DRUNKS AND CHILDREN
(Interior Monologue No. 17)
What was spoken to me, I knew to be the truth. A crazy story about the sanctity and true nature of the human appendix. A useless protrusion of tissue that, according to my storyteller, the little round man who looked like a clean-shaven mole– was the one true answer to everything. The problem came in divining just what truth—-or rather, whose truth it was, exactly, that I’d been told. The round, hairless mole man seemed liked good enough people, but somehow I had the spidey-sense to think twice before buying a weird story in full faith and credit told to me by a human mole…
For the life of me, I couldn’t begin to answer the question that had become– in revision– prologue to my current story. What began as a simple journey home had now become a journey to unravel and comprehend the existence of home—any home—as a place from which I logically must have strayed. The simple truth, that I had been a troubled businessman who’d lost his way—strayed from the road he’d known and trusted to get him home everyday and instead found a place and a predicament of uncertain proportions—this simple truth had in time been replaced, or corrected; amended or elaborated, perhaps, by the newer truth. An overlapping truth.
I recall the saying that goes something like this: “only drunks and children speak the truth.” It was appropriate, then, that the truth I’d found myself at odds with also seemed no more coherent than the slurred words of my uncle the hayseed, who so often was fond of boasting in his inebriated machismo to have a mastery of the martial arts.
It could be taken as truth, after a fashion–that claim of deadly intimidation—that his ham hands had in any way the dexterity inscribed in their damaged and dropsy-filled nerves the skill to pull off the impossible. That he could drop ten men in one fell swoop of a roundhouse kick, or force his random adversary into submission with the steady chokehold of some G.I. Joe Kung-Fu grip.
That was certainly not fact, however. Not empirically, it would seem.
But, in truth, as far as my limited mental resources could recall, that drunken hayseed uncle of mine certainly did fell many the opponent at the empty ham hands of a drunken bluff. There was something to be said for that. Empirically. He didn’t need a weapon, in the end, to fell his adversary. It was something internal, and drunken or shit-faced as it may have been, quite remarkable. A drunken master, one who’d never so much as come within 50 feet of the remotest possibility of a physical altercation. As a certain species of truth, deadlier than Bruce Lee.
“Yep, I could beat up a tiger,” he’d say many a time after downing 8 or 9 Pabst Blue Ribbons. When I was a dumb kid, sitting on the spare cinderblock next to the front porch (the other four cinder blocks of course firmly propping up the rusted out Chevy out in the front lawn), well, when I was sitting on that cinder block certain brisk summer nights, my uncle the hayseed had no doubt bested more than a few tigers in his time. In my child’s mind, anyway. A drunken hayseed will brag at least once in his life he has the physical prowess to beat a tiger in a fist-fight. Fact.
And, When a hayseed is drunk and tells a drunken hayseed lie to a child, that lie may as well be scripture. When the phenomenon of nostalgia intervenes, you could rightly say (after a few Pabsts, perhaps) that even as a grown, sober man, I still sit on that same cinder block, and that my hayseed uncle had in fact beat up a tiger or two. Sober as a judge, I could still buy it…in a certain light. If a lie is true enough for a drunk and a child, it may as well be true in fact. A tree falling in the woods sorta thing. After all, who does the fact-checking here…? Absent a sober judge, the very meaning of the word ‘truth’ can very quickly boil down to alcohol, boxing tigers and kung-fu…
In any case, the truth I speak of now had rather to do with the mole man’s bedside monologue on waste and altruism, and the sanctity of the human appendix. The apparent worship of the useless. Without the slightest mental swerving, I’d fallen into thinking, maybe, this whole thing was just some big misunderstanding. Maybe the mole man’s truth would turn out to reconcile with the one I’d held tight for so long. Maybe things would make sense, in the end.
I’d have to temper any inclination towards diplomacy, however, with my uncorrelated and isolated memory of a drunken hayseed uncle who could slay the beast with only the power of his booze-drowned mind. Our long journey to our now as ever unnamed and unproven destination had gone on for the length of my thoughts on the reliability of drunks and children. It’s true, children tend more often than not to say whatever passes through their little heads, and the things they say are often untrue. Children lie. Just like drunks.
But within a lie, from either the mouths of babes or winos, there is a certainty, at least, of honesty. A true lie—one that speaks slovenly to another that you could kick his ass with some sweet Kung Fu moves, or that you didn’t break the vase when you did—is one that regardless of truth in facts is honest, above all; and in the end, truthful to the intentions and calculations of human nature.
Which, I can only assume, is at its most truthful when it’s at its crazed and drunken worst. Never mind the tigers or the kung-fu.
(Mr. Kravitz’ Story Concluded)
The caller at his door that late afternoon turned out to be no more than a traveling salesman. Kravitz couldn’t quite pin down the true nature of the caller’s business, but probably it was some middle aged virgin going around selling God. Jehovah’s Witness, or some such nonsense. In any case, the old man’s judgment in this instance was correct. The city council hadn’t come by since that day on the porch. They’d revealed as much, in their yellow hardhats and white button-down shirts, that Mr. Kravitz’ next inconvenience would no longer see fit to afford any such courtesy. And so it was. Mr. Kravitz went back to his bed, finished applying his Ben-Gay, and after some considerable time, fell into a geriatric spell of unconsciousness (it was all too inaccurate—taunting, even—to call the passing of any time in bed ‘sleep’).
When he’d at length regained what little consciousness still remained, Kravitz was in a different place. A different time. His usual cat-like nap had apparently been instead a deep and murky slumber. It wasn’t the same time of day. Not at all. Maybe not even the same time of the week, or month, or year. Bedridden, Kravitz made only as if to reach for his plastic urinal, then ceased any further movement. He didn’t have any piss left in him at the moment. It was uncertain, among many other things, that he’d ever have anymore piss in him. At least, his inability to piss and do so knowingly had conveyed that effect.
The work order sat anchored down by a tall glass of water next to him. Though he couldn’t see it—didn’t know it—it was there. Paid in full, the State kept its promise. Underneath his paper bedclothes, there was the slight cool of metal. When it came to him finally to lift his face, the only thing before him appeared to be a large, fat woman, with a white outfit and a paper hat, lifting up the metal bedpan and taking a brief look inside the bowl. But by that time, he was already too tired to care.