Set Thirty Two:
with all that surrounds,
unseen by eyes,
A gathering of stones,
a gathering of fibers,
a gathering of food,
a gathering of something.
A coat of gray and brown,
blending with all that surrounds,
to the hidden place,
and the gathering.
A nest of sticks,
a nest of leaves,
a sense of calm,
among the gathering.
A Short Story
He walked about the city streets, on the east side, past the industrial buildings, but before the shipyards. He moved with steps that seemed to have purpose and didn't pause or look about. In the movement, of the people, and the trucks, and the sound of machinery, he went along carrying his backpack. No one noticed, as he moved along. He seemed to be just part of the place.
As he went, although his eyes were forward, he was always looking. After the years, it seemed natural for him. He noticed dumpsters. He noticed debris that wasn't trash. He noticed city cars. He noticed things that were abandoned. People often have moments where they are surprised that they noticed things. His moments had no surprise.
Like in a boat, moving down a river, he hardly stopped as he gathered. He looked for cans. He knew where they would be. He could almost sense the density. He looked for gloves and caps and shoes. The things that wore. The things that were noticed inside when they wore. He looked for food. He kept himself to a standard. It wasn't of self-consciousness, but of dignity. He looked for tools. Not with a present need, but in case of a future one.
In his clothes of gray and brown, he seemed like part of the concrete walls he moved past. He blended in among the metal and stone and little weeds that grew without dirt.
As he gathered, he moved in an unseen circuit. It was a path unspoken in his mind that went from where he was, out to the world, and back again. It was rational in his mind, but without predictability. He started, went out, gathered and returned.
There was a fence, with a gate locked with a chain that was too long and pad lock. Behind it were storage units once used as businesses, all in a row. All were quiet. They had been since the sign came down. One had auto parts, another appliances, a third was always empty, and a forth had machine parts.
Around the corner, hidden from the street, behind a fence with an easement on the other side, was a unit marked 124. It had held furniture and upholstery. It seemed a natural place.
Opening the door, only just enough, slipping inside with the backpack, closing it behind him, and putting the metal bar. He was home.
Light came in through ventilation tubes and dimly lit the space around. A torn couch on one side, a pile of cloth, of different colors and patterns, laid out in a square, a table made of pallet parts, a large pile of items and two metal drums by the wall.
Inside the drums were more. More cans, more gloves, caps and shoes, more tools without a purpose. The contents of the bag were added to the gathering and then he sat down to rest.
His dinner was funnel cake. Apparently not cooked enough for someone's taste. It was clean and still on the plate and had been on top of the pile.
As the room grew dark, with night approaching, he turned on a battery powered lantern that he had gotten after a hurricane when it was on sale. The center of the room seemed to glow with an orange light and around the walls it seemed a grayish yellow.
In his mind, because he didn't want to speak aloud, he went through an inventory of his gatherings. It was time to organize the clothes. He thought of what would go together and what would last the same length of time. He thought of his cans, and the three miles to the recycling depot. He needed to dress as well as he could and go on a Thursday morning to avoid the patrols that came by. He thought of his tools. There was almost a set. He wondered if he could be a handyman. He wondered if he could portray an image well enough.
As his mind roamed toward the future, a sense of present filled him inside. He thought of the hawks. The others who roamed about and preyed upon those seen as small and weak. He felt the knife in his pocket and the chain wrapped around his ankle under his sock.
His mind shifted more, as he tried to shake the thoughts away, and he thought of the next day's gathering.
He planned his route almost unconsciously and tried to think where the resources would be. He envisioned where to go, what to get and where to avoid. He almost lived the day in his mind.
He thought of the camps, beyond the highway. They had a gathering. They might be gathering. He thought of going. He thought of trading. He thought of hawks. He thought not to go.
He then got up, turned off his lantern, went to the pile of cloth, and went to sleep.
The day dawned, and in the low glow of light he went through his routine to get ready to leave. Before the world was awake with noise, he had closed his door and walked through the gate.
He gathered that day. The gathering was good. There were copper coils in debris by a construction site. There was also a glove that might match one he had. Past the convenience store, he found a bag filled with past dated drinks. He met someone, he thought he knew, and gave them a token, from the shelter. In return, he got a knife the person said they had found.
At a store, he got inside, without the ties, throwing him out. He filled a bag, with bathroom soap, and put a pile of napkins in his bag.
By a pier he had some food, because despite the protest of others, someone bought him a sandwich from a truck.
He even found, and adjustable wrench, just on the road. The spiral still turned.
He moved in his path, the one from his mind and made his circuit. Toward mid-afternoon, he was at the gate.
As he stood by the gate, he noticed the chain was cut and on the ground. Despite the logic, he hoped someone had broken in.
He went inside and saw the doors. One open, two open, three open, four open. Clear concrete inside.
Another door, another clear concrete. Another door, another clear concrete. Then to door 124.
He had known.
He wondered who reported.
Standing there, his life gone, he sensed the gathering. They had gathered. A company, a city, a group with a goal. They had gathered.
Cleaning, revitalization, removal, restoration, other words for the pressing down on life.
He imagined the satisfaction the gathering had given. Somewhere, someone boasted. Somewhere, someone relaxed. Somewhere, someone progressed. Somewhere, someone had their life, un-gathered.
Standing, with his bag of gatherings, he looked at the result of gathering. His was benign. Theirs's was malignant.
Into a dumpster or a truck or dragged out with a machine, his life was gathered. He stood for a moment and turned away. He walked toward the fence and the easement.
He looked down the easement. It seemed to go as far as he could see. He climbed the fence, gathered his senses, and walked away.
Set Thirty One:
By the lake,
as the sun set,
the water turned,
an orange hue.
And by the shore,
the flowers bloomed,
their petals opening,
in the twilight.
In the dusk,
their yellow tones,
first turned white,
then began to glow.
Like the lake beyond,
they glowed with light,
and turned the color,
of the sun.
A Short Story
Swim in the lake day
"Today will be fun."
"You don't sound excited."
"You don't see the excitement here?"
"It's swim in the lake day. It's the first day of the year the lake is open for swimming. It's like a holiday. There should be overwhelming excitement."
"You see, there is so much excitement, that it has created a numbing sensation, and now you see, well, this less than excited look."
"That makes no sense."
"Really? It sounded reasonable."
Walking out of the apartment, carrying their bags, they walked toward the car. Sitting in the passenger seat, as her friend sang along with the song on the radio, she thought to herself, "This is such a bad idea. She's going to notice the whole, no ability to swim thing. What then?"
Her friend hit a high note, that snapped her out of her thought. As her friend went along with the melody, she kept thinking, "It's simple. Just stay in the shallow part. Do that knee bending thing, and make the water seem higher than it is. Just bounce along. Like in the three foot section of the pool. It will be fine. There should be a lot of people. Most will be in the shallow part. It should be fine."
"Oh look, there it is," her friend driving the car said.
She turned, smiled and clapped her hands.
"For some reason, you seem to celebrate sarcastically."
They pulled up to a gravel area and stopped the car.
"Look at all the people already out there. It's only eight in the morning," she said to her friend.
"See? It's swim in the lake day. People, other than you of course, think it's important."
"Yes, yes important. Swimming in dirty water surround by strangers. Super fun."
"Come on, you'll have a good time. It's a promise."
Both women walked toward the lake carrying their bags. They set them down on a grassy spot and took off their outer clothes and shoes. Her friend had a yellow bathing suit and she had an orange one.
"Come on let's go," her friend shouted as she ran toward a dock on the lake.
She walked after her thinking, "This is such a bad idea."
The morning went well. It was just like she thought it would be. Most people were in the shallow part of the lake near the shore. They were jumping off of docks, playing with beach balls, and chasing each other about. Little kids yelled and shouted and bigger ones played games.
Her friend and she were in an area near the shore. Her friend swam different strokes up and down around her, and she moved about in the water. She went under a few times, and came up somewhere else, to give the illusion of swimming.
The only hiccup, was when her friend tried to get her to jump from a swinging rope that was tied to a tree near shore. She had to insist it didn't seem safe. Eventually, her friend did it without her as she stayed floating off to one side.
At around noon, the two got out of the lake to have lunch. As they ate mandarin oranges, her friend said, "You see those rocks over there?"
"Behind them, where those trees are, there is like a little lagoon. Nobody goes there. It's great. The rocks there were cut by water and there are all sorts of arches and little tunnels to swim through. The whole place is divided into little pools. There are all sorts of green plants and bright flowers by the shore, and there are lilies in the water. It's like an oasis."
She thought for a moment to herself, "This sounds great. Little pools are safe. Little pools aren't deep. Nothing bad can happen in an oasis." She said, "It sounds like fun, we'll go after we eat."
After the two ate, and packed their things, they started to walk around the lake. Her friend said as they went along, "We can go in the water there, and swim to where the rocks are."
For a moment she was frightened. She looked at the place where they were to go into the water and where the rocks were. It was far enough that the water wouldn't be shallow. She wondered how deep it would be. The place was off to one side of the lake and not out in the open. She hoped it would be alright. She was five foot six, and thought that she would be okay as long as the water didn't get above five feet.
As they got closer, she could feel herself panic. She decided, that if it got too deep, that she would say she had a cramp. They had just eaten, and she had always heard that you could get a cramp if you swam too soon after eating. She wasn't sure it was true, but thought it sounded plausible enough. She would say she had a cramp and say she need to go to shore to rest. She would think of what to do after that, if it happened.
They got to the spot where they were to go into the water. He friend said, "Come on, let's get in here."
They both started to walk into the water. A quarter of the way to the rocks, the water got to be two feet deep. Her friend started to swim and said, "Come on."
She stood as tall as she could and walked toward the rocks. The depth increased gradually. About half way there, the water was three feet deep.
In another quarter of the way, the water got to be four feet deep. She wondered how deep it would be in the lagoon. She had assumed it would be shallower, but now she wasn't sure.
Suddenly, the bottom feel from under her. In an instant the water was up to her chin. She gasped and then tried to calm down. She saw her friend swimming ahead of her. She was almost at the rocks.
She pressed her feet on the bottom and stood up on her toes. She kicked off and moved forward. After a few kicks, despite being on her toes, the water was again to her chin.
Her friend was out of the water, sitting on the rocks. She said, "Hey come on. Just swim over, you're almost there. The little pools are just on the other side."
She was trying to think of what to do. If the water got any deeper before she got to the rocks, she couldn't make it. She thought it would be strange though to say she had a cramp at this point. Even if she did, she was much closer to the rocks than to the shore. Her friend would just tell her to swim on and rest on the rocks.
As she tried to think, she felt the water get lower. There seemed to be a slope up to the rocks after the drop off. She was able to stand normally and tried to move forward like she was swimming. When she got to the rocks, the water was about four feet deep.
As she pulled herself up, her friend said, "Come on, once we get behind those trees, we will be there."
They walked along the rocks and stepped into the pool. The water was only about two feet deep. When they got passed the place, she saw what her friend was talking about.
The place was beautiful. It was like something from a park. There were rocks all around that were flat and smooth. There were little pools that connected to each other. In some of the deeper looking pools, there were rocks that looked sculpted. There were arches and different shapes.
Around the little ponds, there were plants everywhere. There were pads in the water and plants around the rocks. Things were green and flowers were blooming. There were all sorts of colors.
"Isn't it great?" Her friend asked.
"Yes, you were right. Why aren't there a lot of people here?"
"Well, there's nowhere to park a car on that side of the lake and most people stay near the shore where we were. A boat can't get in here, so boaters don't find it, and most people don't want to swim this far. It's nice because it keeps it secluded."
Her friend got off a rock she was on and slipped into a pool. She swam gracefully in and went from one to another. She went under an arch to one pool and then seemed to disappear. She came out on the other side of a rock in another pool.
"This is great. There are all sorts of little places to explore and tunnels like that one. It's like a place where you could find gems or treasure if you just kept looking."
She slipped into the water. It wasn't deep, only about two and a half feet. The bottom felt smooth and she moved along easily. She went from pool to pool after her friend. When she got to where the tunnel was, she was scared for a moment, but tried to think of it like a roller coaster.
She felt down with her hand to the top of the tunnel and when she found it, she closed her eyes, took a breath, and held her noise.
She felt the tunnel in the darkness. She knew it wasn't more than two feet from the size of the rock above and she felt the bottom with her free hand. She pulled herself forward, and in a moment, she could feel the edge of the tunnel. She pulled herself out with a tug and then popped up out of the water, and gasped for breath.
"You are so silly. There's nothing to be afraid of in those tunnels. None of the ones around here are more than a few feet long. Come on, let's go relax over there."
They moved along and came to spot that seemed to have a natural stone bench in the water. They both sat down and leaned back.
After a moment, her friend said, "You know, we should just live here."
"No more apartment?"
"Who needs an apartment, when you have this? The little pools make natural rooms. There's all sorts of places in the rocks to store stuff, and there's even a little cave behind us, where we could have our primary dwelling."
"You've thought this out," she said, laughing.
"Oh, yes, the cave thing is really cool. It has ledges where we could have our beds and like make a kitchen and stuff. You want to go see?"
"Don't you have to have a license to show me property?" She asked jokingly.
"Feel free to report me if you want. Come on roomie, let us go."
Her friend pulled herself up on the rock and started to walk along it. She said, "Follow me here. We have to go along this area, and then across those rocks there. There's a fallen tree and some rocks and then a deep pool. We swim into the pool and through a tunnel. When you come out, you are in the cave."
Her friend walked along the rocks. She pulled herself out of the water and followed. In a moment, after a turn, they came to the fallen tree. Her friend said, "Be careful going across it, it can be slippery."
As her friend moved along the tree, she stepped slowly onto it. There felt like there was moss or something on it, and she was worried that she would slip. Her friend moved along at a steady pace.
When her friend got near the end of the tree, she thought for a moment and then asked, "Hey, how deep is that pool we are coming to?" She hadn't thought about it, but now she wondered what she would do in it and with the tunnel.
Her friend turned to answer, and as she did, she slipped on the tree. She spun around, fell, and her leg hit some rocks that were past the tree. As she did, she tumbled and fell over the rocks and into the deep pool.
She gasped for a moment, and as quickly as she could she moved to the end of the tree and to the rocks. She couldn't see her friend. The pool was dark blue and looked still.
She reached her arm into the water and called out for her friend. There was no answer.
She called again, but again there was no answer.
She held onto the rocks on the side and lowered herself into the pool. She thought she would touch the bottom, but as she dropped in, her feet didn't touch anything. She plunged into the water and panicked.
As she fell, she couldn't feel the bottom. She started to flail her arms and legs. She breathed in some water and started to flail more. In an instant, she burst out of the water and her head was above the surface.
She gasped and started to go under again. She swung her arms about and hit the side of the rocks. It hurt her arm, but as she hit the rocks, she grabbed on. She pulled herself toward them and threw her other arm over the rocks and held the top of herself out of the water.
She started to catch her breath, when she heard a noise behind her.
Her friend's head popped out of the water past the center of the pool. She could see blood on her forehead.
Her friend said in a weak voice, "Help. Help. My arm. My leg. Swim here."
She held onto the rocks with her good arm, and reached out with her bad one. She wasn't even close. She tried to stretch out her legs, but that did not do better. She said, "Swim here."
"Help. Please. Everything's dizzy."
After her friend spoke, she went under the water for a moment and then came back up.
Holding onto the rock, she didn't know what to do. She couldn't swim to her friend and she was too far from any of the rocks to be able to reach her from them. She thought about breaking a tree branch, but wasn't sure she could.
She panicked and pulled herself out of the water. Her friend gasped, "Help. Please."
She looked at her friend, paused, and then turned around. She walked on the rocks and went to the tree.
Her friend yelled out, "Where are you going?"
She scurried along the tree and got to the rocks on the other side.
"Don't leave. Where are you going? Don't leave me," she heard her friend shout.
She didn't know what to do. She knew she couldn't save her friend and that she had to get help. It occurred to her as she stepped onto the bench and into the pool, that she should stop and go back. She thought she should tell her friend that she was getting help. She didn't want her friend to think she had abandoned her.
As she moved across the pool and came to the tunnel, she thought that turning back would just waste time. She thought that she needed to get help for her friend. She could explain things once someone helped her.
She got to the rocks on the other side of the pool, reached down, and felt the tunnel. Without holding her noise, she took a breath, and pulled herself down. She quickly went through the tunnel and came out the other side.
She moved as quickly as she could in the next pool, went under the arch to the pool before it and then climbed on the rocks that were there.
She then went into the next shallow pool, past the trees and got to the rocks that were at the open part of the lake.
She stood on the rocks and waved her arms and shouted, "Help! Help!" to the crowd that was by the other shore.
She jumped up and down and shouted again, "Help! Help!"
It took a moment, but she caught someone's eye. When that person noticed, others did and soon there was a group swimming out to where she was.
The first person that got close was on a paddle board. She shouted to them, "My friend. She's hurt. She might drown. Please help."
The swimmers got closer.
"So what happened?" An officer who just arrived asked one who had been there for some time.
"It seems a girl drowned."
"She came here with her friend. They came across the pools and rocks there. You know, it's a nice place. Anyway, she slipped and hurt herself and fell in the water."
"Did she drown right away?"
"No. She was hurt but was able to get to the surface. Her friend was on the rocks and she called to her for help."
"Did she try to help her?"
"She couldn't swim. The pool was too deep. She went back to where the lagoon opens into the lake and called for help. By the time someone got back here, her friend was dead."
"Wow. So it seems like an accident? You know, no foul play, or anything?"
"No, nothing like that. She seems like she is telling the truth. The injuries on the body seem to be from a fall. They'll be an official investigation; it should say the same thing. This was just a horrible accident. Besides all that, that crying girl over there seems way too broken up to have done anything to hurt her friend."
"Yeah. Having your friend die is bad enough, but not being able to help, you know, just having to see her and try and run for help, that's seems heavy."
"That's not all of it. From what she says, she seems to think her dead friend thinks she betrayed her. It's crushing her even more."
"Why would she think that?"
"From what she says, her friend was there, gasping in the water, screaming for help, and the last thing she sees is her friend, who she thought could swim, running away. Imagine you being the one on the rocks. Imagine you were the one who had to run away. How would that hit you?"
"Yeah, that does seem like a lot."
"A counselor will be coming by. They'll send her to talk to one. They'll try to get her to see that this was just an accident and there was nothing she could do. Seeing her there though, who knows how much it will help. She'll probably blame herself for the rest of her life."