After being to told by a passer by of only moderate importance and interest that the society were: “Like Orpheus but as a tourist. A living study in voyeuristic pathos”, we decided to try and find out more about what the Orpheus must be.
After a lot of time thinking, mainly achieved by staring into the vastness of the blue skies, idly skimming stones on the creek, kicking one's shoes together while perched on the precipice of said channel's bank, jabbing fingers into the chest of another chap and/or furious polemics, we had nothing but doubts. At the end of a lengthy post-doubt recrimination we worked out that it must be a submarine, bathyscaphe or other submersible. That or a hydrofoil/hydroplane. Either way, the only way to look at these crypto-nautical vessels is in the imagination. One is under the scary and deep ocean (*forbidden) and the other is a complex construct of boatness and other-things which is best done-gosh considered while drinking a warm coca and reading Lawrence, not standing on a God-blasted shore with a lens to the retina.
One of the best places to think is the forest, even though no-one knows why. That's where we'd ended up, in a secluded grove atop a blanket of golden brown pine needles replete with the odd cone studded in them here and there. We had the social tin of beans with us, baked by a major conglomerate (but not the one you're thinking of). This method of preparing beans had been utterly banned by both Father and Mother during the reconciliation of theirs where they had become strict Pythagoreans. It was the only universal prohibition left, every other indecency being explicitly or tacitly permitted by one or the other. Now was the perfect time to eat the delicious beans, in direct contravention of 'The Father of Numbers' and his ridiculous doctrine. Just another Samian prick – is history a log of anything else? As the desperate winter-cold mendicant begged of the god on whose status he was agnostic: “just add warmth”.
Fire was a big no-no. After the destruction of the Summerhouse we suspected that it was a false friend at times, and after the destruction of the Lodge (which Ruprect III used as his kennel at the time) we outright resented it. The forest was the only place where a chappage^^ can retreat away from the prying eyes of respectable society within a Texas mile of our domicile. Best not to attract the attention of 'the great cleanser'.
So anyway, we were telling the story of that sun-baked week in Texas back in the halcyon days of 'no criminal convictions' and 'valid HM Passport'... back before the melancholy man from the insurance company had poked around in the burned ruins of various outbuildings on the estate and dredged up the inevitable charred copy of 'Lady Chatterley's Lover', crude annotations barely visible as differentiated lines in the charcoaled pages. Before he found our collection of lighters and the 'rag box', before father heard us creeping out that night, before the policeman and the judge and the special school where no-one would let us out even after the bell rang.
We were in Rusk County, Father meeting a business contact in Henderson to seal an order for the porcelain goods which Uncle made at his concern in Stoke-upon-Trent. The county was a dry one, such a restriction placing the proverbial saw-horse in the way of father's preferred negotiation technique. I had been sent out to procure him some eye-openers early one morning by getting across the county line. The story itself is boring – what isn't. All I can offer are a few gesticulations thrashing around in the pointless space of words to describe what went on...
A wait, a bus, a shop on the county border, seemingly deserted. All goes well. You wait for the return bus but it doesn't quite equalise the path of the one you travelled there on. Compelled to continue on foot.
A man in an underpass who speaks to us. At first you are scared, but you know you are back in Henderson, near Papa. He tells you of 'the road'. His stories all revolve around a Mill, always at the bottom of a lane. Is he a Tavistock? Probably not, but you nod and listen. He shares the hurt inside us.
Words, all he is is words. What he calls zero logic. Zero logic is a kind of certainty to him. He is wrong but he is certain of it. He calls the result 'art'. In the middle of the night it seems like nonsense but as you feel his spit on your collar you feel like you should nod, and find your head already bowing in some kind of condescension. He tells you of misery as if it was only his lot and not that of man in general. Listen...
"Conciousness is the worst of it – an absolutely rotten deal - and for every minute you might spend unwillingly awake, staring over a pillow in somnambulistic delight and wondering 'why did this happen to you', there'll be a thousand more sick moments in the midst of the night when everything seems so less obvious. And the chills or the shakes or the fear might get you, if you're lucky. Such is your fate. You know there are worse things out there in the black dead which can rot a man's soul..."
What kind of memories can the Tavistocks have beyond the limited world that drifter outlined? Everything is a search. Everything is a search, and, horribly vaguely enough, it is just a search for something. The drifter told us that our hands would weigh heavy over the keyboard if we ever tried to transpose such a notion. I think it might have been true^^^^... continue with the narrative as if nothing happened. Hell, is there any other way to carry on?
A rickety abandoned house at the edge of highway 259; a road whose vastness I still see when I close my eyes. The sun baking the sand, always streaming down. Deep ditches by the side of the road, filled with cicadas. Heat haze, heat exhaustion. Looking at a horizon you feel you could never reach. The vastness of the world; the world's impossible size in relation to your own little mission for Father. The blue above you unlike the blue of your precious Europe. Unlike it but still thrilling for a second, for that split second when you are stupid enough to think of it as a new sky, some holy and untapped vista. The bottle of warm JD in your hand. Is it what he wants? Is it enough? For a second you think about taking a swig, but that never helps. The doctors have said so so many times.
The man in the underpass clears his throat. Like the sound of thunder clearing a black sky: a myth to invest in.
He asked us if everything was all right, standing expectantly for an answer. In an ill thought out attempt at engaging his interest in something outside of ourselves we asked if he had seen, heard or knew of the submarines or hydrofoils. The man turned to us and said the most reasonable words I have ever had the grace to heed: “This tunnel is a Texas mile”.
Walk or stay, it's all the same in the end. Someone said something like that to us before, but he called me a worm. Back to what has been, is that all it's come down to? Head down, foot in front. The search for a system that explains it all, the great waste of every effort you might make; pah, balls to it all.
If it gets difficult, you just push the pedals harder.
^^Chappage: Collective noun – a babble^^^ of old boys gathered together.
^^^ Babble: 1- More than one. 2- In plural.
^^^^ wow, it was, but POW! (even though that is an often occurring mannerism of speech in the societal Belgian, I assure you he had no hand in this narrative (I suspect he is piping himself in his indolence)) having finished this is like a weight being lifted.
Despite any appearance otherwise, this is dedicated to Jens Voigt and not F.N.