Saturday, December 29, 2012

color to the world

color to the world A walk to work. Ten degree weather. Cold to the bone. Dark houses. Too many of them—and more than last year—without Christmas lights. I pass them. Think of what goes on inside. Politics. Religion. Television. Likely nothing beyond the every day black-and-white at all. And I wonder…what’s so hard about stringing some lights? Slap a wreath on the door. Tie a bow to the mailbox. Help put some color into this world. I pass the doctor’s house. Wreath. Bow. Tree in the window. A few strands of lights. And it makes me happy. I pause. Turn and look down Hitchcock Street—like I do every morning—the straight-shot view to the big lake. And I take a slow, deep breath to recharge. Rethink. Regain that perspective that the water, the trees, this town can give a man when he is able to peel away the layers of apathy and ignorance. Tune into the subtle mystique and let himself be drawn in. A bug to the light. Metal to a magnet. Husband to his wife. And just as I’m starting to feel it—that welcoming, electric-like buzz of hope that this place has always held beneath its surface—a red van growls by. And instantly, I think of the two women at my door. A few days ago. Meek as hell. Pleasant and kind. Getting out of their red van and walking to my door. I heard them before I saw them—the van exhaust a dead giveaway—so I was at the door and ready before they knocked or rang the bell. ** “Hi!” I said, as I opened the door and the wind nearly took it off its hinges. “Hi,” the tall twiggy one asked. “What’s your name?” “K.J.,” I said, as I held the door open against swirling gusts that sent snow up all around us like we were figurines in a snow globe. “K.J., it’s nice to meet you. I’m Sara and this is Mary.” Sara. Late 30s. Tall. Plain. Straight sandy-blonde hair. Gold, wire-rimmed round glasses. And when she turned sideways to introduce her cohort, I could see Sara was paper thin. So much so, that with the way the gusts were coming, I was worried she might be swept away. She held the porch railing with one hand. Bible with the other. But the wind. The cold. The fact that I was standing there with a martini in my hand at two o’clock in the afternoon, didn’t seem to phase her. “Hi, Sara. Hi, Mary.” I sipped my drink. Mary was short. Stout. Late 50s. She had a sweet face. Pretty eyes. And immediately, she made me miss my Grandma. Had I been into my third martini instead of my second, I would have invited her in. Given her the reigns to the fridge, the cupboards, the pots and pans, and let her dazzle me with old-school, culinary genius. Bet you make some mean meatballs! That’s what I wanted to say. But my wife. Marriage. Kids. All of these things have tempered me. And so, I said nothing. When two women come to your door on a blustery Saturday afternoon holding bibles and looking sweetly serious it’s clear they have something to say. “Do you ever wonder how the world will end?” Sara asked. “Holy moly,” I said. “That’s getting right to the point.” Sara smiled. Mary looked over her shoulder at the neighbor’s trash can that was rolling away. Sara tried it again. “K.J., don’t you ever wonder what it will be like at the end?” I sipped my martini. Watched that trash can roll and roll until it came to rest on the other side of the street against the curb. Mary was back with us now. She had opened her bible and was watching me. “Of course I wonder about the end,” I said. “Nearly every day. In fact, I have this story rolling around in my head right now that I’ve been trying to get down on paper for weeks.” “You’re a writer?” Mary asked. By her tone, her interest, I could tell that Mary was a writer too. Or at the very least, she read enough and thought enough about what she was reading to know that writing—stringing words together to make light—is a hard thing to do. “Yep,” I said, and raised my martini to the wind as if itself was proof enough that indeed I was a man of words. Sara looked at Mary with sweet disgust. We were getting off track. They’d come here with a job to do. They were cold. Getting blown around. Covered with snow. They needed to get in. Lay the foundation. Then get out. “What’s the story?” Mary asked. Sara looked at me. Forced a smile. “Yes, what is the story?” Sara asked. I drained my glass. Kept hold of that door so it wouldn’t whack them off the porch. “My wife. My kids. We’re all together. On the beach. My wife and I—we can tell something’s coming—but we don’t know what. We are drinking wine. The kids are playing in the sand. The sky is going crazy. Changing colors. Going bright. Going dark. There are birds in swarms. Feathers falling. Fish are belly-up in the water. Some of them flopping around on the shore. But all of us are calm and happy and warm.” Mary smiled. Sara’s face relaxed. For a moment, I believed she was listening. “And there is this rumbling,” I said. “It’s in the distance. I can hear it. My wife can too. But the kids cannot. We gather together and just sit there. Waiting for the unknown. As the rumbling grows louder—again it’s something only my wife and I can hear—we huddle together. Hug and kiss. And when we look out over the lake we can see it—an enormous wave—rolling in.” A Fed Ex truck roared past. The trash can was freed from the curb. It rolled back across the street. To the neighbor’s yard. And I thought of trash cans all over town whirling around. Their owners never knowing the travels they make on blustery days. “What happens then?” Sara asked. I looked to Mary. She was still smiling. And I wanted more than ever to bring her in. Keep her. Have my Grandma again. Good food. An old friend. And that’s when I knew that the martini was doing its job. My mind was shaking loose the everyday bullshit and my heart was rising up. And little by little the world was making sense. And I knew I needed to go. To get downstairs. To the big old desk. Another martini. The keys. And I needed to write that story about the end of the world. “That’s where we come in,” Mary said and she flipped from the page she’d been holding to another place in the bible. “Mary…” Sara started, but it was too late and Mary began to read. “I have seen the occupation that God has given to the sons of mankind in which to be occupied. Everything he has made pretty in its time. Even time indefinite he has put in their heart, that mankind may never find out the work that the true God has made from the start to the finish. I have come to know that there is nothing better for them than to rejoice and to do good during one’s life; and also that every man should eat and indeed drink and see good for all his hard work. It is the gift of God.” Mary closed her bible. “Well thanks, Mary. And amen!” Sara handed me a pamphlet, WOULD YOU LIKE TO KNOW THE TRUTH? “Thank you, K.J.,” she said. Mary waved. I waved back. And they headed down the steps to their van. They got in. Started it. And as it growled and roared its way down Second Avenue I thought it was probably pretty hard doing what they had to do. Believing so much. Trying to change a world that did not want to be changed. And that a noisy van likely made it worse, eliminating the chances of a sneak attack. ** I passed Hitchcock Street. Continued my walk. Listened as the van vibrated its way through the quiet morning and headed out of town. Wondered if it was Sara and Mary giving it another shot. Converting the world. Changing my neighborhood from lights and decorations to plain old dark. And I thought then that maybe I should not go to work. That I should stay out. In ten degree weather. One foot in front of the other. Cold to the bone. And make my rounds. To each and every house. With martinis and bows and strings of words. To hang like lights. So they would shine. Brighter than politics. Truer than religion. And that somehow. Together. We would bring color to this world. ~ K.J.

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