Saturday, July 27, 2013
Cirrus clouds spot the sky above the trailhead. Turkey vultures circle with their spread wings eclipsed by sun rays. The clouds resembled puffs of smoke left by early incendiaries set off every July since before he could remember.
Something on the ground is dead and the turkey vultures know it. They float, adjusting their wings to the erratic airflow, staring down at the Earth. They are waiting for the perfect time to land. They know something is dead down there and he knows it too, but they know where it is and they wait.
He knows he is near. Turkey vultures in the sky are not uncommon near trailheads. It could be a dead fish someone tossed on the bank. Someone catches a fish with a hook and removes the hook from the fishes mouth and looks at the fish and throws it on shore without much thought at all. The fish eventually suffocates and dies. He begins walking on the trail.
His father once told him the neighbors toss the remains of the fish they clean on the west bank of the river. Soft pale gray gelatinous bubbles of stuff that should resemble viscera yet barely does. His father told him they do so to attract coyotes. The neighbors wait on the east bank for the coyotes to arrive. The coyotes find these morsel with their superior snouts. His father told him coyotes, canines in general, use their nose the way people use their eyes. It is how they remember. It is how they mark their territory. It is how they find the things they need, and when they can, find the things they want.
"When the coyotes arrive the neighbors shoot them." His father said.
"Why?" he asked.
"They are an evasive specifies."
"Compared to what?"
He watched the familiar buildings of the city of Lafayette be demolished this summer. He watched
unfamiliar structures sprawl across the patches of forest and farmland of his childhood. With untold man and machine power these structures altered his childhood landscape forever. A personal, but not unfamiliar thing to see and remember. His father only stared at him.
"What do they do with the carcasses?"
"They just leave them" his father said.
He only stared at his father.
"Eventually the turkey vultures take care of them" his father said.
He walks on the trail, occasionally picking up a rock or touching the bark of an unfathomably old tree. He is in no hurry. It could be a coyote.
Turkey vultures rarely have the opportunity to eat a human body in domesticated America. If someone is going to kill another person they better have a back up plan other than simply leaving the body where it lays. The only time turkey vultures have an opportunity to find a human body during their constant pursuit of dead flesh is when a person kills them self, on purpose or by accident, or a person kills another without forethought and then panics. Even then, the vultures would have to beat out the police and the hospital and the human impulse to care or worry about someone or something one does not constantly see. Remember?
He picks up his pace on the trail. He moves past trees. The trees move past him. Light dances in prisms and beams through the leaves and branches surrounding him. It probably isn't a human.
Beyond and above the dead matter he walks upon he sees life sprouting from the ground. He thinks of who he wishes were here with him. They are few and mostly women. He smiles walking on the path. "Hello" he says out loud to no one and anyone. "Hello."
Something is dead on the trail and he knows and the turkey vultures know and he ignores it for the moment and the turkey vultures keep circling. The mysteries of nature and humanity remain hidden on the trail by the river. He wants to find what the turkey vultures are circling.
From the Work Manual:
Take a step. What foot did you use? Consult the manual for accuracy.
Step again. What foot now? Consult the manual for accuracy.
You must wear this and that to keep your job.
A couple walks into the [job] you are [job]ing at. They say "Wilson for two" and you rush over to greet them because they are old and most likely have some money in a town where most worry about money.
"How are you folks, tonight?" you ask according to the manual. "Would you like to hear the wine specials?" You ask according to the manual.
"Yes" they say.
What if they say no?
The trail becomes wider, pushing away the organic matter to matted river sand. He is close to the dead matter the turkey vultures circle and they wait for him to be gone or edible. He finds dead fish guts spoiled in the sun. Ants explore the globes of gray viscera specked with dirt and river silt. Flecks of dry leaves. Chunks of loose bark. He finds a dead coyote near the fish guts. It's fur separates from the muscle and sinew. Guts, viscera, internal organs exposed and bleeding in the sand. Dark red and light orange swirl in the sandy brown trail. He remembers. He takes a picture of it with his phone.
Violent death is televised. It is not something he sees often and he knows that when he sees it in person.
He walks on the trail alone. There are coyotes close to the city again and there are people in town who want to kill coyotes simply to know one more is dead. They see televised death and think good. They see televised death and laugh. They see televised death and believe it is lying to them.
It's just television.
It's televisions fault.
Television causes televised death so why allow television?
No more television!
No more television!
Televised death is death with a screen.
Televised violent death is violent death with a screen.
It is still death, There is only one death and something or someone will figure out what to do with it.
His legs, thighs, calves stretch and loosen. He is staring at his feet. His shoes bob back and forth. The trail is a brown treadmill. He is scrolling the brown dirt alone until he stops and looks up.
An opening in the trees. A wooded island with a shallow stream separating it from the bank. It is close to the shore with a rudimentary gap. A gateway made by feet and hand alone. It is a small vista on the trail and when the sun is shining bright and to the side it resembles what heaven must resemble to most Hoosiers. How many stories would Mark Twain have written about this island if he happened to know that it exists? A local boy and a local girl sneak off to a hidden watering hole. A group of boys meet at the island at night to discuss secret plans and actions. A family decides to go swimming and fiasco ensues as they clash with nature because they are from town and rarely visit the trailhead. A dead body at the rivers edge, a mystery and investigation follows.
He takes a picture with his phone and thinks of someone he wishes were here with him. Fleeting moments. He begins to walk back towards the trailhead at a peaceful gait, all of his thoughts unraveled for him to consider.