Of Hydraulic Conductivity, Perhaps




One must strive for inner naked bo-buddhiditty.

— Ricardo Cabeza

“What do you know about hydraulic conductivity?” the Goat King asked the Corpse.  “Every molecule of water adjoining other water is in contact, so to speak, with all other water molecules in the pool.  Water molecules in contact can pull each other along.  When you step into the ocean, you are in hydraulic conductivity with all the water in all the seas.”

Corpse just shrugged.  The Goat King was showing off, as usual, and eventually the conversation would segue to something they all could relate to.  Beer, hopefully; or bar skanks, or maybe a pool hall with a strong possibility of fights.

Dave (the Goat King’s ‘everyday name’) was not to be ignored.  Turning to the others in the room, he asked, “Does anybody know where we are?”

“The ride, man, the ride.”  That was Jason.  He had just finished shaping a four-foot-long ‘party’ sub sandwich into an alligator shape, even sticking bits of bread in as legs.  The ride he was alluding to was a carnival ride they may or may not have gotten onto.  The Lost Highway ride.

Under cover of darkness, the carnival pitched its tents, midway, and appurtenances thereto.  The following morning, residents of the nearby town of Green Hill (known affectionately among many residents as “Green Hell”) seemed surprised at the appearance of the next-door neighbor.

“Looks kinda creepy,” offered Jason, fingers making a visor as he peered through the fog.  Although having been erected overnight, there was a hint of moss already.  As if emerging from the humus, proto-amphibian-like, spontaneous generation.

The Corpse could not resist carnivals.  The lure of gambling, no matter what form, was usually irresistible.  Karma was similarly inclined.  Without much difficulty, they dragged the gang along.

They lost most their pocket change in the midway.  Not even a medium-sized stuffed bear to show for their efforts.  “We’re not schwinging successfully,” lamented Jason.

“Let’s go chill on a slow ride,” suggested Jowers.

They ambled towards the furthest end of the midway.  Under flickering lights, partly veiled by overhanging tree branches, one could easily miss the entrance to The Lost Highway ride.  Chaz, the sixth member of the group, involuntarily gasped in astonishment.  Astral dragons, multi-faceted fingers of mist, the shimmer from beyond.  Chaz blinked, and saw the entrance clearly.  “Whad ya see, Chaz?” sneered Dave.  Though Dave would ridicule the quiet and shadowy borderline-outcast member of the group, the Goat King realized the utility in a combination court jester/empath.  Chaz only shrugged.

“Anyone got tickets left?” Dave said as he stepped past the androgynous stunted gate-attendant.  Jowers fumbled beneath his coat and produced the requisite string of segmented light cardboard.

A screeching sound alerted them to the approach of the next ride car.  Sparks and the smell of ozone.  All but Dave tried to get in but the Goat King stopped them with an upraised finger.  “Jowers, Corpse, and … uh, Jason; get in this one.”

The first trio disappeared through the hanging-down rubber strips, much as a tray of dishes is sent into the washer.  Dave turned to Karma and Chaz, grinning.  “You guys think that this is not as it seems?”  Chaz attempted to conceal his answer, but was betrayed by involuntary shaking and beads of sweat on his brow.  It was not a warm evening.

The next carnival-ride conveyance arrived as screechingly as the previous.  Karma was beyond annoyed.  This experience deeply penetrated and ravaged the thin façade of a mere waste of time.  The tinny static-y polka music through the loudspeakers was bad enough.  The flickering neon lights portraying Americana highway times gone by – Karma fought back expurgation of recent midway hot dogs and chili.  Exhibits of Model T’s chugging over rocky hilly passes, the obsolete donkeys pulling wagons waiting off to the side.  The Cleaver family, glowing hair, radiantly freshly-scrubbed with shining apple cheeks, off to Disneyland in their Edsel.  Subcompacts full of collegians hurtling, lemming-like, to the beach at spring break.

With a crackling of ozone-punctuated acrid nostril-searing smoke, the second car crashed into the first.  Angry yelling.  Dave turned to assess Chaz’s reaction.  Chaz seemed as swept up in the illusion as anyone else.  Surprisingly, it was Karma who first stepped back from emotion, so to speak, and attempt to rationally weigh the situation.

He grinned.  The others were so swept up in their mass hallucination, that Karma could actually see the emotional and energy fields surrounding them.

They were in a sort of room.  Like a mobius strip, the floor eventually became the ceiling, sound became visible objects, and thoughts were actions.  Everyone was comfortably seated.  The sun shone in, the moon brightly illuminated, they could see the milky way at noon.  Events, pictures, what might have been, what could be, flowed in.  Flowed past.  Swirled.  “Kind of like hydraulic conductivity,” remarked the Goat King.

“What?”  The Corpse was annoyed.  Later even Corpse would have to admit that each sensation they experienced would fade, drawing an adjoining related vision.  The core of each would largely overlap the previous, but different in some aspect.

Dave launched into a contemporaneous treatise on the inter-connectedness of all things.  Only Chaz and Karma feigned any interest, the others yawned, held fingers to their ears, scratched – anything to ward off Dave’s attempt at labeling the unlabelable.

Later, Jowers would reminisce that it was like a front porch party that lasted for hours.  Unemptiable coffee cups; beer mugs.  Jason was custodian of a large sandwich.  The others frequently hungered, but satiation was forthcoming and, briefly, absolute.  Chaz started to disrobe, muttering something about his favorite philosopher.  “Get dressed, idiot!” barked Karma.  “That Spanglitch Carbooza writer has you brainwashed.”

The screeching crackling sound of a ride car interrupted their reverie.  It stopped on tracks they hadn’t noticed until now.  Dave motioned for Jowers, Corpse, and Jason to get into it.  Back to Green Hell.  He and Karma and Chaz stood, waiting for the next car.

Cry, Kwakiutl


The semi had hit the telephone pole exactly mid-front bumper.  This was a straight stretch of highway, and so, the patrolman noted that the abrupt change of direction the tire marks made on the ice on the pavement did not “make sense.”  Did the driver quickly and erratically spin the wheel due to a dropped cigarette?  — or perhaps a latent heart condition kick in?  The answer should come from the truck’s custodian, unconscious and en route via ambulance to the clinic at Llano Naranja.

The driver was checked-in by Marta Dominguez, working the night shift at the clinic’s emergency room.  As she helped transfer the gurney into the receiving area, she had an odd sense about this patient.  A look of shock and bewildered apprenension seemed etched onto his face.  She had the feeling that this facial message presaged the accident.

It would be two days before the driver regained consciousness, his presence at the table of “the Here and Now” further impeded by the drugs administered to block the pain of cracked ribs and broken nose.

Marta had gone to the movies earlier that month with a male friend, and afterwards stopped at the Orange Flats Diner.  She had barely settled into her seat when a hand tapped her shoulder from the adjacent booth.  “May I join you?”

Marta turned to her companion, who shrugged ‘why not?’ then back to Fescue Tseyka, within whose gray and weathered countenance could be any combination of ethnicity.  Turned out he was half-Tlingit Indian, far from the tribal homelands of the Northwest.  A competent and efficient handyman, he had done odd jobs at both of Marta’s places of employment, and she had made his acquaintance.  But something was troubling him this evening, and Marta and friend were to become the outlet for Fescue’s epistle.

“Miss Dominguez, I have watched you for some time.  And your companion seems of kindred spirit.  I think I can share something with you.”  Marta and Beta, noticing the nearby waitress, pointed to their coffee cups and turned back to Tseyka.

“I am far from my ancestral home, but I have followed the spirits of my forefathers to this place,” continued Fescue.  “Many years ago my people lived not only in harmony with the land and sea, but with the spirits of those places.  The holy men would strive to become conduits for their spirit guides and allies.  Messages from these spirits would be transmitted to the people through Potlatch.”

“Potlatch?” inserted Marta.

Tseyka continued.  “Each passing of a chief, or a change of dynasty, moments of deep significance for my people would be marked by Potlatch.  Each Potlatch would be commemorated by a totem for that occasion.  Our spirit guides and allies would reveal the totem’s form through the holy men.”

Beta squirmed, though he knew, no matter what, he had to be polite on this date.  “The holy men were like spirit mediums?  Coffee appeared in their cups, with menus left unobtrusively at the table’s edge.  “The spirits worked through the holy men?”

Tseyka looked at Beta benignly, and with a hint of a smile continued.  “Not my tribe alone, but our neighbor tribes could read their ancestor’s history through the totems.  The Tsimshian, the Haida, the Nootka, and others whose names are gone but their spirits continue.  And,” he sighed, “cry, Kwakiutl.”

Fescue lapsed into silence, his eyes momentarily closed.  Marta politely waved “we’re fine” to the puzzled waitress, who then was able to concentrate on other customers across the diner.

“When the white men began to intrude upon our lands, they tried to take everything.  It was not enough to take our livelihood, our best hunting and fishing.  They could not take Potlatch, so they tried to take us from our spirits.”  Tseyka took a long slow sip from his cup.  “The creation of totems was outlawed.  None fought as hard as the Kwakiutl.  The white men were especially ruthless in their squashing the Kwakiutl’s ancestral ways.”  Another measured silence ensued, their coffee cups re-filled.  “My uncle was part Kwakiutl,” Tseyka resumed.  “He told me of his five times great-grandfather, a holy man of powerful medicine.  Rather than abide by the white man’s edicts, he and a few disciples went directly to the spirit realm to continue the old ways.”

Both Marta and Beta had been patiently listening, but this last statement was in need of clarification.  Fescue allowed himself a wry smile.  “They left their bodies and have been in the spirit realm ever since.  When my uncle told me of this, I realized that I have always been aware of my six times great-grandfather.  He and his tribe are near this place.”

“They practice Potlatch, sometimes their totems briefly intrude upon our realm.  When the light is just so, at twilight, or when a dark cloud hides the sun, I can see their work.”  Tseyka allowed himself both another smile and long sip of coffee.  “Oh!  I better let you kids have your dinner.  Thanks for listening.”  Fescue Tseyka grasped both their hands in his, scooped up his coat, and left.

Marta was back on duty when the truck driver regained consciousness.  She reflected back to when she admitted him two nights before, and the apprehension she had had.  She then easily bridged another mental spark-gap, to her “dinner with Beta and Fescue.”  Afterwards, Beta mentioned that during his previous truck-driving job he thought he had seen strange protuberances from trees or signposts or even telephone poles “when the conditions were right.”  Marta remembered one time in particular in the forest when, for one several-second span, a tree had several faces, stacked one atop the other.  She looked again, and they were gone.

The driver moaned through the bandages covering his nose.  Marta took a few steps in from the door.  The driver opened his eyes and looked around the room slowly.  His gaze stopped at Marta.  His banged-up face could not disguise an embarrassed grin.  “You’ll never guess what I thought I saw.”

“Try me,” Marta grinned back.