It's not that I especially want to talk about things rotting or that I think they
symbolize or clarify anything else I am feeling, but I have noticed several of them lately,
so I mention them.
The nice little poppy weed: It was growing in my window well when I moved in.
At first it was completely contained within the white wooden box that covers my window
well. I think the white wooden box is there to deter events like robbery or the accidental
stumbling of a pedestrian who might take a terrible spill into the
three-foot-deep rectangular pit.
I should mention also that the white box of protection has been designed with
slats of wood with slits between to let light in. When I first moved into my place I
popped the screen off the window and climbed into the window well contained inside the
white, wooden, slatted box of slits to clean out all the trash—the chip bags and candy
wrappers—that had been deposited there by the wind and our gross society. I left a layer,
or probably several, of dead leaves and weeds past their prime. I noticed also the living,
thriving weeds of the late summer—most notably the poppy-type weed with leaves down
the long stem, stem branching in three or so places, each of those with maybe one more
split. The plant reached crescendo in a modest head that was closed. Some of the smaller
branches might have been capped with these flowers. I don't remember. I'll check it out
I kept my eye on that little guy, the protagonist of this story. It grew quickly,
noticeable development in the course of a day at the peak. That’s more than I can say for
myself. One day it was ignorant, contained completely inside the white box. The next it’s
head had poked completely through a slit between two slats and it saw the world. It grew
before from the fraction of the sunlight that made it through the wooden box, and it found
its way to an opening. Phototropism. You must understand, the slits in the box are much
smaller than the slats that make up the box, maybe ¼ slits to slats. So it is impressive that
the little poppy found a way out. Now, I don’t know if the plant hit the bull’s eye first try.
That is to say, it may have banged its soft, closed-flower head into a board and slid along
the board for a while until it slipped into a fortunate gap. I don't know. I didn’t see the
actual event occur.
If one was looking out my window from inside, this poppy-looking weed was on
the left side of the view. The noting of this event, this breaking through, was immediately
followed by my noticing that on the right side of the window well was another poppytype
flower (obviously kin to the one we have been following), but this second flower,
the one on the right, was completely brown and dead and limp against the ground and the
side of the window well. Its brown deadness caused/allowed it to blend in nicely with the
rest of the gross, dirty stuff laying lifeless in my window well. The interesting thing about
this second flower is that it had its head several inches outside the wooden box. I looked
back at the one on the left a little sad, feeling I had foreseen the closure of its mortality,
the annual incarnation of the perennial inspiration.
And then the graham crackers. One day they appeared on the sidewalk just
outside my house where I travel often. My first thought was that the package of graham
crackers must have been flung from a car window. Understand that this was not an entire
box of graham crackers fresh from the grocery store. It was just a plastic-wrapped
package of graham crackers, a sub-package of the grocer's for-retail-sale box. Four or
two (perhaps three, though I think probably an even number) of these smaller, plasticwrapped
packages would fit inside a cardboard box labeled, "Graham Crackers" on aisle
twelve (at least where I shop). While the smaller packages cannot be purchased
independently, I assume the larger package goes for just under $4, perhaps trivially under
$4, like $3.99. Not important. It is also not necessarily important how the crackers came
to be on the sidewalk, though I will say a Heineken bottle showed up broken about fifteen
feet from the graham crackers about a month later, and the way the glass was spread
allowed investigators on NBC’s Law & Order to conclude it had been flung from a
vehicle moving south, most likely an awkwardly-large truck, so I wouldn’t put it past the
local traffic to huck objects at the outside of this place of residence. But, I admit, beer
does seem like a more likely candidate to inspire the mood in which someone would feel
moved to throw things from their too-big truck.
If I had to guess, I'd say the graham crackers were flung from an old beater Carolla, "sandalwood", with the words 'Grahma-Slamma' temporarily written on the side windows with shoe polish, not to be confused with the 'Gramma to the slamma' law enforcement operation that apprehends unruly elderly women in re-purposed mail delivery trucks and delivers them to the nearest correctional facility.
The graham crackers were gradually moved from the middle of the sidewalk to flush against the wall of our condominium
building. I don't know what moved the crackers. It happened continuously and
slowly so that it took two months or so. Wind wouldn’t do this. If pedestrians did it they
sure did it strangely. Usually pedestrians just kick stuff and it's done. No light-tap-each-day-on-the-way-to-work kind of stuff.
That takes vision. That makes it art. I doubt if the
graham crackers are someone's art project. Maybe it was a coriolis effect: the graham
crackers spinning in the non-inertial reference frame of the world, slowly approaching an inevitable impenetrable wall.
It didn't take the crackers long to grow mold and start rotting in a pretty gross
way. At first it was white and mostly on one side, like there was weather in there, and a
soft snowstorm glistened one morning on the east side of graham cracker bluff. But
probably what happened is that the plastic wrapping became perforated in one spot when
the package hit the sidewalk after being thrown from the enormous truck. Mold spores
and bacteria must have entered through the perforation. We can take it to the lab and try
to find the perforation under a microscope if you want.
The mold started white then evolved to contain patches of soft blues and pinks as
a few weeks passed, such delicate colors like those of a child’s nursery.
Now the mold is black. The entire ridge where the mold began is covered over and caved
in. The mold got meaner and took over all the crackers and destroyed their culinary and
structural integrity. The package is quite gross at this point, and today it is covered in
snow, the first snow of the year.
The story of the third rotting thing begins about a
week ago, when I was pedaling up East Transit street. I saw the squirrel in the road with its guts
hanging out of its mouth—soft, brown, still-healthy fur, red and purple insides like a
school child blowing bubble gum. I went down a
different street on my way home. But the next day I was curious. The dead animal was
lying in a strip of the road where tires go, and so it had become even more mangled and
smashed, run over flat, no more spherical skull, more like the end of a bag of potato
chips. Its fur didn’t look so nice now. Like I said, then it snowed. The poppy was
wheezing its last breaths, all but two leaves brown and shriveled. The head that had seen
the light was pinned beneath the snow. The graham crackers were getting ever blacker, but from the point of view of mold/fungus enthusiasts I guess you could
say they were thriving. When I heard the snowplows running I thought I had seen the last
of my friend Mr. Flatsquirrel. But no, he had simply been plowed to the top of East Transit, deposited a little closer to the sidewalk. He scarcely resembled a squirrel at this point. He looked much more like a peel of the sheets of rotting leaves through which—and from which—the poppy in my window well had grown.
And so our characters continue on their paths toward their ultimate fates of
complete atomic dispersion.