The story advances. The Homunculus Knows Its Place
Along the back of the condemned lot on the corner of Old Main St. and Barnett Rd. there is a cornucopia of foliage comprised of winding vines, blooming twigs, rotting tree stumps, scrub oak brush and a few tires left over from the salvage yard that used to be there. Barnett Rd. is a private road that winds through a canyon past associations of 3,000 square foot homes, while Old Main St. is eight blocks with side streets of mostly four square homes which are sublet to low income people like me. I was told by Professor Cliffnut that there was a Drive In theater where the farmer’s market is across from the old salvage lot, and that the big screen was still standing until the early 1980’s.
There isn’t a lot to do in Littlefield for the average person but I am not the average person. I was born to write things; have always been aware of expressing patterns for deeper structures. I am the tragic outcome of an average person given access to books and I wallow in my depravity.
What is that man doing, what is he looking at? Why? What? Is there something wrong with him? Oh, shhh! Dr. Phil is on.
This place needs me. You can always tell when a place needs you. I imagine I am a girl who others imagine is spoiled, and like every other girl I have my unutterable happenstances which the We doesn’t need to know about; ones for which great favors and respectful distances would have to be kept afterwards. I am a little girl who finds herself besieged by a patronizing masculine tone, “please come and entertain us, little girl, so we can dote on you, so we can hear your every word.” The tangled brush in the back of the yard calls the little girl in me. “Here, Princess, we have something for you and not that ugly asswipe you carry around on your hide all day.”
Big yellow bees buzz and float around me; sticky and prickly weeds rip at my feet. My legs are entwined by vines, and around my ears mosquitoes skewer me. The suffocating sun compresses my lungs and drowns my tongue in cotton candy. There is an old car under a pile of rubbish in the corner of the lot abutting a corn field. The contour of the body looks to be 1940’s style. There isn’t a speck of paint left, no emblems, no axles; just a hollowed out frame with the seats, dash and steering column missing. I can see three medium sized suitcases in the back.
Field silence. I am a vapor pressurized between the world that I conceive and the world I can’t believe; wet as at birth, kicked by the breeze and breathing; heart started and beating. I brush away the tangle of weeds with their zipper teeth scratching at my skin and when I am able to pull the suitcases out I find scads of poetry, notebooks and tablets, loose papers filled with observations, entries, thoughts, short stories, essays. There is a novel that reads like a librarian’s retelling, which makes it easy to follow and reads completely different than the rest of the work. My first thought is that it would be a great novel if it had been written with the same narrative persona as the poetry and journal entries.
The third person follows two characters, mainly, the writer and a childhood friend. The main character is named Bill, or Gilbert; both appear to be the same character. His friend’s name is Jonathan Hiram Hapflik, whose journals and poetry take up one of the suitcases. I find a stack of letters written by John Hapflik and addressed to his mother, Rita, while he is stationed overseas. The letters date from late 1959 through November, 1963.
I pick up one of Bill’s notebooks and open. On the inside cover is this inscription:
Apostle Gilberticus sayeth to JohnThomas Aquinas, Earl of Hapflik, unjeseyness thy weariness beyond Gonatopia. St. Augustine divined godularity and by godularity divined God.
Donne know. Donne no. D’know. Dunno. Done in. Donne did.
Ah ah! John Donne. seraphically, metaphysically conceiving, because in the words is the believing; a formula and a result because as the result it presents the formula. I just like the sound of the D’s. I have (k)no(w) idea of what I donne did.
(A schizophrenic does not know he doesn’t make sense, his thoughts appear to be random. As I read more of Bill Dinklfpfuss’s journal I am convinced he is the sanest person who ever lived.)
Bill lacks passion, Billy lacks spunk. Billy, well, he don’t like bein’ called Billy. He has persona in his poetry, a tone in his voice that assumes manly Apollo. The phrases are patterned sentiment with unique tonal variations, like a musician with no songs to sing but a lot of rhyming couplets. His phrases make sense in couplets but not in quatrains. His aphoristic dialogues present idea, language, structure and creativity, but his language for the novel is that of a librarian giving a lecture on the decimal system. I can see the hand lever on the calculator being pulled back with a distinctive clack and then the fingers punching in another row of numbers; it is 1942. Bill is an infant son, his father Apollonian, his mother Dionysian.
I tuck the notebooks back into their suitcases and stagger through the thicket over to Barnett Rd. approaching the corner where the Drive In used to be. My eyes inwardly sculpt an image for me of a big screen with it’s backside towards the entrance across from the gated Barnett Rd. On my right is a sort of clearing through the brush and a footpath with embankments on both sides. I skip along the trail and emerge onto a landing overlooking a deep gully. The old trail winds along the edge of the gully for a couple hundred feet, then there is a sudden steep climb for about ten yards and am looking out over the flat field of the one time salvage yard.
The landing I am standing on is old concrete that’s been caked and weathered by dust. I turn in place and scan the field along Barnett Rd. and back along the path which I came. The path from the road through the clearing was once a path that came out to where I am standing. The path forks from the path below me and leads around in a circle back to the fork.I picture a 1944 Buick coming up the path, breaking off circling up the path and onto the slab of concrete where I am standing.
I turn back down the path and come back out again to Barnett Rd. The big screen comes alive in the theater in my head. John Hapflik peels out of the driveway in a souped up Chevy, a cigarette in his mouth and shifting gears. It’s twilight on a hot summer night with the billboard by the road, big and blaring: Rita Hayworth! Clark Gable! Henry Fonda! Kirk Douglas!
Walking back down Main St. I pause at the entrance to the old salvage yard where the Hapflik Auto sign hung, according to professor Cliffnut. The same sign that went up in 1948 and was torn down when the place was condemned in the mid 1980’s. It now lies in a pile of rubbish on the other side of the fence. The trail I discovered along Barnett Rd. seems to have led to a garage that sat lower than the house and into the side of the gully. There is a chain link fence along the front of the property, perhaps ten yards from the cragged sidewalk that heaves at my feet. Not far from the old entrance, the fence is disjoined, creating a walking path. There are no lights, lots of places to hide.
Jimmy said, “that’s where some of the homeless end up when it’s warm weather. “Can’t believe you went back there, man. That’s where you go if you wanna get your shit pushed in. Know what I’m sayin’?”
I don’t really want to tell him about the cache of suitcases but wtf, he might be able to help. What would he want with them anyway? Only thing is, how much would it cost? There is always a price when you are looking for help. Jimmy was the preacher, he sold me on fear, now, how much would redemption cost?
“Dude, I found some old notebooks in suitcases in the back of an old car over there and I’d dearly love to get them out of there with my rear end in tact. Uh, know what I’m sayin,?”
Jimmy rubbed his chin and looked down and I figure he is going to meatball me but just then a stubby fellow walks in with huge thighs, looks like a football nose guard, sandy whiskered round face with the stub of a fat cigar in one corner of his mouth.
“Hey man, there he is, fashionable as ever!”
“Hey, muthafucka, eat anything good lately?”
“Oh yeah, had me some nice sandy clams this morning.”
“Fuck you! Yer a junkie, that’s what you are.”
Jimmy laughs and turns to me and says. Sgt. Ross got his balls shot off in Iraq.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah, Afghanistan.”
“Uh, sorry to hear that, man.”
Sgt. Ross dismisses my chatter with a wave of his hand and looks back at the liquor bottles on the wall. An old wooden courthouse chair chuckles at his thighs as he sits down.
“Hey man, why don’t you ask Sgt. Ross to go back there with you?” Jimmy says.
“Uh, I don’t know, man.”
“Why not? I’m sure he would be glad to go back there with you.”
I didn’t like the way the dialog was starting to play so I said, “that’s alright. I’ll figure something out.”
“No man. Seriously.” Jimmy turns to Sgt. Ross and tells him about my suitcase find.
“Whaddaya want some old suitcases for anyway?” Sgt. Ross’s voice splatters like a machine gun fire soaked in turpentine, scratching and popping from his throat.
“It isn’t the suitcases, it’s what’s in them,” I say. “The notebooks in them are historical artifacts; they tell the history of this place.”
Both Sgt. Ross and Jimmy are amused at this. I want to leave. I start to turn and Sgt. Ross barks, “just waitaminnit. Let me get freshened up a bit.”
Jimmy turns to me and says, “come back in an hour and he’ll go out there with you. You don’t gotta give him nothin’.”
“Nah,” Sgt. Ross gargles. It’s cool. Just come back in an hour.”
Thanks to Sgt. Ross, I got the three suitcases back to my apartment and for three days found myself immersed in them, falling severely behind schedule on my illustrations contract. I have grown detached from my drawing. It has become something I do for the little money I earn. I need something else to feed my creative outlet, so I write half assed fiction and poetry and essays; still trying to find a voice after 35 years. At first I am distant from the novel I have discovered among the writings of Bill Dinklpfuss because it is a novel already written, but as I dwell on it more, the reason why Bill may have left all this behind could be a larger circle engulfing me, changing the contrast of my intellectual environment as it intercedes to plead for order among the chaos of imagery. It is a circle that has entwined me lovingly and I cede.