Don’t Call Us
The Santa Ana winds shaped me. Their power sucked the cigarette from my fingers and drove it deep into chaparral. The fire was preordained. I could have stayed in Hoboken N.J. and the fire still would have blazed and spread, but the law apprehended me as if I were an outlaw, robbing banks or trains.
It was the wind that sucked the cigarette from my fingers. It’s not like I tossed it, all cool and cavalier. The western winds overwhelmed me, blew my garage open, sucked my tuba into the road, dragged it down the pebbly pavement. Sparks flew from its brass. The wind drove the sparks deep into the chaparral.
My skullcap flew from my scalp. How did God expect a silk skullcap to stay on when the Santa Ana winds blew? My grandfather’s fedora blew off his dead skull. His head was a block of grey clay, awaiting the pinch of my sculptor fingers to create something new from something old.
My cigarette was gone, my beret a Frisbee, my tuba a deformed sculpture, better than I could have made with torch and intention. I ran down the boulevard trying to catch up with it, but my tobacco lungs couldn’t beat a tuba in a foot race, a tuba that had played in marching bands and New Orleans funeral processions.
At age twenty-seven, my grandmother reclined on a tree limb, holding the eternal flame of youth. It glowed orange in her hands. But then the wind blew her out of her tree. The eternal flame set the orchard afire. The apples and cherries hissed, and blew up.
The wind blew carom boards down Topanga, out to the ocean. They skimmed across the surface on their way to radioactive Japan. I didn’t understand the meaning of youth or age. All I understood was the wind. I knew the wind would blow away everything of value or lacking value. It would all end up stuck on the branches of some bush. I didn’t need to go to school. The wind was my teacher. The wind would get fiercer every year. All human life would disappear.
The wind blew like it never did in Patterson, New Jersey. The wind blew out the windows of our home. My father, the engineer, sat at his desk while the wind sucked open all his drawers, scattered his business papers. Those papers were his life.
The wind turned coffee beans into bullets. Santa Ana stripped the tomatoes, the grapes from their vines. Italians and Jews cried together.
Tumbleweeds became deadly weapons, practiced hit-and-run and could never be identified. Hit-and-run tumbleweeds congregated at a local bar next to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, along with plastic heads stolen from Jack-in-the-Box.
In the future, recreational marijuana would be legal in Colorado but, in the meantime, I was going to prison. At least in prison, I would be safe, walled off from the powerful, destructive wind, untouchable.