Sunday, 21 February 2010


This week's sentence was taken from Ken Kesey's glorious 'One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest.'

It was:
'Out along the dim six-o'clock street, I saw leafless trees standing, striking the sidewalk there like wooden lightning, concrete split apart where they hit, all in a fenced-in ring.'


February. Daybreak.
I stepped outside and the chill hit. Bitter. I shook like a wet dog, my body sucking the last feeble warmth from my insides. I hadn’t eaten or slept since I couldn’t remember when.
Out along the dim six-o'clock street, I saw leafless trees standing, striking the sidewalk there like wooden lightning, concrete split apart where they hit, all in a fenced-in ring. Crab grass, rot and detritus strangling the shattered kerb at the impact zone.
I blinked. I saw grey: grey street, grey sidewalk, grey houses, grey sky. One big grey cloud, dark, mottled, livid like a bruise, hanging low, draped, drizzling over buildings like a damp duvet from horizon to horizon.
Dirty snow still hung around in patches like crusted scabs. Old grey snow so hard and sharp it could cut you, hunkered down gritting its teeth, marking the target for the next cold front, due in later today with another two feet of fresh reinforcements.
Down the street I saw Ralph stumble off to look for work through a yard strewn with broken Christmas sculptures, past last summer’s barbecue, tipped over and rusting in the long grass, past the long-dead Chevy Impala up on blocks, paint faded and peeling, off to wait for the bus in the freezing rain.
I saw the street pitted with potholes, littered with filth. Where I used to park my car leaned the crumpled blackened brazier round which me and Ralph had shared our last beer, warming our hands burning all the crap Arlene had left behind when she walked out on me and laughing long and hard and bitter. Shit, that was months ago.
I saw the rain turn to sleet. Stinging cold whipped up from Erie lashing down at my face. My teeth chattered and I hugged myself, wondering what the fuck I was doing out there. Too numb and too dumb to go back inside I carried on staring at the madness around me.
All along the street I saw plywood nailed up over windows. I saw dogshit, broken glass, plastic bags, gang tags, sodden cardboard, wrecked cars and the hopeless despair of the broken American Dream.
I saw drab lives shivering subterranean in dank, dark rooms, the deep and desperate helpless hurt of decent working people betrayed by imbecile greed.
I saw bright colours splash like blood, painful against the grey. Foreclosure boards. KEEP OUT! This house is no longer your home. We would rather it stand empty and rot than let you live in it.
Closing my eyes I saw blue skies, laughing children, Ralph and Norma, Arlene and me drunk as skunks, kicking back on lawn chairs and shooting the breeze, sharing our hopes and dreams long into the night.
And I saw myself standing here, unshaven and unwashed in dressing gown and slippers, no longer comprehending the world I was seeing.
Shell-shocked. What the fuck happened?
I saw the bus carrying Ralph off to look for work.
I stepped in front of it.


Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt said...

Holy shit. That's some powerful imagery you've got going on, Dive. Poetry.

I've been reading a book that I don't care for, but it has imagery like yours, and that's what saves the book. Your characters are far better already, though. I care about them. Who are these people?

This would make an outstanding novel--if you could stand to write it.

Scout said...

What a powerful story, Dive. You've captured the desperation and hopelessness so many people feel these days. They've had the rug pulled out from under them, and they're left standing there wondering "what the fuck happened."

Now, look what you've made me say.

dive said...

Katherine: you are too, too kind as always.
I'm afraid I've been down in the dumps just lately and this is the sort of thing that leaks out. I hate feeling that way so I hope I won't be writing a follow-up.

Robyn: Yes indeedy, those hard-working and intelligent bankers sure do deserve their multi-million dollar bonuses. I'm sure all the Ralphs of the world are really grateful to them.
I must confess it's good to provoke another F-word from you. Hee hee.

Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt said...

I'm sorry you're feeling down, Dive : ( It's not a good place to be. But you've translated the darker side of the human condition into some good writing. I find writing kind of therapeutic in that way--turn the blues into something else.

Does your music reflect when you are in moods like these?

dive said...

Boy howdy, Katherine; you would really not believe how much it affects my playing. I hate being down but listening back to recordings I play all my best and most intense stuff when I feel at my crappiest.
Hey ho.

Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt said...

"I play all my best and most intense stuff when I feel at my crappiest."

Ain't that the way it goes? I think sometimes the reason is those emotions are so intense and art is such good therapy. When we are in good moods, we sometimes don't write or practice our art because we are out doing other things or..

I don't want to give the impression we have to be the stereotypical depressed artist to be good at what we do. I think that can be an unhealthy belief, too.

However, we can't ignore the obvious--that we're often artistically strong when we feel the most vulnerable. Not everyone can say that because often depression shuts people down completely. But people like you and me...we have our art, and for that, I am thankful.

dive said...

Me too, Katherine. That's why I never take medication when I'm depressed; it dulls the creativity.
Still, it's a bummer of a trade-off: felling crappy and coming out with your best work. Oh, well.

MmeBenaut said...

After the first line, I had to get up and put something warmer on, before I continued reading. Yep, I felt the chill.
As for a follow up, one would have to assume that your character survived walking in front of Ralph's bus.
Your bleak descriptions are very powerful Dive - you really take the reader with you. I've not met too many people with as many amazing talents as you have so I can only blame the weather for bringing you down. The good thing is that the sun always shines - eventually. It's the waiting for it that is the killer. Makes me want to stay in bed all day sometimes.
I liked the political statements about the housing too - I was picturing Detroit or Chicago, with the winds off Lake Erie. Greed is such a curse isn't it?
Anyway my dear friend, thank you as always for a superb piece of entertainment. I wish you'd write a couple of dozen books so I could buy them all and then tuck in next winter. You could invest in a dictaphone and just spill it out and have someone else type the first draft and then just edit. Makes writing a bit speedier than in Dickens' time. lol

dive said...

Mme: I really wish I had the talent (and the patience) to write more than 500 words at a time.
As for the chill, coming back from the village shop in the freezing sleet to be greeted by those horrid scabs of sharp old icy snow on my front lawn under a sky like a sagging wet duvet kind of wrote the first part for me. Hee hee. You are so lucky with your winters.
Something happier (or at least sillier) for next week's story.