IX. The Defeat of the Glass Dwellers

...from The Sea of Fear

     Nah just put it over there why is that doomcough asking me if I want any water at a time like this when the tanks are sealed and the sand is rolling and Sherman Slee's at the helmstack and moving on up the delta eighty-eight minutes from midnight at the oasis zero hour when the fassel's will fuel a giant stadium of adobe acrobatics as wide as the planet which after all is called Earth and not Water that ozone deal was one of my best triumphs the beauty being they did it to themselves couldn't even notice the seas receding probably thought it was the tides or something pollyannish shrubbuckers don't know the difference between a green peace and a greens fee dad was a water person couldn't care less for golf loved his boat no need for speed just the sky and the breeze god rest his soul glad he's not here to see what I've got to do here still playing with fire like that time I almost immolated myself still have the marks from it damn wetters didn't even help just watched me run three blocks for a bucket of now where'd that dufus put that glass not that I want it but we can't have it spilling on the control boards I no longer need to drink or sweat or piss lost the ability years ago when I cried my last cry strangest thing the pores and glands just left me and no one would know what a wonderful thing it is if they haven't experienced it and by neptune I'm going to spread goodness right about now or in about eighty-five minutes anyway the sands of time are running low or high depending on how you look at it I've walked the ocean floor out there among the rock castles in the red sector and it doesn't really matter if it's dust or dunst my god it's beautiful and the folks that live out there were getting it piped in before I came along and showed them a new way sealed those pipes right up mines over doesn't matter if you've got to have it tunneled in then you ain't living learned that when I built that fire that almost ashed me hemmed myself into that pillbox wasn't thinking about ever getting out just a nice cozy fire and a chimney made of streampipe they were laying in the mud to move that tap water through hell to the homes of the wetbacks outback of the claystraits enjoyed playing with matches in those days guess I still do.

  No way the reports coming in from General Slee were exceeding expectations his column was gathering recruits and the number of bonfires were growing exponentially drying up creek beds and tributaries with such tenacity that even the great river was beginning to wane in his path onward to the last sea in aquatic a quake and a birth of a nation and he was digging up pipe whatever was he doing with it that's a helluva lot of streampipe between the toenail of the delta and the High Sea Dad never would let me take the boat out on my own always had to coach me up the same old instructions about the channel and engine speed and finally the order of hoisting the sails steer into the wind cut the motor no you're not into the wind look at the telltales and the jib wasn't threaded right well it wasn't my fault let's wait for the boat to go by look out for those crabpots well you let Billy sail the damn boat alone why not me I mean you teach everyone and the end of teaching means the student does it alone and all your students get to do it alone except for me and I practically grew up on this tub I know the smell of the V-berth and bilge water and can tell how long it's been since the genoa was up by the number of spiders in the bag betcha didn't know I knew this crap but whatever I know that someday someday you and I will take this monumental trip across the sea out the other side into the Sea of Fear which just sounds forbidden and the kind of place I must see because I'm fearless betcha didn't know that either what a beautiful voyage it will be and I know you dream about it too just don't know if I'm in that dream or if your dream is only that or if you have the same cajones you somehow bequeathed to me or rather enjoy keeping dreams as dreams as you cozy up to the tiller and turn tail at the sight of a cirrus sky one time I rode on Kellen's boat and we went way the hell out into danger and got pitched in a gale and just so you know I rode the bow like a flipping bronco and nary an ill consequence came our way I'm ready to conquer the world of water just you let me have the boat one day and I want you there and I want us to go for a month, father and son.

  Nein more minutes gone and we are seventy-six away from anti-judgment day and as many trombones will blare through the Village Arch because our new world will still have culture because we are a race of the finest artists and we will have races for artists because only competition can inspire greatness there are no geniuses not even me only vision and teamwork and we don't need any crazy ideas getting in the way even when we tell people to think outside the box we don't really mean it we just figure they like to hear that crap and anyway they couldn't if they tried you can't ever go around thinking you're smart when the cozy fire in the pillbox flared up I was stuffing it with paper and cardboard and woodchips and bark and hellyea it was a rush I never heard a fire sing before but sure enough there was a manly hum hooting through the PVC chimney so loud it made me look up and holy sunspots my chimney was on fire the streampipe was more flammable than gasoline belching black into the sky could be seen from miles around me alone in a mud paddy puffing ebony death into an autumn sky it's not like nobody could see it but I wasn't thinking that at the time but how the hell will I get out I'm dead meat the only way out is through the chimney hole and that's holy Hades and the concrete walls of the pillbox are six inches thick but there's one hole that I partially built over with fireplace cinder blocks a hole designed for a pipeline a hole that on a better day would channel water underground and if I could just be half my size I could get through it and I have about thirty seconds to figure it out before the chimney topples or drips in on me and CRAP I'm too big am going to have to kick the fireplace over and squirt out in one motion can't screw up or I'm DAH! it worked sounds like a tornado-inferno in there out here I'm lying on my belly in mud and start throwing mud back in to put the fire out but that would take a year so MUST GET WATER and preferably before the authorities come I didn't know they couldn't throw a ten-year-old in jail but anyway I see a bunch o' wetty construction joes on their lunch break and they're laughing at me and I yell WATER at them and one holds up his thermos the others laugh and I think the world is coming to an end and there's thick black smoke to prove it but figure I can't give up and I run three blocks home where I know a hose won't stretch but some idea will come and I see a bucket my Dad uses for fireplace ash and I empty the ash into the ditch fill it with water from the spigot damn it's heavy and jog back spilling a third of it with it bulging at its handle can't imagine I'll make it but five minutes later I'm here my shoulder falling off and I throw the one bucketful of water into the hole fully expecting I'll be doing this ten more times wondering where I'll get a new shoulder but lo and behold that does the trick I mean a ten-year-old boy's life was almost snubbed by a flame that went out faster than a match on Mt. Fox and I can't forget the stench of that mangled, beautiful streampipe now in the shape of driftwood as the fire engine comes screaming down the street passing me by I run home and there are my parents walking in bewilderment across the yard eyeing the empty red ash bucket in my blackened hands and I fall to the green grass crying crying crying I don't know why which was worse my vandalism or my tea with the reaper and I should be happy about an hour to go now and why am I thinking of this old memory it doesn't reflect too well on my capacity for making good decisions but I am quite sure I'm doing the right thing here and all the streampipes in the world can go up in their sudden feral flame and so much the better for the purpose at hand and all will benefit from it well I didn't actually catch hell like I thought I would but Mom and Dad held me in their arms as I cried and patted my back and stroked my hair and where the hell are they now I could use them I mean I'm about to destroy the world don't you think a hug would be useful at a time like this?

  No doubt they're to the savannah by now any word yes I'll have that drink of water yes sir we just received word General Slee his message to you is I give you the savannah signed Sherman important pocket of drought-resistance that savannah sometimes when you're rolling you can feel a little sorry for what you are putting out of existence there's the rub if you never felt sorry in your life then you never acted beyond complacence one must be humble aw hell who cares we're jacking up the country we're decreasing dependence on water that's the future we're preventing the next great flood we're purging the breeding grounds of countless infestations of disease-ridden buggery we have a shining city on a hill to build gee didn't realize I was so thirsty only twenty-two minutes now until we break down the last of the resistance and the High Sea will be ours guess the last time I was there was well-known we'd have gone again if it weren't for that regulated wonderdrug he took for his joint pain who knew it contained traces of the toxin deadly to so few seemed like a good investment I mean invention at the time we all ran it through I consulted with the Intoxicant Field Marshall and everyone said it was destined to make coin and yes I got my share and that helped Dad do I own responsibility for his death hey it would kill me too I have his fragile genes except that now I know not to take it the world is fouled up I didn't have anyone to sue except myself but that last sail didn't go so far as the Sea of Fear and didn't last any longer than an afternoon but Dad let me do it all from pulling out of the slip to setting the course didn't lift a damn finger good thing I brought an old friend along and we almost screwed everything up yeah I knew how to catch the wind and pick up speed even knew how to come about but didn't have any idea where the hell we were going and Pops must have had the devil of a time refraining or maybe he didn't maybe his declining brain had lost some of its ability to know I was figging up or maybe he was enjoying being chauffeured in his last sail or maybe he was just thinking that I was his last best hope for getting lost at sea well when the thunderstorm broke we had hell to pay couldn't see fifty feet in front of us and me and Dag pointing this way and that had to ride the compass and me so sure we had to go North and I was right too only problem was I was reading the damn thing upside down and we were going South about to run aground and Dad not saying a word the whole time in his wide-brimmed hat not another boat on the entire sea and it turns out this was our Sea of Fear if Sea of Fear means utterly blind and lost and alone if even for a moment and even a mile from home and we loved it were laughing and me avoiding recognition of the fact of thirty years riding on this tub with the spiders and the smells and the orders and I didn't know what the hell to do after all and Dad did have cajones after all to let me wreck us if I might while he's just relaxing in his mind being pelted in the face with autumn raindrops one last one very very last time and me recognizing that it was the other dream the one where you don't actually go very far from home that he had been dreaming all his life and that it wasn't such a bad thing I mean that's what it would be anyway and my whole life had been spent dreaming in the same way and I was in no way ready to conquer the world really except from a comfortable chair in a million-lighted million-knobbed control booth with a couple of morons around because what would have passed as trusted friends have long since moved on and there's just us and maybe I'm a moron too certainly am for approving that drug that killed Dad shit I oughtta take a dose myself where the hell is it.

  No reply what do you mean no flapping reply get him on satellite what was his last position zero in on him he's got to be a mile or two from the beach call up the aerial what do the birds see what do you mean no birds get away from that scutterscope let me have a look all black huh what about my hummingbird my personal hummer no one knows about it not even you ya doomcough hummahummahummabob gimme a look where can he be humhummmhummmmhum hummmhummmmmmmm the machine went steady state and the old man stopped breathing his face turned toward the window on a beautiful wintry day where the snowflakes fell like Sundays slow and ambling and some barely moving at all and his face was otherworldly as though bronzed in a moment of freefall Dad was dead and didn't know if I loved or hated those snowflakes because I knew in a day or two we'd be interring him underneath the waterweight of them all they look pretty when they're fresh like a laceration but then they scab and become stone ugly and hard and then melt and then there's mud and that's just another reason to hate water and my god Dad what am I going to do now this world wasn't supposed to be tackled alone I can't even read a fuxxing compass about all I know how to do is destroy and bury is this your way of calling me to action shall I use the shovel you bought me when I was thirteen no get the hell away nurse doctor whatever GET THE HELL AWAY didn't you prescribe that hemlock in the first place and shut that damn hum off this is going to hurt going to hurt I don't know what to feel I only know I will never look on this face again this is the last I'll ever see of the forehead nose hair cleft chin that wrote my features I'm now a rare book not a second edition the gila monster to his dinosaur and the wind is kicking up and those downy flakes outside are locking arms in a sacrificial round dance outside the window and it is a balm to think of his spirit sailing out through the ring like a triumphant captain returning home at the center of the armada after that round-the-world trip he dreamed of the one he lived every time he was on the High Sea two miles from home now he's farther out than that going going yet right here yet going gone and the view out the window is all white and black-white and I am standing in water must be the snow I tracked in but I'm in slippers and my boots are in the hall and there's nothing but water in the scutterscope my hummingbird has a beat and all I can see are fountains geysers cascades columns of water shooting skyward from the earth inundating macerating whelming the world in torrents cataracts saults splashing sloshing coursing where is it coming from it looks like an eruption thousands of hairlines in the earth could it be no no all the excavated streampipe destabilized the crust but what pressure what resistance spewing from under the shell let's get a view of the High Sea gone fly hummer onward to the Sea of Fear all gone gone underground and back up again the Seas are spouting into the air the birds popped like clay decoys by laser gushes there's a deluge in heaven and the crust of the earth is being minced to shards and eroded to soup not a dry eye in the house lost my hummer what's that sound a pure ringing a low roar and gnashing of gears a slicing sluicing sound gurgitating up the walls and wells and this must be it where's that pill aw to hell with it take me then I'll ride you like I rode you on Kellen's bowsprit I know who you are and no I didn't waterproof the control room no I will not put on my mask no I won't cover my ears I died long ago in a sense you're all snowflakes to me now a kabuki sideshow to my Noh I'm flying backwards now to the door I entered through not out the window by the time you gush through that portal I'll be an ovum a tadpole a minnow.



Go on.