Hello! Here I am to continue the story about how I rode out a massive volcanic eruption, in the Pacific Northwest, whose brand name I am not permitted to mention, because the people that run the volcano never sent in their check to buy air time here, so; here it is. I sat with Harry Truman, yes, THAT Harry Truman, in the Spirit Lake Lodge drinking cold black coffee and exchanging anecdotes with the wizened old man across the rough-hewn table he had made himself forty-four years earlier. Badly done taxidermy of various species looked on from the walls.
Quite a table, Harry. Quite a table. You made this yourself, did you?
Yes, I did—and you see this tabletop? This great big wide knotty pine thing? It’s a single slab of wood from the widest, largest tree ever carved apart by hand by one man. I called Guinness about it, you know, to get this into the Guinness World Record book, but they said they had no such category as largest tree ever felled, cut up, and made into great slabs of tabletops et al, by one man with just a Swiss Army Knife his father passed down, that he got from his father, and as a matter of fact, the history of that knife goes so far back that somehow, magically, it appears that one of my ancestors hundreds of years back must have succeeded in creating a kind of time travel machine that they used to zip forward future fast, grab the knife, and get pulled back as by spandex or a big rubber-band backward-slingshot contraption, back to their given socket in the great wall of the distant past and slammed the knife into the family vault, to be passed down the generations until it came to me, and; I swear to God, it flew right at me from out of nowhere when I was out walking the dog, and I caught it with one swipe of the hand, even before my brain knew I’d seen it! All of a sudden, I had it!
Had it? I said—great! Good catcher, huh?
Yes, very good. I just grabbed it down in a swoop, and I had it. Lucky I was on my toes, and it didn’t slice into me or the damned big dog.
Oh, yeah? You’re a dog lover, then, Harry? Where’s your dog now? Is the dog still alive? I like dogs. Where’s your dog?
Gone, said Harry. Gone of old age. Suddenly, very, very, suddenly.
Oh, that’s awful. But at least you got the cats now.
Oh, yeah, the cats are okay. Good dog is hard to find, you know. It’s usually all fatty. Not good for my Cholesterol. I settle now for cats.
Yeah, I love cats and dogs too—
Hey, don’t fib me—but dogs taste much better. I long for the taste of dog. Don’t you?
Huh? I started, jerked up, adrenaline wave tsunami; all my relaxation rushed away past the walls; out, all gone out the crumbling chinks in the rudely hewn log walls. I leaned at him, saying, What? Did you say taste? What taste? Taste of dog? How do you know the taste of dog?
Amazingly bug-eyed and red-faced, he became.
Huh? What, don’t you know? People out in the woods like me, raise all the cats and dogs to get fat, slaughter, cook, and eat. Don’t you, man? You look like a city Parish Priest, where nobody knows how to REALLY eat, but there’s something lit in your eyes when I said how I raise the dogs and cats for food. You know—
I leaned at him, hand up, saying, No, no, I don’t know. Wait—something in me says—don’t believe the cats are all for—
Listen, don’t cut me off like that. Let me say the whole thing. I was going to say that I’ve already planned the little calico on top the radiator over there for tonight. As a matter of fact, let’s cut this short. Pretty soon, I got to butcher her. Plus a couple others. She looks real good. Kitten is a delicacy. I got quite a few of ‘em in a scrap container out back. You think she looks good, Father? You can come with me get a couple more, Father. My trucker buddy Lucas Barnes brought up a whole shipping container of pups and kittens that washed up on the beach down his summer place in the sound. I mean, don’t be shocked, Father, after all, there’s no grocery stores or any place to buy food within fifty miles of this place. And even if there was, Father, my old DeSoto out back hasn’t been started in around fifteen years. And I’m afraid, actually, man to man, to try and start the damned thing. Then I’ll know for sure it’ll never run again. I don’t want to know that, Father. That would weigh too heavy. It’s better to eat the fixin’s I raise myself. After all—they don’t know what’s going to happen. They don’t know fear.
The small calico cutie sat snug, eyes half closed, the very picture of innocence and contentment, listening to the two strange big others across the table debate, and dead air surrounded us long enough that there was time for me, the all-seeing holy man, to look into my blurry globe God gave me, after all, what he was hinting at was so bad that the floor actually started to vibrate in time with a rapid series of sounds like thunderbolts, from outside the cabin, and I hoped to hell my crystal ball would still work in a thunderstorm because I knew the factory never tests them for that, but something made me check my watch—something made me check, and it read May eighteenth, nineteen eighty. See, I got that fancy watch as a Christmas gift from my parishioners; that watch could tell you anything; your height, weight, depth, speed, mood, or altitude, and lots of other stuff. So just as I saw the date and time, the big bang came, the mountain blew, and the shock waves came, and the world rattled hard; like the world was attached to the tip of the tail of a universe-sized, taken-by-surprise timber rattler.
Harry rose from the beautiful table, and I started to rise, but he waved me down and said, No, no, the mountain’s blown, but it won’t hurt us. You’ve a safe haven with Harry. A very strong haven with ten-mile-thick solid steel walls, floor, and roof all around. I see it’s coming, a big dark cloud is coming toward us, it’s about a half mile away, but it’s just clouds and a little wind is all, so sit right there, Reverend. Sit right there—and when it passes and I’ve proven no mountain can match me, we can pop a cork or two in celebration. You yes with that? What’re a few little passing gusts, anyway?
Oh yeah, yes, with that, sure, of course—but it’s getting pretty loud out there.
Loud can’t kill ya’, Reverend. Loud can only annoy, pass by, and be gone and never was—and with that word, the cloud and the roar and the heat and the ash hit the wall, and it pushed in and broke to splinters and flowed over Harry. The cats were all tossing around awakened and screaming by the whirling swirl of loud, fast, scalding heat that woke them so rudely. They had no idea that they were being saved and transformed into something unfit to eat, and the eater was dissolving too. They actually were much more angry than frightened. They were little glowing fireproof missiles bouncing around the crumbling, windy, black, flaming room without even time enough left for them to feel pain. And somehow, miraculously, I had been put by fate behind some glass wall, and I was in the front row of the theatre, in the dark but lit up too, very, very happy to be able to stay alive, watching the space where I’d just been, where Harry was disappeared under the now-flaming rubble of the blown-in wall, and I think he was really right, you know? He said, Loud can’t kill ya’, and no mountain could match him, because it hit me like a couple or three or four mortared-together bricks stuck together in one block right in the face; I am here and now talking to you, in my kitchen; Harry is long gone dead, and cannot be killed by what just blew up in the mountain while I was with him; I felt, viewers, and I feel now, that I ultimately will be canonized for what happened that day, when a man was made indestructible just long enough to survive one mighty blast that was probably just as powerful or maybe even more powerful than a big fat sneeze from God himself. So, all you viewers crushed together in the little red-eyed camera I talk to during each episode of this show, about food, all food, food like this here waving cold pizza slice all spattering around, tell me what you think of all this so far. What? I cannot hear you, no, I cannot, no—there’s too much spatter around all over, and underfoot too—and the winds are like winds of some other planet. Lord Jesus my Christ, too wild and windy and loud there on the other side!
Image via Pixabay