Muck

I stretched my hand down to the milky puddle of muck and felt inside. I was expecting to feel bones, soaked and broken shards of human life. There was nothing.

The sun stung my bare back and the back of my neck and birds harmonized on some nearby perch. I could imagine them gliding through the sky, endless blue tapestry of summer, chasing each other in pursuit of love or sustenance or just because they were programmed to. I felt around in the white water, my arm disappearing at the wrist, then the elbow. There were things floating on the surface, brown and black fragments of revolving life blown from the margins of the city. I watched the fragments rise up from the murky depth and then roll over, dropping down out of sight again. My hand was shaped into a claw down there somewhere in the unknown.

“What is that?”

I turned my head up toward the sun and saw the kid. He had bright blonde hair and his face was caked with dirt. He stood before me squinting from the white puddle to me, then back to the puddle again. He sucked on the pinkie finger of his right hand.

“Huh? What is that?” he said.

“What is what.”

“The puddle.”

“It’s a puddle, kid.”

“Why is it white?”

“Get out of here,” I said, and turned back to the white muck. I sloshed my hand around inside and the puddle began to foam about the edges. Little white bubbles, frozen pockets of air and dirt, a ready-made mixture of cellular utopia. There were no bones, no death, no proof of life. The water did not hold my reflection. I looked back and saw that the kid was still there.

“This puddle,” I told him. “There’s nothing in it.”

I pulled my arm out and stuck the other arm in.

“Go get a stick,” I said. The kid ran off to find a stick. I saw him run to the far end of the alley to a small green hill with two trees standing stark against the deep cyanic sky. I turned back to the puddle and immersed both arms down into it. There was nothing.

“Here,” the kid said, handing me a small stick.

“Bigger. I need a bigger stick. Longest stick you can find.”

“This is the longest stick I could find.”

“Find a longer one,” I said. “There’s got to be a longer one.”

The kid ran off again. The sun beat down on my back and car tires made ripping sounds on the asphalt on the other side of the alley, in another world and time. A short cool breeze whipped between the buildings and chilled my skin just as the kid returned. He brought me what looked like half of a tree.

“Where the hell did you get that?”

“It was in the dumpster.”

“Give it to me.”

I extracted my arms from the milky murk and took the giant stick and looked at it, made sure it was sturdy. It must have been eight feet long. I told the kid to step back and then I began to dip the stick into the water, inches at a time, watching it vanish slowly into the white, one then two feet, a void unlike anything else, three feet submerged, a bottomless alien well of whiteness placed here not by man, four feet and still disappearing, and I heard the kid inhale sharply, dumbstruck with awe and curiosity and wonder, and then the stick was almost gone, almost swallowed to my hands, lost down in that white water muck, the consumer of souls and dreams and life and death alike.

“What is that thing, man?” the kid said. “How deep does it go?”

I dropped the stick all the way into the water and stood back, waiting for it to come flying back out. The alley and the surrounding streets were silent.

“Should I go get the cops?”

I took a look at the kid and then down to the end of the alley. A woman held a plastic grocery bag and stood behind her dog as it crapped against one of the buildings. I looked up to the haunting blue endlessness and heard a siren screeching a few blocks away like a baby coming into the world. I told the kid yeah, go get the cops.

I watched him run down the alley and hurdle the pile of dog shit and turn the corner and then I took off my sandals and placed them neatly next to me. I put one foot down into the warm white mystery and pulled it out. Then I looked around me and dove into the puddle head first, like a reawakening into a deep cathartic dream where no color exists but to free the mind of fear.

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