Sliver was sharp and pointy, like both his name and the stiletto he carried in his pocket. He learned to use a gun in basic training, but preferred a blade before and after he was discharged for using one on the base in peacetime. He was relieved to be out of there, though he did like the haircut. Took him right out of the 70’s and into the new decade, where, though times were changing, they still played disco in neighborhood clubs. That was fine with him. The girls liked that music, and that was why he was going out anyway, to score, wagering his small bankroll on his chances. He was swarthy but small, dapper but dangerous, the kind of guy that made you wonder why he always seemed alone, until you went out with him. I knew he had friends – I’d seen him hanging with them a lot on the street corner in front of the tavern – but I guessed he liked to work alone, when he was working at night, on his prospects at the club. And it was work, to him. He was not a Good Time Charlie, or a happy drunk. Seeing him at a club was like seeing a government lawyer in court. All business.
Just before the neighborhood changed he went away, alone. I heard he died that way, in some town outside of Vegas. They found Sliver in his apartment, in a chair – no T.V., window open – with his stiletto in his hand.
Continuing the expeditions of Jeff MacNelly, James Kilpatrick, and Eugene McCarthy, with apologies.
Most often seen as an impervious block, this creature’s putty-like insides allow it to assume other obstructive shapes when needed. Once shunned as a downer among the formerly happy warriors on both sides of the bestiary, the Gridlock is now embraced by an over-represented but powerful legislative majority, in opposition to executive action, that seeks to extend the unremarkable status quo. Indeed, there seems no shame in letting the Gridlock hang around indefinitely, notwithstanding its complete lack of manners, indifference to common decency, and antiquated personal hygiene. This is seen by some as dangerous to the stuffy norms of the bestiary, and that may be so, but more dangerous still will be the day that the Gridlock becomes the friend of every legislative majority, regardless of political affiliation. On that day the insides of the Gridlock may just ossify in place, creating a dangerous and permanent blockage.
Driving in the midnight snow with the top down and a tree stuffed into the back seat. That’s how they remember him, the few that saw him, accidentally, sneaking in as they were in the wee hours, from a holiday card game or a girlfriend’s apartment. Christmas Eve, back then, when the winters were colder and lit with fat colored bulbs. A phantom sliding along in the streets, leaving Christmas trees on the porches of shut-ins. It happened for some years in the neighborhood and then faded away, but with a resonance, leaving many of us, years later, still peeking out at our porches each Christmas morning, to see if something was left there overnight…
In the mean, there will be moving – much moving, places to go again, futures to make and remake. Writers shaking the plume. Virtuous benefactors vindicated. Rogues redeemed.
The coming age galvanized the generations young enough to suspect that a bit of time was left to put right when had been wrongly placed; enough time to find peace and nurture it dearly, and to live, live, desperately live, with empathy, kindness, and a resolve that the legacy left would be restorative.
The slow building of the sound of reawakening moved them from their apathy and into the syncopated march of the future. The dance of the new world begins again.
Outside, the feeling of liberation belied a rebirth of community. Poets expressed their understanding of the new covenant with their words; dancers did so with their bodies. Correspondents presented the big and small events without embellishment; there was no need to guild this blossoming lily. Leaning into the cameras, they said “Look; see.” and pointed to the scenes of enterprise and empathy, of collaboration and kindness; of relief, as the breath of possibility spread over the nation like a cool breeze.
Those entrenched in the corridors of power were shaken. A gentle transition to a new generation had begun to manifest itself politically. The streets calmed, further unnerving the intransigent elders. They were banking on the unrest to be avenue by which to ramp up the march to martial law. Now attuned to the wiles of their adversaries, the movement presented no purchase for a declaration of hostilities. As the tenuous calm spread over an election season, great masses lined up in cold, in rain, in blistering desert heat, to exercise the franchise. Slates were chosen, scoundrels deposed, fresh faces abounded. The unconventional neophytes adopted conventional settings to rally their causes. Looking out over the assembled, the vitriol of past gatherings put on by the old guard went missing. The gentility of the wave of liberality and commonweal mimicked power and peace of the sea in a gentle breeze.
If this was to be different, it would have to stay this way, in a world where nothing ever stays the same. Nonetheless, somehow, the calm confidence coursing through the air made it seem possible.
Even out in the sticks, where the commotion was muted by nature’s own symphony, heads were turning. Up on the rolling dunes, those becoming aware ascended the promontory and afforded themselves a new vista. Something so old and staid, rarely affected by change, was moving, out there, somewhere.
In the skies above the harlequin patchwork of shadows, the light begins to guild. Another sun appears, an illusion perhaps, but another star is expected, somewhere in time. For now, the roiling clouds filter the light into a glittering dazzle.
Fanfares and flags unfurled with the new light of a new day. Those listening could hear the echoes of victory foretold; those unattuned to such sorcery simply sampled the sweet music of joy. Voices lifted, choruses swelled. Someone danced across the grand avenue, another joined in. This was how the tide was turned; one action, joined by another, and another, and on. A gathering of power. A commonweal of good will put to action.
Those there drank the clearing like manna, as if the blue tide of it in the sky would ebb, but the departure of darkness seemed, somehow, permanent. Something had changed about the relationship between the combatants. It was as if the acceptance of a preternatural ebb and flow of dominance had ended.
Light still tarries with its rival. It needs to be vigilant within the dynamic of the natural order. Dark clouds can gather on the horizon. Night falls. The light respects all of this, but it may never again long for the false promises of evening’s embrace.
Some kind of underground throwback – hoods dressing like ’30’s movie gangsters; taggers putting up bespoke swells in boss hats. The alleys seemed odd on those days, like movie sets that had sprung up out of nowhere and without notice. Maybe that was it, who knows. lots of things happened in the alleys back then, before the city cleaned the places out. Model shoots and music videos, impromptu parties, and sure, movies as well. They were keen to film those old time scenes while the old time buildings were still there, crumbling brick and missing mortar. The costumed feel was not an hallucination. Lots of actors and poseurs dressed up as if from another time, scattering about in the shadows, and memorialized on the alley walls.