Morton had just dropped his mother off at the physical therapist. There had been rain lately and the weather was hot, in the nineties. There was a park not far away where Morton could finish his coffee and read the paper and maybe do a little writing.
A single lane road led down to the parking lot by the river. There was no boat launch there but Morton thought if they were to put a boat ramp in cars would have trouble coming and going down the single lane road. And it would not be easy place to back up a boat with a trailer on it to provide leeway.
Morton parked the car in the shadiest spot close to the river. He could not see the river because there were yards of forestry between him and the river. He had the front windows open and leaned back the seat to take a little knap or rest as it where. As soon as he did this a four door sedan pulled in and parked closer to the river than him.
There was a suspicious looking man in the car next to him. If he didn’t know any better he would think he might be some kind of criminal. His car had a bad lifter noise and a rattle in the air conditioning compressor. Morton leaned back in his seat and said very loud, “Turn that shit off.”
Morton then a little disturbed that someone is starting to ruin his rest looked over at the driver as mean as he could. Then Morton eased back in his seat and rested some more.
Another car then pulled in between Morton and the shady character, looked at Morton and then backed out and parked on the other side of the lot. This man had a bald head. Morton eased back and rested some more. He then heard the car door of the first car close and looked up to size up the fellow. He was tall of reasonable build; he had a grubby beard, and dark sunglasses. His skin was mustard colored and Morton knew he could take him if he had to. Morton watched him walk to the river and thought nothing of it.
The driver’s seat on Morton’s 2001 Buick Regal could recline pretty far. And one could nap pretty well. Morton glanced up and saw the man return and get in his car. That son of bitch started up the engine again. “Don’t these low class people of this day and age know how to keep a car properly maintained?” Morton thought as he heard the groaning engine.
Morton’s feet were getting hot so he opened the door and took off his shoes and socks. He shut the door and stretched out his legs forward, much better he thought. As he sat there with bare feet he thought. “You know I have my gym bag with me, it has a towel in it, and it also has my $3 orange colored rubber sandals in it. By golly Morton you ought to go walk about and find a place to lie down in the sun on the grass like you see people do in parks and on the beach.”
Morton now saw the bald head man approach the car on his left. He didn’t care to let this detract from his afternoon. If it was a drug deal what could he do, make a citizen’s arrest. He probably should have a gun to do this, but like MacGyver he did not believe in hand guns. If those two men had a gay rendezvous what the heck was he supposed to do about that also.
So a little more perturbed about the noisy engine next to him and figuring that he might be smelling exhaust smoke he decided to rummage through his gym bag and find the towel. He found the towel his sandals and a car blanket in the trunk. He gathered up these items plus his morning’s newspaper and his writing papers that were enclosed in the clipboard that had a compartment for them. He also grabbed his digital camera and stripped off his fleck camo tank top. Morton’s chest muscles were as big as a baboons and he often liked to hunt this ancestral way. It was hot.
Morton then made his way to the river. His sandals went flip, flop, flip, flop with every step. When he got in front of the four door sedan he gave the driver a pronounced look that would scare the living shit out of a ghost. And made his way flip, flop, flip, flop. When he got to the river he watched it for a little while. The water had risen from the rain and was shit colored brown. It looked like a spot people might like to fish at, where he was standing. Actually per his memory he had seen people fishing there before. He knew that if he put his blanket down by the river the stench, however so subtle would make him sick. So he kept heading south, flip, flop, flip, flop was the sound his sandals made as the heels of them flapped back up to his heals as walked through the grass. There was a path that led along the river and went into some forestry. He decided to take it. All of a sudden he decided to take a look back, before he could not see the parking lot anymore. Both the cars were now gone.
Morton walked through marsh grasses like he might see far away from the city. There were little pools of water on the path he walked around by stepping on some tall grasses. As he looked towards the river there were more pools of water and the upcroppings of a few trees that had fallen years ago and now had some good blackened rot to them.
The path became grassy and almost disappeared. There was a clearing of tall grasses to his right and he thought, if those were nice short green grass that would be a nice place to catch some sun and peace and quiet. Flip flop his orange sandals tread over thistles, they did not bother Morton. He figured if it was put on this earth he could be in harmony with it. Besides thistle was often a remedy for allergy anyway, in fact Morton took some thistle herb capsules at night to help him sleep.
Flip flop as Morton’s path around the tall grass clearing started to turn right he decided to take a picture of the scenery. He stood and stared a minute. By looking at the scenery now, for all he knew he could be in hunting grounds far away from the city. At this particular spot there was no sign of civilization at all.
Flip, flop he continued. As he tried to encircle a pool of water in the path his foot sunk down in the water and dirt. He thought he should probably wash it off right away and then he thought that pool water could be nowhere as bad as the shit brown water in the river. So path water he thought to himself was not as bad, as he felt the coolness of it on his right foot.
He walked a little further and looked down to see a feather from Blue Jay on the path. The feather had a black herringbone outline with the royal looking blue filling in the gaps. It might contain germs he thought before its beauty compelled him to pick it up and place it under the clip of his board.
The path came out by the parks maintenance shack and he could see the parking lot again. There was the same black man with bald head and younger black woman sitting on the park bench in the distance. Morton surveyed the park and headed west, just at the edge of the forestry was a nice grassy spot under a large tree. It was sunny in that spot and he could put the tree between himself and the parking lot. So that is what he did.
He looked around and back at the parking lot, a SUV had just parked and another bald head man was getting out and walking around cagily. The same rules that applied to the first applied to him.
He laid down his car blanket and his damp gym towel near the head of where he would lay and laid down.
At first the heat of the sun caused him to sweat a little. Then that subsided. The ground under him was firm, and Morton and the earth were one. Morton summoned the energy of the honest earth into his body and him and the earth became one. He stretched back his arms as he lay and inhaled deeply. His chest rose high as he inhaled. He controlled his deep breathing as his massive lungs bellowed naturally upward a few inches upon inhalation and he held it there for a few moments to recharge himself and the earth before he took another breath.
Morton just started to enjoy the heat of the sun when he heard a black man near the maintenance shack jibber jawing about this and that. He thought he heard him say in the near distance, “I’m gonna mow me lawn or chop something up.” He assumed it was a maintenance man but did not care to look up. Him and the earth were one. He was not breathing only for himself but for the earth also. Like a monk he let thoughts and words pass by him with no regard. Morton could sleep like a Samari and awaken just as deadly. He thought to himself, if someone decides to come walking about where I am out of the way here I will say, “Don’t bother me know, be on your way!”
Morton and the earth had rested long enough. He regained his muscle tension and turned to his side. There was a biography in his mornings Investors Business Daily newspaper that he would read. It was about George Pullman. It turns out that Chicago was built on a marsh and that the streets had to be raised. George devised ways to raise buildings on a whole acre of land while the people were still in them. The entire sewer system of Chicago was raised to allow waste to flow into the Chicago River and then Lake Michigan. Today the sewage canals were loaded with Asian Carp that threatened the great lakes. Morton remembered an article he had written in jest to the President a few weeks ago about how people from Milwaukee should man barges loaded with rocks and clay and plug the mouth of the Chicago River. Morton read further in the biography and was becoming sleepy from the sun and reading, it was almost time to pick his mother up from the physical therapist. He started to identify with the ingenuity of George Pullman and thought, that must be some kind of a screw jack based platform that could evenly and level raise such massive objects. As he read on he became more tired and saw that George had then went on to devise a way to make train cars that wend their way clackingly on the metal tracks easier to sleep in. Morton was distracted by a blade of grass tickling his left leg. It was more than a blade of grass, it must be a caterpillar. Morton looked down to his leg as he felt it brush him there twice more but this time further up his leg.
Morton’s chest spasammed and he reeled to his right, the noise coming from his mouth was a dull groan. Morton was instantly on his feet as he saw the Black Snake about a foot and a half long that tickled and teased him slither away quickly into the forest.
Jibber Jabber, Slibber Slabber, She liked to hop and skip and hippidy dip.
Thomas Paul Murphy
Copyright 2010 Thomas Paul Murphy
PS: When Morton got home that night on the News was a story about how Milwaukee was seeking to take legal action against Chicago to have its canals closed.