Friday, March 9, 2012

Something Had Ended

The old man came back to Donkeyland as, one evening he was coming home from work, he had got thinking: as a boy, growing up in the neighborhood was a trip, a great adventure. He tightly held his hands onto the steering wheel of the car, excited he could scarcely speak as he drove down Cayuga Street. His old mouth twitched nervously.
What a life the old man had led since he left the neighborhood, in 1968, it was now 2000, and thirty-two years had passed. He had been around the world.
He knew, the day he left his neighborhood, Donkeyland would disappear once and for all, and it had disappeared once on that train, after closing his eyes and leaning back in the car seat of the train—his eyes had stayed that way for a long while and when he opened them, Donkeyland, and the whole of Minnesota, and entire Midwest had disappeared. When he woke up and stimulate himself—he knew his life there had become but a setting, a backdrop, and the background on which to spread the dreams of his manhood.

He began to think of the time, long ago when he was a young fellow living in the neighborhood, how on such days he’d spend his time wandering about. He was thinking how it affected his whole life, and how a spirit of protest awoke in him, saying: ‘…that’s what I was, what about it, eh? What about it all? I was not the worse of the lot, perhaps not the better part either. Not always up to devilment, but not always up to good. I told them all, you’ll see…oh, not out loud.”
He was in a sad distracted mood and was affected by the nostalgia of the moment. Remembering how it was.
Evens was different than most of the boys—he knew that, not in that he would stand about, listening and occasionally when addressed, saying a few words—but different in that he always had the power to be a part of and yet distinctly apart from the life about him.
In the late evenings his grandfather would sit in the sofa chair, or old sofa couch on the porch and smoke a pipe, silent as he always was at that hour, look out the screened-in-windows, talk to himself, he had a great vigor. Evens could see him at different times as he roamed the streets with the neighborhood boys—see him pacing the porch in the summer evenings.
More often than not he dismissed everything from his mind—how he did it he never knew. Perhaps he couldn’t hate anything, and not being able to understand so many things, he just forgets them; his grandfather being one of those forgetful things, whose nature was always so belligerent towards him—on the whole he was victorious though, so he felt. As often he felt too, the talk of the neighborhood seldom interested him, and he’d slip away. Go up into his room with his thoughts, being alone, write his poetry. As he got older drink him self drunk. He felt it was good to be drunk in those days. If anything it taught him something in his later years—he could now think straight. He wanted to learn things, you see, things he never could understand, that’s why he had to leave the neighborhood, that’s why he did it.

This is Evens’ story. It will, however be necessary to talk a little on his neighborhood so that you will get into the spirit of it: into reading the other sketches pertaining to Donkeyland that is, and on Evens himself.

In the old days Cayuga Street was a notorious neighborhood—known as ‘Donkeyland,’ by the St. Paul Minnesota Police Department. Whomever lived within its boundaries, were aware of the gripping sounds of the Structural Steel Company (where most of the neighborhood kids worked at one time or another, once they hit adulthood), and the Railroad behind it—with its squealing steel on steel, and whistle blowing, and the screeching of cars that raced up and down Cayuga Street, as if it was a drag-strip. The fires going on in the empty lot—called Indians Hill, and the drunken behavior of the boys. All in all it was a constant noisy active neighborhood, with its share of peculiar happenings.
Then one year, there were no more steel items, like beams and so forth produced; the steel workers became laid off, and the yard was stacked with idle steal items. And in due time, all the steel that had been left, was carried away. The big mill had all its machinery then taken out soon after; removed, along with what belts, and tables, pallets, and paints, iron and lumber that were piled here and there. Everything that made a steel mill a steel mill was gone.

Ten-years later there was nothing left, the houses on Cayuga Street all gone, the railroad that had made all those weird noises, stood deserted, as did the empty lot, and now everything that was something at one time, was covered with plain old dirt. A highway was over the head of Cayuga Street— where Mississippi Street crosses it, north and south.
“There’s our old neighborhood,” Chick Evens said, driving up and down Cayuga Street, talking to himself. “There it is,” he said (in reflection and dismay). “I can remember when we played softball over in that there field, drank so much, we couldn’t walk straight, and on that there hill beyond the field we had a number of fights—Indian’s Hill, right there…right where I’m pointing,” said Chick Evens to a ghost, as he looked at and then point to what would soon be a parking lot, with no cars, just a black asphalt turnaround.
His ghost, had been left to nurture the old spirits left in Donkeyland, the old Gang, the voice of his mind told him—how noble.
“It seems more like a castle in ruins now; that is all there is,” Chick Evens mumbled out loud. Then he drove down Jackson Street, alongside Oakland Cemetery his eyes heavy likened to a slab of driftwood (it was the summer of 2000, and something had ended, he had not been back to his old neighborhood in thirty-two years: ‘…what a life his this old neighborhood and led,’ he told himself, ‘it has created a legacy…’).