<< home

day by day: a blog

August 28, 2007

from my oldest friend

de Chirico nostalgia for the infinite 191314.jpg [Giorgio de Chirico, Nostalgia for the Infinite, 1913-14?, MoMA, New York] We're not in contact very often; in fact we hardly ever speak at all. But I've known her longer than anyone else. And she is always there at the back of my mind. Anyway, here is a part of what she told me when she sent me a message last week (don't worry about the details, they don't matter):

"The first time, it all took place on the street we live on now. There was a large white pickup driving slowly down the street,. It was moving in a roughly south-easterly direction, would-be innocently cruising the homes the way that burglars do when they're trying to pick out a likely-looking place to rob. I stood there and watched it as it was about to pass our house. The pickup was towing a long, open-topped trailer behind it. The trailer [needless word repetition! she isn't much of a writer...] made from a steel frame, with rough wooden planks for the floor, and a kind of low, orange, metal mesh enclosing the sides. There were things huddled in the trailer but I couldn't see what they were. Then there was a roar and what sounded like a mad, collective shrieking. A huge pink pig, or boar maybe, suddenly appeared from around the far side of the truck. It looked back and forth. It was terrified; its boggling eyes told you that. Then it seemed to step deliberately into the truck's path. The men in the truck seemed almost like robots, remote-controlled. They just stared straight ahead and kept driving at the same, easy pace. The pig went under the wheels of the truck. The truck bounced slightly, as if it were going over a speedbump, but it kept moving. After it had passed over the pig and rolled off down the road and round the corner, the animal, alone now, staggered to its feet, as if it had somehow survived being crushed. Then, for a moment, while it continued to stand there, looking shocked, blinking, its body slowly began to separate into three parts -- head and shoulders, the front legs and a huge lateral section of the torso, and then the back legs, backside and tail. I remember red, greys, and something yellow which spilled out. You see, the wheels of the truck and trailer had made three deep cuts through the pig's body, as if the tyres were rolling cleavers. It sort of hung in bits in the air for a second. Then the animal's body fell apart as it collapsed onto the floor, like one of those chocolate oranges which splits into segments when you tap its center on a table top. While the pig toppled over and open, I remember seeing its shocked, pink eyes. I know from the eyes that it was still alive. As if we were both taking part in an unfamiliar ceremony, they seemed to be asking me nervously: 'What happens next?'
"The next time, it was a few days later. It was the same street. Our quiet little suburban street with the gently sloping roofs, the lawns, the palm tree, the hydrangeas. This time I was in a vehicle which was driving slowly up and down the road. It was that white truck. I was the passenger in the car and someone else was at the wheel. I don't know who. There was no one else around. In front of every house on the left-hand side of the block (our side, the even side), there was something very odd. There were these huge, uneven, shimmering mounds; four, five, sometimes six feet high. They covered up entirely the flowerbeds, the driveways, the grass. They stretched from the start of the front yards all the way to the garage doors and the doors, gates, entries. Occasionally even a fence dividing one house from another had been partially covered. Everything on the other side of the street looked OK, normal. At the end of the block the car I was in made a lazy U-turn and we drove slowly back down the road. This time the barricaded houses, including ours, were all on the right side and I could see better them better. The mounds were actually these heaps of animal carcases, glistening as they lay there rotting in the sun. It was like a mass burial site. There were hundreds of them. What on earth were they? At first, I took them for deep-sea fish, piled up on the lawns like stacks of silver logs. Then I noticed the bodies had a greyish kind of fur (that was what was catching the sunlight) and snouts with a delicate black line around the underside of the chin, and sharp front teeth protruding. Sort of like beavers have. Except that then I understood in fact all these corpses were the bodies of giant rats. I had never seen anything like it before. It only bothered me in a sort of theoretical way. I wasn't revolted, just slightly disconcerted that a "rule" or "bylaw" had been broken. Scores and scores of these creatures had been slaughtered. They must have been poisoned because I could not see a speck or drip of blood anywhere. Just a panorama of inert, meaningless deadness. Somebody had taken a terrible revenge on us (I don't know what we had done to them) by piling hundreds of these stinking bodies in front of our houses, ours included. It would have taken a bulldozer to clear a path to our front door. And who knows what we would have found when we got there? I didn't get out when we passed our house. We just kept moving. And it was the same everywhere: nothing but a small mountain range of dead rats."

Well, that's it. I don't know what it means and I have no idea what to say to her in response. I feel guilty about that. It's almost as though I did this to her. Except that of course I didn't. Although my parents never actually told me this, I feel I was brought up to, when in doubt, do nothing. In other words, do nothing in most situations. I think I'm going to wait and see if she gets in touch again....

Posted by njenkins at August 28, 2007 04:58 AM

With the exception of interspersed quotations, all writing is © 2007-09 by Nicholas Jenkins