, LeRoy, my boy. Tipasip. Say that again, John Stuart? A nouveau Wordsworth? That’s clever. A nouveau Wordsworth bred with a Richard Milhous Nixon? That’s even more clever. I have an eminently clever grandson. Don’t go back into that recessed room, John Stuart. Why don’t you just sit out here with us for a while? We’re more interesting than that internet you’re in there playing with by yourself. Don’t look so enthused. I think your eyes might pop right out of your young head. See, that’s the problem with the people your age. You’re all isolated with relation to one another. It’s as though you see yourself as merely one being at the feet of another, sitting across the room from those signified by ‘aunt’ and ‘uncle’ as they sit tangled with their legs crossed each with a hand on the other’s knee. We’re all family here, boy, one body split into units at once sovereign and connected. You have no notion community. That’s why all these multicult—everything exists in a spaceless space for you. There’s no such thing as a neighbor anymore. That’s what made this country great. We watched out for our neighbors. We offered them our bread. We were brothers, all of us. Tipasip. No more. No more. Glugalug. Now it’s as though nobody wants to be an American. Everybody’s so concerned with what’s happening abroad. We have enough problems to clean up over here, if you ask me, which is the beauty of your philanthropy, kids. Though imagine the prospect of bringing American entrepreneurship to the Middle East, the industrial spirit we know we all have but is right now at this juncture lying dormant. Do you all realize how much trash we could move in a war zone? The feast would never end. We’d have to keep it clandestine, of course. It would be utter suicide for you, Eric, speaking of your political career. It would have to be a secret. We’d need to put a cloth over it all. Just imagine the scandal. Cherryred a flushed face, zones of deeper red around his neck and temples, his blue exhale up-rising. Just imagine the scandal. The guy’s boisterous, never even once noticed so. Caved into himself. Convinced of greatness. Given himself to it. Thinks he speaks for a country. A nation of values contained in one man. Sucked by an inward spiral that he doesn’t even notice. When he dies there goes. How did Olivia come from him? She got the good side, there next to me rolling her eyes and squeezing my knee just so, as though to utter through the body, ‘I understand.’ Pol Eric quiet. Out of campaign mode. A rude patter trickles down the steps. Grghllrhgh prfffft. Ah, cushion soak. Smell absorbed thank goodness. The world doesn’t revolve around you, the world doesn’t revolve around you a rude youngling voice. The twins. Fraternal Amarica. A feminine and masculine lineal split mutated patter ascends back up. John Stuart out the office sitting at blustery cherryred’s feet. Smart kid. Hope son LeRoy. Good genes. Out the office Panetta in the sky eastward gurghling in the heavens. Imagine the war zone feast. The shrapnel. Concrete garden. Community in the steel trusses, waves of tourists wandering together. Brothers all of us, fraternal. Global greatness answers at what cost. Whose fault? Her grip feels nice. If only alone, then I could tell. A penstroke of war. That would be quite the major gaffe, which it seems to me as well as anybody that pays the slightest bit of attention to things in general the American people dislike. Gaffes punch holes in the stories we like to hear. They let the people really know that they’re being bullshitted—pardon my French—which they like, though it must be on their own terms. Don’t look so sullen, LeRoy. Nobody wants to perceive an inconvenient truth without seeking it for himself. Why do you think I was able to build my empire based on a model of strategic misplacement? Why do you all think the American Restoration Project keeps winning elections? Eric, this fact that the people yearn to see the Platonic ideal over what exists on the ground is what makes both your philanthropy and your political career successful. Because you package the desires and ideals that people hold into something they can vote for, something that seems tangible and that you can sell to them that will allow them to say, ‘By voting for Congressman Eric W.J. Waistdice, my values and ideals are affirmed and vindicated as a true and valid American,’ you allow them the illusion of building the country according to their individual longings. They buy their way out of despair. A vote is nothing more than a transaction, you know, one that’s official—legally and spiritually binding glugalug. You sell them what they want to hear. Conspire—see, the way we live is based on a calculated ignorance to that which is ever flowing beneath us. Thus is also the beauty of your philanthropy, kids. It’s triumphant. Though not that it could ever work over there in camel country, even if it wasn’t ultimately a politically suicidal gaffe and scandal. The beauty of your philanthropy, kids. John Stuart. Are you listening to me? Why don’t you listen to your Granddad. The real beauty of your philanthropy, kids, is where it occurs. Up there in the ether. Ethereal America. You clean the colonies and fertilize the continental garden, and by doing so—I said listen to your Granddad, boy, that internet you hold in your hands, that thumbclicking doohickey; stop it and listen to your Granddad about where you come from and what makes you part of something special, what makes you a chosen descendent of communal greatness. By doing so as I was saying by cleaning the original colonies and fertilizing the truly holy space of provision and labor—each redemptive in their own right but especially so when done together, in concert—the real expression of the truth and beauty of America himself, by cleaning and fertilizing the American landscape you make Ethereal America come to fruition. Its Platonic ideal that exists in the ether. But the ethereal ideal requires the physical space to exist. It’s only practical. The land is what’s special, it’s what’s God, it’s what dooms our democratic experiments abroad. The land is what makes America great. The frontier is limited to that space which contains it. The spiritual parameters of democracy are necessarily spatial, which we stand over right here on the collective feet of you and I and all of our brothers. Which is why I feel particularly heinous when the ruptures occur, and I empathize with the greenpeacers and the EPA and the Indians, even if it’s only a square inch that’s desecrated; that square inch is holy no matter who you are. But then what seminal technology isn’t without its flaws? Everything requires refinement, purification. I don’t understand why people feel this unamerican need to apologize for—if we’d stay home and realize what we have right here. Eden, Olivia, top me off again, will you please, sweetheart? Tipasip orange glow levitating in front of solemn cherryred the blue exhale rising to the ether. Very good brandy, once again, LeRoy. If you haven’t finished your Christmas shopping, Olivia, then I request a bottle of the good stuff, here. Grrghlrhgh, O. This is a gift I would truly appreciate swirlywhirl tipasip. Say, LeRoy? Why all this silence all night? Surely you have thoughts about all this. What—why recoil? During dinner you recoiled into yourself when I asked you about your work, the exciting, the mundane, the happenings around the office, and now you recoil into yourself when I ask you about your country’s Platonic ideal. Why recoil? Don’t look at Olivia. Look at me. I’m the one who’s speaking to you, not her. Now you look lost, as though you carry the burden of sin. Believe me, all of you, when I say that I know how to read people. I did not expand my empire to what it is today oblivious to those around me. You carry a burden the size of an empire. I can see it on your face. It’s an empirical burden, in a manner of speaking. What must you not confront, LeRoy? What must you avoid? Silence is no way to get anywhere in this country. Do you think that I was silent when I was slinging fifty pound trash bags for my father, into the back of a rusted-out diesel truck with disconnected breaks designed for moving harvested grain, while I calculated in my head my strategy for expanding my eventual sanitation empire, so that it would one day course under and feed the land we call God? Silence is stasis, good LeRoy. The inability to move trash or oneself is no way to make an empire go. Confront your country’s greatness and give yourself to it. Confront the land your God and mine Glugalug blue exhale masking the cherryred floating ethereally brimming over the wide cream hat like a soul ascending. The rude patter of children comes tumbling down the stairs. The A-named mass huddles around John Stuart at cherryred’s feet. Amarica each take a knee on their father’s lap, who sits quietly nodding at the right hand of his father. Quiet, solemn, flushed, out of campaign mode. Young LeRoy on his mother’s lap, as she strokes his hair, gentle O. Her same laugh lines on his boyface, her’s prominent and droopy with age. Drowsy, they seem. A majestic women she is, not the girl I remember behind the orchard, among the metal sounds of a recorded crowd humming while the mass of ag and sanitation pros stood silently fulfilling their obligations of being present at the public event. Investors seeing what they paid for. Like a presidential fundraiser. Phony. O, her breath is warm, heats the ear lobe. He’s been drinking, LeeLee, try not to let him get to you. You and I both know you’re a good man, which is what matters. Yesnod agree. O, that thing she said to me while we lay in the grass. Just recalled it. More beautiful than verse. And blustering cherryred and son agree mugging for the camera. Malevolent smiles. If they knew what Panetta. Globetrotting. America’s playground. O the penstroke—what a couple of phonies. Always searching for a good photo op. Hairstreaks a little gray among the golden rest. Beautiful in her own way. Should pick poetry up again, like back in the Cambridge days. A pen could write her something lovely. Granddad’s little brood! Tipasip You all make Granddad feel so good, so young. None of you know how well it feels to see your gene pool continuing. Seeing myself in your young faces, it makes me feel as though I’m a child again myself, and not a lonely old widower like your father here at my side. Don’t look sad, any of you tipasip. I mean nothing malevolent. You should all rejoice. My essence is continued through all of you, which makes me grateful. When I go, I will still be here because of you. I will be both here and at the Eternal Feast, smiling in each place behind the dual sets of pearly gates. How wonderful it is to have such thoughts. And though you clearly have no understanding of what I’m telling you now as is shown by your kitten-eyed faces and those questions you ask by twisting your young necks so that you can see your red-faced father who hushes you, you will one day understand and appreciate my sentiment. Tell me, all of you wonderful descendants of sanitation fortune, what are your summer plans? Andrew and Abraham, baseball, huh? What’s more American than baseball? Nothing except a squeaky clean landscape that feeds twenty-foot corn, that’s what. You are both classic children of the Middle-West, at once tanned and bleached by the sun’s brimming rays. You fail to realize how tipasip glad this makes your Granddad that you each have chosen baseball glug. Too many kids now play soccer, that international game, without realizing the value of deciphering a curveball. Knowing a curveball allows you to adapt in all aspects of commerce and familial life. You can identify those instances of rip-off and swindle. Good for you two. And what about you, Amanda and Aric? Will you follow your father on his campaign as he pushes his star-spangled broom across his various rhetorical platforms? Oh, you’re each going to America’s Playground forever and ever? Tipasip well that’s shocking news. We’ll all miss you, especially your old Granddad who yearns to see himself in your freckled faces. This leaves us with only John Stuart remaining. Don’t talk to your father that way, Eric. This is neither intimidating nor embarrassing. This is a Granddad reaching out to his lineage, the heirs of his sanitation fortune, to establish a palpable link so that they know just where they come from and why they’re here. Enough. You don’t want to make a gaffe in front of your children. Let’s hear it John Stuart. Please drop that doohickey you possess from your hands that contains a space without form or substance. What can that space grow? What does it produce that’s palpable? Talk to your family, or is that space-inventing device your way of disowning us? Say something. Where do you want to go to college? Surely you’ve thought about it. Are you abandoning your roots and going East like old silent LeRoy here did? If you ask me you’d be better off at a land grant institution than you would at any ivy. All that’s gotten your silent uncle here is a profession he refuses to speak about. Quiet, Olivia. What you perceive as oppressive is the trait that has so far funded your privileged lifestyle. Now, John Stuart, what are you doing this summer? Speak. Kids now, it seems to me, want to deny that they come from somewhere. Did I glugaglug deny my roots when I was heaving stinking fifty pound trash bags for my father on my way to owning my own sanitation empire? No. Kids now want to depart and work for anonymous multi-nationals instead of their own family businesses. Why not inherit? Please tell Granddad you’re playing baseball like your brothers. John Stuart, a smart one, speaks: Actually, I’m going with my friend John-Smith Dirtybelly and his dad on their campaign of eastward contraction, as they say. Mr. Dirtybelly calls it ‘The Whites of Their Eyes.’ We’re starting in Mankato on the site where they hanged 38 Sioux Indians in 1862. We’ll be through Washington on the Fourth, on a course to England where we’ll set up a camp of protest. We’re hitting all of the Anglo centers of control, just the three of us. It’s a modest but powerful gesture of decolonization. Think of it as a reversal of paths. Dad doesn’t want me to go out of concern for his own political career, though he can’t stop me. Sipaspill you ingrate, you dead bitch’s bastard, James Waistdice drops the soggy cigar butt into the snifter and snatches his cane, ascending creakily up the stairs into secondlevel darkness. The family sits silently. The air above them is punctured and scattered, a piled up mess of psychic debris. Eric bounds up the stairs after his father with red cheeks flushed cherry. Olivia, reestablishing friendly relations, puts a movie on for the children. Spencer breaks his silence. I’m sorry, John Stuart. I’m so sorry.
Spencer blows out a match and waves it through the air before dropping it into the porcelain bowl. That old crank, should’ve stayed at the Ormond in Alexandria. Get as messed up as he wants to there without upsetting the children. What Olivia puts up with wipawipe O the smell of self always curious. Stomach feels better, flushed out. Treats everyplace like it’s his, like everyone is here on this planet to serve him and him only like a damn god. When he dies there goes a world, a blown out match without any smoke wooosh. Out there spilling all over himself. The guy’s a damn dictator. Eric nodding at his side like father like. A yesman. In the genes. Phonies self-serving. Each a campaign of self. Astute, though, alarmingly. Good for John Stuart. The poor boy. Takes balls. Should talk to him more savvy knows more than I do. A gentleness about him gentle like Panetta’s pallid rump wiper the things some people do to draw pay. The things people, O penstroke, ah. Panetta suspended over the sea gassy, ah how could I? Pressure. Gotta draw pay. A gentleness he has, polite unlike the A-names, gentle that thing she said to me in the grass. O. This obsession the bosshogs have, history viewed grainy and miscolored like old home movies. Nostalgic, I cannot tell a lie, ha their history, ha. As though the past is a commodity. Hope LeRoy turns out like, not the geneless toy. Imagined, made up. Try to do right not give into indulgence. Scrubadub wash my hands of it all. Savvy John Stuart tells it truthfully, won’t give into stories. Won’t take the easy comforts. Admirable. Knows there’s a world. Philanthropist. O, bloody penstroke. Redemptive nation fictitious be redemptive, confessions of guilt extracted with a pen. The point of torture, O empire. That thing she said pressed in the bushes. Clear as a bell above tinny PA. Click lights out there goes the bathroom far as cherryred is concerned, dead dead dead. Desperation in his voice, narrative usurped. Storycide. John Stuart the true protestant, depose the blustering rump just like that, prideful and purged from town ex post christmo who would be left to speak for him. None, that’s who. Chop it down like a tree. O, glad relation, reversal of paths. Contraction, O. The birth motion. Contract to expand. A linguistic dilemma. What she said, O, pants off jingaling inverted in the grass O, there now in bed on the ruffled gray streaks of goldenhead beautiful. Not a girl anymore not what I imagine, flawed, truthful, O. She’s warm. A separate body having her own dreams. Separate from me. Really can’t complain, a great wife. The things she does for me the small ones to smile at a grapefruit sliced neatly for breakfast in a darkened kitchen before I’m up. The philanthropical genes sincere. Where from? The desperation in cherryred facing what’s lost never there. His truth a product. I cannot sell a lie. Sold to him, the people that get off on that culture war claptrap, a fertile market. Doesn’t want to face it, like Leon—O my penstroke. O. Can you still write your poetry, O like the Crimson days at that out east school? O cherryred between the rows of archived books like furrows where we met and played, O the youngman melodrama sublimated in verse let me list the ways Olivery, / The guiding force of my hobby horse trot, O when she appeared younger, O that ideated version of her self the poetic subject, now for real next to me sleeping graceful, imperfect; snoring her goldengray hair messed. O penstroke can you still express the beauty of her form, O the truth she said, O the truth what remains when her substance is peeled away, O her essence, O what she said in the long grass now tonight into my ear, O salvation, You’re a good man, LeRoy, O thank God for that stupid cowboy trope, saved by a woman. Necessary wife Olivia, if I weren’t pledged to silence!