23 October 2011

The Reluctant Abattoir

In the autumn of Pearly's hatred (long after a certain day on a debris-strewn highway in Kuwait), the sax-man blew hard. Pearly gobbled cutlets and wished the days away, but the sax-man blew hard at Pearly's door.

Hard cutlets ain't what I hoped,” the hairy-tongued Pearly lamented every morning after breakfast, every afternoon after lunch, and every evening after dinner. “Hard cutlets make Pearly wish for innards the way innards make a soul wish for hard cutlets.”

Pearly always wished for the things that Pearly didn't have. We're all a bit of Pearly. Hard cutlets speak about the soul and leave the sax-man blowing, blowing, blowing.

In that autumn of the hatred, Pearly returned from war and held a rolled-up bus ticket in his hand. The walk from the bus station to a dirty Pearly house was longer than that road from Kafji and filled with twice as many ghosts. When that Pearly house looked different and was called “the mission,” that road seemed longer still. Kafji is miles from the mission. The mission is miles from home and the sax-man marks the miles by blowing hard upon its door.

A rolled up bus ticket, rolled to imitate a smoke. Pearly held it between lips and teeth and thought back upon the burned-up body with the cigarette hanging almost between its teeth. “Lips and assholes,” Pearly joked and called the body 'hat man'. Hat man was young – almost as young as Pearly, but without the dreams and without the rifle and without the orthodontically-straightened teeth and without the hatred of an autumn and without the sax-man blowing hard upon his door. Play, Pearly, play. Sing, Pearly, sing. Laugh, Pearly, and the whole world laughs at your hatred.

And so the wind blew hard and the dust blew hard and the sand blew hard and that sax-man blew hard at Pearly's door. The dust got in everywhere, and the sand got in everywhere but you knew that. When the wind blows hard the sax-man blows harder and so the mission looked dark and empty to the hairy-tongued Pearly-Pearly hater-man when the bus ticket was thrown away. Thrown away like a debris-strewn highway in Kuwait.

Thrown away like hat-man, holding a smoke between his teeth.

* * *

I threw a tiny kipper to Pete the Marine as he stood alone in the morning light. “Peter,” I called out, “eat your kipper and come inside. The war is over. We won in extra innings.”

Pete the Marine swallowed the Kipper whole and smiled a fishy smile at me. “Who was the winning pitcher?” he asked.

I confessed that each pitcher had a loss marked against him, but most of the Marines already knew this, Peter included. Peter feigned ignorance only in the vain hope that I might toss him another kipper. Peter was so well-behaved and clean-shaven, though, that I did toss him another one. He was worth it, and our victory in the war had acquired for us a large stockpile of kippers.

To the winners go the spoils, I guess.

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