Saturday, June 7, 2014

Crocodile (from '11 people who saw the world end in Veracruz')

Jesse S. Mitchell

Cocodrilo was a flintlock, a dry fuse, a man of business even if he hadn’t always been.  He always knew this day would come.  All days come, if you live long enough.  Some kind of smile on his face.
He had learned how to survive afternoons an Earth age ago in Poland, Ohio.  A psychedelic shine, a glint grown to glow.
Now he had jetlag.  And now he was breathing in pure fumes, burned his throat, petrol breath, heartburn, stomach ache.  The television set spurted static blood, all that Nazi tarmac dust settled all over his clothes.  All the gyroscoping planets pausing.  Time. Time itself grinding to a stop, a brief halt, the orbits realign.
And then, the gears return, teeth in teeth, small wheels turning big wheels, thoughts firing, reality returning.
 A simple pull back to the right direction.  Living is slavery.  Certain mouths to feed. Certain drives to be drove.
Sipping dark beer.  Having filthy thoughts. Natural as natural, nature is alive and inhabits every body.
And this airport hotel is a hell, a jail cell, a tiny shabby prison, a prism, refracted light, multihued, with cheap wallpaper and an uncommonly comfortable bed.
He doesn’t believe in sorcery, but he does know a thing or two about surrogacy and even synchronicity and now scanning the ceiling with blundering tired eyes, watching a big hairy black spider climbing and spinning acrobatically aloft, and looking down in turn, his eyes still murmuring-exhausted, he watches a martial trail of Myrmidon ants, scent-scrawling along the edge of the floor, he is reminded of things.  Of thoughts, smells, feelings, life.
Mental images and abstractions carrying mental images and abstractions, more than double their body weight, so gymnastically, so lithely.  Small wheels turning big wheels.  The world is awash in time and ideas and the likeness of both.
But mostly the insectual displays cause him a strong olfactory hallucination.  He smells moth balls.  A certain kind of moth balls.  The ones he used to fill the pockets of his clothes with, when he would fold them up and place them in the big cardboard boxes and drive them down outside of town to the storage facilities.  Slide open the big ugly bomb bay steel roll up doors and place all the out of season stuff.
And then the smell of mold.  The mildew.  The old grease of the fish restaurant across the street.  All of it mixed together.  His hands tingled.  And then, and then, he remembered the last time, the last time he ever did that, the last time he ever went there, to those storage barns.  His eyes, still tired, felt hot, they felt hot and red, and they felt heavy.  His heart threatened to start pounding, instead went the other direction.  Subterfuge. And it barely beat at all.
But that was a whole bullshit lifetime ago.  Long long ago.
He could hear others moving around in the other rooms, the conjoining wombs, the opening and closing of the doors, the clanking and the strong confident footsteps, the shy and sly sliding of feet across threadbare carpeting.  Rugs rolled up and beaten out of  the big side windows, the housekeeping jangle and rush, the bits and grime and cleaning powder, the vacuums, the plastic garbage bags. The sound of people lugging too heavy luggage down the halls, hitting the bottoms of the walls, splintering the wood, scuffing the trim.  The fumble of keys.  The shaking of heads.
Like storms, thunderstorms, people move through this world.  But stifled storms, not much rain, just grand displays, a lot of lightning, a lot of thunder.  He could hear their thunder everywhere.  Busy day.  A lot of blustering.  A lot of noise.  Saturated with it.
He thought to himself, he was in the wrong business.  He hated to travel.  HE hated being in such close proximity  with other loud body-having flesh animals.  Too much.
But too late now.
“What this world needs is a bit more blasphemy, more heresy, a little more good old fashioned feel-good type sin.  Never did anyone any real harm, never hurt no one.  It is all this righteousness that is the real killer, all this following all the rules, it raises your blood pressure, gives ya ulcers,” he said out loud but to no one in particular. “Besides, it’s boring.”
But too late now.
He pulled off his shoes, set them next to each other at the foot of the bed.  Took off his socks, they struggled a bit, and for their reluctance, he flung them up against the wall.  Impotent.  They felt no pain.  No insult.  He unbuttoned his white dress shirt, slid it off his shoulders, the effort hurt a bit, sore back from sitting on the plane so long.  He had reached the age in his life where sitting could easily give him a sore back, or sore shoulders, or sore legs.  Standing too long could do it as well, and moving too much, hell thinking too hard.
There were aches.  There were pains.  Omnipresent.  Like a god.  All knowing.  All seeing.
He walked into the small bathroom.  Bathed in yellow tungsten light.  Pissed.  Washed his hands in the sink.  Watched the water rush around in circles in the basin and then drain away, fleeing.  He nodded.
He looked up and caught himself in the mirror.  Something about the reflection fascinated him.  He was suddenly bewitched.  There he was. It was him.  A craggy face in an unfamiliar mirror.  Old.  Rough.  Tired.  Cliff ledges, vine tripping lines, places to cling to, places to fall from.  Like landscape.  Dynamite creases for divots, wrinkles to be blasted away.  Whole mountainsides.  He put his hand on his cheek, moved it up and down.  Soft.  Flabby.  Anemic.
And then the mirror changed.  There was smoke or a smoky substance covering it.  
Some ragged skull.
Different reflections.  Different images.  Two young men, twins next to each other, Huangpu & Xbalanque.  He knew who they were from a tourist brochure he had picked up and read in the airport lobby.  Mayan gods, gourd-headed tricksters, death-killers, dismembered hope.
He raised his hand to the surface to try and touch them but they were gone but when his fingertips touched the mirror, a sensation shot through him.  Light burst out and blinded him.  He put his other hand on the mirror, whole palm against it.  He felt the quivering rippling movement.  He could feel the smoke swirl and entwine with the light and surround him and envelop him.  Engulfed.  It felt hot.  It felt peaceful.  It swirled over his whole body like the water around the sink basin.  He could feel it all fleeing and draining away and taking him with it, all the light and smoke and peace and radiance and calm.
And he grinned.
Cocodrilo smiled, and that is how he saw the end of the world in Veracruz.

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