Passing


" … one of those ex-stage stops where the exit sign proclaims No Services (for me)."

The Muse and I have been traveling the last three days, reaching our destination yesterday and readying to head back to The Villa early this morning. We've passed scores of small towns and former stage stops, most hardly warranting a glance, let alone any deeper inquiry. We found ourselves fortunate to on the way overnight in a formerly unknown little town, one originally founded with the unlikely name of Hole In The Ground, though the founders later upgraded it to something more conventional. Today, it's a proud little place mostly off any well-beaten path, the sort of town that time might have not completely forgotten, but one where its name comes begrudgingly to even time's lips. It's not entirely anonymous, but might as well be for most passages and travelers.

We passed through Las Vegas, overnighting there with one of The Muse's gracious nephews and his family. Vegas, as it's generally referred to, seemed the perfect peek into an apparently not so distant dystopian future.
Miles of spanking new freeways, each exit a self-similar collection of the same old shops, orderly rows of hacienda-style houses build on genuine sand, an economy built on gritty speculation and relying upon visitors and aspiring carpetbaggers for sustenance. The natives complain about the changes, but they understand that they had little choice but to leave the door wide open for outsiders to enter if they were to successfully compete. I remain uncertain when life became a competition, but it now seems well-engaged as if it were.

We hit the road to attend a relative's funeral, the adopted father of The Muse's sister-in-law, no blood relative. We came to be there for our blood relatives, brother, sister-in-law, and the nieces and nephews, to whom we're known and Uncle Amy and Aunt David. They're growing up fast, as kids always have, and my head spins with the changes overtaking and consuming them, wondering how I would have coped had I faced similar velocities in my seemingly over-tender youth. The dearly departed was not in attendance due to a bureaucratic tangle between Nevada and Arizona. The paperwork couldn't accommodate the speed of even death, so the deceased was absent in more than one way. The celebration proceeded anyway, as these events must, with preacher, family, and congregation singing hymns especially chosen, it seemed, to exceed any amateur singer's relevant singing voice's range. One either strained on the high notes or the low, surprisingly producing some recognizable semblances of the old familiars.

This gathering turned out to be the first opportunity most attending had ever heard the deceased's real name, having always just known him as Butch. His real name had been given him by his adopted father when he was three, so Butch had two layers of real names, neither known to almost anyone. We all inhabit blended families now, but Butch's seemed especially convoluted, with major life turns melded into a well-knotted rope of relationships. He'd died suddenly following an otherwise successful surgery after a year of steadily declining health, a normal if surprising event. He was fondly remembered by all as a faithful servant and forceful defender of the faith. I reflected that I would not be so remembered upon my passing. I pray to be about as memorable as one of those small towns or ex-stage stops where the exit sign proclaims No Services. I belong to no local congregation skilled in the preparation and presentation of a long buffet table groaning beneath mysterious casseroles. I listened to the preacher speaking but understood little of which he spoke for he employed a vocabulary which holds special meaning only to those who seemed to have stopped seeking explanation. I figured it was a faith-based exposition, one no more intended for my ears than an ex-stage stop intended to attract my business from the Interstate, and thereby perhaps mimicking all speech here.

A snowstorm stalks us back across this wild country. One of us will arrive back at The Villa first. We face some unknowable possibility that the storm will beat us home and set back our arrival. One hits the road and one takes their chances. We overnighted in a casino hotel, a place dizzy with mysterious flashing lights and curiously obsessed zombies. I don't understand anything about the machines which seem to hold so much fascination for some. I'm satisfied to let that sleeping dog just lie there, though I do wish that damned hound wouldn't smoke so much. I slink across the "gaming floor" hoping whatever infection they have won't slough off onto me. We met a woman in the hall who reported that she'd come there to recover from the recent passing of her husband. I wondered no further how her stay might facilitate her recovery. I figure she's one of those ex-stage stops where the exit sign proclaims No Services (for me).

©2018 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved









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