The Church Of Thermodynamics / 11 June 2001
The neighbor (Milky?) has traps to catch the cute woodland animals that scurry through our yards because she is ugly and old and mean, lashing out because God has cursed her with a wrathful complexion and children who left home early to live happily elsewhere, not inviting her to their weddings. I hustle to the crawlspace under our back porch where the muskrat or hedgehog or beaver or whatever it is lives to … I don’t know, I’m not sure, to impress upon him the urgency of the situation..? He’s not there so I pick up a stray stick and start drawing a basic diagram there in the dirt, leaving him a message, trying to delineate our yard as safe and the neighbor’s as scary evil, and these are tricky concepts to express iconically. It’d be better to teach the hedgehog or muskrat some fundamental musical scales as a way of laying the foundation for future communication, but I don’t think we have that kind of time.
So I’m scraping and I strike upon something sturdy and I clear away some dirt and there, buried underneath our porch, is a phone book, the yellow pages for our town (207), though evidently it was supposed to be thrown away once 1989 came along. On the cover is a photograph of a parade. I flip through it and laugh at some of the terminology we used back in the old days — Fax Transmission, Coin-Operated Amusement. Then I notice that one of the early pages — 15/16 — has been torn out. My first thought is that somebody didn’t want to take the time to jot down a number, so they just took the whole page with them, or maybe they just wanted a range of addresses for a certain category of service-provider, and this category lurked somewhere between Airport Transportation Svce. and Antique-Appraisers.
At the library I find a number of phone books for a number of locations, but nothing older than 1996. The reference librarian taps a single finger on her woodgrain desk, then says maybe in storage. She has to stand guard while I root around since it’s all against procedure. I’m sneezing up great clouds of pulp. I stumble upon a first edition of The Church of Thermodynamics—
In the basement, Dad fiddled with the pulse generator, watching the backlit needle jerk toward the red end of the Mhz scale. It was beastly hot. He returned to the garden itself, a Plexiglas honeycomb of 47 pentagonal cells, each filled with deionized mountain spring water and a sprig of polypodium virginianum. He unshuttered one of the overhead lights and the temperature rose perceptibly. The results were disappointing.
—and slide it into my pants while the librarian isn’t looking. Then I check inside a cardboard box labeled Microfish [sic] and there it is, the children waving at me there on the cover, the chickenwire float (a caterpillar?) just entering the scene, a bemused smile on its face. I turn to page 15/16 and my blood runs cold as I see one category circled in blood-red ink: Animal Removal-Wildlife. Worse, the name of the removal agency has been carefully Xacto’d out, revealing A Better Airfare beneath.
Just now I sit on the back porch and note the absolute silence. I want to stab knitting needles into her eyes. I write in my diary: Been tracking down the password that’s been woven into my dreams and crossword puzzles, the word that unlocks something awful and beautiful. You send it through a prism and it casts a color no one has ever seen before, though if pressed you could call it sort of greenish. Organs shudder in xenophobic rage to look upon it.