Soldier’s Pay

by dschapman

The good news is that I have gotten a new coat and I’m wearing it. It is a goose-down jacket and I love it. I wrap myself up in it, hug myself tight in it, I sink with it into the evening as though into the atmosphere, it is soft and buoyant like a parachute. The bad news is I have been thinking. There’s no good reason to think so it is not good news to do so. I have been thinking about what someone said to me. They said something about feudalism. Is this really a feudal state? Am I to be a feudal lord, then? Were it feudal, I could be its lord. I could lord myself and my estate over everyone, I could die by own hand – autoerotic asphyxiate. I could hunt special prey from the gates of my castle on the edge of the island, surrounded by cliffs and a dark, stormy sea. Kill a man? Of course I can. I could do it tonight if I saw one, with a gun in my hand. If I had to, yes, it could be done. Yes, if it were him, whoever he is, I could get it done. Not silently, because there is no such thing as silence. Not cleanly, because nothing is clean, we are already filthy. And not hurriedly, because I am not in a hurry. The whole thing is a corpse getting raped on a craps table. Beyond all and any redemption. And I am no miracle worker – what can I do? Shaman-like, maybe, at best I’m a ghost. I speak only in riddles and amorphous signs. When I speak underwater only bubbles escape, it is like my tongue is made of sand. | So I stay out of the water altogether these days. I am an air-dweller now, a master of my pocket of air in my cave in the country, where I sleep all alone with the doors open, listening to the frightening roar of the thunder and counting the seconds since the lightning. I haven’t been under the water in years. I stand under the awning and stick my hand in the rain. I dip my fingers in the water’s edge at the desert oasis and touch the moisture to my lips. The skin on my fingers is splitting but my head is clear. I am moved by the fire of the red setting sun in the distance. But I am also distanced. I feel an intense dissatisfaction with my place in the world. I should be somewhere else by now. I should be somebody different. I posted a poster on the wall and the city tore it down; I posted a poster on the city wall, and the city tore it down again. I sprayed some ether in the engine and turned on the tractor, I backed the tractor into the henhouse and killed all the hens. In the distance there is heat lightning, buried in clouds, and it lights up the sky, it is deep and illuminous. And then I lit a cigarette, and then I threw it in the dirt. And then a cold front blew in and it sent a chill down my spine. | It’s not like I get off scot-free. It’s not like I haven’t seen some terrible things. I have scars on my face, I have nightmares – I’ve slept with the devil on my chest, as they say – I’ve been anxious, so – what? It’s true that I suffer from multiple disorders, but with the strength of my fathers and the eternal wisdom of literature I strive to overcome my …etc. The truth is I’m no good. It’s not like I’ve got anything wrong with me, I’m just not enough for it all – listen to me, I talk like it’s all about me – have you seen me in the mirror lately? Have you watched me from across the street? I walk quickly these days, with my head down, in a lot of pain, pain in my head and my body, it’s a man’s pain and I manage it by hanging my head with my eyes closed. | My biggest fear is losing access to this so-called medicine – painkillers, pills. Without them I am nothing, as even with them, I can hardly move. If I went even eight hours without them I’d be permanently crippled, sweating in the dark in a fetal position. That’s the sort of dependence they warn you against. Well we are all dependent. I’m no different, after all. I try to cut myself off naturally but it is simply out of the question. | I thought maybe it wouldn’t matter, in the end – I thought maybe I could be a cripple, as long as I kept my head – that I was essentially just a head, after all, just a brain in a vat to begin with. But I know now I was wrong, because I have been in my head, and it’s no place for me, at least, not for this man – ECCEHOMO | From the top of the cross to the wings of an albatross, the tip of the gun to the knot of the noose – this man is not be reckoned with. Mysterious stranger underneath a blue moon. A wind wanders in from the sea, where the sea-gulls break their salty shells, and bodies sink into the sea-floor, eels inside of sunken ships, and the wind is warm and inviting, and it rustles the edge of your clothing and gets in your pores, and it breathes itself into you, and you allow it inside you, you practically float. Thousands of pounds of pressure weighing down each and every one of us at every given moment, and we bear it without making a sound. Well, except for me – I am always complaining. I once complained to a friend he was being too nice to me. I complained to a woman to stop sending me letters. I put a cherry bomb inside her mailbox. I sat on a bench in a park and I waited to hear the explosion. A woman passed me with a dog and I followed her with my eyes. I recognized her – she was a drug addict. She had really cleaned up. I imagined her house when she was taking the heroin. These addicts make their little caves, they hole up and dose up and heroin and refuse to emerge from the dark. I would join them if I lost my pills, unless I wanted to be a cripple. I wonder are they closet cripples, too. You can’t ever really know anyone, ever. I looked at my friend and I told him that I did not know him, and that likewise he did not know me. “I’m the only one who does believe,” I told the room full of students, suddenly angry at my teacher. I stormed out of the room and made love to the lamb on the doorstep, and then I fled like Hosiah straight into the kingdom of restoration, devoted my soul to the collagen of divinity, like hot liquid gold pouring into a cavity. “Marx, Freud, and Einstein. What have they given us? Communism, infantile sexuality, and the atom bomb.” Have you forgotten what the 20th century did? Have you lost your edge already, lieutenant? Or do you have what it takes to do the right thing – do you have the balls to march into the city and burn it? March straight to the sea, burning everything in your path. You may rape the women, and you may kill the children, or you can keep them for your pets. You can do whatever you want with the slaves, even free them. But leave nothing standing, leave not a blade of grass in the field, not a single structure standing. If there are columns, I want them fall like dominos. If there are statues, I want to watch them fall. Bring the sky to the ground and raise the fire of hell from the core of the earth. There will be not be any need for mercy.