Thoughts that come in unbidden from the clouds while mowing pasture and spoken into a small recorder. by Guinotte Wise

Thoughts that come in unbidden from the clouds while mowing pasture and spoken into a small recorder.

I am twelve. My Uncle Pete says to my maternal grandmother, “Come on Hag. Put an egg in your shoe and beat it.” He is dropping her off at Country Club Christian Church on Sunday. She says, “Don’t tell him any tacky stories.” Meaning me, and, of course he will. He calls her Hag or Chief and she ignores it but you can tell she thinks it’s funny. After we leave, he drives The Yellow Peril (his flashy Packard) down to Union Station to buy a Daily Racing Form and place a couple of bets with his bookie. Then he tells me about a fight he was in the night before at The Blue Goose. He is a wonderful storyteller.

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The last line of my screenplay is “Forget it, Jake. It’s Sawtelle KoreaTown.” Now, all I have to do is write a period detective film about Los Angeles. And a vintage crime. Corruption at city hall or some department, bureau, like that.

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I always thought it would be neat to be Little Richard’s friend. And to be Keith Richards.

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Never enter a conversation with, “But, officer…” It trips something, a special neuron, makes things difficult.

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Rachmaninoff (call me Rocky) was a kind of rascal. He’d come to the house to tune the piano and we’d get him to play concerto #2 in C-minor. Because I was a minor. And Daddy was a miner. We had us a time. All we had was shine, but it tasted good mixed up with lemonade. He’d play, we’d dance our fool heads off. None of this is true but I did think it, and it felt real. I pictured it all, even to Rocky testing keys, daddy dancing. An aside: I never called my father daddy, we all called him Bud. But I think this stuff while mowing pasture. It’s repetitive.

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The elephant stands on the iron ball. It’s unnatural, uncomfortable, all his big feet together squeezing body parts that way. But he’s been taught how to do this, and when he’s done it he gets hay. No one is bringing the hay. Covid 19 has made the crowds go away and there’s no money to buy hay. The handlers have gone. The elephant feels uneasy. He looks around. He trumpets. Elephants are tragic wherever the hell they are, in the wild, captive, trained, it’s not right. Fuck. That poet Robinson Jeffers was right; humans are definitely inferior to animals and nature. Inhumanism he called it. Read more Jeffers — he was onto something.

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Farm work is superior to gym work; it doesn’t rip or chisel you out but the breathing is better and the results, the strengths and muscle group workouts, are too. And you don’t have to wear funny clothes. You can, because who watches farm work? The very bored and old folks in rockers. Mowing registers on my Fitbit but I doubt it’s useful exercise, like spreading gravel with a shovel, or cutting and dragging trees to a brushpile.

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If I win the Kerouac Residency, I will have to take my support animals, Cash & Millie. We three have never been separated since they were puppies small enough to hold one in each palm. If they say no, well, it’s a dealbreaker. If they say yes, I’ll have to rent a roadworthy car like a Taurus for the whole time, to drive down there and back, drive to the store once a week. I would soak up the K-vibe in this little house. Write my ass off, like I do now anyway. I’ll know in a few days. It could happen.

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College years. Sunday morning, Duluth, Minnesota. Industrial district near where I lived while working on the High Bridge. Depressing. Picture a Hopper painting of storefronts and brick buildings, no people. I live in a dollar-a-day flop near the railroad yards. All night those boxcars bump, thump, grind, squeal. I live in a Hopper painting. With cockroaches. I hide my money in a rusty, unused switching box. I find a cardboard sign that says Do Not Hump. I hang it on my door. It works all too well. What a depressing time.

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After a year at the Art Institute I couldn’t get a summer construction job, so I worked at the post office. I had to sign up like I’d be there for life. The KC main building was huge. In the cavern where I worked, there were slits in the walls all around. “That’s where they watch us,” a worker told me. I volunteered for loading dock work instead. No one watched you much out there. Fresh air. Good manual labor. Time between trucks.

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I didn’t invent social distancing but if there was a sport like that, say the NSDA, I would be the Kansas City Chiefs or Kobe Bryant. I wouldn’t even attend my own sculpture shows if I didn’t have to. So this Covid thing that’s going on, it changes my lifestyle very little. Except all the handwashing, and spraying packages. I wish the millionaire celebrities would quit saying “We’re in this together.” If we’re in it together, send me a check. Or at least a card. A fucking email.

 

Thoughts That come In Unbidden

 

Guinotte Wise writes and welds steel sculpture on a farm in Resume Speed, Kansas. His short story collection (Night Train, Cold Beer) won publication by a university press and enough money to fix the soffits. Five more books since. A 5-time Pushcart nominee, his fiction, essays and poetry have been published in numerous literary journals including Atticus, The MacGuffin, Southern Humanities Review, Rattle and The American Journal of Poetry. His wife has an honest job in the city and drives 100 miles a day to keep it. (Until shelter in place order) Some work is at http://www.wisesculpture.com

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