A Sepulchral Cry

Dickens was famous for his long walks. When, in 1845, he was writing Cricket on the Hearth for the magazine he’d started, he started feeling unwell. He knew the writing wasn’t up to his usual standard. Plus, as his biographer John Forster explained, one of his pet ravens died “unexpectedly before the kitchen fire. ‘He kept his eye to the last upon the meat as it roasted, and suddenly turned over on his back with a sepulchral cry of Cuckoo!’” Also, his Christmas story was at a deadlock. Dickens began in fact to feel a little like his raven. In a letter to Forster he wrote: “I have been so very unwell this morning, with a giddiness, and headache, and botheration of one sort or another that I didn’t get up till noon: and shunning Fleet-Street… am going for a country walk, in the course of which you will find me, if you feel disposed to come away in the carriage that goes to you with this…. There is much I should like to discuss, if you can manage it. It’s the loss of my walks, I suppose; but I am as giddy as if I were drunk, and can hardly see.”

LI does not have a raven, more’s the pity. But, alas, our monitor, a sturdy, old fashioned thing that was about as big as a small truck and had a tv tube in its guts looked at us yesterday, just as we were making some furious comment in the comments block of some soi disant liberal blogger who’d written a miserable, flaking post for the Dems, and said Cuckoo, in effect, and reduced itself to a swirling mass of incomprehensible lines, framed with darkness – which is the death state of a computer monitor. This, of course, made me as giddy as though I were drunk. Visions of penury flashed through my brain. I have three editing jobs I need to do, plus I have to write the column. So I immediately called up my brother and poured out my woe, and that saintly sibling told me that he was planning on buying me a combined Christmas present/birthday present, and it might as well be something as boring as a computer monitor – although he did urge me, if any money was left, to spend the rest of it in a titty bar. Always looking out for me, my bro.

So I set out for the nearest place I could get a computer monitor on short notice, which is the Office Depot on South Lamar. One of the problems with not having a car is that you have to plan your larger purchases with one eye on the bus schedule. But I was full of panic and woe, and had no time for buses. I decided to hoof it – it is only about five miles from my apartment – and so I did. Whenever things go wrong in my life, I have a special set of brain cells devoted, day and night, to condemning me in the harshest terms imaginable. It is sort of an anti-erotic day dream. Although it is a puzzle to me why it is so easy for great vials of self-hatred to pour out just when I need self-flattery, so it has always been. My chief thought was that I was like some odious fly, clinging to the surface of life. This isn’t really a bad thought – I am like some fly, clinging to my little in this world. If I could get rid of my dependence on a computer I would be a freer man. My dream is to be so free that I can walk out into the Sonoran desert and never come back – this vision does not include a laptop. But the chances are I will never be so free that I can walk out into the Sonoran desert and never come back. Although I did walk quite fiercely down South Lamar. This calmed me a bit, and then I looked over the monitors and noticed that, of course, none of them looked like the big racky tv sets of yore – we are in the age of the thin monitor, and good for us. So I selected one, and eventually attracted the attention of the only clerk in the store who seemed to know about computers, and he turned it on, and of course the store model I was looking at, of the ten to fifteen on display, was the only one that didn’t work. Naturally. I had somehow, waking up yesterday, slipped into a bad luck zone, and all I could do was bow my head. So I purchased something in the same line, except nineteen inches, got a keyboard to go along with it – as my old keyboard has been having a hard time with the letter ‘w’ for a long time, and I supposed this was the time to toss the thing – and loaded up, made my way through what I now noticed was racy cold gusts to a bus stop. Just as I got there, the bus pulled up and the bus driver proceeded to hector me for not signaling him. I was in no mood to disagree, so I said I was sorry several times, and shuffled with my packages towards a seat.

It was the usual Narrenshiff. The bus driver’s dressing me down seemed to have attracted some favorable notice from the passengers; as I settled in my seat, the woman in the seat in front of me, who was knitting away on a scarf, made some commiserating comment about all my packages. Then the man across from her began to rail and laugh, and it was soon evident that he was talking to his mother. Alas, his mother wasn’t there – in fact, I’d bet she is no longer on this planet. But his conversation with himself, which included descriptions of all the passengers, went on pretty loudly until he abruptly got up, as the bus pulled up at a stop, said damn, there’s my parole officer, and descended, much to the common relief . After he got off, the men who were seated around the woman knitting began to go what are you making there and wow, you don’t look at your needles, and she launched into a long explanation of knitting, touching on its anti-stress qualities, the ability to watch tv whilst engaged therein, learningit, ease of, interspersed with remarks about her abused childhood, ADD, drug use and prisons. Everybody nodded, everybody also had forms of ADD, and everybody wished they, too, could knit, although as one man said, he was too violent to be trusted with long knitting needles for any length of time. I felt calmed down by this woman’s speech about knitting, too. It was just what I needed to hear. It was like a five mile therapy session, at the end of which the bus went on another route than the one I expected it to take and I had to get out and sit at another bus stop with my packages as the day came to a chilly end and I mastered the final shreds of my self loathing and thought about dinner.

Die Gedanken sind frei.


Scruggs said…
LI's brother is a good man.

Perhaps it's the reference to Dickens, but I couldn't keep from trying to slot your knitting lady into the role of a television-numbed, self-helpified Madame Defarge.
roger said…
Scruggs, actually, she was a cool woman. Alas, ironic distances climb into my writing like fuckin gremlins - but I wasn't kidding that this short, rather plump gal with the knitting needles calmed me down, and that her flow as the guys around her popped off questions was excellent. She was like a Dickens character, but more like one of those spooky and freakishly wise ones, half mad, down on their luck fairy godmothers. An easy target for mockery, but mockery would miss the whole point, which I guess is what Zen calls mu.
Scruggs said…
I am pleased to have gotten the wrong impression.

Merry Christmas, LI, and to the conjure lady too.