05 May 2009

Someday I will transcend, just like Jane's Addiction, but today I simply I'm in a rut, I'm in a rut

Untitled (Marlboro Men), Stuart, VA

While taking breaks between grading student papers this week, I've been reading Rick Bass's The Watch. It's an engaging, if uneven, collection of stories. Here's a couple paragraphs from "The Government Bears," one of my favorites in the bunch:

When I was twenty-seven I was hit in the head by a man wielding a fourteen-inch pipe wrench. He was about a hundred pounds heavier than I was. Sometimes when I throw two fifty-pound sacks of feed out of the truck and listen to them hit I think about that. He was much larger than I was but I killed him.

It wasn't even over some woman, or a horse or a dog, or our mothers' names: it was just plain bad blood, that odd thing, right from the very start. I had worked with him about a week, and one day he said he didn't like me because my clothes were always too clean and because he said he had seen me looking down the creek like a crazy man, just watching it, when there was nothing there, in the middle of the summer. We were working up on the Big Black, drilling Tinsley Field: cotton everywhere, and the magic flat sky. Honeysuckle crept and smelled good right on down and into the creek: the water was muddy, and alligators lived in there. If you watched, you could see one every now and then.

I suppose these paragraphs remind me of some of the jobs I've had, like one last summer working for a commercial mowing crew. We mowed/trimmed the 481 bypass, which is 14 miles or so of four-lane connecting Christiansburg and Blacksburg, Virginia. I was fascinated by the change of view afforded by walking vs. speeding along at 65 mph--the angles of some of the bridges, the colors of the weeds and flowers growing in the median, things like that. I mentioned it to some of the guys I worked with, and they gave me odd looks. I don't think any of them wanted to cleave me in two, but perhaps I'm wrong.

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