June 19, 2004

Suburban Jetpack Blues

As one who understands the nature of fate, donít give your future a second thought. In the space of a few breaths, those inhales and those exhales, the whole world could change. Imagine that. Remember those old ads from the fifties? Jet packs. Where are my jet packs? Toasters of the future. Bubble cars that could drive themselves. Kitchens with every modern convenience. It seems sometimes that all weíve really improved are the methods with which we kill people. Give me my fucking jet packs, son, so I can fly the hell away from here and go someplace nice, someplace where people make some sense. Someplace where people arenít knocking the hell out of each other.

He stood on a suburban street corner next to an Army duffel bag that was almost as tall as he was. It looked as though he was wearing a dozen layers of clothes, but it could have been more. You canít carry everything you own. Sometimes you have to wear it.

When they took me in, the last time, when they grabbed my poor sorry ass and dragged it all that way to jail Ė the pokey, the clink, the slammer, the joint Ė they told me a joke. Three men walk into a bar. The fourth one ducked. Can you believe that? Can you believe those motherfuckers tried to pass that off as funny? Like, Iím just some poor dude out on the streets but I donít have no sense of humor? I just looked at them and I said just take my poor ass into the joint cos I donít need your jokes.

His arms were wrapped in plastic garbage bags Ė some white, some black. He punctuated every sentence with a wave of his arms, accentuating each point by the rustle of plastic. Crumpled newspapers escaped from his waistline and his pants legs Ė odd since it was the middle of summer.

Did you know I went to Harvard? Iím just kidding. I didnít go to Harvard. I went to Princeton. Ha! Princeton! Come on, you know I donít look like a Harvard grad. But I sure as hell can diagram a sentence. Bet none of you all can do that. I only went there for a year. Then I dropped out. Then the Army came looking for me. Then it was just the Viet Cong. I was happier with the Army, if you want me to be honest with you. Charlie? Charlie didnít ask about eyesight. Charlie didnít give you the once-over, check your ears, eyes, nose and throat, and send you away for a year or two. Charlie just shot you between the eyes, or whatever pieces of you just happened to be sticking up.

Heíd drawn a small crowd, rocking back and forth, faster and faster as his speech grew more furious in its delivery.

Freedom
Freedom
Sometimes I feel like a motherless child
Freedom
Freedom
Sometimes I feel like Iím almost gone
Sometimes I feel like Iím almost gone
A long, long, long way from my home
I got a telephone in my bosom
And I can call him up from my heart
I got a telephone in my bosom
And I can call him up from my heart
When I need my brother
When I need my father
Freedom
Freedom

He sang it like Richie Havens did, strumming furiously on a guitar that wasnít there, singing to an audience thatíd gathered more out of mild curiosity than anything else. This was his Woodstock.

Freedom
Freedom

He became unsteady and his voice faltered.

Freedom
Freedom

And then he fell. And in the space of a few inhales and a few exhales, he died. Heíd overdosed on heroin and had been in and out of shelters the better part of his last twenty years. None of us ever learned much more about him. We talked to the police, told them what weíd seen and then the whole thing just went away.

Weíd witnessed the arrival of his future, his jetpack and hopefully his journey someplace nice.

Posted by Chris at June 19, 2004 06:10 PM
Comments

He was right. About the inhales and the exhales. That's all we've got, any of us.

Posted by: jilbur at June 19, 2004 11:07 PM

Wow that was amazing. I'm actually speachless, but that really makes you think, doesn't it?

Posted by: mandy at June 20, 2004 08:00 AM

That was really cool!

Posted by: dawn at June 20, 2004 03:25 PM

i'm sorry,
but who'd want jet packs anyway???
can you imagine a drunk with a jet pack
farting and crashing into your house?

Posted by: stacy at June 20, 2004 03:50 PM

Wow, Chris. :-) Great reading for a dreary Monday morning.

Posted by: Dee at June 21, 2004 09:16 AM

I think "wow" pretty much sums all that up. Crazy story, Mr. Cactus...well said.

Posted by: Zandria at June 21, 2004 05:31 PM

Mr Jetson was a heroine addict?, I knew it , I just knew it. :-P

Posted by: Shaners at June 22, 2004 08:10 AM