Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Sun Also Sets

They had driven well. They had seen many good things on the road to Key West.

But along the way Mike had lost the shaker of salt. They had camped many places. Diane told him that he was driving recklessly. But it was not true. Yes, he had clipped curbs. But while camped doors had come open. No matter, items from inside the bus had fallen out. They had found many of them. He had not found the shaker of salt. Diane’s meals would be good without the shaker of salt. But the meals were better with it. How did it get lost, he wondered. He knew that no one was to blame. It was nobody’s fault.

Mike pressed his hands against the hot steering wheel and tried to keep his head clear. They were at the end of the road. The road would go on no more. “I will not lose anything else again,” he said aloud. “I will find the lost shaker of salt.”

Through the bus windows, Mike saw high cumulus clouds and enough cirrus above them and knew the breeze would last all night. He and Diane had time enough for a drink. Mike looked at his companion to make sure it was true. It was an hour before sunset on Mallory Square in Key West.

Because the sunset was an hour away, Mike and Diane went into the bar for a drink.

They ordered cold drinks and read the cards. They were hopeful signs, he knew. Signs of what, he did not know.

It is silly not to hope, he thought. Besides I believe it is a sin. Do not think about sin, he thought. There are enough problems now without sin. Also I have no understanding of it. I am not sure that I believe in it. Perhaps it is a sin to drink the drink. But this frozen concoction helps me to hang on. If it is a sin to drink this drink then everything is a sin. Do not think about sin. Think about finding the lost shaker of salt.

"Think about something cheerful, Van Man," Diane said. "Every minute now the sun is setting.”

Mike knew quite well the pattern of the sunsets. There was nothing to be done about it. Every sunset was different. Every photograph of every sunset was different. But every person in every photograph was the same. Every person is doomed to fade away, fade away like the sunset. The sun was setting fast, and Mike knew what would happen when the sun reached the treetops of Sunset Island.

They paid their tab and left of the bar. The breeze was fresh. Mike’s head was clear and good now and he was full of resolution, but he had little hope. The day was disappearing too fast, he thought. The night was coming too fast. They began the search even though he knew they would never find their lost shaker of salt.

I must get a boat, he thought. His mate was ready, as ready as the great DiMaggio at the plate. I must find a boat, he thought. Along the dock he found a boat. It was a good boat. It was a small boat but a strong boat. It is a real beauty, he thought. How it got here I do not have a clue.

Mike looked out to the sea. He saw the sun setting and knew to take the boat onto the sea would be a foolhardy adventure into the very heart of darkness. The lost shaker of salt was not in the sea. But the sea did have salt in it. The salt was a part of the sea. Mike and Diane left the boat at the dock and looked at the museum. But when they looked for the lost shaker of salt at the museum, for some reason Mike felt very stoic but also very small.

It is not American to feel so small, he thought. I will continue the search. We must look not down but up. We must look up in the sky where the sun is setting.

But the lost shaker of salt was not up in the sky where the sun was also setting. Tired from the search now, Mike and Diane went to the southern most point in the United States. Diane sat down and Mike watched the sun bake, all of the tourists covered with oil. He took a picture, also.

It might as well have been a dream, he thought. But this shape reminds me of something. It does not remind me of the bat of the great DiMaggio. Although it is red and yellow and black and big it reminds me of something small and white and with a silver cap. We must continue our search, he thought. Into strange houses if we must.

He searched the strange house. But he felt no hope. We must keep searching, he thought. “Even though I may blow out my flip-flops we must keep searching,” he said aloud. He decided that he must search all of the rooms.

But it was no use. The sun was setting. It was always setting. The sun was forever setting. But the sun also rises. He thought about the sun also rising and some of his hope returned. From nearby, he heard someone strumming a six string.

Mike listened to the strumming of the six string. He thought about the black buoy. He thought about the white salt. Too much salt he knew could kill him. Everything kills everything else in some way, he thought. Searching for my lost salt shaker kills me exactly as it keeps me alive. It is searching for this small glass buoy that keeps me alive, he thought, not the white salt inside of it. The salt, this is what kills me. I must not deceive myself too much.

The sun was setting and was casting less light. The dark was stronger than the light. He knew now he would not find this lost shaker of salt. It is easy when you are beaten, he thought. I never knew how easy it was. And what beat you, he thought. "Nothing," he said aloud. He knew that some people claim that there's a woman to blame. But when he looked at Diane he knew.

And I know, he thought, I know that it is my own damn fault.

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