Saturday, January 01, 2005

Scrap

A bit of story, rough.

Levi



Another evening and I'm on the porch, joint in my hand, beer on the little plastic table as the sun dips down low enough for the heat of the day to start fading, the locusts humming and the neighbors' air conditioner boxes echoing them. A swig of the beer, a drag of the joint and there I am waiting for Levi to round the corner.
And I laugh before I know what I'm thinking, then let the thought catch up and laugh again. It's Levi's fault, the thought says, that my front door sticks. It's his fault I can't open the gate, it's his fault that this poor old town and this whole damn state is sinking into the gulf. For sixty, one hundred, five hundred years that old man has been walking and walking and walking, up Waldron road, down 2nd street, across Hand avenue, up and down and all around the whole town, and that's why I've watched the Bay eating away at the shore each year of my thirty year old life. Levi and his tiny tired footsteps, relentlessly pushing down the town for a fraction of a fraction of an inch, every day for all of his unknown eternity of days, each step shuddering the ground downward, cracking foundations, warping boards, hammering the waterfront into the water. and now, off the shore near Waldron, the timbers of ruined houses stand jagged in the brown water, covered in barnacles and grey from the years and the salt. Slowly, Levi is pushing us down, steadily washing us away like rain on the earth, and right now, closing my eyes for a moment, I can feel his footsteps, a steady rhythm resounding somewhere below, the ground sinking below each one, and down down down underneath the poor Devil himself watches his roof coming closer and closer.
I laugh again, just as he comes into view, the man himself, old Levi, a scarecrow in denim overalls, an impression of wrinkles below a straw hat, small steady steps, narrow eyes gazing into the eternity of straight ahead.
We have a ritual, that old scarecrow and me, it goes like this: I take another drag of my joint as he walks tired and slow just parallel to the second post of my fence, I raise up my arm and call out to him, "Hey there old timer!" and he, well he doesn't do much. Doesn't look over, doesn't stop walking, doesn't break pace. Just lifts up his own arm stiffly for a moment, then lets it fall back limp to his side. I smile and sit back.
That's our ritual, and has been for about three months now, since the middle of March right before the sudden freeze that encased all the new leaf buds in ice and killed the orange tree in my front yard, and even then he came walking by; I caught a glimpse of him from the window all bundled up in grey.

When I was a boy, growing up in this same house, all of us kids would play out on this same street, pushing each other into the ditch, kicking balls into the slow traffic, playing ghost in the fog that spread out behind the mosquito truck as it rumbled by. But no matter what we were doing, no matter what tussle we were in, or which kid was screaming blue murder because he had mud in his eyes, or what dirty games the older girls were coming up with to embarass and tittilate us, when somebody called out "Hey y'all! Here comes Levi!" we'd all stop and turn to look. And he'd come drifting by, the same straw hat and denim, his face no less wrinkled than it is now.
It was the feeling you know you're supposed to get from church, but never really do. That moment, with all of us moon-faced kids stopped suddenly dead quiet and all looking in the same direction, that moment in the first soft dark of night, just before the street lamp on the corner winked on and the only sounds were the pulsing of the lawn sprinklers in every yard, and old Levi, older than any one knew, walking by night after night, forever and ever:
It felt holy.
I finish off my beer with a gulp. "Amen," I say to the empty street.