submit or our caribou will take you from behind!

In the end, it was the caffeine (not the beer or the whisky or the gin or the mouthwash or any of the toxic cocktails without which I was unable to step onto airplanes or into elevators or out my own front door back in the listless days before I met Seamus the fishing guide who taught me to stand still near moving water with the fossilized patience of a thing that has been alive for centuries and doesn’t need to be recognized by anything or fed by anyone, Seamus the fishing guide who during our sojourn in the mountains woke me up each morning with a sharp kick in the shins, Seamus the fishing guide who cursed my pretensions and dropped beetles into my open mouth when I mumbled in my sleep about Anita Ekberg and smutty oil paintings, Seamus the fishing guide who tortured and comforted me during my year of wandering after I walked away from my job as a CPA in Boston, took a bus west and north and ended up at a bar in Canada with chessboard tabletops where I chipped away for weeks or maybe months at my considerable savings, drinking and playing chess alone, trying to exploit my own weak points in an effort to checkmate myself without simultaneously losing to myself, an impossibility whose achievement would, I hoped, precipitate a leap onto a higher plane of consciousness where the sober call of duty and the shrill baying of instinct would resolve into a single undifferentiated sound or at least a less dissonant clatter, an effort I pursued with dogged and drunken fealty until the night a smelly bearded man walked into the bar blustering about having been lost in the forest for months and living on the nutrients preserved in deer and rabbit droppings, told me his name was Seamus, asked for my story, laughed at my pathetic crisis of commitment, knocked my chess pieces over and told me in rough and vivid language that the resolution of duty and desire could be achieved in only one way, by crouching for the contemporary equivalent of forty days and forty nights without food or flashlight or tent or sleeping bag next to a stretch of mountain stream that no man had seen since the creation of the world and waiting for the moment of divine confluence when boredom and pain and cold resolved into deep calm, time was forgotten, and after what felt like a few seconds but could well be days or months or even years a fish bit the line, catching the catcher and revealing to the fisherman the reciprocal nature of all things, the fact that eating is the same as being eaten, smoking is the same as being smoked, hunting is the same as being hunted, drinking is the same as being drunk, revealing the truth that the world-as-it-is contains no subjects or objects but only verbs, after which Seamus grabbed me by the shoulders, took me outside to puke and offered to lead me to an undiscovered place where I would have the chance to realize these things by myself for a moderate fee, a fee that I paid the next morning over toast and coffee before bidding farewell to the chessboard tabletops and disappearing into the mountains with Seamus in a very old van that smelled, though I didn’t know it at the time, like the rare freshwater fish that we began to pursue after abandoning the van, working our way up into the high forest and learning the fundamentals of the catch, Seamus all the while kicking and teasing and torturing me until one day at a remote and unnamed bend in a wide stream halfway to our destination that Seamus had christened ‘The Blooming Flower of Lucia’ in honor of a long-lost love I found that my will had become rock hard and impervious to alcohol, I found that time had begun to move differently now that I was no longer thirsty for beer or whiskey or gin or mouthwash, I found that I didn’t need anyone to recognize me or feed me, I discovered within myself the gumption to give Seamus a punch in the face after he dropped a beetle in my mouth to wake me up, for I no longer cared about insult or injury or anything else, I had learned to wait, I was holding out for the bite, I would hold out forever and was not afraid to die, and as Seamus cleared the blood from his nose and spit some more blood onto a smooth polished river stone he smiled and I smiled because both of us knew without saying a word that we were now as married as people of our kind would ever get, joined in the pagan matrimony of men in the woods who are willing to wait forever, joined in a platonic contract where occasional random violence stands in for the intermittent sex of traditional domestic partnerships, an arrangement that made both of us move faster and the time around us move slower until we wound up in the stomach of the mountain and Seamus declared that we had reached a place where no one else had ever been and there was no where else to go so there was nothing left to do but settle in and wait against the cold and the fatigue for the contemporary equivalent of forty days and forty nights until I felt a tug and knew that I had been caught, I knew that I had been invited to join the eternal objectless process, the fish pulling on me and I pulling on the fish and the whole earth and all the stars and blackness beyond becoming nothing but a great big tug of war, a momentous back and forth and back and forth until my line emerged from the water attached to some catch I could not see for it was midnight and dark beyond belief, too dark to do anything but kill the catch and save it until morning, which was my plan until I swung the line in my direction to feel it and realized it was not a fish at all but something metal, something aluminum, and when the sun rose and I saw that I had landed a crushed Pepsi can and also that Seamus the fishing guide was dead, had been dead for days or maybe weeks, I spent minutes and then hours staring at the can and staring at old rotting Seamus and staring back at the can until finally I stood up from my crouch, threw the can back into the river, conducted a simple funeral and common-law divorce by punching Seamus’ lifeless face until it was the texture of a mashed root vegetable and started back in the direction we had come from, walking for weeks and weeks and weeks until I arrived at the chessboard tabletop bar, ordered a hot cup of coffee, played myself to an intentional stalemate, declared victory against the universe, hitchhiked back to Boston, showered at the YMCA, got a job waiting tables and then a succession of other, better jobs and wound up on the final day of my life ensconced in a cubicle, helping to coordinate the marketing and distribution of Pepsi throughout the state of Massachusetts, drinking my eighth free cola of the day and wondering in the moment before my heart stopped beating whether Seamus the fishing guide had been the catcher or the catch, wondering whether Seamus the fishing guide was a dream of mine or I a dream of his, wondering if the tug of war would ever stop, wondering if objects and subjects would ever reassert themselves, wondering if the great verb would ever again be divided into a multitude of lesser ones and returned to their rightful places, wondering if the interminable sentence of my life would ever find the long overdue predicate) that killed me.              

[Forever after at

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