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Une Saison en Enfer August 27, 2011

Posted by Mark Folse in 504, cryptic envelopment, New Orleans, NOLA, The Narrative, Toulouse Street.
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If Hell has a season, dear Authur, it is the last of August: black asphalt, the squinting light of bright concrete, scalding metal. A layer of cotton armor beneath our shirt to pretend we do not sweat, handkerchief at the ready to mop brow and hat band at every block, feet swelling in leather shoes.

This week it is every day into the office, visitors from the capitol, training my replacement. Come October my job moves to a city in Virginia thought safe from natural disasters, and my masters are rewarded with an earthquake. Image of the Earth over Water. The lake trembles before the mountain. Joy in the Misfortune of Others. I pray for the Atlantic hurricane to jog left and imagine their panic when there is no power for Moloch’s vast central campus for weeks on end.

Somewhere above on a shady ledge a crow calls.

There are no prospects in August. Here people do as little as possible if they are not in fact vacationing on some cool mountain or a laying in the reliable sea breeze of a beach. I scan the papers and prowl the online job sites but I am a paper tiger. The gazelle are elsewhere in August, laying in the mud around some watering hole, and I remain. I fold the paper, undisturbed by breeze on the table, light another cigarette and imagine clerking in some dim and cool used bookstore.

Escape into some dark bar, cold beer in glasses wet with condensation. Hold the cool against your forehead, then drink deep. Drink too deep and too long and August will have its revenge: too much coffee in the morning and the frog march ten blocks into the office racing against the clock. Sweat penetrates your wife beater and soaks your work shirt, and the calm lawyers with shady indoor parking step back as if there were three feverish men in stained hats and not just yourself.

There is relief come October, when the heat retreats back to its tropical winter quarters, but you imagine walking from the office to the car one last time and file that thought away like a bill, minimum payment made. Better to live in this moment: admire the glinting of a hundred years of beer bottles, understand the unraveling that leaves the sidewalks broken in New Atlantis, greet the crows that haunt the downtown canyons. Imagine the flash of brass instruments later in the streetlight. Come sundown, stripped to sandals, shorts and beater, taunt August beneath the cold moonlight. Forget Moloch and dance while you can and the heat be damned, for tomorrow you may not hear the crows.

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