Sticks and Summer Rain
Milton Alfred Rogers was leaning out of a doorway, thinking mainly about the rain which was not gathering above him or falling around him or rising into the soles of his shoes beneath him. Aside from that, he thought about a few men and women he had known, people he had passed on his long and gruelling hike from the doctor's slap to the final nap. Also, he wondered about death. The world would continue to spin through infinite open space, warmed by the sun and drawing in the moon and colliding with other objects making their own rounds; people would continue to talk and laugh and drink and weep and write ideas down, and mountains would not stop growing imperceptibly slowly. Everything would merely carry on, just that Milton Alfred Rogers would no longer be affected by it, and whatever effect he had ever had on earth and its subsidiaries and franchises, he would have no more. He would be nothing at all, and nowhere. Bacteria would consume him, and then parasites would devour the bacteria, then worms would nibble the parasites, then a bird would swallow the worm, then a fox would gnaw on the bird, and then the fox would keel over and his effects on the planet, whatever they were, would be no longer, and then the soil would suck up all the fox's energy, and that would in turn cause grass to sprout and then a cow would eat the grass and then someone, another human, maybe one whom Milton Alfred Rogers knew and spoke to and understood, somewhat, would slurp on the hacked flesh of that cow. And it would just keep going round and round endlessly. That turned his thoughts to birds, for some reason – the mind is not linear or explicable at all. He realised, suddenly, that a ladybird is just a cockroach in drag and a pigeon is really just a dove in rags. Briefly, just now, he imagined a Jew walking across a beach in Malta, but that was probably because someone had mentioned Marlon Brando to him yesterday, and that in turn made him think of Christopher Marlowe. He stopped thinking entirely for a moment when he heard a noise in the room behind him, the room out of which he was leaning from the doorway. The mind fills the tedium with fears. The mind has nothing more to work on than memory; it knows nothing else. He must have heard that sound somewhere. Now he couldn't remember where he had heard it. He shrugged his shoulders and looked around. A man was walking past, a man with no hair on his head. Milton Alfred Rogers thought about his bald skeleton being passed down the food chain like a box with no wrapping paper and nothing inside it in a game of pass-the-parcel. For a moment it seemed like the rain might begin, or like it already had and then already passed but he hadn't noticed it. He looked up and realised that there probably hadn't been any rain for at least twenty-four hours. The rain is made of beauty. It encompasses beauty and falls so sadly. Milton Alfred Rogers loves to walk in the rain, but it just won't rain. He looks up at the sky one last time, his fingers growing tired as they cling to the doorway, his legs swaying, his eyes half-closed as he gazes at the strong light that burns through the clouds, and then, without warning, he lets go and falls flat onto his face.