"Duck Pond, to my mild surprise, was dry except for a shallow rivulet snaking across its parched bed toward the spillway.
Its exposed dirt was already populated -- smartweed, beggarticks, some grasses and low yellow daisy-like weeds had moved in and were blooming in the fissured mud.
Unthinking, I struck out into the unclad pond, surprised at how shallow it had been. Why, I could have waded across and barely gotten my knees wet ! I preferred its imagined depths to this appalling puddle-bottom. It was a corpse of a pond and it fit in exactly with my mood.
As it was, despite some late circumspection, I was up to the canvas of my All-Stars in mud and my socks were wet. And I was convinced the two people on the far shore were staring at me, probably on the verge of hilarity at the sight of the weirdo crouching in the weeds and muck.
I've been in one of my more reclusive phases, more Kaczynskian than Thoreauvian, and, impelled by the imagined gaze of strangers, I abandoned the dry pond for the forest path.
It is the time of year when the porcelain berries come into their own, and I knew that several stands of them grew beside Beaver Brook. Ishmael, in the Novembers of his soul, took to sea. The variegated and speckled blues of the berries -- watery, be-isled planets -- would have to do for my own current November.
A patient had said to me recently, I forgot to be grateful.
Had I forgotten how to be grateful ?
And what was gratitude, anyway, at least when cosmically construed ?
The old Roman Road was living up to its platitudinous name. There was The Big Question pulsating on the rocky path in front of me like a discarded and decaying slice of Nesselrode Pie straight out of Naked Lunch.
"So, honey, what'll it be ?" sneered the Pie, eyeing my muddy All Stars with a look of utter contempt.
The Pie, oracular, was obviously not going to let me pass until I had given some sort of response.
"Listen, Nessie," I said. "You've got the wrong gal. Sure, a lifetime ago, these things mattered. But now ? Now, it's just surviving the excruciations of the workweek, gorging on Soy ice cream and cheap TV, and falling asleep over police procedurals. So leave me alone, willyaplease ? I'm sure you can find someone more sanguine and irenic and less utterly misanthropic to carry on the metaphysical researches d'antan."
The Pie drew itself up to its full height, its citrons glowing like stigmata, its rummy breath overwhelming the mild rot of the dried up pond, and began to howl.
The confected emissary of the Numinous Ground Of Being would have none of my evasions. It was holding me to account. It was trying to extract a reckoning.
"Look, Pie," I hissed, kicking it in the general direction of the dried-up pond. "Crawl back into your piehole."
I gave up and drove home. There was laundry to do. Monday was looming. Suddenly, from within my sullen funk, I heard the bleat of a car horn. I looked in the rearview, and there, tailgating within an inch of our lives in a late-model Audi sports car, was the Pie.
It was honking, and tailgating and its little mouth was spewing hectoring Nesselrodian invective.
I gave it the finger.
At the next red light, The Pie, unused to being challenged, pulled up beside me and stared at me with its little ferret-like eyes. It was not just the mildly amused gaze of the pondside strollers, this was the hate gaze, the gaze of utter fury and contempt, the laser-like death-stare of the thwarted Pie of Power.
And I lost it. Months of pent up fury, disappointment, grief erupted, Vesuvian: every bit of the past year's muttered profanity was rehearsal for this moment, it all spewed, red-hot and lava-like, toward the Pie, who even in my whited-out-by-rage vision looked mildly surprised, then all the more royally pissed off. Nonetheless, I screamed and screamed and screamed and jabbed my finger at the Pie, wishing the red light would go on forever.
But of course it didn't, and the Pie, the Pie That Always Triumphs In The End, revved its Audi, gunned a hard left to within an inch of my car (letting me know who would always triumph in the end) and sped off down Main Street.
"Bye, bye Mr Nesselrode Pie, drove my Honda to the Ponda but the Ponda was dry..." I thought, incongruously, as I turned left toward my house. My heart was pounding. The world slowly regained its color. Deflated, vanquished, vaguely ashamed, I pulled into the driveway.
So, Honey, what'll it be ?