The Merry Adventures of Saint Leibowitz

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The Merry Adventures of Saint Leibowitz

“Ewww…”

First word that comes to mind when I see what I see at Dollar Tree this morning.

“Ewww…”

I’m examining a small sealed cardboard box labeled “Brunswick Chicken Salad with Crackers,” which is “Ready to Eat.” Ready to eat? How could something sealed in a can, possibly for years, be Ready to Eat?

The expiration date or “Best By” date is fourteen months away. What could possibly make this food product last so long? In my refrigerator at home, this would come to look like swamp residue in a week. The manufacturer must know something I don’t know—maybe that as a consumer I’ll probably eat anything if I’m hungry enough. And today I am hungry.

OK. Let’s look at the package again. “Pre-mixed Chicken Salad (thank goodness they mixed it for me–I’m so weak from hunger and lack of willpower) Ready to Eat with Five Buttery Crackers (Ritz-like crackers…Ritzy crackers?) and Convenient Spoon.” Wow! They even thought to enclose a spoon, not realizing a truly hungry consumer will eat with fingers or even toes if desperate enough.

Oh, and the small potted-meat-size can within the box “Now has an Easy-Peel Foil Lid.” Gosh, I don’t even have to carry around a can opener for my quick snacks.

I fear reading the contents label, but I do note that the main ingredient is “Cooked Chicken.” I do hate it when the chicken is raw.

So, here I am, wanting to eat something, anything, so I can meet my deadline and get on with the day. The Bumble Bee Seafoods company of San Diego has gone to all this trouble to rescue me.

How could the contents of this can possibly taste good? Well, at least I can eat the crackers should the chicken smell funny. And, of course, I’m only wasting a dollar if nothing turns out right. And also, I don’t ever have to eat this stuff again.

I recall the large sealed Civil Defense can at my shop, retrieved unopened from a bomb shelter and manufactured to have indefinite shelf life contents. The container is more than fifty years old and the crackers within still edible, according to one of my customers who actually opened one recently.

“Dear Family, in case you find me lying in shock beneath of pile of fast-food wrappers, allow me to document the adventures leading up to this possible outcome.” That’s the note I’ll leave on my body in case things don’t work out. This little story will suffice.

Being a brave sort at times, I tear open the little box, unseal the crackers, peel back the lid and bid farewell to Saint Leibowitz, the patron saint of all post-disaster sealed food containers

© Jim Reed 2015 A.D.

jim@jimreedbooks.com

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The Pre-Post-Apocalyptic Bookshop in the Remaining Universe

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http://redclaydiary.com/mp3/prepostapocalyptic.mp3

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The Pre-Post-Apocalyptic Bookshop in the Remaining Universe

As I pass the densely populated bookshelves in the darkening shop at end of day closing time, my fingers brush the spines and cause the books to call out their titles to me, A Canticle for Leibowitz, Brave New World, 1984, The Road, Alas, Babylon, On the Beach, Cat’s Cradle, The Time Machine, and on and on and on.

This evening, all the post-apocalypse tomes seem to be vying for my attention, longing to have their messages heard, wondering why their powerful preachments were read, enjoyed, discussed, then tossed aside without resulting in a changed world, a more peaceful universe.

Each book sets forth ideas that could teach us a lesson, make us more dedicated to protecting humanity, cause us to keep our guard up and advance our belief in the welfare of children and grandchildren, neighbors and kin.

But not much happens among humankind in the static cosmos. Sure, creation at large continues in flux, supernovae come and go, black holes slurp up everything, planets are destroyed and born, but we upright mammals seem to be wandering in circles, trapped in cycles of greatness followed by depression followed by hope followed by despair…

I suppose there is another genre of such imaginative fiction—the Pre-Apocalypse tales. Interestingly, this particular category includes every other literary work in existence, for we always live on the edge of the volcano, waiting for the next Apocalypse, the next Shift.

Since we uprights don’t seem to have the skills to alter our own destiny, we just wend our way through each day, sometimes achieving wonderful things, often making things worse…strange suspiring animals who wish we could be greater than we are.

Pre- and Post-Apocalyptic stories at least afford us an outlet that gives us the illusion of sharing our fears and searching for the good that lies sometime buried within us.

Here in the twilight aisles of the last bookstore in the universe, my browsers and I encourage one another, carefully re-arrange the deck chairs, and make every precious moment seem everlasting and hopeful

© Jim Reed 2015 A.D.

jim@jimreedbooks.com

http://www.jimreedbooks.com

http://www.jimreedbooks.com/podcast

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Autumn Struggles to Make a Comeback

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Autumn Struggles to Make a Comeback

“I’m too old to grow up.”

–Amos Halftrack

I am floating horizontally, belly down, my face craned straight ahead to navigate the warm waters, making sweeping motions with my arms in order to move forward—only I don’t know where I’m headed, since there is nothing in sight but water before, aft, above and below. The fluid is tepid and comfortable, and there is no fear of drowning, even though in my waking life I cannot swim a stroke.

This recurrent dream is all I have at the moment, as I flail about in slow motion, hoping to surface soon and search for a shoreline.

I awaken in my own bed in my own bedroom under my own sheet, flat on my own back, staring at the white plaster ceiling, and the dream has evaporated. I slowly focus on the day, scanning the streaks of sunlight crossing the walls, feeling the diminished humidity of a pre-autumn morning as it struggles to brush away the high temperatures of a sweltering summer.

My wife breathes gently next to me, the Laurel and Hardy statues on the cabinet grin next to a toy planetarium, and books are stacked randomly about the room. The mystery of the dreaming swim seems oddly not out of place, seems comfortably logical in the scheme of things. Didn’t I begin life floating aimlessly in soothing waters, unable to determine direction or meaning? Did I not eventually come to consciousness in a room designed to introduce me to the world as gradually, as pleasantly, as possible? Am I not reborn each morning, ready to de-puzzle the day and plan my twenty-four-hour journey?

I shake these primal poetic meanderings away like so many gnats, gird myself to face down the orange traffic cones and speed bumps that will surley attempt to sack my enthusiasm, and try to brave the wilds and wits both dim and funny who get in my way, on purpose or accidentally.

Laurel and Hardy make me smile for no particular reason. Books abound and comfort me. The routines and rituals of the day provide structure and simulated direction to a life I secretly know is mysterious and unfathomable, like that pleasant nocturnal swim I occasionally take. As Carl Sandburg said, “I’m an optimist. I don’t know where I’m going, but I’m on my way.”

Even optimists know that things might not turn out all sweetness and light, but that never prevents them from searching high and low for the pony

© Jim Reed 2015 A.D.

jim@jimreedbooks.com

http://www.jimreedbooks.com

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Wandering and Wondering Through the Latter Years

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 http://redclaydiary.com/mp3/wanderingandwondering.mp3

or read Jim’s story below:

Wandering and Wondering Through the Latter Years 

Lying flat on my back in the wee hours of today, I suddenly pop awake, eyes widely scanning the plaster ceiling for signs of life. I take inventory. I am breathing. My heart is steady, my bones only aching here and there, my toes wiggling, my nose itching, my wife suspiring next to me, the AC belching gently, the asphalt streets outside momentarily silent.

It’s my birthday!

That explains why I shock myself awake so suddenly. I can’t believe I’ve lived another year!

Holy Moley.

Some people don’t get to live another year. Some live many years beyond their allotted time. Some squander the years they do have. Some utilize every minute in service to either making others miserable or bringing cheer and goodwill to all.

We don’t get to choose being born, but eventually, if we make it through the vulnerable formative times and go out on our own, we do have to shoulder the burden of making choices.

Will I live just for myself? Will I live for others?

Is it all worth it?

And, of course, the most important, most enigmatic, most unanswerable question of all is, Will I be the one exception? Will I get to skip death and go on trucking?

Actually, this question is not unanswerable. Deep inside, I know that I will not be the exception. But I can pretend each day to not know that. I can act as if everything’s okey- dokey.

So, what does a birthday mean? It’s just like every other form of magical thinking—it is an arbitrarily determined construct dependent upon how I define the length of a year, how I embrace a local belief system, whether I decide to endorse or reject it, whether I decide to lie about my age, how I go about carrying my years (with dignity or with whining), and how I plan to use these twenty-four hours.

The brief attention paid to me by loved ones on this day is undeserved but greatly appreciated, greatly humbling, and greatly fun.

But there is always that nagging idea that I would be a better person if I just spent the day giving others gifts and compliments and kindnesses. I have much to be grateful for—mainly, I can’t believe I’ve lived another year!

Holy Double Moley

© Jim Reed 2015 A.D.

jim@jimreedbooks.com

http://www.jimreedbooks.com

http://www.jimreedbooks.com/podcast

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