The pair of mice, current residents of the heating ducts beneath the hood of the 1978 Winnebago, did not notice Faheem as he slowly moved toward the vessel's side entry. Their attention was fixed upon a bounty of stale crumbs and the crusts from a bologna and mustard sandwich, left on the fold down table that lined the opposite wall of the of the old RV. It lay forgotten, under a melange of bills and papers in disarray on the pebbled contact paper that lined the table, frayed and curling at the edges. Faheem may have noticed the tiny, mice-mouth sized portions of paper missing from the unanswered correspondence months ago, gnawed and torn from corners and edges of the various notices, but he often ignored the properties of his messy home, attempting to look past the physical dysfunction of space. The missing pieces had been relocated to the tubes and workings of the vehicle, makeshift beds and couches where the two mice relaxed when not traveling within and outside the vehicle walls. The pair had inadvertently traveled to more miles than some humans, and certainly most mice. They had been Faheem's copilots since November, about a month after mooring the Winnebago on a portion of Faheem's parents property near Seneca Lake. The mice enjoyed their newfound immobility much more than Faheem.
He had caught a glimpse of one of the mice several days ago, as he was clearing out dead leaves trapped under the hood. As he brushed the remnants of this past Autumn toward the driver's side, one of the mice had peaked his head out of the encasement's edge near the passenger's side mirror, looking slightly annoyed. It confirmed Faheem's suspicions that had arisen three days before, while gleefully engaged in the sacred, yearly ritual of the first Air Conditioning; the holy ceremony had been interrupted by a plague of dust that burst from the vents, accompanied by the stale scent of urine, a storm cloud consecrating the front half of the Winnebago, including Faheem. A troubling combination of incense and particle washed him over; he quickly wiped it off, and used his hands to clear out his shoulder length black hair, peppered by the Eucharistic gift the Winnebago had bestowed upon him.
Today, six days later, an outdoor writing session, often interrupted by one thing or another, had morphed into a makeshift sneak attack against the vermin. Green Day's "Jesus of Suburbia" played at a blistering volume on a loop from a boom box that sat on the counter of the Kitchenette inside the RV. The mice didn't seem to mind the punk opus, it was common noise at this point; it had provided Faheem with a fitting, post election vessel of musical rage, and more presciently, allowed Faheem the chance to get as far as he would into the humid Winnebago undetected, within an arm-span of the two intruders on this surprisingly hot and sunny April afternoon.
He removed his flimsy and sweat stained t-shirt with his right arm slowly, letting it drop into his hand while he quickly twirled it into a makeshift, whiplike weapon of battle. As he inched forward, catlike reflexes took hold, every muscle in his body taut and cocked. He managed to mount the first step into the RV without detection, as Billie Joe Armstrong vehemently and angrily growled:
"Everyone's so full of shit / Born and raised by hypocrites / Hearts recycled but never saved / From the cradle to the grave / We are the kids of war and peace / From Anaheim to the Middle East / We are the stories and disciples of / The Jesus of suburbia / Land of make believe / And it don't believe in me / Land of make believe / And I don't believe / And I don't care!"
The singer repeated this last stanza several times, an impassioned declaration of apathy.
As the track proceeded past the 5:26 mark, a subdued stanza of melody met with the creaking of Faheem's settling weight into the 40 year old vehicle's frame. This resulted in the full and sudden attention of both mice, who sprang into action as the rogue attempt of a surprise attack unraveled quickly. The mice leaped onto the kitchenette counter, past the sounds of the more sincere portion of the American effigy pouring from the speakers. They scurried onto the counter of the kitchenette, leaping past emptied Styrofoam containers, more bite marks marring their edges. They darted towards the fist sized hole that lay on the other end of the counter as Faheem raised his arm with the makeshift whip. Just as the first mouse disappeared into the hole, Faheem lunged towards the second mouse, dropping his arm down violently, his weaponized shirt striking down upon the counter with a force of great vengeance. Missing his intended target by centimeters, his shirt snagged a framed 8 x 11 picture, a copy of the famous Obama Hope poster he had hung last November, which went crashing into a McDonald's bag filled with various receipts, ricocheted to the edge of the table, and sent an explosion of paper into the musty air just as the second mouse made his way into the hole.
A ticker tape parade, a cyclone of bank statements and receipts, pay stubs and invoices, tattered papers torn from steno notebooks, napkins scrawled on carelessly with musings on the state of the world, the state of himself, floated graciously down to the ground of the Winnebago by Faheem's feet, falling gently upon the shattered frame. Faheem began the cleanup process with a sly smile and shake of the head, parting the sea of communications and decrees lay strewn on the floor, of notices and statistical mementos from the past five years.
As the floor of the RV began to reemerge, he saw a crumbled ball of paper that had rolled under the folding table, and stretched long to reach it. He grabbed at it with the tips of his fingers, and, catching a fold, retracted his body backwards and upwards, knocking the top of his head on the table's edge. As the goose egg began to form, he exited the vehicle, in exhausted defeat, to the green plastic Adirondack chair that constituted a front porch. He sat, and began smoothing the crumpled relic as Billie Jo Armstrong sang:
"And I leave behind / This hurricane of fucking lies / I lost my faith to this / This town that don't exist / So I run, I run away / To the lights of masochists"
The paper contained an untitled poem, marked only with a date: 1/20/17. A raging river of consciousness, lifted from the style of his heroes, long gone - Emerson, Thoreau, Whitman, Ginsburg, it was a rough mutt, hastily scrawled and equally forgotten. To call it free verse would be high praise. In recent years, Faheem had often kept his thoughts to himself. Neither person nor page were allowed to see the hopes and fears, freedoms and horrors that existed in his mind. This certain day, however, was one that begged for contemplation, as wind change often bring, and Faheem viciously wrote his thoughts with the rare strength of a driven mind.
He finished reading words from three months prior and he set the paper down on the newly green grass; it was rapidly regaining its warm color, reaching towards the Spring sun that set westward behind Faheem. His words and thoughts from the recent past were rough, and they both embarrassed and grounded him. He never enjoyed reading his own words, though he appreciated that they may exist in a physical form, for some innate, immeasurable reason. He was lonely in his mind, much more than in the world at large. But bridging the gap between his crowded mind and the empty paper was one of the more difficult aspects of his recent struggles in attempting to live a life, some life, out loud.
He had so much more to say, and he certainly knew there was a poem, a story, in these past few minutes, in this moment, but he could not muster the energy to organize his jumbled thoughts. Bills to pay, debtors to avoid, holes to fix, mail to sort, insurance company to fight with, feeds to scan, pictures to like, news to swallow, looks to avoid, opinions to ignore. Mouse traps to buy. He felt defeated this day, and chose to enjoy the radiant hum of a crowded mind as he turned his chair around to face another sunset.
He'll remember this moment tomorrow, and his thoughts may become more concise, more adept, less disjointed, than the ever present now. He worried he was lying to himself as the Green Day song started anew, for the umpteenth time since everything had changed.
"I'm the son of rage and love
The Jesus of Suburbia
From the bible of none of the above."
by Christopher Knitter
Theatrical adaptation by Neil Bardhan & the audience volunteer is none other than Sophia McMaster
66 OURS - Collaborative Writing Project
Starting with Phase 1, writers had 66 days to base their writing on 1 anonymous person & 1 vignette, dutifully and judiciously assigned to each writer by Amelia.
Photos given to the writers
Each writer was given a combination of 1 person + 1 vignette from the following: