Wednesday, November 5, 2008

October 2007 page 2

Grass Sprouts

by Dave Besseling

 Grass sprouts from between incongruent paving slabs leading to the 
front stoop of the white house (well, it used to be white) a tasteless attempt 
at displaying a sense of taste with the materials available. 
 Crabgrass has jockeyed and won on what once could have been a                 
 tender patch of front yard typicality. 
 The porch hasn’t been painted since the son 
                of the houses’ first family 
went off to get blown up and sent home in no less than four pieces and lord 
knows what kind of nocturnal scavengers had appropriated the space    
on the edge of the veranda you could see where someone had cut two semi-
circular holes to get the lawnmower handle as far under there as it possibly                     
                                 could reach.
Back when people cared about this town, when it had a few factories 
and a modicum of promise, when it had dreams and pinned requests on the 
stars like every other growing animate thing. 
 Diffident in the face of destinies, 
 willing to stare itself in the face,
 back when the tenants of the white house cut the grass and put logs in                  
                                 the fireplace.

 Spring-exposed couches adorned the flanks of the sagging wood. 
     The studs underneath just a little too far apart than they should
 The couches placed close to the edges so the whole fucking thing 
    wouldn’t collapse and turn the porches sagging, unobtrusive smile into a                
                                grimace for the unapproving neighbours to see. 
 Generations of children stomping in and out of the house,
   and unshovelled snow assuring that time would loll the parallel view 
of the thing into a despondent grin of an overborne silent 
                                                       member of the family. 
 The veranda we traipse upon. 
 Used, abused, and never asked to share its eavesdropped secrets 
                                                        or its silent pleas.. 

 Scattered amber bottles left brown patches on the grass that because 
of them receive no sunlight. 
 No one cares about the bottles’ own feelings of neglect. 
          Their stoic plight.

 Used and abused to facilitate the telling of the secrets between 
midnight’s children, who talk as if any of their shit actually mattered. In the 
morning, over bacon and eggs, even they wondered if it really did.

 !The bucolic alcoholism that must have taken place on this porch 
when the weather permitted the donning of meshbacks and pit-stained 
wifebeaters to lull away an evening and toss beer bottles onto the lawn!
 The lost philosophies, moments of hazy clarity and curious prurient 
verbal jousts spurned forth by teenage-grade ecstasy pills surging 
 through bloodstreams, 
 only to be overcome by the repression of the beer battalions sent to 
repress their uppity schemes. 
 It’s a particular gloss to the eye with this particular combination of 
drugs, then Deaner drops by with his bag of particularly good grass he’s driven 
back with from B.C. 

 Bucolic alcoholism in the middle of downtown ************. Hah!

 See, you’d expect this kind of thing in *****, out there in the sticks 
with the tipsy chimps that put gas on bonfires and fix rusty cars on their 
Sundays. But down here the decent folks accentuate their staggered 
flagstones with plastic bumblebees with wings that spin in the wind, and 
chimes that clink tunes the way only the drunks next door in the white house 
could make tops or tail of. 
 It was always beer o’clock there in those days on the porch of the 
white house. Us bums. 
    The good people worked their jobs to save 
         for storm windows and paved deriveways.
                                   Maybe a Lay-Z-Boy. 
 They played passive patriot with the little maple leaf on the railing 
leading up to their front door bought beside the checkout at Canadian Tire. 
 If you ask them why they do it I’m not sure they’ll be able to give you           
           an answer anymore
beyond some sort of robotic chirping, but this isn’t the States- they probably 
wouldn’t spit on your shoes for asking, but maybe ask you to help them 
inside with the groceries. Frozen peas on sale this week. Did you notice the 
driveway? It’s so black. Just had ‘er done this spring.
 The white house didn’t have a driveway 
just two dusty tracks sunk into the space beside the kitchen window. 
It was like God came by with his rolled-up empyrean brown bill and took         
                                             two great lines of blow, 
leaving the scorched earth behind for Pete to park his pick-up. Fresh from a 
shift at the pipe factory and the mandatory stop at The Beer Store.

 The off-white blow consumed in this house tasted like aspirin most of 
the time, and there weren’t too many brown bills going around; just rolled up 
pieces of notebook paper and torn pages from Penguin Classics that 
would sit on shelves and never be read. Some transient dilettante having 
been to the used bookshops on Water Street 
        and made a half hearted attempt at Dostoyevsky, Wilde or maybe 
Bram Stoker to hope for a piggyback on the film’s imagery; this is what    
   passes for high culture in the Kawartha contingency.

 This stained white house is the rue of everyone else on the street that 
carves out their niche in a town with low pay and high booze tax. 
                                 They, the men that is, 
 dejectedly saunter (or more likely, drive their Acadians or K-cars) 
home from a day at the bank, the mall, the plant, or if they’re lucky, the pub. 
On Sundays, noon is when they come home 
     with the same sour puss from church. 
                                 In this irish-catholic town, that’s the rub.

 They do their best- these stoic bastions of accepted and tiered 
normalcy, goodness, virtue and the Canadian Way; they clip Loblaw’s 
coupons for canned corn as the wives idle the days washing dishes and 
rearranging the China cabinet. They drink Bailey’s at Christmas time and 
sneak thimbles of Schnapps for the rest. 

 Just down the road was the park, where shifty-eyed night stalkers 
would shimmy the stone embankment with their shoulder-tapped bottles of 
Bacardi and skin zig-zag blasters, 
             doobies and gaggers, 
 to do nothing but that for it’s own sake. 
 The town had numerous hovels and hideaways 
 where the young swine could congregate for a few weeks on end until 
the fuzz got wind of it. There was that park, the infamous and aptly labeled  
                               Paranoia Park, 
the deep trails of ******* Park, 
                     ******** Oval and the Speedway. 
 It was a wash, rinse, repeat cycle that kept the pigs on their toes and 
what kept the inter high school communication alive. The white house being 
the rendezvous if any sirens were heard approaching the mobile drug den.
 Who would you meet in the reeds by the ********  River with a few 
beers to swap a glass of rum or whiskey with? Who would have a joint?  
 A quiet pipe? 
 Who would have the balls to dive into the raging current behind the    
      power station to prove an ephemeral yet momentarily salient point?
 During the day it was risky but common enough to see longhaired 
shirtless boys plunging into the whitecaps and scampering up to the opposite 
shore. But at night when it was a red-eyed dare, it was different, and your 
heart beat a little faster as you cupped your balls and jumped.
   ...And if you had a car; 
 you could get to ***** Hill, 
                         ****** Hill 
 or sit in the parking lots of elementary schools on the edges of town 
after the last of the janitors had swept, cleaned and locked up. 
                                                  Wiped the toilet seats down.

 This assured more privacy, and if you were with a girl, you wouldn’t 
give your schedule away to just anyone, your mates no less,
 it was a surreptitious endeavour-
                   cars with collapsible backseats were best. 

 For the transient droppers by and interlopers of the white house who 
never took their shoes off, 
 the first park was the favourite due to its proximity to the white house 
 There was a wooden bridge that caused many a gash down the bridge 
of the nose to those who mistook its wideness for generosity. The local 
contractors that built the thing must have held the previous post of cleaning 
up the public spaces the youngins of the town had been using for their 
ceremonial depravity, and engineered the wood planks to be just far enough 
apart for someone under the influence of whatever was around to get their 
shoelace or sometimes their whole Converse low-cut caught between them. 
Those vengeful fascists.
 It still escapes me how 
 the average law-abiding families that lived in earshot of the white 
house let our shenanigans go on for as long as they did. Our usual answer         
         was we just used different drugs than they did. 
 They were more of the gameshow/valium breed. 
 Whatever it took to  
                                         hide the fact they gave up the need 
 a long time ago, 
 while we were raging at the great unmeaning 
 while we still had the strength. 
 Our insistence on consumed volumes of non-sustainable substance        
                 must have come form a deep unease 
that we very may well be living in one of their houses after they kill 
themselves, have a stroke or just give up and die of unknown causes; but we  
  know what is really is. 
We didn’t know better.
And we were scared shitless. 

 Some people my age are still there, still raging, but with substances 
far less substantial, far more dangerous and regular,
 their matches don’t catch many sparks anymore. 

 Yet I don’t know if I can really blame, pity or pardon them. Back then 
we wanted something to  
            make us feel like anything was possible
     - an affront to the clear fact that nothing was. 
  And just dreaming wasn’t enough. 
 And the unfortunate souls who had it a little too hard, who went too 
far too fast with no recycled corduroy cushion to break their fall: death in 
varying degrees. Whether immediate or prolonged, death was inside them 
from the start, bred in the bone, bred in the white houses studded snare, just 
getting its fill, waiting to be ejected to find a new host. When death ejects 
before the physical soma is ready to give up- these are the saddest dead  
 people of all. 
 They think they’re still alive. And as far as the government tax bureau 
and the department of motor vehicles is concerned, 
 they still are. 

 They don’t wear Smashing Pumpkins T-Shirts anymore, but you can 
still see the chains dangling between their wallets and their belt loops. We 
share the pin scars in our noses, holes in our earlobes, but not much else. 
They remember where they’re from and where it started, this rebellion with 
no cause. This generation grew up a bit and saw their eyes reflected in Fight 
Club, then they scampered for something to believe in besides Jesus or the 
fact that somehow something non-denominational would catch a fire in their 
craniums and get them moving. 
 Peavey guitars and black eyeliner were replaced sometimes with 
jigsaws and tool belts. Sometimes with plane tickets and L’Oreal painted 
bindis. Some managed to just get away, and then, some managed to get 
away clean. 

 Even when we were all there, you could see who was and who was 
not going to make it. Or maybe I was wrong. Make it where? Here? The goal 
for many was anywhere but there. 
 The town with no energy but for that to just survive and get by. 
                It’s been sucked dry 
 by the dreamers with the good or bad fortune to be born there. 
 With such a lack of essential juju, there wasn’t enough to go around.        
              We raped that poor town. 
 We found and nurtured and adopted what wasn’t even there. 
 Our identities can’t be traced to the geographical place, though that’s 
where it all happened. 
 Us selfish bastards. 
 The town our parents built and left to us.
 The houses they bought and built only to watch us flee their plight of 
immobility. We didn’t want what they built, so they check the struts once in 
a while, just to make sure the old girl will make it through another winter, 
but they don’t really ask any questions from the Borough anymore. We left; 
and return periodically to rationalize its legitimacy either as a town worth 
living or as a place in our identities; or to reminisce to make the past 
experience worthwhile. The ones who stay don’t give any energy back, but 
they never asked too much from it to begin with. Some of them are 
downright happy there. 
 And good- 
 the gaff needs them. 

 The white house still stands today, but it’s white again. Somewhere 
along the way Pete and the rest of the nuclear crew were ejected two streets 
over to carry on in pretty much the same way, raging against the anti-
skateboard laws and scoffing at the skate park the city had built for them 
as a truce. The white house revamped and reshingled; 
                   our kind no longer welcome. 
                             Our former selves, bored and reckless. 
 They, the coupon clippers were the clear majority, and with the white 
house eviction, they killed the scouts before the swarms arrived for real. We 
saw what happened to ********* Street.
 The white house veranda has been propped up now, the pointy-teethed 
things and their brood forced to live in the woods. But it doesn’t take the two 
front bedroom windows as eyes to complement its sneaky grin anymore. 
New struts have been put in place. 
            Levels have been used. 
 Maybe someone who used to pass out beside the toilet got a new job 
in construction. 
 The deck is straight. 
 And now the house looks bored. 

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