several hours later karl returned home from his walk. there were still machine noises in his head and cockleburs clinging to his socks, shoes, belt, and pants. he decided he would remove them one by one and cook them up into some sort of fun urban porridge or salsa. imagine the disappointment when he discovers that the electricity has gone out again! all these other important things will just have to wait.
he slumped down into his "easy" chair and started to study his hands again. gnarled. bitten on. angry and soft simultaneously. he didn't want to "dialogue" with the landlord but there was probably no getting around it this time. sometimes the handyman, gary, was lurking about in the corridor, not doing anything visibly handy, but reassuring nonetheless: the presence of a person who is at least supposed to be in semi-control.
reflecting there, in the darkness, karl wasn't sure which of these two men to approach. the landlord was a shadowy figure, to put it mildly. he often narrowed his bead-like eyes when another human approached him. karl had been living in his building for a solid 17 years and he still seemed to be hovering, perpetually, in something like the "near-stranger" category- it was clear sometimes that the landlord truly did not know who karl, an alleged human being, even was. (?) just your average person wearing average clothes and formulating average questions or inquiries. eating average stews, salads, and porridges. maintaining average grades and assessments. the handyman, on the other hand, seemed to keep a "little closer track" of individual entities.
the landlord's perpetually puzzled, quizzical, and skeptical look almost invited debate. foolishly, karl had taken him up on this once. it resulted, sad to say, in what might be called "an old fashioned ass-whuppin", but they eventually drilled down to the very core of the matter and simply agreed to disagree. for awhile. It had something to do with semi-important "in-formations" or "know-ledges". essentially, he implied that poor karl was lacking basic intelligence in several of the critical areas, and that he, as landlord, was not only entitled to make a joke about the deficiency, but to go about correcting it in whatever manner he chose, and moreover, karl should should regard all of this as a favor, that a busy man would take time out of his insanely stacked schedule to tend to the intelligence deficiencies of a near-perfect stranger.
these "in-formations" which seemed to be so critical could have easily been exchanged in the traditional verbal or even handwritten style or format, but the landlord was insisting that everything be done in the more modern electronic fashion! to help him get his point across, he used his sneakers and open hand to made contact with karl's physical body, as a way of helping him understand and appreciate the distance/distinction between them.
things were patched together eventually, and they agreed to resume the core dialogue, (?) but a certain "awkward tension" was still sometimes apparent. they exchanged "gifts" on occasion as a way of gradually trying to pare down the so-called psychic debt. the "lord of the land" was always jetting off to go to these "wilderness immersion experiences" and offering to take karl (?) along with him. "just like an old fashioned father-son bonding experience", he would mutter under his breath. karl was sort of open to the idea. he kept asking to see the brochures. the landlord would chuckle and just hand him an old tattered oak leaf. "this is all you need to know, ok? all the information you need is contained right here in this oak leaf."
when the electricity failed there was often a waiting period between the so-called detection/notification and the so-called restoration. our lives are "carved up" into these intervals (?) and we're probably more solid and durable people because of it. for the moment, however, simple karl had no other choice but to continue sitting there in the relative darkness. his hands were clammy this evening. he noted that down in his medical diary.
there was a 24 hour "chili parlor" down the street, Ron's, that was always encouraging people to come in out of the cold and enjoy a nice big bowl of warm grub. open up and raise the package and pour the crackers and cracker dust directly down into the system of calories. open your mouth and throat in such a way that you don't even have to make the effort of swallowing! the packages are so lightweight you could probably lift 40 or 50 at once- bury yourself alive in saltines and oysters! give the folks at the parlor something to chuckle about over their juke box and root beer.
karl was still motionless inside the relatively darkened room. he gazed out the window at the circles of colored lights moving, blinking, blending, bleeding thru the cracks and slithering over his ceiling and walls. the studded texture of engine noise, the grainy hum of tires on pavement, the sound of voices and footsteps, the occasional animal or wildlife noises- they must be out hunting for food just like everyone else, karl thought. good old food. he thought about his cocklebur porridge. food directly from nature, no intermediary except the loose fuzz on his clothing. the lures that keep everything in a state of constant tension/release.
he tapped his forehead and lips for several minutes and finally got up to go find the handyman. there was no guarantee that he would be lurking about in the corridor, but it was a pretty good bet!
he put back on his suit and tie, his cap, his coat, his galoshes, and stepped out from the darkness into an only slightly less severe state of darkness. and what do you know? there's the handyman, scrawling something down in his ledger with a carpenter's pencil.
"gary- hey, sorry to bother you again, but, ah...my electricity's out again..."
gary the handyman holds up his index finger in the universal signal for "just a moment of quiet, please."
karl waited. he leaned up against the wall and thought about some of his favorite national parks or wildlife areas. he'd never been to any of them but thanks to photographs and encyclopedia articles he felt as if he knew several of them very intimately indeed. and now, with the wonders of the internet, he had gone on several "virtual tours." at the end, when people are asked and even encouraged to give some kind of verbal or written feedback, karl, a skilled internet user, typed "I am an animal, nothing more, nothing less. I learned to type in a sort of community college that they set up for animals just so I could log onto the internet and tell you that your wilderness tours are as close to the real thing as human beings could possibly get. congratulations on your success. may it continue forever. one of these days when I save up enough of the animal equivalent to human money, I am going to slip away undetected and live a more animal-based existence of complete anonymity. we, the animals, even though we no longer have names, will all be intimate friends and companions like we were many many many many many many many many many many many many many many many many many many many generations ago. we will literally feed off each other. when I die, may my body serve as a tasty chili equivalent for other animals. in the meantime, however, I'm lying down on the pine needles not particularly concerned about anything. sorry, but that just happens to be one of the ways we animals cope with difficult matters. we many nev/////
//////ok karl- sorry about that- what did you say was the problem?
---the electricity in my room has gone out.
---are you sure?
---how sure, exactly?
---I would say something coming up on 100%
---so you're saying you have a situation approaching total darkness, total stillness, total silence and emptiness?
---yes, that's pretty much what I'm dealing with.
---well hey, then I guess that's what I'm dealing with too!
---uh....yeah, I suppose so...maybe from a slightly different perspective....
---but the objective conditions are the same-
---seem to be pretty similar
---mind if I have a look for myself?
---be my guest
karl and gary stepped into karl's so-called apartment. "meant to be apart" was one of his friend steve's clever etymological insights. gary pulled out a flashlight and started pointing the beam in random directions.
---yeah, you seem to be right....I hit the nail right on the head....total darkness and emptiness....say, maybe you should head down to Ron's "chili parlor" while I work this thing out....might take a few minutes, you know....the system isn't quite as organized and clear as it used to be. people lose their power today, well, they just head down to the fuse room themselves, not one iota of knowledge, and just start poking around for themselves, start disconnecting random wires, cutting wires with the tool that is conveniently left right there for that purpose, twining different wires together, tying things together with shoelaces, lumping things together with the gum that they have been chewing for several days in a row, poking their fingers into unlabeled sockets...switching everything around, I tell you, fucking everything entirely up, trying to talk with me on my cell phone when I'm away on vacation in Iowa....I make it perfectly clear to them that they're probably going to get themselves killed, that they're gonna toast the whole building....just wait til the morning when the landlord comes in, why can'tcha? it's dark outside, ain't it? it's time to sleep anyways, ain't it? but oh no, they have to have their electricity back right away, right this instant, so they wake me up and interrupt my vacation and instead of trying to follow my directions carefully over the phone, I can tell by all the background noise that they're just barging ahead in whichever way seems to make sense to them in that moment. total stillness, I warn them. total coldness and stiffness. when they find your body there in the morning, still with that stupid grin on on your face and that stupid gum clenched in your fingers...and all I hear is laughter on their end, telling me to chill for a second, that I'm making them laugh too much for this kind of precision endeavor..."
the beam of light continues playing about the walls and floor of the room. it seems to be yet another exercise in total randomness. one direction seems to be about as good as another. one illuminated object seems to be as uninteresting to gary as any other. he pauses for a moment at the bookshelf and starts murmuring aloud random titles-
---the severed head: a study in th/////the severed hand: how are we to//////the severed eye, the severed job, the severed city: new perspectives on the upgra///////the severed god, the severed sand, the severed frost: snow and icicles in the age of obama, severed bed, severed schoo//////say---what's with all this severing business, my man? are these all by the same person?
---no, all different people.
---this is some kind of popular theme?
---supposed to be some sort of relevant or underlying theme, so I've heard.
---all these things have really been severed?
---well, that's the point being contested.
---some make it better than others?
---no, they're all pretty much in agreement.
gary took down a title from the series and started reading at random:
"no clear idea...no clear message......people were very confused or uncertain....say, doesn't "confused" and "uncertain" basically mean the same thing? yeah? so what does it mean to be confused AND uncertain? just that you're super confused? ok, well, I can see how that might be important to clarify....they looked around, wild-eyed, in many different directions, starting sentences, stopping them, no sense of what was actually happening, so great was the mass confusion, hysteria....thought we had been here before, thought the place looked familiar.....but it was a trick, a delusion....our imaginations seemed to be stuck on overdrive.....we were recombining elements of reality with elements of the most grotesque fantasy....we claimed this as one of our natural rights....what about campfire stories and fairy tales? haven't we been doing this for as long as we've had.....always seemed to be in a rush.... ok.... whatever.... always seemed to be tripping or stumbling...... say, karl, this dosen't really get to the point very quick, does it?..... people and animals determined to carry the confusion around inside their own bodies.....as much a part of being alive as the heartbeat.....a most intimate friend or companion....karl, this just doesn't sound right.......abides in trees and buildings and subways.....fish and clams and great blue whales might lead us out from under the wreckage....ok, sir.......if you say so....tried to give us the impression that we were somehow "further along".....that we needed a different sort of education....a different sort of food and medicine.....nobody knew how long it would hold together like this.......similar words, similar versions.....diverging words, diverging versions....a lack of words, a lack of versions....a quick replacement thrown together with whatever materials happen to be lying around....whichev//////ok fella, let's try and get you fixed up....I still think you're better off heading down to Ron's for several hours....here, take a couple of coins for the jukebox....no, no, I insist....play some Floyd in my honor......nobody there's gonna mind if you bob your head in time with the music....in fact, they'd probably encourage it....it gets a little musty in there after hours. somebody passing by on the sidewalk, they see you bobbing your head up down rhythmically- well, it sort of invites them to come in and join in on the fun....
---chili is certainly the sort of food to get the wacky juices flowing inside of you
----"Chicago's Most Interesting Chilli- since 1971"
---no queston about it. none whatever.
---ok, I'll get this thing back up and running-you run along now---
--ok, see ya later
--yeah, see ya
---sure, see ya
---ok, you take care now
----yeah, you too
---you take care now
---I will, thanks for sayin' it
---hey, no problem, thank's for respondin'
---well, good luck with the repairs
----hey, don't you worry about nuffin
----ok, I won't
-----no need at all
----no need whatsoever, you betcha
---take it easy
---yeah, take it easy
karl was out on the sidewalk. he started walking towards Ron's. would he play Floyd or wouldn't he? it was a fairly serious question.