I have become a fly in the marketplace. I buzz and irritate my fellow men and women with newfound toxicity. Capitalism has done this to me — entrapped me in the public domain, away from my cloistered work room and much-valued solitude. Now I fly and buzz with the others, content with my lack of desire and inspiration, poised only to interact in the marketplace, consume, and procreate. I now spread the disease of mediocrity and uniformity as an instrument of the capitalist machine.
From Nietzsche’s Zarathustra:
Flee, my friend, into your solitude! I see you defeated with the noise of the great men and pricked by the strings of the little men.
Forest and rock know well how to be silent with you. Be like the tree again, the wide-branching tree that you love — silently and attentively it hangs out over the sea.
Where solitude ends, there the marketplace begins; and where the marketplace begins, there begins also the noise of the great actors and the buzzing of poisonous flies.
Even the best things in the world are worthless without those who first present them. People call these presenters great men.
The people have little comprehension of greatness, that is to say: creativeness. But they have a taste for all presenters and actors of great things.
The world revolves around the inventors of new values; invisibly it revolves. But around the actors revolve the people and fame; so the world goes.
The actor has spirit but little conscience of the spirit. He always believes in that with which he most powerfully produces belief — produces belief in himself!
The dead whale had washed ashore in the night. A small crowd gathered on the beach after morning tide to admire it, to whisper among each other and try to solve its mysteries. It was a captivating creature — immense, beautiful, alien. I had an open umbrella in one hand to shield me from the sun, my daughter’s little hand in the other.
Is it dead? she asked.
I looked at her and nodded. I wondered what she thought it meant to be dead.
Waves of foam crashed into the rear and side of the whale’s dark gray mass. The sun blasted the scene with light and heat.
He’s no more, said my daughter.
I paused and said: It’s part of life.
Part of life? she asked.
I nodded. I loved how she’d repeat my words by rearranging them into questions. I loved how all kids performed some iteration of the same act, and that my kid was like other kids in that she was inquisitive and reckless at times and could enjoy her childhood like other kids.
We stood in silence again. I looked into the dead mammal’s eye, a dark snow globe emptied of particles, a black mirror in which my reflection returned to me — the reflection of a father and his daughter beneath the umbrella’s canopy peering deeply into the earth’s hardest truth: that everything in that domain would be born, thrive, and eventually perish, including the domain itself.
I saw some of my father in that reflection, too. I didn’t look exactly like him but more like a lost brother, a bookish cousin. My father will be dead 21 years next month.
Everything is waves, I thought. I invented a story for the whale, imagining its long life and how it came to rest on this beach, half-in, half-out of the water.
A small plane flew overhead. Its engine droned in the haze. The whale lay there unaffected by the water, the people, the sun, the air. I thought how strange the surface must be for aquatic life.
After several minutes, I led the little one away from the whale and the crowd that had grown handsomely. I hardly needed to lean down to reach her hand anymore.
The writer who does not write showed up today, then hung around into the night. He didn’t do anything but waste my time throughout. He talked ceaselessly and insisted on showing me endless streams of worthless information in various mediums. He spoke, he shouted my name repeatedly. It’s one of his tricks. I imagined his name was Walter. Walter the non-writer, the smooth circumlocutor. Let’s talk, he says to me. I do not talk to him. I haven’t said a word to him in all these years and I have never invited him inside, where he shows up intermittently and remains until I force him out. He talks and dances and provokes me until I’ve had enough and grab him by his curly wig to toss him onto the street. His world is smaller than the size of a paperback. Don’t write somewhere else! I shout into the midnight silence.
Drums rain from the sky. Is it real?
Water flows within, disturbed.
Only music sets me right.
Who’s writing? Not me!
The detective carries himself with dignity, poise. He is forty, “a good age,” according to Colombian writer Evelio Rosero. Nothing is real. All the inspiration gone, dried up. I worry about writing more than I write. I worry about time and missed opportunities and money — especially money, always money, and I remember an anecdote about the infamous poverty of Cormac McCarthy, who once couldn’t afford toothpaste. Luckily I can afford to clean my teeth but they clench at the thought of the author of Blood Meridian and Outer Dark penniless, suffering the pain and indignity of decaying teeth.
That sanity be kept I sit at open windows,
Regard the sky, make unobtrusive comment on the moon,
Sit at open windows in my shirt,
And let the traffic pass, the signals shine,
The engines run, the brass bands keep in tune,
For sanity must be preserved.
Thinking of death, I sit and watch the park
Where children play in all their innocence,
And matrons, on the littered grass,
Absorb the daily sun.
The sweet suburban music from a hundred lawns
Comes softly to my ears. The mowers mow and mow.
I mark the couples walking arm in arm,
Observe their smiles,
Sweet invitations and inventions,
See them lend love illustration
By gesture and grimace.
I watch them curiously, detect beneath the laughs
What stands for grief, a vague bewilderment
At things not turning right.
I sit at open windows in my shirt,
Observe, like some Jehovah of the west,
What passes by, that sanity be kept.
— Dylan Thomas
Rumor was he came from Mexico. A big Mexican — the biggest I’d ever seen. But he didn’t look Mexican. He was a gringo with red hair and green eyes. A giant Mexican flag.
Hammer, he said.
I hefted the sledgehammer with both arms and handed it over to him. Wind ripped and tugged at us violently. The big man took the sledgehammer with one hand and set himself to strike the coffin. Bare branches crashed and screamed above our heads. It seemed the wrong time to ask where he was from.
The big man smashed the wood with one blow. Darkness surrounded us everywhere. We always worked by moonlight, but tonight the skies had shifted unexpectedly, veiling the moon and leading the storm’s charge. The big man tore at the coffin with his bare hands, his massive back to me. I heard a noise like a pig squeal and swung my rifle in that direction. Wind perforated my clothes, cut into my skin.
I’ve got something, he said.
I leaned over his crowded frame but could not see in the darkness.
What is it? I said.
He stood, unfolding his shoulders to stand erect. His body extended vertically so that it seemed he was being born, his head rising upward to the skeletal tree branches whipping with the gales, to the moon shrouded in the distant black. He turned and I noticed the eyes first, golden light embedded deep in the eyes of the skull, the Mexican’s hands enveloping the artifact to respect its delicacy and power.
What is it? I said again, mesmerized.
Then weightlessness, light fading to black.
I woke on my back with the Mexican standing far above me, trees surrounding him in the moonlit background. The wind had calmed. I could not move or speak, but fully sensate and aware, felt the granules of earth on my skin, felt the coolness of the dirt on my face rolling down my cheek, as the Mexican worked silently, just the rhythmic scrape of steel shovel into broken earth.