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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

What Time It Ain't


What the hell time is it?

Doesn't really matter, I expect. The rhythm of the day, the coming and receding of it tells you all you need to know. The whistle will blow. Then you'll know what time it is. What good does it do to know what time it ain't?

I love it in the morning. You walk down the decline through the pines, the soft, gentle shush-shush of the big needles grinding under your boot, the fog swirling around your feet and dashing off a bit -- standoffish -- and then collecting itself again in your wake, waiting for the sun to rise and put it to bed. It reminds me of Pa blowing smoke rings on a long winter's evening. The stars are out strong though the sun is near to come. The idiot woodpeckers haven't begun, but you hear the songbirds a bit, sensing the sun waiting on the platform for the day to begin. They know what time it is.

I used to have a watch, but the steam, the sap, the turps, the cosmoline --well, they did those little devils in one after another. After a while, you just let things go. I stand over this machine and I feed it like it's a dragon, puffing steam, the great jeweled drops of amber sap boiling out like a bit of food on its smacking lips.

No one wanted to feed the beast. It roared and clanked and hissed and bit off the odd man's fingers. You had to be first every day in the dawn to fire her and bring the gauges up like Vulcan's clock. And once it was going you could never stop. It would pull itself to pieces with its unremitting greedy chewing if there was nothing in its maw.

Oh, I'll take her. It's my one, true love. A man can love the thing he understands, it's true, but seeks the whole world over for the thing that understands him in return. And the steam in the beast's veins courses through its body like life does in any man's husk.

I feed it and it feeds me. I'll lie on my bed someday all broke down from my exertions and feel the Lord's hand on my shoulder and wish I had one more day of the smell of the loblolly pine in my nose. Extreme Unction with the turps, father.

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