Chapter Fifty-Four: Ervin in the Quarry

Editor’s Note: the Bartender told me this one, coming from a Jim’s regular—one Greg Ervin, a man I’ve always known to exude a quiet competence (according to his work crew buddies), love of whiskey and books, and not much use for other folks. Tough as nails, arms as big as telephone poles, but gentle and giant. When the Bartender told me the story I said “sounds like Erv,” but knew I had to hear it myself. So I wandered across the bar, bought Erv a whiskey, turned my tape recorder on: 

Now where I go amongst the rocks surreptitiously sipping nips of whiskey smoke my cigarettes without the watching eyes of wannabe preachers? Here too was once a place of industry. Men were men once upon a foreman’s punch-card. I too was one of many whose vests gleamed safety warnings in the dark before dawn breaking up rocks but now I sneak. Woe became unto Vine! Everyone’s got ball bearings for eyes. Carries the hammer of vengeance in pants pockets bulging like don’t you know we can see them blades hiding in there? But who’m I to blame anyone wanting honest protection? Unseen enemies loiter plain as springtime cirrus clouds.

No plants grow here dried-up thistles cast-off nettles lo the forgotten dandelion seeds thieved by unthinking wind’s errors here before me appeared not beast not demon but a fiery mini-cyclone dried leaves lint-like pebbles is that a fox’s blood? Some of it. Pulled on my whiskey let the wood-sugar courage crystallize in my blood spoke boldly with conviction, I says to the cyclone: 

“Are you an angel of the Lord?”

And lo, did the Angel of the Lord speak to me, saying: “Doubt you my power? Think me of the devil? That is how the people of Vine view they cannot comprehend, isn’t it? For if it is not cornflakes before Church and cornbread after Church, then to the people of Vine? It is Satan. O how the people of Vine have forgotten: ‘the fear of the Lord is beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of Vine is a privilege.’ I deal not with Satan but in warnings. Take heed: the eagles are devouring the field mice. The trout choke on their water. Crops wither and die in full sight of the Lord. Thus sayeth the Lord: I will make a time of darkness and tribulation, none shall be spared the harshest judgment. For through Me all things have been created, I am the Lord your God, and I shall give the sinners of Vine something to cry about.”

Here now, this here’s the thing: I been sweaty bones under a sniffing scrum of crows’ glistening caws walked my ass back up to the black lacquer bar whiskey neat live to fight another day. Now assume the second-worst: knees reeking of cut grass and yet we’re somehow still intact. We don’t tolerate scabbed lawns or plastic plants. So I says to him I says: 

“Go on prove yourself I ain’t got the time for false prophet trickery and yet still I ain’t going home until I got a good buzz going and I intend to get that right here in among this broken-up limestone and recycled gravel watch your step in the mud thank you very much.”

The fiery cyclone rose with a fury unlike anything your gas stove’s ever seen. Whole quarry start feeling like a fish fry and the Angel spoke to me, it said: 

“Doubter! Sinner! 

I’ll show you the consecrations of God! 

Doubter! Sinner! I’ll show you 

the consecrations of God! Doubter!

Sinner! I’ll show you the consecrations 

of God!”

Then all around the quarry was a fire. But the flames shot orange and blue. I remained unburnt, locked in the blaze, locking eyes with the angel of the Lord. Then the fire was gone and I was shown three visions:

  1. A man mowing his lawn. Grass shooting out in clumps. Blue smoke chugging out the exhaust. We watched the man gather the grass into plastic bags and pile the plastic bags near the street. A sedan pulled up next to the bags. The man from the bank got out and spoke to the man who had been mowing the lawn. The man mowing the the lawn was angry and went to get his gun. The gun was empty. The man walked away. The man from the bank got back into the sedan and drove away. Then the garbage truck came to pick up the bags of leaves. 

The Angel of the Lord spoke to me, he said: “Now we go to a holy place. I’ll show you the consecrations of God.”

  1. We flew through the air. I felt the wind red on my face. My legs swayed. Whiskey and flying don’t mix. We landed on Prophet’s Bald. I’d never been there but I knew. We watched a boy climbing the mountain. He sat down on the same rock all Hermits sat on when they went to Prophet’s Bald. I’d never known a Hermit but I knew. We watched him grow older and wiser. I don’t know how I knew he was getting wiser but I knew. He never left Prophet’s Bald. He never spoke a word. Then he died. 

The Angel of the Lord spoke to me, he said: “Now we go to a holy place. I’ll show you the consecrations of God.”

  1. We fell far off the cliff. I could feel my bones jelly. All around us was green. Deep in the mountain forests of Vine. In the darkest thickest clump of trees anyone ever let themselves imagine without shuddering. I braced my whole ass self for a demon to appear. Maybe a mountain lion. I knew it’d see me and I wouldn’t see it and then that’d be it. But dare not I move without conviction. Dare not I avert my eyes. I watched as women who were hoods so you couldn’t see their face parted the trees. I could tell not a single one of them were white even though they wore hoods. They sang in low tones. Lower than a woman should be able to reach. But I remained bold. Courage in the shrouded face of evil. I knew these women were only a vision but I knew also what witches could and had done to Vine. They didn’t seem interested in me though. They were watching one witch. She was holding something. It was a sapling. A white pine sapling. The witches circled around the white pine sapling still singing. Then they planted the white pine sapling in the ground and watched as it grew fully into a tree. Then a man in black suit, a suit like you’d see a government man wearing, a black suit came and all the witches evaporated in a horrible cry of anguish that felt as though it could last a thousand years but instead stopped in a second. The witches were gone and the government man remained. 

The Angel of the Lord spoke to me, he said: “Now have I shown you the consecrations of God.”

Fast as we’d swooshed through the night yet without prickling ourselves on the forest we were back in the quarry. My legs wavered in the night-rocks and cricket songs. Did my clothes tear? Felt like something should’ve been torn. Did I tell you about—well. Another time.  

The Angel of the Lord spoke to me, he said: “Son of Vine, did you not understand the meaning of dominion? Son of Vine, whose torchlight do you refresh when the path darkens?”

I held up my empty flask. I said to the Angel of the Lord, I says to him: “top me off?”

That whiskey refilled the stars weren’t fully asserting themselves yet so I wandered and pondered around the quarry kicking gravel over dandelions. Wondered if I should go looking for some sinner to warn he ought to get to repenting. Ought to have been getting to repenting, if it’s bad enough angels of the Lord are coming on down. Walk on along what the hell else you supposed to do? Think the crickets stop singing if they don’t get any mating going that night? Got to keep on singing. Hell if you’re a cricket you got to keep on chasing that ass. All them cats around here. They’ll eat crickets. Big cats. Housecats. They all slink around. Eating crickets. That power company, they ought to—well, guess I need some more smokes. Here on now: here comes that quarry again. All them smashed up rocks broken all down. Ought to, they ought to flood this place. Not building anything here. Not in Vine. Welp. Drink this whiskey up. Gonna lay on down. Become my own rock. One with the rocks. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *