(The Urban Mythology.)
Children might forget the lies they are told,
but they never forget the central role of lies...
Brian the boy carefully measured the weight of
his push against the creaky pedals of his bike
overburdened with newspapers, pumping his way
over the familiar byways of his delivery route.
His young career depended on the integrity of those bike pedals
--if they ever failed his career would also go out with them.
He'd already busted his bike chain once,
but had been able to replace it quickly with one
salvaged off a rusting skeleton once itself a bike
he'd come upon in one of the many trash-piles
"over" at the huge 46th Avenue vacant lot
... where most unwanted things of
the Middle Neighborhood eventually ended up.
That empty lot, although a definite location,
stood not so much in a place as defined it
(and maybe even the rest of the world around it):
There everything was under the omnipotently despotic domination
of a huge grid of concrete pilings
that, overhead, once might have supported the
transportation achievements of a dethroned (but
perhaps never quite entirely extinct) Golden Age
race of true believers --of their own everlastingness--
who'd probably raised it as monument to their once intended aims
all now dead ends, abandoned, now
just a row of emptily stranded markers
pointing out the baking bleakness of even the heavens above,
though, in a strange way, all still quite aesthetically triumphal,
like an ironic motionless riddle rolling
eternally above the clear tide of the whatever current everyday
... its standstill waves of decay and rust lapping at skeletal
primordial edifices no doubt once fleshed-out & true enough.
There, years before Brian's birth,
the earth's highest civilization might have stood,
or so in its present sad state told hard-to-believe legends:
its primordial heights
by some mysterious fate ossified
into mere heaps of overthrown rubble
rumored to have been the immense foundations of
maybe even a 'higher way of life'
since utterly renounced, and crumbled now
to a handful of surviving chunks of structures
which Nature was embarrassingly trying to hide
under unexpected, sudden spurts of
parched or drying anarchist growth, behind
defeated walls in front of which one could stand and
almost watch their dust-trickling bricks slowly deserting them
--From that place now, infinitely slowly
only an unrelentingly grey wave of all-consuming ruin surged
grimly towards the rest of the world around it yet untouched,
unperceived by the unconcerned inhabitants of that world
perhaps because of the fleeting nature of their mortal lives.
Spanking new coats of paint over the rooted rot,
at one of its poles sprawled Middle Neighborhood
glorying in its many illusions of progress,
home of the self-styled 'working rich,' a gathering of homes
reputed to have had something in common with that vanished Age
of Gold (maybe one of its suburbs back then).
While at the opposite pole stood the dull concrete sameness
of urban serflands cast behind it all
as if through some cosmic default,
homeland of earth's latest 'working-poor,'
Brian's own down-to-earth people,
whose sole possession as from the beginning of the world
seemed to be their availability for work.
The only remaining value of the 46th Avenue vacant lot was
serving as de facto frontier
between the lower-income district abutting it to one side
and that Middle Neighborhood which, just beyond it all,
every succeeding epoch since the beginning of time
acknowledged to be the ultimate repository of its best houses,
all of them defended from the common street facing them
by amply-spreading front yards decked out in aristocratic
attempts at authentically noble gardens.
Unlike the exhaustion centered at the 46th Avenue Wasteland,
both the 'new' lower class district and
the 'renew' Middle Neighborhood yet stood in
the timeworn world that'd survived.
The legendary Golden Age builders
of Middle Neighborhood's surviving manors
had long since moved on, apparently, or perhaps
they had perished with the unexplained cataclysmic
passing of their Age of Gold.
Now the latest race of lesser and lesser giants upon the earth,
the current crop of Middle Neighborhood barons
(forever paying off those mortgaged glories with
hard-earned effort) just managed to maintain them
if not as splendidly as they'd been maintained by
the original Golden Age builders, at least now
that their upkeep rested so heavily on the labor of
their live-in owners' own hands:
with yet enough personal investment to almost make up
the painfully appreciable difference
between amateur's warm, loving care and
the cool-handed competence of that whole class of professionals
whose lifework and livelihood it had all once been.
The day Brian's bicycle chain snapped,
following one of those many meaningless empty panic races
in which young boys with bicycles engage,
he turned for the solution
(as all the youths of his low-income district usually did)
to the bristling desolation of that unofficial no man's land:
In a flash he was mentally staring down upon his Holy Grail,
the remains of a junked Golden Age 'bicycle'
he remembered unearthing on a previous safari there,
and was immediately on his way back to the precious 'find'
like one of those desperate dreamers who, following a
treasure map in some unstable dream,
is every step of the way fearful that
he will never make it there before waking up.
This time Brian's dream held true,
and he was soon at the Wasteland,
the busy eyes of the luck-kissed treasure hunter
all over his life-long Quest, visually collecting
the scattered remnants he and only he
knew to be that once & future bike
spread before him like a gift from
that long-vanished Golden Age.
It was a bike almost "in the same sense" his own bike was one
now, too well camouflaged among
the other rusting busted trinkets junked there
for the uninformed casual look to pick up;
but to his young eyes, expert at discerning the practical,
every essential replacement part
still perfectly preserved from Time's worst ravages
by the best of Time itself
except perhaps for the occasional crust of rust
strangling around the edges,
or, smothering all hopes of functionality
on a number of parts here & there
obsolescence almost visibly creeping over them
--No matter: those 'other' superfluous parts
would never again fit into any modern idea of a bicycle
contemporary man would ever again imagine,
much less actually construct.
Whimsically, he tried to size up his own modern hard working machine
against the rust-gilded monstrosity prone before him
like bones spat up by the delirious science-fiction machinations
of some immemorial grave (in his archeological innocence
never doubting it to be the older of the two bikes,
unaware wheels are not all that go around & around
in meaningless circles):
It certainly looked like a cadaverous thing, though,
a quaint device made for an ephemeral world in
which apparently it had not been as important that
a thing work as that it look impressive:
Perhaps the very reason
why so splendid an immortal Age had yet come to
so mortal an end:
Smug enough reasoning in his beaming brain for
a muffled laugh of self-congratulation.
Brian tried to negotiate a peace over his breezily rebellious hair
by racing a handful of authoritative fingers over it
--strictly out of habit, there was really little hope that
anything could be accomplished along those youthful lines
for a long time yet.
He reveled in the notion that if he but took a care
concealing his new-found trove
he might never have to buy replacement parts again.
Amazingly, the junked fossil still showed signs of
having been a grand, expensive Golden Age 'contraption.'
It must have surely been one devilishly lively curiosity in its day
(instead of the good & proper God-fearing work machine
his own bike was); maybe the fanciest gilded toy of
one of the Golden Age's proudest kids,
maybe, maybe, maybe
--Here an awful feeling brought his speeding train of thoughts
to a halt, having reminded him of that almost unholy 'Old Man,'
Middle Neighborhood's most ancient, most puzzling resident,
maybe even a last living member of the legendary race
of Golden Age builders (none of whom had been reported seen
upon the earth by any living creature in Brian's lifetime
--so swore all who spoke of this).
But, what if not all the members of the original race of house-builders
had so obligingly disappeared
with the passing of their Golden Age?
There was always the 'Old Man' to consider:
His gloomy, aging castle certainly was something unique,
even amidst the all-consuming obsession with
being special, unique
which was the only collective discipline
all the self-emancipated natives of the civilized Middle Neighborhood
really practiced and believed.
That mysterious Old Man just might have been of
exactly the right number of years back then, that,
had he owned one, his bicycle could have been
some brittle creation not unlike this very same
fanciful 'contraption' there plainly, pitifully busted up
in front of him on the ground like noble game
almost willingly deceased for the sake of the feast
(while at the same time so shiny in the frame of
the many uses Brian might still be able to put it to).
"Enough!" Without giving it another thought,
Brian turned loose his living bike's wonderful cannibalizing needs
over that rusting skeleton
and, after appeasing his steely vulture's earnest cravings,
he carefully concealed the whatever remains
(against future mining).
No, maybe it wouldn't have occurred to Brian
that something other than Time determines the age of things,
even of living beings--Under that sun
so palpable he could almost run his fingers over its unyielding heat,
in the middle of the concretely shifting & surging Wasteland
all around him the present state of man
it was highly unlikely such a subtle thought would have
easily entered his head, maybe leading him to ask himself
by what disparate ways & byways, by which tenuous directions,
comings & goings, living beings and even things themselves age
... not when, on the contrary (if never so obvious)
sweat made it all so certain.
Neither did Brian give much thought to how & why
that long-ago Golden Age's High Neighborhood had
come down to be the mere Middle Neighborhood it was in his day;
the heart of his paper route--One thing alone concerned him:
As far as he knew, in all its argentine history
Middle Neighborhood had yet to produce its own native paper boy
--Oh, someday it might, eventually, maybe
after life took it down a few notches (hopefully not
during Brian's best working years): But even at its low depth
Middle Neighborhood was still simply too exalted for that.
And for a boy hailing from the sun-baked barren Urban
Netherlands pushing the Wasteland, that truly was
all & all at present his concern & business
--along with maybe the sheer mindless pleasure of racing
a creaky, papers-laden bike down Middle Neighborhood's
foliage-muffled lanes, so richly tree-lined, so cushioned
& cooled with the sound of soft breezes
--against the meaningless harsh murmurs of too busy a modern life--
all the time pumping tottery pedals up pathways which
an always-thinking young mind could turn inward
always thinking without the slightest effort or worry
... the mind (thinking all the time, always)
upon every least detail across which it came
or which crossed its path:
It's never enough to just make a great physical effort
--something pedaling a bike weighed down with newspapers
certainly was--No: Reality also has to be made to entertain
the always-thinking mind with sounds, sights, scents & secret
passions, with fantasies, with
even tearing out & exposing to the sterilizing Sun
the soiled lives of the gloating, spotlessly cloistered occupants
of those bony old houses so flushed with their loud new blood
that, to every casual passer-by, they seemed to shout out
the tallest tales imaginable with their mere looks--
There, on the right, in the impressive brown tudor
phalanxed with asymmetrical arcs of evergreens
like some bottom-of-the-barrel heady troop of last-line defenders
(cowardly shaking to their knees or in full fatigues
crookedly fanning out against the foreign street),
there lived Doctor Nolan and his single heir, a certified brat
Brian shared a number of classes with:
Undeniably the richest, most spoiled girl in his entire school,
even if in her precious Middle Neighborhood she wasn't
close to being much of either, not by a long shot.
Then the very, very white patriotic colonial pretender next-door
boasting Middle Neighborhood's most envied Tennis court
--This was the Feders's residence, princely merchants of
quite legal drugs, none of whose kids would ever stoop to
going to any school attended by persons such as Brian the boy.
And, on the left side of the street, the crowd's Johnnies-come-lately,
the Hamptons, whose gerrymandered business sultanate
extended to numberless common (and even some vulgar)
local trades: They--or, so held the consensus
between high and low standing citizens
--they had, out of sheer social necessity, purchased and improved
the biggest house in the entire neighborhood
--Their name's singular shining virtue.
Across the street from the Hamptons, in the middle of all that
bosky Middle Neighborhood frondescence: the Blanchards's
only-too-very obviously misplaced Western desert chateau
had been carved out, stony home to the most impressive
of all reception rooms (an excruciatingly up-to-the-minute
sunken oversized Greek-theater-like hollow
in which were thrown their caste's most highly prized
galas & formal gatherings).
Then, after the Blanchards's estate,
the Tourneys's towering palazzo:
Notorious investment bankers,
the Tourneys were too reticent a clan for even the most
superficial description of either their much-moated building
or sheltered family members
(something which could have been said about practically any
of Middle Neighborhood's great barons):
Brian could remember having laid eyes on Squire Tourney
but once or twice in all the numberless times he'd
had dealings with that house.
Passing the hodgepodge of contrasting, mutually-excluding
styles and tastes into which Middle Neighborhood had devolved
(really mere reactions in distaste & slug-timed
stylistic mutual-retaliations), many a time Brian wondered
how it had ever been possible in the Golden Age
for those long vanished original builders to agree with such harmony
on their singular victorious tradition,
perhaps their most golden attribute,
especially in light of how impossible it seemed for
the current sterling landlords
to agree on even the most negligible shared aspect
of their collective lives!
Alas, the present-day barons had reshaped their individualistic land
so thoroughly that there were few signs anywhere
of just how uniformly golden that first age might have been.
Only the Old Man's netty-dark neglected house,
the 'worst-kept' one in the whole extent of
the to all outward appearances otherwise
invariably spiffily-maintained Middle Neighborhood
hinted at what those primordial golden heights might have been like
--Ironically, in the view of the moderns
(who had never found much reason
either to track or measure the Wasteland)
... the Old Man's house was now a public eye-sore:
an unrenewed, unkempt, ever-decaying presence
tarnishing with the touch of its proximity
their shining New World's latest flashy age.
Yet, indeed what secret hidden marvels
--Brian still tried to imagine--
What fabled stuffs might remain hidden under its dusting of neglect!
There had always swirled about it wild legends of treasure,
of bales of silver certificates's splendor to be stumbled over
among time-discolored stacks & stacks of primordial
newsprint lining ever-darkened corridors;
legends of solid gold bars just under hastily-laid down
crusting coats of concealing paint, and, of pearls, emeralds, rubies!
under a certain stairway's rotting steps
awaiting any daring adventurer's rescue
--Still, that Old Man's was a house which properly
should have been condemned by the New World's
righteous up-to-the-minute Law.
And it would have, had not
that Mephistophelean Old Man's dark magic
intruded into the sunny rational age of the moderns
in some shadowy mysterious manner
beyond the practical understanding of well-grounded land barons
honestly engaged in remaking Middle Neighborhood
to their hard-working image
... had not the old money
that Old Man's primordial occupancy represented
reached deep into the very control rods
of the doggedly conservative nervous 'system' that
centers even the most outgoing societies
and squashed! whatever naive notions upstanding, proud,
self-made modern men might have had of legally
disturbing that privileged Old Man's jealously safeguarded privacy.
There he still remained
ever untouched by their eminent domain,
thorny and despised--Always just only the "Old Man."
Neither his own first name nor his family's known
to Brian the boy or to most Middle Neighborhood residents.
Ravening rumors were the only currency
circulating about him then. His reputation among the humbler sort
centered primarily around a legendary distrust of banks;
while business moguls spoke indelicately of
his having been in on the ground floor of
an especially lucrative 'racket' in his earlier years,
back "at the beginning of time."
Was he the last ghostly representative of the race
of Golden Age house-builders who so awed the world
they'd fashioned?... Then one of its mightiest peers,
lately become just a common eccentric "Old Man"
unjustly despised merely for managing to hang on
in the house he and his noble kind had
in the world's legendary days
raised up out of the protypical Nothingness...?
To make matters worse,
the Gothic castle of that "miserable old miser"
was under the steadfast protection of a
singularly unvanquished knight: the fiercely loyal Mister Fornos,
his personal retainer and cook, nurse, secretary,
factotum, valet, always valiantly resplendent in
his shining Knight's regalia (whenever he answered the door),
ever unfailingly the tried & true Champion's
glittering ivory-handled Salamanca Sword at his side
(even if now & again he did use it like a
shaky old man's cane to steady his sometimes faltering steps).
But Brian was convinced Sir Fornos could yet have
easily raised it in his lord's defense against all foes
(of whatever age and fame)
that might assail his liege's sacred honor and home.
This singular mighty knight, Sir Fornos,
was the trusted governor of the Old Man's fief & household,
unfaltering keeper of his unassailable gate,
who, though appearing to unenlightened eyes but
a thin, wrinkled & worn out hint of that young champion
he must have once been (surely one of the most magnificent
cavaliers of yore) still to the present day
kept faithful watch over his feudal master
--as willing as ever to lay down his very life if needs be
in defense of his liege (the One Truth
none of the Middle Neighborhood barons questioned
and, undoubtedly, all bitterly resented).
All visitors to that estate quickly found out
it was with Sir Fornos they had to deal,
and with no one else. Even the haughty representatives
of the legal firm at the beck & call of the Old Man
eventually grew accustomed to Mister Fornos handling all affairs,
at whatever level, having to do with the Old Man's estate.
Every other Friday without fail it was Sir Fornos who
paid Brian, always so polite with him, generously
adding a little something extra over and above
what was owed for Brian's prompt service
--The Knight's gaunt yet firm arm and steady hand
extending a few tokens of that nobility which
ever still survived triumphant in that one household
as in no other in the entire Middle Neighborhood:
Always the warm smile, sincere inquiry after Brian's people
--Not at all the sort of person to be casually numbered among
Middle Neighborhood's conceited Brahmin
--which Sir Fornos obviously wasn't, of course:
Brian took great comfort and no small amount of pride
in the vanity that this gentle knight only worked there,
that perhaps he might even once have been raised
from his own honest-hearted clan
... pictures Brian painted for himself of his world,
to the tune of clattering bike pedals and the feverish
workings of his young mind, taking the final turn
around the fortress-like hedge so perfectly,
so completely safeguarding the exotically chaotic garden
of that Old Man's demesne
from the everywhere all-mastering prying eyes
of his eternal besiegers.
Inside that unmolested garden
grotesque artifacts of another age's wicker temperament lay
either abandoned or forgotten, strewn
--as well as coming apart-- everywhere:
But few living beings had ever personally glimpsed
the private universe of that Old Man's closed property
--The only sign the Old Man was even still alive
somewhere within those "peeling, festering" walls:
the doings of his abiding knight, Sir Fornos,
who accepted & paid for all deliveries,
let in & out all utility meter readers, failed not for a single day
to clean out the mail box, or take out the garbage,
or... who knows what else:
It was he who paid Brian for his newspapers.
Brian could always count on finding the old knight-bachelor
patiently awaiting him in front of an ornate side door
behind which he imagined existed some equally esoterically stocked
& furnished kitchen... bellowing brick oven
and maybe a long massive wooden table overburdened
with baroque wear and numberless cornucopian baskets
over-flowing with fancy drinks & fare
(though he himself had never seen that side door open,
let alone looked inside:
Mister Fornos always waited for him outside it
and never re-entered until Brian had once again placed
the savage barrier hedge between himself and the house
--No doubt, the ever-prudent nature of a life-long guardian's habit
of vigilance... but, something which also served to confirm
the excluded neighbors' suspicions
that there had to be something illicit and sinister
about the kindly old domestic, as well as
his master and that entire place).
Once back in the street, on the 'public' sidewalk,
Brian sometimes brought his bicycle to a halt
and, holding his breath, listened behind the bulwark hedge
while, unwatched by the world, without
that secretive side door reopened to safely admit the old servant
back into the house, and there Brian stayed
until he heard the door again shut behind Mister Fornos
with the tight thump of a steel vault.
No living being from the world outside that bristling hedge
was ever 'permitted' to intrude upon the cherished privacy
of the unapproachable aged master of that secluded house
while Mister Fornos lived ("Whether uninvited or
having some legitimate business with the estate,"
as Mister Raynaud's cooking woman once cryptically told Brian).
Out there on the sidewalk,
that all-muffling hedge never allowed Brian to descry
any portion of the mansion below the level of
its second-story battlements-like windows:
All perilously jutting out like bold menacing ramparts
unhesitatingly leaping to the air in its defense!
Who that formidable specter yet haunting the world's
latest Great Age was, had been, where had he come from,
how had he come to be what he was
... only the aimless cardinal points of derelict rumors addressed:
Ever unseen and unheard from, the reticent Old Man upstairs
had become (and not just to Brian) a truly remote presence.
Still, one Brian believed he had once seen--Or, had he?
He might have only imagined he'd seen him:
It could just as easily have been a shadow
cast over his overexcited imagination by his own lively curiosity
--so brief a glimpse was it:
On one of the occasions Brian paused to listen to the old servant
going back into the house.... he happened to glance up
and saw (or imagined he'd caught a glimpse of)
the fabled Old Man's grotesquely warped
but discernibly human shape stirring
in one of those upstairs balcony windows behind curtains
the breeze momentarily brushed aside. Yet, had he really...?
Like the Middle Neighborhood residents,
before he was finally able to uproot even so much as
the least bit of the Old Man's treasured private life
Brian too had to patiently wait until the Old Man's faithful knight-protector
had been compelled at last by death itself to surrender
his unrelenting life-long vigil:
While Sir Fornos lived
the Old Man could always depend on his unfailing warrior
to challenge all who dared trespass
the overgrown mansion's weedier and ever-inviolate gate.
Never the less, the death of the Old Man's shining cavalier
was much too sudden, for Brian, too unexpected,
even though it was one of those natural normal turns
gives the straight & narrow (life) all its directions
(yet they are almost never possible to take without
a painful scrape, those turns)...
The Old Man had been ingloriously deserted, too,
no doubt of that: his champion succumbed not under warlike arms
in loud defence of his liege
but in quiet surrender (if to a greater lord,
still) under the peaceful arms of sleep
--Life's last and perhaps harshest betrayal.
Forsaken by his incorruptibly steadfast knight,
the Old Man was now truly defenseless before the world
--Worse, delivered up to "the charitable mercy" of those
"venerable, respectable" Middle Neighborhood peers.
Brian only learned of the brave knight's so sudden fall
after arriving home from his regular Wednesday route
(then only because his grandmother was in the habit of
combing through the obituaries).
Even as he read it with his own eyes he could scarcely believe it:
Yes, it was his own exalted yet familiar paymaster Sir Fornos
who had died "Very peacefully, in bed..." over the weekend
--According to the paper's embarrassingly obscure three lines
ditched in a back page along with a dozen other nameless fallen
--But how could he have been dead four days already
without Brian knowing it!?
He recalled having been paid as usual on Friday last
by that same Sir Fornos in person
(so he couldn't have died very long after that).
"Then," wondered Brian: "Who could have
picked up the newspapers?" (he had continued to deliver
during the intervening days).
He knew he didn't have the courage to stop his deliveries
to the Old Man's now even more deadly still house
on his own initiative, much less actually go in and ask --Who?!--
in that house (what he ought to do).
So he continued his usual delivery of papers
while he waited for someone in authority to tell him
how it all stood: each morning, as usual,
making his bosky way through Middle Neighborhood
to the Old Man's house to deliver his paper.
Only now also trying to measure the least, smallest details
within the bounds of that property
(which furtive glances might collect
from even the very quietness of the place),
trying to spot those slight differences that might betray the presence
of any living soul, maybe even the yet unseen Old Man.
In vain: Brian never spotted any sign of life near the house
(except for the fact that every paper he delivered
continued to be removed from where he left it
by some unseen someone--to his way of thinking,
definite proof that he ought not to discontinue his deliveries).
* * * * *
By the time the next Friday scheduled
for collection of his dues came around
Brian had convinced himself the Old Man must have
hired somebody else to carry on his late retainer's duties.
As he reluctantly approached the house that dreadful Friday
he could see it still showed no outwardly obvious signs
that anything out of the ordinary had taken place there
--certainly not a death:
As soon as he reached the great hedge,
he again confirmed to himself that the unknown someone
indeed had been out there and picked up the previous day's newspaper
(even then no one had yet contacted the newspaper itself
to cancel the subscription). But although he
had never personally laid eyes on the mysterious Old Man
(so when it came down to it
he really didn't know anything at all about him),
the idea of that overly-reclusive old gentleman upstairs
stooping to so mundane a chore
as picking up a newspaper in his front yard somehow struck him
as suburbanly unrealistic, even somehow impractical.
Then a still more far-fetched thought overtook Brian
as he brought his bike to a halt at the usual spot
behind the towering hedge that Friday,
hesitating there a moment, breathing a sigh of regret
beyond his own conscious understanding:
For a split second he debated whether
--unlike what everyone had been led to believe--
whether the fabled Old Man had ever even really existed at all.
Undiscovered as yet, Brian gathered his nerve
and followed his customary path behind the tall hedge
towards the dreaded side entrance,
trying with every step to imagine who he might come upon
in front of that ornate door that Friday
in place of the familiar Sir Fornos.
All around him his senses could practically feel the weight
of so much nothing being different.
Yet something was different this day:
He almost immediately began to sense that much
even from as far away as that all-concealing hedge
behind which he usually stopped to
toss his paper over into the garden.
When he really thought about it
there really wasn't any reason to expect to find anyone there
at all, but he couldn't help feeling someone was
on the other side of the hedge that very moment,
perhaps even waiting especially just for him.
He slowly rode the rubber of his whispering bike wheels
along the bastion hedge ringing like a monstrous snake
the whole extent of the Old Man's property,
noiselessly unsuspected, towards the hedged gate
which always looked to him like a dragon's huge mouth
(only more so just then), apprehensively,
thinking a million unreigned thoughts,
till he was finally able to catch sight of the familiar
Gothic side entrance
where he had grown used to finding Mister Fornos.
"God!" this time he really dreaded going there.
Worse: he was convinced he'd have to knock on
the imposing door and confront whoever opened it.
Maybe even the Old Man himself!
... The thought excited him, though,
his foreboding momentarily mastered by the anticipation
as he realized he might finally even get to sneak a look
inside the shuttered old mansion.
Suddenly his reverie was interrupted by a loud volley of laughs!
Shocked that anyone would so vulgarly
violate that hallowed place,
Brian turned in the direction of the laughter
and found himself looking upon the most unexpected,
There, on what until so recently had been
the world's most private secluded grounds (in his imagination
always a magical primitive woodland)
Middle Neighborhood's most preeminent squires
were holding some sort of social gathering
more celebration than obsequies
--One which Brian from the very first looks of it
got the most awful feeling
would have been much better suited to some public picnic grounds!
Obviously no solemn wake for the warrior knight
--He recognized at once a great many of the men there:
Doctor Nolan was there.
And that investment banker par excellence Mister Tourney
there also apparently having taken up gardening!
He could even see the 'indecently successful' Mister Feders
in the near distance to a fault playing the part of
the well-tamed suburbanite
and actually preparing some sort of hot meal
for the rest of his colleagues!
Even that tradesman ennobled
by an old-fashioned touch of gold
Mister Clarence Hampton was there: Brian could see him
to one side having a go at
some quite ordinary house carpentry!
He tried to imagine any of those august personages
actually volunteering to personally help out with
an ailing neighbor's "chores"
but it was something just too far-fetched
to be seriously considered.
Nothing made any sense there as far as Brian was concerned.
Those normally high-hatted, imperious leading citizens's
sudden warm neighborliness
made the still unnoticed Brian so ill at ease
that he found himself skulking along cold-bloodedly
behind the great hedge
as eager to remain undiscovered as some poor
honest soul fallen amongst thieves
--Especially when he knew that Feders paid a young man from
Brian's own people on a regular basis
(a fairly substantial amount) to come all the way to
Middle Neighborhood and work on the Feders's own yard!
Unsettled by the disconcerting gathering
of so unallied a group of individuals,
Brian felt as weird as if he'd stumbled
upon a bevy of unicorns.
However, "How cheap can you get!" he yet fumed,
a gut reaction, momentarily distracted
by the fact that none of the jobs were in the hands of
bona fide working people--like those of his own clan
--He couldn't stop marvelling that even the good doctor
should be doing some needy handyman out of honest work.
Then Brian's great angst was numbingly cut short
by someone mentioning 'death!'
... The word hung like an undying echo above him.
He had been interrupted by that unimpeachable attorney-at-law
The Right Honorable Bernard Blanchard
(from whom Brian would have never imagined a smile
as brazen as the one he could then see on his face).
One of the proud barons had cracked an inside joke
and all of them were again laughing.
Blanchard added to the subject:
"Those who die intestate forfeit all to the state--"
which left Brian wondering if it could have been a sign
that the Old Man himself had died.
"Who is the state!" Blanchard quizzically continued,
more statement than question,
while the other peers nodded as if agreeing with
an answer Brian never perceived anyone there had given.
Again they laughed, including even the usually so reticent
Mister Tourney, apparently they all recognized a joke
encapsulated somewhere in that ungiven answer.
Just then, before Brian could even begin to attempt to
recover his senses, the respectable Mister Henry W. Porter
suddenly stepped into the garden almost stumbling over himself
as well as over the prize he was dragging out of
the Old Man's house to show them.
"Look!" he cried like a conquistador
leaping drunk with plunder off the wall of some pillaged pueblo:
"Will you look at this!" prancing like an arrogant child
in front of the others (who quickly joined him),
boldly showing off the booty he had just spirited
out of the Old Man's home.
"My God," Doctor Nolan said, in his support
shaking an unctuous smile of wonder and satisfaction
at the unusualness of the item:
"It should be in some antique shop!"
Then all the rest of them mustered equal amounts of
well-disposed wonder around Porter and his booty.
Blanchard was absolutely certain his maternal grandmother
had owned "One just like it!" But, "I don't imagine there's
anything remotely that antique left anywhere in the world
outside of a museum!" inducing them all to more laughter.
To Brian's understanding: a laughter as remote from reason
as if they had been madmen howling in the asylum.
Not knowing what to make of these surprising
so unwarily there 'playing' at weekend suburbanites
and common artisans, Brian cast a probing eye
full of dread over the whole extent of that so recently
proscribed property's first ever open house:
Most of the windows & doors of the shuttered mansion
had been thrown open from within
as if by some explosive inner release
--the first time he could remember ever seeing many of them
open at all... now, try as he might, he could find
nothing shut down or closed up:
Even that previously pristinely unkempt lawn
seemed everywhere fiercely, brutally tamed,
everywhere picked clean of its venerable wicker wonders,
everywhere neatly potmarked with recently excavated holes
apparently as suddenly abandoned to their gaping fate
--all of them looking meekly resigned to the rape of
maybe commercial plants some nursery had yet to deliver?
... Brian argued against his own better sense, worst fears,
while other undoubtedly as prominent aristocrats
as those in the group immediately before Brian
could also be heard somewhere within the house itself
clumsily hammering along the
once inviolate inner sanctum of the mansion.
It was as if Brian had fallen into some impossible
fantasy world full of unrecognizable, unpredictable rules of logic!
(Were the men there not the world's best citizens?)
But they looked to him like pirates then,
pirates tearing up a ship they'd doomed to the bottom
in a last minute frantic search for hidden treasure
(before the sea's imminent ultimate victory)
too avaricious even for their own safety,
and absolutely oblivious to even the remotest possibility that
someone might stumble upon their piracy.
But not even all this prepared Brian for what he came upon next
amidst that eerily posthumous house-warming,
as, turning suddenly around, he found himself face to face
with the legendary being he had speculated so much about all his life
but never actually seen in person with his own eyes
until that very instant
--Yes, unquestionably the fabled Old Man
there before him, prone helplessly upon a wheelchair
itself so frail it seemed dangerously over-burdened even by
the small weight of the thin body
twisted over it almost inhumanly.
Intensely bright with awe, Brian's young eyes fixed upon
the emaciated dim figure of the Old Man
at last revealed to him in such a stark shocking way.
He had never laid eyes on him until that very moment,
yet, somehow, he'd instantly known it could be no one else
--There he was now! So close to him that
had he wished he could've stretched out his hand
and touched him.
But so pitiful did the old fellow seem, so poignantly forlorn
among those noisy rude picnickers
(like some useless tattered rag someone had carelessly
thrown away utterly, scornfully on that wheelchair
itself a discarded relic from some vanished world), so ignored
Brian could almost smell it:
He seemed like a tiny trembling creature under
the shoe of an unmerciful, cruel child.
For an instant he wondered whether he was even alive:
But he must have been dozing.
His listless head nestled in his chest like a cowering shame,
dropped low enough that the face was just about completely
concealed from Brian.
He tried comparing that overrun mortal carcass, cruel remains
of a once true man's actual shape
now twisted over that wheelchair
against the image he had created in his mind
of an incomparable Golden Age demigod
apparently long ago condemned to this too human world
to suffer & perish by the corrupting touch of
its everywhere Everything
--But he was unable to square away that sad ragged remnant
of humanity before his eyes
with the picture of strength he had over time built up
in his imagination about the legend
--His eyes could see nothing before him but a lonely broken
hostage to the drunken celebration of his captors:
a shrivelled singularity of wrinkles
battered by the gusting jokes of his boorish neighbors,
that "gang of cut-throats over a wounded man," he thought
angrily, mentally cursing them for "finding so much pleasure
in kicking their defenseless victim!"
The only snatch of solace he could find was but
in the supposition that, after all, if anything went wrong medically
with that paltry old man there
(seemingly always just over the high crest of his final heartbeat)
... well, Doctor Nolan was in attendance wasn't he?
Cynical laughter again forced him to turn,
fearing he'd been found out--But, no: He hadn't,
at least, not yet: the noise, though, had apparently roused the prisoner
of the wheelchair who then slowly, painfully
righted his trembling head in what was obviously
a Herculean effort to discover who was standing in front of him--
Once the Old Man fully righted his head
Brian found himself studying an expression upon that cadaverous
face across which almost audibly ripped a gaping horror
as shocking to the young boy as if
the Old Man had awaken to find Death itself standing in front of him
instead of a poor frightened paperboy
himself so gript by the sheer stupor of his fright that
the most unearthly sensation started overwhelming him
(Brian began to feel as if he was some remote dispassionate onlooker
somehow untouched by it all as he coldly analyzed
every trauma seared into that grim visage):
He heard himself asking himself like some eerie
philosophical abstraction whether "those discolorations there..."
might be but the benign inevitable skin blemishes of
old age, or maybe... "Bruises!?"
perhaps sensible evidence of some brutal secretly administered
beating--? Confused, self-conscious,
tripping over his own fears,
Brian could have sworn he even noticed something flash across
that blotched face (a face he knew he had never seen before,
yet one) in which he could now suddenly recognize
something all too eerily familiar (even though he knew not what).
But maybe it was only a deep-felt reflection of his own humanity?
mortality? flashing instantaneous (thankfully: passing)
over that wrinkled, barely human expression
--Maybe the Child come face to face with
the unspeakable inevitable--What?! "The unreality of,"
possibly a revealing cosmic insight
into "the Unknown's most mortal part, maybe,"
maybe, maybe--the mind thinks, the mind thinks always
... He prayed it was only the sheer fright they'd both shared
for that instant (warped reflection upon
some insanely impossible mirror), and not some
more Apocalyptic revelation hovering above the
--as time went by-- more & more resigned horror
on the old man's thin face,
hollow eyes burning deeply into him
like an unsettling premonition or mad curse.
Something about his gripping stare terrified Brian
to the very soul, making him imagine he'd caught a frenzied glimpse
of his very own self there in that sunken look of old age before him
like a bottomless pool, seizing him as if never to let go, not ever...
Time out of mind passed while they remained like that,
motionless, staring at one another, exchanging--What?
(Brian couldn't even begin to imagine.)
Then, unexpectedly, trembling folds of skin
which once might have firmly styled themselves fingers
slowly began extending towards him out of a sleeve
(Brian could have sworn was empty)
of the Old Man's gown weighed with unbearable age:
To his dismay, Brian discovered he was too frozen with shock
to back away by even a single step
from their incomprehensible approaching menace.
Soon he was conscious of the Old Man's frail grip
on his arm, in his flushed disquiet imagining it a veritable steel vise
though he could easily look down and see the Old Man's
thin, moonlight-bleached fingers struggling just
merely to keep his shaking hand draped over his arm
with what must have been a very great effort indeed.
All at once he perceived the Old Man's straining voice:
"Help me!" (like a half-choked sob). He had spoken to him!
The two faint words were as tenuous as
if Brian had himself picked them right out of the Old Man's thoughts
and hadn't been uttered out loud at all
--So dusty with age were they
Brian had to talk himself into the conviction those had indeed
been the words the Old Man had spoken
--After which, as if it had taken the Old Man
a lifetime of effort to gather the strength to speak
those (perhaps even last) two words,
his mouth gruesomely twisted open:
he began breathing hard, like a drowning man,
all the while never ceasing to stare at Brian, never letting go
of his arm, never letting go of his eyes!
At first that cracked, gravelly whisper (clearly once a voice,
now so roughly filed away by his years to a savage strain)
hadn't even registered as human.
Brian was unsure he hadn't heard the two words
only in his own mind.
It almost immediately began to seem impossible
the old man before him could've even had the energy
to utter them at all, much less throb them out
(the way they'd registered in his mind) flushed
with such an indescribable rush of desperation
in that begging voice
they still echoed in his ears!
Maybe he'd just been too numbed
by the sight of that Old Man like a living corpse
on that wheelchair.
But the Old Man had given it all he had
and it'd registered, to the depths of Brian's soul!
Another explosive round of laughter behind him abruptly
broke the spell--He didn't have to wait until he turned
to know that this time he had been found out!
"What did he say?"
Mister Hampton was suddenly demanding of Brian
with a growl, tearing him from the Old Man's feeble grasp
as if it'd been some big feat.
Brian somehow found the strength to back away from him,
if but by half a step, but to his chagrin
he discovered he couldn't muffle the Old Man's plea
still echoing in his memory--Because of it
he could barely understand or even so much as hear what
Hampton was saying to him.
But, his eyes meeting Hampton's, the boy knew
he just wasn't emotionally prepared to deal with this
unusual, surprising rudeness:
It almost bordered upon brutality, especially like that,
in someone he never would have expected it from.
"Did he say something?" Blanchard next wanted to know,
as he pulled Brian away from Hampton's stronger hold,
not without some difficulty.
His manner might not have been quite as rough as Hampton's,
but it appeared to Brian Blanchard was trying to stare him down!
After a moment which for Brian seemed to last forever
Hampton again 'rescued' him (this time from Blanchard):
"Sorry," Hampton told the boy, with the brusqueness
of someone who might be himself demanding
rather than offering an apology.
"Boy," Doctor Nolan then spoke, gently turning him around
by his shoulders: "Did you hear him say something?"
A decidedly mellower tone in the sequence
--almost solicitously: "Did the old gentleman speak to you?"
Deep down Brian knew he desperately wanted
to be able to answer them, to cooperate with the pirates,
to say something, anything--In their eyes
he was convinced he could read the promise that
they would stop at nothing--But he was too petrified
to even offer them the simplest yes/no:
On top of which, faced with the suddenness of
his having been found out by the blood-thirsty gang,
Brian could only stare back in terror
and pray he might yet be able to escape with his life!
"Are you worried about the old gentleman?"
Doctor Nolan went on, trying to reassure him: "Is that it?"
But at that moment Brian couldn't have answered had be wanted
(and stealing a glance at the hideous look of horror
on the face of the trembling prisoner of the wheelchair,
he wasn't sure just what his next move really ought to be):
"But, don't worry, my boy," continued the good doctor,
like a cat licking the mouse: "We'll take good care of him!"
"Yes," Mister Tourney asserted then, cool and business-like:
"And... no more newspapers, boy!" an overly friendly smile
trying all-out to break then over his sober face--but in vain:
"The old gentleman is no longer interested in matters current--"
After which he turned away from Brian,
serving clear notice he would tolerate no follow-ups.
"We'll take excellent care of him," Doctor Nolan added:
"In his last days--" as if it didn't matter whether he was overheard
by the Old Man in the wheelchair--who, after all, was
right there within ear-shot.
It even appeared to Brian that Doctor Nolan wanted
the Old Man to hear him--so unconcerned was he,
so unconcerned were they all
about laying bare their scorn before the world!
And, "Don't worry about the digs, kid,"
someone else added (maybe even trying to be funny):
"We're only trying to see if we can find
where the bodies are burried."
Which was followed by scattered laughs.
Such obvious callowness touched Brian hauntingly
to the depths of his own humanity,
to the point of physical pain. He couldn't help cringing:
Which heartened him to an almost superhuman effort
and, as lightning quick as only the young can be,
Brian freed himself of whoever last had got hold of him
(by then he had lost track of just who that was).
Before any of the men could do anything about it
he was pushing his bike away as fast as he could,
and already half way to making good his escape,
when... "Hey!" one of the terrible barons yelled after him.
But Brian wasn't about to stop to find out who it had been:
He looked back only after he'd reached the comparative safety
of the outer barrier hedge and was safely astride his faithful bike,
ready to race it away.
There at the place he usually stopped to fling his paper
into the Old Man's garden he paused at last, but only long enough
to toss one fast & final hard look over the whole thing behind him:
Surprisingly, the swarming conquerors didn't even seem
concerned that he was getting away (most of them
had already gone back to whatever they'd been up to).
That was all right with Brian.
His eyes fell on the Old Man in the wheelchair...
Alone, only that pathetic old man still seemed fixed on him,
his plea still echoing in his memory: ("Help me!")
But, what could Brian do?!
He couldn't help himself. After all, those august citizens
were the authorities, police, "The whole chibang!"
Apologetically, Brian tried to make the Old Man understand this
with an emphatic expression of helplessness.
But the Old Man never gave any indication he understood:
he continued gasping as before, staring back at him
while he drowned:
That was the image that remained burning in Brian's young mind
as he peddled away growing ever-progressively overwhelmed
by an ever-increasing feeling of almost unbearable
gratefulness at being alive!... just being alive
... the always thinking mind always thinking
... Finding that (finally, as he put more and more distance
between himself and the whole insanity),
that he was slowly but definitely, definitely
finding, more & more, that the previously so intense image
was steadily, steadily burning itself out
... until almost to nothing!
And then finally there came an instant
when indeed nothing remained of it but
a fuzzy bit of distant recollection, at last, perhaps
even only a figment of his own imagination
--It had been so unreal, improbable, so unbelievable
that surely "It must have been only this!" he told himself
to the old familiar and comforting music
of his creaky bike pedals.
Somehow he knew he would never again look upon
the Old Man on the wheelchair, "Not ever!"
he kept telling himself:
"Anyways," that Old Man just didn't seem like he had
another half hour of life left in him
... the always thinking mind always thinking... even though,
to tell truth, try as he might
Brian could never quite completely exorcise
from his imagination the sight of that Old Man in the wheelchair
--that Friday morning he had gone by his house
with the intention of, but, in the end, having never collected
payment for his newspapers--not quite completely.
* * * * *
Of course, the world doesn't stop to time the last few final
minutes of an old man's life.
Brian went ahead and finished that day's deliveries,
and the following day's, and days, days...
In no time at all he was hearing rumors that the good,
conscientious leading citizens of shady Middle Neighborhood
had finally been forced to have the Old Man in the wheelchair
institutionalized--for his own good, of course.
There was even a mention in the papers that
a thorough search had been made
of "the last castle on earth to fall"
(for the bodies of additional victims);
although none had been found "so far."
For Brian it hadn't all been a total loss, either:
Yes, he might have had to write off the Old Man's unpaid bill,
but not long afterwards Brian literally stuck
his hand into one of the Wasteland's trash piles
and pulled free of it a priceless treasure
which compensated him many times over & above
the dues he'd had to replace (out of his own pocket)
to keep his job: A knight's glittering ivory-handled Salamanca
Sword he raised victoriously against the overhead Sun
to a shout of triumph that surely must have practically dubbed him
Cavalier of The Light, at least, the world's last knight-errant,
or maybe its very first one! And then he immediately set forth
doughtily upon his first daunting adventure
across the Wasteland.
Middle Neighborhood had yet to produce
its own native paper boy
--Oh, someday it might, but
that was none of his concern--
Raising his shiny new Salamanca Sword
in a spur-of-the-moment gesture
Brian solemnly vowed then & there to selflessly
dedicate the rest of his life
to the founding of the next great Golden Age,
or to its resurrection:
If he worked hard enough--Who knows!
For a boy hailing from the sun-baked barren
Urban Netherlands pushing the Wasteland,
that might truly be his future all & all... along with,
of course, the present sheer mindless pleasure of racing
a creaky, papers-laden bike down Middle Neighborhood's
foliage-muffled lanes, so richly tree-lined, so cushioned
& cooled with the sound of soft breezes
--against the meaningless harsh murmurs
of too busy a modern life
--all the time pumping tottery pedals up pathways
which an always-thinking young mind could turn inward
always thinking without the slightest effort or worry
... the mind (thinking all the time, always) upon every least detail
across which it came or which crossed its path.
* * * * *
After the death of the pitiful Old Man in the wheelchair,
everyone was forced to shed yet another tear
when, at the instigation of the respectable
Middle Neighborhood grandees (now
their world's unchallenged protectors)
it was discovered that for untold years prior to his own death
that villainous domestic of his, Mister Fornos
had actually been systematically looting the estate
of the helpless and infirm Old Man
--A fact which was fully documented
by the very same law firm
that had previously handled the Old Man's affairs
(mainly through the mysterious criminal himself)
and which now handled the affairs of
a number of Middle Neighborhood aristocrats.
This unsettling discovery
naturally made Brian realize that Fornos the criminal,
the looter, the cheat
could never possibly have been of his people or clan.
Not long afterwards came the still more shocking revelation
that even the Old Man in the wheelchair had himself
not been the legitimate owner of the great Golden Age manor
in which he had lived from time immemorial:
It seems that the authentic last living member of
the Golden Age family which had built that house
had either died or (it was feared) perhaps had even been
murdered! many years before;
although because so many years had passed
the authorities never were able to produce the body of
their postulated victim.
No matter: Fornos's accursed name
everafter became synonymous with everything that was evil:
He had undoubtedly installed that person in the wheelchair,
whoever he might really have been,
in place of the legitimate master of that tragic house
to keep control of the estate to himself:
All decent and honest men and women of Middle Neighborhood
were properly stunned that such a dissembler
had for so long escaped detection right in their midst!
It sent chills up many a matron
to realize that every one of the crimes carried out against
that noble House
had been committed by a fiendish life-long retainer--
"Who knows what servants mightn't be capable of!"
"Small wonder," ran the popular opinion
of the respectable Middle Neighborhood landed gentry
who had naturally always known that no mere tenant
ever properly looks after a property like its legitimate proprietor:
"Small wonder neither the Old Man in the wheelchair
nor his accomplice Mister" (what a joke that made!) "Fornos,"
the archtraitor passing himself off as a butler, "
... Showed any true pride in the property!"
No one ever discovered if 'Fornos' had been the monster's
real name. And neither did anyone care
what it really might have been.
As for the Old Man in the wheelchair,
whether Fornos's unwitting victim or his devilish accomplice,
one thing the authorities determined
was that apparently having played the part
of the legitimate owner so many years, in the end
the poor old fellow could not be dissuaded from the delusion
that he really had been the legitimate master
& owner of that ancient house.
Though, thankfully, this did not deter him
from signing a quite legally valid confession
of his life-long criminal deception.
After his death,
who that wretched old criminal in the wheelchair had been
was never explored either. The truth of the matter was
that after such a string of shocking revelations,
and the disposition of all of "his" property,
not very many people really cared to listen to much more.
But things do always have a way of working out for the best:
It soon became clear that because it was no longer possible
to ascertain exactly into whose hands and/or what
future unsuspected heirs all that property might legally fall,
whether the Old Man's or anyone else',
the state was now free to dispose of it as quickly as it saw fit,
and to finally raze that decayed old house
so caked with dust down to the dust to dust--
Which the state quickly enough did,
eventually raising in its place a fine beautiful new one,
a truly up-to-the-minute modern home
... not exactly on the very same foundations
of the demolished one but a bit farther from the street,
just a few little inches more towards the Wasteland
--though never enough of them that anybody'd notice--
to "accommodate more aristocratic gardens,"
and at long last the "horrid old house"
those two criminals had literally run to the ground
turned up a 'proper' modern residence in
and of Middle Neighborhood.
In fact it soon became the pride of the whole place,
putting the finishing touches upon the barons's self-image
as the World's first true race of house-builders...
Within the year another great family of nouveau noblemen
had moved in (and all of them bona fide true members
of that latest race of "greater & greater" giants over the earth).
But by then Brian wasn't giving these 'peripheral' events
much thought. Neither did he give much thought to
how & why that Golden Age Old Man had come to be
the mere old man in the wheelchair he was in the end,
a pitiful lunatic, a common criminal
--By now something entirely new had taken hold
of Brian's interest:
Ever since he had come into possession of
that so striking Salamanca Sword of his
he was becoming increasingly convinced that
sometime down the line
he wouldn't at all mind moving into
shady Middle Neighborhood himself
even if to do so he might have to marry his fair, fair lady
(the rich Nolan brat): Who knows
--He might even get to a position someday
to start pushing some of those current
staid Middle Neighborhood residents... his cold,
cold steel pointing their tarnished way to The Plank!
for the worst of them. Certainly, no one was going to deny
that the good blue-collar working people of
his own lean neighborhood
were much more deserving of a better situation
than these evil white-collar fat thieves.
But, if he was ever going to be serious about such a Life-Quest
(Brian soberly realized) he'd have to get a
much better-paying job than peddling papers!
And that was a hurdle he'd have to clear without being laid low
by the rattly weight of that good & proper
God-fearing work machine of his
--He'd have to start out by consecrating
his devilishly difficult mission in life
with the junking of his creaky old workhorse,
and at the 46th Avenue vacant lot, where, in any event,
most things unwanted in the Middle Neighborhood
eventually ended up
--Fantasy being made to entertain the mind
with sounds, sights, scents & secret passions,
with... Reality: There, now,
carefully combing through the broken pieces
of the Wasteland's busted inventory
Brian discovered that some unknown someone
had carted off his Grail! (the remains
of that ancient Golden Age bicycle which he had
so carefully concealed): It made him angry
--After all, it was his loot!
He kicked himself mentally:
That ancient relic might have been a valuable antique,
maybe even worth a lot of money
(one read about such things in the papers all the time).
Upon his mighty steel foil he vowed redress
of that additional injustice... moving from trash pile to trash pile
admiring the mountains of Golden Age furniture
recently discarded there after the two criminal
conspirators' private deaths and the public disposition of
all that last bit of Golden Age property
... marvelling how anyone could possibly have put up
with such moldering fossils!
One item, however, did give him pause:
A rusting, almost antediluvian wheelchair
--a real Golden Age monstrosity with which someone
had crowned one of the Wasteland's piles of rubbish:
Amazingly, the junked fossil still showed signs of
having been a grand, expensive Golden Age 'contraption.'
It must have surely been one lively curiosity in its day,
maybe the fanciest gilded, maybe, maybe, maybe
--Here an awful feeling brought Brian's speeding train of thoughts
to a halt, having reminded him of that late, that
almost unholy 'Old Man,' now so obligingly disappeared
from the face of the earth
along with the last few traces of the faded "Golden Age" legend--
But, "Enough!" That wasn't why he was there that day
--He was there to lay down the burden
of his own exhausted work bike,
which ever so solemnly he then ceremoniously laid to rest
at the exact spot where he had once found that other
now forever unwon Golden Age Grail.
It deeply pained him to do it:
That old work bike of his had been like a living promise
to put within his reach a whole new world
--if he but got on it & got going there
--And in so many ways it had kept the promise.
But Brian had to move on and up! In any case,
he was probably much more reluctant to junk the idea of it
than the thing itself: Now
if a discarded bicycle was ever to be unearthed again
there at the 46th Avenue vacant lot
it would be Brian's:
Without access to free spare parts,
he just couldn't see how he could save that rattling
timeworn workhorse of his from the junk heap:
That was what he was really doing there
at the Wasteland that day.
It was late by the time he finished his sad but necessary duty.
Brian knew he could spare no time on his way back home.
He stayed just long enough to file away in his memory
the location of that motheaten skeleton of a wheelchair,
though, without giving it that much thought, not really:
Oh, it might yet be worth something to somebody, someday.
Or, in case--just only in case, mind you--in case it should ever
come to pass that he himself might need to cannibalize it
for spare parts.
Of course, not that he planned on growing old that poor,
or miserly. His were truly valiant hopes, noble dreams, lofty plans
--Yet, he also had to consider: Was he not
a poor mortal soul too? like so many others
(who shall remain nameless): What if he too
never quite made it high enough to suit his deathless wear?
and someday he found himself in need of a wheelchair
(one day, say) and the creaky old worn-out wheelchair
he then owned... began falling apart (one day)
years & years into that unpredictable future which
just might not always go in the one desirable direction
but actually fall away sideways
or even altogether backwards into the unendurable past
(no matter how golden). And, naturally, of course,
if ever--so unlikely, of course, so unchivalrously,
so unfortunately--if ever he found himself grown that old.
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