The early morning is a prank that the universe plays on humanity. As people return to their limp and tangled bodies after a night of weightless travel through the maze of their illogical minds, there is always the awkward readjustment phase. This can take anywhere from five seconds to five hours, dependent on a number of factors. I strive to be capable in under a minute (who am I? where am I? where do I need to be? in what shape do I need to be in order to avoid the maximum amount of hassle?) but when I blindly reach over to smash the snooze button and accidentally knock over a beer, I know that my existential recovery time will be somewhat protracted.
When I am hungover my dogs are hungover. At least they act like it. I’ve never understood this phenomenon yet it is absolutely real. We all go stumbling into the kitchen looking for coffee and rawhide, and then it’s on to the backyard to pee in roughly the same spot, relentless in the quest to be the last one to mark, often making return trips. The German shepherd always wins this meager battle. He is a master of deception, aloof and calculating, and seems to contain more urine than a portable lavatory at a summer concert festival. Then it is time to walk the perimeter, making sure our turf is secure. We look for signs of deterioration, growl and bark when justified, chase some of the lesser outdoor creatures into the trees, assess the general mood of the day, and ultimately continue being who we are, human and canines alike.
This particular morning was shattered, though, when a squirrel or a cat or a man dressed as such (it all happened so fast) in a moment of panic went charging into the house through the open door, inciting a riot among the dogs, who gave chase. I remained outside, wincing as a cacophony of barking and shattering surged through the house as the mongrel horde, holding no quarter, chased the doomed creature back and forth. I sipped my coffee and bid goodbye to all things breakable. Goodbye television. Goodbye antique lamp. Goodbye stereo. Goodbye shelf of memorable photos. Goodbye rocking chair. Goodbye glass coffee table. Goodbye curtains. Goodbye curtain rod. Goodbye clean sheets and blankets. The squirrel, the cat, or the man dressed as such came barreling back out through the door, dogs in hot pursuit, disappearing into the ivy and the trees beyond the grass. I went back inside to survey the wreckage. It wasn’t as bad as it could’ve been but, among a few other things, they had knocked out the router for the internet, cutting off my connection with the outside world.
“No problem,” I said, confident in my backup plan. The newspaper is always in the driveway. Fikru, my delivery guy, is about the most reliable individual in my life. I’ve never actually seen Fikru. I only spoke to him once on the phone, the day my subscription started, at which time he assured me the paper would be there and come hell or high water, it has. Armies will lay waste to my township, angry bandits will loot and pillage, feuding clans will fire flaming arrows and tracer bullets at one another from makeshift bulwarks. Fikru will drive carefully through it all and toss the newspaper smack in the middle of my driveway.
The newspaper wasn’t there. Clearly some early-rising rat bastard had swiped it. The thought that Fikru could’ve somehow forgotten, or even more ridiculous, failed to show up with it was akin to believing that the moon had untethered itself from earth and had gone to float lazily in some distant gas cloud. When the news doesn’t come to you, you have to go to it. How did people get the news way back when? Smoke on the horizon? Gone were the days when the jailer used to just drive shackled prisoners through the streets on a flatbed so people could either pay to release their loved ones, point and gossip, or throw rotten tomatoes at miscreants. I decided to go for a walk.
All quiet. The only point of interest was a woman a few blocks over standing by the curb washing her mailbox. Somewhat bemused, I stopped to watch. The diligence with which she undertook this most unique of chores was impressive. The focus. The whole body resonating from the scrubbing motion of her arm. Two separate buckets at her feet, each with its own rag. One soapy and one for a rinse. Jesus Christ if everyone put this much care into their professional lives the world would run like a Swiss timepiece. There were more signs of eccentricity, though, as I noticed a plastic snake woven around the base of the mailbox post. I decided to ask her about it. She screamed, so absorbed with the cleaning that she hadn’t noticed me standing there, three feet away from her. She wrung out the soapy rag and explained that the snake represented “Kundalini,” after which she fell into a silence that suggested it was ridiculous for me not to know that, and that in the event I didn’t know that she would very much like to avoid any further explanation of it. “What is Kundalini?” said I, unable to heed the hint. With a weary expulsion of air she told me that Kundalini was the eastern ideal of feminine power, supposedly located at the base of the spine, represented in ancient texts by a coiled snake. So she had placed it at the base of the mailbox. “It softens the energy of aggressive marketers and bill collectors,” she said. “I’ve seen a five percent reduction in utility fees.” The plans for my day suddenly included going to purchase a plastic snake, the biggest one I could find. Before departing I asked her if the washing of the mailbox was some sort of ritual cleanse. “No,” she said. “It’s just covered in pollen.”
I continued walking. Eventually I found my poor newspaper in a puddle about fifty feet from my driveway. I half expected to find Fikru floating face down next to it, a testament to his determination. The pages had mostly come apart. I glimpsed a few of the headlines, but the rest of it was illegible, so I was forced to apply my own interpretations. “China Outlines Plan to Extend Naval Power.” (Asian military men focus on bellybutton. Try to achieve inner peace.) “Damage and Death in Houston” (High-powered speed metal group plays sold out show at Astrodome.) “Parties Plan Aggressive Courtship of Latinos in Swing States” (Forced marriage of Latinos to high-profile politicians reeks of expediency.) “Supreme Court Agrees to settle 1 person = 1 vote.” (Supreme Court rules 1 person or 1 dollar = 1 vote, cites pictures of people on money as precedent.)
I dropped it back in the puddle. Just as well. I must temper the urge for bland voyeurism. If something doesn’t affect me I should let it slide. The old by-law for the Suppression of Meddling with Other People’s Business should apply. I’ll introduce the legislation at the next town hall meeting. I will make an emotional appeal. I will cite Kundalini. I will lay out a grand exhortation. People will stare into their phones, ignoring me.
More Alembics to come.