A Fool's Pinings for a Lost Umbrella
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-Originally published in the Petaluma Creek Review out of Santa Rosa, California on 11/21/2008, archived from print to microfilm and microfiche by patron Menlo Ragnienks II.

I lost my brand new umbrella from the gift shop between the shelves, between the cocktails and the Cartesians, the hellion and the self-help, egged on by the John Kennedy Tooles and the Faulkners.

“Broken heart, broken head,” they whistle, twirling filter-tipped cigarettes, “now you’ll like to see it for yourself, you snagged, no, duped—too little, too loose, of the sludge from the garden hose out in the patio. See if the newspaper dispensaries, the catalytic converters will drip-feed you. Ask your mother for the gin-rummy dice, cast it into the mahogany floorboards while settling your conceits, and fan open your cards. Study closely the aces, faces, skinning with the swisher sweets juice, the pavement grit, stuck off your mangled hand. See if it was ever worth something.”

What a fanciful, short-lived life it lived, in my hands! It was truly something better off to be left up to the head’s ambivalence. Thin iron, stainless steel rod alloy, extruded from a drum, heated to ten thousand degrees Fahrenheit and cooled down in a nitrogen bath, fitted with sweatshop synthetic gaskets shoveled out through layers of coarse mesh and muslin strained from the battery-acid, unfolded, flipped over, and bent again, this time assembled with the pillowcases, stitched by a sewing machine following the dots, the hallmarks of mass-production on a inhuman scale like a coloring book.

Might as well slap on the tag…handmade, in the Venderinmeteines, Halle-Neustadts, Anytowns when you lift off your leather recliner, finding fingers adjust the knobs, fiddle with switches to cast the tungsten under arc lamps suckling all the night vision out of your eyes, when it ends up behind a glass case, surrounded by sparkling diamonds, transceivers sealed up all pretty in pine, oak lacquer, if the termites hadn’t gotten to it all yet, internals soldered together in the scrap metals smelted from yesteryear’s aluminum christmas trees, stalk, boughs, ornaments (shattered with hammers, dreams of technicolor tinsel and asbestos snow scooped out like a grapefruit and canned up in vats with the residual brine for next year’s great new rush for the pie crockery), right next to the birdshot canisters, receiving equal treatment, synthesized, on a strange industrial scale, like Ignatius’s heart, beating for the industrialists, arms dealers, and sleazy politicians that roam the earth unopposed, for the cusps of true revolution, upheaval, cross their legs, pout and dip into the sea, to be snared in a trawling net, heaved in with the albacore and salmon straight in the middle of squall, confined in a cooler with the shrimp, the butchered sea stars oozing pus and viscera until it emerges once again, gasping as it's ladled off into a crucible (in liquid form…and a molting one at that!), to be cast, pounded, baked and then swung about, with the fishing weights, lead paint and glaze, scraped off with an awl from Tom and Jerry souvenir juice glasses for good measure, to extruded, bathed, fitted, shoveled out, twisted, saddled, swathed…and when I felt myself plant two loafers, still slick with the gristle that clogged all the alleyway gutters outside, fishing twenty dollars and a quarter more for the sales tax to the clerk stoned for the clocks and the laminated time card, stuck atop the register with the magnetic reading strip clicking back and forth as the calculations are made, for a umbrella…flat satin black, rosewood handle, handmade, brand spanking new, to be used wherever good downpours that would knock you soaking wet to the nerves are sold, as the bills are latched down and the receipt is spooled out pee-pull!, and bundled in plastic—growing warm, pliable, sticky even, if quality plastic held such a thing at the mere suggestion of heat, sticking with the dust and powder from tearing away the flaking aveoli-like insulation and asbestos with weed wackers and sculptor’s chisels at your son’s cabin last summer in your coat pockets as you clip down the shelves, mind blistering with all that you took in, plumbed above your head as the setting light flutters in upon your shoulders, too bulked out by the cheap tweed vest underneath to feel much of anything else except the scratchy pleather for all different colors—sunset and midday brewing gloom through the slits of the tomes, smelling of lavender essence, and something else your nose couldn’t quite place: myrrh and charred pig’s snout piped in from the ventilation shafts running along the length of all the high arches, then the musk of the familiar drop ceilings, before starting, full tilt for the microfiche reader propped up on the southward facing reading station, and stumbling forward, all alone headfirst, concussed into the chipped siding of an RV, hood open, showing a gaping pit where the flathead, big block that limped the jalopies of woodgrain and shag westward over the feathered hills to the incinerator, the sinkhole, where the fool’s golden state once had been, and then you, tarred, feathered up in hamburger wrappers and blackened tinfoil, reaching into your pocket for your final measure, only to be made




Ruben Norris Tulege (1940-2018) was an adjunct professor of Communication Studies at Santa Rosa Senior College and formerly a social studies educator at Stag Creek High School. In his free time he enjoyed hiking and miniature building.
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