This is slightly longer than acceptable as Flash Fiction, but is presented as a special treat for April Fool’s Day.
The distant rumbling worries Blanton. He steps onto the balcony to check, only to encounter a milky light turning the world’s surfaces creamy in a way that also disturbs him. In fact, all of it sickened him, even now with the security drones buzzing up and down the street he feels insecure.
Blanton feels dizzy, his equilibrium faltering, so he teeters to his chair beside the railing and sits down. Seagulls snap overhead reminding him of winged terriers. Jack Russels in the sky. A pizza delivery drone whirrs gently by, leaving in its wake aromas of burnt sausage grease and overripe anchovies.
At least the pizza drone is a distraction, Blanton thinks, just as the rumbling begins again, then quits. Perhaps it’s an avalanche of marble dust up in the mountain quarries. Or it could be the gods bowling, or not. Maybe it’s a forest of guitars crashing to the ground. Could be tremors set off by a stampeding herd of horned beasts.
He sighs noisily, his sinuses having seized shut. He adjusts his pince-nez but it does no good. He still cannot breathe. What is stuffing him up? Is it the mildewed blankets provided by the management of the Rand Reality Adjustment Home? Could it be the staple guns washed clean and freshly oiled? Leafless threes? Wide panels of burnished steel marked “Sold”?
Blanton can only imagine. After a minute he concludes that no, the morning is not going well, not if that’s all he can imagine. At this rate, countless eons will pass before he calms appreciably. Truth will escape his grasp as it always does. Threes will begin to leave. Trash will begin to accumulate outside his porthole, again. The usual twanging in the attic will commence at midnight. Lighthouse beacons up and down the Coast will marvelously streak the night sky. For their curtain call, the children playing the roles of Hansel and Gretel at the Chandeleur County Opera House will bow and spit in their hands. A great comet will caper along the pre-dawn horizon out beyond Salt Island for many months before vanishing for all time. Juices of unknown composition will once again dribble from the lips of the statue of Dante in Florence, and be hailed as a miracle. A pomegranate will explode somewhere. A hologram in the form of a tennis shoe will appear in the clouds over Dresden before noon.
At bedtime, Blanton counts on having time for a glass of hyper-scotch. That’s when he will hear soft music from down in the arched arcade. He will dream his own death and awake alive, but not believing it.
Or maybe this rumbling that disturbs him could simply be Blanton’s breakfast struggling to be free, the oatmeal and the herring. Or he imagines giant saguaro cactuses in the Arizona desert splitting apart for no reason. Maybe the rumble is the midnight coal train. John Coltrane. The John Coaltrain rumbling through the humid pine forests of the Chandeleur County uplands, pulpwood forests rank with needle mold and creosote. Or perhaps it is nothing more than the collapse of a wall.
On mornings like this, Blanton thinks he knows himself. He is confident that his day cannot be ruined by the lingering odor of burnt sausage grease. Or sand in the eye. Or a chorus line of raccoons dancing up and down the aisles on the bus to Mobile. Or even by paint fading from red to blue on the side of a white van, much less forgetting to pick up all the broken glass or wandering loose and lively while ignoring the thunderstorm approaching.
He will survive the day’s moments of faltering and then the getting up.
There is always that, the getting up, the returning to the fray. But it was not easy back in the olden times, either, standing up with an elephant on his back, one of his best tricks when he was a dashing young man performing acts of raw daring with the Darkstone Vaudeville Circuit out of St. Louis where he lived with Lini Ujevic the few weeks a year he was not booked into hick towns like Duluth and Tucumcari, Dothan or Valdosta.
Lini Ujevic was Croatian and distantly related to a famous poet. She chose blue to paint the inside of her bedroom closet. The blue of the Adriatic, she called it. The blue of her eyes, Blanton called it.
Too bad what happened to Lini, whatever it was. Blanton never knew the truth. Was it falling from a fishing boat into the Mississippi River off Algiers Point on her birthday and not coming up? Was it exhaustion from washing all the windows on the International Trade Mart skyscraper except the one at the very top? Was it running out of gas on the last day of the millennium and having to walk the rest of the way home?
Blanton could forgive and forget Lini’s mistakes. After all, Lini had made her choices. Like she always said, We all make our choices. The rest is a crap shoot. Like how do you account for the murmuring pizza that approaches up the street? Or the jeweler bent over his display case in Narbonne, France, exclaiming Putain! Or the woman inserting a coin into a soft-drink vending machine again and again with no can of Grapette ever sliding down the shute. Or the nightbugs swirling around the light at the end of the Bay St. John municipal pier. Or whatever could have done her in, Lini, who departed.
Blanton was not there when, on a fine St. Louis night, Lini locked herself inside her Adriatic-blue closet. Wild boars had come down from the hills and told her, “Now. Do it now.” The bell on the ice cream truck rang fourteen times. Lightning took the top off a live oak in front yard of the president of People’s Bank. A man claiming to be an astronaut tap-danced for change on the uptown platform of the 23rd St. Subway Station. A spent rocket fell into the South Atlantic. A man seated at a cafe window turned to the classifieds.
Blanton was not there when the grave diggers threw their spades and rakes into a pickup and drove off, headed home for dinner—pizza most likely—leaving Lini in the ground to moulder and so on.
Now there is no more rumbling as the creamy light brightens and Blanton watches as the last pizza drone rounds the corner toward Port Sulphur. A car goes by on Beach Highway. Martins wheel and screech in the sky.
Blanton decides to wait for the next dog race drones to pass the balcony. He always bets against the Jack Russel terrier. He always wins with the Cocker Spaniel named Ginger. He also wins with numbers. Three. Threes with leaves, green leafy money in his pocket.
Lini would have loved this scam.
For the love of Lini, have a great day.