Thursday, January 26, 2012

Day Two-Hundred-Forty-Four, Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane

I was attacked by a pack of wild dogs.  It must have been two a.m.  I heard them coming through the trees even before they started barking.  "Yapping" might be the better word.  They didn't sound very big.  I told them to shut up and go away and I went back to sleep.

They were back in the morning, some time after dawn.  They again sat me upright in bed.  This time I got a look at them.  They were something bigger than cats.  One of them wagged his tail at me.  I ignored him as well as I could.

You may remember my days in bear country.  I was sure I'd be eaten then.  But I've never been as uncomfortable with nature as I've been these past few days.  Swamp life does not appeal to me.  There are too many critters out here.  Each one deadlier than the next.  The mosquitos might be the worst.

I saw a good dozen gators today.  Not one could have eaten me whole.  Which is not to say they might not like to try.  There's some danger in being delicious.  Like it or not we are part of the food chain.  You will find us near the top.  But not at it.  We do fool ourselves.  We have our guns and environmental destruction.  Perhaps your god did give you dominion, but try explaining that to a bear.

Atheists, the lot of them.  Gators are even worse.  Snakes may very well believe in God, but their hearts were forged in hell.  They've got a constrictor problem down here.  Escaped pets and zoo refugees.  They've got no predators; they reach obscene lengths.  They have been known to eat deer.

What kind of idiot wants a snake as a pet.  They are incapable of affection.  Love of reptiles is an affectation.  The world is creepy enough.  It's like people who claim black as their favorite colour.  It's blue and you know it.  Shut up.

So I got packed up without being bitten.  Not by a dog at least.  A few mosquitos chewed on me.  Most of them do not.  Their favorite trick is to hover just by my ear.  They know it drives me nuts.  They tortured me in India.  We're supposed to be better than that.

I was back on the road at I-don't-know-what time.  I was too hungry to check.  I've been a bit underfed these past several days and it was affecting my mood.  Canal Point was six miles off.  I was swimming through bugs the whole way.  Remind me to buy some spray tomorrow.  There are fifty in here with me now.

Canal Point seemed to mean well enough.  There wasn't an awful lot to it.  But there was a Subway at the gas station.  BP still shows its face here.  But no tables.  I ate out front.  People glared at me.  And made great show of locking their cars.  A rooster crowed somewhere nearby.

Farmland here.  Sugarcane.  There was what I first thought was corn.  But I think it was baby sugarcane.  They get a few crops from each planting.  Then burn the fields and start over again.  Great clouds of smoke fill the sky.  Sweet smelling but not pleasant.  I think this goes on all year round.

Three short miles took me to Pahokee.  I think that's a neat name for a town.  Or some body part better not mentioned.  There's a day care center called Pahokee Pals.  Which I thought was cute, though it would serve just as well as the title of a gay porn magazine.  I suppose it comes down to how your mind works.  Don't drag me into your gutter.

I ate again in Pahokee.  I did not really need to.  But I needed to sit down and I needed to plug in and I needed to study my map.  I have an awful stretch coming up.  I march into the Everglades tomorrow.  Where I will be for two long days, if not the rest of my life.

I'm not at all looking forward to it.  The walk may not do me in.  Though I will have to carry all kinds of water and a good deal of food.  What worries me is the camping.  I'll almost surely be et.  Gators and snakes are no mere abstraction.  I'm greatly outnumbered out here.

And I've got two nasty blisters, one on the heel of each foot.  I've just now performed some gruesome surgery, with nose hair scissors and a safety pin.  I stopped buying moleskin months ago.  I don't think I can get more.  It's going to be a hungry thirsty fifty-mile limp.  It's Montana all over again.

The road from Pahokee was lined with palms.  Not the kind I've been seeing.  But very tall; you might describe them as "stately."  The effect could have been better.  I had seen closed factories and boarded-up shops.  Parking lots growing weeds.  It was what I've imagined Haiti looks like.  It is not so very far away.

I met my friend Frank from yesterday, the Dutchman from Canada.  He had made it all around the lake.  He was less fresh than yesterday.  Still it was nice to see him again.  He gave me some Nutter Butters.  My favorite cookie.  They're shaped like peanuts.  I've eaten them up just now.

I had been in Pahokee an awful long time.  I had a nine-mile hike to Belle Glade.  Which is at the southern tip of the lake.  I met Virgil Rex on the way.  A hobo, more or less, riding a push-bike.  His baskets were full of turtles.  He's a poacher of sorts.  He catches them and sells them to turtle breeders.  They sell them to pet stores.

You know what makes a nice pet?  A dog.  Not ready for that kind of commitment?  A cat.  Those are your choices.  Stop outthinking yourselves.

We talked for quite a while.  He used to work in carnivals.  He had all kinds of hair growing on his nose.  I wondered if he'd been a freak.  But no, he ran the Ferris wheel.  He said I should sign on there.  And between you and me, if the chance comes up, that's precisely what I'll do.

I like the idea.  It has a certain run-away-and-join-the-circus vibe.  Carnies are weirdos and reprobates.  Ex-cons.  People with problems.

"But they're not rats," Virgil assured me.  He said I'd fit right in.

He was just out of the hospital.  They "Baker-Acted" him.  You may remember O'Connor v. Donaldson.  The Baker Act contradicts that.  They had him under observation for seventy-two hours.  In the end they decided he was sane.  He'd told him he was but they didn't believe him.  Lunatics lie all the time.

"They kept asking me what day it was.  Make sure you always know that.  What day is it?" he quizzed me. 

"Tuesday?" I guessed.

"Thursday," he said.  He looked worried for me.  "Figure out some system for remembering."

And so I shall.  One of these days.  For the best part of the last decade I didn't know what year it was.  I do now.  I'm improving.  But I don't care much more than I ever did.  Let me know when I'm 100 years old.

Find me now in another sugarcane field, too close to a canal.  Which is full of gators; I know that for a fact.  My tent is full of mosquitos.  There's a frog outside trying to sound like a dog.  There's a bird trying to sound like a pig.  Something or other is splashing about.  I don't much like it here.

I'm a few blocks outside of South Bay, my last stop before the 'Glades.  If my feet aren't too bad I set out tomorrow on one of the worst stretches of this trip.

Happy dreams.

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