THE EARTH PUSHES, AND BITES, BACK
Life has been tumultuous of late.
After returning home from a Saturday night comparing notes and sharing vodka shots with an immigrant friend (Sit back down, Bud, she’s a citizen), I hit our street with my fearsome black hounds, Bo Bear, the aged one, and Abigail Wagtail, the rescue. As the duo were tandem late-night watering the front yard, an unmarked van drove up, and stopped right in front of us.
"Dominoes?" the driver said.
Not quite "What’s the frequency, Kenneth?" but odd and slightly unnerving all the same. Abby, friendlier than a politician at a $1,000-a-plate dinner, wiggled up to the van’s driver. Unlike another dog who shall remain unnamed, it’s not narcissism so much as unbounded enthusiasm and extreme sociability that has her believe every single person at the front door or passing on the street is there for her. Life can remain singularly dear for the pure of heart. Danger lurks, but not for her.
Sure enough, the incident turned out to be the opposite of cryptic, or dark. The young man was delivering a pizza, and had the wrong house. Dominoes meant Domino’s.
All the same, I retained some suspicion. I don’t know why, I just did. Is it the zeitgeist or just indigestion? Most times, the catalyst remains an unknown. But not this time…
The next day, I saw a fat rat wiggle out from beneath my wooden front steps. Led to believe only a cute chipmunk resided there, I experienced a sense of shock bordering on momentary panic. A few hours after the first rodent spotting, I saw its pointy nose peek out from the lowest step, where it had evidently created an autumn-winter apartment. Then, an hour or two after that, it hit me. BOOM-CLAP! Thunder. The whole bit.
The driver didn’t have the wrong house. He had the right address. It was the rat who called him. This was, so I quickly figured, the infamous pizza rat from New York City. He was the big rodent captured on camera dragging an entire slice of pizza down some subway steps. The very same. But now, shamed to the point of pain-inducing embarrassment, he had fled the big city, and retired his rodent self to the countryside. How he made it nearly 50 miles, unscathed, and why he chose our small hamlet and my home’s front steps was, and would remain, a mystery.
Who knows why rats do what they do?
Re-entering my home after this isolated Sherlockian moment, I returned to form. I did what every single goddam fool I know these days does: went and sat before my computer to check on the latest comet strike. Perhaps it’s just digital rubbernecking, an unavoidable twist of the head. Then again, let us be fair. The laser pings of skull-numbing bad events that have become Life As We Know It for the last 12 months are coming at us without cease. The thunder claps of insight are rare (Rare as purple rain. Rare as acts of courage across the Potomac). As for the laser pings of idiocy and alarm, they are enormously generous. They give to us non-stop.
On Mark Z’s monster-sized quicksand pit of cat antics, emoticons and self-elevation, where (and thank you for sharing!), every banal occurrence is a red-carpet event, I, Sherlock, came across a strange news link. A hurricane! Another one? Yes, but this one was making a wide boomerang from the west coast of Africa and arcing up toward the British Isles. Ireland, in particular. Very heavy tropical winds — there they were, Holy Mary, Mother of God – acting delinquent, defiantly making their way to the Emerald Isle. Who knew hurricanes even thought this way?
I knew of none such happenings.
I had slowly come to absorb, and partly assimilate, the record-smashing rains of Houston, the nation’s fourth largest city turned to a chilly lake. I bowed my head at the monster hurricane that thoroughly demolished Barbuda and Antigua, and slammed the Caribbean and the Keys with an unimaginable remnant force, before heading north and inland. I reluctantly followed the next hurricane, Maria, that turned Puerto Rico into another Banda Aceh, the wasted land of the Boxing Day 2004 giant tsunami. With barely enough time to catch my breath, I gulped at the fearsome, voracious fires in Northern California that turned Santa Rosa into a smaller Hiroshima.
So is this what it is like? Is this it?
Or is this a windswept tunnel to another world, a more whipsawed, decimated world, a world that looks back at us, shouting in grief, equally angry and saucer-eyed sad? End times? Who can say? Surely, the end of warm summer nights at the drive-in. The end of family trips to the crewcut- clean lands of Yosemite or the shining rim of the Grand Canyon. The end of the staying out till dusk in the forts-we-built-in the-woods world, the parent-less, cellphone-less, missing kids on the side of milk cartons-less, fear-less world.
That world is gone.
How do I know? Well, an apparently insatiable rat ordered an entire pizza at 11 in the evening from my front porch. And a rebel hurricane, an innovator of new destructive tendencies, decided to make a U-turn for no damn reason and head for the gentle hills and taverns of Ireland. I mean, who can figure?
We are left mumbling, rubbing our eyes, mouthing to ourselves as if in prayer: Forgive us, for life has been tumultuous of late.
One would not be chided for suggesting we all need a new kind of compass.
Ken Taub is a copywriter, strategic marketing advisor, author, online journalist, and associate editor of RoelResources.com. He lives on the North Shore of Long Island with his wife and son.