Grandparents house ‘up the hill’ now destroyed
The true path is along a rope, not a rope suspended way up in the air,
but rather only just over the ground.
It seems more like a tripwire than a tightrope.
But he has no story, he hasn’t been in story? It’s not certain: he’s in his own story, unimaginable, unspeakable. That doesn’t matter: the attempt must be made, in the old stories incomprehensibly mine, to find his. It must be there somewhere. It must have been mine, before being his. I’ll recognize it, in the end I’ll recognize it: the story of the silence that he never left, that I should never have left, that I may never find again, that I may find again. Then it will be he, it will be I, it will be the place: the silence, the end, the beginning, the beginning again – how can I say it? That’s all words, they’re all I have – and not many of them: the words fail, the voice fails. So be it. I know that well. It will be the silence, full of murmurs, distant cries. The usual silence, spent listening, spent waiting, waiting for the voice.
Samuel Beckett, The Unnamable
Slim and Otis had not been in town long. The little town was so small that practically everyone knew they were back from that two year stint at Parchment Farm. Well, every body knew except their grandma maybe. It was close to sundown as they were making their way carefully around the town square occasionally slipping into a side street so as to miss ms. So and So or mr. Know It All. Wouldn’t do, not at all, for EVERYBODY to know they were back. They had had some pretty wild days (and nights) at Oxford so naturally a certain miserabilism had set on them during their days wielding a hoe or a shovel. They had gotten considerably taken with a case of homesickness, almost to the day when they set foot on campus but nothing like when they were behind bars. They had both disavowed themselves of such behavior from here on out. But the disavowals seemed diaphanous, without sufficient body, even as they were declaring it in the bar last night. Well you can see why there might still be some problems.
They had come back to the middle of God’s Country, even though they weren’t so struck with the whole Jesus thing, having hoisted quite a few with preachers’ sons. And daughters. They didn’t really seem to do tent revivals of the Holy Ghost much anymore but look here. One of the many abandoned buildings downtown—emptied by the arrival of the new Walmart at the edge of town—seemed to be occupied by some sort of revival. At least judging from the commotion coming through the front door left slightly ajar.
Amidst many hosannas and shouts, they slid in the shadows at the back of the room. The room was vacant of furniture other than a few chairs in the front of the room and a single light bulb overhead. The preacher was working up a sweat giving the message but one which Slim couldn’t quite make out as he peered through the inky blackness in the back of the room.
“The history of these abandonists has yet to be written, Its motto, latently or manifestly, is the call of “Stop history!’ that makes allies of apocalypticists, tragedians, defeatist and pensioners. An yet the combined gravity of the calm keepers, the losers, the off-putters and their literary tribunes achieved little against the unleashed visionary energy of the project-makers and e-charlatans….”
The preached paused in his pacing back and forth and wiped his sweat drenched face and comically hoisting his pants. Slim dimly wondered what religion this was, Didn’t sound like anything he was familiar with.
….“Today, as yesterday, all of these live off their productive errors and the followings spawned by those errors. Yes! Through their auto-hypnotic talents, practical natures manage time and again to build up empires around themselves from self-deceptions that succeed in the medium term.”
Otis got up slowly in the murky back passage and turned to whisper in Slim’s ear before heading out the door : “Brother the law is made by authority, not by truth. Slim followed, as Otis began to speak again at normal voice as the commercial steel and glass door slowly closed behind them. The off-kilter Service Tonight sign oscillated slowly back and forth against the glass.
“Brother, I sense the impending perception of the granularity of time as the waves bifurcate in ecstatic dimensions, tending always outward into the Great Beyond. Self-deception is the necessary name of the Game.”
Ever since the Accident Otis had become inconsolable, given to uttering dire prognostications at the drop of a fez. At least they seemed to have a dire drift even as the words moved out faster sometimes than he could follow.
It had become dark as they moved down backstreets toward the house, past the few street light that were now on.
Otis continued, although Slim had problems figuring out how he got there:
“The guillotine was a fine device for separating infinities allowing all completions to become incomplete and infinite at the same time. Melancholia here is
clearly identified as the deadly narcissism of the lived moment. Is there no
escape from the unhappy consciousness? …even amongst the dead?… the attempt
to carve out an immaculate space of inwardness either masks a prior contamination
or prepares a virgin zone for occupation. Can you hear me brother?”
“Brother you necessarily misunderstand me. These men brought the curse down upon themselves and transmitted it to others through their very fears. We know that there are diseases-that is, nervous or ‘mental’ disease, neuroses or even psychoses- which are transmitted because people talk about them. Conversation sets the mind to work and in this way serves as the contaminating agent. At the end of the eighteenth century people began to be fearful of extended sojourns away from home because they had become conscious of the threat posed by nostalgia. People even died of nostalgia after having read in books that nostalgia is a disease which is frequently mortal.”
Slim abruptly stopped and pulled Otis back against the shadows to let a car slide into the dark ahead. They were approaching the Cedar Lawn graveyard where daddy and all the rest of them were buried, almost in the middle of town.
Slim suddenly remembered the scene in The Shining when Jack Nicolson is typing away at the typewriter, thinking no doubt that he is writing the great work when in fact he is typing the same thing over and over : “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”
Otis pulled a rumpled baseball card out of his shirt pocket and made as if to read.
“How to preserve a space of critical negativity without relinquishing the claim to practical engagement; how to engage without simply reproducing the conditions of the day; how to distinguish aesthetic dissonance, detachment, or disenchantment from disenfranchisement, abdication, and self-deception; how to distinguish commitment from an unthinking submission to the existent….”
Putting the card ceremoniously in his other front park of his faded denim shirt he continued down the hill, two paces in front of Slim.
It’s not that far from the town square with the movie theater back to the house. It’s a mile and a half probably at most with the town cemetery in between.. It sits on the site of the old workers quarters for a saw mill, all the wood frame houses painted, mostly, at least it seems in retrospect, in various faded shades of red and ocher, crisscrossed with dirt roads, sending up a perpetual haze of dust on the sides of the houses, a slight glaze of gray-brown. All occupied by tattered black families. Anyway, all gone now, Absorbed into what ever passes for modern in the rural south. Probably skipped over into the post-modern, like some newly computerized third world country. No decent telephone system but plenty of manufacturing capacity for computer memory.