This One Time, 70

This one time this entire town was a meadow, full of waving grasses and grazing deer and bison. Maybe even caribou came this far south, but almost certainly elk. Beavers dammed the streams around here and this place even did time as marsh and wetlands. Maybe a tornado came through every once in a while and ripped up turf and stalks, maybe knocked down a tree or two, wherever it was that trees were content to congregate and endure some sunburn and windburn.

Tragedies were an occasional harsh winter, where blankets of snow refused to roll back and let the grass through, or warm-weather droughts that burned like brushfires started by lightning, only longer and deeper into the soil.

Tragedies didn’t involve a drunk bear running down your fawn and lurching off at high speed, uncaring, not even stopping, not noticing a cracked skull or crushed ribs or broken pelvis, bleeding out internally from bone-punctured organs.

That hardly ever happened back then.

This one time this entire town was buried under a river of ice, solid ice fifty feet high, forced to flow under its own weight like slow-poured pancake batter spreading in a seasoned cast-iron skillet on a puddle of butter. Tragedy had no meaning then, except maybe to the glacier itself, as running streams tunneled through and cut blue blue blue channels and cave systems, leaving unimaginable frozen beauty unappreciated, pleasure-domes of frosted glass lit throughout by an infant sun, unexplored eternally trickling caves of ice uninhabited.

This one time this town was buried under another river of ice. And another. And another.

This one time this entire town was buried by a hundreds of feet of salty water, midnight blue, a living bloom of alien shapes of soft bodies and spines and tiny, tiny creatures that would be hard-pressed to declare definitively as either animal or vegetable or mineral. Intricate ceramics of calcites and glass were sculpted and carried like treasures and discarded like trash and littered the ocean’s bottom until it became the ocean’s bottom, covering igneous paving in countless tons. Tragedy then was unnoticed intricacies stomped down by tons and tons of other unnoticed intricacies. Tragedy was colonial confections of salps and jellies, creatures of iterative complexities, extrapolations of proteins and goo, tugged apart by tides and currents and, eventually, the teeth of giants.

This one time this town was a convective confection of magma, pummeled to churning liquid by the incandescent heat of meteoric infall — if that’s what you can call nameless planets colliding in a billiard-ball dance. Tragedy is the loss of a single burning drop at the peak of the splashed crown, spinning flat at the peak of an arc that will never, ever fall. Tragedy is losing all of your inner incandescent shine as you cool to dead rock, leaving you to do nothing but reflect, reflect, reflect. Tragedy is losing your spinning dance to tidal locking. Tragedy is being cold and dead and escaping at the rate of a quarter inch per year, backing away into oblivion, never able to make a clean break.

And then, this one time, it rained for a thousand years.

A single strike from a single cosmic grain of sand could bring the past back. Again. And again. And again. Sometimes, when tragedy strikes, I pray for that. Who wouldn’t want a fresh start?

It seems that we can only go forward by building our towns on the bones of tragedies, large and small.

This one time I pulled the sheet back up to cover the broken body of a delicate fawn. And then I patted the belly where the next one grew.


March 11, 2011 · by xalieri · Posted in This One Time  


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