Thursday, May 19, 2005


There is no point in my telling this story. It is simply something that happened to me once, though as you will soon see, I can't help but ponder the possibility that it was my own tempting and massacring of the beauty that is Nature that led me down such an overgrown and mysterious forested path - a path that took me, for a brief moment of my life, to the end of an odd, but oddly whole - circular, like great tragedy - experience. Also, I tell this story because I bet it will totally creep some of you out, and drive you further from me, which is what I intend to do at all times, always.

During my last year of college, I made a film about a young boy who worked in a grain elevator. One night, after being denied the precious pollen he sought from his young love, the one bright flower in an otherwise bleak garden that was his life, he returned to his work at the mill and promptly, though accidentally, chopped his arm off in a Great Big Machine. A year later he is back home eating breakfast with his mother. He decides to take a drive to the old quarry he is so fond of, though not before stopping by the house of his former unrequited, where he picks her up and takes her somewhere to talk. In the middle of an empty cornfield, he interrogates her - as it turns out, she has Biblically been with another boy in his absence and he is aware of it. He then has a vision of a phantom deer grazing in the field and attempts to convince the girl that his masculinity still remains, that it has not lost its potency - "I only have one arm," he says to the girl, to himself, "but I can still kill that deer."

As you might guess, that line had 'em rolling in the aisles.

The film continues thus: the boy has a Vision - one of those Visions that the Indians once had - that is animated and fantastical, in which he stalks the deer. Then the denouement, in which we see the young man approach the girl's house with a black plastic garbage bag. He leaves the contents of the bag on the doorstep and drives away, off to the quarry where he carves something Symbolic into the earthen wall. If you correctly guessed what lay in the bag - that being the severed head of deer - then you'd be a fine student of The American Mastodon's Aesthetic Sensibilities.

It was some months later that I began dating the young girl I had cast in my film. (Was the film itself, the whole process, a severed deer's head to her? What does that mean, cutting off the head of a deer? What does that convey?) She was wonderful and we had a wonderful time, but ultimately, as she was a few years my junior (spare me the older, lecherous man assails) the time came for me to graduate and set out, unprepared, into the real world, and for her to enroll in high school.

I KEED, People!! She was totally almost done with high school.

It was early May, the end of the semester, and I was driving her to the Greyhound bus station in the Big City, where she was about to take the overnight ride back to her hometown. On the way there we tried not to speak too bluntly of the fact that we were not going to see each other for a very long time. Possibly never, but certainly no time soon. What does one say in a circumstance like that? Besides keeping the conversation at a soft bubbly fizz, what can be reconciled, what can be agreed upon, summed up, forged together in understanding that has not already been covered? No, our fate was set and we were following it. We were now the actors in our own film, playing the roles already defined for us. We were also, it must be said, listening to the classic rock station.

And then, from the side of the road, emerging from the high grass of the shallow ditch, a blurry brown object. There was no time to put on the brakes. A full-grown deer, sprinting directly in front of us, a suicide mission. As my car plowed through it - a direct hit - the deer literally disintegrated before our eyes. I can still see, in slow motion, the fragments of bone and tissue splintering off into hundreds of directions.

Then nothing, quiet. The two of us still barreling down the highway, peering through a blood-splattered windshield and crumpled hood. Of course the classic rock. "Well," I remember thinking. "That was interesting." I drove her to the bus station and then returned back to campus. My roommates expressed shock at the state of my car - tufts of fur still stuck in the grill, the burnt smell of deer flesh from the heat of the engine. How have I come to this place? I thought. I have taken life tonight. I have ceased the beating of a heart. And still no amount of reflection would stop this one concrete truth - that even as we try to stop and gather ourselves and pull up our britches and take stock, this great malady called life plods effortlessly along, a piano slowly losing its tune, a planet circling its sun, spinning, rays of light splintered and fractured and turning orange. Oh glorious, splendid, ephemeral life!!


So why, you ask yourself, did the AM tell this story? And how, you continue, did he acquire a severed deer's head? The latter question I am, naturally, reluctant to answer. Let it be known that it was not my hand that held the blade that removed the creature's top from its torso. Nor did the act of desecrating the being's body end its life on this earth - that had already occurred days before by a person with a fate similar (though at the time, how was I to know?) to mine. In fact, could it not be that all people who struck and killed deer along that stretch of road have other, similar sins to atone for? That the striking down of these deer - these physical manifestations of our transgressions - harken back to some great Mayan ritual? This animal, becoming then my offering to that force beyond our control, call it God if you must, whatever great unrevealed spirit holds all this mess together and keeps it from crumbling through our fingers?

Eh, probably not.

But to those of you who question my motives in telling this story, let me say that this hour spent writing this recollection - in between placing calls and sending faxes - is cheaper and, I hope, more effective than therapy. In addition, I find it nice to have some sort of written record. For what the kids sometimes refer to as "posterity's sake". Finally, besides the obvious sorting out of what this incident means to me on a purely mythic and legendary scale, writing this quick memoir has achieved, hopefully, another goal: the realization in all of your minds that I am a sensitive man, tuned in to the great cosmic symphony of chance, love, and pain that surrounds us always; that I am also a dangerous man, willing to take great risks for my Art and at the risk of hurting those that I love for a greater understanding of Truth; and finally, that it is not possible to completely know me, for I am too complicated an instrument of God's Divinity to ever fully comprehend, being, as I am, an endless riddle of motivations and desires; the perfectly designed, narrowing interior of a nautilus shell, flowing along with the soft push of a warm current and spinning endlessly through the sea's beautiful fields of kelp and coral.


King Koopa said...

Why do I think you've been reading "The Story of B" by Daniel Quinn? What with all the nautilus shell allusions and the oracle-chatter...

Anonymous said...

Something about this just makes me want to give you a big hug. Something else, and here's what confuses even me, makes me want to take you into a back room and do naughty things.

Ian said...

"I am too complicated an instrument of God's Divinity to ever fully comprehend"? That way lies madness and possibly a Neal Pollack-like return to the tyranny of sincerity. I think.

Mathis said...

KK: If I knew who Daniel Quinn, I might be inclined to agree with you. As I don't, I don't.

Anon: Scandalous!!

Ian: I don't know what it is you're trying to say, but I assume that whatever it is, it's smothered under layers of pure envy.