“There is no death in this wood, there is only permanence…”
Nothing occurs during the walk down the remainder of Howie’s prescribed stretch of Cannonball Road. Stickup Bend comes and goes, as does Ryker Drive. Maple Street was the first right after Howie passed Ryker on the left. For some reason that last detail seems important to him, seems to be worth remembering.
Not as much as his last pre-Armageddon invention is, however; compared to his latest innovation in stoner technology, Howie’s turn being the first right after a left matters about as much as the cakes of dirty ash he leaves behind with every step of his ruined workin’ boots. Boots that he’ll never wear to work again because he no longer has a job. No more work for Howie, he’s a lucky duckling.
“Lucky fuckin’ ducklings, every one of us.”
Howie stops. He’s about halfway down the street, give or take a few dozen paces.
“I shouldn’t have left that church.”
It feels good to wash his mouth out with water, but he can’t help but cringe every time he spits the backwash into the street. Into ye olde black canal of the dead world.
“Jesus Christ, I need to stop that.”
He takes a drink, then another drink. Acrid and ashy all the way down.
“This is maddening, I’ve hardly been out here for an hour. I’m losing my fuckin’ mind.”
‘And what’ll help with that? Smokin’ pot?’
“Obviously. It’ll at least put my system into balance, get me willing and able.”
Then, ‘To do what?’
“I don’t know,” shrugs Hoots. “A bit a’this, a bit a’that. Whatever needs doing. No more working for Howie, that be true enough, but the work ain’t done.” He gets walking again. “Not by a long shot.”
‘Sounds like a pretty solid plan.’
“Thanks, thought of it yourself. I think we’ll get to the light at the end of this tunnel.”
‘Howie, baby, just look up at the sky,’ whispers the voice in Howie’s head, the one that sounds exactly like his own voice, and Howie does look at the sky. It’s white, iridescent. Abrasive. It scalds his eyes like his face was being held over a pot of boiling water.
“It’s beautiful,” Howie tells himself, holding his hand over his eyes to fake up some shade.
‘It’s waiting for us,’ promises the mental Howie. ‘Just reach for it, Hoots. Climb up real high and jump for it, and don’t you worry about landin’, you hear? Don’t you worry about it even a little bit. The ashes will catch you. They won’t break your fall, but they’ll catch you.’
Howie continues to walk in a straight line down the middle of the road. His sweatshirt, which he beat the ash out of before leaving the clearing on Cannonball, is tied around his waist, and it seems to be catching some of the ash lofting up from his feet. A mask would be nice, but he can breathe all right without one. Nice ain’t exactly the benchmark anymore, after all. ‘Alive seems hard enough all the sudden. Plenty hard enough.’
“It do,” Howie agrees with himself. “It do.”
Over yonder, engulfed in the thickening wall of burnt matchsticks holding back the omnipresent gray murk, is a fork in the road. Both choices will take Howie where he needs to go, “But one will take a bit longer than the other.”
‘Which one is which, Hootsie Babey?’
“Well first of all, fuck you,” Howie begins. “Second of all, listen up, because I’m not a ‘man who likes repeating to myself. If we stay straight we’ll go up and around a cul-de-sac and come back here with the options to go straight back to Cannonball or to turn left onto Rosebud; if instead we turn right onto Rosebud now, we’ll get where we need to go a whole lot faster and with no risk of getting trapped in another ashfall.”
‘So we go straight, then,’ the voice concurs studiously. ‘We’ll face our anxieties head on, Hootsie Babey! We’ll go off and battle the creatures in the tall grass, we’ll build up our experience levels, we’ll enchant weapons and sets of armor and then take Rosebud by force! We shall carry on straightly, I say, off to the cul-de-sac we go!’
“My thoughts exactly,” Howie agrees without pause. He pats himself on the shoulder, knocking the ashes off, and then does the same thing for the other shoulder. “My thoughts exactly.”
Hello Commons, this has been the fifth subchapter of the second chapter of Flowers, a novel about a man who smokes the last of his pot.
Flowers is part of the Third Spiral, an anthology of sorts called The Here and Now which is comprised of stories told from the various planes of Existence.
Flowers is available to read for free in its entirety on my website. Click here to check it out.
I’ve written a few other books, too. Click here to see the list.
If you like Flowers and would like to help support my work, click here and buy an autographed copy of the book (or anything else!) from my store. Alternatively, you can snag a cheaper (and unsigned) copy from Amazon by clicking here OR you can buy the ebook for even cheaper here.
If you’re there, hypothetical reader, thank you for being there. Be well Commons~