XV — Yes. It was the Werewolf
Yes. It was the Werewolf, he said. I ask him what happened. Just appeared from the black. Ran at me. Round the back of the car. How did you get away? He looks at me. Stares straight in. Says nothing. Pushes his lips up with an ‘I don’t know what to make of it’ expression. Gives a slow and slight shake of his head. So how did you get away this time? That’s the third time? Fourth time? How you get away? The sky grows pale blue, and the breeze is already warm, despite the cold desert night. I guess it just changes its mind each time. Wants to slice me up but always stops short. It can’t. What is it? Some silver cross round your neck? He pulls down the neck of his brown checked shirt: you know that isn’t ever gonna be here; he gestures to his throat. So what stops it? You have to ask yourself that? He answers cryptically and pushes up his left eyebrow, left side of his mouth. You ask yourself that. I’ll drive. You ask yourself that. Give me a cigarette.
I drive. He flicks the butt out the window. We still have some way to wind down the road to the valley floor. The desert warms up quickly and the needle cold desert night feels like an impossibility. I wind down the window and can hear the dry suspension creaking and straining us down the mountain. I comment on this. I say: suspension is creaking on my side. The back. Hear it? What do you think? It’s fine. It’s the dust. Gets under the rubber boot. Dries up the oil. It’s fine. How long to the bottom? Twenty minutes. Fifteen if you put your foot down. I tell him the plan is to stay on the road, intact, in one piece. Check the map. Where does this track come out? He leans into the back and pulls out the bent up yellow road map. Folds it round. Turns it. Shakes it flat. According to this map, we’re not on a road. It’s an old map, I explain. This is a new track. It wasn’t here last year. Then how do you expect to know where this track comes out? It’s a reasonable question, which implies my failure to give him the full details. Which I can’t, at least, not yet. I will. I have to. Without the full details we can’t complete the job in hand. So for now I have to cover my tracks. Give me a cigarette. Will you light it up for me? He pulls two cigarettes from his pack, puts them side by side in his mouth, lights them up with a wind-proof lighter. Click. Just a-click. He passes me the left one and draws deeply on the right one. I sit back up and clamp the cigarette in my teeth; slightly off centre; slightly to the right; draw in whilst opening up the left side of my lips so that along with the smoke I get mixed in fresh air. It dilutes the smoke. Makes me feel better. I take another draw and then hold the cigarette in my right hand.
When I said: where do we come out, what I meant was: if you look at where the next town is and the highway, and you look at where we were last night, you can triangulate where we are going to hit the road. The main road. I can feel him looking at me and weighing it up. But I stay focussed on the track descending down to the valley below us. He turns to the map, I sense, and tells me we hit the floor about two miles from the highway, fifteen miles from town and another three hours from the drop off point.
There’s a dull thud from the trunk of the car. That’s the first time he’s made a sound. Yeh. I figured he would have said something by now. Shouted out. Seeing as he got shot. Maybe it’s shock through and through? I think about that and draw on the cigarette. Maybe it’s the shock. I agree with my previous idea. So traumatised he didn’t know what to fit it into. Couldn’t make sense of the narrative? Well that might work for anyone else. The driver is gonna lay out the alternative: he sees that every day. Blood. People getting their stories disrupted by someone like you. He must have a template for that. A narrative. So surely he can fit himself into his own story? Can imagine himself into it? That’s why he didn’t make a sound. Until now. He made sense of this years ago, knew it was part of his timeline. No trauma to be had if you got a box to put it in.
The cigarette gets to the mark where I flick it out into the desert and glance in the mirror as it lands next to a broken branch pointing back the way we came. Well. Just because he has a placeholder for it, doesn’t mean he’s not gonna shit himself when the time comes. Metaphorically or literally? Both, I answer.
We bump on down to the town below. Not much else happens. No more thuds. Until we get to the town. So we’re driving down into this valley but it’s not him and me. It’s her and me. The road is an edge-of-the seat of affair. Gripping on to the door handle as if it’s gonna stop the car tumbling off the mountain side. The road sweeps up and around. It drops out, tight corners with the horizon a long long way off. Distant hills. Shrivelled cacti come right up to the tarmac; big glazed dried out cacti withered ends. Thick spikes stuck out of the ribbed leaves. If that’s what they are. When it rains hard the cacti grab all the water they can and swell up fast, the rib expansion like some fat guy slipping his belt up a notch. I can’t tell if they’re dead. Looks like somebody beat them with a club. They occupy this strange space where they could be alive but could be departed. Endless numbered days out here on the mountain-sides.
The car struggles around and up a turn. Very steep but it’s a cut through so the walls are up either side of us. We get to the top. You can see blue sky the other side of the drop off as the car loses its momentum to almost a stop. Then we sit right on the tipping point and the view see-saws down opens out and away and because time has stopped I take in every grain of sand, every change of red hue in the rock walls falling away from us and the blades of grey green grass frozen in a timeless breeze. The valley opens up. In winter. In summer. I fly down the road taking it all in: narrow drainage gulley on either side, camouflaged trees with silver grey green yellow patched bark, scrub, small rocks, large rocks, the road speeds up, the car speeds up, mountain ridges up on my left and the wider expanse of the valley to the right past distant rock brown fields and rock walls.
You can forgive a body. Can’t forgive a face. But you can raise a can of beer on high, and seal your fate. What we need to think about is “having more woodlands, more diverse native species, and having those woods better connected”. On one hand this a judicious statement. But this rationalism belies its conflation with metaphoric content that works on an affective level. As always. This statement is empty rhetoric but, given its entanglement with the way that affect has been mobilised, it resonates in the same register. In this way, you kind of feel something. It kind of leaves you feeling that something useful has been said, that action will result; but not what. However, the entanglement with metaphor resonates and the metaphor obtains a significance that is both unwanted and extends far far beyond the intentions of the communicator. For sure: not the fuck what you meant. That seems to apply here at least in how you are the one sat in the chair and I am the one with a rope around your neck. A metaphoric rope. It’s literally a knife.
You see, I continue to the man in the chair, you see: I have this feeling your luck is none too good. This knife in my hand, keeps calling me ‘master’ and that implies that whatever it does is what I tell it to. I lean in to the man’s ear. But I swear that the damn thing just seems to do its own thing. I just happen to have it in my hand when it does what it does. It really isn’t me. The man gurgles something through the white cotton gag and he tries to rock out of his wheel chair. Grunting. Spinning. I’ve let the tires down, I tell him. Followed by a giggle. I’ve let the tires down. But I also shoved a bar through your spokes so you aren’t wheeling anywhere. I just let the tires down for fun. It’s this intangible feeling of something that indicates the problem. But it also suggests something of how these framings constellate at the social level and become shared means of understanding things. You follow me? You see how this is all framed? You worked the framings out yet? Possibly not. Like the fact you are in a wheel chair and when you wheel down the street that has an impact. It doesn’t go unnoticed. Really. It doesn’t. Are you doing that on purpose? Wheeling down the street in that way you do, I mean. The problem implies a rationalised account of how the media frames this kind of thing. You know: people in wheel chairs. People on crutches. Fat people. Thin people. Different people. How your person in the street, as it were, is constructed, with cues for public understanding and which they would have you think results in a change in public opinion on ambivalent and controversial issues, such as the fact.
The mundanity of it all. Every mundane thing gets elevated to the status of some fucking Saint. You got one arm? You got it made! You got one leg? You got it made! You got cancer? You got it made! No no no, you can’t have had cancer. You have to have cancer. That makes you a here and now hero. If you had it, you got nothing else to say and the people: they need new cancer. Now I think of it, there’s a fucking gold mine right there: somebody needs to invent a new cancer. A ‘cancer of the something’ that no one has ever had. That story would sell like fur coats in a fucking snowstorm.
I prod the man in the back, just to make sure he is listening. That fact I mentioned: you are in a wheel chair. That’s a symbol, you see. Your wheel chair. None of these symbols work in any kind of unitary manner. People love you in your fucking wheel chair. The Wheel chair guy is still rocking. In contrast, I argue that with stories such as the one in question, there are layers of conflict and ambiguity which result not only in a lack of convergence but also in an enhanced ambivalence about the topic in question. On the other hand I, me [I pat me on the chest, just so he is sure who I mean] argue that knowledge is differentially and unpredictably representative and that undermines any simple communication. No one cares about you in your wheel chair until the moment that things fall out that way. Then the fact they don’t care is replaced. But there are no facts to which we can appeal to decisively resolve these type of disputes. Do you follow?
More grunting and spinning.
And then I go on to suggest that the problem in-part stems from the belief in an objective material reality that exists apart from our affective relation to it and which can be represented in its objectivity by scientific practices. The same applies to you stuck in your wheel chair. Our work here, yours and mine, what we are attempting is predicated on being able to account for the problems associated with it from a rational perspective. Like I just said: that can’t happen. It’s just a wish. You got to accept that this is an ambivalent state of affairs and the only thing you can do is accept that ambivalence. Stay in touch with the fact it’s all a fantasy and that, in a very short while, even though most potential outcomes are going to collapse, that collapse is not going to converge on some real outcome where you get up and walk away from this. I laugh a little. That’s a funny thing I said there! What I meant to say was: you aren’t walking away from this. I’m surprised you didn’t stop walking years ago. With that bulging gut straining under your black shirt, doing its best not to spill out your regulation black synthetic trousers. No wonder you had that limp all those years ago. Progressed to this wheel chair, or at the very least gave you a hand. Didn’t it? Along with that gunshot. How did you feel about that?
I am genuinely interested in what he has to say, but whatever he has to say doesn’t make any sense. I can’t understand him. The gag makes his words sound like a car that won’t start. I step back a little. He’s really trying to shake himself free. So much so that the bar slips out from the left wheel and he starts to bump round in a left handed circle. After three full turns I detach from the absurdity and switch it back on. Holding the knife towards him, gesticulate that he best stop. Which he does. Clearly out of breath, the sweat runs down his great fat head down his fat neck, only to get lost in the folds there. Pooling, I imagine, until it is seeped and soaked all around. How many times are we going to do this and in how many different ways? Do you know? He shakes his head and some sweat falls on my left boot. The telephone was ringing in the back.