Coyotes and Potato Chips
by Dan Sanders
“And he was all like whaaattt!!!” Dave talks a lot, tells a lot of stories, his stories have lots of characters and a lot of sound effects and a lot of people who ‘are all like what’. I never know what he’s talking about, but he’s the only person who talks to me so we spend a lot of lunch hours together. He likes his job so much that it makes me hate my whole life. If it matters: Dave works with the guys in the warehouse, I work by myself in accounts receivable.
Monday and Tuesday lunches are usually spent rehashing the movies he saw over the weekend. “And it was like, BOOOM! The whole place blew up and then the dude was all like WHAAAAT and he like dove in slow motion and shot at everybody it was intense. It was great, you should check it out.” He’s more animated when he doesn’t like something, “It was hysterical how the worst it was. You should check it out, seriously. I might go see it again. It was that bad.”
Wednesday and Thursdays he will detail the movies he’s going to see on Friday and Saturday. “It looks so great, did you see the trailer! OH man, you gotta check out the trailer, it looks so fucked up. This kid is like soaking wet and just shows up wherever the fuck it wants and it’s all like ‘I’m a fucking ghost!’ and like melts peoples faces or something. Looks so fucked up.”
On Fridays, Dave is typically so excited about the weekend he can hardly sit still. He’ll rehash the trailers again, and compare the trailers to other movies he’s seen, but it’s typically too all over the place to follow and he just fidgets until he’s done eating and goes back to work before the lunch break is finished. “I gotta get back just going to be so, oh man, OK I gotta go. Seriously excited about this weekend.” Dave is excited all the time.
He sees about five movies a week. He sees every new movie that comes out and brings every second of each to lunch. I say almost nothing. When he finishes he pats me on the back too hard or gives me a high five. I realized only about a week ago that he’s my best friend by default, even though I don’t like him very much.
Dave is the only person I ever talk to. Not just at work, just in general. I don’t remember when it happened, but I just stopped leaving the house. It wasn’t on purpose or because of the panic attacks and as near as I can tell nobody noticed. I just didn’t have anywhere to go but work. I’ve been here for ten years. It’s not how I imagined things, but it’s fine. Sometimes I try to change things – maybe about once a year and it never works. Never ever. But it’s fine. I’m fine.
My office overlooks the warehouse on one end, and the parking lot on the other. There are six other employees with desks crammed into this room but I don’t know their names or what they do. It is because nobody talks to each other, everyone is busy and kind of angry. It might be because the office is too hot in the winter and entirely too hot in the summer. The owner is old and skinny and cold all the time. She leaves post it notes in a circle around the thermostat warning people to not touch the thermostat. Like flower petals with little cartoon angry faces on them.
Dave has a personal life. He has a large and involved extended family. His Aunts fix him up on dates that he takes to the movies and that fizzle out after. He goes to church and volunteers on Sundays. He’s got a whole life and he loves it and it is difficult to be around him because of it. But there’s no place else to sit, and he sits down without asking and I don’t mind it’s fine.
I’m responsible for a lot during tax time. There are a lot of extra hours that nobody else wants. I wind up missing lunches and sitting at my awkward green metal desk for hours on end. After hours everyone is gone, the whole massive building dark except for this room and it’s quiet and lonely and every so often I start to feel the quiet space around me and it feels frighteningly lonely. I start to think too much about myself and my life and I drive home with the radio turned all the way up. I don’t like people but I hate the quiet and it’s difficult to know how to handle that. So I tend to pick up hobbies to fill the space.
One year, around this time, I tried to start drinking but I hated it. It seemed like something a guy like me would wind up doing eventually, so I jumped in with both feet. But no good, I think I’m allergic, I got violently ill. Other attempts: I joined a softball team, a bowling league, took cooking lessons and dancing lessons. I don’t think any of these things were less embarrassing than attempting to purposefully develop alcoholism. Each of them were equally as lonely, frustrating, and failure-bound as drinking for something to do, for something different to happen.
But anyway, that doesn’t matter now, the other day I saw a TV show about fishing. Fishing is going to fix everything and I’m embarrassed I hadn’t thought of it before. I’ve decided there’s no hope for me with other people. I should just stand in water and be alone.
I interrupted Dave in mid-explosion to explain to him that I was going to become a fisherman. “What? That’s great! Fishing is great! I love fishing!” It nearly ruined fishing. I recovered gracefully and said “What were you saying? About the explosions.” And he said “Oh yeah!” and went back to detailing explosions in a movie he saw while I decided that it was OK for Dave to like fishing, so long as he continued to do it in secret, and nowhere near me. As to not scare the fish, I guess. I don’t know anything about fishing.
I stopped working at work. I researched fishing. I learned about all the gear, great locations nearby to go stand in water and be alone and fish. I decided on a rod and reel, though the internet said I would eventually need several rods depending on the location of the fishing and the kind of fish to be fished, for now I could simply start with the best possible rod, and work my way backwards through the various other options. It was 800 dollars and it’s supposed to made of the same stuff the space shuttles are made of, there’s a faux NASA sticker on the shaft, but I don’t think NASA actually endorses it, or makes recreational equipment of any kind. It is very possible I’m wrong, I bought it before I read all the details.
I would leave the city, leave the office, leave other people and become one with nature, I would get away from my life and in doing so get away from myself and be free as a cloud. I researched the hell out of becoming one with nature. Put a lot of time into it. I don’t want to go into this the wrong way. I read everything I could, but found it was hard to find good sources, presumably because interested parties would lose interest in writing the moment they became nature.
As near as I can tell, the most essential (and exciting) step of becoming one with nature is putting a tremendous distance between yourself and other people. Other people do not appear to be regarded as natural in any nature guide I’ve read in the last six months. I’ve also read a lot of poetry, a few biology books and a lot biographies of the great explorers, scientists and various away-goers and at no point was any other human, (besides the writer, the scientist or the explorer) regarded as anything but an impediment to the natural world, which is classically defined as being devoid of humanity of any kind. I am nature, you could try to be nature, but we are not nature. We are people and that’s unnatural, which is great. Nothing has ever made so much sense. It sounds perfect. I’m going to buy a hat with flaps in case it gets cold. I’m going to quit my job as soon as I build a lean-to or a thatch hut or a tent, I guess. I need to work up to the hut. Not going to just jump right in. I’ll get there though. It seems important to mention that I realize I might not be doing so great right now, mentally, but that everything is going to be fine. I am fixing things. It’s going to be great. I’m making a lot of sound decisions.
Dave is doing a lot of volunteering with the church this weekend and wants to talk about that instead of talking about how he is not natural and the last time I tried to talk about that I think he thought I was a racist and walked away. The church is just off of the interstate and occasionally they clean up the parks and the surrounding area, a bunch of people in orange vests picking up coke bottles and potato chip bags with one of those sticks with a nail on it. They occasionally go so far as to clean the shoulder of the interstate, which is nice, but dangerous and I can’t decide if it’s in nature’s (my) best interests. Ideally, there would be no highway, and no litter, we would all eat what we caught from the river, and we would just be me alone in all of North America. But, if there needs to be other people, and I acknowledge that there currently are other people, I suppose it’s best they clean up after themselves so as to bother me as little as possible.
I am eating a lot of berries and I started drinking a great deal of tea, which seems to be the most natural of the hot beverages. I read something online about making your own tea from tree bark and various mosses. I’m working on my own special recipe from the weeds in the parking lot and wood from the warehouse pallets, I toss in some red berries that I found out back on a bush. I also need to figure out the most natural way of starting a fire and boiling tea. I assume a lightning strike would be best, but I have not yet discerned how to call down lightning from the sky and I am dizzy almost all the time. I imagine there is a lot of interference from all the other people and I stopped washing my clothes and I am short of breath. Once I am alone, so attuned to nature I will be able to do things properly. I have not been sleeping and I want to figure out how to leave right now and immediately to go fishing and be alive but I cannot because the pole has not yet arrived. It’s roughly one hundred degrees in my office and I don’t want to be here for even one more second.
Dave still insists on detailing the movies at lunch but I have so much more important things to say and he thinks that I do not look healthy, but it’s probably because he is not nature and I am and I have been drinking that pallet tea from it takes a bit of time to get it all down because it smells very bad.
“I never felt better. I just need the fishing pole and then I’m going to go fishing. It’s going to be great.”
“I love fi -”
“SHUT UP DAVE”
I’ve decided it’s best to leave immediately and then come back for the fishing pole and then maybe stay out here forever anyway because it’s for the best. I will fish with my bare hands! Return to the earth! Deep breath. I don’t want to go too far. I don’t have – I didn’t bring most of my things. I meant to. It’s supposed to rain. I will drink the rainwater like a god. It’s supposed to rain tomorrow. I can live in my car until the rain clears up and I shove the car into the river. Cars are not natural, and I bought this with money. I don’t think anything you can buy with money is natural. I think you have to acquire it all by hand. I’m not sure where this puts the fishing rod or the flap-hat, those are in a grey area, but I just needed to get out there, and then everything is going to be fine. I’m going to drink rain water and drown my car and live in the mud, eat all the fish I want and I will be away from everyone, I will be away from everyone who doesn’t seem to want me there anyway and I and be one with the great indifference of nature, I will call down lightning from the sky and not panic because I will be the steward of my own life, once and for all.
I did not expect to be, or want to be, back at work so soon. I was driving too fast, and not quite paying attention because I was yelling so much about everything and I hit a coyote that had wandered into the road. He skidded off into a ditch and his neck was broken and wet red. I parked a hundred yards down the road, turned off the car and just fell asleep with the radio on as loud as it will go.
I started to apologize to Dave, but he brushed me off and said that he’d been with his church group, cleaning on the side of the highway and found a dead coyote on the side of the road “It was like booooom all the guts were everywhere and it was soooo gross. It was awesome. Pastor Robin didn’t let me keep it though. I was going to bring it in and show everybody. It was so fucking gross.”
They sent me home. I got sick because I was so upset and they sent me home. I took some vacation time I had saved up and I’m having groceries delivered and when the vacation time runs out I’m not going back and I don’t know if I’m going to leave the house ever again. It’s going to be great.
Next Week’s Prompt: A Handful of Marbles thrown across the floor.