Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Slapstick Suicide Hotline !

Part 1
The snow is piling up high outside. Beautiful. 

Ok, I'll put down the gun. 
(Where'd it come from anyway, me, a pacifist?) 
Ok, the razor blade. 
The bottle? ok.  
I'll even turn off the Facebook, the TV, the cell phone; 
all the screens of life. 
Then I'll turn back on the cell phone and call
Suicide Hotlinewhen I'm ready. Am I? 
Ok, ready. 

Calling now. It's ringing. Still ringing. 
Hey - someone's answered, HANG UP! - no,
I'll hang on - I think they've dropped the phone, 
in the background I hear Herb Alpert and 
the Tijuana Brass. 

Now, out-of-breath breathing, and, 
"Hi! Suicide Hotline, may I help you?" 
"Yes, I was about to - "
"Oh, you were about to - "
"Well yes, but the snow is so pretty - " 
"Isn't it? More tonight I heard - " 
"I heard that too, anyway - "
"You were about to?"
"Yeah. Sorry."
"Oh no, it's ok. We get it all the time."
"I bet you do." 
"Sure. We'll send a team over. Address?"
"77 Duke Ellington Way."
"His birthday today, you know."
"Yes! A reason to live right there, isn't it?" 
"I'm the house at the bottom of the street."
"We'll be right over. 5 minutes." 

I'm watching my watch go round for 
the five minutes to go by and already 
here comes  a van. 
Fast, for the snow. 
Too fast, for the downhill. 
I'm worried for them. 
And for me, since they're coming this way. 
Maybe it's one of their suicide distraction tactics. 
I can see excited faces and hands in the windshield, 
hands waving at the driver to slow down
and I think he takes the advice, and brakes.
Maybe too hard. 

The van is sliding and beginning to twirl. 
Now it's sideways and yes, it's them alright.
The side panel of the van says
                         Suicide Hotline!
                                        plus their phone number. 
I wonder if I should get in the attic. 
The van is going faster, getting closer, staying sideways. 
I see a cardinal in my tree about to flee, a chipmunk 
on the snow about to spring, and I should go
maybe up in the attic, or back in the kitchen
but I'm frozen, watching what's coming. 

Now the van is inside my house, it has come 
through the front door, the entire front wall, 
the cardinal and the chipmunk are far away
and I'm sitting on the front seat of the van
its dashboard and radio in pieces 
on the floor, with a lot of snow, but somehow 
still playing Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. 

"That's the song I heard on the phone," I say. 
"Yes sir, it's our song," says the driver.
"What is it? It's familiar."
"It's called: 'Gotta Lotta Livin' To Do.' "
"Well, that's good for a suicide hotline."
"Yes. We think so. We're not subtle."
"I can tell by the way you showed up." 

The driver takes out a cell phone 
and calls someone; the others in the van, 
on broken seats behind us, are peaceful, 
smiling at me. "Nice house," one of them says.
The driver's call goes through. 

"Hello? Yeah, we crashed Morrison. 
Please send someone over with Van Gogh." 

I have no idea what's happening now. 
The driver sees that. He holds a hand 
over the phone and talks to me.

"We name all our vans after famous ones, 
Van Morrison - this one, Van Gogh, 
the one that's coming now, and so on. See?"
He points to the ceiling of the van and activates 
the moonroof - still working somehow, though 
grinding - which displays a hand-painted mural 
of the Alvin Ailey Dancers. 

"MOONroof? Get it?" 

Someone's talking on his cell again, he listens, 
says, "Right. We'll take him to the airport next, 
meanwhile, please send a team over, there's 
a lot of carpentry to do here. We can fix it all  
while he's out in Colorado. Right. Ok. Bye."

So, I'm going to the airport. The other van 
has arrived, covered in painted yellow haystacks
and when the staff slides back the side door, I see 
a bed inside - pillows and mattresses, sheets
and duvets, creating a sort of haystack bed
I'm amazed but tired. I'm going to sleep now. 

More later, from the sky. 

Part 2

Well, where am I? Oh yes, aboard a jet. 
A small one, too. In fact, I'm alone. 
This is peaceful, there's mountains out the window, 
covered in snow, and the small red sun 
way up at the north end of the mountain chain, 
… beautiful.

And now, is this the pilot coming down the aisle? 
Looks like the pilot, she has the hat on,
and her wings, and her co-pilot is with her, 
plus a stewardess, with a bubbling
champagne flute. They surround me. 

"Evening, sir," says the pilot. "And cheers!" 
The stewardess hands me the champagne, 
and sits with me. In fact, they all sit down.

The pilot takes off her hat, lots of hair waterfalls 
down her uniform, and she waves the hat 
at the window, "Pretty, eh? The Rockies are 
so dramatic! And to think that just this morning 
you were going to kill yourself. What about that?" 
She laughs. So does the co-pilot. And the stewardess. 
Well, why not, I think, and now we're all laughing. 

I look out at the Rocky Mountains and notice 
the trajectory is on a new tilt. Sort of 
downwards. I drink the flute, and let it go. 

"Who knows?" I begin, still laughing. "Well, no -
I do know. I felt bad, bored, stuck, and a bit cut-off, 
is probably the way I'd put it," I say. 

Now they're really laughing. 

The co-pilot, who can barely breathe 
for his laughing, adds: "Lonely?" They all wait.

"Well, sure," I say. "I think." 

They start laughing again. And it is funny, 
for some reason. The pilot gives me a playful punch 
on the arm, the stewardess refills my flute to the top, 
bubbles flashing to the top of the champagne like 
old-fashioned Christmas lights; I notice the top surface 
of champagne in the glass is at a radical new angle, 
spilling a bit. I look out the window, the trajectory 
seems even more tilted now, but what do I know?

The laughter quiets down and 
the three of them look seriously at me. 

"They told us you had a gun," says the stewardess.

"Yes. I did." 

The stewardess drops the bottle of champagne, 
the pilot falls out of her seat, red and shaking 
with silent laughter, and rolls down the aisle. 
So does the champagne bottle. And a food cart 
from the back of the plane.

"Say," I say, wiping the tears away and trying 
for a straight face, "I don't mean to look over 
your shoulder, Captain, but is this plane on autopilot?" 

The pilot rolls all the way down to the cockpit,
though the champagne bottle gets there first,
and I feel a sudden upward jolt of the jet. 

I look out the window and see the top of a pine tree 
go by, then the top of another cut off by the wing; 
there's an orange Home Depot sign glowing
in the middle distance; out the other window 
I see cattle - horses or cows - hard to say which; 
then there's another jolt and the jet lifts us higher. 

The pilot says something. I look down the aisle 
and see her at the controls, her hair flying back wildly. 
She turns around and smiles at me. 

"Did you say something?" I say. 

"Not on autopilot. That's why we're laughing." 

I look out the windows, blankets of snow 
on both sides stretching far away to white pillows
of foothills and mountains. 

We bump on the ground and we're skiing - the wings 
are taking out small pines on both sides, the jet lifts, 
bumps down hard again, I see down the aisle through 
the cockpit window that we're skiing on our belly 
toward a large house of many yellow-lit windows while 
the pilot works the controls, the flaps flap on the wings, 
we're not slowing down, the right wing hits BIG 
tree and the jet goes into a spin. 

The pilot is laughing in the cockpit, the co-pilot crawls 
down there to help, the stewardess looks at me and says, 
"Sometimes you just have to wait it out." 

"Is that suicide counseling?"

"Maybe it is," she says. "Actually, I was thinking
of our situation right now, but yes, it does apply." 

The left wing hits a BIG tree, and we go spinning
in the other direction, counter clock-wise. 
All sorts of scenery tableaus across the windows. 

"You're right," I say, "I mean, who knows 
where we're going to stop? Or how? Or if."

"Yes, precisely. But I'm enjoying our conversation
aren't you?" She has an idea, and reaches inside 
her flight uniform. "Care for a sip?"
She pulls a miniature wine bottle from her jacket 
and untwists it, as our jet twists in the snow.

"Yes. And yes, I am enjoying this conversation 
very much. Oh … John, by the way." 

"Jane. A pleasure." 

We're sliding on the snow … still sliding … it's a long slide,
sounds like sand pouring … a pause, we wait … NOW 
a crashing smashing metallic ripping sound
and here we are, in the great room 
- snow sifting down - 
of what looks to me like … a ski lodge. 

The front half of the jet fuselage has jetted and slid 
(with us inside it!) through the front door and wall 
of this lodge, the pilot and co-pilot 
(both still sitting behind the blinking control panel) 
plus Jane and I, still reclining with our wine 
up (and including shards of) the aisle, 
are sitting in the middle of the room, 
surrounded by:
   flickering candles
   wooden rocking chairs with red cushions
   a long cowboy bar
   a wide ROARING fireplace
   and a dozen men and women,  
   in evening wear. 

"Welcome!" says one out of the dozen. 

Part 3

The snow is piling up high outside, it's dark 
out there - sparkly, beautiful - snowflakes 
softly drift in through the front hole in the lodge, 
but no one seems to mind. 

The pilot shakes out her hair and puts her hat on,
playfully crooked. The co-pilot helps me and Jane 
out of our seats, and we all walk out of the fuselage
into the great room, to mingle. 

A circle forms around us, they're shaking my hand, 
hugging me, welcoming me. One of them, the oldest, 
sort of a Santa Claus - Burl Ives type, asks, 

"So, they say you had a gun?"

I look at the pilot who smiles sweetly at me,
trying for once to hold back her laughter. 

"Sure did. Can you believe it?"

There's a long silence, I look at every face 
smiling at me as sweetly as the pilot is. 

"Oh, of course!" says Santa. "We all do, 
ho, ho, ho! Let's have a toast to our new friend!" 

The phone at the bar rings, and the bartender 
snatches it up on the first ring. 

"Suicide Hotline Westmay I help you? Yes .. right … 
uh huh, he's here," he looks over at me, "… uh huh, ok, 
thanks, goodbye! They were checking to see if you'd 
arrived safely," he winks at me, then, "Ok, drinks! 
Drinks for a toast, coming right up!" 

He begins to line up glasses by the beer tap, but stops. 
He hears it, I hear it, a sort of slow creaking sound. 
I notice the tail of the jet has whiplashed
into the bar of the great room. 

All that end of the jet has cracked into a wall, probably 
all the joists, and the elaborately carved, western-style,
dark brown wooden columns, all around the bar … 
holding up a line of bedrooms … above. 

All this, standing and holding together for over a century, 
is sliding, slowly collapsing, the bartender is on the run,
and it all comes crashing down, pillows and sheets
from above, glasses smashing, 
liquor, wine, and beer 
geysering all over 

And now, here it comes again. Laughing. 
Getting louder, and louder. 

And louder … 

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