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patterns of ink

How fruitless to be ever thinking yet never embrace a thought... to have the power to believe and believe it's all for naught. I, too, have reckoned time and truth (content to wonder if not think) in metaphors and meaning and endless patterns of ink. Perhaps a few may find their way to the world where others live, sharing not just thoughts I've gathered but those I wish to give. Tom Kapanka

Saturday, July 31, 2010

"Still Waters" Chapter 11

The Porch Rock Livery had pulled some strings with the county many years before to have a small park built several miles downstream where a sharp bend in the river came near an old county road. The place looked more like a neglected a rest area built about a hundred feet from the river. It had a small, smelly restroom on a cement slab that was forever wet from dripping swim suits, condensation on the plumbing, and the poor aim of those who used it.

Around the restroom were wooden picnic tables with a thousand names, initials, and dates deeply carved in the top through the years. These carvings went back to when the tables graced the real city park, but the endless etchings continued with each idle hand who wished to commemorate its own existence. Pocket knives, bottle caps, and broken glass were the tools of this primitive narcissism.

The people who on occasion actually picnicked at the tables were typically tubers who did not bring along vinyl table cloths, and they sat reading the hieroglyphs the way folks read cereal boxes at breakfast.

The city parks in town had virtually carve-proof tables made of recycled plastic milk-cartons. There had been a big write-up in the paper about them when they hauled off the old tables and explained the unique source of materials for the new ones. It was a time when the morality of society could be summed up in one question at the grocery store: "Paper or plastic?"

At odds were the trumped-up notions that using plastic bags “saved the life of a tree,” as if it were a soldier yanked from a line bound for war. While others argued just as fervently that plastic was a petroleum product, making it wicked in its very chemistry, and worse yet, it was not as biodegradable as paper, thus the millions of plastic grocery bags used each day were contributing to the swelling pustules of earth known as land-fills. Both arguments were overstated, of course, and though the dogma of one side of the question negated that of the other, both sides claimed they were saving the earth with all the religious zeal formerly reserved for saving souls. In time, both sides agreed that saving bags for reuse—whether paper or plastic—was the best thing shoppers could do.

The same concerns applied to the things inside the grocery bags. Thus the milk-carton dilemma. Converting something bad, like milk cartons, into something good, like picnic tables, brought a vague sense of nobility to all who used them. After all, by merely sitting down to eat, the guests had not only saved the landfills from plastic but also saved the tree that would have been sacrificed to build a picnic altar.

There were even plaques at every trash station reminding people of the good efforts of mankind and instructing them to separate their plastics into the green bin beside the brown trash bin. The bins themselves were made from the same recycled milk cartons, and everyone felt very good about it all.

Out-of-towners picnicking there, would think that they, too, should have such tables and trash bins in their town. At least that is what the Town Council hoped they would think, especially the chairman whose son owned the company that made the milk-carton tables and bins.

None of this was true of the park several miles downstream, which was not really a park at all. It was just a place for tubers to sit and wait for the livery bus to come and take them back to their cars. It got the hand-me-down wooden tables that the city had replaced. Its trash cans were 55-gallon drums with the top cut out and the letters T-R-A-S-H stenciled on the side by the same man who had painted the bus with a roller. These drums were typically piled high and spilling over. As unsightly as the place was, families from out-of-town who found themselves sitting there—especially on Saturdays between five and six o'clock—were not thinking about tables and trash cans; they were preoccupied with the thought of getting safely home without someone’s puke on their flip flops..

Sometimes the lewd behavior that characterized the place at the end of the gravel road was on the agenda of the town council. At their most recent meeting,  the chairman argued vigorously that, though it was technically not a city park, it should be adopted so to speak. If they would allocate some funds to dress the place up a little—with some eco-friendly tables and trash bins for starters—he was sure that the behavior of that park’s users would change. Others argued that the lewd behavior had nothing to do with the old wooden tables or make-shift trash bins. “Trash is trash,” one committee member said, and a hush fell over the room.

The matter had yet to be settled.

The sitting area or “park,” if you will, could not be seen clearly from the river, but if tubers knew where to fix their gaze through the trees as they approached that particular bend in the river, a partial silhouette of the restroom and tables could be pieced together. It was that silhouette that James could now barely see as he pulled his family upstream. He was still several feet from the exit point, still on the wrong side of the river, when he saw brief glimpses of something big and blue moving toward the silhouette.

"There's the bus," James said with alarm. "Everybody out. Grab your own tubes."

"Where?" asked Clair, " I don't even see where we can get out."

"I just saw it way over there through the trees," James said, "We'll cross here, and just climb up the bank and go through the woods."

"Dad, there's not even a path," said Anna.

"It's a short cut," James said, "I'm sure there will be some kind of path. Surely, we're not the first people who missed the exit."

"I'm afraid that the current is going to take me," said Kenzie.

"Here, Kenz," her father said, "I'll carry your tube, and you can hold my shirt, but you need to carry the bag for me."

He lifted the mesh bag out of the water. It contained four nearly-full bottles of water and three rocks considerably bigger than baked potatoes.

"Whoa... that's too heavy for you out of the water," he said. "On second thought, each of you take your own bottle of water. I'll carry the rocks.”

“Why don’t you just leave ‘em?” Clair suggested, “We’re going to miss the bus.” Come on! We've got to hurry."

“We may miss the bus, but it won’t be because of these rocks,” he said, slinging the bag over his shoulder.

“You guys comin’?” Anna said, already venturing ahead.

The family waded waist-deep to the east side of the river. With each step the strong current pushed them a little further off their mark, but safely on the other side, they tossed the inner tubes up into the weeds and scaled the muddy bank.


Blogger Folding Tables said...

Hey nice Work I like it …. Thaks for sharing
plastic tables

31/7/10 10:07 AM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Okay, Mr. Folding Tables,

I'll leave your complimentary comment up, but I find it a bit strange that I write a chapter that mentions tables made of recycled milk cartons, and within seconds of posting it, you happen to stop by to read at Patterns of Ink and you just happen to sell plastic tables.

Folks, we live in a strange world where everything we say runs through filters and becomes the marketplace not of ideas but of merchandise. The comment above was not generated by a human. If it was, I welcome a reply.

This comment proves the subtle point I was making about the conflict of interest the Chairman of the Town Council had in pushing the use of his son's tables in the city park. Behind even good ideas, there is self-interest, making it hard to know when we are being forced to "save the earth" or pad someone's pocketbook. This point as well as the argument that environment and not depravity directs man's behavior was the purpose for including the first part of this chapter.

31/7/10 10:34 AM  

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