J u n e   2 0 0 5

Guest Writer

In this hot new place, the sky is far away
The process server
by Edward Morris Jr.

have no idea where I'm going. I just know I have to get there.

507 Pine Street
Cross streets: Pine and Union
Third house in on left

It says so on a much-refolded sheet of paper, gray with sweat from my own hands. The sheet of paper was only one of two things in my pockets when I looked. But the address comes without a frame of reference.

As to the other item in my pockets, there is no identification of any kind in my billfold. Only a public-transit ticket and a few equally crumpled single dollar bills.

In my hands rests a yellow manila envelope with a string clasp. I cannot open it. The desire not to feels, as I look down, stronger in me even than the infantile fear of falling backward. But with this fear, I have no learned, layered reflex to put my hands behind me and roll to one side.

The bus stop where I sit has been graded out of a hillside full of gravel and gopher holes and weeds. Below it, a vast graveyard full of unnumbered tombs older than the States War stretches down and around and off, into the haze of noontide.

Every clover bud throbs swollen with honey. Cicadas sing like a migraine. But this beautiful day is not my life. In this hot new place, the sky is far away.

Beside me a coughing, spitting junkie breaks the silence to ask when the number 777 bus comes. I tell him I have no idea.

This frustrated desolation only hones my head for the dance which I see must come. It will happen when it is to happen and not one moment before. Glued to the outside of the envelope is a generic AFFIDAVIT OF SERVICE whereupon all personal information under "Respondent" and "Petitioner" has been left blank.

I can only assume that the address in my pocket is that of the Respondent. How I came to be serving papers on him or her must be filled in, like the addresses and names, at a later time. "More Shall Be Revealed," I mutter sourly without knowing what I mean. At this, the junkie gets up and slowly walks away.

I look down at my scuffed black wingtips that no one in their right mind would want to wear. In front of me and up, the rattling old omnibus pulls in with a thunderous wheeze of diesel fumes. The door creaks open with heavy, ratcheting lever sounds, yielding up the hothouse smell of its interior, that of sunbeams frying wicker seats through thick glass.

The driver is skinny and looks Balkan. His ears are big enough to provide him unassisted transport at the first high gust of wind. He coughs like the junkie as he takes my ticket. There is blood on his lips. Though his skin is gray, I see no junkie itch and twitch when he sits back and cranks the door shut.

"Could you please tell me when we get to Pine and Union?"

He gives me the look that one spares the feeble-minded on a busy street but makes no move to hand back the ticket. I sit down in the first seat behind him. We get no farther than the end of the block. The brakes scream like new roadkill in the bright day.

"Pein-Yunion!" the driver barks in a heavy Czech accent, flapping one hand at me as he cranks open the door. I tip him a dollar on the way out. He looks at it, sniffs it, then begins to eat it. I do not ask.

The breath leaves my lungs when my foot takes the curb. This feels like some kind of clonic event. Everything is too white. The breath pushes up hot in my throat and stays stuck there. In my ears, the click of my heels on these old, sandy concrete blocks sounds like the Charge of the Light Brigade.

I pull the folded, grimy half-sheet of paper from my pocket and look at it again. This block is a known quantity: The little turnout at the end, the child's hopscotch grid in chalk, the way the light catches the corner.

507 Pine Street
Cross streets: Pine and Union
Third house in on left

The white two-story railroad house with a porch swing. The privet hedges in front, the hyacinths in their small brick flowerbed perpendicular to the porch steps on the right. The jack-o'-lantern by the rightmost porch pillar, clean and whole and unsmashed. The yards of cotton stretched from nails between the pillars to pretend at being cobwebs.

I cannot continue, yet I do. Some undamaged synaptic nerve, some deep and fundamental sense lodged in my chest cavity, in the pelvis up under the tailbone, between my eyes, in my sternum, has known the truth since I started out. Whenever that was.

I was born here. This is my address. I walk up the creaky porch steps and knock loudly upon the door with a heavy hand.

I have no idea where I'm going. I just know I have to get there.

For Franz Kafka. E-mail Ed at locutuspdx@yahoo.com, and don't miss his previous work.

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