Exquisite Corpse - Issue 3
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USA: The Great Suburban Highway
by Aaron Petrovich


 I am running down the highway.
      People are milling about, on the highway, and I am passing them at a rapid pace.  Many people milling on the edge of the highway.  I do not expect to see a barbecue, here and there.  I am surprised to see a man waving at me with a spatula.  He wears a sky blue cap, has high hard cheekbones and bright blue eyes that greet me along with his spatula through a whiff of smoke from his grill.  I think he is offering me a hot dog.  I think that he is grilling hot dogs.  I think that he is one among many people grilling hot dogs on the highway.  I think that I am running.
      The cars are at a stand still.  There is a landscape of cars at a stand still.  Other automobiles stand still.  There is a landscape of cars and other automobiles standing still and this is our landscape.  We see cars where once we saw horizons.  We can look back from where we came and we can also look forward to where we are going.  We are of course going nowhere because our cars and our other automobiles have come to a stand still but we still look forward.  We only look forward.  We only look forward when we are not looking back.  We do not recognize the rolling plains to our left but this is not a dream.  We can not recognize the rolling plains to our right but this is not a parable.  This is not something where something equals something else.
      This is a highway.  The cars on the highway have come to a stand still.  I have abandoned my car.  People are at ease.  I have abandoned my car and I am running.  Everyone is at ease.  They are waving at me.  They wave at me as if I am a neighbor and we live in times when neighbors wave.
      A person waves at me and then calls out to me, "Why are you running?" and I cannot deny that this is a valid question.  This is an appropriate question and I tell her by way of explanation as I am running past her that I am running because I have just entered the highway.  "I have just entered the highway" I tell her and she smiles at me and I smile back despite the fact that my explanation has not necessarily explained anything.  Although it is true that I had just entered the highway, and it is also true that I am running, there is no implicit relationship between these two truths.  There is no recognizable cause and effect relationship which comes down to my running through the milling persons who have left their cars and who stand next to their cars as if their cars were their homes and this breakdown lane the thruway of a suburban tract outside any American city.  Perhaps she smiled at my explanation not because my explanation was profound nor scientific nor empirical but because my explanation was true.
      I am not now nor have I ever been a runner.  I am surprised at first that I am running and second at the pace my running is able to keep.  I am passing Mercurys and I am passing Oldsmobiles and I have also passed a Saturn.  People are smiling at me.  I think that they are expecting me.  "There he goes" they might say or "There he goes again" or "He's at it again" or "He's at it again, isn't he?" as if it's just like me to be running and they know what is just like me even though I am not now nor have I ever been a runner.
      Everyone is at ease.  I am not.  I am not panicking but I am not at ease.  I am not in pursuit of something in particular but nor am I at ease.  A black man with a sky blue cap, lean hard cheekbones and a white apron waves at me through a puff of smoke and tells me that he has grilled portabello mushrooms.  I think a man has offered me a portabello mushroom from his grill.  I think he is standing outside a beige Pathfinder and I think that this must be his beautiful wife and these two must be his beautiful children.  I think that he has offered me a portabello mushroom as an alternative to the meat which Most People eat.  I think that he is trying to accommodate me.  I think that his beautiful wife has poked him in the ribs - between the ribs - and has said to him, "Ohp, he's at it again," and then I think he has said to me, "If you'd like it, I could grill up a nice portabello mushroom" through a puff of smoke and a smile so wide that I haven't the heart to tell him - but what a beautiful family he has - I haven't the heart to tell him that I also eat the meat that Most People eat.
      I don't think that they regard me as Most People.  Most People are not running but are instead standing still on this great suburban highway and it is only I am running.  If Most People stand still, and Most People also eat meat, and one person does not stand still, than it would follow that one person does not eat meat.  It's a valid argument.  I can't blame them.  They're nice people, these people of the Pathfinder.  I think the gladiolas in their window box are blooming.  I think the Pathfinder has a window box growing gladiolas.
      I think that I am running on a highway, in the breakdown lane.

The Squatter
      There was a time when my car joined all of the other cars in a stand still and there was a time when my car was my car.  There was nothing particular about my car except to say that it was my car.  The car had dents which I had given it and coffee stains which I had given it and actually I had taken away from it the arm rest on the drivers side by slamming the door with inconsiderate frequency.  I had also taken from my car it's crisp new car sheen and its clean fresh new car smell.  I had smoked in this car and I had also slept alone and also slept together in this car.
      I had taken from this car the function of its cigarette lighter.  Whenever possible I gave to the car repair but only after I already had destroyed it.  I had given this car uncountable insect carcasses.  Nonetheless, its greatest characteristic which made it particular from other cars was that it was my car in particular.  It was particular because it was mine and now I think that it is someone else's car.  I think that a squatter has seen my abandoned car and has only seen that it is an abandoned car and not that it is my abandoned car.  I think that my car is prepared to become particular not because it is my car but because it is someone else's car.  Some squatter's car.
      And I have to say as I am running - I am always running - it is expected of me - that I feel a greater relationship with this squatter in my car - in his car - in her car- than with my - his - her car.  I think that this is because the car is a car and not a person, like the person squatting in it.  I would like some day to meet this squatter, but I don't think that I will, because, while I am running, this squatter is squatting, and we have only these two directions after all - what is behind, and what is in front.
      I am in front and I am leaving the squatter behind.


 The children of the highway see me coming.
      They don't know me, because they are children.  They are of the size that I will say when we chance to meet again someday that when first I met them they were just this size.  They don't know like their parents know that this is just like me although it isn't.  They do know that Most People do not run but because they are children they don't know why Most People do not run.  They are not precisely certain why they themselves are not running.
      While their parents say "he's at it again" these children of the highway cannot be certain what that means.  When they are uncertain, they become excited.  They want to know what I'm at.  They want to know what I'm at that makes me want to do it again.  They are jumping up and down as I am approaching them and as I am passing them they are joining me.  I am running and they are giggling and jumping and sort of running at my elbows.
      The measurements of the average car are the four paces of one adult running.  The children join me, there, in those four paces, and then they stop.  Their parents proudly nodding.  They have stopped at the edge of the car and are asking themselves the big questions, as I disappear into their horizon of cars.
      What's it all about, anyway, they are asking.  Why just now, in just such a time, in just such a place they are thinking as I am disappearing.  As I am disappearing, to them, I am gaining and shedding a tail of children.  I am gaining a tail and shedding a tail.
      I am a comet of children, sailing through their horizon of cars.

Those who Stand

There are two kinds of people on the roadside.
      Those who are standing and those who are resigned to stand.  These who are standing are generally happy to see me and generally expecting me and generally offering me food and water and things and those who are resigned to stand are pretending that they haven't seen me at all.  When those who are standing greet me those who are resigned to stand try extra hard not to see me.  I see them see me and then I see them make an extra effort not to have seen me in the first place.
      They are tracing irregular circles in the sand with their toes.
      I can't decide if it is better to just stand or if it is better to resign to stand because I haven't yet decided if it is better to stand or to run.  If it is better to stand then it is best to just stand but if it is better to run then perhaps it is best to resign to stand in hopes of someday running.  But even if it is better to run, and you are not running, perhaps its better to stand and not be resigned about it.  Better to embrace the thing, once you've done it.  But better still as you embrace it to consider other possibilities.
      Better then to stand to greet the possibility then resign to circles in the sand.

Radio Band

 I am gaining a child and I am losing a child and then gaining and losing children and then I gain nothing and lose nothing for a time.  I am passing a Buick.  I am passing a sky-blue Buick housing a business man who listens to a sporting event.  I am cheering with the people who are cheering in the Buick and then I am listening easy outside a Winnebago but must rock hard now at the fender of a Camaro.  I polka in passing a 1989 Lincoln Continental and groove positively groove absolutely Phish on a VW Bus wherein a white man with blue eyes and long lazy hair with high hard cheekbones and a whiff of another kind of smoke offers me an entirely different kind of mushroom.  I hip and I hop and I jazz and waltz and punk and I down right funk down this great suburban highway.
      I am a radio band.  I am running.  I am a radio band, running the length of the dial and these cars my stops along the dial.  I have I think a keen reception, a reception more keen than in the car I have abandoned (I have abandoned my car).  I'm getting something at every step of the dial but I am moving on.  I'm running into the high one hundreds.  I am rapping.  I am rapping at the high end of the dial.


 A man in a sky blue cap with white bushy eyebrows and a white bushy beard and an adorable short white bushy wife offers me a white bushy marshmallow which he has pierced on a silver skewer over an open flame.  He is smiling at me and I am smiling at him and his wife is smiling at me and I am smiling at this wife who also smiles.
      The marshmallow is turning black in a red flame and night is falling.
      Night is falling and I am running into it.

Night is Falling

 Night is falling and in the falling night pockets of flame contain multitudes.


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