Cold rain falls in the river, flows down to the sea, gets into the skyline, circles endlessly. Same old rain on the wind, same old pain in my soul.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Anderson's Market

How smart or dumb we seem depends on where we are and who we find ourselves amongst at any given moment. A nuclear physicist would probably feel quite stupid in the garage at a stock car race and the mechanic would probably feel out of place in a discussion of nuclear energy. Neither has a greater intelligence, necessarily, it’s all about the environment. The best we can often do is try to adapt to our surroundings but the surroundings must be open to this.

I went to Anderson’s Market the other day. It was work, I had to. How do you get there? Well, mostly by accident. You can’t find this place on purpose, unless you happen to be one of those that just happen to live within a mile of this vortex of weirdness.

It’s in the South, a little west of here and a little right of there. You go to watchamacallit and take the twisty turny around the lumber yard and past the junk piles that might be yards if only they had houses, but the scrawy cats seem to be happy. Go about four miles to where the used store once was and turn right just beyond it on rte. 497- if the sign hasn’t been stolen. Go about six miles and turn just before Pickett’s pond if it hasn’t dried up and follow that past the fourth church to the left and veer to the right and after you see the five cows on the right you should start to feel the vibes. If you have GPS, you’ll just get a screen saver.

By the time you see the market, you’re not even sure of what state you’re in, let alone what county. The store sits at the juncture of three roads. I have sought escape on them all, totally by guess as no maps show these roads. In every case, I have been lost for hours and came out where it seemed quite impossible. And I’ve never been able to trace the same route twice.

The colours and designs of the houses run anywhere from 1904 to 1970, as do the automobiles and people. I don’t believe they ever escape. Anyone, aything. Whatever they need must be procured from Anderson’s or done without.

When you get close, you notice the people, like zombies, walking numb and faceless across the roads of no escape. You notice the dogs walking down the middle of the road in drunken sway and wonder how many breeds it took to finally arrive at this combobulation. You can’t help but feel the same about the people, except in reverse, how few.

The woman who runs the place could give Freddy Krueger the jitters. She’s built like a Sherman tank and looks like she could toss one over her shoulder. Every male stutters in her presence and even I do if I can’t avoid her, which I greatly try to do. I once tried to collect a check from her for an overdue balance. She leaned forward, scowled and slammed a large knife down into the ancient wood counter.

“I don’t think so.” She hissed through fat lips and bottomless eyes, and I backed off in terror.

I try to tell the sons or brothers or cousins or whatever they might be of why I’m here and their slack-jaw look let’s me know I am failing. I talk to the patriarch and he pretends to understand. This I appreciate and milk wildly until the udder goes flat. Nobody smiles. Nobody talks in complete sentences-only dull grunts.

When I got there the other day, they were trying to unload a trailer with their ancient fork truck. The only way it would start was if it was pulled in reverse by their pick up truck. And if you put it in reverse, it would die. So Cousin Jed would put the forks into the pallet and stall. Daddy Joe would hook up a chain and pull Jed backwards across the lot until it started. Then do the whole thing again on the next pallet. Many stood and watched in the parking quite impressed by their ingenuity as the flies circled in boredom.

I watched this and thumbed-up as if they had just solved the mystery of the origins of the universe, and wondered if they knew who the president is and if the country might be at war. Then you wonder if they even wonder at all. Everything is done so mechanical and methodical; scratch your ass, hike your pants, wipe your nose. You wonder if they are happy and if they know the difference. They have a way of making you feel stupid and of wanting to become a zombie to fit in. By the time you leave, you don’t know who you are and why, and they look at you like you might be Amelia Earhart stopped by for a donut on her way to Fiji. Maybe they just wonder what it’s like in my world and why was I such a stupid ass and could I even tie my own shoes.

I turn the radio on and NPR reminds me that it’s 2009 and complete sentences are acceptable. I honk to the dogs stumbling down the road and wonder what they think and if they have thoughts of Anderson’s Market.

just a name
and a store
in a land forgotten
and a people forsaken

storms don’t even bother
to dull a sun
no one understands
and lightning sleeps
where thunder stutters
to her fat ugly footsteps

the same three hundred bucks
over and over
the same Christmas
over and over
the same thoughts
over and over

a dollar a quart
a half for a gallon
screws without heads
and nails with no point

have you any gas
for nowhere to go?
and a map
for paper stars
and nickel moons?

is tomorrow
in 1942
yesterday today
in 1975?

in the land of the blind
the one-eyed man
is king

at Anderson’s Market
only the drunken dogs
make sense.