Initially there was nothing to do, and he was worried. But he needn’t have been. He barely had time to position himself before the bell rang and the cable began tugging his press along the long pile of sand toward the far factory wall. Around the dark hollow room men began to shout and there was the clang of shovels. A motor roared to life somewhere as a bucket turned a corner heading toward the furnace. Rastis pulled the top off his mold and set it aside and began shoveling the bottom full of sand filling it to the top.
When it was full he pulled a metal edge across it, raking the extra sand off and carefully placed the Number 9 skillet mold on the sand, covering it with the top part of the mold box. This he also shoveled full of the damp sand, raking it off. He then dropped the hydraulic press on the mold box pressing the sand firmly around the mold. Releasing the air pressure and lifting the press top, he took a long tapered copper tube and bored two holes into the sand, one on each side of the box down to the pattern.
Pressing a button that caused the pattern to vibrate he carefully lifted the top box of sand off the mold inspecting the bottom mold of his skillet with particular attention to the handle. The sand was good today. He set the pattern on the floor and removed the pattern from the bottom half of the mold. Then he replaced the top half of the mold. At this point the entire mold was a hundred pounds of sand and very fragile. Attaching hooks from a small crane above he swung the mold around behind him and set it on the floor.
He noticed the man next to him had two finished molds on the floor and was part way through his third. He was working like a robot, sweat dripping down his forehead, his shirt already off. Rastis didn’t think he’d be able to keep up with him. Later in the day they would come around with the little truck and pour the molten iron into the molds, red hot liquid flowing into the holes he had punched in the sand. As it cooled men would kick the molds apart while he continued making new molds, turning out more iron skillets.
The note from Bob expressed apologies for the divorce. After that it was disconnected and did not make much sense. Rastis was not sure whether he was being invited to the reunion or un-invited. This did not bother him so much as he did not want to go to a reunion that wanted to un-invite him. His primary feeling was that he was sleepy anyway and the rain outside and the slight chill in the house only seemed to contribute to that feeling. He knew his life was about to shift again and he had lived though a lot of shifts.
Most of the guys at the foundry were older men; many of them were his father’s age. Some of them were in their twenties. Rastis was the youngest one there being 16. All his life it seemed he had been the youngest at everything he did. In the fall he was going to college. He wasn’t sure what to study. His father had said to study oceanography, that that was going to be a big thing. He did not see how there could be that much to study about oceanography. It had to have all been dug out by now.
The foundry men talked about silicosis. They said you got it into your lungs from working with the sand. They said it killed you after ten years that nobody worked for more than ten years as a sand molder. The sand molders got haunted looks on their faces when they talked about the silicosis. Sometimes they joked about it. You could tell they weren’t sure about it, but it seemed everybody knew somebody who had died from it. It seemed it was real enough all right. Rastis didn’t have to worry. He was only a sand molder for the summer.
The foundry work was hard and you muscled up fast slinging the molds around. It was summer and with the blast furnaces next door it got very hot in the building One time the bucket of molten iron got close to him when he was setting a new mold on the ground and the heat from the pour warped his contact lens. He blinked and it popped out onto the sand cloudy and misshapen. Still the heat seemed good, seeping into his body as he worked. You just had to be careful to not let sweat drip on your mold.
Most of the men worked stripped to the waist. The first time Rastis took his shirt off he heard a yell behind him. “My god, he’s got more hair on his chest than James Bond!” That was how he met Mike, a young molder who lived in town with his wife and a toddler. They had a house on the main drag out near the river that Rastis drove by every day on his way to and from work. Mike was a new man like Rastis, barely making book every day and spent a lot of time kidding around.
I skip the sitar music I hope. I have had enough sitar music over the past couple days. I can feel that beast boiling inside me like that lobster tail I steamed last night curling in on itself. The butcher lady has been trying to get me to buy a lobster tail for quite a while now and so I finally agreed to buy one. It was odd. I have eaten lobsters before, but sitting in my kitchen, eating that lobster tail I had this unavoidable feeling that I was eating a fellow critter. I don’t have that very often.
The maid was here yesterday with her vacuum and polish. That I have hired a maid is one more thing that makes my brain itch. I have purchased another pair of speakers. The new ones are larger than life. They are too large. I have avoided them in the past because they are so large, but I was caught between and I knew I could live with them until I sorted the whole sound problem out. They seem to have a mechanical kind of life of their own, like two washing machines thrashing in my room. I might name them.
Today is the day the world comes to an end, 12/12/2012. I have tried to talk to several people about this, but all I get is argument that it is some other date. One Korean woman wanted to tell me about 11/11 and lovers giving one another chocolate snakes. As I look around me I see things going on as usual. The sun is shining. An appliance repair van is parked across the street. The mail was delivered this morning. Children went to school. I even took a shower. Clearly people are not taking the end of the world seriously.
The boss told him he could make a lot of money if he made more pieces. Rastis agreed that he could make more money. Some men ran two machines to the wall in a shift and then would come back at night for more. It was better at night any way. It was cooler. You ran your machine about 2/3 to the wall and you made book. Rastis made book and kept his job. He watched the other men. They had reasons to work the way they did. But after a point the work started to tear at your body.
But these speakers are strange. They are Vandersteens. Vandersteen 2e’s, to distinguish them from Vandersteen 1’s or Vandersteen 3’s or even Vandersteen 2’s or 2e Signature or 2e Signature Plus is it? Mr. Vandersteen has been making his speakers for nearly 30 years now, pretty much the same speakers, and has become a kind of high priest of reasonably priced quality speakers for the audio lunatic crowd. Vandersteens are nice speakers. These, however are not your garden varety Vandersteens. I am beginning to suspect they are possessed. It would make sense that they would find their way to my house.
My friend Harry runs an Audio Salon, Audio Dimentia. He sells Vandersteens and has suggested I might be happy with Vandersteens, perhaps a pair of Vandersteen 2e Signature Nes Plus Ultra. They are too big, I dissemble, and too inefficient. “They are much kinder to amplifiers than the numbers suggest,” Harry says. Just now one of the Vandersteens is looking at the Night Shade tube amp on the shelf. “We want that,” it says to me. “What do you mean?” I ask. “It’s blown. Besides you have the Moon. What more could you want?” Wait, now I’m talking to speakers.
I ignore the oversized fabric-covered THING, and go back to my work. I had a pair of Vandersteens once before, little ones. 1C’s I think. I bought them to use while I was replacing the tweeters in my Aerials. Then I sold them. A new pair of Vandy’s runs around $2700 I think. I got these for $600, including stands and MIT Cables. True, they were older MIT cables, but they looked brand new, and to be honest, everything looked too new when I went to pick them up. There wasn’t a spot or scratch on them. Bluebook said $750.
The guy who was selling them had just bought a bigger-than-life pair of B&W 603’s. We hadda be talking ten thousand dollars here. His wife was cooking dinner for the boys and she was one serious cook. I had visions of Harry making out one of his fake receipts “for the wife” on this deal. The B&W’s were gorgeous though and matched their furniture. The owner mentioned something about the “new” technology. Yah, ten thousand dollars buys a lot of technology brochures. I used to work as a technical writer. The Vandy’s were not hooked up to his main system.
He had them hooked to an equipment stack to the side as if he did not want to infect his new stuff or something. I should have suspected something right away. We are talking banana connections here and he pulls out a new stack of amps? I asked him to play some jazz so I could make sure they still had tweeters, and they did, and they sounded wonderful. But he assured me the grills did not come off. Whatever was inside the Vandersteens stayed inside the Vandersteens. I said I’d take them and stuffed the 600 into his hands.
The night before last I am in the well and I dreamt I broke off a tooth and the next morning was making an appointment to have it fixed confusing this with the morning with reality in my mind. That dancing along with a book I was reading and a movie I was watching the night before, all mixing together in a cocktail that I moved in and out of, all seeming as real as anything else, certainly as real as the mucous pervading my sinus or the chill I felt as I fought to wake up from my nap.
Snow slides under the roof
The adverb ending dragging
Down the word that is supposed
To strike stark white
But all I really hear is the
Howl of a fierce and dirty wind
What I see is
A sort of brilliance
Lent to the grey
From the light that has been let
Through what I feel
Is a small wonder
At the depth of snow still
Clinging to the bare freezing limbs.
The even sheath untouched
On each roof
The mouths and hearts
All lined up
Leaning into the storm
All ready to declare.
It is evident that a cold caught up with me while I was in Ohio. So I must suffer the insults of congestion and runny nose and…wait I do that all the time anyway. How do I even know I have a cold? Well I just know. I was up late last night. My grandson wanted to go out for a late dinner. Given the blizzard conditions, we had TGI Friday’s to ourselves. My power nap this morning didn’t last very long. I am still sleepy. It is time to write, but I am thinking to sleep some more instead.
I don’t know. It is a day unlike any other day. Each minute is clearly disconnected from every other minute and there are no dependencies one upon the other. All the maps and plans have been torn from the wall. I am walking on them, leaving dark soled boot prints. I pace the room twice. Then I am out the door. There is nothing to keep me here. Outside the sun is bright, but the air is cold. The wind slices through my clothes and fingers. I choose to not feel it and walk across the snow toward the road.
It is a day unlike all the others. I am clearly disconnected from the flow of minutes one after the other. They flow like a frame of ants marching around me or cars in a conga line, but I step outside that boundary as easily as any other. This perhaps is how this day is different. Things that once confined me now don’t. Things that once defined me no longer do. It occurs to me there is a danger, like one leaving a bubble of trusted oxygen I might find myself suddenly unable to breathe if I am not careful.
The box was filled with bolts, drill bits, nuts and assorted pieces of metal all covered with a uniform layer of rust, grit, and perhaps a light film of oil. It was a cardboard box, decades old, the sides bulging. He was pawing through it, using a four-inch carriage bolt as a finger avoiding the sharper pieces, listening to the ringing of the metal as the bolt head plowed through the miscellany while he looked for the part he needed. It occurred to him that what he really needed was some sugar. He was feeling light headed. Maybe some orange juice.
He noticed that he had gotten through Christmas without mentioning Christmas, if getting through the 25th qualifies as getting through Christmas. He did wake up sick that morning. It was his annual winter upper respiratory thing. He dragged it down the stairs at his sister’s house, and took it back home with him early that day. It would be with him for weeks; he already knew this. And he was having troubles with money. He shouldn’t be, but he was. It was like trying to hook two pieces of water hose together when the ends wouldn’t quite reach each other.
You could call him anything, but that would be too distracting, and I have long believed the best forms of communication do not call attention to themselves but flow naturally without obstruction, like the rainwater down the street. Of course even the rainwater flowing down the street runs into obstructions, limbs, garbage, clogged sewers, and becomes small ponds, falls, and occasional water spouts calling attention to itself. I guess I must do better than nature then and I don’t know if this is possible considering my own make-up. Still, calling him anything from the start is too much, isn’t it?
He had considered going to the café that morning to write. The idea was his therapist’s, and while most of his therapist’s ideas were suspect to him, this one had seemed ok despite the unease it shook out of his psyche. To him it felt wrong, something where he would a slime-forming creature tucked up against a wall with a timer, waiting for his turn to go home and praying he did not break anything before he did. He knew that vision begged a lot of questions. He also knew he did not have answers to any of those questions.
It was a good morning for going to the café to write. Jones knew that. The house was torn up for the carpeting anyway, including his normal spot for working. It would be awkward to work there. Something was getting in his way though. Perhaps he was distracted. He was thinking about the point at which a ragged narrative suddenly discovers itself to be poetry. Or the point at which the writer recognizes a piece of poetry in a ragged narrative. It is like suddenly discovering yourself showered and dressed in the morning or perhaps suddenly finding a woman undressed.
Jones wondered about the contrasting images of himself dressed and the unidentified undressed woman. What was her purpose? Why was she an object of art, closer to God than he was? Yet there was truth in it—he felt he could not dissemble his way out of it. He was thinking about going to Ohio and that was something he held up in another hand, a thing that represented other things in his mind that he did not fully understand. He slowly turned these two ideas over simultaneously in his mind: Ohio and the naked woman. They made no sense.
Lisa had reminded him that his daughter was coming to visit, but had not been specific as to when. That would be his excuse to avoid Ohio. He knew Ohio was a thing to be avoided. There were not specific reasons for it. Ohio was family and it was family as functional as family knew how to be, but it did not function for him. Perhaps he did not function for it. He also needed to put the house back together from the carpet work. There were multiple reasons to not go to Ohio. He just needed to pick one.