“There is no death in this wood, there is only permanence…”
The climb up to the brief plateau capping the eastern end of Condor Lane is nothing but a bad memory to Howie. It’s over now, he did it, and he doesn’t want to think about it. No matter what happens, he’s never doing it again.
“I didn’t even do it,” he openly suggests to himself. “It never even happened, ‘man, we just blinked and zappy, here we are at the top of the street.”
Condor Lane descends in a wide sweep of dark gray that vanishes into the dense ashen wood below. The road itself seems darker than the rest of the land, it’s still that filthy gray but many shades darker, almost as black as the torched trees.
“I wonder if those would burn,” Howie wonders. “How long they would last in a fire, anyway. They’d probably conduct a flame, they’d have to.”
“They clearly did once, I mean…”
More silence, its spindly hands wrapped tight around Howie’s booted ankles.
“Come on guys, these jokes are rippers!”
The ash below his feet even looks lighter than the ash on the downhill Howie has to take to get home, it’s like it ashballed down the hill, ‘but I think we both understand how little sense that makes.’
“We do,” Howie concedes. “It wasn’t like that on the cli–… it wasn’t like that before. So why now?”
“Perhaps.” Howie shrugs his shoulders and fans one hand briskly through his ashy hair, coughing quietly the whole time. “It doesn’t matter, we’re here.” He clears his throat twice – once for the bulk, once for the stragglers – and spits saliva to commemorate his start down the hill. It’s good to hear the clunks of his bootheels on the bare pavement, the ash seems to have avalanched itself clear off the street. Maybe this was part of the ashvalanche that almost killed me back on Cannonball.’
“Maybe ‘twas.” ‘Maybe ‘twasn’t. Doesn’t really matter, we’re here. I’m almost home. So it’s almost time for the moment, of truth, then, isn’t it Hootsie Babey?’
What moment of truth that might be Howie doesn’t have the foggiest, and he makes sure that intrusive little squeal up top understands him when he tells it as much.
‘So you’d rather me lay it out for you, Howie? Hoots, is that what you’re sending me? Because that’s what I’m receiving, and Howie, Babey, it’s music to my ears.’
Howie doesn’t say a thing, as he’s grown tired of this game. He doesn’t want to pretend he’s insane anymore.
‘Each step brings you closer, Howie,’ eggs the voice.
Howie ignores himself, marching ahead in step with his heartbeat.
‘Closer to the cold winter winds of January,’ without any signs of relent.
Condor Lane is halfway done, he’s almost at waist-level with the canopy around most of Vhykus Path.
‘Closer to Jhan’s charred corpse.’
Howie can’t hear the hellish screech of a scavenging vulture in the distance.
“They’re not real condors, but they’re close enough. Turkey buzzards get the job done.”
It’s almost like walking down a roof, Condor Lane; his boots keep sliding ever so slightly as they would down the shingles as he inches closer and closer towards the ladder and Howie knows he’s not going to fall, Howie knows he’ll be all right, it’s not really the end of the world, this is just a dream. This, this is just a waiting room. He’s in the process of being reincarnated, see, and he’s going to open his eyes to a colorful and animate world where everyone is alive and nobody burned to death overnight and their noise wasn’t burned with them, either, Howie’s going to a world that isn’t so suicidally silent, a world where God hasn’t died and taken Death with Him yet.
Howie’s going to wake up at night on the floor of his apartment with Jhan standing over him and kicking the living pot out of him because he hasn’t put a new stand-up set together in over a month because he has zero new material cooked up and all he’s done is smoke pot for the past however long; all Howie wants to do is smoke pot but Jhan doesn’t want to understand that because Jhan’s hardly even a smoker, Jhan doesn’t like to take voyages guided by the hand of the flower, he doesn’t get it and he probably never will get it. And that’s totally fine. More pot for Howie “Hoots” McGee is never, ever a bad thing.
Howie stops mid-step and takes in a polluted breath. “Listen, Hoots. That shit doesn’t matter anymore. None of it. So grow the fuck up and get moving.” The glide down Condor Lane continues towards its inevitable end. “You get home and emancipate Roscoe from the safe, because twink or no twink, there’s no way in Hell th–… there’s no way in life that I would give Yahn the combo for the safe. Only you can do it.” No kids fly by on their bicycles, no fit folks run up the hill and flick their sweat in Howie’s face. “No way no Howie, am I right? I’m Howie Hoots McGee, how are you all doin’ tonight ladies’n’germs?”
An oblivious silence from the incinerated village of Wuester, New Jersey.
“Me? Well I’m doing fucking tragically, thank you for asking.” Howie puts both of his hands into his pockets, even though he has to adjust his sweatshirt to do so. “I’m doing absolutely fucking tragically.”
Self-directed banter in hues similar to the color of the dead sky paints the remainder of Howie’s descent down Condor Lane. Finally, he stands at the mouth of Vhykus Path. He woke up in church, he followed the Lord’s way home, and now he’s home. “Now I’m home. I followed the Lord’s way from church and now I’m home.” Howie looks behind him and sees Condor Lane rise in glorious ashless fashion. To his left is southern Vhykus, to his right is the bend. “Where my apartment is. My home.” Howie shakes his head. “What the fuck is going on, why am I speaking?”
The joint is still in unbent form when he removes it from his pocket for the umpteenth time. Howie marvels at it for literal minutes on end there in the middle of the road at the bottom of Condor Lane.
“This ain’t even my pot,” Howie says to himself before giggling a bit. “My pot is so much better than this shit.” The giggling overrides his urge to speak to himself for a few more precious seconds. Then…
“I’m comin’ Roscoe.”
Howie steps forward.
“You too, Yahn… I’m comin’ for you, too.”
Hello Commons, this has been the eighth 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.
Be well Commons~