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Part 10 of the Tragic Beauty Anthology


By the time I recovered from the baseball bat to the head event, I had completed a series of disturbingly lucid dreams. I was able to see myself in the future, and that somehow convinced me I would live beyond this day. It had been a remarkably trying day. I had never seen so much activity nor been through the roller coaster of emotions this day put me through before. Now, as I rubbed my aching skull and shook my brain back into place, I focused my eyes and saw nothing. The room was pitch black. There was no light and no sound. For several minutes after I sat up I stared silently out into the darkness. There was a certain peace, and with it a new kind of beauty I had never before enjoyed. It was the beauty of solitude, which was something I had always fought to avoid in the past. I feared being alone, amongst other things, but now I welcomed it with open arms. I knew that soon enough, Jerry would appear and throw chaos into my tranquility.

"Is anyone there?
We don't have a lot of time.
Jerry is getting the horses."

The voice I regonized as belonging to Kettles Johnson, our friendly neighborhood mentally unstable resident manager. Still, giving much thought to the events of the day, I sat quietly and did not immediately give up my position. Perhaps Jerry, or one of his cruel associates, was good at mimicking voices. I sat very still. Then Kettles Johnson turned on the light.

"Dude, don't turn on the light.
Jerry bashed my head in with a baseball bat
I feel really sick."

Kettles crossed his arms and stared at me. It was the kind of stare you knew meant "fuck you, dude, I am trying to save your ass." I instantly felt worse than I already did. Here I was, sitting on the floor of an empty living room. At least it looked like a living room. There was a big staircase to my right and a boarded up picture window in front of me. The room was barren as far as furniture was concerned, although there were a number of newspapers from the 1930s blowing around.

"Don't you know where you are, man?
This is one of those big mansions down by the beach.
The ones where the men went off to fight in World War II came from.
Remember that war?
Only the rich fought in it.
Truly a remarkable period in American history."

I wasn't sure what to make of Kettles' statements. He knew my major was history, or something like that, and that what he was saying held as much water as a mesh funnel. Yet the convinction in his eyes scared me into not questioning him. Had Kettles completely slipped his loop? The last I remember of him was his teary eyed confession that he loved Jayne Hunter and that he had made some sort of arrangements for her at the college. Now he was talking about rich people fighting in World War II. I imagined Chester Nimitz would not be pleased with him.

I was once again being a bystander and not being a part of life. In my mind, things were becoming more clear, but my courage, or lack thereof, kept my body and mouth in check. One could walk through life and carefully do all the right things and avoid all the wrong things, but that isn't living. To live one has to take risks, embrace danger, make mistakes and get up each day and run the gambit again. I realized that I could stay in my room at the dormitory, attend to my studies, read supposedly illuminating books about philosophy and literature, but would listening to what snobby, presumptuous assholes told me about life really help? It would more likely make me like one of them. I could digest their regurgitations in small doses, but I wasn't going to become one of those students who walked around quoting passages from books, that in all reality, were probably better used to prop up tables where one leg was shorter than the other. One has to carve their own path through life and create their own philosophy and their own reality. That is the true meaning of beauty. Life can be beautiful if you shape it that way. It was becoming more clear by the second.

"Are you coming with me?
I have to get the car.
Jerry took Candy and Don out to the lake.
I have a feeling he's going to dump their bodies."

What about Miles? Kettles told me that he was wondering about Miles as well. Kettles had followed Jerry after the wounded, psychotic pseudo-cop had stolen a bread truck from a nearby bakery where Kettles' mother worked as a mop repairwoman. She had called him frantically, reporting on how a cop in a sleeveless shirt had put three bodies in burlap sacks and thrown them in the back of a bread truck. The cop had then forced a "colored boy" into the front seat at gunpoint and instructed him to drive the stolen vehicle. Kettles' mother had been very upset, but as Kettles reported, she was most upset because the stolen bread truck was going to prohibit fresh bread from being delivered to the part of town where "good Catholics" lived.

"I heard on my police radio that the bread truck is down at the lake."

We were in Kettles' car, driving rapidly towards the lake when he pulled over. A grungy looking man in an army jacket with a weatherbeaten sack over his shoulder was standing there with his thumb out. Kettles had every intention of giving this worn out hitchhiker a ride. Kettles got out of the car and motioned for the man to get in the back seat.

"Where you headed?"

"Anywhere," replied the man. Kettles then asked him where he was coming from. "Everywhere. It is all beautiful. The whole fucking world is gorgeous, man."

Planets continued to move in the same patterns and nothing changed their orbit. Whether or not Jerry tied cinder blocks to Don and Candy's ankles and dropped them in the lake, the sun would continue to burn. Whether or not Jayne Hunter ever got custody of her son, the wind and the rain would go their way. If I sat down and drank six bottles of cheap Scotch and passed out on the campus baseball field, the moon would still cycle from full to new and back again. Beauty was how we saw the moments in between.

"I wonder if my parents would forgive me if I dropped out of school to see the world."

Our passenger laughed and pulled a bottle of Night Train out of his jacket. He took a swig and passed it up to the front seat. At first I politely declined, then I grabbed the bottle and took a large sip and handed it back. The shooting star may have only been in my mind, but to me it was real enough to matter.

"That's the lake up ahead.
I can see the bread truck."

The hitchhiker told us that if all three of us went down to the lake that only two of us would come back. Then he patted me on the back of the head and told me I would be fine. "Too much livin' ahead of ya, youngsta."


Thus ends Part 10 of the Tragic Beauty Anthology
The Conclusion: Tragedy is Beautiful

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