Friday, November 22, 2013

Chasing Cassiopeia...and Camelot

A lot is being said today in memory of John F. Kennedy upon the fiftieth anniversary of his assassination.  It seemed like an appropriate opportunity to share this, a flash-fiction piece (only 380 words) which opens my book.  

The loss of Camelot is alluded to in this brief prose poem, an idealist's sentiment that thrives on a belief that - on some level - we can dream moments like these into being if we believe our mere presence here is a holy experience.

I'd be lying if I didn't say it's also a poor man's attempt to write his own version of "Thunder Road."

Anyway, this is "Chasing Cassiopeia."

Chasing Cassiopeia

The Buick is longer than a steamship and it cloaks the open road, tires over tar. 
It is a roiling fist, a ghost, a bullet out of this place and a thousand others like it. Places promising little, capable of nothing. Tonight, we are free of it. Tonight, you and I ride past the crooked pines and the boarded-up Citgo station on Acacia, the Flatiron, and every last marker of mediocrity to a place we’ve only read about, a place we didn’t believe could be touched.

A thrumming 364. Nailhead. Four-barrel Rochester. Tailfins slicing the fog. Twin turbine, deuce and a quarter. A phantom surveying the outer edges of paradise, Eden’s passing lane. Climbing out of the stale mire onto a ribbon of road curling past refineries, dunes and bogs and everything we were told we might regret. The tintinnabulation of the carillon wanes behind us and the hissing of the road becomes our sole hymn, an epic tone poem, and we follow its tantric Odyssean hum without question. Cassiopeia’s our map and the quarter moon our unfailing lighthouse.

It is here that we realize, perhaps fully for the first time, that we are alive. Alive and capable of nothing but goodness and madness, truth and trust. A trust in a sky ripped open like a canyon floor, pouring redemptive rain down on our windshield, the sound of it playing free jazz against the glass. A trust in flight and gravity and nuance and Bacchus and the sutras of the ages that have paved this route before us.

It’s summer. The air is thick. Your pale and naked feet hang out over the passenger mirror and your hair blows back in angelic tousled streams. Your parents are still young and so are their dreams. Elvis is thin and Robert Kennedy is alive and Brando still gives a damn.

Camelot unfolds before us with an ending not yet written, not yet decided by lone gunmen and conspirators and Cuba and Nixon and your father’s curfew limits and your mother’s prudish insistences. And we ride through Elysium without once putting on the brakes, just to see what happens when you exit the barricades on the other side. To see what happens when you don’t stop until the wheels fall off

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